Junkpile’s body is restored. As he wakes up, he isn’t that happy when he finds… a S.H.I.E.L.D. badge on his body! Morphine Somers introduces himself to Junkpile and confides to him that what he thinks is true: he is now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Morphine explains that he, as the new administration’s Minister of Humanity, is in charge of mutant affairs.
Junkpile doesn’t see why he should be interested in that. Morphine reveals that he needs muscle for a red market cleanup in Death Valley, and Junkpile – while not being Morphine’s first choice – is eminently qualified for the job. Junkpile can’t believe that he is now a public agent.
Morphine asks Junkpile to pay attention. Morphine explains to Junkpile that he is giving him the chance to join S.H.I.E.L.D., which is the nation’s elite security force, and that Junkpile will operate autonomously and with full administration sanction, plus, Morphine jokes, Junkpile will profit from a good medical coverage.
An angry Junkpile isn’t interested and takes the S.H.I.E.L.D. badge off from his body and throws it away. The badge gets caught by a metal hand, which appears from the shadows. President Doom steps forward. Junkpile recognizes Doom, having heard how Doom and the Wakandans bombardment D.C. But Junkpile tells it to Doom very clear that he WON’T be nobody’s errand boy. Doom explains to Junkpile that if it weren’t for him and his ministry’s faith in Junpile’s abilities, the tin man would still be fused to the decimated ruins of a stealth bunker, unable to extricate himself from the ton of metal Junkpile’s techno-organic metabolism could not synthesise.
With angry eyes, Doom tells Junkpile that gratitude would be in order.
Drawing back, Junkpile quietly says that he sees Doom’s point. Junkpile takes his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge back and asks if he really gets full autonomy. Doom promises Junkpile that he will only have to answer to him and Somers. Junkpile agrees to join. From now on, he is the law.
Death Valley, the Floodgate Bio resource Processing Center…
Tim & La Lunática stowaway on Synge transport that rides new inmates to the Valley. Tim finds their plan to be insane. He knows that Floodgate is the Theatre of Pain’s slaughterhouse, where they process and package human beings for their sadistic clientele. And now, Tim says, they are hiding among sheep who are being led to the slaughter. Luna is afraid that the guards will see through their disguises. She knows that Death Valley is meticulous in their security and how carefully the Theatre guards its holdings, reminding everyone that she was once part of the evil group.
Shakti says that, right now, they are all just three anonymous fringers who sold their bodies on the red market. She is confident that the guards won’t pay any attention to them. Shakti says that they have to go through with this plan, because Broken Haiku swore to them that this would be the place where they can find Xi’an.
However, Shakti finds it to be a bitter irony that the man who once championed corporate society’s discarded and unwanted has now joined forces with an organization that exists only to exploit the disenfranchised. Luna wants Shakti to consider the possibility that the Theatre has smothered whatever good there was in Xi’an, and that her former friend is now beyond redemption.
Tim reminds Luna that she escaped the Theatre of Pain, so he knows that escape is possible and wants to give Xi’an the same chance. Luna asks what they are going to do if Xi’an doesn’t want to leave. Then, Shakti says, they are in trouble.
The transport stops and everyone has to step out of it. The guards welcome them and order everyone to exit the tram in an orderly fashion. The guards explain that they will direct the inmates to the evaluation center, where their processing will begin. The guards remind their captives that they have to stay within the appropriate boundaries and that disobedience will not be tolerated.
Luna shivers when hearing about the evaluation center, knowing that it is more like a butcher shop. She hates to see that all these people are treated like meat. Shakti is pleased to see that at least there exists an equal opportunity exploiter. She notices that they are among degens, nomads, headcases and, - judging by their tattoos - a couple of prison transfers.
Tim hesitates for a moment, but a guard notices that and orders Tim to move on. Tim, not liking to be pushed, almost activates his powers to fight the guard, but Shakti warns Tim to keep a low profile until they can separate themselves from the crowd. She doesn’t want to draw attention to themselves.
Meanwhile, overlooking the new inmates from her office, Director DeMille is content. She says that the dregs of society funnel through here every day, but at Floodgate, they recycle this “human refuse.” DeMille says that she and her employees find use for the inmates “useless lives.”
DeMille explains to Controller X that some inmates have body parts that can be salvaged for the wealthy. Others make fine subjects for medical experimentations, while still others are groomed for private pleasure dens. The finest of the lot, DeMille adds, are always reserved for the Theatre of Pain’s hierarchy. So Controller X can pick.
Controller X informs Director DeMille that he needs psych profiles of Floodgate’s most emotionally disturbed guests. In addition, Controller X will need technicians to help him with his project’s construction. DeMille says that she has heard rumors that Controller X intends to use the main stage. DeMille says that few would produce such a large scale piece for their introductory presentation. Controller X simply says that he lives in large scale.
However, Controller X adds, when watching the computer video screens, that DeMille should be more concerned with the minutiae of her own business. Controller X recognizes Tim, Shakti and Luna and tells DeMille that these three are not the lost souls they would have her think.
The Purification Chamber…
The scientists lead the inmates through the chamber. They explain to the captives that, since most of them have been living under unhygienic circumstances, they must pass through the Purifier before they can be processed any further. Inside, the scientists conclude, the inmates will be disinfected, deloused, depilated and inoculated against all major viral strains. A woman named Diamanda LaSalle steps out of the chamber, and she feels like she has been sandblasted.
