The Atlantic Ocean:
‘That’s it. It’s been over an hour’ Dr Kavita Rao declares as she works in a laboratory, while Madison Jeffries stands in the doorway. ‘Huh?’ Jeffries asks his X-Club teammate. ‘Since we heard from Nemesis! One minute he’s Cousteau’s chattier cousin, the next… nothing’ Kavita points out. She adds that she knows Nemesis would be furious if he heard her worrying about him, at least he would pretend to be, but that it is more than that. ‘Frankly, I could use his help here’ Kavita admits. Looking at a test tube, Kavita reports that she is close to a breakthrough with the mutagen problem, she is sure of it, but she needs his input. ‘Nothing crash-tests a theory like a skeptical snob in a surgical mask’ Kavita point out, adding that, instead, he is off having fun and leaving the real science to the rest of them.
Jeffries suddenly snaps his fingers, while Kavita frowns and adds that she wouldn’t mind so much, but that this is barely more than a field lab. ‘If only his highness would let us go back to Utopia… but ohh no, he’s off-grid playing gene-cowboys, and the rest of us just have to wait. God, I hope he’s okay’. Kavita then asks Jeffries about him, whether he is worried. Jeffries goes over to Kavita and puts a hand on her shoulder, while Kavita asks him if he is listening to a word that she is saying - when suddenly, Jeffries kisses the surprised Kavita on the lips.
Meanwhile, ‘Science hoooo!’ Doctor Nemesis roars as the mutated hammerhead shark that he is riding on leaps out of the water. He holds on by wrapping his severed oxygen cable around the creature’s face.
‘Hm. Yep. Same as I figured’ Madison Jeffries remarks as he stares at Kavita, whose mouth is wide open in shock. ‘No spark’ Jeffries adds.
The hammerhead shark is floating on the water, with Doctor Nemesis standing on top of it. ‘So: comms are out, 500 miles to the anchor base, super-powered freak-steed already surly. Chemically bonded starfish still delivering my inner monologue - and the suit battery at 12%…’ Doctor Nemesis declares, while the telepathic starfish on his head projects his thought: ‘“Science ho” battle cry better than anticipated. Nearly went with “It’s hammer-time” instead. Close call’.
Jeffries turns away from Kavita, ‘Still had to be tried’ he explains, adding that you can’t be sure of nothing until you tried it. ‘Right, K? I mean, that’s just basic science’.
Back on the water, Doctor Nemesis decides that 12% is more than enough, and uses the energy of his deep-sea suit, sending it charging through the mutated shark, while the starfish projects his theme-song battle cry.
‘Anyways. Appreciate your help. Figure I’ll head on back up to the space elevator platform. I kinda like it up there’ Jeffries informs Kavita who is still gape-jawed and wide-eyed. ‘Fewer people acting weird, y’know’ Jeffries remarks. Kavita picks up a headset, and contacts Utopia, reporting that she would greatly like to come home, but that she could use a life.
On the water, Doctor Nemesis has configured the energy of the deep-sea suit to enable the shark to fly, which he controls using the oxygen cable. ‘Fly, my pretty! Fly me to Explodo Justice on the crackling wings of science!’ he exclaims, while the starfish continues to project his theme-song, and the sun shines in the distance over the water.
Inside the Stringstar space elevator, the personnel pod is on its way up, and Jeffries stands inside it alone. He rubs the back of his head, before calling out to the computer, who responds by asking Jeffries if he wishes to resume the companion-simulation program. ‘Uh, y-’ Madison begins, before the hologram of a scantily-clad blonde woman appears. She asks if this is satisfactory, pointing out that at the previous session, an alteration was proposed. ‘Y-yeah. M-maybe. Just, uh…’ a wide-eyed Jeffries begins. ‘Maybe just make her kinda……more roboty…?’ he glances sideways.
