Jean Grey. Madelyne Pryor. Flip sides of the same coin, twin incarnations of the same woman - one the original…the other, a force-grown to adulthood from a clutch of stolen cells. Earlier tonight, a demon said creation wasn’t big enough for both of them. He was right. Atop the Empire State Building, there is a solemn gathering of some of the most powerful mutants in existence. From the Uncanny X-Men - Wolverine, Storm, Havok, Colossus, Psylocke, Rogue, Longshot and Dazzler. And from X-Factor - Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, the Beast and ArchArchangel. Marvel Girl’s parents, John and Elaine Grey, are with them, recovering from their demonic transformations.
Bobby “Iceman” Drake tells the Greys not to worry, that they will find them some clothes in a jiffy. Gazing out over the city of New York, Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast points out that the Inferno has burnt out, and everything has returned to normal, the way it is supposed to be. ‘But at a price’ Ororo “Storm” Munroe tells her friend as she stands over the motionless body of Madelyne Pryor-Summers. Jean “Marvel Girl” is crouched at her doppelganger’s side, while Scott “Cyclops” Summers stands over them and Wolverine a.k.a. Logan crouches nearby. ‘Why wasn’t there another way? Why did she kill herself?’ Cyclops asks.
Warren Worthington III a.k.a. ArchArchArchangel hovers overhead, while Alison “Dazzler” Blaire and Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock stand solemnly together. Alex “Havok” Summers stands with his head in his hands, his costume in tatters and barely there after his transformation into the Goblyn Prince. Rogue stands with Longshot and assures him that he will be okay, explaining that it was a demon that made him, Dazzler and Havok turn against them. Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin stands with them and remarks ‘Perhaps so, Rogue. But look at us. Inferno has left its mark. Everything else has become as it was…why have we X-Men not returned wholly to ourselves?’
Dazzler holds in her arms baby Nathan Christopher Summers - the young son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor. ‘Looking pretty good, pumpkin. Bless your heart. With any luck, all this night’ll be to you is some bad dream that’ll fade with time to nothing’ Alison tells the baby. Tears fall from under Scott’s visor, as he tells Madelyne that he should have saved her. Dazzler calls out to Scott and asks him if he wants to hold his baby. ‘I bet he’d like that’ Dazzler begins, to which Cyclops replies ‘I…Dazzler, I…’, only for Jean to suddenly scream ‘NO!’ Everyone turns to her, ‘What the flamin’?’ Logan remarks. ‘I thought this mess was over’ he adds, before Storm declares that Jean sounds as if she is in agony. ‘But I cannot reach her’ Storm adds. Cyclops points out that there is a force globe around her, that she is using her telekinesis to keep them all away.
‘Then we must find another way’ Storm declares, before calling out to Psylocke. Betsy turns to her leader, ‘No problem, Storm’ and reveals that the psi-paths still exist from when she established a telepathic rapport between herself and Jean earlier. Betsy uses the psi-paths to bypass Jean’s psychic defenses, and psi-shift their astral essences into her mind. Betsy, Cyclops, Wolverine and Storm find their astral selves inside Jean’s mind, while Storm thinks to herself that even their spiritual simulacrums manifest the changes wrought by the inferno. She fears that whatever occurred, its effects were more than cosmetic. Examining their surroundings, Cyclops sees that they are on the Blue Area of the Moon. ‘Where the original Phoenix died!’ Wolverine points out.
‘No, please no. Why do we have to endure this again?’ Cyclops utters. ‘These are Jean’s memories, Cyclops’ Storm points out, but Scott asks how they can be, as Jean was not on the Blue Area of the moon. The heroes look on as they see the memory - the Phoenix telling Cyclops that she loves him and that a part of her will always be with him. ‘Jean, no. Don’t! No!’ the memory of Cyclops calls out, before the Phoenix screams for him as she is struck by the canon, at her own doing. ‘JEAN!’ Cyclops past and present calls out. Storm alerts Cyclops to the fact that the Phoenix energy does not dissipate with her death, but rises towards Earth. Cyclops points out that Jean - the real Jean - the Jean who exists now - was in suspended animation, in the cocoon Phoenix placed her in long before this happened. ‘How could she know all this?’ Scott asks.
