Wolverine climbs. He doesn’t think about where he just was. He doesn’t think about the man he just saw. He doesn’t think about his innards spilling out through the gash in his belly. He just climbs. His surroundings grow more and more distorted as he scales the cliff, but he tries not to think about that either. Most importantly, he tries no to think about pink elephants.
Meanwhile, on the balcony of her penthouse in Madripoor, Tyger Tiger grows anxious. Wolverine has been gone all night on a mission that should have taken him mere hours. He must have encountered some unknown variable. As the dawn breaks, Jessan’s hopes for his safe return crumble.
Also crumbling is Jessan’s balcony door, under the force of Cyber’s punch. Good morning, he says to Tyger Tiger as he walks in. Although she wasn’t quite expecting him, Jessan offers him tea. Cyber stands silently for a moment. Have any Earl Grey, he asks? She stares at him with an aloof expression on her face, before finally saying she can have some sent up.
Back in the woods, the dying Wolverine lies on the ground in a fetal position. The housecat who followed him from General Coy’s house refuses to let him die alone. It looks into his eyes. Wolverine wishes it would go away. He just wants to die, if only so he won’t ever have to see his old nemesis Cyber ever again.
Only a few meters from Wolverine rests the deer carcass he shared earlier with the wolf. That same wolf returns, this time offering Wolverine a chunk of deer meat in gratitude. He sniffs it. The food triggers a cascade of memories that trickle through his mind. Images. Euphemisms. Metaphors. Reality blends with unreality. Fabrication. Truth in fiction. Fiction in truth. Logan recalls something that happened years earlier, only he swears it happened to someone else.
Logan, unshaven and dressed in a raggedy tank-top not long enough to cover his beer gut, leans against a pink, convertible Cadillac outside a burger hop. A pretty blonde girl named Janet sits inside the car and finishes her soft drink. What’s it gonna be, Logan asks? Is she going with him to the dance or not? He is not used to girls ignoring him, after all. “Sure, sure, Logan,” Janet says. “It all comes so eaaasy to you, huh? You’re the best there is at what you do, and what you do is drive the girls craaaazy, right?”
Logan, not accepting that Janet doesn’t believe him, offers to demonstrate his irresistibility. “Hey, chicks!” he shouts with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Four beautiful women immediately surround the car and ask what he wants. Nothing, he tells them. They leave. He asks Janet if she needs more proof. Why not take one of them to the dance, she asks? It’s a moot point; Logan wants her, and he thought they shared an understanding.
Janet looks away. She likes Logan, but admits there is someone else. Who is this other guy, he asks? More importantly, does he have a set of these? Logan unsheathes the three adamantium claws from the back of his hand and brandishes them in Janet’s face. The girl is understandably impressed; she immediately asks where they came from and how they are so shiny. “I keep ‘em polished with Weaponex; it’s like Windex, but it’s for weapons. Takes dried blood right off,” he says. Wicked, Janet responds. Logan leans into the car and asks if this “other” guy has nasty claws of adamantium-laced bones. Janet replies no, he doesn’t. If not, then what’s the big deal, Logan asks?
Taking a sip from her soft drink, Janet eyes Logan and says her new man is different; he’s a teacher. Logan’s jaw drops and his cigarette falls to the ground. A teacher isn’t supposed to be hitting on students, he shouts! He tosses his burger in the air and asks who this guy is. Janet says he is her gym teacher, Mr. Cyber. “Oh great,” Logan says as he splits the airborne hamburger in half with his claws. “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach. And those that can’t teach, teach gym! Well I’m gonna put a stop to that!”
Still resting in the fetal position, the dazed Wolverine mumbles nonsensically to himself while his animal friends lick his hands.
Meanwhile, back in the penthouse, Tyger Tiger listens to her visitor’s business proposal. Cyber has heard General Coy’s offer for the goods he bears, but he would like to hear a counter-offer from Tyger Tiger as well. She tells him if he is selling drugs, she is not interested. Cyber insists this is not just any drug. This drug is so potent, it becomes addictive from simply smelling it. He asks her to imagine a hallucinogen so powerful it could distort the past, alter the present, and change the future. Judiciously placed, this drug could put its possessor in a position of tremendous power. It could unseat rival criminal lords. It could unseat princes.
