The state of the future...
Trevor Fitzroy had come to this time period with one apparent mission: to rule. However, he was soon followed from the past by Bishop, his old enemy who sought to renew their chase and finally end their longtime dispute. Finding himself to be a legend in an era without hope or X-Men, Bishop banded together both mutants and humans into an army that would march against Fitzroy’s Chronokeep and attempt the Chronomancer’s rule. Seeking a way beneath the gates of the keep, Bishop befriended the mutant outcasts called the Morlocks, who led him through the tunnels and into Fitzroy’s fortress. Bishop comes for two things: to end Fitzroy’s hold over this defenseless land, and to rescue his sister Shard, who has become Fitzroy’s prisoner. What Bishop never suspected, however, was that Shard might come to sympathize with Fitzroy. Nor would he believe that, together, they might even mean his downfall.
Bishop’s army storms towards the castle, ready for battle.
Shard, wearing a pink dress with an “X” symbol attached on it, stares outside the window. She feels it’s cold outside. Or at least, she assumes it is. It’s hard for her to remember how the cold feels, sometimes. Shard recalls she died once before, but was brought back to life... with all the needs and frailties of flesh and blood, yet none of the means to employ them. The entire keep is cold. But it’s Fitzroy’s keep, so she shouldn’t be surprised. The siege outside has been going on for a few days now. She’s certain it’s Bishop’s forces who have come for Fitzroy. But, Shard wonders, have those forces come for her as well?
Fitzroy approaches Shard, asking her to get away from the window, as windows can be dangerous at times like these. He doesn’t want her exposed. He explains they have much to do today, and confirms that Bishop is coming. And they must be ready to... great him. Shard doesn’t believe Fitzroy. She saw that the forces fly a flag with an “X” marked on it. An “X” mark just like the one on her clothes. Fitzroy asks Shard to look at the people outside. They are angry people not like her! It’s true that she is a mutant, just like he and Bishop are, but Fitzroy claims that those people are not here to save her. They are here to hurt him, to hunt him and others like him and those he keeps safe behind these walls.
Shard reminds Fitzroy that he promised he would take them away from there. Fitzroy claims he should never have brought his little one to this place, and promises Shard he’ll take her away now. But first, he has something to show her: a gift... to prove his sincerity. He explains that time and space are like fabrics. It’s easily manipulated if one can see the weave. And the stitches are quite visible to him. Fitzroy uses his powers to open a portal in front of him. Standing in front of it, he reveals he once believed he was at the mercy of time, like all men. And though his powers let him travel through it, Fitzroy could never quite control just where the portals would take him.
He asks Shard to imagine how... surprised he was to learn he wasn’t a slave to time. That instant, time became Fitzroy’s servant. He was thrilled that time flowed through him, rather than around him. And that his flesh... was only a shell. That it was a shell he could shed, given time. Fitzroy touches the portal with his fingers, reminding Shard she knows he has always been an ambitious man. Shard denies that. She knows Fitzroy needs the life-force of others to sustain his powers. Fitzroy pretends that he knows he has done so many... terrible things. He admits he knows that. He only hopes that, in time, he can prove how much he has changed. He begs Shard to let him give her what he knows she desires more than anything. He claims he possesses that ability.
Shard has doubts about it. Fitzroy reminds Shard that the choice is hers. He cannot make it for her. He is done with manipulating. He presents to her the choice, and will understand it, either way. Shard touches the portal, and thinks. What she desires... more than anything? She notices it’s cold in here... so cold. Fitzroy takes an evil grin on his face as he sees Shard touching his portal.
Elsewhere in a dark place of the castle...
Bantam, holding a torch in his hands to lighten up the place, says with a soft voice the darkness looks the same to him. He suggests they turn back. Tracker jokes that perhaps they should leave Bantam behind in the dark. Maybe then he would learn how different certain parts of the dark can be. Bishop shouts at Bantam and Tracker that’s enough! He asks Link to silence the two if they bicker again. Link will be glad to. Link telepathically enters Bantam’s mind, threatening that he has whined for the last time, and that perhaps a private conversation is called for. Bantam has had enough of the head-speaking and begs for it to stop. Bishop has made a plan, and asks everyone to listen, reminding them all they have very little time.
