A phone cell somewhere in London:
A nervous-looking teenager tries in vain to reach X-Factor, the old X-Factor that is… Beast, Cyclops…. What he reaches instead is the answering machine at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. He gives his spiel, telling the machine it’s Tom Jones of the London Jones. He was given their number by the new X-Factor. He’s calling to tell them he needs their help because he’s sure he was followed by the same trolls that were after him once for his mutant power! Now his mum is missing and he is certain they’ve taken her hostage…
Thomas, hang up, someone says next to him. He gulps and complies, promising he will call back.
But he never did a narrator tells a listening crowd. “The end,” one of them suggests. The rest boo. The narrator tells them he was teasing. For how can any tale be finished before the introduction of its lead players? In this case, the members of Excalibur looking through the sewer for any signs of Sat-yr-9 or her gang.
Meggan gently suggest that they’ve been searching non-stop for a week. Cerise suggests that they know from previous experience that Vixen used the sewer system to access her primary underground quarters. Shadowcat just remarks she is disgusted by the smell.
The team pauses. Agitated, Cap tells her if they wanted to sit about waiting for one super-villain or the other to attack, she should never have left the X-Men! Nightcrawler gets between them, asking Brian not to get… catty. Shadowcat explains that nobody wants a crack at Sat-yr-9 more than she does. When she thinks what Sat-y-9 did at her birthday party – yeeach!
Angrily, Brian reminds the others that she’s responsible for the death of Courtney Ross, his oldest and dearest friend. No matter how long it takes, he will track her down and make sure she… Suddenly, they hear a scream. Was he going to say screams? Meggan mutters. Pays actually, he mutters back. Nightcrawler points out the scream was too loud to have come from above. Cerise uses her wrist stellar sensors to extrapolate its origin.
They round a corner and find golden statues of two policemen who seem to be frozen in peculiar positions, as if fending something or someone off. Could they be Sat-yr-9’s handiwork? Kurt suggests. A warning, perhaps. Not her style, Cap decides. Too obvious. The woman is nothing if not subtle.
Cerise looks at her sensors and announces they are alive. Her sensors indicate the presence of sub-epidermal, fully operational internal organs and active cardio-respiratory functions. These are human beings transmuted into gold. In a moment, she should be able to track…
No need for that, Meggan interrupts as she changes into a more feral form to follow the assailant’s scent. The others follow. What they find is a group of rather large… troll-like creatures.
Abandon all hope ye who enter here, the one who looks like a dinosaur quotes Dante’s Inferno. Especially if yer a mutant, a gorilla lookalike adds. Surprised, aren’t they a horned one asks. How could they have expected Phum and Phop and Phay and Phlopp and Phlegm and Phoug? Kitty sighs. Times like this, she misses the Sentinels.
The dinosaur warns them not to laugh. Cap attacks him and at the same time warns Shadowcat that if they are actually the trolls of lore, they are brigands to be reckoned with. The horned one hits him and agrees. Ah, the inhumanity of it, the dinosaur sighs.
Nightcrawler teleports out of the reach of the gorilla, causing him to slam headfirst into wall. Anyone care to explain what is going on here? he asks. Anyone conscious perhaps.
Phlegm tries to kill Shadowcat with an axe (not very successfully and hitting his friends instead). He tells them they are after the Trolls’ prizes, as if they didn’t know. Speaking for herself, she didn’t know, Kitty replies. She does know if he keeps hurling that axe through her intangible form he is going to be the most unpopular troll on the greater island.
The winged horned one who still beats Brian explains they are the Troll Associates. Popularity is not on their agenda.
The dinosaur has changed into a squid, suggesting he wants to hold Brian’s hand. Maybe they can build their own Sentinels, Cap sighs.
While Cap is busy with the metamorph an unassuming looking boy, in fact the one who tried to call the X-Men earlier, pats him on the back. There is an intense glow and the others turn around to find Captain Britain transmuted into a golden statue.
