It dominates the tiny Floridian island in the Big Pine Keys. It is a huge mansion, and for scientist, author and mediagenic star of countless daytime talk shows, Jonathan Chambers, it is as much fortress as home. And, if his plans bear fruit, it will become more than a fortress - it will be a refuge, a haven, and ultimately, prison, to mutants from all over the world. Though, others might have something to say about that. One this such night, the moon shines bright over the darkened island as a speedboat approaches the shore. Two mysterious figures leap from the boat into the shallows of the water. ‘Fan out’ one of them exclaims, before creating a rumbling, which raises him out of the water - it is Dominic Petros, better known as Avalanche - who rides a wave of dirt from the ocean floor up towards the top of the fortress. ‘Let’s see what this place has in the way of security…I’ll see you on the roof. Try to keep it quiet’ he tells his companion.
‘Humm’ a half-robot, half-man mutters as he leaps from the water with a powerful force, and latches onto the side of the mansion with his feet. ‘You call that quiet?’ he asks, as he climbs up onto the roof. ‘Took you long enough’ Avalanche remarks, adding that, for them, that was quiet. Looking around the strange landscape, they see a garden filled with various statues, Avalanche suggests that now they are here, and not getting hassled by anyone, they should see what they can do about getting someone’s attention. ‘Ironic. Someone getting so rich off mutants’ Avalanche’s companion remarks, when suddenly, from a balcony, a voice calls out ‘No more ironic, Mr Bohannon, than a mutant being used to stop me…’.
Suddenly, there is an explosion, ‘Incoming!’ the cyborg exclaims as he falls backwards. ‘Like an earthquake - but I thought that was my job?’ Avalanche remarks, before fire spreads around him. ‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ Avalanche asks his companion, who replies that his sensors are scrambled, explaining that there is a flux in the electromagnetic spectrum. Rising up out of the flames on another wave of dirt, Avalanche declares that there is a lot more than that, before he sees four certain individuals ahead of him: ‘Just like I thought - we’ve met the enemy, and what do you know - the enemy is us!’ Avalanche exclaims. His companion has been knocked out and lies at the feet of the enemies - as Avalanche sees his old companions and declares ‘Toad - Pyro - Blob - and her I have no idea! The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!’
At that moment, Toad a.k.a. Mortimer Toynbee leaps towards Avalanche, while Pyro a.k.a. St John Allerdyce, once a very close friend of Avalanche’s exclaims ‘Got three out of four right - the babe is Phantazia - just like we got you right, don’t we Dominic? The outsides are different, but the insides ain’t!’ He then adds ‘It’s Avalanche and Crimson Commando, now, isn’t it?’, to which the cyborg gets to his feet and replies that it is just Commando now. ‘Feels like any crimson I had was bled out of me. Remember?’ The Blob a.k.a. Fred Dukes lumbers forward and asks ‘How could we forget, Bohannon? For leaving me and Pyro to rot in the Mid-East a couple of months back - you’re gonna DIE!’ the Blob grabs Commando a.k.a. Frank Bohannon by his neck, and Commando explains that he already has died for what happened there. ‘Did you?’ he asks the Blob.
Suddenly a voice calls out, ‘Put him down, Frederick’. Everyone turns to see a man with long blond hair, wearing an exotic kimono standing in the garden. He adds ‘After all, not only are they old friends of yours…but their reason for being here will ensure that they will soon become my friends as well’. He adds that most certainly Mr Bohannon and Mr Petros will choose life over death, and in choosing so, will work with them, not against them.
Meanwhile, at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, in Westchester, New York. For the mutants who live here, it has become as much a barricade as home. And if things continue as they recently have, if this deadly new virus borne on winds of hate and revenge continues to spread, then this home will also become a sanctuary, a hospital, and possibly a tomb. Though, others may have something to say about that, as Dr Henry “Hank” McCoy a.k.a. the Beast, Sean “Banshee” Cassidy, Professor Charles Xavier and Dr Moira MacTaggert stand in a laboratory and look at a hologram of the planet Earth. Charles reports that the glowing points indicate the most recent reports of the Legacy Virus. Moira adds that of the five new casualties today, the only positive identification is of an Iraqi military agent named Aminedi. ‘The disease Stryfe unleashed is spreading across the world - isn’t it?’ Banshee asks.
The Beast confirms that it has, and adds that Magneto was right, and there is nothing they can do about the dreaded disease, except watch it kill off innocent mutants one by one. ‘Do you really believe that, Hank?’ Charles asks. ‘Why of course not, Charles - how else am I to get you to treat me like a man of weight and substance - unless I act as a morally perturbed and angst-ridden as everyone else in this room?’ Hank replies. Charles reminds Hank that he has already apologized for Moira and for himself, for not having originally consulted him regarding the virus when they first suspected its existence. ‘We did not want to burden any of you unduly’ Charles points out. The Beast remarks that Illyana Rasputin is already dead, and adds that, naturally, he doesn’t blame Charles or Moira for that, but that they cannot deny anymore that the longer they dawdle, the more mutants may become infected. ‘If we don’t find a way to deter the spread of the virus soon, who knows how many more may die?’ Hank asks. And as if on cue, Hank, Moira, Sean and Charles grimly watch, as their medical scanner registers one more flashing light - one more victim claimed.
