Alistaire Stuart slowly wakes. A man called Luke with a lion-like mane and beard tells someone called Peter that he is coming to. The man called Peter addresses Alistaire and apologizes for the violence done to him. It was most regrettable but his unauthorized intrusion into Cloud Nine necessitated a containment action and he’s afraid the Seraphim tend toward excess.
Alistaire’s vision clears and he sees the man who addresses him is a middle-aged blond man with a broad smile and wearing a priest’s collar. He offers his hand to help him up and introduces himself as Peter. Refusing to take the hand, Alistaire calls him a liar. He is Nigel Orpington-Smythe, publicly a government spokesman on national security, in reality director of the covert agency, the RCX. Orpington-Smythe framed his sister Alysande and had her court-martialed! History dear boy, ancient history, Peter replies undeterred.
Alistaire calls him a callous swine and gets up to attack him. Peter expresses his disappointment. For a man of his intelligence to be so emotional… He presses a button on his belt and another group of superpowered youngster rush in, the Advocates. One, an ox-like strongman – Aberdeen Angus – grabs Alistaire. Peter orders him not to harm the good doctor and introduces the rest of the group as Mustard, Shrew, Salt and Celery. Awfully dull codenames, he knows, but they have nigh on four hundred parahumans in Cloud Nine. That is the name of the facility, by the by. Their first acquisitions received colorful noms de guerre with appropriate nouns and imaginative adjectives but, as numbers increased, categorization became a priority. So they settled on animal, vegetable and mineral designations.
A thin redhead, dressed in red and pink, sulks that the American superheroes have the best names. She wanted to be called Rogue. Scarlet Witch would suit her better, one of the boys suggests. Naw, she’s the original incredible Sulk, another deadpans.
Alistaire calls them all insane. Whatever Peter’s mad scheme is, Excalibur will put an end to it. He phoned them before he was captured. With a smile, Peter tells him he knows. Alistaire was under surveillance prior to his pathetic attempt to infiltrate his organization. His agents allowed him to reach Cloud Nine security because his presence serves as a bait for Excalibur. And, when they arrive, a suitable reception will greet them…
Seventy five feet above Cloud Nine stands the crumbling ruin of St. Oswald’s Church where Cerise, Shadowcat and Nightcrawler of Excalibur are looking for their friend. Cerise tries to scan the area and has detected a geological anomaly directly beneath their position, but cannot ascertain its nature or if it is the structure for which they search. A disruptive cloak is being generated in this vicinity.
If someone is going to the trouble to hide something, there must be something to be hid, Kitty decides and offers to phase down and scout around. Nightcrawler declines. They must stay together. If he has a bad feeling about this, he should have called Brian and Meggan back, she points out. They have troubles of their own, Kurt replies. He would prefer not to disturb their vacation until they know what they are dealing with.
“Us, Mr. Nightcrawler” a voice pips up. Nightcrawler turns around to see a peanut-shaped youngster in a bionic device allowing him to move. “Us being the Seraphim… a group of rather unique individuals.” He is known as Peanut. A feral girl kicks Cerise in the head and hits her again. Weasel is sneaky and vicious, Peanut gloats. Kitty tries to stop Weasel but is felled by a ghostlike being, Cyanide whose touch paralyzes all voluntary nerve impulses…
Only Nightcralwer is left standing. He kicks a rock at Cyanide’s head. Clever, Peanut commends him, but it will not improve his situation, and Pumice and Cabbage, two muscle-bound creatures, attack him. Kurt fights back but cannot teleport away thanks to Peanut’s gift, as the little twerp points out, of breaking people’s concentration.
Nightcrawler falls down and doesn’t move anymore. Peanut warns the boys: Peter will not be pleased if they permanently injured them.
Cabbage carries Kurt inside, along with the other Excalibur members, unaware that Nightcrawler is playing possum.
Light years away, Phoenix, in the form of Rachel Summers, drifts lifelessly through space. Tormented as it recently learned that it has become a parasite whose mere existence consumes the life energy of the unborn. And since the Phoenix cannot die while the universe endures, it contemplates an eternity in which to regret its folly. Paralyzed by guilt, it prays for oblivion.
Peter informs Alistaire that the Seraphim are taking Excalibur to the reception area where he can meet them. En route, Alistaire will have an opportunity to observe how extensive and well-equipped this facility is. It was built largely by utilizing the diverse and unique abilities of their para-humans. They have living quarters, gyms, dining and social areas, laboratories… And prisoners, Alistaire stresses.
He sees MicroMax bound and tested on. He’s undergoing a series of medical tests, Peter explains. Why is he being restrained? Alistaire demands. Peter explains that MicroMax has a cavalier attitude to the obligation possession of power entails. He has total mastery over the physical dimensions of his anatomy. A remarkable gift he chooses to waste in pursuit of personal gratification. What has that to do with him? Alistaire demands. MicroMax is with FI6!
Peter informs him that FI6 no longer exists, having been absorbed into the RCX. And since Alistaire’s sister’s untimely death, WHO has also been merged with the RCX, so they are on the same team.
Does he seriously expect him to work with them? Alistaire replies agitated. Luke warns him he has no choice. He is a government employee and the Resources Control Executive has picked up his contract.
Peter reprimands Luke. They are not villains, he assures Alistaire. This facility is authorized by the British government to contain, protect and educate para humans.
That moment, a group of men with a child on a stretcher pass them. Who is it? Peter asks. Beetroot, he is told, Fourth-grade telepath. He’s fading fast. Alistaire looks into pain-filled eyes and time seem to suddenly stop as he shares Beetroot’s memories.
