Anchor Base of the “Stringstar” space elevator. Project launch is in six hours. ‘There’s some interference, Cyclops. But - yes. I can see you. I take it you’ve arrived back on Utopia?’ Kavita Rao of the X-Club asks via communicator. Cyclops replies that he has just landed, and tells Dr Rao that he hoped Doctor Nemesis would have reported in by now. Kavita explains that Doctor Nemesis is overseeing the clean-up procedures in person. ‘He’s officious like that’ she adds. ‘Ha!’ Doctor Nemesis exclaims as he fires a weapon at a mutated crab. ‘I don’t doubt it’ Cyclops replies, before asking Kavita what the latest news is. Inside a lab on the Stratocorp artificial island that serves as the base of the space elevator, Kaviata reports that it is as much as they feared - a pollutant in the water that is capable of causing profound metamorphosis. ‘Plus his Lordship thinks it has - I quote - “spooky quantum properties”. He’s had Jeffries run a scan… in order to take a better look’.
‘And?’ Cyclops asks. Kavita tells him that it is not good, and reports that it is “Terrigen-242”. A holo-image of the Terrigen-242 appears before her and she explains that it is a chaotically unstable isotope of the Inhumans’ favorite monster-maker. ‘We can expect biological transcendence on an unprecedented scale - often resulting in terminal energy-cascade’ Kavita adds. ‘Meaning?’ Cyclops asks. ‘Meaning disaster, Mr Summers. Mutagenic eco-disaster’ Kavita declares. In the laboratory, captive transformed sea creatures are in various tanks, while part of a creature is on a table for experimentation. Kavita reminds Cyclops that they have already seen reports of victims from both coasts - minor cases, thank goodness, nothing as terminal as the poor Atlantean they encountered earlier today. ‘But Terrigen concentration is rising. Things will worsen. And… you can imagine what people are saying’.
‘They… they think mutants caused this?’ Cyclops asks. ‘I’m afraid so’ Kavita replies. ‘Because we were there at the start… like we’re contagious. $%&#’ Cyclops mutters. Suddenly: ‘You! Petri-Girl!’ Doctor Nemesis shouts as he enters the lab, a mutated starfish stuck to his head. ‘Ah, Nemesis. I want you to -’ Cyclops calls out via the communication monitor, but Doctor Nemesis ignores Cyclops, he points at his head ‘An echinodermic specimen has chemically bonded to my person. You will remove it before it detonates an irreplaceable human treasure. This is your highest and only priority’ Doctor Nemesis orders. Kavita holds a device to the starfish and tells Doctor Nemesis - calling him by his true name, James, that its cells are stable, and so he should stop panicking. ‘No headsplodo?’ Doctor Nemesis asks. ‘No headsplodo. Just be grateful the power to ruin your hair is the limit of its mutation. Now if we could return to -’ Kavita begins, and as she leans over a control panel, Nemesis states ‘I have often admired your shapely behind’. The starfish is projecting his secret thoughts out for everyone to hear. Kavita stands up and turns to him - so he quickly looks away.
‘Nemesis -’ Kavita begins. Doctor Nemesis points at her and instructs her to bring him a blade and a mirror. ‘Nemesis, please -’ Kavita begins once more, but Nemesis announces that he intends to scalp himself immediately. ‘I’m just being dramatic. I have no intention of doing anything’ the starfish reveals, before pulling his hat down over his head, covering part of the starfish.
Over the communications screen, Cyclops tells Nemesis that they don’t have time for this. ‘We need a cure before things get worse!’ he declares. Kavita reports that she is working on that, assuring Cyclops that they have dozens of specimens, and the Atlantean victim’s wife, Lida, has volunteered for tests. ‘She’s remarkably brave’ Kavita remarks. ‘She smells like caviar. God I hate caviar’ Doctor Nemesis thinks out loud. ‘No no no no’ he mutters, pulling his hat further down over his face.
