The remains of the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters, long-time home and headquarters to the Uncanny X-Men and myriads of X-students. Today though, a construction crew is busying about, levelling land and erecting structures. ‘Left a little…little more…okay, you got it’ someone calls out to a crane operator who is lowering some material. ‘So this was, what, a school?’ one of the construction workers asks. ‘A #$&%ing zoo, the way I hear it. Bunch of weirdos. Homo something-or-other’ another construction worker explains. ‘Sexuals?’ the first asks. ‘Nah, sapiens, I think it was. They moved out to San Francisco’ the second worker replies. ‘Whole ‘nother world out there, man’ the first remarks. ‘Oh yeah’ the second agrees.
Suddenly, another construction worker shouts at someone to kill the power, exclaiming that he thinks they have a gas leak, as a gas-like cloud appears. Someone points out that the gas pipe is ‘Way down there’, and that it doesn’t even smell like gas. ‘More like - I dunno - like something died out here’. One of them asks if they should down tools, when suddenly, Marius St Croix a.k.a. Emplate emerges from the cloud! ‘My professional opinion?’ he exclaims ‘I think it will make very little difference!’ and with that, he begins a rampage through the construction workers: ‘Animals!’ he exclaims. ‘Worthless, pointless animals!’. ‘What are you even for?’ he declares as he bashes one of their heads into a bundle of sheets of wood.
Suddenly, he spots the Xavier School for Youngsters sign in a pile of rubble, and picks it up. ‘Nothing. Nothing in the larder. Hah! They’re gone. Long gone’ he realizes, before returning to the gas-like cloud, declaring ‘Nut we’ll find them, won’t we? Oh yes. Oh yes’, as he leaves behind him a trail of bloody bodies.
Meanwhile, off the coast of San Francisco lies Asteroid M, the former headquarters of Magneto, now known as Utopia, home to the X-Men and the myriad of other mutants residing on it. Currently, construction is in full swing as the mutants go about setting their new home. At that moment, Warpath takes a break from work to look out over the goings-ons from a ridge, while near one of the main buildings, two of the X-students are involved in a slight altercation: ‘Seriously? I’d stomp all over you, Keller!’ Rockslide boasts to Hellion, who asks ‘Then what’s stopping you? Pick a time!’. Behind them, Colossus carries a massive steel beam, while the Stepford Cuckoos, Onyxx and Pixie go about their business. Mercury walks over to Anole and Surge and tells them that Jeffries wants the boxes taken to the lab.
‘They seem to be coping pretty well with all this, don’t they?’ Cyclops remarks to Rogue as they walk through the bustling grounds. ‘After what they’ve already been through? They’re seasoned, Scott’ Rogue replies, adding that even the youngest of them is not a child anymore. ‘But that’s just the point, isn’t it, Rogue?’ Cyclops asks as Gentle and Ernst walk past them. ‘You don’t grow up all at once’ Cyclops declares. ‘They’ve fought life and death battles, but their personalities - and their powers - are still forming. Someone has to help them through that’. Rogue asks why she has the feeling this is a job interview, to which Cyclops tells her that she knows him. ‘What do you think?’ he asks. ‘You’re asking me what Ah think?’ Rogue exclaims.
Rogue reminds Cyclops that they last time they had a talk like this, she came out of it a team leader. ‘Now you’re saying Ah can’t be a soldier any more. But Ah’m good enough to be a nurse’ she tells him. Cyclops replies that he doesn’t think a nurse is quite what he wants. ‘No? What then?’ Rogue asks. ‘A counselor, maybe. A therapist. And a trouble-shooter’ Cyclops replies, telling Rogue that her powers put her in a unique position, as she can absorb other people’s powers and use them. ‘Often in ways they don’t use them’ Cyclops points out, explaining to Rogue that can be very valuable to some of the young mutants - mutants who don’t necessarily know how their powers work. ‘They need someone who’s been there. And you’re the patron saint of been there’ Cyclops adds.
‘Why does this just feel like a delicate way of sidelining me?’ Rogue asks, to which Cyclops tells her to look around. ‘Do you think I have the luxury of sidelining anyone? We need everyone we have!’ he points out, adding that they also need everyone to be something other than a soldier. ‘This would be the other thing you do’ he tells her. Annoyed, Rogue tells Cyclops bluntly that she think he is still punishing her for the decisions she made as team leader. ‘But you know what? Ah do care about those kids, so…Ah’ll think about it. Best I can say right now’ she tells him as she walks away. ‘Best I can ask for’ Cyclops replies.
