Outside Portland, Oregon, likes the headquarters of the Damocles Foundation. Publicly, the Foundation consists of a coalition of scientists, businessmen and environmentalists dedicated to preventing environmental disaster in the next century. However, the truth is that the Foundation is a front for another organization with a very different agenda. Deep within the headquarters, a bald man in a lab coat approaches a door marked “Armory”, and speaking to the scanner, gives his password as ‘Eggman’. The computer scans the scientist, and states ‘Joshua, Segismund A. Retinal scan: confirmed. Hand print: confirmed. Egg san: confirmed. Vocal pattern: confirmed. Access granted’.
Entering the armory, Doctor Joshua picks up a large weapon and remarks ‘This should do the trick’, when a female approaches him and exclaims ‘Where on Earth do you think you’re going with that molecular disruptor?’. Dr Joshua narrows his eyes and replies ‘Las Vegas, Dr Chandra. Please inform the Director that I’m taking some personal time’.
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, the owners of the Babylon Casino and Hotel, the most recent addiction to the Las Vegas Strip, intend to open their casino to the public two years ago. They hadn’t anticipated a labour dispute that would bring construction to a screeching halt. While its owners are tied up in court battles, the ziggurat shaped complex remains unfinished and empty - making it an ideal place to keep five mutants prisoner: Theresa “Siryn” Rourke, Danielle Moonstar, Sally “Skids” Blevins, Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith all hang from a chamber ceiling by their feet, while Roberto “Sunspot” DaCosta is trapped on some sort of box.
Ordinarily, Sunspot could burn the metal restraints that hold him into the slag, because since his adolescence his body has been a solar powered battery, capable of generating incredible heat. Unfortunately, his power has been stolen by his captor and enigmatic doppelganger - the man called Reignfire! ‘This isn’t’ happening! You can’t be Reignfire! I was Reignfire!’ Sunspot exclaims. ‘So I let the you and the world believe. Our lives have been intertwined for far too long, Bobby - but tonight I’m going to sever our connection permanently!’ Reignfire cryptically exclaims.
Leaning against a wall, Reignfire’s companion Locus exclaims ‘He means you’re going to die, DaCosta. You and all your little friends in X-Force!’. It was Locus’ space-warping teleportation that facilitated the capture of X-Force and Skids in Boulder. But Reignfire declares that not all the members of X-Force are here. ‘We’re still missing the Apache, Proudstar’ he reminds her. Looking rather nervous, Locus replies that Proudstar disappeared after she grabbed the Irish chick. ‘Then look again!’ Reignfire orders.
Locus immediately opens a portal in which space and geography have no meaning, and through which she can travel hundreds, even thousands of miles, in the blink of an eye. ‘Back to the university’ Locus exclaims, returning moments later, announcing that she had no luck. ‘I searched the entire campus. That Indian’s long gone!’ she declares. ‘That could be a problem’ Reignfire remarks. But Locus tells him that even with Warpath’s heightened senses there is no way he can possibly track them here from Colorado. ‘These guys have been travelling around the country in an old Cadillac. They no longer have access to Cerebro or any other mutant tracking technology. In fact, Bastion had all of Xavier’s hardware cleaned out of the Mansion, so even the X-Men couldn’t find us!’ Locus exclaims.
But Reignfire tells Locus not to underestimate Proudstar. And with good reason, as James “Warpath” Proudstar crouches on the beams above Reignfire and Locus, thinking to himself ‘Incredible. One minute I’m in a coffee house in Colorado, and the next I’m in Las Vegas!’. James tells himself that he is lucky Locus didn’t see him follow her through the portal after she grabbed Theresa, and knows that he has to be careful here, he cannot take Reignfire on directly. ‘I’m strong, but not invulnerable - and certainly not to fire!’. Looking down at his chained friends, James realizes that Reignfire doesn’t seem too concerned for them. ‘And that worries me. What has he done to them?’
