Wolverine is on the floor, being devoured by scatter parasites. It isn’t pretty. Monark Starstalker and Paradox stand over him, explaining what is happening to him. They inform him that he is being colonized by the parasites which are rewriting his nervous system. He will have a hive soon so they have to get them out before he tries and colonizes them. And, before he dies. It will hurt. It may even kill him, but it will definitely hurt.
Logan screams as the bugs wriggle about his body. Monark tells his partner that the bugs are mating in his lungs and they are hatching already. He asks Paradox to get ready to kill him in case it doesn’t work. Paradox asks if Wolverine can be killed. Monark replies that if it doesn’t work and he can’t be killed, could Paradox kill him? Ulysses joins with Monark and they try to kill the bugs. As they concentrate hard, Monark’s physical body begins to discorporate and he explains that they’re getting ahead of the birth cycle, taking them apart faster than they can reproduce. He tells Paradox that Ulysses is diverting its systems to the disassembly so his own system is losing integrity.
Monark’s body soon disappears completely, but Logan’s seems comparatively calm. The bugs have been killed and he expels them orally from his body with a loud “guuuuhhggg.” Ulysses flies into Monark’s empty cloak and its own head appears where Monark’s was. He updates its central nervous system and re-establishes Monark’s integrity. Once complete, Paradox gives it a hug, relieved that they all survived. Logan manages to sit up, exhausted but himself.
(meanwhile, on Utopia)
Cyclops asks Emma Frost if there’s any good news. Emma is attached to Cerebra and is being watched on a large screen. She replies that it depends on what he considers good news. As Dazzler babbles to no one in particular about what happened prior to Logan departing, Beast asks Emma if she’s concentrating in there. Emma asks him if he knows that the helmet has an unpleasant odor. It’s the odor of all the sweaty psychics who have ever been plugged into it. However, it’s not a distraction; it’s an incentive to concentrate and get her #### head out of the contraption. She adds that she can smell Cassandra Nova, so she doesn’t intend to let her mind drift until she can take a shower and wash her from her hair.
Hank tells her that the readouts don’t seem to show what they’re looking for. Scott finally gets a chance to speak and says that by ‘good news,’ he means that their most dangerous and deadly team mate is not out of his mind and on a murderous rampage. Emma replies that, as far as she can tell, Logan is quite himself and at peace. Hank tells Emma that he thinks they should clarify that statement. Emma then admits that she can’t find him. Hank adds that Logan’s x-gene isn’t registering anywhere. Dazzler says Logan can’t die, but Hank tells her he didn’t say he was dead. There are three options. One, he’s not on Earth. Two, he’s being hidden from them and three, the infection that attacked his DNA may be more subtle than they allowed for. While the most obvious damage it inflicted to Logan’s genome has healed, it’s possible that deeper structural changes have taken place. Maybe they can’t find Logan because he is no longer Logan.
Back on Earth, Logan is driving along a back road with Ulysses and Paradox his passengers. Logan admits that he feels weird. Paradox reckons it’s probably the nanites that got trapped in his healing tissues. However, he’s sure that if they’re separated from the cloud long enough they will change. Ulysses explains in more detail. When fragmented, it explains, Technos group nanotool cloud components are designed to spontaneously reconfigure. Isolated component clusters will build new systems, gradually maturing, self-generating unique nanotools adapted to their current environment. Logan asks if the bird just said he has a robot growing inside of him. Paradox replies that if you prune away the technobabble, that’s pretty much what he’s left with. But, he adds, it should be adaptive, not hostile.
Logan grimaces and wonders how adaptive it will feel when his healing factor gets all over it. Paradox tells him he seems to be missing out what ‘adaptive’ implies. Logan thinks about it a second and understands. The nanites are adapting to his healing factor. Ulysses informs them that, in a hostile environment like Wolverine’s body, nanatool components will assimilate rather than engage. Logan understands this to mean that the tiny robots are disguising themselves as tiny parts of him. Ulysses adds that those adapting components will use local materials as they reconfigure. Logan reckons the bird is starting to get on his nerves. Paradox asks him to imagine if the bird housed his lover’s nervous system and personality. Talk about irritating.
As Logan drives through the desert, Paradox reckons they should have brought the Scatter’s shuttle. Logan reminds him that he almost crashed it twice getting back to his wheels. Paradox finds his mode of transport quaint. Perhaps they could finish the last leg of their journey via horse and carriage? Logan wonders when Monark will get his head back so he can hear someone besides Paradox and the bird. Ulysses states that the Starstalker peripheral has been updated and reboot has commenced.
Ulysses then says, “Collision,” just as Logan sees someone materialize in the road. It’s Contagion, and as the car reaches him, he smashes the hood with his cane. The car crumples to a shuddering halt. Both Paradox and Wolverine are propelled head first through the windscreen and Ulysses comes smashing through the roof. Contagions grins maniacally as the car is torn apart. The car’s former inhabitants are thrown towards a tree. Wolverine snikts his claws and slices whilst Paradox transforms into his muscular alter ego. The tree is toast.
“Now, where were we,” grins Contagion. He approaches Paradox and explains that, of course, he was refining his viruses. They’ve given him new powers including invisibility and super strength. He wonders who Paradox is. Contagion rolls up his sleeves, displaying bulging veins and he readies himself. “Give me your best shot,” he boasts. Paradox looks back at Contagion and turns around quickly, hurling Wolverine towards the white-suited weirdo. Unfortunately, the fastball special doesn’t work as Contagion smashes him in the face as he flies towards him. He tells Wolverine that it was good of him to remember the ‘no claws’ rule. Paradox then climbs from the dirt and stomps towards Contagion, but he makes himself immovable like the Blob and Paradox simply crashes into him before falling backwards.
Contagion seems pleased with his victory, but he senses Ulysses in the air above him. Ulysses plummets towards him and sinks its talons into Contagion’s back, drawing blood. Logan tries to warn the bird but it’s too late. He knows that Contagion’s blood will infect everything. “Not if he burns first,” replies Paradox, now back to his usual slender form. He thinks that his Mercurian form was hot enough to burn a technocrotic infection so it’ll burn him to a crisp.
He places his hands on Contagion’s chin and his hands glow red hot. Yet, Contagion simply says it’s funny he should mention technocrotic infections. His skin begins to change from flesh to Mercurian. Ulysses’ body becomes infected with the technocrotic virus and falls away and Paradox’s physical features begin to melt. He appears to age quickly. As Paradox falls to the ground, Contagion spits on his face… something horrible to be sure.
Wolverine stands up behind him and has his claws extended. Contagion warns him not to stab him, explaining that he has refined the Corruptor’s formula and distilled it into his own sweat. Didn’t Logan recognize the sensation when he struck him? Logan replies that now he mentions it, yeah. Contagion says he owes it all to Logan and he’ll tell him why. But first, it’s time to laugh. Does Logan mind? “Go ahead,” replies Logan. Contagion looks to the skies and lets out a nefarious laugh as he revels in his own misguided genius.