April, sweet April. An oh, so precious time in the countryside of England. A time of buds in bloom. A time of color.
A countryside mansion of the Hellfire Club. Smoke rises from parts of the building. Clawmarks having damaged the door. An optic blast shoots an exit and Cyclops drags out the badly damaged Spartan. Don’t worry, soldier, he tells him. We’ll get out of this alive.
Yes, April, in the English countryside is a time of beauty. But February was not.
Two months earlier, outside the same mansion, night time. Nightcrawler hangs more or less comfortably from a tree informing the X-Men via his comm.-device. It’s 21.00 hours, he complains and he’s freezing his tail off. Both figuratively and literally. In fact, in all the time he’s been watching the Cameron estate, the only thing he is now certain of is, had he known the surveillance would take this long, he would have worn thermal underwear. If this place is indeed a Hellfire Club base of operations, it’s the quietest they have. Perhaps this is where old members retire to. A Hellfire rest home. Forgive him, but he jokes to stop his teeth from chattering.
The professor said that Cerebro located a mutant in this area and then the mutant appeared to vanish almost as suddenly. This corresponded with the disappearance of a boy from the local village. A boy who upon questioning his parents Kurt learned had begin to exhibit mutant powers. Fire from his fingers.
There may indeed be a link between this disappearance and the fact that Blair Cameron, one of England’s leading Hellfire Club members, has an estate here. But at this moment, Nightcrawler doubts this. He believes it’s just as likely the boy ran away to London like many children do. His opinion is based on two things. One: that his body is freezing and he wants to go home and two: that this place is as quiet as a church. He’s been inside and it’s closed for the winter. Even the servants appear to have gone. Why, he hasn’t seen a mouse over…
Suddenly, he sees someone with hug metal claws run toward him. Wolverine? he believes for a moment, then dodges the man’s attack. It’s a young man with claw-like hands and a long green ponytail. He doesn’t know what kind of Daemonite he is, the young man shouts, but pretty soon it’s not gonna… He reaches for Nightcrawler with his fingers which turn into lengthened claws.
Kurt teleports out of his reach and onto his back. And he doesn’t know what kind of villain he.… He teleports with the young man, but instead of being disoriented, his foe grabs for his throat.
That moment, a detonation separates them. As they lie on the ground stunned, a trio of Hellfire Club guards walks towards them. A mutant and a half-breed, one of them called Nigel remarks. It’ll be a pleasure to kill them, won’t it? he asks his colleague Keel.
Keel doesn’t reply. He focuses on Nightcrawler’s foe. Kherubim scum! he suddenly shouts. That one’s mine, he announces.
The green-haired young man gets up. So it was him. He sensed his kind somewhere around… Thought it was the blue skin. But no… it was him! He jumps toward the Hellfire Club man who tries to shoot him.
Kurt wonders what he meant with his kind. One moment later, he gets his reply as during the battle Keel shifts into a reptile-like creature.
The other two guards fire at Nightcrawler. He teleports on top of them and takes them out. He turns to the green-haired man. How did he do? Kurt asks. Quite well, it would seem, at least by his friend Logan’s standards.
The young man is still standing. His eviscerated foe isn’t. He’s alive comes the curt reply, more than he can say for the Daemonite.
He doesn’t understand, Kurt states. Who is he? And what is a Daemon…?
Thunder rumbles, it begins to rain. Kurt looks away for a moment and only the Daemonite corpse is left. He holds out his hands. Rain upon snow. Only in England. Kurt teleports away.
The WildC.A.T.s’ headqarters:
Reno aka Warblade tells his teammates of that encounter. It was two months ago. He was on one of his hunts. Rumors reached him of Daemonite activity in England. He followed those rumors to the estate of Blair Cameron, a wealthy English investor and land owner. He found armed men at Cameron Hall and a Daemonite among them.
Two months, Nightcrawler tells Xavier and the team, and still no sign of the missing boy. Nor any clue of who it was he fought against and then alongside. All he can say is, he was fighting like Logan. No, nothing like him, Wolverine retorts. Proof of that is the fact Kurt is standing here.
Well, perhaps the two of them can discuss it at length some time. He’s sure they’ll both have many witty remarks to make, Kurt retorts.
The WildC.A.T.s’ HQ:
While Voodoo does some stretching exercises, Warblade tells the team leader Jacob Marlowe aka Lord Emp a powerful – if amnesiac – Kherubim – that this one Daemonite could be the only one there and if he is, he’s no longer a concern. But they can’t be certain, Marlowe decides. Reno agrees. And there was the tailed furry thing who fought by his side. He’s not sure how he fits in.
