In a different order of reality…a place beyond space, with meaning beyond time, where possibilities are unfettered by the anchor of fleshy physicality, and limited solely by one’s imagination. ‘Which, in my case, is as infinite…as me desires are insatiable! Here, in this realm of shadows that touched every living mind…I am king!’ the diabolical Shadow King thinks to himself as he sits upon his stone throne and gazes out to what is happening in the real world. He turns to the scantily clad Dr. Lian Shen at his side: ‘Behold, me darling Lian, how eagerly they hate!’ he exclaims, referring to the humans they are looking at.
The Shadow King remarks that the excuse for hate can be anything: ‘Color, religion, politics, sex, whatever comes to their little minds, whatever they fear most. The littlest nudge is all it ever takes!’. The Shadow King and Lian watch a group of ignorant anti-gay demonstrators, carrying signs like No Perverts Allowed and AIDS is God’s Punishment. Their attention turns to a group in white cloaks, where one man is teaching a young boy how to use a rifle. The Shadow King exclaims that humanity embraces hate, like an innocent babe running to its mother. ‘The human race falls happily, eagerly, into the abyss!’
The horrid Shadow King points out that humanity has such a creative capacity for doing ill rather than good. ‘You know - one suspects it is almost inherent!’, he adds, before asking how else one can explain the delight in which mankind divides itself and forms festering hatred over those arbitrary divisions. ‘White hates black, black loathes white. Arab and Jew, in my homeland, the Mid-East…catholic and protestant in Northern Ireland - locked in years of murder and revenge. Iraqi and Kurd, the Untouchables in India, humans and mutant-kind. The list is pathetically endless!’
The Shadow King’s threatening appearance bears down with jagged teeth as he exclaims that this is all because of foolish, minute differences. ‘Poor humanity, it never stops to see that the ties that bind them together far outshine the barriers of race, culture or religion. No. They are blind. And I revel in that blindness!’ The Shadow King tells Lian that he rejoices in the hatred, feeds on it. ‘And soon, when my machinations have achieved fruition, this world shall reverberate with that hate!’
The Shadow King holds a pink glowing ball in his large hands with over-sized fingernails, boasting that he shall make the raging passions of humanity, the unbridled source of power, all his own. ‘And the Shadow King shall rule SUPREME!’ he booms. Emotionless, Lian tells the Shadow King that his plan is grand, and his power awesome, ‘Yet, how often have your designs been thwarted by Charles Xavier -’ she begins to say, before the Shadow King picks Lian up and holds her in his fingernails.
‘You are a valued chattel, Dr. Shen. Do not provoke me to your obliteration’ The Shadow King warns her. ‘If such is my Lord’s desire’ Shen replies. The Shadow King declares that of all his does, only the accursed Xavier and his students have ever given him a decent contest. ‘Which you have yet to win’ Shen points out. ‘True’ the Shadow King agrees, adding that his purpose is naught so long as the X-Men remain to bar the way. ‘But merely slaying them is too quick and easy a vengeance. Better by far to break them to my yoke, Lian, as I did you’, the Shadow King declares, boasting hat the X-Men’s mentor, Xavier, may then witness the contamination of light by shadow, ‘The supplantation of his dream with mine!’.
Meanwhile, back to reality, at RAF Ruthymere, in the heart of England, home base of WHO - Her Majesty’s Government’s Weird Happenings Organization…where alarm bells have just sounded, ‘Stand to, you lot, at the double!’ a senior officer barks. Another officer asks what is going on, to which someone explains that there is an intruder alert at the hangar where Excalibur stores their Blackbird. ‘Fast reaction force, climb aboard those lorries…and get rolling!’ the senior officer barks.
In a nearby office, Brigadier Alysande Stuart orders an officer to phone Excalibur and scramble the alert helicopter flight. Alysande exclaims that she wants an air cap of gunships and super heroes - preferably both - over this base as quick as can be managed. ‘No such luck, Brigadier Stuart, phone link’s gone!’ the other officer replies, adding that he cannot punch through by radio either, there is some kind interference. ‘We’re cut off!’
Outside the hangar, several soldiers arrive, ‘About bleedin’ time!’ one of them exclaims, informing another that his squad is secured, and the other squad can go around the back. ‘What about the automatic systems? I thought plane and hangar were fully able to defend themselves’ one soldier points out. ‘Intruder’s wearing armor. Must contain a built-in scrambler, because he isn’t registering on any sensors’ an elderly soldier replies. He continues, ‘Would’ve made a clean penetration if one of the maintenance crew hadn’t spotted him and raised the alarm’.
