At a private country estate in Borivichi, Russia, Maverick is being drug through the snow behind a horse. The last thing he remembers is helplessly drifting into unconsciousness after his defeat at the hands of the deadly assassin known as the Confessor. That was two days ago.
As he is drug through the snow, Maverick begins to stir and awakens. His head is covered by a bag and his hands are encased in metal shackles so he cannot use his power. His mouth is parched and his body is dehydrated. He wonders how long he has been out. Right now, everything is muddled and he’s still in a haze from the drugs the Confessor used on him.
He still can’t believe that the Confessor of all people showed up after all of those years out of the blue. It’s also hard for him to get what he insinuated about his parents out of his mind but he has to try. It’s important for him to clear his head and deal with the here and now. Even if he could break out of his restraints his muscles are too stiff to make a run for it just yet. He will have to hold back until he’s figured out the score. Just then, he is dragged up the stairs of the main house. He realizes that around him there are Russian soldiers and he has a feeling that his situation is about to take a sudden turn for the worst.
Inside the house resides the man who was given the birth name Ivan Pushkin. Those who have had dealings with him know him better as Ivan the Terrible. He is a ruthless mobster renowned for his unscrupulous methods. He is flanked by two gypsies by the names of Hammer and Sickle. They are both devoutly loyal to their longtime lord and master. When the bag is removed from Maverick’s head, he indicates to Pushkin that he should have known that he was behind all of this. He then inquires as to where the Confessor is.
Pushkin replies that he has fulfilled his contract and there was no reason for him to stay. He adds that there is no reason for Maverick to struggle for he is in his domain now. He assures him that any attempt to escape would be quite futile. Maverick responds that, if he doesn’t mind, he will be the judge of that. He then indicates that he has noticed that Pushkin’s taste in lackeys hasn’t improved any. He turns his attention to Sickle in particular and mentions that he’s surprised he even bothered to free him. He didn’t figure he’d be any good to Pushkin maimed.
Sickle has heard enough and ignores the pleas of Hammer to refrain from attacking. Sickle charges Maverick and informs him that he’s going to pay for what he did to him. Maverick responds by telling him to get away from him and calls him a slobbering freak. To this, Sickle responds by choking the life out of him. Hammer goes to intervene but is stopped by Pushkin who informs Sickle that will be enough. Their guest requires special handling, which he will attend to personally. Sickle ignores Pushkin’s words and continues to choke the life out of Maverick. Calmly, Pushkin walks up behind Sickle and grabs him around the throat with one hand. As he begins to choke him he again informs him that he said that will be enough. With that, he slams him up against the wall.
Sickle cowers and apologizes to Pushkin for his actions. As Maverick pulls himself up, he indicates to Pushkin that it looks like his control over the hired help isn’t as absolute as he would care to believe and that he must be slipping. Pushkin advises Maverick to watch his tongue or he will gladly arrange to have it cut off. He adds that he has no doubts that Sickle would delight in doing the honors. Maverick bows his head and Pushkin indicates to him that that is much better. He then snaps his fingers and adds that maybe his disagreeable behavior will improve once he clears the room of unnecessary distractions.
Within moments, Pushkin and Maverick are alone. Maverick proceeds in asking Pushkin why he is there and what this is all about. Pushkin answers that isn’t it obvious? His meddlesome antics have become tiresome and that makes him expendable. Maverick shoots back about the term meddlesome. He then reminds him that he’s the one that keeps kidnapping him so he needs to cut the bull. He knows that if he really wanted him dead, he would have already done it. As Pushkin lights up a cigar he responds to Maverick that he is mistaken and that he does wish him dead – now, more than ever. Granting him a speedy death would deprive him of the pleasure of someday seeing him cower at his feet like an obedient dog. Until that day comes, he’s going to content himself by indulging in some good old fashioned sadism at his expense. He will break him – again. Only this time the results will be quite permanent.
Maverick asks what will happen after that. Is he to take part in another one of his grandiose schemes? He asks what the game plan will be this time – smuggling, arms dealing, another assassination attempt? Pushkin replies that his plans do not concern Maverick. They are at a critical juncture and he can no longer tolerate continued interference in his affairs. Maverick knows that means Pushkin is up to something, something big and he wants to make sure that he doesn’t get in the way.
Just then, a young lady by the name of Natalya Kedrov enters the room. As she does, her heart skips a beat when she sees Ivan the Terrible’s face reacting to her untimely interruption. She immediately apologizes – she had no idea anybody was in there. Se left her music sheet on the piano and… She is cut off by Ivan who holds her hands. He informs her that, of all of his mistresses, she was always the most precious. Natalya informs Ivan that he is hurting her. Ivan responds by crushing her hands and responding that she should be grateful that he doesn’t kill her where she stands.
