The Mile High Diner in Denver, Colorado…
As usual, it’s a busy night at Denver’s Mile High Diner. Although this diner, which opened during they heyday of railroad travel and prospered because of its trans-continental customers, fell on hard times after the railroad industry crashed, it has since been renovated and reopened. Refurbished to appeal to the retro-chic admiring yuppies of Denver, the Mile High Diner serves as a late-night hangout for the city’s blue-collar and white-collar party crowds alike. Surprisingly, for all its glitz and glamour, the diner has retained the essence of what made it great in the first place: good food, good conversation, and good prices. Yes, it’s a bustling night at the Mile High Diner, but this night is about to become far from usual.
Outside, some sort of flare erupts and releases a blinding flash of light that pours in through the diner’s windows and startles the patrons. They assume the flash came from a nearby explosion and consider themselves doomed. Before they can contemplate their mortality for too long, two figures – the X-Man Dazzler and a normal-looking man in a leather jacket -- come crashing through the window, engaged in a violent brawl. The screaming patrons scatter, except for two lovers, who sit together in a booth making out and completely ignoring their surroundings. Dazzler and her opponent, the Brood mutant Spitball, crash to the floor, surrounded by broken glass and overturned tables. Spitball, pinning the former starlet to her to the floor by her throat, tells her the show is over; it’s time for her to take her final bow!
Dazzler refuses to go down so easily. She expels a beam of concentrated photons from her forehead, which pushes Spitball off of her and into the wall. Immediately after Dazzler gets back on her feet, however, a group of confused diner patrons, fancying themselves heroes, surround her and pin her arms behind her back. She’s a mutie, they shout! Hold her still! Dazzler pleads for them to let go; she promises she’s a good guy!
This brief window of opportunity provided by the mistaken patrons puts the advantage of battle firmly back in Spitball’s favor. He opens his jaws unnaturally wide and spews a ball of super-heated plasma energy at Dazzler and the diners. She barely manages to push the bystanders out of the way before the plasma ball explodes. Before she can regain her composure, Whiphand, another Brood mutant, suddenly arrives and ensnares her by the neck with an energy tentacle. In her last moments of consciousness, Dazzler urges the human bystanders to flee; they are no match for the menace of the Brood! “Truer words, dear girl, were never spoken,” Whiphand says as he slugs Dazzler across the face, knocking her out.
The diner crowd watches in horror. Although they were initially confused as to which party to help, the sudden transformation of the Brood mutants into full-fledged monsters has clarified who the villains are. One particularly brave man, intent on showing the vicious aliens what human beings are made of, charges at a Brood mutant and takes a swing. The monster instantly vanishes. It disappeared, he gasps! “That’s what Blindside does, dear boy,” the Brood mutant says, reappearing directly behind the befuddled man. Blindside lifts the man off the ground and stares at him like a piece of meat. “And I know what human beings are made of. It makes your species among the tastiest of delicacies.”
Dazzler, still caught in Whiphand’s inescapable chokehold, overhears this unsettling exchange and wishes she could do something. Not only do the Brood plan on turning her and her teammates into living hosts for their eggs, but it sounds like they intend to feast on any innocent civilians who get in their way. Lucky for her, she is not in this battle alone. Her teammates, the X-Men, have her back, and one such teammate appears at that moment to help.
A cluster of throwing knives sink into Blindside’s scaly back, and as he turns to face his attacker, Longshot at the Brood and kicks him in the face. With his other tentacle, Whiphand grabs Longshot by the neck and begins strangling him as well. He has no compunction against killing these two heroes; although they would serve as fine vessels for future Brood, they have an entire planet from which to choose their hosts. These two troublemakers will instead serve as a warning to anyone who might defy them. Strangely, Whiphand notices Longshot smiling instead of cowering in fear. “I’m killing you, fool,” the Brood mutant sneers. “Or are you too stupid to notice?” By the time Whiphand realizes why Longshot is smiling, however, it’s too late. Colossus appears from behind, grips Whiphand by his head, and snaps his neck. He dies instantly.
