The deadly Raven known as Crimson thinks over recent events - how Archangel destroyed the Raven Azure, and knows that he who destroys a Raven must take his place without the sundered circle, meaning, Archangel must become a Raven. ‘This is the flawed and flawless logic by which we Ravens define our lives!’ Crimson thinks to herself, although knowing that Archangel is no ordinary human putty in the Ravens’ hands, for he is a mutant, born with an X-Factor in his genetic structure that gives him superhuman abilities.
As the sultry Crimson and her fellow Ravens lower Archangel into an abandoned theater, one of the Ravens asks Crimson what is wrong with Archangel. ‘Doesn’t he know we captured him? Doesn’t he care?’ Crimson ignores her associate, after all, what should she say? The truth? That Archangel was attacked by an enemy who infected him with a powerful hallucinogen, then she revived the old painful memories who gave his fantasies direction and meaning and that now Archangel exists in a twilight world, haunted by specters of himself - the angelic playboy that he used to be, the razor-winged monster he has become. ‘No. Better to say nothing at all. Anything I say, might be used against me’.
Inside the deserted theater, the Ravens place Archangel on the stage, which will become the altar where they will take this brutal farce to its final, violent conclusion. One of the Ravens tells Crimson that she was right about mutants, and remarks that Archangel does shine like the beacon in a fog. ‘How did you keep from devouring him the moment you laid eyes on him?’ another asks. ‘I’d take him now if Cobalt would let me!’ Cerise exclaims. ‘Would you, Cerise?’ the handsome Cobalt asks. ‘Somehow I doubt it would be that easy. Can’t you feel his power…his strength of will?’ Cobalt remarks, adding that he wonders why Archangel, let them take him down without a battle.
Crimson realizes that the other Ravens are torn by conflicting and un-natural desires, but Cobalt is not, for he is the oldest of them, and the shrewdest - their voice of reason in a reasonless world. ‘Perhaps, since I was there, he didn’t want to fight!’ Crimson replies to Cobalt’s question abruptly. Crimson gives a half-smile, knowing that her answer has just the right touch of hubris, implying that her overwhelming charms hold Archangel in thrall. She knows that Cobalt almost buys it.
‘Archangel’s mad, isn’t he?’ Cobalt asks, to which Crimson turns to her associate and replies ‘As a hatter. But if sanity were a pre-requisite for Ravenhood, where would we all be?’ Suddenly, there is the sound of clapping coming from the audience seats, and someone shouts ‘Bravo! Encore!’. The Ravens all turn to the seats, confused, ‘Who’s there?’ Cobalt demands, ;Our audience’ one of the others remarks, motioning to a lone homeless man sitting in the dirty rows.
‘Whatcha rehearsing? One of them abstract things…Edward Albee right?’ the homeless man asks innocently. Cobalt declares that there must be no witnesses this time, ‘Kill him!’ he orders as he and one of the others pull the homeless man onto the stage. ‘Hey! Whatcha doing?’ he asks, before screaming ‘NOOOOO!’ as several of the Ravens easily absorb his life-force, and killing him, reducing him to a pile of broken bones and tattered clothes on the stage. ‘What a bore…the usual maudlin memories…a life-force so tenuous as to be near non-existent’ one of the Ravens remarks, while another tells Cobalt that this was hardly worth the effort.
Meanwhile, in Midtown Manhattan, where, minutes ago, X-Factor - Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey, Hank “Beast” McCoy and Bobby “Iceman” Drake - along with Forge and Sean “Banshee” Cassidy of the X-Men, nearly apprehended their delusive teammate, Archangel, only to witness him being snatched away by the Ravens, so alien as to seem inhuman, even to the mutant heroes.
Iceman creates an ice-sled, and his friends follow him along it, sans Banshee who flies overhead. Jean exclaims ‘Supposedly I’m not a mind-reader anymore, and I miss the power so terribly…but then, wham, I find myself linked telepathically, empathically with those disgusting horrors! I was overwhelmed, not by the beauty of a mind-link, but by the terror!’ Jean apologizes, and remarks that she is babbling. ‘It’s the shock’ she explains, adding that she supposes she should be grateful for what happened. ‘Poor Warren’ Jean adds, pointing out that at least now they have some clue about the Ravens’ plan for him, even if it is too horrible to contemplate.