It must be a coincidence, Jacob remarks and shows them a letter. He received this invitation yesterday. From Blair Cameron himself. He has invited Jacob to England for the weekend. There’s a gathering he feels a man of his worth should be a part of. He calls it the Hellfire Club.
Xavier interrupts the discussion, reminding them of the remaining problem: they have a mutant boy missing who was once in close proximity to the Hellfire Club. On top of that, the Hellfire Club now employs “devils.”
Devils, monsters. The thing he saw was hideous enough for both, Nightcrawler recalls. Does he think Shaw and Frost are involved? Storm, asks. Perhaps, Xavier replies, but his sources say that Blair Cameron is allowed to run the British cabal with a degree of autonomy. They’ll have to learn more. A stealth team, he decides. Scott and Jean, Logan and Kurt. The rest will remain on standby.
A gulfstream jet gets a billionaire across the Atlantic faster than it takes most people to pack for the trip. And so soon Jacob Marlowe arrives at Blair Cameron’s home.
Cameron, dressed in typical Hellfire garb, welcomes him cordially. Marlowe points out he brought his assistant – field leader Hadrian aka Spartan – and his secretary – Priscilla Kitaen aka Voddoo – with him. He hopes that was all right. It will just mean finding a couple more costumes from the wardrobe.
Cameron leads Jacob inside. Wardrobe? Jacob asks. They dress in a certain way in the Hellfire Club. It helps them to feel the part. The part? He’ll understand by the end of his trip, Cameron promises.
He brings them to a lavish suite. He hops Jacob isn’t offended by this humble garret. It’s all he has to offer. He’ll survive, Jacob replies wryly. He’s sure he wants his servants to help him unpack, Cameron remarks as he leaves. They’ll show them to their room later. Dinner in an hour.
Since when did they go from an assistant and secretary to being servants? Pris asks. Jacob tells her to watch and wait. It will be night soon. Z and W will be about. Hadrian checks the room for bugs, then tells Jacob not to say anymore.
Dusk. Outside the estate, Phoenix and Cyclops are waiting. Jean fiddles with her costume’s sash. Impatiently, she telepathically tells Scott they’ve been here for hours and so far nothing. There’s life in the mansion now, Blair Cameron has moved back in. But no sign of anything evil or worse, certainly no sign of the missing boy. She hopes they are no wasting their time.
Since when did she become so impatient? Scott asks. She guesses she’s changed of late. What can she say? Just as long as she says it psionically like this, he won’t complain. They don’t want to alert anyone.
Does he think Kurt and Logon will b e all right? He doesn’t know, but if anyone can get close to what’s going on in there, it’s them.
Wolverine and Nightcrawler try to sneak in; they are currently on the roof. Kurt remarks this is easier than he thought it would be. Maybe a little too easy, Wolverine replies, suspicious. He notices a stink. He hasn’t smelled anything like that since WW2. He hopes this isn’t… Damn! Be careful what you wish for…’cause Lady Luck is just as likely to give you the opposite. Look out!
The next moment, Hellfire guards attack them with blades (as shots would disturb the guests) and more monsters. More of those devil things! Nightcrawler calls. That’s not what they are called, Wolverine replies as he unsheathes his claws, but close enough! Get ready, this is gonna be close quarters!
As the two Daemonites come closer Nightcrawler teleports away to take care of the human guards, while Wolverine attacks the Daemonites and begins slicing. Kurt tosses a guard off the roof. Moment later both of them are done.
Kurt, sitting atop a chimney, remarks he’s glad Logan took care... “Look out!” Wolverine shouts as he sees two Daemonites appear next to the chimney. But before they can attack Kurt, both are them impaled by someone behind the chimney, Warblade’s claws, and Zealot’s sword.
Hey blue fur, Warblade greets Nightcrawler, they meet again. And if that’s who she thinks it is under the mask… Zealot remarks. Logan? Then they meet again, too. Nightcrawler hides behind Wolverine. Yo, Blondie, Logan grins. Long time no see.
A lavish dining room where Cameron is holding the dinner. He must say this dinner is barely adequate, Marlowe remarks. Much like the pitiful bedroom Cameron gave him. Please tell him he’s joking, Cameron whines. Of course he’s joking, Marlowe replies. Everything here has been amazing. Good, Cameron replies. He hopes all these pleasures further entice Jacob into joining the Hellfire Club. He’s giving it serious thought.
And they have the hunt tomorrow, Cameron adds. He knows Jacob will enjoy that. Jacob is less sure. He always though the idea of a pack of men and hounds chasing a poor, scared fox to be pretty cowardly. Cameron agrees. You hunt one fox, you’ve basically hunted them all. No, tomorrow’s prey will hopefully be more of an entertainment.
