‘Scott and Jean are where?’ someone asks. ‘They’re on the moon!’ Wolverine a.k.a. Logan replies over video-monitor. ‘I’m telling you I’m positive. It’s the only thing that makes sense’ Wolverine declares as looks of awe, shock, and bewilderment to spread across the faces of some of the Children of the Atom: Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast, Bobby “Iceman” Drake, Lorna “Polaris” Dane, Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel, Alex “Havok” Summers, Dr Valerie Cooper, Ororo “Storm” Munroe and Betsy Braddock a.k.a. Psylocke. They are members of the X-Men and X-Factor, and they are currently under siege. With the exception of Valerie, they are all mutants. They are the believers in the dream of their dying mentor, Charles Xavier, and friends and teammates of the missing Jean Grey and Scott summers.
But if any single word could sum up their essence, their goals, everything that makes them what they are at this very moment - then that word would definitely be ‘Confused’ Storm declares. ‘Well, of course they could be anywhere, so naturally they’re on a sphere of airless rock. Makes perfect sense, Logan. You’re right’ Havok declares. Storm exclaims that she is completely confused, and asks Wolverine how he jumped to this conclusion. ‘Part of it’s instinct…something I have been known to use successfully now and then’ Logan replies. H explains that with Stryfe trying to muscle in on Apocalypse’s terrain, it wouldn’t be surprising if Stryfe were operating out of Apocalypse’s last known major headquarters - namely Luna.
Wolverine adds that the distance would explain why Jean is having trouble sending a thought broadcast. ‘But I think she finally managed to’ Logan announces, telling his companions that it barely got to him, to the degree where his subconscious had to let him know he had an incoming call. ‘She reached me, intentionally or not, since I’m the one guy, aside from Scott, that she felt closest to’. ‘And just how close…’ begins Iceman. ‘…is close?’ the Beast concludes. ‘Never mind that now’ Storm declares, before asking Wolverine if he is picking up anything else that could possibly be interpreted as a telepathic call from Jean - consciously, unconsciously or otherwise. ‘No. Which means nothing…or everything…’ Wolverine replies.
Wolverine tells his friends that the way he sees it, there is two possible scenarios. ‘Either Jean came to, sent a cry for help, and then passed out…or else…and this is the scarier one…Jean and Scott broke out of the HQ, not realizing where they were…and Jean’s broadcast was a fear-boosted scream, because they’re out on the moon’s surface freezing to death, and suffocating. And if that’s the case…we’ll never reach ‘em in time’ Wolverine declares.
At that very moment, Jean Grey and Scott “Cyclops” Summers crawl along the surface of the moon, away from Apocalypse’s complex. Jean looks up at Earth, shimmering in the distance, before slipping on some crumbling rock, she falls flat on her face. Blood trickles from Jean’s mouth and nose as she looks at Cyclops - they reach out for each other, and clasp their hands, and help each other up, struggling across the moon’s surface - before they stumble and fall to the dusty moon floor again - when, suddenly, Cyclops gasps, and breathes in. ‘Air! We’ve got…’ he exclaims, before telling Jean, who is coughing, to take it slow. ‘Slow…breathe steady…’. Jean gasps, and mutters that she is going to be sick, while a small force field bubble covers them. ‘Well well well. Isn’t this…cozy’ the diabolical Stryfe declares as he appears alongside them.
Inside Graymalkin, Wolverine continues to video-conference with his teammates, telling Storm that if there is any shot at all, they will take it. ‘Bishop and Cable and I are going to head to the moon to rescue -’ he begins, but Storm tells him that he will do no such thing. ‘I do not want you hurling yourselves into whatever danger awaits without knowing the circumstances’ Storm orders, pointing out that instead of having Wolverine, Cable and Bishop as assets, they might have to rescue them as well. ‘I want the three of you to come here, via whatever transport means that Cable has’.
‘Forget it’ Cable declares. ‘I’m not walking into the lion’s den. I’m interested in confronting Stryfe, not risk having to fight my way out of an x-stronghold’. Cable tells Wolverine and Bishop that if they try to force him to go then someone is going to get hurt. ‘Like who?’ Bishop snaps. ‘Like me, probably. But that won’t accomplish anything. You need me cooperative, not comatose’ Cable replies. Wolverine declares that Cable makes sense and tells Storm that they have a standoff here, unless she wants to try and strong-arm Cable. ‘Your call’ he tells her.