However, before anyone can begin even to frame an answer, a fist shatters through mindscape - grinning wickedly, evil. ‘Merciful goddess!’ Storm gasps. ‘Who the devil is that?’ Cyclops asks, appropriately. Unaware that his name is Mr Sinister, Psylocke informs her friends that the entity is destroying the memories, so even if Jean’s body lives, the mind - conscious and subconscious - spirit and soul - will be completely obliterated! The astral forms of Scott, Logan, Ororo and Betsy move towards the Earth, and Storm points out that as they are in Jean’s mind, it is Jean who will be slain. Betsy explains that Jean must have sensed this attack, which is why she cried out. ‘It also explains her telekinetic will’ Betsy adds.
Psylocke confirms that Jean is defending herself as best she can, to which Storm asks how that monster gained access, before informing Psylocke that even though Jean has lost her telepathic powers, she is far from helpless. As they pass more memories - memories of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor - Scott tells the others that Jean still possesses the psi-shields she built with Professor Xavier. ‘Why aren’t they protecting her?’ he asks. Betsy replies that the answer is all around them - this is Jean Grey’s mind, but they are not her memories. Betsy suggests that, from the evidence, Marvel Girl evidently psi-bonded with Madelyne when they fought, merging Madelyne’s psychic essence with her own.
Their astral forms pass through a plane which is the memory of Cyclops and Madelyne’s early days together. Betsy looks at the memory and tells Cyclops that it appears as though he and the lady had their moments. ‘So it seemed…at the time. But Madelyne claimed none of that was real’ Cyclops replies. Scott adds that Madelyne kept referring to herself as “Broodmare” whose only purpose was to bear his child for a man she called Sinister. ‘What the heck made me so special?’ Scott asks. ‘Perhaps not you alone, Cyclops. But you and Madelyne’ Betsy suggests as they see the memory of Madelyne and Scott holding their newborn baby. Betsy adds that everyone has remarked on Madelyne’s uncanny resemblance to Jean Grey. ‘Now that I have met the woman, I understand why - but has anyone considered that resemblance may be more than skin deep?’ Betsy announces.
‘You don’t know the half of it!’ Cyclops tells Betsy as they approach a memory of the Xavier Institute. ‘Two separate women, as different as can be - yet in every primal respect identical’ Betsy remarks. Wolverine alerts everyone to the memory shards up a head, to which Cyclops points out that these appear to be exclusively Jean’s. ‘Incredible! The line of demarcation is Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters!’ Cyclops gasps. ‘Glad to see you’re paying attention’ Wolverine remarks, before telling everyone to look live, as there is someone on the porch. ‘We’re expected!’ he declares. ‘That’s right, Wolverine - with a welcome…you more than richly deserve!’ the Goblyn Queen snarls as she blasts the four astral forms, striking them to the ground. ‘Madelyne - as the Gobyn Queen - but she’s dead! Unless - oh my Lord - no - she somehow managed to take over Jean’s mind!’ Cyclops suggests.
As they land on the ground, Cyclops points out that although this is a psychic environment, their astral bodies still feel physical pain. Suddenly, Jean, as she first appeared when the X-Men were founded, rushes towards them. ‘Oh Scott, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to do that. I couldn’t help myself. I’ve lost control!’ Jean babbles as she helps Scott up. Jean tells everyone that it is terrifying, that her own mind is in rebellion against her. ‘Of course - the result of trying to integrate two powerfully individual psyches’ Storm explains. Wolverine points out that it sounds like Rogue’s bailiwick, what she goes through whenever she uses her power. Storm agrees and asks Betsy if she can bring Rogue in here with them, as she should be able to show Jean how to restore order.
Betsy replies that it will not be easy, given Rogue’s exceptional natural resistance to telepathy. Using her power, Betsy suddenly announces that something is wrong, and reveals that she cannot broadcast out of Jean’s mind, or withdraw her astral self from it. ‘Some force is blocking me!’ she calls out. Suddenly, Sinister’s form appears overhead, ‘Can’t have you leaving the party, my dear - before it’s well and truly over!’ he booms as he shatters one of the memory shards. ‘Scott - that memory - it’s gone!’ Jean calls out as the shard depicting Cyclops and Madelyne on the plane is destroyed. Storm points out that if the entity is not stopped, he will quickly do the same to Jean’s memories, and flies towards the large projection of Sinister.
