Doug Ramsey a.k.a. Cypher reclines on a sofa, while counselor Gus Grim sits in a chair nearby. Light shines through the large windows, lighting up the dim library. ‘Do, Doug, how have you been?’ Gus enquires. Doug replies that he has been thinking a lot about his death. ‘Your death?’ Gus enquires. ‘Yes, Mr Grim’ Doug replies, revealing that he was shot-dead by an unpleasant man known as the Ani-Mator, on an island called Paradise. ‘It was - well, as the syntax of my life goes, it was a major piece of punctuation’. Gus points out that Doug is here talking to him, so that it was not a particularly permanent death. ‘It was a genuine death’ Doug replies, adding that it felt permanent at the time, and explains that it left a mark on him, psychologically. ‘I believe I’m repressing things’ he explains. ’Such as?’ Gus asks.
Doug tells Gus that he has had difficulty building emotional connections since he died, and that his closest relationship is with a techno-organic extra-terrestrial. Doug admits that he misses being in love, and tells Gus that he used to fall in love, occasionally, but that it is like he is afraid to do it now. ‘In case you die again?’ Gus asks. ‘Exactly’ Doug replies, revealing that he has feelings for Dani, but that he can’t express them. ‘That’s ironic, isn’t it?’ he remarks, pointing out that he is a master of all languages, and yet words fail him where Dani is concerned. ‘That’s tricky. Isn’t she spoken for?’ Gus asks. ‘But I would speak for her much more articulately’ Doug replies, sitting up.
Gus asks Doug if he thinks he should revisit his death and confront it. ‘Yes, I’d like that’ Doug replies, when suddenly, Gus declares ‘Well, let’s start now’, as he tugs at his own neck, and pulls his face off - ‘GROOOAARRGHH!’ he shouts as the Ani-Mator reveals himself underneath, lunging forward at Doug, who screams.
1128 Mission Street, San Francisco, California, 3:36 AM. Doug screams, his voice shattering the silence of the night. An instant later, his friends Dani “Mirage” Moonstar, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, Amara “Magma” Aquilla and Warlock rush into his room. ‘Doug? Doug?’ they call out. Amara switches the lights on, and Doug, sitting up in bed, a panic-stricken look across his face, he tells his friends that he is sorry, and explains that he had a bad dream. ‘You screamed like a girl’ Bobby tells him as Doug gets out of bed. ‘Because of the dream’ Doug quickly replies, while Dani, baseball bat in hand, checks out the window. Amara tells Doug that he woke the whole house, and Doug clarifies that when he sys “dream” he means “nightmare”. ‘Self soul friend scared self. Self thought for nanosecond duration that the Hel-Hound was out -’ Warlock begins as he stands beside his best friend.
“Hel-Hound?” Mirage asks. ‘Uh…on Blu-Ray. The…Hellhound horror movie self was most excitedly looking forward to’ Warlock quickly replies, adding that he was afraid that Doug had got a copy and was watching it without him. ‘Okay, we’ll deal with your weird in a minute’ Mirage replies, before telling Doug that he just had a nightmare. ‘Can we -’ she begins as she touches his face, but Doug tells Dani that he needs to talk to her about it. Looking around the bedroom, Amara asks where Nate is.
Bobby and Amara make their way downstairs, where they find Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man staring at the refrigerator. ‘What are you doing in the kitchen, Nate?’ Bobby calls out as he approaches Nate. He gets no response, so Bobby calls out to him once more. ‘What am I doing in the kitchen?’ Nate repeats. ‘Was my question’ Bobby mutters, before asking Nate if he sleepwalked in here. Amara cocks her head to look at Nate and asks him if he didn’t hear Doug scream. ‘Why am I looking at the calendar?’ Nate wonders as he continues to stare at the calendar on the fridge. Bobby sits on a chair in the kitchen while Amara remarks that Nate is still half asleep, and asks who wants hot chocolate.
‘I know what this is. You wanna know? It’s Mephisto. He’s screwing with us’ Bobby declares. As she makes the hot chocolate, Amara assures Bobby that it isn’t, and that they have an understanding with Mephisto. ‘The Devil is messing with our heads. He’s in amongst us. He’s in amongst some of us more than others -’ Bobby snaps. ‘You’re disgusting, DaCosta!’ Amara retorts. ‘I’m just saying…lot of freaky dreams going on tonight’ Bobby defends himself.
Back in his room, Doug tells Mirage that he wants to go back to Paradise Island. ‘Is that wise?’ Dani asks. ‘Yes. Shall we leave now?’ Doug replies. Mirage asks Cypher to level with her, but Cypher replies that is part of the problem. ‘Doug -’ Mirage begins, but Doug tells her that he needs to go back to where he died. ‘It’s unfinished business. And that’s what we do, isn’t it?’ he points out.