Forge reminds everyone how their brilliant plan to capture Archangel just blew up in their faces, and feels responsible, for he meant the restraining device to save Warren, not allow those demons to kidnap him. Scott assures Forge that no one is questioning his motives or abilities. As Bobby’s ice-sled takes the heroes down to the ground, Scott tells Forge that his invention did what is was supposed to do, for Archangel was running amok, and they had to stop him. ‘No one could’ve foreseen its result…but we’re going to have to move quickly, or Warren will be in the Ravens’ thrall forever’.
Nearby, Detective Charlotte Jones of the NYPD sees X-Factor and calls out to Cyclops. ‘Officer Jones…you saw?’ Scott asks as he and the others approach their new ally. ‘We saw. And I hope never to see anything like it again!’ Charlotte replies, informing X-Factor that she and the other officers fired point blank on those…things as they surrounded Archangel. Charlotte holds up the bullets left behind when the Ravens disappeared, explaining that the bullets dropped to her feet as if to prove they were nothing to the Ravens. ‘The gunshots didn’t even faze then. What kind of monsters are they?’ Charlotte asks, concerned.
Hank explains to Charlotte that, earlier, a patient at St. Vincent’s said Archangel killed a sort of vampire that exploded in a spout of flame. ‘And now those creatures…’Hank begins, with Charlotte finishing his sentence: ‘…seem to be made up of fire. I know…I’ve seen. I confronted one of them before’ she reveals, before asking X-Factor if they think the Ravens have taken Archangel for revenge because he killed one of their number. Jean agrees, but remarks that it is also more, that it is also somehow a triumph. ‘They need him now. They mean to add Archangel’s power to theirs…to make him one of their own!’ Jean exclaims.
Back in the abandoned theater, Crimson watches as several of the male Ravens jack Archangel up to a cross and hang him upside down. Dressed in an elegant red evening gown, while her colleagues wear the standard black and red outfit, Crimson recalls that Horus was the Egyptian God of Light, whose head is that of a falcon, and spans the sky with his wings and covers the land with his pinions - who holds the Ankh, the symbol of life, in his right hand. Crimson explains that it is that symbol which Archangel is now shackled too, as his soul will be bound in eternal life by an infernal death. ‘For we Ravens are the left hand of Horus, his four and twenty blackbirds, the carrion eaters, the feeders on the dead…and from our wings, wise men flee in terror!’
‘Lower him!’ Cobalt orders one of the other male Ravens, before asking how it can be possible that the mad, quiescent mutant before them was powerful enough to destroy Azure. ‘Unless…that silver belt, Crimson, it is not part of his costume, is it?’ Cobalt asks. ‘He knows!’ Crimson thinks to herself. Crimson knows that Cobalt is many things, but not a fool. ‘I knew he would eventually spot its wrongness…’ she thinks to herself, deciding to turn this cleverness into her own advantage. Crimson walks over to Archangel and places a hand on the neutralizer, telling Cobalt that she thinks he is right, and asks if she should remove it.
‘No. I think it should remain, don you, my sweet Crimson?’ Cobalt retorts, snatching Crimson and pulling her away from Archangel. ‘If, as I suspect, the device inhibits hi, its removal might pose a threat to us!’ Cobalt declares. Crimson narrows her eyes and wonders to herself why, if Cobalt sees that threat, he does not see the greater one. ‘A Raven with Archangel’s power will be the most powerful among us and will dominate the circle’ Crimson thinks to herself, before Cobalt orders her to take Cerise and Beryl to find someone for Archangel to feast upon when the time comes. ‘Someone of spirit and mettle!’ Cobalt orders.
A pink haze spreads around Crimson and the other two as they fade away, with Crimson replying ‘As you wish, Cobalt, I recently scanned a woman who will be perfect for your purpose!’. But Crimson thinks to herself, ‘Even more perfect for mine!’. For, Crimson has selected the policewoman who she encountered earlier as Archangel’s victim, the one who prowls the beat near X-Factor’s giant ship - Charlotte Jones!
The hardworking Charlotte has finally finished work, and has returned to the elusive safety of her home, and is currently tucking her son, Timmy, into bed. ‘There were monsters here, Mommy…really!’ Timmy exclaims. ‘Timmy, angel, there’s no such thing as monsters!’ Charlotte tells her son, while thinking to herself that she has never lied to him before, but after yesterday…it wouldn’t have been a lie. Charlotte tells herself that truth and reality are not what she thought they were, and knows she can tell her son the truth, but doesn’t want to scare him.
