Magnus. Thunderbird. Sunfire. Magik. Namora.
The list of fallen Exiles has only gotten longer since the team’s inception. Recently, Proteus drained out the life force of Blink’s boyfriend, Mimic. She tries to carry on, but finds her life in a wreck without Calvin. She continued to hunt Proteus, but wallowed in self-pity and finally gave up control of the team to Power Princess. That last mistake now has cost them another Exile: Morph. Blink no longer has the luxury of grief. They only have one more chance at getting Proteus.
The Exiles return back to the Panoptichron and, as soon as they materialize at the transport chamber, Blink runs ahead, ordering her teammates to come with her. She rushes into the main control room and demands for Heather to tell her where Proteus is. Heather turns to Blink and tells her that Proteus has returned to his home reality of Earth #616… sort of. Proteus tried returning home, but Heather had a contingency plan and it worked.
Proteus, in his new body of the fallen Exile Morph, stands atop the tall arm of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, and freaks out. He astonishingly wonders what happened while he was gone – New York City is almost completely submerged in water, with the Statue of Liberty’s hair and arm only sticking out of the water!
Proteus dives into the water determined to discover what has happened. However, what Proteus doesn’t know, and what Heather simultaneously explains to the Exiles in the Panoptichron, is that reality #616 has a duplicate Earth on the other side of the sun from the real one. It is a long story.
When Proteus tried returning home, Heather used her equipment to confuse his sense of direction. Proteus is now on Counter-Earth, thinking he is home. Heather does not know how long Proteus will stay fooled. Now that he is in Morph’s body, Proteus understands his old reality was remade into something new. However, the water world isn’t what replaced the House of M. Proteus will begin a search for answers.
Underwater, Proteus, who has shifted his bottom half into a flipper, is suddenly met by Atlantean soldiers.
Annoyed, Blink realizes Heather had a contingency plan that she never informed her about. Heather apologizes, but she couldn’t risk Proteus snatching Blink’s body and finding out. Confused, Spider-Man points out that dumping Proteus on that reality isn’t exactly fair to the people that live there. Heather turns to Miguel and explains that this world has taken a bad beating. They could drop a Hydrogen Bomb on Proteus and things wouldn’t be worse off. Power Princess asks Heather why she didn’t simply reroute Proteus to the sun, but Heather explains that she could only confuse the man, not control him. If his destination didn’t feel like Earth then he wouldn’t have fallen for it.
Not interested in hearing debate, Blink surprisingly tells everyone to shut up, as she is sick of arguing. She knows what must be done, but it has to happen before Proteus figures out where he is. Power Princess towers over Blink and asks if she must be reminded over who leads, but Blink bluntly tells Zarda that she is taking back the mistake of ever giving Power Princess leadership. The other Exiles stand firmly behind Blink as she explains that she knows how to end this, and much of it will depend on Zarda!
Reality #616 – Counter-Earth:
Proteus shifts into a ravage sea creature and grabs the last living Atlantean soldier, demanding to know why he was attacked. The terrified soldier tells Proteus that they thought the man was trying to stop them. From what, asks the enraged Proteus. The soldier motions to a missile sitting on the underwater street. Proteus looks at the missile and admits that he can’t figure out what is left to blow up around here. The Atlantean points to the surface and explains that Attilan was the target. Really confused, Proteus asks in disbelief if the underwater men were trying to really blow up their home.
“Not Atlantis,” says the soldier, “Attilan!”
Proteus looks up at the massive shadow over the water’s surface and gives the soldier two seconds to explain who is up there and who sent him to blow them up.
Heather shows Blink, Sabretooth, and Longshot an image of Attilan, a giant flying city on Counter-Earth. Heather explains that it is a haven for refugees and operated by the Young Allies, a group of heroes trying to make Counter-Earth livable again. Never hearing the name Young Allies before, Blink suggests that Heather catches her up on the history.
Sabretooth interjects, however, and tells Blink that she better come up with a new plan. Heather seemed more on the mark when she suggested nuking the world. Heather speaks up and claims that she never suggested doing that, but Blink firmly tells Victor no. They may have lost Morph, but Proteus’ inability to use up this body may give the Exiles the chance they need to stop him. Noticing the change in Blink’s demeanor, Sabretooth asks if she will continue to address him as “Victor” instead of “Mister Creed.”
Longshot interrupts and reminds Sabretooth that Power Princess and Spider-Man have left to fulfill their part of the mission. The die is cast. Sabretooth tells Longshot that he knows, but he wants to cast the die harder.
Suddenly, the image of Counter-Earth goes fuzzy and a Timebreaker tells Heather that they are losing visual contact. Heather recognizes the work of Proteus and explains that he is doing this so the Exiles cannot see him. Blink turns to Sabretooth and tells him that her plan won’t work if they cannot find him. Can she trust him to track Proteus discreetly? Like you even have to ask, replies Sabretooth.