Bishop states that the keep is well guarded. Their forces could crash the walls all day and not make much of a difference. But if they can open the gates, and get their army inside with as little resistance as possible, then they’ll have at least a sliver of hope. And that’s where Bantam and Tracker come in. Bantam doesn’t like the sound of that. Tracker claims he could do it all by himself. Bishop further explains that Scorch and Jinx will lead the army’s charge outside. They’ll storm the gates when the moment is right. He orders Bantam and Tracker to make that moment happen. They will open the gates. And then they will give the signal: an “X”-marked flag.
Link asks Bishop what they will do. Bishop asks her to be quiet, and places his hand on Bantam’s torch, putting it out. The room gets dark again. Bishop concludes that today they’ll come back as heroes, or they’ll come back dead. He tells Link that she’ll be with him. And Fitzroy will be his! Bishop stops talking, as he can hear the Chronotroopers marching right above them.
Outside the keep...
Jinx is sitting on a rock, with an army sitting behind her. Scorch approaches her, explaining that the men are ready. At least, as ready as they’ll ever be. All they wait for now is Bishop’s signal. Jinx tells Scorch he makes it sound so easy. Scorch mentions he has send out a search party. Men of fine ability are combing the woods for Michael. It’s all they can do. Jinx is disappointed, as Bishop left Michael in their care. She feels like she waited for this moment her entire life. Now she has the chance to rise, to make the difference she only dreamed she’d ever have the chance to make. She only wants to do the X-Men proud. Their legacy. Scorch realizes Jinx wants to do Bishop proud. She doesn’t answer, but the look on her face indicates that’s true.
Michael has ran into some dark tunnels and calls out to Bishop. Not gaining a response, Michael admits to himself he doesn’t know what he was thinking, rushing into these tunnels after Bishop. It’s not like he can see in the dark, and now he’s lost! He thinks he’s so stupid. Michael trips and, when he gets up, he sees that he has just found a room filled where the slave children are building more Chronotroopers! Michael panics, and thinks he better goes to find Bishop to warn him about this place. He’s glad that the guarding Chronotroopers haven’t seen him. But then, two Chronotroopers appear behind Michael. Thinking the boy to be one of the Morlocks, they start whipping him! Michael tries to explain he isn’t a Morlock, but the troopers don’t listen and continue their beating.
Below, the kids hear Michael’s screams. One of the slaves, Roosus, asks Pendies who he thinks it is. Pendies thinks it’s just another one of their poor brothers getting beat. He thinks they can only pray for him, and hope Oro keeps them safe.
Somewhere else at the keep...
Tracker and Bantam are hesitant to make their next move. Tracker thinks that Bantam should go first, and hopes that Oro will go with him. Bantam doesn’t think this is right. The walls are being patrolled, but just barely. The courtyard seems as quiet as a crypt. And Bantam thinks there’s something odd with the floor. There are circles carved into it, and the floor doesn’t look the same to Bantam from when he was there. Tracker thinks the floor is the least of their worries. They find a flagpole. Tracker climbs on it, wanting to raise the flag and reminds Bantam that he’s got the gates to attend to.
Bantam rushes to the lever to open the gates. He whispers that it has to be now if the forces are going to receive the signal and crash the gates. He’s certain that Fitzroy would murder him slowly if he found out he was here. Bantam’s determined to open the gates, and wants to help bring Fitzroy down. He starts pulling the lever when, suddenly, a portal opens behind him! Bantam freaks out.
Jinx, Scorch and their army stand before the gates. Scorch informs Jinx that the men are ready, which Jinx replies counts for her as well. Scorch wants to tell Jinx some things, in case this battle doesn’t go as planned. Jinx uses some black paint to carve an X-mark over her face, and tells Scorch all she has ever lived for comes together now. He’ll either have to keep up with her... or stay away! The army notices the flag, and proudly declare that the war has begun! They storm the gates open.
Inside the castle, Link can’t handle the strain of her powers anymore. That means she can’t hide herself and Bishop anymore from the Chronotrooper’s sight, and they become visible again. They walk on some stairs, and Bishop promises Link that, after this fight when they come back, he’ll train her somehow. God knows she deserves it. He wonders how the others are doing. Link can hear the sounds of the battle outside, meaning that the attack must have been launched. She asks Bishop where he is going, as she thought they were heading for the throne room. Bishop declares that first things come first. He promises they’ll deal with Fitzroy. But Fitzroy holds his sister captive, and Bishop wants to rescue her first. Link looks doubtful at Bishop.