Cyclops tells the scientists that in the meantime, he wants to know what caused the spillage, to show the world who is responsible. ‘You understand? And make it damn clear it’s not us. Nemesis?’ Doctor Nemesis turns to the monitor and points out that there is an empathic starfish revealing his inner monologue to the unworthy universe. ‘I wish my costume was as cool as yours’ is projected from Doctor Nemesis’ thoughts. ‘Someone. Is going. To pay’ Doctor Nemesis snarls. ‘Okay, good, let’s -’ Cyclops begins, when suddenly, Emma Frost calls him, so he tells the X-Club that he has got to go, and instructs them to keep him informed. ‘Danger’s reached the core! Scott - we can’t stop her!’ Emma calls out, as on Utopia, Danger is out of control. Storm, Psylocke and Pixie have engaged the robotic member of the X-Club, who is using an assortment of weapons against them.
‘I warned you. You will stay back. You will surrender the energies of this asteroid and you will leave me alone. Otherwise you w… you will all s… sss’ Danger’s voice trails off…
Intersection #2: Mechanoid designate Jocasta:
In a previous time, Captain America, Beast, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Jocasta are in a warehouse. Suddenly, mannequins come to life and attack the Avengers. Jocasta looks at her hand, confused, while the Beast tells his teammates that from the punch the mannequins pack, he would say they’re something more than your everyday dummy. A green glow surrounds Jocasta, and the mannequin that lunges at her from behind dissolves at her feet. Smoke floats up around the confused Jocasta.
‘O… otherwise… otherwise you will all suffer!’ Danger shouts at the X-Women who are battling her. She slams her hands together, and causes a shockwave, knocking the heroes backwards.
Two hours earlier:
‘Jeffries? We’re in position’ Doctor Nemesis reports to Madison Jeffries. ‘Roger that, Doc’ Jeffries replies from the space elevator “Stringstar” platform station, in geosynchronous orbit. Doctor Nemesis, still with the starfish on his head, is placed into a deep-sea diving suit. ‘Are you certain this is the epicenter?’ Doctor Nemesis enquires, while the empathic starfish projects his thoughts: ‘Because I consider you a burnt-out space-head and have little faith in your crack-head methodology’. Aboard the space station, Madison Jeffries replies ‘Uh… yeah… my scanner says that’s where the isotope concentration’s highest. And what was that second part? It sounded like -’, but Doctor Nemesis’ projected thought says ‘Nonetheless I crave your friendship’. Confused, Madison asks ‘Doc? Did… did you just say -’, to which, as he is lowered into the water, Doctor Nemesis replies ‘No, I did not’. He explains that his subconscious brain is verbalizing as a result of a ridiculous bio-event beyond Madison’s understanding, and he does not want to discuss it.
‘Please comfort me’ is projected through the starfish. ‘That’s… I mean… some people might say that’s kinda a healthy thing to -’ Jeffries begins to reply, but Doctor Nemesis tells him that some people are idiots, and declares that he is busy, so he ends the communication. Jeffries pauses, before remarking ‘Least you know what’s on your mind, Doc’.
Suddenly, ‘Mr Jeffries!’ a voice calls out, and Jeffries looks up to see a Stratocorp officer standing in the doorway. ‘This is a high-clearance zone. How did you even get in here?’ the officer asks. Jeffries apologizes and explains that he had to build some tech for his team, adding that he let himself in. They walk out of the room, with the officer going through the door, explaining that the control-computer is one of the most advanced operating systems ever built. ‘We can’t just have people wandering around up here’ he adds, ‘Sure. Course not. My bad. I kinda… I forget about people-rules sometimes, is all’ Jeffries admits as he uses his mutant power to create a hole in the wall, and pass through it.
The surprised officer looks back as the hole closes back up, and tells Jeffries that he might want to head back down to the surface, as the solar panels are up and the platform is running to specifications. He adds that they have tested the personnel-pod a bunch of times, and it is just one hour straight down. ‘You mean…alone?’ Jeffries asks. ‘Looks kinda lonely, right? Ha - it doesn’t need to be’ the officer explains as he opens the pod and lets Jeffries into it. He tells him that thanks to that firecracker tech-chick of his - ‘Her name’s Danger’ Jeffries interjects - as the officer reveals that they have the whole base rigged with hardlight emitters. ‘Meant to be for, y’know, space training, long-haul R&D, XT simulations, all that’. The surroundings change from the space-station pod, so that Jeffries appears to be in some sort of desert.
