Night at the Jean Grey School:
Dr. Hank McCoy lies in his bed wide awake. Suddenly, a bald stranger stands next to his bedside. Having trouble sleeping, Dr. McCoy? he asks. He never sleeps, Henry replies. Rarely, he amends. He’s so uncomfortable. Is he in pain? the stranger asks. Not terribly, he replies. Just uncomfortable. Anxious. His mutation, the stranger agrees. His body has been through so much. But this lack of sleep… He wonders if it is about something else.
Of course it is, Henry sighs. He is not a fool. The choices he’s made, the stranger continues. He’s brought the original X-Men here to the present. And now they can’t go back where they belong and he can’t figure out how to send them back. Or he refuses to. He’s tried, Henry replies. Has he tried everything? the stranger asks.
He thought he understood the fundamentals of time travel, Henry muses. But they point to an understanding of the universe far greater than humankind’s collective experiences. He thought he understood the scientific realities of the space time continuum. But he does not, the stranger remarks. Does he? Henry shoots back.
It doesn’t matter what he thinks or knows, the stranger replies. He didn’t abuse the privilege of reality. And that is what it is, doctor. A privilege. And a privilege that must be earned. Henry brought himself and his friends here under false pretenses. He told them they were here to stop a mutant genocide.
It worked, didn’t it? Henry replies. It never happened. He brought them here to sober Scott Summers – to stop him from ruining them as a people. He stands by that decision.
Does he stand by the consequences? the stranger asks. He obviously didn’t consider the fact that he wouldn’t be able to send them home, Henry admits. He doesn’t even understand the consequences, the stranger remarks. He understands that time and space are fragile, Henry begins.
The consequences are infinite, the stranger continues. Infinite for him. For his friends. His people. His planet. His reality. Infinite realities. All of them real. All of them concrete. And now Beast is responsible for all of them.
He begins to show him images of these realities:
A reality where the tortured soul of Jean Grey, once the freshest face of hope and reason for his entire people… A young woman who can read the minds of those around her and yet actively chose to sift through the darkness and fear and clung only to the good and hope. And even when that innocence was corrupted against her will… In his heart Henry thought whatever happens to Jean Grey now must be better than her original horrible fate. Because he couldn’t imagine anything worse than what she’d been through.
He couldn’t imagine that without Charles Xavier to help her and mold her persona that eventually it would not be others who brought out her worst. It would be Jean that decided her powers were given to her for a reason. That like Magneto told her, it was mutants’ birthright to conquer.
The next future Henry is shown is one of Scott Summers, the idealist, being crucified and burned by mutant haters.
Iceman is next who without the team support has lost control of his power and finds himself attacked by icetrolls of his own making.
And if the most heroic and lighthearted of them could so easily be destroyed from within, how hard is it to imagine a world where those of them who have already faced their darkest hour found their destiny even more nightmarish? A future where Angel has given in to the dark side of Archangel, has murdered other heroes and holds Betsy Braddock prisoner.
In a world of overwhelming chaos, war and despair even the most noble are overwhelmed… and Colossus has become a vicious warrior with a huge gun and a sword.
Another world where the voices drove Emma Frost insane.
The Savage Land:
Ka-Zar and Zabu search for a trace of the Beast, who has given up his humanity and become savage. Angrily, he attacks a dino, fighting with him for prey. Ka-Zar looks away, pained.
Hank tells the stranger to stop. Is he telling him of all the myriad possibilities for his people, that they all end in failure and tragedy? It all ends in the world rejecting and punishing them?
No, the stranger replies, these are just the ones he wanted to show him first. There are futures with friendship and joy and happiness. That’s why he did this, Henry interrupts. All of this! To bring peace and understanding. To calm everything down before he died! To bring clarity to it all. Show him what he has been fighting for!
New images appear:
One shows the X-Men flanked by the Avengers on a parade, loved and hailed by the public. There are many futures where this day arrives, the stranger tells him.
And with their struggles behind them, his people are free. Free to live, to love, free to experience friendship and adventures. He shows him a future of Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin fighting ninjas and demons and having fun together.
Others would use their powers to explore, e.g. Storm, Psylocke and Nightcrawler in space together.
But what is still a primary concern to Beast is what a world without X-Men would be like. Some of them would reach new and maybe truer destinies unencumbered by old allegiance, such as Magik becoming the successor to Dr. Strange.
As an X-Man, they would never find their true calling. Now some of them would bloom. Some of them would be challenged in ways life hadn’t prepared them for (such as Emma Frost, Pixie and others becoming agents of SHIELD).
In the Savage Land, Cyclops fights Mimic, as a freedom fighter becomes a vigilante. A tortured soul becomes an icon (referring to the Scarlet Witch). A terrorist becomes a power broker (referring to Magneto) while others stay true to themselves in different ways (Nightcrawler fighting alongside Captain America). Those with special skills will still find a way to use them—
Stop his lies right now! Beast orders. He’s filling his head with all these images… impressions…All of these roads not taken. He’s not convincing him that he’s done anything wrong. He can’t be held responsible for things he has no control over. This collage of all the good things that won’t happen because of something he’s done…He wants his friends to find love. He wants his friends to rise above their status and become the mutants—
He came here to tell him that because of him none of those things will ever happen, the stranger announces. A myriad of realities he has destroyed. He has guaranteed that the happiness and love and respect and adventure that he craves for his friends may never happen.
Then help him, Henry asks. Help him put it back.
The Stranger reveals himself as the Watcher. He does not act. And Hank disgusts him. But it’s not too late, Hank stammers. He can make this right. He just needs—
He finds himself alone and sleepless.