The FI6 mediators are a squad of military experts drawn from the elite of Britain’s armed forces. With clinical efficiency, they regard these derelict warehouses in London’s Docklands as a set of tactical problems arising from their latest assignment: to locate and apprehend a target – of unknown parahuman abilities and deliver him to their leader… Brigadier Theobald “Inky” Blott.
Blott, an elderly Gentleman of upper-class background, stands next to one of his men, Mortimer. He shoots him an angry look, stressing he was scheduled to dine with the Prime Minister. Is Mortimer certain the target is in there? The younger man affirms this. Their ESP units all agree. He opens the door to the van that houses the psychics. The individual who psychically controlled the perpetrator of the druid artefact thefts is inside, he explains.
How can they be sure now when they couldn’t locate the thief during his crime spree? Blott wants to know. Mortimer looks at the psychics in trance and explains that something caused the target to lower his psychic shields. They can determine the specifics when they have him in custody. In the meantime, the ESpers are attempting to identify the precise coordinates of their quarry.
FI6’s own metahuman Micromax asks when the brigadier is going to send him in. He isn’t, Blott replies simply. Micromax is here as back-up. He was mistaken to rely on his mutant abilities during their attempts to capture the thief creature. His failure made Blott and FI6 look incompetent. Worse still, that uncouth slob, Dai Thomas, and his interegional task force caught the target’s accomplice.
With the aid of Excalibur, Micromax hurries to point out. A fine distinction for the politicians who hold the strings to the purse that funds FI6, Blott replies bitterly. Especially when that dolt Orpington Smythe has proposed they be merged with his R.C.X. No, they cannot afford to fail. Micromax will stay in reserve and the Mediators will do the job, he reiterates.
Inside, the Mediators finally find a desiccated, withered corpse. At one of the men’s touch, the body of the Anti-Phoenix crumbles. Suddenly, Necrom, aglow with green energy manifests, explaining that he had drained his life force as he will theirs. The first man lance corporal Andrew Hodge is an experienced elite soldier and a skilled fighter, but he is only a man, helpless as Necrom literally sucks his life out of him.
His body crumbles. The other men fire their weapons at Necrom. He laughs at them as he takes all their lifeforces, adding to his power.
Outside in the van, the Espers scream, aware of what’s going on but trapped themselves as Necrom eats their minds. They blow apart as does the Docklands building at the same time.
On the ground, Blott mumbles the name of his captain. Behind him, Mortimer warns him to shush, as a little distance away Necrom drains the lives of all soldiers he finds. A moment later, he finds them, grabs Mortimer and drains him as well.
Necrom grabs Blott by the throat and thanks him for supplying such a hearty repast. He felt his psychics’ probes and allowed them to find him as he needed to feed.
Suddenly, Micromax appears, having grown to giant height. He orders Necrom to let the brigadier go. Necrom recalls that his slave creature was destroyed due to Micromax’s interference. He projects a forcefield, paralyzing Micromax. Necrom announces he shall enjoy drinking his lifeforce while draining Blott. Then, he extends his arm to an unnatural length, as he reaches out for Micromax.
As he touches Micromax, though, the mutant shrinks to microscopic size, giving the impression that he died. Discontent at the poor amount of lifeforce he could squeeze from him, Necrom has nevertheless gathered enough energy to restore him to full vigor. He decides to fly to the tower that crosses time. Soon, the Phoenix will be his!
Meanwhile in Excalibur’s lighthouse, Rachel announces that Necrom is coming. Nightcrawler tries to calm her. Rachel tells them that he slaughtered the whole FI6 unit. She saw it in her mind… he wanted her to see.
Feron shouts that the blood of his victims is on Rachel’s hands. She could have stopped Necrom from joining with the power of the Anti-Phoenix! Kitty orders him to stop it. All he’s done so far is get rescued by them! Kurt tries to stop them squabbling. Ignoring him, Feron points out he was prepared to fight to the death. He alone possesses the knowledge to defeat the Anti-Phoenix. Angrily, Kylun interrupts, arguing the boy doesn’t know what he speaks of. Necrom barely escaped his swords when last he fought. And Kylun defeated Necrom’s slave creature, Meggan adds. That’s all irrelevant! Feron shouts. Kitty angrily threatens to show him what’s irrelevant. Kurt angrily shouts her full name and reminds her they could be attacked any moment.
The next moment, he shoves Feron and Kitty aside before they are squashed by a giant foot… belonging to a Kang currently fought by a “Calibur” team consisting of a pink-haired Captain Saxonia, a Nightcrawer lookalike Dr. Strange, a Spider-Woman and Iron Fist and a Hulk speaking like Thor. The next moment, the strangers disappear again.
The longtime members of Excalibur take it in a stride. Kylun asks how they can be so causal about this. Brian explains this sort of thing happens all the time. It’s just a temporary blurring of the interface between realities.