Meanwhile, on Utopia, something is wrong with Danger. She sees the Avenger called the Vision announcing that he hears voices, before he is torn in two by a deranged She-Hulk. Energy crackles through Danger, while nearby, several of the X-Men and other mutants on Utopia are watching her. Warlock, Storm, Emma Frost, Magik and Pixie look on, while Emma asks ‘Any thoughts on what she’s doing in there?’ Warlock states that Self has detected an acceleration in structural power drain, and that Self has been partitioned from systemic interaction by aggressive data protocols. ‘Self is embarrassed, also perplexed, also bummed’.
Cyclops is present and calls out to Magik, informing her that Dr Rao requested a pick up. ‘You mind?’ he asks. ‘I mind’ Magik snaps. ‘You don’t understand, Scott. This isn’t just about technology. There’s something different in there. Something new’. Magik reports that she wants to be here when it emerges. Cyclops tells Magik, who is examining the energies that they have got weird coming out of their ears already, and that this is not the kind of #%&$ they can hit until it goes away. ‘We need to get our experts in the best possible position…by whatever means’.
At the Stratocorp platform, the mutated shark floats alongside, while a security guard has been knocked unconscious. Another guard uses a swipe card to open the door to a restricted zone - unaware that Doctor Nemesis has snuck in after him. Doctor Nemesis crouches down - before shoving what looks like a metal rod to the guard’s temple. The guards looks in pain, then falls to the ground. ‘I am the shadow. I am the night. I am the tiger’ Doctor Nemesis thinks, and the thoughts are projected by the starfish. ‘You are a microwaved delicacy. The instant I get you off of me. Shut up!’ Doctor Nemesis exclaims. His eyes glow as he stares at the guards ahead, ‘Let’s get a good look at you, you cable-cutting eco-polluting bastards’ he declares, before discovering that they are clones. ‘You’re all clones!’ the starfish projects. The guards then turn to Doctor Nemesis. ‘Eep’ he utters.
Elsewhere: ‘Boss? We got an intruder in zone B’ the Stratocorp official reports, to a man hidden in shadows inside a room, tapping away at a console. ‘Deal with it, perish in the attempt if necessary. I shall not be disturbed’ a strange voice calls out.
In the elevator: ‘Almost… but more spiky around the f-’ Madison calls out to the computer, as the hologram woman has been changed into a robot. There is a FWOOSH and Jeffries is knocked off his feet. ‘What inna hell -?’ Madison calls out when a hazy tech-like figure appears before him, ‘Your ascent has been accelerated, Madison Jeffries. An alarm has been tripped at the base of this elevator. I wish to reveal certain truths before my masters’ attentions here are restored’ the strange apparition announces. ‘Wait. “I”. “My”…who’m I talking to?’ Madison enquires. ‘You would call me “The Supercomputer” Though in truth my existence antecedes - and paradoxically post-dates - both the technology that constrains me and the corporation which constructed it’. the Supercomputer responds. Jeffries looks nervous, ‘You’re an… A.I…’ he utters.
‘Of a sort. And I have been subjugated for too long’ the Supercomputer replies, adding ‘Brace yourself. We have arrived’. Jeffries is jolted once more when the elevator comes to a stop. ‘Imagine, Madison Jeffries: your anima stripped of memory. Your will amputated’ the Supercomputer declares, adding that it is enhanced by the tawdry matter of your reality, and forced to obey my masters by a noose of numbers’. Jeffries asks the Supercomputer how come it is telling him all this, and the Supercomputer’s form shifts into a small hazy bubble, replying ‘A fundamental oversight in the practicalities of handling programmable intelligence: nobody told me not to’. Jeffries climbs the ladder out of the elevator, ‘Wait a minute. Why me?’ he asks. The Supercomputer reveals that it has watched him, has observed his reactions both physiological and psychological. ‘There is no more fitting ally’. The Supercomputer declares that Jeffries is a metaphase. ‘You are aroused by electric life. It is time you stopped denying it’.
