The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, where this morning, Professor Charles Xavier and three of his students - Logan a.k.a. “Wolverine”, Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin and Jean Grey a.k.a. “Marvel Girl” - sit around a table in the kitchen and discuss the destination of their next assignment. ‘Tunguska? How would you put? Tunguska is the outback,’ Colossus declares about the part of his native Russia they will be journeying to. Peter reveals that Tunguska was only lightly populated even before the explosion, and he thinks that some of the tribes that are still there even catch their own food still.
Jean asks if they do not even have tractors and Peter informs his friends that the whole area was sealed off by an Evenk shaman, who was chief for fifty years because he believed the area to be enchanted. He adds that if someone deep in the Tunguskan forest, in an Evenk tribe has gone full-blown, then there is going to be no coping mechanism for them. He thinks that the best thing that could happen to this person is that the they might be seen as the local version of a cunning-man or wise-woman.
Xavier points out that the tone of the broadcast has been suggesting that “the best” is not happening, and reveals that he has placed the source of the signal against global positioning and has now got a location accurate to a square mile. Fingers pressed together, Charles informs the three founding X-Men to prepare the X-Jet for launch, as whoever this poor soul is, he wants them brought back to the Institute. He exclaims that they deserve more than, at best, being able to tell people where the good fish are. He adds that like Piotr pointed out, the best case is unlucky. ‘Rescue this poor dreamer, my X-Men!’
Elsewhere, a helicopter hovers while someone radios back to base, revealing that they have arrived at the site but that there is no sign of Wilson. Someone interrupts the transmission and asks the pilot to hold the chopper still. A soldier in the helicopter asks who it is, ‘This is Wilson’ comes the reply, before asking him again to hold the chopper still, or else he will fly right into the blades on approach. The soldiers asks Sam Wilson where he is, and in reply, Sam tells him to look down and step back. ‘My God!’ cries the soldier as he sees Sam Wilson hovering beneath the chopper by means of his high-tech wings. ‘Hell, yes!’ exclaims Sam as he swoops up into the helicopter. Once aboard, he retracts his wings into the backpack device they are stored in, and the helicopter flies off to its next destination - a big floating ship, S.H.I.E.L.D. Highspeed Helicruiser number 23. As the helicopter docks the ship from beneath, it looks like a tiny ant compared to the whale-like (in size comparison) ship.
Meanwhile, Marvel Girl, Colossus and Wolverine are aboard the X-Jet, flying towards Russia. Jean asks Peter if he has ever been to Tunguska, and her handsome teammate replies that he hasn’t, adding that it is strange ground. Peter asks Jean if she knows that something exploded over Tunguska a hundred years ago. Jean informs him that she has heard of it, but sitting in the back of the jet, Wolverine remarks that he hasn’t and asks what exploded. Colossus reveals that no one knows, though there are freaks in Moscow who say it was a spaceship, ‘our version of the people who put tinfoil in their hats to keep the alien mind beams out’.
Seriously though, Colossus informs Jean and Logan that when something blew up over Tunguska, a hundred square miles of forest were flattened. He adds that the shockwave was felt in London, and for months afterwards there was an aurora borealis over half the world at night. He points out that it also took twenty years to get an expedition out there.
Peter reveals that people claim the forest grew back wrong, that trees and plants were different, and that there is now a heavy level of mutation in the natural world, which is why people don’t talk about it. ‘No one wants to be too interested in mutation you know’. ‘Oh, I know,’ mutters Jean. Playing a hand-held electronic game, Wolverine loses, ‘Ah, Hell,’ he snarls. Colossus explains that whatever exploded went off like a nuke and threw radiation everywhere. He thinks that a few generations later a mutant broadcasting out of Tunguska would not be out the realm of possibility.
Wolverine declares that that is not what is bugging him. Jean asks him what is bugging him, before saying ‘I mean, everything bugs you. But what’s bugging you right this second?’ Logan says that what it is bugging him is that they are not geniuses, so whatever the three of them can figure out, someone else can figure out. As he shoves a claw through his electronic game, he smiles and tells his friends that what bugs him is that there is no way in hell the three of them are the only ones taking a trip to the countryside.
