On the planet Earth, viewed from space, an explosion of light erupts from a small spot in North America, its radiance outshining even the sun. “I know there are spy satellite photos of the way it looked from space,” someone says, describing this event in retrospect. “Despite what happened with the project, I still have a few sources in government who have clandestinely stayed in touch. But I wouldn’t want to see that material,” he adds, “—I much prefer to imagine. In my mind’s eye, it has to be grander and more awesome. The flare of a star going nova. Only instead of originating in the dark of space, it radiates brilliantly up from Earth…the light of the Dazzler!”
In his home, Dust, still inhabiting the body of a trucker, continues speaking to his associate, Stomper. “That’s romantic, I realize. But my wife and I are romantics, Stomper,” he says. It’s how they’re able to look beyond the horror—by never losing sight of their ultimate goal. He wants to make it very clear to Stomper what this means to them, he adds for emphasis. One day in the future—once success is finally theirs—the moment he just described will no doubt be considered the birth of a new era.
Of course, he adds, the actual event was just a sensationalized publicity effort for a movie that was never released. He believes that aspect will fade in time. The important thing will be, though, that Alison Blaire, the mutant with the power to absorb sound waves and convert them into light, dazzled the gathered crowd with an amazing glow transduced from the roar of six 747 passenger jets. Dust asserts that Stomper knows this already, because he was there with his fellow Outriders, Chunk and Mama—three members of a thrill-seeking biker gang out on the fringe of the crowd, only slightly touched by Dazzler’s light, yet still—awakened.
Dust lays his hand on Stomper’s shoulder, who is visibly nervous. A happy accident, Dust calls their presence at the event. After learning of it from Stomper and his friends, the final step for Dust and Silence’s success fell into place. He and his wife will always be grateful, he tells Stomper—despite the Outriders’ recent unbelievable blunder.
Dust peers outside his mansion at the willing workers toiling in the yard. Some might ask if all of this isn’t enough, he says while gesturing out the window. He describes his residence, known as Camp Silence, as a self-sufficient community that draws disturbed and disaffected youths like a magnet, and through unique meditation and therapy programs makes them useful and productive. It even has this effect on violent, hardcore cases—like Stomper. Camp Silence isn’t a dream though, he adds. It’s a subterfuge—a means to regroup and salvage. As he places his other, rapidly disintegrating hand on the top of Stomper’s head, he claims that he and his wife saw what their brief exposure to the Dazzler’s light had awakened in the three of them when they first arrived. They knew she was the key to the dream—the dream they tried to crush twenty-five years earlier.
The man now known as Dust lies on an experimental bed. He wears a red visor and looks up into an operating light. Electrodes and wires adorn his otherwise naked body. In the middle of his self-experiment, his wife, the woman now known as Silence, rushes into the lab. The project’s been cancelled, she cries! She informs him she just received a warning call from Washington; word about the deaths in their control group has leaked! There’s every likelihood they’ll be arrested!
Dust removes the visor from his blond head. But their enhancement drugs work, he insists! Sure, they’re deadly—but the more he experiments with ultra-violet rays, the more he’s certain that the proper combination of them can reverse the fatal effects of the drugs. Besides, they’re fighting a war, he adds! There must be casualties! And the addicts, criminals and street slime who serve as their test subjects haven’t suffered risks as great as he and Silence have taken themselves! They put their lives on the line for the results they achieved; can’t the government show some courage? Surely they realize the Russians are experimenting with paranormal power enhancement!
To demonstrate, he lashes out at a nearby beaker using only his mind. The glass vessel shatters. Wouldn’t rather lose a few human dregs than the race to unleash the full psychic potential of the human mind?