Shortly, in flight, transoceanic, the Blackbird jet that the New Mutants use steaks towards the island Paradise. ‘So…a dream told you we should all go to this Paradise place?’ X-Man asks. ‘Essentially’ Doug replies, explaining that he has been teaching himself to speak dream, adding that it is just another language. ‘Are you serious?’ Nate asks. Doug explains to Nate that everywhere he looks, there is a new code or language to be deciphered. ‘Body language. Micro-expressions. Chemical pheromones. Numeric systems…’ he announces. Glancing out the window, Doug declares that dreams are just the language of the subconscious. ‘I thought it would be rewarding to understand it’ he adds. Cypher remarks that actually it is surprisingly easy, and points out that micro-expressions, it is profoundly un-nuanced. ‘I basically dreamed that Gus Grim literally told me that I needed to go to Paradise so I could sort my head out’ he adds. ‘As simple as that?’ Nate asks. ‘After that, he turned into a monster and I woke up’ Cypher tells him. ‘What did that part mean?’ Nate asks. As the jet moves downwards to the island, Doug replies ‘Erm…the importance of confronting your fears or something?’ ‘Riiiight’ Nate mutters.
Soon, the jet has been set down on the beach, and the New Mutants trudge their way through the dense jungle. ‘Some signs of life glow, self-friends! This way!’ Warlock calls out as he leads the way through the jungle. Nate suddenly puts his bare feet into a pool of mud. ‘Paradise. Named by somebody with a sense of humor, right?’ he mutters. ‘Or maybe just somebody who owns shoes?’ Sunspot jokes. Examining her surroundings, Mirage remarks that this has changed, that it is different. ‘I don’t even remember where I died’ Cypher calls out. Sunspot adds that it is creepy, while Magma cuts her way through some of the forest with a blast of flame, and tells her teammates that it is like they are being watched.
Approaching a water fall, Nate enquires ‘This Ani-Mator guy? The one who, you know, killed - anyway, could he still be around?, to which Mirage explains that he was banished to Limbo. ‘Of course he was’ Nate mutters. Warlock flies Cypher across the waterfall to the other side. Magma follows, and Sunspot prepares to take off, while Mirage turns to X-Man and asks him if he didn’t prep for this. ‘Like, I dunno, read the file I have you on the Ani-Mator?’ she snaps. Nate quietly replies that he didn’t bother because he thought they were taking a trip to humor Doug after his little freak-out. Mirage tells Nate that she is disappointed in his lack of professionalism on this mission. ‘This isn’t a “mission”, Danielle. This is us making Doug feel better’ Nate retorts, admitting that he hasn’t known Doug long, but that he is balancing on the ledge on his heels. ‘Meaning?’ Mirage asks.
‘Meaning he is too highly strung for the kind of work we do, and I think he is a potential liability’ Nate replies. ‘Really?’ Mirage asks, before snapping that Doug’s linguistic skills are infinitely more valuable than lousy telekinesis that can barely - but she suddenly stops herself, realizing what she is saying. ‘Wow’ Nate declares. ‘I know’ Mirage replies. ‘Where did that come from?’ Nate asks her. Dani tells him that she doesn’t know, and apologizes. On the other side of the ridge, Sunspot calls out: ‘Hey! Are we on a mission here or what?’, while Magma mutters that she would love to know what they are whispering about. Doug points out that he can obviously lip-read and tells the others that Nate is questioning his performance and stability, while Dani is defending him, only she is over-compensating.
Doug adds that he thinks Dani is attracted to Nate, and is trying to disguise that fact by being overly harsh to him. ‘WHAT?’ Nate calls out as he and Dani turn to Doug and the others. ‘Of course, what do I know about body language?’ Cypher mutters, before motioning onwards and suggesting they go look for interesting things over there. As Magma cuts a path for them with another burst of flame, while Doug points out that the island looks dead, and wonders what happened to Bird-Brain and the Ani-Mates. Warlock replies that is unknown, and adds that his sensor readings are perplexing. ‘Apart from our own, there is / are other life-glow sign/s. Multiple / singular / simultaneous’ he adds. Mirage swings across the waterfall on a vine, while X-Man telekinetically lifts himself across. Doug announces that he is sorry he came to find some sort of closure to the issue of his life and death, and that he seems to have walked them all into a nightmare.
