In the Hellions’ version of the Danger Room, the mood is tight. Jetstream strikes Empath, angrily demanding to know what his teammate was playing at during their battle with the New Mutants. Empath’s carelessness and stupidity very nearly got him killed! Team leader Thunderbird tries to calm Jetstream. Accidents happen in a fight. The hotheaded flier replies that Thunderbird wasn’t there to see. If not for Cannonball – one of their foes – he would be dead now!
“No great loss, Arab,” Empath sneers. Furious, Jetstream jumps at Empath about to hit him and accusing him of only caring for himself. Empath calls him a dog and reminds him to never lay hands on a “de la Rocha.” His eyes begin to glow as he manipulates Jetstream to care for him, even getting him so far as to apologize.
Empath wishes to continue the game, trying to get Jetstream to beg for his forgiveness. But, at that moment, the White Queen enters the room, and orders Empath to stop. He has made his point.
She wishes the group a good morning. She can see in their thoughts and from their actions that they are all quite recovered from last night’s activities. She orders them to take their seats for class and they will review their performance.
Whispering, Empath threatens Jetstream he will make him commit suicide, should he ever cross him again. She said enough, Emma repeats crossly. Who is she to give him orders, Empath thinks sullenly but outwardly obeys. While the others walk ahead, Emma tells Empath that it does not good to make enemies of those on whom his life may someday depend. Rest assured, majesty, he tells her ironically, should the need arise, his teammates will do all he requires of them.
Emma seethes. He must know she is reading his thoughts, yet he isn’t afraid of her. His ambition and powers make him dangerous, but also a perfect candidate for he Hellfire Club, provided he doesn’t prompt her to kill him first.
She turns to he purple werecat Catseye, asking if she is going somewhere. Sun’s up, sleepytime, yes? the cat asks. No. Emma orders Sharon to join the others and assume human form. The young girl hates this transition. To Catseye, her human form, a girl with purple hair, catseyes and a tail, is alien, as ugly as it is clumsy, but she does as she is told and joins the others at the table.
Emma quickly summarizes that a few hours ago they were facing their opposite number, the New Mutants, students of Charles Xavier. James Proudstar asks what they were doing there. That is none of his concern, he is told. James speaks out that he doesn’t much like the idea of fighting kids. He wants the X-Men! They owe him for his brother’s life. Emma promises him that debt will be paid. But he has much to learn before then, they all do. She orders Manuel to begin.
Clearly unwilling, Empath admits it was wrong of him to lose his temper during their battle with Cannonball and Magma. Jetstream is correct. Manuel did place him in jeopardy.
Emma tells the others that Manuel is a proud boy and this admission does not come easily. Her thought that this admission is way out of character isn’t voiced aloud though. She tells the team to learn from this. They are a team. Survival and victory depend on their ability to work together.
Looking at one of her cards, Tarot suddenly gasps. When pressed by Emma, she just apologizes for the interruption. She was thinking of the New Mutants when a card fell from her tarot deck. It’s “the Lovers!”
Emma reads her mind and inwardly swears. Tarot lets those cards direct her life. This may affect her loyalty to the Hellions. She could use her telepathic abilities to realign her perceptions, but she still knows to little about her powers. She may do more harm than good. She has to keep a closer eye on Tarot.
Elsewhere in the underground complex, Kitty Pryde and the New Mutants are being held prisoner in a comfortable dormitory. If this is a prison cell, Magma marvels, she’d like to see what the White Queen calls a palace.
For all its gilt, it’s still a cell, Kitty, sprawled on a bed, reminds her. She also tells the others that the room projects an inhibitor field that neutralizes their superpowers.
Roberto, kneeling on the ground, reaches for his back. Rahne asks if he is all right and he admits that during their fight Roulette made him do something to his back. He thought he’d get over it, but he’s hurting worse than ever.
Even if they got out, Kitty muses, their problems would just be beginning. The Queen has the same powers as Professor X and she proved on Kitty that the psychic defenses he taught them are no match for her. She’d be aware of their plans the moment they thought them up. She could be reading their minds know. They wouldn’t know until it was too late.
As he gets up, Roberto moans in pain. Kitty admonishes him; he isn’t giving his body the chance to heal. She orders him to lie on his stomach. She learned massage techniques in dance class. She’ll see what she can do. As she begins to massage his back Amara points out that the Queen said Kitty had joined the Hellfire Club.
