Barely a minute ago, laughter echoed through the Excalibur lighthouse basement as the Technet ridiculed Widget’s first crude attempt to sprout a body. Then, a violent explosion shattered the cellar door and a menacing shape appeared amid the devastation. Now the deafening roar of battle fills the air as the Technet attack it.
Kylun asks Kurt if he knows what that thing is, to which Nightcrawler replies that its arrival is as startling as Kylun’s. Kylun points out that it is fighting defensively – deflecting the Technet’s attack without inflicting any harm on them. Kurt agrees. They could have tried to communicate with it if the Technet had not responded so quickly to the apparent threat. But the only thing that will stop this from escalating now is a miracle. And, if the sudden appearance of a flock of tiny flying hybrid dragons with dragonfly wings and insect eyes can be considered a miracle, Nightcrawler’s prayer is answered.
Surprised, everybody stops and a happy Numbers informs them that he is a Daddy. “Dragon the love mother is.” The happy couple appears with their offspring and Lockheed wearing a midwife’s uniform. The Technet’s reactions alternate between surprise, congratulations and the remark that they’ve got a fight going on here.
Nightcrawler uses this opportunity to intercede, remarking he believes the creature is friendly. He turns to the newcomer, apologizing for his companions’ aggression. They assumed his explosive arrival was an attack.
The creature replies in a strange language, which slowly morphs to English. Then the stranger apologizes, for the means of arrival was beyond her control. She desires no further conflict. She takes off her helmet to reveal the face of a human woman. Only the multicoloured hair and the style it is worn in are outlandish.
She introduces herself as Cerise, warrior of the Ghrand Jhar. Genestock of Subruki, Zarstok and Kuli Ka. Hers is the power to generate malleable energy fields of coherent light force that obey her will. Nightcrawler introduces the gang to her. Taking a look at the diverse lifeforms, Cerise asks which of them is the dominant species of the world. Man, human beings, Kurt replies. Which of them conforms to this specification? Kurt takes a look around the room, and remarks that, of all the varied lifeforms in this room, Cerise looks the most human.
Captain Britain, who has elected to stay (still in his pyjama pants), walks across a courtyard and is addressed by an old retired Captain who asks him if he can tempt him with a game of chess. Brian thanks him but declines. He’s never been into playing games. Just like his father, the old Captain chuckles. Now Brian’s curiosity is awakened and he sits down opposite the old man.
He knew his dad? Very well, the old man recalls. He was a great man. A true champion of Otherworld. He didn’t know of his double life until after he died, Brian muses. He still finds it hard to believe. He means, he was just an ordinary dad. Richer than most, of course, and very successful as a computer scientist, but in every other way, well, he seemed unremarkable. And so he was, the old man admits. But he achieved remarkable feats.
He hasn’t lived up to his example, Brian admits bitterly. When he became Captain Britain, he tried to do what was right, but everything got so complicated… and since Excalibur formed, he’s made a real mess of things. He’s been a clumsy halfwit. Which is what he was intended to be, the old man chuckles.
What? Brian asks irritated. The old man takes up a pawn and explains that, as Captain designate 616, he is allowed the illusion of free will, but he is no more than a pawn. He knows Merlyn used him in the past, Brian points out, but Roma is running things now. Does he truly believe she is less a manipulator than her father? the old man interrupts. Roma engineered the events that led to the formation of Excalibur. She knew Brian was a loner and a threat to the group’s bonding. So, she jinxed him to curtail his individuality, to force him to work with the team. Whenever he tried to operate independently, this “blunder factor” would fog his perceptions and dull his coordination. And the harder he tried, the more humiliating his failure.
Angrily, Brian stands up. How does he know all this? The same way he knew Brian would pass by there today, comes the not helpful reply. Brian gets ready to stalk off. Thanks for the chat and all that but he’s not ready to subscribe to any conspiracy theory. He’s not that paranoid… yet.
The old man asks him to listen. For the memory of his father. He asks him to consider the chain of events that led to the formation of Excalibur. Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, both injured, were left to convalesce on Muir island while their teammates, the X-Men, were – until recently – believed to have died in the service of none other than Roma. And Brian’s sister, Betsy’s allegiance to the X-Men bound his destiny to theirs, sowing the seeds of future friendships. All very convenient, eh?
Told with flashback images:
The strategy to unite the components began when Roma caused an image of the Phoenix effect to appear around the rising sun. Meggan witnessed that manifestation and, after Brian rejected her – his rage born of drunken grief – she was inspired by the vision to fly to Muir Island. She arrived just as Gatecrasher’s Technet materialized in pursuit of Phoenix. Yet Phoenix was still a prisoner in Mojo’s dimension at that time. Coincidence?
Roma had ensured that the bounty hunters would be drawn to the island. She had given Shadowcat and Nightcrawler a shared dream. It concentrated the psychic residue of Phoenix’s rapport with her friends, rekindling the smouldering embers into a blazing telepathic beacon.
