Manhattan, where X-Factor have just discovered their teammate who they have been searching for, for many days. ‘There’s Archangel!’ exclaims Jean Grey as she telekinetically holds herself and Scott Summers in the air, above Bobby Drake and Dr. Hank McCoy, who are on Bobby’s ice-sled. ‘Finally! But what’s he doing?’ Scott asks, as they watch Archangel stretch his arms high into the air. ‘Flying…just flying…’ Hank exclaims, as they all watch Warren Worthington III.
Meanwhile, in the confines of her apartment, the Raven known as Crimson, like all other New Yorkers, watches Archangel on TV. But she thinks to herself that she has been inside his mind, she knows why Archangel is soaring so obliviously. Crimson’s contact with Archangel has revived old memories within him, and now he thinks this is the good old days, before he lost his bright, shining silver wings and re-grew the new ones, edged with darkness.
Manhattan, ‘Warren! Come back! Wait!’ Jean calls out to her friend, to which Hank points out that Warren is lost inside his mind, so he doubts that he even hears them. Suddenly, a battalion of armored troops fly into view, ‘Out of nowhere!’ Hank gasps, while Jean asks if this will ever let up, before telling her friends, crazy as it sounds, that the troopers feel wrong. ‘We have to stop them…before it’s too late!’ Jean exclaims.
Cyclops unleashes his optic blast on the troopers, while Iceman slides over to them, pointing out that if they waste time here, they will lose Archangel. Scott blasts another and tells Bobby that they may not have much choice, and points out that Archangel has gone, evaded these troopers, and now the troops are fighting them instead. Scott soon discovers that his optic blasts have little effect against the troopers, and just ricochet off. ‘Like what…what do they remind me of?’ he wonders to himself.
Jean finds herself in a similar situation as the force field around the troopers repels her telekinesis. ‘I can’t grab them!’ she exclaims, so uses her telekinesis to lift up some sheet metal and blocks the bullets fired at her.
The Beast struggles with one of the troopers, exclaiming that their body armor is tough enough to withstand even his prodigious strength. Iceman adds more bad news, informing his friends that his ice barrages melt before they even touch the troopers. ‘Where do these jokers come from? How are they doing it?’ Bobby asks.
Huddled behind the metal sheet, Jean replies that, whoever they are, they have been engineered to withstand their specific powers, ‘But they still might be vulnerable to surprise!’ she exclaims as she uses her powerful telekinesis to shove the metal sheeting straight across the open air, smacking it into several of the troopers.
The Beast continues to struggle with his foe, and demands to know who he is and what he wants with X-Factor. ‘We will settle for your lives, mutant scum!’ the trooper retorts. At that moment, Cyclops realizes who these troopers are. ‘We’ve faced them before, with a different armor - they’re storm troopers from the anti-mutant terrorist group, The Right!’ he announces, wondering why The Right would attack them here and now.
On the streets below, the battle above has not going unnoticed, as Police cordon off the area immediately beneath X-Factor and The Right, and civilians gather around to watch. One such Police officer is Charlotte Jones, whose partner tells her that this is too much for him. ‘I’m a simple cop. This kinda tussle’s way outta our league!’ he exclaims, before suggesting that super beings should be banned from using their powers in New York City. Charlotte tells her colleague to give her a break, ‘Those creeps jumped X-Factor! They outnumber them ten to one! You want the mutants to just roll over and die?’ she asks.
Charlotte then tells her partner to just make sure that Trish Tilby and her news crew stay out of trouble, and readies her own gun in case she is needed. Standing back a little, is renowned reporter Trish Tilby, long-time ally of X-Factor, whose camera operator informs her that she is now on. ‘X-Factor was close…so close to apprehending their teammate Archangel from his spate of vigilante violence that has both terrorized and inspired this city’, Trish begins, her usual professionalism in her report. Trish adds that, now, X-Factor’s hopes for Archangel’s immediate capture have been dashed by the appearance of unknown attackers.
