(30 minutes ago)
In the dead of the night, the techno-organic member of Excalibur known as Douglock is ripped from the ground of the Muir Island Research Center by agents of Black Air. The harpoon that penetrates his chest makes him scream for the first time in his existence, and nothing will ever be the same.
Inside the complex, Excalibur’s leader, Nightcrawler, talks with the remaining members of the team and their host, Dr. Moira MacTaggert, about what has happened, while a computer screen in the background shows an image of Douglock as he was ripped from Muir. Nightcrawler tells his friends that by the time the surveillance system had realized what had happened, the jet with the Black Air symbol was long-gone, with Douglock as a prisoner. They clearly want Excalibur to know it was them who took him, possibly because Black Air knows Excalibur is protecting Alistaire Stuart, whom they want dead. This could also be a warning for the team not to act upon those secrets that Alistaire had told Excalibur about Black Air, or maybe Black Air actually wanted Douglock for something.
Whatever the case, Kurt Wagner tells Moira, Meggan, Kitty, Colossus, Wisdom and Wolfsbane that it doesn’t matter, and their “fencing” with Black Air stops now. Excalibur came to Muir Island to do some good. To help the world, rather than fight with it and brush away the leftovers. And while Nightcrawler does not want to put Excalibur back into ongoing combat situations, as team leader he cannot allow Black Air to mock the superheroes like this. Excalibur have listened in silence. Each of them have their own reasons for following one man‘s dream of peaceful co-existence between man and mutant, however it is not the dream of just one man anymore, but the dream of many, and they too will not stand idly by what has just happened.
Nightcrawler asks former Black air agent Pete Wisdom if he has any idea where Black Air would have taken Douglock. Wisdom tells Kurt it depends on what they are treating Douglock as. If they were treating him as an artifact, then he would have been taken to the Acquisition Station in North Yorkshire. That’s where everything Black Air steals goes. It is like the “paperwork center”. If they were treating Douglock like a prisoner-of-war, then he would have been taken to the Black Air HQ in central London.
Nightcrawler thinks it is a case of the former, and even if he is not there, then what they are about to do will still be worth their time. Kurt reminds his friends they are supposed to be a proactive group, not a reactive one, which they have done a little too much of recently. Even though this is in effect reactive, if they do it right, it will serve the heroes‘ purposes. They are going to the Acquisition Station, and they are going to make a mess. Pete Wisdom comments to his lover Kitty Pryde that he has never seen Nightcrawler like this before, and she explained that it’s not often that Kurt gets annoyed, but when he does…
Nightcrawler tells the team that they have ten minutes to get prepared and to move out, they will talk plans once they are in the air. Nightcrawler approaches Alistaire Stuart, who, still scared, had been sitting behind the others until now. Kurt tells him that it would appear he was correct about Black Air’s intentions and he promises Alistaire that they will make it right. Moira asks Nightcrawler if he thinks they will find Douglock. He tells the Doctor that he is not sure, this is still Black Air’s game. But once Excalibur is done with them, they will be begging for them to take him back. Moira tells Nightcrawler to do what he has to, but to watch his step. As he walks out of the room he tells her not to worry about him, they have already succeeded in making him angry.
(10-20 minutes later)
Wrapped in a cloaking field, the Midnight Runner, Excalibur’s hypersonic flight vessel, is reaching North Yorkshire. Kitty tells Nightcrawler that they are over the Acquisition Station now, and programs a racetrack orbit course. Kurt remarks to Wolfsbane on how Kitty’s piloting skills have improved, before asking Kitty what the situation is. Checking the instruments of the Midnight Runner, she tells him that the bad news is there is a forcefield surrounding the place. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to interfere with communications signals. She has dialed a number Wisdom had, and found out that it is still a modem connection, and that she can get into their computers through cellular phone access.
Shortly, Kitty has downloaded the floorplans of the Acquisition Station, she jokingly tells Nightcrawler to come and make his respect to the goddess of computing. Kurt reminds his team that he cannot teleport without any idea of where he is teleporting to, but these plans are detailed enough to prevent him from materializing in a wall. He tells Wolfsbane that once they are inside she has to take point, as in her lupine form she is faster than any of them. He shows her on the floorplans where the “new acquisitions” are kept before being moved onto permanent storage. If Douglock is in the Station, he will be there.
