Cullen Bloodstone glumly observes his comrades and considers the situation. Four days ago, the seven of them set out into the woods. Their plan was to rescue Nico and defeat the evil and powerful Katy.
Three days ago, they got a bit turned around in the forest. Reptil sprouted wings and flew up to scout. He still hasn’t come back.
Two days ago, Cammi and Cullen sussed out that Arcade was moving the sun by walking for seven hours and turning circles.
This morning, Hazmat darted off into the tree, screaming her dead boyfriend’s name like a right nutter. X-23 went after her. They are still both gone.
And after three days of wandering the woods, they are back at the beach of Quadrant 3. Where they started. All for naught.
Skinny-dip, anyone? Nara asks. Cammi swears. They need a new plan. Nara gets close to Anachronism, asking if he is coming. There’s something she’s been wanting to show him. Maybe in a bit, he replies. Gonna try and help first. Idiots, Cullen mutters. His loss, Nara shrugs and jumps into the sea.
Cammi plods down, thinking the compass is useless. They can’t follow the sun. Arcade has kept a good two steps ahead of them all along but there has to be a way.
No, there doesn’t! Cullen snaps. Enough bloody planning! It’s done! Nico is gone! he shouts, and thanks to their incessant wandering so are Reptil, Hazmat and X-23! They are not about to outthink Arcade. Quite frankly, he is sick of hearing her try!
Anachronism tells him to ease up. She’s just-- He knows precisely what she’s just! Cillen snaps. Smartest person here has the wool so tightly around her eyes that her brain’s gone numb. Day 28! Time’s up!
Anachronism tells him to leave her alone. Has he managed to detach his head from Nara’s blowhole enough to notice the rest of them? Cullen mocks. Aiden warns him to shut his mouth. Make him, mate, Cullen mocks and hits him. Aiden hits back and Cullen bleeds. Worried, Nara returns asking what she missed. Nothing, Aiden replies. Nara leads him away.
So, Cammi tells Cullen. The only person she ever loved was a green-skinned death dealer named Drax. He stole her away from her drunk mom, kept her around for a minute, then abandoned her in space, so he could go murder some guy. And that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for her. That’s her big secret. Now he can tell her his. Why would he? Cullen demands. Cammi points out the darkness behind his eyes is a lot closer to the surface. Might be a good idea to talk about it. So they won’t have to deal with it. Fair point, Cullen concedes.
His father, Ulysses Bloodstone, lived more than ten thousand years. He spent most of those locked in mortal combat with monsters. All of that gave him a… unique perspective on time, and parenting. For Cullen’s tenth birthday, he decided it was time to take him on a proper hunt. They loaded up some packs, cleaned and loaded up some guns and then Ulysses pulled out the old mirror he kept in his trophy room. It really was an interdimensional portal. A gateway to the black realm of Klimtor.
It was his best birthday ever at first. He watched his father debrain a couple of small zimbumblers while Cullen put up the tent. He taught Cullen how to cut his way through the abdomen of a hungry greediblix. They cooked and ate its tongue for dinner. Then, when the soulbeasts came, Ulysses left him alone. He was supposed to fend for himself for the next few hours and cope. He was brought up right. He’d survive six hours in hell. But Ulysses got caught up back home, diedand Cullen’s night lasted two years.
X-23 has followed Hazmat, who asks her if she sees what she sees. Please, tell her she sees him. Laura agrees she see Mettle standing over there. Hazmat runs to him. Please, be real! she pleads.
Ken? she asks carefully and touches his arm. Well, sure, in a matter of speaking, the empty shell of her dead boyfriend’s armored skin replies and releases gas. Trigger scent, Hazmat realizes horrified. X-23 immediately goes berserk and slashes her, while the Mettle robot sinks back into the ground.
Back at the beach, Cammi asks Cullen how long he was trapped in the other dimension. 27 months, supposedly. He only remembers the first six, really.
He was found by his sister Elsa, who thought he was in boarding school all that time. She’d popped by the house to do her wash and nick some traps. Came around the corner, and there he was. Not sure how he got out. Must have wandered through an open rift and back through his dad’s mirror. He doesn’t recall what happened as he wasn’t quite himself.
His memory starts up later that day. After Elsa brought him down. He was lying in her arms, the house completely destroyed. What happened? he asks. You know, she shrugs, unspeakable evil run amok. Sorted out now though, isn’t it?
Later, Elsa brings him to the Braddock Academy, much to his displeasure. She explains that this school makes sense for him. The Bloodstone rings keep his darkness under wraps and makes him strong and tough like dad and her. She bets he’ll fit right in.
End of narration
Cullen muses if he’d understood what would happen when he pulled off the ring-- Cammi interrupts as the trigger sent cloud moves toward them.
In Quadrant 4, Aiden unroots some trees, watched by Nara. Aiden glumly states Cullen is meant to be his best friend. He doesn’t know what his problem is and she won’t let him go find out. Seriously? Nara scoffs. They are all gonna die here. Cullen sees that, and on top of that he has to watch the two of them distract themselves, carrying on in front of him all day long. So what? Aiden asks. Why can’t Cullen be happy for him? Nara tells him Cullen has it bad for him. Aiden doesn’t believe that. Why does he think Cullen hates her so much? Nara points out. Pretty girl’s always the last to know, she teases him.
Suddenly, the gas envelops them as well… And a blood-crazy X-23 charges toward them.
At the beach, Cammi and Cullen find themselves enveloped as well, wondering what it is. If they are lucky, it’s just deadly poison gas, Cammi quips. And if they are unlucky? Cullen wonders. Run! Nara and Aiden shout as X-23 chases them. Nara falls and Aiden moves to defend her by hitting Laura with his axe. Cammi fires her gun at her. Keep it up… stop her! Cullen tells her grimly. Cammi replies she’s X-23. She can’t stop her. No, Cullen realizes, but he can. He takes off his Bloodstone ring and transforms into a soul monster…