In the uptown apartment of Crimson, the deadly Raven watches her television set intently. The news announcer declares ‘That was Trish Tilby, live from midtown Manhattan’, and informs viewers that they will return to live coverage of the chaos in midtown as events warrant. ‘What fools those mutants are! Would it be any different if they knew?’ Crimson asks herself as she gets to her feet. Clad now in a black costume with red markings on the stomach and arms, Crimson exclaims that X-Factor only has this single day to save their teammate, and yet they waste is fighting cyborgs. ‘Let them! Soon the night will fall, and Archangel will be mine!’ she boasts.
Making her way across her apartment, Crimson thinks to herself that the Ravens could never star on any TV news shows, never use their likenesses to sell tabloids, so to this extent they are safe in this media saturated century. Standing in front of a mirror, Crimson jokes ‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall…who’s the most powerful of all?’ Of course the mirror doesn’t answer her. ‘I am not so mad that I will think it will’ Crimson tells herself. ‘For what am I to the mirror, or it to me?’ she remarks, deciding that she thinks, and reflects, therefore she is, but the mirror does not reflect her - nor acknowledge the existence of her kind, the Ravens. ‘Elaborately framed photographs…of Ravens. Portraits of nothing!’ Crimson exclaims as she holds the edges of the mirror.
‘A joke on our power…a plague on our house…a reminder of what we are…four and twenty blackbirds…half-baked!’ Crimson thinks to herself, before recalling that Azure, the twenty-fourth, is gone, destroyed by Archangel, and now the circle is broken. Crimson tells herself that Archangel, now forgetful of his present and reveling in his past, free from the poison, is now in his worst nightmare - very strong, very mad, very violent. ‘And what am I? The darkness in his soul calls out to me. He knows, through me, he can find release! But first he must face the Ravens!’ Crimson exclaims, her pink glow surrounding her.
Crimson shouts at the mirror, ‘Look at me! Show me, for what I am! Reflect my beauty and my promise!’ she screams, but when she gets no answer, she smashes her fists into the mirror. ‘SHOW ME!’ she cries, shattering the mirror into jagged shards. Crimson proceeds to walk away from broken mirror, thinking that she knows the rules, and will be with the Ravens when they stalk Archangel. ‘I’ll lead them to him…I’ll betray them all! My friends…my circle…who trust me…who detest me, as I loathe them. We’ve had centuries together to perfect our loathing…we’ve become the things we hate!
Crimson thinks to herself that, if she is right, the other Ravens will capture him, and Archangel will obliterate them, just as he destroyed Azure. ‘But that’s on tonight’s agenda, this is still the day…and in my greed to devour Archangel, I showed him who he was…but he was so many things…mutant, hero, businessman, playboy, millionaire…he’ll be confused. I wonder…what persona will he settle on? Who will he decide that he is now?’.
Meanwhile, at that moment, Archangel is walking down Park Avenue and is attracting the attention of passers-by. ‘Maybe he does his banking here?’ someone asks as they watch Archangel enter a bank. As he approaches the teller, others in the bank begin to stare and whisper. ‘Keep back! He’s a killer!’ someone exclaims, while another suggests someone call the cops. Standing in front of a bank teller, Archangel introduces himself as Warren Worthington, and tells the teller that he understands her manager has spoken with her regarding a withdrawal from his business account. ‘Ohmigosh…it’s…it’s Archangel!’ the teller thinks to herself, scared’.
Warren watches the teller and thinks to himself ‘Come on. Hurry up. Don’t stand there gaping. Haven’t got all day. Board meeting in a couple of hours and I still have to…I must talk to Alphonse about this tie.’ Warren’s thoughts change as he believes he is adjusting his tie. ‘It doesn’t seem to lie quite flat…maybe that’s what she’s staring at?’ Warren wonders, realizing the teller is gape-jawed, looking at him. Indeed, the wide-eyed teller thinks to herself ‘Warren Worthington, the playboy millionaire mutant? He was killed in that explosion. What has Worthington got to do with Archangel? Those weird twitching gestures…what’s he doing?’ she wonders, unaware that Warren thinks he is adjusting his tie.
