In the New Mexico Desert, the entire town of Magic Mirror lies in ruin. Three men in protective clothing walk through the devastated area, corpses lying in their wake. ‘Radiation levels are normal, Colonel Danville. We’re in no danger’ one of the scientists exclaims. Colonel Danville replies that he is sure the citizens of Magic Mirror thought the same thing six hours ago, ‘Rest their souls’. ‘Welcome to the future, Colonel. The Russians may be the least of our worries’ the other scientist remarks, adding that when man split the atom, he opened a Pandora’s Box that will change the world in unimaginable ways.
The scientists and the Colonel remove their protective clothing, and the second scientist adds that is why their work at the Alamogordo Project is so important. ‘It is important we understand how something like this could happen, so we may prevent it’ he adds. Colonel Danville replies that all he needs them, Doctor Wheeler and Doctor Woolsey, to tell him is whether that thing lying before them is dead. A man, curled up in the fetal position lies before them, and the Doctor Woolsey reminds the Colonel that his men hit him with enough firepower to level a building and he is still only stunned.
‘What do I have to do to keep that thing down?’ the Colonel asks. ‘Nuke him?’. Doctor Wheeler replies that will not be necessary, as they have designed a containment unit that will keep him drugged and docile for study. The doctor readies a large needle, while the Colonel tells him that he hopes he knows what he is doing. ‘The thought of this thing getting loose is a frightening one - and even more frightening is the possibility that there are others out there like him’.
Today, inside the Summerfield Canyon nuclear power plant, in central California, which has been inoperative for over a decade, shut down after economics proved what the anti-nuclear movement had been saying all along - that nuclear power is neither safe near cheap. Now though, inside the reactor building, the young heroes known as X-Force, currently mind-controlled, follow the direction of the techno-hybrid called Paradigm, who has conscripted them against their will in the resurrection of a being of cataclysmic power - the Armageddon Man. Danielle Moonstar, Theresa “Siryn” Rourke, Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith, James Proudstar and Domino are currently lifting the Armageddon Man, still encased in a container, into an upright position.
Elsewhere in the nuclear facility, the eighth member of X-Force, Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson watches the current proceedings over a monitor, with guilt in his mind. ‘This is all my fault. I betrayed X-Force…it’s not fair’ he tells himself, remembering how he finally found his long lost brother, Christopher, only to have to chose between his friends and Christopher, something he should not have had to do. ‘But I did. I stood by and did nothing while the Hellions ambushed X-Force and made them their slaves’ Jesse reminds himself.
‘Why the long face, Jesse? Everything’s falling into place just as Tarot predicted!’ Christopher Aaronson a.k.a. King Bedlam declares as he and Marie-Ange Colbert a.k.a. Tarot and Allison “Magma” Crestmere enter the office. ‘Amazing what you can do with a little stolen uranium and a non-union crew, eh?’ Magma remarks, while Tarot announces that all the elements revealed to her in the cards have converged. Bedlam tells Magma that he doesn’t know how she can be so casual about this. ‘I’m a wreck. What if something goes wrong?’ he declares.
Watching as the Armageddon Man is raised from the container, King Bedlam declares that he has planned this since he learned of the Armageddon Man’s existence three years ago from a disgruntled army intelligence officer. ‘With that magnificent creature under my control, the Hellions will be a power that no one can ignore!’ King Bedlam boasts, as his brother remarks ‘But, like you told me, the Man’s been on ice for forty years. When he comes to, his agenda may be a little different than yours. What makes you so absolutely certain he’ll go along with you?’ .
Christopher tells his younger brother to have faith in him, ‘I can be very persuasive when necessary’. Magma shakes a finger at Christopher, telling him that he better be, as he promised her a fortune for her participation. ‘And you don’t want disappoint me’ she warns him. Christopher frowns as he tells Magma not to worry, as when this is over, they will all be very wealthy. ‘This is about money? I thought this was supposed to be a strike for mutant autonomy’ Jesse remarks, while Tarot explains that each of them has a different reason for being here, some more complex than others.
