Manhattan…demons fall from the sky! They enter Earth through a Stepping Disc which has been permanently opened thanks to the demon N’astirh. The Stepping Discs are normally controlled by the New Mutant Illyana “Magik” Rasputin” who has now been fully transformed into the Darkchilde, and is battling the demon N’astirh while her friends and teammates in the New Mutants can only look on.
It wasn’t that Illyana was vain, beauty was just as natural to her as breathing. She had always been beautiful, like a perfect pastel present just begging to be opened - but she liked it, anyway, when her looks took people’s breath away. It almost made her forget what she was inside. Which is now on the outside - and would take people’s breath away still, but for a different reason. Her entire body is covered in demon-scales, her long flowing blonde hair replaced by a tangled mess of burnt orange curls. Her feet are cloven and a forked tongue darts from her mouth, matching her tail.
The Darkchilde still holds onto her Soulsword and some of N’astirh’s demons, the N’asteris scuttle around her feet, she reminds N’astirh that he said he would help her - but he has betrayed her instead! ‘Betrayed you, Illyana-Darkchilde?’ N’astirh asks. ‘You have your sword…and with it the darkest piece of your soul. I have given you power, Darkchilde! Power to use!’ he shouts. N’astirh points out that Illyana’s friends are here back on Earth, perhaps not safe, but back on home at least. ‘I did not promise that home would be as it was. After all, I am a demon!’
Mere hours ago, Illyana and her teammates the New Mutants, as well as their ally Gosamyr, were trapped in the eldritch dimension called Limbo. There, of her own free will, Illyana offered herself, the pretty pastel present, to a demon - and in exchange, he showed her the way home. The demon shredded and tore the pretty package, as demons will, and inside - surprise - just worms and dust. A soul that was nearly dead. But that was fine with him - since demons like dead things best of all.
Illyana’s forked tongue flickers from her mouth, her yellow eyes flash, as she shrieks ‘You used me to open this transport disc, to rip a hole in the sky…so that your legions could rain down on Manhattan. You lied to me!’ ‘You speak of lies, Darkchilde?’ N’astirh asks, pointing out that he helped her, and in exchange only asked that she accept her true self, embrace her dark heritage. ‘But have you? Have you truly?’ he asks.
Surrounded by the lesser demons, Darkchilde replies ‘Look at me - what other answer is there?’ the demons all begin calling out to her, ‘Our beautiful Darkchilde!’ ‘We love you like this!’ ‘Rule us!’ ‘Always!’ Suddenly, S’ym appears before them, ‘You dare to bow down before her?’ he asks the demons, boasting that he is their lord now. S’ym grabs one of Darkchilde’s arms and tells her that it was a trick, calling her an arrogant fool for falling for it.
S’ym asks Illyana what she thinks of herself now - and what she thinks of him - boasting that he is lord of Limbo and soon to be lord of this world, before N’astirh comes and snatches Illyana from S’ym’s grasp, and they toss her to the side as N’astirh reminds S’ym that, by agreement, Darkchilde belongs to him. S’ym puffs on his cigar and declares that the time for talk between he and N’astirh is over!
S’ym punches N’astirh across the street, and they begin to fight for possession of the Darkchilde and of her world, Limbo. N’astirh remarks that S’ym has plenty of physical power, not to mention the Transmode Virus, which made S’ym a thing of circuits and no longer of flesh and blood. N’astirh unleashes a blast of magical energies on S’ym, but the uber-demon shifts his body so that the energies pass through him - and instead hit Illyana, who is blasted across the street.
How did Illyana Rasputin become this cringing monster? This wretched symbol? S’ym suddenly rises through the ground where Illyana landed and points out the obvious to N’astirh, that the Transmode Virus has made him impervious to the destructive power of magic. Illyana has become a jewel in the crown of conquest, to be worn or tossed away. A possession - a trophy - a thing.
N’astirh remarks that maintaining the transport Stepping Disc and pentagram requires great effort, so his power is stretched thin - but he boasts that it will not always be the case, before warning S’ym that strength alone will not gain him his prize so long as he has magic at his fingertips. With that, N’astirh teleports Illyana away, just out of S’ym grasp.
