His Anglo name is John Proudstar. He died by fire. That is the last thing he truly remembers. He was an X-Man, and was fighting to save the world. A raven lands on some rubble, and suddenly, John Proudstar a.k.a. Thunderbird bursts through the ground. First to last, he was a warrior, true to the heritage of the Chiricahua Apache. He figured he was done, that he had earned his last sleep. But rising from the ground, Thunderbird supposes he was wrong. ‘I’m - back! But - how’s that possible?’ he asks. ‘Gimme a break!’ he shouts, before reminding himself that he is a mutant, and that with the folks he hung with and the life they led, anything is possible.
But looking around, Thunderbird sees several others all in the same situation as he. ‘This is pushing it’ he thinks to himself, before realizing that the rubble and remains around him look like the Xavier School, and supposes that somebody had a war here, and that it looks like the X-Men lost. While up in the sky a fiery symbol can be seen, Thunderbird turns to his companions. He recognizes Sean Cassidy a.k.a. Banshee, and the woman he is with Thunderbird remembers from video-communications with Xavier - a scientist by the name of MacTaggert. ‘Moira, d’you think this is a dream?’ Sean asks as he helps Dr Moira MacTaggert to her feet. Wearing her classic yellow and pink spandex outfit, Moira replies ‘I can see you again, Sean. I can hold you. That’s all I care about’.
But Thunderbird doesn’t recognize the rest - three Madrox dupes, and two young blonde girls. ‘You killed me, Esme!’ Sophie Cuckoo shouts, grabbing her sister by the arm. ‘Keep talking like that, Sophie…I’ll do it again!’ Esme retorts. Thunderbird realizes that from the way everyone is talking, they are all like him - all of them are dead. Thunderbird looks up - he has never seen the sky like this. There are no clouds, and worse, no stars, as if all creation has gone black. Except of course for that figure right overhead - a great Thunderbird - an icon of John’s people. It was the codename he chose for himself, and he finds it weird that no one else is looking up, wondering if he is the only one who can see this.
Suddenly, Banshee calls out to Thunderbird, who turns around and looks at Sean and Moira. ‘Been a while, Irish’ John replies, before telling Sean and Moira that they both look good, all things considered. ‘You mean, that we should be dead?’ Moira replies. ‘Yup’ Thunderbird remarks, before announcing that he recalls being dragged back once before, for a while at least. ‘But why all of us? And why now?’ he asks.
Suddenly, Esme exclaims that they cannot do that until they have all been properly introduced. ‘Talking takes far too long...so I’ll just establish a full-spectrum psychic rapport…to get the formalities over with’ she declares, linking the minds of everyone. One of the Madrox dupes exclaims that his head hurts, while Sophie begins to curse her sister. Up above, the black crow flies, while Esme tells her sister to stop her shrieking, that she is just merging everyone’s prime memories, and then this will all be over with. ‘But by all means, if you’re so inclined, feel free to cry’ she adds.
Thunderbird declares that Esme talks like this is some kind of game. Sophie explains that to her sister it, is, and apologizes on her behalf, remarking that Esme is not very likeable. Suddenly, Sophie lashes out with a psychic burst, sending Esme careening backwards. ‘What’s your problem, Esme. You want to fry everybody’s brains?’ Sophie asks. ‘Howzabout just yours’ Esme mutters, while Thunderbird tells them that is enough.
More ravens appear in the sky above, while one of the Multiple Man dupes remarks that it is funny ending up with a splitting headache when you are dead. ‘I think you were the first to go’ another one remarks. The dupe wearing a slightly different costume tells his others that he remembers them both, so he must have been the last. He adds that he never figured as ghosts they would stay as individuals. ‘Be so much better if we had a manual, then at least we’d know the rules’ he remarks.
Moira declares that they need to know what is going on, and realizing the Cuckoos are telepaths orders them to scan the locality to try and find some answers. ‘For a flatscan, Dr MacTaggert, you’re totally bossy’ Sophie points out. ‘She’s also right’ Esme remarks. ‘Nag, nag, nag. What’re you, Esme, teacher’s pet?’ Sophie replies as the girls begin to scan the area. Moira remarks that they remind her of Emma Frost, to which Banshee tells her that she is not far off, and adds that luckily, their power is as impressive as Emma’s. ‘Aye’ Moira agrees, before noticing that the Cuckoos are pushing too hard.
‘Esme, what’re you doing?’ Sophie asks. Esme replies that she is expanding the search radius, and asks her sister if she has a problem with that. ‘It’s starting to hurt!’ Sophie exclaims. Esme boasts that she can take it, but Sophie calls her an idiot, and lurches forward, so Thunderbird helps her up and tells her to take it easy. Moira points out that they have no facilitates. ‘If something goes wrong -!’ More Ravens appear above now, circling the area, while Esme asks ‘What, Moira? I’ll die? Under the circumstances, big whoop!’ Banshee asks her what she saw, to which Esme replies that she saw nothing. Sophie announces that she scanned the town nearby and found nothing - no active human minds.
