The West Atlantic Theater: Schnellboote Squadron T56-60, are escorting the modified Hilfskreuzer, “Anfang”, toward unknown destination. A smaller boat near the large vessel is on fire, and specialist operatives - the Invaders - are in attendance. Soldiers have been taken down, as Union Jack calls out ‘Someone be a brick and see to that 20-millimeter, eh? Seems bloody Jerry ain’t up on his Queensbury rules’. Namor the Sub-Mariner, hovering in the air, explains that he can’t get to the freighter from below, as there is some kind of static field. ‘Hit it from above - take the Torch. Both sides at once’ Captain America suggests, and while Spitfire runs across the water, Bucky asks as to the whereabouts of the Human Torch. High above, the Human Torch - Jim Hammond - is flying through the air, when suddenly, he turns mid-air, and flies straight towards the freighter.
‘Jim? Jim!’ Captain America calls out, but gets no response, so he tells his associates that the Human Torch is down. Just then, the Torch lands against the freighter, and several soldiers jump into the water. ‘There!’ Bucky calls out, pointing to the Torch, who starts to fly away from the freighter, which is now consumed in flames. ‘What happened?’ the Torch asks, confused, as he flies over to the others. ‘You passed out’ Namor informs him. ‘Poppycock. Chap’s a machine, by Jove! Whoever heard of a swooning stenograph, eh?’ Union Jack scoffs.The Human Torch lands on the smaller vessel, announcing that he doesn’t remember anything about it. Looking out at the now sinking freighter, Cap muses ‘Well… whatever it was… I guess we won’.
100 miles off Sao Luis, Brazil, a large rig-like platform juts out of the ocean, a man in a brown suit and wide-brimmed hat stands at a podium before a gathering of reporters and camera crews. The logo “Stratocorp” on a wall behind him, he declares ‘A triumph! A triumph of engineering and willpower - set to usher a new age of human endeavor!’ He tells everyone that they stand this day on an artificial shore to witness history in the making. He adds that they at Stratocorp could not have done this alone. ‘So I’d like to hand over now - to explain a little further - to our newest and finest of allies… the X-Men!’ Standing on the platform are Cyclops, Magneto, Doctor Nemesis and Kavita Rao. ‘Thank you, thank you’ Cyclops smiles as he points into the media gathered before him. ‘Nobody clapped yet’ Doctor Nemesis mutters. Cyclops announces that it is no secret the mutant community has faced its share of troubles in recent times, so they hope this endeavor, and the benefits it brings, will make a first step toward restoring the reputation of the X-Men. ‘That is - the real X-Men - of Utopia’.
At the Jean Grey School in Westchester, New York, Wolverine pulls a can of beer open with one of his adamantium claws, ‘Jackass’ he mutters as he watches Cyclops on a television.
And, on the floating platform station located one hundred feet offshore of the Stratocorp rig, Madison Jeffries and Danger go about their business. ‘Ah, well. Summers is speechifying over on the rig. This could take a while’ Jeffries remarks as he peers through some high-tech binoculars. ‘Irritating. I am primed to begin’ Danger states. ‘Primed. Yeah…’ Jeffries remarks, before Danger informs him that, incidentally, he is producing 80% more perspiration than normal, and his core temperature is unusually high. Danger reports that, based on Jeffries’ age and demeanor, she suspects that he is encountering what other organics call “the menopause”. Jeffries smirks and is lost for words. ‘Uh…’ he begins. Danger tells him ‘That was a joke, Jeffries. Humor’. ‘Joke. Course it was. Ha. Ha ha ha. Guess I’m kinda…y’know. Nervous’. He adds ‘Big project like this. Not knowing what they’re saying over on the rig. Plus we’re working in… in close proximity to each other over here… yeah. Nervous - you probably wouldn’t understand’.
