(New York City)
Bliss presses a vial with a rubber top over one of her fangs and fills it with a green liquid. When she feels there is enough, she hands the vial to Masque, who places it inside a timed explosive device. According to the book, what they’re about to do must happen today and Masque tells Litterbug that the device better work. Litterbug asks him not to question its abilities.
Masque informs Erg and Skids that it’s their turn for some action. Erg is pleased at getting something to do. Masque then asks Bliss to keep an eye on Leech. Bliss assures him that she knows what’s at stake. There is no need for any threats. Masque jokes that he’s good at them and likes to keep in practice, though Skids wants to try and keep to the scripture for this mission. She feels that what Masque did to Caliban was unnecessary and cruel. Masque replies that he makes those decisions. Caliban’s serving a purpose, which is the only reason he ain’t dead. He then opens a trapdoor which has a flight of steps descending into it a hole.
In an alleyway somewhere in New York City, Warpath asks Caliban if he’s okay. He replies that he feels all right. He is a little weaker than usual, though, and it’s always hard to get used to changes. Warpath wants to kill Masque for what he’s done, but Caliban assures him that Masque isn’t worth his wrath. James tells him he’s a better man than he. Caliban grins, and says he thinks a severe beating will be enough.
Storm asks the both of them to concentrate. They are about to enter potentially hostile territory. Hepzibah tells Storm that she doesn’t like tunnels either; especially ones that stink of rats and vermin. Storm is more worried that the tunnels might drive her insane. Hepzibah asks Warpath what she means, and he informs her that Storm is claustrophobic. It’s all she’s got to even go into these tunnels. Hepzibah jumps in after her, not wishing to leave her alone down there.
She lands with a splash and cries out that the place is unclean. Ororo laughs. “Heh… you look…” Hepzibah warns her to be careful with her next words. Ororo replies that she was going to say she looks dignified. She smirks, and adds, “For a wet cat.” Hepzibah sees the funny side and smiles, telling Storm she is a very brave woman. “You don’t know the half of it,” she replies.
The quartet make their way along a tunnel, with water coming halfway up their bodies. James wants to make this quick as Hepzibah isn’t the only one with a sharp sense of smell. Ororo agrees but points out that, when they attacked Caliban, they cut off the easy paths to the alley. They have to find their own way. James then catches a whiff of what he believes to be alligator. Caliban remarks that they were their safeguard in the old days. One of their kind, Killron, could talk to them. James guesses that she’s gone and they aren’t listening to anyone but their appetites any more. Pointing a torch ahead into the darkness, he warns everyone to be aware of the water around them.
(the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning)
Dr. Val Cooper visits Charles Xavier at the Institute. She bluntly informs him that the report he sent over that morning was bull$#@%. She has enough noise from up above without him stonewalling her. Charles assures her that he’s doing nothing of the kind. Val tells him not to sugar-coat it when he stabs her in the back. Her men have informed her that Caliban is no longer on the grounds and that means they have a problem. Charles replies that Ororo thought it best to get a second opinion on his condition at the Baxter Building. Since he was worried there might be permanent damage, he could hardly argue.
Val knows that he’s lying, as she knows they aren’t with the Fantastic Four. Charles asks her to allow him to take care of mutants, but Val decides to leave, knowing she’ll get nowhere today. She calls Carter and asks them to assemble a field team. They have one hour. It’ll be investigation and recon. She informs Carter that Caliban was looking for what was left of the Morlocks, and so are they now - whichever pit they crawled into.
Warpath encounters one of the alligators and wrestles with it in the water. Hepzibah feels that he’s taking too long, and Storm agrees. She asks him to get over the bad part, but James replies that the animal is strong. He tumbles around with the creature a little longer, before finishing it off. However, the alligator’s tail has demolished a wall and created a hole into which the water runs. James shines his torch into the space behind it and reckons it looks like they’ve found a more direct way.
(soon, in the Alley)
The team finally finds a little raised dry land. Storm thinks it’s very different without all the noise and voices. The very air feels wrong. Hepzibah comments that it feels like a tomb. Caliban says it was his home for many years. He had many friends there once. They must not let Leech be the last of them. Warpath places a friendly hand on his shoulder and assures him that they won’t. He asks Caliban to show them where it happened, and he’ll find them a trail to follow. He promises him that.
Caliban leads them to a hole in the wall. James shines his torch at it. “Interesting,” remarks Ororo. James asks if she sees it, too. Ororo asks Caliban to confirm that they were down this tunnel when the explosion hit. Caliban confirms that is the case. Warpath wonders why, if they were after Leech and Caliban, they bothered to blow this whole other area too. Hepzibah asks him to shine his light inside. There’s something on the walls. James lights up the wall and notices that there is writing on it, or scrawling at least. They take a close look and realize that most of it has been destroyed. Ororo doesn’t think it makes much sense, until she sees something odd.
Ororo asks Caliban if he remembers whose quarters they were. Caliban replies that it was a woman; very shy and he doesn’t recall her name. He asks why it matters. Ororo replies that if she’s reading this correctly, their names are on there… all four of them.