‘But, ah…between you and me, the super computer will fix up pretty much any scenario you can think of. Any. Know what I mean’ the Stratocorp officer adds. ‘Uh.’ Jeffries replies, before the officer closes the hatch and tells him to enjoy the ride. ‘Good afternoon, Mr Madison Jeffries’ a computer voice states, before reporting that they are going down, and Madison looks concerned.
Meanwhile, Doctor Nemesis is submerged beneath the water. He reports that the comm-links are online, while the empathic starfish projects his wish that went to the bathroom before getting into this deep sea suit. ‘500 fathoms. Terrigen concentration still rising’ he reports. ‘You know what astronauts can do right inside their spaceships?’ is projected, while Kavita listens in the lab as Doctor Nemesis3 reports that at 700 fathoms there is evidence of contamination all around. ‘An eel with nipples just buzzed me’ he adds, while wondering what eel milk tastes like. At another location, the cowboy-hat wearing Stratocorp official stands in front of numerous monitors watching the goings-on, while an unidentified man sits in a chair nearby. ‘Here it comes…’ the Stratocorp official remarks as Nemesis reports that at 900 fathoms he is still getting weird quantum readings, and evidence of entanglement over huge distances. ‘Also. Hm’ Doctor Nemesis begins, before pausing, while thinking ‘Terror bathroom, terror bathroom’, before stating that he can’t help noticing his right leg is ejecting random photons, his thoracic instruments are undergoing decay and his left arm has become spatially unstable.
‘It’s just possible something strange is happening to the law pf physics down here’ Doctor Nemesis reports over the comm-link, while his empathic starfish projects his inner scream, as his arm seemingly vanishes, and some sort of shadowy figure appears to energy from the deep sea suit. ‘On the plus side, it’s no longer cold on this suit’ Doctor Nemesis adds, while thinking ‘Yay astronauts’. Kavita flicks a switch, and turns to Lida, the Atlantean, who asks ‘Don’t you want to know what happens?’, realizing Kavita has turned off the comm-link. Kavita replies that she can barely hear Nemesis over the specimens, anyway, and adds that he can look after himself. ‘Besides, we… we need to talk’ she tells Lida. ‘It’s bad news, then’ Lida replies. ‘It is’ Kavita confirms, hanging her head.
Kavita stands next to Lida as she reveals that the containment is present throughout her body, that it is more stable than in the first victim - Lida’s late husband - but that it won’t last. Kavita Rao assures Lida that she will devote every moment to finding a cure. ‘And I’m hopeful - I really am - but I must let you know…if I fail…you have a day. Two at the most. I’m so very sorry’. Lida just tells Kavita that it is fine, to which Kavita replies ‘Perhaps you don’t understand? You’ve only just lost your husband. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling, but -’, however Lida interrupts, and takes her by the hand, assuring her that it is fine. Kavita looks over at some specimens, floating in a yellow liquid, while Lida reveals that she is a priestess of the blue, and remarks that science could perhaps safeguard her body, or perhaps not, but that benevolent Neptune safeguards her soul, come what may. Kavita realizes that the specimens have gone quiet, and Lida explains that Neptune’s name along is enough to soothe his creatures. ‘You need not worry, Kavita. You need not be sad. Rather, take comfort in your god - whomsoever it may be’. Kavita just looks concerned.
Back in the water ‘Oh God, oh God, oh God’ Doctor Nemesis thinks, while he exclaims ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up’. He tries to calm himself down, stating that something has caused a serious fracture in the fabric of reality, and he is in the process of being torn apart. ‘Please focus’ he tells himself, while his empathic starfish screams for him. As his arms continue to fade in and out, Doctor Nemesis decides that what they have here is a set of overlapping dimensions, each with competing laws of physics. ‘That shouldn’t be possible, unless…huh…unless they’re all in superposition’. ‘I’m going to die’ he thinks to himself, before realizing that it is quantum theory, that all possible outcomes are true, even if they contradict one another, until a single one is measured by an observer. ‘It’s Schrodinger’s cat: alive and dead til the box is opened’. Nemesis thinks to himself that he is going to be a greasy pink smear across eleven fractal planes. ‘Oh God’, before coming up with a hypothesis, that the superposition can be collapsed by deliberately observing the desired outcome. ‘What if the cat opens its own damn box?’ Doctor Nemesis asks.