The older soldier explains that kayo gas went off automatically, so they cannot use worse without signing off their own people still inside the hangar. He adds that there is no sense in truing anyway, as they can still hear the intruder moving about, so there is no chance for a clear sniper shot. ‘He’s playing things right cagey - which means a full-body suit with sealed atmosphere. I’ve already informed the Brigadier. We want to stop him…we’ll have to go in!’.
Inside the hangar, the mysterious intruder, wearing a space-like full-body suit, complete with full head covering and blue cloak runs underneath the Blackbird, and thinks to himself that the security apparatus here is actually quite good. ‘Gas felled these troopers instantly. Not their fault this is happening. Only proper to make them as comfortable as possible. Out of harm’s way’ the intruder decides as he begins to prop the unconscious soldiers up against some wooden crates.
The intruder thinks to himself that he has no sense of what is happening outside, and doesn’t like that one bit. ‘I’ve been trying mentally to get a sense of things…but there seems to be an intense static storm across the whole of the psychic spectrum’. The intruder adds that the disruption increases exponentially the farther away from himself that he tries to scan, when suddenly, a truck is driven through the hangar door. ‘There’s the intruder - gun him!’ someone shouts, before the intruder is knocked backwards by a barrage of bullets.
‘He’s down!’ one of the soldiers announces as several gather around the intruder. ‘Steady on, lads. By the book, by the numbers’ a senior officer declares, before pointing out that there is no blood, so no sign that the suit has been breached, and therefore the intruder could be shamming. ‘A perceptive sight, Captain. That, regrettably, comes too late!’ the intruder exclaims as he sits up, and takes mental possession of the soldiers, while realizing that he was shot at with elephant guns. ‘Had to wait until the troops were close enough…for me to be sure my own telepathy could do what was required’ the intruder tells himself, adding that, even now the blasted static makes this simple task an effort, when it should be just child’s-play.
Telepathically possessing the Captain, the intruder forces him to report to the others that all is secure in the hangar, and they can stand down from full alert. ‘We’ll be brining out the prisoner directly’ he adds. The intruder makes his way up the ladder into the Blackbird, thinking that he didn’t like using the officer, but the circumstances left him with little alternative. ‘I pray the rest of this caper goes somewhat better’, the intruder tells himself, knowing that he has bought himself only a momentary respite, for the tower will know the truth of this situation the moment he starts the engines.
Indeed, ‘Notify the Brigadier! Sound another alarm!’ someone in the control tower cries out, announcing that sensors are indicating unauthorized entry aboard the Blackbird. Someone replies that getting aboard the Blackbird won’t do much good, as the controls are protected by a security interlock, and will only release for those personnel cleared into the plane’s memory core. Inside the Blackbird, at the pilot seat, the intruder sits down, ‘My plane. My security system. If it recognizes no one else, it will me!’ the intruder tells himself, ‘Voila!’ he exclaims as the jet responds to him.
‘Engine start, Sir! Whoever our intruder is, the Blackbird’s accepted him!’ a female officer points out. ‘Look - out on the field!’ a man shouts. Everyone turns and looks out the large glass windows, ‘What the blazes -?’ the senior officer asks. ‘Fog, Sir’ the female officer replies. ‘Obviously, Ms. Wilson. I’m not completely dim!’ the senior officer replies, as the massive fog spreads all around. The senior officer points out that it is the wrong weather conditions for a pea souper like this one, ‘Especially one that covers only the airfield!’
Inside the Blackbird, the intruder moves the jet forward as the hangar doors open, but the jet rocks as it bumps over the wheel chocks. The intruder reminds himself to remove them next time, while inside the control tower, Ms. Wilson announces that the ground forces are totally socked in, and that visibility is so nil that they don’t dare move, even on foot. ‘Some kind of ionization field active as well, inhibiting all radar and scanning nets…and the electronics aboard the duty helos. Aircap’s grounded!’
The senior officer replies that, as bad as it is for them, it is the same for the intruder, for if the swine cannot see the runaway, at least there is no way he can take off. Spoken too soon though, for the Blackbird then rises above the fog with ease. ‘Blackbird has vertical lift capability, Sir’ Ms. Wilson explains, before the senior officer asks her if there is any chance of tracking him. As the Blackbird soars away, Ms. Wilson replies that the target is fully stealth capable, far exceeding even their top-line vehicles, and once he is out of sight, he is gone.