King Bedlam declares that his reason is simple. ‘I want everything. Money. Power. Control’. He boasts that with the Armageddon Man, he has the means to make every one of his dreams a reality. ‘Believe me, the Government will gladly pay to prevent the West Coast from being destroyed by every natural disaster imaginable’ he exclaims. ‘And what if the Government doesn’t like being squeezed and calls out the heavy artillery instead?’ Jesse asks. ‘You think SHIELD dismantled all the Sentinels after Zero Tolerance? No way. They’re just waiting for an excuse to bring them out again!’ he declares.
Christopher tells his little brother to have faith. ‘The Government will see things out way’ he exclaims confidently, revealing that he has sent Feral and Switch out to insure that their demands will be taken very seriously. ‘Now on to more immediate matters. We’re here because waking the Armageddon Man from his forty year slumber requires a great deal of energy/ It’s time we fired up the furnace!’
Meanwhile, in Reno, Nevada, the home of retired Colonel, and current Senator Owen Danville. The aged Senator tells his associate, Fenwick, that he is getting tired of Washington. ‘It’s not like it was in the old days’ he remarks, adding that it used to be a man’s personal life was nobody’s business but his own, when suddenly, his dog begins to bark. ‘What’s the matter, Tasha? Something outside got you all riled up?’ he asks as he sits at his desk. The Senator asks Fenwick to go see what is bothering his dog. ‘It’s probably nothing - just some raccoon going through the trash’ he suggests. ‘I’ll take care of it, Senator’ the bulky Fenwick replies, while the Senator tells his dog to settle down, as her hunting days are long since over.
Suddenly, outside, Fenwick screams. ‘What’s going on out there, Fenwick?’ the Senator calls out, before collecting two guns from his desk draw, he shouts ‘All right, I’m coming out. And I’m armed!’ he announces, while whispering to himself: ‘Blast this arthritis. I’m shaking like an old maid’. But arriving outside, the Senator finds Fenwick lying in a pool of blood. ‘Oh, dear Lord, Fenwick, what could have done -’ he begins, when suddenly, Maria Callasantos, better known as Feral, leaps from a tree, growling at Senator Danville, who stumbles backwards.
‘Scared, old man? Good!’ Feral snarls. ‘You don’t know how much I’d like to hurt you’ she tells him, while Devon “Switch” Alomar tells Feral that there will be none of that, as they need the Senator intact. ‘He’s going to be our guest, remember’ Switch adds, telling the Senator that he hopes he doesn’t mind, but all his appointments have been cancelled. ‘Who are you people?’ the Senator demands. Switch makes the introductions, explaining that they are mutants. ‘And you know all about mutants, don’t you?’ he remarks. ‘You were part of the subcommittee that authorized Zero Tolerance’s witch-hunt a year ago’ Devon smirks.
‘What do you want from me?’ the Senator asks, eyes-wide. ‘Your life’ Devon tells him. ‘Then you intend to kill me?’ the Senator asks. ‘And spare you the massive coronary a man in your shape is due’ Devon adds as he grabs the Senator and announces that he was thinking that it might be nice to be him for a while. ‘So why don’t you be me for a while, and I’ll be you’ Devon exclaims as he uses his mutant ability to switch their minds into each others body.
Back at the nuclear facility, the mesmerized members of X-Force stand around Paradigm as he informs Christopher that the Armageddon Man is in place. ‘Excellent!’ Christopher responds from the observatory. He remarks that as soon as Feral and Switch return with the Senator they will initiate the final stage, before asking if there have been any difficulties with X-Force. Paradigm replies that there hasn’t, and explains that his techno-organic tendrils give him complete control of their autonomic and higher neural functions. He adds that they remain oblivious to their surroundings and their actions. ‘And so, I am free to study their unique makeup without resistance’ he adds, declaring that to survive, one must constantly evolve, and perhaps, in these seven, he may find a trait worth incorporating into the next Paradigm.