Storm unleashes a lightning bolt against her opponent, but it does nothing. ‘An admirably spectacular display, wind-rider. But oh-so ultimately futile. This is a psychic plane you silly woman - where your purely physical powers are less than useless!’ Sinister’s form latches on to Storm and he tells her that once he consumes her essence she will effectively cease to exist. He brings her down towards his mouth, ‘A tabula rasa, Storm - a blank slate, the emptiest of vessels…which I will then fill to the brim…reshaping you in my psychic image…as I will, Ms Grey, once I’ve done the same with - WHAT?’ Sinister gasps as Storm falls from his clutches.
Betsy attacks Sinister telepathically, telling him that taking victory for granted is an oft-fatal mistake. Wolverine tells Cyclops that Psylocke has checked their enemy, but he doesn’t know how long for, and there is nothing they can do to help. ‘We don’t even know what the devil we’re up against’ Cyclops adds. Jean is suddenly gone, replaced by Madelyne, who remarks ‘Apt choice of words, lover - calling him a “devil” - my very own when he and I first met’. ‘Madelyne?’ Scott asks. ‘In the form, if not the flesh. Brute calls himself Mr Sinister. His hobby’s cloning red-heads’ Madelyne reveals. ‘Can you do anything to help?’ Cyclops asks.
‘Why should I? If I do nothing, I win. I get my revenge. I’m already dead, remember? Sinister’s just administering his own special coup de grace - this way, I get to take with me some of the people I hate most in all creation. Noit a bad bargain that, don’t you think?’ Madelyne declares, now appearing in Jean’s green mini-dress costume. ‘No, I don’t’ Cyclops replies. ‘You can’t, I won’t let you’ Cyclops warns Madelyne, who calls him lover and taunts him to stop her, if he can. ‘By all means, take your best shot!’ she exclaims. Wolverine grabs her and holds her still and asks ‘And what about your son? He’ll be an orphan, Madelyne, at Sinister’s mercy! You think you got gypped out of a decent chance at life - lady, you break my heart’
He continues, telling Madelyne that she has had blessings he would give his soul for - and she and Dark Phoenix have done things he would have given that same soul to prevent. ‘You say you’ve nothing of you own - but hate - well, whose choice was that? It didn’t have to be that way - it still doesn’t But Madelyne tells Scott that he still doesn’t understand, and points out that he is as God made him, but she had a different creator. ‘No! That is the cheapest of excuses and you will not hide behind it! Creation is but the first step along the road of life! You make the decisions for what comes next - you bear responsibility for the paths you choose!’ Storm declares as she begins to shake Madelyne, whose costume switches from Jean’s mini-dress to that of her early X-Factor costume.
‘Have you no pride, woman, no regard at all - if not for who you are, then who you might yet be?’ Storm asks. ‘Why are you fighting us, when your true foe is the monster who made you his tool? Storm asks Madelyne, adding that he is not done. Ororo tells Madelyne that she has no being save that which resides in her memories, and he is erasing them, expunging them as if she had never been. ‘He used in the worst ways possible - and still you wish to do his bidding?’ Storm asks. Madelyne / Jean tells Ororo that it is easy to preach strength and independence, but to look at the cost. ‘I wanted so much to be my own woman, Ororo - I was so terrified of what the Phoenix offered - I denied it with every fiber of my being!’ She explains that the Dark Phoenix was one result, the Goblyn Queen the other. ‘Maybe it’s better things end here once and for all!’ she exclaims.
Suddenly, Betsy screams as she is forced back, and keels over. Logan tells her to rest, that she will be okay, to which Betsy explains that outside of her own body there is no way to draw on its physical reserves. ‘Sinister…to strong…’ she announces. Logan tells her that she did fine, but Betsy thinks she failed. ‘Doesn’t matter. You did your best. Game’s out of our hands now’ Logan assures her. Sinister appears overhead, as Madelyne /Jean shifts form into her Goblyn Queen costume. ‘How right you are, child. By clinging to what you have - who you are - you risk racing down the same pathways to damnation’ Sinister tells her, before offering to break that terrible circle. ‘Yield to my oblivion, let me trip you of the memories and identity that have caused nothing but anguish’.
