New York City…
It is nighttime. A pair of police officers stops to investigate an illegally parked car. Instead of reporting the infraction to their headquarters, the officers decide to simply give the perpetrator a ticket, unless he turns out to be on drugs, in which case they will take him to jail. Ray, the senior officer, peers in the window with his flashlight and asks if there is a problem. His rookie partner, however, gets a good look at the car’s occupants, and realizes something is horribly wrong. Great, officer, Ray responds. Just what he needs: a couple of junkies puking all over the backseat of his squad car. The rookie reiterates that this does not look drug-related, but Ray assures him it is. He has seen this sort of thing hundreds of times during his years on the force, after all. He tells the rookie to call for a paramedic.
Suddenly, a spiked tail pierces the roof of the vehicle. While the horrified officers watch, two hideous Warriors-Prime of the Brood rip their way through the roof and crouch on the crumpled car frame. “I’m t-tellin’ you, Ray…this doesn’t look like drugs,” the rookie cop stutters. The Brood quickly ensnare the two men in their tentacles. They need these fresh vessels to fulfill their Queen’s mission directive of infecting two powerful beings the Brood encountered in New Orleans: Gambit and Ghost Rider. They pierce the officers’ brains with their tentacles. The infection begins.
Cypress Hills, Brooklyn…
Daniel Ketch rides to the cemetery near his childhood home to meet with a contact. The man has no interest in meeting with Daniel, however, so Dan transforms into the person he does want to meet: Ghost Rider! While not sure if he can trust this mysterious benefactor, he owes the man a favor and previously agreed to this meeting. Besides, not many people offer aid to Ghost Rider.
As he pulls into the cemetery, a voice speaks to him from above. “I’m glad you came, Ghost Rider,” it says. Ghost Rider asks the man, whose shadow-covered face he cannot see, what he wants. Having finally comprehended the potential of Ghost Rider’s heroism, the man now wants to help by providing him with key information on the criminal element of the city. There is, however, one condition: his identity must remain a secret, and Ghost Rider must never see his face. Ghost Rider agrees. To begin, the informant provides Ghost Rider with information on Anton Hellgate. Ghost Rider will operate with stealth and precision from now on, he decrees, instead of lashing out at random, terms to which the crime-fighter agrees.
After he leaves the meeting, Daniel Ketch has much on his mind. He has never restrained himself from attacking a known villain before, but he agreed to take Hellgate down using this new method, and wants to evaluate its effectiveness. Unbeknownst to him, the Brood-infected NYPD officers follow closely behind in their squad car. The driver wishes to attack Ghost Rider immediately, but the other Warrior-Prime orders they wait. They will follow their target and wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself.
Later that evening, Daniel cuddles with his girlfriend Paula on the floor of her apartment. She asks what he wants to do with his life; he is too smart to tend bars forever. He hasn’t given his future much thought lately, he replies, as he has been very busy with other things. Paula asks what other things, but Daniel evades this question too.
Luckily for him, the phone rings, providing a convenient diversion. “You want to get that?” he asks. Paula nervously tells him no, she doesn’t. “Is this about your old boyfriend? Is he still bothering you?” Dan asks, but Paula denies anything is the matter, instead suggesting they go for a walk. The phone continues to ring. Paula gets up and puts on her jacket. Daniel wants to talk about it, but she has her mind set on taking advantage of the beautiful night. The phone continues to ring even as they exit the apartment and walk outside the building.
The outside world, however, offers a different set of problems. Staking out the apartment are the two Brood-infected police officers. With the infamous Ghost Rider walking around in his weaker, human form, the time has come for them to strike.
Meanwhile, near Westchester…
Gambit goes for a midnight ride on his motorcycle. Sometimes, he needs to get away from his teammates and have some fun by himself in the city. The enjoyment of his ride, however, is put on pause when he spots an aggressive vehicle in his rear-view mirror. Comin’ up fast. Probably a couple a kids out for a joy ride, he tells himself. He drops back and rides alongside the old car, and to his surprise, sees that its occupants are actually an elderly couple. “Ma’am,” he says in greeting to the driver.
