(Lake Baikhal region of Siberia, Uncle Vlad’s shack)
Colossus and his cousin, Larisa, are confronted by the nefarious Mister Sinister and Piotr’s older brother, Mikhail. Their uncle Vlad has just set himself on fire, so Piotr grabs a hold of him and rushes outside. He rolls Vlad in the deep snow, which extinguishes the flames, but he is fatally wounded. Piotr pleads with him not to die, but in his death throes, Vlad whispers, “He’s leaving me.” He adds that, for all of his life, Grigory has tormented him. He could never sleep. He used to lie awake all night with those stupid songs going round in his head. He always hated ABBA.
As Vlad takes his last breath, a vision of Grigory Rasputin tears through the souls of the remaining Rasputin’s; Colossus, Larisa, Mikhail and Piotr’s son, Peter, who feels the effects as far away as the Savage Land. Watching from the shack, Sinister sees yet another Rasputin pass away. “And then there were three.”
Piotr returns to the shack and informs everyone that Vlad is dead. Larisa already knows. She felt it; like something slithering around in her head, something cold. How can the inside of her head feel cold? she wonders. Mikhail says he felt it too. Grigory’s stronger now, much stronger.
Piotr asks Sinister what’s happening here. Why did Vlad kill himself? Sinister replies that Vlad’s been waiting all his life for this, though his exit was a little… theatrical perhaps. Larisa tells him to spare them the critique of his performance. They want to know why. Sinister takes her head in his hands and says he does so enjoy her enquiring mind. They have that in common - the scientist and the journalist, both hungry for the truth. “The hell with your science,” replies Larisa. Piotr asks her not to provoke him, and Sinister informs her that her cousin is right. She should be careful. He’s been known to kill on a whim.
Sinister asks Larisa to take a seat, and suggests that Piotr stand across the room from him. He warns Piotr not to make any sudden movements if he cares for his cousin’s health. He explains that it was many years after Rasputin’s death before he realized what he had accomplished. When he said that he would return, he assumed Grigory was talking about his genetic legacy. He assumed he meant a symbolic return through his children of many lovers.
Over the course of the twentieth century, he followed the progress of Rasputin’s offspring with great interest. He knew that the genetic modifications he had made to Rasputin’s Essex Factor would manifest themselves eventually. The descendents of Elena were the most notable successes - the late Illyana, Mikhail, and Piotr, the Colossus.
Sinister explains that others fell prey to insanity, and it was among these apparent madmen that he found the truth. He had wrongly dismissed their uncle Vlad as a feeble-minded simpleton with no mutant abilities. Yet, he still visited him from time to time in the wild country. He finds the company of lunatics relaxing.
On one such visit, as Sinister appeared nearby wearing a long black cloak with a hood covering his pale features, Vlad looked over and said, “Ah, Nathaniel. It’s been a long time since your last visit…” Sinister asked how he knew that name. Vlad replied that he couldn’t forget his old friend Nathaniel Essex. Sinister thought it wasn’t possible, but believed the man he was talking to was essentially Grigory Rasputin. He asked if it was the case, and Vlad opened his arms. “As large as life,” he replied.
Sinister took him by the shoulders, and asked why he didn’t tell him on any of the other occasions he had visited him. Vlad replied that he didn’t tell him because he didn’t know. He explained that, as long as he could remember, he’d heard Grigory’s voice whispering inside his head. He tried shutting it out, as many people thought he’d gone mad, but over the years the whisper grew louder. Gradually, the memories came back. He recalled their plans for a new race of supermen, the Essex Factor and the coming of Apocalypse. When he spoke about it, his own children mocked him, but he knew that they heard the whisper, too. Grigory was in all of them; every living descendent of the sacred brides.
Sinister told him that, when he died, he said he would live on through his offspring. “The bloodline, yes,” replied Vlad. When Grigory died, the essence of his being entered the brides and into the children they carried. As the descendents bred and multiplied, Grigory’s essence became divided and weaker. Now, he wasn’t truly Rasputin, but only a small part of him.
Sinister asked if the others knew this. Did they know what they were? Vlad replied that, the weaker the mind, the stronger the presence of Rasputin. Sinister wondered if he could only speak through an addle-brained imbecile. Vlad was affronted by the remark, and said he may have been touched in the head, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew what must be done if Rasputin was to be born again. The bloodline must be eliminated!
This idea intrigued Sinister. Vlad continued to explain that, each time a member of the bloodline died, the essence of Rasputin left that body and rejoined the others. The bloodline was smaller now, and the time was approaching when Rasputin was influencing them to end their lives. So, Sinister surmised, when only one member of the bloodline remained, Rasputin would be born again. Vlad added that the last survivor must be the strongest. He must be the one with whom the Essex Factor had reached its highest level. All the others must die!