‘He’s crazy. I saw him on TV. He goes berserk…and his wings are knives. He could kill me!’ the bank teller exclaims to herself. Warren begins to look at himself in the mirror behind the bank teller, and believes that he is running his hands through his blond hair. ‘Not a bad haircut, though maybe a little close on the sides…’ he decides, when, suddenly, the bank teller exclaims ‘Oh, Lord, don’t hurt me! Here…take it…all of it…just please don’t hurt me!’ she begins throwing money at Archangel, who grins, and asks her why in Heaven he would want to hurt her.
Warren begins to leave the bank, thinking ‘A peculiar woman, that teller. I’ll speak to the president about her. I’m a stockholder here…and her attitude could frighten away customers!’ Believing that he is putting money into a wallet, when in fact he is just dropping it to the ground, Warren thinks that it is about time for a new wallet, when, suddenly, several police officers appear in front of him. ‘Halt! Raise your hands real slow!’ one of them exclaims, to which the other cop whispers to his colleague ‘Are you kidding? It ain’t his hands we gotta worry about!’ This angers Archangel, ‘You are to threaten me?!’ he shouts, raising his wings….
As Crimson would put it, on the surface, the battle is between Archangel and the establishment. But the real clash is internal - Archangel versus Warren Worthington - anarchy versus control - anguish versus peace. Archangel cannot stand to know what he has become - and yet, he relishes the reckless freedom that his delusion brings him.
Meanwhile, Scott, Jean, Bobby and Hank continue in their own madness, fighting the Right in mid-air. Seeing Jean in danger, Scott unleashes a powerful optic blast against a member of the Right that sneaks up on Jean from behind. Jean thanks Scott and flies over to him, remarking that she knows his optic blasts don’t blow the Right apart, but that one sure got a jolt. Jean realizes that, after smiling at Scott and making eye contact with him, it is almost like the old days - when they were lovers - when they were friends. ‘Jean…I…’ Cyclops begins. ‘Scott…please…’ Jean replies, turning away from Scott. This is more than Cyclops can handle, and a rage rises like a torrent inside him, sweeping all before it from his path - including a member of the Right, blasted with a powerful optic blast.
‘That’s the way, Cyke! You soften these hyenas…and I’ll finish them off!’ Hank exclaims as he punches the one Scott just blasted, hard in the face. But Hank over-estimated on his punch, and as he begins to plummet to the ground below, with the Right soldier, he realizes that he shortened out the soldier’s propulsion system. ‘Hey, Jeannie! We have a situation here!’ Hank cries out as he continues to fall. The Right officer tells the Beast that Jean - calling her “The mutant witch”, cannot hear him, as she herself is surrounded and fighting for her life. ‘Our barrage is deafening!’ the Right agent boasts.
‘You’re mostly cyborg parts, laughing boy!’ Hank retorts. ‘With a little luck, you’ll survive this fall - to answer some questions!’ Hank adds, but the Right trooper replies ‘Not a chance, mutant! We have our orders and the means to achieve our ends! You’ll not take any of us alive!’ With that, the Right operative goes silent, before he crashes to the ground, with Hank on top of him. ‘Incredible!’ Hank thinks to himself. ‘He was dead before he hit the ground. What killed him? A time-released poison, perhaps?’ Hank is thankful that the Right troopers armor took the brunt of the impact, so he will walk away with nothing more than sprained muscles.
At that moment, Trish Tilby rushes over, exclaiming ‘Hank, love, are you all right?’ ‘…Trish…’ Hank thinks to himself solemnly, before addressing her as “Miss Tilby” and telling her that there is no doubt she will present this battle to her viewers in a negative light, emphasizing the mutant menace and the danger their continued presence in this fair city, ‘If you don’t outright accuse me of murder!’ he adds. Taken aback, Trish asks Hank what his problem is. ‘This isn’t like you. It isn’t fair!’ she exclaims, to which Hank replies ‘Life’s not fair, babe. About time all of us realized that!’.
Suddenly, as if a switch has been thrown, the Right cyborgs cease their attack, creating a now eerie silence, they turn from X-Factor and fly away. ‘They’re pulling out of the battle!’ Jean exclaims as she telekinetically hovers above Cyclops and Iceman who are standing on an ice-sled. Beast and Trish see the Right’s departure too. ‘Are they giving up? Admitting defeat?’ Trish asks. ‘Those fanatics? Not a snowballs chance in a blast furnace! Something else is going on!’ Hank replies.
