Charles Xavier is squirming on his bed, having a nightmare: “No, please, no… let me be, I beg of you… get out of my mind and let me be…! In the name of all that’s holy, get out of my mind!” But the dream doesn’t hear Xavier’s anguished, soul-torn cry – or, if it does, it doesn’t care to answer.
Once again, Charles finds himself drawn out across the infinite, drawn into nightmare, drawn into hell. He has seen this battle a hundred times before, on a hundred sleepless nights: two mighty starfleets creating their own private Armageddon in the desolate space around a giant binary sun. Again, he watches helplessly as ten-meter energy beams turn tricardian steel to puddled slug, as ruptured hulls void precious atmosphere into space and men die, quickly, brutally, mercilessly… And again, for the hundredth time in a hundredth night Charles wonders if he isn’t going mad.
Then, as silently, as suddenly as the battle began, it ends. Strange, that so much death should occurs in so much silence. Somehow, it doesn’t seem right. Still, one small scout-craft survives the holocaust. It survives to run and hide, and perhaps to fight another day. As it runs, it draws him in, a moth drawn unwillingly into the flame. It draws him closer, tantalizingly close, and try as he might Xavier cannot resist. The dream was his, body and soul, and it will release him when it wants, not before. So close this time, closer than he’s ever come before… close enough to see a face…
… and Xavier’s dream ends as he wakes up abruptly with a scream of agony: “Nnoooo!” He sits on his bed a long time, the echo of his scream ringing in his ears, his body clammy-cold with sweat, his mind in turmoil. Ironic, isn’t it? He prides himself on being the strongest mutant brain on Earth, yet this dream tears his mind apart at will. Like it or not, it’s time he faced the truth – his mind is no longer his own. He grabs the bars above his bed in order to get into his wheelchair.
A bit later, a shaky Charles struggles to pour himself some coffee in the kitchen. Moira MacTaggert appears in her morning robe and tells him she heard him cry out. Did he have a nightmare, then? She notices he’s shaking like a leaf. She asks him what’s wrong. She suggests he gives her the coffee pot before he burns himself and pours him some. Charles thanks her. He stammers he had the dream again, stronger than ever. There’s such power behind it, such incredible power.
Moira is worried about him. He’s taking too much of this on himself. He’s got to open up to Scott and the others before he… “How?” Charles interrupts her and buries his face in his hands. How does he tell them that he thinks he’s going mad? Moira tries to cheer him up: it’s not as bad as all that. He called for help and she came, like she said she would. Charles regrets his decision. He had no right to ask her, not after… Moira cuts him off: “Don’t be silly… wha’ else are friends for?” Xavier smiles then, for the first time in many weeks, and slowly sips his coffee. He seems relaxed, but his eyes betray him, hunted eyes, ever-shifting, never still, waiting desperately for dawn.
Two hours after it rises over Westchester, the morning sun lifts high over the Rio Diablo, over land that’s hell-on-Earth for most, yet to doctoral candidates Alex Summers and Lorna Dane, it’s a kind of paradise. Six months they’ve been here, working the jaded Diablo range. In those months, what began as friendship has become something more.
Alex kisses Lorna goodbye for the day and goes off to do his work in the desert. Seeing him recede, Lorna happily confesses to herself that, after all the hassles, all the grief, she’s struck gold with this man, pure gold. Going back into the house and cleaning up the kitchen, she tells herself that if this isn’t love, who needs the real thing? When she’s with Alex, she feels whole, completed, fulfilled… she feels like a woman. And that feels just fine.
Suddenly, she hears a knock at the door. She is surprised: they are the only people for miles. “Okay, Lorna, play it cool…” she tries to lend herself some courage. If it’s trouble, her magnetic powers can handle it. She opens the door, only to see someone familiar: “Wha… you! It’s impossible! It can’t be!” The intruder responds by blasting her unconscious.
Close nearby, Alex hears a scream that sounds like it came from the house – it’s Lorna’s voice! He rushes back into the house, shouting to Lorna if she’s okay. He finds Lorna perfectly calm, putting a purple, rather outlandish costume in a hanger. Lorna nonchalantly tells him there’s no need to shout; she is well. Alex quips he can see that. He asks her what gives – he ran all the way from the Upper Canyon. And what’s with the new costume?