The New Mutants, surrounded by countless lesser demons from Limbo are shocked at what is transpiring. Co-leader Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie informs his teammates that N’astirh teleported Magik away, to which Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair, in anguish, declares that Illyana paid for their passage to Earth with the price of her soul. Warlock tells his friends that they must save her, to which Danielle “Mirage” Moonstar, co-leader, asks of the portal, what should they do about it? Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta asks what they can do about it, to which his alien companion, Gosamyr motions for him to look upwards, where several ships are flying around the pentagram.
One of the New Mutants wonders who is up there, while someone points out there are demons baying at their heels. Mirage wonders what they are doing, to which Warlock suggests that whoever is up there might be trying to disrupt the pentagram. Cannonball remarks that the demons seem really bothered and declares that Warlock might be on the right track. Warlock transforms his usually lanky form into a bulky muscular super-hero type as Sunspot points out that N’astirh has forgotten about them and S’ym doesn’t seem to care what they do, so he thinks they can get up their easily to lend a hand.
Cannonball begins blasting up with Mirage, while Warlock holds Wolfsbane in one arm and Sunspot and Gosamyr in the other as Rahne asks about Illyana. Warlock remarks that the pentagram is part of the magicks taking place here, in fact he suspects it might be the main part, so if they can disrupt is, perhaps the magick will fail. Rahne gasps that Illyana will be free of her Darkchilde curse if that happens, so hopes that it will.
On the way up, Sunspot asks if anyone else noticed a demon dropping someone below them, someone that looked like a boy. ‘I wonder what N’astirh can want with him?’ Bobby asks.
Several blocks away, Illyana falls from a small Stepping Disc onto the pavement outside a restaurant. All around her, things - all kinds of things, from vents in the gutter to a dog being walked by its owner are all acting strangely - demonic even. Therefore, Illyana wonders where N’astirh sent her - this can’t possibly be Manhattan. The chef in the restaurant pops his head out the window and informs Illyana that this is Hell’s Kitchen, before telling her that his restaurant is famous for its ethnic foods - ‘Chinese, Italian, Greek. We’ll eat anybody!’ he exclaims as he drags Illyana into his restaurant.
Illyana cries that she has to get back and stop this, she has to do something, to which the chef asks her if she hasn’t done enough already. ‘Take the load off your feet!’ he exclaims as he slams her onto a stool, which cringes as she lands on it. ‘Buy you a drink!’ the serviette holder asks. ‘Buy you a meal!’ a tomato sauce container offers, all the while Illyana thinks that this cannot be real. A demonized civilian comes up behind Magik and ties a napkin around her neck, while another exclaims ‘Babe looks done in!’
A man seems to fly along in the restaurant exclaiming ‘Needs the milk of human kindness’ while a nun dances nearby. A dog smoking on a cigar pops up beside Illyana and asks ‘Hair of the dog that bit you, eh, darling?’ A strange looking waitress hands Illyana a bucket full of slop and tells her to drink up, that there is more where that came from. ‘Hurts them worse than it does you!’ the slop tells Illyana.
‘How can you? You were human once, now look at you! Monsters! You should die! All die!’ Illyana exclaims as she lurches backwards from the bucket of slop. ‘No, use the sword!’ the ketchup exclaims. ‘The sword! The sword!’ shout the salt and pepper shakers. Illyana wonders what it is she is saying. ‘I’m the monster!’ she thinks, remembering that she opened the portal and brought the demons in. ‘I…I did this to them! I’m the one who should die!’ she exclaims as she leaps into a Stepping Disc to carry her away.
Meanwhile, above Times Square, the New Mutants have joined the fray with several other mutant teens. Cannonball blasts into a demon as he motions to the babies floating at the pentagrams points. Warlock has transformed himself into a ship for Dani and Rahne to be in, while Sunspot and Gosamyr have found themselves a craft like the ones the other teens are in. One of those other teens is Sally “Skids” Blevins of the X-Terminators, who informs anyone that can hear her that N’astirh tricked their friend Wiz-Kid into creating a computer that processes magic, adding that the magic is holding the disc open while N’astirh makes Wiz Kid type the spells in.
Warlock informs everyone that the “new group” are saving the babies, and notes that where the baby is removed from its point in the pentagram, the pentagram disperses. Sally asks the other teens who they are, to which Dani introduces her team as the New Mutants. Sally’s boyfriend, and leader of the X-Terminators, Rusty Collins, exclaims that they have to save Wiz Kid, but that doesn’t help the babies whom they are also trying to save.
