(Westchester, New York)
From his sanctum sanctorum, Dr. Stephen Strange travels to Westchester in his astral form, entering Xavier’s mansion, undetected by the hi-tech security systems. The place appears to be empty, and Strange soon discovers the object he seeks. On a desk, as if it were no more than a paperweight, sits the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak. Until recently, the gem was fused to the body of the Juggernaut, Charles Xavier’s destructive stepbrother, which leads Strange to wonder - where is Cain Marko?
Looking closer, he actually sees Marko inside the gem, pleading to be freed. Strange feels this is remarkable. He never imagined any earthly force could separate Cain Marko and the ruby, let alone ensnare him within it. He’s sure it was this disturbance that shook him from his meditation. To learn the truth behind the Juggernaut’s imprisonment, he opens the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto, and pushes aside the veil of time to witness the events that brought him there.
Dr. Strange knows only an enormous threat could have frightened Marko to such a degree that he would ask help from his hated stepbrother and his students, the X-Men. Yet, even within the mansion’s protected walls, this threat hunted him down.
Onslaught has Cain Marko sweating, and he pleads with the creature not to kill him. Onslaught thinks it’s a splendid idea, but asks how that would be possible. He’s protected by the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak. Regardless, he picks up Marko in one huge hand and plucks the gem from his chest with the other. Strange watches these events with astonishment. Not even he could sunder the bond between the gem and Marko with such impunity and, yet, he senses no mystical energy within Onslaught. Marko is left in agony as Strange ends this interlude.
Strange ponders whether Onslaught understands the consequences of severing Marko from the gem. The ruby contains a corrupted aspect of the other-dimensional deity known as Cyttorak, which, when unleashed centuries ago, left a path of death and destruction across the Asian continent. As he contemplates what he has witnessed, he fails to notice an arcane mark on a computer screen beside him. The mark comes to life and tic tic’s towards him. As Strange thinks about how to contain the gem’s power, the arcane symbol is upon him. Strange turns with a start.
Fortunately, help is on hand in the form of the diminutive Gomurr, who catches the symbol with his staff. He stands, grinning, and asks if there is no hello for Gomurr the Ancient. After all he did for him, Logan and the kid with the wings; he expected a warmer greeting. Didn’t the Ancient One (no relation) teach Strange any manners?
Dr. Strange apologizes, but didn’t expect to see him. He asks if that was one of Tar’s neon spiders and, if so, what interest does the protector of the Crimson Dawn have in this gem? Gomurr disperses the spider and replies the same as they have. He explains that you can’t have something this powerful just lying around. Next thing you know, some schmuck like Marko picks it up and then you’re stuck with another unstoppable engine of destruction; frightening animals, stopping traffic and generally wreaking havoc.
Strange says that, as long as Cain Marko’s life essence is within the gem, there is an even greater danger. Gomurr knows this and is going to pull the big lummox out of there. Strange tells him he will accompany him, but Gomurr doesn’t think so. He’s been walking the illuminated path since before Strange was born. He’ll manage. Besides, he adds, Strange crossed Tar when he placed Psylocke’s soul into the Crimson Dawn. He won’t appreciate him interfering in his business again. “His business?” Dr. Strange enquires. Gomurr admits he meant their business, but it’s a long story and he’d rather not go into it.
Strange doesn’t like this, and feels Gomurr is hiding something from him. Gomurr tells him that if he wants to be useful, he can protect the crystal while he’s inside. Strange asks, what if he fails? “Then you can have my record collection,” jests the wily old-timer. He mumbles an incantation, traces a symbol in the air and disappears.
(inside the crystal)
There are realities that exist beyond our own; other dimensional planes and pockets steeped in magic and governed by arcane and ominous forces. Within the Gem of Cyttorak lies a volcanic landscape of fiery mystical energy. There, Cain Marko, in his Juggernaut outfit, faces the bitter realization that the gem he once considered irrevocably embedded in his body, is now his sulphurous prison.
