It’s springtime in New York City, and Spider-Man swings across town in anticipation of his date with the gorgeous Cissy Ironwood. He feels a little miserable, though, as his meagre wage this week will only allow them a big mac and fries instead of something really special. She’ll understand, though, as she knows Parker is no moneybags. Besides, there’s plenty more to do in Greenwich Village, even if you’re broke.
He spots a couple below him, who he recognizes as being Colleen Wing and Scott Summers; out for a walk and a chat. Scott’s been thinking about Jean’s folks. He’s been trying to reach them since the X-Men returned to the States, but so far he’s had no luck. Spidey suddenly drops in on them, hanging upside down from a web. Passers by are startled, but Scott and Colleen take his appearance in their stride. Spidey says hi and Colleen replies in kind, adding that she hasn’t seen him since the fracas with Steel Serpent. Scott thinks to himself that he hasn’t seen Spidey since the X-Men faced the so-called Lords of Light and Darkness. He asks what’s new, but Spidey is simply dropping by to say hello. He enquires as to the relationship of Misty and Iron Fist, and Colleen informs him that everything’s fine. Spidey departs, late for a date, swinging into the night, barely aware of a city sanitation truck below him.
The truck’s design, however, has little to do with garbage. The driver, wearing a baseball cap with the letter ‘A’ printed on it, knows that his boss would love to get his hands on the wall-crawler again, but there’s no time to chase him now. Scott tells Colleen that she and Jean are the only girls he’s ever dated. Growing up in an orphanage makes for a lousy social life. He tells her that he hated the place. The only things that are truly your own are your thoughts. “I’ve never told anyone this, not even Jean, but I… hey!” Scott turns to see the garbage truck right next to him but, before he can even think to act, the top of the truck opens and an extendable tube slams over the pair of them with a ‘sflanng.’
At that moment, not far away, Spidey hears this unforgettable sound and recognizes it as being Arcade’s signature. He was once taken captive alongside Captain Britain, and has a nasty feeling he knows who Arcade’s new target is. He returns to the place where he met Scott and Colleen, but they are nowhere to be seen. It looks bad. Arcade could be after any number of people; the X-Men, Iron Fist, anyone. He takes time out for a quick search, but knows he must start making phone calls to warn those he can.
Once upon a time, it was a neighborhood of slum tenements, immortalized by the film, West Side Story. Things have changed. The heart of this majestic complex is the Metropolitan Opera House, where tonight, Nightcrawler and Colossus are attending a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet with their respective dates; Amanda Sefton and Betsy Wilford. They are met by Miss Locke, who informs them that she is afraid Professor Xavier’s private box is being refurbished, but the director hopes the alternative will serve just as well. They are impressed with having a private box but, once they are inside, the door slams shut behind them. This is their first double date with Betsy and Amanda in quite a while. It will be a night to remember.
Before Piotr can turn to steel, they are gassed. It’s all over in a matter of seconds. Miss Locke calls Arcade and informs him that her mission is accomplished. Targets three and four are secured. A helicopter takes the private box, which in reality is simply a metal cube, high into the air and away from Lincoln Center.
(The Japanese Consulate on Park Avenue)
Logan thanks Mariko Yashida for dinner, as he prepares to leave. He can’t remember the last time he enjoyed a meal as much. Mariko is pleased and hopes to see him again, soon. Wolverine leaves contented. Mariko is like no woman he’s ever known, reaching parts of his skull he never knew existed. Under a street light, a guy asks him for a light, which Logan provides. He then wanders away, not noticing the garbage truck nearby. He wonders where his relationship with Mariko will go next. Living day by day was fine for the likes of Cracklin’ Rosa and maybe even Jean Grey, but not Mariko.
Back at the School for Gifted Youngsters, Banshee wakes after having dozed off to a James Joyce novel. That’ll teach him to read Finnegan’s Wake in front of a roaring fire. The phone rings and he wearily walks over to pick it up. He hopes it isn’t trouble. They’ve had plenty of rest over the past few weeks getting the mansion in order, and he’ll be sorry to see their ‘vacation’ end. It seems the older he gets, the less eager he is to play super hero. As he reaches for the phone, an unseen intruder shoots him in the back with a tranquilizer. The mansion’s defenses are formidable, virtually foolproof, but nevertheless, Arcade has managed to breach them. As Banshee reels from the dart, Arcade tells him not to fret about his problems. By this time tomorrow night, they’ll be taken care of… permanently.
