“There is no place like home,” Nightcrawler keeps murmuring incessantly while crawling over walls and alleys that seem to be peculiarly… distorted. “There is no place like home… and this is not even close,” Kurt concludes while jumping into a cemetery. He realizes that distortions worsen here at the outskirts. Several walls and streets of this peculiar “New York” remain unformed; half-grown. Kurt could hardly bear those tight, twisting alleys a moment longer. The X-Men’s plan was to explore the quiet areas of the city in hopes of finding some evidence to its nature and location. Considering his natural ability to blend into the night shadows – as well as his talent for teleportation – volunteering for this seemed such a good idea… at the time.
Suddenly, Kurt spots more cities far ahead, in the horizon… only he recognizes they are alien cities by design, some of them Shi’ar. He wonders how this can be. If the otherworldly Ejulp transported them back to their own dimension, as he promised, he missed Earth by several million light years. Or perhaps he missed the human plane entirely and delivered them instead into some strange land of the dead…
As if to verify Kurt’s last phrase, the long-deceased Thunderbird suddenly shows up, alive and well, behind a tree. “Thunderbird?!” a shocked Nightcrawler exclaims and instantly teleports away!
Less than a mile away, Shadowcat is standing on the roof of a building. Nightcrawler suddenly teleport here. “Kurt, finally!” Kitty exclaims upon seeing him. She was beginning to worry about him. Seeing him remarkably pale, she asks him what’s wrong. “Ghosts, katzchen, this is a world of ghosts” Kurt replies.
Meanwhile, Storm and Wolverine are hiding in an alley, where they spot a “DIE MUTIES” graffiti painted on the wall. Logan remarks that, whatever this place is, they obviously have the same kind of small-minded bigots they’ve got back home. Gazing at the entrance of a hospital close to the alley, where some doctors and nurses carry a patient from an ambulance, Ororo remarks this is unfortunate but not entirely unexpected. However, their priority is still Marrow: obtaining medical supplies to treat the wounds she sustained in the Trion’s dimension without attracting attention.
Ororo quickly flies Logan and herself on the hospital’s roof. Wolverine is surprised Storm cares about Marrow: the kid’s never really been her favorite camper, after all. Storm reminds him that he knows her better than that. There has been bad blood between Marrow and herself, but Marrow is a child. She needs guidance, not anger. She goes on to admit that, even though the roof of the hospital is unguarded, as they had hoped, she is still not comfortable with this approach. “’Course not princess, that’s why I’m here!” Wolverine exclaims and easily tears the hatch that leads to the interior of the building off.
Suddenly, they hear someone behind them, asking them if they need a hand. As they turn around, they see… Spider-Man! “And you two are X-Men, right?” the webslinger asks the shocked duo. Spider-Man admits he recognizes points of similarity with Storm and Wolverine but there are so many superhumans on earth that it’s impossible to keep up-to-date.
“Spider-Man…?” a still surprised Wolverine pronounces. “Who else?” Spider-Man replies. He wonders if they haven’t seen the records of extensive terrorist activity by this one in the regional data record-sheet… the Daily Bugle?! Saying this, the mysterious “Spider-Man” points them at a huge poster that shows an angry J. Jonah Jameson on the front page of Daily Bugle, next to the headline Spider-Man: Menace or Monster? “Spider-Man” informs Logan and Ororo that he’s en route to perpetrate a meaningless crime but he can still spare time to assist them in their own campaign first. Participation in any and all uncivilized behavior falls within his mission parameters! Wolverine and Storm appreciate his offer but politely decline!
Meanwhile, sheltered under a shed, Professor X, Gambit and Colossus keep an eye on the unconscious Marrow. Charles explains that Sarah’s own mutation causes constant, unchecked bone growth with random disregard for skin and internal organs. Tragic though it may be, she’s used to pain. Xavier himself has taken the liberty of psionically stimulating her already remarkable immune system to reinforce her own efforts to survive. That’s all he can do at the moment.
Remy retorts that’s not enough; not by a long shot. Sarah needs medical attention and the others are taking too long already, wasting time on who knows what. He pleads Xavier to tell the others to hurry and get back here now. Xavier explains that he cannot summon them. Some form of general psi-static seems to be interfering with his telepathy in this world, preventing him from maintaining mental contact with the rest of the team. He believes they must be patient a while longer, put their faith in the others to…
“Y’got t’be kiddin’ me, Prof!” Gambit furiously exclaims. He accuses Xavier that if this was his precious Jean Grey or any of his other teacher’s pets from the old days, he’d never give up trying! Apparently, he thinks of Marrow as just an ex-Morlock; a barely domesticated tunnel-rat. Colossus grabs Gambit’s hand, trying to calm him down. Gambit realizes how unfair his outburst just was and apologizes to the Professor. He confesses this is his own fault, all of it. He knows that well.
Xavier reminds him that the Oktid continuum was subject to entirely different laws of physics. No X-Man’s powers responded the way they had come to expect. He knows very well that Gambit never meant to wound Marrow with his kinetically-charged cards: it was an accident. Feeling guilty, Remy believes it was more like a mistake – just the latest of many and maybe the worst. He’d do anything to turn back the clock and make this right for Sarah again. He thinks she’s just a lonely, scared girl who never even had a chance. Xavier assures him she is not alone. Not anymore.