Suddenly though, Timmy sits up in bed and shouts ‘Mommy, look, there are monsters! See - they’re back!’ Charlotte spins around to look at what Timmy is looking at, and sees Crimson and the other two Ravens standing before her. ‘You! Keep away from him or I swear -’ Charlotte begins as she stands up to protect her son, only to be interrupted by the Ravens who cast their power upon her and tell her to be comforted, if she can take solace from this, by knowing that it is not the child they want, but her. ‘Mommmeeee!’, a scared Timmy screams as his mother vanishes, along with the Ravens.
Meanwhile, unaware of the Ravens’ latest kidnapping, X-Factor, Forge and Banshee continue their desperate search, knowing that they have only until dawn to locate and rescue Archangel, and it is the Ravens’ unwitting telepathic contact that has given the mutants their single hope. Iceman slides alone this time, as Jean telekinetically carries Cyclops, Beast and Forge, while Banshee flies overhead. Scott asks Jean if the Ravens’ psychic imprint is strong enough for her to follow, to which Jean replies ‘Believe me, if I even get close to them again, I’ll know it’.
Bobby remarks that all they have to do is search back and forth until Jean locates the Freddy Krueger rejects. Jean replies that she knows it isn’t much, but it is still the best chance they have. She adds that they have something else going for them, the fact that the Ravens have contempt for all things human. ‘If we’re lucky…if things are the way I think it is…those inhuman monsters don’t have a clue that they’ve given themselves away…and that will be their downfall!’ Jean boasts.
Back at the theater, Crimson delivers Charlotte Jones, trussed up like a lamb to the slaughter, and the ceremony begins. The Ravens surround Archangel, their energies flowing, and chant words in a language so ancient that the words no longer have clear meaning - phrases of enchantment, invocations of power. At first, Archangel merely hovers, suspended in tendrils of light and darkness - then the sounds permeate his soul, and he begins to chant along with them, speaking the ancient words also. Crimson feels their power rising as the hole in their circle is slowly sealed. She shares the frenzy of the other Ravens, and is driven by their need - but she knows that this is not what she wants.
The theater goes dark save for the pink energies linking Archangel to the Ravens, while Crimson reminds herself that she wants Archangel to be free, unfettered and she knows that only Cobalt suspects this. ‘But not even Cobalt can know the depth of my hatred for the Ravens…nor guess the boldness of my plan…for Archangel, free of restraint, will destroy the Ravens!’ Crimson thinks to herself. She continues, thinking that Archangel will sunder the circle, decimate their collective power, and break the Ravens’ hold on her, so, she can, in turn, use his attraction, his fascination, for things dark and deadly, to bind him to her - to devour his soul and absorb his power. ‘I will emerge along, triumphant and powerful…when the others are little more than shadows twisting on the wind!’
As the ceremony continues, Archangel gets a deranged look on his face, his eyes go wide, and he continues to babble the ancient words, until, suddenly, their gyrations stop, though the air itself continues to tremble with their power. ‘Bring the victim forward!’ Cobalt orders. Two of the other Ravens drag Charlotte towards the circle, while Charlotte asks ‘Who are you people? What’s going on here?’. Cobalt orders her to be silent, and exclaims that Archangel, who was once also Death, will through her death enter the life eternal.
With but a little help from the Ravens, Archangel separates himself from the Ankh, ancient symbol of life - already he wields their power as if he was born for it, Crimson notes. Archangel stands before Charlotte Jones, whose hands are bound behind her back as she is laid before Archangel. ‘He must devour this woman to set the seal upon his transformation’ Crimson remarks, noting that Archangel is hungry, ravenous in the depths of his soul. ‘I know that hunger well’ Crimson admits, while Archangel stares at Charlotte, a wicked smile grinning.
Under the Ravens’ compulsion, Archangel raises his hand and pulls Charlotte’s life-memories from her, and Charlotte feels it happening - lives it all again - but terrible as her memories are, she faces them, she does not flinch. Crimson wonders if Charlotte knows what she knows, that this will be her one faint hope of salvation. ‘Perhaps she, like I, is counting on the uncommon strength of Archangel’s soul…’. Crimson’s thoughts are interrupted by an optic blast which strikes down no less than three of the Ravens. ‘Intruders! Stop them!’ one of the Ravens shouts.
