A dapper young man dressed in an all-white tuxedo introduces himself to a potential employer. “I am Sidestep, the Chronological Assassin,” he tells his prospective employer, who happens to be the Monarch of Latveria, Dr. Doom. Sidestep proceeds to boast of his recently acquired abilities to manipulate the flow of time, and pulls a decorative carnation off of his lapel to demonstrate. Sidestep throws the flower into the air, sends it into the timestream for three weeks, and has it reappear at the precise moment it left. All that remains of the carnation are wilted flakes. “Pretty cool, no?” he asks. Unimpressed, Dr. Doom says nothing and sits on his throne. Sidestep continues his presentation, unphased.
He directs Dr. Doom’s attention to a screen bearing images of the members of Excalibur: Captain Britain, Cerise, Kylun, Meggan, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat. “I understand they caused you some trouble recently,” he says to Dr. Doom. “With hardly a thought, I can capture their life essences, temporarily holding them in stasis until I decide what to do!” Sidestep simultaneously executes this plan while relaying it to Dr. Doom, and now holds the fate of the team in his hands. Being the type to put on a show, he resists the temptation to simply plunge the team into the heart of the sun, and decides to be more creative with their demise.
Instead, he decides it would be entertaining to have them battle the original X-Men. He presents to Dr. Doom an image of Charles Xavier’s original X-Men training in the Danger Room shortly after their formation. Exerting as minimal an effort as when he captured Excalibur, Sidestep plucks Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl and Professor X out of their fixed position in time. He then sends the original X-Men to various places in time to battle the scattered members of Excalibur. However, he throws in a twist: he manipulates the minds of the X-Men so that they believe themselves to be a part of their designated era. However, he provides no such orientation for the members of Excalibur, guaranteeing that they will arrive at their battles in a state of bewilderment and confusion.
With his presentation properly set-up, he directs Dr. Doom’s attention to the screens, where they will get to watch the battles unfold. SHUNT!
On the first screen, Captain Britain flies over a war-torn North America, circa 1776. A cannonball propelled by a red beam of energy knocks Captain Britain out of the sky. He falls to the ground and is immediately surrounded by American militia men. Their leader steps forward and addresses the fallen interloper. Captain Britain cannot believe his eyes, for standing before him is Cyclops, outfitted in Revolutionary War-era garb. He introduces himself as Major Scott Summers of the Colonial Army, and demands military secrets from Captain Britain.
Cap still has not figured out what is happening, and tells Cyclops that he doesn’t feel like playing games. Cyclops takes offense to this and unleashes a full-powered optic blast, knocking Captain Britain into a grove of trees. “We’re caught in a desperate struggle to liberate the colonists from the stranglehold of British rule, and you dare to call this a game?” Cyclops shouts. It becomes apparent that Cyclops actually believes himself to be a colonial soldier, and Captain Britain his enemy.
Cap picks himself up off the ground, and assesses his surroundings. He realizes he isn’t dreaming, but also rules out the possibility that this is an alternate dimension, as Phoenix supposedly freed Excalibur from that sort of pan-dimensional madness. While Cyclops continues his attack, Captain Britain ruminates on the possible reasons for the present scenario. He quickly subdues Cyclops and holds his head to the ground while listing off possible perpetrators of his current predicament, such as Mastermind and D’Spayre. Cyclops takes advantage of his opponent’s distraction, and fires his blast at the base of a nearby tree. The tree falls toward Captain Britain, who releases Cyclops in order to take care of this new menace. He splinters the tree with a punch while Cyclops escapes and puts some distance between Captain Britain and himself.
Cyclops continues to blast Cap with his “eye-cannon”, but Cap notices that the blast quickly weakens. “It is obvious you have no more an idea of what’s going on here than I do,” he says while marching toward Cyclops, against the depleting force of his optic blast. “So, I’m going to offer you the opportunity to surrender.”
Cyclops, sweating and completely worn-out from over-exertion, refuses. Captain Britain shrugs, and thumps him over the head with a closed fist. This turn of events disappoints Sidestep, who then shunts both Captain Britain and Cyclops into stasis for the remainder of the event. Then, he directs Dr. Doom’s attention to the second screen. SHUNT!
The night skies over London are thick with smoke. From atop a cathedral spire, Meggan looks out over the city of London as it is relentlessly bombed by the Germans. More upsetting than what she sees is what she hears. “How can these pilots even think over the sounds of these explosions?” she asks while covering her ears.