‘Very well, Wolverine. Do as he says and we will arrange our own mode of transportation. Mansion out’ Storm declares. Cable tells Wolverine that it is a good thing Storm passed on his offer to head straight to the moon. ‘Body-sliding there isn’t the same as body-sliding to Earth’. ‘There’s different gravimetric fields involved. Not to mention planetary -’ Cable begins, before Wolverine interrupts him: ‘You telling me we can’t get there?’ he asks, frowning. Cable replies that they can, but serious adjustments have to be made. ‘This isn’t “Star Trek” you know’ Cable adds, explaining that if he is body-sliding to a different planetary mass he has to recalibrate his instrumentation. ‘How long will that take?’ Wolverine asks. Cable replies that if he does it himself it will take twenty five minutes. ‘And if we help?’ Wolverine asks. ‘An hour and a half’ Cable replies, to which Wolverine asks him if he happens to have some beer and a deck of cards around here.
Back at the X-Men’s Mansion, X-Factor’s leader, Havok, asks Storm if she realizes this is pretty far-fetched. ‘Of course’ Storm replies. ‘The odds on this panning out are slim’ Havok tells her. ‘Of course’ Storm agrees. ‘We’re going to do it anyway, aren’t we?’ Havok asks. ‘Of course’ she tells him. ‘Yeah, I figured. Any thoughts on the strike team?’ Havok asks. ‘Of course’ Storm replies - in unison with Havok. ‘You’re going to go, aren’t you, Havok?’ Valerie asks. ‘It’s Scott and Jean. Naturally I’m going’ Havok replies, before remarking that watching his back he would like to have Psylocke, ‘Good’ Betsy replies. ‘Warren…’ - who remains silent - ‘…Bobby…’, ‘I’m there’ Bobby exclaims.
Havok continues: ‘…Lorna…’ ‘Wild horses and all that’ Polaris replies. ‘…Sam…’ Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie tells Havok that he appreciates the vote of confidence, while Havok adds that he wants Storm of course and asks Ororo if she is happy with that line-up. ‘You read my mind’ Ororo replies, while the Beast declares that he hates to remind everyone of this, but that the Professor still needs help. ‘Unless we’re just planning to write him off’ Hank adds. ‘Of course not, Hank. You know better’ Warren exclaims, before telling everyone to come along, as Apocalypse should be sufficiently rested by now. ‘And if we’ve got any hope at all of saving Xavier, then it rests with…’ Warren begins as he opens a door - only to find three members of X-Factor - Jamie “Multiple Man” Madrox, Guido “Strong Guy” Carosella and Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair beind the door. ‘Oh, hi. Don’t mind us’ Guido declares. ‘We weren’t eavesdropping. Nope. Not us’ Madrox adds. Havok sighs and rubs his forehead. ‘I can’t take them anywhere’.
Back on the moon, Stryfe asks Cyclops and Jean if they are wondering how they can hear him, and explains that it is simple, for he took the liberty of implanting subcutaneous transmitters just behind his jaws. ‘You’re so predictable, you see. Don’t you understand that you’re like mice running through a maze?’ Stryfe tells them, adding that any strategy they develop has already been anticipated and countered. Stryfe tells Cyclops not to bother with an optic blast, as it will just ricochet around in there. ‘It won’t hurt you, of course, but it might seriously damage your companion’.
Jean asks Stryfe what he wants from them. ‘What’s the purpose of this sick exercise? Revenge? But why us particularly?’. Scott tells Jean not to bother asking him, as his kind doesn’t need rhyme or reason beyond their own megalomania. ‘”His kind”?’ Stryfe asks. ‘Up on all the latest “super villain psychology” are we?’. Stryfe declares that Cyclops is so secure, always knowing that he is in the right, that his purity could never have done anything to bring this on himself. ‘You’re all innocence, aren’t you? Self-righteous fool! You destroy innocence!’ Stryfe exclaims.
Tears fall from Jean’s eyes as she tells Cyclops that there is something more going on here, before announcing that she is having trouble breathing. ‘You’re running out of air. There’s only so much in that force field after all’ Stryfe points out. ‘But I’ll tell you what, Cyclops. I’ll offer you a chance. It is, after all, the least I can do. And I always do the least I can do. In that respect…I take after you’ Stryfe exclaims.
