In the forest behind Xavier’s…
Beast makes his way through a brush of trees and knows he is being watched. He can almost feel his watcher’s eyes on him. He must be watching, waiting and biding his time like the hunter he is. Waiting for Hank to show one fatal weakness. However, Hank is determined not to show that weakness.
He swings across some tree branches, and along the way recalls that he has already made too many mistakes today. He could blame fatigue, both physical and mental, but he knows that the fact the X-Men have been kept busy without respite for more than a week now, actually from since the moment Professor X returned to the team, doesn’t serve him well. Hank remembers that Kraven said he wants the most dangerous hunt of his career. Then, it behooves the brutal Beast to give Kraven just that!
A while ago, Xavier’s, the sick bay…
Iceman is worried and wants to do something, because Hank is out there alone with Kraven the Hunter, who will probably kill him. Scott reminds Bobby that they can’t go out there, because Kraven has them over a barrel right now. He looks over at an unconscious Avia and asks Jean how she’s doing. Jean explains that there’s no change in Avia’s condition, and wishes if she knew that was a good or bad thing. The auto-doc’s scanners don’t reveal too much of anything. They show all of Avia’s life functions at a very low ebb. Scott notices how… alien Avia looks. It’s impossible to know what would be normal for her. Bobby recalls that Kraven said he gave Avia some kind of slow poison.
Kraven promises that he’ll provide the X-Men for the antidote, once they have provided him with what he seeks. When Hank asks what that might be, Kraven replies that he wants Hank to be the centerpiece of his hunt! Kraven admits that he has wasted too much time and efforts on fruitless pursuits on Spider-Man. He let his skills grow dull and he wants the Beast to be the stone that will sharpen his skills once again. Iceman wants to know what’s going to happen if Hank refuses to play along with Kraven’s little game. Hank realizes that if he refuses, Avia will die. But Hank recalls that, in his own sick way, Kraven is a man of honor. He wants to have Kraven’s word that Avia is going to be okay afterward. Kraven promises he’ll keep his word, and that the antidote will work.
Beast doesn’t see what other choice he and the X-Men had but to believe Kraven. Though, he must confess, if only to himself, a certain nagging doubt that Kraven is quite the noble hunter he would have them believe. Beast believes that Kraven spend some time around the estate before he attacked, because the villain has spend some traps around the forest. Hank already managed, even though just barely, to escape three of those traps. Spikes come out of the tree, trying to kill Beast, but he safely jumps over them and continues to sling across the trees.
Hank notices that his familiarity with these grounds now seem to work against him. He has spent many happy hours in these treetops, unleashing through strenuous activity the tensions engendered by his life as a senior X-Man. It is difficult for him, even now, to convince himself that part of these once sheltering groves might harbor a sudden termination for mother McCoy’s only son. On that moment, as he lands on the ground, Hank gets caught by a spring-loaded net, which hurls him against a tree!
Elsewhere, at a base in an unknown location…
The Messenger asks Tad Carter if it’s time. Carter replies that it’s more than twenty-four hours now since he first made the contact. He believes that they should have already made their move. The Messenger reminds Carter to have patience. After all, he has only been with this group for a short while and he must learn that they move slowly until the moment is exact. Another member of the group reveals that it’s just like the way they moved slowly with Tad. Tad remembers that and asks the Messenger for forgiveness. But he does worry a bit about the X-Men.
A female member doesn’t understand why Carter is so worried about the X-Men. Or, should that be, one X-Woman in particular? Simon recalls that Tad did spend more time with Lorna Dane than their plan allowed. When he asks Tad if he is falling for Lorna, Tad smiles that question is a bit out of the young kid’s expertise. The Messenger reminds Carter that, just like the rest of the members of the group, Simon has aged only one week since he joined their group. Still, the Messenger adds, whatever feelings Tad might have for Lorna, they can’t affect their plans they have for her in no way.
Lorna, thinking in herself, believes this is a bad situation. She knows that Hank is good at what he does, but Kraven has come close to killing Spider-Man on more than one occasion. Suddenly, a voice calls out to her. Lorna apologizes to Scott and Alex, who are standing nearby her, as she was a little distracted. She wants to know which of the two of them just spoke to her. Scott claims that nobody of the team spoke to her, as they are just trying to figure out a way to help Hank.
Alex asks his girlfriend if she’s okay. Hesitant, Lorna admits that she isn’t sure about that. She was certain that she heard somebody calling out her name. Scott wants Lorna to worry about that later. He asks Jean if she still has a fix on Hank. She has. Scott is glad to hear that. He opines that they’ve played along with Kraven’s game quite long enough now and, though they gave their word not to help Hank out directly, that doesn’t mean that they’ll make sure Kraven keeps his word.
