The alien called Warbird is painting. ‘My memories are in the stars’ she thinks to herself, recalling how Karma told her that she should write them down, as memories are important, and good for the soul. There was a time that Warbird would have disagreed - but she is not the person she used to be, she knows that, and realizes that there is much to remember. Another painting now, and another memory:
Warbird, Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, Cecilia Reyes and Remy “Gambit” LeBeau are suddenly confronted by some sort of monster, cross between flesh and mechanical pieces, it pushes though some trees towards the X-Men. ‘Please… please tell me that isn’t what it seems to be’ Reyes calls out. ‘A monster made of human body parts? Sorry, Chere’ Gambit replies, while a ribbon on the monster has a note for the X-Men - “A gift. Unwrap with care - Hank”. As the monster lunges forward and strikes the ground around the heroes, they dart out of its way, with Gambit telling Wolverine that this is the price of dealing with the devil, and that they should have left Dark Beast in his cell. ‘Don’t remind me, Gumbo. I already know this is our fault’ Wolverine admits as Gambit throws some kinetically-charged playing cards towards the monster, who then turns to Reyes, ready to slam its fist down on her, but she quickly raises a force field around her to protect herself.
Warbird leaps towards the monster, and sees a human face amongst the flesh construct. ‘Help me…’ the person pleads. The monster is about to strike the distracted Warbird, but Wolverine leaps to his teammate, pushing her to safety. Warbird grits her teeth and raises her sword, but Wolverine tells her that the monster is the thing they need to save - all those people inside it - they are innocent. ‘I got this, I got this’ Cecilia tells herself as the monster turns its attention to her once more, and she puts another force field up around herself. ‘And I got your back, Cecilia!’ Gambit tells his teammate. ‘Kidnapped and taken from their families. Go help Karma track him’ Wolverine tells Warbird, but suddenly, Karma appears ‘No need’ she calls out, McCoy - the Dark Beast - with her. ‘You are a good hunter, Shan’ Warbird comments, to which Karma replies that her old Asgardian training kicked in and McCoy had not gotten very far.
Wolverine instructs Karma to let go of her mental command over McCoy, just for a minute. When she does, McCoy examines his surroundings, before Wolverine punches him in the face. ‘Oh, you. I suppose this is the first of your many love taps’ McCoy mutters. ‘Tell us how to save those people’ Wolverine commands. ‘God, really?’ McCoy grins, turning to where Reyes and Gambit are still facing off against it, he asks ‘You looked at that thing and honestly thought it was designed to be saved? It’s quite marvelous it survived as long as it did’ McCoy adds. ‘Oh, no’ Cecilia calls out, when suddenly, the creature collapses to the ground. ‘If we can move it… if there’s a hospital…’ Cecilia begins. Gambit tells her that he doesn’t think it is breathing anymore. ‘This is hilarious. Next time I really must -’ the Dark Beast begins, before Wolverine instructs Karma to lock him up again. She does, and the villain stops speaking, while Karma remarks that she really hates being inside his body.
‘He took all those people and just… tortured them. For what reason?’ Cecilia asks, upset. ‘Because he could’ Warbird declares, grimacing at their foe. She swings her sword back and is about to decapitate him - until Wolverine’s claws strike her sword, ‘Don’t. You can’t kill him’ Wolverine tells her. ‘We should. For those he has murdered… and those he will murder in the future’ Warbird points out. She and Wolverine face off, her with her swords ready and Logan with his claws. The others gather around and Warbird tells the X-Men that they all know the price of letting this man live, that it is insanity. ‘It’s in cold blood, Warbird’ Wolverine replies. But Warbird asks what the difference is between killing a murderer in the heat of battle, and then taking his life when he is helpless? ‘There is none’ she concludes, adding that the Dark Beast threw away his honor long ago.
‘We’re not executioners!’ Karma shouts. ‘Then you’re naïve’ Warbird declares, shoving Wolverine aside, she holds her sword ready to strike the Dark Beast but as she brings it down, it strikes a force field that Cecilia throws around the Dark Beast. ‘Healer. Even you?’ Warbird asks. Cecilia tells Warbird not to get her wrong, announcing that she wants her to kill him, she wants him dead - hacked apart, burned to pieces - she wants him to rot in Hell, because he deserves it. ‘But if he were bleeding on the ground in front of me, I would save his life. That’s what I do. Even for the people I hate most’ Cecilia announces. Gambit smiles at this, while Warbird frowns, then turns her back to her teammates and walks away. ‘I do not belong here’ she calls out.
Warbird starts another painting and realizes that she asks that of herself often - she who was once so sure of the path, with her conviction and her pride. But she knows that was the heart of a child, to live without doubt. She hangs her head and closes her eyes while wiping some paint across a canvas with her fingers. ‘That was the heart of one who had never known, or wanted, choice’ Warbird realizes, and tells herself that she knows better now.