As he drives her to her knees, Natalya continues to beg for forgiveness. Ivan ignores her and orders her to kneel before him and give thanks that he is in a lenient and forgiving mood. With that, he flings Natalya up against the wall and orders her to leave them and to make sure that they are not disturbed again. As Natalya kneels on the floor in excruciating pain, Maverick goes over to her and offers his assistance to her. Natalya responds by spitting in his face and informing him that he can choke on his charity. She will not be sullied by his touch. That privilege is reserved for the master.
As she leaves, Pushkin points out to Maverick that even those he is forced to discipline remain subservient to him just as he will soon be as well. He then confesses that knowing Maverick has such a high threshold for pain as made him much more interesting to him. He adds that Maverick has suffered a great deal in his lifetime – enough to destroy a lesser man. Yet he still persists in confounding the odds with his continued survival. It is a trait that he admires of him. Maverick replies that he’s stubborn that way. He never gives up and he’s always good for a challenge. Pushkin replies that they will see how he feels about that after he’s spent a few weeks in the Cooler.
After their conversation, Maverick is led out of the house and through the courtyard by Russian soldiers. Maverick realizes that if he’s going to make a break for it, this could be his only chance. He then looks down at his hands and thinks that it’s too bad the inhibitor shackles he is wearing are still dampening his powers. He then decides he will just have to make do with what he has. With that, he swings them at some of the soldiers and takes them out. He immediately takes out another and runs for the stables. As he does, the other soldiers open up fire on him. He reaches the stables and kicks open the door and jumps on a horse’s back. He knows that the woodlands are dead ahead and that the forest will provide some cover, provided he can reach it in one piece.
As he reaches the forest, he starts to believe that he will make it. That is until he is stopped in his tracks by the voice of Pushkin. He informs Maverick that, if he doesn’t surrender immediately, he will kill the young boy he is holding hostage. Maverick responds that he wouldn’t. Pushkin retorts that he shouldn’t let his hatred for him cloud his judgment – he has no compunctions about killing the child. Maverick looks at Pushkin for a second and then dismounts from the horse. As he does, he informs Pushkin that he was won and that he can let the boy go. Pushkin keeps his word and lets the boy go back to his family.
As Maverick is surrounded by soldiers he yells out to Pushkin and calls him a real piece of slime. He adds that this isn’t over – not by a long shot. Immediately, the soldiers beat him down to the ground. As they do, Pushkin indicates that he is defiant to the end. Only this time, he has inconvenienced him for the last time.
Inside the Cooler at 1632 hours, a non-armored Maverick has been hung up to a yoke by Pushkin and his troops. Pushkin informs Maverick that he should never have entrusted him to the likes of Doctor Langstrom. She placed too much confidence on untested theories and her own techno-babble. He continues with experience has taught him that oftentimes the crudest methods are the most effective. It is a lesson that poor Etta learned the hard way. Maverick looks down to see Etta – dead. She’s the nutcase who engineered his failed brainwashing months ago. Even though he can’t say he’s sorry she’s dead, he’s not real keen on the idea of sharing a cell with a corpse.
As Pushkin goes to leave, he indicates to Maverick that he hopes he likes his new home. When Pushkin and his gang leave, a man from the shadows indicates to Maverick that he hopes he’s not afraid of the dark, for it will get pitch black in there once the torch burns out. Maverick turns to see a man chained to the wall with a star on his uniform and wonders who the stranger is.
In another location of the compound, Pushkin welcomes Agent Colby and his men to his place. He offers them to relax and to make themselves comfortable and that he took the liberty of having his chefs prepare a special feast in their honor. Colby commends Pushkin on the impeccable service of his staff. He adds that he wishes that some of their other clients were this hospitable. Pushkin replies that may be the case but unfortunately he is afraid that he may have wasted his time by asking him there.
Colby asks if there is a problem with the proposed conditions of their contract. Pushkin indicates that there are no problems with that. It’s just that certain private matters have forced him to back out of their agreement. He adds that most of his assets are currently tied up in litigation and that he just can’t spare the capital right now to enter into a joint venture with him. Pushkin then offers his apologies for any inconvenience this may have cost him and that he would hate for one isolated incident to sour relations between them. He adds that he would very much like for them to remain on good terms.