Blindside, meanwhile, attempts to get back at Longshot for interrupting his snack. He teleports behind the X-Man but, right before he can deliver his death blow, Storm returns and incinerates Blindside with a powerful bolt of lightning, saving the ever-fortunate Longshot’s life. Spitball, meanwhile, having lost two of his fellow Brood, decides to make a strategic exit. He runs into the street and meets up with Rogue, who is still under the influence of Temptress’s pheromones. She flies Spitball to safety, while Colossus watches in frustration. Storm remains calm, and asks him to do the same; they must gather their comrades and tend to the wounded before chasing after the Brood.
The two kissing patrons look up from their table and notice the restaurant has been almost entirely obliterated. No matter to them; they turn back to one another and resume their make-out session.
On the other side of the world, deep in the Australian Outback, in the basement of the building the X-Men how call home, Madelyne Pryor lays unconscious on the floor. Somehow, the high-tech video screens of the control room play back the nightmare she just experienced, in which her husband, Scott Summers, stripped her of everything and left her naked and alone in the desert. However, her nightmare continues, playing out both in her unconscious mind and on the video screens. Gateway, the team’s Aboriginal ally, stands beside Madelyne’s dreaming body. In her dream, he watches her from a nearby craggy rock. He does not intervene; he merely observes.
In her dream, Madelyne, now nothing more than a sentient mannequin, stumbles through the drearily hot desert, completely at the mercy of its radiant sun. She approaches a fork in the path, and blindly chooses a direction to follow. It leads her not back to town, but deeper into the desert. Gateway observes her choice but says nothing.
Madelyne’s flesh begins to bubble under the hot sun. She has nothing left to lose, however. Instead, the heat adds features back to her face. Her eyes, nose, mouth and hair slowly return, as if forged by the furnace of the sun. The sun seems to have pared her down to her essence and made her one with the land. Just as a tempered weapon must be cooled before it can be used, however, so must Madelyne before entering into service. She trips over a pile of bones and stumbles into a pool of cold water. The surface steams and bubbles, and Madelyne emerges, naked and angry. Madelyne, her killing edge having been fully honed, can now be used in battle.
“Welcome to paradise, Madelyne Pryor,” a figure says as it drapes a deep-black robe over Madelyne’s shoulders. She seems shocked the mysterious figure knows her name. It’s her mindscape, the purple demon says; aren’t they all friends here? Madelyne admits she doesn’t know. “Live and learn, that’s S’ym’s motto,” the demon says. Whose motto, Madelyne asks? “S’ym,” he says. “Me.”
With his introduction out of the way, S’ym leads Madelyne out of the water and toward a shimmering golden building surrounded by a jungle of dense foliage. She asks S’ym if he lives there. Only visiting, he answers; this place isn’t his style anyway. However, he adds he is always open to new experiences, as one should be. “Change the scenery, rattle the cage, shake out the cobwebs – hazard your soul to win the world – might do some good,” he says. Madelyne looks around the lush golden palace and asks what it all means. S’ym asks why she thinks he would know; he isn’t a psychiatrist. Besides, this is her dream and it seems to be doing what dreams do best: offering insight into her true nature and presenting her with her heart’s desire. He walks over to a banquet table, snatches a strange reptile drinking from a punch bowl, and turns it into gold.
Still, Madelyne notes how strange everything feels. She compares it to flying blind, or being tossed around rough winds of a thunderstorm. S’ym asks her if she hates feeling out of control of her own life as much as he does. Wouldn’t she rather take control of her own destiny, rather than perpetually play the victim? “I’ll survive,” Madelyne answers. Fine, S’ym says, but doesn’t she yearn for something more? “I am what I am,” Madelyne says. S’ym asks who she truly thinks she is.
He shows Madelyne his hand. Each of his fingernails bears a representation of one aspect of her personality. Each of the images, he says, represents Madelyne at some point in her life: what she was, what she is and what she dreams of becoming. Which aspect is she? Or, is she the sum of these parts? Or, is she nothing but the default output of her genes and her environment? He gives her the opportunity to excise the parts of herself she dislikes, and emphasize the aspect she most favors. Madelyne clutches her robe to her chest and gives no answer.