Esme boasts that she scanned the whole country and found plenty - that everyone on Earth seems to be unconscious, almost brain dead. ‘I’m sure you can relate, sear sister’. Sophie tells Esme that this is no joke, and points out that they may be the only ones left to set it right. Thunderbird steps in between the squabbling girls and announces that two telepaths means they can cover lots more ground. He tells Esme to take two of the Jamies and check out Salem Center, while the rest of them try to find some answers here.
‘Yo, muscles, who went and made you boss? And don’t you dare gimme that kind of look!’ Esme exclaims, before declaring that it is a waste of time, energy and breath, and tells Thunderbird that he and Logan are like twins - the quintessential male boss who won’t quit until he wins. ‘Might as well argue with a rock’ she tells herself.
Even more ravens appear in the sky above now, while Esme walks over to the two Multiple Man dupes, and Thunderbird tells them now to play hero, and that if there is trouble to yell for back-up. John explains that what they need is knowledge - who they are up against and what happened. ‘We have that, we can decide what to do about it’. Moira quietly tells Banshee that John is far better at this than she thought. ‘That’s right, you’ve been part of this from the start’ Sean recalls. ‘Charles and I worked together for what seemed like a lifetime. I vetted every recruit - except Jean’ Moira reveals.
‘You know, Banshee could search the town faster by air. We need another flier’ Esme announces as she starts to walk off with the Madrox dupes. Thunderbird points out that they could also use more muscle, but they have what they have. ‘Live with it’ he tells Esme, who calls him a jerk. Thunderbird turns to Sophie and tells her that he knows it is hard, but he wants her to stay linked to her sister. ‘Call me old-fashioned, but none of us die again today’. Sophie replies that she will do her best, before asking what they are going to do in the meantime. Thunderbird looks around at the ruins and points out that this is the X-Mansion. ‘I figure we were all brought here for a reason’ Banshee declares that they should search for clues, to which the Madrox dupe jokes that he hopes they are labeled.
The five begin their search through the ruins, and Thunderbird tells Sophie that the only telepath he knew on the team was Jean Grey, who was called Marvel Girl, only she quit soon after he arrived. ‘She’s Phoenix now. She gets resurrected a lot’ Sophie explains, adding that she wonders if that is as hard as it is to be a Cuckoo. She explains to Thunderbird that there were five Cuckoos originally, all of them identical, at least on the outside. ‘Inside though, we were so different’ she remarks, before assuring Thunderbird that she loves Esme. ‘But I was the strongest. I guess she hated that. Probably why she set me up to die’. ‘And there I thought us Multiple Men had issues. Does that mean we can’t trust -?’ the Madrox dupe begins to ask, to which Thunderbird suggests they consider today a second chance for all of them, before Moira announces that she has found something.
In Salem Center, still more ravens have gathered in the sky above, while Esme leans against the door to a store, the two dupes are inside, exploring. One of them remarks that after all the time they were affiliated with the X-Men, they hardly ever came here. ‘Dude, we were practically our own team back then, remember’ the other points out, adding that they didn’t have a lot of goof-off time. ‘Totally boring, boys’ Esme exclaims telepathically. ‘So who asked you, blondie?’ one of the dupes replies, adding that he hates telepaths. ‘Creep mental eavesdroppers’ the other remarks, before pointing out that, speaking of creepy, this place looks like everything just folded, with no warning, in the middle of what they were doing, then instant oblivion.
Esme begins to glow as she tells the dupes to keep looking. ‘For what?’ one of the dupes wonders. Esme replies that she is not sure, but that she will know it when they see it. ‘You playin’ us, honey?’ one of the dupes asks as they approach Esme, who replies ‘Like, if I was, there’d be anything you could do about it’, before announcing that there is something on the very edge of her perceptions, circling around them all. ‘It’s a hunger -’ she begins.
‘ - and we’re its prey’ Sophie tells her companions back at the Xavier Institute rubble. ‘Not good’ Thunderbird exclaims, before telling Banshee to go and bring the others back here. ‘can he carry all three?’ the Madrox dupe asks. ‘Don’t be daft, ‘course I can’ Sean replies, before announcing that he will not leave Moira. But Moira tells Sean that the team needs him. ‘I’m a Highland Scot, I can look after myself’ she reminds him, while Thunderbird tells Banshee that he is wasting time, and assures him they will keep Moira safe. ‘You get the kids! And you do it fast!’ Thunderbird declares. ‘I’ll be back before y’know it!’ Sean exclaims as he takes flight.