Meanwhile, Nightcrawler is fighting… Thor, while people all around the streets are fleeing in panic. Thor orders him to surrender without further delay or he will face his unfettered might! Nightcrawler ironically advises him to watch this Uru Hammer of his – he could really hurt someone! – and then teleports away! Cyclops suddenly appears and blasts Thor, explaining this is Nightcrawler’s standard operating procedure: setting someone up for another X-Man to take them down! “Base mutant!” Vision suddenly exclaims, out of nowhere. He proclaims that such trickery will avail Cyclops naught against the robotic reason and skills of…
Vision is tripped up by something invisible before he has the chance to finish his phrase. The invisible obstacle turns out to be Nightcrawler, who turns himself visible again. He apologizes to Vision: they still haven’t found a way to duplicate the real Nightcrawler’s teleportation power, so he’s expected to fake the effect with a flash-brimstone generator and then turn invisible! “And trip everyone up?!” Vision retorts. He seriously doubts that was included in “Nighcrawler’s” brief and decides to call this whole exercise off for now, since their credibility has just been endangered. Several other “heroes” gather up – all wearing dated versions of the costumes of familiar heroes – and start arguing whether they will continue the run-through or not.
The real Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde are watching all this, concealed in the shadows of a nearby alley. Kitty believes this isn’t a spirit world, as Kurt probably thought. It seems more like some kind of covert training-ground for imitation heroes. She asks him if he feels better now! Nightcrawler replies that he doesn’t, if she’s considering what he knows she’s considering. He reminds her they are completely cut off from the others. This is far too dangerous a risk. Kitty agrees that it might be but also points him to the fact this place is active, if not slightly dated – judging from the impostors’ costumes. The only way for them to find out the truth is to go over to the other side.
Meanwhile, one of the heroes’ doppelgangers, Kitty’s own doppelganger – who’s donning the black/yellow costume of Kitty’s “Sprite” era – is too bored to attend the argument among her fellow impostors. She tells “Nightcrawler” she’ll be right behind them! Examining herself in a shop window in the street, “Sprite” mumbles that it’s impossible to keep clean with these primitive Terran materials. She can’t imagine what this human was thinking when she designed her hair into…
Suddenly, the true Kitty phases through the window and grabs her doppelganger, pulling her inside of it! Kitty warns her not to say another word about her hair! After all, she wasn’t more than thirteen years old – fourteen, tops – when she wore the “Sprite” costume and the headpiece was part of the uniform back in those days! “You…?” the impostor exclaims in shock but quickly attacks Shadowcat, demanding to know if this is a test. “You tell me,” Kitty replies and easily avoids being hurt by her copycat’s punches thanks to her phasing powers.
Even angrier, the fake Kitty proclaims that the one, true Sprite will brook no impostors. Kitty replies that her name’s Shadowcat and has been for a while now! As the fake Sprite jumps on top of Shadowcat, Kitty phases, with the impostor passing through her and being seemingly… electrocuted!
As the impostor collapses lifelessly to the ground, Kitty tells Kurt that she was short-circuited by her phasing effect – same as any other electrical system. But the hardware’s out of this world: it’s like nothing she’s seen before! Kitty asks Kurt to bamf her doppelganger back to the Professor, in case he’s able to get anything more out of her. “I’ll be right behind you, I promise,” she adds.
Meanwhile, on the streets of this half-formed New York City, half of the “Avengers” fight the “Hulk,” who’s on a rampage again. The rest of the “Avengers” join their teammates, telling the “X-Men” they will reschedule for tomorrow. With the “X-Men” being left alone, “Storm” admits she’s tired of always playing the outsiders to the others, the so-called mainstreamers. “Nightcrawler” reminds her that mutants are ostracized by most Terrans and so must remain underground. Because of this, it’s proven difficult to gather enough information for total and accurate reproduction. “Cyclops” changes the subject, asking them whether they’ve seen “Sprite.”
Kitty – the true Kitty that now wears her doppelganger’s Sprite costume, determined to pose as her copycat to find out more – appears, telling “Cyclops” she’s right here. “I miss anything…?” she cheerfully asks. “Not around here, stripling,” the fake the moody “Storm” replies. Until they find out more about mutants, they’re still stuck working around everyone else’s schedules. “Nightcrawler” is confident that won’t change anytime soon: they do not know yet where the X-Men are based or even who leads them. “Storm” retorts that the Avengers instead have their own dwelling, full of opulence. No wonder the Beast left the X-Men to join them! “Cyclops” insists that the problem is still the Terran media coverage, same as always. When it comes to mutants – to the X-Men especially – reports tend to be ill-informed and confusing.
“It’s called propaganda, chump” Kitty secretly thinks, “anti-mutant hysteria at its very worst.” She follows the fake X-Men, as they walk through alleys until they reach a gate with an “X” on it. As the gate opens thanks to some mechanism, they enter a room full of dozens of impostors of mutants, each of them sitting at a chair and looking at a monitor! Shocked, Kitty realizes this can’t be good.
