Excalibur Annual #2

Issue Date: 
May 1994
Story Title: 
The interpretation of dreams (1st story), Black Queen Rising (2nd story), A change of worlds (3rd story)

First Story: Richard Ashford (writer), John Royle (penciler), Phil Moy, Bill Anderson & W.C. Carani (inkers), Janice Chiang (letterer), Ariane (colorist)
Second Story: Eric Fein (writer), Daerrick Gross (penciler), Bob Wiacek, Terry Austin, Bill Anderson & Andrew Pepoy (inkers), Janice Chiang (letterer), Monica Bennett (colorist)
Third Story: Kim Yale (writer), Hannibal King & Yancy Labat (pencilers) Jason Minor, Keith Champagne & W.C Carani (inkers), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Chris Matthys (colorist), Jaye Gardner (plot assistant)
Suzanne Gaffney (editor), Bob Harras (group editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

First Story:
Psylocke goes to Muir Island to join her brother, Britannic, in search of a cure for their older brother Jamie’s unstable mental condition. They travel through his mind, through his years as a bit-player criminal and down to when he was a teenager left in charge of the young twins when their parents were often away. Brian and Betsy hope to find something within the young Jamie Braddock that could aide his future self, though to no avail, and the twins plight is unsuccessful, leaving Jamie in his current catatonic state if somewhat happier.

Second Story:
At work onboard a flight full of passengers, Daytripper receives a mysterious hallucination, before she is mystically visited by the powerful sorceress Selene, who tricks Amanda into coming to see her. Upon a arriving at the location, Amanda sees Selene trapped in a spooling chamber, and tries to free her so Selene wont harm the passengers on the plane, but Selene was going to force Amanda to take her place. Nightcrawler suddenly arrives and takes Selene’s place in the spooling chamber. Amanda and Selene engage in battle, after both women are injured, Amanda finally wins by drawing on the strength within herself. She manages to free Kurt and the lovers escape before the mansion blows up. Selene however wanders through a swamp, wounded from the spooling process.

Third Story:
A package arrives for Shadowcat, it is from her mother, and consists of things from her room at the Xavier Institute in Westchester. Kitty is not particularly amused, less so that her mother is using her to try and contact her father. Kitty opens the package in her room and discovers several discs. Upon putting a disc into her computer, she discovers that they are a personal log of a close friend, the deceased Cypher. Kitty reads the diary, which consists of Doug’s adventures, feelings and thoughts of his time during the New Mutants. Kitty takes the discs to Douglock to view in the hopes that if he sees them he will remember writing them and he will be revealed to be her dead friend. But Douglock is not Cypher. Kitty gets upset until Nightcrawler comforts her and reminds her that no one can be what someone else wants them to be, that they are only human.

Full Summary: 

First Story:
(Britannic’s premonition)
The year is 2040, the place is Britain, the event is a battle. His name is Brian Braddock and as Captain Britain and later Britannic, he is the greatest super-hero Great Britain has ever known. Right now, he is the only person standing between England and the invading armies, he has fought the good fight to the valiant end. They are called the Aryanites, horrors who have been attacking since dawn – three months ago. Brian struggles against the hordes in his darkest hour. All of his allies have fallen to the enemy, but Brian struggles on, as soon as he defeats one enemy, another attacks.

The handsome muscular hero is struck down by a mysterious duo, a male and a female who leer over him, ready to destroy a nations only hope. Suddenly, hope emerges – in the form of his brother, Jamie Braddock, who comes to his younger brother’s rescue, eliminating the commanders of the Aryanites. However, due to the siblings’ turbulent past, Brian wonders whether it will be he who is the next to fall at his brother’s hands.

Jamie Braddock destroys the surrounding enemy as he outstretches his hand to Brian, informing him that he could not wait any longer and had to fight at his side again. Brian is almost in disbelief…

Today, Muir Island Research Center, Scotland. The home of British super-hero team Excalibur, and right now, a Braddock family reunion. For Brian’s sister, Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock, also known as the X-Men’s sultry Psylocke is present also. Brian removes the virtual reality helmet, and informs Betsy that in the old days he would have just told her about his dreams, but now, thanks to Moira MacTaggert’s “Proteus Room” she can see them for herself. Betsy tells Brian that he has a very active mind, before asking him what he really makes of the dream – their older brother trying to save Brian as opposed to trying to kill him.