Nearby, in the Danger Room, ‘So…who would like to go first?’ asks the enigmatic new member of the X-Men, Revanche. The Danger Room is a highly sophisticated training center for the development of an individual’s mutant abilities, and once learned, it is where the residents of Xavier’s Mansion, come to hone their strategic maneuvers and battle tactics. Rogue hovers overheard, while Remy “Gambit” LeBeau stands to one side, and young Jubilation Lee, better known simply as “Jubilee”, exclaims ‘Give it yer best shot, y’British hoighty-toidy tea-sippin’ blood-puddin’ eating telepathic ninja - you!’, while Gambit tells Revanche that she can feel free to start with Jubilee.
Revanche tells Gambit that is very gallant of him, but explains that the point of the exercise is to determine what course of action to take during a flight or fight situation. Her sword becomes charged with psychic energy, and Revanche smiles, declaring that when she is placed in a do or die situation, she plans to take out as many opponents as she possibly can, and lunging towards Gambit exclaims that she starts with the best and works her way down. Gambit flips himself over, narrowly missing Revanche’s sword, before he throws some kinetically-charged playing cards and replies that he has been wondering why it is she uses a language that is as pretty as she is, but calls herself “Revenge”.
Revanche explains that she has had enough wrongs done to her in her lifetime, that the name simply seemed appropriate. She flips over the cards, which explode against a wall, and as Jubilee sees Revanche approaching her, mutters ‘Oh - thanks fer nothing, Cajun! You missed her!’, but Revanche shoves her psychic-sword into Jubilee and tells her that it is time she learned to fend for herself, and to be thankful that her psychic blade is forged from just a fragment of her telepathic abilities. Jubilee screams, and then as the blade is released from her, she clutches her head, mumbling ‘Oh, maaan - mondo-Excedrin headache tonight! When am I ever gonna start fighting better?’
‘Come now, no need to run away now, is there?’ Gambit calls out as Revanche rushes down a corridor, flipping herself about so she dodges his kinetic-cards. Revanche tells Gambit that there is between running from and running to - but suddenly, Rogue appears, tackling Revanche from the side, she tells her that she has just run into a whole heap of trouble. Revanche is surprised to see Rogue, and admits that she didn’t think she would move so quickly. ‘Yeah, but Ah did’ Rogue replies, before asking Revanche if she is interested in trying that mind-scramble on her, or if she is too scared of what she might find inside Rogue’s head. Revanche hangs her head, ‘One out of three. I am disappointed. I expected to do better’ she remarks. ‘Ah didn’t Rogue tells her, before asking whose turn it is too be “it”. Rogue asks Jubilee if she is up for it, to which the young mutant replies ‘Yeah, shoor - peachy - once my head stops bulging like one of Stallone’s biceps!’
Up in the control booth, Scott “Cyclops” Summers tells Jean Grey that he doesn’t know if he is comfortable with this. ‘And you think I am?’ Jean asks, pointing out that it is Betsy’s decision. Scott explains that he thinks the Professor should be involved, but Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock tells Scott that they shouldn’t bother Charles about this. She adds that after her romantic advances towards Scott almost cost him his and Jean’s relationship, she needs to find out if it was her, Elizabeth Braddock who controlled her actions, or the portions of her memory derived from the Hand assassin called Kwannon. ‘So I would rather just keep this between us, if you don’t mind’ Betsy explains.
Jean points out that from what they learned in Japan, Betsy and Revanche both have half each other’s minds, so their personalities have merged, and asks what happens if they learn that the other half is dictating her actions. ‘What do any of us do if we find out we have a disease festering inside us?’ Betsy asks, turning away. ‘You fight it, Betsy!’ Cyclops declares. ‘I do. You do. But there are millions of people infected with HIV, cancer and Lord knows how many other diseases…each and every one must make their own decisions and cope in their own ways in order to deal with just existing’ Betsy replies. She tells Scott that there are no simple answers, but that she does agree with him, if Jean is able to telepathically probe her mind, and they do find out that her thoughts and deeds are not of her own volition, but controlled by an intruder, she will fight for her right to self-determination with every ounce of will she possesses in her body.
‘Fine then’ Cyclops mutters, before pointing out that Betsy seems to have some hefty psychic barriers built up, which have prevented them from telepathically scanning her before. Jean reveals to Scott that she could have done it, and so could the Professor, for that matter, but they chose note to out of respect for Psylocke’s privacy. Jean places her hands on either side of Betsy’s head and remarks that the fact she’s willing to let her do this only makes it easier, though no less painful. Jean tells Betsy to get ready, as this is going to hurt. ‘I am…prepared’ Betsy replies.
Inside Psylocke’s mind:
A brisk wind cuts through the tall grass at Malden. Young Brian Braddock runs ahead of his sister, teasing her. He is faster, stronger, so Betsy mutters a wholly unladylike curse beneath her breath. Proper British children shouldn’t think such thoughts. But Betsy Braddock was never much one for the trappings of English society. And now, in the playgrounds of her mind, Betsy has an option she never had as a child - the ability, strength and savagery to act out her childish frustrations. She pulls out a sword, and slices her brother down the middle of his body. Inside her mind, Brian Braddock doesn’t even have a chance to scream - but Jean Grey does - and most surprisingly of all, so does Betsy.
Reality: As quietly as it started, the mental surgery ends with a piercing scream, and a painful revelation. ‘What happened?’ Cyclops calls out as he rushes over to Jean, who rubs her head. Jean turns to Betsy - “Elizabeth” she calls out, but Betsy replies ‘Do not call me that anymore, Jean. Because now we both know that is not who I am…’, before she leaves the control room. ‘What is it?’ Scott asks Jean. ‘What did you see?’ he asks as he takes Jean in his arms. Jean explains that they are one and the same - joined together - to the root - to the core of their being - Kwannon and Betsy Braddock are completely link in body and soul. Betsy stands outside the door, listening as Cyclops asks how she can live with being half of two people and a whole of neither. ‘I don’t know, Scott…I really don’t know if she can’ Jean answers.
