Hannah Connover is having a dream. She realizes, however, that this is no ordinary dream. It’s not even an ordinary nightmare. No, this is something worse. Something is speaking to her while she sleeps.
“We are the Brood and you will obey,” a voice says. It tells her about the Brood, a race of aliens with nests on hundreds of different planets throughout the universe. Each planet has its own Queen, but each of these Queens answers to one mighty Empress. This Empress is the horrible creature that addresses Hannah while she sleeps.
“I am the Empress and you will obey.”
The Empress tells Hannah that she cannot hide her thoughts. The Brood are of one mind and what one knows, all know. She tells Hannah that she is no longer a human. She is a Brood now, and she will obey, or be destroyed. The Empress gives Hannah a vision of the Brood on other worlds, saying that other species do not matter to her until they become Brood. Preservation of their own race is all that matters, and due to their proliferation throughout the universe, they are undefeatable. The Empress urges Hannah to accept the Brood within her.
“You will never be alone and you’ll always know you’re part of something greater! All that is not Brood is chaos! How can you desire that?” the Empress asks. “You have no right to choose for yourself! These thoughts of self, of freedom, of individual choice – these are not acceptable! The very concepts are anathema! Your thoughts proclaim you as a deviant – UNCLEAN!” The Empress then orders Hannah to look upon the Brood, and in her dream, their hideous, gaping faces bear down on her. They stare her down while the Empress tells Hannah her humanity is a lie, disguising the Brood within. If Hannah does not submit, the Empress threatens to send her Firstborn, who serve as her assassins, to hunt her down and slay all of her creations.
“They will keep coming until you are dead!” the Empress finally threatens.
Hannah screams at the shock of this final threat, a scream which is so powerful it awakens Jean Grey. Jean, who is vacationing with her husband, Scott Summers, at a nearby motel in Sedona, Arizona, wakes up and shouts Scott’s name. Hannah’s dream was so vivid and intense that Jean experienced the entire thing. Visibly disturbed by the psionic echo she experienced, she recounts the entire dream to Scott.
Scott, however, has no idea what she is raving about and asks her to slow down. She clarifies that the Brood Empress is sending something called the “Firstborn” to assassinate a woman, her only crime being that she resists takeover by the Brood. Scott decides that they should contact the professor, while Jean psionically checks on her family, with whom they are vacationing in Arizona. Scott and Jean get ready to depart on their mission, while the Grey family sleeps comfortably. Jean ponders this situation, noting that she is an X-Man so she could protect the peace of innocent people like her family.
At the Xavier Institute in Westchester, NY, Charles Xavier receives Jean’s telepathic signal, and asks her for a situation report. Jean relays the dream, in full psionic detail, while she dresses for the mission. Charles reminds her that she hasn’t encountered the Brood before, and emphasizes their danger. He instructs her to locate the Brood, but tells her not to engage in combat until reinforcements arrive.
Xavier then telepathically calls out to the rest of the team. Storm, Cannonball, Bishop, Wolverine (who is currently going feral) Beast, Iceman, and answer the call. Xavier explains the situation to the team, while noting that half of them have encountered the Brood before. He explains that the Brood lay eggs in the bodies of their hosts to reproduce, and that few have ever resisted this process. Wolverine survived because of his healing factor, and Storm was saved by the alien race Acanti, Xavier explains.
“Freakin’ sleazoids!” Wolverine shouts, obviously bearing a grudge.
“Say no more, Professor. We will prepare the Blackbird,” Storm says. The team prepares for departure.
Meanwhile, Jean and Scott begin their search for the Brood nest. Jean tells Scott that, because of the link she established with the Brood Queen earlier, she should have no problem following the psychic emanations back to the Queen.
Meanwhile, just north of Sedona at the Glory Day Ministry, Reverend William Connover tries to console his tearful wife. Hannah has been able to heal people with her touch for several years now, a gift that some believe came from God, while others blame the Devil. Regardless, Hannah has been in distress all week, waking up screaming at least five times. She refuses to explain her dreams to William.