Brian tells Betsy that he doesn’t think it is just a dream, as he has been having flashbacks from his travels through the Timestream. Brian believes he has seen a possible future, and if that future world is to survive, then Jamie must be at his side. Psylocke informs Brian that the psychic cry she heard which caused her to come to Muir was from him, however after seeing the dream sequence she believes it may be from Jamie. Betsy adds that Jamie seems to be coming out of his coma.

Brian tells his sister that her presence is pleasing, but he is not in need of her help, as it is Jamie that they must aid, and that if they can reach the core goodness in his heart – the child within – then maybe they can turn their brother from the path of evil. Betsy adds that they will be able to teach him to use his powers responsibly and help him fulfill his destiny. Betsy narrows her eyes, and darkly adds that they have to be able to trust him. Betsy has disliked her brother for a long time.

Brian starts to leave the room, proclaiming that Jamie is part of his future life, an irreplaceable thread in the tapestry of time, that they must help him now, for the future must be fulfilled. Psylocke sternly asks how they are to know that Jamie is not manipulating their minds, and that the “vision” from the future is nothing more than an illusion Jamie created. Brian remarks that they cannot be sure, but nonetheless must take the risk.

With Brian out of the room, she of the purple-tresses approaches her comatose brother, announcing that Brian is too trusting and forgiving. Betsy adds that he hasn’t lived inside Jamie’s mind as she has, ever since she was forced to plunge her psychic daggers into his mind and free Excalibur from his twisted reality.

It was that minute when Betsy delved into Jamie’s mind that she lived her brother’s entire life – the high life and the best of everything. Anything for the thrill of winning – even though it meant double-crossing the local Maggia who had paid Jamie a fortune to lose a car race, which he didn’t lose. Jamie ended up with the Maggia’s money, the winnings and a little side bet that he had placed on himself.

But Jamie escaped the clutches of the Maggia, however the money didn’t last long, nothing ever did, gambling – he went from one tight spot to another. There was no job too dangerous or risk to great, no morals to consider. Jamie soon started trading in human lives, robbing Red Cross supplies and using human lives as stepping-stones.

Betsy realizes at that moment that she does not hate her brother, only what he has become – what Jamie believed his brother and sister forced him to become. Brian returns to the lab and apologizes to his sister for walking out earlier, adding that he thinks the strain of their telepathic link is taking its toll. He pauses before suggesting that they start, for they both know it is their only chance to save their brother. Betsy tells her brother that she isn't sure she can pull this stunt off, as she isn't a brain surgeon, never having used her psychic blades to trigger precise memories. Betsy reminds Brian that he said his foresight would guide them, and asks him if he realizes how dangerous it is going to be – and not just for Jamie!

Betsy asks Brian if he remembers the time Jamie stepped out of line one too many times and was taken down by Joshua N’Dingi. The odds were catching up with their brother, and he blamed it on his younger siblings. Where were they? Jamie was on a ‘treadmill to Hell’ and his brother and sister didn’t stop to save him. Betsy saw in her brother’s mind how she had failed to love him and how she and Brian failed to save him, reminding Brian that he was forced to abandon Jamie in Africa to endless torture at the hands of Joshua N’Dingi. This, evidently triggered Jamie’s latent mutant power – the ability to manipulate and alter the matter and energies that underlies reality.

The voice of Dr. Moira MacTaggert, the Research Station’s owner sounds over the intercom, informing the twins that the “Proteus Room” is now on-line and that it is time to strengthen the psychic link the share to include Jamie. Jamie is propped up into sitting position as Brian uses his powers to direct Betsy in using her blades to download Jamie’s unconsciousness into the “Proteus Room’s” computer banks. Moira reminds the twins that they are looking for a childhood experience, as according to Sigmund Freud neuroses are formed at in childhood, as something goes wrong with the learning process.

Brian places his hands on Betsy’s head as Moira tells the powerful twins to search in their brothers mind for a clue, hidden in his unconsciousness, adding that only Jamie can lead them to discovery and recovery. Just before the process begins, Moira informs the twins that as they release more and more unpleasant memories, Jamie will begin to resist the intrusion. Betsy whispers ‘Forgive me, Jamie. I only pray I don’t wipe your mind completely’. And bringing her psychic knife to her older brother’s head, the process begins.