That’s a lie! Kitty snarls, though secretly she isn’t that sure. Calmer, she continues that Frost has been trying to brainwash Kitty ever since she arrived with Doug. The same treatment is in store for them. She’s going to do her best to persuade them to switch sides. But what are they to her that she should do such a terrible things? Rahne asks agitated. Commodities of great value, Kitty continues, like oil or gold or slaves.
Whatever possessed them to attack the Hellfire Club? she asks. She appreciates the thought, but the Hellfire Club are the X-Men’s deadliest enemies. Sam shoots back that if the X-Men had been around, they wouldn’t have come. They may not be in Kitty’s hotshot league, but that doesn’t make them stupid! Fact is the X-Men disappeared the day she and Doug got captured. And the Avengers and Fantastic Four along with them. Nobody knows where they are, when or if they will be back.
While Kitty still takes this horrible news in, Bobby tries to comfort her by pointing out that Dani and Illyana escaped. So they are not beaten yet. A hologram of the White Queen appears, mocking that if their compatriots are foolish enough to return, it will be to share their fate. In the meantime, why don’t the rest of them get to know each other… better? Katherine and she have already made a splendid start. Her mind’s still her own, Kitty snarls. If she says so, Emma mocks.
Limbo, a realm that exists beyond boundaries of space and time. A place of transcendent evil where anything is possible. It was also Illyana Rasputin’s home for nearly half her life. The two girls lie there unconscious while monstrous creatures creep closer. Dani reaches for a stick next to her and hits the closes monster. Yet the others are still closing in. She decides to use her power to scare the others away. She summons forth the image of their worst fear, S’ym. Dani recognizes him as the demon who tried to kill Illyana a few weeks ago. Is this where he came from? she wonders, where Illyana grew up? G’day sweetheart, comes from behind her. With a grin, S’ym asks her if this is a visit or do they plan to stay?
Later, Illyana awakes on a comfortable bed, surrounded by demons and Dani (dressed in warrior clothing) Dani explains that S’ym brought them to the palace and had the servants take care of them. She doesn’t understand. She’s grateful for the help, but she thought he was Illyana’s enemy. Things and loyalties have… changed, Illyana replies. She should have realized sooner she can’t teleport directly from place to place like Nightcrawler. Whatever she shifts with her light circles has to travel via Limbo.
Critically, she looks at the robe she is dressed in. Where are their clothes? S’ym replies she’s the Magus and her friend acted like her champion, so S’ym decided it was only fitting they both looked the part. “Magus?” Dani thinks. Illyana told them she was a sorceress, but they didn’t know she was that powerful.
Dani confides that Illyana had her really worried. She thought she’d never recover and she’d have to stay here forever. What’s wrong with that? S’ym leers. He’d have made sure to keep her amused. Illyana decides he has outstayed his welcome and teleports him away.
She sits down in meditative pose and orders Dani to move away from the bed while she casts a healing spell. A pentagram of silver fire forms around llyana. Dani is confused. The silver means it’s white magic, but Illyana is facing the base of her star. That’s the position for black magic. Is she good or bad? Or is it possible to mix the two? Suddenly the silver fire extends to Illyana, it doesn’t burn her but instead eats away her cuts and bruises.
The spell works but Illyana admits that she was hurt worse than she realized. The effort took a lot out of her. She’d like to sleep for a week. Can she manage without the rest? Dani asks diplomatically. She’ll have to, Illyana decides. Dani promises to be there for her if she falls. Even though she still doesn’t completely trust Illyana and is more than a little scared? the sorceress asks. Yes, Dani decides. Illyana thanks her. That means more than she knows. Illyana summons a teleportation disc to transport them back to the Massachusetts Academy.
They end up upstairs in the administration building. Illyana admits her control over her disks isn’t what it should be. Dani shushes her he she hears voices. She peers around the corner, then pushes Illyana inside an office and joins her. They peer outside to see the Hellions passing by, the group including their teammates and Kitty, all of them clearly friends and having a good time.
Dani points out it was winter when Illyana teleported them to Limbo and the middle of the night. They look outside. It’s summers and daylight. They check the date in the newspaper. Over a year has passed since the night they came to rescue Kitty!
Dani summarizes that apparently lllyana’s disks move through time as well as space. They are in the future. Over the months, the White Queen made good her threats. Their friends have deserted Professor Xavier and joined the Hellfire Club. But why didn’t the Professor do anything? Illyana wonders. Maybe he failed, Dani suggests, or he and the X-Men never reappeared. They could be dead.