Can she not even indulge in her wildest fantasies even within the safety of her own dreams, S’ym asks? If she cannot do it here, she could never do it in real life. She has to start somewhere. Besides, as far as S’ym can tell, she has nothing left to lose. Her husband, Scott, dumped her. Madelyne insists she still loves him. Fine, S’ym says, but doesn’t that make it worse? He hurt her! Why not hurt him back? Madelyne finally concedes the point. It’s just a dream anyway, she says. She reaches out and touches a wicked-looking version of herself on S’ym’s outermost fingernail. “Wrong,” he tells her once she touches the demonic image. “There are no dreams. Only different shapes, different orders, different tastes… of reality,” he says, licking the blood off his finger. “And you’ve just bound yourself to mine!” Madelyne passes out and falls to the floor, her body now garbed in a vile black outfit.
Red Rocks amphitheater…
Although Reverend William Connover has spoken to crowds countless times before, he still gets stage fright before each show, and the size of this current crowd frightens him more than ever. “You’d think the Holy Spirit could spare me the smallest dollop of courage,” he confides in his wife Hannah while backstage. Perhaps this is the Lord’s way of keeping him honest, he supposes; a little bit of terror to teach him humility.
Hannah tells him not to worry. She has faith he will do just fine. William, taking her hands, sighs. He can somehow bring peace and comfort to all of his listeners, and yet, he cannot do the same for his ailing wife. Why can’t the Lord grant them the mercy of ridding Hannah of her arthritis, he asks? Is that too much to ask?
One of the stagehands suddenly announces that the mutie-fight downtown has escalated. Reverend Connover scolds his technician for using such a derogatory term. He hates the word “mutie” and will not tolerate its use any more than he would any other racist remark. His assistants promise to spread the word.
Before he goes onstage, Hannah wishes her husband luck one last time. He tells her he does not need luck; he has been blessed ever since the day he met her. After he leaves, Josey Thomas, Harry Palmer’s fellow paramedic, approaches and asks Hannah about her arthritis. Hannah admits it bothers her, on some days more than others. No problem, Josey says. She has something that can fix it for good.
At that moment, high overhead, Rogue flies the unconscious Wolverine and the Brood mutant Temptress to the amphitheater. Rogue notices the sun rising and tells Temptress, her master, she expects it will be a glory day. For sure, Temptress says. After all, with each breath Rogue takes, she binds herself more and more to Temptress’s control. As soon as Harry Palmer implants her with an egg – just as he did Wolverine – Rogue will finally join the Brood in the flesh as well as in the spirit. “Ah can hardly wait!” Rogue says.
She notices Wolverine’s flesh finally beginning to take on a more Brood-like appearance and gleefully reports this exciting news to Temptress. Wolverine, unsheathing his claws, tells her appearances can be deceiving. He strikes at Temptress and instantly kills her. Angered at the loss of her master, Rogue slugs Wolverine across the face, and sends him hurling toward the ground with the force of a meteor. Even with his adamantium-laced bones and healing factor, he is still only mortal, and after the initial impact of hitting the ground, he lies still, seemingly lifeless.
Harry Palmer barrels around the corner of a winding mountain road in a stolen police car. In the backseat, his prisoner, Psylocke, once under the control of Temptress’s pheromones, thrashes about wildly. He orders Tension to hold her still and asks why she screamed. Psylocke murmurs something about Temptress’s demise, and Rogue’s attempt to kill Wolverine. Well, if Wolverine survived, they need to find him, Harry says, turning his head to speak to Psylocke. He orders her to pinpoint his location telepathically. Because he takes his eyes off the road, however, Harry fails to see Colossus step in front of the car’s path. The vehicle collides with him and comes to an abrupt halt.
