When I was a kid, I loved pirates! Fact or fiction, I devoured stories about them like popcorn. I watched videos of the classic movies until I knew every scene and line by heart. My greatest wish then was to transport myself into the books I loved, to become part of the world of Rafael Sabatini and George MacDonald Fraser. To fight alongside Captain Blood and win the heart of the infamous Black Sheba. Then, I grew up and met the reality.
Night has fallen on Moscow. Outside the gates of the home of the Russian Defense Minister, guards patrol the grounds, while others stand by a limousine and guard vehicles ready to transport the minister. Atop a tree branch nearby, is a man crouching. He wears golden armor and has red skin. He extends his arm towards the home and the bloodshed begins.
The guards have no time to cry out as a hailstorm of steel takes them all down. A large green man stands there with his machine guns and fires away. In the shadows, a group of men with short swords run out and stab any remaining guards in the stomach. In seconds, they are all dead and the fight is over.
Inside his home, Defense Minister Dmitri Koniev kisses his little girl goodnight. He tells Irina to make sure she finishes her homework and not to mess around on the Internet. Irina says she won’t and Koniev reminds her not to give her mother any problems or else he won’t take her with him to America. Koniev’s wife goes up to him and kisses him on the cheek. She tells him that Irina already has her itinerary for the trip set. Koniev tells his wife that he won’t be late. She calls him a liar, but says she will wait up for him anyway.
As the minister walks down the stairs, Irina tells him to give President Putin a kiss for her. Koniev jokes and says he will just give the president her regards. Koniev steps into his limo. The door is held open by an unusually large man, who is accompanied by an unusually small man with a hunched back. Koniev tells them to radio the Kremlin and tell them he is coming. The large man slams the limo door behind Koniev and tells him that they have already called the president… and told him that the minister would be delayed.
In the limo, Koniev lies on the ground and looks up in horror at the two people in the limo with him. The red man in gold armor tells the minister to remember how vulnerable his wife and daughter have just become before he decides to call the guards. The man then introduces the woman in white next to him as Bloody Bess. Her name explains everything important about her. He then introduces himself as Killian and tells the minister he is about to make an offer that the Russian man must dare not refuse.
Elsewhere, in the Research Annex building in Seskaya Square, are the X-Men. Several days ago, they came to Moscow to help Gambit pay off an old debt to Colonel Mikhail Vazhin, head of the former K.G.B. Though he works in a building longer than the Sears Tower laid on it’s side, which could house thousands, only he and one other work there; Major Debra Levin. Levin disappeared while on a case and the X-Men were sent to bring her back. During that mission, they also caught a slaver by the name of Tullamore Voge. However, the X-Men suspect that Voge is from somewhere other than Earth. Unfortunately, he hasn’t spoken a word since his capture.
Gambit and Levin are in the interrogation room with Voge, while the rest of the team and Vazhin watch in the next room. Beast adjusts a mechanism in his red optical visor and begins to scan Voge. Beast tells his companions that Voge is a baseline human and from Earth, just not from their Earth. Vazhin says that he does not care. The fact that he is calm is bothering him. Voge is obviously waiting for rescue.
Cable complains that he should be the one to carry out Phoenix’s half of the plan. Beast says it is Gambit’s call, but Cable says that the man is wrong. Phoenix tells him that he is out of line. Cable excuses himself for caring for her well-being. Phoenix calls attention back to the interrogation room and says that Debra is making her move.
The three were in the interrogation room for hours without saying a word or without moving. Without any warning, Major Debra pulls out a gun from her holster, puts it to Voge’s head and pulls the trigger. She blows at the smoking tip of her gun. Voge, still alive, is scared by what happened and begins to babble. Gambit excuses Debra’s actions and tells Voge that they were just trying to get his attention. Next time, though, the bullet may not be a blank.
Gambit begins the interrogation and asks why Voge is in Russia, why he is kidnapping people and how can the X-Men get them back. Voge says nothing to Gambit. In the next room, Phoenix begins the second part of the plan and enters Voge’s mind, but not before she tells Cable to have faith in her and Gambit.
Phoenix enters the astral plane of her mind and is ready to go into Voge’s mind when she looks over to the ruins of the Xavier Institute in hers. She sees someone coming towards her in the ruins of her memory wearing the Cerebro helmet. She recognizes the figure as Wolverine. Wolverine takes off the helmet and complains about how his head hurts. Phoenix tells him that Cerebro was designed for telepaths. Wolverine reminds her that she and Cable are their only telepaths, but neither of them are at the mansion. The X-Men need the rest of the teams help and since Wolverine has the healing factor to cope with the stress of Cerebro, he was elected to contact her. After Phoenix asks if he is all right, Wolverine says he is fine and moves on to business.
