An angry Warlock stands over S’ym’s unconscious body, threatening to kill his teammate, Magik, for her apparent betrayal. She wants to explain, but Warlock is unwilling to listen and attacks her. Illyana evades his blow, wondering what to do. In Limbo, she could easily kill Warlock, but she doesn’t want to. Two of Illyana’s pet demons suddenly teleport in, eager to attack what they perceive to be Illyana’s foe – over her protests.
Warlock hesitates: Dani has ordered him not to transmute sentient beings. But, as he feels he is he only one left to save his friends, necessity overrides these orders... He touches the monsters, transmuting them and then absorbing their life energy.
Illyana angrily asks him if that is what he has planned for her. Manifesting her Soulsword, she reminds him that they are in her domain where her will reigns supreme. She feigns an attack, but then suddenly changes, wearing an innocent girl’s frock. She tells him that she could kill him, but doesn’t want to. She reminds Warlock that they are friends and that the last thing she wants in the world is to hurt her friends. Warlock interrupts: she betrayed the other mutants to Karma! She had a reason and a plan, she explains. With his help, she figures she can save them and put Karma out of business for good. Warlock is reluctant to believe and she tells him that he can take her life; she won’t stop him.
Warlock burst out that he can’t and changes into a self-loathing puddle, berating himself that he is a failure. Illyana tells him to shape up and that he is as brave as any of the mutants and she’s about to give him a chance to prove it. But, if he punks out on her, he is as cowardly as he thinks he is. He is their only hope. Warlock hesitates first, but then goes into his manic-happy routine, realizing that Illyana is not a “once-friend”.
Magik creates a scrying pool to check out what’s cooking at Karma’s. Their foe is once again holding court at her nightclub, Pharaoh, surrounded by her slaves, who now count Storm among their number. Karma orders Ororo to find a guest for them to play with. Ororo first seems to obey, but then suddenly struggles, refusing to be party to such a scene. She sinks to the ground, still mentally struggling – to no avail. Karma tells her that, save for Xavier, hers is the strongest will she ever encountered. But Storm will not break free.
In Limbo, Warlock asks if they can’t somehow help. Illyana curtly replies no, mentally pleading with Storm to forgive her. She’s been a slave to as cruel a master. Seeing Storm like that breaks Illyana’s heart but this isn’t the right time to face Karma. They only have one chance.
Storm, in the meantime, is once more under Karma’s control. Under the looks and the catcalls of the disgusted and amused spectators, she crawls to Karma and kisses her feet.
Karma grabs Storm by the throat, mockingly praising her effort: she very nearly bested Karma. She won’t get a second opportunity. She knows the truth about Karma’s true identity, doesn’t she? That she isn’t Karma at all, but Xavier’s oldest, deadliest foe. She slaps her slave with he backhand, mocking that the knowledge has done her little good. Storm and the New Mutants will be the instrument of Karma’s vengeance against Xavier. To ensure that, tonight Karma will psychically operate their minds, permanently altering their personalities in Karma’s image.
Cairo, nearly 20 years ago:
A white-haired little girl runs through the crowded bazaar, clutching the wallet of a yankee tourist in her hand. She’s certain she’s given him the slip, when suddenly she is stopped by a gentle psi-bolt and a telepathic reprimand. Xavier, as a young man, catches up to the girl and takes back his wallet. Suddenly, though, he’s truck himself by a similar but far more brutal mental assault coming from a nearby saloon. The thief is forgotten as he turns and the girl runs away.
Watching from an alley are Illyana and Warlock, who have recognized young Ororo. Illyana tells Warlock that for once she got the time-shift right. Based on what they heard and what she’s figured out, they are where and when they are supposed to be. They sneak up to the saloon and peek inside through a window, sure that they won’t be perceived, as both of them have a natural protection against telepathy.
Inside the café, Xavier orders a coffee and sits down. A short while later, a fat man enters framed by two lovely ladies: Amahl Farouk, absolute ruler of Cairo’s thieves. For a while nothing seems to happen, no word is spoken aloud, although out of nowhere Xavier’s back suddenly achieves a bad burn. Then, Farouk slumps over and falls down dead, much to the cheering of everybody else in the room. Xavier takes his hat and leaves.
Illyana notices the injury and figures that there was a psychic fight going on. Warlock agrees, having perceived the clash of energies. Illyana figures that “fatso” was a telepath in the Professor’s league and that he must have been real scum for Xavier to have fought him to the death. Nobody seemed sorry to see him go, either. Except…she trails off, what if he didn’t die? What if Farouk’s consciousness somehow survived? Could he have found away to take over Karma? It would explain the changes in her, plus her affinity for Cairo and her hatred for Xavier, not to mention the sudden manifestation of full-blown telepathic powers as opposed to Karma’s own limited, specific psi-talent. It all makes sense. And, if the professor could beat him, Illyana continues enthusiastically, then so can they.
She has a plan and Warlock is the key. He can consider it his chance to play hero. Warlock is not convinced: could they not call the X-Men? Illyana reminds him that time is running out. After that night, it will be too late. She’s met those future New Mutants. She’ll kill her friends before letting Farouk turn them into such abominations. She’s pushing her luck just teleporting the two of them. If she tries to corral the X-Men, anything can go wrong. Warlock finally gives in and she gives him a big smooch on the cheek for courage.