Thunderbird asks Moira what it is that she has found, and holding up a book, Moira replies that she thinks it is one of Destiny’s diaries, but that the pages are unreadable, written in some kind of code. ‘Pardon my ignorance, but who’s Destiny?’ Thunderbird asks. ‘Sorry - I keep forgetting you missed out on all of this’ Moira remarks, revealing that back in the 19th Century there lived a woman named Irene Adler. ‘As in Sherlock Holmes? But I thought she was fiction’ Thunderbird exclaims. ‘Reality, my friend, is full of surprises’ Moira tells him, before continuing on:
Flashback illustrations, narrated by Moira MacTaggert:
Irene Adler was a mutant, a seer and a prophetess, and as an adolescent, she began writing her diaries - chronicling increasingly bizarre and hallucinogenic visions of possible futures. It took her the better part of a decade - and some say it cost her sanity. What they know for fact is that it cost Irene her physical sight, and she emerged from the ordeal blind to the world around her, but determined to protect humanity. That quest led her to cross paths with another adventurer - a man of mystery named Eric Raven. They started as allies and became lovers. But Raven was also a mutant - the shape-shifter they know as Mystique. Irene took the identity Destiny. The X-Men first knew Mystique and Destiny as adversaries, but they later became allies. Only Destiny died on Muir Island, and they all thought her secrets were lost with her.
‘Apparently we were wrong’ Moira adds, before the Madrox dupe asks ‘No offense, but what the heck good does this do us? This stupid book’s written in gibberish!’ Thunderbird ads that Madrox has a point. ‘The wind! It’s turning the pages - whoa!’ Sophie declares, while shock falls over Moira’s face, as the page turned to reveals a sketch of Muir Island. ‘Yeah, it is! Oh, sorry, my bad - I’m seeing things through Moira’s mind. Lemme put us all in synch so you guys can look too!’ Sophie declares, while Moira looks down at the book and announces that the words and images are becoming clear:
“There are many keys. If the universe is to be saved, all must be properly turned. Go to Muir Isle, where the lay lines intersect. While chaos sweeps across the universe and carrion’s demons rend the waking dead…the one above all is roused from his sleep and nature’s avatars rally the powers of Earth and Heaven, of fire and waters - in defense of life itself”.
‘Cryptic, isn’t it?’ Moira remarks, before noticing the others all looking at her, she asks them what they are staring at. ‘You, Moira. You’re changing’ one of them tells her. ‘Laddy, I’m dead, and this waking death has its own reality -’ Moira begins, before a raven suddenly dive-bombs her. ‘What’s with these birds?’ Sophie calls out as she helps Moira to safety. Moira explains that they are ravens, bound to the service of their great adversary - his eyes and his weapons of first-strike. ‘Great. A Hitchcock moment’ Sophie mutters. ‘WACH OUT!’ the Madrox dupe calls out, announcing that their claws and beaks are like daggers. ‘So’s the power of my mind’ Sophie boasts as she unleashes her power on as many of the ravens as she can.
‘The more we hit - the more we seem to face’ Thunderbird declares as he begins to pummel his way through the ravens, while the Madrox dupe finds himself in a strange predicament - split into another dupe as the birds’ attacks trigger his cloning power. Thunderbird tells Madrox to both hit the birds as hard as they can, but wonders to himself if it will be anywhere near enough. Suddenly, there is a piercing sound: ‘Banshee’s scream!’ Thunderbird exclaims. Esme clings to Banshee’s shoulders as his sonic scream tears apart any birds that enter its radius. Esme tells Banshee to drop the Madrox dupes, and when they land on the ground, the impact causes them to create a few more clones. ‘The house odds just got way better!’ one of them jokes.
‘In their dreams’ Esme tells Banshee, adding that the only way to win here is to decimate the baddies, and suggests to Banshee that they combine their powers - his sonic scream and her telepathy - to smash their bodies and fry their tiny brains. ‘A bit ruthless, that’ Sean remarks as he and Esme drop to the ground after destroying the ravens. ‘You wanna complain? It got the job done’ Esme points out. Sean assures her that he is grateful. ‘Whatever’ Esme mutters. Banshee sees Moira keeled over on the ground nearby, and rushes over to her, ‘Are you all right - your hair’ he begins, as he sees that her hair has turned gray. Moira looks up and Sean, ‘Merciful saints! My love - what’s happened to you?’ Sean gasps as he sees that Moira has aged phenomenally.
