It’s the early hours of the morning. While everybody else at Xavier’s School is asleep, Illyana Rasputin is secretly casting a spell in her room. Protected by a magic circle, she separates her astral form from her body and it slips out of the house traveling north. Kitty Pryde had promised her she’d phone as soon as she and Doug Ramsey arrived at the Massachusetts Academy. But they haven’t heard a word from her and now the X-Men have disappeared as well. She may simply have forgotten, but checking doesn’t hurt.
Following Kitty’s descriptions, Illyana’s astral form reaches Snow Valley, the White Queen’s School and dives toward the underground complex where instantly she finds Kitty, sitting in a chair and wearing a strange magenta uniform addresses another woman, furiously telling her she won’t get away with this. Illyana recognizes her as the White Queen. So Kitty is in trouble. First being kidnapped by the Morlocks, now this.
“Fait Accompli,” the other woman mocks Kitty. It’s already done. She’s trapped without the power to phase. She can rage all she wish, in fact she enjoys a good match, but when it’s over Kitty won’t ever want to leave her. Won’t that be nice? With that, she mockingly touches Kitty’s chin.
The X-Men… Kitty begins her threat. If her teammates were coming to her rescue, wouldn’t they have done so by now? Emma points out. Doug Ramsey will call the police, Kitty insists. Why should he? To him she isn’t missing.
Emma mentally puts Kitty in rapport with Doug. She is telepathically manipulating his perceptions, so that he believes Kitty is by his side. The illusion is perfect because he supplies the details. She looks as he imagines she should and speaks and behaves the same. In reality, the poor boy talks to himself and kisses and embraces air. The fact that he loves her makes her task infinitely easier. Love? Kitty denies that. She’s lying. If she insists, Frost shrugs. He’d deny it of course, as fervently as Kitty is denying her feelings for him. He’s a friend, Kitty insists. Disappointed, Emma reminds her of the futility of deceiving a mindreader.
Why is she doing this? Kitty snarls. Emma curtly replies that both Kitty and her would-be paramour Douglas are mutants and therefore valuable commodities she means to control. And to think she felt sorry for her when she heard what Mastermind had done to Emma, Kitty snarls.
Clearly upset, Emma turns away before threatening Kitty, asking if she would like a taste of that experience? Mastermind confronted her with illusions so terrible, horrors so primal and personal, that her mind retreated into a catatonic state. His assumption was that she lacked the strength and courage to drag herself out of that abyss. He was wrong. Mastermind’s fatal flaw was his tendency to underestimate his opposition. She tells Kitty not to make the same mistake. Her worth is finite. She suggests Kitty no push her luck. Hey, she’s scared, Kitty replies sarcastically. She knows, Emma replies, more controlled once more, but it’s a nice act.
Now that she has regained her temper, shall she make Kitty an offer she can’t refuse? Only if she wants a real rude suggestion what she can do with it, Kitty retorts. Emma laughs at her and commends her for her nasty streak that rivals Emma’s own. She’ll enjoy belonging to the Hellfire Club. Not a chance Kitty insists, while telling herself to stay under control. The more upset she becomes, the harder it gets to maintain the psychic defenses Professor Xavier taught her.
They won’t do her any good, even then, Emma informs her telepathically. Kitty mentally shouts at her to leave her alone. If she could get her hands on Emma… she threatens. But she can’t, Emma informs her. Kitty is completely at her mercy, as are her parents. She can do a great deal to them or for them, Emma informs her condescendingly. She can grant all their wishes or crush them utterly. Would she like to see her parents penniless, starving? Is she that cruel?
Kitty is clearly shaken and suddenly gasps as she spies Illyana’s astral form, something that shouldn’t be possible. Worse, Emma can see her too. She uses a telepathic blast to shatter llyana’s astral from, and at Xavier’s mansion Illyana screams a scream that awakes the New Mutants in the other wing of the mansion. As they race towards the source of the scream, they realize it must be Illyana. With the X-Men gone, she’s the only one there.
Sam kicks open her locked bedroom door. In front of them, a huge demon opens its maw, then flies out of the room.
They look inside the room and see Illyana kneeling inside the pentagram, smoke and demons coming from her eyes. The monsters make a break for it and Dani orders the others to follow them while she tries to help Illyana. The others take off in a hurry and Dani can’t blame them. She’d give anything to be on their side of the door. Her grandfather was a wise man. He’d know what to do. She hasn’t got a clue, but Illyana is in agony. She has to do something.