The answer, he tells Stomper, was no. Even those friendly to his project didn’t dare take the chance—not when the bad publicity might also jeopardize their efforts to gear up for a more conventional war erupting in Vietnam. He and his wife fled like criminals, taking their secrets with them—and their records as well. The early years were the worst. They learned to live like fugitives—and with the knowledge that, even as their psi-abilities kept growing, they were slowly dying. Because in their faith they had injected themselves with more of the enhancement drug than they administered to their test subjects, they each found ways to use their developing powers to fight death—unpleasant ways, he might add, and temporary. They won time from the grasp of the reaper, but to this day, he and Silence live in his grasp. To illustrate, he describes a time in which he accosted a man in an alleyway while his wife kept watch.
Continuing, he tells Stomper that, with time, there was hope. Without government support they couldn’t produce any significant new amounts of the drug, but just prior to being closed down, they had made a magnificent discovery. As others would later find with LSD, their drug had a pass-along effect: it survived dormant in the offspring of many original subjects. Using new identities, he and Silence sought out the next generation, most of whom were as wild and disaffected as their parents, and started building a place to which they would be drawn. That place became Camp Silence. It was at this place where they experienced failure.
Dust and Silence, still in their original bodies, experiment on a subject, who lies strapped to a stretcher. Dust takes the subject’s pulse, but finds no signs of life. He concludes that any combination of ultra-violent rays effective against the drug is equally fatal. They can’t awaken their psi-potential without killing them! Silence adds that they respond when she mentally reaches out to draw them to Camp Silence. Therefore, the drug must not be totally dormant; there’s an affinity among everyone touched by it. There must be some way to safely unlock it!
Dust tells Stomper that this safe method turned out to be none other than the Dazzler. Stomper, Chunk and Mama’s slight exposure to her light had awakened in them the seed their experiment had implanted in them, Dust says. More importantly, it showed the potential—at full exposure—to cleanse. The dream was possible again, he adds. However, they still had to win the mutant woman over to them, but in the end, after weaving an elaborate web to accomplish that very thing, he mistakenly entrusted the final step to barbarians!
While draping his crumbling hands over Stomper’s shoulders, Dust tells the frightened biker he had no choice; they had successfully used the Outriders as hunters and trackers of other marks they sought. Only the Outriders had enough awakened psi-abilities to appear to Dazzler as fellow mutants, and thereby, as her friends and rescuers! Instead, at the first complication, they acted like bullies, like the road-riding animals they used to be. They alienated her and battled her—and in their ultimate defeat, somehow burned away their own developing powers! Then, like spoiled children, they returned home, hoping to be forgiven!
As Dust looks into Stomper’s eyes, his face begins to crumble. A look of pure horror envelopes Stomper as his employer’s ashen remains begin spilling over his own body. Dust insists that he cannot forgive the Outriders—not when they’ve postponed him and Silence to postpone their dream once again. All he can do now, he says, is assure Stomper that he will still play a part in seeing it fulfilled. With that, Dust’s body disintegrates completely, leaving only a skeleton to tumble to the floor. As the decomposed remains wash over Stomper, he clenches his jaw, shuts his eyes and looks up, not wanting to face what will happen next. The last conscious thought of the young man called Stomper is to scream in horror—and perish with the knowledge that no matter how loud, the sound will never be heard.
Sure enough, the current crop of laborers continue their yard work, completely unaware of what has just occurred inside the mansion of Camp Silence.
