First story :
Picture of two people not having a good time. A catatonic Marvel Girl is being whisked at breakneck speed through the sky by an unknown force, while her teammate, Beast, is hanging onto her ankles for dear life. Grimly, he tells himself that grabbing Jean when he saw her being pulled away by a tractor beam was somewhat less than an inspired idea. Given the velocity of their departure, he suspects they are now somewhere high above the South Atlantic. Hoping Jean will forgive this affront to her dignity, he slowly climbs up until he is face to face with her. He hopes that Jean still has some rudimentary telepathic power left as he mentally calls out to her with all his strength. A moment later, they stop being pulled, as Jean has apparently inadvertently used her telekinesis, and they start falling.
Elsewhere, Jean’s would-be-abductor, Ghaur, angrily looks at the screen. Something has disrupted the tractor beam transporting the sixth bride. If she perishes, they may lose irreplaceable time looking for a substitute. Impatiently, he tells his henchmen to recalibrate the instruments and realign the tractor field.
A less than brilliant calculation, McCoy curses, as they keep in falling. Jean has broken the tractor field but she is still in stasis. He must have triggered a reflex, not a conscious act, and notes even his super resilient structure will be able to withstand their impact. However, unexpectedly, the water parts around them. As he loses his grip on Jean, Hank realizes that she is superficially conscious, enough so to have saved them. However, they are now a considerable distance under water and the force of the liquid flowing back together has created a whirlpool that’s pulling them way from each other. Clenching his teeth, Hank starts diving after Jean.
He quickly realizes that he’s being pulled along by an unnaturally strong current, which leads him to large pipes on the seabed – a kind of water purification system – and, stuck on one of the intakes, is the still unconscious Jean. Hank tries to pull her away. That moment something explodes and they are caught in the wake of the explosion. Both of them now unconscious, they float to the surface.
They are joined by a group of Atlantean warriors who caused the blast. The captain intends to kill them and goes for Jean with a knife. A shout stops them: it is their leader – the rebel Atlantean warlord, Attuma - who recognizes Jean. Taking a close look at her, he decides that he is right. She’s Phoenix! The woman who once dared to reject him. Once, he had abducted Phoenix, intending to sire children who were mightier than Namor. But Phoenix was too powerful and bested him. And, now, she is helpless and at his mercy … He orders the soldiers to continue the assault on the “surface dwellers’ water poisoning plant. He shall… interrogate this prisoner elsewhere. They may kill the other.
One hour sooner, Attuma’s daughter and sworn enemy, Andromeda, has one of her men report to her. She is informed that her father is leading an attack against said water purification plant. She orders her rebels to follow her and bring the battle to her father.
And so, just when Attuma’s men are about to dispatch the Beast, they find themselves attacked by Andromeda’s troops.
Hank, forgotten, awakes in need of air. He swims to the surface. Andromeda’s troops inform her that there is no sign of her father, but their spies report a large form seen moving towards the shoreline. Believing it to be Attuma, Andromeda follows.
Hank has barely had time to get a good breath when a spear hits the water near him. He turns around to find and recognizes Andromeda, his erstwhile teammate during his Defender days. But he saw her dead and her body rescued to ashes, he exclaims. Andromeda evasively answers that the story of her resurrection must wait. She pursued him because she mistook him for her father Attuma.
Hank puts two and two together realizing now where Jean is. He quickly tells the impatient Andromeda that she has to trust and work with him. He also wants to stop her father before a very nasty case of mistaken identity goes any further…
Elsewhere, Hank’s fears are about to be realized. Jean Grey awakes and finds herself in a cage full of breathable air and dressed in Atlantean garments. Sitting outside the bubble is Attuma, who’s impatiently waiting for her to awake. He tells her that she is safe, for the moment, and informs Jean – addressing her as “Phoenix” – that she is in the presence of Attuma, whom, before the days is out, she shall learn to call master. Jean protests trying to explain that she is not Phoenix. In fact, Phoenix was an almost exact copy of her. Attuma couldn’t care less, as he enters the bubble. As far as he is concerned, this is the time for retribution. With a leer, he reaches for Jean and states that it’s a pity there will be no pleasure in this for her as there will be for him.
Jean focuses her telekinesis and pushes him away. It would appear she has recovered, he comments dryly. He prefers it that way actually. It will make the consummation so much sweeter if her kisses are flavored with blood. He lunges at her again only to be repelled once more. Jean warns him to stay away, but she is bluffing. She is still wasted and those two telekinetic zaps have just about drained her. Attuma isn’t impressed and smashes the wall of the fishbowl, which is now being flooded.
Meanwhile, a furious Ghaur demands to know where Jean Grey is. The technician explains that there is difficulty in focusing. They have narrowed the search to the area where the sixth bride must have fallen, but there are dozens of life forms there now, including another female. Ghaur demands to see the other female – Andromeda. He orders the technician to take her.