The “them” that the Raven refers to is of course X-Factor, Forge and Banshee, who leap down from one of the balconies. ‘They’re here all right, bless your telepathic synapses, Jean!’ the Beast exclaims. ‘We’ve got to take them down - fast!’ Cyclops urges while firing another optic blast. ‘We hear you, Cyke - but they’ve got us way outnumbered!’ Bobby points out. ‘That’s never stopped us before!’ Cyclops reminds his friend. As the heroes land on the stage, Bobby covers a Raven in ice, while Banshee uses his sonic scream to take an opponent down, and Jean tackles hers with a telekinetic blast.
Cyclops reminds everyone that the Ravens are cold-blooded killers, and are not human. ‘So don’t be pretty!’ he tells his team, before urging them to go for the Ravens’ heads, as that is how Archangel destroyed the one in the hospital. Cobalt frowns and glares at X-Factor, while exclaiming ‘Such is the danger of witnesses left alive! But as you strike at our heads…so we will strike at yours!’. With that, he grabs Cyclops’ head, only for the Beast to swing down on a rope, ‘I’ve seen your kind at work before, vampire. As inhumanly strong as you may be, I have gravity and momentum on my side!’. With that, Hank slams into Cobalt, causing him to release Cyclops.
Crimson skulks off to the back of the stage, ‘In mere seconds, the circle is shattered beyond repair. The Ravens still battle for ascendancy. But they are weakened and distracted by the mutants’ onslaught’. Crimson gazes to where Archangel is left alone in front of Detective Jones. Crimson thinks to herself that this foray does not disrupt her plan, it simply enhances it. Crimson believes that she will still absorb Archangel’s life-force and with it, his power. ‘The Ravens, even Cobalt, have not the wits left to see what I intend to do, nor the will to stop me’, Crimson boasts as she walks over to Archangel, frozen before Charlotte Jones.
Charlotte looks up at Archangel and realizes that he was driven by the Ravens when he reached into her soul and pulled out her life, her memories. ‘Who I was…what I am…’. As Crimson touches Archangel’s shoulder, she is amazed that even with the restraint paralyzing him, his will, even with the Ravens’ magic running through his veins, he still resists the hunger. Crimson moves in front of Archangel now, exclaiming ‘You will not be a Raven, that is not the ending I require!’ and begins to use her powers on him.
Charlotte watches, realizing that Archangel was supposed to kill her, but he didn’t, he fought it, fought himself. ‘So why isn’t he fighting her?’ she wonders as she watches Archangel reel from Crimson’s attack. Charlotte begins to manoeuvre her body, twisting her arms under her legs, while thinking to herself ‘Why me? Why my beat? Since X-Factor’s Ship plonked itself down here…I’ve fallen from heights, been shot at, kidnapped, my kid’s been terrorized, but this takes the cake. Of all the undignified positions…’ Charlotte gets to her feet, and lunges towards Crimson.
During the lunge, Crimson recalls how Archangel has saved her life time and time again, and knows that now her hands are free, it is her turn to save him. ‘And then I’m gonna wrap them around that blonde witch’s throat!’. But, just before Charlotte can strike at Crimson, the powerful Raven spins around ‘A good try, woman…but not nearly good enough! As you now see, your hero’s power has already strengthened me!’ Crimson boasts as she wraps a hand around Charlotte’s neck.
‘She’s got me blocked…strangling me…don’t black out now, girl…stretch…reach it…there!’ Charlotte thinks to herself as she desperately reaches out to Archangel, until she slips the power inhibitor from him. This causes Crimson to instantly let go of both Archangel and Charlotte, ‘His power inhibitor! Mortal meddler! What have you done?!’ Crimson screams. ‘What I planned to do!’ Charlotte replies as she hit’s the ground, before calling out to Archangel: ‘Go on, Rip that witch’s heart out!’
‘Woman! You are a fool! And you will die like one!’ Crimson shouts at Charlotte, while casting her power upon Archangel and Charlotte. Her eyes get a deranged look in them, as Crimson asks Charlotte if she thinks the inhibitor alone held Archangel in thrall, or if Archangel - maddened, monstrous, finds his life worth fighting for. ‘Archangel, please, you have to fight!’ Charlotte exclaims. ‘I have a kid. Can’t die…can’t leave him…!’ she pleads.
