Heading to Muir Island, the X-Men’s Blackbird flies at incredible speed, low over the water just off the coast of Scotland, roaring just over a boat. The crew of the trawler, Audrey II, are furious but there’s nothing they can do as they are tossed about in its wake.
Aboard the Blackbird are the X-Men, heading to Muir Island after a phone call between Cyclops and Lorna Dane was cut short. Banshee looks back at the trawler and figures they survived. Wolverine comments that they left New York barely an hour ago, and didn’t even wait for Beast like he asked. Cyclops explains that there wasn’t time. He wants this done by the numbers, just like they practiced. They don’t know what they’re up against, so they go in hard, and fast.
Colossus readies himself. He opens a hatch and transforms into his armored form before dropping through the hatch towards the ground. His body crackles as he changes, and he drops like a missile towards a deserted section of Moira MacTaggert’s Mutant Research Center. He hits the ground hard but, before the dust settles, he is on his feet. He radio’s Cyclops and informs him that there’s no sign of hostility. He is followed out of the Blackbird by Storm, who carries Wolverine with her. She drops him off at the seaward entrance to the main complex before heading off to begin an airborne sweep of the island.
Cyclops lands the Blackbird and orders Nightcrawler to enter the building and search it from attic to cellar. With a flash of brimstone, Kurt is gone, instantly materializing in the living room of Moira’s house. Cyclops exits the plane followed by Banshee. He tells Scott that he’s pushing awfully hard, but Scott replies that he didn’t hear Lorna’s scream. He’s never heard such raw terror. That was over an hour ago and a lot can happen in that time. Just before they were cut off, he adds, Lorna said the lab security alarms had sounded, and that Alex and Jamie had gone to check things out.
Scott receives a call in his earpiece. It’s Kurt, and he wants Scott to come at once. He enters the living room and finds Kurt kneeling over the body of Lorna Dane and a stranger. Kurt says that she is alive, but the other one is beyond human help. They turn the body over and Kurt explains that his wallet identifies him as being Angus MacWhirter. Scott knows him and wonders what the old skinflint was doing here. He hated the X-Men’s guts. He notices that his body looks mummified, and wonders who, or what is responsible.
Banshee checks on Lorna. She is shocked but should be all right. Kurt points out that if this is what she saw whilst on the phone, it’s no wonder she screamed. Cyclops asks Nightcrawler to teleport over to the lab. There are still four people unaccounted for; Moira, Alex, Jamie and Jean; not to mention whoever is behind this. Banshee says that without his sonic scream he isn’t much use to him. He’ll keep watch over Lorna. Scott says that if there’s any change in her condition, or if they run into trouble, to give him a holler on the radio.
Above them, Storm swoops down and collects Cyclops, who has headed outdoors. Scott worries that it’s been months since Banshee was injured and yet he still shows no sign of regenerating. Ororo explains that she’s scouted the entire island from the air and there are no signs of their friends, or any intruders. He asks her to head for the lab. He’s betting they’ll find them there.
Deep inside the complex, Nightcrawler scampers across the ceiling. He is in complete darkness. Not even the emergency lights are working. From the fuse boxes he’s seen, he surmises that every circuit in the place must have overloaded and blown at once. Who possibly has that power? Lorna maybe, or Magneto…
Suddenly, his thoughts are broken as an energy blast misses him by inches. He recognizes the blast and calls out to Havok not to shoot, explaining that it’s Nightcrawler. Havok says he’s sorry, but Nightcrawler’s dead, and he stopped believing in ghosts long ago. He orders the intruder to step out where he can be seen. Havok is holding up Jamie Madrox, who appears to be injured. Kurt knows that Havok must still think they’re dead, and opts to split, but before he can do anything, Colossus wraps his muscular arms around Havok’s waist.
Havok cannot see who his attacker is, and Havok warns him that no matter how strong he is; let’s see his strength save him from the cosmic power of Havok. He unleashes a blast, but nothing appears to happen. He turns and sees Colossus grinning back at him. “Colossus! You’re alive!!” he stutters. Piotr says that he is alive, as are all the X-Men, and that it is good to see him again.
Elsewhere, Ororo and Scott see a shadow creeping towards them. It is someone holding a gun. Ororo doesn’t take any chances, and she summons up a wind with her elemental powers that will stun whoever it is. The wind picks up the stranger and blows them around the corner towards them. To their surprise, they discover it is Moira. She is pleased to see them. She thought they had perished also. She immediately asks about Banshee, and Cyclops assures her that he’s with them, taking care of Lorna. He asks what the trouble is, and as to the whereabouts of Jean.
Moira explains that Mutant X has escaped. She was looking for Jean herself but, with the lights out, this place is worse than Hampton Court maze. Cyclops hurries away, asking Storm to gather everyone at Moira’s house. He knows he’s breaking his own rules by taking off alone but, after all that’s happened, he want to be alone when he sees Jean.