Meanwhile…at Muir Island, an elemental slab of rock jutting defiantly out of the North Sea within eyeshot of Cape Wraith, the northernmost tip of Scotland. Muir Island is home to world-renowned geneticist Dr. Moira MacTaggert, and haven to mutant-kind for longer than anyone cares to think about. Currently, Moira sits on a throne-like seat at the edge of a large concrete hole, almost like a colosseum. Darted around the edge of the hole are various mutants and super-humans currently residing here at Muir Island - including Amanda Sefton, Multiple Man, Siryn and Legion who are all members of Moira’s own X-Men team.
Down below, in the large hole, is Rogue, formerly of the X-Men, who recently arrived at Muir Island, only to find it very much changed. Standing ahead of Rogue is the over-sized mutant known as Guido, bodyguard of interstellar rock-star, Lila Cheney, who some time ago teleported the X-Men proper across the universe, to who knows where. ‘Ya wanna earn yer place at the Chief’s side, cutes…ya gotta go through me!’ Guido exclaims as he brings his fist down upon Rogue, who dodges him with ease.
Moira taps some buttons on the computer at her side - she has been communicating with Brigadier Alysande Stuart, and tells her ally that she appreciates the call. ‘You’re quite correct, it sounds most intriguing’ Moira remarks, before assuring the Brigadier that she will let her know should anything develop at this end.
Guido grabs Rogue from behind, he is not phased by Lila’s comings and goings, however neither her nor the X-Men have been heard from since. However, for no reason he could think of, Guido found himself drawn to Muir Island, and found he likes it here - a whole lot - almost as much, in fact, as his audience loves him! Guido pounds Rogue into the wall of the fighting-pit, to the excitement of some of those watching. ‘Ouch!’ gasps Legion a.k.a. David Haller, while Siryn a.k.a. Theresa Rourke covers her eyes, ‘Poor wee darling, she had such a beautiful face!’. Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man calls out for Guido to hit Rogue again. ‘We want to see pain! We want to see blood!’ he shouts.
‘Had enough, cutes?’ Guido asks Rogue as he stands over her body, covered in rubble from the edge of the pit. ‘To coin a phrase, Sugar: not hardly!’ Rogue retorts as she spins around and uppercuts Guido in the stomach, before grabbing him in a headlock, while telling him that Moira’s book on him says he is as strong as he is ugly, not to mention pretty near invulnerable too. ‘Excellent, Rogue’ Moira announces, telling her that that she is providing a splendid evaluation not merely of Guido’s abilities, but of her own. ‘And your combat skills appear, if anything, deadlier than ever’ Moira adds.
Rogue releases Guido from the headlock, remarking that makes Guido a lot like her. ‘Only good as y’are, lump…I’m better!’ Rogue shouts as she punches Guido across the other side of the pit, sending rubble everywhere as Guido’s large form smashes the wall. The others watching the battle begin chanting Rogue’s name. ‘Way to go, little lady. Even if it did cost me a pretty penny!’ Madrox remarks as he jumps down into the pit, followed by Siryn who flies down. ‘AH win! Rogue shouts, throwing her hands in the air, before turning to Madrox and reminding him that she told him not to bet against her. Rogue adds that she usually pulls her punches for fear of the damage it will do, but she hit Guido as hard as she could.
Motioning to Guido, Madrox remarks that, from the looks of things, it is a beating that Guido will not soon forget. Two more of the Muir Island X-Men - humans Tom Corsi and Sharon Friedlander - are helping Guido to his feet, with Tom telling him not to talk, and Sharon informs him that the fight is over, and that the Morlock Healer is waiting for him in the infirmary. ‘He’s really hurt’ Rogue remarks, looking at Guido, to which Madrox remarks that he is amazed Guido doesn’t look worse. Siryn points out that pain is a good teacher. ‘Bet ye won’t take him half so easily next time’ Theresa adds. ‘How much?’ Madrox asks, before Siryn tells Rogue that it was a fair fight, and Guido could have done the same to her.
Rogue replies that this wasn’t a game, and that she was tearing into him as much for keeps as she would have the most dangerous super-villain. ‘That’s the idea, silly. The Arena is our equivalent to the old Danger Room…only we test ourselves against each other!’ Theresa explains. Blood trickles down Rogues’ face, and the watchers still chant her name. Madrox declares that this is a real fight, with real foes, real blood and real glory. ‘What more could you ask for?’ Madrox remarks, to which Rogue asks if Moira approves of this. ’It was Moira’s idea!’ Siryn reveals.