Meanwhile, in one of the laboratories, former Alpha Flight member and now member of the X-Club, the science team Madison Jeffries asks Danger to put her tongue out and say ‘Aaaaah’. Danger asks Jeffries what purpose that would serve while as she lies back on an upright table. ‘Umm - none, probably. It’s just that you scare the living hell out of me’ Madison explains, explaining that he understands machines, he can read them, right to the core, bend them to any shape he likes, but she is different. Danger tells Jeffries that she doesn’t need him to “read” her, all she wants is for him to verify data throughput and response lag. ‘Providing an independent benchmark for my own diagnostics’ she adds.
Jeffries answers Danger’s question by telling her that her data throughput is breathtaking at 17 terabytes per pico-second - like a truckload of Einstein’s. He adds that her scanning range is too wide for anything else in this room to measure and that she can probably hear flu viruses sneeze. ‘Not quite. But I can perceive well into the sub-normal and super-normal dimensional envelopes’ Danger remarks, before revealing that is where they are currently being observed from. ‘Observed?’ Jeffries asks. ‘I believe so’ Danger replies. ‘From another dimension?’ Jeffries adds, to which Danger explains that it is not exactly another dimension, but from a liminal space adjacent to this one, by something roughly humanoid in body plan.
‘Emma? Freaky little blonde girls? Anyone? Twanging the psionic bush-wire here. Can anyone hear me?’ Jeffries calls out. ‘What is it, Mr Jeffries?’ one of the Stepford Cuckoos responds, telepathically. ‘Fox. Henhouse. Advise Cyclops, soonest’ Jeffries replies while looking around nervously. ‘How very concise. Consider him advised’ one of the girls replies, before asking Jeffries if he is sure he wants to raise an alarm, as they are not sensing anything. Suddenly, Emplate materializes beside Jeffries, startling the Canadian mutant, before smacking him across the lab. ‘Leave him be. Now!’ Danger exclaims as she blasts Emplate with energies generated through her body.
But Emplate comes up behind her, and slashes his hand through Danger’s circuitry as he declares ‘You’re new. I don’t know you. And I don’t think I can use you. You don’t even look edible!’. Jeffries uses his powers to transmute the diagnostics rig, turning it into a weapon, he forces the diagnostics rig to push scanning lasers and microwave emitters past safeties and to target anything that has a pulse, except him. But Emplate continues to hack away at Danger, and as the diagnostics rig prepares to shoot him, he spins around, using Danger’s body as a shield to protect himself. ‘Can’t get me with that old trick!’ he exclaims, dropping Danger’s unmoving body to the ground.
Jeffries begins to run from the lab, but Emplate declares that he has fought their best and brightest to a standstill, and calls Jeffries a puling worm. Mutants whose powers moved mountains, and stopped the sun in its course. ‘You - what can you do?’ Emplate asks as he materializes in front of the fleeing Jeffries and grabs him by the throat. ‘Ah. Yes. Interesting’ Emplate remarks as Jeffries falls to the ground. Suddenly though, ‘EMPLATE!’ a voice booms. The villain spins around, still holding onto Jeffries, and sees Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Angel, the White Queen, Nightcrawler, Warpath and Pixie approaching him. ‘You picked a bad day to visit!’ Cyclops exclaims. ‘X-Men - take him down!’.
Colossus moves in to punch Emplate, only to find the villain pass right through him. ‘I don’t need to fight you, Cyclops. Not while I can drop half a heartbeat our of phase with your baseline reality’ he declares. ‘But if I have to fight you -’ he begins, while letting one of Cyclops’ optic blasts phase through him, ‘- I’d do it like this!’ he concludes as he materializes behind Cyclops and wraps his arms around his neck, causing Cyclops’ optic blast to go out of control and tear through the lab, knocking Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Angel backwards.
Warpath runs towards Emplate as someone calls out ‘Warpath! While he’s got Scott -’, but Warpath interrupts: ‘ - then he’s solid. I’m not stupid’, and he reaches Emplate before the villain can phase out, smashing him away from Cyclops. Nightcrawler teleports over to Emplate, remarking that if Emplate is solid, they can attack him. He urges the X-Men to rally, while Emplate mutters that he has always hated Germans, and uppercuts Nightcrawler hard. Pixie flutters near Emplate, who grabs her by the neck and remarks ‘Psychotropic epidermal secretion. Wonderful. Youth is wasted on the young. And so is power!’