Back on the Stratocorp rig, Doctor Nemesis has taken the podium, and declares ‘For the last time, it’s perfectly simple’. He states that tensible nanotubes alone never test above sixty-three gigapascales, so by embedding erbium nodules and neodymium alloys in the tether, his design enhances energy potential and electromagnetic bonds, bearing 137GPS and holding the whole ostentatious crapheap together. ‘Half a day’s monkey work and two cups of coffee. Do not make me explain again’. He then asks the media if anyone has an interesting question. Sheepishly, a man at the front of the media gathering raises his hand and asks ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ Doctor Nemesis pauses before he responds with ‘I self-evolved a laterally superior intellect at age sixteen and rigorously conduct a preventative stupidectomy every fortnight’.
Doctor Nemesis continues, announcing that it is a surprisingly painful procedure, and that he is considering imposing it on certain parts of the national press. ‘Play nice, James’ Dr Rao tells him quietly, but Doctor Nemesis just covers the podium microphone with his hand and tells Rao that these cell wastes would not know science-snark if it was imprinted on their ribosomes. ‘They just want tidy sound bites and idiots posing in -’ he begins, as a camera man calls out ‘Photo for the press release, Dr Bradley?’ Rao motions to the camera and tells Doctor Nemesis ‘Huh. Big camera. Might even get his whole ego in frame’. ‘Funny. Don’t you have a petri dish to go poke? Or a cappuccino to make me?’ Doctor Nemesis snaps at Rao, before turning to the camera man, ‘Ask me to smile and I’ll sublimate your kidneys’ he snarls from behind his mask, while the camera man clicks his camera, and Kavita gasps ‘Oh my -he’s started’.
At that moment, Magneto raises his hands overhead, and lifts the smaller platform out of the water. A dome covers most of it, as he raises it into the air with his magnetic powers. Kavita remarks that she hopes Jeffries is okay with heights, before declaring that this is incredible. ‘It’s vaudeville. I was this close to perfecting an entirely capable set of gravitic propulsors to lift the platform, but ohhhh n-’ Doctor Nemesis begins, before the Stratocorp official asks everyone to gather around, as he takes the podium once more. He announces that they will figure it will take their remarkable friend around ten minutes to get the platform to geosynchronous orbit. ‘But there’s no shame naming a baby before it’s born, right? So with all due thanks to the X-Men -’ he begins, as Cyclops adds ‘- of Utopia -’, ‘Of Utopia, right - we at Stratocorp are delighted to finally unveil…the Stringstar!’, and he explains that it is this proud planet’s first viable space elevator, as the elevator towers behind him.
Cyclops returns to the podium, ‘Stellar exploration by private enterprise… ecological overwatch… solar power for needy communities’ he remarks, adding that this is not just a corporate endeavor, but for the good of all mankind. ‘The X-Men -’ Cyclops begins, as Doctor Nemesis calls out ‘- and their science team -’, as Kavita Rao examines her nails and mutters ‘- some parts of it -’, before Cyclops concludes ‘- are proud to be involved’.
Up above, on the platform, Danger and Jeffries go about their business, while some Stratocorp scientists assist them. Danger reports that the platform is ascending at 287 miles per hour, and she is constructing tether-umbilicus at 421 feet per second to ensure smooth ascent. ‘Helluva machine, pal’ a scientist calls out to Jeffries, who replies ‘That she is’. Danger addresses the Stratocorp scientist as the foreman, and tells him that his construction robots are slow and stupid, that they cannot form the tether fast enough if they don’t speed the carbon supply, before announcing that she will interface with the systems to guide them herself. ‘Uh - that’s…just gimme a moment here…’ the foreman replies as he watches Danger. He then turns to a monitor, ‘Sir? This is Braun, on the platform. I gotta request here for -’ he begins, and, at another location, someone sitting in a room observing many monitors depicting different parts of the station quickly replies ‘I heard. Permission is denied’.
