The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning in Salem Center, New York
Cyclops, Phoenix, Archangel, Beast, Iceman, Psylocke and Rogue are in the Danger Room, trying to find out what has happened to the X-Men. Scott asks Jean and Hank what they’ve got, however, neither Jean’s telepathy nor Hank’s electronic sensors are able to track the X-Men; not even an infinitesimal trace of them. Professor Xavier and the rest of the X-Men seemingly blinked out of existence.
Bobby wonders aloud if they are dead… or just gone. Scott urges him not to jump to conclusions and asks him to remember how many times this sort of thing has happened to them. “Good point,” Warren acknowledges – however, he also remarks that, with what’s happening in Genosha, they can’t afford not to be at full strength. Their world is changing and not for the better. He asks Scott what they do in the meantime. Cyclops replies that the only thing they can do is cross their fingers, keep the faith and pray.
Meanwhile, the X-Men find themselves in an altogether strange, other-dimensional world. Colossus verifies this is not a Danger Room simulation! Xavier seconds that. Seeing the various other-dimensional creatures all around them relentlessly fighting each other, the weird being that teleported the team here exclaims this is not what he was having in mind… this is war! He apologizes; due to the trans-dimensional disruptions and war-torn walls between realities, he has been missing their intended destination – and also perhaps due to his inexperience.
Wolverine feels like he’s been in a bender; his hyper-senses are reeling. “Hey, bub…” Logan tells the being. “I am named as Ejulp,” he corrects him. Logan tells Ejulp to get them home – and make it quick. They got a situation there that requires their attention now. Xavier urges Logan to remain calm. What they are all seeing is merely their minds’ attempt to interpret an environment so incomprehensible – so alien – that it taxes the limits of human sensory input. As a telepath, Xavier has experience in seeing things in abstract terms. Logan replies him that’s just swell – except that while they sit here waxing philosophical, in their own world their worst enemy has been given his own country! In their own world, Magneto is putting his own special stamp on Genosha! Colossus suggests they table this dispute: they have company!
One of the other-dimensional creatures approaches the team menacingly. Marrow tells Kitty to stand back: it’s bleeding time! Kitty pleads her to wait. Kurt intervenes, telling Kitty not to worry: he can easily teleport… Suddenly, Kurt is shocked to realize he managed to teleport nowhere! Instead, he seems to have conjured a strange beast with tendrils, as a result of his teleportation effort. Kitty grabs Kurt and phases him through the creature, leaving the field open for Ororo to do her thing. Storm confidently releases a small bolt of lightning against the beast… and it is suddenly gone! Storm wonders how this happened. Instead of her weather-controlling abilities, she has somehow caused that creature to simply disappear. She realizes this place is affecting all of their mutant powers but, in her case, it is strangely intoxicating.
Marrow exclaims it’s time to “carve the turkey” and is about to start slashing one of the creatures with her bones. Seeing Gambit approach, Marrow tells him to keep his charged deck out of her face. However, Remy’s charged cards go out of control and strike Sarah, who screams and collapses unconscious to the ground. Gambit rushes to her. Holding her, he informs the others she’s in a bad way… plus, they’re off-balanced and outnumbered…
Charles believes a telepathic blast should end this conflict. As he tries to unleash one, though, his astral form is released from his body, far stronger than he has ever experienced, even though this is not what he intended to do. Ororo seems to have the answer: she tells Charles that this place is a dimension of unearthly physics, in which their mutant powers are manifesting in something far more unpredictable! Their most immediate problem, though, is the chaos that surrounds them. As she begins concentrating, Kurt asks her what she’s doing. Storm explains she’s attempting to utilize this unique situation to everyone’s benefit. With a gesture that would normally break open the clouds above, she causes every creature around her to disappear! Astonished, Kitty asks her how she did it. Ororo admits she doesn’t know.
Suddenly, an apparition – three strange, ghostly forms, two male, one female – materialize momentarily around Storm. “By Bsal…! The Trion!” Ejulp exclaims and bows in respect. As the apparition fades, Ororo loses her senses and collapses to the ground. Kitty wonders if anybody has a clue about that apparition. “None whatsoever, Kitty,” Kurt replies. Examining Ororo, he informs the others she’s still breathing. Nightcrawler doubts Storm was in any real control of what just occurred. He fears if they do not return home soon…
Losing his patience, Wolverine exclaims he’s heard enough. He demands to know what Ejulp did to Storm. Professor Xavier urges Logan to cease his aggression. This lifeform – Ejulp – is as frightened and confused… Logan interrupts Charles, telling him to save his breath: this isn’t going to play out like it did in the Artic. Ejulp explains that the vision they saw are the Trion, the sentient manifestations of the forces that compose this dimension. Ejulp himself was sent to retrieve the X-Men for his people’s protection. “Protection… from what?” Charles asks her. “The Juggernaut of Cyttorak!” he replies. He also believes that the condemned host is of Xavier’s blood. Charles is shocked to find out his stepbrother, Cain, is there.