One tortured soul deals with the painful truth of her discovery, while in the Florida Keys, another discovers the inevitability of a painful truth…. Pyro stands on the balcony, coughing and spluttering, as Avalanche approaches his old friend and asks him if he is okay. ‘Just ducky’ Pyro mutters. Dominic tells John that he is sorry about leaving him and Fred behind in the Mid-East. ‘I’m not going to pretend it didn’t hurt, Dom. And here I thought we were mates and all’ John replies. ‘We were - we are - but Commando was dying!’ Dominic reminds John, adding that at that time, the army was not about to engage in hostilities for the likes of a few mutants trying to get early parole by doing the government’s dirty work.
John spins around and tells Dominic that he knows, but that it is one thing to get sent on a suicide mission, and another to find out that the cheeky buzzards meant it. Dominic asks John how he and the Blob got out, to which John reveals that they promised the commanding officer that they would be his bodyguard - and they were, until the Toad showed up and bartered for them. Dominic puts a hand on John’s shoulder and tells him that he is lucky he survived. ‘And I’m glad you did, bud’ he adds. ‘Oh, sure. Me, too. Just thrilled’ John mutters, turning away.
Inside, Toad stares out the large windows, watching Avalanche and Pyro on the balcony, while Phantazia stands nearby and asks him if this “Avalanche person” can help St John. Toad replies that he won’t be able to physically, but with any luck, emotionally, it will give him a close friend to turn to. ‘Are they kissing, yet?’ the Blob asks, sitting slumped over on a sofa, cartons and tins of food laid out before him on a table. Commando sits on a chair, watching his former Freedom Force teammate, while Phantazia shows a rare glimpse of emotion and smiles, asking Blob if he is jealous. ‘What I am is sick of your snide attitude, Ms PhD!’ the Blob retorts.
Suddenly, ‘Enough!’ shouts Jonathan Chambers as he walks into the living area, and tells the Blob that when he is in his home, he is not to act as if reliving his carnival days. ‘Ah, what’re you gonna do about it, Chambers?’ the Blob asks, unimpressed. ‘Smack me down with what? Strong cologne?’ the Blob suggests. ‘No, Frederick - something quite harsher than that…’ Chambers replies, as he releases a powerful green energy from his mouth which strikes the Blob, knocking the behemoth back. Chambers adds that if physical violence is the only language the Blob can understand, then he should taste a small portion of the agony being felt all over the world, by those too weak to stand under the crushing heel of boors such as he.
Blob looks anguished as he clutches at his face, before Toad rushes over and asks Chambers to stop, and what is he doing to him. Jonathan Chambers addresses Toad by his given name, Mortimer, and apologizes to them all for displaying his own mutant abilities in such a brusque manner and explains that the life he is trying to forge on this island refuge for those in pain, is necessary because of people with attitudes like the Blob’s. ‘Hearing his venomous thoughts in regards to Mr Petros’ friendship with St John irritated me more than I should have let it’ Chambers admits, adding that he seeks only to create a haven for those in pain here, not a prison, or a morgue. He declares that those mutants afflicted with this spreading disease must consider his island - his Empyrean - a bluer slice of Heaven on Earth. Glancing out the window, Chambers states that he cannot allow the gates of this sanctuary to be opened by those with closed minds.
Outside, however, a small boat bobs up and down on the water, and two men wearing DEA jumpsuits stand on it. One of them looks through binoculars up at the island, before his companion addresses him as Mr Cleary and asks if Commando’s open channel is continuing to transmit. Clearly tells Henry Gyrich that it is, but not smoothly. He explains that the woman, Phantazia, emit’s a constant electromagnetic field, not enough to obliterate their signals, but enough to diffuse their integrity. Clearly reveals that while Phantazia was sleeping, they managed to obtain photographs of the two civilian doctors Chambers has on the island. He hands over two red-hued photographs and reveals that the man is Dr Josef Kleinbaumm, and the woman Dr Nancy Alter.
Gyrich puts the photos into a file labelled “Chambers” and asks why they are there, as nothing on record indicates Chambers is ill. ‘And why are the Brotherhood there as well?’ Gyrich adds. ‘Isn’t that what Project: Wideawake is trying to find out, Sir? Isn’t that what our agents - considering their past relationship with the Brotherhood - were sent in to find out?’ he asks. But Gyrich tells Clearly not to expect their agents to return anytime soon, as he is afraid what they are about to discover on Mr Chambers’ island is far more compelling than their loyalty to Project: Wideawake.
At that moment, the X-Men’s Blackbird cuts low over the Eastern Seaboard, and those inside the craft wonder why they have even undertaken this late night excursion. Cyclops and the Beast are at the controls, while Rogue and Gambit are seated behind them. Revanche and Psylocke are at the back of the jet, with Betsy sitting as far away from Revanche as she can. The Beast asks Cyclops to remind him why the Professor wants them to crash a private island in the Keys. ‘Looking for what? Pray tell?’ he asks. ‘Mutant back massagers? Some maddened mutant-mixologist, concocting the perfect margarita?’ the Beast jokes. ‘Not quite’ Cyclops replies, explaining that they decided it was time to pay a visit to someone the Professor has been keeping an eye on.
