Not long ago…
In Upstate New York, Storm and Wolverine fight for their lives against Stonewall, Super Sabre and the Crimson Commando. At the same time, their teammates Longshot, Rogue, Dazzler and Psylocke hold their own against the Juggernaut in Edinburgh, Scotland. Meanwhile, in Paris, New Mexico, Alex Summers and Lorna Dane spend a romantic evening at a fiesta, while nearby in the Rio Diablo Mountains, a group of weekend excursionists sit around a campfire roasting marshmallows, chatting and admiring the beautiful night sky.
Suddenly a meteor appears and rips the night sky in two. The campers brace themselves for certain death; a meteor that size will surely hit the Earth with the impact of a nuclear bomb. Somehow, the campers survive, even though the meteor crashes only a short distance from their site. They should have been vaporized, one of them says. Since they weren’t, they deduce it must not have been a meteor.
A short-haired woman named Sal decides to check out the site of impact. She tells one of her fellow campers, a paramedic named Harry, to bring his first-aid kit; if it was an airplane crash, there may be survivors. As she runs over the hill, Sal’s friends plead for her to rethink approaching the possibly dangerous meteor. By the time Harry catches up with them, however, it’s a moot point. Lying before them in the impact crater is not a rock, but a shark as large as a jetliner. “Maybe somebody threw it out of the ocean,” a woman named Fran says. She reaches down and feels the ground, which is so hot the dirt fused into glass. Harry asks her to be careful lest she burn herself.
Nearby, Sal’s anxious husband Norm suggests they get away from the shark as fast as possible. They should call the feds and let them deal with it, he says. Sal tells her boyfriend not to worry; he’s been programmed to fear the unusual because of all the sci-fi he watches. To show him there is nothing to worry about, she walks up to the shark and pokes its tough hide with a stick. Quit poking it, Norm says! It’s dead, she replies, asking him to trust her. Why take the chance, he asks? Sal answers with a question of her own: what’s the point of living if one never takes chances?
Because Sally’s back is turned to the shark, she never sees her death coming. The shark turns its head and devours the 27-year-old, Indiana Jones-wannabe schoolteacher in one bite. Harry Palmer screams as Sal’s blood splashes onto his face. He staggers backwards in shock and trips over a burnt, alien-looking corpse. Dear lord, please let this be a dream, he prays. A loud scream behind interrupts his prayer. Harry turns and sees his good friend Norm, a divorced father of three, being strangled and skewered by an evil-looking alien with bug eyes and tentacles. It is a Brood.
Nearby, Harry’s girlfriend Fran crawls toward him for help; her ankle is somehow broken and she can no longer walk. Harry turns and runs, leaving Fran, a singer in her church choir, at the mercy of the ruthless aliens. As he gets in his Volkswagen van and drives away, he prays for an end to her desperate cries.
The next morning, Alex Summers and Lorna Dane drive home after their romantic excursion in Paris, New Mexico. They laugh amiably as their Jeep glides around the winding canyon roads. Up ahead, however, the yellow Volkswagen van driven by Harry Palmer screeches around a turn and barrels down the center of the lanes. Lorna, swerving to avoid a collision, drives the Jeep off the cliff. Meanwhile, the distraught, crying Harry isn’t even aware he caused an accident. He cares only about finding a safe place to hide.
As he drives his ambulance in Denver, Colorado, Harry Palmer’s demeanor is notably different than it was the night of the alien Earthfall. He maintains an eerie stoicism despite the urgency his job. His partner, Josey, urges him to speed up, but Harry responds only in curt sentences. They finally arrive at their destination, the Dynasty Plaza, only to find it totally surrounded by fire trucks and police cars. Josey grabs the med-kit and the two emergency medical technicians enter the smoke-filled plaza.
Upon entering, they learn from the policemen that a fire triggered the alarm. What caused the fire, Josey asks? The officer rephrases her question; she should not ask what caused the fire, but whom. Harry enters the charred remnants of the office and sees a man in a business suit lying on the floor. The man, Robert Delgado, clutches his heart while flames trickle out of his mouth. The guy’s probably a mutie, the firefighter on the scene says. Harry thanks the firefighter for escorting them, but tells him he can step outside now. He and Josey can handle the rest of the situation.
The terrified Mr. Delgado whispers apologetically to Harry as he kneels down to help. Harry tells Robert he most likely experienced a heart attack, but he can rest easy now. Robert, struggling even to whisper, says he is too young to have a heart attack. He is too young to die. Harry’s once comforting expression shifts to an icy look of malice as his hand transforms into a brown, spiky tentacle. “Rest easy, Bob. Your troubles are over. You’re going to be just fine,” Harry says as he plunges his malformed hand into Robert’s stomach. “In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll live forever!”