Andromeda is followed by Beast, who has now been outfitted with an aqua-lung. While Andromeda doesn’t know where her father is hiding out, she is relying on past experience. If her father has indeed taken Jean prisoner for the reason Hank fears, he will keep her in a place where an airbreather can be held and there is only one such place within a thousand leagues of the shoreline installation. She gestures ahead to a grotto. They enter only to find they are arriving in the nick of time: Attuma is just about to throttle a drowning Jean, who is fighting back with her last strength. Hank jumps at Attuma but finds that the water is slowing him down. Andromeda tells Beast to fall back and save his friend. She will deal with her father.
Hank complies and Andromeda turns to her father, claiming the firstborn’s right of challenge. Attuma corrects her, this challenge is the prerogative of a male offspring. Then she claims that right as a male child, she retorts. For has she not been treated as such? Has she not been raised to hunt and fight and kill as any Atlantean boy would be? Attuma agrees and admits that she almost makes him forget the shame of siring a female as a firstborn. If it is battle she wants, battle she shall have. He attacks brutally with his sword and Andromeda can barely counter the attack with her battle staff. She realizes her father’s strength is many times her own. Attuma commends her while they are fighting. She would clearly be a match for any other Atlantean, but not for him. Attuma is faster, stronger and more savage than any Atlantean. Andromeda reminds him that Namor has always been his better and so will she be this day.
Beast, in the meantime, swims for Jean’s life. He hated leaving Andromeda to fend for herself, but Jean needs medical attention. The men from the water purification plant who have lent Beast the Aqualungs are anxious to see him return. He takes away the aqualung from Jean, who was unconscious and therefore unable to use it. He tries artificial respiration, but Jean doesn’t respond. Her lungs are full of seawater. A holographic projection of Ghaur appears, telling Beast that he can save her life… for a price. Ghaur explains that he had snatched her from X-Factor. He will save her life because he needs her if Beast swears not to interfere again. Beast protests but Ghaur points out that he has no choice, if he wants Jean to live. Beast knows he is right and tells Ghaur to take her. An energy bubble appears around Jean and quickly floats away with her, leaving behind a devastated Hank McCoy, who hopes that at least Andromeda has fared better. It seems unlikely she could have fared worse…
Unfortunately, that is exactly the case, as Attuma has clearly gained the upper hand in their battle.
Jean has arrived and Ghaur orders his servants to tend to her and put her into one of the holding tubes. Another servant informs him that Andromeda has fallen. They couldn’t transport her before as she was too close to Lord Attuma. Ghaur looks at the scene on the screen and orders the servant to do it now, before their addle-pated ally decides to kill her.
Attuma is just about to do that when the projection of Ghaur appears, ordering him to stay his hand. He needs Andromeda. Attuma doesn’t care. Her life is now forfeit. So it shall be, Ghaur promises, but not before she has served almighty Set. With that, he transports her away over Attuma’s protests, who is starting to realize that in the real scheme of things he is, after all, no more than a pawn.
Second story :
The castle is the stronghold of the last absolute monarch on Earth. As Magneto slowly walks up its stone stairway, he grimly considers that this meeting had to occur one day and now the time has come to face him – Dr. Doom. He enters the study to find his host, as well as a frightened, young local girl tied to a chair.
Doom mockingly greets him, trusting the transport provided was comfortable. Magneto thanks him equally sarcastically and then proceeds to ask why his duties as headmaster of Professor Xavier’s School were interrupted. Doom criticizes his presumptuous attitude, but Magneto is a guest in his country, so…
Magneto is one of the many whose affairs Doom finds it comforting to monitor on occasion. Of late, Magneto has strayed from his path of world-conquest, assuming a less threatening position. Doom does not enjoy mysteries and wishes to know why. Magneto counters with a question of his own. Why is the girl bound to the chair and what has she got to do with this meeting? Stroking her head with his metal-gloved hand, Doom introduces her as Alexia, a special child from the village, possessing telepathic powers similar to Xavier’s. Doom has sought her co-operation in establishing whether or not their discussion would be of a truthful nature on Magneto’s behalf. He trusts it will, he adds, using the word ‘mutant’ as a slur.
Magneto kneels down in front of the girl, assuring her she has nothing to fear. She is of his kind. Doom finds it incongruous that such a sentiment comes from the founder of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who twice stood trial for high crimes committed against the international community. But there is a way to probe his actions to the very core of his ambitions. Doom will know the truth with… this!
With a flourish, Doom unveils an object that turns out to be Magneto’s old helmet. Magneto examines it, stating that he equipped it with very special micro-circuitry which, when activated by his magnetic powers, would allow him to dominate an untold number of human minds. In the past, Xavier’s mental power had blocked its use, though.