Reality #616 – Counter-Earth:
Aboard Attilan, the young woman known as Bucky looks out the glass walls of her headquarters in the city and tells her teammates among the Young Allies that she doesn’t like this. They should have picked the rendezvous point, not Dorma. The large, red warrior with horns beside Bucky, Toro, tells his friend that they can’t tell the Queen of Atlantis what to do. Bucky knows this, but she just knows that Dorma isn’t serious about an alliance. What is in this for her?
Kid Colt claims that this is an ambush. Jolt reminds him that Dorma promised them a steady supply of fish. How else does Kid Colt expect to feed all the refugees aboard? Suddenly, the attention of everyone aboard Attilan is called to a disturbance outside. The Statue of Liberty is alive and has grabbed Attilan!
A voice calls out and apologizes to the denizens of Attilan, but he wanted their attention. The Statue then raises her other arm and displays an atom bomb, which Proteus explains a few Atlanteans were trying to attack Attilan with.
Jolt transports the Young Allies to the Statue of Liberty, where Kid Colt immediately realizes that the bomb is from Atlantis. Proteus walks down to the Young Allies and confirms this. He took it from someone called Queen Dorma, who apparently isn’t the biggest fan of Attilan. Apprehensive, Bucky asks Proteus who he is and how he made the statue move that way. Proteus smiles and introduces himself as Kevin MacTaggert. He is a mutant. He has come to help the Young Allies against their enemies, if they help him against his.
At the headquarters of the Global Directorate, Nighthawk busily works to make sure the brainwashing chairs he and his teammates created will never be abused again. With him is Whizzer, who begs Nighthawk to let him keep at least one chair, as he has a spot picked out in his living room already. Nighthawk, who is busy deactivating one chair, tells Whizzer no. Every B-Mod technology must be scrapped. Whizzer tells Nighthawk that he really doesn’t know how to take a job even if it bit him in the…
Whizzer, says Nighthawk bluntly.
That is what he was going to say, says Whizzer, as he speeds away.
As Nighthawk gets back to work, Power Princess and Spider-Man suddenly teleport back into the room! Nighthawk is surprised to see Zarda, as she hasn’t been gone for that long. Zarda doesn’t comment and simply asks where the rest of the Squadron is. Nighthawk gets up from his work and explains that they are busy rounding up people still loyal to the Global Directorate. Spider-Man looks around and realizes that these are the famous brainwashing chairs.
Defensive, Nighthawk tells Spider-Man to back off, as the technology is off-limits. Chillax, says Spider-Man. He can’t blame a scientist for being curious. Suspicious, Nighthawk asks Zarda what happened. Why is she back? Mission accomplished, says Zarda without even looking at Nighthawk. They defeated Proteus. Nighthawk tells Zarda that she was never good at telling a lie. Power Princess slams her light shield into Nighthawk’s face and tells him that he always makes things to so difficult.
As Nighthawk falls to the ground unconscious, Miguel takes off his mask and thinks he can modify the equipment, as Blink wanted it. Power Princess tells Miguel to hurry. Once Proteus realizes where he is, the jig is up.
Reality #616 – Counter-Earth:
On Attilan, the Young Allies explain the origin of their world to Proteus.
Their planet was created by a super-powerful six-year-old named Franklin Richards. He knew his world’s super-heroes were about to die, so he used his powers to create a pocket universe to keep them safe. However, the people of this world thought that everything was normal and that these were their heroes. Eventually, the truth came out that their Earth was a replica and the heroes went back home. That is when everything went bad fast.
Earthquakes, cosmic storms, nuclear wars – just about everything bad happened. When the world is saved by Dr. Doom, this must be a sign that things are really bad. Doom’s solution was to pull Counter-Earth from the pocket reality and put it into the real one. Counter-Earth is on the exact opposite side of the sun as the real Earth. Then Doom went home. It has been every man for himself ever since. Now the Young Allies go around helping people rebuild and taking in refugees. Bucky is sure that this is pretty confusing.
Proteus explains that Bucky explained her world clearly. He has seen stranger things. She would be surprised as to how many other Earths he has been to. Bucky then turns to Proteus and asks him how they stack up against other Young Allies. Proteus admits that they are the first team he has met using that name, but each Earth has its own peculiarities. Proteus shifts into Captain America and explains that they never had a man like this. What was his name again? Captain America, says Bucky stoically. Can he not do that? The idea creeps her out. Proteus looks at Bucky with slight sympathy and asks if he fancied the man. Just… don’t, says the remorseful Bucky.
Jolt then asks Proteus what he meant earlier about his enemies and their enemies. Right, says Proteus. His foes will arrive shortly, but if he and the Young Allies are crafty enough, then they can protect all the refugees.
