He kneels, relaxed, at peace, surrounded by nothingness. All he’s left with are his thoughts… and they are mad. Blackness oozes in from everywhere and black tentacles grab him and slide up to him.
The catacombs of the Mandarin’s villa, currently used by the Hand:
Wolverine is in a sensory deprivation tank, while Psylocke is busy messing with his mind. He screams, she announces, and fights, with all his animal strength. But still, the blackness overwhelms him. Jubilee angrily asks what they are doing to him. Sensory deprivation, Matsuo Tsurabaya, head of the Hand, explains smugly. A shattering experience for anyone. Even the telepath Psylocke could not defend herself against it. But for Wolverine, whose essential being is grounded in the data provided by his senses, infinitely worse.
Can she imagine, he goads, what transcendent horror must have torn from him such scream? A pity both he and Psylocke are “invisible” to their monitor systems, else they would have told them. Instead, they must rely on Wolverine’s former friend.
The second stage begins.
First came corruption from without, now from within. Boils form on his skin, as he is tainted from within, giving full vent to the beast for perhaps the first time in his adult life.
Primal clay to be molded through Psylocke, Tsurabaya proudly announces. Jubilee cries at him to stop it, asking why they are doing this. She can consider it an… act of vengeance. Wolverine single-handedly decimated one of the great houses of their order. That debt has to be paid. And how better than by turning the hero into an assassin? Jubilee jumps at him and he holds her away by her throat. A technician addresses him, revealing that Psylocke’s too strong a PSI. The resonances she is receiving from Wolverine and broadcasting to them are beyond the capacity of even their strongest psychic dampers. Some of their more susceptible personnel are bound to be affected. As if on cue, one guard attacks a ninja, wildly shouting, “kill, kill!”
Jubilee uses that opportunity, tossing fireworks around like crazy and making a run for it. She hopes to make it outside and contact Rose Wu, when she runs smack into the Mandarin, who shoves her to the ground. Dressed in an impeccable suit, he stands before her, demanding why she disturbs the tranquility of his house. Jubilee gives a rude reply and intends to use her powers again, but the Mandarin uses his mento-intensifier ring to keep her tranquil. How sad to behold a daughter of the middle kingdom so sullied by the way of the West, he laments. But she is young. There might yet be hope for her redemption.
The lesser Ninjas intend to attack, announcing that the girl is theirs. Unimpressed, the Mandarin takes them out both with his ten power-rings and with his martial arts prowess. He turns to Tsurabaya, asking if this is how the Hand honors its pledge of fealty and service. Deeply shamed, Tsurabaya apologizes, explaining that those overzealous fools exceeded his orders to recapture the girl. The Mandarin remains displeased.
Banshee flies in attack, his sonic scream pitched so high, it can barely be heard, as he skims sea and shore at barely the height of a tall man. It proves a wasted effort. White noise generators dampen his scream and knock him out of the sky and tangle-webs gag him and transport him inside the facility. He admits to the people gathered there that this is embarrassing. He’s attacked the island a dozen times in the past 24 hours and failed each time. Forge announces to Moira that her island is as secure now as his state-of-the-art technology can make it.
Sharon asks Sean what’s wrong and he admits that it’s these new, modified, very skin-tight X-Men uniforms Moira’s has designed for them. They don’t feel quite dignified. Cutting edge thread for the cutting edge team, Forge jokes, as they pass a cell. Sean still muses that something is wrong and wonders. Everyone seems affected, save for him and Lorna Dane. And she is nowhere to be found.
Actually, Lorna is in the cell they just passed, desperately - and without any success - trying to get out. The psychic image of Legion appears to her, changing to his evil Jack Wayne persona. He explains that, thanks to her negative influence, he now has control of all of Legion’s selves and powers. And, through them, he can influence everyone on this rock. He’s going to have himself some fun and there’s nothing she can do to stop him. They’ll see about that, Lorna promises, as she keeps on throwing all her weight against the door.
Hong Kong, the Mandarin’s villa:
At the Mandarin’s behest, Jubilee has been dressed in traditional Chinese garments and make-up and is presented to him. He tells her that she looks much improved in Chinese and Jubilee stubbornly insists that she only speaks “American.” She is Chinese, the Mandarin corrects her, with a heritage as noble as it is ancient. He begins ranting that it is the Mandarin’s charge to ensure she remains true to it. She and those of her mutant breed shall form the vanguard of his army, which will restore the middle kingdom to its rightful glory, as pre-eminent among the world’s great powers. Unimpressed, Jubilee sticks out her tongue at him.
Back down in the catacombs, most of the damage Jubilee did has been repaired and Psylocke makes another attempt at dragging Wolverine to the dark side.
‘Hi, lover, long time no see,’ a seductive woman’s voice announces. It’s Jean Grey, dressed in her Marvel Girl mini-dress. The next moment, it’s Mariko Yashida, and then it is Yukio. The women Wolverine has loved the most. The three women turn into an amalgamation, combining the best aspects of each. As she touches Wolverine’s shoulders, black tentacles ooze from her to him. She tells him to embrace her and take what he’s always wanted. ‘Don’t mind if I do,’ Wolverine replies, as he violently slashes the woman before him.