Meanwhile, not so far away, Excalibur’s Blackbird soars across the sky, and the intruder thinks to himself that there is no sign of any pursuit, so evidently the cloaking systems are doing their job. The intruder is annoyed that the accursed static still inhibits his psi-power. ‘The Shadow King’s doing?’ the intruder wonders, deciding that if so, that represents a quantum increase in his capabilities. ‘Such a feat is certainly beyond mine’ the intruder admits, taking off his helmet, revealing himself as Professor Charles Xavier! ‘So much for Charles Xavier’s vaunted reputation as this planet’s foremost telepath’ Xavier jokes.
Charles looks at the bullet marks on his chest, ‘This certainly smarts’ he tells himself, before deciding that it serves him right for depending far too much on his mental powers to safeguard him, and that if indeed they are facing the Shadow King, he will not be so fortunate again. Xavier declares that against the Shadow King, he must be at his peak, both physically and psychically, but even then, nothing is guaranteed. Suddenly, Ororo “Storm” Munroe flies by the Blackbird wearing the standard x-uniform, she calls out to the Professor, telling him that she saw her small diversion served its purpose. ‘Perfectly, Storm. I couldn’t have asked for more’ Xavier replies, before Storm tells him to follow her, and she will lead him to the others.
Shortly, on the Scots mainland, just over the horizon from Muir Island, Xavier is being tended to by Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, and Storm. Logan wraps some bandages around Xavier and tells him that there is nothing broken, that he just has some bad bruises. ‘You sure you’ll be able to manage?’ Logan asks. Xavier replies that he may not have Wolverine’s gift for mayhem, but that he is neither a babe in the proverbial woods. ‘I can take care of myself!’ he exclaims, to which Storm reminds him that, barely a day ago, he was a prisoner of a cadre of War Skrulls, bound to an unholy device that allowed them to manipulate his mental powers in an attempt to seize control of the Shi’ar Empire. ‘And we X-Men were in a desperate battle to save you!’ Storm adds.
‘Bold words to the contrary, neither you nor we emerged from that confrontation unscathed’ Storm points out, adding that to pretend otherwise is to court disaster. Storm reveals that she has been to Excalibur’s Lighthouse, but that the team is not in residence. Charles declares that this makes it more imperative that he contacts the group comprising his original students. ‘What did you call it, X-Factor’ Charles asks. Wolverine announces that a news report says X-Factor are dead, blown up in their Ship. ‘As I recall from my scan of Storm’s memories, the same was made about you, after some imbroglio in Dallas’ Xavier points out.
Xavier declares that, at the very least, accessing his Cerebro sensor array back at the Mansion in New York will enable him to scan not merely for X-Factor, but for their foe. The other X-Men, all wearing the standard x-uniform, gather around Xavier, Logan and Storm - Sean “Banshee” Cassidy, Forge, Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock, Jubilee and Remy “Gambit” LeBeau. Xavier tells the X-Men that while he goes to New York, they will undertake a strategic reconnaissance to Muir Island, to determine the situation there. ‘Hopefully, all is well, and Banshee’s fears for Moira groundless’ Xavier points out. ‘Aye, Charles, that’s me prayer’ Sean exclaims. ‘If not…then we must set things right!’ Xavier announces, before the Blackbird takes off.
In the communal shower room at Muir Island, Rogue sits in one of the shower cubicles, and looks at her hands, while asking ‘What’ve ah done?’, exclaiming that she hit Guido over and over, that she wanted to hurt him, and that it did her heart proud to see him bleed. ‘And when he was beat…when ah heard the crowd cheer my name…it was heaven! It was wonderful! It was obscene!’ she declares, wrapping a towel around herself and getting out of the shower. Rogue declares that she cannot wait to do this again, but that she knows it is wrong, and yet, somehow, it seems so natural. Wiping the steam off the mirror, Rogue tells herself that she has been feeling more and more that way since she arrived. ‘Something turned this place, all the folks on it, downright nasty!’ she decides.
