Mesmero’s armored men restrain the intruder Erik the Red, who somehow managed to penetrate the fortress’s outer defenses. With his master Magneto incapacitated, Mesmero cannot risk allowing Erik the Red to take another step forward; this menace to his noble mutant lord must be destroyed!
“Perhaps, boastful one, you have never read that most practical recipe for roast chicken which begins,” Erik the Red tells Mesmero while struggling against the strength of his guards, “…first, catch a chicken!” Erik declares they shall see which of them is the hunter and which is the hunted. To demonstrate his power, he unleashes two blasts from the palms of his hands and knocks the guards aside, effectively beating Mesmero’s dreams of conquest against the walls of reality.
This demonstration is enough for Mesmero. He tells his clumsy men to attack in unison or separately! They have permission to use any methods and weapons at their command—as long as the intruder does not prevail. It is too late, Erik the Red tells him. Ordering him to watch as his illusion shatters into ten thousand pieces, Erik turns his palms outward and blasts the Demi-Men to the ground while dodging their pitiful attacks. He asks Mesmero if he sees how his men fall before Erik the Red’s mutant might in wholesale lots!
With the men down, Erik the Red turns his attack on Mesmero. Mesmero, however, calls him a fool for his efforts. Does he not see he is outnumbered a hundred to one? Does he not realize his opponent is the mighty Mesmero, who will surely defeat him as soon as he employs his psychic superpowers? Mesmero’s logic does not escape Erik the Red. Although he admits he cannot destroy them one by one, what he can do—and what he intends to do—is bring the entire underground nest down around Mesmero’s ears. He fires a single shot of well-aimed mutant energy at a fragile component of the wall, triggering a wild chain reaction.
Unyielding, Mesmero orders his men to stand their ground; their own supernatural powers can turn back this impending disaster. However, Mesmero speaks too soon. Just a moment later, the chain reaction reaches the point of no return and the base begins to crumble. He orders his men to run for their lives. If they do not die amid the debris, however, their escape will probably still be completely sealed.
Nearby, Lorna Dane, the alleged mutant daughter of Magneto, observes this disastrous scene. She watches Erik the Red’s attack traps Mesmero and the other loyal troops of Magneto in a blocked chamber. After Erik finishes, he heads in Lorna’s direction, much to her dismay. She realizes it now falls on her to stop him from overpowering Magneto and making himself emperor of the mutants. I wish my own course were as clear, Lorna thinks. She is certain Iceman did not lie to her when he told her of Magneto’s evil history. Still, she has little choice left to her. Evil as he may be, Magneto is still her father and his blood runs through her veins; she must defend him with her very life.
Lorna springs out from her alcove and confronts Erik the Red. As the daughter of Magneto, the power that was his is now hers to command—and she commands Erik the Red to stop! She’ll kill him if he advances another step. Although she will be very sorry if she takes his life, he will be no less dead. Erik the Red asks her if she thinks it is that simple to become a cold-blooded killer. However, since he did not come to debate morality, he gets to the point: he has something important to tell her. She tells him to speak—but from his current position down the corridor. She has more faith in the distance between them than she does his word. To her surprise, Erik the Red declares he did not come to menace Magneto, but to join him! He considers an inspiration and a personal image of perfection.
At a loss for words, Lorna claims all she can do is discuss this with Magneto. She returns to his recovery chamber and explains the situation. Can they trust Erik the Red, or is it some sort of trap? Magneto tells her the only viable question he has is whether or not they have any choice. In his present, hobbled state, he thinks they have none. At the very least, he tells Lorna to accept Erik’s word—if only to buy them some time.
Lorna returns to Erik the Red and passes along to him Magneto’s decision. Although Erik is pleased Magneto has decided to trust him, he still has his doubts about Lorna; it seems she still harbors deep questions about his true motives. Regardless, he demands her full allegiance from that moment onward—not just from her, but from the miserable forces trapped in the outer chamber as well. Erik declares that until Magneto recovers, he will lead them.
Lorna accepts his leadership, but has her doubts about Mesmero. Between Lorna’s pledge and Erik’s power, Mesmero has no choice, Erik says. Lorna hopes he is right; there has been enough blood shed within the walls of the fortress, and she is sick of it. Deeming it time to begin, Lorna proposes they first free Mesmero and his troops from their rubble prison. After that, she will make clear to them the new leadership conditions. It will be her task so it is done without anger. “So long as he knows I am the one who calls the tune, I don’t care how it is done,” Erik says. “Lead on, beauteous lady!”