In her cell, Shard is shivering. She hears the door opening, and thinks it’s her beloved Fitzroy. She tells him she’s ready to... Shard stops talking there, and recognizes Bishop. Bishop tends to his disoriented sister, telling her he’ll get her out of here. Shard is glad to see Bishop again, but is surprised he came alone. In that case, Shard mentions, they have to hurry. She starts running outside. Bishop asks Shard what she’s doing. Shard informs Bishop Fitzroy said he was coming for her, but they have to hurry, as Fitzroy is waiting for them.
They walk down the stairs, and Shard admits to herself that this freedom is a whole new feeling for her. The chill on her skin feels different. Suddenly, Shard collapses! Bishop asks Shard what’s wrong with her, and she can only respond that Fitzroy is coming for them.
Outside, the battle between the Chronotroopers and the refugee army continues. Scorch and Jinx fight side-by-side. Scorch can’t help but feel that this is all wrong. Jinx agrees: Fitzroy’s guard is light, and wonders why. She thinks they must have been expecting them. That doesn’t make much sense to Scorch, because, if that were true, more guardians should have been present. They go deeper inside the castle, and find a half-dead Bantam lying on the ground! When Jinx asks Bantam what happened, almost without breath Bantam warns the army to go back.
Suddenly, the gates close, and Jinx, Scorch and the army are cut off from outside! Jinx and Scorch hear something. They are standing in a circle, and some panels of it turn around, revealing more Chronotroopers! They are coming literally out of the floor now. Jinx announces to the army that this doesn’t matter, as they’ll fight until their final breath. Scorch panics. He warns Jinx about incoming danger, as behind them a portal opens, and more Chronotroopers step out of it! Jinx can’t believe this is happening, and wonders what has become of Bishop and the others.
Back inside the castle, Bishop looks around the room they are in and doesn’t believe they’ll find the way out of the castle there. He tells Shard he doesn’t know what that maniac Fitzroy did to her, but she has to try to understand him. He looks behind them, and notices that Shard is gone. He calls out to Shard, wondering what happened to her, but only finds some of Shard’s blood on the floor. He touches it with his fingers, and smells on it. He looks in front of him, and finds Shard hiding in a dark corner of the room.
Bishop walks over to his sister and tries to talk to her. Shard tells Bishop Fitzroy told her he would come, but she always knew that. Bishop sees Shard’s hand touching someone’s chest and wonders whose it is. A man steps out of the shadows, and is revealed to be... Fitzroy! Fitzroy tells Bishop he must excuse his sister, explaining that Shard’s body is in a state of transformation right now. It’s happening slowly, but luckily Shard is handling it much better than he could ever hope. Shard is strong, but Fitzroy guesses that runs in the family.
Fitzroy welcomes Bishop in his Chronokeep. Fitzroy notices how angry Bishop glares at him, and asks him not to. He reveals that Shard was broken when he brought her there. He has actually begun to heal her. Fitzroy thinks that what Bishop might see as a lack of free will is simply Shard’s own body’s reaction to the transformation. She is weakened, disoriented, but Fitzroy claims he’s making Shard into flesh again. He’s turning her once again into a... woman. Fitzroy licks Shard’s face, finding it a shame this is happening to her though, because Shard used to tingle when he did this. This makes Bishop even angrier. He shouts at Fitzroy that for everyone he has ever killed, for everyone Bishop himself has hurt by letting Fitzroy live this long, he’ll see an end to him today!
Bishop jumps at Fitzroy in a furious rage, even growling at him. Fitzroy snaps his fingers, disagreeing with Bishop’s earlier statement, and smiles.
Outside, Scorch uses a huge amount of his flame powers to destroy the Chronotroopers. He shouts at Jinx that, if they are to die today, they’ll take the Chronotroopers with them. Jinx agrees but, if that will be the case, the troopers will join them in pieces. She kicks some of the troopers, destroying them. Jinx whispers that it can’t end this way. Not with their forces scattered and deceived, their hopes smashed. She asks Scorch how long it has been, because this all went so fast. Jinx stares at the battle in shock. She wonders how long she and Scorch have been tied to another, fighting and surviving. She doesn’t notice however that a Chronotrooper is sneaking up on her, and strikes her from behind with his staff! Scorch sees it happening and freaks out. He uses his powers to destroy the Chronotroopers around him. He can’t believe this happened, because they were so close.