‘Fight…? Yes…I’ll fight!’ Archangel replies, before spinning his body around - enabling his razor-sharp wing to strike Crimson’s head. ‘My life was mine to lose…but now you’ve gone too far. The oblivion is madness! And, by threatening her, you’ve shown me your true self, Crimson. Leave us, vampire! Be gone!’ Archangel shouts. Crimson’s body goes up in flames, and Warren whispers ‘Trouble us…no more…’ before collapsing to the ground.
Charlotte rushes over to Archangel and holds onto him, ‘He’s hardly breathing, please…someone help him!’ she calls out. But looking over at X-Factor, Charlotte wonders how they can help him, when they can barely help themselves, as the battle has taken a turn for the worse.
‘You’re killing him!’ Jean Grey shouts at Cobalt, who has somehow managed to get hold of Cyclops once more, has withered him badly. ‘A game try, mutant! But as you see, I’m as solid as I need to be!’ Cobalt boasts as Jean slams him with a telekinetic blot. Standing his ground, Cobalt tells Jean that his touch burns her leader like irons. Cobalt calls out to the other Ravens who have taken control of Bobby, Hank, Sean and Forge also. ‘Drain them, Ravens! Just enough to render them ineffective…but do not devour them on peril of our power!’ Cobalt orders.
‘Crimson…Cerise…Azure…Coral…Ruby, gone, all gone!’ Cobalt exclaims, declaring that with their bodies, their powers and their souls, these mutants pay the price for mending the circle. Turning back to Jean, Cobalt remarks ‘A pity, my dear, since you are such a tasty little morsel…but as a matter of dire necessity…you will be the first to join us in eternal life!’. Cobalt backs Jean against the brick wall of the theater, unaware that Jean has telekinetically lifted the Ankh up behind him, then uses her phenomenal power to slam it towards Cobalt, ‘Think again, head-hunter!’ Jean shouts as she slams the Ankh into Cobalt’s head, smashing him against the brick wall.
With the destruction of Cobalt by Jean, the circle of power for the Ravens is shattered beyond repair. Ravens, creatures seemingly of flesh and blood, implode, dissolve into their true form of shrieking, noxious, living mist. The pink mist rises, trembling and twisting, into the sky, bursting through the abandoned theater. When the dust settles, X-Factor, Banshee and Forge have returned to their true selves, and Hank remarks that it would seem they have won. ‘Yeah, man. I thought that time our tickets had been punched for sure!’ Bobby replies. ‘Scott, are you all right?’ Jean asks as she puts her arms around Scott. Cyclops replies that he is fine, and remarks that he is not important, as they have to see what happened to Warren. ‘Whatever the Ravens put us through was nothing compared to what they did to him!’ he exclaims.
Soon, Forge examines Archangel, and Scott asks if he will live. ‘If I’m right, if a subcutaneous pellet is what’s poisoning him…and if I can get it out in time’ Forge replies. ‘Poison?’ Charlotte gasps. Bobby explains to Charlotte that Forge thinks the poison is what’s been making Warren hallucinate…poison that would have killed Archangel, even if those creatures hadn’t’. ‘Suddenly, ‘THERE!’ Forge shouts as he pulls a poison pellet from Archangel’s arm. ‘Nasty piece of work, isn’t it?’ he asks, holding it up with a pair of tweezers. Hank takes Charlotte’s hand and remarks that they all saw Warren was in trouble, but couldn’t get close enough to help. ‘You saved him. I want to thank you, Officer Jones…’.
Suddenly, a voice whispers ‘It’s Charlotte…’. ‘What?’ Cyclops asks. ‘Officer Jones, your name is Charlotte, isn’t it?’ Archangel asks, taking Charlotte’s hand as she kneels down beside him. ‘You pulled that out of my head, didn’t you? With all my other memories. How much else…stuck…? Charlotte asks. ‘Some. I…remember that you saved me…’ Warren reveals. ‘You’ve saved me plenty. I’d say we’re even’ Charlotte replies. ‘No, you don’t understand. When you removed the shackle, physically I was free to act…but part of me yearned for the oblivion…Crimson promised. Part of me wanted to succumb!’ Archangel explains, telling Charlotte that her memories awakened him, drove him beyond himself. ‘You became my…saving grace!’ Charlotte smiles as Archangel tells her that it was her need, her courage, that gave both of them another chance….