Quicksilver once again finds himself in chains, sorrowful and thinking about his wife and daughter. He regrets that he may never see their faces again and he has no device to record his thoughts at present. The past twelve hours have been a blur even to him. The High Evolutionary commanded his genetically advanced animal warriors, the Knights of Wundagore to reclaim the citadel from Exodus and the Acolytes. He suspects the decision was fuelled by his instability, as he’s recently been moving up and down the evolutionary ladder from god-like super being to ape. The Knights had no choice but to follow their creator and enter into battle with Exodus and the Acolytes, whilst he followed with the Heroes for Hire, who had been exposed to Isotope E, making them devolve uncontrollably. Upon their arrival at Wundagore, they learned Lord Anon was in fact the nefarious Man-Beast and that he has joined forces with Exodus to fight them. Pietro was knocked out and, as he now finds himself in a dungeon, he realizes the outcome of the battle can’t have been good.
Suddenly, the door to his cell opens and, silhouetted in the doorway, stands the mysterious robed stranger he believes he met earlier at the haven. The stranger tells Pietro he is surprised to see him sitting there, feeling sorry for himself what with everything that is at stake. It is time to take action. Pietro looks up at him and asks him how he managed to get past the guards and what he wants of him. The stranger replies that he has incapacitated the watchdogs and is here to help. Pietro reaches his arms out and asks to be freed from his chains. The stranger replies that he doesn’t need him for that; he is the son of Magneto, mutant master of magnetism; his blood, his strength flows through his body. All he has to do is concentrate, to visualize the manacles breaking away from his body. The stranger tells him that the power is his, and he should learn to harness it. Quicksilver grits his teeth and perspires as he uses his innate strength to force the manacles to snap apart, his eyes appearing to sparkle with energy as they split open.
The stranger reminds him that he should never forget who he or his father is. It is the only way that he can win the coming war. Quicksilver holds a broken manacle up and is amazed he managed to break it. He asks how he managed to accomplish it but the stranger replies that he will find out in good time but, for now, he doesn’t have the strength to remain. With that, the stranger vanishes but Pietro realizes the door is still open and runs out, noticing an Acolyte (possibly Joanna Cargill) lying unconscious on the floor in the corridor. Pietro doesn’t know who the stranger is but he was as good as his word. The guards are unconscious and he sets off to learn what has happened since he was locked in the dungeon.
Elsewhere, in the control center of the citadel, Exodus and Scanner chat. Scanner asks him why he doesn’t order the Heroes for Hire killed immediately and he replies that it is a matter of power. The Man-Beast’s psionic powers are nearly a match for his own. With the Knights under his control his forces match theirs and with Isotope E, the Man-Beast holds the advantage. By keeping the heroes alive, he may be able to use them against the Man-Beast and take possession of Isotope E. Amelia Voght appears and apologizes for her intrusion but informs Exodus that the team guarding Quicksilver has failed to report. Exodus acknowledges her and orders Scanner to take Projector, investigate the situation and report back immediately.
The Man-Beast, meanwhile, is in conversation with Sir Ram. Holding the scepter housing Isotope E firmly, he tells Sir Ram that it must gall him that he, the Man-Beast, has power over the Knights of Wundagore and, while he possesses Isotope E and the High Evolutionary, Sir Ram must do as he says. He gloats that, though Exodus can protect himself from its effects, he cannot protect his Acolytes too. He may be able to resurrect his dead followers but he cannot alter their evolution, should he turn the Isotope against them. That, he surmises, is the only reason he has not destroyed Sir Ram and his brethren. He continues to point out that Thena, the Eternal, wields incredible psionic powers. If he keeps her and her allies alive, he may be able to use them against Exodus, should he be able to find a way to counteract Isotope E. Behind them, unseen, a blur passes at great speed.
Further inside the citadel, Fabian Cortez stands surrounded by the Heroes for Hire, all shackled in a variety of ways. Even Ignatz is locked inside a spherical contraption. Cortez stands over Thena, telling her she can struggle all she wants but their powers are being nullified by the same equipment that keeps her allies unconscious. He introduces himself to her and says that he wishes to speak with her. Exodus is mad, he says, and if he isn’t stopped he will destroy all non-mutant life on the planet in order to make it pure for Magneto’s Acolytes. He tells Thena that her abilities are formidable but Exodus’s fanaticism makes him stronger. However, he can change that by boosting her powers so that she can easily kill him. If she agrees to this, then he shall spare her life and those of her colleagues. If she tries to harm him, however, the headband she wears will destroy her mind and trigger a signal that will kill the others.