‘Start anew, child, afresh - be born again in the best sense of the word’ Sinister offers, hands ready to collect her. ‘No’ she whispers, smiling. There is a burst of cosmic energy as Madelyne / Jean is replaced by the Dark Phoenix, ‘You lose, Sinister!’ Dark Phoenix declares, before she is replaced by Jean Grey. ‘This is my mind - my soul - my life! And I mean to keep them to myself!’ she screams as a massive flare of energy can be seen lighting up space itself.
Elsewhere, ‘Rough time, sweetie?’ asks Lorna “Polaris” Dane, currently possessed by the psychic entity Malice. ‘Things not quite go…according to plan?’ she suggests as she leans against the doorframe into the room where Sinister sits on a sofa - the one across from him destroyed. Sinister tells Malice to alert the others, as they are shortly to have company.
Outside, ‘Are you certain, Jean? This is Sinister’s location?’ Storm asks as she hovers in the air over a large secluded mansion, she carries Wolverine, while ArchArchangel hovers nearby carrying Cyclops, and Jean keeps herself aloft telekinetically, all returned to their bodies after their astral journey finished. But this is not just any old mansion - it is Professor Xavier’s school. ‘Man has brass…taking over our old place’ Wolverine remarks. Jean tells Wolverine that she doesn’t share his admiration, before assuring Storm that this is the place, and that she picked it from Sinister’s mind during their final confrontation. Scott is dropped to the ground and asks if that information can be trusted. ‘Suppose he allowed you to scan it…to lead us into a trap?’ Scott suggests.
‘No sign of any opposition on the ground, Psylocke’ Rogue calls out as she hovers nearby, while Betsy sits on the ground and announces that there are no hostile thought patterns, either. She declares that either no one is about, or they are suddenly hidden. Betsy begins to inform the others, telepathically.
Scott, Jean, Logan, Warren and Ororo land on the mansion itself now, with ArchArchangel remarking that Sinister is not making this easy for them. ‘Did you really think he would, Warren?’ Scott asks. Logan remarks that there is only one way to be sure - the old fashioned way - the hardest and the best - up close and personal. The mutants drop down into the loft, and Logan tells Storm that her old room is looking pretty bare. Storm reminds him that the world believes the X-Men dead, and that she suspects all their rooms are the same. Cyclops asks Storm if she intends to continue that deception, but she ignores the question, instead she is relieved that her flowers have been removed to safety so they will not be endangered.
‘What about us, darling?’ Logan asks. ‘We, “darling”, can take care of ourselves. And, if necessary, flee harm’s way’ Storm points out. But Jean calls out ‘Not this time, Storm. Not against this foe’. Cyclops grabs Jean by her arm and asks her what is with her, as he has never known her to be so - he cannot continue his sentence, so Jean finishes it for him. “Bloodthirsty?” she asks, before telling Scott that he is right, and points out that Madelyne is a part of him now, that she knows Madelyne, every bit as well as she does herself. ‘Because in a sense, she is myself!’ Jean exclaims.
Marvel Girl stands before Cyclops and Storm and tells them that Sinister stole a piece of her and used it to create Madelyne, giving her a life that was a lie, and when he had no more use for her, he threw her away. ‘Is it any wonder she was so full of hate - for him? For us?’ Jean asks. ‘All the things we take for granted - home and family and friends - she never had. Sinister created life, Scott, and it was nothing to him. He simply didn’t care’ Jean remarks, before announcing that she doesn’t think she ever understood the true meaning of evil before - ‘We use that word casually, devaluing it every time - but Sinister is evil, I know that to the depths of my heart and soul. Nothing matters so long as he remains free’ Marvel Girl declares.
‘If being who we are - X-Men and X-Factor both, whatever we choose to call ourselves - means anything…if we’re to be true to the dream that led Charles Xavier to found this School for Gifted Youngsters and gather us together…if we really are “heroes”…Sinister has to be stopped!’ Jean announces. ‘Storm! She means -!’ Cyclops whispers to Ororo, who replies ‘Yes, Scott, I know’. Cyclops remarks that Jean is acting more like Wolverine than Wolverine himself, to which Storm tells him that this once, she has good reason.
