A helicopter nears a mountainous area in Wajiristan.
Aboard are Tom Starling, a rookie, his female superior and journalist Jack Wigmore. What is he looking for? Jack asks Tom. Eye of Sauron, the boy replies as he peers down. It’s what his people call IEDs these days, he explains. Johnny Taliban comes out at night. Uses a burning tire to melt a ring outta the tarmac on the road. Hides a bomb underneath. Little circle on the heat-scope: “Eye of Sauron.”
In his notes, the reporter states that the rookie was nervous and hadn’t wasted one single chance to prattle. But then he hadn’t wasted a chance to set him off either. Journalistic instinct— or just nerves even worse than his?
How do Americans call it? he asks. Yanks always have to be bigger and bolder, Tom laughs. “Phoenix Fire.”
Corporal Thomas Starling volunteered for this mission and the journalist wonders who was cruel enough to take him up on that offer.
The woman who sits at the front of the chopper sharply orders the rookie to be quiet. Jack doesn’t know her real name. For all he knows, she was christened Ma’am and picked a career to match. A petty, pissy cold-eyed bully who had been on his case since—
The woman warns Wigmore that she has no idea what strings he pulled to get assigned here but she does not approve of embedded journalists, especially on missions so secret the “classified” uses fairy blood as ink. She’ll be checking his reports every day. One slip, one loose word or one grotesque Americanism and she will have him irradiated. Immediately, Wigmore changes her description in a positive way.
They land and the woman, Thomas and Wigmore leave the chopper to meet the grunts, Captain Riggs and his men, the Pheasant Pluckers, none of whom are overly pleased to see them. Riggs warns them not to mess up. One wrong step and they are all dead.
As far as Wigmore knows they are an elite group drafted from within the British S.A.S.. They had been assigned a fresh recruit for a mission deep inside Taliban country He doesn’t so much mind the frosty reception but observes Tom taking it hard.
When Tom asks a soldier where he should sleep, the other man just spits on the ground.
Wigmore observes the other soldiers and figures they are much the same, chiseled from the same damn rock. United in their calm and contempt for weakness as Tom learns the next day when he stumbles over his own bootlaces.
Wigmore writes they are united in a singular obsession with their mission. Find and annihilate the Quadees. They’d come out of the south. Their politics were familiar: Sharia for all, death to the West, but their tactics were different. No IEDs, no bomb-bolts. These guys hit hard in person and left nothing but the fillings of your teeth. Six towns, two airstrips and three NATO patrols, bleached bone and soot. No one knew how they did it or where they went afterward. The Afghani government forbade its allies from antagonizing them but the Brits apparently didn’t get that memo. Bottom line: these guys had to be quiet.
One of the soldiers threatens to cut off Tom’s feet if he doesn’t walk quieter.
Jack Wigmore muses about the identity of the woman who clearly is calling the shots.
Tom addresses Wigmore, who notes he is taking a lot of pills. Army regs, Tom tells him. Hay fever, eczema, he doesn’t know what half these things do. He fears the others are staring again and mutters you don’t see them having bloody allergies. He wanted to be here to prove himself, serve his country. But he gets it. In their place, he’d wonder too. He doesn’t know why she picked him either. Bad nerves, shoddy eyes and gay as a summer’s morning. He was stupid to think the likes of them would respect a lanky ginger tosspot like him. Jack tells him he’s being too hard on himself. And he likes redheads.
In the morning, the soldiers see a cloaked figure standing high above on a steep rock. When they try to shoot the figure, a sniper takes out their rifles. Tom panics and the woman sharply orders him to calm down.
They get another cloaked figure in the crossfires. Laughing madly, she attacks with sharpened bone protrusions. However, another cloaked figure drags her off into a cave before she actually hurts the soldiers too badly. Captain Riggs notes they stole the weapons and the radio.
On the morning of the third day, they clock a tall one-eyed figure in the mountains. One soldier protests he put a bowie knife into that one’s back. He knows a kill-wound when he sees it. He guesses those Quadee lads are pretty tough. Captain Riggs calls him an idiot. Whoever these people are, they aren’t Quadees. Another soldier explains the tracks are wrong. They walk like westerners, all swagger and sweat.
Another cloaked figure runs on a mountain range nearby. Shouting ‘allo, he fires his two guns at them. More to get their attention than anything else. Eyes up! the Captain shouts. Much obliged, a man dressed in white with a surgical mask remarks from a cave nearby and shoots one of them with a syringe. The sergeant goes into a killing rage. Jack believes he sees green energy come from his mouth as he hallucinates.
The woman reminds Captain Riggs they can’t risk him blowing their cover over a hallucination. He replies he is one of his people. You don’t give up on family! She doesn’t know what she’s #&%$* asking. She isn’t asking, she replies sharply. Riggs carries him away.
The woman orders Wigmore to show her what he has written so far. Since he’s been careful about what he actually wrote, she is pleased by what she reads. The official version goes that the captain buried the sergeant in the desert after he was killed by a mortar strike.
They are nervous as the night starts. Tom strikes up a conversation with Jack figuring their enemies are provoking them like they wanna know what they can do. Like old school super-villains? Jack opines. Scheming to “test the mettle of my foes. Bwahaha!” instead of killing them. That’s stupid, he laughs. Tom alleges to weird stuff that he can’t talk about. Things he volunteered for. When Jack asks for more Tom suddenly kisses him, then apologizes. He came to be one of them but they hate him. He doesn’t want to die feeling despised.
From above, Psylocke watches them. She jumps down in front of them and sticks her psiblade into the ground creating a shockwave.
The woman recognizes Psylocke and puts on a device onto her brow to bock her telepathy out. In one smooth movement, Betsy attacks both a soldier and the journalist. Tom becomes agitated and the woman anxiously orders him to calm down.
Before he can do anything, someone shoots him from the mountain taking him out. The captain and the other men have had enough. Ignoring the woman’s orders, they suddenly reveal superpowers and power up.
Jack scans them with his tablet, muttering ‘quasi-mutant signature.’ Their attackers disappear but the woman becomes suspicious of Jack. She demands to know who he is working for.
That moment, a black helicopter approaches. The woman orders the men to switch off their powers. The chopper lands and from it step MI13 agents Pete Wisdom, Meggan Braddock aka Gloriana and Dr. Faiza Hussein aka Excalibur.
Wisdom identifies the woman as MI6 agent Melinda Argyll and their dislike is clearly mutual. He doesn’t mean to worry her, he announces, but she seems to have tumbled into an unusually deep patch of dangerous superhumans. Faiza suggests to keep still. They can only see movements.
Melinda protests they have no business-- Feigning innocence, Meggan asks Pete if superhuman affairs aren’t exclusively the affair of MI13? That sounds familiar, Faiza chimes in. As in them, not her. Can’t be, Pete protests. Otherwise dear old Melly would be busy explaining what she’s doing in the desert with a bunch of unregistered British superbeings, wouldn’t she?
Argyll stammers. Cards on the table, Wisdom announces. A spot of the old conniving interagency competition he can understand. Her double oh types have been after the spandex contract for years. But it’s the sheer bloody incompetence he can’t forgive. Someone got into her department’s intranet. Sort of thing he keeps an eye on. Tweaked some settings, approved a few unconventional permissions. Nobody gave clearance for a reporter on this trip, he clarifies and uses his hot knives to shoot off Jack Wigmore’s head. Several laughing holographic faces pop out and MeMe announces just when she thought she might have a future in journalism.
Their journo is a bloody machine, Pete explains. Worse, Tom shouts. She’s a girl!
It’s worse than that too, Cable announces from above: She’s with them.