Frightened, Meggan runs to his side and shoves the boy away. The boy apologizes before he is carried away by the fleeing trolls.
Hugging the statue, Meggan begs the others to do something. Nightcrawler tells her to calm herself. As near as they know, Brian is still alive under there. However, Meggan soon has other problems, for he spot where the boy touched her arm is golden. Is she transmuting as well? she wonders.
That moment, more cops arrive. Their leader explains that two of his men turned to gold while tracking down a kidnap victim. Nightcrawler agrees they saw them. Kind of a cosmic statement on the duality of cosmic symmetry, the policeman continues. Kurt can’t follow him. The cop explains that these statues pop up on the same night that two other statues were stolen from Hyde Park.
Hmm, Kurt thinks, then asks the police to keep an eye on Captain Britain while they investigate. He continues that alchemy would indicate a problem of a mystical nature. Excalibur has recently if reluctantly added a mage to its roster. He asks Cerise to fly back to the manor and return straight away with Feron. And if he refuses? she asks. Convince him, comes the reply. It’s about time he earned his keep. Cerise flies off.
At the same time, on a Blackbird en route to London are the X-Men’s blue team. The youngest (sometime) member Jubilee asks what the big rush is. Cyclops at the helm explains that Tom Jones is an associate from their days as the original X-Factor.
Never heard of him, Logan mutters. He wasn’t supposed to, Scott replies and asks Beast to tell the rest.
The story began when the aforementioned Thomas was abducted from hearth and home by a troll. Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Archangel and Marvel Girl answered a call for help from the boy’s mother. Mrs. Jones believed the troll to have been a mutant. A perfectly understandable faux pas.
It was a simple matter for X-Factor to follow their trail on the streets, quite literally paved with AU 79 on the periodic table of elements (That’s “gold” for the atomically impaired). They learned there was a community of upwardly mobile trolls united in their desire to destroy the world economy. Two of the lot made the mistake of threatening young Tom’s mother in an attempt to use his mutant ability to create alchemical transmutations that would further their cause.
He rebelled, using his captors to create a unique form of fool’s gold. Feeling the need to continue his studies, Tom begged off X-Factor’s offer to help hone his mutant abilities as Alchemy.
So he starts flailing about for help and they come running? Jubilee pouts. Wolverine tells her to buckle up. For landing? she protests. She’s strapped in already. He meant her lip, comes the reply.
After putting their not insubstantially-sized ship into covert hover mode above the Jones’ residence, the X-Men go down to business. They enter the apartment to find it ravaged. The X-Men check the place, but in vain.
Wolverine tells the others it has been empty for about an hour and a half. Before that, there was one woman sipping Earl Grey tea and… someone… something else. Wolverine sniffs for the scent. The trail goes to the window. He begins snarling and jumps outside. The others follow.
Gambit comments the Canuck is out of sorts. Cyclops curtly replies he will be fine. However, he worries. Since Mariko’s death Logan’s grip on sanity seems to weaken a little more every day.
Beast asks Scott if he recognizes the path. Scott realizes it’s the same route they followed to the trolls’ lair.
And soon, not much later, below the London Bridge, Wolverine tries to cut apart the wall. Jubilee gets him to snap out of it and Cyclops does the honors, using with his optic blast.
Meanwhile, within the tunnels, Meggan hurries away, Kurt and Kitty asks her to wait. They cannot afford to be separated. Brian might not have much time she replies. Who knows if he can breathe in that statue? Despite that she suddenly stops. Her shapeshifting power put off the transmutation as long as it could. But now she too turns to gold. Her last words are a plea to save Brian.
Horrified, Kurt Wagner watches the transmutation, blaming himself for it. Rachel taken to the stars. Kylun leaves to find his parents. And now… this?
He runs off. Where is he going? Kitty shouts. To do what he can to hold this team together, he replies, while there is still some semblance of Excalibur left! She could have guessed this would happen sooner or later, Kitty sighs. But she was counting on later.
