(flashbacks, years ago)
Standing in front of the grave of his sister Illyana, who died when she was twelve years old, Piotr Rasputin remembers. She died of a plague called the Legacy Virus, a fatal disease that infects only mutants. In some worlds it affected only a few, in others thousands. Here, it was an epidemic that eclipsed the Black Plague. As Piotr stands over the gravestone of his sister, it is but one of thousands that dot the countryside.
It began slowly, with only a few infected people. It was even theorized that it was a side effect of these people’s powers, possibly burning out their life-energies faster than those of a regular human. Little was done to isolate or combat the virus and the public’s mistrust in mutants was so great that they did not bother about a few of them dying. Then, suddenly, the numbers began to climb rapidly. The virus evolved and it was no longer infecting just mutants, but also those with latent mutations and only the slightest mutant DNA. Entire families were infected, hundreds of thousands died and all of it was happening so quickly that nobody was prepared.
Then, there was also a young man named Douglas Ramsey, codenamed Cypher. He had the unique ability to decipher and communicate in any language – human, alien, or otherwise. This included the language of computers and to Douglas computers were practically sentient. Among his teammates, there actually was someone who actually was sentient technology; the alien Warlock, and they instantly became friends. Warlock’s race was cybernetically empowered humanoids. They were constantly at war with other races or among themselves. Warlock was different. He was a pacifist, something that had never happened in his race. He had to flee and, on Earth, he found new friends.
However, Douglas too contracted the Legacy Virus and was dying. Warlock tried to be there for his friend and stayed at his bed. Then, he had the idea to save Douglas’ life and did the only thing a best friend could do. He bonded himself to Cypher, essentially combining their lifeforces into one. Warlock thought that his own unique physiology would help expunge the virus from Douglas’ body, but his honorable attempt to save the life of his best friend turned out to be a mistake from which the world would never recover.
Once the virus joined with Warlock’s bio-circuitry, it mutated and evolved into an entirely new disease, one that didn’t limit itself to mutants, but could affect all forms of life. Although no longer fatal, the new virus was infinitely more contagious. Like a vampire, its hunger for life energy forced it to seek out more victims. Warlock and Cypher’s strain of the virus turned some of its victims into zombie-like constructs, confused aberrations that were neither man nor machine, while the rest became something entirely different. They grew into a new race, maintaining their intellect while becoming some of the strongest beings on the planet, and evil. They call themselves the Vi-Locks and they control the Earth.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, three boys and a girl crawl through a hole in a fence. One of them fears they will get into trouble but one of the others tells him to stop being such a wuss. After all, they want to catch lizards. The first boy says they could do so in the city, but the other kid says that these are only the little, baby ones. They have to leave the city if they want to get anything decent. While he is preparing a trap, the first boy again voices his concern – they are outside the perimeter, which means the Vi-Locks could get them. The other one says that the Disrupters will keep them away, though the girl reminds him that they only work as far as the perimeter. The boy, still working on his trap, says that his dad explained him that the Disrupters work a lot further than the outer fence and that they are just overly careful. They just want to keep people scared so that they’ll do what they are told. The first boy, finally, has enough and says he is going back. The other child again calls him a coward and says “Nothing’s out here. We’re –“
The boy doesn’t get to finish his sentence as, in front of him, one of the Vi-Locks appears. The other kids try to run but are caught by two more of the creatures and the Vi-Locks wonder why the “small human meat” have left the safe city and exposed themselves to such risks. Whatever the reason, the three techno-organic beings ponder what to do with their captives. They could return them to their network, infect them and then send them back to the city but they would be stopped by the Disrupter line. However, they come up with another plan. They could just infect them on a cellular level, then decapitate the kids and leave the bodies inside the perimeter of the city. One of the Vi-Locks intends to start with the little girl but, before the clawed fingers reach her throat, it’s head is blasted apart by a red beam of energy.
It was Mimic of the Exiles, using Cyclops’ power just after the team has just materialized. He apologizes to Blink but he could not wait for her awaiting any mission details from the Tallus. Blink agrees. As far as they know, these Vi-Locks are the bad guys and she orders the team into action. One of the Vi-Locks attacks but Blink throws a crystallized dagger at him and grabs one of the children. The creature that no longer has a head, stretches his arms, intending to fight both Mimic and Sasquatch but Heather slams it into the ground. Morph jumps onto the third Vi-Locks and rips the wires off its back, freeing the kid that was entangled in them. Realizing they are outnumbered, the three techno-organic creatures decide to flee and report the collected data to their network.