“Speaking for myself, madam,” a voice calls out from the sky, “I’m less distracted by this destructive cacophony than by the sight of a floating woman who is nearly as beautiful as I!”
Meggan turns her head just in time to see Angel, dressed like a World War II fighter pilot, firing at her with a pair of Browning 20mm machine guns mounted to his back. He identifies himself as the Avenging Angel, and accuses her of being a Nazi. Meggan quickly figures out that someone has messed with his mind and easily dodges all of his shots. However, in a moment of carelessness, she crashes into a stained-glass window and disappears into a flurry of escaping bats. She quickly reemerges, but her features now resemble those of a bat. “You! You’re hideous,” the Avenging Angel screams when he catches sight of her.
Meggan comments that this happens when she doesn’t pay attention to her own feelings, and then quickly closes the distance between her and the airborne Angel. She punches him beneath his jaw, a blow that causes him to drop his machine guns. With her assailant disarmed, Meggan flees. “If I wanted to kill you, I could have,” she says as she departs.
Meggan doesn’t get very far before more bullets whizz past her head. She turns around and once again sees Angel in pursuit. “Is this your version of gratitude?” she asks as he fires his handgun again. Angel replies that despite his raging hormones, his allegiances lie to the Queen and his country. Meggan is saved when Angel’s gun jams. He tries to reload it while in pursuit, and doesn’t see the rapidly approaching clock tower. Meggan swoops upward toward the sky, a maneuver Angel doesn’t have time to mimic. He flies headfirst into the face of Big Ben and falls unconscious.
“Did you see that?” Sidestep remarks to Dr. Doom after observing this series of events. “She let him get so close he couldn’t see in front of him, then WHAMMO! He didn’t have the chance to veer off! Underneath all that ample flesh and air, the girl’s a genius!”
Meggan, however, has a different perspective on her victory. “Wow. That couldn’t have worked out better if I had planned it,” she says, before being whisked out of her environment by Sidestep. SHUNT!
Dr. Doom and Sidestep move on to the third screen, which currently depicts Kylun examining his surroundings during Earth’s last Ice Age. Kylun kneels before a recently abandoned fire pit and looks for clues as to his whereabouts. Suddenly, he is hit in the neck by a snowball. Enraged, he examines his surroundings, hoping to see his attacker. He is hit by another snowball.
Kylun shouts for his assailant to present himself, and hears giggling in response. He follows the sound to its source, and finds that it comes from an icy hillside. He leans in close and uses his mutant ability to recreate any sound he hears. Perfectly mimicking the giggle, and hears an astonished “Huh?” emanate from the hillside. His opponent revealed, he plunges his hand into the mountain and pulls Iceman out by the throat.
While Kylun vaguely recognizes his foe, he comments that he doesn’t resemble the Iceman he knew from his childhood. He derisively asks if he is a cheap imitator named Snow Man, perhaps. However, Iceman only responds to Kylun’s questions in grunts and strange, monosyllabic noises. What Kylun doesn’t realize is that Iceman’s mind has also been shunted 75 million years in the past, before the development of language.
This wouldn’t be a problem, except Iceman is trying to warn Kylun of an approaching Tyrannosaurus Rex. Kylun manages to read his expression in time and turns around to see a giant, gaping, tooth-filled mouth bearing down on him. He pushes Iceman out of the way and turns to face the dinosaur himself. Cornered, Kylun draws his sword and stares down the creature.
The situation looks grim, but then Iceman reappears and bombards the dinosaur’s head with a flurry of snow. The Tyrannosaurus turns toward Iceman, giving Kylun the opportunity he needs to finish it off. Commenting that he’s not used to being rescued by his enemies, he leaps onto the dinosaur’s head and plunges his sword into its skull. It falls to the ground and dies. Kylun then offers his gratitude to Iceman and shakes his hand. Disappointed for the third time in a row, Sidestep shunts the two men out of time and places them in stasis. SHUNT!
On the fourth screen, Nightcrawler perches in the shadows of a Roman coliseum. He quickly recognizes that he has been transported to the fall of the Roman Empire. Mobs move through the streets burning everything in sight. Nightcrawler finds himself somehow comforted by the fact that for once, an angry mob is intent on destroying something other than him. He decides to lie low until he can figure out what’s happening.
