This horrific landscape is not real. It is the realm of nightmare. And like all nightmares it can hold no terror save for those who are trapped within it. Those lost in the twisted terror of this deadly demiscape are the mighty Micronauts, heroes of the Microverse. They are not feeling very heroic at the moment.
Is this where you go when you die, Bug asks fearfully. Acroyear is sure that they survived their encounter with the Entity. Bug is not. Everything he remembers is hazy. Where the heck are they now? Wherever the Entity imprisoned them, Marionette concludes. There seems but one way to go for them, Huntarr observes. Down… into the abyss. The heroes try to stay together when, suddenly, they suffer from a psychic attack that smashes them down to where the weirdlings wait to separate them from each other.
He guesses they aren’t dead after all, Bug thinks, while he fends off the green monsters’ attack. Perhaps the Entity wants to kill them slowly now. After all, he displayed a sick sense of humor when he destroyed D’arnell. And now the joke’s on Bug. The weirdlings’ attack sends Bug sprawling in the slime. It covers him, envelops him and, within, a strange metamorphosis takes place. Changed, Bug hatches out. What once had been a two-legged insectivorid now crawls over the ground as an actual insect.
Finished with Bug, the weirdlings turn to Fireflyte. She is a psychic songstress. Her melodies attune her to the binding energy of the Microverse… the Enigma Force. Thus, her singing is both her weapon and her defense. But the weirdlings have arcane powers of their own, as they suck the soundwaves out of the very air. To be suddenly deprived of her song leaves the fairy-queen maiden quite helpless and she falls.
Acroyear, former king of Spartak, fears nothing that his energy-sword can slice. Encased in his Spartak forged armor, he is all but invincible. Thus, the assault upon him strikes at the spot no armor can shield: Acroyear’s heart. Suddenly, he sees his beloved wife, Cilicia, scaling the cliff near him. Heavy with child, she has set out into the wilderness to give birth alone after their people’s fashion. He fights off the weirdlings, intent on attending the birth of his firstborn son. He hears his wife, remembering that she considers him a traitor for having sacrificed their world to defeat Baron Karza. Still, with their child about to be born, perhaps her heart will soften towards him again.
Cilicia tells him that he is deluding himself Her heart harbors only hate for him. And the child shall be the instrument of his destruction. With a smile, she tells him that she will name him Shaitan. The Acroyears are an ebonskinned race, but occasionally an albino such as this child is born among them. Such children are considered harbingers of holocausts to come. The last such birth was Acroyear’s twin. His hatred for his black-skinned brother knew no bounds. It led to the destruction of Spartak. His name too was Shaitan. Acroyear stumbles backwards and falls.
Even as Acroyear succumbs to his own private horror, Huntarr, the living weapon, finds himself accosted. He who was human once, before Karza’s bodybanks made him into a monster, now finds himself surrounded by abhorrent abominations. He goads them to slay him, but why should they slay him, they ask. Whyever would they wish to slay one who is as much a horror as them? They do not attack him. They accept him. Overwhelmed by the horror of what he has become, the living weapon cries out for his lost humanity.
Elsewhere, Marionette shudders at his scream. She has lost sight of the others. She scales a cliff to find an arena. Just like the one on Homeworld, her poor plundered planet, where Baron Karza would hold grim and gruesome games sacrificing for sports all those considered ill-suited to terrible transformations in his diabolical body-banks. In escaping from that Arena, the Micronauts were born. There, she ceased being a pampered princess and became a warrior… adopting the name Marionette by way of deriding her former master, Karza, with the fact that she was a puppet of his no longer. As phantasmic observers – among them all her friends and loved ones – stare on, Marionette finds herself losing control, until she performs a lewd dance for the edification of the mob, acting for all the world like a puppet on a string.
Commander Arcturus Rann blames himself for having failed to anticipate an attack. A true leader would never have allowed his troops to become dispersed. He finds himself in a graveyard. Rann fancies himself a leader of men. From cadet to space glider, he trained for that task. And so today he is commander of the Micronauts. Now it appears that he has failed not only them… but himself as well. He sees the corpse of his beloved Mari lying in a grave before him. Bug lies in another grave… and Acroyear, Biotron, Devil, Microtron, Nanotron, Fireflyte, Slug, Pharoid, Argon. All Micronauts once. All dead now. Because of him. How can any man live with such a failure? Obviously, Arcuturus Rann cannot. He stumbles into an empty grave. Within him, his soul, his self-respect, shrivels and dies. In that he is not alone.
All the Micronauts fall. Their nightmare is over, but another one is about to begin as the Entity urges them to follow his voice to the light. They are drawn to his kindness and he heals them. They will serve him happily now.
At Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters Charles Xavier slumps exhausted over a computer console. His attempt to locate the Entity has given way to an irresistible need for sleep. The New Mutants pass him on the way from the swimming pool and Roberto slaps Danielle’s back with a wet towel. Dani threatens him in fun until Rahne asks both of them to be quiet.
In the Microverse, the Entity suddenly weakens.
On Earth, Rahne asks the others not to disturb the Professor. And, just as suddenly, the Entity regains his strength, vowing never to succumb to such weakness again. He shall see to it that he is responsible for these lapses is rendered incapable of causing them. And his mesmerized Micronauts will help him towards that goal.
They will first become a force that will ravage the Microverse and then the Macroverse. He gestures and the Micronauts are dressed in uniforms resembling those of the original X-Men. They’ll soon have a chance to prove themselves, the Entity announces, as others have been dispatched from Earth to oppose him.