Cerise checks her instruments and announces the fourth-dimensional pulse she detected earlier is increasing. A 4D pulse, Alistair theorizes; a time distortion. He wonders if this has anything to do with Widget. If this new thing is Widget, Kitty points out. Kurt tells them out it proves no direct danger… unlike Necrom. He proposes they divide their numbers and prepare their strategy.
Alistaire announces he’d like to stay with Widget and the robot bodies. Kylun decides that he too will stay with Widget. He owes his life to him. Widget was his companion when he was alone, so now he will give him what little time is left before Necrom strikes.
Kurt asks Meggan to take Cerise and Feron to the kitchen and prepare a snack. Feron protests. Kurt orders him to shut up, then explains that he, Brian, Kitty and Rachel will prepare a tactic for what may be the battle Excalibur was formed to fight.
In London, the police find the bodies of the FI6 members. One of the policemen asks how come Dai Thomas alerted them to the situation five minutes before the explosion happened. What’s the story? Dai replies that Inky’s FI6 crew got themselves into something big. He doesn’t know the specifics. Miss Witherspoon just picked up some psychic rumpus. The eccentric elderly clairvoyant looks around, sensing a faint tiny presence. The next moment, Micromax grows to full height again.
He explains that Necrom had him trapped and tried to kill him. He shrank to escape. Shrank too fast and passed out. Did they get Necrom? Miss Witherspoon senses that Necrom headed to the Excalibur lighthouse. Micromax shouts they must warn them. They can’t, Thomas explains. He tried to call Excalibur earlier but their radio connection was dead. They are on their own.
Back at the lighthouse, Kurt asks if Necrom is the villain Excalibur was formed to face. Brian admits that even Roma doesn’t know. All she could say was that they are pawns in some elaborate power play started by Merlyn before he died.
Rachel adds that the Neuri creature she and Meggan met knew they’d been manipulated too. It would seem everybody knew but them, Kurt muses. Even the alien mercenaries who hired the Technet predicted their imminent destruction. So much coincidence and so many new faces. Kylun, Cerise, Feron and now the evolved Widget. Who can they trust? Who are the players in this game and what is the prize they are playing for?
He leads them into a chamber, explaining that the Technet constructed these scanning devices when they began their search for Necrom and the Technet’s Joyboy. Unh? Captain Britain suddenly exclaims. When he tries to enter the room, his head hits the upper part of the doorway. The Technet must have lowered the door frames during renovations, he assumes. Either that or he’s grown taller, Kitty jokes.
Kurt switches on the scanning devices, explaining their search was unsuccessful, because they did not know anything about Necrom. But if he possesses a quantity of the Phoenix Force it will be a simple matter of attuning the detectors to the energy signature of Phoenix… and there he is! Kurt points to the screen. At his current speed, Necrom will be here within the hour.
She will be ready this time, a dejected Rachel promises. Kurt tells her not to let Feron’s childish outburst fill her with guilt. By keeping the Phoenix Force dormant, she denies Necrom what he wants. Kitty adds that it would be stupid to reactivate the Phoenix Force and shatter her memory. She’s on the verge of total recall. Kurt asks her to let them handle Necrom.
Brian tries to work the keyboard when it shatters under his fingers. Apologetically, he states that keyboard was junk. No, it was state of the art, Kitty replies confused, built to last. But he isn’t that clumsy, Brian replies helplessly. He means, he can control his superstrength. Maybe Roma didn’t remove that jinx she had put on him, Kitty suggest. Brian doesn’t believe that. He trusts Roma.
Kurt notices that Brian secretly fears Kitty is right. Rachel is torn and confused. Their confidence is eroded by self-doubt. Is that more manipulation by their mysterious adversaries?
Downstairs in the kitchen, Meggan is preparing a snack with Cerise’s help while Feron is sulking. Cerise states this Earth food has her confused. She picks up a sausage. Meggan says this is meat, animal flesh, but how did it live? It has no limbs or internal organs or nerves. Feron interrupts: he shouldn’t be with them. The preparation of food is a servile task.
Blasphemer! Suddenly, an ogre dressed in a Captain Britain Corps outfit and, holding a meat cleaver, shouts at them. How dare they violate his kitchen?
His kitchen? Meggan asks and indeed the kitchen has changed, becoming a bloody mess full of the entrails and bodies of strange beings. The Ogre tells them not to play innocents. Their scrawny carcasses mark them as members of Magmeato’s Brotherhood of Evil Vegetarians here to sabotage his latest recipe: deviled lizard guzzard in grub worm fricassee. Well, they are too late. He scoffed the lot and now he craves a slice of herbivore flesh. Cerise fires at the ogre.
Above them, Kitty hears the energy blast and phases down to see what’s going on. Rachel announces that some sort of static is disrupting her telepathy. Kurt wants to join Kitty and teleports downstairs.
When Kitty arrives in the kitchen things are back to normal… devastated by Cerise’s blast, but normal. Meggan announces that a big fat chef with a meat cleaver appeared. He attacked them, Cerise adds. She fired in self defence. Feron just sits on the ground, looking stunned.