Just then, Charlotte calls out to X-Factor, informing them that word has come through that Archangel is robbing a bank at Park Avenue, South and 31st. ‘He’s what?!?’ gasps Cyclops, before telling Jean to get the Beast up here. Jean doesn’t argue, she telekinetically lifts Hank up and places him on Bobby’s ice-sled, Bobby slides himself, Scott and Hank through the air, with Jean flying at their side. X-Factor aren’t the only ones to get the news, as wailing police cars with their lights flashing, slice through rush hour traffic with news cans slithering in their wake on the ground below.
Bobby tries to break the tension amongst his teammates by telling them to look on the bright side: they don’t have to travel bumper to bumper, and if they might even get lucky and arrive before the others. ‘The cops and reporters, maybe. But I suspect the cyborgs are also patched into the police bands, they know where Archangel is now…and they’re way ahead of us…’ Hank points out.
Indeed, the Right have found Archangel, ‘There’s Archangel! Get him!’ they shout as they unleash gunfire at him ‘Attackers before and behind me! I’m surrounded!’ Warren tells himself. There is no time for him to think, and barely time to act - but it is for such a battle as this that his dark wings were created, and as the Right bombard him with gunfire, Archangel unleashes his razor-sharp feather-knives. Part of his mind abhors their violence - even as his soul revels in their power. The feather-knives strike into the Right, while his wings slash about, slicing others apart. Warren no longer tries to control his wings, he no longer has that luxury - so he simply lets the wings react as they will.
‘Archangel has those tin-types on the ropes!’ exclaims Iceman as he and the others approach Archangel. Scott thinks to himself that if the Right hold Archangel’s attention for a few more seconds, they will be able to get him. However, as if some malevolent entity has read Cyclops’ mind, for the response is nearly instantaneous - one moment the Right surrounded Archangel, and in the next instant they seemingly vanish. Archangel does the same. X-Factor follow him, with Bobby asking ‘What the heck? They just…faded away! Some sorta teleportation…but to where?’ Scott replies that there is no way of knowing, but now they have lost the Right - and Archangel has gone out of their reach also. ‘There is no excuse for bank officers to behave so…aggressively. My lawyers will be in touch!’ Archangel exclaims. ‘Dear Lord in Heaven, what will he do now?’ Jean wonders.
Meanwhile, so near and yet so far away, a shadowed personage ponders… ‘A strategic withdrawal, not a defeat. No, never defeat. Never say die!’. The strange human-machine creature thinks ’X-Factor, die-hards, that they are, would not be distracted from Archangel again…no, never… nor could my cyber-soldiers have taken him necessarily. But now I have his measure. And next time, ah yes, of course, there’ll be a next time…I will destroy him…destroy them all!’
Back outside the bank, police and reporters surround the terrified bank teller whom met Archangel moments earlier, who exclaims that the reporters are right, Archangel is crazy. ‘He used to stop criminals and now…now he robs banks!’ she exclaims, before explaining that he talked to her like a rich guy, called her “my good woman”. ‘Is that a laugh or what…and all along, I’m scared to death he’s gonna kill me!’ The bank teller then announces that Archangel called himself Warren Worthington. ‘Why would he say a think like that?’ she asks.
‘Warren Worthington…?’ Trish wonders, while Charlotte tells Trish and the other reporters to step back while she gets a police statement. Trish complies, lost in her own thoughts anyway, recalling how she discovered Archangel’s real identity, and all along she said nothing, as it seemed right, she respected his privacy. But now, Trish wonders if keeping quiet was the right thing to do, for Archangel himself has blown his own cover, and she will have to report it, along with the proof that she has accumulated. Trish knows that when Hank finds out, there will be heck to pay.
At that moment, X-Factor return to the ground, ‘I guess I had to happen,’ Jean remarks, and Cyclops points out that it has been obvious for a while that Archangel’s real problem is the disparity between what he was and what he is. Jean remarks that at least the secret is out in the open now, before alerting Cyclops to something overhead.