Happier times now, a time of childhood – a time too short. Some children would wish it were shorter still, for the luckier ones however there are no responsibilities, no cares or worries. For one child in particular, the oldest of three, put in charge of his younger siblings which became a burden – too much responsibility too soon, for him it is anything but a care free time. His name is Jamie Braddock. Jamie stands on a ledge, overlooking his younger siblings and holding onto a toy rabbit belonging to Betsy. Betsy calls for Jamie to give it back, and Brian backs her up. Jamie asserts his power and tells them that the toy is going for a swim in the river, adding that just because their parents said he has to look after them does not mean he wants to.

Jamie smiles and tells the twins that they are going to play “Civil Wars” and that they have to try and capture him. As Brian and Betsy run away to hide, Brian tells his sister that he knows a place they can hide where Jamie cannot find them and they will not have to play his games. Hiding under a bush, Betsy comments on how mean their brother is, when he used to be so much fun. Brian tells his sister that it is because she is a girl and Jamie thinks girls are sissies, that he hates all girls. A tear falls from the future-model’s eye as she doesn’t believe her brother can hate her. A hand reaches up behind Betsy…

…and with a twist of reality on the Astral Plane, Jamie takes control. Jamie smashes his sister across the Astral Plane, telling her that she is not going to get away from him this time. He tells her to come and play his game that they never finished, and asks her if she is afraid of him. Psylocke steadies herself and tells Jamie that she doesn’t want to fight him, as it will get them no where. She thinks to herself that while she is keeping on the defensive, it is not working as well as they had planned, as Jamie is fighting for his life, almost as if Betsy and Brian were trying to kill him instead of cure him.

Betsy prepares for another attack regretting that they cannot break through to Jamie before his darker side took control, she kicks her older brother, annoyed that he has bought them into his insane world. Betsy remembers that despite Jamie getting so mad at them for running away all the time, they still looked up to and loved him. As the siblings grew up Betsy and Brian were always closer, for Jamie was usually away at boarding school. She wonders if they can really repair the damage of a lifetime of neglect. The siblings all grew apart when their parents died; after all, there was no real need to see each other. Brian and Betsy kept in contact, but the only time they heard of Jamie was the news he made in the newspapers.

Betsy attacks again, Jamie fights back well, physically and mentally. Betsy wonders what the memory triggered to threaten Jamie, before thinking she can use her psychic knife again to return him to Jamie the boy. Jamie narrows his eyes and tells Betsy that the first cut is the deepest, and he unleashes what can be described as “psychic barbed wire” which trap Betsy and attempt to shred her. Betsy keels over from the pain, her body wrecked from the link between her and the “Proteus Room”.

Betsy Braddock is an X-Man however, and all the training she has undergone tells her to put the pain to the back of her mind. She is also a fighter, and looks for an opening, punching Jamie and telling him he was never the fighter in the family for he always wanted to do things the easy way. She adds that she can take more than he can give, and she can give more than he wants. On the ground, Jamie looks up at his sister and tells her that it is not fair, that he should be stronger than her, before whispering ‘Help me Betsy, I think I’ve gone mad’. Psylocke walks closer to him and Jamie uses his powers on her again, telling her she is mad to help. With Betsy wounded, Jamie runs away, disappearing from this world he created.

The handsome hero, Brian Braddock, stands his ground, he hasn’t been the same since his return from the Time Stream, dedicating his life to saving the future, he changed his codename from Captain Britain to Britannic. However, he is still a man, a brother – in search of a brother. So far, he has remained undetected on this part of the Astral Plane. Jamie Braddock, dressed now in more than his thong, a formal suit in fact, appears, trusting that his witch of a sister won’t find him here. Jamie tells himself that he was better off before he got powers, which are what he believes got him into trouble.