At that moment, the young women begin to rouse from their drugged sleep. ‘Ach, me head’ Siryn exclaims, before seeing Moonstar hanging beside her and asking her what she is doing here, as she was supposed to be at her father’s. ‘What’s going on here?’ Siryn exclaims. Danielle reveals that Reignfire ambushed her while she was horse-back riding. ‘He used Locus to grab you and the others from the university’ Dani explains. ‘This is exactly why I didn’t want to be a part of you people anymore!’ Skids exclaims. ‘You don’t lead normal lives. You live in a world of constant danger and insanity. What was I thinking letting you stay with me? I was asking for disaster!’ she adds, annoyed.
Down below, Sunspot tells Reignfire to let the others go. ‘Your grudge is against me!’ Bobby declares, but Reignfire exclaims that no one leaves. Meltdown realizes that the chain binding her hands is weak and starting to give, so she tries to apply a little more pressure so she can get her hands free. Reignfire leans over Sunspot and creates a small energy flare, telling him that he is going to watch his friends die. ‘This is Vegas, after all. I feel compelled to make your end spectacular!’ Reignfire declares, when suddenly, the shackles around Tabitha’s wrists snap, and she pulls herself up by the chains around her ankles and exclaims: ‘Sorry to disappoint you, Reignfire, but we didn’t sign up for this audition! Not prepare to get your butt kicked by Meltdown!’
It rarely takes great effort for Meltdown to create her volatile bioplasmic time bombs - therefore she is unprepared when nothing happens at all. ‘Uh-oh. What’s going on? Why isn’t my power working?’ Tabitha gasps, looking at her hands. Suddenly, Locus materializes beside her courtesy of a teleportation portal, and punches Tabitha in the side, exclaiming ‘Maybe we just turned off the juice!’. Moonstar announces that she cannot generate any kind of psionic arrow, while Siryn declares that her sonic scream is out of commission also. ‘They’ve cancelled out our mutant powers - but how?’ Dani gasps.
Suddenly, Locus leads a rather large man into the chamber. ‘My name is Henry’ he exclaims, simply. Locus introduces him as Henry Wallinger, and claims that they rescued him from the Weissman Institute. Locus remarks that he is a little slow, but that he happens to be able to shut down any other mutant’s power. ‘That’s why we call him Short Circuit’. Hugging Short Circuit, Locus exclaims that h will do anything for his new best friends. Henry looks at Locus oddly, before stating that he doesn’t want to go back to the bad place, as they don’t let him watch Bullwinkle.
Reignfire clenches a fist and declares that soon they will make the world pay for every indignity mutant kind has suffered. ‘Henry is a pariah by human standards. A freak to be hidden and institutionalized. When I am through with humanity, he will be treated as royalty!’. ‘Yeah right. You’re the new mutant messiah. And we’re either with you or against you. Yadda yadda yadda’ Meltdown mocks, muttering ‘How many times I have heard that tired old line’, while Sunspot asks Reignfire who he is and why he is doing all this. ‘You still believe that you were Reignfire? HAH!’ Reignfire laughs.
Sunspot declares that he knows he was suffering from some kind of dual personality disorder, but he doesn’t remember much of what he did. ‘I even attacked X-Force as Reignfire’ Bobby adds. Reignfire exclaims that he remembers that moment. ‘You ripped off your mask oh so dramatically and declares -
(Shown with illustrative flashback image from X-Force (1st series) #43)
‘Reignfire is and always has been Roberto DaCosta!’ exclaimed Reignfire as he ripped off his mask in front of X-Force and the Mutant Liberation Front.
Reignfire reveals that he scripted that shocking revelation, just as he was directing Bobby’s movements. He explains that he and Sunspot shared a telepathic bond and that in the months following Bobby’s disappearance with Locus, Bobby was his prisoner. ‘And during that time I learned to control you via that bond. To move and manipulate you like a puppet. That’s why you attacked X-Force as Reignfire!’ he explains. ‘Wait a second. I was there. Locus claimed she and Bobby had been living in the future during those months’ Moonstar declares. Reignfire fobs her off, remarking that the X-teams have encountered so many visitors from the near and far future that it was a convincing deception. Moonstar asks Reignfire how he explains Cable exorcising the Reignfire personality from Bobby telepathically, to which Reignfire reveals that Cable severed their telepathic link.