Wolfsbane jumps at one of the demons in the front hall but it dissipates at her touch and she lands on the coffee table. Moments later, the demon reemerges in a huge form and roars at her. Sunspot too finds that they can change size and dissipate at will, as his demon does just that and he is propelled into Wolfsbane.
Upstairs, Cannonball blasts after his quarry and makes the same experience. He is so surprised that he forgets all about the window at the end of the corridor until he crashes through it. Magma chides him for his carelessness and hits another demon with a lava blast. Seeing this, Sam is painfully aware of the fact that even though he has had his powers longer than she, she is much more adept at handling hers.
Meanwhile, the demons around Illyana try to keep Dani away. She decides to head right through them and finds that they vanish at her touch, only to reappear and grab her. Their touch stings. Confused, she loses her balance, falls and hurts her heads. Feeling the monsters attacking her, she unleashes her power, pulling from the demons’ tiny minds the image of their greatest fear and creating a lifelike simulacrum. The image is a grown-up demonic Illyana. So terrified are the demons that rather than face her they instantly discorporate, leaving Dani hovering on the threshold of oblivion, certain she’s losing her hold on reality when her conjuration strides towards her, carries her to the bed and gently lays her down.
Her vision clears and she sees the real Illyana, who tells her not to move just yet. She hit her head against the bureau. The others are gathered in the doorway with some questions for Illyana.
Later in the kitchen, a hostile Sam tells her they are waiting. Illyana begins that she isn’t merely a mutant, but a sorceress as well. They never would have guessed, Roberto interrupts sarcastically, before asking why she cast a spell and what went wrong. Illyana relates how she was worried about Kitty, sent her astral form after her and found out that she is a prisoner of the Hellfire Club’s White Queen, whom the X-Men still believed to be in a coma.
She’s trying to brainwash Kitty into becoming a Hellfire Club member. Kitty may be tough but Emma Frost is a telepath, possibly as powerful as Xavier. In the long run Kitty doesn’t stand a chance. Frost’s psi-powers sensed Illyana she disrupted her astral presence with a mindblast. The backlash stunned Illyana and allowed her psychic familiars to get loose. They aren’t really dangerous despite their looks.
Quietly, Illyana recalls that Kitty saw her astral body as well. What could that mean? Anyway, she resumes, Kitty’s in trouble and she means to help. Dani points out that, when the X-Men aren’t at home, they’re meant to turn to the Fantastic Four or Avengers in case of emergency. Who wants to place the call?
Bobby gets to it, wondering if he can get their autographs… for his sister, of course. However, they are to be disappointed. The FF are gone, as are the Avengers. Dani is disturbed, all the world’s most powerful superheroes disappearing in the same night.
Sam states that Kitty may have just run out of luck. Illyana angrily argues that they haven’t been kidnapped. They’re kids, Sam stresses. You don’t send high school varsity, no matter how good, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s suicide. If positions were reversed, Kitty would come to their aid, without a moment’s hesitation, Illyana shouts. But she won’t force them. If they wish to stay behind, she’ll do the job herself.
Amara tells her to wait. She addresses the others, stressing that this is a matter of honor. Regardless of the New Mutants’ feelings for Kitty, she is a schoolmate and they are duty-bound to aid her. Sam points out that Snow Valley is a long way from here. How are the supposed to get there? He can’t carry all of them. Illyana admits that her control over her teleportation is too haphazard. She doesn’t want to risk it. She can’t help noticing that the others are relieved to hear that and wonders how long they will remain scared of her.
None of them are qualified to fly the X-Men’s planes, Dani muses, and they don’t have driver’s licenses. Though Sam knows how to drive, they could take a car… Better not, Sunspot disagrees. Kids cruising in a Rolls-Royce is a sure guarantee of being stopped. Stevie Hunter’s away on vacation, so they can’t turn to her. He suggests they crack open their piggy-banks. Then they’ll see where and how they go from there. And so a little later, Bobby announces that they’re going to travel in true superhero style – by bus.
And so some time later, they find themselves at the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square at the end of morning Rush Hour. Amara marvels at the crowd and Sam recalls how this was the first place he saw in New York when he came to Xavier’s. He almost turned tail and returned to Kentucky.