Elsewhere the Bioship emerges from the Spacewall that forms the boundary between Microverse and Macroverse. Above the sentient starship, in place of its fellow Micronauts, is the group’s deadliest foe, Baron Karza and his new found allies, the Uncanny X-Men. Karza points towards the planets linked in the form of a molecular chain in front of them. Homeworld, seat of his power.
However, as the Bioship closes in on its destination and images from the planetary surface begin appearing, Nightcrawler’s mood turns sombre and he points out that it doesn’t seem to be a very joyful home. There was a rebellion against his lawful authority, Karza replies. He is merely taking steps to suppress such activities and ensure they do not recur.
Wolverine gets in his face, pointing out that’s not how Bioship tells it. He says Karza is the usurper who slaughtered Homeworld’s rightful rulers and set himself up as dictator. The accusation is hardly surprising, as the vessel is one of those rebels. Karza reminds the X-Men that one must occasionally join with the devil to defeat a common foe. If they deny him aid, it is not he who will suffer but the countless inhabitants of the Microverse. Storm announces that they gave their word and Colossus tells Kitty that Karza doesn’t care a whit about his people and cares less if they know it. Kitty, whose mind has been exchanged with Karza’s, replies that he’s right. Life under slavery is still better than dying.
None of the X-Men have realized Karza’s secret, as he is still able to animate his armor, due to his mental powers. The X-Men are distrustful of Karza, but see no alternative but to ally with him. What now, Wolverine asks.
Karza explains: the Entity controls the fringeworlds nearest the Spacewall - he evidently draws power from Earth, though Karza and Bioship were unable to pinpoint the Source. He is incredibly powerful and was capable of wiping out Karza’s fleet. But he is somehow linked to the X-Men. Perhaps through them they will be able to find a way of fighting him. In the meantime, he will remain behind on Homeworld to raise a new fleet should they fail.
Suddenly, Karza adds that such a battle is no place for a child and offers that Kitty Pryde should stay behind with him. “Kitty” agrees, claiming she is scared. Storm doesn’t believe that. After all, she faced the Brood, Morlocks and even Dark Phoenix without flinching. Kitty stays with the X-Men. “Kitty” silently swears. She’ll be of no use to anyone in that child’s form.
Karza’s armor bids them adieu and Bioship warps out of the Homeworld system, while the teleport beam deports Karza’s body, now inhabited by Kitty’ mind, into the noisesome body banks, overseen by Karza’s chief scientist and minister, Degrayde.
Kitty perceives everything, but is unable to speak or move. Degrayde approaches his master and notices hat he neither moves nor speaks. He senses an opportunity to finally gain power himself. Suddenly, an image of Karza appears, calling him traitor. Degrayde debases himself and the Karza-image orders him to treat his armor as he would himself. The slightest disrespect and he will regret it. He is also to restore the bodybanks to full operational capability and create an army of Dog Soldiers, the like of which the cosmos has never seen. If he has to sacrifice every inhabitant of the Microverse in order to crush the Entity, then he shall.
Meanwhile, the Bioship informs the X-Men that they are nearing their destination. It can tell, as it is telepathically linked to Arcturus Rann. That bond was broken when it and Karza fled to Earth after their initial defeat but, since returning, it has sensed him once more and is capable of homing in on Rann.
“Kitty” notices Storm staring at her and wonders if the X-Men’s leader suspects. Storm indeed wonders why Karza was so concerned about Kitty. She wishes they had a telepath around and asks Bioship if the telepathic link is reciprocal. Bioship agrees that Rann should be aware of it. It tells the X-Men to brace themselves for landing, and land they do… hard.
They find out that the ship seems to be in the robot equivalent of a coma, as they step outside where they are surrounded by huge blades of grass. It is as though they’re six inches tall. The Entity used Bioship’s link with Rann, Storm fears and suspects that this is a trap. She exclaims in wonder, as she finds a replica of Xavier’s school.
Wolverine informs them that this is their lawn. The facsimile is so perfect it fools even his senses. As they reach the house, Storm orders Kitty to go ahead and reconnoiter. “Kitty” stammers, as Karza doesn’t properly know how to sue her powers. Colossus decides to provide the entrance by using his strength to destroy the door. Wolverine tells the others the scents are still correct and Colossus wonders if the mansion has been shrunk and transported to the Microverse as well. Nightcrawler asks the other if they don’t feel s a sense of wrongness. Actually, a voice announces, a more appropriate description would be “evil.”
Before them, the diminutive X-Men see what seems to be Professor Xavier surrounded by the Micronauts dressed in X-Men uniforms. “Xavier” welcomes them to Xavier’s Alternate School for Gifted Youngsters and announces that he has gathered the Micronauts to serve as their replacement and orders the Micronauts to attack the much smaller X-Men.
The mutants scatter and fight for their lives, even though they notice that the Micronauts are responding too slowly. They seem to be familiar with the X-Men’s tactics but not their specific moves. That realization doesn’t help. What manner of being knows them so well to mimic their reality so perfectly? Nightcrawler wonders, as he is caught by Acroyears. Storm, too, hesitates and is incapacitated by Fireflyte’s scream, leaving only “Kitty” free. But Karza is caught before he can escape and “Xavier” gathers Kitty’s form up as he shifts back to the form of the Entity. He announces that all lives are toys to him and, with these X-Men, once he has broken their spirits, he shall play such a game as will shake the universe to its very foundation!
On Homeworld, the form of Karza screams. Degrayde asks what is wrong and his superior mocks his solicitude before cryptically announcing that he is free once more in body and mind… free to finally act!