Within Nova Roma, in the chamber of the Red Skull’s latest servant, the alien New Mutant Warlock has appeared, hellbent on avenging his friend, Doug Ramsey, by killing the Skull’s servant. He is unaware that his horribly changed foe is Doug Ramsey, who has only just regained his memory. However, Doug is aware that he mustn’t simply tell Warlock, as he is sure the Red Skull is watching them.
Indeed, an amused Skull watches the battle to come via a holographic display.
Doug dodges Warlock’s blow, trying to figure out how to survive a fight with the alien. Warlock is confused by his foe’s appearance. He’s looking like a corpse but actually displays more strength and speed than an ordinary human, as he keeps on attacking Warlock, who, however, adapts. Doug somersaults away and lands elegantly, figuring he might actually stand a chance.
While his two slaves, Tiberius and Magma, stand lifelessly behind him, the Skull muses aloud that the alien seems to be a shapeshifter. The brainwashed Amara explains that he is an alien named Warlock. Looking at the holograms, she begins to recall that he is a New Mutant and her friend.
The Red Skull grabs her by her choker. She is resisting his influence. They can’t have that. And Amara becomes docile again. He orders her to don her armor. He suspects his younger Skull is in need of rescuing. Amara obeys, while Tiberius watches critically.
Doug fights Warlock, noting his body reacts almost automatically but there has to be a way to reach Warlock. Maybe if he uses the fight itself. Warlock was present at all the training sessions. So he uses moves he learned when Warlock was along. Warlock analyzes the combat choreography and comes to the correct conclusion: his foe is Doug Ramsey. Doug hits him again, while Warlock realizes that Doug is trying to keep up a deception.
That moment, Magma joins them, attacking Warlock with lava. Warlock notes she is radiating a different cranial pattern than Doug. He figures that, unlike Cypher, she remains under the Skull’s influence. He hits her and she falls unconscious.
Doug keeps up the pretense, ordering him away from her. Reading his friend’s body language, he is sure Warlock ha figured everything out.
Suddenly, soldiers join them and open fire on Warlock who flees. Doug orders them to get after that mutant while he will look after Lady Aquilla.
Cynically the Skull, still watching, comments he’s sure he will. After all, he created the boy’s personality in his own image. Why shouldn’t they possess the same desires? Of course, should he indulge them, there will be consequences. He is surprised to see that Doug lays Amara down gently on a bed, then salutes and walks away. He is fascinated as he was sure the boy would take advantage of the temptation. He certainly would have. As would he have, he addresses Tiberius. But the boy seems to be built of far better stuff. Truly, he is becoming a tribute to the Reich.
Outside, Warlock wonders what is going on with Doug and how to set him free. Suddenly, a floating figure joins him. It’s Illyana. She and Sam happily greet Warlock who jokingly tells them he is not easy to kill. Except maybe by Asgardians, Illyana cracks.
That sounds like a story worth hearing, Selene remarks as she joins them, dressed in black armor. Sam assures Warlock they are on the same side.
Selene explains that they have been adversaries in the past but these are her people and she will not see them become anyone’s slaves. Warlock is suspicious but decides to follow his friends’ call.
Warlock tells them about Roberto and Doug, as Selene leads them to a cave where a lot of Nova Romans, the resistance, are waiting. Sam observes that it’s creepy watching Selene move through here. Nobody seems scared of her.
Why should they? a group of Nova Romans ask them. Selene’s son, Senator Aquilla, is the city’s first council. From the beginning of their city, Selene has been their champion. When the New Mutants first came here, Senator Aquilla was in jail, Sam remarks surprised. That’s politics, another man shrugs. She thought he was wrong; she slapped him down. But when the city is threatened, she is at the forefront of the battle…
Back in the 1500s when the Spanish came, a roving band of Pizarro’s conquistadors… They didn’t believe what they’d found - a city of refugee Romans who settled here before the birth of Christ. The Romans greeted them as friends, but they didn’t care and just considered them another batch of infidels to be conquered and plundered. By day, they were at the Spaniards’ mercy but by night their champion came and their revenge. It didn’t end there: as soon as she’d dealt with those invaders Selene took horse to follow their trail back to its source and made sure they never came again.
He interrupts his narration when another man warns them that soldiers are coming.
Led by Selene and the Mutants, the New Romans get ready to fight. Cannonball slams into their foes, while Magik fights them with her sword. She notices that while they are human she doesn’t sense any scrap of a soul.
Selene guides her people on while slaying the soldiers and soon they stand victorious. Cannonball fells bad about the deaths. Illyana points out that the Skull made them monsters. Death for them was pretty much a mercy. All the more reason why their leader must be stopped, Selene decides.
Doug’s alone again, back in his quarters. Now dressed only in boxers, he stares at his appearance in the mirror. He loves the strength of his new body, the grace and speed. It’s just the sight of it that makes him want to scream. Even if the mutants find a way to win, what happens next? Go home, act like nothing happened? His parents should totally love that. He imagines himself as Red Skull vacationing with them. Going to a prom with Kitty Pryde, from whom he has always wanted more than friendship in his current shape. He imagines kissing her, then she turns to a female Red Skull in front of him. She doesn’t want him to be alone. He shouts ‘no’ and breaks the mirror, vowing to not let this happen to anyone else. But he needs to regain control. The Red Skull is sure to be watching.
Indeed, the Red Skull observes him, admiring Doug’s struggle, but sure his cause is doomed. The flesh defines the spirit, and every breath he takes binds him more to the Red Skull.
Doug wonders how to fight the Skull, a villain who has fought Captain America!
Warlock comes out of the wall and they commune mentally. But even there Doug finds his mental image of himself is that of his Skull self. He fears that he doesn’t even want to return to his old self. Warlock promises him to find a way to set things right. He is a mutant, Doug replies. He believes in miracles, but he won’t hold his breath. Now start talking. They’ve got plans to make.
Later at night, Doug sneaks through the palace, figuring if he can get close enough to the Red Skull he might catch him by surprise. Instead, he is surprised by Tiberius, who tells him to be quiet. Troops are looking for him. He adds that he too is resistant to the Skull.
Doug attacks the troopers. Tiberius helps him. Doug asks him to take care of Amara and leave the Skull to him.
The Skull is already expecting them. He mocks that he hid his deception well. Doug attacks and the Skull easily fights him though Doug tries to hold his own. The other man is better. He takes out another syringe with the serum to further Doug’s transformation. Doug actually manages to beat him off instead.
Eventually, he has the Skull by the throat but refuses to kill him. A moment later, a lava blast of Magma hits him. Then Tiberius injects Doug with the serum, informing him his day is done. The future belongs to Tiberius Rex! Doug transforms into a mindless hulking monster while Amara looks up adoringly at Tiberius.