In a darkened room, Arthur Allan Smith casually drinks a cup of steaming coffee while undergoing an interrogation. He smirks while the investigator asks him yet another series of detailed questions. Run it down for them again, the lieutenant asks Smith—like he’d never told it. It’s pretty difficult to grasp, he adds as justification.
Sure, Smith tells him. So much was happening—most of which didn’t even involve him. Starting from the beginning, he introduces himself once more as Arthur Allan Smith, stating that, with a last name like his, he feels the need to use his other two names as well. Anyway, he says, it started with whispers—or at least that’s what he calls the stuff he hears inside his head—stuff that calls him to join a certain group. This group claimed to be good, but underneath the whispers, Arthur could tell they meant harm—to the lady. That’s why he sneaked out of the prison up in Chanute. He knew he had to save her!
Once he was outside of Chanute, however, Arthur began hearing how much folks hated the lady he came to save—and hated her kind as well. It finally dawned on Arthur that if this beautiful person was ever going to be spared from people using and abusing her, there was only one way…
While Arthur speaks, a journalist pokes his head in behind the lieutenant and asks if there’s a story here for him. The lieutenant tells him that although nobody may ever get the full story, he’s at least got a guaranteed front-page article with the kid. “This kid killed that mutant,” the lieutenant says. “You know, the one who sang? Called herself… the Dazzler?”
And beyond the ability of any one person to tell are these events. Combined, they make up the final days of a shining superstar.
Beast, the furry blue mutant who formerly served on both the X-Men and the Avengers, leaps onto the roof of the ranch house in Camp Silence. Once it was just a ranch, fallen on hard times. Then, the new people took over, naming it for the woman who led them. Rumor was they were some kind of cult—into strange meditation. But though they attracted the young, the disturbed and the disaffected, they kept to themselves and caused the community no problems. Others, outside the community, were not so lucky. Most unfortunate of all was Alison Blaire, the Dazzler.
Beast, caring not about stealth, crashes through a window of the ranch house. He calls for Alison as he enters. It’s him—Hank McCoy, he shouts! If these jokers are holding her, then make some noise, he says! He implores her, if she can hear, to let him know where she is. Shouting is bad strategy, but stealth isn’t really his style—not when his mutated form gives him ape-like speed and agility, and not when the woman he cares for most in the world might be suffering somewhere in this house. Swiftly as he moves, his eyes miss little: not the empty rooms, not the empty closets and not their bare, dangling hangers.
As he lands on the floor after his initial scan of the house, he observes aloud that the entire house is deserted; everyone in the place has split. He’s about to make a personal wager when a nearby door swings open and slams into the wall. In enters a shadowy man bearing a shotgun and a hulking dog. This man, O.Z. Chase, quickly recognizes the other person in the room as Hank McCoy and drops his guard. Chase tells him he’s checked out the meeting hall—a converted barn out back—as well as most of their current floor. He found nothing. He’d say Camp Silence is closed for the season. They knew Alison had some pretty powerful friends and must’ve decided not to be around in case they came looking for her.
Beast’s attention is focused on the wolf, Cerberus, who growls at him with suspicion. He’d better explain to his pooch that he’s one of the good guys, Beast says to Chase. He and Cerberus look enough alike, after all—he’d think the dog would love him. Chase tells him Cerberus has always been contrary. Now he’s grouchier than ever since the two of them recently gave up cigars. It’s a bit of the Dazzler’s influence, Chase adds. Funny—he started out hunting the lady, and wound up casting off a lifetime habit for her.
Shifting gears, Beast states that Chase has made the bunch they’re after sound pretty bad. If they’ve got Ali—as he figures—then reaching a dead end at Camp Silence is bad news. “Hey, I’m a professional bounty hunter, right?” Chase asks rhetorically. “Findin’ folks who don’t wanna be found is what I do best. I located you, didn’t I? So—”
“Your locatin’ days are over,” an intruder states, “—we were left behind to make sure.” Beast and Chase quickly turn around and find Chunk and Mama, the two remaining Outriders, standing in the doorway bearing lethal weapons. They should’ve started by checking the cellar, the brutish Mama laughs. She lifts her flamethrower for emphasis.
