In the darkened cellar of a Northern California winery, a figure lies on the floor, he stirs as consciousness returns to him. Fragmented memories surface, images of a struggle - an ambush - falling darkness. ‘Whoa - what happened to me?’ he wonders, dressed in his purple and white costume. His surroundings confuse him. They are unfamiliar. ‘Why do I feel so strange?’ he asks, looking at his hands. But they are nowhere near as unfamiliar as the face reflected in the dark wine bottle - ‘Hnnh? It can’t be - it’s not possible!’ h exclaims. Imagine the horror of finding yourself in a body that is not your own. ‘No…’ someone inside the body of Switch utters….
Elsewhere, in the vineyard’s main house, a sextet of unique late night visitors make their appearance. They are the group of young mutant heroes collectively known as X-Force. Theresa “Siryn” Rourke, Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, James Proudstar, Danielle Moonstar, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta and Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith have come at the request of Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson, an orphaned mutant who has recently insinuated himself into their group. The eighth member of X-Force, Domino, stands behind Jesse, who stands between X-Force and four other beings.
‘Okay, Jesse, you called, we came. Now, how about telling us why you dragged us all out here in the middle of the night’ Cannonball exclaims, none of his teammates looking too happy with Bedlam, or those standing before them. Aaronson tells his new teammates that he knows it is late, but that Domino and he finally tracked down his long lost brother. ‘The brother everyone told me didn’t exist - and I wanted you all to meet him. Say hello to Christopher Aaronson’ Jesse exclaims, motioning to his brother, who stands with his hands in his pockets and half-smiles at them.
Christopher reveals that he doesn’t go by Aaronson much these days, instead, he prefers to be called King Bedlam. ‘Imagine my surprise to learn by little brother’s been keeping company with the infamous X-Force!’ he exclaims, telling them that he has heard so much about X-Force from his Hellions. Standing behind King Bedlam are Marie-Ange Colbert a.k.a. Tarot and Allison Crestmere a.k.a. Magma, and King Bedlam points out that they are both known to X-Force, while the gentleman hovering behind him is known as Paradigm. Magma frowns at her former teammates, while Tarot remains as expressionless as ever.
‘Remember the “ghost” I told you I ran into on Clement Street?’ James remarks. ‘Tarot?’ Bobby exclaims. ‘I thought she was supposed to be six feet under!’ Meltdown declares, to which Siryn exclaims that Tarot is not the only surprise tonight. ‘What’s Magma doing here?’. Moonstar looks concerned, while Cannonball tells his friends that he thinks they have been set up, but Jesse exclaims that he knows Cannonball doesn’t like him, assuring him that he would never do anything to hurt them. ‘You’re the only friends I have’ he tells X-Force, adding that if they didn’t let him crash at their place he would be living on the street right now, before Domino tells X-Force to trust her when she says that these Hellions are no threat.
King Bedlam tells X-Force that he understands their apprehension, remarking that for those of them who were part of Xavier’s New Mutants, the original Hellions were more than just prep school rivals, they were the adolescent enforcers of the Hellfire Club and their lingerie-clad White Queen. ‘Let me assure you, we have no connection to that crusty old boys club or to Emma Frost for that matter. We are an autonomous collective of mutants who choose to make our own destiny’ King Bedlam announces.
‘Maybe, Bedlam, but I was one of the first Hellions. We were angry and mixed-up children whom the Hellfire Club used as pawns in their games of intrigue and destruction’ Proudstar exclaims as images of his former teammates flash through his mind. He remarks that since then, some of them have moved on with their lives, but others never had that chance because they were killed. ‘The Hellions are dead. You have no right to use that name’ he exclaims. King Bedlam replies that he is a man who understands the marquee value of a good name, and adds that Tarot was also one of the first Hellions as well, and she does not have a problem with it. ‘Do you, my dear?’ he asks. ‘Non, Christopher’ Marie-Ange replies, glancing sideways.