Beneath the mansion, Psylocke and Rogue make their way through a series of tunnels, and Betsy informs Rogue that she has telepathically alerted the others, informing them that they have entered the hangar complex beneath the estate grounds. Betsy points out that, like before, if anyone is here, their thoughts are cloaked from her psi-scans. Rogue tells Betsy to watch herself. ‘Ah’m super-strong and pretty near invulnerable. You ain’t’ Rogue reminds Betsy, adding that changes the inferno made to her armor may be cosmetic, her outfit may not be as tough as it used to be. Betsy tells her friend that she can take care of herself, to which Rogue asks her to leave the rough stuff to her. ‘That’s all Ah’m saying’.
Meanwhile, aboard Ship, ‘This vessel is your home, Beast?’ Professor Grey asks as he and Elaine hold the baby. Both are wearing spare costumes that belong to Cyclops. Beast explains that X-Factor and Ship sort of mutually adopted each other, but that unfortunately its core programming will not allow anyone who is not a mutant to go inside. ‘But I’m sure it can facsimile a habitat for you on the hull’ Hank adds, to which Ship announces ‘That will be my pleasure. Professor and Mrs Grey, you and your grandson are most welcome’ Ship tells them. ‘Goodness, it speaks!’ Elaine gasps.
Ship tells Mrs Grey that it is one of his many talents, before asking beast how many there are presently. ‘Four adults, one baby’ Hank replies. Ship tells him that he has positive locks on he and the Greys, but only the vaguest ghost image of something positioned to the Beast’s immediate left. ‘My fault, sorry. We C-Men, we’re sort of invisible to sensors’ Longshot explains. ‘Neat trick’ Hank mutters, before telling the Greys that Ship will look after them until they return. ‘Which will be?’ one of them asks. ‘Hopefully ASAP’ Hank assures them. ‘With all due respect, young man, suppose the worst…’ one of them begins. Hank tells them that if they feel more comfortable, Longshot can stay with them.
‘Why me?’ Longshot asks, pointing out that it is Beast’s ship, and that it might feel happier with him here. ‘My place is with my team, kiddo’ Hank replies. ‘Isn’t mine as well?’ Longshot asks. ‘That’s the question, isn’t it’ Hank tells him. ‘I…I’m afraid, Beast’ Longshot admits, explaining that the demon N’astirh tore away his humanity, made his luck something wicked and made him like it. ‘Enjoy using it to hurt people’ Longshot adds, asking ‘Suppose that’s still the case? Suppose I’m still the nasty man he made me? At the moment the X-Men need me most…suppose I betray them…and worse?’ Longshot asks, worried.
At that moment, Colossus, Iceman, Havok and Dazzler are trudging through another system of tunnels. Colossus tells his friends that this spur of the Morlock system leads from their tunnels beneath Manhattan to Professor Xavier’s estate. Dazzler points out that they have covered nearly the whole forty miles, without a problem, before asking Colossus if he thinks they took care of Sinister’s Marauders when they fought them in the city. The answer comes from someone else - ‘Not all, songbird. No hardly!’ a voice booms, before a massive fist knocks Colossus over. ‘Yo, Rooskie - remember my name?’ the voice booms. ‘It’s Blockbuster!’ the Marauder booms as he comes into view.
‘What happened to him? He looks like a demon!’ Iceman gasps. Indeed, Blockbuster’s form as increased and appears demonic, like some of the X-Men. Havok ducks out of Blockbuster’s way and suggests that it must be the infero, and whatever transformed him, did not wear off when the spell was broken. ‘Just like with us!’ Dazzler declares. Iceman decides that he best put Blockbuster on ice before he does any further damage, and begins to cover the Marauder in a thick coating of ice. ‘You think this can stop me, snow boy?’ Blockbuster asks, before breaking through the ice with ease. He laughs, and boasts that he is bigger and stronger than ever, that nothing can hold him, or keep him from busting them all to bits. ‘OW!’ Bobby exclaims as some of the ice-shards smack into him and knock him to the ground.
