Darkness. Devoid. Absent of light. Absent of hope. She feels the maw of this overwhelming nothingness devour her from the inside-out - and though Namorita Prentiss, the current field leader of the New Warriors is fully aware of her every move, she has no control over her body’s movements - as she desperately tries to kill her teammates. Rich Rider a.k.a. Nova and Rage a.k.a. Elvin Haliday use their formidable strength to hold Namorita back, while across the warehouse factory that the New Warriors have dubbed their Crash-Pad, Tandy “Dagger” Bowen and Tyrone “Cloak” Johnson, two friends who are bound by the forces of darkness and light, find themselves in an uncomfortable stand-off. ‘I said this madness would end tonight, Tyrone! And I meant it!’ Dagger warns her closest friend.
Dagger declares that she is tired of the never-ending struggle between Cloak’s darkness and her light, and tells Tyrone that she doesn’t want to fight him, but that she cannot let herself become what he has - weak, possessed and manipulated by energies he either won’t or can’t gain control over. Tyrone’s red eyes glow from beneath his hooded cloak. ‘Nothing to say in your own defense?’ Tandy asks him. ‘Okay then, Tyrone Johnson - if that’s the way it has to be - let’s get to it!’
Suddenly, ‘Whoa! She busted loose!’ Rage calls out as Namorita breaks free of his grasp, knocking Rage and Rich backwards. Rich tells Rage that if he cuts loose, he is stronger than Namorita. Rage replies that he knows, but that Namorita is his friend. ‘But I guess I don’t have much choice’ Rage decides, before announcing that if he has to do it, then they should do it fast and hard, and he smacks Namorita over with a powerful punch, sending her careening across the room, where she smacks into the wall. ‘Blue blazes!’ Nova gasps. ‘Excuse me?’ Rage asks. ‘Never mind’ Rich replies. ‘Fine’ Rage mutters, before asking how Dagger is holding out.
Dagger replies that it is pretty much a draw between her and Cloak’s different powers. Nova points out that there is not a lot two bruisers like he and Rage can do against a guy who is barely there. ‘So what do we do?’ Rage asks. As Cloak hovers over them, Dagger suggests they back off, regroup and try to figure out - but suddenly, she stops herself mid-sentence when Tyrone’s cloak opens up - and several beings emerge from the Darkforce within. ‘Well, who the $#@% are they?’ Rage calls out, before seeing their missing teammate, Silhouette moving without her braces. The other beings are the Shroud, Black Mamba, Ecstacy and Quagmire.
Uptown, away from the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge and the smells of the Fulton Fish Market. Along manicured grounds, facing the East river, is the Smythers Drug Rehabilitation Clinic. Usually the province for the children of the well-to-do, who have foolishly graduated from chocolate bars to nose candy, it has become the nexus point for this miasma of dark energy - dark thoughts - and dark deeds. One man who has always played among these shadows - a man of mystical means known as Dr Stephen Strange - tries to bring the light of reason to the one responsible. A stern-faced Dr Strange stands before the being known as the Darkling and tells him that this madness is a result of his inability to control his mutant access to the Darkforce Dimension. ‘What do you propose to do about it?’
‘Let it all hang out, Doc!’ Darkling replies. ‘Open up the darkness for all you t’see!’ he declares. But Dr Strange tells him that is not the answer he hoped to hear. Darkling grins wickedly and replies ‘So what? All my life - nobody’s ever heard what I had to say - why should now be any different?’ Darkling asks. Dr Strange releases the Eye of Agamotto and remarks that Darkling seeks to deny what is self-evident, and announces that the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto will enlighten him, and through that process of illumination, enlighten Strange himself as to Darkling’s reasoning behind these deluded assaults.
‘NO! Turn off the light!’ Darkling howls as the Eye of Agamotto releases energy which pierces Darkling’s form. The Darkforce swirls around, and Darkling tells Strange that he is hurting the dark, hurting him. ‘I need the darkness and it needs me’ Darkling exclaims. ‘That could not be - unless your body is dependent on the energies of the Darkforce Dimension for your very survival - which disturbs and affects your sanity at the same time’ Strange remarks. Darkling releases a massive claw made of Darkforce energy and shouts that is what he has been telling everyone for years, but that they never listened. ‘So maybe now, you’ll hear this loud and clear!’ Darkling exclaims.