Reignfire explains that the psychic feedback from Cable’s telepathic intrusion left him dazed for months, and he wandered the streets for months, living as a vagrant, unaware of his identity and his mutant powers. Grabbing Bobby by the face, Reignfire exclaims that when his memory returned, he knew he needed to find Bobby and settle their business. ‘None of that explains why we’re connected!’ Sunspot points out. ‘Frustrating, isn’t it?’ Reignfire replies.
(Shown with flashback images of Sunspot throughout the years)
‘You know so little about me, while I know everything about you’ Reignfire exclaims, revealing that each moment of Bobby’s life is ingrained in his memory as if it were his own. ‘From your pampered childhood in Brazil to your first days as a student at Xavier’s School to your time with X-Force. I know your every triumph and every failure intimately!’
Reignfire leans on Meltdown as he exclaims ‘All your desires are an open book to me - and unlike you I’m not afraid to make them a reality!’. Meltdown calls Reignfire a creep and tells him to get his hands off her. ‘You wouldn’t be so grabby if I was powered up!’ Tabitha declares, to which Reignfire asks her to admit that it is Bobby’s dark side that attracted her to him in the first place. ‘Leave her alone!’ Bobby shouts, leaning up from the box. ‘Simmer down, brother!’ Reignfire exclaims, knocking Bobby back with a blast of energy, causing Sunspot to cry out in agony.
‘Did that burn? I’m so sorry. I forgot I’d siphoned all the exothermal heat your mutant body produces’. Reignfire boasts that, for his next trick he is going to absorb the remainder of Bobby’s body heat. ‘Nether thought you’d be one to die of hypothermia, did you?’ he snarls. ’Wait!’ Meltdown calls out in attempt to distract Reignfire. ’You still haven’t explained who you are or how you developed that telepathic link with Bobby. Um, inquiring minds want to know!’. Reignfire ignores her, declaring that they have talked enough. ‘It’s time to say one last goodbye to your friends, Bobby’ he declares.
Meanwhile, on a busy Nevada interstate highway, a black sedan eaves through traffic at incredible speeds. Inside the sedan, its driver has relinquished control to the car’s computer system whose response time far exceeds that of any human. At this moment, Dr Segismund Joshua is far more concerned with the events of two years past, and his mind wanders backwards….
(Flashback, takes place prior to X-Force (1st series) #1)
Dr Joshua had been working for a man named Gideon, one of a handful of mutant immortals called Externals. Gideon had given Dr Joshua Roberto DaCosta as an experimental guinea pig, as Dr Joshua believed that if he could isolate the mutant gene that gave Sunspot his exothermal abilities, he could enhance them and perhaps reproduce them in another test subject. One such subject was Project Nineteen, a male who was placed in an oxygenated nutrient bath in order to slow an unusual physical deterioration. Dr Joshua had transfused some of Dacosta’s blood into Nineteen, and the subject appeared to be using it as a template to regenerate - something Dr Joshua ordered his staff never to tell Gideon about.
Reignfire hovers over Sunspot, emitting energies as he exclaims that once he despised Sunspot as much as he despised the human cattle who shunted and isolated him. ‘Your very existence was a constant reminder of all that had been denied him - family, friends, and lovers. ‘Now, I no longer hate you. I understand that without you my rebirth would never have been possible. What a pity your heroic pretensions necessitate you death’. Bobby utters that he is so cold, while Locus exclaims that she wishes Reignfire would just kill DaCosta and move on. ‘Is it time for cartoons now?’ Henry asks, unaware that Warpath is on a ledge above them, slowing he begins pushing a large decorative and heavy wall panel from its position, telling himself that he cannot wait any longer, and that it is time to draw Reignfire’s attention away from Bobby.
