In the heart of Southern California, a madman has detonated a gamma bomb, triggering, in addition to a radioactive urban Apocalypse, an earthquake of cataclysmic proportion. Now, three hundred miles to the east, a resulting shockwave sweeps across Death Valley, shaking the factory of human misery called the slaughterhouse at its foundation. And perhaps it would be better were the Earth to open up and devour this charnel house, for within, the sadistic secret society known as the Theatre of Pain dissects the bodies of the lost, desperate and discarded for cruel entertainment.
Inside, two former inmates with the names of Sham and Quiver also feel the shake while they try to escape through the isolation vent. Sham thinks that Quiver is behind it, using his powers, but Quiver denies. The shaking finally stops and the two mutants are glad that they have survived it. Quiver is still frightened that they will never make it out of Death Valley, but Sham is confident that they will, seeing that they have went through worse. Sham is certain that they haven’t got anything to worry about. But when Sham looks through an air opening, she has to rethink that thought! Because below her, she witnesses the battle between Junkpile and Brimstone Love! Brimstone Love attacks Junkpile, using the full potential of his flame powers. Brimstone defeats Junkpile and laughs at the fallen tin man.
Brimstone Love recalls that every generation has their Junkpile, Juggernaut and Raging Behemoth. Brimstone laughs at how each street punks that thinks they can take him out and, as they oppose them, he always proves them otherwise. Brimstone mocks Doom too, that he thought an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. could destroy him. Brimstone Love takes Junkpile’s S.H.I.E.L.D. badge and burns it up. He commands Director DeMille and her servants to dispose Junkpile.
Meanwhile in sub-level ten, Tim and La Lunática recover from the tranquilizer gun they took. Tim uses his powers to escape, but they get stopped by three sisters who call themselves the Norns. Luna knows them and introduces Bliss, Euphoria and Felicity to Tim and claims that they are the Theatre’s Bloodsport Arenas.
Luna reveals that she was one of them too, for ten long years when she was still a slave of the Theatre until she escaped from it. Tim wants to power up and attack them, but Luna warns him that the Norns have been bred to be savage fighters. Tim doesn’t care and wants to power up, but can’t! Euphoria punches Tim, explaining that when the tranquilizer hit him, it installed a neural inhibitor in Tim’s body, which negates his mutant abilities. With Tim down, the two other sisters Bliss and Felicity want to take down Luna by themselves. Luna fights first and says that she will never be anyone’s slave. She knocks the two sisters down, but Euphoria then punches Luna down. She adds that Luna always was a wild one, and that’s why Brimstone Love put a restraining collar on her neck, so that they could control her.
Euphoria can’t understand why Luna would leave all the luxury and wealth the Theatre offers them. She doesn’t know why Luna prefers to hang around with mutants. Luna replies that she is a mutant herself and asks Euphoria that if she is going to kill her to do it quickly and leave her be. Euphoria offers Luna to rejoin, but she refuses.
Felicity knocks Luna out with her Lethal Cross attack. With Luna blacked-out, Bliss asks what to do with Tim if they are going to bring Luna back to Brimstone Love. Some time later, they decide to throw Tim down into the industrial waste tunnels. As he lands, Tim wakes up and tries to find a way out before the stench and acid kills him. Suddenly, an aftershock from the earthquake comes and the ground shakes. Tim maintains balance, but then something appears to merge from the ground! A gigantic body now stands in front of Tim, and he prepares to attack it.
Quiver panics even more now after he saw what happened to Junkpile and now knows for sure that they will never escape. Sham tries to calm her friend down, but are opposed by more security guards. Sham quickly creates an illusion and makes the guards think that they are attacked by thorns. Sham uses the key card she stole earlier from a scientist and opens the hangar bay. There, they steal an airship and fly away in it, but one problem remains: Sham doesn’t quite know how to control it! The alarm of the base goes off and the hangar doors close themselves. Sham activates the hovercraft and they fly, but the doors shut before they can leave.
Metalhead and Rosa sit on a high mountain and enjoy a beautiful sunset together. Eddie says that Dr. Wingfoot told him that President Doom and the Keewazi nation have begun diplomatic relations. Eddie says that this is the first time that the U.S. government has recognized Native American sovereignty since the wars of Reclamation. Rosa tells Eddie to shut up; she doesn’t want to discuss politics right now. Eddie apologizes, saying that he used to swallow political theories just as much as he did with the music. Eddie says that he isn’t the same person he used to be. Rosa tells Eddie that he isn’t the only one who has changed. She thanks Eddie that he will be there when her baby comes.