Strange struggles in the grasp of the Darkforce claw, and Darkling announces that for as long as he can remember, the dark has called to him, tried to get inside his head, his mind, tried to get him to take over the light. ‘And I know it talked to other people, too - but it talked loudest to me!’ Darkling cries. Dr Strange casts a spell, ‘If light and reason be abducted so abruptly - may Seraphim’s shield choose to protect me!’ Strange calls out, as a shield forms and pushes back the Darkforce claw. Strange tells Darkling that the Darkforce energy is not sentient, that it cannot call him or any others like him who wield its properties any more than the carpet beneath their feet could. Strange tells Darkling that the questions he hears, the doubts he feels, the embracing of the darkness, they are all of his own doing, not the restful of some outside influence. ‘Then why is it that I can do this?’ Darkling asks Strange as his form increases massively, and he looms over Dr Strange. ‘Why is it that I can use the dark to steal your light - and destroy your safe little world!’ Darkling declares.
At that moment, directly outside the Smythers Drug Rehabilitation Clinic, heroes from across the city rush headlong into the nexus of swirling dark madness in a desperate attempt to save their city from its own inner demons. Among the gathered heroes are Angelica “Firestar” Jones and Robbie “Speedball” Baldwin of the New Warriors, their ally Chris Powell a.k.a. Darkhawk, and their new companion Mike Jeffries, apparently Turbo. Peter Parker the Amazing Spider-Man swings along on his webbing, while Ben Grimm a.k.a. the Fantastic Four’s Thing, and the Avengers Crystal and Dane Whitman the Black Knight rush along the ground.
As the heroes gather around the Smythers Clinc, Firestar remarks that so much of the Darkforce energy seems to be gathered around the rehab center. ‘Red, all it’s missing is a big neon sign saying “this way, please!” Spider-Man jokes. The Thing points out that there is only one way to find out as he rushes forward. ‘Um, Mr Thing…we could call information, you know’ Darkhawk suggests. ‘No! Just foolishly rush in! Full speed ahead!’ the excited male Turbo exclaims - but he is knocked sideways when several razor-sharp wing knives are flung his way. Losing flight, Turbo falls, but Firestar catches him, and remarks that the wing flechettes looked awfully familiar .
Suddenly, atop the Smythers Clinic, Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel, possessed by the maddening darkness, hovers, alongside other “captives”, Sersi and Johnny Storm the Human Torch, as well as the mysterious Vanisher, who popped up a few minutes ago. Firestar alerts her allies to their presence, and the Thing exclaims that the Darkforce crud is controlling their pals. ‘Like it or not, in order to get inside and find out who and why - we gotta kick the crud out of our friends to do it!’ the Thing exclaims. ‘Uhm - I got dibs on Vanisher’ Spider-Man mutters. ‘WIMP! No fair!’ Speedball calls out. Spider-Man sighs and decides that since the Human Torch is a pal of his, he will web Torch up like a hot potato. Spider-Man releases a powerful web which splurts over the Torch, knocking him back.
However, ‘What the - gross?!’ Spider-Man gasps as the Darkforce wraps itself back up along the webbing, and begins to cover Spider-Man. Firestar flies over to her ally and tells him not to worry, and she releases her microwave emissions, which scrambles the Darkforce back. Spider-Man asks Angelica if she can use it to free the others, but Firestar replies that she might be able to, but she also might end up frying them instead. The Black Knight calls out to Crystal as Sersi lunges towards her teammates. ‘Sersi’s ours!’ Dane tells his Inhuman teammate, but as Crystal releases some elemental energy, she remarks that it has no affect over Sersi. Black Knight recalls that his neural-sword did the trick on the Darkforce earlier, and he raises his sword, exclaiming ‘Let’s see what happens when I metaphorically cut her to the bone!’ - but before the Black Knight can reach Sersi, the Vanisher teleports up behind him.