Shortly thereafter, the telepathic Marvel Girl receives a mental message from Cyclops telling her to ready Operation: Twilight. He wants her to contact the other X-Men and rendezvous as planned, while maintaining tight security along the way. Marvel Girl relays the message to Beast and asks him to drop everything and meet at the rendezvous point. Beast heads there right away, promising to arrive in just three bounces and a swoosh. Marvel Girl also sends the message to Angel, who, upon receiving it, swoops under a bridge during peak traffic and distracts at least one driver.
Later, this trio comes together at the rendezvous point with precision timing. It sure feels strange preparing for battle without Iceman, Angel remarks. Marvel Girl agrees, but supports Cyke’s decision; as soon as Iceman learned that Lorna Dane was Magneto’s daughter, he became ineligible to participate in this mission. Beast also agrees; split loyalty is not conducive to total dedication. He does wonder, though, where Iceman went after he slammed the apartment door.
Elsewhere, Lorna works to convince Mesmero to submit to Erik the Red’s leadership. Until her father Magneto can command them again, they must follow Erik the Red! Mesmero asks if this is his payment for the total devotion he lavished upon Lorna’s father. Is he to be cast aside for some usurper? Nevertheless, Mesmero submits—but only because it is Magneto’s command. He is the true architect of their dreams of domination, after all.
Erik the Red commends Mesmero’s decision and orders him to take his men and scout out the area surrounding the fortress. He suspects the X-Men will return, and when they do, they must be on total guard. It will be done, Mesmero says, but as he leaves, he states he’s doing it because of his fidelity to Magneto, not because of his fear of Erik the Red. When the current threat runs its course, he promises Erik they shall put the issue of leadership to test through deadly combat.
After Mesmero leaves, Erik admits to Lorna he is unsatisfied with Mesmero’s declaration of devotion to Magneto; he’ll have to keep him under surveillance. Lorna advises him to do what he thinks best. In the meantime, she plans to stay near Magneto in order to serve as his last line of defense. Lorna notes, however, that she gets a different sort of feeling from Erik the Red. He doesn’t exude the strange, evil vibrations people like her father transmits.
When Lorna returns to Magneto’s side and relays to him news of recent events, he announces that neither man is to be trusted. Therefore, he and Lorna are only to trust each other—and afterward, they shall rule the world in lonely supremacy! Lorna sighs, averting her gaze. Is this what she gets to look forward to until the end of time: a loveless life of imperious sway beside this strange man? As she ponders this, Magneto glares at her and advises her to be careful—as he claims to have awareness of her secret musings.
Meanwhile, somewhere in this same fortress, Marvel Girl, Angel and Beast perch in an obstructed alcove and watch as Mesmero and his “fun-loving cobras” walk down the hallway. Beast suggests they take this opportunity to surprise Mesmero and finish off him and his men before they can retaliate. Marvel Girl refuses. Cyclops worked out this operation to the finest detail, she says; they need to stick to that plan.
“Hold!” a voice shouts at the X-Men. “Who dares invade the sacred lair of the all-powerful Magneto?” The X-Men cower in surprise but prepare to attack. Beast squints at the figure down the hallway and tries to discern its identity. Angel, however, sees who it is as plain as day—and tells Hank he’s in for a surprise. Sure enough, Beast is surprised to see the man is Erik the Red, none other than their comrade in arms Cyclops in disguise! Marvel Girl runs over to “Erik”, hugs him and congratulates him on successfully infiltrating the evil mutant’s operation. Even better, Cyclops tells her; for the time being, he’s taken over the entire operation!
With the X-Men regrouped, Cyclops once again issues orders. He tells Angel to prepare the spider’s web for Mesmero’s flies. Fortunately, Angel brought just the right thread for that sort of task. He strings a line of copper tape indiscernibly along the existing lines on the floor. Once the unsuspecting Mesmero and his men return, the X-Men will send 1,000 volts of electricity through this innocent-looking floor design. “And once they’re disposed of, the world will be rid of its biggest threat since the Bubonic Plague,” Erik the Red says. He likes the irony of bagging the villains with their own house’s electric current.
Hearing footsteps coming from down the hall, the X-Men ready the electric current for Mesmero and his men. However, the feet producing the approaching sound, though unseen by the X-Men, bear a familiar form. It is their teammate Iceman, returning with good news. Wait till the others hear what I learned about Lorna in her home town, Iceman thinks. Especially Cyke—he’ll really eat crow!
