Claws unsheathed, Wolverine has Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four cornered and demands in a berserker rage that he save Shadowcat – or he’ll send Richards home in a box!
Storm shouts a warning and runs to separate the two. Magneto informs her that he’ll do it. He gestures, ready to use his powers on Wolverine. Distrusting him, however, the Things claps his hands, causing a shockwave that sends Magneto off-balance and briefly stuns him. The same shockwave sends Storm closer to the two combatants and she grabs Wolverine’s outstretched arm to hold him back.
The Human Torch comes to from the blow Wolverine dealt him earlier. Seeing Wolverine threaten Reed, Johnny fears the worst, believing his suspicions about Magneto were true. He flames on and fires at Wolverine, but that moment Storm falls into the blast’s path and her left arm is badly burned, much to Johnny’s horror.
The commotion has alerted Rogue who’s been working in the hangar. Before things can get more out of hand she lifts up the Thing and kisses him to absorb his powers. With this kiss, Rogue temporarily absorbs his psyche and powers. Instantly, as her body is flooded with the Thing’s awesome strength and transforms as her awareness is filled with the totality of his being. All he is and was, his dreams and despairs. She cries. She thought she’d be attacking a toad. Instead, she’s touched the soul of a prince.
Meanwhile, Johnny Storm crumples under Psylocke’s telepathic attack. Betsy searches for her next target before learning from the others’ thoughts that Wolverine started all this. She decides to split her concentration, using part of it to dampen Storm’s pain and another to calm Wolverine.
Not willing to be calmed, Wolverine shouts at her to get out of his skull. She-Hulk holds him back, astonished that an X-Man is helping them. Psylocke informs She-Hulk that his rage is too extreme. She cannot hold his mind, anymore than Jen can hold his body. He’s like an animal who keeps on hitting and kicking at Richards.
From the hatchway of the FF’s hyperspace plane, Franklin Richard’s astral form watches in growing horror as friends battle family. He wants to stop this with all his might, but no one can hear his anguished cries because he isn’t really there. Instead of jumping out of the plane at home, he falls out of his bed and awakes.
His mother is alerted by the noise and sees him crying. As she tries to comfort him, he tells her of his special dream. How his father went to the X-Men but wouldn’t help them. He describes his impressions about the battle, sobbing that something awful is happening.
Sue finally gets him to fall asleep again, silently apologizing for bringing him into this crazy life. If not for those horrible cosmic rays, they’d be a normal family and he wouldn’t have to suffer so. She wishes she’d never opened that book – referring to Reed’s old journal. Anguished and furious, she throws it away, fearing that Franklin may be right and it may destroy the Fantastic Four. She lashes out with her invisible forcefield, shouting that she hates Reed.
Back on Muir Isle, the three newer X-Men in the infirmary learn of the battle outside and decide to give their team a hand. The fisherman Dazzler and Longshot saved earlier is left alone. The moment they are gone, he reveals his true self that of a robot here to infiltrate the place.
Meanwhile outside, Moira steps between Wolverine and Richards, as does Storm who can barely stand. Her pain lies as raw across his senses as the acrid stench of her seared flesh and he finally pulls back his claws. While She-Hulk helps Richards up, Storm offers a formal apology, before begging that only he can save Shadowcat. He insists that he would help if he could. Rogue, still wearing the Thing’s form, suggests she simply absorb his knowledge or Psylocke can take the info from his mind. Storm forbids it even though she wants to. They mustn’t.
That moment, Havok Ali and Longshot arrive to see the fight is done. Storm begins to suggest the FF leave, when Longshot suddenly announces that something very strange is happening. To everyone’s surprise, the robot comes out of the infirmary, changing into a complete robotic form and announces that its mission is non-hostile. It then shifts to holographic communications mode and a familiar voice greets the X-Men and Reed Richards… It is a holographic message by Doctor Doom.