Dazzler lies suspended in a vapid plane. The indefinable void envelopes her, leaving her floating weakly and helplessly. It overwhelms her—cuts off everything that gives her strength and purpose. It is silence—total, oppressive and unrelenting. Silence. It is not golden. To the mutant woman whose joy, whose power is to absorb sound, store it and radiate it back as glorious light, silence is madness and slow, slow death—until suddenly and mercifully, it ends.
Dazzler snaps back to consciousness and finds herself lying on a plain white bed. At her side sits Silence, the aging woman always seen wearing sunglasses. Silence tells Dazzler she just turned on the radio. She advises her not to move too quickly, though, instead inviting her to drink in the sound: she has to get ready for another performance. Sitting up, Dazzler puts a hand to her aching head. It’s hard for her to think, she says; this place isn’t where—
“—where you first rashly tried to confront me…? After battling my husband…? After your bounty hunter friend ended his life?” Silence asks. “No. Dust and I knew that someday it might be necessary to abandon Camp Silence—and had an agent find a spot for us in a city we’re not associated with. He leased this old auditorium when a new one was built. Welcome to Tulsa, Dazzler,” Silence says. She assumes Dazzler will be just as cooperative there as she was back at the ranch, when she first proved her mother’s life depended on it.
Dazzler continues her struggle to regain her composition. She recalls that Silence and her followers need her light. She feels so drained, though. Yes, Silence tells her. Until one experiences it, it’s hard to conceive of the power of pure silence. And, of course, they’ve been very demanding on Dazzler’s talent. Silence adds that, although she finds loud sounds painful, she will turn up the radio’s volume. Pain is a fair enough trade off, Silence thinks internally; after all, this is killing Dazzler!
Back at Camp Silence, a far less vague attempt at killing is underway. As he swings his roaring chainsaw at Beast, Chunk declares that it’s slicing-and-dicing time! They’re going to get back the powers they lost—Silence promised them! All they have to do, he says, is stop anybody who comes for the shining lady—stop them dead!
Beast deftly leaps over the latest arc of the chainsaw. “Hey, let’s be real,” Hank says. “Sure, that’s a nasty weapon and everything on you that looks like fat may really be muscle—but you’re dealing with a highly trained professional here!” With that, Beast kicks Chunk in the face and knocks the chainsaw from his hands. “I mean, we’re talking time-in grade as an Avenger, a Defender, and a lot of other stuff that modesty precludes mentioning!” He bounces off Chunk’s head for emphasis and leaps over to help Chase, who currently struggles fending off Mama’s flamethrower. He continues taunting his fallen foe, telling him and his girlfriend to give up on defeating him and Chase. As he nears Mama, however, she turns her flamethrower on him, catching him by surprise.
Fortunately for Chase, Mama’s momentary inattentiveness gives him the chance he needs to take her out of the fight. He swings his leg beneath hers, tripping her to the floor. It was a mistake to turn away that quickly, he says as she falls. He’s not fried yet—just singed around the edges! He beats out the flame enveloping his left arm. Beast, meanwhile, vaults onto Mama’s back and pins her to the floor. Nice assist, he tells Chase. Since all of his hair is a bit more combustible than Chase’s jacket, he spared him the indignity of becoming instant Beast-kabob!
Enraged, Mama flips onto her back and, after calling Beast a furry clown, tells him she’ll get him and Chase even if it means she has to burn down the whole house! They failed Dust and Silence once, she adds; it’s better to go up in flames than lose a second chance at being part of their new wave!
Beast, fully alarmed, cowers as Mama lifts the flamethrower. Her weapon is too far out of his reach to do anything, and he fears she truly might do what she says! Fortunately for all of them, Cerberus sneaks up behind Mama and clenches his teeth over the pipes connecting the napalm reservoir to the rest of Mama’s flamethrower. After his loyal dog quenches the threat, Chase tells McCoy he can rest easy; the king-size Bic just had its last flick!
Once the acetylene tank is secured, Chase begins interrogating his foes. Cerberus isn’t usually so helpful, he tells Mama; it’s just been so long since he had a cigar that he was desperate to chomp on anything. Or, maybe he’s just that anxious to find the Dazzler, Chase supposes. If so, then he certainly wouldn’t want to be the one trying to withhold where her boss lady has taken her.