Lorna retorts that the costume is hers, as the power is hers – the power of Polaris, mistress of magnetism… the power of death! “Lorna, no!” Alex tries to deter her from what she’s about to do, but Lorna extends her hand towards him and readily zaps him to unconsciousness with a magnetic bolt. The intruder who brainwashed her joins her. He notices she hasn’t killed Havok – good. The youth will be useful to them when they seek their prime objective: the death of Charles Xavier.
Three days later, at the Kennedy International Airport, five people – four active X-Men, Cyclops, Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler, and a former member, Marvel Girl – gather to see Professor X off to a well-earned “vacation.” Jean advises Charles not to stay out in the sun too long… he burns easily. Charles nods – he’ll also eat properly, sleep regularly, and always be on the lookout for Great White Sharks, he jibes. Is there anything else? Smiling, Jean is negative – she thinks she got the message. She wonders what happened to Banshee and Wolverine, though.
Professor X believes that Banshee is spending the afternoon with Mrs. MacTaggert. As for Wolverine, he was feeling… unsociable. “Ah, well, I guess it takes all kinds,” Jean remarks. “Banshee and Moira MacTaggert, hm? Interesting…” she insinuates with a wicked smile. Always the serious type, Scott shakes Charles’ hand and wishes him a good time. Charles thanks his student – he will certainly try. Next to them, Nightcrawler, who’s using an image inducer to alter his form and has adopted Errol Flynn’s facial features, grins with joy.
Just before he embarks, Charles remembers something he wanted to say. He asks Jean to tell Nightcrawler that Tony Stark’s image inducer is not a toy. It’s to make him look unobtrusive… not like some 1930s movie star.
Nearby, Nightcrawler marvels at two young girls’ legs, which he finds magnificent. Colossus is a bit shier in his account: he… does not know. The girls in the Ust-Ordinsky collective did not wear such… short skirts. “Philistine,” Kurt chastises him. Seeing Peter distracted by something – Havok and Polaris, both in costume, a bit further from there – he asks him what it is. Piotr is not sure… it may be nothing…
Havok and Polaris move towards Cyclops. Scott is surprised: what’s going on? Why are they in costume? Getting no reply from his brother, Scott becomes angry: “Speak up, man!” Behind him, Jean asks him to wait a minute. Something’s wrong. She’s getting images, sensations… She suddenly realizes it’s a trap! “Fool! You’ve just signed your death warrant!” Polaris snaps and attacks Jean. Shocked, Scott wonders whether Lorna’s gone crazy! What does she think she’s doing?! Alex clarifies they’re doing what they have to do. He tells him to get out of their way – it’s Xavier they want. Over my dead body, Scott defiantly replies. Alex concedes: if that’s the way Scott wants it…
Inside the plane, the co-pilot, a man named Clancy, points the pilot, Reese, to the fight outside: two clowns trying to kill each other. He’s thinking they ought to get out of here while they still got the chance. Reese replies he’s ahead of him, as usual. “Let’s roll, baby!” he exclaims and gets the plane ready to take off. Hearing the tumult from the mutants’ fight outside, Clancy indignantly wonders what they’re trying to do in there – start World War III? Clancy grunts that it sure looks like it. Clancy tells him to step on it, because he thinks World War III is coming after them!
Indeed, Polaris and Havok go after the plane, which is rolling across the aisle, ready to take off. Cyclops tells the X-Men to get after them and stop them, any way they can! Seeing them transfixed with surprise, Scott tries to snap them out of it: “Don’t just stand there, people…move it!” They are finally motivated. Nightcrawler switches to his true appearance, while Colossus’ skin turns to organic steel. “Quickly, my friend,” Peter urges Kurt – they’ve not a moment to lose.
In the plane, Clancy notices Havok still hot in their pursuit and about to fire at them. Terrified, he urges Reese to move this crate. That freak’s got a clear shot at them and at this range, no way he’s gonna miss! A little bit further, Colossus also discerns that Havok is about to fire. Nightcrawler vows he will not fire – not as long as Kurt is alive to stop him! With his acrobatic prowess, he leaps forward and grabs Alex. “You fool – you don’t know what you’ve done!” Havok snaps. Nightcrawler has made his power blast go wild!