Braun turns back to Danger and tells her ‘Sorry - bosses say your request ain’t g-’ Danger replies that she made no request. ‘I informed you of my intention. It is my experience that professional courtesy expedites arrangements with organics. Move. Please’ as she strides past him and pushes him aside so she can access the control panel where he was standing. ‘She…can’t just… hey, Mister - you gottta control your ‘bot, man!’ Braun complains to Madison, who is using his mutant power to move some metal objects around and replies ‘No “mine” about it. Danger’s her own gal. She’ll do what she wants’.
Back down below, refreshments have been brought around, ‘Ah about time. Soy milk, I trust?’ Doctor Nemesis asks. ‘Seagull guano. And those aren’t chocolate sprinkles’ Kavita Rao replies, smirking. Cyclops puts on a fake laugh, and tells his associates that they are still on camera, so they need to behave. He then asks if anyone has any more questions for the science team. ‘What about the Atlanteans?’ someone inquires. They all turn to look at another part of the platform, as one reporter explains that the nomadic clans have been protesting since construction begun - they say it has had a negative effect on local sea life - and their own “spiritual equilibrium”. ‘Any comment?’ he asks, while the Atlantean protesters remain silent. The Stratocorp official takes the podium and announces that they are confident the Atlanteans will come to understand this enterprise benefit’s the planet as a whole, and acknowledges that people’s religious well-being is obviously important to Stratocorp, ‘Pfft’ Doctor Nemesis mutters, as the Stratocorp official categorically denies they have impacted the ecosystem. ‘Naturally, our best people are in dialogue with the protesters to address their concerns’.
Cyclops walks over to Kavita and pulls her aside. Before he can even ask her something, she tells him ‘If you’re about to ask me to go and liaise with some disgruntled mer-people, Mr Summers, I will remind you I’m a highly respected genetic biochemist - not your lackey’. Cyclops tells Kavita that they need a public relations win here, and points out that she was not directly involved in this project, so the Atlanteans will trust her more than the rest of them. Doctor Nemesis overhears the conversation, and calls out ‘The conjunctivitis kid’s got a point, Kavita. Quit sulking and go enlighten some progress-haters, huh?’ He tells her that it is not like she has anything better to do. ‘Hmph’ Kavita mutters as she walks away.
Up above:‘Interfacing with control system in 3, 2...’ Danger states as she plugs herself into the console, and energy starts to flow through her form.
At that moment, Kavita stands on the platform with the Atlantean protesters. ‘…feel the concerns of great Neptune in our hearts. The ocean is out of balance. Something dark has entered the soul of these waters…’ one of them tells her.
Doctor Nemesis continues speaking to the reporters, and boasts that he believes his team represents the greatest collection of scientists on the planet, and that he is proud of them all. ‘Of course, if you even think about telling them I said so, I’ll inflict pole shift on your digestive system’ he warns them.
Back with the protesters, Kavita assures them that she would be more than happy to run some tests on samples, but that unless they can be more specific about this “dark force”, she doesn’t know what they are up against. Suddenly, one of the male Atlanteans collapses, and his form starts to mutate. ‘Husband?’ the female protester cries.
‘My position on the list?’ Doctor Nemesis angrily asks a female reporter, ‘My position is wrapped-around-the-throat of whichever costume cretin came up with a “world’s smartest heroes” ranking in the first place -’, when suddenly, he notices the commotion on the lower deck, as the mutating Atlantean rises. Green energy flows around him, ‘Oh crap’ Kavita utters, before she and the other Atlanteans start to run. Tentacles and other appendages have grown out of the Atlantean. His mouth has increased in size, and jagged teeth spurt from it. A skeleton can be seen in some sort of pod attached to one of the tentacles.