In Tulsa, Silence declares that Dazzler has absorbed enough sound to regain her wonderful glow. Now, she intends to inspire her to performance level by looking in on their other guest. She leads Dazzler into the room where her mother, Barbara London, aka Katherine Blaire, rests. She appears much worse than the last time Dazzler saw her—during the glimpse she was given at Camp Silence to force her to cooperate. It’s the injections of the enhancement drugs she and her husband discovered a generation ago, Silence confesses. The side effects are still just as fatal as then were back then.
Dazzler calls to her mother, but Silence attempts to halt her. She reminds Dazzler her children are still waiting, and that she can visit her mother after she’s performed her service. She and Dust suffered for years in the face of death from the drugs, Silence adds; surely her mother can endure a few more days. Obstinate, Dazzler slaps Silence’s hand away. “Funny thing about control, Silence,” Dazzler says. “No matter how much you overexert it, it can snap completely. Don’t press your luck.”
Barbara London stirs as Dazzler embraces her. She opens her eyes to look up at Alison Blaire, the daughter a lifetime of personal tragedy had almost denied her. Dazzler tells her mother to hang on; she knows it’s awful, but she’s going to save her. “My…poor baby,” Barbara mutters. “I ran out on you when…you were still a child…stayed apart living under a different name...! And n-now…I’ve gotten you…into this…!” Dazzler assures her mother she hasn’t done anything—except fall innocent victim to the cold-blooded scheming of a mad woman and the monster she used to have for a husband! No more waiting, she tells Silence. Her mother goes downstairs that night. If her light can cleanse the killing effect of her drug as she claims it can, then Barbara London is going to benefit from it now!
Silence orders her protégé, Portia, to act. Without hesitation, Portia, an icy blond woman wearing sun-visors and a green jumpsuit, points her hands at Dazzler and psionically sends a jolt of electricity through her body. Silence merely smirks. Thanks to Dazzler’s previous efforts for them, she is now surrounded by reawakened talent. Paranormal power enhancement is an intriguing thing, she adds; the human mind’s psychic potential seems to manifest itself a bit differently in each subject. Portia seems disposed toward control of electron particles in the atmosphere. Barbara, meanwhile, cries out as she watches her daughter fall.
Approaching the fallen starlet, Silence tells Dazzler that her light does more than just cleanse. She explains that their drugs, while fatal to their test subjects, had a genetic component. The drugs survived dormant in the offspring of their subjects, and unlike ultra-violet rays or anything else they’ve experimented with, Dazzler’s radiance at full power can reawaken their psi-potential without killing them! She grabs Dazzler by the throat and head and lifts her upright. Through their own enhanced abilities, she and Dust welded these children to them, she says. Portia and others like her will be their new wave—able to replace the mutants and superheroes the world is growing to hate! That was the dream, she tells Dazzler—her dream and Dust’s dream! She tells Dazzler she deliberately kept her weak so she couldn’t spoil it, as she nearly did just a few days earlier in Colorado, when she, Dust and Jared—the first of their little family to benefit fully from Dazzler’s power—clashed in the mountains.
Dazzler recalls the incident. She recalls Jared lifting a house-sized boulder over her head to crush her. She recalls splitting it in two before he could drop it. She recalls him losing control of the two pieces, and those pieces cascading down onto Jared and Dust. Silence accuses her of having tricked Jared into using his new powers too fast and too hard. When he collapsed, her beloved Dust was left to face the Dazzler alone—in the body of Alison’s father, Carter Blaire, no less. Like her, Dust had been dying from the moment he used himself as the first test subject for their psi-enhancement drug. Unlike Silence, however, Dust could only fight death by taking over the bodies of others. Since she and Dust had more massive dosages of the drugs than anyone who followed them, their powers developed quickly enough to help save them. However, the clash of wills that occurred when Dust seized a new host sped the bodies to dust and decay, and Dazzler’s bounty hunter friend appeared in time to cut short Dust’s attempt to escape from Carter Blaire’s collapsing body into Alison’s.