A hologram of Jonathan Chambers appears, and Cyclops explains that he is a media scientist, and that his second book on mutants, “Fatal Attractions”, has been on the best-seller list for six weeks. Cyclops remarks that it was called by critics an “honest attempt to bridge the gap between man and mutant kind”. ‘I’m quoting the book jacket there’ Scott adds, before revealing that Chambers has been making the rounds of the talk shows. Someone announces that they have read the book, and calls it quite entertaining pop psychology, while Scott explains that Chambers even got hit by a chair on the Geraldo Show, and that he uses a combination of good looks, smooth talking and emotional poignancy to get his message across.
Rogue asks Cyclops what that message is, to which he replies ‘Unity. Harmony, the same ideals espoused by the Professor. Sees Chambers’ father, Timothy Chambers, was a mutant who couldn’t control his powers’ Cyclops explains, revealing that the father died in a car crash when Jonathan was just thirteen. A hologram appears, showing the father at age thirty-eight, and Cyclops points out that he looks old and frail, three decades older than he really was, but no one knows why. Cyclops continues, explaining that with the money earned from the book, Jonathan Chambers purchased a resort - and entire island, whose previous owner was the CEO of a company which was indicted as a front for the Advanced Ideas Mechanics. ‘The weapons developers? Means the house is probably quite a bit more than a house’ Gambit points out.
‘That was confirmed when Chambers hired two leading scientists to work for him on the island’ Cyclops announces, as holograms of the two scientists appear. He points out that one of those scientists is Dr Nancy Alter, part of the Professor’s “underground railroad” of mutant sympathizers. Psylocke asks what Chambers’ purpose in doing all of this is, to which Cyclops tells her that they don’t have enough information to answer that one, but that what really raised the red flag for the Professor and got them involved was that tonight, Dr Alter called in and told him that the island has some new residents - the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. ‘So when the slugs come out after a hard rain - then’s the best time to put a little salt on ‘em, eh?’ Gambit suggests. But Cyclops tells Gambit that this is not a search and destroy mission, that they are solely here to gather information and introduce themselves to Mr Chambers.
‘While sending him a none-too subtle message at the same time, right, Scotty?’ the Beast remarks, adding that the Professor’s motives and methods certainly do become more and more interesting. Cyclops points out that subtlety has never been their strong suit, but that in light of everything that has been happening lately, the idea of nipping a potential problem in the bud does sound pretty appealing. ‘So let’s take the scissors out…and start nipping’ Gambit declares. As the Blackbird descends over the small island, Cyclops tells everyone to take into account that the X-Men called ahead and are expected as guests. ‘Of course, just because we forgot to put Gambit, Psylocke and Revanche on the invitation list…doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get a chance to see what Mr Chambers’ island has to offer. They’ll just have to use the back door…while the rest of us smile and use the front’ Cyclops explains.
Gambit, Betsy and Revanche are dropped off, and start to make their way through knee-high swamp water, while the Blackbird lands on a open patch of grass. ‘My, but we have been to the most interesting places lately, haven’t we?’ the Beast points out as he examines the surroundings. Chambers is standing on a balcony, and calls out ‘Dr McCoy, your fame precedes you. And your associates…I assume are Rogue and Cyclops? I extend a hand of friendship and I welcome you to Empyrean!’ he declares. The Beast remarks that it would appear, of late, that everyone seems to be happily willing to offer the X-Men passage through the pearly gates, adding that he likes the looks of this one most of all. Chambers suggests to the X-Men that they must spend the night and see the island come sunrise.
At that moment, ‘How is it that no one was able to detect that modified SR-71 until it landed?’ Gyrich demands, slamming his binoculars onto the ship, before turning to Cleary and another associate. One of them points out that nothing registered on their scanners, and the other suggests the ship was probably cloaked. ’Of course she is! That’s the X-Men’s craft!’ Gyrich mutters, before wondering why the X-Men are here. ‘Same reason we are, maybe?’ one of the others suggests. Gyrich looks at his broken binoculars while one of the others reports that the file indicates the X-Men and the Brotherhood don’t have the best of relations, and suggests that they should sit tight, and perhaps the X-Men and Brotherhood will do Project: Wideawake’s job instead - by taking each other out. ‘Good point’ Gyrich replies, dropping his broken binoculars into the water, he decides that they will see how this develops.
Meanwhile, Betsy turns her head curiously, while Gambit informs his teammates that he has found a back door. In truth, he has found some exhaust vents, and sword ready, Psylocke point out that someone is cooling down the sub-levels. Revanche adds that it appears the sub-levels are quite far down, from the strength of the fans. Gambit adds that the generators are pumping out some very hot air, while Psylocke suggests they go down there. ‘Venture into dark, windy tunnels with the two of you? Lordy, but a naughty boy’s dreams can come true’ Gambit exclaims, smiling.
Trudging through ankle-deep water this time, Psylocke leads the way and tells Gambit that he is obnoxiously incorrigible. ‘But think of how much fun it would be to corrige me’ Gambit replies, to which Psylocke tells him that there is no such word, but that if there were, it would be Rogue’s painful responsibility, not theirs. Sword still raised ready, Betsy adds ‘But which, though, would be the lesser of two evils - you - or what lies before us?’