Inside the Mansion, Archangel asks Apocalypse if he is all rested up. ‘Your concern is most kind’ the uber-mutant replies. Standing with Storm, Havok, Valerie and the Beast, Archangel replies that his concern is self-serving. ‘These people are taking my word for it that you can help Charles Xavier. If something goes wrong, I don’t want you saying that your battle with Stryfe left you incapable of doing what you said you can do’. From inside his holding cell, Apocalypse replies ‘Haven’t you realized yet, “son”? Doubtlessly one of the reasons Stryfe sought to kill me was his knowledge that I could undo the techno-virus’.
Stryfe remarks that his Dark Angel - his “Death” is so suspicious. ‘I thought you “vouched” for me. Thought you trusted me?’. Warren frowns, and replies that he vouched for Apocalypse’s ability, not his character. ‘As far as the latter, I don’t trust you at all’ Warren exclaims. ‘Indeed’ Apocalypse replies, gritting his teeth. ‘And how do you suggest I utilize the former…while locked up in here?’ he asks. Warren reaches for the control panel and tells the others to stand back a bit. ‘If he tries anything, the first - and last - thin he encounters will be me’ Warren boasts. The lasers holding Apocalypse in his cell disappear, and Apocalypse remarks ‘Threats. Consider me duly intimidated’. ‘Just keep moving…”father”!’ Warren replies.
Multiple Man enters the room and calls out to Havok, informing him that he has lost mental contact with his duplicate who was babysitting the X-Patriots at the hospital. ‘Oh, that’s just great. Is he okay?’ Alex asks. ‘Yeah, if he’d been killed, I’d know. He may have just fallen asleep’ Jamie explains. Alex suggests that the dupe might have been knocked out, before declaring that there is nothing he can do about it now. ‘There’s only so many fronts we can handle’ he points out, before telling Jamie that if the X-Patriots have bolted, then to have his dupe make dupes and starting combing the city, as soon as he comes to. Havok folds his arms and declares that Val is going to go ballistic when she finds out, adding that she is already strung out. ‘So do her a favor. Don’t tell her’ Madrox suggests. Alex replies that he has to. ‘How can I not?’ he asks, before Valerie calls out, asking Alex if there is a problem. ‘Uhh…no. No problem, Val. No problem at all’ Havok assures her.
Back inside Graymalkin, bishop stares out into space, while Wolverine plays a game of cards, and Cable begins carving something out of a small piece of wood.
Inside the Mansion, the Beast and Apocalypse stand over the dying body of Professor Charles Xavier, while Dr Moira MacTaggert is on video-conference. ‘Well, are ye going to just stand there and look menacing? Or are ye going to help him?’ Moira asks. ‘Merely planning my strategy, woman!’ Apocalypse retorts, telling her that she would not want him to rush into this without sufficient preparation. ‘You would not care about the cost to me, of course. But it would have fatal consequences for Xavier’ he points out. Havok and Archangel are watching from nearby, and Alex whispers to Warren that they should watch Apocalypse like a hawk. ‘Alex, I do everything like a hawk’ Warren replies.
Apocalypse picks up on of Xavier’s arms and remarks that the techno virus has completely invaded him - everything from cardiovascular to neural. ‘He is beyond medical help’ he declares. ‘But can you help him?’ the Beast asks. ‘Of course’ Apocalypse replies, pulling from his belt a small device, and declaring that all it requires is the device and approximately ninety seconds. ‘Would you mind telling me precisely what that device is?’ the Beast asks. ‘Yes. I would’ Apocalypse replies as he places the device against Xavier’s chest. A nervous Valerie asks Havok what Apocalypse is doing, to which Alex replies that he is using the gizmo on the Professor. ‘I know that, but…’ Valerie begins, when suddenly, the Professor’s mouth opens - and the techno-organic virus pours out of him.
‘Dear God!’ the Beast shouts. ‘He’s expunging the virus!’, before exclaiming that Apocalypse is making it worse - that the virus is completely enveloping Xavier. ‘Warren! Move! We have to…’ Storm begins, but Archangel replies ‘No. Let him do what he has to’. Energy flows from Apocalypse to Xavier, while Valerie tells Havok that they have been deceived. ‘He’s out to destroy Xavier once and for all!’ Valerie exclaims, while Archangel frowns.