Elsewhere, Beast, trying to get out of the net, notices how unpleasant and stupid that ride was. After getting out of the net, he starts running again. He notices that it seems that his thinking is becoming more and more befuddled as this hunt progresses! Hank finds that most disturbing. He thinks that if Kraven can so easily frazzle one who prides himself on maintaining his intellectual focus.
Meanwhile in a treetop, Kraven reads off of a hand-held device that Beast’s pulse rate has altered erratically. He knows that the steady flow of blood to Hank’s brain is being disrupted by the various venoms which he charged each of his traps, which the Beast believes he so easily eluded. The venoms are now beginning to have their desired cumulative effect. Now, Kraven is ready to hunt!
Professor Xavier has a discussion with his old friend, FBI agent Fred Duncan. Fred honestly believes that the FBI should seal the Martin’s house as tight as possible. Xavier defends that, in the end, it wouldn’t accomplish anything. He reminds Duncan that the remains of the Sentinel have been duly removed and impounded by the local authorities. Fred knows that, and also believes that Xavier wants to be left alone so he can study the young mutant he has found there. Fred understands that and promises that he’ll yield to Xavier this one, even though he is still having trouble dealing with his return from the dead! But, Fred adds, Xavier knows that any Sentinel activity falls under the mandate of his department.
Teri enters the room, apologizing to agent Duncan for interrupting, but tells Fred that his men are having coffee and doughnuts in the kitchen, and she was wondering if both he and the Professor wanted to have something as well. Fred thanks Teri for the offer, but he’s about done here. Xavier mentions that he’s fine as well, but thanks Mrs. Martin for the offer. Teri smiles that she has to keep telling the Professor he can call her by her first name. Xavier promises they’ll be out in a minute. Fred notices the happy look on both Charles’ and Teri’s faces, smiling at their mutual flirtations.
In the forests nearby Xavier’s…
Scott tests the telepathic connection Jean shares with the rest of the team, and she can hear them all perfectly. Alex believes that he’s never going to get used to “hearing” Jean’s voice in his head like that. Bobby mocks that’s the first reason why Alex will never be a full member of the X-Men. Alex angrily defends that Bobby wouldn’t know anything about that, because he quit the team not too long ago and now all of a sudden, he’s back? Bobby corrects that he’s only around for as long as his friends need him. But, Bobby angrily states, for as long as he’s there, he might take some time to punch Alex’s silly headdress around his ankles!
Scott warns the two to stop fighting. Iceman tells Scott to stay out of it, not caring that Alex is his baby brother. Jean has had enough of it, and gives her two teammates a powerful psi-blast, causing their heads enormous pain. Scott warns that the psi-blast will be nothing compared with what Jean can do to them both if they don’t stop squabbling. Scott teaches Alex that he hasn’t been long enough with the X-Men to learn discipline, but he’s ashamed about the way Bobby is acting. He should have learned more than this in almost three years. Bobby agrees to calm down, realizing he can deal with Scott’s sibling later. He wants Jean to tell him where Hank is this instant.
Jean notices how distressed Lorna looks and asks her what’s wrong. Scott reminds Lorna that she can’t afford to be distracted now. He tells Lorna that, if she isn’t feeling well, maybe it would be best that she goes back to the mansion. Alex angrily shouts at Scott to leave Lorna alone, claiming that Lorna has handled herself quite fine ever since she joined the team, and she doesn’t need Scott playing tin god with her. Scott promises to stop lecturing, but warns Alex to keep it quiet and that Lorna has to stay alert. After all, the last thing Hank needs today is another liability.
Meanwhile, Kraven is busy following Hank through the treetops. Kraven silently remarks how gracefully Hank runs over the grounds below. But he does see clear signs of uncertainty in the Beast, which weren’t visible in the videotapes he studied about the X-Man. Kraven quickly jumps down and kicks Beast in his back! He then lifts Hank up into the air, admitting that he heard Hank has the strength of many men inside his body. But, Kraven claims, he himself is the strength of the true rulers of the animal kingdom! And that is only one of his skills. In demonstration, he tosses the Beast effortlessly.
However, acting quickly, Hank grabs another tree branch, swinging himself around with his momentum. In mid-flight, the Beast states that perhaps he and Kraven are equally matched, since he too has more than just strength to command. As he impacts onto the hunter, he adds that he also dares say that Spider-Man never battered Kraven with such profound perfection as his kicks. Kraven quickly gets up again and elbows the Beast in at the base of his neck, stating that he hears the Beast claiming that he is capable of more than just brute force, yet his earlier assault was based on nothing more. Hank starts to feel dizzy, believing that Kraven must have hit some kind of a nerve. His whole arm has gone numb!
Kraven tries to hit the Beast again, but the X-Man manages to gracefully roll into safety. Beast realizes that he mustn’t let Kraven notice about his current condition. He quickly grabs mass of vines and traps Kraven in them! Kraven remains unimpressed, as he quickly takes out a knife and cuts himself loose.