With each step, the emotions Scott has dammed up for so long threaten to burst wide open. He knows he must lock them down, or break. He thought she was the woman he loved, but now…
He notices Jean, lying on the floor, and walks over to her. He cradles her in his arms and realizes that she’s in shock, just like Lorna. He knows that neither of them are pushovers, so whatever hit them must have been pretty impressive. She begins to come around and hears a voice calling to her, gently pulling her out of the darkness. She sees Jason Wyngarde’s hirsute face staring back at her. Weakly, she whispers, “Jason, I knew it was you…” Scott looks surprised. “Jason!” he exclaims. The darkness takes Jean again and, though she sleeps, her dreams are troubled.
By mid-afternoon, the X-Men, Moira, Alex, Lorna and Jamie Madrox are gathered together. Their efforts to track down Mutant X have been in vain and, of those at the table, Jamie Madrox has suffered the most. He is called the Multiple Man because of his mutant power to create clones of himself. Jamie had once been offered a place in the X-Men by Professor Xavier, but he’d preferred to help Moira run her research center instead.
Jamie explains that, when the alarm sounded, he created a squad of duplicates so he and Havok could search the grounds more quickly. He left one of them guarding the house, just in case. When that dupe heard Lorna’s scream, he rushed in to help her. Lorna fired a magnetic force bolt at Mutant X; that’s what blew the lights. Unfortunately, it hadn’t done any good. His duplicate tackled him and, suddenly, Jamie felt like his soul was being torn out of him. Jamie breaks down, saying he couldn’t’ stop him.
Moira comforts him, and Banshee adds that he did his best. His duplicate’s sacrifice saved Lorna’s life. Wolverine asks what they’re waiting for; he wants to go after the sucker. Cyclops orders him to sit down as they’re not going anywhere. Wolverine asks Scott if he’s scared, but Scott retorts that, actually, he is. Wolverine knows what Lorna and Jean can do, and Jamie once held off the entire Fantastic Four; yet Mutant X beat them easily. He explains that they have to know who Mutant X is, what his powers are, his strengths and his weaknesses. They need to know how he thinks and feels. Wolverine knows he’s right, but it doesn’t mean he has to like it.
Cyclops tells Moira that he checked the files and there’s nothing on Mutant X. Moira fiddles with her rifle and replies that it’s a private matter. Scott reminds her that he’s killed, and he’ll kill again. She has to help them before it’s too late. Moira replies that it was too late the day he was born. Scott asks just who Mutant X is, and Moira replies that he is her son.
Meanwhile, Mutant X has got hold of Angus MacWhirter’s boat, and sailed to Stornoway. Now looking like Jamie Madrox’s dupe, he hungers once more. He is consuming the shell too quickly and must find a replacement. Suddenly, the door of the Red Lion is flung open and Jason Wyngarde slips out into the night air. Like Mutant X, he is a man of many shapes and faces; a man whose soul is as black as the devil’s own.
He has made himself the man of Jean Grey’s dreams. Soon, he plans to win her love and, through that love, bind her to him. That is, assuming he lives. He ambles through an alleyway, where Mutant X hides in the shadows. As he prepares to attack, Mutant X is surprised to find that Wyngarde has some kind of psychic shield, which blunts his attack. Powerful as Mutant X is, he must let this prey escape.
A little time later down by the docks, some friends bid each other fond farewell and head for home. It’s been quite a while since Ferdie Duncan was this drunk. He knows his wife will read him the riot act the moment he walks in the door. He’s wrong. A hand suddenly grabs his mouth and the other arm pulls him into the shadows. Seconds later, he emerges as Mutant X. His wife will never see him again. Mutant X likes this shell, as it is young and strong. It will serve him well.
That night, no one on Muir Island sleeps well, and, in the following morning, reports of the mummified remains of Jamie’s dupe bring them to Stornoway, and then to Scotland’s mainland. The team is gathered between four Jeeps. Cyclops checks a map of the area and thinks it is safe to assume that Mutant X crossed there. The best way for him to hide, where he can find a fresh supply of host bodies, is a big city. In Scotland, that means Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Scott knows that finding him won’t be easy. They don’t know what he looks like now, or how he’s travelling. Worse still, he doesn’t appear to register on Cerebro, or any other mechanical sensor.
Cyclops splits them into four teams. He and Moira go together and, as Scott drives, Moira wonders if Mutant X has foxed them and actually remained on Stornoway. Scott informs her that this is why Jamie isn’t with them. He’ll monitor police radio frequencies and inform them if he pops up. Moira tells Scott that he was a beautiful baby. She hated his father, but she loved him. She still does. When his mutant power emerged and changed him, she tried to find a cure. She failed. She explains that he has two fundamental weaknesses; his constant need for new bodies, and metal. He can’t abide non-organic materials. Metal can imprison Mutant X, or destroy him.
Jean is airborne and thinks that maybe she should have mentioned to Scott that Mutant X seems ‘invisible’ to her telepathic powers as well. She guesses she should have told him a lot of things, but she couldn’t. The vibes she got from him were so confused. He’s changed, she thinks, and Jean is glad of that. But, she wonders, how will it affect them?