Subsequently, when Alison fled upon learning from Dust that Silence held her mother hostage, she abandoned him to crumble to death on the battlefield. All the way in Camp Silence, she says, through her heightened telepathic abilities, she felt it! She felt him die! She experienced all of her husband’s agony and desperation! At that moment, Silence vowed that when she finally met Alison Blaire, she wouldn’t just bend her into fulfilling their dream—she’d break her! She has since assaulted her with silence and forced her to push her abilities to a critical point. She will also allow Alison to save her dear mother, but tells her to rest assured: by the time she does, it will be her last act.
Dazzler hangs her head. For her mother’s sake, she won’t test Silence’s theory right away. However, if there’s one thing she learned from her show business career, it was how to be a survivor. She tells Silence to get on with it.
Panicked, Barbara cries out for her daughter and insists she not concede to their demands! Don’t worry about her, she pleas! While Portia restrains her, she implores Alison to save herself, and escape.
However, Barbara London’s daughter is already gone, having moved downstairs to the one-time concert hall’s auditorium—for another forced performance. “Here,” Silence instructs. “Your place center stage. Don’t hold back when the music starts, Dazzler. For—the one useful phrase in all the brave, rebellious claptrap you spouted—your mother’s sake.”
Dazzler turns to the audience packed full of Camp Silence cultists and unleashes. The sound hits the darkened auditorium like a storm. It starts at the fullest decibel lever without build up: violent, barely recognizable as music. Prolonged, no one could bear it. But scarcely is the pain felt before it is transformed, as Alison Blaire absorbs back the barrage of noise and radiates it back as the shining glory that is Dazzler’s light. This time, however, the glory is tainted. Few things give the mutant performer more joy than the uninhibited use of her ability, but here, those who have destroyed her father, put her mother’s life in the balance are corrupting this thing of joy, leeching her light as vampires would blood. The physical strain of such constant, unlimited demands on her power, meanwhile, leeches at her life as well.
For Silence, who stands erect in the audience, this is triumph—justification for all she and her husband, Dust, have done to bring about this moment. The death their psi-enhancement drug loosed in her body weakens, cleansed away by the Dazzler’s light. The power of silence that she has developed to help meditate and mentally restrain the ravages of death and time will soon no longer be needed as a defensive weapon against the destructive pain sound wreaks upon her. Soon she will be whole, with a New Wave of powerful children at her control.
For the moment, Arthur Allan Smith’s delight at seeing the Dazzler again wipes away all the concern that has brought him to this place and moment—until Silence’s mood chillingly touches his mind. Arthur suddenly realizes that Silence is the same woman who sends out the whispers he sometimes hears—the same woman who has been summoning him and these others like him—the same woman who means to harm the lady!
Arthur recalls the first time he saw the Dazzler—a woman he so reveres that he refers to her only as ‘the lady’. During one of his rare periods of freedom outside the orphanages and correctional institutions that were his life, he saw her perform as the opening act for a rock group long since forgotten—and felt her light awaken something within him. Having never experienced even friendship with a woman, Arthur Allan Smith fell hopelessly in love.
Not long after that, an arrest for car theft landed him in an adult facility at Chanute, Kansas. There, a vulnerable target for brutal extortion and harassment, Arthur found he had the ability to ‘hide’, to somehow go unnoticed in plain sight—an ability he had never possessed before he saw the Lady. This ability was difficult to sustain and erratic to depend upon, but it enabled him to survive and find a relatively happy life as a model prisoner—until the whispers began touching his mind, reaching out with promises of power and a community in which to belong. The same feeling that enabled him to hide, however, allowed him to read hints and feelings behind the whispers, and sense dark and terrible aims at their source—aims that mortally endangered the lady he worshipped and loved. Through he had come to find his prison life comforting, less overwhelming that the times he’d been along and unwanted in the outside world, Arthur stretched his small power as never before, and followed the whispers to save the lady.
On his journey, he learned the feelings of many of his fellow men against the Dazzler and anyone like her. He recalls one particular instance at a gas station in which he heard two men discussing the mutant epidemic. One man claimed he’d heard of mutants who could shoot fire, then recalled the singer mutant, whom he swore looked prettier than most real women. The other man agreed this was scary. In fact, he claimed he kept a .357 magnum in his van in case he ever accidentally offered a mutant a ride!