Dust, meanwhile, emerges from his meeting room and approaches his wife, Silence. It’s done, he says, apologizing for the scream. In the final moments, his control over his subjects sometimes slips a bit. Silence, sitting casually in a comforter, tells her husband not to worry; she was prepared. The important thing is that Dust has a strong, new host body. Dust, now inhabiting Romper’s skin, approaches his wife and kisses her on the cheek. It’s the best available body at the moment, Dust adds. He hopes it’s not too unappealing; he knows she’s tolerated a lot over the years. They both have, Silence assures him: the constant threat of death and decay. Dust fights it by changing bodies, while she has to fight it while mentally restraining its advance within her. Yet now, after so many years, the latest setback makes their ultimate goal—
“Still close, Silence!” Dust tells her. He insists that Dazzler’s light will cleanse what is destroying them and awaken the new wave they’ve gathered. Silence adds that the country’s wrath is rising against mutants. Soon enough, those feelings will carry over to most so-called superheroes, she asserts—many of whom are already allied or associated with mutants. Their new wave will be an alternative: strong enough to combat mutants and superheroes, but created out of humans and human potential. The government that once rejected them will soon embrace them, Dust adds. This time, however, they will retain control—over their drug, over the new wave and over Dazzler herself. She must be out there somewhere, he says; they haven’t lost her yet. It’s just a matter of concocting a proper plan to totally secure all that power for their needs.
Meanwhile, Dazzler finds herself engaged in an all-out brawl with an entire gang of vicious bikers. While repelling three of them with a combination of her light powers and self-defense skills, a biker sneaks up behind her with a chain, ropes it around her neck and begins choking the life out of her. Keep on her, he commands! She can’t shoot any light blasts when she’s choking to death! He intends to show her how they handle muties who come nosing around on the home turf of the Devil’s Deacons. Throwing her to the ground, he claims that citizens in the streets may quiver in their boots at the sight of mutants, but the Devil’s Deacons skrag them like any other trespassing fool!
The gang descends on the fallen woman. Dazzler, however, is not out of tricks. She unleashes a full-force strobe blast that repels them and knocks them all to the ground. Standing tall, she lifts the leader of the gang up by his collar and resumes her interrogation. Now, she had a question about the three riders who might have passed through there, she says, but instead of answering, he and his fellow bikers chose to demonstrate just how tough Denver’s toughest motorcycle gang is. If they’re all done impressing her, perhaps they’d like to try talking. The beaten biker admits to Dazzler that she’s scary—but so is what happens to any Deacon who rats out another biker.
Suddenly, a shotgun blast erupts from across the room. Its ball bearings come eerily close to obliterating Dazzler’s head; thankfully they merely rip off the tails of her red headband. She turns and sees O.Z. Chase standing in the open doorway of the biker garage, brandishing his smoking shotgun. That was a warning shot, he tells Dazzler. She should be glad she’s not wanted dead or alive. If she runs off again, however, no one will quibble if he brings her back crippled.
Chase approaches Dazzler, puts the barrel of his gun at the back of her neck and leads her away. The frightened biker tells Chase he never thought he would be so grateful to a cop. He doesn’t have to be, Chase replies; he’s strictly a private bounty hunter. He adds that he used to ride a bit himself, in a club out of Fresno, California. With Dazzler safely in the cab, Chase wraps his arm around the biker’s shoulder and poses a question. It’s not like he owes him or anything, but he just wanted to warn the three bikers Dazzler was talking about that she and her fellow mutants have it out for them. The biker begins to answer, but then grows worried about whether or not Dazzler’s safely locked away in the truck. He wouldn’t want to risk invoking her wrath again. Chase assures him that using her light powers wears her down. Plus, he adds, his dog Cerberus is guarding her—and he’s not named after the legendary beast who guards the gates of Hades for nothing! Now, about that biker trio, Chase asks.
Inside the cab, unseen by the biker, Cerberus jubilantly laps the sweat from Dazzler’s face.
Later, when they’re back on the road again, Dazzler asks Chase if he supposes their little con worked. She’d hate to think the bruises she collected didn’t net the information she wanted. Chase concedes that she may have forced the information out of them eventually, but their way was a whole lot faster. Suddenly Chase finds himself distracted by his dog Cerberus’s uncharacteristically pleasant demeanor; he’s never seen his miserable mutt so friendly and affectionate! He asks Dazzler what she did before realizing that his entire box of Cuban cigars is now empty. She fed the mangy monster all of his cigars? Cerberus fed himself, Dazzler counters. She just didn’t try to stop him once he started.