Flashback to the second time Magneto stood trial:
Recently, he had díscovered a former asteroid base of his that had fallen to Earth. Inside, were numerous items precious to him from his days of conquest, including the headgear. He modified the circuitry so it would remove the stain of prejudice forcibly from any individual or group he chose. Dominion of the intellect was not a consideration. With Xavier no longer on Earth, Magneto used the helmet to instantly wipe hatred and bigotry from the subconscious of several men. Then, however, he realized that even this form of conquest was a. temptation of sorts ill-befitting his new perspectives. Hence, he obliterated the helmet to remove said temptation.
Yet this is no duplicate, Magneto states, as he examines the helmet. How--? Doom explains that his destruction of the object was not as complete as he believed. Its fragments were brought to Latveria and reconstructed by Doom’s technicians – its original purpose restored.
Derogatively, he adds that his experiments showed that Magneto overstated its ability to control minds. At best, a few – not countless thousands. Often, what your enemy believes a weapon can do is more strategic than what it actually does, Magneto replies sardonically.
Still, Doom continues, the circuitry lends itself to improvement and he has arranged a test. He is wearing counterpart circuits in his faceplate. So they shall strive against each other. Seek out each other’s weaknesses, strive to dominate until only one is superior. And if he should refuse, Magneto asks, already donning the helmet. Then the girl will be tortured to death, Doom announces coldly. Magneto accepts and mentally attacks Doom, wanting to see what lurks in the labyrinthine corridors of his brain.
Flashback to Doom’s past
Magneto witnesses Doom’s youth. His father, a noted healer, carried his son away through a snowstorm fleeing the baron’s wrath, for he had failed to save the life of the baron’s wife. As Doom lay dying from exposure, young Victor vowed vengeance on all mankind for the death of his parents. To make matters worse, the soul of Doom’s mother, a witch, was a plaything for Mephisto, the lord of Hades. Countless times, Doom had tried to save her soul – and failed.
His efforts had begun when he was a student at an American university and had secretly used its scientific facilities to construct an instrument for contacting Hades itself. In his desperation, he had miscalculated and the device blew up in his face. The injured Victor was expelled and, when the bandages came off, he despised what had happened to his handsome face. Once again, he was helpless to alter the events which had crippled his obsessions.
So great was his pain that he fled to the heart of the Himalayas, seeking secrets of black magic and sorcery, and to hide from mankind. More dead than alive, Victor was taken in by a secret order of monks, whose secrets he learned. Then he had a suit of armor forged, complete with a mask to hide his countenance. In truth, Victor von Doom died that day so that Doctor Doom could live
Upon his dramatic entrance on the world’s stage, his defeats at the hands of the Fantastic Four are legendary.
As Magneto continues talking about Red Richards’ superiority, Doom sharply cuts him off. Magneto commends him on his ability to break free and Doom scoffs that his will can never be broken. After all, he has humbled the Beyonder himself. Has Magneto forgotten his cowardly refusal to help Doom against him on battle world? He hasn’t. Now, he wants to see how the self-styled master of mutantkind fares under his attack!
flashback to Magneto’s past
Doom witnesses how, shortly before the end of Worldwar II, Magneto and Magda fled from Auschwitz, where his family had perished and he had grown up. Slowly recovering, the pair travelled south, though the Iron Curtain countries and, eventually, they married and had a daughter. The small family settled in the Soviet city of Vinnitsa.
But in the building where they lived, a fire started under mysterious circumstance. Magneto managed to reach his hysterical wife but their daughter, Anya, was trapped upstairs. He had kept his nascent magnetic powers a secret from his wife, but used them in full view of others as they left the burning structure. Magneto wanted to save his daughter, too, but a mob attacked him and beat him senseless.
Doom cynically comments that, conveniently, his powers failed when the mob attacked. And, as he stared helplessly upwards and his child plunged to her death, he was consumed by a total blinding rage. Uncaring, he unleashed the full force of his suddenly resurgent power and killed the mob. In some way his mind does not comprehend, Doom states, he needed the death of his daughter to truly claim his birthright and justify his later atrocities. He sacrificed his daughter so that Magneto could be born.
Magneto ranted to Magda that only by crushing humans could mutants survive. He would have to become master to ensure his people’s existence. Horrified by his actions, Magda fled and, once more, his powers failed when he tried to stop her.
Doom comments that Magneto betrayed the oath he made to his daughter. Taking off the helmet, Magneto announces no more. He crushes the helmet telling Doom that he has enough of pointless parlour games. He has abandoned the path of subjugation. This so-called test did not probe their weaknesses but expose their strengths. The tragedies that scarred them have made them who they are. They are the pillars upon which their ambitions rest. But that doesn’t or preclude their reinterpretation. The stronger man learns from the past – but is not enslaved by it.