Jamie cannot see anyone, and thinks he can make a clean get-away – until he runs into Brian’s statuesque body. Knocked back to the ground, Jamie asks his younger brother when he got so big, before telling him that he knows he always wanted him dead so he could take his place. Jamie uses his powers and a gun materializes, Brian asks him to put it down, as Jamie tells him that he couldn’t quite fit his shoes – though it would be easier to fill a dead mans shoes. He fires the gun and energies swarm around Brian who tells Jamie that he and Betsy are here to help him not kill him. He informs his brother that any harm he suffered was self-inflicted, that like he has done in the past, he is just taking refuge in his own insanity to avoid the guilt.

Jamie shrugs what Brian has to say off as lies before proclaiming that he should have been Captain Britain, that it was his heritage and Brian stole it. Enraged, Brian tells Jamie that he could not even face the truth, let alone the future, adding that he lived it and Jamie would not have. Brian leaps over to Jamie and punches him over, asking him when he was going to get over his instant fame and instant fortune schemes and grow up. Jamie smiles and asks why he would want to grow up, asking what is so good about reality. ‘I have a flare for the dramatic’ cries Jamie as he uses his powers against Brian, knocking him back and telling him he will see him in another life.

The home of the Braddock family, where a young Jamie is desperately searching for his siblings, once again he has been left home alone and in charge, something in the past that he has failed to do. The young Jamie wonders how his brother and sister do it, and thinks that they are so close they will always have each other, while he will have…himself. Brian and Betsy are hiding in a large chest and peering through the keyhole the watch their older brother. Brian asks Betsy what they should do to which she suggests they should let him join them and that if they concentrate hard enough, he may be able to hear them.

Moments later, Jamie lifts up the lid to the large chest, telling his siblings that he knew they were close by. Brian proclaims that this is their secret hiding place and Betsy asks him to join them. Young Jamie is taken aback at this and eagerly climbs in. The afternoon passes and Jamie asks his siblings to never leave him. Brian tells Jamie that they can play together forever, to which Betsy adds that when they grow up they can all remember the time they spent together. This incident never happened of course, and Psylocke knows that. It is simply an attempt at childhood wish fulfillment, hoping it is not too late to grant.

Back in the “Proteus Room”, Jamie strikes out in one last effort to maintain his status quo. Betsy holds onto him, trying to get Jamie to relax with the idea that they can be a family again. She adds that she never knew how he felt and asks for a second chance. Jamie frees himself from Psylocke’s hold, Betsy knows they are going to loose him, for he is trying to force them away. She tells him they can close again, until she is knocked out. Brian takes his chance and uppercuts Jamie, ordering him to stop messing with his mind, asking him if the fist and violence is all he understands, and if this is the way he wants to spend the rest of his life.

Brian smashes Jamie against a wall, asking if this is what he wants a brotherly embrace to be and their eyes meet for the first time in many years, locking a look that spans many generations and age old hatreds. The two brothers see eye to eye for the first time in decades – is it enough? Jamie Braddock falls to the floor with a thud. Kurt Wagner, a.k.a. Nightcrawler, Excalibur’s team leader teleports into the room and remarks that it looks like he missed an interesting family reunion and teleports Jamie to the medlab.

Later, where emotions and scars have been returned to the rightful places, world-renowned Dr. Moira MacTaggert examines Jamie and tells Brian and Betsy that he is still in a coma, however her senses do indicate an increase in brain activity. She believes the twins have made some progress, but she cannot know more than that. Nightcrawler offers his assistance to Psylocke, who states that her brother has been through so much pain, and that she never realized as much as Jamie was fighting her and Brian, he was fighting himself as well.

Betsy believes Jamie was reaching out for love and comfort, yet still holding onto what he knew – the corruptive evil side of himself. She proclaims that the unconscious manifestations and his different hostile personalities and psyches were his way of expressing everything he had inside him for so long. Nightcrawler fares Betsy well before teleporting out. Brian tells Betsy that they have to have made a difference, but that the final battle is up to Jamie, he must face his demons himself. He asks Betsy if she can feel an inner peace, a calmness that wasn’t there before.

Betsy replies that she can, and asks if it is a sign that Jamie is trying to tell them he has changed, that they helped him. Betsy solemnly adds that whether it was a dream of vision that Brian saw, she knows now she needs her brother – both of them. Betsy tells Brian she has a plane to catch, but that they should try to stay in touch this time, as there is so much she hasn’t told him yet. Once Brian and Betsy leave the room, the security containment fields are activated, and somewhere inside Jamie Braddock’s twisted reality, he is playing in their secret hiding place, and in his mind, he is happy.

