Emma, Gambit and Storm are gathered around as Wolverine speaks with their surprise guest in the sewers, Spider-Man. “Nice sucker punch,” Wolverine starts with before threatening to knock the wall-crawler unconscious, face down in a puddle of sewer water. The unfazed Spidey says he misses Logan’s witty banter and believes they make up a classic comedy team when they work together, just like Laurel and Hardy.
“You’re about to be laughing out the other side of your--,” Logan starts, but Storm tells him to stand down. She wants to know if Spider-Man has any information that will prevent them from aimlessly wandering the sewers. Indeed he does, and Spidey starts off by explaining one of his loose ends.
Giving the rundown on his former mentor and friend Dr. Curt Conners Spider-Man discusses how his experimentation with limb regrowth led him to becoming the Lizard. He explains Conners eventually got in under control, but then a recent resurgence made things worse than ever. He tells them Conners’ mind was completely gone, only the mind of the Lizard remained. Not only that, he continues, but the Lizard was sending out brainwaves, creating human followers who behaved just like cold-blooded lizards, their bodies becoming lizard-like. After thwarting him once again Spider-Man thought Conners retreated to the sewers never to be seen again, but obviously he was wrong.
Calling Wolverine’s claws shrimp forks Spider-Man pleads with them not to attack these creatures, as they’re just innocent victims of Conners’ transformation. Wolverine argues these “victims” are still hurting people. Spider-Man agrees, but points out Conners is at the heart of it, and killing these creatures isn’t the solution.
Storm heads for a nearby ladder and starts to climb. She suggests they set up a field H.Q. topside to discuss and share information with Spider-Man. Emma smiles and whips out her cell phone. She says she’s going to call Warren to set up the reservations.
Three blocks away… Max’s room
It’s the wee hours of the morning and a young boy named Max sits in his darkened room playing some sort of medieval MMORPG, the wide screen monitor blaring it’s incandescent light on Max’s sweaty face. His room is littered with books, collectible action figures, and video game posters… a regular nerd’s paradise.
Via his headset Max yells commands at his warring party. He’s bickering with his online pals, annoying them profusely. One of them tells Max to shut up, but he takes it in stride and tells the “loser” to shut up too. Then the kid with the axe-wielding dwarf avatar, Lloyd, tells him they actually took a vote last night and they don’t want him in their party anymore.
Max reminds them he’s the one who formed the group and says they’d be nothing if they kick him out. Mr. Dwarf corrects him on one point. They’re not going to kick him out; they’re going to kill his character.
With that the Dwarf leaps into the air, but Max deflects the attack and the blade of the axe breaks off at the hilt. With his next move Max wraps up the bow-wielding elf and knocks back the magic user with some sort of force field. Max tells them they all suck and reminds them again who built this team.
Lloyd tells Max he’s the one who sucks and that everyone hates him, and that they only joined his party because Max promised them magic items. Max starts cursing up a storm and whoever’s behind the Elf complains that somebody needs to kill him soon or he/she’s going to miss the bus. That’s when Lloyd unleashes a +10 lawful-good holy relic dagger action and stabs Max’s character in the chest. His avatar explodes and Max flies back out of his seat in his room letting out a painful “Nooooooo!”
Max’s mom peers into the room and sees him face down at his desk muttering in defeat. Max is told to stop wasting his life and get to school. Max doesn’t seem to hear the parental complaints. Instead he says he’s going to get them all one day, he’ll show them.
When Emma sets up a hotel suite, she really sets up a hotel suite. Sitting on the plush couch, in a white bathrobe she sips a cup of tea while half a dozen people are streaming into the room setting up A/V equipment and providing some of the finer things in life. Storm is a bit put off by the extravagance, but Emma argues there’s no reason they can’t be comfortable while saving the world from all the evil whatnot.
Emma then takes this moment to point out Ororo’s plan isn’t working. So far they haven’t uncovered anything that ties these disappearances together. Storm rubs her hand along her forehead, Emma obviously getting on her nerves. She never expected super hero work to be so tedious. Then she contacts Cypher over the computer and asks him to run his analysis on the missing kids again to see if they missed anything.
Cypher goes over the details again, locals disappearing regularly up until three weeks ago, and then the disappearances stopped completely. Then in the last two days four missing teenagers in the same geographical area. None of his cross-referencing has brought anything up, he adds, pointing out they don’t go to the same school, belong to the same clubs and they’re of all different ethnicities.
Then Spider-Man returns to the room through an open window and jokes that this sounds like some really tedious superheroing. Storm, who’s already put off, is blunt with Spidey and asks if he found anything out about the boy. Spider-Man hands over a picture of Ronny Choi, age fifteen. He says the parents couldn’t tell him much; just that he was a good kid who did his homework. However, the neighborhood kids basically told him Ronny was a loser, often picked on.
Spider-Man turns to face the wall. He says he wanted to get smart with those kids, but he was too angry. Storm asks why, and Spidey says he doesn’t like it when kids are bullied because they’re an outcast and brings up the fact that he busts his butt all over the city every day just so the mayor can tell everybody how horrible he is.