Suddenly, the Shadow King’s horrid image appears in the mirror, ‘You really think so, my darling Rogue?’ he asks. ‘WHO -?!’ a shocked Rogue screams. ‘Myself, I consider it the unleashing of each person’s sublimely infinite capacity…for evil!’ the Shadow King boasts as his astral form reaches through the mirror. ‘To paraphrase lord action: “Temptation corrupts. And absolute temptation corrupts absolutely”!’ the Shadow King quotes. Rogue looks at him wickedly, ‘Don’t you agree’ the Shadow King remarks before they embrace and kiss, passionately.
Aboard the Blackbird, the X-Men are preparing themselves, while Storm radios for Forge, asking for a status report. Arriving on the rocky cliffs of Muir Isle is Forge, who radios back, telling Storm that he is soaring like a bird thanks to the glider wings that he built. Forge adds that the winds Storm is providing are a big help. ‘Wouldn’t mind trying this with you sometime’ Forge tells Storm, who replies ‘My pleasure, however…’ her voice trails off as Forge declares that he knows, business before pleasure. Forge announces that he is interfacing with the defensive systemry that he established to defend the Island. ‘Wicked piece of work if I do say so myself’ Forge adds.
Forge remarks that it is a good thing he snuck a “back door” into the design, ‘Which is now - am I great or what - wide open’ Forge reports. Storm gives the team the green light, and as Jubilee climbs onto Wolverine’s back, Logan tells her to hold on tight as it is time to fly. The young mutant protests, exclaiming she won’t do this and that it is totally nuts. ‘You’re all crazy!’ she tells the X-Men. Moments later, Wolverine has leapt from the Blackbird and soars towards Muir Island with help of the glider. ‘This is FANTASTIC!’ Jubilee shouts, asking if they can do it again sometime soon.
Psylocke and Banshee follow, while Storm sighs, ‘They probably heard the child’s cry all the way to London’ she tells Gambit. ‘You never had any fun as a chile, gonna begrudge young Jubilation here?’ Remy asks. ‘This is not a game, Gambit!’ Storm tells him. ‘Au contraire, chere, it’s the ultimate game - for the highest of stakes, n’est-ce-pas? Our lives. Shame is, we can’t loot the place clean in the process’ Gambit declares. Xavier tells the recent addition to the X-Men that is one of the draw-backs of being one of the good guys. ‘Professor!’ Storm declares. ‘For the last time, Storm…while I appreciate your concern…you need the whole of your team with you. Especially if you run into trouble’ Xavier tells the long-time X-Men leader. As Storm and Gambit leap from the Blackbird, Xavier takes off towards New York, announcing hat he will be fine on his own.
On Muir Island proper, Banshee thinks to himself that it is quiet, which is not a good sign. ‘Hardly the homecoming I dreamed of’ he tells himself, as he rounds the corner of Moira’s house as if it was some villain’s hideout. Sean reminds himself that he was a policeman long before he was an X-Man, and that he learned from experience to trust his instincts. ‘They’ve told me for the past months that something here is not kosher’ he tells himself as he climbs through a large window, into Moira’s home. Sean decides that it started somehow when Polaris arrived on Muir Island, and Moira began acting wilder and more passionate, which he didn’t mind so much at first.
Sean passes a table where a photograph of him, and one of Moira and Charles, sits. ‘Thought it was part and parcel of being in love’ Sean tells himself. ‘Thought selfishly it gave our relationship something…that was maybe missing when she and Charles were together’ Sean decides as he looks at the photographs. Sean wonders if when things got nasty, he was just being a prude, until he realized that it wasn’t only Moira acting strangely, but nearly everyone on Muir Island. Sean suddenly realizes that it was just after Polaris vanished, that things got remarkably worse. ‘Glory!’ he shouts as he spins around, thinking someone is behind him, until he sees that it is just a mannequin.
Having a closer look, Sean tells himself that the moonlight made it seem almost real for a moment, and realizes that the armor is Moira’s size, and her clan’s tartan. ‘The garb of a highland Chief’ Sean remarks, picking up the claymore, the Scots warsword, forged for use not show. Banshee examines some nicks in the sword and realizes that they are fresh. ‘Moira, me love, Accushla, what the Devil goes on here?’ Sean asks.
Elsewhere on Muir, Psylocke telepathically contacts the X-Men as she crouches behind a small rise in the land, telling her teammates that in case any one has wondered where the Island’s population has gone too, she has the answer. Betsy uses her powers to display to the others the Arena, where the Muir Island inhabitants have gathered. ‘Bright lady - they flight like Gladiators - in some barbaric arena!’ Storm exclaims, before asking Forge, who is linked to her telepathically thanks to Psylocke, if he can offer any explanations.