The techno-organic being begins his analysis of each member of X-Force, beginning with Domino, he learns that her nervous system is remarkably efficient, her reaction and reflex time faster than the average human. His next subject is Sunspot, whom Paradigm discovers is able to metabolize solar energy and transform it into heat and flame, while James Proudstar, in addition to exceptional strength, possesses acute sensory efficiency few humans can claim. Paradigm discovers that a mutation in Siryn’s vocal cords, larynx and throat enables her to modulate her voice into an ultrasonic weapon, while Cannonball generates explosive propulsive energy which he uses to fly, and Meltdown generates plasmic energy spheres which she can detonate at will.
Finally, Paradigm analyses Dani Moonstar, and decides that more interesting than her limited psionic ability are the traces of quantum energy he reads from her body. ‘She bears further study’ Paradigm decides, unaware that Moonstar is seeing into his own mind….
(Flashback illustrations, narrated by Moonstar from inside Paradigm’s mind)
‘I’m conscious’ Danielle realizes, understanding that somehow, as Paradigm has taken over her body, her own mind has tapped into the emotional core of his psyche. Dani finds herself experiencing the reality of Paradigm’s past as if it were her own - his childhood is spent in a laboratory in Hong Kong, his every move is watched and recorded. His only friends are the electronic toys that he can manipulate with his mind. The doctors call his ability technokinesis. Laid out on a table, with doctors wearing protective suits, Paradigm hates the constant tests that he is forced to endure - each more powerful than the next.
At thirteen, the doctors injected Paradigm with a sample of techno-organic material they till him was taken from an alien. The living metal is introduced in his body like a virus, attempting to recreate him in the image of the alien species. His techno-kinetic powers allow him to resist - but the struggle is unbearably painful, and eventually, he wins - but he is no longer human. Weak flesh has been replaced by otherworldly bone and sinew. Neither man nor machine, but something in between. His captors can no longer contain him, so he leaves in search of new biological and technological systems to integrate into his being. Only if he continues to grow will he be able to survive in a world that sees him as an abomination.
Upstairs in the control room, ‘Get your sorry mutant butts off those chairs and stand to attention, you sorry excuse for a carnival sideshow!’ the Switch-possessed Senator exclaims as he enters the room. ‘I’m a United States Senator and if I don’t get some respect around here, I’m gonna call and have the IRS audit every last one of you into extinction!’. Jesse looks confused, while Christopher smiles, ‘Ah, the Senator has arrived. Good’ he remarks, while inside Switch’s body, the Senator remarks that this must be some terrible dream. King Bedlam tells Switch that he thinks the Senator will feel slightly less disorientated if he is back in his own body. ‘Believe me, I’ll be happy to vacate this one. I was out of breath halfway up the stairs’ Switch replies, adding that you think the Senator could afford a personal trainer, or at least to go on a diet. ‘Time to be a fat, wrinkled old curmudgeon again’ Devon exclaims as he switches their minds back into the rightful bodies.
‘What did you do to me?’ Senator Danville asks, lying on the floor, back in his own body. ’You should thank me, Senator. Your time in my body was probably the closest thing you’ll ever get to regaining your lost youth!’ Devon snaps, ’Of course, you were in too much of a state of shock to enjoy it’ he adds, while Jesse remarks that he is seen Senator Owen Danville on television before. ’Great, I’m an accessory to the kidnapping of a US Senator’ he mumbles, while Christopher introduces himself as King Bedlam, and bids welcome to the Senator, explaining that they are inside the Summerfield Canyon nuclear power facility.
King Bedlam tells the Senator that they have brought him here to witness the resurrection of an old friend of his, before telling him to turn his attention to the monitor, which shows X-Force as they go about their business with the Armageddon Man. King Bedlam tells the Senator that he must recognize the Armageddon Man, reminding him that before his political career he was an army officer assigned to the top secret Alamogordo Project, and that it was he who ordered the strike that brought this powerhouse to his knees. ‘Of course he was only a boy then, one of the first true Children of the Atomic Age’.
