The Morlock tunnels. It’s a bizarre scene Forge and Banshee are secretly watching. A Marvel Girl look-alike triumphantly stands with her foot on the body of the real, unconscious Jean Grey, cheered by five others monstrosities, who are all perverted X-men look-alikes.
Forge announces to Banshee that he has a clear field of fire. Should he take them? He involuntarily swears as, from the mouth of the Marvel Girl look-alike, comes a sharp tongue, at the end of which is another tiny face looking like Jean, but with razor-sharp fangs. Banshee doesn’t want him to kill. Forge protests that they don’t know whether tranks are effective, therefore killing them is the safest play. They have to find another way, Banshee insists. They can’t question corpses. They have to learn where these creatures come from and who did this to them.
Banshee lets loose a sonic scream at a frequency that leaves his targets disoriented. Forge follows up with a stun grenade. But, to both men’s surprise, even as the concussion shockwave knocks the assembled creatures head over heels, they all disappear with the exception of the unconscious Jean.
Forge warns Sean that they should leave quickly. Those monsters could come back as quickly or zap them away. They need to return with Jean to the X-Men complex, assuming they are even safe there.
Some time later, within the underground complex, Jean, now cleaned up and decked out in one of the new X-Men uniforms, complains about said uniform’s style. Sean blushes, as he sees Jean in the tight uniform that leaves little to the imagination and admits he finds the style and fit a trifle… extreme himself. Smirking, Forge announces that he likes them.
Sean explains that they have none of the old ones left and these are really a quantum improvement on the originals. Forge adds that they function as body armor and environment suit. Moira MacTaggert did herself proud with the design. Jean muses that something this radical doesn’t sound like Moira. How would she know, Forge inquires. Didn’t Moira become associated with the X-Men after Jean left?
Jean reveals that she’s known Moira for almost as long as Professor Xavier and that goes way back to before he founded the X-Men. She spoke with Moira recently and she didn’t seem herself. Is something wrong? she asks Sean. Banshee confides that he fears so. Which is why Jean mustn’t reveal to Moira that she’s seen Forge and him. As far as the world knows, they were killed in a plane crash. Are they trying to find out what happened then? Forge replies that actually they are looking for the X-Men, as they have reason to believe they are still alive. Hesitatingly, Jean admits that they are.
Banshee gets agitated, as he realizes that Jean knows this for a fact. Jean apologizes but the X-Men made X-Factor promise not to tell anybody for pretty much the same reasons Sean and Forge just told her. Banshee angrily wonders how they could put them through so much grief. Tinkering in the background, Forge asks him to cut them some slack. Their decision probably made sense to them at the time. He’d rather argue the point with them than their ghosts. Jean asks what he means and, in response, Forge and Banshee show her a picture of Donald Pierce on the computer screen. He’s a cyborg with a madman’s hatred for mutants, Sean explains. Forge adds that his team, the Reavers, are after the X-Men in a major way.
Waylock, California. A building owned by Frost Enterprises. Said Reavers making short works of it. As they turn towards a security guard, Lady Deathstrike forbids the men from playing with him and instead asks the frightened man to relay a message. Their employer is looking forward to a reunion with Emma Frost. He is to inform her that she will be hearing from them, again and again and again. Until they catch up with her at last.
Inside the X-Men complex, Jean still tries to process what the two men told her, namely that the Reavers tried to kill everyone on Muir Isle. They’d have succeeded too if Forge and Freedom Force hadn’t saved the day. Freedom Force actually doing good? Jean asks doubtfully. Forge points out that they have the casualties to prove it. Jean apologizes, but X-Factor have seen a different side of them. She offers that the men could relocate to X-Factor’s ship. Sean considers it but, momentarily, he is more worried about the lot that attacked her. A while ago, Moira had sent out Callisto to seal the complex against any intruders…
Even X-Factor? Jean asks, hurt. Banshee points out that the last they head of X-Factor they’d been shooting off into space. They didn’t want to take any chances. Anyway, Callisto completed her mission but never returned. Jean wonders if those creatures got her as well. She calls X-Factor’s ship for reinforcements. Unfortunately, nobody’s there.