Doom replies that he has not yet learned what he needs to know. He points to the girl and stresses that she is a mutant – the third participant in their struggle. She has seen deeply into their minds. Imagine the power such knowledge could grant when she attains adulthood. Does Magneto possess the will, the wisdom to do what must be done?
“Forgive me. I can never allow the undoing of my work… child,” Magneto states as he unleashes a magnetic blast at her. With a last disdainful look at Doom, Magneto states that the charade has ended. This duplicity was transparent from the start. Did he think Magneto didn’t know? Yet he agreed, Doom, replies. “Your actions are my answer, “Homo Superior”.
Magneto leaves, stating that the same goes for Doom’s actions. It is not in them to rule the world through lifeless machines. They seek… higher ground. And, in time, when Armageddon is upon them, what will they say to each other then? Farewell.
Doom laughs madly. Such astute observations from an inferior. Magneto is right. Of what use to claim a world of mindless masses, to lord over glassy-eyed puppets? Doom is no gloating puppeteer! Where is the scope – the majesty – the bloodlust? He removes his faceplate and crushes the micro-circuitry. One day, he continues, all who live will serve him, serve through fear with their spirits crushed. Thus there will be peace on the planet. For only the will of one man need be fulfilled. He drops the remnants of the circuitry into the lap of the dead child – not a child at all, but merely a robot.
Third story :
In the aftermath of the Inferno in New York, FBI agents Jacob Faerber and Elwood McNulty are sent to the Big Apple to investigate the Inferno Affair. It’s noon the day after and they watch the National Guard, the Red Cross and the police help people and clean up. The agents turn to an ambulance and ask the patient being loaded into it what happened to him. The man, a Dr. Zabe, complains that his dental equipment tortured him and turned him into a walking equipment of oral hygiene and regular professional care. The two agents throw each other a disbelieving look and go on to question a cop as to why a cab is lying on its back. The cop tells them that his colleague claims that the cab became a demonic horse and, after a ride through lower Manhattan, it threw him off. Does he have a drug problem? Jake enquires. Sanest guy in the precinct, the cop shoots back. They might want to check the34th precinct. They’re holding some scientist types there who claim to know more than anybody else.
The agents follows that advice to meet the former members of the M-Squad, who are being held there due to a use of dangerous devices which may have something to do with all those hallucinations. One of them, Dr Snodgrass, explains how they were taking an elevator down from the Rainbow Room when they all had the hallucination that the walls closed too tightly on them that and that they became wall paper. This morning, they woke up in an ordinary elevator.
The agents tell the police that they don’t believe that the scientists have anything to do with it. The officer agrees; he just wishes they’d know more than the newspapers. Jake and Elwood decide to pay the Daily Bugle a visit. They are led to an angry Jameson, who tells them that they were attacked by what they thought were demons: leathery skin, claws, hooves… However, they have no pictures. Whatever was going on, spoiled all the film that was taken.
Staff photographer Lance Bannon joins them and explains that all the film he shot last night came out blank. Nobody took a single picture of a demon or a host or a walking mailbox.
Before they leave, they ask the syndicate columnist Conover for his opinion. Conover states that he’s been on the phone with occult experts and they believe what happened wasn’t supernatural, but in fact a mass hallucination of sorts. He shouts after them to talk to the city’s supergroups, like the Avengers or X-Factor.
Jake calls Avengers Mansion, only to be told that the Avengers are helping with the cleanup near the World Trade Center. The only superhero they find there is a strange, tall strong man in an old-fashioned barbarian costume When they ask him, the man explains that he has been made an Avenger a few hours ago and has been called many names: Samson… Heracles… Beowulf… the Eternals call him the Forgotten Hero and his teammates call him Gilgamesh, a literary allusion that clearly goes over the agents’ head. Gilgamesh gives them an overly simplified account of last night. There were monsters to slay and they slew them.
Their next move is trying to find X-factor but their number has been changed and it takes some time until they finally manage to contact X-Factor’s sentient ship, who informs them that X-Factor are on an assignment right now. Ship informs Cyclops of the agent’s call and Cyclops decides to call a team meeting. They had better deal with this before Madelyne’s funeral.
A little later he appraises his teammates of the situation. With the other X-Men team still believed to be dead, it’s up to them to account for what happened to Manhattan last night. So what do they tell the FBI? They don’t really want to confront people with the idea that demons tried to invade Earth. But how can they convince people that this was a hoax? They need a cover story. Beast suggests they ask Reed Richards for advice.
Six hours later, Cyclops calls back Jake and gives his statement: this was a case of mass hallucination similar to the one in Washington some time back when people believed that other people were being turned into snakes due to some hallucinogenic drug in the water supply. Only this time, a hypno-ray was to blame. Some time later, an edition with the headline “Demon night caused by hypno-ray” comes out and a demon muses that this is all very interesting.