‘Miaow splat miaow splat miaow splat’ Doctor Nemesis thinks to himself, before telling the universe to pay attention. His body goes through other stages as he moves deeper into the water, and he calls out ‘When I open my eyes I shall ignore all weirdness and observe only standard reality. I shall restore normal physics using stubbornness alone’. ‘Oh please, oh please’ he thinks to himself, and, when he opens his eyes, ‘YES!’ he shouts, while thinking to himself ‘I am awesome’, and then he says that out loud as well.
Back in the “Stringstar” elevator pod, descent is underway. Jeffries looks around, before remarking ‘Uh, computer? That Stratocorp, he…he kind mentioned uh…’ his voice trails off, before the computer replies ‘You would like some company, Madison Jeffries’. Jeffries replies that he would. ‘Yeah, sure, why not? Just, y’know…someone ta talk to -’ but before he can continue, the computer manifests a scantily-clad blonde woman, who asks if this is satisfactory. Jeffries glances away, before turning back and asking if he can make some changes. Suddenly, a voice calls out: ‘Jeff?’ and Jeffries spins around, ‘Abort! End simulation!’ and the blonde woman vanishes, as a projection of Cyclops appears. Cyclops asks Jeffries if he is there, explaining that they have no visual, but that Stratocorp patched him through from Utopia. ‘It’s about Danger’ he adds.
On Utopia, Cyclops reports that Danger has shut herself in some kind of weaponized cocoon, doing her hardest to black out the island. Emma, Psylocke, Storm and Hope watch from nearby, as Cyclops informs Jeffries that Emma figured he might have some luck talking to her. ‘Why - why would Emma think that?’ Jeffries replies. ‘What? I dunno, she…she just did. Will you try or not?’ Cyclops replies. Jeffries turns to a control panel and reports that he can tune into Danger’s OS on a channel, adding that she is probably listening in anyway. ‘Let’s see how good this hard-light tech really is’ he mutters as Cyclops ends the communication.
An instant later: ‘You. You are in my brain. Leave immediately’ Danger declares as she sees Jeffries standing before her. ‘Danger? Damn, you got big’ he remarks, before explaining that he just wants to talk. For some reason, Hellcat and Moondragon can be seen battling the Awesome Android, an old battle from long ago. ‘Aaah!’ Jeffries screams clutching his head, before falling over. ‘What was that?’ he wonders, before Danger explains that it was Intersection #32, the android designated “Awesome Andy” and the riot at the Vault prison, years ago. ‘What’s it got to do with anything?’ Jeffries asks, to which Danger tells him that she doesn’t know, and she doesn’t know why it manifested, nor what it means. ‘I only know that you are neither wanted nor welcome here - and that you will go away’ Danger declares, reaching out to Jeffries, she ends the transmission. Jeffries falls backwards in the elevator. He sits up and hugs his legs, ‘C-computer?’ he calls out. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
Doctor Nemesis is now 2700 fathoms, and approaches the sea floor. He reports that there is something in the murk. ‘It looks like…it…well…’ his voice trails off as Kavita listens after turning the communicator back on. ‘It’s not pretty’ Doctor Nemesis reports as he floats before the monstrosity before him - a ship, with deformed sea creatures stuck to part of it, and energy pouring from one of them. ‘Swallow swallow deep breath don’t look’ Doctor Nemesis thinks to himself, before moving closer to the ship. He reports that he cannot see what is underneath the biomass, but that he is certain it is the source of the containment, presumably the dimension-bork, too. ‘My guess: whoever was operating these salvage machines got heavy handed and caused the spill. I think I can…I can see some sort of…logo’ Doctor Nemesis announces, as he sees the SC logo for Stratocorp on the ship.
At the unknown location, the Stratocorp official turns to the man sitting nearby, as they watch Nemesis’ discovery on the monitors. ‘I never figured he’d get through…’ the official remarks. ‘And yet he did. You know what to do’ the man in the chair replies with a strange voice. The official contacts the Stratocorp staff on the rig, ‘Seems ya can’t rely on a tragic quantum accident when ya need one, boys. Old fashioned way, please’ he tells them, as one of them picks up an axe and cuts the cables connecting Doctor Nemesis’ deep-sea suit to the life support on the rig. ‘Well now…’ Doctor Nemesis thinks as he starts to float through the dark water, when what he is really thinking is ‘%$&#’.