From his location inside Muir Island’s Research Center, Forge replies that the data files are what one would expect: Moira has been evaluating the powers of the mutants at her facility, and training them in their use, as individuals and teams. ‘Same brief as Xavier’s’ Forge adds, pointing out that the disturbing element in the means involved, physical confrontation, and outright violence. ‘Very rough-trade’ he remarks, pointing out however that nobody seems to mind. Forge tells Storm that there is a phenomenal amount of power being diverted to a lower level holding pen. ‘Whoever’s being held there must be a major serious character’ Forge remarks, to which Storm tells him that it is worth checking out.
Suddenly, Legion appears beside Storm. ‘Hidey-hi! Been wondering when you’d show! Life here’s sorta stale, in a rut, know what I mean?’ he exclaims. Storm is confused for a moment, while Legion exclaims that he needs some new blood - to shed - and he wants Storms’! Legion introduces himself, when suddenly, another of his multiple personalities’ takes over: ‘No, he’s not it’s a lie, this isn’t my fault! Please, you’ve got to do something he’s making me hurt people!’ Legion exclaims, before another personality regains control: ‘Stop whining, you wimp. Technically though, that’s the truth. Legion isn’t responsible. He’s merely a vessel for a greater power!’.
Legion tells Storm that this revelation will not do her any good, and uses his telekinetic ability holds him in mid-air, while he telepathically freezes Storm in place, before using his pyrokentic fire to engulf Storm in flame: ‘Send you screaming to your maker! Happy landings!’ he shouts.
Nearby, Psylocke screams in pain and clutches her head. ‘Storm!’ she gasps as she realizes that some force is preventing her from severing the psionic link between them, and therefore, Betsy receives the full force of Storms’ pain. It is more than she can bear, and thus Betsy is rendered unconscious, and tumbles down the hillside.
Banshee turns to the window and sees the fireball that has engulfed Storm come careening downwards. ’Mercy! Only caught a sense of things before Psylocke stopped projecting’ Sean tells himself, realizing that Betsy must be unconscious, and knows that if it is that bad for Betsy, it is much worse for Storm. Sean smashes through the window after seeing that Storm is falling for the open sea. ‘Got to get to her!’ he shouts, when, suddenly, in mid-flight, Sean is hit by a sonic force bolt, and cannot stay airborne. Sean then falls into the ocean.
‘Poor old man. Looks like ye’ve had yerself a nasty fall!’ a voice exclaims. ‘I’ve survived worse, girl!’ Sean replies as he climbs up from the ocean, and grabs his assailant, who has landed at the edge of the Island, by her ankles. ‘Can ye say the same?’ Banshee asks as he leaps up, fists ready to pummel his attacker, only he is confused when he sees his assailant. ‘Daddy! Don’t!’ Siryn shouts. ‘Have ye forgotten your own daughter, Banshee - Theresa Rourke Cassidy?!’ Siryn asks innocently, before bashing her father in the face with a rock. ‘Ye must be getting old, silly man…to fall for so obvious a ploy!’ Theresa exclaims as her father falls backwards. ‘Shame on ye, daughter or no, for letting y’r guard down. As ye can see, Moira taught me better!’ Siryn boasts.
Inside the Muir Island Research Center, Gambit stealthily moves about the fantastic complex, when suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘At the risk of stating the obvious…this is private property. You’re trespassing’. Gambit introduces himself as an X-Man. ‘That makes us pals, hey?’ he asks. ‘Afraid not’ replies the Multiple Man, revealing himself. ‘Can’t say I’m surprised’ Remy declares, charging a playing card and tossing it towards Madrox. ‘Nice trick. Charge the card with kinetic energy…so that it explodes against whatever it hits?’ Madrox asks as he and a dupe appear behind a surprised Gambit.
‘Blast was to knock me out, right? Care to try again?’ Jamie asks Gambit, who replies ‘That’s the spirit’ and proceeds to charge two more cards, before James introduces himself as the Multiple Man. ‘Way our power works, every time we’re hit, we double. One to two, two to four, to eight, to sixteen, and so on. Harder you fight, greater the odds. In the end, we win. We always win. Your move!’ Jamie exclaims.