Upstairs, Storm hears the phone ringing, and stepping out of a shower, she asks Sean to answer it. When it continues ringing, she flies downstairs and heads for the phone, but succumbs in the same manner as Sean to Arcade’s tranquilizer dart. On the other end of the phone, Spidey says, “Hello! Hello! Is this Professor Xavier’s mansion? Is anyone there?” A voice says hello. Spidey thanks heaven and introduces himself. He says that Scott Summers was kidnapped by Arcade and thinks he may be gunning for the X-Men. Arcade picks up the receiver and replies that he is gunning for them. His warning’s come a little too late. And, when he’s finished with them, he’s coming after him. Spider-Man destroys the phone box in frustration.
Scott Summers wakes to a stygian darkness that even the light from his eye beams cannot penetrate. His head feels like mush. He remembers being attacked by… a garbage truck, and hit by some kind of nerve gas before he could fire off a blast. He wonders about Colleen, as the lights come one. It isn’t good. He, along with the other five X-Men, is encased in a see-through Lucite sphere, slightly smaller than the X-Men are tall. They’re all in uniform too. What on Earth’s going on? They are in some kind of tunnel, and need to bust out soon, before their host makes his move.
In the control room, Miss Locke informs her employer that they’re all awake, and he asks for a systems update from Mr. Chambers - the man Wolverine gave a light to earlier. All readings are nominal. Arcade can start when he is ready. That’s just what he wanted to hear. With gleeful, practiced skill, Arcade draws back the hammer of his master pinball machine. Its action is duplicated on the giant-size machine on the outside of the control booth. Using the PA system, he announces, “Ladeez, gentlemen and children of all ages. Arcade proudly welcomes you to Murderworld - where nobody ever survives.
One after the other, the balls shoot up the launching track and onto the face of the giant pinball board. Scott is shocked as an electrical charge is sent through his body as his ball strikes a bumper. He is sent in so many different directions at once, he is unable to gather his bearings. That’s only the beginning. Still groggy from the effects of the nerve gas, the X-Men take a merciless pounding. This makes some of them sick, and prevents all of them from accessing their powers. They roll helplessly towards the machine’s separate dead ball slots, each leading to a custom-designed room. Arcade isn’t impressed with their performance so far. Spider-Man at least managed to break free of his pinball. Still, he thinks, the game’s still young, but if the X-Men don’t get their act together, then it’s gonna be over before it’s begun.
Cyclops finds his ball dropping far to the floor below before smashing, leaving him floundering amongst the shards. At least it has cleared a few cobwebs from his head. Arcade announces that Cyclops has three doors to choose from. One is a way out, but the other two lead to horrible deaths. To help make up his mind, Arcade flicks a switch that sets off a hydraulic ram that moves the far wall closer to Cyke. He warns Scott that, when he uses his optic blast, or opens a door, the wall will be slammed the rest of the way across the floor. He has one play and needs to make it count. Turning off the PA, Arcade grins. Little does Scott know that, behind each door, there is a concrete wall. Sure, there’s a way out, but he won’t find it by trusting him.
Colossus is next. He too finds his ball is shattered but, in the darkness, he cannot see how big his room is. He knows he must do something, as his friends are in danger. A spotlight is switched on, revealing a wooden chair. A Russian voice then speaks to him. “Piotr Nikolievitch Rasputin - be seated.” A man enters the room and greets him, hoping he is comfortable, for he will be there for a while. Piotr sits down and asks how he knows his name. The man replies that there is a lot he knows about him. He steps into the light and looks at Piotr. He is wearing a dark overcoat and hat, a pair of sunglasses and sports a row of medals across his chest.
“I am Colonel Alexei Vazhin of the KGB, the committee for state security.” He informs Piotr that he is here to answer to charges that he is a traitor. Piotr shields his eyes, as Vazhin stands in front of bright lights that hide his true appearance. He says he cannot bear the lights. Vazhin removes his hat, and says that this sudden lack of cooperation makes him wonder if the charges are, indeed, true. Piotr replies vehemently that they are lies. He is no traitor. Vazhin tells him he then has nothing to fear from him, or the lights. Yet, he adds, what loyal son of Russia offers his services and his super powers to a team based in the United States? Colossus has no answer.