(the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning)
Charles and Nightcrawler carry out a little maintenance on the Blackbird. Kurt feels that Charles is trying to court conflict with the O*N*E, and Charles replies that maybe he is, but they’re supposed to be there to protect and help them. Yet, they monitor their comings and goings as though they were all on probation. They accept it as the cost of M-Day, but maybe it’s time they were through paying. They have their own agenda, and it doesn’t align with Project O*N*E’s. He adds that this time there is no filing a flight plan or asking for permission to do their work. Magneto is out there somewhere and they are going to find him.
Kurt thought Charles was unable to sense his presence with Cerebra. “Exactly,” replies Charles. He’s been assuming that Erik had regained his mutation, since the report the Avengers sent over. But, what if he hasn’t? They all thought he was dead as well. So, they’ll start with the places he’s been spotted and search for him the old-fashioned way. When Kurt asks what that way might be, Charles replies that he probes the minds of everyone in the vicinity. He asks Kurt to hold on. The Blackbird then roars out of its hangar and past the watching Sentinels.
Ororo finds the writing interesting. She thinks she’s figured something out. Whoever wrote these ramblings, however insane they might appear, she believes they were predicting the future. From what fragments that exist there, it’s a future she doesn’t want to see come to pass.
Skids leaves the house, believing that what they’re about to do is for the future. She heads to the underground station, possibly Brooklyn, and climbs aboard a train. Children play as she places a blue bag behind a panel door that reads ‘Ventilation. Do not open.’ She then moves into the next carriage and waits, while some a couple of youngsters tease her a little. Skids appears to be at odds about what she is doing.
She leaves the train through the door at the back and leaps from it - her forcefield protecting her. She then presses a remote control and the device in her bag explodes. The passengers begin to panic, as a gas moves quickly through the train. The driver falls unconscious as the train continues its path. Standing in the tunnel in front of it is Erg. His eye patch has been removed and his right eye glows as he grimaces. It then emits an electrical blast onto the line, which brings the train to a shuddering halt.
Masque appears and tells him he was cutting it close. He shouldn’t make him nervous like that. Erg replies, rhetorically, by asking what fun life would be otherwise. Skids asks if he calls this fun! She’s disappointed. Masque doesn’t want any bickering. He tells them that they did a good job and they should leave it at that. Now it’s his turn to send a message.
Skids fails to see how this is part of the plan, or how it’ll help them find Magneto. Masque tells her to let him worry about that, after he shows all the pretty passengers what it feels like to be a mutant in this world. He then deforms their faces into horrible caricatures with callous ease.
Beast makes an entry into his journal. It’s June 18th and he’s a little disappointed that some of the brilliant sociopaths he’s been speaking to have been less than committal to his cause. He is approached by Stanis, who is wrapped up tight due to the snow and freezing temperatures on the mountain. He informs Hank that the bearers are unhappy. He thinks they will run away if he doesn’t speak with them. Hank finishes up and switches on his image inducer, making him look like he did before the blue fur took over.
He heads out from his tent and asks what the problem is. They speak in their native tongue and Stanis translates, explaining that they feel that the summit is inaccessible until spring. Hank thinks that a quick climb will keep them ahead of the storm. He offers double pay to anyone who stays. One of them complains that they should be receiving double pay already. The mountain is dangerous and it is guarded by men with lion faces. Hank replies that it’s the risk they take… getting the lion men all upset with them. The bearer insults him, but Hank isn’t bothered. He’s climbing to the summit today. They can come if they want or take what’s left and make their way back down to safety. If he meets Bigfoot, he’ll tell him they said hi. He walks off, wrapped up right, with some of the men following his lead. As he climbs, he thinks back to his discussions with the scientists.
Standing before a bank of screens, Hank told them what he needed, and the responses came thick and fast. Dr. Doom told Hank that he had nothing to offer him, and biology wasn’t his forte, anyway. Arnim Zola didn’t want to help as he thought the extinction of a sentient race might produce some valuable data. M.O.D.O.K. informed Hank that A.I.M. intended to exploit the current situation on other ways. Pandemic was unhappy that the X-Men destroyed his life’s work. He’d raise a glass when the last of them died. Sugar Man was unaffordable and Mister Sinister thought Hank had delusions of adequacy. “Yoke my genius to your blind gropings? I think not,” he told Hank, dismissively.
Dr. Kavita Rao said that she’d think about it, and see if she had anything that could be of use. She asked for three days and then he could come and see her. Spiral simply wanted to play round with the thoughts that Hank had given her in her body shop. Finally, the High Evolutionary warned Hank that he would never reach the conclusion of his quest if he began it facing in the wrong direction. Hank took Wyndham’s words to believe he was hinting at something. Something he couldn’t say in front of the others. This led to the journey up Wundagore Mountain.
Stanis warns Hank that the storm is coming and they must get into the lea of the slops. Hank agrees and asks him to lead the way. As they walk, one of the bearers loses his footing and falls from the mountain. Hank dives after him, grabbing his rope as he falls with one hand and a jagged rock with the other. Unfortunately, his image inducer hits a small jutting rock and his true form is revealed. Despite saving the man, the bearers beg him not to hurt them. Hank doesn’t realize until he turns around that they aren’t looking at him. Some of the High Evolutionary’s Knights appear and their leader, Snow Queen, tells Hank that he doesn’t know when to quit.