“How can I help others if I can’t help my own wife?” William pleads. Hannah turns a cold shoulder and says that she just can’t talk about it right now. She instead turns her thoughts inwards and blames herself for her misfortune.
“This is all because you wanted to cure my arthritic hands…and couldn’t,” thinks a distraught Hannah. “And I saw it tearing you apart. And the devil, in the form of a medical technician, tempted me.”
Hannah then recalls a fateful encounter she had a few years earlier. She is approached by a medical technician named Josey Thomas, who claims she can heal Hannah’s arthritis. The friendly EMT leads Hannah to her ambulance, teasing her about a miracle cure. Once they were move of sight, Josey transforms into a tentacled, hideous alien monster. Josey, now in Brood form, snares Hannah, whose screams go unheard before being stifled. “Now you are one of us!” the Brood says.
Hannah calmly opens her eyes, and stares back at her attacker. “Yes. Now I am one of us,” she replies.
From the moment of her infection, she has complete awareness of her Brood nature This is a rarity among Brood hosts, and indicates that she could potentially be a Queen. Because of her transformation, she no longer sees people as humans, but as receptacles for more Brood eggs. She maliciously takes advantage of her position as a traveling pastor’s wife to implant eggs in their followers. Her hands, now “miraculously” healed of their arthritis, serve as the perfect lure for people seeking a miracle cure. Hannah infects them all, creating her own crèche of Brood in the process.
This devious proliferation of Brood continues unabated until Hannah has a crisis of conscience. She hears a different voice in her head, one that manages to cut through the influence of the Brood. This voice pushes allows Hannah’s true self to resurface. For the first time since her infection, she hears husband’s sermons again, and listens intently while he preaches about love.
“In this time of ever-increasing hatred, when the voices of anger and unreason rise up all around us, we must answer in voices of peace. And hope. And love. It has never been easy – the righteous path. If it took no effort, we’d all be saints. But we’re called on to do more – to love and forgive one another – for we are all God’s children,” Reverend William preaches. These words get through to the infected Hannah, who then turns towards a crucifix depicting Jesus on the cross.
“It is your voice I hear in my head every night, reminding me of what I am, of my soul,” Hannah thinks. At that moment, Hannah experiences a rebirth. Her humanity conquers the influence of the Brood, and she realizes the evil she was committing by infecting William’s devoted followers. She flees.
Hannah wonders if William realizes how much his faith means to her. She realizes that his support is all that keeps the Brood from overwhelming her, and if she tells him of her evil ways, it might destroy them both. She leaves without saying goodbye.
Meanwhile, at the lip of the Grand Canyon, a present-day Josey Thomas watches the sky expectedly. As she watches, four meteor-like objects crash into the ground, leaving a swath of destruction in their path. Josey calmly approaches the vessels, sarcastically commenting on their subtle arrival. She asks out-loud if anything survived. When she states that she is the Brood’s contact, four sinister-looking, armor-plated Brood emerge and instantly surround her. Their sudden appearance shocks Josey, who remarks at how fast they move. They speak to her as a collective, finishing each other’s sentences.
“We are here, Josey Thomas. We are the Empress’ Brood. We are the Firstborn. We live, we will destroy the errant queen. Her and her nest,” the Brood say together.
“Good. Then maybe the Empress will realize I should have been Queen and not Hannah Connover,” Josey replies. The Brood remark that it is of no importance to them who is Queen, as they serve only the Empress. This statement clearly defines their allegiance. Hannah ignores this and instead notices that the Brood’s ships are dissolving. She comments on this to the Firstborn.
“We do not go back. We come, we kill, we die. That is all,” they remark.
“Fine,” Josey says. “Switch into your human forms so we can reach our target unhindered.”
“We do not shift forms,” the Firstborn respond, indicating that they are different from any Brood humans have previously encountered. “If we are seen, we kill.”