‘And I can’t think of a better way to do it than by taking out his two flunkies!’ James decides as the large wall panel slams into Locus and Short Circuit, knocking them to the ground. ‘Proudstar! I told Locus you’d make trouble!’ Reignfire exclaims, turning his attention to James’ entrance, he blasts Warpath with energies, but James dodges them, exclaiming that if he had planned this Vegas vacation, he would be at Cirque du Soleil. ‘But I just wouldn’t be able to enjoy the show if I let you kill my friends!’ James adds. ‘I thought you were supposed to be the sullen, quiet one, Proudstar!’ Locus exclaims as she materializes in the air beside Warpath and kicks him in the face, knocking him over.
‘A cute guy like you should make sure his opponents are down for the count’ Locus tells James. James wipes his face and replies ‘A cute girl like you should get psychiatric help!’. Locus angrily declares that she isn’t crazy, and teleports in front of James, punching him in the face, before teleporting behind him, preparing to attack him from behind. ‘Ow - should’ve seen that one coming’ he remarks. ‘No one ever does’ Locus tells him, before he dodges her second attack. She teleports again, but Warpath moves out of her way, telling her that this pop-up trick may give her the jump on most people, but explains he can sense the subtle atmospheric charge that precedes her appearance. ‘You can only catch me by surprise once!’ James declares as he smacks Locus in the face.
Locus gathers herself and tells James that it is too bad he is pulling his punches cause she is a girl. ‘It’s sweet but stupid!’ she exclaims, revealing that she believes in “no quarter asked, no quarter given”, and creates a teleportation portal around James’ neck as she declares that he gave her enough chance to open a portal around his neck, and that once she closes it, his pretty head is going to wind up in another zip code. ‘ULP!’ James utters.
Meanwhile, Sally suddenly “skids” out of the chains around her ankles and hit’s the floor. When she was part of the New Mutants, she was called Skids because of her ability to generate a frictionless force field that let her slip out of anything. Sally realizes that her powers returned pretty quickly after James took out Short Circuit, and makes her way over to Locus, who asks James if he feels the noose tighten. ‘Now don’t you wish you’d been nicer to me when you had the chance?’ Locus asks. ‘Get away from him, you psycho!’ Skids exclaims as she grabs Locus’ hand.
‘What the -? Stupid girl, you’ve broken my concentration!’ Locus snaps as she loses control of the portal and it fades away from around Warpath’s neck. ‘Yeow. That was way too close for comfort!’ James exclaims, rubbing his neck. Skids falls to the floor, but she puts a hand to Locus’ foot, while the teleporter grins wickedly and touches Sally’s face, telling her that she should have stayed at school instead of getting involved in something that didn’t concern her. ‘Bet you wish you were back in class right now, don’t ya?’ Locus asks. ‘I wish you’d shut up. No wonder you and Reignfire are together. You’re each in love with the sound of your own voice!’ Sally snaps back.
‘Ooh, that hurts, girly - but not as much as you’re gonna hurt when I use you to demonstrate the guillotine I was about to perform on Proudstar’. Locus exclaims as her power flows around Skids. ‘I don’t think so’ Sally replies, calmly as the portal suddenly goes haywire. ‘What’s happened?’ Locus calls out. Skids explains that her force field disrupts any other energy field that it contacts. Locus declares that the disruption has caused her to lose control of the portal and cannot close it. ‘We’re going to be caught in a trans-spatial backlash!’ she screams, as the portal closes on her and Skids. Space bends around them in a vortex of sub-spatial particles -
- and deposits them, unconscious, thousands of miles away from Las Vegas, on top of a snow-covered terrain….
Back in Las Vegas though, Sunspot manages to snap the chains around his wrists as he realizes that Reignfire has stopped paying attention to him, distracted by Skids and Locus’ disappearance. Bobby tells himself that he has to move fast while he still has some energy in him, and takes to the air, recalling that when Reignfire was leeching his body heat in Boulder, he said he had learned to use his power in ways he never could. ‘Maybe that means I can turn the tables on him, and reabsorb the power he stole from me - if only I can get close enough’. But with that, Sunspot drops down on Reignfire, who exclaims ‘What a stupid move - you have one chance at escape and you waste it on bravado!’
