Castle Doom, Latveria:
Dr. Doom holds the injured arm of the unconscious Storm, almost caressing it. He announces that the anesthetic has taken effect and Storm is no longer in pain. Her injuries are quite serious, he gloats. Second and third-degree burns, involving the entirety of her left arm and shoulder… the finest hospital in the world cold not erase this terrible scarring nor restore anything beyond minimal function. Fortunately for the X-Men’s leader, they turned to Doctor Doom…
He gloats that his bio-enhancer will stimulate Storm’s body’s natural healing process and, within the day, her arm will be as good as new. Energy engulfs the unconscious Storm. Watching, Psylocke grimly remarks to Magneto and Wolverine if they’ve considered what this device could mean to burn victims. How many could have survived if Doom had shared this secret? The two men nod in grim agreement.
Meanwhile on the parapet outside, Dazzler, Havok and Longshot take in the spectacular sights of the mountains surrounding the castle. Alex Summers admits this country is beautiful, adding it’s a pity that it’s ruled by such a toad. Longshot inquires why Havok is so hostile and Dazzler explains that Doom is a villain, one of the worst. Is it villainy to offer help to Storm or Shadowcat? the amnesiac hero asks. Alex assumes Doom wants to put the X-Men in his debt. Sooner or later – probably the nastiest way possible – Doom will collect.
Longshot reminds him that Magneto was one the X-Men’s greatest foes, is that why he became headmaster of their school – to do them harm? Wouldn’t put it past him, Alex mutters. Ali tries to explain that things aren’t so simple but is interrupted by one of Dooms’ robot guards giving off an intruder alert.
The robots take to the air as they detect an unauthorized uncodified biologically contact nearing, actually Rogue returning to the castle from an impromptu shopping trip, eager to show the others the traditional garb she’s bought. She’s totally surprised when she’s attacked.
Havok instantly fires his plasma blasts at the robots, figuring Doom probably ordered the ambush. Rogue begins to fight back herself totaling two robots, aided by a laser beam of Dazzler who jokingly calls Havok a show-off. Amused, Rogue notes that Ali always seems to be in a game of one-upmanship with Alex.
Finally, all the robots are trashed. Alex ironically commends Ali’s shooting when suddenly the three of them are surrounded by another group of very hostile robots. Before anything happens, they are joined by Doom walking towards them with his arm offered to Storm, her injuries clearly healed. Coolly, she asks them if they repay their host by brawling with his servitors. Angrily Rogue announces in a childish tone that they started it. She was minding her own business. Doom remarks that a mistake was made on both sides. This is, after all, his country. No harm will ever come to those who obey its laws.
High above in her tower is the reason for the X-Men’s presence: the X-Men’s youngest member Shadowcat watched over by her pet Dragon Lockheed. She was grievously wounded in a fierce battle with a band of super-powered Marauders. Since then, she can’t switch off her powers to phase. She’s effectively become a living ghost. Worse, her condition is progressive as the molecules of her body are drifting further and further apart.
Kitty has come to a decision. She wants to live but she refuses to let the X-Men place themselves in debt to Doom because of her. She phases free from her life support cell that’s been keeping her alive, an event witnessed by Lockheed and the astral form of Franklin Richards.
She doesn’t see or hear him, has only eyes for the morning star as she exits the towers and stands on a turret. She decides to wait for he sunrise then relax her concentration, let her molecules float free on the wind. That’ll be nice, probably won’t hurt.
Realizing what she plans, Franklin shouts “No” and begs her to come back. His Daddy will save her. This is wrong! He pleads for her to listen.
Lockheed roars to get the X-Men’s attention, successfully. Storm orders everyone upstairs and for Psylocke to telepathically find out what’s going on. Betsy contacts Kitty who refuses to listen. Betsy tells the others what Kitty plans. Her consciousness is too elusive for Betsy to hold. And she sensed someone with Kitty. A psychic entity of unimaginable powers.
Franklin realizes it’s all up to him. He promises everything will be okay. The nasty book won’t destroy the X-Men or the Fantastic Four. They won’t fight. They won’t die. He cries helplessly.
The sun rises. Franklin cries that he’s scared and begs her not to leave him alone. Finally, Kitty hears him crying and recognizes him. How did he get here? Why is he crying? Curled on himself, Franklin only begs Don’t go endlessly. Kitty considers.
When the X-Men arrive Kitty’s back in the life support cell. Franklin is outside “hugging” her/it.
False alarm? Ali wonders. She wishes, Wolverine replies. They just got luckier than they deserve. Why is Franklin there? Storm wonders. Doom joins them, asking if all is well. By tonight he will be ready. Doom will succeed where Reed Richards failed. This time tomorrow Ms. Pryde will be restored to perfect health.
Dawn in Latveria is the witching hour in New York where a lonely man, grown suddenly old and weary beyond words prowls the empty, cavernous halls of the building that’s a monument to his genius. And a mockery of it. He cannot sleep. Worse, he cannot think. The diamond brilliance of his mind is dulled. For the first time in his life Reed Richard doesn’t know what to do. He is lost, uncertain.
He sees a light in the bedroom and wonders if his wife is awake. He stretches his arm, reaching out to her, but Sue pretends to be asleep and he leaves. He looks outside the window. His wife, his other better self and yet he cannot face her. Can’t bear to see the hurt and hate in her eyes. All he’s built. All he’s and the Fantastic Four have become - destroyed by this book. His supposed diary which says that the accident that transformed him, Sue, her brother Johnny and his best friend Ben Grimm into super-beings was no accident. He did it on purpose. But he didn’t! Only they don’t believe him. And who knows, whatever his conscious mind decided, could his subconscious have betrayed him?
