The gardens of Braddock Manor. Betsy Braddock aka Psylocke is kicking her brother, Captain Britain, in the face. She moves with the grace of a panther and the speed of a striking cobra as she jumps behind him and strikes him again. But her blows have scant effect on Captain’s Britain’s brawny frame.
He tries to hit her and instead connects with a tree as she dodges his blow. His titanic strength is of little use against an opponent he cannot touch. Neither can gain an advantage. They are too evenly matched. Victory can only be won by exploiting a careless move or a moment’s hesitation.
Betsy keeps on dodging and goads him that her telepathic power allows her to anticipate his next move and react before… K=R/NA 1.380658(12) x 10 –23 JK –1 ? Cap uses her moment of puzzlement and goes for her throat as he remarks that is the S1 unit value of the Boltzmann constant. He thought it may confuse her. Now, does he crush her head…or does she punch her psychic knife into his, she retorts.
The two of them begin to laugh as she reminds him she told him she toughened up since they were together last. She’s certainly changed, he admits. He has too, Betsy observes. Not, physically, but inside. That’s why he asked her to come, he admits, taking off his helmet. They always shared a psychic bond. She knows him better than he knows himself. Especially now… He doesn’t know who he is anymore. He used to think of himself as intelligent, logical… in control. But his first reaction to any crisis is violence. He doesn’t think, he acts. It’s instinctive. He’s tried to deny it, but the fact is he enjoys fighting.
It’s in their blood, Betsy reminds him. They are descended from the warrior caste of Otherworld. Their privileged life here at Braddock Manor insulated them from the ravages of the real world, so they cultivated a veneer of British reserve. But it was a pretence.
It was manipulation, Brian adds grimly. Dad was Merlyn’s agent, Betsy agrees. But Merlyn is out of the picture now. He certainly hopes so, Brian remarks. Maybe that’s why he feels so insecure, Betsy suggests. Yes, for the first time his life is his own, he can be himself. And not a pale imitation of their big brother, Betsy adds with a smirk.
He always felt he was in competition with Jamie, Brian muses. He seemed to be so smart and sophisticated when they were kids. Jamie knew how to enjoy himself, Betsy points out, but he was an arrogant snob. So was he, Brian states. Betsy hugs his waist. He grew out of it. Brian thanks her wryly.
Meanwhile, on the veranda of Braddock Manor, Nightcrawler has set up a beam of wood and several other items for martial arts training. He concentrates; then with a cry breaks it with his leg, then strikes through some bricks with his hand.
That moment, Kitty, Meggan and Lockheed return from a shopping trip. Worried, Kitty runs up to him. What is he doing? Training, he replies calmly. He never trained like that before, she points out. Her ninja skills don’t give her a monopoly on the martial arts, he announces with a smile. Wolverine taught him much during their time on the X-Men as well.
That’s not what she meant, Kitty replies annoyed. He’s always concentrated on passive systems, not destructive techniques. If he is to lead Excalibur, he must be prepared for all eventualities, Kurt explains. They are a team, Kitty insist. They share the risks. It’s not all on his shoulders. He knows that, Kurt assures her. Then why won’t he talk to her about Rachel? Kitty asks. Why hasn’t he told them what happened in Germany?
Kurt apologizes. He did not realize his silence had caused her such distress. Please, let them not argue. Their guests for the housewarming party will be arriving soon and they all have much to do. He walks away and Kitty and Meggan look after him with concern.
Not far beyond the manor’s west wing in the gardens, Cerise stands beside and Kylun kneels in front a monument. It was kind of Brian to allow Sat’neen to rest here beside his parents, Kylun observes. Does he miss his woman? Cerise asks. More than words can say, he admits. Sat’neen was his chosen lifemate. On her world, neither male nor female form such emotional bonds, Cerise explains. That is to their loss, Kylun replies as he takes up his rucksack. If bonding is so important, why is he leaving? Cerise asks. He has friends here. He has Kylun stresses, in Scotland. He must let them know he is alive, but Lord knows how they will receive him. He was stolen from them only a year ago as an eight-year-old freckle-faced child.