At that moment, Cyclops has gathered himself enough that he can release a streamlined optic blast at Emplate’s hand, freeing Pixie from the villain’s grasp. ‘Should’ve learned to keep your hands to yourself, bub. Here. Let me help!’ Wolverine exclaims as he lunges at Emplate, claws ready, but Wolverine passes through Emplate who begins phasing back to the side-line reality. ‘I believe not. I’ll let you pass, Sir. And bid you good day’ he declares as Wolverine crashes into some equipment. As Angel helps a weary Jeffries up, the mutants gather together, and Cyclops announces that there will be a full meeting in the dome. ‘Inform the others. We deal with this now!’ he exclaims.
Shortly, in the dome, Cyclops, the White Queen and Danger address the myriad mutants on Utopia. ‘We let this happen once. We do not let it happen again. First order of business - know your enemy’ Cyclops announces, before asking Danger to show them. Danger states that Emplate is the brother of Monet St Croix, and like her, he is a mutant. ‘Unlike her, he is also a predator who feeds on mutants’. Danger emits a projection of Emplate from her form as she explains that Emplate has secondary mouths in the palms of his hands which allow him to leech bone marrow from mutant victims. She adds that the first time Emplate engaged the X-Men, it became apparent that by that same process he could sample and replicate the power of mutants on whom he fed.
Danger continues, revealing that it takes Emplate a great amount of effort to stay phased with their reality, and sliding back out of phase makes him invulnerable to any physical attack. Danger explains that Emplate lived for years in a pocket dimension with the mutant Penance, on whose diamond body he was able to feed indefinitely. Danger adds that Penance’s escape precipitated Emplate’s first attack on the X-Men. Cyclops declares that he will keep this short, and tells everyone that they are not to go anywhere alone, that they must stay in sight of others at all times and in psychic contact with the Stepford Cuckoos or Psylocke until they find out what Emplate came here for. ‘And you report anything our of the ordinary directly to me. Thanks people, that’s all’ he concludes.
As everyone begins to leave the dome, Jeffries and fellow X-Club member Doctor Nemesis approach Cyclops, who tells them that leaves the question of how they bar the door to someone who can slide between dimensions. Doctor Nemesis replies that, in theory, luminal dampeners would be easy to construct, remarking that all dimensional travel works by tweaking quantum effects. ‘Lock down your electronics and the curtains between dimensions become rock walls’ he adds. ‘What about a dragnet?’ Jeffries asks, to which Doctor Nemesis tells him to explain. ‘Mutate the valence to force different dimensional intersects’ Jeffries replies, adding that instead of bouncing off, Emplate will get caught in a holding cycle.
‘Sounds good’ Cyclops tells him. ‘It does, doesn’t it?’ Jeffries replies, before Cyclops tells the men to get to work, and that they can use Danger for the brute force computations. When Jeffries and Doctor Nemesis leave the dome, the White Queen quotes Cyclops: ‘”Until we find out what he came here for”?’, telling her lover that Emplate feeds on mutants and he must have been starving ever since M-Day. ‘True. So perhaps he just came here to snack. That’s working hypothesis one’ Cyclops replies, before reminding the White Queen that Emplate sampled Jeffries’ powers in the room where there computer records are stored. ‘We drove him off, but he’s taken the advantage. We need to take it back’.
As numerous mutants make their way from the dome, three in particular are feeling vocal about the current situation - Avalanche! Dragoness! Toad! Avalanche walks beside Dragoness as he remarks ‘You know this always happens. The X-Men offer you a safe haven, but it’s like they live on this big painted target’. Toad mumbles that it beats HAMMER and house arrest, to which Dragoness remarks that she feels really nostalgic for last week. ‘Life was so much simpler then’ she adds, semi-sarcastically.
The X-student called Indra leaves the dome alone however, and makes his way over to some ruins, where he sits on the steps, forlorn. Moments later, Rogue approaches him. Indra tells Rogue that he was looking for some privacy. ‘Is that too much to ask?’. Rogue tells Indra that he heard what Cyclops said. ‘Even a little privacy could be a lethal dose right now’ Rogue tells him. ‘Then I’ll de bead. It’s my choice, right?’ Indra replies. ‘Right. But that won’t get you what you want’ Rogue tells him. ‘With respect - how would you know what I want?’ Indra asks. Rogue reminds the young mutant that she was inside the head of the man he fought. ‘Ah think Ah can guess what’s on your mind’ she tells him.
Indra tells Rogue that he doesn’t think she can know what he means, and points out that he has seen her fight, and that it comes so naturally to her. ‘You can’t understand how ashamed I feel right now’. Rogue replies that Indra’s family are Jains, so he believes all life is sacred. ‘Can’t crush a bug, even. Still less a human being’. ‘Yes. That is Ahisma, the first duty’ Indra replies, to which Rogue reveals that she knows the second duty is Satya - bearing witness to the truth, and remarks ‘You’d be dead if you hadn’t fought back. And your death would be on that man’s soul. Didn’t your small sin stop a bigger one?’