She is surprised to even still have skin on her body, after that high-pressure shower she went through. One of the scientists reads her file, and asks Sham if she truly is eighteen years old. Sham confirms. The scientist reads from the file that Sham is unlicensed transient and in perfect health. Sham asks where her friend Quiver is. The scientist knows that Quiver is the one who shot the guard yesterday and reveals that Quiver is in Research now.
Sham is surprised to hear that Quiver is still alive after what happened. The scientist informs Sham that she has been classified as an organ donor. And, the scientist follows, they have an immediate call for a kidney, cornea and lung transplant. The scientist takes out a tranquilizer gun and asks Sham not to resist and promises Sham that she won’t even know that her organs are gone. Sham powers up and angrily tells the scientist to get away from her! She uses her tendril powers, but a surprised scientist doesn’t know where they came from.
A glad Sham explains that the machines failed to report that she was a mutant. Sham promises that she has even got more tricks up her sleeves. Sham moves quickly to the scientists and takes away his gun. Then, she points the gun at the scientists and hits him with it, making the scientist faint. Sham takes the scientists key card out of his pocket and decides to go find her friend.
Preliminary Evaluation Center, level one…
More scientists activate their computers, but something odd happens to them: the genetic imagers keep falling out. The head professor orders his followers to report the problem to the central power and ask if there is some kind of outage. The scientists do as told and, as they go, they don’t notice that Tim, Shakti and Luna sneak behind them. Tim whispers to his friends that he is siphoning power from the power lines in the floor. Hopefully, that will get allow them to pass any technical machine that might identify them as mutants.
The scientist quotes that, due to the mechanical problems they have, they will have to proceed with the evaluation manually. The rest of the inmates will remain to the right until the equipment is back on-line. But, the scientists laughs, not Tim and his friends!
The three mutants quickly become surrounded by arriving guards. Tim wonders how they could have possibly spotted them. The leader of the guard promises his soldiers to be careful, as their adversaries are all alpha classed mutants. Luna begins the fight and the others follow. Tim transforms into Skullfire and unleashes his remaining power that didn’t go through the gene scanners.
Unfortunately, one of the guards fires elephant class tranquilizers! They hit Tim and Luna’s necks, and they faint. Shakti is left standing, but the guards push her against a wall. The guards proudly tell Shakti that she could stop one of them with her psychic powers, but promises that the rest of them will shoot her the minute Shakti does that. Shakti asks the guards how they spotted them. The leader explains that a Controller found out about them. Suddenly, the roof begins to crack. Everyone looks up, and… Junkpile and the Junkyard Dogs jump through, ready to arrest them all!
Personally, Junkpile says that nobody will surrender, because both he and the Junkyard robot Dogs Doom build could both use the exercise. The guards attack Junkpile, leaving only one guard with Shakti. She telepathically knocks him out, and tries to find Tim and Luna. They are nowhere to be seen. Shakti believes that someone must have dragged them away the moment Junkpile dropped in. Shakti wants to find them, but rethinks, believing that her top priority is finding Xi’an.
Research, Sub-level ten…
A scientist has installed Quiver on a machine, which will tell the scientist what Quiver’s mutant powers precisely are. Quiver can’t stand the pain. Sham creates an illusion of a giant orange rock monster and scares the scientist and knocks him out. Sham sets her friend free. Quiver can hardly stand on his legs, but Sham nonetheless wants to move out of the place.
Quiver asks Sham to leave him behind, because she will have a better chance to escape without him slowing her down. Sham doesn’t want to hear a word of it and they leave together. They bounce into Shakti. Sham thinks that Shakti is the enemy and attacks her, creating the same illusion.
Shakti easily sees through the attack and convinces them both that she is not the enemy. Sham and Quiver offer Shakti to escape with them, but Shakti says she can’t yet and has to find Xi’an first. Sham and Quiver call her a fool for doing that and run away while Shakti moves on.
Shakti is attacked by a security robot. She tries to destroy it, but Controller X steps forward and punches Shakti down. Controller X informs Shakti that the Theatre of Pain doesn’t tolerate with her actions and will punish her.
Shakti realizes that though his voice has changed as he speaks through the golden mask he wears, but she knows the truth: Controller X is in fact Xi’an! Controller X denies that, telling Shakti that Xi’an is dead. Shakti tells the Controller that if she would truly believe that, she wouldn’t be here. Shakti and the Controller fight.
The Controller notices how Shakti has changed since Xi’an left her. The Controller defeats her, but says that, while others should have been killed by now, the Theatre will spare her because they have need of her special talents.
Junkpile and his Dogs destroy the last of the guards and think that they have won the battle. Unfortunately, that is not so. Brimstone Love appears! Brimstone Love tells Junkpile that, despite his S.H.I.E.L.D badge, he doesn’t have any jurisdiction here, because Death Valley belongs to the Theatre of Pain. Junkpile commands his Dogs to attack Brimstone Love, but he easily destroys the robots using his geo-thermal energy.
Junkpile tells Brimstone Love that he shouldn’t have done that, because that Dog belonged to the United States government. And, for that, Junkpile promises Brimstone that he will have him arrested. Unimpressed, Brimstone Love surrounds himself with pure hellfire, and promises Junkpile that his arrogance will have him killed. Brimstone Love will personally make sure of that. The two enemies step forward and prepare to fight each other…