While Colossus tears out the car’s engine, Harry ducks out the side and orders his Broodlings to attack. Whatever it takes, he wants the X-Men dead! No problem, Spitball says as he hurls a plasma blob at Colossus. It explodes on impact and sends the metallic mutant flying. Storm arrives and temporarily removes Spitball from the fight with a bolt of lightning. Recognizing the threat she poses, Harry orders Psylocke to eliminate Storm with a mental attack, but fortunately, Psylocke, having regained her wits, refuses. Storm rejoices; with Elisabeth having broken the Brood’s hold on her, the tide of battle may turn in their favor. Sure enough, Harry and his three remaining Brood flee the battle on foot. They will not get away, Storm vows.
Rogue suddenly reappears and smashes into Storm from behind. “You ain’t bushwackin’ anybody, sugar!” she shouts. As she incapacitates Storm, Rogue tells her the Brood has big plans in store for her. They plan on making Storm into their Queen, and it will be Rogue’s pleasure to make that plan a reality.
Down below, Dazzler, en route to the battle with Longshot, spots Rogue and Storm tussling in the sky. She correctly infers Rogue to be under the control of Temptress, and realizes Storm might be outmatched. Unfortunately, they are fighting too high in the sky for either Longshot or herself to separate them physically. The only chance they have, she realizes, is to incapacitate Rogue with a photon beam. The beam must be powerful enough to penetrate her considerable resistance. However, a beam of that power will surely kill Storm if it hits her by mistake. “Why can’t anything in this stupid team ever be easy?” Dazzler asks She fires her shot and hopes for the best. Luckily, it hits its intended target, knocking Rogue out of the battle.
The resultant flash of light illuminates the nearby Red Rocks amphitheater. The audience panics; could the fight in downtown Denver really be spreading out there? Reverend Connover asks the crowd not to remain calm; the worst thing they can do is panic. Their panic only escalates, however, when several audience members spot the battered-looking Wolverine stumbling in front of the stage. William jumps down to help him; he looks like he needs medical attention. Connover’s aides, however, hold him back and warn the man might be a mutie.
William ignores them and approaches Wolverine. He even ignores the injured mutant’s orders to stay away and places his hands on the sides of Wolverine’s face while asking him to remain calm. Wolverine raves about the thing growing inside of him, eating him alive. William, assuming he means drugs, begins praying in order to help him through what he assumes are withdrawals. However, as he begins his prayer, Wolverine’s face transforms into that of a Brood. “Merciful heaven!” the reverend shouts as he beholds Wolverine’s elongated teeth, pronounced gums and sinister eyes.
“Behold, human, the shape of your world to come,” Wolverine says, now under the influence of the Brood. “Such a shame you won’t be alive to see it.” He ensnares the reverend in his tentacles. Reverend Connover realizes all too late this man’s demons are real. Nevertheless, he refuses to give up, and continues praying, now asking for the Lord’s mercy and for this abomination before him to be smitten. The Brood merely laughs at these futile words.
Suddenly, however, its eyes widen in horror as its host reasserts control. “No! Not now, not so close to victory,” it says as it begins reverting back to the form of Wolverine. Reverend Connover continues to pray, while Logan’s healing factor finally returns successfully purges the Brood embryo. Logan collapses into William’s arms, almost entirely sapped of energy.
“What price now, monster, my ‘puny, pathetic words’,” the reverend asks. He tells Wolverine to rest easy; he’s safe now. The reverend, however, is not. From atop the stage, Tension reaches down with its coils and begins strangling William. Havok, this time hesitating not for even a moment, blasts the Brood with a plasma beam, instantly killing it. Although he saved William’s life, Alex wonders if the old saying about killing – that it becomes easier each time – is true.
While Havok broods, Spitball and Lockup sneak up on him from behind. Spitball tries to fry Alex with a plasma blob, but Longshot arrives just in time and pulls his teammate out of harm’s way. Luckily for Havok, Longshot was paying attention to business. Spitball and Lockup are less lucky, however. The plasma bomb hurled by Spitball hits the side of the stage, knocks it loose, and it collapses onto the two Brood mutants, crushing them.
Is that all of them, Havok asks out loud? He remembers they have not yet subdued Harry, but, at that moment, Harry makes his presence known onstage, in the company of a hostage. Reverend Connover looks in horror and sees his wife Hannah held captive. If they let him leave, Harry declares, maybe Hannah will leave to see the sunrise. “Who are you? What are you?!” the frantic Reverend Connover asks.