Cannonball approaches Magma, ‘What’s happened to you, Amara? You were one of the New Mutants? How can you be a part of any group calling itself the Hellions?’ he asks, putting a hand on her arm. ‘Don’t ever call me that again, Samuel Guthrie. My name is Allison Crestmere. Amara Aquilla was nothing but a cruel deception created by that witch Selene - when she brainwashed a group of plane crash survivors into believing that they were the descendants of a lost Roman colony!. Sam tells Allison that he knows it was tough to find out that everything she believed about herself was a lie, but even if the details of her past have changed, who she is inside has not. ‘Is this Empath’s doing?’ Sam then asks.
‘Hardly’ Magma snaps back, revealing that she left Manuel de la Rocha in Nova Roma along with the other fools too scared to return to the real world. ‘Let them waste their lives sweltering in the jungle heat. I want more from life - luxury, wealth and power. That’s why I’m with the Hellions now’ she announces. ‘Once a princess, always a princess, I guess’ Moonstar whispers to Sunspot, adding that Magma’s shift in allegiance concerns her less than the mysterious Paradigm, explaining to Sunspot that she gets no emotional reading from him at all. ‘He’s a complete blank’. Sunspot replies that he doesn’t like the way Paradigm is staring at them as if they were lab specimens under a microscope. ‘What you looking at, pal?’ Sunspot suddenly asks. Paradigm, standing in the shadows still, replies that he is recording and analysing their physical characteristics for further study. ‘I will require DNA samples for more detailed analysis’ he remarks.
‘If you ask me, this party’s turning out to be one big snooze fest. So unless I’m gonna get something to blow up soon, Theresa, I’m heading back to San Francisco’ Meltdown exclaims, but Siryn tells Meltdown to stand her ground, and agrees that this has all been surprisingly civil, but she thinks something is off here, and intends to find out what that is. Suddenly, ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong, Red - it’s that you and the rest of X-Force are still breathing!’ snarls Maria Callasantos a.k.a. Feral as she leaps towards her former teammates. ‘What’s the matter? No hugs for your old teammate Feral?’ the feline mutant asks.
Feral tells X-Force that she knows they thought they had seen the last of her when they handed her over to the cops in New York. ‘You were wrong’ she snarls. King Bedlam remarks that another one of their absent members makes an appearance, adding that he doesn’t need to introduce Maria, as she was one of the founding members of X-Force. ‘Yeah, but I got smart and quit these losers!’ Feral snarls. Meltdown remarks that the last she heard, Feral was in the Vault doing time for the murder of her mother and boyfriend. ‘I doubt they let you out for good behavior’ she remarks.’ You got a problem with me, blondie?’ Feral asks, moving towards Meltdown. ‘Ever since you switched sides’ Tabitha tells her, to which Feral snarls that she is going to enjoy scratching her eyes out.
Sunspot intervenes, stepping in front of Feral, he tells her to back off. ‘Don’t make me singe all that pretty fur’ he exclaims. ‘Bobby -’ Meltdown begins, to which Feral exclaims ‘So you need Roberto to fight your battles now, Boomer? That’s okay, I can take a little heat’, referring to Meltdown by her former codename. King Bedlam tells Feral that X-Force are their guests and they need to treat them that way, while Meltdown tells Sunspot that she doesn’t need his help. ‘I’m not some stupid co-ed who needs her jock boyfriend to come to her rescue’ she mutters. ‘I’m sorry. I thought that -’ Sunspot begins, but Meltdown tells him to just stay out of her way from now.
‘This is because of what happened in North Beach, isn’t it?’ Bobby asks, but Meltdown tells him that now is not the time. Feral smirks and remarks to Cannonball that it sounds like a lover’s quarrel. ‘So if Tab and Bobby are shacking up these days, where does that leave you, Sammy-Boy?’ Feral asks. ‘With my friends. Which is more than I can say for you’ Sam replies sternly. Siryn tells Aaronson that she is glad he found his brother, before asking what he really knows about him. ‘I cannae help but be suspicious of anyone calling himself a Hellion’ Theresa remarks, to which Jesse tells her that she has got Christopher all wrong. ‘He and the Hellions want the same thing as X-Force - a world where mutants don’t live in fear’.