In the library, Chambers lies back on a sofa, while the Beast remarks ‘Nice place, huh?’, and Cyclops tells his teammates to remind him to write a book one day. Chambers explains that the previous owner had excessive tastes, while adding that a book written by Cyclops would certainly be of interest to him. ‘I have heard about your adventures through scurrilous rumor and the slanted perceptions of the media. But the opportunity to meet some of you, I must say, is quite satisfying’. The Beast then quotes a passage from Chambers’ book: “What makes these X-Men tick, I have often wondered? Not just from a biological, but a physiological perspective as well. Why do we ignore their will to survive, and their willingness to fight for their noble cause? Shouldn’t we, instead, be applauding their efforts and embrace their cause?”
‘Chapter eight, was it?’ Chambers asks, now walking around the library. ‘Seven, actually. Page two-ten. Paragraph four’ the Beast corrects him. Cyclops tells Chambers that they are beautiful words, but asks if he actually means them. ‘If you had seen my father’s body after he died, Cyclops, you wouldn’t be asking that question…’ Chambers responds. Cyclops takes a seat and tells Chambers that he would like to believe him - love to believe him - but he doesn’t know how he can, when solely through guilt by association, the sincerity of words can be called into question. Chambers tells Cyclops not to be coy with him, and asks if he is referring to his acquaintance with the Brotherhood. ‘Speaking of whom, isn’t it rather cumbersome to sweep them under the rug when company arrives?’ the Beast asks, perched on the back of a sofa. Chambers narrows his eyes and replies that he has nothing to hide, that the Brotherhood is here, and the last he saw of them, they were in the sub-basement labs.
Indeed, at that moment, Betsy, Gambit and Revanche are confronted by Toad, the Blob, Pyro and Phantazia, as well as Avalanche and Commando. ‘Now, Revanche, my dear - what was that choice you made in the Danger Room workout yesterday?’ Gambit asks. ‘A meeting between opposing forces can be construed as an unwritten contract, Gambit’ Revanche replies, as the Toad leaps towards her and Betsy, and Pyro releases a large flaming demon towards Gambit. Commando also starts firing at Gambit, while Avalanche, Blob and Phantazia hold back. Revanche continues: ‘A promise between both parties to surrender their life, if need be, to the obligations of the battle. And it even says in the wedding vows - til death do us part!’ she exclaims. Gambit replies that he has had some experience with those vows, and frankly, found that particular part not to is liking at all. ‘But maybe I’ll like your version better - if the parting is on their end, and not ours’ Gambit suggests as he throws some kinetically-charged playing cards.
Gambit adds that, ironically enough, he is here with three cards to deal, and they are three of a kind. ‘But even my usual perfect charm and perfect aim is only going to hold these boys back for a minute’ he points out as his three cards take out Commando, Avalanche and Pyro. Revanche shoves her psychic blade into Toad, ‘Forcing the letch to confront his own failings and fears’ she exclaims, while Betsy shoves her psi-knife into Phantazia’s head, forcing the mysterious mutant to confront her own. Suddenly, and elevator sounds, and the door is blown off by optic blast, as Cyclops, Rogue and the Beast arrive. ‘Don’cha just hate being the last ones invited to the party?’ Rogue asks, while the Beast remarks that he thought all the fun was upstairs, with the tea and crumpets crowd. ‘Anyone have the slightest clue what the ruckus is all about?’ he asks. Cyclops replies that it is the usual reasons - opposing forces colliding.
‘Pick your targets, people!’ Cyclops orders. ‘Oh my, so many to choose from, too’ the Beast jokes, while Rogue punches Avalanche hard, shouting ‘Ah got Avalanche - new armor and all - he still takes a punch real well!’, while the Beast leaps towards his opponent: ‘And this lad, I can assume, is Crimson Commando? Off to find them here…since our government contacts told us…they were in the employ of Project: Wideawake’ the Beast remarks. This surprises Pyro, who asks ‘What did you say, McCoy? Our mates’re working for the government?’, to which Cyclops asks Pyro if he didn’t know that - Avalanche and Commando were sent in to align themselves with the Brotherhood and put whatever is going on here out of commission.
Suddenly, a voice booms ‘NO! I will not have my work disrupted!’ an one by one, the mutants are struck by a powerful force - Cyclops. Avalanche. Beast. Rogue. Psylocke. Pyro. Blob. Commando. Phantazia. Gambit. Revanche. Toad. A figure with glowing green eyes radiates energy, while on the boat outside, ‘Whoa - someone on the island is spitting out some very strange energy’ one of the Project: Wideawake officials announces. Someone else asks if they can get any kind of a reading on it, to which the first replies that they are trying, but that the second the flare hit, every single energy signature on the island spiked up on their readouts. ‘Someone…or something…is causing every mutie on the island to spew out their powers!’
Jonathan Chambers stands at the entrance to the sub-basement, and with debris all around, the mutants start to get to their feet. Chambers tells them that he is truly sorry, but that they left him little choice. ‘Empyrean is not only my home, but my presence of character and my methods of healing - by bringing peace to any soul who is not at rest - to stop the fighting between mutant kind by stopping the very usage of their powers - to drain any battle situation of the very energies needed to fuel it’. Cyclops asks Chambers if he has the ability to leap their powers and absorb them into himself, before enquiring as to what is really going on here. ‘You twits’re daft. Didn’t you hear what he said?’ Pyro exclaims, pointing out that this place is a haven, a refuge, and hospital if need be, a peaceful final resting place.