While Brian flying and Betsy balancing on his back pass them by, Cerise asks if he cannot at least stay for the party and bid the others farewell? He is not in the mood for frivolity. She should tell Kurt he will be in touch. With that he leaves.
Later, in the evening a lightning storm begins. All the member of Excalibur wear formal wear, as do the guests who arrive, the fist ones being Dai Thomas who is grumbling about his bowtie and psychic Emilia Witherspoon. With a grin, Brian asks Meggan for a double whiskey for Dai. Make that two, Dai corrects him.
Emilia greets Kurt and asks where Kylun and Feron are. Kurt explains Kylun had some personal business to resolve and Feron has retreated to meditate in the estate’s forest since Phoenix left for parts unknown. They’ve tried to coax him out, but he is very stubborn, Betsy adds. Obnoxious would be more accurate, Kitty sulks as she tickles Lockheed.
Alistaire looks out of the window and announces his twin sister, Alysande, is arriving. Brigadier Alysande Stuart comes in, apologizing for still being in uniform. She didn’t have time to change. Alistaire shows her to her room. On that stairs, he asks why she is late, that’s untypical of her.
Something unexpected turned up, she admits, a meeting. She’s being court-martialed, she explains and tells him to shush. She’s been charged with supplying information that may compromise the security of the realm. Selling state secrets? To whom? Alistaire asks. SHIELD, comes the reply. Information was leaked. All evidence points to her. She got to know Nick Fury when she was a junior officer attached to SHIELD as NATO liaison. Then during the “Air Walker” affair Fury offered her limited use of SHIELD’s heli carrier’s surveillance systems. It was already in British airspace on other business. WHO operates on a shoestring budget. They wouldn’t have located Cayre or his creations without SHIELD’s advanced technology.
So she’s been accused of paying off SHIELD with secrets? Alistaire asks. Yes, she agrees. What is she going to do? With a smile she keeps him outside her room and tells him she’s going to have a shower, put on her best frock and warpaint and enjoy the party. She’ll be down in fifteen minutes.
Downstairs, Courtney Ross, decked out splendidly in her trademark white, makes her entrance, much to Kitty’s pleasure. She hopes they don’t mind, Courtney states, but she brought a friend. What? Brian calls out displeased. She didn’t betray his trust, she assures him. Indeed not, said companion Nigel Frobisher, adds, he deduced their secret identities from his own encounters with them. Brian glares at him, recognizing him from Courtney’s bank. Nigel explains that he’s the assistant financial director. But, more importantly, he hurries to Courtney’s side, he is close friend, ardent admirer and loyal servant to the devastating Ms. Ross.
Courtney holds him off, explaining that poor Nigel is devoted to her, but Brian was her first love and he has spoiled her for lesser men. She draws the surprised Brian down in a passionate kiss. Meggan is shocked.
Kitty diplomatically draws Courtney away, suggesting she could get her and Nigel a drink. Any bubbly? Nigel asks while Counrty shoots Meggan a triumphant look. Furious, Meggan throws herself at Brian and kisses him even more passionately. That done, she glares at Courtney, while holding on to Brian possessively.
Having witnessed all this, a puzzled Cerise asks Kurt if lip massage is an important ceremony on this world. Ja, he agrees, and highly pleasurable. She grabs him and kisses him straight for almost ten minutes. Kurt sighs in blissful exhaustion while the rest is amused.
Outside, in the pouring rain, Feron sits in meditation. Since birth, he was prepared in monastic isolation, for a single moment in time, the moment when he was destined to host the Phoenix Force, but the moment has passed. His heritage was lost to another. Now he broods on his sorry plight and ponders on the fate his future holds. Behind him he hears someone cackling madly. Before he can react, the man slugs him into a tree. As he falls unconscious, the mad laughter continues.