‘It doesn’t work like that!’ Indra exclaims, to which Rogue replies that she knows, and that she isn’t saying it’s okay to let that violence out. ‘Only your heart can answer that question’ she tells him. Putting a gloved hand on Indra’s shoulder, Rogue tells him that the world’s the place where they go to test their beliefs, and that it doesn’t stop. ‘That’s what this is. A test you went through. A test you’re still going through’. Rogue turns and walks away, leaving Indra on the step as she tells him that nobody within a square mile of here thinks he failed it, and informs him that she will be right outside, close enough so she is within air shot. ‘You stay as long as you need to’ she tells him.
Meanwhile, nowhere, a lighthouse on a rock floats through the side-dimension as Emplate’s lackey, DOA exclaims ‘Jeez, boss. They messed you up good, didn’t they?’. Emplate asks DOA if that is amusement in his voice, to which the small being replies ‘Nope. Couldn’t possibly be. Concern, maybe. Compassion. Unquestioning devotion’. Emplate tells DOA to be silent, as he dips his leech-hands into a vial of plasma, while remarking that it is true he endured some rough treatment at the X-Men’s hands, it is also true that he failed to find the one he was looking for. ‘My sweet Penance. My cornucopia, my ever-brimming banquet. She is no longer of their number’ he reveals. ‘But one door closes, as they say - and we smash our way in through the window!’, and with that comment, a image of the X-student Bling appears in Emplate’s eyes….
Back on Utopia, Bling frowns as she and Onnyxx watch Hellion and Rockslide prepare to battle. ‘You know, guys, the legend of your dumbness has spread far and wife - but something tells me that this will be the day that lives on when you’re both dead’. ‘Rock!’ Rockslide exclaims ‘Paper!’ Hellion declares at the same moment as they play “rock, paper, scissors”. Rockslide wonders why he went for rock, as that is so obvious, while Bling mutters ‘Which, admittedly, might not be all that long’. Hellion surrounds himself in a telekinetic force field as he tells Rockslide that the rules are simple: ‘I break you. And you repair yourself. First one to run out of juice loses’.
‘Okay. But is someone gonna say ready, steady -’ Rockslide begins, while Hellion shouts ‘Go!’ and begins to picks pieces off Rockslide with his telekinesis. ‘Very cute. Game on!’ Rockslide snarls. Bling begins to walk away and Onyxx asks her if she isn’t going to watch. ‘Please. Testosterone breaks me out in hives. It’s like an allergy’ she replies, to which Onyxx reminds her that Cyclops said not to be alone. Bling replies that she will stay in sight, explaining that she wants to check out the amphitheatre. ‘It’s kind of cool’ she remarks as she stands on top of it, before gazing out into the ocean and noticing a floating house. ‘You think that counts as - out of the ordinary?’ Bling asks herself, before she becomes fixated by the floating lighthouse, and watches it move towards Utopia.
‘This - doesn’t look entirely safe, boss!’ DOA remarks, to which Emplate tells him that nothing the ever do is “safe”. ‘In the midst of life we are -’ he begins, to which DOA interrupts: ‘- arbitrarily sliced and diced?’ he asks. ‘all too often, yes’ Emplate answers, before remarking that they have not yet fully merged with this dimensional plane, so they have no weight or mass or inertia. He boasts that they move by virtue of his power as he adjusts the angle at which their two realities intersect. ‘Therefore, I say - full speed ahead!’
‘No way. No freaking way!’ Bling exclaims as the lighthouse suddenly vanishes. ‘Okay. So where did -’ she begins to ask, only to feel a shadow loom over her. She spins around and finds that she is now standing on the lighthouse’s platform! Suddenly, Bling is sucked into a darkness, and moments later, falls on to a dinning table, lined with candles. ‘Ah, excellent. Dinner is served!’ Emplate remarks as he and a grinning DOA sit at the end of the table, and Bling stares at them in horror.
Alcatraz, HAMMER’s West Coast headquarters. He dead of night. Someone leaps across a courtyard and onto the side of a building. Inside, HAMMER agents go about their business, while one of them asks ‘So tell me, Input. Did we win, or didn’t we?’. Input tells his colleague, called Hijack, that he heard the official version. ‘Yeah. Question stands’ Hijack replies. Input remarks that from where he is standing, it was a dead draw. ‘Some of the muties were playing both sides against the middle. They took their chance and got away clean’. Input adds that they didn’t get their hands on the Omega Machine though. ‘So that’s a score for the home team’ he remarks. Hijack motions to the Omega Machine and asks ‘This is it? Some big easy chair?’