Next, Nightcrawler asks Meggan if the forcefield is going to be a problem. She tells him that she can already feel it from this far, and as it is an electromagnetic field she can easily break it. Kurt hoped as much. He tells her that she will lead, and carry Colossus, Wisdom and Wolfsbane down to the ground. He tells her to drop Rahne and Wisdom before she reaches the field. She will then break the field, and drop Colossus in front of the building before running interference for Wolfsbane. At this time, Colossus will transform to his steel-state and rip an entrance, before ripping into the building some more. As soon as he has ripped the hole, Wolfsbane is to go to point. Wisdom asks Nightcrawler what he is to do. Nightcrawler tells him he wants property damage from him, and lots of it. He needs to make a mess, getting the Black Air agents running around in a panic, though he reminds him to be careful and try to not get shot at. Kurt tells Kitty that she is with him, and they are going straight to the operations center.
With the drop hatch open, Meggan flies out into the night sky. Rahne holds onto Meggan’s outstretched arm, while the elemental’s other arm grabs onto Pete, who also has his arms around Meggan’s neck. Piotr hangs onto Meggan’s belt. Wolfsbane says how she hates this bit, and Wisdom tells Meggan that if he were meant to fly he would have been born with Air Mile vouchers stuffed somewhere, before she tells them both to relax before they choke her. Meggan drops Rahne and Wisdom off, and as they fall to the ground, Rahne tells him to land on the run. He tells her that he’d settle for just not going splat. As they land, he cries out that he has broken his bum, before Wolfsbane tells him to hurry up, as Meggan is already disrupting the forcefield.
Meggan’s elemental power cracks open the forcefield surrounding the base, and Colossus lets go of her belt, changing to his one ton in weight metallic-form. As he drops down, he thanks Meggan for the ride, before plunging through the glass roof of the Station. While compared to his old X-Men teammates Kitty and Nightcrawler, Colossus has always lacked confidence, except in battle. And Battle is what defined his later years as an X-Man. He doesn’t show any hesitation when the Black Air soldiers aim weapons at him in shock. He makes no mistakes. He is in control. At this point, Wolfsbane drops through the hole in the roof, ready to take point.
Still aboard the Midnight Runner, Kurt and Kitty have watched their teammates dramatic entrance, before deciding it is time for them to make theirs. Kitty wonders if Kurt thinks Wisdom will be all right. He mentions to her that she really does like him, doesn’t she. Kurt doesn’t think he will ever understand that. Grabbing hold of his old friend‘s hand, he tells her he is going to teleport them into the operations center. As they materialize inside the Black Air compound, Nightcrawler tells those in the room that this station is now under the control of Excalibur!
Standing just outside of the building, Wisdom notes to himself how he is still sore from the bum landing, and he crushed his cigarettes when he landed too. So he is holding a grudge. He spots what looks like a fuel-dump, and unleashes his mutant power upon it. “Hot-knives” burst from his fingers, destroying the dump. He sees the car pool, lots of parked jeeps in there. The soldiers will run past it and head towards Colossus. He thinks maybe he should let them shoot at him a bit first, but Kitty would have his “guts for garters” if she caught him watching her first true love getting shot at, and he gets to work. He was tempted though…
Inside, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat use their physical combat skills against some of the guards. Standing over the unconscious bodies of the Black Air soldiers, Nightcrawler tells Kitty he was hoping for more of a chance to use his sword skills, but these guards practically fell over! He tells Kitty to go to stage two. Kitty complies, opening the main file directory on the computer system, marking it all up for sending, and uploading all of Black Air’s files to the Midnight Runner.
Deeper inside the complex Wolfsbane watches as motion detector beams flicker across the storage area corridor, but she is looking for her friend, and couldn’t care less. She rips through the corridor, defeating a guard at the same time, and moves onwards.
Meanwhile, Meggan, Colossus and Wisdom have been rounding up Black Air personal. Bringing the last of them in, Wisdom tells his teammates that he is glad he quit Black Air, as these people are embarrassing. Colossus tells him that he thinks their attack was simply too unexpected for the soldiers, and that these people look like they are used to just doing what they want and getting away with it. Wisdom tells Colossus to put the guy he is carrying down before he dribbles on him.