King Bedlam continues, remarking that the Armageddon Man was the first generation of children whose DNA had been irrevocably altered by his parents’ exposure to radioactive elements. Christopher tells the Senator that he has read the reports and that the Armageddon Man did not mean to destroy that town in New Mexico, he simply could not control his cataclysmic power. Bedlam continues, revealing that after the Alamogordo Project was shut down following the deaths of Kurt Marko and Brian Xavier, the Armageddon Man’s inert body was secreted in a Utah missile silo, that is until he learned of his location from an ex-CIA operative.
‘Forty years is a long time, Senator. The Armageddon Man is no longer alone. Don’t you think it’s time we wake him?’ With that, the Armageddon Man is lowered into a vat. ‘You’re out of your eve loving mind, Bedlam. That thing destroyed an entire town!’ the Senator exclaims, eyes-wide. ‘Two hundred and twelve innocent men, women and children died in an earthquake he caused!’ the Senator shouts. A smug King Bedlam asks ‘And how many lives have you taken, Senator? As an officer, you sent men into combat in Korea and Vietnam. And as a politician you cut programs that provided food and medical care to the poor and indigent’ Christopher exclaims. ‘You’ve blood on your hands, and yet, you’ve prospered. You’re in no position to argue morality with me!’ he declares.
Senator Danville spins around, exclaiming that this is not about him. ‘If we hadn’t stopped that thing, he would have destroyed the entire southwest!’ he shouts, telling Bedlam that if he read Marko and Xavier’s reports then he would know his power increases geometrically. ‘That’s why you’re here, Senator. You know exactly what’s at stake if the Armageddon Man is unleashed’ Christopher tells him. ‘Why are you doing this?’ the Senator asks. ‘To make a point. We mutants won’t be treated like second class citizens any more’ King Bedlam declares, before ordering Paradigm to begin. ‘Affirmative’ the techno-organic replies.
King Bedlam tells the Senator that all of this trouble can be avoided if he can convince his friends in Washington to meet his demands. ‘That’s blackmail!’ the Senator retorts. ‘Semantics’ Christopher tells him. ‘you’re playing games with all our lives, Bedlam’ the Senator snaps, before asking for the phone.
Meanwhile, Jesse has left the others, and leans against a wall in a hall nearby. He tells himself that his brother has got to be crazy to think he can pull this off, and knows that even if the Government pays him off, they are going to go after him, and the rest of them, for the remainder of their lives. Bedlam’s heart begins to race, his chest feels like it is going to explode. He tells himself that he cannot have another attack now and has to keep his head clear. He puts four pills into his mouth, telling himself that he has to figure out how he can get out of this mess, when suddenly, ‘Do you know about the fool, Jesse Bedlam?’ Tarot asks as she places the jester tarot card in front of Bedlam.
Marie-Ange tells Jesse that in the tarot, the fool represents lack of thought and reckless action that leads to destruction. ‘Are you saying that I’m the fool for going along with my brother?’ Jesse asks. ‘No, we both are. And we’ll both pay a great price of we continue this mad scheme’ Tarot replies, while Jesse puts his pills back in his pocket, he asks Tarot what she is doing with his brother. Marie-Ange reveals that years ago Christopher swore he would return to her when she needed him the most, and after her death at the hands of a Sentinel, his brother found her and nursed her back to health. ‘I can refuse him nothing’ she declares.
Jesse remarks that one does not have to be a fortune teller to know their future looks pretty grim right now. Tarot tells Jesse that he does not always have to play the fool, that he can stop Christopher and shut the power plan down with his powers. But Bedlam replies that no matter how wrong his brother is, he cannot take sides against his own flesh and blood. ‘I’m gonna get out of here. Come with me. Don’t be the last rat on a sinking ship’ he tells Tarot. ‘No. Escape is not in the cards for me’ Marie-Ange reveals.