Domino tells X-Force to give Bedlam the benefit of the doubt, and that she thinks they will find his ideas absolutely visionary. King Bedlam thanks Domino, before remarking that they as mutants constitute some of the most powerful beings on the planet and yet they continue to hide in the shadows like frightened children. He declares that it is fear and self-loathing that has allowed the Government to treat them as less than human, when in fact they are much more. Christopher remarks that as the twenty-first century dawns, they can no longer let themselves be branded as pariahs or segregated as lepers.
‘We Children of the Atom are humanity’s future - and we intend to claim the respect and position that is our due. United, there is no one who can stop us’ King Bedlam boasts. ‘Nice sentiments, but how do ye means to go about all this? Sounds to me like ye’re ready to start a war’ Siryn announces. ‘War was declared on mutant-kind a long time ago. I’m simply proposing that it is time we end it!’ King Bedlam replies, while Proudstar tells him that if he thinks they are going to join him in whatever crusade he has planned, then he is wrong. Christopher replies that he did not expect them to rally to his side, before announcing he would like to propose an accord between their two groups.
King Bedlam declares that it is time mutants stopped fighting each other and turned their attention to the real menace. Suddenly, a grandfather clock chimes in at two in the morning. King Bedlam remarks that it is late, and they can talk further in the morning, before asking X-Force to stay as his guests. He reveals that he purchased this vineyard a few years ago, and they will find the rooms well furnished and the kitchen well stocked. The Hellions leave the room as King Bedlam tells Marie-Ange that it is time for bed, before he bids X-Force pleasant dreams.
A short while later, Siryn, Cannonball, Proudstar, Sunspot, Moonstar, Meltdown and Domino are gathered in a library, lit only by the fireplace. Standing by the fireplace, Siryn remarks that Bedlam’s intentions are good, of that she has no doubt, only he is so smug about it. She adds that he has nerve inviting them to stay the night. ‘He’s practically daring us to make the first move’ she exclaims. Sunspot stands near Siryn and agrees that some of what King Bedlam said made sense, as mutants shouldn’t be the ones living underground and trying to pretend they are normal when they are not. Cannonball leans on a sofa, agreeing, but pointing out that it isn’t the point. ‘The means never justify the end’.
Cannonball adds that King Bedlam’s plans are putting innocent lives at risk, then they have to take him down. Sitting on the sofa, Moonstar remarks that Domino and Jesse arrived here before the rest of them, and asks Domino what her take on all of this is. Leaning against a bookcase, Domino suggests that, for once, they should step back. ‘Why do we have to always play the hall monitor for the rest of mutant kind?’ she asks. ‘That’s not what I expected to hear from you, Dom’ Moonstar declares, while Siryn suggests they spread out and canvas the grounds to see if they can learn what Bedlam and the Hellions are up to, while Proudstar reaches into his pocket, he discovers a tarot card, with “Gazebo, later” written on it, and announces that he knows where he is going to start.
Soon, ’I’m here’ James calls out as he stands under the gazebo, in the garden. Tarot approaches him in the darkness, apologizing to her former teammate, she tells him that she hoped he would not become involved in all of this. James remarks that when Jesse called and said he found his brother, he never expected to find her with him. ’I knew the arrival of Christopher’s brother would bring you and the others to Santa Lucia. My prescience has become much more acute since my…return’ Tarot explains, while James asks her why it is she is more comfortable talking about the future than the present. ’You wouldn’t have asked me here, if you weren’t concerned about Bedlam. What is he planning?’ James asks.
But Marie-Ange replies that she cannot say. ‘C’mon, Marie, you escaped death at the hands of a Sentinel, make it count for something’ James exclaims. But Tarot tells James that he is wrong, for death did claim her that day, just as it did Roulette, Jetstream and Catseye. ‘But unlike them, I am cursed to live my life again and again until I atone for the sins of my past’ Tarot reveals cryptically, adding that to die as she did was horrifif, but to return to life was even more terrible. ‘You can’t imagine what it was like’ she exclaims. ‘Maybe I can’ James replies, referring to his recent brush with death.
Marie-Ange tells James that he has changed so very much since their time at the Massachusetts Academy. ‘The anger that once defined you is gone’ points out as she touches James’ cheek, telling him that she would hate to see him hurt when he has only recently found his true spirit. James puts his hands on Tarot’s shoulders and tells her that if Bedlam is the danger, then she must have come to San Francisco to warn him about it. ‘Help me stop him’ he tells her. ‘I cannot. I owe him my life. In the end, I am fated to stand with him, and against you’ a solemn Tarot reveals.