Chase tells her that’s low. So is reminder her that it’s his truck every time she asks him not to smoke, Dazzler replies. Someday, when the country’s anti-mutant fervor subsides, she would like to resume her singing career full-time. When she does, she’d prefer to have both lungs intact. She reminds him that the three bikers who attacked Chase seemed to somehow draw power form her. It’s only natural they work together to track them down, she adds—but not with a cloud of cigar smoke between them. Chase is afraid that’s not all between them; no matter what happened on their trip to Denver or how they’ve helped each other, he’s still a professional with a job to do. He can’t partner with a bail-jumper on whom his reputation is staked on bringing to justice. He’d be finished as a bounty hunter, he says. Besides, according the dude from the Devil’s Deacons, the trio they want—the Outriders, they call themselves—never came this way at all. They’re long gone from the biker circles and have fallen into some kind of cult.
They’re getting too far afield, Chase says. He has to rein things in and take care of business—which, right now, means delivering her to the agreed-upon location. As they pull into to the airport motor lounge, Chase informs her that there’s an agent from the firm who hired him waiting to fly her back to Los Angeles. He’s sorry, but if the charges against her are trumped up, they can be settled there—and not by more running around trying to find a bunch of fanatics holed up at some place called Camp Silence.
Meanwhile, at Camp Silence, it is the meditation hour. Automatically, without being summoned, each of the ground’s inhabitants file from their rooms in the main house, moving solemnly, noiselessly toward the converted barn that is their meeting hall—where Silence awaits. She loves this time, she says as she removes her hood. She never feels closer to them as she does now, during the meditation hour. She thinks of them as their children—the children denied to Dust and Silence by the commitment they made to their research.
Black-haired and spectacled, Silence stands on the stage wearing a red jumpsuit adorned with a zigzagging, stylish, yellow stripe. Two white locks near the front of her head highlight her otherwise jet-black hair. Opening her arms, she embraces the family created by the experiments of her and her husband. She embraces them with her greatest power—the power of silence. It began as a side-effect—part of the extreme concentration she brought to her constant battle against the death advancing within her. As her psychic talent grew over the years, it became almost a physical thing, capable of being oppressive or protective, maddening or serene. Now, it comforts and calms those gathered before her, even as she draws strength from the latent psi-force within each of them, and uses it to reach out.
Thinking to herself, she realizes there aren’t many left—only a few they’ve never found or touched. However, Dust has moved ahead so swiftly with his new plan that this may be the final chance to gather the last of their children—their new wave. The youths in the audience, meanwhile, stare awe-stricken at their matron, their silent faces glowing with the gentle aura of the candles they hold.
On the nation’s East Coast, within a darkened mansion not far from the city of New York, a special machine hums tirelessly. It is Cerebro, and it was created by Professor Charles Xavier to detect mutants with superhuman abilities. The actions of the woman called Silence do not escape its notice. By its circuitized criteria they register as artificial in origin—non-mutant—no more cause for its alert system to sound than if Spider-Man were swinging across the city skyline. Others are affected less prosaically.
In that same mansion, a mutant woman stirs in her sleep. She is Rachel. She is one of a now outlawed mutant group organized by Cerebro’s creator—and she is a telepath. Again, she shrieks internally, bolting upright in her bed. She describes the sensation as a shadow stepping into her sleep—as if someone were psychically communicating, only on a strange, new wavelength. Is it another nightmare from her life before the X-Men? She wonders if maybe she should just never have let Kitty Pryde introduce her to Health Bar Crunch ice cream.
And still, the reaching out goes on, this time in the State Correctional Facility in Chanute, Kansas. An inmate named Arthur Allen Smith sits in his cell at night. An abandoned child with parents unknown, most of Arthur’s life was spent in orphanages and institutions. A model prisoner who is eligible for special privileges, Arthur is currently serving a three-year sentence for auto theft. Because of his splendid record, there is talk of an early parole for Arthur. Because of his emotional problems, there is talk it may be denied.