Dani joins them with the tickets and asks where Bobby and Rahne are. They find them on the escalator. They follow them outside to see the two youngsters stare as though in trance at the Holy Ghost Church. Dani and Sam recall what happened to them there last summer. The two kids come out of the trance and Roberto states that something called them and they couldn’t resist. Rahne secretly is frightened for she felt a terrible animal hunger for blood.
Within the bus, Rahne glares at Illyana, blaming the sorceress for those changes in her. Illyana understands Rahne’s feelings but essentially ignores her. Dani checks out print-outs of every scrap of info they could get about the Hellfire Club and Miss Frost’s school.
Sam tells her he worries about Roberto and Rahne. That church is Cloak and Dagger’s hideout. The kids were injected with the same drug that created Cloak and Dagger. Except it turned them into monster versions of themselves. Cloak and Dagger used their own powers to absorb the poison from the kids’ bodies. What if the cure didn’t take?
Dani calmly replies that’s for the professor to deal with. But he is gone with the X-Men, he reminds her. What if they never come back? Dani reminds him of their more immediate problems. The Hellfire Club number among the X-Men’s deadliest foes. They can’t afford to fly off half-cocked. They mustn’t make a single mistake. Otherwise they’ll get slaughtered.
They’ll probably get slaughtered anyway, he thinks to himself. Before they left the mansion this morning, they tried to run a Danger Room sequence with the Hellfire Club. But the computer rejected the program, as it was an X-Men level exercise and thus too dangerous for them. If practice is too tough, what will the real thing be like? He notices Bobby showing Amara the sights. He should be jealous but he’s too scared. He tries to tell himself that at least they have surprise on their side.
He notices Rahne’s foul mood and asks what’s wrong. She shushes him. She’ll hear. Illyana? He laughs. So what if she does? She’s a witch, Rahne stresses. Big deal, Rahne’s a werewolf, he retorts. Pain in her eyes, she asks if he think she doesn’t know that. She and Illyana are two of a kind, spawn of Satan!
Sam tells her not to pull that line on him and sits down next to her. The first book his daddy taught him to read was the Bible. He was attending Sunday school long before Rahne was even born. He’ll wager his belief is as strong as hers. If she’s telling him she’s evil simply because of what she is he says that’s bull. Her minister’d say different, she replies. What’s he know? Sam asks. Rahne tells him not blaspheme.
Her reverend is a human being, he points out. It isn’t given to them to understand the Lord’s actions. Where is his mercy in war and disease and hate? Why did his daddy have to cough out his lungs before his time? He didn’t deserve so cruel a death. God thought different. You can’t second-guess him. He’ll judge you in his own time. “Mutant” is a label, like ”colored” used to be. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you live your life. He asks her to give herself a chance and then do the same for Illyana.
Rahne reveals to him that her mother died in childbirth. When he was most angry with her Reverend Craig would say it was Rahne’s fault, a sign of the Lord’s displease at her mother’s life and Rahne’s creation. It fell to her to atone for her mother’s sins and save her from the pit. How can she do that when she feels herself becoming more wicked than her mother could ever have been? Crying, she tells him she wishes she’d had a chance to know her. He comforts her and tells her she must have been a lovely lady to have her. He misses his family too. He writes, but it isn’t the same. He invites Rahne to accompany him next time he visits home and Rahne happily agrees.
The Massachusetts Academy early that evening. Outside is an ordinary school campus, inside is a high tech complex, to which Magma has burned them a tunnel with nobody noticing them. Rahne shifts to wolf-form and Dani informs Illyana that there are too may scents for Rahne to sort out. Illyana replies that she scouted the entire complex when she was there in her astral form. Kitty was being held in the lab next door.
And there they find her, still paralyzed in her chair. Kitty’s face lights up and she jokingly asks what the heck kept them. The bus broke down, Illyana replies. They came to her rescue by bus? Illyana jokes that they are a class act. She reaches out to her, asking if the chair inhibits her power. When she tries to touch the other girl, she disappears, it was merely a hologram. They were tricked.
Blinding lights flare and a huge hologram of Emma Frost, a dejected Kitty by her side, greets them, informing them that they shall become great friends. From that moment, their bodies belong to the Hellfire Club, and very soon their minds and souls will follow.
Illyana silently vows that. if Frost has harmed Kitty, she will bring the entire mountain down around her ears. She’ll use her magic to move her precious academy from Earth to the heart of Hell itself.