At that moment, on a nearby hillock, Jason Wyngarde watches Jean through a pair of binoculars. He can see the X-Men are out in force and heaven help who they’re after. He wanders away, thinking that, despite Jean being the most powerful X-Man, she is also the most vulnerable. For the second time in as many days, Jean’s world goes decidedly mad.
Instead of flying over Scotland, she finds herself dressed in riding gear and back in the 18th century. Jason Wyngarde is by her side. She’s never ridden a horse in her life, yet she handles the stallion beneath her with practiced ease. As she thunders across the heather, she finds herself accepting this new reality, welcoming it. She is Lady Jean Grey and this is her manor. These men are her guests and one of them is her love.
She is the first to reach the dogs, which are about to rip apart a defenseless stag. She calls Jason over and he whips the dogs to get them to cease their bloody activity. He looks up at Jean and, holding a dagger, he tells her that the beast still lives. As the first to run it, he gives her the honor to administer the coup de grace. She happily takes the dagger from him.
Jason informs her that he can’t remember when he’s had finer sport. It was a masterstroke of hers, suggesting they hunt a man playing the role of a stag, rather than the animal itself. Jean steps back in surprise, as she sees a semi-naked man wearing a stag’s skin. As suddenly as it began, Phoenix’s madness ends, for a time. Jean, back as Phoenix, looks down on the mummified body of Ferdie Duncan. She wonders what’s happening to her, but then notices that the body is actually real.
Nightcrawler drives the Jeep through the fog, whilst Wolverine scouts ahead. He tells Logan that Phoenix has notified them about finding a body, but Logan is more interested in following a trail without any distractions. Nightcrawler replies that Scott says the body is fresh, and wonders how Mutant X could have abandoned the body over ten miles away and gotten this far already. Wolverine’s nose doesn’t lie, and he tells Kurt that those bodies that Mutant X possesses give off a distinctive scent. He picked it up before they hit this fog, and he’s been following it ever since.
Suddenly, a police officer orders them to halt. Wolverine twigs immediately that because the cop gives off no scent, it might be the man they’re looking for. “’Crawler - trouble!” he shouts. The police officer is indeed Mutant X, having been taken when Ferdie Duncan’s body was disposed of. He finds it incredible that Wolverine has seen through his deception, but tells him that it will do him no good. He asks Logan to spare himself needless pain. This will be over before he knows it. Energy flares between the two men and Wolverine finds himself drowning in Mutant X’s psyche. He fights desperately, but it’s no use. He has barely seconds of life left, and screams.
Strangely, Wolverine realizes that it wasn’t him that screamed; it was Mutant X. He takes a step back and cries, “Metal! This X-Man’s full of metal… alien, deadly to me.” Wolverine looks up at him and replies that it ain’t just metal. He’s got a skeleton made of about three million bucks worth of adamantium. But, if he thinks his bones are deadly, he should get a load of his claws. Logan pops them from his wrist and prepares to attack Mutant X.
Nightcrawler moves closer through the fog in the Jeep and only sees Logan attacking a police officer. Logan warns him to stay outta his way, and tell Cyke that they just cornered Mutant X. He’s going to put Moira’s darlin’ little boy outta action, permanently! Mutant X thinks not. He tells Logan that he calls him Mutant X, but he has a better name for himself; Proteus, the mutant who masters reality.
Suddenly, Kurt and Logan’s worlds turn inside out, as reality warps around them. Kurt thinks his body is breaking up and drifting apart, but things are infinitely worse for Wolverine. He is a being defined by his senses, and now all his senses are lying to him. He crouches on the ground and tries to hold on, but there is nothing to hold on to. Unaware that, thanks to Proteus, Wolverine perceives his words as drops of orange rain, Nightcrawler does his best to reassure his friend. Proteus revels in his use of power, using the two X-Men as guinea pigs as he warps the very fabric of reality.
Storm flies in from above and focuses a lightning blast at Proteus’s feet. Her attack catches Proteus by surprise, and both shock and fear snap him back to reality. Storm holds back from attacking their foe directly and, instead, destroys the police car to prevent his escape. The explosion causes him pain, and he tells Storm that she’ll pay for that. In an instant, Ororo finds the ground has jumped up to slap her in the face.
Wolverine and Nightcrawler continue to struggle in their own personal hells, but Storm is aware enough to try something else. She creates a strong wind, which soon reaches hundreds of miles per hour. Proteus withstands the hurricane, but Wolverine and Nightcrawler are also caught in its path. She orders them both to remain where they are and anchor themselves. They know she is on her own, and know that all they can do is dig in, and pray.
Around them, the surface of the glen is stripped clean, down to the bare rock by Storm’s terrible elemental holocaust. She strikes out with everything she has, her face grim as she realizes that, this time, her best won’t be good enough. Step by inexorable step, Proteus is closing in on her; closing in for the kill.