Years ago, a battle between robot and mutants ignited a cataclysmic explosion that destroyed an orbiting observatory. Wreckage from that observatory was hurled into space and, in that wreckage, were the remains of the robot giant Master Mold – a Super-Sentinel imprinted with the brain engrams of Stephen Lang. And though nearly destroyed, Master Mold survived with all of Lang’s knowledge, obsessions and his secrets. For a while, he tumbled in a decaying orbit, a mass of glowing slag. And eventually he fell to Earth into the frigid waters of Alaska’s Bering-Strait and there… he waits.
The X-Factor complex in Manhattan, where the Beast is playing a game of ball with X-Factor’s charges and several of the Morlocks they recently saved. Scott Summers enters the room wearing a coat and carrying a suitcase. Artie Maddicks creates a mental picture of Scott entering a plane, his way of asking where Scott is going. He’s leaving for Alaska, Scott explains. He has to go home for a while. But he’ll stop at the hospital first to visit Angel and say good-bye to Jean.
Angel’s doing better, right? the Morlock girl, Skids, asks hopefully. He’ll fly again? Of course he will, the smitten Rusty Collins assures her. Jean’s with him. How could he not get better? Hank wishes Scott good luck and assures him it’s ok he’s leaving. He has a right to his own life. That’s what he once thought, Scott replies without humor. That’s what got him into this mess.
The Morlock Caliban puts his hand on Scott’s shoulder. He knows what it’s like to love hopelessly, he confides. Does it show that much? Scott wonders. Is it really so hopeless? Yeah, he guesses it is.
And soon, in the pelting rain Scott takes a cab to the hospital. In the back, he takes the snapshot of Madelyne and the baby out of his wallet, wondering how he got into this mess. It should have been so simple. His childhood sweetheart died and he married someone else. He and Maddie even had a son. And then his childhood sweetheart returns… He takes out a snapshot of Jean in a bikini at the beach. And he wants to be with her more than anything else, he muses. And his teammates have formed an organization to help mutants want him to lead them. Another lure. So he runs, not walks, to the nearest airport and Maddie tells him not to come back. But he has to, he thinks to himself. He cannot get past the fact that Maddie is his wife, even if she hates him now. She’s disconnected the phone, returned Scott’s letters, hasn’t endorsed the checks he sent…
His cab almost runs into another car and the cab driver apologizes about the slush. Slush is everywhere in his life, Scott thinks, but he has had enough. He’s going to find his son and wife and put his life right. Only how can it be right without Jean?
Angel’s hospital room in St. Vincent hospital. Jean reminds Warren that his girlfriend, Candy, ranted that Jean’s mutant power was to make men all in love with her and destroy them. And all along he though she was a mere telekinetic, Warren replies in an attempt to cheer her up. He adds that Candy was angry and misunderstood what she saw. She’s so upset she hasn’t visited him here and what she said isn’t true. Isn’t it? Jean wonders. Look at what happened to Scott because of her. She’s loved him since they were children and this thing with her and Maddie is tearing him apart. She’s glad he’s going to Maddie, she suddenly decides. And Warren …
He’s a mess, he finishes her sentence, and it’s all her fault as well, right? She remarks that, regarding his injured wings, she knows what it’s like to lose a part of herself. She used to have telepathic powers. And nobody seems to care that she’s lost them.
Unnoticed by either, Scott stands in the doorway, not saying a word. Warren tells Jean to come closer and assures her that he cares. He was hurt saving the Marauders. Saving lives is what they do. If somebody has to shoulder the blame it will be him. He has left X-Factor well provided. Hugging him, Jean tells him to stop talking nonsense. Unnoticed by either, Scott leaves again.
Jean looks outside the window, wondering why Scott hasn’t stopped by until she sees his leaving cab. Suddenly, the cab is frozen by telekinesis until Jean rushes downstairs. Why didn’t he come? she asks. She and Angel seem happy. He didn’t want to spoil it. He has to go to Maddie. With a tear in her eye, Jean kisses him and tells him she isn’t trying to stop him. She’s saying good-bye.
Alaska, the icy waters. The Master Mold is awake now, awake and aware of the secret and his hatred. That is enough for now.