The walls of Arthur’s cell are adorned with posters of the Dazzler. His sits alone at night, wearing headphones and writing in a lined journal. Arthur has two obsessions. One is for the singer, Alison Blaire, best known as the Dazzler, whom, in one of his rare periods of freedom, he once saw in a liver performance and, having never experienced even friendship with a woman, fell hopelessly in love. His other obsession is with the strange forces that reach out to touch his mind, conjuring images of comfort, happiness and great power waiting to be given him—that, plus hints of things deep, dark and terrible he was not meant to perceive.
In his journal, he abruptly shifts from writing out practice sentences in Spanish to jaggedly scrawling the words “SAVE THE LADY” across his paper.
Back at Camp Silence, meditation is over. The woman called Silence again turns her thoughts inward to fight death and to worry over her husband and their dream. Three days now, she thinks. Can her husband really do so much in so short a time? And if he does bring in the Dazzler, can they control her once she realizes that their need for her and her power will eventually consume her? Gradually, though, Silence expels all such concern. Her concentration becomes pure and total, and silence covers the house and surrounding grounds like the starry night itself.
Meanwhile, in Denver, Dazzler lashes out at her captor, O.Z. Chase, in the lobby of the airport motor lounge. Shouting and releasing beams of light, she reminds Chase that she’s cooperated with him since he first arrested her in Arizona because it seemed like the right thing to do! No longer, she says. If he can’t see that he’s being pulled into something much bigger than the charges against her in Los Angeles, then he’s at least going to discover just how impossible she is to handle when she doesn’t cooperate. And maybe, if she throws enough light at him, he’ll see he’s been set up as mush as she was! Where’s the agent he’s supposed to meet? she asks.
She begins to explain the reason the agent never checked in when a man on the staircase interrupts her. “I believe you’re about to make a valid point, Ali,” he says, “—but if I hadn’t warned the hotel staff to be prepared for a possible scene when you arrived, they might be summoning the police or national guard this very instant!”
Dazzler turns to find someone she never expected to see addressing her from the stairs: her father, Judge Carter Blaire. She runs to him and give him a hug. How did he find her? Since revealing her status as a mutant to the public, she has avoided contacting either him or her mother for fear that it might bring them harm. Casting these fears aside, Carter tells her that too many times in the past he has hindered rather than helped her. Now, he will gladly welcome any risk just to prove to her those days are over. Through his contacts as a judge, he recently learned of some very strange goings-on involving her and what he once considered a reputable firm, U.S. Bailbonds. Following up on that is what led him to her.
Shocked, O.Z. Chase asks Carter if he’s saying there’s something wrong with the firm that hired him. Only among certain employees, Carter answers. He explains that the employees connected with authorizing Chase to hound his daughter seem to have vanished—or fled! He believes this explains why a colleague in Los Angeles was able to provide him the court records he now has in his possession.
Chase takes a look at the records. They are court records regarding civilian complaints against Alison and Roman Nekoboh stemming from the movie promotional stunt in Los Angeles. They indicate—or prove, as Carter insists—that everything was resolved by Nekoboh’s lawyer. Alison was never required to appear in court, Carter states, and U.S. Bailbonds played no part in the matter until someone there furnished Chase with a warrant and bail agreement. Forged, obviously, he adds—as a standard check with the police or court would have shown. Perhaps the firm’s reputation—along with its extremely large reward—lulled Mr. Chase, Carter asserts. Now, if he will excuse them, Carter has a car waiting.