“Fine. Let’s go to work,” Josey says, and she sets out with the Firstborn to hunt down Hannah Connover.
As Scott and Jean approach the source of the Queen Brood’s thought patterns, Scott realizes that they have arrived at the tent of Reverend William Connover. Scott remembers Storm speaking highly of the Reverend from their last encounter, and can’t believe that this could be the source of the Brood. Jean comments that this is where the trail leads, although it is fading. Scott worries about fighting the Brood right in the middle of the Glory Day Ministry, as it is crowded and civilians are likely to be harmed.
As they discuss the situation, Hannah tries to leave the camp. She is stopped by her husband, who demands to know where she is going.
“Out. To town…I don’t know,” Hannah evasively responds.
“Are you sure about that?” William asks.
“Oh, don’t make a fuss, William! I can go to town if I want to!” Hannah snaps. Suddenly a couple of elderly church members appear and offer to escort Hannah into town. The couple assures William that they were going to town anyway and they would be happy to take care of Hannah. William wishes her to take care, but doesn’t seem to think that she will.
“Lord, why won’t Hannah talk to me? Lately, it’s almost as if she were a different person,” William asks himself. Scott and Jean, who observe this scene from a distance, correctly identify William and his wife Hannah. Jean picks up a psionic reading, and realizes that one of them is the Brood Queen. Hannah glances back over her shoulder and makes eye contact with Jean, who sees the Brood within her.
“Scott, it’s Hannah!” Jean declares, shocked. Scott tells Jean to take it easy, and reminds her that if Hannah is indeed a Brood Queen, then Hannah is already dead.
“No, Scott, you’re wrong! I touched her mind…I could feel her humanity! She’s struggling to suppress her Brood side,” Jean replies. “No human has ever done that. Something different is happening here – something important!”
Scott skeptically responds that they should change into their uniforms and follow Hannah in case something develops.
Meanwhile, Reverend William Connover absent-mindedly stares at a cross on the wall. He prays that the Lord will help him understand what is going on with Hannah, and says, “I put my trust, my faith, in you.”
As the Reverend prays, Hannah heads into town, sitting in-between the elderly couple in their red pickup truck. “Fred, Nancy – you didn’t need to do this,” she tells them. They brush off her apology and tell her that she healed them with the help of God, and that there is nothing they wouldn’t do for her. Hannah looks at Fred while he drives, the guilt evident in her facial expression. She berates herself for what she has done, and wonders how far the consequences will reach.
As the trio rolls into town, they are spotted by the Firstborn, who lurk in a dark alleyway with Josey. She tells the Firstborn that she’ll call Hannah over to her, at which point they can kidnap her, take her out of town, and dispose of her quietly. The Firstborn reject this plan.
“No, we will attack her here but not kill her,” they say.
“That’s insane! It’s a sure way of drawing attention we don’t want!” Josey snaps.
“Do want. Attack Queen. Her Broodlings come to her and defend. Kill Queen. Kill all touched by Queen,” the Firstborn tell Josey. At this point, Josey finally realizes the true danger of the Firstborn. They want all of Hannah’s crèche destroyed, including Josey herself. Unfortunately, she has this epiphany a little too late and the Firstborn surround her menacingly.
“No! I am the one that is LOYAL! And I will NOT be taken so easily,” Josey screams, while transforming into her monstrous Brood form. However, the Firstborn overpower her and rip her to shreds, leaving nothing but a bloodied human corpse in the alleyway.
Hannah walks down a nearby street with Fred and Nancy, and attempts to truly explain what she’s done to them. However, before she can begin, the trio is attacked by the Firstborn, who emerge from the alley. “False Queen!” they declare as they attack. “The Empress sends us! And you and your nest must DIE!”
Fred and Nancy quickly transform into Brood form and place themselves between Hannah and the Firstborn. They enter the battle, shouting their cries to protect the Queen, as they are slaughtered by the Firstborn. Hannah watches in horror. She subconsciously reaches out to all of her Broodlings.