In a corridor, Jubilee follows Wolverine, asking him if they shouldn’t be worried about the way Psylocke went off the air. Logan replies that there is nothing they can do for her right now, and explains that what they need are answers. ‘I figure we’ll get some at the end of this trail I’m following’ he tells Rogue, when suddenly, Rogue, wearing a brown one-piece spandex outfit, covered by a black bathing-suit type leotard, and loose belts, steps into the corridor, ‘Could be, short-stuff. But who’s to say they’ll be the ones you like?’ she asks. ‘Rogue!’ Logan exclaims.
‘Pleased as punch to see you, too, Logan. Guess the means we ain’t friends no more, huh?’ Rogue remarks as Logan lunges at her with claws outstretched. ‘Oh, wonderful!’ groans Jubilee, remarking that after taking one look at Rogue, Wolverine has gone berserk, and now they are having a knock-down drag-out, fist-o-rama. ‘But Rogue and him are teammates, best buddies! This is nuts!’ Jubilee declares, boasting that she is not about to let Wolverine get thumped or Rogue get ginsu sliced-and-diced by Logan’s claws. ‘Like it or not, I’m using my fireworks to end this stupid fight!’ Jubilee shouts.
Suddenly, ‘That won’t be necessary, child!’ the glamorous Amanda Sefton declares as she appears before Jubilee, flanked by a myriad of bizarre looking creatures. Wearing yet another new costume consisting of dark blue tight pants and loose sleeves, with a purple bathing-suit type leotard, which has a high collar, and matching purple boots, Amanda introduces herself as a stewardess by trade and demon sorceress by nature. ‘I do hope you put up a decent struggle’ she tells Jubilee, remarking that it has been so long since her pets have faced a challenge worthy of them. Jubilee just lets out a tiny ‘Yeep!’ and shrinks backwards.
Meanwhile, a world away, in Salem Center, New York, roughly an hours drive upstate from New York City, at the grounds of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Xavier tells himself that he only had a sense of what happened from his rapport with Storm, ‘But in this instance…seeing is truly believing. ‘The Mansion, totally demolished by a fiend named Mr. Sinister…as it was, months earlier, by the Sidri Hunters’ Xavier exclaims as he looks about the ruins. He recalls that they rebuilt, and so they shall once again. ‘My dream at least remains, the purpose for both school and X-Men’.
Suddenly, a car comes speeding up the drive way towards Xavier. Xavier sees someone on the roof, trying to stop the car, but Xavier is forced to leap out of harms way as the car passes him, ‘So much for that idea - is the driver a maniac?’ Charles wonders, as the car is deliberately driven into the front pillars at the remains of the Mansion. Charles rushes over to where the car has gone up in flames, ‘No warning of the car’s approach. No sense of either person aboard’ he tells himself, remarking that for all the use that interference static allows him of his telepathy, he may as well be head-blind. ‘At least the driver was thrown clear’ he exclaims, only to discover that the driver is none other than Stevie Hunter.
As Xavier takes care of the shaken Stevie Hunter, a horrid voice booms: ‘Well, well, well, well, well. It is true, that hoary old saying: all things do come to him who waits’. Xavier recognizes the voice: ‘You!’ he shouts, as the Shadow King’s astral form appears above him. ‘In the spirit…which you’ll find, my dear Professor, to be far more lethal than my flesh ever was!’ the Shadow King boasts, before asking Charles if he has missed him. ‘I have you’ the Shadow King sniggers, remarking that he has thought of little else over the years than their final meeting, and his revenge.
‘By the by, if you’ve any hopes of summoning your X-Men to your rescue, cast them aside. As my astral protection should make abundantly clear…they’ve already been dealt with!’. Xavier looks at the astral projection in horror, which depicts Storm, Banshee, Psylocke, Jubilee and Gambit lying motionless on Muir Island, with Moira, Amanda, Madrox, Siryn and Legion standing over them. ‘No, oh no!’ Stevie gasps.
The Shadow King tells Xavier that as far as the possibility of going to his students’ rescue is concerned, he would say the odds are about as slim as those for his survival. Suddenly, there is movement over at the blazing car, and Colossus appears! The Shadow King tells Xavier that, surely he remembers Colossus. ‘Your X-Man is mine now, body and soul!’ the Shadow King exclaims, telling Xavier that Colossus’ orders are to rend Ms Hunter before Xavier’s eyes, limb from limb. ‘I did warn you, my dear, of the terrible price of defiance’ the Shadow King tells Stevie, before shouting that then Colossus will do the same thing to Xavier!