As she thinks that he is not to be trusted, she asks about Isotope E. Cortez says that if she’s successful then she may use it to cure her allies of their unpredictable transformations. He waits for an answer but Thena notices Quicksilver at the door with his finger to his lips. She buys some time by replying that she’ll consider his offer as Pietro continues unseen. He warns her not to take too long, as Exodus could ‘dispatch’ her at any time.
The Knights, meanwhile, are restless at being unable to rescue their creator and White Tiger upon fear of his death. Lady Ursula is up for attacking the Man-Beast directly. “There is no honor in being forced to serve that villain!” Suddenly, Quicksilver appears and asks where their honor was when they decided to side with Exodus against the heroes who came to aid them. “Sir Pietro! You’re alive!” exclaims Sir Ram. Quicksilver replies that he is, no thank to him. Sir Ram apologizes and asks for forgiveness, explaining that the Man-Beast holds their lord captive and will kill him if they do not follow his orders. They remain bound to the Man-Beast as long as their true master is prisoner.
Quicksilver asks if it has occurred to any of them that the Man-Beast might be lying. He has been through the entire citadel and did not find any trace of him. He believes that the Man-Beast doesn’t have him and is simply using their blind loyalty against them. He tells them he is going to free the Heroes for Hire and then put a stop to Exodus’s and the Man-Beast’s plans and dashes off leaving the Knights to question their actions and to find the High Evolutionary before Exodus or the Man-Beast does.
Deep underground, Bova cradles the High Evolutionary in her arms with only a small lantern to light the caves around them. She asks him to wake, as she needs his guidance, and he slowly but surely begins to come round. He is weak and dazed, and asks Bova what happened. She informs him that, when she saw the Knights were outnumbered at the battle of the armory, she remembered a secret trapdoor to the caves and brought him here to keep him safe. He tells her that she acted with great courage and, after they have reclaimed their home, she will be rewarded for her bravery. She asks him to conserve his strength but worries to herself what might happen should their enemies find them now with his power and mental state fluctuating so rapidly. What really worries her is thinking about what could possibly be holding the Man-Beast’s attention so strongly that he hasn’t sought him out.
In the citadel’s laboratory, wearing a pair of protective goggles, the Man-Beast, is experimenting on the scepter housing isotope E. As he fiddles with the controls of the machine holding the scepter, he realizes that Isotope E is burning out rapidly and as it does so, it becomes more unstable. He dare not let Exodus or the Knights know this or he could lose his advantage. He turns and removes the goggles, changing something on the machine as he thinks about finding a way of stabilizing and then recharging it. Doing so will mean that destroying Exodus and the High Evolutionary will be child’s play. Behind him, a blue and silver blur passes at great speed and the scepter vanishes from the callipers holding it. The Man-Beast turns and is shocked to find his advantage disappear in an instant. He shouts for Sir Ram to get in there immediately. However, Exodus appears instead and tells the Man-Beast that Sir Ram doesn’t appear to be nearby and asks if there is a problem. The Man-Beast grins, telling him that there is none at all while wondering if it was Exodus who stole the Isotope. Exodus says they need to discuss what will be done with Isotope E now that the opposition has been squelched.
He tells the Man-Beast that it is Magneto’s will that no false mutations contaminate the gene pool. Mutates are an impurity whose existence must not be tolerated. The High Evolutionary has used Isotope E to create genetic aberrations and he must pay for his sins. Isotope E must be destroyed before any more abominations can be created. “Abominations such as myself?” replies the Man-Beast, “You don’t really expect me to support my own destruction do you?” He continues to say that personally, he doesn’t care what he does with the rest of the world as long as he remains unmolested there on Wundagore Mountain. They are no threat to each other. If this is agreed, he proposes they use Isotope E for a mutually beneficial goal.
Exodus holds his chin and says he is listening. The Man-Beast says that they should use Isotope E to rid the Earth of those individuals who would stand in their way; devolve them into nothingness, leaving the world to them. “Interesting,” replies Exodus as he realizes something is wrong. If Isotope E is still as powerful as it once was, the Man-Beast could have used it against him. He wonders if it has burned out or whether he has actually lost possession of it. The Man-Beast, meanwhile, thinks that, because of the way Exodus speaks, he isn’t the culprit. But, if he doesn’t have it, who does?
Quicksilver returns to the cell where the Heroes for Hire are being kept and frees them of their shackles. Thena asks why he didn’t free them earlier and he replies that he didn’t want to take the chance of Cortez raising the alarm. The first thing he did, once he was free, was to reprogram the security systems to feed the Acolytes misinformation about his whereabouts. Then, he ran a recon of the citadel and found Exodus and the Man-Beast. “Oh,” he adds, “And I recovered Isotope E.”