Back in the operations center, Kitty tells Nightcrawler that she has practically emptied their files into the Midnight Runner’s computer. Rahne suddenly appears on the computer screen before Kitty. She tells Shadowcat that she is in the storage area, and using a wall intercom to communicate with her. Looking a little disheartened, Rahne tells Kitty that she has got nothing. Douglock is not here. Kitty tells Rahne to stand by as she just has uploaded the last file, which is about Douglock, mentioning that the “Muir Island acquisition“ has been redirected to London, according to special agent Scratch. Taking hold of the P.A. system, Nightcrawler speaks to the Black Air personal on behalf of Excalibur. He tells the staff that they should pick up their wounded and evacuate this station. He will not take responsibility for what happens to those who are left behind. They have five minutes to leave.
Exactly five minutes later, the Midnight Runner’s engines ignite with all the team aboard. Someone tells Nightcrawler that all the Black Air personal are clear of the station grounds and so Kurt tells Meggan to send that place to the Devil. Meggan, arguably one of Excalibur’s most powerful members, reaches up and out to the Earth with anger in her usually gentle touch. They have taken away one of her family and hidden him well. The world screams in unison with her pain, it opens its mouth wide to cry out loud, and swallows the acquisition station whole. With an enormous explosion, the station is sucked into the fiery magma deep below the ground. Rather impressed, Nightcrawler tells Meggan that he doesn’t know what they would do without her. Modestly, she replies ‘Spend a lot of money on bulldozers?’
Kitty tells Wisdom that she hates to ask, but has he heard of a Black Air agent called Scratch? She explains that Douglock’s file said he was being held by him. Grimacing, Wisdom just tells Kitty that he should have killed Scratch when he had the chance. As Excalibur head north towards London, no one says what they are all thinking: They are officially at war.
Meanwhile in London, hours have passed since Ms. Steed, the London Hellfire Club‘s Black Queen, arrived at Brian Braddock’s hotel room with champagne and questions. Putting on her coat, Ms. Steed tells the Clubs new Black Bishop that she thinks this concludes his briefing on club business, and that it had been a “stimulating” time. He stares out the window and thanks his Queen. As she walks out the door she tells him not to be so formal, now that they are…friends. She tells him to cal her Ms. Steed, and reminds him he has her number if he has any needs she could attend to.
As she leaves the room, her veiled comments with her. Though Brian saw how cheap they were, he found them strangely compelling. He thinks it must be the champagne. Though he largely avoids drinking alcohol, he somehow could not refuse it today. He wonders if Ms. Steed was the dangerous body stealer Mountjoy, who has taken over one of the Hellfire Club.
A knock on the door and a ‘Please…’ is heard. Brian opens the door, and tells whoever was there that there was a time when “Do not disturb” meant – but he stops himself when he sees who is there. It is the strikingly beautiful albino woman, Scribe. She asks Brian to let her in before she is seen. She tells him that he used to be a super-hero, didn’t he? He used to be Captain Britain. Brian asks the mutant how she knew. Scribe replies that the Inner Circle had spoken of it in the past and she learned of it as she records everything they say. She then tells Brian that he has got to help her. Looking somewhat concerned, Brian asks Scribe to tell him everything.
Sitting on the floor, head in her hands, Scribe tells Brian that the Kings and Queens of the Court are doing something terrible, and it is changing them. The Red King isn’t the man he used to be, and the plans she heard of are terrible. Scribe tells Brian that the plans all revolve around the new Red Queen, who is a magician. She continues her story, telling Brian they are going to do things to London first, and then the whole country. Then the world. She begs Brian to stop them, telling him that her family is in London, she doesn’t want them to die…. Brian, thinking about Scribe’s comment about the Red King being someone else, wonders if he is Mountjoy. Putting a comforting hand on Scribe’s shoulder, he tells her to calm down, that she is making no sense. He asks her what plans she is talking about, what they are planing to do in London. Outside, suddenly a blinding light flares up from the city, covering parts of London in a red cloud. ‘That‘ Scribe says ‘for a start‘.
Elsewhere, in a dark place, two scientists are working over a dissected Douglock. Checking the read outs on a monitor, one of them asks the other if he had been doing his research on the Legacy Virus. Holding up Douglock’s severed head, he replies he had only read the small pieces Dr. MacTaggert had allowed to be published. Still viewing the data on the screen, the first scientist tells the other that it looks like mathematics illustrating how the virus vectors.
What the men do not know, is that the ghost in the machine had been bought to life. It had lain dormant over the past months, and memories, some familiar, other not, run through the mind of Douglock. ‘I have returned to assist - -‘ ‘What is the purpose of this - -‘ ‘Zero?’ ‘Zero?’ ‘Zero?’