‘What about a two-pronged attack?’ Dani suggest, before informing the X-Terminators that N’astirh tricked one of their teammates into opening a teleportation disc between Earth and Limbo. ‘We’re responsible. So we have to close it. It’s all our fault!’ she exclaims. ‘You fault? We thought it was our fault!’ Tabitha Smith a.k.a. Boom-Boom remarks as she puts along in her craft, while the other X-Terminator, Julio Esteban Richter a.k.a. Rictor, is at the back of the group of small planes.
Sally understands what the New Mutants are talking about and suggests that the New Mutants go and save the babies and disrupt the pentagram. Rusty concludes Sally’s statement by declaring that the X-Terminators will bust Wiz Kid free of N’astirh’s control. Cannonball blasts ahead, leading his team skyward as he exclaims that it took both teams to make this mess, so perhaps together they can stop it!
Elsewhere, Illyana arrives through another Stepping Disc, this time outside of the See No Evil Pet Shop. Illyana wonders where she is, as she intended to teleport back to Times Square, which this is clearly not. She wonders why she is here and why she cannot control where she is going. ‘Because where you meant to be ain’t the place you deserve!’ a fire hydrant exclaims as it squirts a blast of water at Illyana, knocking her into the pet shop. As she enters, a bird pokes its head out of its cage and announces that the Darkchilde is here, but why?
‘Gonna set us free, aren’t you babe?’ a tortoise exclaims through its cage. ‘Why lock us up?’ a parrot asks. ‘You’re the one who’s dangerous!’ a cat exclaims. ‘Just look at you!’ shouts a seahorse. ‘NO!’ screams Illyana, while all around the pet store, the animals begin screaming things at her through their cages. ‘Horns!’, ‘And a tail!’, ‘Don’t deny it!’, ‘You’re the animal!’, ‘Mad as a hornet!’, ‘Crazy as a loon!’, ‘Smart like a fox - a mad dog!’, ‘A wet hen!’ ‘SHUT UP! SHUT UP!’ Illyana booms as she raises her Soulsword, tears streaming down her face.
Illyana smashes her sword into the animals’ cages. ‘All right! I’ve smashes your cages! You’re free!’ she exclaims, telling them to get out of here, to go away and leave her alone. ‘Make us!’ one of the animals shouts. ‘Use the sword!’ cries a rabbit as it leaps at her. ‘The sword! The sword!’ the animals all begin chanting as they leap at Illyana, before forcing her into a tiny bird cage. ‘Something fishy about this!’ one of the animals shouts. ‘She’s a skunk!’, ‘A snake in the grass!’, ‘She belongs in a cage!’ they shout.
Illyana thinks that it all comes down to the sword - they just want her to use it to kill them so that her fate will be sealed in innocent blood. Illyana thinks that it must be a part of the magic, so if she can avoid killing anyone, anything, then she will be all right. ‘I have to be all right!’
High overhead, the demons swarm as the New Mutants rush to free infants locked in a mystic spell. Cannonball exclaims to Dani that those lines of power in the air are pure energy. He remarks that he is invulnerable while blasting, so can reach the babies, before motioning to Dani and his teammates who are all being carried around by a super-sized Warlock. Danielle replies that non-conductive gloves would do the trick. ‘For you Warlock, giant, economy sized gloves!’. Mirage asks Warlock how much he wants them, to which Warlock replies that he wants them desperately, as they must save the little babies! With that, Dani uses her power of illusion to create some massive protective gloves for her alien teammate.
Dani declares that everyone on board is the defense squad, they will all protect Warlock while he plucks the babies from the sky. Warlock replies that it is a good plan and as he flies towards the pinkish sky to pull a baby from its position on the energy-lined pentagram, he adds that he hopes it succeeds. One of the lesser demons flies over to Warlock and exclaims ‘Big one! Stop him!’ before flying low and knocking Gosamyr from Warlock. Bobby calls out to his companion and leans over to grab her, but Dani tells him not to as he might fall out also.