Indeed, Alex’s uncontrollable blast randomly ends up on a parked 747 nearby and causes it to explode. The passenger plane narrowly misses being hit as Reese successfully gets it up in the air. “Good Lord…” Clancy mutters in astonishment, watching the inferno below them. He tells Reese that could’ve been them.
Everyone awes at the sight. The X-Men are thankful that the 747 was undergoing routine maintenance and that it was empty of passengers and crew. Enraged, Cyclops grabs his brother and asks him if he’s completely lost his mind. What in heaven’s name does he think he’s doing?! Visibly confused, Alex stammers that he… he…
“He is following orders, Cyclops – my orders,” a voice suddenly replies in Alex’s place. Scott looks up, only to see... Eric the Red?! Astounded, he exclaims that this man can’t be Eric the Red – Scott himself was Eric the Red! The man dressed up as Eric the Red retorts that it doesn’t matter who he is. He is power incarnate and nothing that lives can stand against him!
Despite his initial surprise, Cyclops quickly regains his composure. He doesn’t know what this masquerade is all about, but if this Eric the Red thinks he can beat the X-Men, he’s got another thing coming! “Take him!” he urges his fellow X-Men. Eric the Red retorts that they won’t take him. All they will do is die! he gloats and repels them all with a blast.
Storm notices that the battle is going against them. She decides to get the unconscious Jean Grey out of harm’s way and return to the X-Men quickly, before there’s no one left alive to help. The gods be praised that neither Havok nor Lorna Dane can fly!
Polaris observes Storm flying away with Jean. So the ebon witch thinks herself safe up in the sky, Lorna sneers. “True, she may be safe from Lorna Dane, but not from Polaris!” she exclaims and levitates herself in the air. Storm cannot escape her! Polaris’ magnetic powers can negate the gravimetric lines of force as easily for her as they did for Krakoa! By the time Storm realizes what’s happened – that Lorna can fly – it’s too late: Lorna zaps her with an electromagnetic bolt.
Ororo screams and inadvertently drops Jean. As she rushes downwards in a desperate attempt to grab Marvel Girl, she realizes her mind is groggy from Lorna’s blast. She can’t concentrate enough to get to Jean. And the ground’s close… too close… But she must get to her! If she doesn’t, Jean will die! She’ll only have one chance… She’s got to make it…
Stretching her arm as far as possible, she finally does it. “Made it!” she shouts with enthusiasm and grabs the unconscious Marvel Girl before Jean is splattered in the Storm decides to leave her on a nearby rooftop, judging she’ll be safe enough here, leaving Ororo free to deal with Polaris. “And deal with her I shall,” she vows with a sudden determination. Only this time, she’ll be not be facing Ororo… this time she faces Storm! At her command, she shifts from her civilian clothes to her official costume, thanks to the unstable molecules in her clothes.
Below, Havok pleads his brother to let them go, before something happens they’ll all regret. No way, Alex, Cyclops retorts – not ‘til he gets some answers, not ‘til he finds out why. Alex turned on them… he tried to kill them… why?! Confused, Havok stutters it was because he had to… it was Eric… he… Alex’s mind… He blurts out that Eric did something to his mind! Scott implores him to fight it! He urges Alex to break free – he can do it! Clenching his teeth, Alex insists he’s trying, but… but… he can’t!
At that moment, Alex loses control again and breaks out with his plasma bursts, which aim at a wall behind Cyclops. Cyclops realizes this wall is falling right for him! Before he has the time to move, he is buried under the demolished wall. Terrified for his brother, Alex rushes to him. He’s sorry… he didn’t mean to… he didn’t want to… “Dear Lord in Heaven, if I’ve killed him…” he laments in horror. Thankfully, he discovers him alive and pulls him out of the debris. He tells his brother to hold on… he’ll get him out of here… he tells him to just take it easy… he’s going to be all right… “I am all right now right, little brother!” Cyclops counters and knocks him out with a punch. He hates doing this, but it’s for Alex’s own good.