Jean feels dizzy for a moment. Probably a delayed reaction to the poison her “twin” used to knock her out, she offers with a smile. Scanning her, Forge announces that there are no anomalies but just to make sure he’ll inject her with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Is he a doctor as well as an inventor? Jean inquires. Forge explains that, among the Cheyenne, the medicine chief is also the tribal healer, so in that sense he is, as he also injects Sean to make sure. Jean announces that she’ll signal X-Factor’s ship for a pick-up as she and Sean walk ahead. She marvels how much the complex has changed since she was last there. She and Sean flirt and talk a bit and step out of the shielded room. Once they do, they disappear in front of Forge’s eyes.
Washington D.C., the White House:
A nervous Valerie Cooper and Governor Seward, the president’s chief of staff, are waiting in one room, while the Genoshan Pipeline fiddles with a computer to establish a secure comlink with his mainframe in Genosha. Once he has succeeded, his eyes glow and he teleports the foreign minister of Genosha, Chief Magistrate Anderson, and a young mutate boy over. Seward shouts out in surprise and the armed secret service agents who were waiting outside storm inside. Val Cooper quickly shoos them out again, while the Genoshan minister and Seward get acquainted.
A little later, while the men are still comparing notes and Pipeline is perusing a computer magazine, Valerie pointedly tells Chief Magistrate Anderson that the USA fought a civil war to end slavery. Anderson corrects her: the Civil War was about preventing the secession of half their nation. Liberation of the slaves came later. It’s still illegal, Val insists. Anderson agrees. But if Val is referring to that reference module accompanying the foreign minister, it only looks like a human being. It is a specifically configured piece of genetic engineering, with no more humanity than any other piece of technology. As is the module they seek to retrieve. Seward starts to refer to Jenny Ransome and the Genoshan minister interrupts him insisting there is no such person. They are attempting to reclaim a pirated unit of biotechnology with the identifying number 9-8-1-7 and the extradition of a young man accused of treason.
He asks for visuals and the boy’s eyes begin to glow, as he creates a hologram of Jenny Ransome and Phil Moreau. Seward explains that this is the crux of the matter now being heard in federal court. If the Genoshan government can prove its case, they’ll get them back. The Genoshan states that he’d hoped for more sympathy, considering Genosha has always been willing to assist the USA and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. Is it too much to ask for the courtesy to be returned?
A little later, after the Genoshans have left, Seward and Cooper discuss matters. Seward vents about the veiled threats the Genoshan made. Who does he think he is? A man representing a country that they owe roughly thirty-five billion dollar to, Val replies. When you are on the arm of a Shylock, they tend to take advantage.
Is there anything they can do? Seward asks. “Can,” not “should,” Val silently notes. So much for the moral side. One way or another, they mean to have the girl back, Val states. Is she really a girl? Seward wonders. Could they be right? Val scoffs. Was Dred Scott a “man?”
But there’s more at stake. The Genoshans are ready to brand the X-Men as terrorists and go after them full bore. They are dead, Seward points out. The Genoshans claim otherwise, Val explains. They want the US to cede them the authority to carry their pursuit onto U.S. soil. Chief Anderson only told her as courtesy. They mean to execute this policy regardless of whose territorial sovereignty they have to violate, whether the USA like it or not. Do they want a war, Seward asks exasperated. If it comes to that, he’d better tell the president, there’s no guarantee the USA will win, Val replies bleakly.
His weapons drawn, Forge makes his way through the steaming tunnels beneath Xavier’s mansion his mind involuntarily drifting back to the past.
An 18-year-old Forge informed his mentor, Nazé, that he had enlisted in the army. The shaman angrily reminded his pupil of his more important destiny. Wanting to be a warrior instead if a shaman Forge told him that he’d been tying that can to his tail since he was born and he is sick of it. He’ll decide his destiny.
In training, he quickly proved himself to be a crackshot, though the sergeant warned him that shooting targets wasn’t the same as shooting people. Forge was sure he could handle it.
Reaching the Morlock tunnels, Forge walks further down still following the tracer-tag he slipped into Jean and Sean’s bloodstreams when he took cell samples from them. He recalls reading how a group named the Marauder wiped out the Morlocks.