Mirage announces that she is glad they came. ‘Bird-Brain was a good and true friend. If something has happened to the Ani-Mates…’ she begins, putting her hand on Doug’s shoulder. Doug turns and looks at Dani’s hand, while Sunspot touches a tree trunk and reports that everything is all sticky, rotten, like it is decomposing, or like fungus, mold. ‘And that smell…’ Bobby adds as he sniffs the air. ‘Don’t smell it, then!’ Magma declares. Sticking his feet into the muck around them, Warlock announces that there is organic residue. ‘Creatures once life-glowing now not life-glowing, all around us’ he explains. ‘Ani-Mates?’ Mirage asks quietly. ‘Sadly de-Ani-Mated’ Warlock frowns. ‘Oh God’ Dani utters. X-Man telekinetically shoves aside some thick overhanging foliage, ‘Hey! Here!’ he calls out as he enters the hidden area.
The others follow, and looking around at the surroundings hidden behind the foliage, Nate asks if this is a next. ‘Statement: affirmative’ Warlock announces as he analyzes the area. Mirage calls out to him, and picking up some material from the next, Warlock reports that the nest structure is composed out of eighty-six percent used burger wrappers. ‘Bird-Brain’ Mirage utters. Suddenly, ‘RRAAARRRGGHH!’ Bird-Brain squawks as he emerges from behind some shrubbery, and lashes out at Warlock with his sharp talons. ‘Look out!’ Mirage calls out, before Bird-Brian’s claws slash her arm. Cypher falls to the nest, and Bird-Brain turns his attention to Magma, slashing across her stomach. ‘AMARA!’ Sunspot shouts as he leaps towards her, before firing a burst of energy at Bird Brain, frightening the creature.
However, not for long, as Bird-Brain gets his bearings and lashes out at Sunspot, slicing his face. ‘Wait! Wait!’ It’s Bird-Brain!’ Cypher calls out as he gets up and rushes to his friend, while Warlock follows, his hands transformed into large weapons. And gathering herself, Mirage readies her bow and arrow for an attack. Bird-Brain doesn’t react to Cypher’s appearance, instead he picks him up and slams Doug’s body into a dead tree, breaking it in two. ‘Get off him!’ Nate exclaims as he telekinetically lifts Bird-Brain up and tosses him skyward. Nate announces that he has Bird-Brain, and tells the others to hurry, as it is hard work. He looks intense as he struggles to maintain his telekinetic hold over the frantic Ani-Mate. Warlock comes to the rescue by extending his fingers into many bars which spread around Bird-Brain, effectively caging him. ‘Nice job!’ Mirage declares as she and 0the others move closer. Nate points out that he can only pick up with telekinesis what he can pick up physically, but that being able to do it at arm’s length is useful.
‘Hey cut you’ Nate remarks, as he looks at Dani’s wound. Dani replies that she is all right, while Amara looks at Bobby’s scratched face and touches it. ‘It’s nothing. Are you okay?’ Sunspot asks. ‘Hey, he scratched me also. Anyone?’ Doug calls out, while Warlock shines a light (generated by his own body) on Bird-Brain and announces that Bird-Brain is medically compromised. ‘What?’ Mirage exclaims. Warlock states that it is a virus - a plague - a virus-plague, which inhabits his blood-stream. ‘Medical parlance: he is “hot”’ Warlock adds. ‘The whole island is “hot”’ he reveals. ‘Come on…’ Mirage calls out, and Warlock tells her that the virus-plague is why he was reading singular / multiple life-glow signs, and that ever life-glow form on this island that isn’t already dead is now a viral carrier. ‘Everything’s infected?’ Bobby asks. Warlock replies that all life-glow forms are the one life-glow form, and that the virus-plague exhibits extreme virulence.
Mirage announces that they will get Bird-Brain to Utopia medical, and find a cure - but Warlock interrupts her, announcing that they cannot leave this hot zone. ‘Quarantine must be enforced’ he states. ‘I give the orders, Warlock’ Mirage points out, while Warlock states that the virus-plague is more contagious than any he can find in terrestrial databases, and that it cannot be allowed to escape the island. ‘Contagion = global health hazard class one’ Warlock adds. ‘But -’ a shocked Mirage utters, while Warlock lifts Bird-Brain up within the makeshift cage and announces ‘Self is virus protected. Self-friends are not. Self-friends have all had physical contact with Bird-Brain’. Warlmock tells his teammates that he is sorry, but his sensors are already unable to differentiate their life-glow signs from the singular virus-plague. Shocked, the New Mutants look at their wounds, while Warlock repeats ‘Sorry’ over and over, and states that they are all infected, and he cannot let them leave the island….