At the sound of Cain Marko’s name, Charles’ mind travels back… years ago, in Korea, where two estranged stepbrothers – Cain and himself – found themselves within the crumbling bowels of a secret temple. At the base of an idol, Cain found a gem, too beautiful for him to resist, greed and jealousy driving him to an act he would curse forever. A mystical inscription contained therein stated that “whoever touches this gem shall posses the power of the crimson bands of Cyttorak. Henceforth, you who read these words shall become forevermore a human Juggernaut!” Cain touched the gem and his life was never the same, as he was transformed into the Juggernaut.
Ejulp is quite certain the X-Men have defeated Juggernaut before. “It is not impossible to do so… no?” he asks Xavier for confirmation. Xavier explains to him it’s not quite that simple. “Modest to a fault,” a voice behind Charles is heard. It’s Black Tom Cassidy! He apologizes for the interruption but argues he may have something to add here. Xavier states he’s not surprised. Where the Juggernaut goes, Black Tom follows. Black Tom assures them that, if they come with him, he’ll get them some answers.
As the team is transported to Ejulp’s home dimension, Black Tom explains to them that the rules of home don’t apply there. He urges them to look around: time and place don’t relate in the same way they’re used to. All around them, the X-Men see an infinite white vacuum, populated solely with green-skinned creatures similar to Ejulp, all of them standing on floating orange fragments. Black Tom explains that these folks are looking for salvation. Apparently, they’re unable to combat Juggernaut.
Colossus retorts that doesn’t explain Black Tom’s presence here. “How do ye think they knew how to find you?” Black Tom replies. It was Black Tom who told them they were the only ones they could do the job. He explains it started a few months ago. Hearing whispered rumors of a second mystic gem, Cain headed back to the Korea, to the temple of Cyttorak… only to walk straight into the trap set by the cult of the Chejo-Do. They needed Cain to energize their gem. They sucked the power right out of his body, leaving him practically emaciated. There was nothing Black Tom could do for him, so he called in some help. Thanks to the help of Storm, Shadowcat and Gambit, they stole back that second gem. All ended well.
However, something went wrong. Reabsorbing this power somehow changed Cain. He seemed possessed. Before Black Tom could stop him, he went on a seemingly mindless barrage. He was uncontrollable, more powerful than ever. Then, the inconceivable happened: Cain’s power became so immense that he began to break down barriers most people don’t even know exist. He was smashing his way into another dimension, ripping through the fabric of space and time itself! Black Tom ended up getting pulled in together with Cain. Luckily, Black Tom charmed the natives – Ejulp’s “compatriots” – right away. In fact… they rescued him.
Black Tom explains that the second gem was imbued with the evil side of its creator – the eternal nemesis of the Trion! It’s using Cain to take over this entire dimension, destroy the Trion and rule in its stead. Charles remarks that, given their surroundings and Cain’s history, it’s not an unbelievable story. However, he also wonders why they should trust Black Tom – a terrorist… a killer.
Black Tom explains that the natives are pacifists. They can’t believe they can face this evil directly without being corrupted themselves. They need the X-Men. If Black Tom understands correctly, the evil impulse directing the Juggernaut is really just a homing instinct. The Trion have been diverting his advance, sending him along a circuitous path through other dimensional planes – a delaying tactic until they could find the X-Men. Only the X-Men can defeat the Juggernaut.
Holding the unconscious Ororo in his arms, Kurt asks, “what about Storm?” The Trion have injured their teammate. Ejulp explains this is not so: Storm was merely channeling powers beyond control, of all, but the Trion. At the moment she remains in a protective trance. This sounds logical enough to the X-Men. Ejulp insists they have risked much to bring them there. He implores the X-Men to help him and his people. Their very reality is at stake! One of Ejulp’s people points them to the sight of Juggernaut a few dimensions away. Apparently, Juggernaut is getting closer with every dimensional barrier he smashes through.
Xavier assures Ejulp and the others he will attempt to deal with his stepbrother. Piotr wants to know what his plan is. Given his chair is useless and his astral form seems to be quite powerful here, Charles leaves his corporeal body behind. Now in his astral form, he orders Nightcrawler and Shadowcat to accompany him. The rest are to remain here to watch over their fallen teammates, Storm and Marrow. Wolverine proclaims he’s going, too. Charles asks him if he’s sure he’s up to this. “Try an’ stop me,” Logan replies. “Very well. Let’s be off” Charles pronounces.
Elsewhere, Ororo feels nothing but darkness surrounding her… an eerily familiar darkness. She opens her eyes to test that feeling of familiarity only too find her most terrifying claustrophobic fear – born out of being buried alive as a child – as real as she has ever felt! Trapped in a confined space, she suddenly hears a voice above her “Can you hear me?” “That voice… sounds so…,” Ororo thinks. “Y-yes” she tells the voice. The voice – calm, soothing and familiar – tells her to do exactly as s/he says and she will soon be free. Ororo pleads the person to hurry.
