A sub-basement of the Hellfire Club: several armed, masked guards, all elite mercenaries in the service of the secret Inner Circle ruling the Club, are in search of one man – Wolverine, the one X-Man the Inner Circle didn’t capture. As far as the men are concerned, they believe they are wasting their time. Wolverine went down into the sewers in a flashflood. If the fall didn’t kill him, the water must have. They are unaware that their target is waiting right above them, holding onto the ceiling and as mad as hell.
One of the guards keeps complaining: even if he did survive – how much damage can one man do? Suddenly, he notices water drops falling on him. There’s no leak – so where did it come from? He looks up, only to have Wolverine jump right at him. The mercs react with deadly, desperate speed, shooting at the angry mutant. Neither their arms nor their skill do them any good, as Wolverine guts the first one.
He never stops, keeps on moving, each move blending into the next in a frightening display of destruction. He’s doing what he does best and is having the time of his life in the process. Another guard goes down but the next one’s salvo hits Wolverine right in the chest. He sinks down, crates falling on him. The two men, Cole and Rosen, carefully move closer to him. Cole kicks at the unmoving form with his boot and announces to his compatriot that he believes the little runt is dead. “Your mistake, bub. The little runt lives!” Wolverine snarls, attacking Cole with his claws, which is more than he can say for him!
Only one goon left, the frightened Rosen has his firearm trained on Wolverine, warning him against moving closer. Wolverine feels the punishment of his injuries by now, but he can also sense what the other man is thinking: that he’s hurt and five meters away up against a full clip of ammo. So, can he kill Wolverine before he turns him into shish-kebab, right? Well, he tells him, Wolverine is virtually unkillable, his claws are made of Adamantium, and five meters aren’t much of a distance at all – for him. The frightened merc drops his gun. Wolverine jumps at him telling him he won’t kill him, if he tells him all about the Hellfire Club goons who clobbered the X-Men.
Speaking of whom: in an upstairs library are the gloating members of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, their newest member, the brainwashed Jean Grey and their prisoners, the X-Men, chained and helpless, their mutant powers neutralized by the inhibitor fields built into their manacles.
Sebastian Shaw, Black King and leader of the Inner Circle, turns to Jason Wyngarde AKA Mastermind, jovially congratulating him. They have done well this night. Shaw puts on a good show, but he has murder in his heart. He realizes that Wyngarde is out for the top spot and believes that, through his control of their new Black Queen, he will eventually seize control of the Inner Circle. If he thinks Shaw will be as easy a conquest as the X-Men, he’s in for a surprise, Shaw vows silently.
Wyngarde is quite aware of the other man’s feelings, but he is sure of himself and intends to enjoy the fruits of his victory for now. He draws Jean Grey closer and they kiss passionately. When they part, Jean’s eyes are lit with a cruel wanton passion. As she turns towards the X-Men, her teammates wonder what has happened to her. Only Cyclops knows but, thanks to the ruby quartz mask that covers his entire face, he cannot even speak. Thanks to Mastermind, Jean believes she’s physically shifting in time reliving the life of an 18th century ancestor. And indeed Jean does not see the X-Men standing before her, she sees three captured rebels and an escaped slave.
She turns to Storm, roughly manhandling her with her whip’s handle, mockingly calling her “Beauty,” the English translation of Ororo’s name. She tells her that she is disappointed in her. In all the time she had been Jean’s slave, she had never been mistreated. Ororo shudders at the evil in Jean’s voice as the other woman taunts her with the lockpicks that were hidden in her headdress. Storm tries to reason with her friend, but Jean cruelly strikes her with the whip, reminding that they are not “friends,” but mistress and slave.
Cyclops wishes he could sees something , do something. He recalls the events that led up to this situation, trying to figure something out:
The butte near Angel’ Arizona home, a week earlier. Scott and Jean spent a romantic interlude there. Afterwards Jean told Scott of her timeslips and her dramatic upsurges in her power as Phoenix. That frightened her, yet fascinated her as well, One proof of those upsurges was how easily she held back Cyclops’ eyeblasts, so that she could see his whole face for once. Disappointed? he jokes. No, she tells him. She adds that she’d like to establish a permanent psychic rapport between them: part of her in his head, part of him in hers. That’s asking a lot, she knows: total sharing, intimacy, trust. She’d understand it if he refused. He doesn’t.
That rapport still has to exist, Scott reasons. Perhaps this will break them out. In the meantime, Nightcrawler, addresses Shaw, wondering why they are still alive. Because there’s no profit in killing them, Shaw replies simply. The Hellfire Club plans to isolate the genetic quirk that creates mutants. This would lead to endless possibilities in genetic engineering. In that quest, the X-Men will be their guinea pigs. So, in a sense, it would have been better for them, had they died…
Muir Isle, Scotland:
Dawn over Muir Isle, as Sean Cassidy finishes his morning run. Once, he was an X-Man, now he is retired and content. He notices light in Moira MacTaggert’s office, realizing she has been working all night again. He joins his lover, only to learn that she is troubled. She has finished processing the data scans Professor X made of Phoenix in New York. She explains to Sean that as Phoenix Jean realized her ultimate potential as a PSI, she possesses the power of a god, but only the awareness of a young woman. To cope with that kind of power, her mind engaged a series of circuit breakers that cut the power back to a level she could handle. But lately, someone or something has been releasing those breakers. There are almost none left and Jean is once more tapping near-infinite power-levels. What can they do, Banshee asks. Pray, Moira replies somberly.