But Proudstar exclaims that he does not believe in predestination. ‘Whatever hold Bedlam has on you, you can break!’ he exclaims. ‘If only it were that simple. I love him’ Marie-Ange reveals, gazing to the ground. ‘Then change his mind before things get out of hand’ James exclaims. ‘You cannot halt a force of nature’ Tarot replies, before exclaiming that, once again, she has said too much, and she must go, for Christopher is waiting for her. ‘Bonne chance, mon ami. You will need it’ Tarot tells her former teammate as she leaves him, while up in a tree, Feral has been watching them. ‘Hmm…Tarot and Proudstar’ she remarks, before James tells her that he knows she has been watching them. ‘My senses have always been as keen as your own. Sop what will it be? Do you want to talk or fight?’ James asks. ‘Another time, Proudstar’ Feral snarls as she disappears into the bushes.
Meanwhile, Jesse approaches a shed, where Paradigm is hovering in front of, and tells the unusual being that he needs to see his brother, now. Paradigm tells Jesse to go back to his room, as he is not authorized to be here. ‘If you’re giving me the cold shoulder ‘cause I did a number on your funky bio-mechanical insides, get over it’ Jesse snaps back, assuring Paradigm that it wasn’t personal, he was just acting defensively. ‘I had no idea you were a…whatever it is you are’. Paradigm ignores Jesse’s apology, instead he replies by saying ‘You are not one of us’. ‘What do I have to do to talk to my brother?’ Jesse asks, before Christopher tells Paradigm that it is all right, and to send Jesse in. ‘Hah!’ Jesse exclaims.
Inside the shed, Jesse tells Christopher that Paradigm is one spooky piece of work. ‘My power scrambles machinery and electronics, so that makes him an android or cyborg, right?’ Jesse asks. Christopher is busy with some sort of large capsule, removed from a truck, that stands in the center of the shed and replies that Paradigm is an unclassifiable hybrid of man and machine, in a constant state of growth and transformation. ‘I imagine one day he’ll no longer need to maintain a human shape’ Christopher adds, before Jesse tells him that he didn’t really come here to get the specs on mister machine out there, telling his brother that they need to have a serious conversation.
‘Talk to me, baby brother’ Christopher replies, not looking at Jesse. Jesse puts a hand on his older brother’s shoulder and remarks that he is definitely not making wine, asking him what he is doing, ‘And why were you so insistent that I bring X-Force here?’ Jesse asks. ‘Concerning the latter: There’s an old military adage that advises one to keep your enemies close’ Bedlam replies, before referring to Jesse’s former question, asking him if “Alamogordo” means anything to him. ‘That was a nuclear test site way back in the ‘40’s, right?’ Jesse asks.
Christopher presses some buttons on the side of the capsule, as he tells his brother that the project’s scientists were brilliant men who understood that the nuclear age would forever alter humanity at a fundamental level. ‘And it didn’t take long until they had proof’ he adds, remarking that it took a great effort to…liberate this item from a Department of Defense warehouse in Utah. A panel on the side of the capsule slides open, revealing a window into the capsule. ‘If asked the Government will say it doesn’t exist, let alone admit that it was stolen’ Christopher remarks, adding that within the container is enough power to level mountains. ‘My God!’ Jesse gasps as he looks through the window.
‘What are you going to do with it?’ Jesse asks, stepping back from the capsule. Christopher announces that he is going to demonstrate to the world that the Hellions are a force to be reckoned with. ‘What about X-Force? What if they try to stop you?’ Jesse exclaims. ‘Then I guess you’ll have a decision to make. Your friends or your family’ Christopher tells his brother. ‘Do I have to make that choice?’ Jesse wonders pensively, while Christopher smiles as he tells his brother that he wants him on his side, after all, they are the Bedlam Brothers. ‘And I promise you, nothing will ever separate us again’.