Angel and Beast discern the identity of the approaching figure just a moment too late. Although they warn Cyclops not to pull the switch, he does so anyway and sends the electrical current pulsing through Iceman’s body. He seizes and falls to the floor. Fortunately, Cyke cuts the power the moment Iceman touches the copper tape, reducing the impact. Regardless, Iceman still takes a pretty good jolt. Beast thinks only a kid in as good of physical condition as Bobby could have survived such a shock.
Suddenly, Erik the Red notices the power supply in the room getting blasted. Since the culprit was radio energy, Cyclops deduces the attacker was a mutant, most likely Mesmero. Sure enough Mesmero and his men charge into the room. They saw the trap the X-Men laid for them, and saw it backfire and injure their own teammate. Plus, Mesmero now knows what he suspected from the start: that Erik the Red is actually the infernal Cyclops, leader of the X-Men!
That knowledge won’t do Mesmero any good when the X-Men wipe the floor with him, Angel says. Not wasting a moment more, Angel springs into attack mode and strikes at three of Mesmero’s troops at once. He encourages Beast to get Iceman to safety while he keeps the enemy at bay. Reinforcements arrive, but Marvel Girl ensnares them in rings of psychic energy while Beast gets away with Iceman. As Beast flees the chamber, he advises Mesmero’s men to not waste their shots on him at the moment. “I’ll be back as soon as my friend is safe and sound,” he says. “Then we can all have a gay gavotte, dancing to a tune which I shall play upon your skulls—with both feet!”
Meanwhile, Mesmero’s armored troops cling to Angel’s torso to prevent him from flying away. They intend to see how this eagle soars with leaden wings. Unfortunately, Angel admits to himself their comments are mostly accurate and decides the only way to end the fight is to kayo Mesmero. Mesmero gets to him first; he strikes him in the back of the head with a persistent energy attack. His body cannot long stand the energy of mutant mental energy, Mesmero says! He tells Angel to enjoy his final moments. Fortunately for Angel, Beast surprise-attacks Mesmero and knocks him off his feet. “Angel will still be dodging do-badders when you’re chief stoker in the devil’s boiler room!” Hank says. Recovering, Mesmero turns his mental energies on Beast and asks to see how brash he is with all the fires of Vulcan searing his brain. However, the tables are turned once again, this time by Marvel Girl, whose thought waves cut just as deep as any of Mesmero’s evil energies. She intends to see if he can take it as well as he dishes it. Mesmero cannot; he folds under the attack.
Elsewhere in the battle, Cyclops, still in his Erik the Red disguise, watches as Mesmero’s men wheel out an intimidating energy cannon. Hoping to stop it before they put it into action, he thrusts his palms outward at it and unleashes twin beams of destructive energy. They hit the cannon and obliterate it.
Meanwhile, Marvel Girl resumes her battle with Mesmero, this time reveling in the personal duel of powers between them. From across the room, Mesmero tells her to spare herself the embarrassment; even if his mutant powers could not undo her, his troops could. Think again, she tells him. Does he really believe Beast and the others have been sitting on their hands this whole time? Mesmero doubts they could anymore overcome his men than Marvel Girl will escape her present fate.
Beast, however, has no trouble finishing up the rest of Mesmero’s troops. He bounds around the room and gleefully knocks them off their feet, even thanking them for the workout in the process. He didn’t make it to the gym all week, but these guys are like a volunteer squad of punching bags! He thanks for them for treating their guests so cordially.
Elsewhere, Magneto watches in despair as the X-Men undo all of his years of careful planning and training. He presumes they will not rest until he is undone as well—something only Lorna can prevent. How says she? Will she let her father be turned into driest dust? Stuttering, Lorna says she has no choice, and reluctantly marches off to meet the X-Men.
As she walks, her doubts overcome her—but what else could she have possibly said? Whether the man is a prophet or a maniac, he is her father; his blood runs through her veins. Their shared genes command her more than laws and ethics. However, as if reading her mind, Iceman suddenly appears and tells Lorna she has been tricked—and he can prove it. Lorna runs to him and collapses in his arms. Realizing he is also Bobby Drake, the man she met in San Francisco, Lorna asks what has happened to him; he seems to pale and weak. It’s a long story, Iceman tells her, and it can wait. For now, he has important tidings. He went to her hometown, questioned her folks and read through some archived newspapers. “The newspapers? But why?” Lorna asks. “And you know now that they’re not my real parents!”