In a clearing amongst a forest, Warbird moves about, one sword in hand, the other stuck into the ground. ‘You are late, Shane’ Warbird calls out as Karma enters the clearing. Warbird tells Karma that if she does not take these practices seriously, then perhaps they should cease having them. ‘I’m early, actually. You’re just in a bad mood because of what happened yesterday’ Karma replies. Karma points out that Warbird also cancelled her art class with the students. ‘Art does not save lives’ Warbird responds, while Karma picks up the other sword. Warbird announces that she cannot justify arts instruction, or her continued practice of it. ‘That’s reflex talking. You got unnerved, and so now you’re retreating to what feels safe’ Karma points out, adding that it is a natural response. She informs Warbird that she used to do the same thing after everything that happened to her, al that trauma, being strong seemed like the answer.
Karma moves forward, her sword clangs against Warbird’s. ‘This isn’t about retreat. It is… about being practical. Focusing on what is important instead of…the frivolous’ Warbird explains, before remarking that Karma is getting better with her sword. ‘Like I’ve said, Asgardians trained me. I can fight with any weapon. I just choose not to’ Karma replies. They dance about with their swords, and Karma confesses to making a lot of choices like that - and none of them make her less dangerous. Karma looks Warbird in the eye: ‘You’ve made so many changes in your life. Now you’re scared’ she points out, assuring her that it is okay. ‘You can be a warrior and an artist. You don’t have to give up who you are to become…something more’ Karma assures Warbird. They retreat slightly, as Karma promises Warbird that her art will save more lives than her sword ever will. ‘Art already saved you’ she reminds her. ‘Shan…’ Warbird begins, to which Karma points out that they can all fight, but none of them can do what she does. ‘You make the world more beautiful, Warbird’ Karma declares, before turning to walk away.
Bobby “Iceman” Drake sits on a rooftop at the Jean Grey School and watches Karma walking away from Warbird, when suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Hey, Gloomy Pants’, but Bobby doesn’t respond. ‘Hello? I’m talking to you, Bobby’ Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier calls out once more. ‘Hey…Northstar’ Bobby mutters. ‘Right. Don’t throw a party or anything’ Jean-Paul replies, to which Bobby tells him that he doesn’t really feel all that cheerful right now, for obvious reasons. ‘Oh, please. Stop being such a drama queen’ Northstar tells Bobby as he sits down beside him and asks if he is really going to sit around the Mansion for the rest of his life, moping about that one time he almost destroyed the world and terrorized his friends? ‘Too much?’ Jean-Paul smiles. Bobby glances sideways and smiles back. Northstar moves off the edge of the rooftop and hovers before Bobby, ‘Come on, let’s fly’ he tells him. Bobby points out that he can’t fly.
‘Yes, you can’ Jean-Paul replies, telling Bobby that forgetting how to live, just stopping his life, won’t take back what he did, or make it better - it won’t help him move forward. ‘Jump back in, feet first. You won’t fall. I won’t let you’ Northstar assures Bobby, who looks up at Northstar. Bobby moves forward and starts to fall straight down off the rooftop - but then there is a blast of ice, and he rises on an ice-sled. ‘That’s more like it’ Northstar remarks, before taking flight, higher and higher, while Iceman follows on an ice-sled. ‘You can’t hide yourself again, Bobby. Embrace who you are. That’s how I live. Screwed up and fabulous’ Northstar calls back. He then tells Bobby that they are going into the city, but Bobby replies that he shouldn’t - not after what he did there. ‘You can’t hide from your crimes’ Northstar tells him, before announcing that there is something he needs Bobby to do for him. ‘What?’ Iceman asks. ‘Be my friend’ Northstar declares as he flies onwards.
Warbird dips her paintbrush into some water and tells herself that once it would have been easier to touch a star than have a friend - she didn’t know the word, or what it meant. She holds up some canvas and admires it, before admitting that she is still learning. She puts the canvas aside, and puts a blank one on the easel, realizing that she is still learning how to fall, and how to begin with nothing in front of her - nothing except possibilities. She then raises her paintbrush and starts to paint.
Northstar and Iceman descend onto the sidewalk, where Northstar’s husband, Kyle Jinadu is waiting for him, as are Cecilia Reyes and Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk. ‘Kyle!’ Jean-Paul calls out, while Kyle tells Jean-Paul that he took long enough. ‘Cutting it close, don’t you think?’ he asks. ‘Come on grumpy, give me a smile’ Northstar replies, before they embrace. ‘This is a beautiful, crazy day’ Kyle remarks. ‘I didn’t think it was ever going to happen’ Jean-Paul replies. ‘Um, hi’ Iceman greets She-Hulk and Cecilia, both whom look unimpressed. ‘I should break you with my hands for what you did to this city’ She-Hulk declares. ‘So should I. I just treated a boy who lost both his feet to the ice storm you caused’ Reyes adds. ‘I’m…so sorry’ Iceman replies, wide-eyed, he drops his ice form and appears as Bobby before them. He hangs his head, but Cecilia puts a hand on his shoulder. She-Hulk turns to Northstar and Kyle and asks them if they are both ready to do this? ‘You bet your big green irradiated ass we’re ready’ Northstar smiles. The She-Hulk turns and strides away. ‘What?’ Northstar asks. ‘Sometimes I don’t know why I married you’ Kyle mutters. ‘I may have tried to take over the world, but you are so getting murdered before me’ Bobby jokes, while She-Hulk declares that her legal fees just doubled.