She wonders… Illyana muses. Did Dani ever read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol?” They’re kind of like Scrooge, seeing the shape of things to come and asking themselves if this is what will be or what might? If they go back, none of this will have happened yet. They might be able to prevent it. Is that possible? Dani asks. Do they really have a choice? Illyana rejoins.
Fortunately for them, that decision has just been taken out of their hands, Emma Frost announces forcefully and slams open the door. She though she’d heard some familiar psychic voices. Their former teammates will be so pleased to see them and welcome them to their ranks. Resistance is useless, she warns them.
Illyana teleports them away, cutting it a bit close. She explains she didn’t want to teleport blind. It takes a little longer to set things up when she’s aiming for a specific destination. Fine, Dani tells her, but next time she should make those decisions when they are safe back in Limbo. Against someone as the White Queen, even the slightest delay can be deadly.
They are in luck. They are in the same office, but it’s night and snowing. Illyana finds a calendar. They’ve missed by almost a week. They could be too late then, Dani fears. Does Illyana want to try again? The other girl hangs her head and admits she put everything she had into that ‘port. They are as close as she can get them.
She admits she’s so nervous. She expects the Queen to pop through the door any second. Does she know any spell to shield their thoughts from her? Dani asks. Nope, Illyana replies. The professor can’t read her mind and she assumes that goes for the Queen as well.
Dani tries the phone, but nobody replies at home, The X-Men are still gone. It’s weird, she admits, the prof and her sometimes fought tooth and nail. She’d argue with him over the silliest things, just to prove she was her own girl, but now he’s gone, she misses him almost as much as her folks and her grandfather.
She understands, Illyana assures her. Her brother’s with him. They can’t help the X-Men, she reminds her friend, but they may be their teammates’ only chance. She peeks outside while Dani wishes they still had the Hellfire Club uniforms. If someone asks, smile sweetly and say they are on the way to a costume party, Illyana decides. Corridor’s clean.
The girls sneak out and soon Dani is in the New Mutants’ quarter. She whispers into Rahne’s ear to wake up. Relieved, the other girl hugs her. Dani tells her to get dressed while she wakes the others. They are getting out of here! Illyana is waiting in the hall, keeping lookout. Sam awakes from the noise.
Suddenly, the lights are switched on. Surprise! James Proudstar remarks as he holds an unconscious Illyana. He is surrounded by the other Hellions whose faces look from triumphant to annoyed.
Sam tells them they are taking a big risk waltzing in here. The inhibitor field affects them as well as the New Mutants. Dani now realizes why neither she nor Illyana could use their powers here. How did they know they were here? she asks. Her use of the telephone triggered the alarm, Jetstream explains. They answered it. He explains that they joined the Hellions by choice. Some of them don’t like the idea of the New Mutants being forced. Also their initial meeting ended inconclusively. They want to see how good the Mutants truly are. How well they stand up against each other. He proposes a duel. One of each team in the Combat Room. Should the Mutants win, they all go free. Lose, and they stay willingly, no matter what.
Does their precious Queen sanction this combat, Roberto mocks. She knows nothing of it, half-breed, Empath retorts. She’s in Boston, Jetstream adds and orders them to decide. The offer won’t be repeated. Dani consider the offer. Proudtstar used a nerve pinch on Illyana, so she’s unconscious. What should she do? They’d be honor bound by their own word, but will the Hellions? Why does she have to make the decision? The others look to her as team leader. This is where she proves herself. They accept, she announces.
Later, dressed in their uniforms, the Mutants meet in the Combat Room, the analogue to the X-Men’s Danger Room. The combatants are Jetstream and Cannonball. The rules are simple, Jetstream announces. They continue until one of them yields. They do not try to deliberately maim or kill the other. Beyond that anything goes.
Kitty and Dani try to wake up Illyana as they may need her soon.
Thunderbird activates the room and the duel begins. Both young men fly up and Sam notes that this room isn’t as fancy as theirs. It lacks the ability to create any environment they want. One of the machines fires darts at him, making him lose his concentration. He falls.
Jetstream grins and gloats whether their duel is over so quickly. Perhaps Sam should allow one of the girls to take his place. That moment, he is captured by tentacles.
Sam notes the room is playing fair, going after Jetstream as much as him, which he didn’t expect. He snags a bar and is swung around by his momentum, a stunt taught to him by Nightcrawler (who may look creepy as sin but sure is a nice guy). Going upwards again, Sam triggers his power, ready for round two.
He flies towards Jetstream who frees himself at the last moment. Not maneuvering in time, Cannonball hits the ceiling. Laughing, Jetstream calls him a clumsy oaf. Cannonball may be more powerful, but he can maneuver.