An infant sitting alone in the dark, waiting for his mother and her warm embrace. When she is with him, he is happy. But happy times are all too brief and the waiting is so very long. One day longer than usual. Time passes, doubt becomes fear, fear becomes terror. From the mysterious world above, mother’s voice shrieks in futile protest.
People come through the cellar door. Shadow men with quiet minds. Rough hands drag the child from the safe darkness into the cruel light. Disgust, pity, fear leaks though startled psychic shields. In the intruders’ thoughts, the child sees himself for the first time and begins to cry.
Agent Michael and his colleagues from the RCX take the child to a building with the other Warpies. A cold place of barred windows. Others gather around him menacingly, but actually the older kids reach out to him in friendship, promising to look after him.
And soon he forgets the stark severity of his new home. Now he has friends, a family, a new name: Beetroot. And lurking in the half-light the mysterious people who shape his destiny. He listens in to Michael, Gabriel and the other agents without understanding as they discuss that their foe Orpington-Smythe is intent on building an army. They cannot let him use the children. They’ve got to get them away from here. He’s a powerful man. They need protection. Captain Britain…
Another move and they find a new home at Braddock Manor. A place of special people with glowing minds. A lady-like mother, Betsy, whose mind smiles to Beetroot. And her brother, the Captain. Grim. Aloof, radiating strength. Just how Beetroot wants to be when he grows up. There is magic too. In a cavern of shimmering stars. The gamemaster Jeeves, a ghostman made of light who is sometimes Mastermind – a giant superhero.
These are happy times but the happy times never last. Betsy and the Captain leave so Beetroot sits and watches and waits. Sharing in the joyous emotions of more agile bodies. Until a hostile thought touches him. Treachery. Someone placing a bomb. Beetroot tries to warn agent Michael but walking is difficult for him. He is too late and the world dissolves in searing light and the magic cavern dies. Agonized confusion gives way to unconsciousness. Time is lost but when Beetroot awakes, he is alone in a living nightmare. Strapped into a machine. Cold and alone.
Then, without warning, the pain begins. It grows relentlessly overwhelming all other sensation. Until suddenly, thankfully, it stops and before Alistaire’s eyes Beetroot dies.
Peter realizes Alistaire’s unshielded mind shared the trauma and orders Alistaire to pull himself together. Alistaire hits him, accusing him for experimenting and killing the child. Angus knocks Alistaire out.
Peter orders Dr Jordan to attend to Stuart and conduct an autopsy on Beetroot to find the cause of the destabilization crisis.
Elsewhere on a water-tossed Cornish beach before dawn. Meggan rides on a horse and thinks, looking at her engagement ring. Captain Britain surprises her and teasingly asks if she is having second thoughts. She is happier than she has ever been, she assures him. So happy she couldn’t sleep. Why didn’t she wake him? She didn’t want to disturb him, she replies. He has looked so tired lately. He’s fine, Brian assures her and suggests a race back. Last one makes breakfast. Leave Jackdaw, he will find his own way back to the stable.
Meggan suddenly looks at him with surprise, a moment later he falls from the sky into the water. Anxiously, she rushes to his side. Surprised, he finds he can no longer fly.
Back at Cloud Nine:
The Seraphim carry the unconscious members of Excalibur inside. The one carrying him complains. Kurt uses his distraction to teleport away, then attacks his foes swiftly with martial arts moves, making them use their powers on each other.
Peanut falls down and angrily orders the strong green creature Cabbage to jump Nightcrawler while he stops him from teleporting. However, Kurt again manages to play Cabbage against Pumice with a judo move.
Peanut is about to panic. Kurt promises not to hurt him. The kid snarls back he isn’t afraid of him, but the terminal he demolished generated a forcewall to the snake pit. He let the serpents out!
Immediately green tentacles try to grab Nightcrawler who manages to free himself from the tentacles. However, seeing the number, he fears he will be overwhelmed.
Peanut suggests he get the two of them out but Kurt refuses seeing as how the serpents have Kitty and Cerise. It’s too late for them, Peanut informs him. The Serpents are vicious. Some are carnivorous. He orders him teleport them out before they get them! Kurt suggests Peanut neutralize the serpents’ powers. They don’t have any, comes the reply. Physical deformity isn’t always accompanied by novel superpowers. But so he’s rolling out of here. Viciously, he makes sure Kurt still cannot teleport.
Seeing his two friends in danger, Kurt keeps on fighting, overpowered by his rage and the guilt he feels about Rachel. He vows never to fail a friend again and indeed manages to take so many of them down that the others withdraw in fear.
As his temper cools, Nightcrawler feels pity for the grotesque attackers. Tortured humanity burns helplessly in their eyes. Most impressive, he is told as Peter steps in joined by another group one of whom is carrying Peanut who announces they thought they’d have to save him.
Do they think him a fool? Nightcrawler shouts back. He has been attacked without provocation and he is ready to continue the fight if they so wish. Peter explains that the Serpents are not receptive to orders and the Seraphim were merely maintaining security. Nightcrawler was, after all, trespassing on private property. That sort of behavior may be accepted in the colonies but will not be tolerated in their fair land.
Kurt points out if Peter knows him he also knows he is no criminal. On the contrary, he is informed. The three of them are all illegal aliens. Kurt Wagner, a German, Katherine Pryde, an American and Cerise, a true alien alien. He hereby places them all under arrest pending official investigation. As of this moment, Excalibur is disbanded!