Fortunately for Arthur, while these two bigots conversed, he managed to steal one of their vans, which proved a bonanza. Along with getting him to his destination in time to see what they were doing to the Dazzler, it provided Arthur with a change from his prison clothes—and, of course, the gun. He wasn’t sure why he kept it. He told himself it would keep the owner from ever using it for violence against mutants, but even then, deep down, he knew that wasn’t really the reason. Somewhere within him, another notion was forming, indistinct, uncertain, and suddenly interrupted by what he saw on stage.
Snapping back to the present moment, Arthur Allan Smith bolts upright in his seat and points his finger at the stage. “The Lady!” he shouts.
“Turn of the music,” Silence commands, “instantly! She’s fainting form exhaustion!” Sure enough, Dazzler collapses on stage. There is concern in Silence’s voice when she shouts, but not for Alison Blaire—only for what the incredible volume of sound might do to her and her concentration against the death not yet totally nullified within her. “Good,” she exclaims when the music stops; they cut the sound almost the second Dazzler stopped absorbing it. She tells her cult members to get their little power source back to her room. One more session should do, she adds. Silence will be completely cleansed at that point, the rest of her children will be at the peak of their abilities—and the mutant who took her husband from her will be dead!
Elsewhere, Chase speeds his truck along the freeway leading to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His traveling companion, Beast, remarks how quickly Mama started talking once she was face to face with Chase’s pooch. “Besides scaring female bikers, eating expensive cigars and drinking cheap beer, does Cerberus have any other super-powers to help with what’s ahead?” Beast asks. Chase reminds him that he keeps forgetting the dog has given up cigars. He wishes he could forget he gave them up too—especially at times like this. Whatever’s ahead, he adds, is way out of his league; he saw enough before he met up with Beast to convince him of that. In his opinion, they got off easy at Camp Silence.
“But you’re going ahead anyway,” Beast adds. He concludes that Chase must care about Alison as much as he does. Not enough that he has to be jealous, Chase replies. He likes the lady—and has a hunch Beast loves her. It kind of sneaked up on him during their time traveling together, but the Dazzler is just his friend. Whoever is waiting there in Tulsa has him scared, but his fear won’t make him overlook someone putting a hurting on a friend!
Meanwhile, Dazzler once again finds herself surrounded by silence—sheer, white silence. It closes in on her with relentless oppression. Silence. But this time, the void does not totally overwhelm her. This time, it seems there might be a way through it—that is, there would have been, had she not stared looking too late.
Silence stands in the doorway of the room in which Dazzler lies unconscious. As soon as she’s awake, they’ll schedule the final session, she tells Portia. She instructs her to summon her the moment little miss mutant stirs. They have plenty among them whose powers are almost fully developed, she adds. She instructs Portia to use them to double their security. If things have gone as she suspects they have since they departed Camp Silence, she presumes they’ll have visitors before the morning is over. After all, she left Chunk and Mama to direct their pursuers to their present location, even though the two of them didn’t realize that was their purpose! If any of Dazzler’s friends are going to play at rescuing her, she says, that information should bring them rushing in unprepared!
Portia tells her mistress that Dust would be proud of the way she handled things—just as she and the other members of the New Wave will try to make her proud of them. Silence assures her she is proud of them already. They’re her family, she says; all that her time researching and fleeing has denied her. She asks if they’ve had any new arrivals. Two or three since her last meditation session, Portia answers. Almost every offspring of her original control group is now represented. Descending the staircase, Silence tells Portia to stay on guard. Besides their enemies, she’d hope for at least one more recruit to their ranks.
As she heads toward the auditorium, Silence thinks to herself. She thinks about Dust and curses his passing. They had the dream for so many years, she says—long enough to lose their original identities and become the essence of their powers. How can he not be there now?
When she reaches the stage, another of her pupils tells her that he’s having anyone new or slow to respond sit at the front of the auditorium so they receive the strongest effects of Dazzler’s light. He’s doing fine, Silence tells him—all her children are. And after this final session, they’ll all be able to wear the uniform of the New Wave—America’s next era of heroes!