The Australian Outback…
Gateway sits in silence on the precipice overlooking the headquarters of the X-Men. Suddenly his bonfire flickers brightly, indicating one of his new friends needs a transport. He spins his bull-roarer, creating a portal from which emerges X-Men ally Madelyne Pryor. The former airline pilot just went shopping in Sydney. Although she appreciates Gateway’s help in getting home, she admits she would much rather fly between destinations. She thanks him for the help anyway. He remains characteristically silent. I might as well be talking to this hill, Madelyne thinks. I could be stark naked, and that man wouldn’t bat an eye. Madelyne finds this idea of lounging around the headquarters nude somewhat exciting, especially in terms of seeing Havok’s reaction. For now, though, she keeps her clothes on.
Madelyne enters the lobby and calls out to the X-Men. No one answers. Typical. New hairstyle, new outfit, and nobody around to tell me how absolutely great I look, she sighs. Story of my life. She heads down to the base’s master computer terminal to pass the time. Nice of them to leave a note telling me they’re on a mission, Madelyne says. She wonders what would happen were they not to return from on of their dangerous calls. What would she do all by herself?
Looking around the room, Madelyne notes how funny it is that everyone else feels uneasy about their new headquarters, because she feels right at home. To kill time, she decides to create a new calling card for the X-Men. Although the world believes they’re dead, she sees no reason they shouldn’t leave some kind of symbol at the sites of their victories. The first symbol she sketches, an eight-point star, reminds her of the concept of justice and would befit a team of heroes. Plus, Dazzler and Longshot both have stars on their costumes already. This design definitely has possibilities, Madelyne says.
She leans back in her seat and sips a soda while admiring the complicated machinery she gets to use. The advanced interface former owned by the Reavers is so user-friendly it literally instructed her on how to successfully use it. Suddenly, a live TV interview from New York City pops up on the monitor, featuring someone very familiar to Madelyne: Scott Summers, her estranged husband. Standing next to him is a woman Madelyne initially believes to be herself! She practically falls out of her chair, but quickly realizes the woman must be Jean Grey, the woman Scott loved before he married Madelyne.
She’s supposed to be dead, Maddie says! Suddenly, the pieces fall into place: the way she and Scott intimately stand next to each other, why he left Madelyne and their baby… it’s clear as day he loves her, in a way he never loved Madelyne! Enraged, she throws her fist into the screen. It explodes and knocks her unconscious.
Harry Palmer yawns as he walks home after another hard night of work. For some reason, all of his shifts involving mutants leave him feeling exhausted, and there have been many such shifts lately. The sudden surge in mutants worldwide worries Harry. What if these people represent the next stage in evolution? What if they do to Homo sapiens what Homo sapiens once did to the Neanderthals? How are normal people supposed to compete in a world with these incredibly, gifted people?
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry jerks as he spots a sudden movement. However, he looks over and sees it is only two lovers making out on the street corner. Enjoy it while it lasts, he says to himself before entering his building. He keeps thinking about Fran and wonders if he will ever find a new girlfriend. Harry brushes this dreary thought out of his mind as he walks up the stairs to his apartment. The foggy night is making him feel a bit morose, and he wonders if this feeling will get worse.
His question is answered as soon as he opens his door. Standing in the middle of his living room is the X-Man Psylocke, wearing her purple cloak and hood. He asks who she is. “That is unimportant, Harry Palmer,” she replies. Stunned that she knows his name, Harry asks what she wants. The door slams behind him and he turns around and sees the burly, steel-skinned Colossus. The big Russian apologizes for scaring him, assuring him they came to help. He is very ill, Colossus says. Harry is sorry to burst his bubble, but he feels just fine. To Peter’s surprise, the diminutive Harry reaches over, grabs the massive X-man by the belt, and hoists him into the air. He throws Colossus in Psylocke’s direction. She screams as Colossus crashes into her and propels them both through the exterior wall and three stories down to the street below.
Stunned by his own actions, Harry nevertheless runs toward the hole in the wall and jumps down to the street. Something about Colossus seems familiar to him, but he ignores this lingering feeling and impulsively runs to his car. He doesn’t even bother getting out his car keys. Instead, Harry rips off the door, too worried about the X-Men to waste any time. Havok suddenly leans over the rooftop and melts Harry’s car engine with a plasma beam. Why are the X-Men suddenly after him, Harry wonders? He knows nothing about them, except that they supposedly died in Dallas. Why is he so afraid of them?
Longshot and Dazzler come running around the corner. Against his will, Harry throws the car door at the two, whom he now recognizes as the kissing couple from earlier. However, he questions this action of his even as he performs it. Dear Lord, what’s happening to me? The door flies toward Dazzler at a lethal velocity. Before it slices her in half, Longshot grabs her and pushes her out of the way. The door continues on its way and cuts a telephone pole in two. Rogue swoops in and grabs the live phone pole before it crushes her two teammates, then takes the live, severed power lines out of harm’s way.
Rogue can barely believe the ferocity of Harry’s attack. The team followed his trail all the way from New Mexico to Denver, the entire time speculating about what they might find when they finally approached him. The present situation, it seems, is worst-case scenario. Rogue personally knows not what to expect. Of everyone on the team, only Wolverine, Storm and Colossus have ever encountered the Brood, and none of them talk about it much. Bad sign, Rogue thinks.