Jessan says nothing. Cyber sips his Earl Grey tea during the silence. “What did you say your name was?” she asks.
“Nice tea,” he says.
Despite having received an illegal lung transplant from an unwilling donor, Bartholomew Jones may still die. His life hangs by a thread, but his doctors pledge to keep him alive. His daughter Angelica, the mutant teenager known as Firestar, struggles to remain alive as well, although her foes are much more tangible.
Agent Cross has just vowed to kill Firestar for leading Freedom Force to the Arms of Salvation. As he tears through the operating room, Mystique works to get the civilians to safety. Firestar’s microwave blasts have no effect against his armored suit. She curses herself for believing the now-obvious lies fed to her by the Arms of Salvation; how could she have believed their promise to get her father a new long without suspecting something shady was afoot? How could she have brought Mystique, an innocent woman, to these butchers? To make matters worse, during the time she trusted the Arms of Salvation, their scientists developed armor resistant to her microwaves; Firestar’s powers are useless against them!
As Agent Cross lifts his hands to smash the defenseless Firestar, an unexpected attack knocks him back against the wall. Firestar looks up and is shocked by the identity of her savior: Spiral. The six-armed villainess declares only one person’s blades will drink Firestar’s blood, and that person is her. Agent Cross recuperates and takes a swing at Spiral, who leaps into the air to avoid it. “Oh, so this is to be a contest, is it? To the winner goes the spoiled brat? The one with the biggest mad-on wins?” Spiral asks, levitating above Cross’s head. Fine, she says, “but be warned, no creature that lives knows more hate than I – on this world or any other.”
Mystique, ushering the civilians out of the line of fire, orders Spiral to eliminate Cross, but Spiral does not need to be told what to do. She tells her boss to do her thing and let her do hers. This situation works to Spiral’s advantage, as the battle between she and Agent Cross blocks Firestar’s only way out of the room.
As she leads Meg and Howard Fallon away from the fighting, Mystique struggles with the decision she has made. Surely the victor of the fight between Spiral and Cross will slay young Angelica Jones, but Mystique must get these two civilians to safety. Unfortunately, even that becomes difficult when she is stopped by the mysterious Fitch in the hall. He no longer cares about the continuation of the Arms of Salvation; he only wants to leave the building with his life. He demands Mystique lead him to safety as well.
The ferocious battle between Spiral and Cross continues. After swiftly dodging another of her opponent’s graceless blows, Spiral slices his armor with her sword. Agent Cross screams; he believed his armor to be impenetrable. Realizing he is no match for Spiral’s speed, Cross lobs a freezing Freon canister at the ceiling. The explosion not only blinds Spiral, but weakens the ceiling to a point that it collapses and buries the woman alive.
As the dust settles, Cross approaches her buried body and laughs victoriously. After he snaps her spine, Spiral will make a suitable human shield, Cross says. Even though Spiral is her sworn enemy, Firestar refuses to let such cruelty go unchecked. She blasts Agent Cross in the back with a concussive microwave bolt. The attack is stunningly effective; Cross staggers and smolders before standing up and reprimanding the young mutant. As he marches toward her, Firestar puts everything he has into stopping his approach, but it is of no use. She is truly in over her head.
Cross cannot help but laugh at Firestar’s attempts to stop him. The internal cooling systems of his battle suit are more than equipped to handle the heat of her microwaves! Firestar, realizing she has reached an impasse, has an epiphany: since Cross’s suit is built to counter her specific powers, she needs to attack him with the opposite. Let’s see his suit deal with the cold, she says. She soars to the wall, rips a Freon conduit loose, and directs its freezing contents at Cross. He screams in agony as the suit freezes solid.
Fitch enters the room and sees what has become to his colleague. “I never wanted to hurt anyone…all I ever wanted was to go home,” Firestar says. Fitch comforts the distraught heroine. As long as she has powers, the world will be different for her. She will always have difficult decisions to make. She must either learn to deal with it, or suffer the consequences of ignoring them.