Elsewhere, Wolverine finds himself in a hall of mirrors with a large red arrow on the ceiling pointing the way. Subtlety ain’t his style, so he moves quickly, deciding to bull his way through to see what happens. The answer isn’t long in coming. He turns upon hearing a snikt and sees crazy-shaped images of himself, complete with claws, popping out of the walls. He reckons these bozos better know how to use ‘em. Arcade laughs hysterically as he watches. “Oh, they do, Wolverine, as you’ll soon see.” He loves the idea of instant androids but decides to switch channel to look in on the X-Men’s pet demon, Nightcrawler.
Arcade feels a fella like him ought to be at home in the dark, which is why he switches the lights on. Kurt checks out his surroundings. He is in the middle of a large circular room, reminiscent of a bicycle racing track, only much more deadly. Machines that remind Kurt of carnival dodgem cars emerge from panels in the floor and head towards him. They sport circular saws, meaning this is Kurt’s cue to teleport somewhere else. He heads for the roof, but doesn’t figure that the machines can also navigate their way there. His attention only falters for a second, but it’s long enough for him to be caught be one, and he falls with a scream.
Arcade now switches his attention to Banshee, who finds himself in a room which seems to have infinite grey space. There’s no floor, no ceiling. It could go on forever or be the size of a phone booth. If his vocal chords were fully healed, he could use his sonic scream like sonar to determine the size and shape of the room, but as it is, he can barely even talk. Suddenly, Stuka bombers attack out of nowhere, strafing him and dropping their lethal cargo. Everything looks real to Banshee, yet there’s a touch of wacko to it all. It reminds him of the painted backboard of a pinball machine. Without his power, he cannot tell what’s real and what is illusion. If he guesses wrong just once, he’s had it.
Arcade moves on once again, this time to Storm, who finds herself in a steel box. She hurts from the drugged dart, and the walls make her feel far too enclosed. Arcade’s voice asks if he’s frightened her, wondering if it could be a touch of claustrophobia perhaps? He can improve on that. The disc-shaped floor gives without warning, and Storm quickly takes to the air in a tunnel beneath her room. The light is so dim, she can see the water below her, but not the room itself. Suddenly, some kind of negative air effect cancels her own powers out and she finds herself fighting against what appears to be an unnatural force. She soon finds the trap door and tries blasting her way out. Around her body, Ororo generates a positive electrical field, hurling the accumulated energy from her in awesome bolts of lightning. Unfortunately, those bolts are reflected back at her by an even stronger field. She screams.
Meanwhile, Scott hasn’t much time to make a decision. He is smart enough to distrust Arcade enough to not play by his rules. He blasts his way at the wall, and not too far away, one of Wolverine’s doppelgangers is ripped apart by the blast. Cyke steps through the hole in the wall and, for once, Wolverine is pleased to see him. Likewise, replies Scott. The blast must have destroyed some of the machinery, as the mirrors have stopped producing robots. He tells Scott they must leave before anything else pops up to surprise them.
Scott sees a shadow in the doorway and warns Logan, but he assures Scott that he already has his scent. He’s about to say Colossus’s name, when his massive fist comes through the doorway and slams into Wolverine’s chin. Wolverine is sent tumbling to the floor and looks up to see his friend, wearing a pair of red dungarees with the image of Lenin on the front and the letters C.C.C.P. emblazoned across his chest. Logan tells Scott that it’s not one of Arcade’s robots; it’s really Colossus. The steel giant replies that he’s no longer the X-Man Colossus, a traitor to his motherland and his people. Now, he is the Proletariat; workers’ hero of the Soviet Union. His first mission is to smash the X-Men.
Elsewhere, Arcade rocks in his chair in hysterics. This is great, he thinks. He has Betsy Wilford, Amanda Sefton and Colleen Wing strapped into strange containers, wrapped up with red ribbons. He figures that, before Piotr’s brainwashing wears off, Colossus will kill the X-Men, or they’ll be forced to kill him. Either way, they lose, and Arcade wins.