Cain calls out to Onslaught, saying he doesn’t deserve this. What did he ever do to him? The answer arrives in a coincidental eruption of searing hot lava that begins to burn through his costume. He cries out. He wants help. He’s scared.
(in Cain’s mind)
Cain is in bed, and he wakes up screaming. He looks around and thinks he is in a hospital. Was he hallucinating? As long as he’s outta that pit, he doesn’t really care. He then realizes that he cannot move his arms and legs. A silhouette appears in his doorway, and the stranger asks if he’s all right. He could hear Cain screaming all the way from his study. He flicks the light switch to reveal himself to be Cain’s hated stepbrother, Charles Xavier.
Cain says he shoulda known. He wants to know if Xavier and his X-Men put Onslaught into the ground. Charles replies that he has no idea what he’s talking about. He informs Cain that he’s become increasingly delusional of late and, frankly, he’s worried. He notices Charles no longer requires his wheelchair, and asks how come he can walk, yet he can’t seem to move at all. Charles answers, “You haven’t been able to move in twenty years, Cain.”
Cain asks what kind of sick game he’s playing. Charles asks if he’s forgotten what happened in Korea. They were both stationed in Seoul when Cain went A.W.O.L. He followed Cain into the mountains, hoping to find him before the Military Police did. It was there they stumbled upon an ancient temple hidden deep in a cave. When Cain tried to wrest a gem from the temple’s idol, he set off a trap that caused the cave to collapse around them. Charles continues to say that Cain was trapped under a ton of rock. He managed to free him, but it was too late. Cain sustained spinal damage that left him quadriplegic.
Cain snarls, and says he does remember that day, but that ain’t the way it went down. He found the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, sure, but it made him into the unstoppable Juggernaut - not some useless crip! Charles remains calm, and takes Cain outside to help him feel better.
Pushing Cain along in a wheelchair, Cain asks whether Charles found him after Onslaught had finished with him, and thought, “Now Cain’s vulnerable. Now I can finally get back at him.” Charles replies that he’s long since forgiven him for his adolescent cruelty. They’re family, even if they’re not related by blood. It was Cain’s misfortune that led him to dedicate his life to helping the physically challenged. Cain isn’t buying it.
A soccer ball bounces off the chair’s wheels, and rebounds back into the hands of Jean Grey. Her fellow X-Men are behind her; Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Wolverine and Psylocke. Charles says Jean’s a fine girl. You’d hardly guess she spent two years in a coma after her plane crashed in the Atlantic. Cain thinks the rest of Xavier’s mutant freaks must be in on this con. Charles tells Cain that they aren’t mutants or freaks. Though they may possess some physical and psychological disabilities, they are still as normal as they are.
Charles’ tone alters, and becomes a little more cutting. He tells Cain that it must be agonizing to see others happier and healthier than he, and to know he’ll never experience their joyous physical abandon. Deep in his heart of hearts, he adds, it’s Cain’s soul that’s crippled, not his body. He grins as he looks down at his helpless stepbrother. “Your life belongs to me, Cain Marko.” Cain swears that, when he gets out of his blasted chair, he’s going to kill Charles, just like he should have the first time they met, when Charles was still a weasel neck punk.
Surprisingly, Gomurr appears, holding the ball, and speaks to someone out of view. He tells them this deception is heavy handed. He says Marko’s resentment of Xavier has already cost him so much, there’s no need to pour salt on the wounds. Wolverine asks for his ball back, but shimmers into nothingness, along with his teammates. The mansion vanishes in the distance. Xavier tells Gomurr he shouldn’t have come here. Gomurr grimaces, and replies, “And leave Cain to your tender mercies? No siree. I know who chokes the leash around your neck.”
(inside the crystal)
The image of Xavier fades, revealing the lithesome form of a demonic temptress. Crouching atop a hardened lava flow, she tells Gomurr he’s wasting his time coming here. He can’t deny her her pleasure. She is Spite, and tortured souls are her sustenance. It’s been ages since she’s had a mortal psyche to twist and tease. Luckily for her, when she’s through with Gomurr, she’ll have two.