He hopes his moral lassitude isn’t unsettling him? No, Jacob replies, drinking more champagne. Great men are not governed by the laws of the commoners. Look at the great past leaders. They kept a healthy disregard for the rules of their day and the fact is that because of their greatness, most are loved by their people regardless. Even President Kennedy… his affairs were common knowledge. But do the people love him less? Of course not! He alone is proof that they must exist above and apart from the rules.
He likes what he’s hearing, Cameron agrees. He shall enjoy admitting Jacob to Hellfire. Here’s to burning merrily, Jacob toasts while Pris and Hadrian watch critically.
After dinner, Jacob is led to his chamber where two scantily dressed young women are waiting. The Hellfire Club believes in excess, Cameron remarks. Every excess. Enjoy.
In the meantime, a butler leads Hadrian and Priscilla to their room. Singular. There are two of them, Hadrian points out And the bed is big enough for both of them, comes the reply. Pris points out they are not a couple. For this weekend they are, comes the reply. Admittance within the walls of the Hellfire Club requires a price. Decadence from everyone. Look at it as strengthening their working relationship. Uh-oh, Pris remarks, looking at the bed. He couldn’t have said it better, Hadrian agrees.
His sensors switch on as he examines the room. There are “ears” and “eyes” everywhere. What is she doing? he suddenly exclaims as she is clearly getting undressed. They want to see something, Pris replies and gets rid of her corsage. Let’s give ‘em a show.
Cameron, in the meantime, is led by one of his men, the only survivor, the one who fell off the roof, to the point of the attack. He is the only survivor? Cameron asks. Carmichael explains he fell into a rosebush. This moves things along then, Cameron decides. They can’t waste time with more play-acting and pampering. Bring Marlowe and his aides to him. Use force!
Now, Sir? Carmichael asks. If it’s convenient with his schedule, comes he sardonic reply. Perhaps he has a dance he’d rather attend. Carmichael apologizes. As an afterthought Cameron adds to bring the costumes of the two with Marlowe along. Let’s see their colors.
Hellfire Club guards forcibly enter the rooms of Marlowe and Hadrian and Pris respectively who are all busied quite plenty and are therefore helpless and surprised by the electric attacks.
Only Hadrian is still standing if barely, however a moment later, he too simply falls.
Later, Marlowe is told to awake. Wake up and smell the roses… or the coffee or what the silly expression it is you Americans use. They are in a cave. Cameron stands in front of a huge red pentagram in the ground, surrounded by Hellfire Guards and Daemonites. Marlowe and a young boy are hanging chained from a stalactite, while Voodoo and Spartan are also chained down further below.
What is this? Marlowe demands. This is below, comes the reply. Underneath, downstairs. Underground cavern? Precisely. Why? Ah, well therein lies a tale, Cameron replies. Has he ever heard of Sir Harry Tanner? Born 1764. Explorer, Adventurer, Rake.
Blair Cameron’s tale:
If there was a mystery to uncover Tanner was the man to do it. He found a lost city in the mountains of Kurdistan. He found gold in South America. He uncovered a scandal in the Prussian family that could have toppeled Europe. And on arcane matters Sir Harry Tanner was no less inquiring. Did he mention that he was a member of the Hellfire Club?
Fascinating, Marlowe comments wryly. That doesn’t explain why he’s chained to a rock.
Tanner uncovered the “spell of summoning,” Cameron continues. With it the wielder could summon a creature from the netherworld that would remain in his control. Imagine the power they’d have with their own demon. We, who? Jacob asks. We, the Hellfire Club, we, Cameron clarifies. The reason Tanner never performed the spell was because it needed two ingredients that even that great man was unable to uncover. One, a virgin with powers beyond those of man.
A virgin? Marlowe scoffs. He hates to tell him this, but he lost that title a few years ago, give or take a few millennia. No, the lad next to him, a fledgling mutant, takes the first role. He is a virgin isn’t he? Cameron asks. The crying boy begs him not to hurt him. He’s sorry he ran away from home.
As for Marlowe, the spell also calls for an immortal. He was just joking, Marlowe replies. Immortal? Him? Yes, Lord Emp, comes the reply. Does he think the Hellfire Club is without its information sources? He believes it’s even mentioned in their Club records that he met Harry Tanner. Quite possibly, Marlowe admits. He recalls he was far more of a gentleman than Cameron. Oh, he’s sure Cameron replies, but whoever told him he was a gentleman?
So the invitation was…? A ruse to get him here, knowing all along who he was. He knew that his aides were super-powered protectors, too. What silly name does he call them? WildC.A.T.s? Delightful.
He supposes some of the credit should go to his Daemonite allies. They came to him, asking to unite. Indeed, they even suggested using Marlowe as a sacrifice. Anyone might think they don’t like him.