Once in the limousine with her father, Alison tells him he was a little rough with Mr. Chase. Despite the fireworks and yelling, she’d actually hoped to win Chase over as an ally. Carter tells her he sometimes forgets he’s not always speaking from the bench. He supposes his main though was to whisk her off to safety as quickly as possible, and then sort out who might be friend or foe later. A bounty hunter is a kind of mercenary, he adds, which could make Mr. Chase a risk. Alison supposes her father knows best. Still, she’s going to miss Chase and his weird dog—if not his cigar smoke. After all, he helped her get a lead: although she doesn’t know where her father had in mind for safety, but she wonders if they could find someplace called Camp Silence? In response, Carter tells her that their young driver, Jared, struck him as quite knowledgeable when he rented their car. He bets if he can’t get them there, he’ll know someone who can.
Back at the airport hotel, O.Z. Chase, suspecting further foul play, decides to investigate things a little deeper. Taking advantage of Cerberus’s temporary bout of cooperation, he instructs the dog to lumber around the hotel for a while, thereby occupying the attention of anybody checking the hotel security monitors. Dazzler’s old man may have been right about Chase’s carelessness in regards to the Dazzler gig, but that doesn’t mean Carter couldn’t have been careless himself. Chase recalls how after Dazzler and Carter left, he made a quick phone call to Los Angeles that basically verified everything Judge Blaire had to say. Still, he thinks, something is too blasted pat about the way he turned up with all of the answers. Of course, it could also be that Chase is just miffed how he made him look in front of his daughter.
As he jimmies the lock to Judge Blaire’s hotel room, Chase remarks that if his lock-picking skills aren’t too rusty since his days in reform school, he may be able to uncover a clue. The front desk says he hasn’t checked out yet, after all.
What Chase finds in the room surprises him beyond belief. Lying on the floor in the middle of the room are the skeletal remains of Stomper, the Outrider who attacked Chase just days earlier. Around his body lie piles and piles of dust.
Meanwhile, on the road out of Denver, Carter says to his daughter, whom he once again calls ‘Ali’, that she’s been very quiet since they left the city. “Reconsidering,” she answers. “I thought I’d be able to just sit back and take this ride to Camp Silence. But I can’t. I have to ask—who are you? The looks, the sound of the voice are perfect…it’s more than an impersonation. But, though it was something I always wished he’d do, my father never called me Ali in his life.”
‘Carter’ looks at her stoically. “Ah. Tricky business making your own consciousness dominate another until you take control of their body. All those memories, emotions to be drawn upon—and conquered. Carter Blaire was trying to change,” he tells Dazzler, “but still basically a cold man. I suppose I overcompensated.” He tells the driver, Jared, to find a spot with some room. The mutant’s mind is difficult for him to scan and influence, but he believes they can safely conclude that the Dazzler is ready to quarrel. Still, he doubts even she will want to risk danger to others on the highway by doing it in a moving vehicle.
They pull over to a state park outside of Denver. A creek runs next to the parking lot, while in the distance, jagged rocks adorn the nighttime horizon. This place will do nicely, Dust says. He formally introduces himself to Ali at that point, revealing his true identity as Dust.
While the three figures move into the sandstone grandeur for a confrontation, Chase, back in Denver, completes an anonymous phone call to the police. He walks back to the truck. Now this mess will get bucked up by someone who can handle it, he tells Cerberus—maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers or something. It’s time for them to get back to California—and their own league. He tells his dog he’s going to begrudgingly give him a cigar just to celebrate getting out before they got in any further over their heads.
Cerberus, however, ignores the gift and stares out the window with a determined look on his fact. Chase figures out why he’s acting so strangely pretty quickly. “The lady! Your contrary brain’s got it figured I should still help her! Well, you didn’t see what I saw in that hotel,” Chase tells him. “She needs other mutants or superheroes—who don’t smoke!” Puffing on his cigar, Chase turns to start his truck. After a moment, he shoots a pensive glance at his Cuban, turns to Cerberus, and snarls. “Y’know,” he says, “I hate you, animal.” Tossing the cigar out the window, he kicks the truck into gear and heads out to find Alison Blaire, before it’s too late.