‘It’s Banshee…and Forge…of the X-Men!’ exclaims Trish as she and Charlotte stand with X-Factor. Stepping from their hovercraft, Sean Cassidy explains that they heard on the telly about their troubles. ‘Like Irish says, we’ve come to offer our help in your quest for Archangel’, Forge explains.
‘Banshee! In an X-Men uniform, never thought I’d see it - but I have to admit, old friend, you wear it well!’ Scott exclaims, greeting his friend, who has always worn his classic green and yellow costume, but now wears the standard X-uniform. Sean replies that it is a pleasure to be wearing the uniform, and that he is sure Forge feels the same. Jean notices the way that Scott glares at Forge, so grim, and realizes Forge has the same expression. Banshee announces that, pleasantries aside, Forge believes that an almost undetectable, subcutaneously imbedded capsule, similar to ones used on Wolverine and Havok some time ago, is poisoning Archangel.
Forge remarks that it is getting to be the assassin’s weapon of choice, and informs X-Factor that he has invented a way to subdue Archangel, if they can get close enough. ‘This isn’t the power-removing device you used on Storm, is it?’ Cyclops asks sternly. Forge narrows his eyes and replies ‘That’s been destroyed. I never meant to harm her. Storm forgave me. Why can’t you?’, before reminding Cyclops that the device was effective. Hank watches everyone, and thinks to himself that you can cut the tension with a knife. Hank realizes that Forge is obviously attracted to Jean, and wonders what she feels for Forge.
Hank knows that it is up to Cyclops whether they accept Banshee and Forge’s help, but they sure need them. Cyclops looks at Jean, whose eyes are downcast, not looking at anyone, and Scott thanks Forge, telling him that they will give his invention a try. Scott reminds everyone that Archangel used to bank here, and appears to be in his Warren Worthington mode, so he thinks he knows where Archangel will go next.
Archangel hovers towards a Worthington Industries building, which has stood here for nearly 150 years, a monument to the family’s vast wealth and unassailable social position. The past three generations have not had to sully their hands with trade, but have dabbled in it, occasionally, for amusement - as their sole heir, Warren Worthington III now proposes to do so. Warren lands on a balcony, and sees several people inside a meeting room. ‘Warren, darling. You’re late. We’re voting on some interesting acquisitions. I was hoping you’d join us!’ a woman remarks, getting to her feet, she crosses the room to the sliding door, where Archangel is shocked to see that the woman Candy Southern, and asks her what she is doing here.
‘You made me a director…or had you forgotten?’ Candy replies, to which Warren replies that he hadn’t, and remarks that there was a hold-up at the bank, but he is here now. ‘Come inside,’ Candy asks Warren, but, when Archangel steps inside, although he sees Candy and the other board members, he glances at a mirror, which reveals who they really are - X-Factor and the police! Hank detects that Warren is spooked, as Archangel asks them what they are doing here. Jean drops the telepathic disguises, and Cyclops tells Archangel to chill out, that they just want to talk to him. ‘You aren’t board members! What are you doing here? I’ll have you evicted!’ Archangel exclaims, before calling out for guards. Scott sees Warren edging back towards the balcony, and tells Bobby and Jean to stop him.
‘Easier said than done, Cyke!’ Bobby replies as he fires a beam of ice at Archangel, but Warren just flies above it. Jean exclaims that she has a telekinetic hold of Warren, but this puts her under some pressure. ‘This is brazen assault!’ Archangel shouts, before firing his deadly razor-sharp “feathers” at his teammates. ‘Blast!’ Cyclops exclaims, before declaring that he can only take out some of the blades, and will only use his optic blast against Archangel as a last resort. As Scott begins to shatter as many of the blades as he can, Banshee exclaims ‘Wish me luck, for the calibrations will be tricky!’ and uses his sonic scream to shatter what blades he can.
Banshee proceeds to pitch his sonic scream low, hoping not only to pulverize the remaining blades, but also to disorient Archangel. Even so, every mirrored wall, and every plate glass window also shatters. ‘Hit the deck!’ Cyclops calls out to everyone. Warren staggers backwards, and his wings react almost independently, launching a second, paralysing barrage. The blades slice past X-Factor, Forge and Banshee, and one of them hits Jean on the head, while Scott is struck by two. Jean announces that her concentration is disrupted, and that she has lost her hold on Archangel.