Outside the auditorium, Arthur Allan Smith, with his stolen pistol tucked safely in his pants, wanders away. A zealous member of the New Wave stops him in the hallway and tells him this is no time to wander off! He should be down in his seat in the front row; they want everyone ready and in place when the final session begins. Until then, they’re lecturing on how their uniforms help them channel their powers when they’re awakened. Arthur tries to ignore the man; there are just too many of them, he comments to himself. He’ll collapse if he tries to use his hiding power as much as it would require. Even with his gun, he couldn’t take them all, he realizes.
Upon remembering the gun, Arthur has an epiphany. Before arriving, he had thought he could sneak off, find the Dazzler and get her out of there. He realizes now that even if he gets away, so many folks still hate mutants! She’ll go through life never able to sing, or use her light in peace again. Slowly it comes to Arthur the only way he can truly save the lady…
Outside, the gray of early morning gives way to full daylight, but inside the old hall’s auditorium, darkness again holds sway, masking the deeply cracked walls and the chipped and flaking mortar. A weak a waning Barbara London is brought to a first row seat, and the moment that all previous activity was a prelude to at last arrives. Silence lifts her finger; everything’s in place, she tells Dazzler—even her dear mother. Time to begin the final performance, she adds. Music thunders, louder than ever, augmented by the additional speakers Silence’s people had been reluctant to use earlier because of the building’s condition. Yet, the violent sound is absorbed by the lone figure on stage—Dazzler.
Alison fires her channeled energy into her mother Barbara, in order to heal her. Silence objects. She’s restricting the light—letting it aid only her mother, she cries! She had hoped that by weakening Alison, she’d no longer be capable of that much control. However, it’s too late for such rebellion. She orders her pupils to seize the stage and grab Dazzler!
Outside, meanwhile, Chase and Beast case the building. Through his binoculars, Chase observes that there are guards covering every entrance. They’re all fresh-faced and eager, he notes—too eager for folks carrying such deadly weapons. Beast asks if it might be a trap. He swears he glimpsed someone entering as they arrived, though. Chase chalks this up to wishful thinking on Beast’s part. He thinks the guards are not just ready for trouble—they want it to come! They must have some kind of edge, he concludes. Probing to see what, exactly, it is will not be easy—or fast.
Beast, standing outside the truck, doesn’t think Alison can wait. He asks Chase and Cerberus how they feel about diversions. They have their moments, Chase replies. With that, he slams on the accelerator and rams his truck into the auditorium’s entrance.
Inside the building, Silence panics at the sound of the crash. Must be a full-scale attack, she deduces. She orders most of her children to the foyer to back up the guards. The rest, she keeps behind to detain Dazzler, who is about to have one last lesson in how painfully persuasive Silence can be! “Maybe not, lady,” a voice says, “—if you have to depend on all these teaching assistants!” Seemingly out of nowhere, Beast swings on to the stage using a curtain rope and kicks the New Wave cultists off of Dazzler.
What was once a concert hall quickly becomes a battleground. Cerberus leaps out of the truck and begins attacking the cult members, while Chase hops onto its hood and swings at the attackers with a wrench. He tries to order Cerberus to get out of there; the kids don’t have an edge, he says; they have a whole blasted razor and all of its blades! Not even a mutt like him should have to deal with them. Cerberus, staying true to form, ignores his master and continues gnawing at the New Wave members. Chase grumbles that his dog is too contrary to save even his own worthless life.
Nearby, Beast bounces around on stage, trying to dodge the laser attacks unleashed by the budding powers of the New Wavers. Where are the wisecracks, McCoy? Just because this bunch is coming on like an X-Men/New Mutants farm team, don’t let them think you’re worried, he tells himself—no matter how worried you are! At least you’re keeping ‘em off Ali, giving her a fighting chance—I hope!
His hopes are in vain: Silence reaches Dazzler and grabs her by the wrists. The exhausted starlet slumps to the stage. She’s been playing games, hasn’t she? Silence asks her. Her collapse in the last session must have been a ploy to pull back from total exhaustion—to save her strength for this last stand! Well, it’s not enough, mutant, she screams! Not when Silence wraps and enfolds every sense she possesses, and strangles every emotion she has until she has no choice but to shatter! Shouting in Dazzler’s face, she tells her to break, and let all the sound she’s absorbing explode and fill the hall as radiant, reviving light! Dazzler refuses. Even if she dies, she says, it won’t be in giving Silence what she wants—but in fighting!