Colby responds that he understands. He adds that he knows his associates will be disappointed with his decision but they have other prospective buyers for the goods in question. He continues that he sees no reason why they wouldn’t be able to do business together at some future date. Pushkin replies that he looks forward to that time. Then to himself he calls Colby a gullible idiot. The truth is that the A.I.M. organization has become weak and disorganized, scattered into pathetic splinter groups. He also sees no need to pay for his merchandise when he can just as easily steal it from him. Pushkin then excuses himself from the group as he as other pressing matters to attend to.
Later that evening, Pushkin asks Hammer and Sickle if their guests have left. Hammer indicates that they have, with a bellyful of nano-tracers in their stomachs. He adds that tracking Colby and his entourage to their hidden base will be child’s play. Pushkin is pleased and invites Hammer and Sickle to follow him. He would like to introduce them to someone who will be accompanying their raiding party. Hammer asks if he is an outsider. Pushkin indicates that he’s a fellow countryman but yes he is an outsider. Pushkin adds that, due to the sensitive nature of the mission, he has hired him to take care of most of the muscle work. That will free Hammer and Sickle to oversee the most intricate aspects of the operation. He then introduces them to Arkady Gregorivich – they may know him better as Omega Red.
In a private medical clinic near Kissimmee Florida, three thugs by the name of Marcus Renfield, Dice and Speed are standing over the beaten body of Doctor Keller. Outside the window, Brian Johnson is watching the events unfold. He recognizes the goons from school and knows he needs to do something but he doesn’t know what. He thinks to himself that there’re only three of them and he could probably take them out solo with his powers but he can’t do that without exposing himself as a mutant and revealing his identity.
Inside the clinic, Speed asks if Keller is dead. The leader of the group, Marcus, indicates that he’s not dead but he won’t be out for long. He then instructs the others to hurry and grab the party favors so they can get out of there. With that, they proceed to smash up the clinic and grab all of the drugs they can gather.
Brian knows he can’t let them get away with what they are doing and that he needs to act now – no matter the consequences. He does know that just because he’s taking action it doesn’t mean he has to be stupid about it. If nothing else, all of those sessions in the Danger Room with Bobby and the other X-Men taught him a bit about self-reliance and control. He rushes over to another section of the clinic and goes inside. There, he attempts to use his power to somehow distort his features, kind of like how Iceman does whenever he ices up. All he has to do is concentrate. Concentrate and try to avoid the intense pain that’s accompanied the use of his powers ever since his condition took a turn for the worse.
When he is done powering up, he starts making his way towards the clinic. He thinks to himself that, so far, everything is going well. All he has is a mild throbbing in his head, which is nothing he can’t handle. When he passes a mirror, he doesn’t even recognize himself. Now to find out if he can pull this off in front of an audience.
Inside the clinic, Marcus continues kicking Keller in the ribs while he is down. Speed implores him to stop – he’s hogging all the fun. Marcus responds that he’s just making sure the old dog stays out for the count. They don’t want him calling the cops until they’re long gone from… He is cut off by Brian, who enters the room and proceeds to blast Speed with a bolt of energy. He informs the others that the jig is up and orders them to move away from Keller and to drop their weapons.
Inside his head Brian knows that he can’t overdo it, because the more he uses his powers, the more he risks losing control over the “static” that’s keeping them from recognizing him. He decides to try bluffing them into surrendering. He then calls out to Marcus and Dice to get away from Keller. Marcus is in shock and asks the stranger who he is supposed to be. Brian responds that he goes by the name of Bolt and that they better do what he says because the rest of the X-Men are going to be there any second now. Dice immediately indicates that he’s bluffing. Marcus asks if the X-Men are the mutant terrorists they keep yapping about on the news. As Speed picks himself up off the floor, he responds that they are one in the same.
Just then, Brian’s headache increases in intensity. Marcus then informs him that they don’t care much for mutie freaks around this area and they’re certainly not going to put up with his kind muscling in on their turf. Brian tries to maintain control over his headaches and maintain his focus and concentration no matter what but it is to no avail. Speed takes advantage of the situation and cracks Brian with his chain. Another crack of the chain and Brian is left in a slump on the floor. When he is down, Dice asks the others how the gene joke knew their names.
Marcus indicates that he must be somebody they know, maybe somebody from school. Speed recommends that they should waste him. Dice informs the others that he’s not taking a murder rap. Marcus instructs him to relax and that Speed is just shooting off at the mouth – they’re not going to kill anybody, at least not tonight anyway. Speed asks if they’re at least going to rough him up a bit just so they can teach him a lesson. Marcus concurs but first he wants to find out who he is.