Dazzler begins to blast Blockbuster with solid light, ‘Oh, baybee - love yer light show - really tickles my funny bone!’ the Marauder tells her. But the light does nothing to Blockbuster, ‘That’s a full-bore photon blast - solid light so strong - it’d smash a tank! I’m having no effect!’ Dazzler tells herself. Suddenly, Blockbuster grabs Dazzler, ‘Gotcha! Gonna have some fun, cutey-honey-sweety-pie! You sing sweet for me, gal…or I’ll make you scream!’ Blockbuster booms. But before the villain can act any further, his is dowsed in an immense surge of plasma energy, courtesy of Havok. He’s…he’s…’ Alison utters as Blockbuster falls to the ground. ‘Havok, you -!’ Alison gasps. ‘Did what was necessary, Dazzler. To save your lives’ Alex boasts, his hands still charged with plasma. ‘But I thought…you never…always so afraid of your power…’ Alison utters. Havok simply replies that he has changed.
In the hangar bay, ‘Psylocke!’ Sabretooth!’ Rogue calls out, alerting her friend to the approaching danger. ‘Too late, frail!’ Sabretooth snarls as he sets upon Betsy. ‘Whatever you do to me…there’s no way you can keep me from ripping out your pretty partner’s throat!’ Sabretooth declares as he forces Betsy to the ground, and begins slicing away at her armor. Rogue is too far across the hangar bay to get to Betsy quickly enough, while Sabretooth remarks that his claws may not be adamantium, like Wolverine’s, but they cut just as deeply. Suddenly, the Marauder goes wide-eyed in shock the instant before he is about to bite into Betsy’s neck.
Betsy telepathically announces that even a being of such primal ferocity and raw animal passion as Sabretooth has a brain. ‘And mine is the telepathic power…to unlock all that mind’s defenses…reach in the core of your being…and deal with you, Marauder, as you deserve!’ Betsy declares, as her psychic power delves into Sabretooth’s brain, and the villain falls backwards, clutching his head and screaming in agony. ‘Drat, Ah wanted that pleasure’ Rogue remarks as she helps Betsy up off the ground. ‘Hardly a lady-like reaction’ Betsy points out, to which Rogue replies that she is no lady. ‘If you’re so bound and determined, Rogue…next time, he’s all yours!’ Betsy replies.
Upstairs, in the mansion proper. ‘That outcry - Jean!’ Storm gasps as she, Logan, Scott and ArchArchangel all turn back to look at for Jean. ‘Lady’s full of surprises. Didn’t know she knew that kinda language’ Wolverine remarks. ‘Your influence, probably’ Scott tells him, before they race down the corridor, to search for her. ‘She could do worse, bub’ Logan tells Scott, before announcing that Jean’s sound and scent place her in the other wing’s attic. Scott explains that they used the other attic for storage, and Storm confirms that they did, too.
Arriving at the attic, they find Jean standing next to a dresser, its draws hanging half out, and in Jean’s hands, a box, with photos and files spilling onto the floor. Cyclops sees the mess, but realizes that Jean does not look hurt. ‘Are you all right?’ he asks her. ‘No. He’s been through everything. In this attic, our rooms, the Professor’s office’ Jean announces. ‘Every nook and cranny, every personal private moment of our lives’. Warren examines the damage. ‘Simply to smash it all, is Sinister that petty?’ he asks. Logan holds up a photograph of he and Mariko and replies that this is not wanton destruction, just the residue of a thorough search made by somebody who figured he didn’t need to be neat.
Scott also holds up a photo - this one of he and Madelyne, and remarks ‘Make sense. To defeat your enemy, you have to know him. How he lives gives you insight into how he thinks…it tells you where he may or may not be vulnerable’ Scott explains, adding that it gives you the edge, allows you to dominate the field and spring the surprises. ‘To blazes with that - this is our home, Scott - HOW DARE HE?!’ Jean cries, when suddenly, there is a massive burst of energy, that knocks the five mutants back. ‘Sinister makes his own rules, babes. And does as he pleases. So do I!’ Polaris boasts as she flies into the attic.
Storm acknowledges Lorna, while Cyclops is shocked - ‘What? But she’s an X-Man! Why’s she attacking us?’ he asks. ‘Ex-X-Man, sweetie! Bad guys made me an offer…to darn delicious to refuse!’ Polaris explains. Wolverine tells Scott and Jean that Lorna has been possessed by a psychic Marauder by the name of Malice. Lorna uses her magnetic powers to lift up various shards of metal and drive them towards Wolverine in the form of a spear, while pointing out that it is hardly as cut and dry as that. ‘What I did was bring out the true malice in Lorna Dane’s soul…and help her become the woman she secretly always yearned to be!’