‘What’s necessary, if our universe is to have even the smallest hope of salvation’ Moira reveals. ‘This is no longer my body alone. My love, we have so little time left to us’. Sophie asks Moira what she means by that, to which Thunderbird points out that he thinks that is fairly obvious. They look up and see even more ravens hovering above them. ‘Looks like it’s time for round two’ Sophie exclaims as the birds suddenly dive down. ‘Two Madroxes are down’ Sean calls out. ‘No matter how many we take out, more just…appear out of nowhere’ one of the dupes declares.
Sophie telepathically announces that they are not normal birds, that they are demon-crows and they want more than their bodies. Esme agrees, and explains that they are soul eaters. ‘And in these numbers, even we can’t destroy all of them’. Moira suddenly grabs Sophie and Thunderbird, suggesting that it may be better if they remove themselves from this fray. Telepathically linked, Moira tells John that she sees now what they must do, and tells him that the thunderbird that appears to him only it is more than his avatar, it is a gift from his god, that it is what brought them all here. ‘Call to it if you would embrace your destiny’ Moira tells him.
Thunderbird does so: ‘Sky power! Carrier of lightning! Great avatar of my soul - hear me!’ John shouts. ‘You who brought us together here. And through Destiny’s prophesy have, have revealed your plan!’ Light suddenly shines down from the thunderbird in the sky, and John asks it to carry them now on wings of fire, away from this great enemy, to this heart of Earth’s power. ‘Not bad, Proudstar - for someone we thought was just a muscle head’ Esme mutters. Banshee holds onto Moira and unleashes his sonic scream at more birds, while telling Thunderbird that whatever his plan, he best make it snappy, otherwise they are all done for.
Esme announces that they have lost another Madrox, before she gets struck by one of the birds. ‘Esme’s hit!’ Sophie calls out, rushing towards her sister, she tells the birds to back off. Thunderbird continues his speech to the avatar - ‘So that we may fulfil your grave purpose in this great battle for survival of the universe!’ As energy pours down from the avatar, John tells himself that he has his answer, and realizes that the thunderbird avatar is creating a portal made of whirling clouds. ‘You’ve done it, John! This marvel is our salvation!’ Moira exclaims. ‘Sure hope so’ John replies, before grabbing Banshee and Moira, and throwing them into the portal, telling Sean to keep his lady safe. ‘I’ll do my best’ Banshee replies, before Thunderbird calls out to the Madroxes, telling them they are next. ‘We’re gone, boss!’ the modern Madrox calls out as he and the two others leap into the portal.
‘That’s our cue, twins!’ Thunderbird exclaims as he runs towards Sophie, who is holding Esme in her arms and keeping the ravens at bay. ‘Esme’s down. She’s hurt’ Sophie tells him. Thunderbird replies that he will carry her and they will run. ‘You’ll need cover fire’ Sophie points out. But John tells her to trust him, that they will manage. ‘What the -?’ John gasps. ‘Bad news, John. I think the odds just changed - and not for the better!’ Sophie exclaims as a huge image of a raven appears in the large group flying towards them. ‘Time to go, girl’ John exclaims as he picks up Esme. Te tells Sophie to run, like her soul depended on it.
Sophie follows John, telling him that she will cover his escape and be right behind him. But an instant later, Sophie is struck by the crows. ‘Sophie - no!’ Thunderbird calls out. Sophie projects her image as she tells John that they have got her. ‘Ill come get you’ John calls out, but Sophie tells him not to be stupid, as that is what the birds want. She tells Thunderbird to get away from here and to tell Esme that this is her chance to prove she is stronger than Sophie. ‘I’m sorry, Sophie’ Thunderbird calls out as he rushes to the portal, carrying Esme, who calls out to her sister.
Sophie declares that she is sorry, too. ‘Another world, another chance at real life, who knows -’ she begins, before crying out that they are cutting through her shields. ‘Oh, merciful God, it hurts!’ Sophie cries out. ‘Stupid girl, what have you done?’ Esme demands as she is shoved into the portal. ‘What she had. She saved our lives…at the cost of her own’ Thunderbird explains as the portal begins to vanish into the sky.
The demons will leave Sophie her eyes. They want her to see what’s coming…as their master descends from the heavens. Once the Apache trickster god, the bearer of magic, the harbinger of messages from the great beyond - the suborned raven will be transformed into the demonic Carrion Crown, water of the dead. To the Carrion Crow, war is but a game. And every player must wear the uniform. The birds tear human flesh, sculpting, molding until its shape reflects their own. What form proclaims…mind and soul will quickly follow. The Carrion Crown will craft a turncoat…who will lead his army to her friends and consume them as her rightful prey. Those few who thought to stand against the Chaos King will learn - that there are fates far worse than death. The lost diary of Irene Adler, for example!
And as such, Sophie is transformed into a raven-girl hybrid, and stands alongside the deadly Carrion Crow….