Shortly, at 26 Federal Plaza, Immigration Court. Jean-Paul, Kyle, Bobby, Cecilia and She-Hulk are waiting in a corridor, and She-Hulk tells Northstar, who is now wearing a suit, that he realizes his deportation hearing could still go badly. Cecilia adjusts Kyle’s tie, while She-Hulk explains that it doesn’t matter that the Defense of Marriage Act was finally declared unconstitutional, as the judge may decide to be an ass. ‘We’re legally married, Jennifer. Other bi-national couples - just like us - have been given United States residency’ Northstar points out. ‘What will you do if the Court says you have to leave the country?’ Bobby asks. ‘We’ll figure it out. We’re lucky, we’ve got money, options’ Kyle announces. She-Hulk remarks that sometimes it makes her glad she is still single, as she has enough problems without getting her heart broken - for any reason. ‘You’re such a romantic’ Northstar mumbles.
Kyle turns to Cecilia and tells her that she is late, that she should go, and he will call her when they find out - one way or the other. ‘You sure?’ Cecilia asks. ‘Totally’ Kyle replies. Cecilia leaves the court building, ‘Any news?’ Gambit asks, waiting out the front. Cecilia informs him that it won’t be for a while. ‘We don’t have to -’ Gambit begins, but Cecilia tells him that they should go, before she loses her nerve. ‘We’ve gone out before, Cecilia’ Gambit reminds her, but Cecilia tells him that this is different - everything is different. They then hold hands and walk down the street together.
Warbird tells herself that she should not be afraid of change - for she is not alone. She paints another canvas, deciding that she is not alone in all the ways she sued to be, and never realized.
Warbird sits alone at a table in a restaurant, when Gambit and Cecilia and Wolverine and Karma arrive. They all sit down around her, no one says anything, and Warbird just moves her food around on her plate with her fork. When the waitress passes them, everyone looks up: Wolverine announces that he would like a beer, and Karma asks for some water, while Gambit asks if there is any wine, and Cecilia declares that she needs cake. As food is eaten and drinks are drunk, Wolverine soon tells Warbird that she was right - that they should have killed Dark Beast. ‘If I weren’t an X-Man, I would have’ he admits. ‘You said you don’t belong? Well, I don’t belong with them, either. I’d say most of the people who wear the uniform don’t’ Wolverine declares, explaining that they stick together because there is something that speaks to them, because they are a family, and families have ways of doing things that don’t always suit the individual.
Wolverine announces that if he left now, it wouldn’t take him a day to go back to his old ways - for better or worse. ‘I think about it sometimes. Call it…early retirement’ he adds. Gambit admits that he thinks about it too, and tells the others that if he left he would go back to New Orleans, settle in a bit, but then he would get restless. ‘Born a thief, die a thief’ he adds. Cecilia explains to Warbird that she will always be a doctor, with or without the X-Men, but that it might be nice to have her own practice, something nice and quiet. ‘You’d get bored’ Gambit smiles. Karma smiles and tells Warbird that if she left the X-Men, she would be a librarian again, or even a corporate bigwig like her sister - that might be a nice change of pace. ‘What about you?’ she asks. ‘If I left the X-Men…if I left the X-Men and returned to my planet…’ Warbird begins.
She knows that if she did leave, she would have to pretend that she is only a warrior - a warrior who does not question, who does not hesitate. One who cares for nothing but battle and the empire. She would have to learn to hide who she had become, forget what she had learned and felt and experienced - and that terrifies her - and it is devastating. She thinks back to some of the things she has done - visiting galleries, sketching artwork, pottery classes and bungee jumping.
‘I do not even know what I want to be. Just that now…I have the freedom to choose’ Warbird thinks to herself as she sits in a cave, one of Gambit’s cats beside her, a shrine in front of her. Warbird picks the cat up and recalls how Karma says “Life is short. Don’t waste time” and Karma also says “You have a home”. Warbird decides that she believes her, and gets up to leave the cave.
Warbird makes the decision not to give up her art. Not to hide from what she has become, or will become. Warbird is painting outside, and Karma stands near her, while Wolverine, Northstar, Gambit and Cecilia sit at a table nearby, and Kyle and Iceman stand together. Others are in the park as well. ‘I am a warrior I am Shi’ar’ Warbird thinks to herself, knowing that she is something else, as well - and that is the mystery she must explore. A cake is brought over to the table where Wolverine and the others are, and they all get to their feet, as Karma leads Warbird over to the table. Warbird tells herself that it will be all right, that she has already survived the worst. ‘I have a home’ she thinks to herself, as the other X-Men smile when they see her. Her latest painting is of the X-Men - Wolverine, Iceman, Gambit, Northstar, Cecilia, Karma and Warbird. ‘I have…a family’ Warbird realizes.