Bobby does fall out, but grabs onto his beloved Gosamyr. At the same moment, a demon swoops down and slashes Mirage across her face with its sharp claws. Rahne witnesses this and cries out to her best friend, while Sunspot calls out to Warlock for help. Warlock extends his hands to pick up his falling friend and Gosamyr, who he is not too keen on, and puts them on his back. Sunspot mutters that this isn’t a good beginning, while Warlock points out that at least his gloves remain. Rahne holds onto Dani, who is wearily muttering ‘Distracted…by death vision…pay attention...to babies...or all will die!’
Far below, Magik, still trapped in the bird cage, arrives at another destination via a Stepping Disc. Once again she wonders where she is, until a carpet is rolled out for her and exclaims ‘Right this way!’ as it pulls her into a salon, which has “Wedding Receptions are our Speciality” on the window. The carpet tells Magik that it knows she will just flip over what they have to offer, and tosses her up into a large barber-style chair, the impact shatters the cage, freeing her from it. A hair-dryer, some sprays and a razor quote Keats: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. ‘What?’ asks the chair. Some scissors, more sprays and brushes exclaim “Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction”, quoting Diogenes.
The bird cage, as it falls to the floor, begins quoting the great Euripides, “Oh what a vileness beauty is - corrupting everything it touches!” Illyana finds herself stuck once more when the chair wraps its arms around her. She screams that she has had enough of this and orders it to let her go. “To keep beauty in its place, is to make all things beautiful” the chair says, quoting Santayana. All of the hair-dressing utensils around Illyana jump up into the air and quote Anouilh, “Things are beautiful, if you love them!”, before calling Illyana Darkchilde and telling her that they love her.
Illyana begins to get spun around on the chair at a tremendous speed and all she can hear are the utensils, hair sprays and brushes shrieking: “Your hair! Your eyes! Your lips! Your skin! Me first! No me! Cut first! Curlers! Spray! PERFECTION!’
Meanwhile, high overhead: Wolfsbane holds up one of the babies and asks Warlock how many of them they have. ’Six, self-friend!’ Warlock replies. Gosamyr holds onto the near-unconscious Mirage and announces that Sam has another baby. Sunspot punches a demon with his super strength and remarks that there are some wild pyrotechnics going on down below, so he hopes the X-Terminators are doing okay.
Cannonball blasts through the energies of the pentagram and liberates another of the children, ‘Seven!’ he shouts. Sunspot sees his best friend and declares that the demons cant touch him, while pointing out that the pentagram is breaking up. ‘Three more babies and our job is done!’ Bobby shouts.
Down below, N’astirh is furious as he thinks to himself that his magic dissipates as the pentagram vanishes, and without his magic the threat of S’ym grows for S’ym is almost as strong and impervious as he is. N’astirh thinks that to himself that to accept defeat at S’ym’s hands is unthinkable, when suddenly, S’ym comes up behind him and smacks N’astirh from behind. S’ym tells the horse-faced N’astirh to give it up. ‘You got defeat coming!’ S’ym boasts, before warning N’astirh that with one touch he can infect him with the Transmode Virus and destroy him.
N’astirh replies ‘I think not, fool’ and declares that this transformation will lead him to ultimate power, ultimate control and will make him the dominant sorcerer in this universe! Suddenly, there is a mighty explosion.
Up in the sky, Sunspot wonders what happened down there. ‘Some sorta explosion!’ Sam exclaims. Bobby exclaims that the pentagram is gone also, to which Rahne shouts ‘No more demon rain! We closed the disc! We did it!’ Warlock informs his teammates that N’astirh has vanished in the explosion but that S’ym is now escaping. Cannonball tells Warlock to forget S’ym, with the pentagram gone the babies are falling. ‘Come on!’ he exclaims, urging his teammate to help him rescue the remaining babies.
So, moments later, ten babies, alive and well, are sleeping off the strain of their cosmic ordeal. But for the New Mutants…the ordeal is about to begin. Gathered on the steps of a church, both teams of mutant teens take a moment to gather themselves. Sally tends to the wounds of Mirage and Wiz Kid, while Sunspot holds onto the tired Gosamyr. Rusty sits next to Sally, while Rictor stands up towards the back. Cannonball stands nearby, while Wolfsbane is covered in the babies. Boom-Boom, Artie, Leech and “super” Warlock sit or stand near her.