Meanwhile, Kurt asks the X-Men to forgive him. As much as he hated leaving Kitty alone amongst the enemy, she insisted it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. Colossus assures him that Kitty is strong – the strongest of them all, in some ways. Still, he prays she knows what she’s doing. Professor X tells him they’ll her give her fifteen minutes. If she’s not back by then, they’ll go after her. In the meantime, they can try and see what can be learned of their current situation from their friend here. A simple mind-scan of Kitty’s doppelganger should provide all the answers they…
Xavier, however, instantly realizes the doppelganger is protected by some sort of psi-shield that’s blocking his probe. If all the locals are similarly shielded, city-wide, this combined effect could be responsible for the telepathic disruption that’s been limiting his powers. Gambit insists Xavier should get back to Marrow – fast. Marrow’s burning up with fever again. If she takes another turn for the worse while he’s off head-tripping…
“A moment, Gambit,” Charles replies. He must push harder and attempt to find some way through these psi-screens. Gambit, however, thinks that Sarah is dying here and somebody’s got to do something to help her now.
Back at the headquarters of the counterfeit mutants, Kitty tells herself to just act normal; walk and not run; look straight ahead and avoid eye contact; keep following the terminal-feeds for those monitors. She is puzzled that these impostors are screening terrestrial broadcasts from all over the globe – old broadcasts Kitty keeps walking forward, telling herself not to sweat it until she’s out of here. Unnoticed by anyone, she uses her phasing ability to “sink” herself through the floor.
Kitty ends up in a lower level. Suddenly, she hears someone behind her and starts running. “Thunderbird” shows up. Shadowcat recognizes him as one of the Professor’s second group of X-Men; the very first to die. As they two engage in a fight, Kitty admits she’s been hearing stories about him from the rest of the team for years now – from Nightcrawler most recently. But Kitty and Thunderbird never knew each other so she’s not spooked!
Kitty is suddenly zapped by someone, although she avoids being harmed thanks to her phasing. The original “Captain Marvel” emerges. Kitty recognizes him as the now dead Kree warrior. As he talks in his native language, Kitty asks him if he can try that again in English. “Adam Warlock” appears behind her, explaining that what “Captain Marvel” said was “That was a warning shot but we cannot allow you to leave.” Seeing the three deceased superheroes moving against her, Kitty realizes this makes no sense. As she tries to escape by phasing through a wall, she realizes that the gem on “Warlock’s” forehead is somehow disrupting her phasing power. She then collapses face first to the floor.
Meanwhile, Storm is flying Wolverine and herself, the former carrying the med-kits they took from the hospital. Ororo again asks him how this isn’t stealing. Wolverine insists that taking those med-kits was justified, on account of Marrow’s condition. He urges her to consider what she had to do to survive growing up in Cairo. Ororo reminds him she was young: not an excuse but her past is behind her…
The duo is suddenly attacked by “Human Torch.” The “Torch” saw them breaking into a hospital, stealing drugs from innocent citizens and no such perfidy is committed on his turf! Furious, Storm asks him if he’s insane. He’d set entire city blocks, without a thought to the public welfare he professes to protect, just to incinerate them! She calls upon a winter wind to fend off his flame, short-circuiting the “Torch’s” suit mechanisms in the process. The “Thing,” however, appears behind Storm and fiercely punches her, calling her a cheater. She isn’t allowed to mess with the fascimilator mechanism like that. They’ve got rules here! Logan jumps on top of the “Thing,” telling him that game’s over. The duo starts fighting and both fall over the roof of a building, collapsing on the ground underneath.
At the same time, Kitty wakes up and finds herself contained in “Warlock’s” force-field. “Mar-Vell” asks her how she tracked them. Kitty replies she didn’t; she was just trying to… “Liar!” the fake Mar-Vell insists. They know they are being hunted. First, there was Nightcrawler in the cemetery and now her. They accuse her of being cruel, prepared to eliminate her own kind. They urge her to forget her conditioning and training. Even remodeled, her spirit remains the same. She is like them: a Skrull.
Back at the shed, Xavier informs the others that Kitty’s doppelganger is a Skrull. This is all he can ascertain for sure, though, since her psionic conditioning is alarmingly complete. Colossus realizes that this is, most likely, their homeworld. Nightcrawler insists it cannot be. According to their files, it was consumed by Galactus himself! Xavier deduces there’s only one possible explanation: they’ve been displaced in time as well as space. Between what little he was able to learn from the Skrull, he believes that the planet’s destruction is imminent. They must move quickly, all of them.
Peter, however, also informs them that Marrow is gone! Apparently, she was taken by Gambit, in search of the medical attention he seemed to think they were denying her. Kurt realizes they are alone on a hostile planet which grows more so with every passing moment. Xavier insists this is how they all are now. These Skrulls are a legion of alien soldiers committed to apparently infiltrating their world, even as the most powerful being in the universe makes his final approach.
In Galactus’ ship, his herald, Nova, informs him that all is in place, prepared for his arrival. Galactus replies that it best be. “Galactus hungers.”