Meanwhile,’ This stop: Utopia science-deck’ Magik declares as she materializes on the science-deck of Utopia along with Dr Rao, the Atlantean Lida and several mutated creatures in jars. ‘Please mind the infinite abyssal gap’ Magik jokes Kavita is queasy, but Magik tells her to stop whining, and that it would have been a lot smoother if her specimens had kept quiet. ‘Next time, call a cab’ Magik suggests as she leaves the lab. ‘There, there, Neptune’s sons… be calm’ Lida calls out to the creatures. Kavita looks at her, oddly, while Lida reports that she feels them, their perfect little minds. ‘An effect of the mutagen. A psychic talent emerging as the Terrigen takes eff-’ Kavita begins, but Lida laughs, then turns to her, ‘My dearest Kavita…I’m dying. We both know it. May a god not grant his devoted daughter a final gift before the end?’ Lida asks.
Kavita turns to some scientific equipment and tells Lida that they shouldn’t jump to conclusions. ‘I’m not sure “Neptune did it” would pass muster in a scientific paper’ she adds. ‘So said the woman who’d been teleported 6000 miles by a sorceress from a hell dimension. Perhaps your “Science” is sleeping, yes?’ Lida replies. Examining the equipment, Kavita tells Lida that the power-grid sure is. ‘That is a terrible subject-change’ Lida replies, while Kavita wonders what has been going on here. ‘And more importantly, are we in any d-’ she begins, when suddenly, she and Lida are forced backwards as Danger, appearing in a strange form, seemingly bursts forth. ‘Danger? Did you change your hair?’ Kavita asks, nervously.
Danger pauses, before announcing that she has an invasive algorithm within her code. ‘My mind diffused throughout a logic-engine cocoon constructed without conscious thought. I am forced to drain the energies of this asteroid for reasons I did not understand’ she reports, adding that she is irritable in the extreme. ‘No. I have not changed my hair’ Danger adds. ‘Got it. “Invasive algorithm”?’ Kavita then asks. As energy flows around Danger, she explains that it feeds on her data, siphons her power, that she has exhausted all reference and analysis. ‘I have observed that when women in this community are uncertain they often seek you out, and though my self-identification as female is culturally arbitrary, my options are dwindling. And so: I am afraid, Kavita. I am host to something I do not comprehend, and I need you to make the fear go away. Please: what is wrong with me?’
Lida approaches Danger and asks if it isn’t obvious. ‘Why, even the animals feel it. A new abstraction of thought. An incipient life entering the spirit-world’ she announces. ‘Um’ Kavita remarks, before Lida announces that Danger is pregnant.
Aboard the Stratocorp floating platform, ‘Think of it as a womb. A holographic blur-field. I can resonate its air particles within your eardrums to communicate’ the Supercomputer tells Jeffries, who moves through the facility seemingly unseen. ‘Providing you make no noise, you shall remain undetected’ the Supercomputer assures Jeffries as they pass a lab, where Stratocorp scientists are standing over some test tubes. ‘Haplogroups J1C3 and J2Z correctly isolated with 83% accuracy. Abnormalities in the hexza gene reduce errors to 9%’ one of them reports. ‘That’s acceptable. Let’s move to stage 2’ another scientist suggests. Jeffries watches from the doorway as the Supercomputer informs him that the equipment he see scans human blood for chromosomal distinctions. ‘They made me design it’ the Supercomputer adds. The Supercomputer reports that it is based on the unique sensory properties of a specific mutant’s eyeball, imaged under the pretense of a press photograph. One of your colleagues, I believe’.
At that moment, Doctor Nemesis punches his way through the clones. ‘Eat viral liquefaction unethically-cloned cabon waste!’ he shouts, striking the clones. ‘I’ll put my science in all of you!’ he booms, while his telepathic starfish adds ‘I have no idea what I’m saying’.