‘Hey, honey - let’s find out just how strong…that supposedly unbreakable skeleton of yours really is!’ MAlice suggests, but before the “spear” can reach Wolverine, ‘Hey, “honey” - let’s not!’ Cyclops declares as he blasts the “spear” with an optic beam, knocking the shards of metal aside, and enabling Wolverine to hack it to bits with his claws. ‘Nice moves, bunkies - but they won’t save you - quite the opposite in fact’ MAlice replies, explaining that her magnetic powers control the shrapnel as easily as the original mass, and suggests that she will simply have to flay the flesh from their bones, as she moves the shards of metal towards Wolverine - but they stop, inches from him, as Jean Grey frowns and tells her ‘Not while I’m around, Polaris’.
‘Young woman - we have had quite enough of you and your master!’ Storm declares as she grabs Polaris by her collar and forces her to the ground. Storm pins Polaris to the ground, and Lorna grins, exclaiming ‘So rough trade, I love it! You got me, butch - but what’re you gonna do with me, huh?’, pointing out that she cannot do anything to Malice without harming their precious Polaris. ‘If there is a way to separate the two of you, then we shall find it. If not…’ Storm’s voice trails off. ‘You’re - not serious! Storm, you can’t!’ Polaris - Malice - replies.
Soon, Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Marvel Girl, Havok, Iceman, Psylocke, ArchArchangel, Colossus, Rogue and Dazzler are gathered in a living area, with Polaris telekinetically held in stasis thanks to Jean. Cyclops announces that they have combed the entire estate, and that aside from the three Marauders, there is no sign of Sinister. Scott suggests that Sinister may have come and gone, abandoning his flunkies to their fate. Storm points out that that there is one way to be certain, and turns to Betsy, informing her that they need a full-range telepathic probe of Polaris’s mind. ‘Free her if you can…but of paramount importance is that we discover everything she knows about Mr Sinister’ Storm explains. ‘NO!’ Polaris cries.
‘You don’t understand - the bond’s unbreakable! we’re not two beings anymore, we’ve become a gestalt! We’re one!’ Malice exclaims. ‘What you’re talking about -’ she begins, but Storm interrupts: ‘It is you who do not understand, Marauder, that does not matter’. Jean looks at Polaris and tells her that it doesn’t have to be this way. ‘Save yourself - help us!’ she tells her. ‘You’re crazy! You don’t know Sinister - it’d mean my life!’ Polaris declares. ‘Your choice, babe’ Wolverine tells her. Malice looks at Alex and pleads: ‘For mercy’s sake, don’t let them do this!’ she begs him. ‘For all we were - for all we might be again - please! Havok - I love you!’ ‘Then prove it. Talk’ Alex replies.
There is silence - before a suddenly, there is a massive explosion which destroys the mansion! The X-Men and X-Factor lay strewn in the rubble, but Polaris rises. ‘You! YOU!’ she cries out. ‘Could have warned me’ she tells Sinister, who stands in a dusty haze several feet away. ‘And risk their telepath plucking that information from your mind? Don’t be ridiculous’ Sinister replies. ‘I could have been killed!’ Polaris tells him. Sinister points out that she wasn’t, and calls her “child”, which she doesn’t like. ‘I’m not your blasted “child”, Sinister! And I won’t be used as bait!’ Polaris tells him. Sinister replies that he will use her as he does everyone, for his own ends.
Suddenly, ‘Well, well, well - what have we here?’ Sinister remarks as he finds Jean Grey under some rubble. ‘ALIVE!’ he shouts as he picks her up and holds her in the air. ‘What matter that I’ve lost the replicant…now that I’ve the original to play with!’ he boasts. Polaris tells Sinister that she hates to burst his bubble, but that she doubts the heroes are going to be too thrilled about him heisting their favourite red-head. Sinister replies that is no problem, as they are all here, X-Men and X-Factor both. ‘All helpless. Kill them’ he orders. But, suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Only if you kill me first’. With Jean Grey at his feet and Polaris to his side, Sinister looks over and sees Longshot standing before him. ‘Your wish, X-Man…is our command’ Sinister announces. ‘And our pleasure!’ adds Polaris….