On another level, Switch, Feral and Magma take watch over the Senator, who tells them that they cannot let Bedlam wake the Armageddon Man. ‘He’s not a mutant like you, he’s a mindless force of nature’. The Senator exclaims that the Armageddon Man is a lightning rod that attracts natural disasters - earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards and tidal waves. ‘Hundreds of thousands will die!’ he shouts. ‘So what? No one said that life is fair. The strong survive. The weak die. Besides, humanity’s overrated. Maybe it’s time we thinned the herd’ Feral snarls. ‘You can’t be serious!’ the Senator tells her.
Allison smirks as she tells the Senator that whatever happens is in his hands. ‘Convince your mates in Washington to give us what we want. You and I both know a billion dollars is hardly a drop in the defense budget’ she tells him, while Devon suggests he think of it as insurance money. ‘You’re nothing but a heartless band of thugs!’ the Senator exclaims. ‘Thugs who can destroy you in any number of ways, Senator…imagine what I could do if I took over your body for a second time, Senator. I could commit a murder in front of the Washington Press Corps - and you’d be the one executed for the crime!’ Switch exclaims as he looms over the Senator. Maria declares that she would pay to see that, while the Senator tells the three of them that they are insane.
Outside, Jesse is trying to start a car. ‘Hotwiring a car always looks so easy on TV’ he tells himself, when suddenly, Christopher reaches into the car, asking his brother where he thinks he is going. ‘Chris, I was…umm..’ Jesse begins, but an angry Chris exclaims ‘Don’t tell me you’re leaving, little brother. I might take that personally’. Jesse replies that he spent thirteen years looking for his brother, thinking how great it was going to be when they were finally reunited. ‘I imagine we’d hang out, shoot some hoops, catch a movie…you know, the kind of things normal brothers do - but I’m sorry, this whole Armageddon Man resurrection is way outta my league’.
Christopher slams his brother against the car and tells him that he is a fool. ‘I give you the chance to be richer than you ever dreamed, and you want to walk away. Do you want to end up like your so-called “friends” in X-Force?’ he asks. ‘Is that a threat?’ Jesse replies, telling his brother to go ahead and take his best shot. ‘I wish I’d never found you!’ he exclaims, but Christopher lets his brother go, ‘No…I’m sorry…I was out of line…you can do what you want…maybe it was too much to hope that nothing would ever come between the Bedlam Brothers again’ he declares, before walking away. ‘Chris…wait up…’ Jesse calls out.
Inside the reactor building, Tarot stands before the room where Paradigm is working with the mind-controlled X-Force. Marie-Ange wishes that Jesse was willing to stand up against his brother so she would not have to do this. ‘I pray my next life is easier’ she tells herself, before approaching Paradigm. The techno-organic tells Tarot that she should not be here without protective attire, as exposure to this level of radiation could prove hazardous to her health. ‘Oui, je sais, but I cannot let you rouse this poor creature from his long slumber’ Tarot replies. Paradigm tells Tarot that whatever her objections are, she is too late to stop the revival. ‘You’re wrong. There is still a chance…’ Tarot remarks as she touches Paradigm in the shoulder.
Paradigm remarks that her actions confuse him. ‘Must I restrain you?’ he asks her, to which Marie-Ange replies ‘Yes’ and remarks that connection is what she requires to make him see the world as she does - through the icons of the tarot arcana, the ancient symbols by which the future can be divined, symbols that, with great effort, she can bring to life inside him. ‘What have you don to me? There is no logic to this world-view…only chaos!’ Paradigm exclaims as techno-organic versions of Death, the Jester and other tarot card representations emerge from his body. Paradigm declares that he must purge himself of all foreign elements infecting his neural network, and suddenly, Moonstar finds her head clear, so she figures something must be demanding Paradigm’s full attention. Dani tells herself hat she must take advantage of this window of opportunity before Paradigm reasserts control.
Dani reminds herself that her psionic powers are unreliable these days, but thankfully she has other energy at her command. Paradigm sees that Moonstar has broken his cybernetic link to her nervous system. ‘This should not be possible’ Paradigm states, ‘Guess there’s a first time for everything’ Dani tells him, while Paradigm declares that the quantum energy building in Moonstar’s body is disrupting his hold over her teammates. ‘Your actions prevent me from maintaining adequate radiation shielding for your companions. Surrender at once’ he announces.