Captain Britain and Rachel join them. Kitty explains to them that one of their lighthouse apparitions spooked Cerise, so she killed their kitchen. Rachel points out that Kurt should have gotten here by now. Where is he?
Kurt has teleported into the kitchen to stumble upon Meggan’s corpse. After his first shock, he realizes that the corpse is long dead. Is this the future? The next moment he sees his own skeletal remains… or those of a crosstime analogue killed by arrows. He peers outside the windows and sees an icy desert with binary suns lighting up the sky. An alternate reality, but how did he get there?
He walks, passing the next corpse, a different Captain. He cannot teleport between dimensions, he muses. Is this an illusion, a crosstime mirage? He tries to teleport a short distance, but is still in that reality. He reminds himself how his power works. When he teleports, he condenses distance by travelling through subspace. His ability is instinctive and instantaneous, so he has never been able to analyze the mechanics of the process. What enhanced senses allow him to recognize and project himself to a specific destination?
He feels around, sensing this place is wrong in a way he cannot put into words. There is a quality… elusive, like a scent or flavor. It is subtly different, from the one he associates with the lighthouse kitchen on his world. Perhaps if he recalls the precise “scent” of his kitchen.… He teleports again and lands in the right place.
He tells his surprised teammates he was in another dimension. Something caused him to skip crosstime when he teleported. Kitty relates they had another phantom incident while he was gone. Maybe he was diverted through the interface. Possible, he agrees, but suggests it would be safer to face Necrom outside.
Kitty reminds him they need to collect the others from the basement first. Rachel points out that she can’t reach them. Some sort of static is still blocking her telepathy. Brain is the last one to leave, again damaging the doorway. They are definitely smaller, he mutters.
In the basement, Alistaire examines the Widget shells while Kylun guards his current self. Alistaire muses that the body he is currently examining is far more advanced than the others he’s examined. The gears, cogs and pistons have been superseded by an intricate web of coiled bands that allow a far greater range of lateral motion. Unlike Kylun, he doesn’t notice alternate versions of Adam Warlock and Baron Blood flying past them and fighting before disappearing. Did he see that? Kylun shouts. Did he see what? a battery of Alistaires from different realities reply. Kylun blinks and there is only ordinary Alistaire left, not having noticed anything wrong. Is he going mad? Kylun wonders.
The others join them and Kurt tells them the frequency of crosstime interfaces is increasing. They must evacuate the lighthouse. What about Widget? Kylun asks. He could be the cause, Kitty suggests. Kylun disagrees, sure that this is Necrom’s work.
Unable to judge his movements properly, Cap tumbles some of the Widget shells. He apologizes. He seems to be misjudging his physical dimensions. Is he ill? Meggan asks worried. Brian admits he feels odd, bloated… bigger than usually. Kurt admits he does look bigger. But that’s insane! Brian exclaims before screaming in pain as he physically grows taller and more muscular to Hulkish proportions. Is he in pain? Meggan asks agitated. He holds her to calm her and assures her that strangely enough… he feels good… exhilarated, supercharged. She wonders if Roma has done that. Brian doesn’t know. He’d like to think not… but someone is definitely playing games with them.
More phantoms pass them, a group of Fantastic Four in X-Men uniforms who notice Excalibur but are too busy.
A moment later, they see dinosaur versions of the Punisher and Iron Man doing battle. The interface events follow one another more frequently than ever before. Cerise remarks that the fourth dimensional pulse has become more focused too. She can’t tell if Widget is generating it, but it seems to be creating a stable zone around their group by counteracting temporal distortion. Then what is causing the disruption? Kurt asks. He is, Necrom replies as his astral form surrounded by flames appears. He tells them those fleeting spectres are but the first faint ripple of the convergence. The infinity of alternate Earths are being compressed into a singularity. Only the power of the Phoenix can forestall their hellish oblivion.
Kurt warns Rachel not to let Necrom goad her. Yes, he wants the Phoenix, he tells them, and he shall have it. If Rachel releases it now, he shall spare her world. If she denies him, she will suffer eternal agony.
In Roma’s Starlight citadel on Otherworld:
An agitated Saturnyne tells her mistress that interdimensional transit and communication are breaking down. There are numerous timequakes and reality warps.
Outwardly calm, Roma is aware of the situation, but its causes are beyond her comprehension. Forces more powerful than her are at work here. An energy vortex originating from the vicinity of the Earth 616 Excalibur has started to collapse the multiverse in upon itself. Its purpose is as mysterious as its creator. Did Merlyn tell her nothing of this powerplay? No, Roma admits. He did not confide in her.
He told her all he wished her to know, comes a voice from a shadowy corner of he room.
Roma turns around in surprise seeing her father. Yes daughter, Merlyn replies, taking a figure representing Roma and putting it on his chessboard. Your loving father has returned from the dead. The final gambit begins.