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Bob Harras (writer), Terry Kavanagh (plot assist), Mike Deodato Jr (penciler), Tom Palmer (inker & colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer), Matt Idelson (assistant editor), Ralph Macchio (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)
At Wundagore, Bova continues to worry about the missing Quicksilver and Crystal, although her companion, Fydor, assures her that they are fine. However, the two Avengers find themselves in the High Evolutionary’s citadel, where the Evolutionary confronts them, annoyed that they have invaded his home. He is supported by several Animutants - New Men - who are ready to battle. The High Evolutionary sees the bond between Crystal and Quicksilver, and has them follow him through the citadel, explaining that he suspects their sudden appearance has something to do with a recent message he received from the Acolytes, a warning, that Wundagore is sacred to the Acolytes and that his return here will not be tolerated. The High Evolutionary fears an attack, but Quicksilver assures him he has nothing to do with the Acolytes, and reveals that he is here because Bova is ill. This concerns the High Evolutionary, who along with the Animutants accompanies Quicksilver and Crystal back to Bova’s cottage, as Bova was one of his first creations. Quicksilver tells the Evolutionary that Bova is family to him, while Crystal finds it strange that the two of them were summoned to Wundagore just as the Acolytes made their threat. Bova is in bed once more, and Fydor is tending to her, she is grateful for everything he has done. The High Evolutionary enters the cottage and Bova is very excited to see him. After assessing Bova, the High Evolutionary reports that there is no organic illness within her, and that she must have been poisoned. Quicksilver is furious, and suddenly, Exodus appears, taking the claim for Bova’s poisoning, he reveals that he has set-up Quicksilver and the High Evolutionary, his two greatest foes, to be here, so that he can have his revenge on them, in the name of Magneto. Adding to their problems, Fydor transforms into a hideous creature and an instant later, the cottage explodes! In New York, Taylor Madison reveals to her new roommate, Augustine Jones, that she has become ill, and that she can no longer be involved with Hercules, before she goes to lie down. Augustine answers the phone when it rings - it is Hercules. She lies to him and tells him that Taylor wants to see him again, and arranges a time for them to meet.
Wundagore, the Haunted Mountain, where winter has come early, a sudden storm rages, driving snow and sleet down hard on the lonely slopes. In a cottage, both welcoming and warm, a most singular creature shivers. She is Bova, and she knows what can happen to lost wayfarers on nights such as these. The cow-woman stands at her window and looks out as the snow pounds against the small building. Inside, Fydor lights his pipe and assures Bova that the storm has merely delayed them, that that there is nothing to fear. Bova sits down in a chair beside the fire and reminds Fydor that she was there when that boy was born, that she will always worry about him. ‘Still, I suppose he and Crystal can take care of themselves’ Bova decides, referring of course to Quicksilver. Fydor smirks and claims ‘Of course they can, Bova! After all…who could harm an Avenger?’
First, there is the darkness, blessed and painless. Then, the gradual growing awareness that there is light pressing against his closed eyelids. Next, Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff recognizes the taste of dried blood in his mouth, almost an old friend, this - a legacy of too many battles during his young life. Such is the lot of a mutant in these intolerant days. And then he hears a voice calling him back to consciousness - a voice he knows - and, perhaps, even fears a little. Getting to his feet, Quicksilver finds himself in some sort of lab, with the High Evolutionary standing over him. ‘Welcome, Magnusson…to the High Place of Wundagore. Speak, quickly, Avenger, and tell me why you and your mate have trespassed into the lands of the High Evolutionary?’ the powerful being orders.
Quicksilver’s estranged wife and teammate, Crystal of the Inhumans, is keeled over on the floor, while several brutish Animutants stand behind the High Evolutionary. ‘You’re an odd one, Evolutionary. You bid me welcome after you and your New Men attack us without cause’ Quicksilver frowns. The High Evolutionary stands stern and replies that he has cause enough, and that they have no reason to trust any who carry the blood of the mutant called Magneto. ‘You of all men should know that my paternity has no bearing on who and what I am!’ Quicksilver replies swiftly, reminding the High Evolutionary that his mother died on this mountain trying to escape his father’s madness. ‘You know that - you were there!’ Quicksilver shouts.
One of the Animutants readies his claws and warns Quicksilver that if he speaks that way to the Evolutionary again, he will get him. Crystal’s fist charges with powerful energies, ‘A warning, New Man -’ she begins. ‘-make one move against my husband and I swear you’ll be dead before you can take your next breath!’ she threatens him. ‘Crystal! I can handle this! There’s no need to endanger yourself!’ Quicksilver calls out. The High Evolutionary finds this fascinating, and remarks ‘The bonding of a mated pair. I see no need for any further violence this night’, and tells Quicksilver that if he wishes to see why he finds his sudden appearance suspect, then to follow him.