His outfit in Vietnam also had the tag Marauders. He hooked up with them in the Highlands. It was a fast and frantic drop-off at the firebase, while the Vietcong already shot at them. Forge landed in the mud to be welcomed by his amused comrades.
In the shadows, Forge shudders as an insect-like creature that has Storm’s face passes him by. He realizes that he could shoot her and wonders if it is the woman he loves, horribly transformed. He is reminded of his first ambush.
Viet Cong were passing the US soldiers who were hidden in the bushes but Forge could only see a kid his own age. Nevertheless, he pulled the trigger.
Manhattan, the Soho scene. An exhibition by newcomer artist, Peter Nicholas. Outside the street scene gallery stands a haunted, beautiful woman, watching the artist and the guests inside. Peter catches her eye and recognizes her as the mystery woman he keeps running into. This time he won’t let her get away, he figures and runs after her. The woman enters a limousine, which drives off to be stopped in its tracks by the super-strong Jenny Ransome. She tears off the roof over Phil’s protests, but the limo is empty.
Later, Peter wonders what happened with the girl and why he is so obsessed with her. Women throw themselves at him, so why can he only think of her? Maybe he’s crazy, as he is the only one who ever seems to see her in the flesh. Something about her face though haunts him. He turns to his pictures of her. More and more when he paints her, he thinks of another face. Harder, crueler, horribly scarred. He must be mad to even think of destroying such beauty. Why won’t she leave him alone?
Perhaps she is a moth and he is his flame, the mystery woman, back again, suggests. He asks her to stop playing games and she tells him she is sorry. A moment later, her meaning becomes clear, as behind her the horrible Morlock Masque appears and reaches for Peter. A moment later, they all vanish.
Forge recalls how, at the beginning of his second tour, Sergeant-Major Harry Malone offered him a way out of Vietnam by joining SHIELD. Forge declined, explaining that he had a duty to bring his people home safe and sound.
Looking at a snapshot of his group of soldiers, Forge reminisces, wondering if it hadn’t been better for everyone if he had taken Malone’s offer. He is broken out of his reverie by nearing footsteps. Suddenly, something grabs him and slaps him down hard, before letting him go. He sees some purplish tentacles, though not their source, and wonder why they didn’t finish him.
Suddenly, his scanner goes off. Jean and Sean are moving off in that same direction. He hears noises. Someone on their trail. He uses his gun with a burst of grazing fire to slow them down, following it up with a flashbulb grenade to see what he’s up again. More monsters. All with X-Men faces. While he’s still wondering whether they are the real thing, one of them, a monster with Beast’s face, grabs him by his ponytail and slams him down. Forge manages to kick him away. He recalls that Beast is with X-Factor, same as Jean, Was he grabbed as well?
Another one attacks from above, trying to graze Forge’s back with its claw. Fortunately, the uniform serves as armor. Forge hits the winged creature and becomes even more confused. She’s clearly female but has the face of Angel – that is before he became blue. Was he transformed again or is it a villain? Help comes as Banshee jumps at the “Angelwoman” tackling her.
Forge shouts a warning as another monster grabs Sean and tries to garrotte him. While he’s wondering why Banshee isn’t using his sonic powers to defend himself, Forge reaches for his weapon and automatically shoots the creature attacking him, only to cry out a moment later in horror, as he realizes it is the Storm-creature. With one of theirs killed, the other creatures disappear back into their hiding holes.
Forge checks “Storm’s” pulse, already knowing there’s no point. Just like the drill instructor said, with a rifle he’s the best. Recalling the first life he took – the Viet Cong youth – he also recalls painfully that taking a life is indeed a whole lot different from popping a piece of cardboard. He closes “Storm’s” eyes, his mind still drifting back to the war. Like anything, you get used to killing and try to help others do the same, hoping someday to come to terms with it.
Suddenly, Forge hears Jean’s voice telling him to save his grief. That isn’t Storm. He asks if they are OK and Jean cryptically replies that they are as well as can be expected. Since last he saw them, there’ve been some…changes. Forge finally fully sees the two of them - Jean Grey now displays a mass of purplish tentacles in the place where her two arms used to be, whereas Banshee no longer has a mouth.