‘But for whom, Pyro?’ the Beast asks. ‘For the condemned, McCoy. For all the ones who’re waiting to die’ Pyro declares, as he pulls back his mask, asking them if they all get it now. The X-Men, Brotherhood, Avalanche and Commando all stare at Pyro’s reveal, as the Beast gasps ‘Oh my stars and garters’. Pyro’s neck is diseased, he announces that this place is going to become a leper colony for mutants with the Legacy Virus - mutants whose powers are going to destabilize, little by little, until they flare out and die. ‘And three bloody guesses who this hospital’s fist patient is!’ Pyro adds. The Beast asks Pyro if he realizes that Chambers is a mutant, too, to which the Toad exclaims ‘We’re not idiots, McCoy! We know that - we were all just witnesses to it!’
The Beast spins around and grabs Toad by his neck, enquiring as to whether the Brotherhood have asked where the powers and energies which Chambers drains in order to provide the stricken with temporary peace, go? ‘Or, was it simply too convenient for all of you not to ask? Because in asking, you would realize they go into Chambers himself!’ the Beast exclaims. ‘To perpetuate the biblical connections which abound, your Empyrean is nothing more than a succubus! Chambers is, simply put, an energy vampire!’ Empyrean moves down towards the other mutants, now wearing an extravagant golden costume with an elaborate headpiece, he declares ‘Though as overly dramatic in its own way as the clothes we drape on ourselves to set us apart from the rabble - all that you say is true, Henry…to one extent or another…’.
‘And what extents would those be?’ Cyclops asks. Empyrean places his hands on Pyro and replies ‘To the extent that my leeching St John of his ambient energies brings him nothing but comfort - it eases his pain - and I could do that for so many more of our kind - those infected now by this deadly disease and those who are, most surely, to come!’ The Beast hangs his head and asks Empyrean what if his actions result in Pyro’s sudden death, to which Empyrean declares that is what they are endeavouring to find out here. ‘By using any mutant who needs your help as guinea pigs in your lab experiments?’ Rogue declares. Empyrean frowns and asks her how else she suggests they find a cure, other than scientifically studying those currently afflicted by the virus.
Empyrean states that if one life must be lost to save a hundred, or one hundred to save one hundred thousand, then that is the price which must be paid. ‘That’s easy to say, Chambers. But much harder to accept if you’re one of the dying’ Cyclops points out. ‘But I am one of the dying, mate! And he’s helped me. I was in pain every day since I first got this virus’ Pyro announces, adding that Chambers has helped east that pain. ‘But he is USING you, St John’ the Beast explains. ‘And I’M using HIM, McCoy!’ Pyro retorts. ‘I’m the one who’sdying here! Can’t I at least be given the bloody dignity of choosing how I’m going to die?’ Pyro asks.
‘ENOUGH TALKING’ a voice cries out, as a blade is throw at the feet of Cyclops, Pyro and Empyrean. It’s Revanche, and she tells the X-Men that they must leave here now. ‘We have no right to be judging these people, their motives or their decisions’ she points out, adding that they must leave and consider this a situation beyond their ability to control or dominate. Cyclops tells Revanche that he is not sure they can do that, and asks her why she feels so strongly about this. Revanche replies that she has two reasons, firstly, because she has had her life ripped apart - her sense of self-determination and even her sense of self, denied her by this situation with Kwannon. Revanche points out that she knows how helpless Pyro, and anyone else must feel, for that reason alone.
Revanche continues with her second reason, staring that there is another, more pressing matter which qualifies her to declare her opinion here - and lowering her costume, she reveals her upper chest, ‘For quite obviously, X-Men, I have contracted the Legacy Virus as well!’ Revanche reveals. ‘My God…’ Psylocke utters as everyone goes silent. Frowning, Revanche turns to Psylocke, and addressing her as Kwannon, mocks ‘It does rather appeal to you, doesn’t it?’, before Psylocke walks over to her, and embraces her, the two women hug.
‘Your Revanche is right, Cyclops’ Empyrean calls out, adding that the choice how one dies must be made, whenever possible, solely by oneself. He adds that he doesn’t deny for one minute that maybe - just maybe - he has some ulterior motive for developing this haven for stricken mutants - such as his own personal profit which may be gained by their suffering. ‘But having said that, what difference does it really make what I get out of it - if what those ailing mutants get in return is comfort of body and peace of mind?’ Empyrean asks.
Shortly, the mutants are outside, as helicopters hover around the island, high-intensity beams of light shining down on the island, as Cyclops tells Chambers that his speech may have worked nicely down below, but it looks like he may have to polish it up a little for the authorities. The Beast notices the DEA - Drug Enforcement Agency - markings and asks Chambers if he is also involved in the smuggling of illicit narcotics into this fair country. ‘Very funny, McCoy. We both know the markings are simply a front for who these agents truly represent. The forces within our government who would oppress our kind at every opportunity’ Chambers replies.
The choppers land, and as some figures step out, Chambers calls out to them, asking them if they have a warrant, as this is private property. Gyrich approaches Chambers and confirms that they do not have a warrant, but that they have reason to believe that illegal activities are being perpetrated on people who are being forced to stay here against their will. ‘That is simply untrue. Why don’t you ask our guests?’ Chambers suggests, and everyone turns to Cyclops. Cyclops then turns to Revanche and sees that tears are streaming from her eyes. Cyclops turns back to Gyrich and tells him that as far as the X-Men can tell, they found nothing of the sort here. Nothing at all. Chambers then announces that of the two operatives whom Gyrich ordered to illegally enter his premises, they have decided to stay here of their own volition, and so he will not be pressing charges.