Second Story:
Amanda Sefton, the powerful member of Excalibur, the British Super-Hero team of mutants and superhumans is currently at work, stewardessing aboard aircraft. Though to the super hero sometimes known as “Daytripper”, being ‘senior in-flight passenger service relations interface manager’ is not work, but a chance for her to live her dream, to see the world. Right now though, Amanda is experiencing excruciating pain, nothing to do with work, more to do with the fact that she is currently undergoing transpatial bio-molecular displacement.

All her experiences as ally to the X-Men, member of the Muir Island X-Men and Excalibur, while all ranging from life threatening to simply casting a spell, they have not prepared her for such physical pain. Otherwise known as “spooling” the process involves being ripped to shreds and then reformed over and over and over again. In the few seconds of clarity between spooling cycles, Amanda wonders how it happened. But the only thing she can remember is a woman screaming for help. Then it is Amanda screaming again, as the pain starts again, only to end as quickly as it begun.

Amanda steadies herself in the flight attendants small cabin of the plane she is working in, wondering if it was a nightmare, though it couldn’t be, because she knows she wasn’t sleeping. Amanda is surprised that she didn’t scream before reminding herself that it is her job to care for passengers, not scare them. Feeling that it is over now, that perhaps it was just a magickal backlash she was receiving from an unknown source, Amanda decides to check on the first class passengers, until she notices her wrists have deep scars on them, like the wounds she received in her dream, or vision, or hallucination….

Now Amanda is scared and suddenly, she is knocked to the ground as the plane does a sudden nose dive. Passengers start calling out for help, crying that they do not want to die and they all panic. Amanda tries to calm them as the cockpit crew tries to pull the plane out of its uncontrollable dive, realizing that there are no mechanical failures, the captain and his crew are helpless to let the plane all but fall, as the captain sends out a mayday.

Sliding down the aisle, Amanda tells the passengers to strap themselves into their seats and assume the crash position. As she thinks to herself she is in a living nightmare now, she decides to figure out a way to use her powers to keep the plane from crashing – until she gets another vision. But it is a different kind of vision, as a pink sphere appears before Amanda, with a woman inside it. Startled, Amanda asks the scantily clad woman who she is, while trying to suppress her fears and look after the passengers.

The woman reveals herself as Selene, and she admits to Amanda that she is responsible for sending her the nightmare she experienced. Amanda asks Selene what she ever did to her, before adding that the people aboard the plane are innocent. Selene tells Amanda that it is not what Amanda has done for her, but what she can do for her. Selene tells Amanda that she needs her to come to her, where the reasons will be made clear upon arrival. Amanda sternly tells Selene that she is not going anywhere before the powerful witch tells her not to be stupid and that if Amanda does not obey her, then she will crash the plane. Amanda looks desperately to the ground as Selene tells her to decide now while she still has a choice in the matter. Albeit reluctantly, Amanda tells Selene she will come, and tells her to return control of the plane to the crew.

Sometime later, Amanda has changed from her stewardess uniform, to the brightly colored costume she wears as part of Excalibur. Amanda approaches a seemingly deserted mansion, the co-ordinates, which Selene gave her. Amanda wishes she had a chance to contact her boyfriend and fellow Excalibur member, Kurt, before reminding herself that she had been in tough spots before, and that she can get through this, whatever it is.

Daytripper makes her way through the darkened mansion, where stands before her is the spooling chamber, where flesh is torn apart and rebuilt in a never ending cycle, just like in Amanda’s nightmare. Trapped inside the chamber, Selene sees Amanda coming in and tells her that she sent her that “message” so that she would understand what she is experiencing and agree to help her, Selene reveals that she cannot take any more of this, and now she will not need to.

As always, concerned for others before herself, Amanda asks Selene about the plane, to which Selene replies that she is sure it was a quandary for Amanda, but that the plane was never in any real danger, she only needed to get Amanda’s full attention to bring her here. Selene comments on it being part of ‘Xavier’s precious credo’ to help any who ask for help. Amanda looks up at Selene as she thinks to herself by helping her, she would unleash a very powerful woman, and yet not helping Selene would go against everything Excalibur stands for. Amanda has heard about Selene from Nightcrawler, and she wonders if even after all Selene has done if she deserves such a fate, Amanda asks who she is to judge.