Back at the hospital, X-Factor’s PR manager, Cameron Hodge, has grim news for Warren, as he waves a subpoena at him. He is to appear before a federal judge and explain why he shouldn’t be charged with fraud because of the manner in which his X-Factor holdings were hidden. Cameron is a lawyer as well and Warren wants to know if they can do that to him. They can, Cameron informs him. Fraud is not his specialty though. Worthington Industries better have some tough lawyers….
Warren turns to Jean, telling her he has blown it. Jean tries to convince him of the opposite and reminds him that, without X-Factor, Rusty, Skids and all the Morlocks would be dead. They’ve saved so many within only a few months. Who knows how many they will save in the years ahead because of Warren?
Warren explains that he cannot take a stand as a mutant founding a mutant hunter organization. They’d be better off if he was dead…
Hours later, Scott has rented a car at the airport and drives to the house he used to live in with Madelyne, only to see that it’s been put for sale. Maddie must be leaving him, he realizes. He can’t blame her… and he’s been left before.
Scott recalls how he lost his parents when their plane exploded and he and his brother, Alex, were falling down, sharing a single parachute. How alone he was later when Alex wad adopted away and he wasn’t.
He’s always been alone. He reminds himself that that’s not true. He had his teammates and Professor X. He found his grandparents. He married. He had Madelyne and his son. Will he leave him as alone as he was, he wonders and cynically tells himself to dump them before they dump you. As he tries to open the door, he finds that the locks have been changed.
Angrily, he uses his optic blast to blast the lock apart.
Off the coast of Alaska, the Master Mold senses that outburst of mutant power. He compares it to his scanner profiles and knows. That mutant is one of the Twelve. One of the pivotal mutants around whom others will gather. One of those Master Mold was created to destroy.
Scott enters to find the house empty. He is reminded of Sara Grey’s home. Was Madelyne also driven off by threats? Why didn’t she call him?
Later, at the Anchorage Hilton. When the phone rings, Scott jumps to take the call, hoping it is Maddie, but instead it’s Hank, who informs him about everything going on at home. Everything is a little hectic, he explains, punctuated by the fact that Artie and Leech are ruining the furniture around Hank. Ape turns into his own clean-up device, causing new arrival Boom-Boom to make disparaging remarks, until Hank throws them all out. More serious, he tells Scott that Jean is really concerned about Angel. His wings aren’t healing and now there is this court order. Scott doesn’t let him finish and explains that Maddie has disappeared. He has to stay in Alaska and find her. The others will have to handle things as best as they can.
Meanwhile on an oilrig in the Bering Strait, workers are wondering what’s wrong with the sona, when suddenly the Master Mold appears out of the depth. Much of it has been destroyed and Master Mold now uses the debris of the oilrig it has destroyed to rebuild itself. It walks on.
Anchorage, Wilson Realty:
Scott Summers angrily explains that this is his house they are selling. The disapproving secretary explains that Mr. Wilson himself spoke with Mr. Summers. It was August 5th. She remembers the date because it was her birthday. The paper work was in perfect order. Scott insists that there has been some mistake. August 5th… Maddie left him the day he left for New York. He tells the woman that she must have spoken to his wife. What did she tell her? Where did she go? The woman presses the silent alarm button and, a moment later, an officer suggests, if Scott has a problem, he should report it at the station.
Scott does so. As he leaves, the station one cop feels sorry for him, while another wonders if his wife and kid truly exist. Their computers show no record of them being or ever having been in Anchorage.
Three hundred miles from Anchorage, the Master Mold lurches from the water. He can no longer fly and he has not yet found equipment to repair that system - no matter. He disintegrates an office building and the people in it, finding that his newly constructed hand blasters are working perfectly. He cannibalizes the electronic systems left, gaining computer access. Joining with the computer, which leads to other computers, he drinks the world dry of its knowledge. He is almost ready to begin.