Gyrich smiles and replies that he can hardly be expected to allow several billion dollars worth of military investment to stay here and vacation in the sun. Chambers smirks and announces that he is quite sure his friends in the media would love to hear how Gyrich “borrowed” a DEA jacket, or how taxpayer dollars are being spent on a top secret mutant Dachau like Project: Wideawake. ‘Yes, Phil and Oprah would fight over that one’ Chambers jokes. Gyrich scowls and warns Chambers that he hasn’t seen the last of them, but that for now, he wins.
Gyrich and the others take off in the choppers, as Empyrean stands between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, and tells Cyclops that no matter how gray he perceives his motives to be, stricken mutants are welcome here. Chambers then extends that invitation to Revanche. She tells Chambers that she appreciates the invitation, but reminds him that earlier, she spoke of an individual’s right to choose how to die. She announces that she chooses to face this deadly virus, fighting all the way, not stagnating and waiting for death’s door to open. As the X-Men prepare to board their Blackbird the Beast quotes “They fight. No matter how impossible the odds are. Better, they believe, to die on their feet…than live on their knees”.
‘Chapter fourteen. Good parry, Henry’ Chambers replies, and Cyclops tells him to remember to practice what he preaches. ‘Your book had words of beauty and wisdom - don’t let the uninformed turn it into actions of hate and ignorance’. But, Chambers asks what if that simply can’t be helped, and he sees Revanche, holding her sword ready, as Revanche warns him that the choices she will make in her life will directly coincide with his death. A hand runs along the blade, drawing blood, and soon after, the Blackbrid rises and takes off. Pyro turns to Empyrean and asks him if he is all right. ‘Funny you should ask, St John…but yes…I’m fine. And you?’ Chambers replies. ‘Heh - I’ll live. Heh’ Pyro mutters.
In the Blackbird, ‘Now what? Psylocke asks. ‘I do what everyone does, Elizabeth. I persevere…’ Revanche replies. ‘And I try to make whatever amount of life I have left something to remember…and if I am successful, something that no one will ever forget’.
‘OW’ Dr Henry “Hank” McCoy a.k.a. the Beast exclaims as his legs are wrapped around cables inside an elevator shaft. As he lets go of the cables, he decides that “ow” isn’t the most expressive expletive he might have expounded, but it sincerely and succinctly sums up his sentiments at the moment. Hank decides that since he has gotten all the heavy emoting out of his system, he should turn his attention to matters of a more scientific nature - ‘Let’s say…a study of friction. At my current rate of descent… acceleration of gravity x length of fall…bring down the 3...carry the 7...I’m willing to postulate that any attempt to stop my fall by grabbing this elevator cable…is going to the word I’m looking for?’ Hank wonders, as he continues to fall, and then grabs the cable again - ‘Oh, yes…hurt’ Hank exclaims.
Seeing that the direct approach at deceleration wasn’t going to work, it is incumbent upon the Beast to find an alternative means of egress from the elevator shaft, an so, with the speed of, well, himself, he bombastically bounds from one wall of the shaft to the other, and to another still. Hank wonders of Cyclops would be pleased that all those hors in the Danger Room paid off, and yet, here he is, without his camera. If he doesn’t dislocate his shoulders, Hank should be one “alley oop” away from oblivion, and as he drops closer to imminent danger, he manages to grab hold of a ledge inside the elevator shaft. ‘It’s settled then. Next time some crazed mutant hurls me to my intended doom…I’m taking the stairs’ Hank decides.
As he starts to climb up the side of the elevator shaft, Hank knows he has to get back to the hospital penthouse, in order to rescue his sweetheart, Trish Tilby, when suddenly, he finds himself on top of an elevator that is going up. ‘An elevator in an elevator shaft? How revolutionary!’ Hank jokes, and as he peers through a vent on top of the elevator, he sees some hospital staff and security guards inside. ‘Uh-oh and then some. A handful of rent-a-peace-keeping officers en route to the rescue’ Hank realizes, listening in, he hears one of the security guards ‘Until we know exactly what happened in Dr Cahill’s office, and whether the woman interviewing him is okay - I want you doctors to stay back and let us professionals handle the situation’.
Suddenly, the elevator comes to a halt, and the men brace themselves. ‘We stopped…’ one of them exclaims. ‘But how? We still have electricity’ another points out. True, but their problem is a lack of upward momentum, as the Beast has ties the elevator cables into knots. He knows they will not be half as impressed with his slip-knotting ability as h is, but in the end, they will thank him for it. He recalls that Dr Cahill’s assailant - the same “man” who tossed Hank around like a stuffed animal, which, in a way, he supposes he is, is a caliber of adversary far outside the realm of these people’s job descriptions.
Hank continues his climb upwards, and tells himself that the truth is, time willing, he would have called in more X-Men, for as it is, Trish is trapped in a hospital administrator’s office by some crazed-yet-powerful mutant, and so it has fallen to him alone to save the day. ‘The morning is already shot…at the very least I can salvage a good part of the day’ Hank tells himself.
Not that renowned reporter, Trish Tilby, is without her own resources. However, as Dr Cahill cowers in a corner, Trish is also on the floor, clutching her ankle, she tells the distorted behemoth looming over her that he sprained her ankle. ‘Hobble aside, Ms Tilby, this doesn’t concern you’ the behemoth declares, but Trish declares that spraining her ankle, threatening a harmless old man and ruining her interview makes it her concern, and she leans up and slaps the man in the face. ‘Are you attacking me?’ the strange man asks, declaring that the “harmless old man” is the one who deserves to be punished. ‘Can’t you see what he’s done to me - let alone the other patients placed in his hospital’s care?’ the behemoth asks.