‘Excuse me, gentlemen, there is science to conduct…in the laboratory of violence’ Doctor Nemesis calls out as he pushes past the reporters. ‘And similar quotable sound bites’ he adds, while Cyclops urges the reporters and the Stratocorp official to get inside the facility. ‘Wait! Those’re sterile labs. I ain’t got the authority to let y’all in there. My entry-pass won’t cut it’ the Stratocorp official explains. ‘Let’s try mine’ Cyclops replies, ready to unleash an optic blast on the door. ‘Now hold on just a damn moment!’ the official tells Cyclops, reminding him that he is not in charge here. ‘Those labs are off limits -’ he begins, before he is set upon by the mutated Atlantean, although he manages to escape. ‘Too late. Run’ Cyclops calls out to the reporters and camera crew. ‘Husband! Please, what’s -’ the female Atlantean calls out, as her mutated husband slays one of their fellow Atlanteans. Cyclops fires an optic blast, as the Atlantean looms over him. He then brings a fist, surging with energy, down on Cyclops, who leaps out of the way just in time.
Kavita Rao helps the female Atlantean to safety, while Doctor Nemesis starts firing at the mutated Atlantean, and several tranquilizer darts land in his shoulder. The Atlantean then fires a burst of energy from its mouth, and destroys the tranquilizer gun, before removing the darts from his form. ‘Working hypothesis? Anyone?’ Doctor Nemesis calls out.
Up above, Danger leans against the wall, as Jeffries asks her if she is okay. ‘Something has changed. I am…hungry’ Danger replies. Jeffries puts a hand on her shoulder, but she tells him not to touch her, and reports that she intends to restore her consciousness to Utopia with immediate effect. Madison is confused, and asks her what she means “hungry”. He adds that he is worrying him. ‘Don’t you at least wanna wait ‘til we’re fully -’ he begins, but Danger walks past him, and throws herself off the edge of the space station.
Back down below:‘It’s done’ Magneto announces, before Kavita tells him to get down. They move beside Cyclops, Doctor Nemsis and the Stratocorp official, as Doctor Nemesis reports that he can see the mutagen inside the Atlantean - incremental zeiosis, neoplasmic reactions - the nucleic agitation has gone critical. ‘English?’ Cyclops asks. The Atlantean has mutated even further - spikes and tentacles covering his entire body. ‘Fishman go plotz’ Kavita explains to Cyclops. ‘Fishman go plotz’ Doctor Nemesis agrees, and an instant later, the Atlantean combusts. Body parts are scattered all around. The reporters hold out their microphones for a comment, but no one has anything to say.
Utopia, off the coast of San Francisco, Danger undergoes some processing in the Brig. She finishes, and strides down a corridor, where Warpath sees her, and calls out to her, asking her if she would mind setting up a new sparring programme. ‘I want to practice blunt strikes, and -’ he begins, before Danger’s arm glows red, and she sends him slamming into the wall. Others hear the commotion, ‘What the hell’s -’ Surge begins as she rushes into the corridor to find Emma Frost and Hope Summers tending to Warpath. Danger reports that she is entering the core of the asteroid, and that she is claiming the energy for herself. ‘I suggest you all evacuate. I will murder anyone who attempts to stop me’. Primal has entered the corridor now, as Danger’s form glows, spikes protrude from her form and she declares that everything has changed.
Back on the Stratocorp platform, the official has returned to the podium, as the somewhat nervous reporters gather around, and he tells them that nothing has changed. ’Let’s all just try and be calm, huh?’ he suggests. Kavita, Doctor Nemesis and the Atlantean woman check the remains of the mutated Atlantean, and the Stratocorp official tells the reporters that they should reconvene in a week. ‘A little respect for the dead, etcetera’. He asks them to give him this time to get the elevator up and running, to put on a proper show for them all on take two. ‘In the intervening time we’ll do our darnedest to…to investigate this tragedy…and show that whatever happened here today, it had nothing to do with the actions of Stratocorp’. Cyclops takes the podium, ‘And nothing to do with mutantkind’ he adds. ‘Uh… Cyclops?‘ Kavita calls out, motioning to the water beside the man-made island, where several sea creatures leap from the water, their forms changed. A swordfish fires an energy beam from its eyes. A seagull flies ovheread and a beam of energy is emitted from its mouth. An octopus starts climbing the side of the island, and Kavita adds ‘That’s easier said than proved’.