In a dramatic stance, Doom apologizes for the uninvited intrusion and for the deception practiced by his scanbot. He had heard of the X-Men’s recent troubles at the hands of the Marauder and was curious to separate fact from rumor. More importantly, he wished to determine whether or not this attack posed any threat to his interests. In learning of the X-Men’s presence on Muir Isle, he sent this construct to reconnoiter Dr MacTaggart’s facility. In the process, he became aware of young Shadowcat’s predicament. He believes he may be of some assistance. He can duplicate Richards’s research and construct his molecular reintegrator and with it save the child’s life.
For what price? Storm asks. Would that matter? Doom replies sardonically before assuring her that no price was mentioned. None shall be. He’s doing this out of the kindness of his heart, eh? Wolverine mocks. His reasons are his own, Doom replies sharply. And his offer should stand for itself.
Richards grabs Storm’s arm. She mustn’t! he implores her. Dealing with Doom is akin to striking a deal with the devil. Storm coolly retorts that whatever the X-Men decide is no concern of his. She reminds him that he has been asked to leave. Reed begs her to listen. Doom says there is no price but they’ll be in his debt forever. She’s responsible for her team’s welfare. She can’t go through with this.
Having had enough, Moira reminds him this is her land and, if the FF aren’t airborne in five minutes, she’ll see them arrested for trespass and assault. He’s done enough for today.
Doom reminds the X-Men they know where to reach him and ends his transmission. As the FF leave, She-Hulk remarks they are making a terrible mistake. The FF have left them little choice Storm retorts.
As they leave, Storm wonders why Richards seemed preoccupied but then loses consciousness as she goes into shock. The others transport her into Moira’s surgery.
Moira and Nurse Sharon Friedlander begin to work on Ororo’s serious burns. Kitty watches this from her “fishtank.” She saw Doom’s offer on one of the security monitors. She wants to live but not if it costs the X-Men their souls. Maybe she has to take the decision out of their hands…
In the meantime, Reed returns home, weary in body and spirit, wondering what’s wrong with him. He goes through the data of the reintegrator. Theoretically, this is precisely what Kitty needs. Yet an instinct made him hesitate.
Still pondering, he is suddenly grabbed by the Thing, who brutally throws him into the all. Working hard as always, saving the world, ain’t he the saint? the Thing mocks sharply. He’s seen the book, read his stinkin’ journal! But he’s an old-fashioned, traditional kinda guy. He wants the story from Reed’s lips to his face. He wants the truth!
He pushes Reed into another room where Sue, Johnny and Jennifer are already waiting. Johnny implores his sister that this has to be a mistake. They are talking about Reed here! Why doesn’t he listen to the evidence before shooting his mouth off, Ben suggests grimly. Sounds to him like the jury’s already in on this kangaroo court, Reed states equally grimly. If that wuz so, he wouldn’t be here and he wouldn’t be breathing, Ben replies.
Reed tells Sue that he thought this would be between the two of them. The others deserve to hear the truth, she replies. And this is the truth? he shouts, holding up the journal. You tell us, Sue replies. He knows where to begin.
Reed start reading aloud:
Although not a geneticist myself, my readings of the work of Charles Xavier convince me of the fundamental soundness of his theories that the human race is fast approaching an evolutionary watershed akin to the historical transition from Neanderthal to Cro-magnon… At the same time, my recent encounter with the extra-terrestrial intelligence, Gormuu, leads me to the inexorable conclusion that such contacts can only increase in the future. Thus far, we have dealt with individual beings – what will happen when humanity meets a hostile alien state? How will Earth defend tself?
On Muir Isle Wolverine slashes at the rocks like a berserker. Nice mess, Rogue observes as she joins him. Having fun? His only regret is that these are rocks and not Mr. Flamin’ Fantastic Reed Richards, comes the reply. Floating in a lotus position, Rogue points out that killing rocks won’t make Storm better or Kitty. “Rocks are here. Richard isn’t,” Wolverine points out. There are gentler ways of getting rid of anger and hostility, she suggests. She mediates her way, he mediates his, comes the reply.
Later at Moira’s home, the X-Men and Moira are gathered to hear Storm’s suggestion. Dazzler protests vehemently. Dr. Doom is the most evil and dangerous man in the world. How can they even be thinking about accepting his offer? When he’s the only game in town… Wolverine remarks. A rated game with marked cards rigged in Doom’s favor, Alison shouts back.