Barking a command to Mimic and Sunfire to follow her lead, Blink runs up a hill after the Vi-Locks, hoping to get to them before they can get reinforcements. However, on the other side of the mountain, several dozen of the opponents are waiting for her. Momentarily started by the sight, Blink is easily knocked out. Flying a Northstar’s speed, Mimic grabs his lover and calls out to the rest of the team that with their teleporter unconscious, they need to go – now! While Sunfire carries one of the rescued kids, who is partially infected with some circuitry, Morph transforms into a flying Chinese Dragon, with Nocturne, Sasquatch and the other children riding on his back. The boy in Mariko’s arms if they are the Avengers and she answers “Something like that. We’re here to help”.
Not much later, the Exiles reach Las Vegas and land in one of the streets. While Heather and Morph get into an argument whether Las Vegas or New Orleans is called “The Big Easy,” Nocturne wonders where all the people are. Sasquatch asks if there is any word from the Tallus yet and Blink replies nothing so far, but she senses that it won’t take much longer. The team is unaware of them being spied upon and, suddenly, webbing appears out of nowhere, picking up the four children and sending them to Decontamination Lab 3. Before any of the Exiles can react, a Stinger charge is activated, shocking all of them. A trapdoor opens beneath the team, and all six fall into a pit.
Two voices are arguing over them. Evidently, they are no civilians, but super-powered people. They wonder if these unknown beings have been created by the Vi-Locks to infiltrate the zone protected by the Disrupters. A bio-scan, however, reveals that all six captives are clean and hundred percent human. One of the voices is relieved and makes orders to unlock Bay Door Three, which leads into the room where the Exiles have crashlanded. Two figures approach the time-displaced hero teams, apologizing for the inconvenience, but around times like this, they have to be careful. Finally, the two arrivals introduce themselves as Dr. Henry Pym and Spider-woman and welcome the team to Avengers Compound. Blink starts to introduce herself and the Exiles when, suddenly, the Tallus kicks in and reveals the team’s mission.
(a little bit later)
As he and Spider-woman lead the Exiles through the complex, Dr. Pym explains that approximately seventy percent of the population has been transformed into Vi-Locks, but they can’t say for sure, since communication is difficult. The techno-organic beings have tapped themselves into radio waves, phones, modems and satellites, so telepathy is the only way for safe transmission. Those few telepaths that are in Las Vegas, though, are limited over long distances, but they get the job done in the field.
On several video screens, Pym shows the team images of Las Vegas and the perimeter fence. They have established this enclave a few years ago, when the Vi-Locks had just started to gain several footholds all over the Earth. So far, the Avengers have been able to protect this hideout but, honestly, Pym is well aware that it’s only because the higher-ups let them. The advanced Vi-Lock leaders, also called Primes or Headloks, so far have not bothered to attack Las Vegas. However, if the Network would send all their forces, the city wouldn’t stand a chance. Henry points out the irony of humanity always having been frightened of mutants overpowering them one day and, although they were right, it just got a little more H.P. Lovercraft than anybody imagined.
Leading their guests into a lab, where the four infected kids are held in stasis tubes, Pym explains that their primary focus has been survival and the search for a vaccine. By combining every known mutant healing factor available, he has managed to create an antidote that staves off the conversion, though is incapable of fully curing. Blink asks if it were any different if he had the original strain of the virus to experiment on. Pym answers that he is fairly certain he could create a very effective vaccine from the original joining of Cypher and Warlock, but that’s just a pipe dream, as he was probably killed years ago during the Prime War.
Blink, however, corrects him. He is very much alive and that’s the reason for the Exiles being there. Pym asks how she knows and she explains that the Tallus told her he is in some place called Mainframe. Pym quietly curses and looks down in anger. Nocturne asks what the matter is and he explains that Mainframe is the Prime’s headquarters. Mariko and Morph point out that between the Avengers and the Exiles they surely stand a chance. There can’t be too many superpowered people among the Vi-Locks. However, Pym reveals that mostly every known hero has been infected.
Elsewhere, at Mainframe, former members of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Inhumans, etc. ready themselves for battle. They are all techno-organic Vi-Locks now.