Sinister asked if this meant his own children, too. Vlad explained that he tried it himself. He poisoned their soup. They were sick for days, but they didn’t die. Now, they wouldn’t go near him. But, he added, Sinister could find them - the whole bloodline. He could kill them all. “Including you?” enquired Sinister. The insane Vlad told him that this was the case, and asked how he’d like to do it. He could slit his throat, or strangle him. There was a ravine nearby. Maybe he could throw him onto the rocks? Then, Vlad had an epiphany. He decided that self-immolation was the way to go. That is how a holy man like himself should end his life. Sinister agreed, and told him that fire it would be. First, however, he had to verify that these were not just the fanciful ravings of a madman.
Over the years, Sinister proceeded to slaughter Rasputin’s offspring and, with each death, it brought Rasputin one step closer to resurrection. As the surviving members of the bloodline grew fewer, Sinister had to decide who would be the vessel to receive Grigory’s reborn soul.
On a more recent visit with Vlad, he informed the madman that he must find Mikhail Rasputin if he still lived. Vlad confirmed that he was alive, but he was in a place where Sinister could not reach him. Sinister asked Vlad to call him and bring Mikhail to him.
Sinister explains to his audience that Mikhail’s last act in this world was to save Piotr and his fellow X-Men from Apocalypse’s horsemen, using his mutant abilities to transport them to a distant dimension. Then, tormented with guilt over the death and suffering he had caused, he wandered the cosmos in self-imposed exile. When Vladimir’s call came to him, awakening the spirit of Rasputin in his mind, he was standing at the entrance to the Dark Zone - a dread place which may be entered, but from which there was no return. He was surprised to hear the voice, which told him that his destiny was yet to be fulfilled.
Colossus confronts his brother, and asks him how he could join Sinister just like that. How could he kill his own family? Mikhail responds with questions of his own. He asks if that isn’t that what he’s always done; kill the people he cared for? He admits that he tried to find excuses for his actions. He blamed it on the years he spent alone, wandering through alien dimensions. Every time he tried to make amends, he made things worse. He’s tired of fighting his fate, so now he’s embracing it. Soon, he will become what he’s destined to be.
“Grigory Rasputin?” replies Piotr, incredulously. He reminds Mikhail that he will become Grigory Rasputin. Mikhail will no longer exist. Mikhail replies that he is an illusion. He was a man called Mikhail, but the dream became a nightmare. Larisa looks up at him, and tells him that she remembers him. She explains that, when she was a little girl, he and Piotr visited her. That was no dream. She tells him that the brothers were so close then. Mikhail was Piotr’s big brother and he cared for him. Doesn’t he remember when Piotr was lost and how they searched all day for him? When it grew dark and they were giving up hope, it was Mikhail who made them keep looking. Her words bring back Mikhail’s memories of the day he pulled Piotr out of a covered hole in the ground.
As she speaks, Sinister places his hands on her shoulders, but she doesn’t appear to notice. She implores him to fight whatever is causing him to act like this. Mikhail’s head drops as he ponders her words. At that moment, Sinister raises one of his hands to her head and energy shoots from his fingers. Larisa falls forwards to the floor, and Colossus rushes to her assistance. As he reaches her, she whispers to him, “The darkness… It’s leaving me…” She asks Piotr not to give up. He should live for her; live for all of them.
As she passes away, Piotr becomes enraged. He stands and grabs Sinister by the throat in his powerful grip, and tells him she was worth a thousand of him. He puts his other hand around Sinister’s throat and forces him to his knees. Mikhail asks him to let the man go, but Piotr replies that he won’t, not while there is breath in his body. Mikhail then utilizes his own powers, and tells Piotr that it is he that they must battle, to the death.
He holds his brother, and chooses the battleground. It is not on Earth. Sinister rubs his head and insists it must take place there, but he’s too late. Mikhail then teleports Piotr away to another dimension, to a cave that he says he’s visited before. He informs his brother that there is no way out of there. All that exists is the cave, and beyond it there is nothing but rock; billions of miles of dense, impenetrable rock.
Mikhail then teleports himself to a rock overlooking the dark cave’s entrance. He tells Piotr that he doesn’t need to fight him. He only has to leave him there. He doesn’t know how long he would survive without food; a week or two maybe, but it doesn’t matter. No one will find him, and sooner or later he will die. And, when Piotr does die, he will be reborn as a true Rasputin. There’ll be no more guilt and no more soul searching. Together with Sinister, he shall prepare for the return of Apocalypse. Together they shall lay waste to the world of men.
Piotr takes the opportunity whilst his brother is ranting away to grab a stone, which he hurls at Mikhail. His strength means the stone hits Mikhail hard, and Piotr runs to grab him as he falls unconscious. He offers another scenario. If Mikhail dies, then he himself will be the last of the bloodline. Rasputin will be born in him. What a triumphant return that will be - trapped there in this god-forsaken corner of the cosmos with no way out. He lifts a large rock above his head, and says to his brother that he doesn’t want to do this, but he will not allow this evil to be let loose on humanity. He’s left him no choice. “I must kill you!”