Meanwhile, at a hospital, a doctor enters the room of X-Patriot known as Taylor, and tells the young man that his friends in the X-Patriots finally decided to take a break. He adds that he is pleased with that, as he was bending the rules having so many visitors. ‘Taylor?’ the doctor calls out when he gets no response, before pulling back the covers of the bed - ‘Wait a minute! Who are you?’ he calls out. The young man inside the bid stirs, before rubbing his head and replying ‘Multiple Man…I think…’. The doctor asks him what he is doing here, and where his patient is. ‘And what kind of name is Multiple…Man?’ he adds, while the Madrox dupe falls from the bed - the impact of the fall creating another dupe, answering the doctor’s question.
Back inside Graymalkin, Bishop continues to stare into space, while Wolverine is still engaged in his card game, and Cable is still carving something with his knife.
On the moon, Stryfe tells Jean and Scott that all they have to do to save their lives is beg him. ‘I want you to beg with tears streaming down your faces. The way that a child would plead with his parent. The way that someone with no hope, with no source of love would implore someone who is that person’s last prayer!’. Stryfe tells Cyclops and Jean to tell them they want and need him, to say that there is no one in their life more important to them right now than he. ‘Go on. It’s your only hope’ Stryfe declares. ‘Never. We don’t trust you. We don’t want your help. We…we’d rather die!’ Cyclops replies. Stryfe frowns, as Scott, running out of oxygen, utters ‘…then throw ourselves…on the…on the mercy of…someone…like…you!’.
Cyclops falls to the moon floor, alongside Jean Grey. Stryfe stands calmly nearby, and asks ‘Who…do you think you’re talking to? He orders them to get up. ‘Come on. Don’t just lie there’ he exclaims as he slowly removes his helmet. ‘Look at me. Look at what denials and cruelty have done to me. Look! I order you’ he exclaims, showing his face, tears streaming from his eyes. ‘I ORDER YOU!’ he screams, but Cyclops and Jean Grey have passed out, and remain silent. Stryfe drops to his knees.
Inside Graymalkin, the men are still doing the same things - Bishop stares into space. Wolverine plays his card game, and Cable’s carving is revealed to be a miniature figurine of Domino. ‘I’m bored’ Cable declares. ‘Me too’ Wolverine agrees. ‘Let’s go’ Bishop exclaims. ‘We’re gone’ Cable replies.
Back in the Mansion: ’They’re gone! Xavier and Apocalypse! The virus swallowed them both!’ Valerie exclaims. Storm tells Warren that he has two seconds to move, or - ’Or you’ll screw things up is what, Ororo. No offense. Watch’ Warren replies. ’Watch what? I can’t see anything!’ the Beast remarks as the energies engulf the room. Moments later, Xavier’s body falls to the ground at Apocalypse’s feet. A small techno-organic creature scurries from Xavier, before Apocalypse declares that the operation is over and slams his foot down, crushing the techno-organic.
‘In case you’re curious…I accelerated the virus’s growth beyond the point where it could replicate itself properly’ Apocalypse explains. He tells the others that the creature feeds on biological matter, and he stimulated it so radically that Xavier became insufficient to sustain it. ’So it sought out additional nourishment, and found me to be somewhat…unpalatable’ Apocalypse adds. ’As do we all’ the Beast tells him, adding that he could have told them he was planning to destroy it with terminal indigestion. ’True. But I had no desire to’ Apocalypse replies., before telling the X-Men to let Xavier sleep for a time and that he will be fine once he awakens.
Storm steps forward and thanks Apocalypse. ‘You have my…our…gratitude…if not our trust. Now…we have to get to Jean and Scott’ Storm declares. Apocalypse replies that this is not a problem, as he has a vessel capable of such a journey. Storm tells Apocalypse that she is again in his debt, but they must get their quickly, because Wolverine and Bishop alone are already a hot-headed, self-confidant combination. ‘Working with Cable, I think they will want to take matters into their own hands by going on ahead to the moon’.
Cable, Wolverine and Bishop arrive on the moon, inside some sort of storage facility. ‘Suggestions, Logan?’ Cable asks. ‘Subtlety. Avoid fighting if we can. Sneak in, find Cyke and Jean, sneak out’ Logan replies, adding that if they are lucky, no one will notice them. Doors into the complex side open - and waiting for them are Barrage and several Underlings, along with several dozen Mutant Liberation Front human foot soldiers. ‘Uhm…guys…we’ve hit a snag…’.