Panoptichron – 30 minutes later:
Heather receives a transmission from Sabretooth, asking if Spider-Man and Power Princess are back yet. No, responds Heather. Miguel needs more time to reconfigure the hardware. However, has he located Proteus yet?
Reality #616 – Counter-Earth:
Sabretooth, who is covered in a cloak, and Longshot, also in a cloak, stand to the side in the walk-was of Attilan. Sabretooth whispers into the Tallus that he hasn’t, as this place is big and crowded. However, the Exiles should be ready as back-up.
Longshot tells Sabretooth that Proteus could be any one of these people. Sabretooth informs Longshot that it doesn’t matter what Proteus looks like, as he can’t fool Creed’s nose. Longshot asks Sabretooth if he knows Morph’s scent then. Actually, replies Sabretooth, Morph doesn’t have a scent to him. That makes him stand out so much more. Sabretooth then points to a normal looking man walk by, realizing that it is Proteus.
Heather learns of Proteus’ location, but she tells Sabretooth not to follow him into the building he entered. At that moment, Power Princess and Spider-Man return. Spider-Man holds a circular ring and tells Blink that he has had success.
Reality #616 – Counter-Earth:
Sabretooth tells Heather to hurry, as he doesn’t know if this building has a back-door. Suddenly, the pavement beneath him and Longshot opens to a portal, and the two fall into the room below! Kid Colt, gun ready, welcomes the two to Attilan.
Toro charges at the two, but Longshot charge at him as well. He leaps over Toro, and leaves him to Sabretooth. Sabretooth punches Toro, but it doesn’t hurt his foe, who throws Creed away. Longshot throws several knives at Proteus, but Bucky protects him with her energy shield. Longshot demands to know why Bucky would protect a murderer. “Says the guy throwing knives,” retorts the woman. That one is the real threat, says Proteus to his allies. Not anymore, says Jolt as she electrocutes Longshot.
Suddenly, Blink and the other Exiles teleport in, but this does not go unnoticed by Kid Colt, who informs his teammates. He realizes that they have their own teleporter, but she doesn’t have any guns. Spider-Man leaps after Proteus, shooting his webs, but Proteus turns the webs into flowers. He tells Miguel to think for a minute. The only man who could stop his powers just got electrocuted – so he is back to being god.
Proteus then unleashes his reality warping powers upon the Exiles and takes everyone outside and into the air, where he begins to warp the Exiles and painfully contorts and twists their bodies, including the unconscious Longshot. Did they think they could fool him? Did they think they could keep him on this sorry world? They were right about one thing. This is their last battle.
Below, the Young Allies look up and Kid Colt asks if they just picked the wrong side. Bucky tells her teammates that there is no way the Exiles could have ever put Proteus on the run.
At that moment, a dark ominous voice calls down to Proteus and tells him that he is the one they have waited for.
Heather’s computers begin to short-circuit and break down on her. Confused, she demands to know what the hell that was.
Reality #616 – Counter-Earth:
Above Attilan stand two giant beings. One is a demonic looking creature of darkness, the other a green woman. The dark demon explains that they are the face of Order and Chaos. They watch this world to judge its face. Order, the green woman, then explains that Proteus’ arrival has at long last tipped the cosmic scales.
Proteus drops the Exiles back down, who begin to recuperate. He tells Order and Chaos that this is all very nice but, if they don’t mind, he is busy. Chaos, however, tells Proteus to come with them and play his part in this world’s judgment. Proteus curses the two off, but as they reach down for him Order tells him that he will comply. The two then grab Proteus and the three disappear, leaving nothing behind.
Jolt is shocked to see that Proteus is gone. Blink turns to the Young Allies and frantically asks what those things were and where did they go. Bucky starts to explain that they were O and Kay, and the two are usually apart of their team. Jolt explains that the two don’t act like this usually. Toro adds that the two aren’t giants and are normally their size. Kid Colt then informs the Exiles that the two are always babbling about being sent to judge the world, but they never do much. He just became accustomed to ignoring them.
Remorseful, Bucky tells the Exiles that they thought Kevin was just another super-person passing through, but the things he did to the Exiles were horrible – and he enjoyed doing it! Blink holds herself, feeling the pressure close in on her, and tells the Young Allies that they are not the first to be tricked into thinking that the Exiles are bad guys. She then asks Victor to ask Heather to locate Proteus.
Sabretooth calls Heather on her Tallus, but there is no response.
Heather turns to the Timebreakers and asks why she cannot reconnect. One Timebreaker explains that the status of Counter-Earth is in flux. The artificial planet was always a destabilizing force. The arrival of Proteus was the tipping point.
“Meaning?” asks Heather.
“Temporal scanners recommend destruction of Counter-Earth,” says the Timebreaker, bluntly.