The maddening void of Silence strikes Alison Blaire harder than ever before. Earlier, she had sensed a way to oppose the force now suffocating her. Now, she has to learn if she can set her mind, turn her will and use those things. If only, in drowning in the endless waves of silence, she could find—sound.
Dazzler’s lips part. Silence looks on with worry. What emerges begins as one note. It becomes a focus point for Dazzler to do what she has never done before, and might never have the terrible need and desperation to do again. She releases the sound stored within her back at Silence—but releases it unchanged: not as glorious light, but as sound—untransduced, raw, ripping sound. It screams out of her, first as a rush, but then as a roar. Finally, it becomes an explosion that rocks the entire auditorium and strikes the woman called Silence like the wrath of the gods.
It repels Silence and sends her soaring across the stage. In facing this concentrated onslaught of unrelenting sound, her will—the incredible, paranormal psi-talent that held her not-yet-cleansed doom at bay for so long—finally breaks. Silence immediately withers into a decrepit old woman on the brink of death. Her hair turns completely white and the little flesh that remains on her shriveled form turns ashen gray. Death, in that one vulnerable instant, reclaims what it has been denied for more than twenty years. Meanwhile, Dazzler—silent and spent—can only watch as the sound system Silence had ordered finished what her one note had begun.
It’s too late for Silence. Ancient wiring, unable to sustain the demands upon it, short-circuits. The speakers blow. As the volume of sound drops, however, something else touches her young followers. Suddenly, they are free of the mental control with which she shaped and guided them. They cannot deal with it. Suddenly, they are dazed and purposeless. Fearful and uncertain of whatever has been awakened within them, they are once more confused children without parents or direction. Their instincts tell them to flee—with certain exceptions.
A red-haired female member of New Wave creeps up behind Barbara London, cups one hand over her neck, and with the other, addresses Dazzler on stage. The dream was in their grasp and she tore it apart, the boy shouts! There isn’t a price high enough to pay for that—but he’ll start by taking over this woman, just as he did her father!
Stunned, Dazzler realizes she is once again facing off against Dust. It can’t be, she tells herself. She and Chase—
…left him in a dissolving husk of a body with no chance of escape, Dust asks? They also left his young partner, Jared, unconscious nearby, and his wife, sensing his distress even over the long distance between them, mentally prodded Jared awake and to Dust’s withered form! Jared’s form barely lasted until Dust reached Tulsa and transferred his consciousness into a new guard. And now, having robbed him of his wife and his dream, he tells Dazzler he will leave her with the choice of letting him live on in her mother’s body or destroying her to get to him as she had to do with her father! As he speaks, the flesh flakes off his chin. Barbara’s face contorts with horror.
Dazzler will have none of it. Shouting in defiance, she leaps off the stage at Dust and pins him to the ground. Oh dear, Dust says, smirking. Perhaps he forgot another choice: Dazzler could leap into his grasp to save her dear mother—and he could seize control of her body and all its powers to rebuild the dream once more!
Panicked, Beast bounds over the seats toward Dazzler, begging her to resist Dust’s influence. He’s coming to help! From behind him, O.Z. Chase begs him to stop; Dust can just as easily take over Beast’s body if he gets his hands on him! If only he had his shotgun, he says, lamenting that he lost it in the fight. It is for not, though, as Beast continues his advance anyway.
Beast never reaches the battle, however, for in the next moment, there is a light—brilliant, blinding, and radiating with almost physical force. In its fading wake stands the Dazzler, holding the unconscious body of her assailant in triumph! “Your ranting got to me, Dust,” she says, “but it also gave me just enough time to replenish the sound I’d exhausted. And no matter how much ‘help’ my light might be for your purposes—when it’s close enough and strong enough, nothing stands up to it! Not even you!”
The hands of the Dazzler’s defeated opponent come up in that moment, perhaps in some last, desperate effort to seize back or salvage what has been lost. No one can be certain, though, for in that same moment, Arthur Allan Smith does what he feels has to be done. He fires three shots from his pistol in Dazzler’s direction. Above the low throb of music from the remaining, working speakers comes the wail of sirens and the screeching of tires outside the concert hall. These new sounds go ignored by three stunned witnesses, however. Barbara London, Beast and O.Z. Chase look on in horror at the seemingly lifeless body of the woman they all love in different ways.