Dazzler, meanwhile, faces the man in her father’s body and feels her fury mount. Smiling, faintly mocking, he has just revealed how a telephone call lured Carter Blaire to a hotel room in Denver—where Dust was waiting. Judge Blaire rushed to his daughter’s aid when he learned she had legal problems, Dust laughs; he was anxious to use his connections to free her from them. Why has he done this, Dazzler asks? What possible end could justify hounding her, manipulating her life, and—when that fell apart—seizing control of her own flesh and blood? “You, Ali,” Dust replies. “Your power. That’s the end. It would be so much better to have you with us willingly, but one way or another—your light will shine among us!”
Jared appears behind Dazzler and grabs her in a chokehold. With ease, she uses his grip against him and flips him over her shoulder. She thanks Dust for the explanation; she thought she would have to travel all the way to Camp Silence to learn what he just told her. As for her light, she says, if he wants it, he’s got it! She fires a powerful blast at Jared that seems to emanate from every pore of her body. Dust, meanwhile, cheers on the fighting. This is the test they wanted, he says! Jared is one of their strongest and most fit; he implores him not to succumb to the force Dazzler’s hurling at him, but to use it! To drink it in! To feel it in his very depths! The power he’s been promised is there, Dust adds; let the light awaken it!
At his master’s urging, Jared begins absorbing the light. As his strength grows, he picks himself up off the ground. Dazzler, meanwhile, hits him with her best, and although it’s taking at toll, it’s also helping as it hurts! It reminds her of her fight with the Outriders, only Jared is catching on much faster! She decides to activate a back up strategy, just in case.
Dazzler is too late: Jared, the first of Dust and Silence’s new wave, comes to live. With a mentally controlled blast of force, he knocks Dazzler off her feet. All his life, he says, people and things have been getting in his way—coming between him and what he wants. No more! he shouts.
For Alison, the attack is like being slapped by an invisible giant. She makes herself go limp as she hits the rocky outcrop behind her, straightening to spread the impact over more of her body area. It helps—as much as anything can. She fights her way back to consciousness, forcing numbness from her body, painfully aware of the rough ground beneath her as sensation returns. She doesn’t think anything is seriously broken or sprained—but something still isn’t right. Suddenly, she realizes the problem is the moonlight: something is blocking the moon!
Sure enough, up above, Jared hoists a colossal boulder into the air and positions it above Dazzler. Boasting, he claims he can move anything now! He’s got power—just like Dust and Silence always promised. No one can ever push him around ever again; he’s the mover! Dust, however, fears his pupil is stretching his newfound abilities too far and too swiftly! He reminds him that they need the lady intact and warns of what may happen if Jared loses control of his powers.
Dazzler, meanwhile, doesn’t intend to just lay there to see if that happens. Lashing out, she fires at the floating boulder. It is a blast of laser-light, as strong and controlled as the considerable skills of the Dazzler can make it, cutting like a precision instrument even as it widens into a protective bubble around her. She splits the gargantuan rock formation in twain, sending its two ample sides crashing to the ground around her. Dust’s boy wonder created this problem, Dazzler says to her captor; now they’ll see how he enjoys dealing with it! Jared lifts his hands and cries out as he tries to command the cascade of rocks heading in his direction. Insisting he can handle it, he repeatedly declares himself the mover. Dust recoils behind his pupil in fear. The force Jared wrenches from the newly unlocked chambers of his mind equals the demand he places upon it. The physical being that channels that force, however, does not. Jared collapses. Dust grabs him as he falls.
Triumphant, Dazzler tells Dust that his predication about Jared’s power was right; all she had to do was find a way to help it along. Jared doesn’t look like he’ll wake up anytime soon, she adds—so she guesses it’s just back to her and Dust now. Assuming her fighting stance, she readies herself for combat.