He doesn’t remain in hiding for long before the stone walkway crumbles underneath him. He maintains his balance and gracefully tumbles to the ground, where a burly Roman soldier awaits him. Nightcrawler immediately recognizes his old friend Beast, even without his coat of blue fur. The soldier, however, insists his name is Gladiator Hank, an identity confirmed by his overuse of alliteration.
Gladiator Hank takes a swipe at Nightcrawler with his mace. Nightcrawler dives away from the attack and vaults himself onto Hank’s back, where he snatches one of the gladiator’s swords. He then kicks off of Hank’s back and propels himself over to one of the coliseum’s walls. “Now, before we cross swords, it is my responsibility as a gentlemen and a rogue to offer you the opportunity to surrender,” Nightcrawler says while clinging to the wall and brandishing his newly acquired blade.
Hank refuses his offer of surrender. He recovers from his tumble and turns to face his foe. He is surprised by Nightcrawler’s ability to cling to a wall, and asks what matter of demon he is. Nightcrawler smirks and says they can find out together. He lunges at the wall and clashes swords with Hank, who grabs him by the tail and throws him back against the wall. Nightcrawler is caught off guard by this counterattack, noting that only the real Hank McCoy would have the reflexes to execute such a maneuver.
Hank lifts his sword into the air and prepares for the coup de grace, but Nightcrawler teleports out of the way before it can be delivered. He reappears on Hank’s back, and hits him in the back of the head with the hilt of his blade, knocking him unconscious. Sidestep immediately shunts the two combatants into stasis, commenting that his fighters stand at zero for four. SHUNT!
Shadowcat finds herself in the middle of a bloody, medieval battlefield. At her side stands King Arthur, bearing the blade Excalibur in what will be his final battle. A sword has completely pierced his torso. With his final act, he brings the sword of myth to the lake from whence it came and hurls the blade into the water. However, an interloping hand grabs the blade in mid-air by some magical force.
Shadowcat, being the well-read, studious type, quickly figures out that she has just witnessed the death of the legendary King Arthur. She realizes the sword needs to be returned to the Lady of the Lake in order to remain consistent with the legend, and decides to set things right. As she runs across the surface of the water to retrieve the blade, she recognizes its thief. It’s a much younger, classically dressed Jean Grey.
Shadowcat reaches the blade and grabs it at the exact same time as Marvel Girl. She rips it out of the X-Man’s hands. Shocked, Marvel Girl asks how one of Arthur’s warriors can possibly “challenge the mental might of Marvel le Fey.”
“The mental might of Marvel le Fey?! I can’t believe you’re not embarrassed saying that out loud,” Kitty says. “You and whoever it is that is obviously controlling your mind.”
Marvel le Fey scoffs at the young girl’s challenge and tries to lock her in a telekinetic grip. However, her skills are still undeveloped, and the intangible Shadowcat easily avoids capture. Marvel le Fey reassesses the situation and then creates a telekinetic bubble around Shadowcat. With great haste, she draws her captor inward.
Kitty realizes she must keep the sword out of Marvel’s hands at any cost. Taking advantage of her momentum, she solidifies her body and soars right into Marvel. The collision knocks Marvel le Fey unconscious, and the women tumble out of the sky into the water. As Shadowcat keeps the unconscious Marvel Girl afloat, the Lady of the Lake reaches out of the water and reclaims the legendary sword. Shadowcat has only a moment to appreciate her victory before she and Marvel Girl are ripped out of time again by Sidestep. SHUNT!
Instead of displaying another image of the past, the sixth and final screen depicts one of Earth’s possible futures. It’s nighttime, and a group of people takes cover in a dilapidated boathouse on a dock. Cerise stands among the few remaining survivors of what appears to be a mutant resistance. They refer to her as their leader and beg for her to do something. “They are almost upon us!” the emaciated, weary looking rebels exclaim.
Cerise doesn’t have time to assess her surroundings before a large, robotic rips away the ceiling. Acting quickly, Cerise creates a large hole in the dock’s floor as a means of escape. The rebels dive into the icy waters and swim to safety. However, the Sentinel snatches Cerise before she can escape.
Sidestep offers up an interjection at this point. “Mmmmaybe I made a mini-mistake in shunting Cerise to this time frame,” he tells Dr. Doom. “On account of where and whence she’s from, she might not fully appreciate the irony of a mutant-hunting Sentinel robot controlled by Professor Charles Xavier!”