Gomurr raises his staff, and the rings dangling from the end draw the mark of Zhou’Syn in the air. Spite withdraws slightly, but warns him that the mark won’t protect him there. Gomurr asks why then she recoils. She’s not half the demon her brother is. No wonder D’Spayre trapped her here so easily, he taunts. Spite tells him not to mention that name in her presence, not if he wishes to leave the place alive.
Spite seems generally unconcerned with Gomurr’s presence, informing him that, no matter what he does, the crimson one will claim Cain Marko’s soul. Gomurr’s too old and withered to stand against his dark power, she adds. Gomurr thinks not, and reminds her that he stopped the unstoppable once before. As Spite takes her leave, vanishing in a puff of smoke, she replies that he had help then. He should enjoy this momentary victory, as it will be his last.
With her threat gone for the time being, Gomurr releases the Juggernaut from his lava prison. He cries, “I’m free!” as he smashes the rock and steps out, asking where the skirt is. He owes her a pounding. Gomurr tells him to forget her. She’s the least of his concerns. He asks who the pipsqueak is, and Gomurr introduces himself. Cain grabs him by the head and lifts him clean off the ground to eye level. Cain wants answers but, as soon as he’s delivered a verbal threat, Gomurr disappears, and reappears behind Cain, felling him with his staff by smacking the backs of his knees. Cain falls to the ground, and Gomurr informs him that he no longer possesses the power of the Juggernaut, and it would be wise for him to stop acting like he does.
Gomurr asks him to look around. He is in the heart of the Cyttorak Gem, and is in great danger. Cain thinks this is all Onslaught’s doing, but Gomurr explains that Onslaught cannot hurt him there. They have much to do, and thoughts of revenge will only serve to distract him. Cain asks what makes Gomurr think he’s doing anything with him. Gomurr replies that he can lead him out of this place.
They soon come across Xavier’s mansion, but now it looks like it was carved out of the side of a cliff. Cain asks if this is another of Spite’s mind games. Gomurr replies that she’s not responsible for this part of his past - Cain himself is. He explains that just as the gem changed him, his psyche affected the landscape of its interior. This ground is psychosensitive to the anger and pain that drives him; so, it mimics the nexus of his rage. “Shall we go inside?” asks Gomurr.
They enter the mansion, and the Juggernaut’s armor vanishes, leaving Cain wearing street clothes. It seems the house doesn’t recognize him as being Juggernaut. It remembers him as the child he was when he lived there. Cain says he’s not a child, just as a familiar voice emanates from time gone by.
“While you’re living in my house, you’ll obey my rules. Do I make myself clear, young man?” Kurt Marko’s eyes fix upon his young son, and the older Cain feels the same chill he did when he was a child. The young Cain replies that he doesn’t have to make a federal case out of it. He was only messing with the runt.
The older Cain didn’t know this place was haunted. Gomurr informs him that they are only mirror phantoms - ethereal energy given shape by the psychic vibrations of his past.
Kurt Marko holds his young son by the shoulders, and bends down to speak with him. He wants Cain and Charles to be friends, because he’s part of their family now. Cain says nobody asked him about that.
The older Cain looks on, and tells Gomurr that he was always taking sides. Everything was fine until his dad married Sharon Xavier. He wants to leave the mansion, but Gomurr tells him these are pivotal moments in his life. There are lessons to be learned.
Cain listens to his father and stepmother through the closed door. Kurt tells Sharon that Charles is gifted in ways they never imagined. He feels the boy is going to change the world. Sharon tells him he should devote some time to his other son. Can’t he see that Cain’s anger is the only way he knows how to get his attention? Kurt replies that there’s nothing he can do. Cain was born a bad seed. A tear edges its way down the young Cain’s cheek. His father thinks he’s bad now, but he ain’t seen nothing yet.