Running along the sole available stripe of “ground” – reminiscent of an endless branch – Kitty, Kurt and Logan follow Xavier’s astral form. Kitty asks him if they know where they’re going. Charles explains that Cain’s psionic signature has never been difficult to track. Nevertheless, this will be an easy journey. Indeed, as the foursome passes into the dimension to which Ejulp initially transferred them, Logan admits he can’t take this assault on his senses much more. All around them, the creatures keep fighting.
Kurt takes advantage of what he’s learned about his mutant power in this reality and tries to teleport, instantly conjuring a creature with tendrils which entangles other creatures in the vicinity – while Kitty phases him away from this mess. “Not bad, ‘Crawler,” Logan remarks. “But you got your way an’ I got mine,” he adds, relentlessly slashing every beast close to him with his claws.
Xavier tells Logan there is no reason for his level of brutality; these creatures are merely acting on instinct. Logan retorts that so is he; it’s all he’s got left. “Who knows… maybe you’ll learn something for a change!” Logan tells Charles. Logan suddenly realizes he’s losing it; he can’t see or feel anymore! Slipping off the “branch,” he starts falling – only, in this dimension, where everything already seems upside down, he could very well fall forever!
As he keeps falling, Logan sees Charles’ astral form rushing towards him and asks him not to do him any favors. Still, Charles’ astral form grabs Logan’s hand… and two worlds collide! This simple touch is accompanied by a rush of sensations; Wolverine feels his mind reaching out, touching every other mind in the universe while Xavier feels an animalistic fury unleashed, one he was never aware he possessed. Two worlds, two disparate minds collide and suddenly become one.
Logan climbs back onto the branch and reprimands Xavier for chasing after him; he believes he’s proved he can take care of himself! “Obviously,” Xavier’s voice agrees. Wolverine starts looking around, trying to find out where Charles is, only for Xavier to inform him he’s there: in his head. Logan orders him to get out of his head! Xavier explains he can’t. Logan’s physical contact with his astral form has somehow merged them: more of this dimension’s strange physics and its effect on their abilities. Suddenly, as a creature is about to attack, Charles warns “More attackers!” Logan remarks that these are his eyes Charles is seeing through!
Elsewhere, Ororo is finally breathing air again: her prison no longer confines her. She wonders who helped her dig herself out – and also, where she is, overwhelmed as she is by familiar sights and smells. The landscape – a vast expanse with giraffes, zebras, elephants – strikes a chord within her more resonant than any place on Earth. It’s the place where she became a princess… a woman… the African Veldt. In her soul, it feels as though she had never left. One question remains though: is this real?! It can’t be, yet every sense she possesses is telling her it is!
Suddenly, she hears a voice next to her: “It’s so beautiful here, don’t you agree?” Turning on her right, Ororo sees a version of herself as a child, young and carefree! “You… you are…” a shocked Storm mumbles. The girl introduces herself as Ororo and asks Storm to follow her. She has something important to show her.
Meanwhile, Wolverine is brutally fighting an other-dimensional creature. Charles’ voice in his head reminds him that this excessive violence is unnecessary. Wolverine tells him to pipe down; he’s distracting him! Logan clarifies he’s not here to practice diplomacy. As he’s about to slay the creature with his claws, he argues that this is how things get done in his side of the tracks. However, he suddenly finds it impossible to move his arm for the deathblow and asks Charles if this is his doing. Xavier replies that he won’t allow him to…
The creature seizes the opportunity and strikes back. Furious, Wolverine asks Xavier if he wants to get him killed. Xavier insists Logan’s way is not his way. This senseless killing… Logan interrupts him, reminding him they’ve had this argument before many times. Charles is forgetting something: he may be shacked up in Logan’s brain but it is Logan’s flesh that’s getting cut! “Very well,” Xavier resigns from his efforts. He tells Logan to do what he must.
As Logan finally tears the beast that attacked him apart, he asks Charles if he’s starting to understand now: sometimes it’s kill or be killed! Law of the jungle! Logan tells Charles that he always seems to have all the answers… “But when your enemy stops at nothin’ to waste you… what’re you gonna do?” Wolverine asks him. Xavier has no answer for that. For once, he truly sees the world through Wolverine’s eyes and finds it’s a harrowing experience.
Nightcrawler and Shadowcat approach, asking Wolverine if he’s all right. “Never better,” Logan assures them. Kurt wonders where the Professor is. Logan asks them to trust him: he’s here. As the mutants advance on the branch, Kurt announces that the Juggernaut is just through this rift. Kitty assures Logan that it’s safe to say that this problem is bigger than they thought… much bigger. Indeed, at that very moment, they see Juggernaut ahead of them, pounding against the fabric of dimensions… and he’s now of gigantic proportions!