Darkhawk flies down and warns Black Knight to the danger, before releasing a burst of energy, which knocks the Vanisher back. ‘Well, I used to call that my “Darkforce Blast”’ Darkhawk remarks, before landing beside the Black Knight and suggesting that after this mess, he better find a new name for it. ‘Good idea, Darkhawk!’ Dane calls out, while thanking the young hero for the save. Dane turns his attention back to the Darkforce, and finds it engulfing his sword - before overwhelming Dane himself. Possessed, Dane lashes out at Darkhawk, who dodges his attack and mutters ‘Ingrate!’, and tells everyone that the Black Knight is in a foul mood again, while wondering why the Darkforce keeps going after the same people again and again.
Spider-Man swings upwards and states that the Darkforce only seems to be able to possess some of them, and adds that the Black Knight said himself that it grabs the people who are angrier, more prone to having something inside which the psychic glop can latch onto. As the Human Torch flies up towards Spider-Man, Peter calls out for a hand. ‘Howsabout a foot, instead, Web-Head?’ the Thing calls out as he kicks open a fire hydrant, sending water spouting into the air, knocking the Human Torch backwards. ‘I gotta tell ya that trick works every time!’ the Thing declares, before asking Firestar if she needs a hand with Archangel.
‘No, thank you, Mr Grimm. Since I seem to be the only one available who can actually make a difference here - I should have no trouble handling Archangel!’ Firestar announces as she blasts her microwave energies at Archangel, who falls downwards and lands on a car. ‘See what I mean?’ Angelica asks as she, the Thing, Speedball, Darkhawk and Turbo gather together, while possessed civilians begin to surround them. The Thing tells Firestar not to get too cocky, unless she thinks she can handle zapping every single man, woman and rugrat that has been transformed into a “zombie” all over Manhattan? Darkhawk asks if Firestar’s microwave power could so some serious damage to the normal civilians who have been possessed, to which the Thing replies ‘Yep’. ‘So then, even if she really could do something like that…she really can’t!’ Darkhawk exclaims. ‘Yup’ Thing adds.
The controlled Sersi leads a pack of possessed civilians towards the heroes, while Speedball declares that if Firestar’s plan is out, and they cannot knock these people unconscious, how are they supposed to stop them? ‘Short of breaking their legs or killing them, you mean?’ Turbo enquires nervously. ‘Yeah, wing nut. Short of that’ Speedball tells him. The Thing frowns and announces that it looks like there is only one thing they can do - absolutely nothing!
Back at the Crash-Pad, the entire building is almost entirely covered by the Darkforce, while inside, Nova, Rage and Dagger struggle against the others. ‘Pour it on, Dagger!’ Nova calls out as Tandy fires her light at Cloak and the Shroud. ‘After you’re done with Cloak and the Shroud over there, can you get this muck-guy off my back?’ Nova asks as he is attacked by the “muck guy”. Rage struggles against Ecstasy, Black Mamba and Namorita, and informs Nova that the “muck guy” is Quagmire. ‘And what’re you complaining about?’ Rage asks his friend as the three women overwhelm him. ‘Oh, whoop-de-doo - you did all your homework when you were an Avenger and know everything about everybody!’ Nova mutters after Rage rattled off the names of his opponents.
‘Enough to know Black Mamba can take control of my mind’ Rage exclaims, unable to break free of her grasp. ‘No! Get out! I don’t want to see this!’ Rage exclaims, but Elvin, a boy inside the body of a man, the anger-fueled fighting machine, cannot do anything to prevent Black Mamba’s insidious assault, as she shows him his heart’s greatest hope - that he can be a normal fourteen year old child again. “With his mother and father and Granny Staples around him. And then, his greatest fear - to lose it all because of what he has become. To see the desperate dreams of an idyllic family life shattered - by the kinds of people he has chosen to fight against - and it is all so much more than he can bear. This child who wraps himself in an iron will as readily as he hides behind his iron skin. This mixing of shadows and light, dreams and nightmares - simply becomes more than he can endure.
Rage drops to his knees, the Darkforce pooling around him as Nova soars down to his teammate. ‘Rage? I heard you scream - you okay, man? Is there anything I can do?’ Rich calls out, when suddenly, Rage steps up - and smashes Nova aside. ‘No - not him, too -’ Dagger gasps. Rage turns his attention to Tandy and punches her in the stomach, before Tyrone opens his cloak, and Namorita and the Darkforce users enter it, before they are all teleported away, leaving the motionless Dagger and Nova on the floor of the Crash-Pad.