“That’s right!” Iceman says. “But neither is Magneto! He’s conned you!” An expression of utter disbelief crosses Lorna’s face. Bobby explains; her parents were killed in a plane crash only weeks after her birth, after which her father’s sister and husband raised her. Because they were afraid Lorna would be hung up about her adoption, they never told her they weren’t her real parents. However, when Magneto spotted her mutant powers, he sniffed out the full story in an effort to convince her she was his daughter. Bobby even has affidavits that prove everything he’s said. Lorna gives him a wide-eyed look; does this mean she’s not the queen of those twisted beings? “How could you be, sweetheart?” Iceman asks. “There’s not an evil bone in you!” Lorna thanks him for lifting the crushing weight off her soul and walks away. When Iceman asks where she’s going, she explains she has a score to settle with Mesmero—and her darling dad.
Elsewhere, Beast, Marvel Girl and Cyclops stand cornered while Mesmero holds Angel hostage. Beast believes their backs are up against the proverbial wall, leaving them only one option: fight! Cyclops informs him they don’t even have that option and directs his attention toward the gun pointed at Angel’s head. Precisely, Mesmero’s men say. They have no compunctions about ending Angel’s life if the X-Men don’t surrender. Mesmero takes it a step further; he votes they kill Angel regardless of whether the X-Men surrender or not.
However, in one blinding instant, the tables are turned by Lorna Dane. She sends a magnetic wave through the enemies of the X-Men, rendering them helpless. Magneto calls out to her through a mind-link and asks if she’s gone mad; she would aid those who would crush her own father to the ground? “I have no father!” Lorna responds. “He was crushed to the earth long ago—in an airliner! You invented the cruelest lie of all,” she tells Magneto, “—to steal my mutant powers! And so I destroy you—with the very power you helped me develop!” She lashes out at Magneto’s minions, eliminating them with one final, swift attack.
With their enemies defeated, Beast begins to wax poetic about their victory, but Cyclops tells him to save the quips; the greatest rogue of all is still on the loose. He gives the X-Men the order to follow him. A moment later, they arrive in Magneto’s chamber, only to find it empty—except for a taped message that plays automatically. Farewell, my noble adversaries, the recording says. Once more I have made the crucial error of underrating your resourcefulness! But, I promise you it shall not happen again! For—in sixty seconds—you will be blown to kingdom come!
Beast groans; that’s about the oldest trick in the book. Magneto bluffs them into clearing out of the fortress, then surprises them outside with handfuls of dynamite. Marvel Girl isn’t quite so skeptical. Using her acute telekinetic powers, she scans the room and senses the metal vibrations of mines Magneto planted. As per her warnings, the X-Men decide to flee as fast as they can. On the way out, however, Angel hopes she’s right, and that they’re not just rushing right into a trap.
The X-Men, accompanied by Lorna Dane, escape the fortress and dash out into the desert. Iceman builds them a shield of ice as the fortress explodes in the distance. Warren tips his hat to Jean’s mental magic, without which, they would surely be dead.
Sometime later, back at their apartment in San Francisco, the X-Men and Lorna Dave clean up and regroup in their civilian clothes. Warren, Scott, Jean and Hank watch as Lorna comforts the injured Bobby Drake. He has an impressive talent for choosing beautiful nurses, Hank jokes. They’re competent, too, Jean says, citing Bobby’s speedy recovery as evidence. Bobby smiles; from there on out, he expects to experience several minor relapses. “This is one particular convalescence I don’t intend to hurry!” he says. “It’s too much darn fun… right, Lorna?” Lorna smiles and invites him to some additional muscular therapy at a little place called the Friskoteque.
El Conquistador congratulates Henry McCoy on overcoming his henchmen—an amazing feat for one so young. However, he must now face one whose power and courage more than equal his own—one whom the entire world shall soon call El Conquistador. He fires his electric shocker at Hank and tells him to taste its wrathful sting.
Hank seizes at the pain, which feels like ten thousand hot knives slashing through his body. He can’t hold out against such incredible pain; another moment and his body’s natural defenses will render him unconscious. But why him? What does this weird warrior want with Hank McCoy?
After the youthful mutant falls unconscious, El Conquistador captures him and takes him to his strange headquarters in an abandoned power station, which serves both as a hideout and as a power source for his electronic arsenal. However, he hopes to extract more power from his new captive than he ever could from his regular weaponry. As Hank regains consciousness, El Conquistador informs him of a device under government security that can supply fantastic amounts of electric energy within astounding limits of space and weight. This device, he wants Hank to steal. Hank refuses; with that kind of energy at El Conquistador’s disposal, nothing could restrain his greed and evil. He suggests he get himself another patsy.