Amanda begins to search the room, looking for something that could turn the machine off without freeing Selene, and then she could contact the X-Men and they would be able to deal with her. Selene watches Amanda, calling her a “doe-eyed fool” she thinks to herself that Amanda can deactivate the chamber, and she will “repay” her in full. At a console, Amanda has trouble making sense of what the controls do, until she finds a lever which looks like it should lower the spooling chamber – and as Amanda pulls it down, Selene s freed from the painful spooling process.

Amanda is slightly distracted and doesn’t see Selene creep up behind her. Suddenly, Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner Amanda’s foster brother/teammate/lover teleports in and seeing what Selene is doing he pushes Amanda out of the way. Amanda shows her surprise at seeing Kurt, as Selene greets him before grabbing him and throwing him into the spooling chamber, warning him that he is not going to stop her plans, and that he can substitute for Daytripper in the chamber. Selene slaps her hand down hard on the panel, which sees the chamber bought back to life, and Kurt Wagner put in misery.

Daytripper fears that her beloved is being killed and asks Selene to release him. Gloating, the immortal informs Amanda that she cant do that as there is no way to shut the chamber down, for once it is activated there must always be someone in there, if not, it will self-destruct and destroy the mansion. Selene tells Amanda that it was she who was to be her replacement, but her “Knight in shining armor” will suffice. Amanda looks Selene in the eye and tells her that she has messed with her too many times now. ‘Take you best shot, blondie, we both know you’re no match for me’ Selene viciously remarks.

Amanda trips over as Selene uses her powers to rip large metal coils up from the floor and informs the reluctant X-heroine that even though she is weak from the spooling she is still superior to her. Amanda becomes trapped within the steel coils, which tie her up, cutting off her air supply. Amanda grits her teeth and uses magical bolts to fight back the coils. Selene says ‘Give it up Sefton’ before informing her that the mansion has built in power-dampeners and that while she has adjusted her abilities, Amanda’s are undependable at best.

As Amanda frees herself of the coils, Selene informs her that her powers are growing stronger with every passing moment, strong enough to warp the room, and Amanda is knocked back as the floor ripples. Amanda fires a blast of energy at the Black Queen, announcing that she will not be beaten. Selene calls Amanda an “impudent whelp” and tells her it is time she felt her full power, and the Black Queen causes the roof above Amanda to cave in. ‘Now who’s gonna whip who babyface?’ Selene adds cruelly.

Amanda Sefton lies still under broken beams and concrete. She cannot move and fears her ribs are broken. Kurt, still imprisoned within the Spooling Chamber, calls out to Amanda. The young sorceress knows she cannot let him down and tries to fight the pain, she pushes the pain, and the rubble off her, adding that Kurt’s sacrifice for her will not have been in vain. Thus, clearing her mind of all but one objective, Amanda uses a magical powersurge to free herself. Selene is shocked at Amanda’s revival and wonders where her strength is coming from.

Amanda’s eyes glaze over as she informs Selene that it simply ‘can and will’ and unleashing a huge force of magical energy, Daytripper pushes Selene back across the room, informing her that while she may have beaten her, she made a mistake going after Kurt, one which she needs to pay for. Amanda uses her powers to knock Selene against the wall several times, before sending her careening through the wall and out of the mansion. The power comes from deep within Amanda, a place she has rarely trusted and always kept well guarded – her heart.

Rather weary, Amanda looks up at her brother trapped in the spooling chamber. She places her hand to his, the glass all the separates them, and hopes that that takes care of Selene. As tears stream from Kurt’s eyes, Amanda tells him to hang on and that she will get him out, but will need to wait until the spooling process has completed or else he will end up disfigured like Selene, whose legs were badly bleeding. Kurt tells Amanda that he isn't going to make it, and as tears fall from Amanda’s eyes she tells him that he will, reminding him that he has been in worse situations than this.