Inside, Alistaire has told Kitty and Kurt about his sister’s problem. They too are amazed and Kitty recalls Alysande’s bravery, fighting alongside both Excalibur and the X-Men against the Reavers. Alistaire continues that WHO wouldn’t even exist without Alysande. She saw the need for a tactical force of scientists and lateral thinkers to anticipate, detect and analyze the bizarre that lies beyond the fringes of man’s current knowledge. He apologizes for ranting. Don’t tell Alysande about him spilling the goods; she doesn’t want to spoil the party.
Currently, though, there isn’t much to spoil. Brian is embarrassed at Courtney’s blatant attentions, a situation which (for different reasons) also disgusts Meggan, Nigel and Betsy. Only Dai is unhappy for other reasons, namely his bowtie.
Alysande is standing in front of a mirror, only wearing a sheath, applying make-up. Understandably, she is still anxious, wondering who framed her. Nice, a voice behind her leers. She turns around and immediately attacks the intruder with a kick. Foul stroke, he states. Hurting him is against the rules. And if she doesn’t play by the rules… she doesn’t play! He hits her hard.
Down in the parlour, Emilia screams. Betsy tells the others to run upstairs. It’s Alysande! That moment, the light goes out. Due to lightning hitting the powerlines, Cap assumes. Cerise illuminates the stairway. Brian opens the door to Alysande’s room. They find Alysande dead with a broken neck.
So are her back, arms and legs, Nightcrawler surmises. She has been crushed. But how? Cerise wonders. There’s nothing here. Betsy announces there’s danger downstairs. Something with Emilia. Kurt immediately teleports.
Down in the dark parlour, he finds Dai, Emilia and Lockheed, unconscious, but alive. He notices he’s not alone; there’s an armed woman. Kurt tries to attack, but she shoots him first.
They got Kurt, Betsy announces upstairs. Brian orders Cerise to stay back with Kitty and Alistaire while he, Meggan and Betsy hurry downstairs.
Trying to comfort Alistaire, Kitty asks Cerise if she can detect anything. Cerise tells her that her broadband sensor array is housed in her battle dress gloves.
That moment, somebody enters from the window behind her and seems to pull at Cerise. She cries out in pain while he laughs. Alistaire wants to attack but suddenly dances like a marionette. Kitty too feels herself gripped by some invisible force. My, but she’s a slippery one, the killer remarks. She manages to phase free. Still hurting, she phases away through the ground.
Meggan, Brian and Betsy race down the stairs in the dark. Betsy cannot sense anything, but she adds she is starting to recognize blind spots from her telepathic perception. Their adversary must be using some sort of psychic damper. He could be anywhere.
That moment, Widget appears in front of them, announcing it is imperative they stop the Sent— He disappears. But the lightshow was enough for others to find them.
Cap is shot. He moans. Brian, Brian, he hears a familiar voice calling out. Courtney? he asks. He gets up and follows the voice. Meggan left behind looks up and somebody fires a gun at her.
Betsy angrily attacks the helmeted woman but finds that suddenly she can’t move. She is stuck within a forcefield. It’s nice to see her again, somebody taunts. Oh no, she cries, recognizing the speaker.
Weakly, Brian follows Courtney’s voice into another room. What he finds instead is “Courtney” dressing in a uniform, surrounded by her loyal people. “Saturnyne?” he exclaims. She is Sat-yr-9, she corrects him. She would be sorely wounded that he should mistake her for another if she did not understand that they are all represented across the multiverse by an infinity of doppelgangers. Some are distorted mirror images, others are precise duplicates. Indeed, she has exploited this very fact.
Where is Courtney? Brian asks weakly. Well, one might say she has filled Courtney’s shoes for some time now, Sat-yr-9 smirks. What has she done to her? he asks, barely able to stand. She tells him to relax and not fight it. That little missile that hit him was a super hypodermic. It impregnated his thick hide with a drug that will sap his will power.
Never had much of that in the first place, did he? somebody else leers. Mad Jamie Braddock, holding his sister Betsy by the hair. Oh, he just loves family reunions, Jamie announces.