‘Oops’ Bobby exclaims as Reignfire wraps his arms around him, and punches him backwards. ’How painful do you want me to make your death?’ Reignfire asks, before Siryn flies to Bobby’s rescue, catching her friend, while Bobby exclaims that he is sorry to get them all involved in this. Siryn tells Sunspot not to be sorry. ’Reignfire may be yuir warped mirror image, but he’s all of our concern. And we don’t take kindly to anyone trying to kill one of our own!’ Theresa exclaims. Meltdown throws time bombs at Reignfire while exclaiming that now they know for certain Reignfire isn’t Bobby, it makes it a whole lot easier to let loose on him. ‘You know it, Tabitha’ Moonstar agrees as she fires a psionic arrow at Reignfire, declaring that they have to keep him away from Bobby.
Unfazed, Reignfire exclaims ‘Nice try, ladies, but ultimately pointless’ and tells them that they might have had a chance before he added Sunspot’s power to his own, but that time is past. He boasts that when he is done here he will never need to worry about X-Force interfering with his plans ever again. ‘I’m going to burn this entire casino to the ground with you in it!’ Reignfire declares as he begins to spread flame throughout the chamber. Siryn and Sunspot drop to the floor and Siryn exclaims that Reignfire is raising the temperature to an unbelievable level. ‘Everything in this place’s starting to combust!’ she exclaims. Bobby asks Theresa if he has ever told her how glad he is that she has been working out. ‘I don’t know if I can survive it’ he adds.
Dani points out that the air is getting pretty thin as the fire is eating up all the oxygen in the room. Meltdown suggests that they get out of here before they go up with the scenery, to which Siryn asks how they are going to do that, as the fire has blocked all the exits. Meltdown declares that she isn’t exactly sure where they are, but she is betting there is something below them - another floor, a basement, a service tunnel - anything, and drops a massive time bomb on the floor, creating an escape route. ‘I was right!’ Meltdown calls out.
James begins pulling Short Circuit from the rubble, declaring that he cannot leave him to die. ‘His only crime was being easily manipulated by Locus and Reignfire. All he wanted to do was watch cartoons’ James declares, while Tabitha jumps down the hole in the floor. ‘Follow me. Wheeeee!’ she exclaims, to which Dani follows her, while remarking that she will never understand how Tabitha can take life and death matters so lightly. Tabitha replies that it is either that or let fear paralyze her - which would make her no fun at parties, she points out. Carrying Short Circuit over his shoulders, James tells the unconscious mutant that he hopes he remembers who dragged him out of a bad situation when he wakes up. ‘I’d hate for you to cancel my powers at an inopportune moment’ he remarks as he leaps down the hole.
‘Where can you possible run that would be safe - when I intend to burn this entire city to the ground?’ Reignfire exclaims as he throws more flame about. Hovering in the air nearby, Siryn has carried Sunspot into the air once more and tells him to hold tight, assuring him that she is going to get them both out of here. ‘I’ve never felt so useless’ Bobby mutters, to which Siryn tells him that he can return the favor next time she loses her voice in a crisis. Siryn begins to modulate her voice to an inhuman pitch, shatter the skylight glass above, before she and Sunspot pass through it.
Siryn drops Bobby on a nearby roof and tells him to try and find cover while she will see if she can draw Reignfire away from the city and into the desert where any damage they do will be minimal. But Reignfire flies towards Siryn, asking what makes her think he wants to take the fight elsewhere? He exclaims that Las Vegas is the new American mecca. ‘What’s more American than cheap thrills and the empty promise of easy money?’ he asks. ‘When I raze this town, the whole country will notice. The incineration of Vegas is my declaration of war on humanity!’