Later, at Pharaoh’s:
The mutants are spaced out, but “Karma” mentally releases the chained Ororo once more. Angrily, Storm curses Farouk, asking what whim of fate spared hi misbegotten life. Farouk replies that he was rather surprised by his survival as well. When Xavier killed his body, his consciousness shifted to the astral plane. He wanted vengeance, but Xavier’s defenses were too formidable. Then, he perceived Karma and - turning her own power against her – he possessed the girl. She’s now imprisoned in her own mind. When this body has served its purpose, he’ll move to another, leaving her to take blame for his crimes. And, once the mutants have slain Xavier…- he once more takes over Ororo’s mind – no one will be able to stop him.
A voice interrupts, telling Farouk that there’s always the unexpected – like her. Illyana Rasputin enters the room. Farouk is amazed. How did she bypass the alarms? Illyana reminds Faoruk that she is a teleporter. He had made her an offer to join as partners. She accepts. Farouk holds out her hands, asking Illyana to seal the bond with a handshake and a kiss, afterwards they’ll celebrate. As Illyana takes Farouk’s hand, his grip becomes harder as he mentally tries to force himself into Illyana’s mind. The girl realizes that this was a trap all along. They struggle bitterly, neither of them noticing that one by one behind them the sleeping mutants disappear.
Finally, Ilylana cannot resist anymore. But, suddenly her features seem to melt and Farouk shouts out in surprise: it is Warlocks he’s been fighting with all along, while Illyana teleported the others to Limbo. Suddenly, molten rock comes up from the ground. The mutants are back, free and spoiling for a fight. One after the other, they attack Karma, intending to keep Farouk off-balance. Suddenly, he manages to take over Wolfsbane again, as she bites Warlock. Illyana becomes suspicious: they are bouncing Karma around like a basket ball. Faoruk should have a hard time thinking, let alone attack anyone of them. Dani tries to divert Farouk by creating an ear image. She notes with surprise that Farouk isn’t resisting this time, and the fear image isn’t Charles Xavier like last time, but scenes from the Vietnam War. Warlock intends to transmode Karma, but Dani and Illyana hold him back. They’ve both realized that Farouk is no longer inside Karma’s mind.
Getting a good look at herself, Karma, the real Karma, cries out in horror. What has happened to her body? The mutants surround her, telling her that it will be okay, while nobody truly believes it. Sam states that this is too easy. They were all assuming that Farouk possessed Karma from inside her own mind. Suppose that isn’t the case. He could be in anyone of them instead. Roberto points out that they will never find Farouk, if he can jump from mind to mind. Storm disagrees. Farouk will be comparatively weak until he assimilates to his new body. Suddenly, Rahne is struck by a psi-bolt and falls down unconscious, confirming their suspicions. Farouk struck her for fear of her wolfen senses. Illyana manifests her Soulsword accusing Ororo. Farouk’s hate for her was special: she was his favorite victim. She adds that there is a power to the Soulsword she never revealed. If she puts everything she has into it, this magic blade can kill!
Feigning to strike Ororo, at the last moment she turn and stabs Douglas into the chest. He shouts in horror, before realizing that nothing happened. Farouk just gave himself away. The others realize that Farouk’s choice makes sense: Doug is the weakest member. None of them would have thought anything amiss if, after this adventure, Doug would have resigned from team and school. “Doug” tells them that he’ll stay in this body and there isn’t anything they can do about it, unless they kill the host. Taking her blade, Storm is willing to do just that, feeling that Doug’s death is a price that must be paid. However, Karma intercepts their struggle, challenging Farouk to face her.
Around the mutants, the fire spreads but they are determined to see this through. Farouk and Karma’s psi-selves rise from their bodies: Farouk, an idealized muscular version of his original body, Karma’s still obese and helpless. Farouk mocks the young woman and tells her that she herself was to blame for being turned into this travesty. He merely provided the excuse needed for her to unleash her true nature. Around her the astral plane shifts turning into an idyllic wonderland where Disney style animals bring her delicacies. Farouk urges her to let him return to her prison where she can continue dreaming her dreams. Reality is too harsh to bear. Karma’s tempted to give in, but the mutants appear in the form of gadflies, urging her to be strong.
Farouk shoos them away, stating there is no point in trying. How is Karma supposed to fight when she cannot even stand? Angrily, Karma replies that she can and will and the gross form shatters to release Karma, the slender young woman, as she was before Farouk possessed her. She tells him that, if she were truly that weak, she would have died with her parents when they fled Vietnam, or she would have let her evil brother Tranh destroy her. Farouk is the coward, she shouts, as she grabs his psychic form, which becomes horribly bloated. She holds him, willing to keep him prisoner until Xavier comes, but his psychic form disappears into the astral plane.
Back in reality, Karma weeps as she realizes that he might come for her again. She won’t be a slave again; she’d rather die in the fire. Illyana angrily tells her to shape up, where’s the courage she showed a moment ago? Karma complains that she is an obscenity. The others tell her that by giving up she’s letting Farouk win. Does she want that? Shan finally agrees and Illyana teleports them out of the club and onto the roof of a nearby building. The mutants ask Ororo whether they’ll return home now and she decides that they need a holiday. She knows the perfect place too: an island in the Aegean called Kirinos.