With predictable heavy-handedness, Gatecrasher took Shadowcat and Meggan as unnecessary hostages, thus ensuring that Nightcrawler would flee to enlist Captain Britain’s aid.
Around the same time, Phoenix arrived in London, hotly pursued by Mojo’s Warwolves. After a brief taste of freedom, Phoenix walked into an ambush by the Technet, which oh so coincidentally occurred at precisely the location where the Warwolves had laid their trap. Cap and Nightcrawler joined the ensuing melee, freed the others and together won the day. Excalibur was born.
Furious, Brian begins to understand why Saturnyne sent Gatecrasher to capture Phoenix, yet ignored her when they met at the Hub and why Cringebottom arrived at the precise instant Excalibur had been defeated by the Technet. Gatecrasher was never meant to be successful. She was just an obstacle to prevent the Warwolves from capturing Rachel and a catalyst to bring the members of Excalibur together.
Precisely, the old man agrees. But why? Brian asks. Only Roma knows that, comes the reply. Then he’ll ask her, Brian promises and flies up to the Starlight Citadel. The old man slowly changes shape, becoming thinner and taller. Oh what a tangled web we weave.
Earth 616, the Excalibur lighthouse:
Cerise describes, accompanied by pink light effects, how she was travelling through hyperspace from her own world Shaskofrugnon to the Phlegmnon rim frontier. She had grown bored with the comfortable routine of their society and sought adventure. But as she passed through the Quasion field of Tryar, fierce turbulences struck her. She burnt out her transit suit’s drive unit trying to resist, but the vortex was too strong. She was sucked in – completely out of control and crashed here.
Nightcrawler assumes she must have been pulled very far off course. He has encountered many alien races, but none has used technology such as hers. Cerise has no idea where she is in relation to her homeworld in space and time. Still it looks like she could have a lot of fun here, she remarks, watching Widget who begins munching at the remnants of Excalibur’s old train.
Suddenly, her transit suit sensors detect a space time disruption outside the lighthouse. Everyone races outside to see a new team of aliens have materialized. Nightcrawler (who does not recognize them as Captain Britain’s sometime allies / foes the Special Executive) mutters that this is getting silly.
On Otherworld in Roma’s Starlight Citadel, the guardians in front of Roma’s rooms sternly order Captain Britain to leave. He has not been summoned to audience. Or what? Cap asks. We will make you, an overzealous guard responds, trying to grab his arms. He was hoping they’d try, Brian smirks, first headbutting the guard behind him, then the one in front if him, before making short works of the rest of them.
One of them has enough wits about him to alert the Omniversal Majestrix Opal Luna Saturnyne in her private chambers. Saturnyne is just busy with a tête-à-tête with another guard. Hearing what is going on, she gets dressed. He’ll wait, her lover offers. No, she informs him coolly. She will send for him, if she wishes to see him again.
In the Starlight Citadel, a guard informs Roma that they can’t hold Brian, who is just making his way towards them. Roma thanks the guard and tells him to return to his post. She will speak with the Captain.
Angrily, Cap addresses Roma, who is looking at a chessboard with figures representing the things that are going on in Excalibur’s lives. Brian asks what’s going on. He thought he could trust her, but she’s playing the same twisted games as her father. She only does what circumstances demand of her, she replies cryptically.
So why did she put a jinx on him then, Brian challenges. Roma explains that Merlyn bestowed powers on Brian’s father that live on in him; he is the strongest of the Captain Britain Corps and by nature he is a loner. If she had not restrained his strength, it would have split Excalibur.
Why did she want Excalibur to exist? Brian asks. They are five individually whose combined might can challenge the gathering forces of evil, comes the reply. Which are? Brian asks. She does not know, Roma admits. Very convenient, Brian mocks. She speaks the truth, Roma assures him. Her father began this gambit before he died. Merlyn isn’t dead, Brian protests. Excalibur met him very recently.
Now it’s Roma’s turn to become agitated. Nonsense, she insists. Brian attended Merlyn’s funeral. The entire Corps and all of Otherworld bore witness. More manipulation, Brian replies. Merlyn told him he faked his death.
Roma is puzzled. She is sure her father is dead, yet she can sense Brian is telling the truth or at least what he perceives to be the truth. She orders him to recall events, so she can share his memory.
Brian’s narration accompanied by his memories:
Brian recalls Nightcrawler and Meggan training in the jungle gym and he congratulated them on their initiative toward teamwork and…
Brian interrupts himself. That’s crazy. He’s always been against any regimen of training routine. He looks at the Meggan from his memory, who seems more seductive somehow. He admits that she’s all… wrong. What happened next? Roma prods.
Brian continues that Meggan went berserk. She seemed to be possessed by a demon. Kurt called Alistaire Stuart of the Weird Happenings Organization.
The memory shifts, showing Alistaire arguing with his superior. Brian makes fun on the “fat ogre in pajamas.” He can’t be real… and how can it be in his memory? He wasn’t there!