Sunspot remarks that he still thinks they should take Dani to a hospital, to which Rusty asks ‘In this madhouse city? This church will be safer, Sunspot’ before reminding him that they still have to find his friend. Cannonball remarks that Wiz Kid cleaned up N’astirh’s mess and paid the price, so the rest is up to them, to which Rusty asks Cannonball if he wants the X-Terminators to go with the New Mutants. Sam thanks Rusty before pointing out that the demon wounds aren’t normal, most of them can hardly stand, plus somebody has to guard the babies.
Boom-Boom exclaims that she and Rictor are okay, and offers to come along with Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane and Warlock to fill out their ranks. ‘We’d be obliged’ Sam replies as everyone climbs onto “super-Warlock”. Wolfsbane calls out to Sally, asking her to look after Dani as she was gashed rather badly, while Rusty blasts a demon with his flame powers as he and Sally enter the church.
Cannonball blasts alongside Warlock who is carrying the other four and tells Boom-Boom and Rictor that the X-Terminators did a good job. ‘You Muties weren’t so bad either, tall, blond and handsome!’ Boom-Boom exclaims. Sam doesn’t acknowledge that comment, instead he remarks that he hopes they find Illyana soon, for even though they got the disc closed, and the city seems to have settled down some, it is still full of demons! At that moment, a rush of incandescent energy flows over the remaining New Mutants and X-Terminators, and suddenly, before them, a demonized building grins at them. ‘It’s worse than before!’ Sam exclaims, wondering what is causing this mess.
‘I am!’ N’astirh exclaims to himself in another location, declaring that the explosion would have destroyed him if it wasn’t for the Transmode Virus. ‘A strange existence…not quite alive…and yet so much more!’ he boasts, remarking that he has absorbed magic into his very being, each cell is now programmed for magic - ‘And the world resonates with my power!’
Back in the salon, ‘Enough!’ shouts Illyana as she manages to free herself from the chair, then slashes her sword into it, causing the chair to cry out, seemingly in pain. Illyana forces the hairspray, hairdryer and other objects away, before turning back to the chair, blood dripping from several slashes on it. ‘You used the sword…bleeding…dying…master will be pleased!’ the chair exclaims. ‘No! You can’t die -you’re just a chair!’ Illyana replies. Several lesser demons appear around Illyana, ‘Mistress! You used the sword!’, ‘Your beauty is blinding!’ they exclaim, before one of them asks why she would kill the chair when it worked such miracles on her. ‘What?’ asks Illyana, before turning to a mirror, where she sees her demon-appearance modified some - her matted hair now sticks upwards, and skull-shaped jewellery dangles from her ears.
‘That can’t be me!’ Illyana exclaims, when suddenly N’astirh rises from the ground in front of her. ‘Ah, but it is!’ He exclaims, informing her that he felt her shed blood, so now she has chosen to join him. ‘Blood - ha! Chairs don’t bleed!’ Illyana snaps back as she lunges away from N’astirh. ‘In my new order they do!’ N’astirh informs her. Illyana reminds him that he said that if she took back the sword she would regain control of the Stepping Discs, before pointing out that he teleported her into one test after another until she finally failed.
N’astirh explains that he could only do that because Illyana still rejects the power that she possesses. ‘Fight what you’ve become!’ he exclaims, telling her to cease her struggles, he suggests that she give him the sword. ‘I am strong, lean on me!’ he offers, before once again offering her the chance to rule beside him as his dark bride. Illyana exclaims that she chose so hard to choose the right path, to which N’astirh suggests she learn from that, adding that in Limbo, there was never a right path.
‘All paths there…even the right paths…lead to greater evil!’ N’astirh exclaims, when suddenly, eldritch armor covers Illyana’s demonized body and she kicks N’astirh in the stomach, ‘For you, demon!’ she exclaims, before slashing N’astirh’s body with the Soulsword. N’astirh’s laughter resonates throughout the room as his body disperses. ‘Later, then, my Darkchilde!’ he exclaims, reminding her that he did say their union would be of her choice, and suggests that perhaps the experience of S’ym’s warm embrace will convince her to think more fondly of him.
N’astirh disappears and Illyana falls to the floor. Still cased in entire body armor, she exclaims ‘I’m a monster…as much a monster as he is! Worse. He’s as he was created to be. I was born human. I’m going mad. Somebody please help me!’ Illyana lies motionless, unaware that S’ym is grinning as he stands over her….