El Conquistador stares at Hank through his insane set of eyes. He knew he would answer that way and is fully prepared to change his mind. He directs Hank’s attention toward a TV monitor and turns on the screen. As it whirrs to life, Hank clearly sees his mother and father, blindfolded and bound to chairs—hostages of El Conquistador. Perhaps now he realizes the peril he faces, El Conquistador says.
Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the newly formed superhero group called the X-Men, Angel and Iceman discuss the disappearance of their new, potential teammate. Cyclops asks his teammates to be quiet; Professor X is receiving some kind of cerebral signal and needs to concentrate. It may be that Hank McCoy kid, Cyke says. Professor X confirms that it is—and that Hank is in trouble. It has something to do with the boy’s parents, he says. If he could pull a sharp directional indication, he could send the X-Men to the boy’s location—but the signal is too weak. Fortunately, he has been working on an electronic brain wave detector far more sensitive than his own natural abilities. However, it’s still top-secret. He asks his three X-Men to remain behind while he uses the machine in private. Upon hearing of this robot brain-picker, Iceman asks if anything is sacred anymore.
Professor X enters the private chamber of his invention, which he calls Cerebro. Although in its crude, early stages, it does work; it’s even picking up a mutant brain pattern matching the description of McCoy’s. Professor X sends out a telepathic alert to his team that he has located the boy. They are to prepare for immediate action.
Meanwhile, El Conquistador outlines the treacherous task Hank McCoy must perform. He knows Hank will learn it quickly, as his decision to join El Conquistador already proved he was wise beyond his years! Hank disagrees; all that proves is El Conquistador has a hammer looming over his cranium.
Outside the laboratory housing the object of El Conquistador’s desire, two government soldiers chit-chat as they stand guard. The lower-ranking of the two asks his superior officer why this ordinary laboratory suddenly needs military protection. His superior explains they have constructed an experimental nuclear reactor for which many folks would trade an eye. However, no man will ever make it inside, he says.
His statement would hold true, were it not for the mutant Hank McCoy. Hank bounds over the barbed wire fence and scales one of the walls of the building. This particular wall has no windows lower than twenty feet, hence the reason it is not guarded. However, to a boy like Hank, who can climb walls with the finesse of an ape, this poses no problem; in fact, it’s why El Conquistador chose him. He makes it to the window and slips inside, finding himself in the room housing the nuclear reactor. All he has to do to free his parents is steal it for El Conquistador—who would then have more power than Ivan the Terrible. Hank realizes he will be the one granting him this power.
Nevertheless, he moves toward the portable nuclear reactor and carefully lifts it from its position. He does so noiselessly, so as not to trip any sonic sensors. Unfortunately, the device also has a motion sensory detection system. The alarms sound once Hank lifts it from its dais, and a pair of guards bursts into the room and orders Hank to halt under threat of death. They mean business! Must be under special orders, Hank thinks. But I’m under special orders too—to save my folks!
With few options, Hank, reactor in hand, lunges at one of the men, ricochets off him and into the other, and then lets his momentum carry him out the door. As he escapes, he begs his pardon; this crude and inhospitable manner of his is neither voluntary nor in true character! As he continues his getaway, the downed guards continue to fire at him. It appears they haven’t the slightest concern for any extenuating circumstances that may have compelled him to commit this criminal act, Hank thinks.
He arrives at the tall, barbed-wire fence and readies to clear it once again. Before he can however, a truck overtakes him, intent on cutting off his escape. The driver of the truck interposes himself between Hank and the fence. The driver figures it wrong, though; Hank merely uses the truck as a platform to clear the wall with even more relative ease. Dumbfounded, the two soldiers in the truck watch as Hank escapes. They may have seen it, but they refuse to believe it.
Hank returns to El Conquistador and presents him with the stolen nuclear reactor. El Conquistador rejoices; with this source of endless power, he is indomitable! Hank asks if he could cool his rapturous maunderings long enough to release his parents, as per their mutual agreement. “Shut your mouth, boy!” El Conquistador shouts. He backhands Hank across the face. “Your parents will remain where they are—indefinitely—as hostages against your rebellious spirit,” El Conquistador adds, “until you are of no further use to me!”