Nightcrawler reaches what he believes to be the bad guys standing in the shadows. Salutations, my Teutonic elf, one of them greets him. They should have kept running, he warns them. In order to see his teammates returned to their original state, he would gladly battle one troll or one hundred! Before they can fight, an optic blast keeps him off. Sorry to disappoint him, the speaker reveals himself as Beast, no one here but them X-Men.
Kurt is still confused. Beast tells the others to give him a moment to adjust to the unscheduled arrival of his former comrades. First time he’s seen most of them in the flesh, Wolverine reminds them.
Shadowcat join them and happily greets and hugs Wolverine, Rogue and Cyclops. Trying to free himself from her grip, Scott explains that they called Braddock Manor to let them know they were en route, but they were out. A London based associate – a young mutant with alchemy-based powers needs their help.
Grimly Kurt replies that their “friend” may single-handedly be responsible for destroying his team. He’s sorry, Scott offers. Thanks, comes the dark reply, but “sorry” he has in abundance.
Got here just in time, Gambit mocks and Jubilee agrees. Another fight and they would have missed the big surrender.
Cyclops sternly tells them to amuse themselves on their own time. Right now it’s important to remember they are after a small army of trolls. … and a hostile mutant, Shadowcat stresses. Cyclops disagrees. Wolverine points out that people change.
Psylocke scans and tells Wolverine to sheathe his claws. She’s getting the vaguest impression of Tom and his mother. They are under a great deal of stress.
Tom and his mother are imprisoned in the trolls’ lair amongst the golden riches, chained with chains of gold. What other choice does he have? Tom tries to justify himself. With her as hostage and the two of them safely tucked away in this former bomb shelter turned treasure trove…
That doesn’t make it all right to help these… these monsters, she insists. He doesn’t know if “trolls” technically fall under the category of monsters, he muses. They hurt people! she exclaims. She forbids him to have any part in it!
The trolls return. One of them lifts up Tom and dangles him from his arm. Momma’s boy, another one mocks. Often, they explain, over the years they have been maligned and misunderstood, it was never their intention that he use his power to hurt humans, another assures him. He alone possesses the power to return their associates to their original form. He points to two troll statues whom Tom changed long before. Tom protests that he can’t…
Phlegm stops Phay’s spiel, informing him the encroachers are approaching, with the scent of the others.
Following Psylocke, the X-Men, past and present, have made their way to he front door of Trolls Associates inc. Betsy warns the team the trolls know they are coming. Let’s not keep their hosts waiting, Cyclops orders. Shadowcat has the point. Reconnoiter, but he warns her not to take any action of her own. And miss out on some old fashioned teamwork? she protests. Wouldn’t dream of it.
She phases ahead through the doors and the others wait. She returns to give them an all clear. She saw no hostiles. Beast then pries the doors apart. They walk ahead. Cyclops orders Kurt to bring up the rear. Gambit announces he and the chile will scout ahead, mon de orb uno. Did he just call Cyclops “one eye” in French? Jubilee whispers. Oui, he whispers back.
Cyclops forbids it. They won’t allow themselves to be divided and conquered much the same way Excalibur was all but defeated. Not that there’s much of a chance of them being attacked by a second set of doors, Kitty points out, referring to the portal ahead. Should she…? Scott refuses. He doesn’t like the way this looks. Or smells, Wolverine adds. Familiar scent. Can’t place it. Relax, McGruff, Jubilee chides him. They’ll figure it out.
Betsy announces the trolls know they are here outside their home. They are laughing. They’ll see how they laugh when they blow their door off the hinges, Cyclops replies and tells Gambit to do it.
Gambit charges up a card and throws it. That moment, Wolverine shouts at him not to! The familiar scent is plastique! Tom turned the door into an explosive! The realization is unfortunately followed by a big explosion.