He leaves the book behind. He can’t go on like this. He always had the answer. But what use is his supposedly matchless intellect when the people he values most have lost faith in him? He hasn’t a clue how to restore it.
He passes Franklin’s room and finds the boy whimpering, lost in a nightmare. Sitting down at his bedside, he tells himself that so many awful things have happened to Franklin because Sue and he are members of the FF.
Franklin awakes. Frightened, he climbs onto his father’s lap. After some time, Reed suggests he needs his sleep. Franklin mentions his nightmares. Reed recalls what his father did when he was Franklin’s age and had nightmares. He told him a story. How about Saggy Baggy Elephant, Franklin’s favorite tale? Accompanied by his stretchable limbs Reed tells Franklin the story. Sue passes the room and becomes invisible not to disturb them and sees the two of them laugh together. With that sight her anger at Reed melts away.
Meanwhile in Latveria, in the courtyard Storm tries out the health of her arm in combat with Longshot. However, Longshot seems to regard the whole thing as a game. And instead of fighting, he keeps on evading Storm’s blows with his unmatchable acrobatics. With the exercise over, they decide to visit Kitty.
In Manhattan, Ben Grimm doesn’t know how long he’s been walking. But as usual his steps have brought him home to the lower east side and the street - Yancy Street – where his life began. All the while, memories collide with reality, what was doing battle with what is: Ben Grimm, college gridiron star, War hero. Ace test pilot. Prize chump whose best friend betrayed that trust and destroyed his life. He enters the Yancy St. Bar and is greeted by Cholly, the bartender who instantly recognizes that he’s in a poor mood. Cholly tries to make small talk but Ben is tightlipped, only complaining about how the neighborhood’s changed, not for the better.
Any objections to him staying a while? Ben asks. Cholly worries about him and offers some food. Ben just keeps on drinking, eating in between, not enjoying a bit of it as he envies the others, but refuses to talk. He drowns in self-pity, noticing how nobody wants to look his way. Him and Cholly go back past grade school. He’s never done him wrong, but even he’s scared if Ben’s going to bust up the place.
Normal folks living a normal life like his used to be till he became the Thing. He loved Suzie, but she fell for Reed. He loved Alicia, but she dumped him for the Torch. And why not, His skin is soft and smooth, Ben’s like concrete. Johnny can kiss her, be a man. He’ll never have a kid or grandchild, the Grimm family ends right here and according to Reed’s diary his best friend did this to him on purpose.
Finally, Cholly shakes Ben out of his reverie; it’s closing time. He asks if he should call him a cab but Ben declines, wishing to walk. As he gets to the door, the entire staff waits for him to finally blow up and emit a collective sigh of relief when Ben leaves without anything happening.
Outside Ben is in a lousy mood. Despite his drinking, he doesn’t feel even tipsy. Suddenly, he hears noise. Nearby there’s a car that wrecked into a tanker. The fire from the tanker is spreading. The cops are dragging back a woman who shouts that her baby is trapped in there.
The Thing instantly runs towards the accident site, grabs the burning tanker and tosses it into the river. Then he rips apart the car to get to the infant. He puts her into his soaked jacket and gets them both through the flames.
One of the cops thanks him, telling him he should be proud and the mother gives him a relieved kiss. Ben insists they would have done the same. Tried maybe, the cop points out, but not succeeded, not survived. The baby is delighted by Ben and he softens.
Meanwhile across town Johnny tries to lose his dark thoughts in flight. Trying to hone his precision, haunted by the injury he caused Storm. Finally, he lands at Alicia Masters’s apartment. His lover tells him to stop torturing himself. He tells her how messed up they are. He knows he should hate Reed but becoming the Torch was the best thing that ever happened to him. He loves this life. He loves who he is. But how can he tell the others? They still consider him the callous kid. She assures him he’s wrong. He is good and noble despite himself. He’s the man she loves.
Back at Four Freedom Plaza, Reed has finally put Franklin to bed and admits that life itself, human beings are more wondrous than all the wonders he’s seen. He’s humbled. Sue turns visible and hands him a cup of coffee. Finally, she smiles at him again. She tells him that the author of that diary couldn’t have related to Franklin the way he did. He was a man who used people, he would have responded analytically whereas he responded from the heart.
In Latveria, Doom is in the initial stage of the process, having the computer analyze Kitty’s molecules to begin reintegration. He raves about the device being a wonder and about how he improved Richards’ original. Psylocke, in the meantime, is busy keeping Kitty’s mind together with her telepathy, warning that she can’t do so much longer. Doom assures her confidently that he will save her before that critical juncture is reached.
Back in New York, Reed admits to Sue he is still thinking about Shadowcat. Magneto was right. The molecular re-integrator applies precisely to her predicament. Yet, Reed hesitated and couldn’t bring himself to use it. And doesn’t know why, Sue presses. He knows that the design is sound. Assuming there is a flaw, it must therefore be in the realization of that design. Yet his tests indicated none.
Angrily, he tosses his cup aside, reminded of the fatal spaceflight. Everything was perfect and safe, expect it wasn’t. Sue catches the cup with her power while Reed wonders whether Doom can find the flaw he can’t. Sue doubts it. Reed admits he’s lost. Doubts may be gone from her mind, but not from his. He decides he has to confront his fears. If that means going to Latveria and helping Shadowcat…
Want some company? comes a voice from the door. Ben has arrived as has Johnny and they are joined by a happy Franklin who hugs Reed. Reed doesn’t understand. They’re a team Johnny replies. And teams stick together, Ben continues though he still doesn’t look at Reed, instead asking Sue if they have anything to eat in this dump. He’s starving.