Nearby, Nightcrawler is holding Eric the Red by the neck, in a vise-like grip. “Mutant vermin… you cannot hope to defeat me!” Eric grunts. Kurt admits that perhaps not, but he can forgive them if they try! “You’ll try nothing, elf!” Eric replies. “Not when you’re smashed to a pulp against the steel body of your friend!” he menaces and pushes Kurt off of him, hurling him against Colossus.
For a moment, all seems lost. Then, in the instant before impact, there is a crack of flame, the gusting stench of brimstone and Kurt teleports, before seriously injuring himself. He rematerializes somewhere else, at a vantage point higher, overlooking Eric. He tells Colossus not to worry, he is all right – which is more than he can say for their friend here. He shouts at Peter to hit him high, while Kurt will hit him low! Before Eric can react, he is thus doubly beaten.
Still, Eric stands his ground. Will Nightcrawler learn nothing? His strongest blows are nothing to him! “What about my blows, horned one?” Colossus offers. Is he nothing, too? “Yes!” Eric rejoins and pummels Piotr away, sending him flying and crashing onto the right wing of a parked plane. Dead worried, Kurt shouts to Peter if he’s all right! By all that’s holy, he promises to Eric that, if he’s killed Colossus…
Colossus breaks out of the remains of the wing and tells Kurt not to worry – he is far from dead. And when he dies, it will take far more than Eric the Red to kill him! Here, he motions to Eric, he has brought the villain a present – catch! Grabbing Eric, he throws him away like a ragdoll. Eric the Red smashes through a pile of fuel drums, lying broken and still, as the sky above Kennedy Airport goes suddenly dark.
Nearby, Storm and Polaris’ death-duel appears to be a stalemate. Lorna notes they’re too evenly matched. She guesses they’ll just have to call this game a draw. Storm is indignant: a… game? Is that all this is to her? A game?! She attacked them without warning, without provocation; she sought their deaths without a thought for the innocents who might be endangered, even slain by her attack… and she dares call this a game?! Crackling with elemental energy and livid with anger, Ororo points out to Polaris that this is not a game – and then lashes at out her with the full force of her thunderbolts. Lorna screams and appears to collapse.
“Lorna!!” Alex cries out in horror. “Curse you, Cyclops!” he spits and renews his attack against his brother, more rabid than before. If Lorna’s been hurt, he’ll kill Scott – he’ll kill them all! There is fear in Alex that claws deep in his heart and goads him to strike out against his brother and friends. He loves Lorna – and for that love, he would lie, cheat, even kill.
Eric looks up in the sky and sees reinforcements: Banshee and Wolverine arriving in an aircraft. Eric realizes Xavier must have summoned them with his cursed mental powers. He turns to his underlings: “To me, my children! Quickly!” The day has turned against them, and only a fool stands to fight against hopeless odds… and Eric the Red is anything but a fool! Havok and Polaris heed to their master. Eric grabs both, one at each side, and lifts himself in the air.
“Havok, stop!” Cyclops shouts in vain, seeing his brother and Lorna departing with the villain. He warns him to stop, or he’ll fire! He means it – he’ll cut Alex down if he has to… He’ll… he’ll… Energy begins to fizzle out of his ruby quartz visor, but Scott finds himself unable to blast his own brother. He just stands there, watching the air flying high above.
Wolverine goes by Cyke’s side, wondering what Scott’s doing. He is at loss: Cyclops has a clear shot at them! They’re getting away – he urges Scott to blast them! Seeing Scott still hesitate, Wolverine becomes furious: that cuts it! Those clowns try to stomp them and Cyclops just stands there and watches them fly away. What’s the matter – is he gutless or something? “Wolverine… shut up!” Scott snaps and hits him. “Why, you one-eyed sonuva…!”
Wolverine rants, as he gets up. He’s gonna cut him wide open for that! “No!” a voice defies him and a hand rests on his shoulder. Wolverine looks up and sees Ororo. She stresses he will do nothing – not now, not never… or he will answer to her.
Cyclops walks alone, his mind torn by questions he can’t answer, feeling he can’t explain. His brother tried to kill him today… and he knows, deep down, that when next they meet, there’ll be no holding back. Brother will kill brother. And the horror of that day will be that they’ll kill without ever knowing the reason why.
And from away in his secret base in upstate New York, Stephen Lang watches the X-Men in the Kennedy Airport… unaware that he is being watched in return by another man… through another monitor!