Ust-Ordinsky, a prosperous collectively owned farm in Central Russia. Arriving there, an agitated Colossus gets off a helicopter, followed by X-Men Gambit, Shadowcat and ‘Ro. The Farm has been attacked and they were told in a message that something had happened to Colossus’ baby sister, Illyana. All the guards sent there by the Winter Guard are heavily injured, as though savaged by wolves. Piotr goes looking for his parents and some guards assure him they are fine.
His parents explain that Illyana was kidnapped. She was due home from school. Suddenly there was screaming and, when it was over, they couldn’t find her. Just the body of Pavel, her bodyguard. Piotr promises they will get her back. His father warns him that the guards weren’t fighting men but monsters.
Kitty muses that the bad guys could have killed everyone. But this way the survivors tell everyone what happened and everyone gets scared. Gambit wonders why they took the girl. Was she a mutant? ‘Ro asks. Half her age, Kitty replies. Not even close to becoming active. Exiting the copter, the Black Widow points out that, if she were, considering her history, things might turn very nasty. She explains to Gambit and ‘Ro that Illyana isn’t simply a mutant. As apprentice to the demon Belasco, she became quite powerful at using magic. Her powers derive from both her mutant genes and the skills she gained as Magik. Such a combination should not be underestimated. She’s alerting the rest of the Winter Guard. She’s expecting the worst? Kitty asks. She is Russe and a Romanov, Natasha replies wryly. It comes naturally.
Meanwhile in New York:
Jean Grey and Hank McCoy are taking a walk along the Xavier estate, enjoying the day. Hank thanks her for hauling him out of the lab. Jean admits that she can relate. He asks if he can help. Just being there is a start, Jean assures him. Is she thinking about Scott? If only it were that simple, she sighs. It’s hard for her to explain. Does he know what happened aboard Starcore? He’s heard various accounts, Hank replies. That moment, she continues, when she became one with the quintessence of life, of creation, of passion, she had never felt anything so glorious. The feeling was indescribable. It was as if all her earthly interests – Xavier, the X-Men, even Scott – were trivial. And that feeling of power, of infinity, lasted all of twenty seconds. And when she felt herself falling helplessly back into the water, she cried Scott’s name.
Even a Phoenix needs someone to catch her as she falls, Henry tells her. It was a very human thing to do. And now her mind, which once touched opposite ends of the universe, can’t help but circle endlessly around these two mortals…. For the life of her, she can’t fathom why! Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die, he quotes at her. Keats? Jean asks. Tennyson, but a good guess, he amends. Does he have anything more cheery? All’s fair in love and war. That’s not funny, she chides him but smiles.
In Xavier’s school, Charles is meeting with Moira to discuss Burnout. At the moment, she sees no answer. The human frame is finite. Mutant abilities stress the body’s physical and psychic realities to the max. When the resources are exhausted, the body dies. Presumably, Logan’s and Sabretooth’s healing factor continually replenishes these energies. But the rest… She observes that the cellular degeneration doesn’t seem constant from mutant to mutant, so they can’t predict the rate at which a mutant is burning out.
It’s peculiar, Charles muses. After all the dangers his X-Men and he faced over the years, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, even Dark Phoenix, he never dreamed that this would be their downfall. They’ve been given the abilities of gods and the only cost is their very lives. Whenever the X-Men set out against another foe, he was worried they might get killed and now he worries that they’ll go out with little more than a whimper. Moira comforts him that they still have time to get something done.
Sabretooth crouches on the roof, eavesdropping, figuring Moira now sounds a lot like Charles used to. While she talks of hope, Charles circles in on himself. Maybe it’s time someone put him out of his misery. Challengingly, he thinks whether Xavier caught that thought.
That moment, he senses that someone is watching him via a gun sight. He sniggers and then tells Daisy Dugan that sneaking up on a blind man isn’t nice. A moment later, he disappears. Daisy calls command and orders them to start an infrared scan of the estate to find Sabretooth.
Somewhere in a ruined warehouse:
Cossack has brought Illyana into a cold and empty room within one of the buildings and left her shut in alone. Illyana, however, remains surprisingly calm and composed, certain that her brother will rescue her and deal with the villain.