The Beast reaches her first, hoping the Dazzler has merely pulled down her foe, and that the shots had been aimed at the body corrupted by Dust. Then he sees the blood—so much blood. Arthur, backing off, claims that while it seems awful, in reality he saved Alison. They’ll see, he adds. Now the lady is free from all the hatred and all the scheming—honest!
The building saves Arthur Allan Smith. Weakened by age and rocked by incredible sound vibrations that might have strained a modern hall, it dies as the Beast sets down the woman he loves and leaps to tear her killer apart. Chase tries to warn him that the entire building is collapsing! Don’t get killed trying to finish that little psycho, he pleads—they owe it to Ali to get her mother out of there!
Arthur Allan Smith smiles as he sips his hot beverage. Behind him, the detectives converse. The squad car teams, who had been summoned by a telephone complaint, rushed in just after the shots, they say. However, the joint began tumbling down, and they had to retreat before they could make a collar. When the dust settled, the pick-up truck that had crashed into the foyer was gone, but Arthur was still there sitting in the rubble beside the mutant lady’s body—proud as a peacock. He insisted once more that he killed her to save her—the death of Alison Blaire, the world’s most famous mutant! It was just like the lieutenant said, he adds. It’s a front-page story, guaranteed! Their circulation department owes them large. The lieutenant just asks that they spell his name right. There are a lot of loose ends in this case, he adds, but the important stuff is all in place: the perpetrator, the motive and the smoking gun.
On a quiet side street not far from Tulsa’s main police station, six figures convene. “See?” a woman says as the sixth figure approaches. “I told the rest of you he’d come to see us off.” Beast declines to even argue the point; after all they’ve seen that day, he’ll believe anything. However, as the figure approaches, he admits the only problem he has is that he’s still smarting from being made to believe it was Alison who took those bullets rather than the body Dust was controlling!
The figure shadowy figure, now revealed to be Arthur Allan Smith, speaks and explains his actions. The police were coming, he says; he’d phoned them himself after realizing his powers had grown after his second dosage of Dazzler’s light. However, it was the reactions of Beast, Barbara and Chase that made what he had done with Dazzler completely convincing. Before, he had never understood how he hid himself. Now he knows it’s because he can make people believe they are seeing something else. By expanding on that, he made all of them—including the police—think the person who had been shot was the Lady, and not Dust.
Dazzler, kissing him on the cheek, adds that apart from some stunned moments back in the concert hall when she heard about her ‘death’, she owes thanks to Arthur. “If the world forgets Alison Blaire, the mutant, maybe Dazzler, the performer, can find a new life,” she says. She adds that she’s worried, though. Arthur asks if she means about him going back to prison. He did shoot Dust, he reminds her, though he believes Dust was trying to make a last effort to switch into Dazzler’s body. Anyway, he admits he’s never been comfortable outside of prison, and besides, thanks to Dazzler’s light, he can walk out any time he wants for as long as he needs. With that, he says his goodbyes and waves as he disappears into the shadows.
The rest of them better get moving too, O.Z. Chase says. If a prowl car spots his poor old truck…
Dazzler says her goodbyes to her mother. As she hugs her, she tells her she’s going to miss her. However, if this works out, they will finally be able to spend some time together safely. Until then, Barbara says, it’s been worth the danger to learn what a wonderful woman her daughter has become.
Next, Dazzler says farewell to Chase. They’ll keep an eye on Miss London, he tells her, so Alison can rest easy about her. “An’ if you ever need a non-smokin’ bounty hunter and a contrary mutt…”
“…I’ll zap mail a reward poster, Chase…with love,” Alison replies. She pats Cerberus on the snout and says goodbye.
After everyone leaves, Dazzler hooks arms with Beast and the two of them walk into the distance. Any suggestions for a recently deceased mutant lady about to make a new start? she asks. He tells her there are lots of factors to be considered. For instance, not that he’d ever dream of exerting influence, but…how does X-Factor strike her? Alison Blaire, the mutant singer known as the Dazzler, who now has a clean slate before her for the first time in recent memory, decides to take a moment to give this proposition some serious consideration.