The older Cain and Gomurr leave, with Gomurr pointing out that no child should hear that from their parent. Cain tells him his dad may have been brilliant, but was no great shakes as a parent. He was always working on some top secret government project. He was almost never home, and when he was he locked himself away in his laboratory. They round a corner, and the mirror phantoms show Kurt and Cain in the laboratory.
Cain wants some cash from his father, and threatens to tell Sharon that it was no accident her husband died at Almagordo if he doesn’t get it. Kurt warns him never to say that again. Charles overhears the exchange, and points accusingly at Kurt Marko. He asks what he meant by that, and asks what really happened to his father during that nuclear test. Kurt says nothing happened, and that Cain was only joking. Cain wants to stomp on Charles, but as he moves, he displaces several test tubes filled with unstable explosive.
The older Cain insists he and Gomurr leave before everything collapses. He doesn’t want to watch this all over again. Gomurr calmly explains that they’ve reached the critical moment; the one that reverberates through Cain’s soul, drowning out everything else.
The laboratory explodes, and Kurt grabs Charles. Cain calls for help, but his father looks like he’s going to leave him. Cain begs, and so his father grabs him too, carrying them both to safety. The blast mortally wounds him, and as he lays dying, Kurt tells Charles that his father’s death was an accident. He might have saved him if he’d tried, but he didn’t. He asks for forgiveness, and tries to tell Charles about his powers. Before he can do so, he passes away. At that moment, Cain’s casual dislike of his stepbrother turns to full-blown hatred; a hatred that will consume his life.
The older Cain is furious at having to see that again. His father died saving that bratty little snot, and saving him was just an afterthought. Compared to Charles, he was expendable; his own son! Gomurr explains that Charles Xavier’s own demons have done him far graver harm than he ever could. Cain doesn’t believe that. Gomurr asks him if he’s learned nothing in what he’s witnessed here. Cain’s resentment towards his stepbrother is misdirected. He lashes out at him because his father is gone, and his hatred will consume him until there’s nothing left. Cain doesn’t want to hear it. Gomurr tells him that Spite must have been right about him. He’s wasting his time here, and he bids Cain goodbye.
As Gomurr makes his way over the volcanic landscape, Cain follows, now back in his Juggernaut costume. He asks what Gomurr meant when he said that his hatred would consume him. Gomurr informs him that anger and fury blind him to the malevolent aspect of Cyttorak. As the Juggernaut, he is fated to destroy everything in his path and, when there’s nothing left to destroy, the power will turn on him. Cain feels there must be an out. Gomurr tells him there is. If he lets go of his anger, then he can leave this place and the Juggernaut behind. Cain snarls that maybe he has let his dislike of Charles become an obsession. Maybe he should own up to his part in their screwed up childhood. Gomurr tells him that, if he’s sincere, it’s a start. When he’s completed the doorway he is drawing with his staff, he will find his way home. He will be free of the past, and free of the curse. Cain says he is ready, and will find a beach somewhere and pretend he never heard of Charles Xavier.
As Cain is almost through the portal, Spite’s voice asks if that’s what he truly desires, to be like the rest of the human cattle; ordinary, powerless and weak? Gomurr warns the demon that she’s too late. Cain’s made his choice. Spite uses her own powers to remove Gomurr’s staff from his grasp, and shackles his wrists with a spell. She appears in a swirl of mist, and tells Gomurr that he doesn’t have the power to keep interfering with her duty any longer. Cain tenses himself, ready for battle, and tells Spite he owes her for putting him through that nightmare earlier. Spite assures him she only has his best interests at heart. She offers him alternative means to return to his own world, with even more power than he once possessed. Gomurr warns Cain not to listen to Spite. She is a queen of deception.
Instantly, the scenario changes, and Cain finds himself standing before five X-Men, now playing subservient roles. They offer him grapes, meat, and are totally under his command. Even a defeated Onslaught keeps his distance. Cain knows this isn’t real, but Spite tells him it can be if he so chooses. She offers him it on a plate, and Cain is pretty tempted by it, but he asks what she gets out of the deal. She smiles, and replies that they both desire escape from this infernal dimension. Cain says the only thing missing from this picture is Chuck. This’d break him. Spite thought she’d included his stepbrother in her tableau, and peels Onslaught’s armor away to reveal an unconscious Xavier.
