‘Self is afraid’ the New Mutant called Warlock thinks to himself, while wondering what Dani Moonstar would do, what Scott Summers would do. ‘What should Self do now that Self is leader?’ Warlock asks himself. Warlock states that for the sake of his friends and for the good of planet Earth, he has been forced to take charge of the situation. He knows that he is the only one who can, as he is not infected, and is able to keep precise report of events and of his own decisions. ‘If Self makes an error, other selves may study report and learn from said error’ Warlock decides, knowing that if he dies, a report of the event may survive.
As mist envelops the mysterious island known as Paradise, Warlock recalls that his team of X-Men, also referred to as the “New Mutants”, although he has no real idea as to why they are “New”, but supposes it could be because they are younger than the “old” X-Men. He realizes that he is straying from the point, deciding that clarity is hard right now, as is being a team leader. He restarts his report, in the thick dense bush of the decaying island, Warlock states that his team came to the remote island called Paradise, the place that years ago, his soul-friend Dog was terminally life-glow impaired - killed - by the Ani-Mator. Warlock reminds himself that Doug wanted to confront the circumstances of his temporary demise, as he was informed it would be “good for him”.
However, as Warlock points out, things are not going so well, as a category one virus-plague is loose on Paradise, and everyone has been infected, except for Warlock, who has enforced quarantine. He has captured the Ani-Mate and former associate of the New Mutants, the ever-unpredictable Bird-Brain, holding him in a cage created by Warlock’s own arm, while Warlock has transformed his other arm into a gun. The wounded and infected New Mutants - Doug Ramsey a.k.a. Cypher, Dani “Mirage” Moonstar, Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man, Amara “Magma” Aquilla and Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, follow him closely. ‘Stay close. Follow Self and do as Self says’ Warlock orders.
‘Who put you in charge?’ Doug asks his best friend. ‘Self did’ Warlock replies assertively. ‘Yes. Well. Yes. I know. But do you have to be so bossy?’ Doug asks him. ‘Self is in charge’ Warlock explains, while knowing that his soul-friend is very frightened, as Paradise has ended his life-glow once before. ‘A good leader would reassure him’ Warlock decides, and turns back to Doug, smiling, calls out ‘You are not going to die, Douglas Ramsey’. ‘Oh? Really?’ Doug asks. ‘Yes. Self makes this promise’ Warlock tells him. ‘How?’ Doug replies. ‘Because Self is leader. (Notice Self’s confident, reassuring smile)’ he adds.
Nate puts a hand to Dani’s forehead and tells her that she is very hot. ‘What? What? That’s so inna-’ she begins to say “inappropriate”, before realizing that Nate is talking about the fever. ‘Well, absolutely, Nate. I feel pretty rough’ Mirage tells him. A little further back, Magma uses her power to burn through some of the bush, while announcing that she is a little scared. Sunspot assures her that everything is going to be fine, pointing out that Warlock is like a machine, so he is totally virus-protected, that he will get them out of this, no doubt. Warlock overhears their concerns, and decides to use broad-spectrum reassurance on them. He turns around and tells his self-friends that everything will be all right. ‘Tra-la-la! Notice Self-s confident, reassuring smile’ he tells them.
Warlock acknowledges that it is frustrating they cannot leave the island, but tells his friends that they are infected with the virus-plague and must not communicate it to the outside world. He supposes that the virus-plague is likely to be an Ani-Mator creation, while announcing that he is leading them to the Ani-Mator’s lab, hopeful that a cure will be found there. ‘Again, Self wishes to draw self-friend’s attention to Self’s encouraging smile’ Warlock concludes, while the New Mutants listen to the take-charge Warlock.
Soon, they arrive at the co-ordinates of the Ani-Mator’s laboratory complex. ‘Stored coordinates were accurate’ Warlock states, announcing that modest celebration is now permitted. ‘That’s great, Warlock, but I’m not sure we should be making so much noise and light…’ Moonstar suggests, while Magma burns through the trees that lead to the opening of the laboratory. Warlock considers that Moonstar, the usual leader, has made a valid point and decides that the team has already encountered and been attacked by hostile virus-mutated Ani-Mates, so light and sound may attract others. He begins to scan the location and hopes that he has not made a “rookie mistake”. As he scan indicates, Warlock has made a “rookie mistake”, as several Ani-Mates suddenly burst from the bushes.