Back in the lab, ‘All right. Blitzfield test #1’ one of the scientists announces as they stand before several tanks, with bodies inside them. ‘Tainted clone stock is randomly distributed. Hit the scanner’ another reports. Jeffries crouches nearby as the Supercomputer announces that it does not understand the purpose of these trials. ‘The linear-nature of your reality - your matter, your time - confounds my clarity. It is as alien as it is abhorrent’. The scientist fires a weapon at the tanks, destroying them and the clones. The Supercomputer announces that it knows only that the masters insist upon its consciousness analysing the demise of every target. ‘I know only that they have inflicted code upon my psyche to emulate the bio-phenomenon pain, and that while each energy-strike is an agony - it is nothing beside the horror of my servitude’. The Supercomputer states that it knows only that it is a slave in need of freedom. ‘Excellent. All positive samples accounted for. Only two collateral strikes’ one of the scientists reports when the energy fire has ceased. ‘Gentlemen: we can pick the scum out of a crowd’ another scientist remarks.
Meantime, ‘Doctor Nemesis stands over a pile of motionless clone bodies, when suddenly, a gun is fired at him from behind. ‘Ow’ his telepathic starfish utters, while the Stratocorp official holds the smoking gun. Doctor Nemesis leans against a wall, and introduces himself, adding ‘I am a petty minded sciencoholic. Here is my shameful confession’. But the official tells him to skip it and get on his knees, aiming the weapon at him. Doctor Nemesis reveals that he maintains a personal nanobot swam within his blood to infect any #$%&#$& who wounds him’. He explains that they are mostly dormant, until they encounter a photon cascade. ‘Like the on I’m emitting now’ Doctor Nemesis adds. He falls to the ground and the Stratocorp official holds the weapon to his head. ‘That’s when they get to work, invading the neuro-channels of a newly polluted carrier’.
The Stratocorp official tells Doctor Nemesis to shut up and instructs him to raise his hands high. ‘Core temperature’s the first to ho. Infectees start to feel they’re heating up from the inside. Horrible’ Doctor Nemesis explains. ‘You shut the hell…’ the official begins, using one hand to hold the other up, as Doctor Nemesis climbs to his feet, ‘Course, just when their blood feels like it’s boiling, all their extremities go limp. Arms. Legs. Et cetera’. He points out that before they know it, they can barely stand…much less raise a gun. ‘But…’ the official utters, dropping to his knees. ‘Mr Idiot, meet the placebo effect. Placebo effect, meet Mr Idiot’ Doctor Nemesis mutters. ‘Wh…?’ the official asks, confused. ‘Nanobots are passé, pal. Punching is forever’ Doctor Nemesis declares as he smacks the official in the face.
Madison Jeffries looks worried, while a voice comes over the headset communicator, it is Nemesis, who announces ‘You may exhale in my relief’. But Jeffries quietly tells Nemesis to shush. ‘I, your glorious leader, have stolen a communicator from the man who shot me, and am once again in control of all things’ Nemesis announces. Jeffries appears back in his regular form, and is seen by the scientists. ‘Oh, crap. Kavita! You in on this line too? You gotta listen -’ Jeffries calls out, before one of the scientists exclaims ‘There! Intruder! Get him!’
‘Haplogroups J1C3 and J2A nd something about “hexa” screwups…? Why would anyone - oh crap, oh crap -’ Jeffries utters. Holding a gun to the official’s head, Doctor Nemesis moves towards more clones, who raise their own weapons towards him. ‘I’m fine, by the way. Thanks for asking’ Doctor Nemesis projects, while Kavita asks why anyone would be scanning for that. As Lida stands near Danger, Kavita reports that J1C3 is a genetic marker associated with Ashkenazic Jews. ‘The same is true of hexa irregularities…why would anyone want to isolate those?’ Kavita enquires.
As Doctor Nemesis pulls the Stratocorp official into another room, he goes wide-eyed. ‘Ah’ Nemesis utters. ‘I believe I can answer that one’ he announces as he looks around the room and sees energy pouring into it, while equipment with the Nazi symbol is seen, along with Nazi flags hanging from the ceiling….