At the FF headquarters, Sue asks Reed if those are his words. Ben warns him to not even try and deny it. He remembers listening to him spout that same guff as far back as college. Those last few days, it was pretty much all he talked about. Just because some of this is true, doesn’t mean the whole book is, Reed defends himself. That’s what they are there to find out, Sue replies and orders him to finish the story.
Is it a blessing – or a curse – I wonder. Having not merely a superior intellect and insatiable curiosity but the wherewithal to make even my wildest dreams reality? I have devoted my entire life -- and almost the entire fortune bequeathed me by my father – to an experimental rocket project… so that mankind may meet any other starfaring race, not on the surface of our homeworld, but in the neutral territory of space.
Disaster! The government wants me to postpone my flight – my spacecraft, they say, contains too much radical and untested technology, they require more tests before approving the launch. Don’t they understand, I’ve already tested every element of both design and construction, far more comprehensively than they ever could? I fear if I accept the restraining order, the “delays” will never end. My rocket will never fly.
My best friend – ace test pilot Ben Grimm – will handle the control. My fiancée, Sue Storm, and her kid brother, Johnny, insist on accompanying us as well. Brave noble souls. There are none like them in the world.
Reed closes the journal, speaking softly now from memory. He recalls how lift-off was perfect, but then they found themselves bombarded by cosmic rays that penetrated the shielding of the spacecraft as though it was non-existent. They aborted the mission and returned to Earth, only to discover they’d been irrevocable changed. They’d gained considerable powers, pledged to use them for good and so the Fantastic Four was born.
On Muir, Dazzler argues that she’s fought Doom. She knows first-hand what he’s like. Most of them have and do, Wolverine retorts. Moira points out that medically speaking their alternative is Kitty’s death. She can’t save her, Richards won’t. With Doom’s offer, the child has at least a chance.
He’s a devil, Alison insists. Do they think Kitty would want them to do that? Would they in her position? If you’re drowning, does it matter who throws you a rope, Rogue points out. Course it does, Wolverine remarks, that’s the point. Question is. Which matters more: Kitty or them?
At Four Freedom Plaza, Sue states that that’s the way things happened or so they always believed.
Reed reads aloud what is in his journal: Among the growing number of terrestrial enhanced power beings are certain to be a proportion manifesting anti-social tendencies – super-criminals. And while it is logical to assume some similar beings will devote their energies to pro-social activities, that process might well be facilitated by a person or group who would serve as both inspiration and example to the rest. We Fantastic Foursome will play that role. The genetic structure of myself, Ben, Susan and Johnny are such that when combined with a precise dose of radiation, all of us will manifest extraordinary abilities. For that end, I have shaped the hull of my spacecraft to capture and focus the specific radiation required for our transformation. I dare not ask their permission. Susan and Johnny are too young and Ben too hot-headed. They would not understand. They might well refuse. And the stakes – for the future, the world, the human race – are too high.
Johnny and Jen just stare open-mouthed, whereas Ben remarks quietly that he did that to them on purpose. Explains a lot. Like why they and not any of the other astronauts who came after. Sometimes he used to laugh how his big brain buddy could forget something as basic as cosmic rays. The joke’s on him.
He doesn’t believe that, does he? Reed asks. He didn’t, he couldn’t. Ben tells him to give him a break. He knew something was right and necessary and did not do what was required, no matter what the cost? He knows him better than that.
Sue takes his hand. She wishes she knew what to say. She wishes she’d never found that book. He has wishes too, but wishes are for kids. He’s a grown-up and knows better. He leaves. As do Johnny and Jen. Johnny doesn’t know if he’ll be back. What about her? Reed asks. Sue turns away.
Back at Muir, Storm finally speaks. She’s making that decision for herself alone. It is not binding for the others. Kitty is very dear to her. She would bargain with the devil himself to save her. And she shall. Not alone, Wolverine replies. If she’s in, so is he. Rogue agrees too and Psylocke speaks for the newcomers, promising they’ll stand with Storm to the end.