Anchorage, the office of North Star Airways. Scott angrily asks how it is possible that the man in there has never heard of Madelyne Pryor. She’s a transport pilot with the airline. He wants to see Philip Summers, his grandfather. The man explains that a conglomerate from New York made the previous owners an offer they couldn’t refuse. They sold the business on August 5th, took their money and headed off on a world cruise. The new owner kicked off all the old staff with big severance pays. Probably they are scattered all over Alaska.
What about Sam Ross, Scott asks, recalling one of Maddie’s regular crewmembers. Boating accident, the man replies. Scott urges him to look again in the files under both Pryor and Summers. The man looks remarking he has a Scott Summers here, but no Pryor and those files go back. Nobody by that name ever worked here. Finally snapping, Scott physically assaults him, calling him a liar. Moments later he is thrown out.
All his investigations lead to nothing: phone company, electric company, stores. Nobody has ever heard of Madelyne. Friends have disappeared. Even the hospital as no record of them, although his son was born there. He decides he’s had it with third parties and red tape. He will check out things himself. That night, he breaks into Anchorage hospital’s records office. Using his powers he breaks the lock.
Miles away the Master Mold senses that use of mutant power.
In the hospital, Scott sinks down, defeated. No record of Madelyne Pryor or Summers. It is as if she never existed. But she does exist, he tells himself helplessly. Sometimes, he wishes she didn’t.
After a sleepless night, Scott heads to the library, still wondering who could do this – systematically erase all evidence of Maddie’s life here. Who and why? He recalls that, before Maddie came to work for his grandparents, she was a commercial pilot. Her plane crashed in Los Angeles. That must have made the papers. He begins checking the microfilm of the L. A. Times. September 1st… he finds news of the crash but nothing about Madelyne, even though she had told him she was the sole survivor. She had walked from the flames without a scratch. That must have made the papers. The pages flash by at almost blinding speed as Scott searches for a sign. He thinks to himself he will find her. Instead he finds… Jean.
On the viewer, he sees an account of another crash… the wrecked flaming Starcore 1 plumetting towards Earth. Jean saved her teammates back then, walked away herself without a scratch – walked away transformed into the Phoenix. Scott recalls how the Phoenix power was too much for her, corrupted her and to save the universe from herself she died by her own hand… on the same day that Maddie walked alive from the flames… if she walked away.
Scott gets up his, mind reeling. He recalls not being able to save Jean from committing suicide, then reminding himself that it wasn’t really Jean who died. It was Phoenix. Phoenix was an energy being that had hidden Jean, left her in suspended animation. Could something similar have happened to Madelyne?
Hours later at the house that once belonged to Scott and Madelyne, Scott finally explodes, as he lets his optic blasts cut loose. Suddenly, Maddie runs towards him, reminding him that she walked out of the fire the day Phoenix’s power went out. She’s not real, he shouts, as his optic blasts fire at the delusion (and devastate another part of the house).
Maddie manifests again with the baby this time, cruelly reminding him how convenient it was that she and the baby disappeared the day Jean came back. Scott shouts that’s not true and assures her he loves her, once again firing his optic blast at the delusion.
He can’t get rid of her that easily, can he? Maddie mocks. Isn’t it obvious? Turning into Phoenix, who seductively runs her hands through her hair, she informs him that it was all a cosmic joke. Maddie never existed, but as a manifestation of her. She turns to Jean in her X-Factor uniform, walking towards him with outstretched hands. She’s not real, he protests.
Closer still, as Dark Phoenix, she assures him she is the realest thing he’ll ever know. Again, Scott uses his optic blast, firing wildly around. She’s not there, he shouts. She doesn’t exist; she never existed! That moment, he hits the radiator and, behind it, he finds a baby rattle. He recalls how the baby always flung it there and they…
Madelyne and the baby are real, he realizes. As real as that rattle. Something’s happened to them. Something terrible. Something sane. He vows that he’ll find Madelyne, wherever she is.
Elsewhere, cops have been called, as some fishermen found the corpse of a woman washed up on the shore. Though the body is badly decomposed, her red hair is still visible, and one of the cops wonders if this was the wife of the poor guy who showed up at the station.
And somewhere, out in the frozen heart of the night, the Master Mold locks onto final approach, shouting ‘Cyclops.’ He knows where Scott Summers is and he knows what to do.