Minutes, and several levels later, Quicksilver and Crystal are following the High Evolutionary, the Animutants at their sides. Crystal hugs herself, and Quicksilver calls out to her. ‘Don’t you feel it? It’s getting colder. Why?’ Crystal asks. The high Evolutionary motions upwards to a large hole in the roof above, and explains that there was a breach in Wundagore’s outer defenses, as an energy beam sent from the heavens themselves, a beam of such power that it sliced through the living stone of the mountain, struck at the very heart of his citadel. They see the snow blustering above, while Quicksilver asks ‘An attack. But by whom?’
‘do not pretend ignorance!’ one of the Animutants exclaims. Crystal turns to him and assures him that there is no pretense here, declaring that they know nothing of this - nothing. ‘Perhaps’ the High Evolutionary remarks as he stands at a console, while reporting that the beam was a double-edged assault, the plasma attack is obvious, but that a carrier wave rode piggy-back on the beam and insinuated itself into the computer, the message identified their attacker, and promised more. ‘Behold’ the High Evolutionary announces, as a holo-projector on his console displays an image of a woman, who states ‘To the human once named Edgar Wyndham, who now blasphemes and calls himself the High Evolutionary - a warning’.
The woman introduces herself as Scanner, an Acolyte of the fallen messiah, Magneto. ‘I bring you a message from Exodus, the heir of Magneto’ she adds, announcing that Wundagore is sacred to their people, and the High Evolutionary’s presence profanes their holy place. ‘You seek to control evolution. We are mutants, a product of random, natural evolution. To seek control of the natural is to seek control over us. We will not be controlled’ Scanner declares, suggesting to the High Evolutionary that he abandon his citadel and his heinous research, or the Acolytes will come and he will be destroyed.
The message ends, and the High Evolutionary spins around angrily: ‘We received this warning and a scant twenty-four hours later, you show up at my very door! Tell me, son of Magneto, should I not suspect treachery?’ the High Evolutionary enquires. ‘Should I not dear you were sent to destroy everything I’ve spent my life building?’ he asks. Quicksilver immediately replies that the Acolytes are madmen and fools, and that he has nothing to do with them. Quicksilver reveals that their leader, Exodus, nearly killed him some months ago, and states that he came here seeking help for one of the High Evolutionary’s own - a good and honest creature. ‘I was foolish enough to believe that nobility still existed in the heart of Wundagore’ Quicksilver declares, deciding that he came in vain, that this place stinks of fear. ‘Perhaps it is best Bova will die never knowing her creator is a pale shadow of what he once was!’ Quicksilver decides. ‘Bova?’ the High Evolutionary asks.
Shortly, the storm is rising. Ice carried by the ferocious wind cuts through the air like stinging needles that cut through cold-numbed flesh. The temperature has been dropping through the night, and the old, huddled safely in their homes, gathered around the glowing hearth, tell the young the old tales. The tales that say such storms as this are portents of things both great and terrible. Little do they know how right those tales are. For this night, the High Evolutionary has come out from his deep hold and walks the windswept heights of the haunted mountain. ‘It is not far to Bova’s cottage. There may yet be time’ the High Evolutionary calls out from where he stands on the hover-craft, while his Animutants trudge across the snow beneath him, and Quicksilver and Crystal follow behind them.
The High Evolutionary looks down at Quicksilver as the snow sweeps around him, and states that it has been many years since any dared speak to him the way that Quicksilver did. The High Evolutionary frowns as he wonders if perhaps he has become too suspicious of outsiders in his solitude - too quick to judge. ‘Bova was my first creation a quarter century ago. She is the only survivor from my first New Men. I…care…for her. As I suspect, do you’ the High Evolutionary announces. ‘She is family, Evolutionary. She means the world to me’ Quicksilver replies, before turning to Crystal, and points out that she hasn’t said much since they left the citadel, before asking her if anything is wrong. Hugging herself, Crystal replies that she isn’t sure, before explaining that she finds it odd that Bova falls ill, and they are summoned here, just as the Acolytes make their threat to Wundagore. ‘I find it distinctly odd’ she adds.
At the head of the convoy, one of the Animutants calls out to the High Evolutionary: ‘Eminence…Bova’s home is below us. I catch the scent of two beings…one of our own kind…and another’ the creature exclaims. While, inside, Fydor is at Bova’s bedside and tells her that she must eat. ‘How else are you going to keep up our strength?’ he asks her. Bova reveals that she is feeling weaker, and asks Fydor what she would do without him. ‘You’ve calmed my fears over Pietro and Crystal. You baby me shamelessly…and I know I’m not an easy patient!’ Bova exclaims. Fydor tells Bova that she is a delight, and hushes her, suggesting she eat some broth. ‘You’re too good to me, Fydor. You’re a true friend, and they’re rare enough in this life, believe you me’ Bova adds.