‘No thanks. You got the drop on us once - you don’t get a second chance!’ Moonstar shouts as she engulfs Paradigm in a band of quantum energy. A confused Meltdown asks Moonstar what is going on, while Moonstar demands that Paradigm release her friends. Paradigm states that his body is under assault at a molecular level, so multi-tasking is no longer possible. His form begins to shift as he states that a retreat is imperative, and he reconfigures his external and internal biology. ‘Self-preservation is imperative’ he exclaims, before his form has shifted into the shape of an egg, while X-Force are free from his binds.
‘We’re free…James, are you all right?’ Siryn exclaims. James replies that he is a little dazed, before asking what happened to them, as the last thing he remembers is squaring off with the Hellions. ‘Ah’d say they won that round’ Sam remarks, before announcing that judging by their surroundings he would say they are in a nuclear reactor, and suggests they get out as fast as they can.
Up in the control room, ‘No! X-Force has escaped!’ King Bedlam shouts as he sees their departure. He exclaims that Paradigm has gone fetal and asks how this could have happened. Tarot steps forward and tells her lover to blame her, as she introduced Paradigm’s computer-like mind to the abstract imagery of the tarot arcana, and he was unable to process it. Marie-Ange declares that she could no longer stand by and let this madness continue. ‘Thank Heaven!’ the Senator exclaims, but Switch tells him to shut up.
King Bedlam spins around and grabs Tarot, asking her how she could betray him after all he has done for her. Tarot replies that she wishes she did not betray him, but that she sees the future and the Armageddon Man’s revival will not bring them wealth, only misfortune. ‘I don’t want the blood of innocents on my hand’ she declares. ‘You stupid w -’ Christopher exclaims as he raises a fist towards Marie-Ange, only for Jesse to arrive, and grabbing his brother, tells him no. ‘Can’t you see how weak she looks - she must have spent too much time in the reactor room’ Jesse exclaims, but Christopher spins around and smacks his brother in the face, telling him never to get in his way again.
Jesse rubs his bleeding mouth and tells his brother that he almost believed him when he said that he wanted to be the Bedlam Brothers together. ‘But you were just playing me, like you’re playing all your little Hellions. You don’t care about anyone but yourself!’ Jesse exclaims. Christopher tells his brother that he has worked too hard for this moment to let anyone stand in his way. ‘Even my own flesh and blood!’ he exclaims, before there is a mighty explosion, ‘What the -’ Christopher begins, while Jesse remarks that it looks like things aren’t working out like he planned, as X-Force enter the room.
‘It’s heart-warming to see such brotherly love’ Cannonball remarks, while Siryn tells the Hellions that they are shutting them down. Meltdown readies another plasma time bomb as she remarks that it is too bad Jesse is with them, as she was beginning to like him. ‘Told you we should’ve killed them when we had the chance!’ Feral snarls, while King Bedlam tells X-Force that they cannot stop him, as he will reduce them all to mindless idiots who will spend the rest of their lives being spoon-fed in a mental ward. Tarot tells Jesse that he has the power to shut the plant down and that he must do it now. But Bedlam tells Tarot to forget it, as there is no way he is getting in the middle of this. ‘I’ve done enough damage. I’m outta here - and this time I mean it!’ he exclaims.
Suddenly though, there is a loud rumble. ‘What was that?’ Cannonball wonders as he takes to the air. ‘Earthquake?’ James asks. ‘No, look at the monitor’ Tarot tells everyone, announcing that the coolant tower casing is collapsing. ‘Oh my God, it’s begun…Heaven help us all!’ Senator Danville exclaims, while King Bedlam tells X-Force that they are too late. ‘The sleeper has awakened! The Armageddon Man lives!’ he booms as the Armageddon Man breaks free of his restraints….