Reignfire boasts that he will give the world a reason to fear mutant kind, while down on the busy streets below, civilians begin running in panic as they see Reignfire above them. However, Dr Joshua arrives, thinking to himself that when Project Nineteen escaped Gideon’s laboratory and resurfaced as Reignfire, he knew he would have to correct the horrible mistake he made in that laboratory. Holding his weapon, Dr Joshua tells himself that when the Foundation’s satellites began registering Project Nineteen’s familiar energy signatures, he had not choice but to seek out the thing he created and destroy it.
Siryn uses her sonic scream to shatter a fire hydrant, hoping that her timing is right, water gushes skyward while Reignfire asks her if she really expects to extinguish his flame with water from a fire hydrant. ‘I’m working with what’s a hand. Can’t fault a lass for trying!’ Siryn exclaims, to which Reignfire tells her that he is going to more than that. I’m going to - YEARRGHH!’ he exclaims in pain as an energy beam fired from Dr Joshua’s weapon. ‘Doctor Joshua?’ Reignfire exclaims as he sees Dr Joshua, standing on the front of a car. ‘You should never have been allowed to live, Nineteen!’ Dr Joshua exclaims. ‘What are you doing to me?’ Reignfire calls out, while Sunspot notices Dr Joshua and exclaims that he is the sadistic doctor that experimented on him while he was Gideon’s prisoner. ‘What’s his connection to Reignfire?’ he asks.
Reignfire blasts Dr Joshua, exclaiming that he spent a decade as one of his lab rats, but now he is free and refuses to suffer any more of his abuse. Seeing Siryn fly towards him, Reignfire exclaims that he has not forgotten about her, and engulfs her in flame, while Siryn exclaims that she cannot get close enough to knock him out with the concussive sound of her voice. Sunspot walks over to Dr Joshua and asks ‘Remember me?’, but Dr Joshua, engulfed in flame, cries out for help. ‘Oh…God…the pain!’ he cries. ‘However much pain you’re feeling right now, I’m certain you deserve more!’ Sunspot exclaims, but Dr Joshua tells him that he doesn’t understand.
Bobby takes the weapon and tells Dr Joshua to relax, as right now the cannon is the only thing he wants. ‘It seemed to hurt Reignfire, which means I can use it!’ Bobby declares, while Dr Joshua explains to him that it is a molecular disruptor beam and tells him to be careful as it is only a prototype. ‘After I bring Reignfire down, I’ll treat this puppy like she was my own!’ Bobby exclaims, before warning Dr Joshua that when he is through with Reignfire, they are going to talk about what exactly he did to him in his lab. ‘REIGNFIRE!’ Bobby screams as he unleashes a massive energy beam from the weapon. As the energy wraps around Reignfire, the villain exclaims ‘Bobby, no! You don’t know what you’re doing! You’re tearing me apart!’ Reignfire calls out.
‘That’s the idea!’ Sunspot exclaims as Reignfire is pulled closer to Sunspot, Bobby exclaims that Reignfire is giving off an enormous amount of heat. ‘I’m burning up. Got to hold on…even though this gun has destroyed his human form, Reignfire is still alive!’ Bobby realizes. ‘You’ll pay for what you’ve done to me!’ Reignfire calls out, while Sunspot wonders if Reignfire is even human. At that moment, the disembodied Reignfire startles Bobby, causing his finger to drop from the trigger for an instant - and that split second is all the creature called Reignfire needs to take the offense, wrapping its form around Sunspot. ‘You can destroy the shape I have maintained for these past years, but you can’t destroy me! We are joined forever. Even Cable’s vaunted telepathic skills couldn’t’ completely destroy out bond!’
Reignfire adds that it is their link which allows him to do this, as he completely engulfs Sunspot. ‘NOOOOO!’ Sunspot screams. At that moment, Dani, James, Theresa and Tabitha arrive. ‘I think we arrived too late ‘Dani remarks, while James declares that he doesn’t know what to make of this. ‘Bobby, are you all right?’ Tabitha calls out. Sunspot stands before them, his body resembling that of Reignfire, he grins wickedly as he shouts ’There is no more Bobby. Now and forever there is only Reignfire!’….