‘You’re very important to -’ Fydor begins, when suddenly, there is a loud VMMMM and a blinding flash of light, before the High Evolutionary enters the cottage, his armoured form glistening as the moonlight and snow reflects on it. ‘Bova Ayrshire. My first and finest creation - you have called and I have come!’ the High Evolutionary proclaims. Bova looks shocked - ‘Sweet saints! The eminence - in my house!? I never dreamed! Never hoped!’ she gasps.
Meantime, a world away in New York City, the moon hovers over the brightly-lit skyscrapers, where, inside one apartment tower, two young women are relaxing in their living room. ‘I hope you don’t think I’m being nosey, Taylor - but seeing as how we’re going to be roommates, I thought we should get to know one another better. I thought it’d make this a less financial arrangement’ Augustine Jones explains, while adding ‘Now, you were telling me about this Avenger, Hercules - dating a celebrity? Fabulous!’ she exclaims. Taylor glances away and replies that it wasn’t really dating, that they had dinner a few times, but that it didn’t work out. ‘Don’t tell me. He was a pig’ Augustine asks, a glisten in her eye.
Taylor replies that Hercules was sweet and kind and gentle. ‘But you see…I’m not well, Augustine…and I didn’t think it was fair to start a relationship when I wouldn’t have a chance to grow’ Taylor reveals, before getting up and walking to her room, announcing that she is going to lay down. The phone suddenly rings, and Taylor tells Augustine that if it is Hercules, to tell him that she can’t see him, and that he has to understand. ‘Of course’ Augustine replies as she picks the phone up. ‘Hello?’ Augustine asks once Taylor is out of the room. At Avengers Mansion, in the communications room, Hercules greets Augustine and announces that he is calling for Taylor Madison. ‘In truth, I did not mean to disturb her - but when I spoke to her the other day, she dids’t sound most tired. I was concerned for her’ Hercules explains.
‘How sweet’ Augustine replies, before assuring Hercules that Taylor is fine. ‘She was just telling me about you’ Augustine reveals, adding that Taylor made him sound like quite a catch. ‘And she’s dying to see you again’ Augustine claims. ‘In truth?’ Hercules asks, narrowing his eyes. ‘In truth, darling! She’d love to meet you for dinner tonight. She suggested Le Circe’ Augustine lies. Hercules replies that this is unexpected, to which Augustine tells him to trust her when she says the surprises are just beginning.
Back in Bova’s cottage on Wundagore, the High Evolutionary sits beside Bova on the bed. ‘Intriguing. And disturbing’ he remarks. ‘What do you mean?’ Quicksilver asks. The High Evolutionary’s eyes glimmer as he states that he knows the slightest nuance of the biological workings of his creations, and that he can say with certainty that Bova is not suffering from any organic illness. ‘Then what’s wrong with her?’ Crystal asks, surprised. The High Evolutionary explains that an outside agent has been introduced to her body. ‘To make it clearer, it appears Bova has been systematically poisoned over a period of time’ the High Evolutionary announces.
‘Poisoned? Who would DARE?’ Quicksilver exclaims furiously. Suddenly, ‘I would, Magnusson’ a voice calls out. Everyone spins around to see Exodus hovering over them. ‘For it accomplished much - it brought you to Wundagore and the Evolutionary out of his hiding hole. Two of my greatest enemies brought together so that they might pay for their sins against Magnus, he-who-is-called Magneto and all those who bear the burden of being a mutant!’ Exodus announces. Quicksilver moves swiftly to where Crystal is standing and tells her to keep back, but Crystal points out that she isn’t the one Pietro should be worried about: ’Look at Fydor!’ Crystal gasps, as the old man hunches over, and calls out in agony.
‘The last deception is revealed. The simple peasant - my unwilling puppet - is being transformed’ Exodus explains, reminding the Evolutionary that he was warned that such abominations against nature as he produces cannot be allowed. Annoyed, the Evolutionary exclaims ’Who are you to threaten me, mutant?’ to which Exodus replies ‘I am he who speaks in Magneto’s name. I am Exodus. And I have found you wanting. Goodbye. We shall not meet again in this lifetime’. With that, Exodus vanishes, while Fydor’s body has transformed into a hideous creature with deadly claws, and a mouth full of razor-sharp, slobbering teeth. ‘Fydor! What has he done to you?’ Bova calls out.
‘Shut up creature! Fydor no longer exists - I have transformed him! Exodus has ordered your deaths blasphemers - so he has said, so shall it be done!’ the transformed Fydor snarls, and an instant later, there is a massive K-BABOOOM as the cottage explodes in flame….
Crystal, Hercules, Quicksilver (all Avengers)
“Augustine Jones” / Hera
Exodus, Scanner (both Acolytes)
High EvolutionaryVarious New Men / Animutants
This issue is only 15 pages, instead of the regular 21-23.
Supplementing the shortened story are:- An advertisement for Captain America’s solo series- A brief “report” on the Collector, filed by Captain America- Another brief “report”, this one by the Vision regarding the Kree Sentry- two pin-ups of the Vision