Cossack comes in, asking if she slept well. She didn’t sleep at all, she states and warns him he is making a mistake. And he’s going to be really sorry. Her brother and his friends rescued her from a demon. They saved the whole universe! He is no match for them.
Unamused, Cossack observes people say children have no imagination these days. Her brother has not met him. His name is Bhodan Shkro, but she can call him the Cossack. In truth, he actually believes the story about the demon. He’s had dealings with him. His name is Belasco. Does that frighten her? No, Illyana replies. Either incredibly honest or a most impressive liar, he muses and wonders which. Maybe both, she suggests.
Cossack observes that doesn’t sound like a young child and adds her family name is very famous in the Rodina. Illyana tells him she knows. Her biggest brother was a cosmonaut. He was actually thinking much further back to the days of the Czar. She’s just started school, lllyana retorts. She hasn’t learned anything about that. Cossack challenges that he thinks she knows exactly what he is talking about.
Illyana asks why is she there. What does he want from her? He informs her that he wants her to be all she can be. Angrily, she tells him he hurt the men her brother left to keep her safe. That is the nature of the world, he tells her. There are predators and there are prey. She should ask herself: what is she?
Elsewhere, Rogue flies above the Xavier estate, ashamed of how she handled Sabretooth. Bad enough she can’t control her power. It’s looking like she can’t control herself lately. Sabretooth just knows how to push her buttons. She lands at Breakstone Lake and wonders if he did the same to Logan. Of course, he did, she thinks. Every year on his birthday, Sabretooth tried to kill his own son, to remind him who’s number one. But Logan never tried to run away. He always met the challenge.
She wonders if that is the real lesson here. Part of her wants to run. Scott asked them to stay, to fight, so that others caught in this genetic trap won’t have to even though it will likely cost them everything! She rails against the unfairness. She came to the X-Men to find control over her power, not this. She decides that she will neither run from Sabretooth nor fate. But, she promises herself, she is going to win somehow.
At the Ust Ordinsky farm, the Winter Guard members are searching everything. Kitty tries to comfort Piotr, telling him they will find Illyana; she will be fine. She likes the new look, she tells him to distract him. He replies that he helped the world, he helped mutantkind, now he just wants to help the Rodina, his homeland. She agrees, it’s a good choice, but is somewhat surprised by him and the Black Widow being an item. They didn’t expect it, he admits, it just happened. The more they were together, the more they liked it. One thing pretty much led to another. He doesn’t think either of them thought about it. Things just felt so right. All it takes is a decent look at the two of them to realize that, she admits and assures him she is happy for them both. Piotr thanks her.
Natasha comes from the helicopter, announcing they may have a lead, about a hundred fifty kilometers northwest of Moscow, in an old industrial site. Is his sister all right? Piotr asks agitated. She explains that telemetry’s inconclusive; they can only be sure by going themselves.
They fly off without waiting for the rest of the Winter Guard. Just flash them an alert, Natasha orders and asks Arkadi for information about the location. Karinovski industrial facility. No listings on any official manifests but its location raises a lot of eyebrows. Middle of nowhere, easy access to many old state security sites. Suggestion is that it’s ghost site. An industrial plant built to survive a nuclear war. Private ownership now, Bohdan Shkuro, self styled head of the Yaroslov Cossacks.
The Widow explains that Shkuro came out of Spetsnatst, their equivalent of the America special forces. He worked a lot with the old KGB. He’s a man of arrogance and power, with the wealth and resources to make his wildest ambitions reality. And now he has Piotr’s sister, which, she admits, makes her nervous.
When they hover above the seemingly deserted site, Piotr drops down in Colossus form, smashing right through the roof of the empty and quiet building. They really need a telepath, he complains. The others follow. Natasha announces they make do with what they have.
They could have ten times that and it would still make no difference, a new voice announces as they are blinded by a flash of light. They may think themselves a match for the powers of men, Cossack gloats, but now they face Black Magik, a teenaged, clearly demonic Illyana Rasputin.