However, the police arrive first, and order the Firstborn to remain still. The Firstborn ignore their commands, and respond that their mission directive is to kill the humans. After reading Hannah’s thoughts, Jean learns that the Firstborn are some kind of elite Brood. Cyclops and Jean enter the fray in order to save the overpowered police officers. Cyclops, who is like a firstborn to Xavier, fights valiantly while Jean attempts to clear a path to Hannah and the policemen. She introduces herself to Hannah and explains that she already knows about the Firstborn. Hannah responds by warning Jean that she doesn’t know if she can hold her Brood side at bay.
“Incoming alien – one o’clock!” one of the officers shouts. Jean turns just in time to put up a telekinetic shield. However, the sheer force of the Firstborn almost overpowers Jean’s telekinesis.
“X-Men are known to us! You’re the defenders of our enemies!” the assailant declares as it bears down on Jean, who desperately tries to defend herself. Cyclops tries to help her, but he can’t let his guard down against the other three Firstborn. Jean, with a terrified expression on her face, faces the approaching monster. Suddenly, she hears a voice from above.
“Do not worry, Jean!” it says. “You do not fight alone!”
As she looks up, she sees Storm, Beast, Bishop, Iceman and Wolverine descending onto the scene, aided by Storm’s winds. Hannah’s believes them to be angels, not knowing that they are merely mortal X-Men (Cannonball has to enter the fight later as he is currently landing the Blackbird).
Bishop takes the opening move, firing a few rounds at the Firstborn with his rifle. He arrives at the group of surviving humans, offering assistance. One of the officers off-handedly asks if Bishop has an extra rifle he could borrow. Meanwhile, Cyclops, who still battles the Firstborn by himself, loses use of his visor. He falls down, helpless. However, Iceman intervenes at the last second and encases the Firstborn in ice, buying the team a few precious moments. Bobby, not realizing the severity of the situation, cracks a joke about his accomplishment right as the Firstborn bust through the ice and bite onto his arm. Wolverine lunges into battle and frees Iceman, who has a horrible expression of pain on his face as Cyclops pulls him to safety.
Beast, meanwhile, focuses on crowd control. “Citizens and good people, your curiosity is understandable, but, as with the proverbial feline, it may get you killed! SCAT!”
Bishop recommends that Storm evacuate Hannah, as the attack seems to be centered on her. The Firstborn bear down on Bishop, telling him that Hannah’s death is required. Wolverine, meanwhile, endures a beating from the assassins, who send knock him out of the battle and crashing into a nearby car. Things look grim for the X-Men, and Iceman doesn’t hesitate to point this out. “Uh, Scott? You got some sure-fire plan to get us out of this?” he asks.
Meanwhile, Bishop notes how fast and agile these Firstborn Brood move. He comments that he can’t even see them move sometimes because of their speed, and believes his survival thus far to be the product of luck as much as skill. Bishop asks Storm if she can take them out. She takes to the skies, begins brewing a thunderstorm, and tells Bishop to brace himself for an incoming power charge. Wolverine continues his ferocious attack on the Firstborn, desperately searching for a chink in their armor. He is so intent in his feral rage that he ignores Bishop’s order to get out of the way. “Forget about me! Blast away!” shouts Wolverine. Bishop begins channeling Storm’s energy towards the Firstborn, while Wolverine finally finds a weak point when he impales one of them in the jaw.
Storm tells Bishop that she may overload him with energy if she keeps it up, but Bishop doesn’t seem to care. “If…you do not…the Brood may…kill us all! DO whatever it takes…to achieve…the mission!” Bishop desperately pleads.
At this moment, an overzealous Cannonball finally arrives, rushing headfirst into the battle. He attempts to carry one of the aliens up into the sky so he can drop it to its doom. However, the Firstborn manages to whack Cannonball with its tail. He drops the monster prematurely, sending it on a direct trajectory to a fully loaded gas tanker below. Beast, perceiving catastrophe, scrambles to get the driver out of the way. Beast lunges to safety, carrying the driver over his shoulder, just as the tanker explodes. The Firstborn screeches as it burns to death in the explosion. Wolverine isn’t fully satisfied.