Inside the huge S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicruiser, a solider leads Sam Wilson to the bridge. Sam asks if Fury is there, and the soldier informs him Fury is waiting for him with the Captain. ‘The Captain?’ asks Sam. As Sam enters the bridge, Fury turns to him and tells him it is good to see him again. Sam salutes Nick Fury and cries ‘Sir!’ Fury smiles and tells Sam that he hates to be the one to break it to him, but he left the army. Sam replies it is a force of habit. Nick tells Sam he is a good boy, before introducing Sam to the rest of the team on the mission, Black Widow, the team’s Russian specialist and he supposes Sam has already heard of Captain America. Sam salutes the Captain who tells him to stand at ease and asks him why he left the armed forces. Sam reveals that he thought he had more to do in the outside world. ‘Mm-hmm,’ mumbles Captain America.
Fury suggests they get down to business, as he wants Sam’s take on it, and asks him if ops brought him up to speed. Sam replies that the ops people put the TV footage onto his phone and asks how widespread this incident is. Fury reveals to him that it is worldwide and that people are starting to freak out. Sam declares that one couldn’t design a better psychological warfare if they tried, to which Fury asks him if that is what he thinks it is. Sam tells him that that is why he thinks S.H.I.E.L.D. is mobilized.
Sam then proclaims that he doesn’t think it is psychological warfare, but that he thinks the effect is purely accidental. He turns to Black Widow and asks her if he has to call her that. Natasha turns to Fury, who informs Sam he is not cleared for real names. Sam excuses himself and declares that if he is on a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicruiser for a black ops mission into the middle of Russia then he thinks he is cleared for whatever he pleases. Fury frowns at Sam, who then adds ’Sir’. Black Widow smiles and tells Sam her name is Natasha. Calling her by her real name, Sam asks her if she thinks the Russian secret services have the funding for a stunt like this, to which Natasha replies ’No’.
Sam agrees, and points out that at the height of the Cold War, the Soviets were limited to short-range radio and microwave transmission. He turns to Fury and asks him whether or not on the best day of their lives, the United States could take control of every communications device on Earth. ’We’re working on it,’ replies Fury. Sam asks if anyone has talked to a psychic about this, to which Fury reveals that S.H.I.E.L.D. psi-division has been shut down. Sam asks if they are ignoring the possibility that someone in the middle of nowhere has technology that no one has ever heard of, and Fury replies ’Right’. Taking notes, Sam asks if the Russian president Putin is acting like he has no idea as to what is going on, to which Fury again, replies ’Right’.
Glancing at Natasha, Sam declares that the Tunguskan taiga is no-man’s land and adds that the Russians can barely keep their space-launch bases open, so he thinks that what is happening is from outside the box. Natasha smiles again and tells Sam that she thinks it is important to keep in mind that Russian intelligence has always been boxes within boxes, so therefore it is entirely possible that Putin doesn’t know about this because he was never supposed to know.
Sam tells Natasha that she may be right, but that he believes Putin, before declaring that this is not a psi war, at least not a deliberate one. Sam explains that what interests him is that these take the form of messages from the dead, which is kind of why he was in the Amazon. He informs the others that in the Amazon there are people called ayahuasqueros, who are like tribal doctors, mystics and medicine men. He explains that they take this stuff called ayahuasco, an awful muck which they brew up out of vines. The stuff is a psychedelic substance, and they use it to hallucinate all over the place, but it is their believe that the visions they see are actually another dimension.
Sam continues, explaining that when you ask the medicine men why they take it, they claim that it is for working with the ancestors. This makes them necronauts - they travel in the place of the dead and what they bring back are messages from the afterlife. Sam declares that this is what these messages could be, messages from the afterlife. “The dead have made real-time contact with the living through prime-time TV”, Sam jokes that that is a good headline. ‘The dead appear on American TV all the time. I’ve seen game shows,’ exclaims Natasha.
Captain America tells Sam that he was told he was a scientist-type and asks what he was doing in the jungle with the loincloth brigade. Sam asks if he calls him “Captain”, to which Captain America tells him “Cap” is fine. Sam explains that people are all machines, whose parts are made out of water and meat and minerals, but really they are all walking pieces of engineering. He adds that in fact everything is a machine, plants even. He explains that when people eat plants, they get rid of what they don’t need and plug the parts they do need into their machine.