Dr Cahill addresses the man as Malvin and tells him to listen to himself, that he is delusional, no doubt the after effect of his unfortunate genetic mutation. ‘A mutation caused by you and your greed, doctor!’ Malvin exclaims, asking Dr Cahill if he thinks it was a coincidence that his body started changing after he cut back on the hospital’s dialysis program. Trish addresses Malvin as Mr Umbridge and explains that those budget cuts are why she is here, to highlight Dr Cahill’s dedication to his profession in the face of hard financial times. ‘Myself, on the other hand - I only accompanied her because she promised to buy me lunch afterwards!’ a voice calls out.
‘Who -?‘ Malvin Umbridge asks as he spins around and sees the Beast, bounding towards him. ‘Has it been that long since you slam dunked me into the elevator?’ the Beast remarks, before flipping over and kicking Malvin backwards across the room, exclaiming that time does fly when you’re having fun. ‘I only lashed out at you because you startled me! I panicked! I was confused!’ Malvin exclaims, but the Beast tells him that there is nothing to be confused about, and to remember a simple axiom: “Good guns win / bad guys lose”. The Beast then declares ‘You’re a bad guy, so - ipso facto - you lose!’ Malvin falls back, breaking a table, sending papers and a mug of coffee flying everywhere. ‘But don’t you see - none of this is my fault! I’m only here because I want people to know the truth!’ Malvin declares.
The Beast hangs from a bar attached to the ceiling and informs Malvin that the truth is fairly subjective. ‘Blaming Dr Cahill for your mutation is very unbecoming…no matter what you are becoming’. The Beast suggests to Malvin that he hand himself in to the authorities - ‘Whenever you’re through asphyxiating me, of course’ Hank remarks as Malvin’s hand grabs Hank’s neck, then pulls him down from the ceiling and slams him into the floor. Malvin calls Hank a jerk and tells him that aside from the eight hours a week he lost to kidney dialysis, he led a cultured life as a concert pianist, and explains that he isn’t out to blame anyone for what happened to his body when his treatment stopped, and that this has all been about someone taking responsibility for his actions.
Dr Cahill rushes about, scrambling to grab the papers that have been flung about the office, when he notices Trish reading one of them, and tells her that they are his own private business. ‘Then you shouldn’t let super powered former patients toss them about…where any network news reporter might find them’. Trish suggests to him, adding ‘Particularly this one regarding the misappropriation of hospital funds’ Trish announces, turning around, she grabs Dr Cahill and asks him if he would care to explain it. ‘Not at all!’ Dr Cahill retorts, while the Beast manages to thrust upwards, sending Malvin crashing into the ceiling. ‘What do you know. That Cindy Crawford workout was more useful than I realized’ Hank jokes, before telling Malvin that it doesn’t have to be this way, and suggests that Malvin come with him, so the X-Men can help him learn to cope with his accelerated musculature.
Malvin crashes back down to the floor, and the Best mutters that he was thinking they would take a cab. However, Malvin’s assault was so sudden, so enthusiastic, that he failed to think it through, as Hank twists and turns to counter the attack, although the results fall far short of fortuitous as Malvin topples back towards Dr Cahill, who shouts ‘Watch out, you idiots! We’re too close to the window!’, and the Beast gasps ‘Oh my stars and garters’ as Dr Cahill and Malvin fall through the penthouse office window. The Beast lunges forward and is able to grab both men by their hands. He thinks to himself that, had he thought about it, he would probably have called in the Avengers, first - 911 at the very least.
Hank tells his “passengers” to please keep their hands within the “vehicle” at all times, and wait until he has come to a complete stop before disembarking. ‘You can’t possibly save us both - not holding on by hour feet some forty stories off the ground!’ Dr Cahill exclaims. Trish rushes over to Hank and holds up some papers, telling him that before he makes any major life decisions he should know that Cahill appears to be guilty as charged. ‘Hm…you don’t mind if I read that later?’ Hank asks, while Cahill shakes his one free fist and demands to be saved. ‘I am a doctor, you know. I deserve to live!’ he exclaims, while a forlorn looking Malvin tells the Beast to let him go if he has to, at least he will die knowing Cahill will be punished for his crimes.
‘There’s something about almost plummeting to certain death - that helps a person prioritize’ the Beast remarks as he manages to flip both Malvin and Dr Cahill back into the penthouse office. ‘You saved them both?’ Trish gasps, to which the Beast replies that although they never discussed it over a warm pillow, he does possess the ability to press 3,000 pounds. ‘Combined, our friends here weigh considerable less’ the Beast reveals. The Beast suggests to Malvin that, with that taken care of, they discuss this rationally. ‘Certainly…though I can only maintain my human form for a little over an hour’ Malvin reveals, as he shifts from his monstrous form into that of a regular human male.
Suddenly, ‘All right, mutie - freeze!’ a police officer calls out, as several enter the penthouse. ‘We received a call about some monster terrorizing the hospital! We should have suspected a gene freak like yourself!’ the officer declares, as the police aim their weapons at the Beast. However, Dr Cahill rushes between the Beast and the officers and tells them that they have nothing to fear from this man. ‘There is indeed a monster loose in these walls…one fueled by greed. One who didn’t care who suffered…who died…in order to keep the money flowing into my pockets. That monster is me’ Dr Cahill admits, hanging his head in shame. Malvin looks down at Cahill, and, in the end, when all was said and done, Trish Tilby wound up getting her story about a monster cloaked in the form of a good man - and the two good men in the form of monsters who, ultimately, set him free.