“Let’s finish him!” he demands. Storm, however, manages to calm him down.
“Wait, Logan. It is already finished,” she says, as the Firstborn collapses. After the body vaporizes, Storm asks where the other attackers went.
“They’re gone,” Jean says. “For now.”
Hannah, however, fills the team in on the Firstborn’s true motives. “They’ve gotten what they wanted – to alert my ‘children’.”
As the X-Men leave the scene, taking Hannah with them, Beast nonchalantly comments that the X-Men will probably get blamed for the fracas. “Isn’t that how the tune usually goes?” he asks.
A short time later, the X-Men rendezvous at the Blackbird out in the desert. The team, now patched up, palaver with Hannah. Cannonball asks what their next move is.
“I know what we have to do. Kill the Brood. All the Brood. Including the one in front of us,” Wolverine says, while glaring menacingly at Hannah. Scott interjects, saying that the X-Men don’t take human life, and that Wolverine should know that. Wolverine brushes Scott’s orders aside.
“She only looks human. The human part of her died when the Brood took over. I say we finish the job,” Wolverine says.
“You’re wrong, Logan! I’ve been inside Hannah’s mind and, somehow, she has retained her elements of humanity! She’s something new, something different – something that the Brood regard as a threat! Why else send these assassins after her?” Jean says.
“Jean, I got a world of respect for you but she smells like Brood and she is Brood! No human’s ever come back from that and only a few of us have! She’s gonna lose those elements of humanity! What’s gonna happen then?” Wolverine asks, getting in Jean’s face.
A defensive Scott intervenes.
“You’ve been losing your own fight for your humanity, Logan. What do we do when you go completely feral? Hunt you down? Kill you?”
Wolverine gives Scott a defiant glare. “If you think you can,” he coldly says.
Bishop breaks the tension by saying that he agrees with Jean. He tells the team that in his time, there are several fractions of Brood, some of them benign. He believes Hannah might be the cause of those factions. Hank also offers his opinion, supporting Jean’s argument. He believes that if they discover how Hannah resists infection, then they could maybe use that knowledge to help others. Sam says that he think Hannah’s survival is a miracle.
“I don’t believe in miracles, Guthrie,” Wolverine rebukes.
“Why not? We seen lots of ‘em. Heck, some might say what we all can do is miraculous. Ah think it is,” Sam responds, his gaze directed coyly at the ground.
“There may be something to what you say, Samuel. I look upon nature and I see something miraculous,” Storm says. “Something divine is all around us, is it not?”
Wolverine takes this opportunity to turn the team’s attention elsewhere. “Something else is all around us, folks – and it smells of Brood!” he yells, unsheathing his bone claws.
The team turns and is surprised to see a group of six humans, standing in the shadows of a nearby canyon wall. They announce that they have come for their Queen, and will kill all who stand in their way. Storm attempts to be diplomatic about things and states that the X-Men are friends of Hannah and William Connover, and that they also wish to defend her. Hank notes the reason in what Storm says, but whispers to Bobby, “though this is my first encounter with the Brood, I daresay it’s unlikely they’re inclined to reason.” His assumption is validated as the onlookers transform into their Brood forms and prepare to attack the X-Men.
Hannah, however, has had enough of this fighting and commands her followers to stop. “Look at them, X-Men. They are my responsibility – my sin! They were good, God-fearing people before I made them into this! I appreciate what you’re trying to do for me, but you must realize that, even if you can destroy these assassin Brood, the Empress will just keep sending more, until I am dead or have surrendered the tatters of my humanity!
“How many must die to save me from the consequence of my own sin?! There is only one thing you can do, for me and possibly the entire world,” Hannah says. A solemn expression forms on her face.
“You must kill me. In the name of God and humanity, please do it now.”