Elsewhere in the forest, Alex suddenly notices that Lorna is missing! He wonders where she could have gone, because she was right in his sight not ten seconds ago. Alex calls out to her but doesn’t a response back. He didn’t hear any sounds of a scuffle, finding it hard to believe that Kraven attacked her in a matter of mere seconds. Alex freaks out when he can’t find Lorna anywhere, and unleashes a raw amount of his powers into the open air!
Meanwhile, Jean telepathically informs the running Scott and Bobby to turn left, as Hank is only five hundred yards away from them. Scott compliments Jean on the good work. Bobby asks Jean if Hank is okay, but she isn’t certain about that. Hank’s thought patterns are unusually sharp as cut glass, but right now he almost seems out of focus.
Kraven has taken out two of his knives now and is ready to finish Beast off. He jumps in front of the Beast, admitting that they are equally matched. He believes that he was wise to select the Beast as the quarry for this hunt. However, he believes, there is one area in which he will always be better than him.
Hank believes that area must be the field in which Kraven keeps referring to himself in the third person. Kraven has had enough and slices through Hank’s uniform, causing him pain. Kraven claims that his advantage is that he won’t hesitate to gain his ends. As Hank collapses to all four, Kraven admits that Hank’s resistance to his venoms are greater than he anticipated. He proclaims that the time for subtlety is over!
Beast overhears the fact that Kraven put venom into his traps. That must be the reason of this mounting miasma surrounding his brain. Beast states that he can’t know if the venom is lethal or not, and also that he can’t trust Kraven’s word anymore, meaning that he also can’t know for certain if Avia is going to live through this, like Kraven promised. So, that is no longer enough for him to hold back, and he states that the consequences of this battle are going to be either on his or Kraven’s head!
Jean meets up with Bobby and Scott. Scott asks Jean why she isn’t using her telepathy anymore, fearing that Kraven might have heard them now. Jean grabs his hand and quickly states that there is no time for subtlety now. She has learned that Kraven has done something to Hank and, if they don’t bust up to that fight immediately, she’s afraid that one of Hank’s greatest fears might be realized soon!
Beast is completely out of control and keeps punching Kraven like a maniac. Kraven realizes this, and states to himself that he didn’t anticipate this reaction to his venoms. He fires the lasers from the eyes in his vest at Hank, and believes that he has to escape from this place before Hank’s fury overwhelms him. Hank quickly recovers and sees that Kraven is trying to escape. He grabs Kraven’s head and reminds him that they had a deal, which requires Kraven to stay there. Hank starts beating Kraven again, and shouts that he doesn’t care if Kraven is going to stay around in pieces!
The other X-Men arrive and Scott fires an optic blast at Hank, which throws him away from Kraven. Kraven shouts that Hank has to be kept away from him. As Bobby ices Kraven up, Scott calls out to Hank asking him to stop fighting his beam. Hank wants Scott to let him go, because he wants to stop Kraven so he can get the antidote back to Avia. On that moment, Hank faints and Jean tends to him.
A little later, inside the school’s med-lab…
Jean can’t believe that Scott is meaning what he’s saying. Scott, looking at the chained Kraven, claims that he doesn’t see what other choice they have. If they turn Kraven over to the authorities, they are going to want to know what he was doing at their school. Iceman defends that they can’t just let Kraven go like this. Kraven doesn’t see why not, because he has kept his part of the bargain. Jean understands but tells Kraven that, before he waltz out of here, she’s going to borrow a part of Professor Xavier’s book and wipes any memory Kraven has about the X-Men out of his mind!
After Kraven is left in a blank state, Scott compliments Jean on her fine work. Now, they can just dump Kraven somewhere on the highway on the other end of Salem Center. It will be Kraven’s own luck if the police find him there. Hank takes off his mask, and asks Jean if she can do the same thing to him. Jean doesn’t understand. Hank shamefully explains that Kraven kept his word. He provided the antidote for Avia and himself, but there is no antidote for the memories Hank has about this encounter. He reveals that all of his life, he has been afraid something like this would happen. He has known intellectually that he wasn’t the brute who looked back at him in the mirror, but always it seemed as if a darker nature might lie but a hair’s breadth below his careful veneer of gentility. It was so easy for Kraven to unleash the beast inside him.
Scott asks Hank to let it go. None of this was his fault. Jean agrees with that, reminding Hank that he was prepared to sacrifice himself for Avia. That’s all he needs to remember. Bobby agrees with this too and tells his buddy not to beat himself up over this.
On that very moment, a freaked out Havok rushes into the room! When Scott asks his brother what’s wrong, Alex states that Lorna… is gone! Bobby asks Alex what he means. Alex claims that Lorna floated up into the air, and just… drifted away!