Inside the castle, Fitzroy has used his powers to move away from Bishop, and freezes Bishop. He realizes that Bishop probably thinks he’s crazy. He wonders for how long he has been running from Bishop. It was long enough to think about a few things. Long enough to plot and plan all the different ways he could hide from his old friend. Long enough to dream about how he’d do the hunting, given the chance. First, Fitzroy thought he’d finally be rid of Bishop. That he’d find a cozy little corner of the future where Bishop couldn’t touch him. But then, Fitzroy realized that ruling in this time seemed to... empty without Bishop there to witness it. So, Bishop arrived there, raised an army and led them... into his house.
Fitzroy asks Bishop what he thought at that moment. That he would run? Or that he would fight to keep what he has here? Fitzroy laughs at that. He states that all he has built here is not important to him, claiming that ruling as flesh is so... played out. And, Fitzroy has other things in mind. Bishop does his best to say something. He talks to Shard, telling her that her plasma-blasts can stop Fitzroy. But she doesn’t do anything.
Fitzroy moves closer to Bishop, telling him not to count on Shard. He explains that, much like he seeks to be more than flesh, Shard sought to be just that, once more. Fitzroy reminds Bishop he knows how found he has always been of Shard, and that was something he couldn’t refuse. He informs Bishop that his army lies beaten in the snow. Shard is less than what she ever was, and Bishop played right into the palm of Fitzroy’s hand. Fitzroy slaps Bishop in his face, telling him he could end this right there and now, and Bishop would be fortunate. He punches Bishop some stories below, claiming that there is so much more for him to show Bishop. After all, they’ve waited so long for this reunion. Fitzroy just wants some quality time between old friends. Below, the Chronotroopers pick Bishop up. Fitzroy warns his guardians about the energy crackling around, as they know what energy means to Bishop.
Fitzroy tends to Shard, telling her he gave her something she didn’t even realize she wanted. And so, she became his. And so, she led Bishop to him. Fitzroy thanks her for that. Shard tries to say something, but Fitzroy tells her not to, because she has done quite enough already. He opens a portal and steps through it. As the portal closes, Link has seen everything through a shaft in the floor. She does her best to keep her mouth shut and not to say anything. She just looks at Shard, who sits wondering on the ground.
Outside, Scorch holds Jinx in his arms. She feels cold, and asks Scorch if they won. Scorch tells Jinx that he has her, and wants to warm her up. He promises her that everything’s going to be alright. Behind Scorch and Jinx, Chronotroopers surround them, and see that Jinx has already lost a lot of blood.
From the Book of Azeroch: IV.I: “Many day and night the travel over hard land and through harsh times. But giants must be tougher than land and times, he would say. And so, giants was. Though mighty Azeroch was hero made, not born, and no one said it be easy.”
A tired Nom crawls his way over a red-hot desert-like landscape, and refuses to give up, despite the fact he’s tired.
“For long time, giants many in world, though Azeroch know it could not last. And so when time come for him to pass and for giants to pass from world, Azeroch make promise. And in time of giants’ greatest need... Azeroch vow to return.”
Nom stares at the Azeroch mark on his hand. He sees someone approaching him... another, small giant?! Nom faints, and the small giant tends to him. Suddenly, more giants appear out of nowhere! The giants look at Nom and realize he has come a long way, and help him up. They decide to bring Nom back to their base. The elder giants order the smaller giant, Chakra, to stay with Nom. They think that maybe he learned something.
A while later, Nom wakes up and finds a dressed up skeleton in front of him, which wears a crown! Chakra stands behind Nom, and explains to him he just found Azeroch, who died a long time ago. Chakra introduces himself to Nom, and tells him that he found him on the plains. Nom stares at the little one, who wonders if Nom can’t talk. Chakra suggests that they go meet the others now, as they’ve been waiting.
Nom touches Chakra’s face, and he laughs, telling Nom he’s funny. He acts like no other giant Chakra has seen in a long time. Chakra further explains that they brought Nom to Azeroch’s crypt after they found him. They want to see him now. The Book of Azeroch said he would return some day, and come back in the time of the giant’s greatest need. And like Azeroch, Nom came a long way to get there. The giants believe that Nom is... Azeroch-reborn! Nom is shocked upon hearing that.
Chakra leads Nom outside. The other giants stare in awe at Nom, and Chakra informs him they waited so long for Azeroch to return. The giants are ready to follow him. Chakra gives Nom a staff, and asks him if he’s ready to lead. Nom accepts the staff, and looks at it, with the other giants smiling behind him.
From the Book of Azeroch IV. VII: “He led them then, out of darkness and into new age of giant glory. There need for giants in world... and Azeroch-reborn will fill it.”