“I learned that long ago. And I just taught that to Cross’s partner, Fitch, in the hall,” the man says while his form shifts into Mystique’s. “Your friends are safe – Spiral?” Angelica informs her that Spiral is alive, but would rather not be around when she awakes, as Spiral will surely still want her dead. This obviously precludes Firestar from joining Freedom Force, Mystique says, adding that it is her job to keep the government team in line. Having one of her agents kill a civilian would be quite a mess. “We have a problem, Angelica. A problem that can only be solved by your death.”
Much later, at Freedom Force’s headquarters, Mystique asks her partner Destiny a question: did she know how this situation was going to end? “You told me parts of what would happen,” Mystique states. “You said that one day soon, Firestar would prove essential to a team that would make a difference to the entire world. I thought you meant she’d be on this team.” Mystique had hoped Freedom Force would serve a role of such import, and trusts it may still come to pass someday. For now, though, Angelica has another chance at life. Mystique set her loose but told everyone else that she was dead. She is now truly free, and her father is expected to fully recover.
However, Mystique does not want to even think about what might happen were Spiral to learn of Firestar’s survival. She only hopes the young lady surrounds herself with a good team of warriors in the future; she is going to need them.
Most visiting luminaries receive a key to the city. Hank McCoy, however, is no ordinary visitor. He has been in Brussels, Belgium for only a few minutes and is already under attack, for reasons unknown, by third-rate super-assassin the Constrictor. As he dives out of the way of two electrified, adamantium coils, Hank remembers he almost gave up the superhero life to be a research scientist. What was he thinking?
“You obviously weren’t thinking about the Constrictor,” the third-rate super assassin responds. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have come all the way to Brussels just to die.” Leaping away, Beast asks if it isn’t too early in the morning for death threats. The Constrictor replies it is well past noon, forgetting that Hank is still on New York time.
Trying his best to ignore the man seeking his death, Hank approaches the hotel concierge and attempts to check in. The Constrictor reminds him he gets paid by the corpse, not the hour, and takes another swing with his coils. Sensing the impending attack, Hank orders the concierge to duck and leaps straight up into the air. He grabs onto the lobby chandelier and, while hissing like a snake at the Constrictor, swings across the room. The assassin admits this assignment is more fun than most; he usually kills only drug lords and mobsters. It’s refreshing to whack someone who at least has a sense of humor. “Glad you’re having fun,” Hank says. The Constrictor whips a coil toward Hank, who leaps off the chandelier at the same time. The coil knocks it loose and it crashes down on the Constrictor’s head. Beast chuckles as he makes his getaway.
Bouncing down the hallway, Hank frets over what he will say when he finally meets up with his old love, Dr. Jennifer Nyles. Should he start by telling her they used to be best friends, but she wouldn’t remember because a large portion of her mind was erased by Hank’s mentor to supposedly protect mankind? Maybe he should have given this more thought in advance, he thinks.
He arrives at Jennifer’s room, only to find it empty. What did he expect, though? Jennifer to be awaiting his unexpected arrival with a smile and open arms? “Of course I forgive you, Hanko,” he imagines her saying. “I realize it was Professor X’s idea to erase my memories. I don’t blame you.” Dream on, Hank tells himself. A piece of paper resting on the coffee table grabs his attention. He walks over and picks it up, only to see it is a brochure for the upcoming symposium. Both his and Jennifer’s smiling faces adorn the pamphlet. Seeing the two of them side-by-side compels Hank to wonder if he made the same decision in coming. Does he just want to see Jennifer again, or did he really he here to seek her forgiveness?
The Constrictor breaks down the door, jokingly announcing his arrival as room service. Hank quips he never ordered any adamantium coils. He lunges at the imposing assassin. “Aren’t you going to ask me how I survived the chandelier?” the Constrictor asks. No, Hank replies. The Constrictor tells him anyway. “It was Kevlar. My body armor is made of Kevlar.”
“Wow. I’m impressed,” Hank responds. “I haven’t battled a super-villain in Kevlar body armor in about a week.” He pushes his opponent through the hallway and through the next door, but the Constrictor manages to ensnare him in his coils. He reminds the assassin they need to finish this soon; he is expected to arrive at a cocktail party in twenty minutes. Hank must not understand, the Constrictor says; he has been paid to kill him, and he intends to collect on his contract. Hank urges him to phone his boss; there is still enough time for him to cancel the check.