Spartan struggles in vain with his bonds.
And what’s in it for the Daemonites? Marlowe asks. Hell on Earth, comes the reply. He’d intended to perform the spell tomorrow when the equinox was a tad more advantageous. But with all the rum doing on his grounds, the sooner he has a demon to boss around, the better. So, is he ready? No, Jacob replies. Too bad.
Blair Cameron pauses then. He clears his thoughts and asks for water, like a great tenor might before a performance. This will show them, he thinks. Shaw and Pierce and Frost. This will show them he’s a force to be reckoned with. And then the words come… easy like familiar scriptures.
Arise, Lord of all that is not. In the name if Cahrq, Molinz and Rashnogg I command this! For the wind is nameless that blows this day. The sun is called Vanutla. The moon is Gatu. The earth… the earth is Ky. Arise, Lord of all that is not. Arise and tell me the name of hell’s fine tors. What is the name of the netherworld?!
The ground begins to rumble and the demon rises. Welcome, Cameron announces.
Spartan has finally managed to break his bonds and fires at the demon. Voodoo cries for help as one of the guards reaches for her. The other guards shoot at Hadrian. The guard with her turns off his image inducer to reveal he is Nightcrawler, assuring her he is on their side and that he has signaled for back-up.
That moment, the WildC.A.T.s and X-Men come in like a storm, like elements. Thunder and lightning. Color and Power.
Attack! Zealot orders. Way ahead of you, blondie! Wolverine retorts. Hit them hard! Storm orders. Don’t give them a chance to counter them. Grifter shoots Daemonites and orders their strongman Maul to get Jacob and the kid off the stalactite.
Maul tries, but quickly gets caught by the demon’s tentacles. As does Colossus when he tries to help.
Storm grabs Marlowe and the boy and asks Phoenix to act quickly. Zealot kills Daemonites while Spartan and Cyclops keep Cameron from escaping.
Nightcrawler carries Voodoo away from battle. Before he returns he steals a kiss for luck, then bamfs away. Voodoo is somewhat disgusted. Great kiss. Lousy aftertaste.
Cameron pleads with Spartan and Cyclops; they don’t understand …he must get away. They all…do! The demon was summoned… Yeah, he can see, Cyclops comments wryly.
Phoenix begins to glow with fiery energy. What sort of energy does it wield? she asks the demon, fire and brimstone? She doubts it can compare to this! To the power of Phoenix.
Cameron continues that they denied the demon his… sacrifice. He didn’t feast upon Emp and the boy. He can’t stay on Earth. He’ll be going … back. That’s a bad thing? Cyclops asks. When he goes… there will be a vacuum… a backdraft… explosive!
Cyclops cries out for Jean and the rest to get away ! This place is going to—
Moments later, there is an explosion.
And here they are. Back where they started in April and everything is lovely. Cyclops half carries out the damaged Spartan. Don’t worry, soldier. We’ll get out of this alive. No, he doesn’t think so, comes an announcement. More Hellfire Club guards and Daemonites. He doesn’t think living is in the cards, the Hellfire guard continues. Not for either of--
A second explosion – kind of, as the Phoenix raptor breaks from the ground and with it all the other X-Men and WildC.A.T.s, unhurt. Jean and Void saved the rest. Phoenix contained them but Void was the one who teleported them away.
Now, Wolverine growls, what have they got here?
A very short time later, only the heroes are left. Some things haven’t changed from the last, time, huh Cole? Jean asks. She’s still in a team and the two of them helped save the world again. She didn’t acknowledge him earlier, Grifter replies sheepishly, He thought maybe… They were busy, that was all, Jean replies. Well, one thing has changed, he replies. He is in a team now, too.
Yeah, and a nice body count they all managed to chalk up, Wolverine of all people points out. Man, and they call him bloodthirsty. Pretty good ending, Marlowe remarks as he lights up a cigar. The X-Men got their kid back, the CATS killed some Daemonites.…
Yes, Storm replies icily. She notices they kill quite a lot. She doesn’t approve? Vodoo asks. “No.” And she knows the man who leads them wouldn’t approve either.
They are warriors, Zalot states. They fight, their enemies die. There’s no place for mercy in war. She guesses that’s where they differ, Phoenix replies.
They’re also fighting for acceptance with humanity every day, Cyclops remarks… yet every day they also pledge to defend humanity from danger. Grifter can attest to that from the last he met him, he bets.
Yeah, well, Marlowe replies, clearly disinterested, if it works for them… A moment ago, he though how similar their teams were. Now he sees they’re not alike at all. Still, maybe they’ll all meet again someday. What do they think? What does he think? Cyclops repeats. He thinks if that ever happens, it will be a dark and terrible day…