Sure enough, Professor X reveals himself to be the operator of the Sentinel to Cerise. Cerise, however, doesn’t completely miss the joke. She comments that while they’ve never actually met, she’s fully aware of Charles Xavier and his legacy. She takes advantage of the fact that he knows nothing about her.
Cerise bursts free from the Sentinel’s hand and unleashes a high-powered attack at its core machinery. She quickly obliterates the robot before taking into account that she needs to preserve the life of its operator. Cerise digs through the remains until she finds the incapacitated Professor X. As she approaches, offering her aid, he strikes out with a telepathic attack. “As with all of Magnus’ students, your compassion proves your undoing!” he laughs.
Xavier then probes his victim’s mind, expecting to find valuable information for his anti-mutant cause. Instead, what he sees in her mind completely contradicts his setting. He sees an idealistic, alternate version of himself founding a group of peace-keeping mutants known as the X-Men. He witnesses the formation of the superhero team Excalibur. Finally, he sees that both teams were shifted through time by some other entity, which he correctly identifies as Sidestep.
His scheme revealed, Sidestep intervenes and hits Professor X with a mental attack. He collapses into the arms of Cerise, apparently dead. Cerise laments that the death of such a pivotal figure will surely have consequences throughout time. Before she has a chance to fully contemplate what this entails, Sidestep rips her out of the future and shunts her and the Professor back to the present. SHUNT!
Cerise and the rest of Excalibur suddenly appear in Dr. Doom’s throne room, with the seemingly dead Professor X at their feet. At the same time, the five original X-Men appear across the room with no recollection of their adventures through time. All they see is their mentor lying dead on the floor in front of some hostile-looking strangers, seemingly under the command of Dr. Doom. Cyclops orders his enemies to step away from Professor X.
The members of Excalibur realize that the X-Men are probably pretty confused, having been manipulated by Sidestep. Before they can open up a dialogue with their youthful opponents, the X-Men begin to attack. Right when the battle begins, Nightcrawler mysteriously falls to the floor, unconscious. Excalibur doesn’t have time to tend to their fallen teammate and instead concentrate on defending themselves from the infuriated X-Men.
While the battle rages on, Nightcrawler finds himself talking to Professor X on the astral plane. “Vas? Professor Xavier?” he says. Xavier explains that he needed an anchor in the time stream, and chose Nightcrawler, somehow recognizing him as a future student. He leads Nightcrawler into the mind of the man known as Sidestep. They learn that until only a few weeks ago, Sidestep was simply a man named Mike Russo who worked for NASA cataloguing moon rocks. While searching around the lab one day, Mike uncovered a piece of Kree technology that was such a heavily guarded secret that even NASA forgot where they had it hidden. Mike realized the mysterious Kree vest allowed him to manipulate the time stream, and decided to use this amazing technology to become an assassin. With the origin of their opponent’s powers revealed, Kurt politely asks the Professor to return him to his body.
As soon as Nightcrawler regains consciousness, he teleports himself behind Sidestep and forcibly removes the vest. The temporal and special disruptions are immediately rectified, and both superhero teams return to their rightful time lines. The powerless Sidestep looks around, and realizes that he has not only failed his mission, but is also now alone with Dr. Doom in his vast, cavernous throne room.
“If it, uh, means anything,” Sidestep begins to say while nervous sweat drips from his brow, “…since the X-Men were automatically shunted to their point of origin, they’re all back in the Danger Room. They have no memories of the event because it hasn’t happened yet.
“That’s the good news,” Sidestep continues, completely unable to gauge Dr. Doom’s reaction. He then directs the Latverian Overlord’s attention back to the screen, where they see Excalibur regrouping with the Kree vest in possession. Nightcrawler explains to his teammates what he learned with Professor X, and concludes that Dr. Doom has once again made himself their enemy. Sidestep quickly shuts off the screen and tries to put a positive spin on this turn of events.
“Everyone has to start somewhere! Right?” he asks. Dr. Doom is not amused. He flips a switch on his throne, opening up a trap door beneath the helpless, failed assassin. Sidestep lets out one last gasp as he falls through the floor.
Without missing a beat, Dr. Doom turns to the door and commands then next man in line to step forward.
“I guess that’d be me?” the man says. “I’m here about the job…”