Although he seems to be besting Beast in terms of battle prowess, the Constrictor grows angry at losing the war of wits. He tells Hank he has had enough of his jokes and throws him out the window and over the balcony. However, the Constrictor refuses to leave it at that. He walks to the balcony and peers over the edge, just to see if Hank’s body resembles the blue Frisbee he sees in his imagination. He neglects to look overhead. Psst, Hank whispers before swinging down and hitting the assassin in the chest with full fulcrum force. As the Constrictor tumbles back through the hotel rooms, he reprimands himself for forgetting the first rule of contract kills: always look up.
Hank uses the brief respite to ponder the Jennifer situation. Xavier’s mind control seems to fade over the years; perhaps Jennifer’s memories have returned? Somewhat abruptly, a strange, ill-looking man walks into the room through the broken glass and asks to see someone named Pavel. Hank looks at him, confused. Who is Pavel? The strange man realizes Hank is not the man he seeks, and departs. As the man leaves, however, Hank realizes how he knows him: leader of the Super-Apes, Dr. Ivan Kragoff, also known as the Red Ghost! Can that sickly man really be him, Hank wonders?
Hank’s inattentiveness proves costly, however, as the Constrictor returns and snares him from behind. Let’s see how funny it is when I inject you with 26,000 volts of electricity, he laughs! Beast remains a good sport. While this fight started out fun, it has reached the point where they separate “the boas from the men!” He cracks the Constrictor in the cranium with a powerful kick, allowing himself to wriggle free in the process. The Constrictor is livid. “I could have lived my entire life without hearing that pun!” he shouts as Hank bounds away and slips through a door.
Grumbling, the Constrictor breaks down yet another door to reach his target. If only his contractor the Red Ghost paid by the splintered door, he says. The Red Ghost, Hank asks? Yes, the Constrictor responds. Surely Beast knows who the Red Ghost is. “Yes, I know who he is,” Hank responds from behind the hotel’s curtains. “But I just saw him a moment ago – he didn’t say word one about wanting me dead.”
The Constrictor projects his electrified coils at Hank’s hiding place behind the drapes, hoping to finally complete his contract. However, as soon as Hank rips open the curtains, the Constrictor realizes he has been tricked. Behind the curtains rests a large, water-filled aquarium. As soon as he strikes it, the glass breaks and his coils short-circuit. “Kevlar, huh? Did I mention how impressed I was?” Hank jokes as the Constrictor’s electrified body writhes in pain.
A short while later, Hank’s Frenchman friend finds his way to his hotel room. After being stuck next to the garrulous Hank McCoy on the airplane, he cannot wait to unwind in his hotel room. Unfortunately, as he enters, he sees the defeated Constrictor lying unconscious in the middle of the completely trashed hotel room. He decides he will just stay at the Holiday Inn next time!
Meanwhile, Hank arrives on schedule to the scientists’ cocktail mixer, dressed in a snazzy tuxedo. This is it. The moment of truth, he tells himself. Some of the most brilliant research scientists in the world are here tonight. And they don’t come any smarter than Dr. Jennifer Nyles. Nearby, someone calls Hank’s name. It is Lt. Commander Courage of the Brussels police. He asks if Hank has met his friend, Dr. Jennifer Nyles? Jennifer replies that no, she doesn’t believe they have ever met. “It’s…a pleasure,” the anxious Hank manages to say.
Like most reunions, this one does not go as planned. One of the lounge windows shatters as a flurry of Super-Apes crashes the cocktail party. “Didn’t I see you guys at the salon the other day?” Hank asks in jest. The Super-Apes leap toward Jennifer, knocking aside all who stand in their way. Hank tries to keep tabs on all three of the super-powered simians, but loses track of the shape-shifting ape in the confusion. It sneaks up behind him and locks him in a full-nelson, while its comrade zaps him with a surge of electricity. As he slumps to the floor, Hank sees the Super-Apes carrying the defenseless Jennifer Nyles away. Then he loses consciousness.