Across the vineyard at the back of the main house, X-Force has reconvened, Proudstar tells his friends that Tarot refused to give him any detail of Bedlam’s plan, but that based on her inference, he would say it is big - cataclysmic even. ‘Then all of that talk about an accord was nothing but smoke’ Meltdown remarks, while Cannonball asks about Jesse. ‘Where does he stand in all of this?’. Moonstar tells her teammates that she saw him enter the old distillery that Paradigm was guarding, while Domino tells everyone to forget about the distillery. ‘I found Bedlam’s laboratory in the…um…basement…yeah…he’s got enough explosives to blow up the Federal Buildings in every state’ she announces. Everyone looks at Domino a little oddly, and Tabitha asks her if she is okay. ‘You’ve been acting kinda strange all evening’ she points out, while Domino claims that she is fine, and suggests they get down to the basement and fast.
Siryn tells Domino that they will follow her lead, when suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘NO!’. ‘Who?’ Siryn asks as everyone looks to the doorway, where they see Switch, clutching his head, and shaky on his feet, ‘Don’t listen to her…to me…she’s one of them…’ he exclaims. ‘Stay back, everyone! That’s Switch!’ Domino exclaims, lunging at Switch, she explains to X-Force that Devon Alomar is the Hellions’ secret weapon, that he takes over his enemies’ bodies. ‘You’re lying, I’m Domino!’ Switch exclaims. Domino pushes Switch to the floor, ‘I don’t know how you got out of the wine cellar - but I’m going to make you wish you hadn’t’ she exclaims, while a weary Switch coughs as he asks for his body back. ‘Suffer, you pathetic weasel!’ Domino shouts.
‘Geez, Dom’s gonna kill that guy!’ Meltdown declares. ‘Not on my watch!’ Siryn exclaims, before directing one of her sonic screams at Domino, who cries in pain, and stumbles, ‘Witch…can’t…concentrate…can’t maintain hold…’. Just then, Domino and Switch’s bodies convulse, and after a moment, ‘Domino…is that you?’ Siryn asks. ‘It is now. Good call, Theresa’ Domino exclaims, back in her own body, before asking her to speak up, as her ears are going to be ringing for days.
In the distillery, Tarot holds up a card and announces that the wheel signifies a disruption in plans. ‘A reminder of the capricious whims of fate’ she tells Christopher, who exclaims that he is a gambler. ‘The greater the challenge. The greater the reward’ he adds, while Tarot remarks that X-Force must have discovered Switch’s ruse, and telling Christopher that he should not have brought X-Force here. Paradigm hovers in the darkness, while Feral skulks nearby, exclaiming ‘Maybe he should have kept you on a tighter leash, Frenchie’, announcing that she saw her little rendezvous with Proudstar. ‘Consorting with the enemy, babe?’ Feral asks.
‘Is this true, Marie-Ange?’ King Bedlam asks, smirking. Tarot explains that she suggested James departed, but that he refused. ‘Nothing I didn’t expect from the Apache - and you’ Christopher remarks, adding that having learned Domino was not the woman they believed, their guests are probably on their way. ‘Call the others. Let’s go to meet them’ he orders, while Jesse sits on the ground nearby, hands behind his head, slumped over, he exclaims that this is not what he wanted. Christopher smirks, ‘C’mon, Jesse, get your butt in gear - you’re not going to want to miss the upcoming fireworks!’
Outside, Siryn, Domino, Proudstar, Cannonball, Moonstar, Sunspot and Meltdown have arrived. ‘Fan out. We’re gonna surround the place’ Siryn orders, telling Domino and DanI to watch the North end, while Sam and Bobby take the East and West sides, but not to make their entrance until Tabitha blows down the South doors. Theresa adds that she and James will be inside before the smoke clears. ‘You got it, chief!’ Meltdown exclaims, before Cannonball tells Siryn that he would scratch that order if he was her, ‘The Hellions are already here!’ he announces as King Bedlam, Tarot, Feral and Paradigm exit the distillery. Siryn informs King Bedlam that they left Switch tied up in his study. ‘Ye can understand how we wouldn’t take kindly to this kind of duplicity’ she adds, telling King Bedlam that all his talk about supporting one another was all sound and fury.