Suddenly, a bright light shows up. An explosion comes, and as Eddie and Rosa look up they see an E.M.P. explode. Eddie protects Rosa as the shards fall down. Eddie wonders how it could have exploded in the first place, because he knows that the Wakandans made it so that the E.M.P.’s would be invulnerable. Rosa thinks that it was sabotaged. But by whom?
By Glitterspike! Glitterspike shows up, angry and with only one arm. Eddie is surprised to see him again, because he thought that Glitterspike had died after they had left him in the cave. Glitterspike reveals that the alien only coasted him his arm. Glitterspike explains that were it not for him finding a shaft of light that restored his powers, he would be dead by now. But Glitterspike didn’t want Eddie to have that joy, and now he is back to finish him off! Metalhead tries to protect Rosa as Glitterspike attacks and tells her to go back to the town. Rosa can’t, because she is going into labor!
Krystalin and Meanstreak ride and run on a bridge, and hurry for not being to late for their meeting. Another aftershock comes up and destroys the bridge. Meanstreak jumps over the destruction and makes it to the safe other side of it, but Krystalin’s bike can’t make it and she falls down into the canyon! Krystalin tries to find a way to rescue herself, but realizes that there is none. She prepares for the impact, but luckily she gets rescued by… Bloodhawk! Krystalin can kiss him, but Bloodhawk says that won’t be necessary. He is simply returning the favor for all those times she has helped him.
Bloodhawk brings her back to Meanstreak and he thanks Bloodhawk for the rescue.
Bloodhawk has scouted the area and informs his friends that from the air, the damage appears to have further separated southern California from the continent. Meanstreak says that the Infonet believed that the earthquakes are the cause thanks to a launched off gamma bomb. But Meanstreak and Krystalin say that isn’t the reason why they asked Bloodhawk to meet them. They reveal that they haven’t heard from Shakti in twenty-four hours and are worried that her undercover in Death Valley has gone wrong. Bloodhawk remembers the time he was a prisoner of the Theatre of Pain and still has the marks on his body to show it. Bloodhawk angrily says that if Xi’an is now part of the Theatre, he promises that he will make Xi’an regret his decision!
Shakti asks Controller X, calling him Xi’an, why he has brought her to this place of technology. Controller X explains to her that the Theatre of Pain is no mere entertainment office. The Controller reveals that the Theatre’s resources are greater than some nations. He asks Shakti to look at what they have done to Zhao’s Chosen X-Men. Shakti isn’t impressed. The Controller knows that Shakti is only jealous to see that the Theatre was able to do what she could not: heal their bodies in a week’s time.
Shakti tries to tell the Controller that he is risking the Chosen’s lives using the accelerator like he does. Shakti says that this inhumane reason is the exact reason why the X-Men were formed in the first place. The Controller call’s the X-Men’s dream to be foolish. Shakti knows that the golden mask makes Xi’an to believe otherwise, and promises to use her telepathic powers to convince him otherwise. As she uses her powers, Shakti gets a powerful electric shock! Controller X informs Shakti about the necklace she now has around her neck and promises that if Shakti uses her powers ever again, she will get the exact same shock again. Shakti says that’s what the Theatre is all about: to inflict pain.
The Controller tries to convince Shakti of the Theatre’s goals, but she doesn’t become convinced. Shakti asks the Controller why he needed to change that much, because the Xi’an she knew, knew when to get vicious, but was never cruel. Controller X says he only did it to have power. And the Theatre’s vast resources will give him that. The Controller knows that the Theatre even influences heads of state and industry.
Shakti doesn’t know why that is so important to him, because the Xi’an she knew would never be anyone else’s slave. Controller X claims that he isn’t a slave, and especially not the one of Brimstone Love, because he is a man of extraordinary vision and ability. Shakti finds Brimstone Love to be a monster and finds it sad to see that Brimstone has turned Xi’an into one, too. The Controller explains that he had enough of all the many rolls he played in life, and claims that the Theatre has finally given him means to shape the world as he sees fit. A bright light appears, which almost blinds Shakti. Controller X proudly presents Shakti… the Mindfire Machine!
The Controller explains that the machine is powered by the unconscious body and telepathic mind of Master Zhao. With Zhao as a power source, the Controller promises to create a theatrical event of unparalleled scale. Controller X promises to show the world a symphony of suffering that will devastate the minds of thousands!