No more games, no more masques, he shouts. If she has the guts, she should face him as herself. With pleasure, the woman announces, as she kicks him and turns into Psylocke. Another blow, as she tells him seduction was but one pathway to his soul. By far better is conquest. As she wrestles him to the ground, she boasts that her psychic knife is as deadly as his claws. She uses it on him, boasting that now he will be forever hers.
Psylocke screams in agony and a technician orders a medical squad to be brought up. ‘Too late,’ Wolverine mutters smirking.
Suddenly, Psylocke perceives Wolverine’s phantoms, Carol Danvers and Nick Fury. They come climbing up to her, announcing that they are figments of Wolverine’s imagination. Psylocke doesn’t believe it and begins fighting them, as she would substantial foes. She feels Carol’s blows, as Carol tells her that, with her knife, she locked herself into Wolverine’s psychosis. Now, she is as nuts as he is.
Below, the technicians wonder whom Psylocke is fighting. There’s nobody else up there. One suggests summoning lord Matsuo. He’s returned to his island, another announces.
Wolverine gets his bearings, realizing he’s in a sensory deprivation tank. He slashes at it and, finally, the tank breaks. The technicians sound the alarm.
“Fury” asks if Wolverine has any objection to his shortening the odds, as he starts shooting at the crowd of incoming ninjas. ‘Be my guest,’ Wolverine replies with a mad snarl. There’s no gunfire, yet Ninjas fall as though shot. Nick has had his fun, Wolverine announces, ready to attack the Ninjas. Now it’s his turn. Psylocke jumps down at him. The prey is hers, she shouts, and so is the honor of the kill, she announces with a mad grin. Works for him, Wolverine snarls back.
A little later, in the Mandarin’s quarters, Psylocke joins him and Jubilee tossing down Wolverine’s lifeless body. He attempted an escape, she explains. Unfortunately, he will be of no further use to the Mandarin or to the Hand. Such is the will of the gods, the Mandarin replies, unmoved and not entirely unexpected. He asks her to dispose of the remains, as Jubilee, refusing to believe it, starts crying.
With a scream of denial, she lashes out with her powers, causing an explosion that can be seen from miles away. She is surprised herself at the mess she’s caused. Not quite the opening they had planned, Psylocke suddenly announces, as she jumps at the Mandarin, but them’s the breaks. Once more, he confronts the bases of betrayals, the Mandarin shouts, as he grabs his helmet. Matter of opinion, Psylocke quips. She considers it more a reversion to true type.
The Mandarin attacks with his flame-rings. Skillfully, Betsy evades the blast, only to be hit by an impact beam. She cannot evade all his rings, the Mandarin announces. Kicking him, Betsy replies that evasion isn’t necessary. Only survival. She takes him into a headlock and prepares her mental knife, stating that not the weapon matters but the one wielding it.
The Mandarin grabs her wrist before she can use her knife on him and tosses her into Jubilee. Did she switch sides, or what, Jubilee asks. Come to her senses actually, Psylocke replies. Preparing his deadly rings, the Mandarin announces that that will be her epitaph then. He’ll make their deaths quick and painless.
He finds, however, that his arm is frozen, as Pslyocke uses her mental powers in a final bid against him. She knows that she won’t be able to hold him for long and orders Jubilee to grab Wolverine and get away. The Mandarin regains control of himself but, before he can kill Psylocke, two Adamantium claws appear on each side of his throat. “Tell me, bub, you ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?” a recovered Wolverine asks. What does that mean, the Mandarin demands. Wolverine admits he has no idea. How about whether he feels lucky?
The Mandarin threatens that, even if he slays him with his third claw, with his dying though he’ll command his ring to disintegrate Psylocke. Then she’ll be dead, Wolverine states, but so will he. Fair exchange. The Mandarin begins to sweat and suggests a compromise between men of honor. Why not, Wolverine replies. Question is: do they qualify?
Later, the three of them are on Wolverine’s junk. Psylocke stands alone at the far end, while Jubilee and Wolverine are close to the cabin. Jubilee tries to understand what happened between Wolverine and Psylocke. So basically, when she zapped his head, that somehow sorted out all the “nutso stuff” in hers and shocked her back to normal, she summarizes events. Wolverine agrees and Jubilee tells him to be real. It could be a trick! He knows, he insists. She’s a telepath, Jubilee points out. She could be playing with his head. She tried that once and learned her lesson, he replies, as he walks to Psylocke’s side. Hurling several expletives at Wolverine, Jubilee sulks and vows that she will never trust her.
He took a terrible gamble when he let her into his head, Betsy announces, as she looks at him sideways. Not really, he shrugs. Reading minds is a long way from being able to cope with what you find and he’s really a very complicated guy. Do tell, she asks ironically. All his inner ghosts are running free, he confides and adds that he doubts even Charles Xavier could handle that mess. So he figured it’d either knock her for a major loop or put things to right.
She was sucked so deeply into his madness that she believed his memory phantoms were real. She looks up at the mast to see them waving at her. When they struck her, she felt pain and, when they fired, Betsy’s mind struck down those she thought had been hit just to keep the hallucination consistent. She too became mad and perhaps still is. She should not be here… Got that straight, Jubilee mutters. It’s her doing the X-Men were cast through the Siege Perilous, she adds.
That’s her chance to make amends, Logan encourages her, adding that they are a team. While they live, Xavier’s dream lives. Hugging herself, Betsy asks what if she’s not totally free. If she isn’t sure she can trust herself, how can he? He has no choice, he curtly replies.