“Wow!” Pixie exclaims at the sight of Times Square, where she has just teleported herself and the White Queen, who promptly asks if she is trying to punish her for something by taking them to this unwashed tourist corral. She asked Megan to take them to the Avengers! Pixie points out that just arriving in Avengers Tower is rude, to which Emma calls her so thoroughly wholesome she could vomit. When a tourist photographs her, she makes him slap himself. More sensibly, Pixie points out that the Avengers may have deathtraps or something else to kill intruders.
Annoyed, Emma reminds her of their situation. Some unknown force has taken their teammates and, more importantly, her boyfriend! So if Megan would kindly get over herself, they can enlist some of the most brilliant minds on the planet to help determine where the hell they’ve disappeared to!
Pixie stares at one of the giant screens at Times Square, with good reason. Every channel shows a transmission by Blastaar, ruler of the Negative Zone, who announces he has apprehended spies trespassing and shows his prisoners Cyclops and Hope. Blastaar considers this an act of aggression against himself and the forces of the Negative Zone, and therefore the Kree Empire. But he will allow them to send one representative to beg for his mercy. So, if they wish to reclaim these lives and avoid a full declaration of war, they will send him Reed Richards!
At Avengers Tower, Steve Rogers, the former Captain America, has a video conference with the president, informing him that Reed Richards is unavailable at the moment. Besides, Blastaar is a terrorist, and they do not negotiate with terrorists. They do not try to incite them either, the president reminds him. Steve guarantees that Blastaar’s threats are just that. If the Kree Empire were really leveraging against them, they wouldn’t be hearing it from their backwater post. It is a hostage situation. Plain and simple.
The president stresses it’s more than that. Scott Summers and his folk are important to him. To him as well, Steve agrees. That said, he’s going to do what he would for any American captured by a power-mad dictator: He’s going in and bringing them back, whatever it costs. The president wishes him Godspeed and Steve salutes.
She certainly hopes that wasn’t just for their benefit, Emma Frost tells him. They had come for one of the smarter Avengers. But apparently this has gone from scientific mystery to interdimensional incident.
Dr. Nemesis floats through the Negative Zone, following the beeping of a device of his, until he sees the fortress. “Ahoy there!” he greets the guard and assures him he comes in peace. He suggests he take Nemesis to the scientists working in there, so they can cut him up and look at his insides…
Earth side of the Negative Zone portal at Camp Hammond, Connecticut:
Emma offers to have Pixie bring a team of X-Men, but Steve doesn’t want to do it that way. This is a controlled portal, he explains. SHIELD built this for the secret prison inside the Negative Zone. The one Blastaar has seized since then. They were designed to insure that only the number of people expected would… make it across. And despite what they may think, he prefers to use diplomacy first.
Emma points out that he isn’t Reed Richards. And that was Blastaar’s demand. What makes him think he won’t kill Scott, the minute Steve comes through? The portal initiates and Steve promises Scott and the others will be safe. They are Blastaar’s only bargaining chip. Then he will kill him? Plxie exclaims. Steve gives her a cocky grin. Blastaar can try…
Blastaar’s citadel, the former US prison 42 in the Negative Zone:
At moments like this, he can almost believe in the grace of the gods, Blastaar boasts. It will be cosmic justice to see an arrogant worm like Reed Richards beg for his favor. He and his guards are waiting on their side of the portal. Blastaar prattles on he heard Richards had a hand in building this fortress. And he thought himself clever to bar this threshold, preemptively thwarting any chance of invasion but the blade cuts both ways. And now Richards must cross here alone. His hands glow with energy as Blastaar imagines showing Richards true power and fear.
A scientist announces that a male specimen is transporting in from Earth. Blastaar looks forward to the look on Richards’ face. Steve steps out of the portal, beginning he knows they were expecting Reed Richards…. “Kill him!” Blastaar orders. That’s gotta be a new record, Steve mutters as he attacks the soldiers, all the while announcing he is an envoy from Earth. No one could reach Reed Richards but they weren’t about to let his captives die. No, instead he chose to defy him and assure their death, Blastaar roars and fires at Steve who dodges the blast.
Just to clarify, Rogers asks, he has no intention of complying with the safe release of his prisoners, or even due process? The only thing he intends is to grind him beneath his heel! Blastaar snarls. Fair enough, Steve decides and tells him to prepare to have his empire dismantled. He uses a light grenade. By the time Blastaar and his people have regained their sight, Rogers is gone.