Storm flies Havok down to the street, where they meet up with Colossus and Psylocke. Colossus says they’re okay; nothing is damaged, save for his pride. Psylocke assures him it is no one’s fault. Although she was scanning Harry’s mind at the time, she detected neither a thought process indicating he might attack, nor any awareness of his own power. After all the X-Men reconvene, Psylocke expresses how fortunate she feels she exchanged her old costume for this new, armored version. It certainly absorbed the brunt of both hits she took. Longshot asks if Harry Palmer abnormal strength means he is a mutant. Wolverine tells him that strength comes from the Brood, not Harry.
Psylocke questions this assumption; she detected no sign of the Brood in his mind. Is it possible they are hunting an innocent man? He’s infected, Wolverine states. Judging by his scent, Harry was definitely at the crash site in New Mexico. He is most certainly one of the Brood. “You got doubts, fine. Leave him to me,” Wolverine says. “I found him once, I’ll do it again!”
Storm speaks up and tells Wolverine Harry is to be captured alive. Wolverine asks if she is crazy; she, of all people, know the threat the Brood represents! Precisely, Storm says. Harry has been loose for quite some time. Think about how many people he may have infected. With Harry’s cooperation, they will be able to track down member of his crèche, at which point they will deal with them all at once. “Think of this as a plague, X-Men. More virulent than any you can ever imagine. Either we stop it now – praying we are not already too late,” Storm says, “…or our world is doomed.”
Meanwhile, Harry continues his escape on foot. As he passes by a sign advertising the Glory Day Ministry, he wonders if he has any chance of surviving the night. Maybe what his co-workers say about muties is true; maybe they really are out to get regular folk. Still, he doesn’t understand why he, of all people, was targeted. Harry sees an active taxi cab and signals it to pull over. It drives away instead. Desperate and nearly out of breath, he stumbles into the street and stands in front of a bus until it stops. He climbs aboard. The bus driver tells him to be careful; he almost didn’t see him in the fog. He asks if Harry is alright, but Harry tells him to just drive and walks to the back of the nearly empty bus. He is safe, but for how long? This bus only represents a reprieve.
Harry has the bad luck to sit behind the only other passenger on the bus. She turns around and asks him a question. “How ‘bout you show some sense, sugah, an’ call it quits, ‘fore this foolishness gets outta hand,” the beautiful Southern woman says. Harry recognizes Rogue as one of the X-Men and viciously lunges at her, knocking her to the floor before she has a chance to fight back. Rogue suddenly regrets approaching Harry alone; she figured she could talk him down, but he’s so strong and so quick. Strangling her with one hand, he transforms the other into a gnarly tentacle and tells the overpowered X-Man this moment of comeuppance is long overdue.
Just in time to save Rogue from infection, Wolverine reaches a hand through the bus window and grabs Harry. He yanks him out of the window and throws him into the street. As soon as Harry hits the ground, his human personality reemerges, leaving him bewildered. What was he about to do with his hand, he wonders? Meanwhile, the distracted bus driver takes a turn too quickly and flips his vehicle. It rolls into a row of parked cars and explodes. Harry lurches away from the flames, cradling his injured arm. He wonders what happened to the poor girl who was on the bus. It’s too late for her now, it seems. Maybe it’s too late for him too. He looks up and realizes he has walked into a dead-end alley.
“End of the line, bub,” a voice says from the alley’s entrance. Harry turns and sees Wolverine silhouetted against the flames of the bus. “You got any beliefs, now’s the time to make your peace with ‘em.” Before he can do anything, however, Rogue emerges from the flames, unscathed save for her tattered uniform, and shouts at him to stop. They have to refrain from killing Harry until Psylocke does her part.
To everyone’s surprise, a police cruiser pulls into the alley, blinds them with its spotlight, and orders them to freeze. The male officer, addressing Harry by his first name, tells him to step away from the “Halloween freaks.” The other cop pulls out a shotgun and orders the X-Men up against the wall. One wrong move and she will make it their last. Harry is elated to see help arrive, and thanks his friends Ruth and Dale for saving him; he thought he was a goner.
Although Rogue complies with the officer’s orders, Wolverine does not. He sprints toward the two cops with his claws bared. As the first officer emerges and fires his gun, Wolverine leaps at his open car door and sends the cop flying. He lunges across the hood of the car and slashes the female officer across the stomach just as she fires her shotgun. Rogue cannot believe her eyes. She flies toward Wolverine and forcibly restrains him; he just killed a cop, she shouts! Wolverine sees things differently. He orders Rogue to let him go so he can finish the job, but she doesn’t budge. The rest of the X-Men finally arrive, and Rogue asks them for help in dealing with the Wolverine. He’s gone berserk, she says!
Psylocke disagrees. She can see in Logan’s mind that the people he attacked were not human, but Brood. “They aren’t the only ones, X-Men,” Harry Palmer says as his face transforms into a hideous, fleshy mixture of human and Brood. “We’re all of us Brood here, and soon, old enemies -- very soon, you will be too!” Sure enough, the X-Men look around, and realize they’re trapped. Every section of the alleyway is crawling with Brood.