‘Beware! Scary hazard monsters!’ Warlock shouts, while telling himself that he needs a better phrase. ‘YAAAH!’ Cypher screams as he tries to run away. ‘Oh my God!’ Magma utters. Sunspot punches one of the large creatures who is wearing a leopard-print cloth around its neck and he tells his friends that either he is getting weak, or this thing is really tough. Mirage kicks a large spindly Ani-Mate into the rock face that surrounds them, and tells Bobby that it’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure, these things are seriously dangerous. Realizing that he is encumbered by the caged Bird-Brain, Warlock is not combat optimized. He tells his team not to engage the Ani-Mates, but is knocked aside by a large elephant-like creature.
Warlock falls to the ground, still maintaining his hold over Bird-Brain, while Cypher stands between Warlock and the Ani-Mate, urging Warlock to get up. ‘Ramsey! Move! It’s gonna stomp you both!’ X-Man calls out, but gets no response. He tells himself to focus, and creates a “X” of telekinetic energy, which he casts forth to the elephant-like Ani-Mate, who cries out in agony from the telekinetic sting, before X-Man does the same to several of the other Ani-Mates. ‘Move! While they’re reeling!’ Magma calls out as she creates a barrier of flame between the New Mutants and the Ani-Mates. ‘Good idea’ Warlock decides. ‘Pretend she’s leader for a moment. That’s an order!’ he adds, as they run into the entrance tunnel to the laboratory, while Magma seals the entrance with molten lava. ‘Gotta shut those things out!’ Amara declares.
‘There. They are sealed out’ Warlock announces, while the others take rest. ‘And we’re sealed in’ X-Man points out, adding that he doesn’t feel so good. Warlock deduces that the exertion may have accelerated vial process in his friends’ metabolism. He realizes that their life-glow spans may have been reduced, so time is short, they must keep moving. ‘Being leader = hard squared’ Warlock thinks to himself. Still holding Bird-Brain in a cage, Warlock and the other New Mutants make their way through the caverns, with Sunspot lighting the way. He tells his teammates that he is burning up, to which Magma points out that they are all running a fever. ‘But it’ll be okay…’ she begins, but Sunspot explains that he means his power - he doesn’t know how much solar energy he has left, and in the dark, he cannot recharge. Clenching his fist, he declares that he doesn’t know how much time they have left.
A short time later, a large metal door suddenly has a large “X” imbedded into it as Nate uses his telekinesis to bust the door open. It falls to the laboratory floor with a loud clang. ‘Easy…’ Amara tells Bobby as she helps him down the stairs that lead into the laboratory, where large glass tanks are broken, and equipment is strewn all over the floor. ‘Nice TK blast’ Dani tells Nate. ‘Funny what desperation can do’ Nate replies, while Warlock suggests that they get Bird-Brain penned, and Cypher motions to the tanks. Mirage sits at the computer console and announces that most of the lab systems are down, as if no one has been in here for a while. ’We’ve got a few basics. Nothing much’ she adds, while Warlock extends his arm with the cage attached to the top of one of the tanks that are not broken, and drops Bird-Brain into it.
‘God. This place. It’s like my nightmares come to life’ Cypher remarks. Warlock supposes that some distraction is needed, and tells Doug that activity equals good distraction. ‘Let us proceed with analysis self-soul-friend. Tra-la-la!’ Warlock exclaims as he plugs himself into one of the computers. ‘Sure. Of course’ Doug tells him. A scan of the virus appears on the monitor: ‘Oh m word….look at this cellular effect. The virus is breaking us down. It’s dismantling us at a cellular level’ Cypher tells everyone. ‘To destroy us?’ Mirage asks. ‘Or to build something new out of us’ Doug tells her, when suddenly, Bobby collapses in Magma’s arms. Mirage and X-Man place Sunspot one on of the tables in the lab, while Magma exclaims that he used to up too much energy, that he is so sick. ‘We’re all so sick!’ she declares.
Magma sits down beside Sunspot and Nate remarks that she is right. ‘I know she’s right’ Dani agrees, adding that Warlock has got to take the lead on this, as no one else is thinking straight. ‘If this virus is reordering our bodies, it could be rewriting out minds, too’ Mirage adds. ‘Which is a shame, because I like the order your body is in’ Nate tells Dani, before quickly turning to her and adding ‘I actually said that out loud, didn’t I?’, to which Dani tells him that he really is ill. Warlock knows that the situation is of maximum urgency, that he must isolate a cure and design an anti-viral, while wishing that he knew more about the way organic biology works. Warlock tells himself that he must try not to think about all the monsters out there in the dark, waiting for he and his self-friends.