Elsewhere, Cyclops is tied up and blind. With lots of patience, he has managed to free a foot. He tells himself he can do it, when he hears the swishing sound of the door opening. He tells whomever is there he demands an audience with their leader. He is not in a position to demand anything, a very free and armed Hope informs him. In fact, she is tempted to leave him here.
He is astonished she broke out. She wishes he could see the look on his face or her face, for that matter, she informs him. How the heck did she escape so quickly? he asks. Cable and she have been in much tougher prisons. She’s surprised it’s taking him so long.
Scott asks her to get him down. No way, not until he says it, she smirks. Please? he asks. Nope, not that… After a moment’s silence, he admits that she is better than him, at everything ever. That good enough? She shoots open his shackles. Sounded about right, she agrees. Swell, because they should really get to someplace they can safely figure out what’s next. Hope thinks she saw a spot… Cyclops takes off the shackles on his face but, without a visor, he has to keep his eyes closed. They’d be least likely to look near the cells, he suggests. She snarls back he can’t see, so he doesn’t get to tell her where to go. Besides, he just said she’s better than him at everything… That’s never gonna stop, is it? he sighs. She doubts it.
Elsewhere, a monstrous cook gets several carcasses out of a freezer to prepare them, cursing the mongrel king who always demands the same dish. He looks surprised when in his kitchen he finds an almost delirious Namor, demanding water.
Soon several guards run this way, allowing Steve to sneak past them. He accesses the prison schematics and finds that the place he is looking for, maximum security level, is on the opposite side. He can’t wait for the place to be destroyed, he decides.
Elsewhere, Dr. Nemesis is threatening several alien creatures with a gun to make them work on the portal controls, which they have already tried to do for Blastaar, with little success. They must be close, he decides. This thing shows the exact same readings as when he got zapped there. This is good news, one of the aliens agrees. This might mean that they have found the true frequency. No more test. They can bypass control protocols. They just need to repurpose their device; it can reset the portal to the direct open path to Earth. He still threatens them? he asks when Nemesis doesn’t lower the gun. Nothing provides inspiration quite like a deadline, is the explanation.
Elsewhere, Steve causes an explosion to divert several guards catches one of their rides and surrounds the prison on the outside with guards hot on his heels.
In the meantime, Hope leads Cyclops through the airshafts, impatient at his doubts. Suddenly, there is a noise below them. She looks down the grate, figuring it’s a guard who crashed though the wall on a… thing. A really good-looking one, she admits.
Steve actually can hear her and looks up. Unfairly, Hope orders Cyclops to shush. Steve takes off the grate and calls for Scott, remarking he can hear them. Putting his head down, Scott admits, this is a little embarrassing
He and Hope get down as Cyclops remarks Steve is literally the last person he would expect to run to their rescue in the Negative Zone. He figured this was his big chance to finally meet the famous Hope, Steve jokes. He tells her he has heard a lot about her though. The only mutant born in a long while. She knows, Hope interrupts him. Nobody lets her forget! Steve continues, warning her not to get too full of herself. There are always people looking for someone to worship but, the minute you believe you are more important than those people, you’re not a hero anymore.
He turns to Scott offering him a visor or equally conspicuous red glasses. Emma sent them with her. Scott decides on the visor. Steve explains Emma said the bad guys pull this one on him all the time. She should know. She was one of them, Scott replies. He always meant to ask about that, Steve remarks.
The three of them fight their way through the guards. Hope protests they can’t leave without the others. They can and have to, Steve decides. They don’t even know where they are. They’ll have to fend for themselves until they can regroup and find them. Cyclops worries they might not last. Namor was out of the sorts from the moment they got here and panicked about finding water. That was days ago. Seventeen hours, Steve corrects him. The Negative Zone exists outside their dimension. Time passes differently here, but on Earth it’s been less than a day. He hopes Namor is still operating on Earth time, because they are about to hit that portal fast.
Cyclops’ optic blast shoots a way to the portal room where Blastaar is waiting. Steve recommends he let them return through the portal before they have to inflict any more damage on his operation. He declines and hits Cyclops with an energy blast of his own. Now, they were saying something about a portal?
Suddenly, a booming noise comes closer, the wall shakes loose, debris burying Blastaar. The next moment, a winged foot kicks him in the face and steps on him. Namor has arrived. Happily, Hope runs towards him to hug him. Namor swats her aside and Hope lands hard.
Panicked, Scott runs to her side and finds her unconscious and bleeding. Steve apologizes to Cyclops, calling him away from the wounded young girl. Preparing for the attaching Namor, Steve tells Cyclops that he’s gonna need his help here….