Forge compliments Banshee on doing such a good job as he lunges at Archangel with the device in his hand. Even though Forge’s mutant power makes him a master inventor, he has other human abilities which he honed in the fires of Vietnam, he is indeed a warrior born - but as he lunges at Warren, one of Archangel’s deadly wings slice through Forge’s bionic leg. ‘Blast!’ Forge shouts, annoyed. ‘Your leg!’ Hank exclaims, concerned for Forge, who reminds him that it is bionic and can be repaired. Forge tells Hank not to worry about him, but to look at Archangel.
Forge points out that the poison in Warren’s system is taking its toll, and it will finish him off. ‘Unless…’ Forge begins before handing the device to Hank and telling him to clamp it around Archangel’s torso. ‘It may be the last chance we’ll get!’ Forge adds. ‘Read you loud and clear!’ Hank replies as he leaps towards Archangel who has taken flight. Hank is successful, as he clamps Forge’s device around Archangel, though Hank is concerned now that Archangel has taken flight, that if Forge’s inhibitor is effective, Warren will fall to his death.
Forge explains that Archangel won’t fall to his death, as the inhibitor will not be effective straight away, and at first he will simply feel dizzy and sluggish. Indeed, Archangel puts a hand to his head as he is overcome by confusion, ‘He’s sinking…slowly to the ground!’ Trish Tilby exclaims as she stands with Charlotte Jones, amongst other reporters and police officers, watching Warren drift down to the ground. ‘Finally…it’s almost over!’ Trish exclaims.
Iceman carries everyone on an ice-sled down towards where Archangel is still slowly falling, and Forge announces that he and Hank will be able to locate the poison capsule and remove it. Suddenly though, ‘Oh my stars and garters…what’s that…?’ Hank gasps as a pinkish mist begins to envelop Archangel. ‘Mist…the red mist…’ Warren mutters to himself, while Jean suddenly screams, ‘Nooooo! Pain…anger…a psychic blast of hate!’ she exclaims, clutching her head.
‘There are twenty-three of us from across the world - the first gathering in more than two centuries, since the last time the circle was broken. All of us together…minus one. A danger. A ritual necessity…’ Crimson thinks to herself as she and the other Ravens slowly emerge through the pink mist. ‘In the sight of all, we surround you!’ one of the Ravens exclaims. ‘With arm of fire, we surround you!’ Crimson shouts, as Archangel hovers amongst the Ravens. ‘You were stronger than Azure, our fallen member!’ another Raven exclaims. ‘Now your strength must replace what was stolen!’ someone else explains. ‘That the circle may grow ever stronger!’ another remarks. ‘Crimson…’ Archangel mumbles.
‘He feels my lure…as he fells the lure of his own death…except, for a Raven, death is eternal life…eternal anguish. They are one and the same!’ Crimson thinks to herself. She stares at Archangel as she hovers directly in front of him now. Crimson realizes that Forge’s device holds Archangel, and he is now too weak, too lethargic to resist. Crimson thinks to herself that the other Ravens are misled, for they think it is her power which has Archangel enthralled. ‘They are fools’.
Together, the Ravens render Archangel down to his essence, with Crimson taking care that Forge’s device goes with them. Horrified, Jean and the others watch what they can through the pink mist, ‘They’re going to take Warren, kill him…and then…then…dear Lord, we have to stop them!’ Jean cries. A nearby police officer tells Jean not to sweat it, ‘Whatever they are…New York’s finest has them in it’s sights!’. With that, several of the officers begin to open fire on the Ravens, confused when the bullets strike, but the Ravens do not fall. ‘What were those things?’ someone asks as X-Factor, Forge, Banshee, Trish, Charlotte and the other reporters and police gather under the swirling red mist.
‘Here, policemen…guardians of the city. Here is what the Ravens think of bullets! Keep them. Hold them to your hearts and pray…that the fate that awaits the Archangel will never threaten one of you!’. With that, the bullets that were fired at Archangel drop to the feet of those gathered, and Archangel’s soul screams….