Outside in the dense forest, a massive humanoid figure, hunched over, entirely green, almost plant like, lumbers through the jungle, causing Ani-Mates to flee in fright as it approaches the area where Magma has sealed off with laval. ‘Be me!’ the being cries out, but the Ani-Mates are not quick enough to flee, and the green creatures pulls them into itself, absorbing them.
Back in the laboratory, ‘Drink?’ Nate asks Dani as he holds out a glass of water. ‘Thanks. So thirsty’ Dani replies as she takes the drink. They watch Magma and Sunspot, and Nate remarks that Amara really cares about him. ‘They’ve been in love since forever. They just don’t get along’ Dani explains, adding that it is only times like this you glimpse the real feelings. ‘Tell me about it’ Nate mutters, before Dani calls out to Doug and Warlock who are still working away at the computer console, and asks them if they have anything yet. Doug replies that they are still collating, and that the transcriptomic re-spec alone is a mammoth task. An image of the Ani-Mator appears on the monitor, and Doug reports that he has managed to open the files. ‘There he is. The monster’ Doug declares, before stating that he thinks he is beginning to see what the Ani-Mator did, what this virus is.
Another image shows an Ani-Mate taking a DNA sample from him Dr Animus, while Doug reveals that he thinks Dr Animus was trying to back up his personality in the viral form, the ultimate get out of jail card. ‘If he ever…died…the virus would rebuild him from available genetic material and reload his personality’ Doug explains. ‘It’s like he’s mocking me by coming back from the dead too. And we’re all him’ Doug remarks. ‘Confident, reassuring smile, self-soul-friend. Look. Look how confident and reassuring it is. Tra-la-la!’ Warlock exclaims, grinning. Doug rubs his head and remarks that he wishes he could think clearly, but that his mind is such a mess. ‘I’ve got the seed of an idea, an idea about your techno-organic immunity, but I can’t sort it out and -’ Doug begins, when suddenly, Dani screams.
‘I was holding Nate’s hand! Our hands have fused! They’ve fused together!’ Mirage exclaims in shock as she and Nate are indeed fused together. ‘Guys! Something’s coming in! Something’s coming in here!’ Magma announces urgently, motioning upwards, where above the tank that Bird-Brain is being housed in, ‘It’s seeping through the walls!’ Magma exclaims, as the green mass from outside seeps downwards, ‘Welcome…to Paradise!’ it calls out, it’s form clearly that of Dr Animus a.k.a. the Ani-Mator. ‘Ani-Mator. You’ve really made something of yourself’ Cypher points out. ‘BE ME!’ the Ani-Mator shouts as he drops down from the ceiling and reaches out for the New Mutants, knocking Warlock, Cypher, Mirage and X-Man together.
The Ani-Mator turns his attention to Sunspot and Magma, only Magma shouts ‘Get away from me! Get away!’ as she casts forth bursts of lava, but the Ani-Mator just shouts ‘BE ME!’ and extending a tentacle, pulls both of them towards him. Magma screams, before she and Sunspot are essentially swallowed in to the Ani-Mator’s new form. The Ani-Mator next smashes open the tank where Bird-Brain, his prized creation is still housed, and does the same, pulling Bird-Brain into him. ‘This isn’t happening. It isn’t’ Doug utters. ‘No no no. Warlock? You said I wouldn’t die!’ Doug exclaims as he begins to run. ‘Self made promise. Self keeps promise!’ Warlock declares as he leaps towards the Ani-Mator and punches him in the face. But the Ani-Mator swats Warlock aside.
‘WARLOCK!’ Cypher screams as he huddles behind some rocks in the lab. ‘Please…please. He’s inside me. The virus…It’s re-making me…you promised!’ Cypher cries out. Mirage and X-Man are down on the floor, still fused together. Nate declares that he can’t focus, while Mirage points out that they cannot fight like this. Suddenly, the Ani-Mator slams his oversized hand down towards them, but Nate manages to telekinetically lift the two of them to safety - but they land several feet back, with a now unconscious Nate on top of Dani. ‘Can’t get you off me, Nate!’ Dani exclaims, while the Ani-Mator prepares to step on them, until a voice calls out ‘Leave her alone!’. The Ani-Mator turns, surprised, to see Cypher, with Warlock around him, an armor, like they used to do back in the old days. Warlock’s eyes are at Cypher’s shoulders, and his grinning mouth across Doug’s stomach. ‘Promise applies to everyone’ Warlock thinks to himself. ‘Tra-la-la’.