Outside the Smythers Clinic, Firestar, Speedball, Darkhawk, Turbo and the others struggle against the civilians and the possessed heroes. Inside, Dr Strange tells Henrique Gallant to look around him and see what his pain and anguish have spawned. ‘This is not the answer you seek. Succumbing to the darkness - no matter how tantalizing the option may appear at times - is never the truth solution to your problems’ Strange states as he keeps away from Darkling’s attack. Strange releases some energies and tells Darkling that there exist no demons in the Darkforce which guide and coerce him, save for those few poor souls who have become physically trapped in the Darkforce dimensional plane and the inner demons which drive them all.
‘You manipulate this energy on your own, child. And only you can undo the damage you have caused’ Strange tells Henrique. ‘ME?’ Darkling replies, to which Strange reminds him that he is a mutant, whose powers happen to be a very powerful access tap to the Darkforce energies through this dimensional plane. ‘You have opened the void which has led the energy to seep into our own dimension’ Strange tells Darkling. Strange adds that the Darkforce energy is not acting of its own regard, that it cannot, for it is simply operating under a basic tenet of physics, it is filling a vacuum that Darkling created by opening a rift the size of Manhattan.
‘But the dark -’ Henrique calls out, only for Strange to interrupt, ‘- flows so freely through your access tap because we are a plane of reality whose precepts are predicated on light - both physical and spiritual - the Darkforce energy and its dimensional plane are the opposite - so one will flow into the other until either the dark or the light is doused’. This causes Darkling to grin wickedly and exclaim ‘It’s all me, then, ain’t it? Cool. I’m the night--maker! I can flood you all in darkness and you can’t stop me!’ Darkling shouts.
Back outside, Firestar releases some microwave energy and announces that she really thinks she should start cutting loose, but Spider-Man tells her not to. ‘Spidey-sense is making like Paul Abdul here’ Peter mutters to himself, when suddenly, Cloak materializes, with Namorita, Rage and the others. ‘Oh, come oooon!’ Turbo complains, looking worried. ‘More super powered dudes dipped in Darkforce? This is getting a little beyond ridiculous’ he mutters, releasing more turbo-charged winds, while Speedball bounds past him and calls out ‘Hey, you’re the one who wanted to be a big-time super hero, right?’ and tells Turbo to just keep hitting as many people as he can, as often as he can. ‘And maybe we’ll give you temporary membership!’ Speedball tells him.
‘What makes me a full-fledged card-carrying, club member?’ Turbo enquires. ‘Your first concussion and causing random property damage! Lots of property damage!’ Speedball calls back, before using his kinetic field by extending it outwards to push the possessed civilians backwards. Spider-Man swings down and knocks back a civilian and mutters that he doesn’t mean to sound pessimistic, and that he is just tickled pink to finally see Speedball learning to use his powers, but that it still doesn’t get them any closer to finding out who is responsible for this mess.
Suddenly, there is a rumbling resonating from the Smythers Clinic. ‘Uhm, Web-Head -’ Speedball calls out, but as the roof to the Clinic explodes, and Darkforce pours from it, Spider-Man tells Speedball not to say anything to him, as he is having a triple-Tylenol night. Suddenly, Henrique Gallant emerges from the Smythers Clinic and tells Speedball, Firestar and the others that he is the one they are looking for. ‘I’m the one doing all of this!’ Henrique boasts, announcing that he is the one who has been abandoned, abused and deprived, left to rot by everyone he ever cared about. ‘I’m the emptiness between here and there. Between light and dark. I am Darkling’ he boasts.
‘I did ask, didn’t I?’ Spider-Man mutters. ‘Well, at least now we know who and why, right?’ Speedball points out. Firestar and Turbo look shocked, while Darkhawk mutters ‘Wonderful. The difference between dying ignorant or an informed young man. That’ll look good on our tombstones, speedy - “Here lie all of Manhattan’s heroes - they knew who killed them”!’….