He tells Phoenix that there is trouble in Salem Center. A group called the Goth ambushed some of the X-Men. Colossus, Archangel, Thunderbird, and Psylocke were captured along with the majority of the people in Salem Center. Phoenix tells Wolverine that his story is similar to the crisis her team is facing at the moment in Moscow. They have run into some slavers who are kidnapping people, but the name “the Goth” has not shown up. Wolverine reminds Phoenix that they have a short amount of time before someone notices a whole town has gone missing. He then pops his claws and looks behind Phoenix. He points out that they have company.
Phoenix looks behind at Voge ands says that her goal was to slip into his mind unnoticed. Wolverine tells her that Voge was expecting her. Behind them, Voge is with astral images of Jean and Wolverine, however, they have been altered to look like Hounds. Voge calls Jean silly and tells her that he has been crushing telepaths for years. Phoenix doesn’t have a trick that he hasn’t faced. He then turns his attention to the fact that both Jean and Logan like things rough. He tells them that if he mixes their genes right the offspring could sell for good money. Around Voge, images of Jean and Wolverine in provocative positions appear.
Unfazed by the images, Phoenix sends a psi-bolt and knocks Voge down. The astral plane is her turf, says Jean. Voge asks that if that is true, then how he is able to he attack Wolverine like so. Wolverine is suddenly thrown into immense pain as spikes grow out from his body. Voge is turning him into a Hound. Voge tells Phoenix that Logan will make a good Hound since he already is close to being one.
Afraid for Wolverine’s safety, Phoenix throws the man out of the astral plane before he is fully converted. As Wolverine disappears, a man compliments Jean. Two legs land on the ground with spikes on them. Jean recognizes the man. The mysterious fourth person tells Jean that she knew exactly how to save Wolverine, but he asks, “who’s left to rescue you?!”
In one of the basements of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning in Salem Center, New York, the X-Men quickly work to put out the fire that has just erupted out of Cerebro. Nightcrawler stands over the fire with an extinguisher, while Rogue and Tessa tend to the unconscious Wolverine. Nightcrawler tells the women that he thinks the firewall on the computer stopped the damage from reaching the core system. He asks Rogue what happened. Rogue does not know and asks Forge, who is at the computer console.
Forge tells Rogue that whatever happened was not caused by anything in the mansion. The overload in Cerebro came from an outside source. Worse yet, the person is someone whom the system recognized and accepted. Though worried that someone knows the mansion’s command protocols, Rogue asks Tessa how Wolverine is. Tessa tells Rogue that Logan’s healing factor has saved him once again.
Wolverine begins to wake up, but is in a berserker mode. Rogue barely gets Tessa out of the way as Wolverine begins to slash his claws around. Rogue calms Logan down, who apologizes. He tells the X-Men that it felt like someone was pulling him apart like taffy. Once he saw the Hound color, he wanted nothing else but to wear it. As Rogue and Tessa help him up, he tells them that if Phoenix hadn’t saved him, he would have been lost.
Back in Moscow, Beast and Storm tend to Phoenix who just collapsed after entering Voge’s mind. In the interrogation room, Voge asks Levin and Gambit if their plan did not work out as anticipated. Cable uses his telepathy on Jean, but finds that her mind is closed from him. He follows her trail into the astral plane, but once he reaches there he is attacked by…Onslaught! Onslaught slams Cable in the face with his fist and reminds Cable that he is no match for him.
Cable is in disbelief that he is actually facing Onslaught. Onslaught tells Cable that it could just be a masquerade as he lifts up his head. Inside Onslaught’s armor is Phoenix and Cable is surprised by this revelation. Phoenix tells him that anything is possible in the astral plane and nothing is what it seems. She then asks Cable that, when he beholds the face of a Gorgon, does he feel like he is looking in a mirror? Cable simply looks at Jean in horror.
Outside the Research Annex building, the defense minister knocks on the doors to the building and orders Vazhin to open them in the name of the Russian Republic. In the security room, Vazhin looks at the screen of the defense minister in disappointment. Vazhin already knows the minister is being forced to get the doors open, because he and Koniev have known each other for a long time. Vazhin also knows that the minister would not have helped the enemies unless his family was in danger. In the interrogation room, Gambit tells Levin to look after Voge and for Beast to look after Jean. He, Cable and Storm will go after the enemies. Cable, however, is not listening and seems to be in a trance.
Vazhin flicks a switch and opens the doors to the building. Killian leads his people and tells them that the goal is to save Voge. He orders them not to kill anyone unless they have to, as prisoners are valuable. The door in front of them is suddenly closed, as well as the one behind them. Killian tells the large green man, Broadside, to make a new door.
Broadside, with a red bird on his shoulder, whips out his machine guns and blasts down the doors. Storm and Gambit head out to attack the enemies, using stealth tactics. Cable snaps back from the astral plane and finds that his arm is no longer techo-organic and his eyes are both normal. Even his scar is gone. Cable wonders if he is dreaming or if this is some sort of miracle.