Daytripper tells Nightcrawler to focus beyond the pain, block it out, but he replies that he cannot do it. Amanda tells him that he has to do it for her sake. As Kurt Wagner’s body starts to regain its normal shape, he takes Amanda’s hand and she pulls him from the chamber. They land on the ground and after a minute to recover, Kurt tells Amanda that she saved his life. The two hug and Amanda asks him if he thought she would leave him there. Kurt tells her that he never thought it, before alerting her to the looming self-destruct.

The mansion rumbles and Nightcrawler bamfs he and his sister out – but they reappear right where they tried to leave from. Kurt realizes that it must be the power dampener. Amanda suggests that they may be too weak to teleport out, and Kurt tells her to teleport out without him, as he is just holding her back. Amanda tells Kurt not to be an idiot – ‘And I mean that in the nicest way of course’ she adds, and tells him that they both have to concentrate and pool their resources.

Amanda and Kurt hold hands and he tells her that they have to do it now as the mansion is going to blow any second. There is a pause that lasts for eternity, then suddenly a bamf and an explosion so powerful that it destroys the entire mansion, purging it of its evil secrets and sadistic chambers forever. Daytripper and Nightcrawler rest against a nearby tree, and Amanda asks Kurt if he thinks Selene got caught in the explosion. He tells her that he doesn’t know, but assures Amanda that she did the best she could.

Nightcrawler suggests they go home and call the X-Men who are better equipped to deal with this. Amanda guesses Kurt is right, but nonetheless feels uneasy. Kurt tries to comfort Amanda by reminding her that she just faced down an “A” list baddie. He tells Amanda that she is a tough woman, and never to forget it. Amanda promises she won’t.
As the couple walks down the path leading away from the mansion, Amanda asks Kurt how he knew where she was. Kurt tells her that he was waiting at the airport for her as he had something important to tell her. When the plane landed the crew explained to him what had happened and after getting the coordinates from them and started searching. Amanda asks Kurt if he is going to tell her what he wanted to tell her, ‘Or do I get to guess?’

Elsewhere, Her name is Selene, a.k.a. the Black Queen, she trudges through a swamp, legs still scathed and badly bleeding from the spooling process. She is a mess. She is a woman who has known many horrors, and has subjected many to her evil whims. She has never known the fear that is inside her at the moment, fear so deep it is beyond description. For she knows how it happened, that knowledge makes it worse. Her wounds do not heal, as she left the spooling chamber before she could be fully “reassembled”. No one hears her screams except for the trees…and the wolves in the night.

Third Story:
Muir Isle, where Katherine “Kitty” Pryde, also known as Shadowcat, has just received a parcel from a courier. It is from her mother, various things from when Kitty was at Westchester. In the letter the former Mrs. Pryde mentions that she is giving away a lot of other things to the needy, before asking Kitty to get her father to call her if he rings. As Kitty’s pet dragon Lockheed sits on the package, Kitty moans to her close friend and team leader, Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner that her own hand-me-downs are not the kind of mail she was hoping for. Nightcrawler picks up the package and tells Kitty he is taking it to her room by “Nightcrawler Express” and with Lockheed on the box, they bamf out.

A moment later, Kurt and Lockheed bamf back in and Kitty thanks them for trying to cheer her up. Upset, she mentions that ever since her parents’ divorce, her mother has time for everyone else in the world except her own daughter and that no ‘package of old junk’ is going to change anything. Kitty calls Lockheed and they leave the room to look at the contents of the box.

In her bedroom, Kitty turns on her computer to look at the discs that were in the box of things, provided they are not rippled with a virus of course. Kitty moans to Lockheed that her mother sent the discs loose in a plastic bag, as usual, never caring about her daughter’s things. Kitty inserts one of the discs, hoping that the system doesn’t crash, and upon seeing the contents of the disc displayed on her screen, Kitty realizes that they are from the Xavier Institute, and she gets a big surprise as to what is on them.

The files are a disc-diary belonging to the deceased New Mutant Doug Ramsey, known as Cypher, who was one of Kitty’s closest friends. Accompanying this first file is a scan of Cypher and his alien teammate Warlock merging. As Kitty reads the file, Doug “tells” her that if it is she who is reading it he is glad, as she has known him the longest and is the only person he has shared everything with, not to mention she helped him when they discovered he was a mutant. Doug goes on however to tell Kitty that he doesn’t think she knew how inadequate he always felt. While he may have been a member of the New Mutants, his power of understanding and speaking languages didn’t exactly make him the most valuable team member.