He tells Thena that he sent the Knights to find the High Evolutionary and asks Iron Fist to tell him what happened after Exodus and the Man-Beast knocked him out at the armory. Danny tells him that they were hopelessly outnumbered by the Acolytes and Knights and they were able to overcome them, which is how they came to be locked in there. Quicksilver is in control of the situation and says that it’s time they went on the attack, to find Exodus and the Acolytes and mop the floor with them. White Tiger becomes agitated and tells them that they can do what they will; she is going to find Man-Beast and kill him.
As she departs, Luke asks if they should follow her but Pietro tells him that she was created to destroy the Man-Beast and, as long as he doesn’t have Isotope E, then she should have the advantage. If nothing else, she’ll occupy him while they deal with the Acolytes. Luke asks if they can use the Isotope to cure their transformations, as he doesn’t want to enter into another battle not knowing what will happen to them. Pietro admits he doesn’t really know how to use it and he could make things worse. They’ll leave all that to the Evolutionary. With that, they leave with haste, following Quicksilver.
Elsewhere, Amelia Voght, one of the senior Acolytes, has set up a communications device and speaks to a man whose blurred image appears in a kind of holographic bubble. She tells the man, “Quicksilver is alive and restrained. Exodus has not harmed him, my lord.” He replies that she will protect Quicksilver’s life at all costs. If Exodus tries to harm Pietro, she can stop him by any means necessary. She understands. The blurred image takes on the unmistakable shape of Magneto.
Suddenly, a light flashes beside her and she tells Magneto she is receiving an emergency transmission. Projector’s face appears on a monitor and tells her that he and Scanner have found Quicksilver’s guards unconscious and the prisoner gone. She orders him to get back there while she sounds the alarm. As she does so, Exodus and the Man-Beast are alerted by another flashing light and siren as Amelia speaks over the public address system, telling everyone that Quicksilver has escaped. Exodus heads off saying they must deal with this but the Man-Beast tells him he’ll be right there after he secures the Isotope. He suspects now that Quicksilver stole the scepter. If that is the case, then he knows he’d better find the High Evolutionary, as he’s the only lever he has to convince him to return the Isotope to him.
Exodus surrounds himself with the Acolytes, who ask him if they should split up to search for the Knights and the Heroes for Hire, but Quicksilver answers their question, as he arrives at speed with Iron Fist and the crew, telling them that they’re going to put an end to this - Now! Everyone picks their opponents and goes at it. Exodus attacks Thena with a psionic bolt, knowing she is the most powerful and therefore the most dangerous. Thena counters, telling him that he is strong but is nothing compared to an Eternal. However, Carmella Unuscione dissipates the air around her and she gasps from a lack of breath, losing her ability to defend herself. She is rewarded for this by having Quicksilver smack her over the head with the scepter. She-Hulk, meanwhile, notices that Exodus is distracted and connects with a left hook, which sends him reeling.
He finds himself kneeling at the feet of Quicksilver, who tells him not to even think about getting up. He says he has the Isotope and the war is over. One of the Kleinstock’s warns him that the war is just beginning and calls him a traitor. He tells Pietro that the Acolytes will never surrender to someone who betrays mutantkind.
Meanwhile, in the caves beneath the citadel, Bova listens with concern, as the High Evolutionary, still in her arms, insists he must return to the fight and stop Exodus and the Man-Beast. Bova worries that he is becoming more feverish and doesn’t know if he can survive without the Isotope. As she wonders what to do, she hears a sound nearby and asks who’s there. Holding a rock and preparing to defend her creator, she tells the new arrivals to show themselves, warning them that she will fight to the death to defend the High Evolutionary. Sir Ram calms her fears and says that there is no need for that and commends her courage and resourcefulness. Lord Tyger seconds him. Lord Gator, in his inimitable raspy voice, says that their lord doesn’t look well and they must find a safe haven so that he may recover.
Lord Tyger agrees but Bova says that moving him may cause further harm. Sir Ram backs Lord Tyger, adding that they should take him somewhere they can defend him. The Man-Beast is preoccupied studying Isotope E, so they will return to the infirmary at the armory, where they will find both weapons and cover. From high above on a precipice, the Man-Beast shouts down to them, telling them that they won’t take him far as he has need of the High Evolutionary and will possess him. Sir Ram tells the Knights to prepare for battle.