Roma asks him to continue. These anomalies may yet betray the manipulator’s hand.
Alistaire led them to this old guy called Myrd, an expert on demonic possession. Then they went to Braddock Manor, to consult his father’s computer. Again Brian is mystified. Emma Collins welcomed them, but she’s dead. The Braddock computer is wrong too. The Mastermind computer isn’t a normal computer system, but a living mass of organic circuitry. Roma prods him to continue.
Myrd led them all in a weird exorcism and they cured Meggan. Then Myrd revealed himself as Merlyn. Or at last one of his guises (that of the kindly old wizard). He apologized for deceiving them, said that everything had a purpose, even if it was beyond their understanding. Then he vanished.
That was not her father, Roma decides darkly. Merlyn was never so caring. Nor so willing to explain his actions. It was all wrong, Brian recalls puzzled. He must have dreamt it. No, Roma replies. He did experience the events in reality. Some agency of considerable powers toyed with him.
Why? he asks. Roma turns to her chessboard. For a reason yet unknown, she ventures, or perhaps to show that they are more powerful than she by being able to manipulate him who is under her protection without her knowledge. She sounds afraid, Brian remarks.
The cue for Saturnyne to enter with a very big gun. She orders him to step back from the Omniversal Guardian or she will vaporize what little brain he posses.
Angrily, Roma orders her to lower her weapon. She exceeds her authority. Confused, Saturnyne obeys. Brian deforms the barrel of her weapon and tells her to do as she’s told and keep quiet. He’s talking to her boss.
He tells Roma that he didn’t choose to be Captain Britain. But he’s never avoided the responsibility. If she wants him or Excalibur to help, just ask them. They’ll do what they can, but don’t treat them like mindless pawns. He forcefully kicks the chessboard, destroying it. Merlyn was the great deceiver, he states. Let his twisted schemes die with him.
Changing her tack, Saturnyne purrs that she didn’t realize he could be so forceful. She touches his chest playfully. She’s misjudged him. Yes, she has, he replies and turns away from her. Now if Roma wouldn’t mind removing her “blunder jinx,” he’d like to go home.
Back on Earth 616, Wardog (of the Special Executive) and Numbers (of the Technet) are holding a discussion in some strange alien language while Nightcrawler, Kylun and Cerise just watch helplessly. Eventually, Numbers and Wardog come to an agreement and shake hands (paws/whatever).
What was that all about? Kurt asks and an excited Thug explains that Numbers negotiated them a contract with these intergalactic mercenaries. Saturnyne exiled the Technet. But they are no longer Technet. Now they are able to go home. When are they leaving? Right away, comes the reply. What about Joyboy? Kurt asks. Thug explains they’d really like to find him but they haven’t got the time. Their employers want them to leave immediately. Their psychic predicts a 98.73 percent probability that this Earth will cease to exist in the next seventy-eight hours. Shouting a goodbye and thanks at Nightcrawler, the aliens (as well as the Dragon and her new brood) teleport away. Seventy-eight hours Kurt repeats stunned.
A moment later, Meggan carrying Rachel lands. Relieved, he hugs them. Meggan asks for Brian and Kurt explains he hasn’t returned from Otherworld yet. Shooting an unsure glance at Cerise, Rachel suggests Kurt introduce them to their new friends. Cerise introduces herself as Cerise, warrior of the Ghrand Jhar. Genestock of Subruki, Zarstock and Kuli Ka. Hers is the power to generate malleable energy fields of coherent light-force that obey her will. Sounds impressive, Rachel concedes. Kylun introduces himself, but becomes hesitant when Rachel asks about his powers.
That moment, Brian teleports in. He and Meggan immediately kiss passionately. Next, Brian greets Kurt, hesitatingly and asks about his leg. He admits he was a fool and asks for Kurt’s forgiveness. With a grin, Kurt shakes his hand and remarks that he can forgive him for a suitably large amount of money.
Cerise and Kylun introduce themselves to Brian as well. Again, Brian asks about Kylun’s powers. Enough of this, Kylun replies and suggests they go find Necrom. Necrom? Meggan, Rachel and Brian ask. A lot has happened while they have been away, Kurt tries to explain. Invisible demons… alien visitation and predictions of the imminent destruction of Earth. It’s a long story. Yes…? the three of them ask. And Kurt begins with the day Alistaire Stuart called by and asked Kitty to go with him to Ireland…
Meanwhile in Ireland, County Sligo. In the shadow of Ben Bulben Mountain, an archaeological team working on what is considered to be the oldest burial site in Europe puzzles over its latest finding, the readings of a state-of-the-art ground-penetrating-radar-unit. 200 meters beneath this excavation, there is a chamber, a perfect cube, ten meters high, wide and across. It has no connecting passage to the surface or any other subterranean cavern. That’s unbelievable, Alistaire exclaims. No, what’s unbelievable, Kitty retorts, is that there is a body of roughly human proportions inside the chamber and it’s moving around…