Input explains that it is called the Omega Machine and that he wouldn’t mind a spin in it himself one of these days. ‘Not gonna happen, man. I mean you’re like me, right? Initiative B-list’ Hijack exclaims, adding that the Omega Machine is being taken apart tomorrow so it can be shipped out. ‘That’s about our weight’ he tells his colleague. Hijack adds that they are never going to get any action. ‘That ain’t the way the world works’, unaware however that Gambit has snuck into the room. ‘Believe me, mes amis - Cyclops wouldn’t be Cyclops if he missed a trick like that!’. Hijack and Input turn around, only to find Gambit leaping towards them, and his feet in their faces. ‘So tonight is your night!’ Gambit tells them.
‘Hah! Which one are you? The one with the laser beam eyes, right?’ Hijack asks. Charging several playing cards with kinetic energy, Gambit jokes ‘Now you hurt my feelings’ He smiles as he exclaims that he is the handsome one, and throws the cards in their direction, but before the cards can strike, Hijack takes hold of them with telekinetic powers. ‘Oh, this is too good to be true!’ he exclaims, revealing his telekinesis, he declares that stuff that is already moving he can tell it where to move. ‘That’s why they call me Hijack!’ he declares as he forces the cards to return in the direction they came from - but Gambit leaps upwards, dodging the attack.
‘Really? They ought to call you Telegraph! Cause that seems to be what you’re best at’ Gambit exclaims as he drops back down and touches Hijack’s armor, charging it up. ‘My - my armor. Awww -!’ Hijack mutters, as his armor explodes, ripping through his chest. Gambit turns to Input and tells him that they don’t have to fight, and that he just wants the machine. ‘If you walk away, I won’t come after you’ he assures him. Input replies that he is guarding the machine. ‘So I’m going to have to pass on that one’ he exclaims as he appears in front of Gambit and smacks him in the chest. Input punches Gambit in the face, and Gambit realizes that Input is a teleporter. ‘Me? No. That’s not what I do’ Input corrects Gambit. ‘Guess again!’ he suggests as he appears beside him once more and grabs Gambit by the throat and throws him to the floor.
Standing over Gambit, Input reveals that he has telepathy. ‘Not as good as your Emma Frost, but good enough’ he adds, He explains that he possesses no mind control of post-hypnotic commands. ‘Just a little nudge here and a little whisper there. Fox on your brain, cover my tracks. So wherever I turn up - I always come as a surprise!’ he boasts as he kicks Gambit in the face. Input remarks that Gambit’s mind is a mess. ‘Scar tissue. Broken memory tracks. Obsessive guilt’. He tells Gambit that he is probably doing him a favor, when suddenly, he finds something interesting in Gambit’s mind, and pauses.
Gambit runs towards Input as the latter remarks that Gambit has something growing in his hind-brain. ‘Doesn’t look altogether human’ he adds, before Gambit crashes into a wall as Input moves out of the way, remarking that there is a little cluster of retooled cells. ‘Autonomous. Asleep and dreaming in the dark down there. About someone named…Apocalypse?’. Gambit goes wide-eyed at the mention of Apocalypse’s name, and Input wonders what it would take to wake it up. ‘No!’ Gambit exclaims, readying some playing cards. ‘Probably not much more than a push’ Input supposes, while Gambit exclaims ‘Don’t -’, but it’s too late, as his kinetic energy around the playing cards die out, and his face turns black. ‘You - you fool! Get out of here!’ Gambit exclaims.
‘Nice try’ Input tells him, to which Gambit exclaims ‘Than you got to take what’s coming to you, homme’. Gambit exclaims as he throws the playing cards at Input, who exclaims ‘How did you know where I -?’ before screaming as the cards strike him, and he becomes engulfed by the blackness. ‘Stop it! I surrender! Make it stop!’ Input calls out, but Gambit replies that he doesn’t know how, and with that, Input vanishes, leaving behind only the playing card. Kinetic energy bursts through the blackness, and Gambit returns to normal. A telepathic call by the Stepford Cuckoo Phoebe informs Gambit that there are more guards coming his way, and that Cyclops wants him to finish the job and get out of there.
Eyeing up the Omega Machine, Gambit asks Phoebe to tell Cyclops he is on his way. He approaches the Omega Machine and charges it with kinetic energy. It explodes moments later, and Gambit runs from the blast.