Tarot applauds Hamahl. Roberto shouts at Sam he can do better than that while Rahne hopes he doesn’t get hurt. Sam frees himself, telling himself the others are counting on him. He won’t let them down.
Jetstream attacks him from behind. Again Sam is too surprised to keep up his power and Hamahl tosses him down where he almost lands between two presses. Sam flies upward again, angry that Jetstream is making him look like a fool. And he’s making it easy for him! He’s glad the professor isn’t here to see this. And to make matters worse, wreckage from the gadget he busted is falling towards the mutants. He shouts a warning at Amara. Sunspot shouts up at Sam to stop let Jetstream control the match. Sam has brains. Use it! Maneuver 7 – the Magnum variation.
Jetstream shouts at Roberto to be silent (and calls him a dwarf). This match is between him and Cannonball alone. Nobody said they couldn’t offer advice, Sunspot shoots back. And the next time he tries a crack like this will be the last. Jetstream is unimpressed.
Sam flies away towards some hoops. A superb stratagem telling Cannonball to run away, Jetstream mock. Do they children use it often? Sam hangs on to one of the hoops, swings around and kicks Jetstream in the face. He tackles him and they both fall to the ground with Sam on top.
Sam orders him to give up. Never! Jetstream shouts. He’s proven his point, Sam continues. He’s got skill and guts to spare. He’s got nothing to be ashamed of. The better man won, that’s all. Let’s call this quits before someone really gets hurt. Then you surrender! Jetstream grimly spits out. He will die before he yields.
Sam asks Thunderbird to talks some sense into this jerk. The Hellions have lost, even if their champion is too stubborn to admit it. That means the New Mutants can leave.
It does? comes a newcomer’s voice and Sam swears at the sight of Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost. It appears they’ve arrived at an awkward moment, Shaw wryly observes and orders Sam to explain himself. They made a deal, Sam replies, a one-on-one duel for their freedom. He didn’t think they’d get out, even if they won, but it was worth the try.
Fascinating, Shaw observes. Whose idea was it? They all agreed to it, Thunderbird states. They’ll share the responsibility. How noble, Emma remarks coldly. But by what stretch of the imagination, by what right, do they dare usurp her authority? They may promise what they like but at her school, her word is law. She was not party to their arrangement and does not consider herself bound by it. She orders them all to return to their rooms.
Sam suddenly attacks, shouting the New Mutants are goin’ nowhere ‘cept home! He orders the others to run. He’ll cover for them. A nice gesture, but useless, as Shaw steps between him and Emma and absorbs the force of the impact and returns it by slugging Sam aside.
Sunspot is ready to attack but Dani shouts at him that the harder he hits Shaw, the stronger he gets. Of course, she is ignored. She decides to help, but Emma turns her still mostly unshaped and untapped power back at her, confronting Dani with her greatest fear, the mystic bear that slew her parents, out to claim her next.
Shaw easily takes care of Roberto. As he grabs the boy by the throat he mocks what Roberto’s father would say to see this behavior towards one of his dearest friends and fellow member of the Inner Circle. That’s a lie! Roberto protests and Shaw tightens his hold, warning him his word is his bond!
Kitty observes that the mutant are running to the boys’ aid, while the Hellions stay back, not sure what to do. She phases up to the Combat Room’s control and disrupts its electrical systems.
The room goes crazy. Thunderbird orders everyone outside. As the rest of her teammates head for the exit, telepathically guided by the White Queen and protected by Shaw, Catseye springs to Wolfsbane’s side to help hr drag Sunspot to where his friends are waiting. Kitty joins them and orders Illyana to get them out.
Catseye asks Wolsbane if they can be friends. If she will stay. She can’t, Rahne announces. The Queen’s evil. She offers Catseye to join them. Catseye refuses, rather staying at the happyplace. And Illyana teleports the mutants away.
An instant later, they are in front of the still empty X-Mansion. Kitty offers to phase inside and open the door. The rest of them are sill somewhat shaken about Limbo.
Sam turns to Dani. If the professor is gone for good, they may have nobody to teach them except for the White Queen… At least they held their own. They got lucky, Dani decides. Sam was right before. They are great in their league but they are high school varsity tackling the pros. They did fine against the Hellions, but if they’d hung around, the adults – all two of them – would have slaughtered them.
As the others walk ahead, Dani hears a voice calling her name. Smoke curls in the shape of a bear which announces that no one can save her. It tells her to make her peace, for it that has claimed her parents will soon come for her!