The woman turns to him and her face transforms into that of a Brood: gummy smile, scaly skin, and a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. “De Brood?” Gambit says, immediately realizing the danger he is in. The car swerves into his motorcycle, but a graceful dismount by Gambit spares him from injury. The two Brood warriors leap from the vehicle and attack their target. He should have submitted to them back in New Orleans, they say. After witnessing his power, as well as his associate Ghost Rider’s, the Brood collective decided to add them both to their ranks. He will belong to the Queen, and his pain will be great! “Y’all take your best shot, heh?” Gambit says with a playful grin on his face. He holds up two kinetically charged playing cards in each hand.
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan, Daniel and Paula begin their nighttime walk. Before they make much progress, they run into Dan’s ex-girlfriend, NYPD Officer Stacy Dolan, and her current partner, Jim Sokolowski. Paula, insisting they be social, forces Dan to say hello. The conversation that follows is awkward. Fortunately, the tension is dispelled by a blood-curling scream emanating from a nearby alleyway. The group looks and sees two men carrying the limp body of a young woman. Stacy orders Dan to stay put and call 911 while she and Ski investigate, and the two officers run into the alley. Daniel, however, refuses to stand idly when he knows he can help. After telling Paula to call the police, he runs for cover. Meanwhile, Stacy and Ski enter the darkened alleyway, but fail to see the two criminals anywhere. Little do they know that two Brood warriors observe their every move from up above.
“Two down,” Gambit says after delivering a payload of charged playing cards directly into a Brood’s open mouth. The cards explode, shattering the alien’s skull. “And none to go.” Honestly, Gambit expected more of a fight from these two, but decides he can live with the disappointment.
“FREEZE!” a police officer shouts from behind. Gambit turns, only to see two police officers aiming handguns at his head. He puts his hands up, but tries to convince them he is the good guy. Besides, he needs to get to New York to meet up with an old riding buddy of his, and has no time for delays.
At the same time, in the alleyway in Manhattan, the two Brood warriors quickly neutralize both Stacy and Ski. Fortunately, Ghost Rider arrives in time to spare them from further injury. He tells the Brood they will not be adding the two officers to their numbers. “It is not them we want, Ghost Rider!” the Brood say. “It is you!”
Gambit, realizing these Westchester County police will not be listening to him, vaults over their heads and lands behind their police car. As he jumps, the two officers transform, revealing their true identities as members of the Brood. Gambit dispatches them with a few charged cards. The Brood are serious about capturing him and Ghost Rider, he realizes, and he rides away to enlist help in stopping them.
As he chokes one of the Warriors-Prime with his chain, Ghost Rider tells the creature that it will not be infecting this planet. He will see the entire Brood race dead before he lets that happen. Mere moments from dying, the alien reverts to its human form and pleads with Ghost Rider to spare its life. “What’s this? The human host survives?” Ghost Rider says. He cannot kill an innocent person such as this one. The female victim from earlier speaks up at this point. She urges Ghost Rider to kill the man, as he is no longer human. Didn’t he see what they did to her? They dragged her into this alley and tried to infect her too, only she fought back. If they are not stopped, they will keep trying until the entire planet is assimilated. She pleads for him to snap the creature’s neck. Ghost Rider refuses, releasing the man. “I will not have any more innocent blood on my hands,” he says. “Even if only a drop remains.”
The battered woman, standing behind Ghost Rider’s back, begins to act strangely. A frightened shout from Stacy Dolan causes Ghost Rider to turn, just in time to see her leveling her gun in his direction. Ghost Rider tries to explain the situation to her, but she fires anyway and hits her target directly in the forehead. She has just shot the battered woman. Ghost Rider shouts at Stacy, but instantly understands the reasoning behind her judgment: the seemingly innocent woman is also a member of the Brood. He hurls his chain like a harpoon and impales the alien, sending it soaring into the other member of its clan. The harpoon pins them both against the alley wall.
The Brood remain defiant. They tell Ghost Rider their Queen will soon have him as her own. He asks where he might find this Queen, but they tell him that in due time, she will find him. “By now, our brothers have taken the X-Man Gambit,” the Brood say, “…we will have you both…and you shall lead the Queen’s horde willingly. Our reign will begin on this planet.”
“I wouldn’t be counting on that anytime soon,” a new arrival says. To their dismay, the Brood see that the X-Man Gambit was not taken after all. Ghost Rider turns and greets his former ally. The two heroes, realizing they have some old business to take care of, decide to go Brood-hunting.