Gomurr tells Cain not to be seduced by this mirage. If he embraces the power of the Juggernaut again, he’ll never be free of its curse. His enemies might fall, but so will his friends and lovers. The need to destroy will overwhelm him, until his life becomes one unending, unstoppable rampage. In the end, all he’ll have left to lord over will be the dead.
Spite slaps Gomurr upside the head, and says Marko is too strong-willed to ever lose control like that. She wonders perhaps she should tell him the real reason he doesn’t want him regaining his power. Cain agrees, and asks for the lowdown.
Centuries ago, a group of heretic monks sought to harness the power of the multi-dimensional deity, Cyttorak. Unfortunately, they failed, and released only Cyttorak’s most destructive aspect. The entity destroyed the monks and then every village in its path. It wasn’t until Gomurr and Tar joined forces, that Cyttorak was forced inside the mystical ruby. However, their victory was incomplete, for Cyttorak cursed his ruby prison, swearing that any who touched it would become a juggernaut of destruction; a vessel for his unearthly power.
Neither Gomurr not Tar trusted the other to guard the ruby; each believing the other would succumb to the lure of such phenomenal power. After much argument, they agreed to bury it in a temple, recessed in a cave. They then sealed the entrance under a mountain of rocks, unaware that, hundreds of years later, earthquakes would reopen the cave, allowing Cain to discover the gem for himself.
(present - inside the crystal)
Cain tells Spite it’s a nice story, but what’s the point? Spite says that Gomurr covets the power of Cyttorak, but as long as it’s bound to Cain, it is out of reach. Gomurr cries out that these are all lies, but Spite provides him with a mystical gag to go with his mystical shackles.
Spite says the question is simple. Does Cain want his power back? After a brief pause, Cain replies, “Yeah!” Spite takes his hand and in a cloud of green mist, she vanishes with her charge. The frustrated Gomurr kicks a small rock, before a voice causes him to turn. “My, how the mighty have fallen. Look at you old man. So completely helpless.” Gomurr is more than a little surprised to find that it’s Tar.
Spite has led Cain to a gigantic statue. They are in the hall of Cyttorak, and the statue, as Cain remarks, kinda looks like him. Naturally, replies Spite; he is only an earthly shadow of his magnificence. Cain asks what he does now. Spite kneels before the statue and opens her arms out wide. She tells it she has delivered the mortal vessel as commanded. Finally, his long and unjust imprisonment reaches its conclusion. The temperature in the room begins to rise, as if a furnace were ignited within the giant Cyttorak. Cain realizes he’s been played like a violin. He watches as the rocky hand of Cyttorak flexes for the first time in centuries. This is no statue.
“You witch. You set me up! I’m gonna kill you,” he cries, as the statue stands. Spite assures him it will do no good. His fate was sealed the moment Onslaught imprisoned him here. However, once he surrenders his mortal body to Cyttorak, he will be free to return to Earth. In return for her service, Cyttorak will take Spite with him. She relishes the thought of having so much available weak prey.
Cain has other ideas. He grabs Spite and hurls her at the approaching behemoth. It catches her, and Spite’s confidence quickly fades as his grip proves to be unbreakable. Cyttorak opens his mouth, which has flames flickering from its interior, and drops Spite into it. As it devours her, it says, “I promised I would take you with me, schemer, and so you shall.”
Cyttorak then turns his attentions to Cain, ordering him to surrender himself. He should consider this payment for the power he provided him. Cain replies that he doesn’t owe him anything. He never asked to be the Juggernaut, and he sure ain’t gonna be his ticket outta there. Cyttorak responds by smashing Cain with his massive stone fist, sending him reeling in pain. His helmet comes off as he crashes through a stone pillar, and he picks himself up. He figures that maybe he would have stood a chance against Cyttorak once, but now he’s stripped of his power, he’s just a normal Joe facing one giant-sized god of destruction. The beast ambles towards him, and Cain prepares to go down fighting.