Meanwhile in New Mexico, the Angel glides through the moon-lit night. Up in the sky, he feels as though he were in his true element. But eventually, he has to return to the ground. Awaiting him on the veranda of his home is Professor X, the X-Men’s mentor. Angel notices that his old teacher is on edge, has been ever since Cyclops took the team to infiltrate the Hellfire Club. Does being left behind bother him?
Xavier state that he wishes he were with the team to monitor and aid them in battle, as he did with the original X-Men. He still cannot re-establish his psychic link with the team and won’t know what happens. He feels helpless. Xavier admits that from the beginning he’d trained Cyclops to take his place as leader, but when the day finally came, Xavier found that he resented it and him. He fears that this resentment has caused him to make some terrible mistakes. He fears that innocents will suffer because of them.
Back at the Hellfire Club, the Club’s celebration is still going strong, as one stressed serving maid complains to a butler about her aching feet. Her colleague asks her to deliver a tray to Senator Kelly’s party. They are supposed to give him special attention. Kelly, the presidential candidate? the maid exclaims. She didn’t know he was a club member. He isn’t, Lou explains. He’s Mr Shaw’s invited guest.
After they leave, Wolverine gets out of the dumbwaiter behind them and congratulates himself on his sneaky way of bypassing the guards. The goon he questioned wasn’t much help, so he’d followed Nightcrawlers scent as well as those of the other X-Men. Trouble is, they lead to the second floor and the dumbwaiter doesn’t go that high up. He carefully glimpses around the corner where several party guests are assembled are. He doesn’t see a stairway anywhere. The only way up is by cutting through the dancefloor. As he still wonders what to do, suddenly, the gloved hand of a merc in Hellfire Club uniform holds a gun to his temple and orders him to freeze. ‘Whoops!’
Meanwhile upstairs, Jean flirts with Harry Leland, much to Cyclops’ chagrin. But he tries not to think about what Mastermind has done to her and instead focuses on the job at hand, on the private rapport Jean created between the two of them. For a long time, nothing happens. Then, suddenly, Cyclops finds himself surrounded by nothingness and no longer shackled or wearing the facemask. Either, he decides, he’s going crazy or he is on what Jean and Xavier call “the astral plane.” What to do now, he wonders.
Suddenly, however, his costume changes into a sort of revolutionary war outfit. In front of him, a doorway appears out of nowhere. Scott recognizes it as the entrance to the Hellfire Lcub. Snapping Jean out of Masterminds spell is going to be harder than he thought, he realizes. She’s already making him conform to the bogus 18th century world of her timeslips. The door opens and Jean stands in the entrance, dressed in her Black Queen garb. Scott addresses her, telling her it’s him – Scott. Jean seems unsure. He seems familiar to her, but his garb marks her as an American rebel, King George’s enemy – and hers. Scott urges her to remember that they are lovers and X-Men, but then Wyngarde appears at her side. More confident in her role now, Jean orders Scott to leave, before her husband will strike him down.
Scott doesn’t understand how this is possible. Mastermind is an illusionist, not a telepath, how could he have learned of the rapport between Scott and Jean let alone take control of it? He sees no choice, he will have to fight Wyngarde, even if that means it is on Wyngarde’s terms. Scott draws his sword. Crying “en garde,” he attacks Jason who counters with his own weapon. Supremely confident, Mastermind boasts that Scott has played right into his hands. He has been aware of their rapport from the start and was counting on Scott trying to use it. But how? Scott wants to know. That’s his secret, Mastermind replies. Once he has slain Scott here, Jean Grey’s final link with the X-Men will be severed. Then she will be truly his and they will rule first the Hellfire Club and then the world.
The duel is in Mastermind’s favor, Scott grimly realizes. Unlike himself, the villain is practiced with the sword. He tries a trick of his own, by switching swordhand to throw his foe off balance. Mastermind commends him disdainfully while easily blocking his move.
At this point, elsewhere within the Club, Wolverine grabs the arm of the goon, threatening him and tosses the man into the crowd. While the people panic, Wolverine runs straight across the room, looking for a stairways. Some people ask where the secret service men are to protect Senator Kelly. As if on cue, a few servants armed with clubs come at Wolverine, ordering him to come along peacefully. Even as they start battering at him, Wolverine reminds himself not to use claws with them. They might be legit personnel, rent-a-cops or even Secret Service. He fights back as well as he can without resorting to deadly force and quickly disappears under a barrage of costumed club-wielding bodies.
Meanwhile on the Astral Plane, Scott Summers isn’t faring much better. Mastermind, without showing any strain, keeps on pushing him back into the defensive while Scott is slowing down. Suddenly, Jason disarms Scott. If he were chivalrous, the villain gloats, he’d allow Scott to surrender, but he is not chivalrous. And their duel was to the death. With those words, he impales Scott on his sword.
In reality Cyclops cries and collapses to the ground. His arm in a possessive gesture around Jean, Mastermind announces that Cyclops was a valiant foe, but in this case the better man won. The other Club members watch amused. While the X-Men stare at their fallen leader in horror. He isn’t moving or breathing. Is Cyclops dead?