Back inside the citadel, the Acolytes and Heroes for Hire are still going at it, with She-Hulk preparing to launch a huge rock the Acolytes way. Luke prepares for an attack by the Kleinstock’s and another Acolyte, saying to She-Hulk that he bets she doesn’t see this kind of action in a courtroom. Jenny replies that he obviously hasn’t been following her career. Projector manages to envelop Quicksilver in a force field and Exodus congratulates him, demanding he crush Pietro and send a message to all mutants who would betray Magneto’s dream. Suddenly, his force-field dissipates and Quicksilver is freed, as Projector falls to his knees gasping. Exodus blames Thena for the attack upon him but it is Amelia Voght who has secretly cut off his air supply, making good the promise she made to Magneto. She picks up Projector and keeps up the pretence, as Exodus and Thena re-engage their psionic forces against one another. Quicksilver moves toward Spoor, who is getting the upper hand on She-Hulk and smashes him in the face, telling him that he follows a false prophet and now faces the consequences.
As Luke and the Black Knight fight their respective opponents, their evolutionary instabilities coincide to cause each of them to begin devolving. The Black Knight smashes Cortez with his shield as Iron Fist finds himself the victim of Decay. He knows all about his chi, his life force, which is what he now feeds upon, taunting Danny that his life force will make him strong again. Quicksilver intervenes, thumping Decay in the stomach as Iron Fist drops to his knees to recover. Decay laughs at Pietro, telling him he’s too late; their battle is lost and he points to Luke, Danny and Dane, who reel from the pain their transformations inflict upon them. “See,” he continues, “Your allies are devolving once again! Magneto’s will shall be done this day.”
Back in the caves, Lady Ursula, with her finger on the trigger of a pistol, leaps at the Man-Beast, telling him they shall never surrender to him. He says he can change her mind and uses his psionic power to dig inside her mind as she screams for him to get out. She is placed under his control quickly and he tells her that he controls her every action, ordering her to turn her weapon on her fellow Knights. Ursula is as strong-willed as they come and fights him. With a tear streaming down her cheek, she aims the gun at her own temple, telling him that she fights him with all her strength. She would sooner take her own life than bring harm to her brothers and sisters. With one shot, she does.
Crashing to the ground in a pool of blood, Ursula is gone and the Man-Beast cackles at their being one less obstacle between him and the High Evolutionary. Suddenly, White Tiger, who had split from the Heroes for Hire before they challenged the Acolytes, appears and she leaps at the Man-Beast, telling him he is about to die.
Upstairs in the citadel, the battle between the Heroes for Hire and the Acolytes continues unabated, despite three of the heroes being in a devolved state. She-Hulk tells Quicksilver that she doesn’t know how long they can hold out but Pietro replies that they must keep fighting, as Exodus cannot be allowed to win. Exodus grins at him, saying that he has already won, as he can’t hope to save the lives of all his allies. He asks for his surrender, promising to spare their lives if he hands over Isotope E.
Quicksilver holds the scepter and adds an entry into his latest correspondence file to Crystal. He tells her that cannot in good conscience risk the lives of his allies by using the Isotope on them, but he has seen how the Evolutionary uses the scepter and the powers it grants him. Perhaps he can turn it on himself and advance his own evolution. Pointing the scepter at himself, he knows that, if it kills him, his final thoughts would be of her and Luna. Exodus screams as he witnesses Quicksilver absorb Isotope E into his own body. Thena fends off a psionic attack on Pietro by Exodus, as he feels the power exploding inside him, coursing through his body, power like his father’s.
In the caves below, White Tiger tackles the Man-Beast head on and the Knights want to help her but the High Evolutionary weakly asks them to stop. Bova reminds Sir Ram and the others that they should heed their lord, as White Tiger was bred with defenses they don’t have. The Man-Beast knows he cannot harm White Tiger with his psionic powers but tells her that he will defeat her by giving in to his animal nature and ripping her limb from limb. They both look truly ferocious as they single-mindedly slash each other, blood spurting every which way. She replies that he is trying, but she has drawn first blood and is serving her purpose in life.
As they fight, Bova informs Sir Ram that their creator is at death’s door and tells him that she will return to the citadel and find Sir Pietro. “No, Bova!” he replies, “Sir Pietro has turned his back on us. We must face this alone.” Bova stubbornly tells him that though he leads the Knights, she does not answer to him. She is first born and also lives to serve their lord. She also knows secret ways into the citadel and knows that Sir Pietro would never abandon them, as he is the only one who may be able to find Isotope E and return to save their creator. As she departs, she tells Sir Ram to stay and guard the Evolutionary, while she finds Pietro and Isotope E. Lord Tyger holds the Evolutionary in his arms and says it may be too late, as he burns up with a fever, screaming in agony. Suddenly, his eyes open wide and he tells Lord Tyger that it isn’t a fever, but power, more that he has ever felt before; power enough to correct past mistakes. He laughs with the intoxicating rush of power he now feels, as an explosion of power rocks the cave.