Gomurr and Tar have a little chat. The situation isn’t great, and Tar tells Gomurr that, if he hadn’t interfered, his neon spider would have brought the ruby to him, where he could have contained its destructive nature within the Crimson Dawn. Now, however, it’s too late. The destroyer has been awakened, thanks to Gomurr’s ineptitude. Gomurr resents his tone, and tells Tar that he may be the protector of the Crimson Dawn, but he remembers when he couldn’t tell the Moons of Munnipor from the Rings of Raggadorr. Tar thinks he should have kept Gomurr muzzled.
The two sorcerers have no option but to team up once again. With a reality-bending incantation, they sidestep through space and appear in Cyttorak’s throne room mere seconds later. Tar suggests they conceal their presence until the moment he attempts to claim Cain’s body, which judging by the state of affairs, won’t be long. Gomurr actually feels a little sympathy for Cain, who is now paying the price for his decision.
Cyttorak is going to work on Cain, pummeling him into submission. Tar reminds Gomurr that if they actually succeed in stopping Cyttorak, then Cain Marko will forever walk the Earth as the Juggernaut. Gomurr feels it’s the lesser of two evils. It’s better than unleashing Cyttorak on an unsuspecting world. Besides, he adds, Marko’s been stopped by their friend Logan and his companions before. He’s sure they’ll keep him in check. Tar creates a neon scorpion and lets it loose to do its duty.
Cyttorak has finally gotten the better of Cain, and he holds him in his giant fist. He will assume Cain’s form, and with it, return to his dimensional plane. It is a weak and frail shape, he feels, but he shall tailor it to his needs. In a blur of motion, Tar’s neon scorpion crosses the arena and begins its accent up the living monolith. Cyttorak is oblivious and looks straight at Cain, who passes out after offering one final gesture of defiance. As he blacks out, the scorpion drives its stinger into Cain’s spine, and he wakes as if stabbed through the heart with adrenaline.
The scorpion channels a torrent of energy into his body, and Cain feels his battered body restored to its former glory. He breaks free of Cyttorak’s grasp, which knocks the giant onto its back. The beast can’t believe it, and recognizes this sorcerous subterfuge. He threatens Tar and Gomurr that when he’s finished, he’s coming for them. Gomurr is untroubled by this, as he trusts Cain to use his newfound power to destroy Cyttorak.
As Cain charges at Cyttorak, the giant notices that the barrier between worlds has weakened, and he no longer needs Cain. However, as he prepares to leave, he realizes something’s wrong. Gomurr and Tar have given Cain the ruby’s strength. How dare they use his own power against him? Cain collides with Cyttorak, and the resulting impact shatters the weakened Cyttorak into a thousand pieces, releasing a hurricane of primal mystical energy. “It’s checkout time,” cries the Juggernaut, as his foe is defeated.
Tar and Gomurr celebrate this Pyrrhic victory. Cain has managed to accomplish what they failed to do in their youth. Cyttorak is destroyed. Gomurr says this dimension is being ripped apart as a consequence, but Tar tells him they can take refuge in the Crimson Dawn. Cain, meanwhile, is expelled from the ruby, spit out across the interdimensional void back to Earth, and lands in the Westchester mansion where Dr. Strange is guarding the gem. Cain’s arrival surprises Strange, who drops his books as the villain lands with a thump. He wonders if Gomurr has succeeded or failed. Cain’s helmet magically reappears, and he stands up, flexing his muscles and grinning nefariously.
“I’m back - bigger, badder and better than ever, and if this is a curse like Gomurr claims, I can live with that. I survived a grudge match against a god! I’m the Juggernaut, and nothing’s ever gonna stop me again!” He clearly hasn’t learned his lesson. Strange watches his egotistical display, and thinks he’s a fool. The true legacy of his power is the utter ruination of his soul. He fears that, when he finally understands that bitter truth, he will have destroyed all those who could have helped him.