“Fight? I’m all that remains on Earth of your father, Ali,” Dust tells her. “Give me your light! You saw it activate Jared’s latent psi-talent. It can do even more for me. It can cleanse me…halt my endless race from body to body to escape death! What fight to deny me that—when it will also save Carter Blair from crumbling into extinction?!” To demonstrate, he shows her the rapid cellular deterioration occurring in his host body’s hand. The clash of wills when he takes over a body is physically destructive to them, he adds, explaining that it speeds them to dust and decay. The stronger their will, the sooner they crumble. Dust was certain Carter’s form would sustain until they returned to Camp Silence—but even in defeat, Alison’s father is a wonderfully obstinate man. Is Alison really prepared to let him vanish forever? Dust doesn’t think she will—or can. He begs her to use her light—to save her father!
With a tear in her eye, Dazzler tells the man inhabiting her father’s body that she and her dad were at odds for so long. It’s only recently that they became close again. She’d do anything to preserve that, she says—even exhaust all the sound stored within her so Dust couldn’t possibly be helped by her light! With that, she turns away from Dust and expels every iota of stored energy she has into the distance. “That’s a shell, not my father!” she screams. “And if he’s found a way to resist the obscene mockery you’ve made of it…I’ll he see he succeeds!”
Dust shouts as Dazzler discards his last hope of preserving his current form. However, he sees in this a new opportunity. Approaching the weakened Dazzler, he tells her he will not be denied. He asks her to note that she is totally spent from her noble little sacrifice. Does she think she’s stopped him? No, he says—she’s merely created for him the greatest opportunity of all! Until now, a mutant mind was just different enough—just alien enough—that he couldn’t risk trying to seize control, even with his power. But Alison, however, is exhausted—her every defense down! Dust lifts her to her feet from behind while his host’s skin begins blowing away in the wind. He won’t perish with this crumbling wreck of a body, he says. Instead, he’s going to take her—take over all those powers he and Silence need to fuel their dream! Resting his hands on her shoulders, he begins to crumble, as he did with Stomper. His face begins to slough off. It’s happening, he tells the acquiescent Dazzler. With his touch, she’s so weak, and the dreams, so strong—
Suddenly, a shotgun fires, and the buckshots rip a Dust’s arms from his hands. He falls away from Dazzler, who stands motionless. In the distance, with Cerberus at his side, O.Z. Chase holds his smoking gun, still squinting his eyes to better his aim.
He approaches the shell-shocked Dazzler and knocks the decaying hands from her shoulders. She knew he was approaching, wasn’t she? He can tell by the way she managed to stay positioned so there was still a clear shot at Dust. “I’m sensitive about smoke, remember?” Dazzler replies. “It’s on your clothing, Chase. The breeze carried the scent this way. I owe you a cigar.” He’s trying to cut down, Chase tells her, affectionately referring to her as his partner. He suggests they move on; she doesn’t want to see any more of this.
Somehow, the dying Dust still manages to speak. If she doesn’t want to see, then let her hear, Dust says. When Carter’s body collapses, their hold on Alison still won’t be broken, he explains. After their last failure, he took no chances: Alison Blaire’s mother is at Camp Silence. To saver her, she’ll have to submit to Dust and Silence! With his dying breath, he begins to say their dream will survive—but crumbles to dust before completing his sentence.
Before Chase can comprehend what’s happening, Alison takes off running toward the cars. Don’t, he shouts at her! Dust had to be lying! Alison, hopping into the limousine, insists she can’t take that risk. As she drives away, she begs Chase not to follow her; she doesn’t want anyone else she cares about getting hurt just because some maniacs are after her!
Meanwhile, in the unnatural quiet of the darkened ranch house on Camp Silence, pain rouses the woman called Silence—pain deep and disturbing to her inner-being as is most sharp and sudden sound. “Dust!” she cries. “What has she done to you, darling…? What has that mutant witch done?!” Clenching her fists, she recalls that Dust her entrusted her with a weapon to make her bend to their will. She’ll see that it’s used—terribly, terribly well!