Speaking of power, Quicksilver is on fire. He tells Exodus that Fabian Cortez once boosted his powers but that was nothing compared to this. Every cell in his body radiates and he wonders if this is what it feels like to be his father. The Kleinstock brothers rush toward him and tell him that he is not worthy to compare himself to Magneto but, in a flash of speed and power, Quicksilver lands numerous punches on them and actually split them apart. His eyes glow with elation as he tells the Acolytes that Isotope E has made him strong enough to actually separate the Kleinstock’s, and asks them to imagine what he can do to them. “Dare any of you challenge me?” he asks menacingly. The Acolytes stare back at him, unafraid to even speak. He says they made a wise choice. He is Magneto’s true heir and only he is fit to lead the Acolytes. He asks them to renounce Exodus or he shall cause them pain like they have never known before.
Bova has arrived on the scene and listens to Pietro. She worries that his voice is as hard and cold as was Magneto’s years ago, when he learned that his wife Magda found refuge in her cabin and birthed Wanda and Pietro. Exodus screams at the Acolytes, as he feels his grasp on them beginning to weaken. He tells them that Pietro betrayed his father’s dream by siding with flatscans time and time again. He is not pure enough to lead them and he shall prove this with his blood. Pietro grins and asks Exodus if he is challenging his place as rightful leader of the Acolytes, to which Exodus replies, yes; only Magneto’s chosen may command the Acolytes. He says Pietro is a stain on his bloodline. He shall prove his claim by fighting Pietro to the death. “It’s your funeral,” replies Quicksilver.
Exodus fires off a round of psionic bolts towards him but Pietro is behind him before he can blink. He tosses three grenades from the armory at Exodus, who uses his power to explode them in mid-air. Unfortunately for Exodus, the grenades were simply tools of distraction and Quicksilver punches him with a right cross. As he wipes the saliva from his mouth, Exodus warns him that this is the last time he will lay his fists on him and attacks him again with psi-bolts. Pietro evades them with apparent ease, as he rushes around Exodus, landing punch after punch, moving at super speed so as to prevent Exodus from seizing his mind. He also adds that Exodus wouldn’t dare using a blanket attack for fear of harming his followers. With a malicious glare, Exodus replies that he shouldn’t count on that.
He does exactly this, forcing his psi-bolts outwards as a blanket attack on everyone in his immediate vicinity. The Acolytes and the Heroes for Hire clutch their heads in agony as their minds are hammered and Exodus tells Pietro that if their lives must be spent in order to preserve Magneto’s dream then so be it. Projector begs him to stop as Thena thinks that if she hadn’t erected a mental barrier immediately, everyone would be dead. Cortez wasn’t lying, she thinks, when he said that Exodus’s fanaticism increases his powers. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to maintain the shield. Exodus sweats at the exertion of his attack and looks weary as he says that these deaths bring him no joy but Pietro had to be stopped.
Behind him, a blur of sliver and blue appears and Pietro tells him that it is too bad for him that he was miles away when he attacked. “What’s the matter Exodus,” he taunts, “Are you exhausted or are you losing your faith in yourself?” Before Exodus can offer a reply, Quicksilver lands the final punch, knocking him clean unconscious. Bova has a tear in her eye, as she scolds Pietro, asking how he could become the thing he’s always feared most. Quicksilver holds Exodus’s limp body in his fist and replies that isn’t true; he has become what he was born to be.
He turns to the Acolytes and says he has defeated Exodus and proven himself Magneto’s chosen. They will now follow his orders and his orders alone and asks if anyone has any objections. Cortez answers for them, telling him that he has finally proven himself worthy of the name Magnusson. They bow before him and Quicksilver smiles. He informs the Acolytes that they are on the verge of a new age; a time of peace that his father could only dream of.
A loud noise behind him startles him and he turns to see the wall crumbling and the High Evolutionary, now over twenty feet tall, crashing through it with the surviving Knights on their atomic steeds riding shotgun. He looks down at Quicksilver and tells him that his godlike powers have returned. He reclaims Wundagore Mountain and says he will now lead the world to the next phase of its evolution, “And let all who oppose me know that their lives are forfeit!”