But Christopher Aaronson claims that he meant what he said. ‘I really did hope our meeting wouldn’t come to this, but since it has - Allison…if you please’ King Bedlam exclaims. ‘With pleasure!’ Magma calls out from behind X-Force. ‘The ground, it’s shaking!’ Siryn exclaims. Proudstar declares that it is Magma’s doing, as she controls molten earth. ‘MOVE!’ James suddenly yells, grabbing Tabitha and Domino as a massive burst of molten lava bursts from the ground below them. Sam, Theresa and Bobby fly to safety, while Danielle manages to leap out of the way.
Cannonball blasts towards Magma, asking her how she can do this. He begins to call her Amara, but stops himself, ‘Allison. We’ve been friends since we were fifteen!’ he calls out. ‘Get this through that thick Kentucky skull of yours, Sam. The girl you knew is gone. You don’t know anything about me!’ she snaps. ‘Ah know my force field protects me from your molten blast’ Cannonball replies as he moves closer and closer to Magma. ‘If you’d come to your senses, you see that Bedlam’s - turn-table - anti-oxidant - grape vine -’ Cannonball exclaims, before falling to the ground. ‘Turns out it’s difficult to fly when you can’t even think straight, eh, Cannonball?’ King Bedlam smirks.
King Bedlam orders Paradigm to finish this. ‘As you wish, Bedlam’ Paradigm replies, before tendril-like aspects emerge from his form, wrapping around Moonstar, Proudstar, Sunspot, Siryn, Meltdown, Domino and the unconscious Cannonball. ‘What is this blasted stuff?’ Siryn calls out, while Domino screams, and Sunspot declares that it is fusing to his body. ‘It’s everywhere. I can’t move!’ Proudstar declares, while Moonstar suggests that it is some kind of techno-organic filament. ‘Ewww. This is worse than the Phalanx!’ Meltdown mutters as their forms are overtaken. ‘Jesse, help us! You stopped Paradigm once before!’ Domino calls out with her remaining energy.
A puzzled Bedlam watches the ongoing struggle, ‘I - I - I’m not sure what to do -’ he begins, before his older brother tells him that he does not have to do anything at all. ‘Remember, family comes first’ he exclaims. Jesse hangs his head in shame as he tells Domino that he is sorry. ‘you made the right choice, little brother’ Christopher smirks, as the Bedlam Brothers, Tarot, Magma and Feral stand over the motionless bodies of X-Force. ‘So much for X-Force. Encased in Paradigm’s living circuitry, they are no longer an obstacle to our plans’ King Bedlam declares.
Feral tells King Bedlam to be smart and kill X-Force now. ‘Don’t be a fool an underestimate them’ she tells him, grinning. ‘No! You can’t kill them. I won’t let you!’ Bedlam protests, but Christopher tells him to settle down, claiming that was never his intention. King Bedlam declares that X-Force are under Paradigm’s control now, and that he believes they will make excellent drones for their transport. Paradigm floats nearby, announcing that they will also make excellent subjects for his studies into the varied permutations of the X-Factor gene. ‘There is much I can learn from their chromosomal singularities’ he declares. Making their way towards the distillery, Christopher tells Jesse that he could not have times his arrival better, ‘Now you’ll be with us as we make history’ he boasts, adding that the Summerfield Canyon nuclear power facility is a two hour drive away, and they can be there by dawn.
Nervously, Jesse asks why they are going there, and as the Bedlam Brothers, Tarot, Magma and Feral enter the distillery, Christopher motions to the capsule, glowing green, where a man is being kept inside it. ‘Why, to wake the sleeping giant, of course!’ he exclaims, answering his brother’s question. ‘Behold, the Armageddon Man - one of the first Children of the Atom - a mutant so dangerous the military has kept him in suspended animation for over forty years’ Christopher reveals. King Bedlam exclaims that with the Armageddon Man’s powers, the Hellions will bring the world to its knees.
Jesse backs up against a wall, ‘Oh…no…can’t breathe…having one of my attacks…gotta take my meds…’ he exclaims as he grabs his pills from inside his jacket. ‘That’s better…but not by much…dear Lord, what have I done?’ Jesse Aaronson wonders with fear….