Arguing the point Emma says there’s one thing that separates them from kids like that, and it’s that they’re fighters, they’re strong. Those youth like him are weak.
Max is on his way home from school when he comes across a trio of street punks. They call him tubby and ask where he’s going. Max knows where this is headed, but is powerless to stop them. The one with pink-spiked hair takes his backpack while the one with a shaved head and shades gives him a terrible wedgie. When the hooligans realize there’s nothing of value in the bag they dump out its contents. They then stomp on his glasses and punch him in the face for good measure.
Agreeing with Emma’s last point he says he knows the difference between heroes and the outcast youth, but points out he didn’t always have the proportionate strength of a spider. He just sees it as frustrating because what’s the point of saving them from Doc Ock or Galactus when their own classmates make their lives a living hell.
Ororo interrupts their debate on tortured youth and asks Emma about the girl she investigated, Beatrice Clark. Emma says she’s a seventeen year old clarinet player who lives with her grandmother. She was gentle, she cautions Ororo, but she went into the grandmother’s mind for more information. It turned out Beatrice was a social outcast, picked on by mean girls because of her bad clothes, worse skin and ugly shoes. Emma remarks that it’s not easy for a girl, especially one at that age.
“Huh,” Gambit comments and Emma wants to know what he means by that. Gambit’s just wondering what happens to the kids like that who think the whole world’s out to get them. “…where do they escape to?”
The door to Max’s room closes with a slam. He gets yelled at from his mom for doing it, but he tells her to leave him alone. He gets right onto the computer and logs into the web site everythingsux.com. He types in a message about how much he hates the inferior people he’s surrounded by.
Gambit, taking a look at the girl he investigated, says it’s plain to see the kids all have one thing in common; they’re at the bottom of the social food chain. His girl, sixteen year-old Mary Brooks, had no friends Gambit could find and those he talked to seemed not have been the kindest to Mary.
Gambit talks about his Nanna and how she said there wasn’t anything meaner than a teenage girl, and this was coming from a woman who killed water moccasins in the yard every summer with a rusty spade. Spider-Man interjects to exclaim his love of how folksy Gambit is.
Cypher interrupts them after compiling a new search based on the kids’ computer activity. There was only one uncommon website they all frequented and he’s found a disturbing pattern; all the kids spent hours talking to a user called DB001. Cypher says he’s compiling the transcripts, but it reads like a stalker’s how-to guide. Storm tells him to find out everything he can about DB001 and Cypher says he’s already on it, that the profile is a fake… but then he stops. DB001 is currently logged in and in private chat mode. He relays the news and Storm says she wants it up on her screen.
Max and DB001 are talking about meeting up. Max has finally agreed so DB001 starts giving him the directions. Storm realizes Max is in big trouble and has Emma connect her to Logan.
outside the O’Brien place
Ororo contacts Logan who says he just left the O’Brien place and got the impression their son was a nerd. “Old News,” Ororo replies as she fills him in on the situation. She says they’re on their way, but he’s closer and that Cypher will guide him.
Max takes a turn down a dark hallway, following DB001’s instructions to the letter. He’s supposed to find the door to the basement at the end of the hall, which he does in this tattered building. He heads to the door and slowly peers inside the darkened room.
The promises of a clubhouse filled with snacks, games and a mini-fridge become a shattered dream as a giant lizard tail wraps around his chest. It begins dragging him away despite his screams in protest. He begins to beg the lizard creature, but the creature, Lars, turns his head and tells Max to stop wriggling as its annoying him. When Lars turns his head back around he’s told by the figure in front of him to drop the chunk.
The ever so pleasant command comes from Wolverine who’s itching to fight. “You and me have business,” he states before leaping at the creature. Logan slices and dices, but the creature’s bulk proves too much. Wolverine is brought to his knees amongst the sewage and Lars makes good on his escape.
Wolverine tells him not to hurry as chasing him is only going to make him madder. Then he looks upward and sees a dozen lizard creatures coming down at him. The look of anger on his face turns to one of shock. He lets out a battle cry and does his best to fend them off, but the numbers soon overwhelm him.
The four missing children are locked up in some sort of holding cell. The O’Brien kid is trying to pick the lock, but Ronny tells him to knock it off before he makes “him” mad. O’Brien doesn’t want to wait around for that guy to do whatever he’s going to do to them so he’s just going to keep trying.
Beatrice is huddled in the corner crying that she wants to go back to her grandma. O’Brien says he would like to go to her grandma too, since anywhere is better than this place.
Ronny comes over and tells O’Brien he won’t be able to pick a lock with a chicken bone and suggest tearing off a sliver of it instead. The two boys start to bicker back and forth, which catches the attention of their captor. He tells the children to settle down in there while he plays around on his favorite web site. “After all, we’ll need a good supply of test subjects if we’re to continue Dr. Conners’ intriguing research.”
The man, or Lizard, in question is also being held prisoner, forced to wear some sort of electronic suit with wires and IV’s hooked up to his body.