“You called us demons, rev,” Harry answers. “That’s as good a name as any.” While Harry speaks to the reverend, Wolverine sneaks beneath the stage. Harry begins telling everyone present they should consider the Brood the new masters of their world. “The days of human hegemony are over. And not your vaunted technology, nor your super-beings – nor even the mutant offspring of your misbegotten race – can save you from me. Indeed, by hounding mutantkind – turning them against you – you make our victory that much more certain.”
Suddenly, Wolverine bursts through the floor directly behind Harry Palmer and grabs him by the shoulders. “Like Ben Franklin said, bub,” Wolverine says as he pulls Harry through the floor, “…only two things certain in life, and this ain’t taxes.” He holds his fist, claws retracted, under the Brood mutant’s chin. It reverts to its fully human form to elicit Wolverine’s sympathy. Please don’t, the frightened Harry Palmer says with tears in his eyes. He claims to not know the X-Men are or why they keep chasing him. Wolverine sees right past the façade. “You don’t understand, bub. Harry Palmer died a long time ago. Now, at last, he’ll have his chance to rest in piece,” Logan says. With a decisive SNIKT!, he puts his claws through Harry’s brain and ends the menace of the Brood.
In the aftermath of the confrontation with the Brood, Reverend William Connover embraces his wife, and remarks how quickly their saviors seemed to vanish. He never even got to thank them. His mind suddenly jumps to Hannah’s arthritis, and he now notices her once-brittle hands are no longer shaking. They can move! Were they healed, he asks? Hannah only says she no longer feels the pain she once did. She hopes, and prays, the arthritis is healed. As William holds her close to his chest, he begins to wonder if he has some sort of miraculous healing power. First, his touch soothed Wolverine, and now, Hannah’s arthritis seems to have vanished. He apologizes to his god for ever having doubts, and vows to never lose his faith again.
Inevitably, the news crew appears, led by reporter Trish Tilby, who asks William for a statement. Is it true his revival was attacked by mutants, she asks? “No, ma’am – saved by them,” the reverend replies. The mutants, he says, not only saved his life and his wife’s, they possibly saved the entire human race from those strange creatures. “However fearful mutants may appear, and threatening they seem, they are still humanity’s children,” Connover states. “And if we, their parents, abuse them, abandon them, what right have we to expect them to do other than hate us for it in return?” he asks. He quotes an old saying of Abraham Lincoln’s – that a house divided against itself cannot stand – and asks, rhetorically, if it shouldn’t apply to the entire human race. Mutants represent the future of their species. He intends to work with all his heart and soul to make that future the best for everyone.
Nearby, Josey Thomas overhears this miniature sermon and grins deviously.
Trish Tilby, speaking from the television screen in the X-Men’s basement, wraps up her news report on the events in Denver. Reverend William Connover of the Glory Day Ministry has just aligned himself and his entire crusade with the side of mutant rights, essentially pitting himself against the mainstream American opinion, Tilby reports. What remains to be seen, she says, is whether this declaration – the first of its kind from any major political or religious figure -- will have an effect on the public opinion. Tilby, closing her broadcast with a personal opinion, says she fervently hopes it does.
Next, the television screen cuts to a view from outside the compound and shows the X-Men returning home in high spirits from their mission in Denver. Defeating the Brood makes all their lumps and bruises well worth it, Rogue says. What lumps, Havok asks? As far as he remembers, Rogue gave out more of them than she received. Rogue asks him to give her a break; she was possessed! It was not her fault.
Wolverine tells the grumpy Alex he did well. Why, Havok asked? Because he killed? Logan reminds him he did what had to be done. That doesn’t make him feel any better, Havok says. In fact, all he feels is sick. He turns away, wincing.
The X-Men have no idea what transpired while they were away. Far below where they stand lies Madelyne Pryor, still unconscious and surrounded by broken glass. The X-Men have no idea that Madelyne was transfigured by a nightmare fast on its way to becoming a reality.