He asks what of the possibility that these jungle drugs are machines that one can ride. Sam points out that he is on a S.H.I.E.L.D retainer so if he comes up with anything good, S.H.I.E.L.D. gets a crack at it. Sam declares that he has seen dead soldiers and asks ‘what if I could make a chemical machine that brought them back’. ‘Call me Steve’ declares Cap.
(On television screen)
A blinding red light over a small civilization.
A close-up of an eye watching the strange occurrence.
Dozens of long necked near-humanoid creatures, all fixated on the light, starring up at it.
A tear falls from an eye, which shows the reflection of the world being torn apart.
A force rips through the small city.
Tearing the long necked beings apart.
Some orange-blue rope like thing in space.
A soldier comes up to Fury and informs him that they have the long-range geophysics results on the target area, and tells him that it is not good. Fury asks to see them, and as he reads them he points out to the others that this is a ground-zero region in low-level resistivity, the basic shape of the area. He motions to the high-powered scan, revealing what is underneath Tunguska. The soldier suggests it is an underground complex, and Cap asks if there is a way in. The soldier replies that there appear to be several entrances and they are approaching it from the South, which will bring them right over one. But that it gets worse.
The soldier displays another scan, this one of twenty meters under the complex, with some new features visible. Fury asks what they are, and the soldier tells him they got a radiological take, so the best guess is that they are nuclear landmines. Fury declares that he has never heard of such a thing, to which the soldier points out that the British developed one in the 1950’s, so it is entirely possible that the Russians obtained the specs for it. Natasha agrees, pointing out that Russia owned British Intelligence in the fifties and asks what the trigger is.
The soldier suggests that, assuming the power packs on the trigger mechanisms have not rotted out, then it is probably a primitive form of radio frequency ID. The soldier informs Fury that the ops team is advising radio silence when they go in, just in case their radios accidentally trigger nuclear landmines. ‘Terrific’ mutters Fury before walking away from the others, ordering all findings to be transmitted back to the Triskelion, the chopper to be prepared. ‘Saddle up, boys and girls’.
In the X-jet, Jean asks the boys if they see any settlements and adding that they are pretty far North, offers to fly further South if need be. Logan is running the cams, and suddenly asks Jean if she can put them down anywhere around here. Jean asks Logan what he sees, to which he replies ‘A bunker’.
The giant flying ship lets loose a helicopter from beneath it. When the helicopter lands, Fury, Cap, Natasha and Sam all step onto Tunguskan soil. Arriving at the bunker, they come to a large door. Sam asks if he should get some specialists to blow it, but Natasha asks to take a look at it first, and points out that the control pad on it looks old. Sam thinks it is 1980’s at best, and that it is currently not powered, so it will take a minute to get open. Natasha asks if it is not powered how are “they” getting in and out. Sam points out that they’re not, for if it is unpowered, then there is no one in here. ‘Which is kind of interesting, isn’t it?’
Natasha tells Sam that if this was a Soviet government asset then things start to make sense, for when things collapsed, people stopped getting paid and left their stations, so it is possible that the entire staff just locked up the complex and went home. Sam starts playing with the wires on the key-pad and Natasha asks if it is a two-digit code. Sam replies that this is old and typical Russia, if she doesn’t mind him saying. ‘An 80’s keypad stuck on a 60’s computer system. Take two things that work and nail them together’. Sam enters 99 to Commit and Return to confirm, and the great giant doors open. Fury and Cap enter the complex with Black Widow and the Falcon.
The X-Men have meanwhile landed on the opposite side of the complex, and Colossus asks them if they are sure it is through here. Jean reminds him that they didn’t see any settlements as they flew over, so whoever it is that is broadcasting is doing it from in here. Colossus asks if they want him to get the door, but Jean smiles and informs him that she is in a mood to do it herself. ‘Keeping mutants in a hole…’ she snaps as she uses her incredible telekinesis to rip open the large doors. Logan and Piotr just look nervously at each other. ‘Feel better?’ asks Logan. ‘Not even slightly. Let’s go’, Jean replies as the three X-Men enter the complex.