Elsewhere in the building, Killian, Bloody Bess, Broadside, and their legion of Sea Dogs are kept back by fierce winds courtesy of Storm. Bloody Bess holds on for dear life to Killian’s leg, who orders Broadside to eliminate the source. Broadside can’t get a decent target at the source, so he begins to fire blindly in front of him, hoping to kill the person responsible. The bird on his shoulders is blown away.
As Broadside passes by a door in the hallway, it opens up and Gambit taps him on the shoulder. Confused, Broadside turns around, only to get a kinetically charged staff in his face. Gambit pulls him in and shuts the door. Inside, Gambit throws Broadside against the wall. Broadside pulls out a gun and shoots. Gambit dodges the bullet and tosses some energized cards at the man. While Broadside recuperates, Gambit kicks him in the face and ends the fight.
In the hallway, Storm lowers the temperature. Killian and Bloody Bess begin to get covered in ice. Killian is impressed by the strategy. The wind was to hold them in place. Then the temperature was dropped to freeze the entire area. Now lightning bolts are sent to finish them off. Bess tells Killian that they should have brought a bigger boarding party as a lightning bolt strikes her out from the battle.
Killian says that the resources they brought are enough. Their adversaries’ fates were sealed from the beginning. Killian reaches the door Broadside was ambushed at and says that the wind means nothing and the lightning only makes him stronger. He punches through the wall and enters the room. Killian tells Gambit that few men can stand up to Broadside. Gambit says the same can be applied to him as he uses his charged up staff to knock Killian off his feet and out of the battle.
The wind stops, so Gambit assumes that Storm finished off the rest of the pirates. However, Storm does not respond. Suddenly, Gambit is stabbed in the back by the Psimitar, which comes out of his chest. Gambit looks down at the psionic staff in his chest and then falls down unconscious.
Standing behind Gambit’s body is Cable, who holds the unconscious body of Storm. The possessed Cable compliments the Psimitar and says it is as wonderful as Cable himself. Unfortunately, the same is not implied for Cable’s body and soul, which is weak. The ultimate weapon is the mind. Every sense in Gambit’s mind told him that the blade was real and that he was dead. He and Storm both felt exquisite pain. However, they will get better, continues Cable. It was all part of the illusion but, unfortunately for the two X-Men, neither of them will remember who struck them down. Which means no one will know how terribly vulnerable the X-Men have just become.
In the interrogation room, Levin tells Beast, who holds the unconscious Jean in his arms, that the security system crashed and she has lost contact with Vazhin and the other X-Men. She tells Beast to get Jean out. Levin loads her gun and says she will stay to “tidy up.” Beast tells Levin that she cannot kill Voge. Levin simply says, “Watch me.” Phoenix opens her eyes and murmurs that Cable is lost, before she falls unconscious again.
Beast continues to argue with Levin that the X-Men do not kill. Levin says that she is an officer of the Russian Republic and that Voge is an enemy of the state. The X-Men’s morals don’t apply to her. Levin’s attention is turned to the door.
Vazhin limps into the room, his clothes in tatters. He tells Levin and Beast that they have been betrayed and that the others have been captured. Before he can continue on, a Hound tackles him from behind and slams his head into the door. Some Sea Dogs come from behind as Vazhin rips the cowl off the Hounds head and elbows her. The Sea Dogs fire several rounds into Vazhin’s back, killing him.
The Sea Dog commander tells the men to start firing at Levin and Beast. The two hit the ground and flip a table over to cover them. Levin fires back and asks Beast what the plan is, as the table most likely has thirty more seconds before it is whittled away. Beast tells the woman that the X-Men work best under pressure. He looks at the wall and realizes that the bullets have penetrated it to the world outside. Beast wonders if the wall is weak enough, but realizes that there is only one way to find out.
Beast grabs Levin by her coat collar and tells “Major Debbie” that it is time to go. Levin asks Beast what he just called her as he breaks down the wall. Beast, Levin, and Phoenix fall down into the water below. The Sea Dogs crowd around the opening and the commander tells them to fire into the water to show that no one can hide from the Crimson Pirates.
Killian, Voge, Bess, and Broadside come to the opening. Voge says that it is a pity that they cannot retrieve the bodies as trophies. Killian points out that there probably isn’t much to find anyway. The Sea Dog commander tells Killian that the Hounds are picking up no scents. Killian tells all that the local authorities are probably on their way after hearing the gun fight. The Crimson Pirates set off to leave. As the Crimson Pirates leave in their airship, Beast and the women emerge from the river. All are soaked, ragged, and looking for vengeance.
Credit Deb Levin for our survival. As we hit the water, she pointed us to a cutaway in the foundation that gave us cover from the Sea Dog’s barrage. And credit me as well, for having the lung capacity to sustain us with a “buddy-breathing” until the Pirate’s departure. Under different circumstances, as we let the current carry us to a modicum of safety, finding myself repeatedly mouth to mouth with two beautiful women would be heaven. But all I can think of as we finally make our way ashore...is tracking down those pirates…and introducing them to my own personal version of Hell! Before I’m done, they’ll come to understand – and fear – the reason I’m called the Beast!