Kitty reads that Doug always kept that hidden away, but with something that happened to him he no longer needs to. Doug tells Kitty that when they were in Asgard he merged with Warlock, for he saw him dying, needing “food” to survive. Doug admits that he has never been so afraid in his life, though he wanted to help him, but scared of the pain. Doug had never been in such pain, though he knew that this “soul-merging” with Warlock would save him. By giving Warlock some of his life force, in return Doug was able to see auras that every living thing radiated. Doug admits that he will never forget the way it felt to be in someone else’s mind, that it goes beyond understanding or translation. In the file Doug adds that when Warlock was his body armor he felt invincible, and after merging with his mind realized how precious each life is, that there is no such thing as invincibility.

In the next file, Cypher and the other New Mutants return to Earth, where they learn Magneto is going to be their new Headmaster. Doug proclaims that Magneto’s attitude towards him was awful, as he forbade him to participate in any training exercises in the Danger Room. Doug was furious. Though having no physical power, which Magneto constantly reminded him of Doug believed having no physical power was exactly the reason he should be in the Danger Room training with the others. He thinks it is rather ironic that Professor Xavier encouraged him to train in combat situations, while Magneto shielded him from any physical danger at all. It was Magneto’s belief that the needs of the team outweigh the needs of the individual members. Doug thinks Professor Xavier would disagree with that. Doug proclaims on the file that he is determined to prove Magneto wrong, that he isn't useless.

The third file retells the story of Cypher and the New Mutants up against the Magus, Warlock’s demented father. In this battle, the New Mutants were severely in danger of being beaten, and some words that Professor Xavier once said to Doug went through his mind; ‘All life, every moment, is a classroom, for those willing to learn. The key is within your grasp, Douglas. Be calm, as I taught you – have confidence in your abilities and your own courage – and you will find it’. With these words Doug realized that all life is based on genetic codes and that Warlock and Magus were father and son, thus by merging with Warlock it meant that Doug could decipher and rearrange Magus’ genetic encoding any way he wanted. So Doug regressed Magus back to infancy, Doug did it, thus slaying the Magus. Doug thinks he earned the right to be called a hero. On this day, Doug and Warlock united in a death duel against the latter’s father, they claimed courage and became partners.

Soon after, Warlock disappeared for some time, Doug lost his partner and didn’t know what to do about it, though he thought he was handling things well. But the nightmares came to Doug, thirty-two variations of the same theme – he permanently contracts the Transmode virus and is unable to control it, he infects his teammates and the world, and he is turned into an outcast. The worst of the dreams however was the one where Warlock becomes the Magus and kills him. Each night these nightmares occurred Doug woke up sweating and screaming, he felt so powerless, for without Warlock he is just a cipher. Doug is not sure what he is most afraid of – what he will become, what he has become, or what he won’t become.

A few minutes later, Kitty Pryde runs from her room carrying the discs she rushes past Kurt who is reading on a couch and shouts that she has to find Douglock! Kurt tells Kitty he thinks Douglock is in the upstairs library before asking her ‘what’s wrong?’ and trying to block her way, but Kitty just phases through Kurt and shouts at him to leave her alone. With Kitty gone, Kurt thinks to himself that he wont leave her alone, especially when she is so upset about something and he decides to be Kitty’s shadow until he knows how he can help her.

Shadowcat phases through the floors until she finds her target, Douglock who has plugged himself into a computer. The enigmatic Excalibur member asks Kitty if she wanted to use the computer. Kitty tells him she has been looking for him, to which Douglock tells her she has found him, and he says he is running an information retrieval on all known Artificial Intelligence. He proclaims that his goal is to cross-reference the data and compare it to genetic matrixes resembling the Phalanx so he can gain a greater understanding of who and what he is.

Holding the discs up Kitty tells Douglock she thinks she can help him with his search, and that he can help her with her search too. Kitty looks Douglock in the eye and tells him to read the discs, as he wrote them! As Kitty hands Douglock the discs she thinks that after all this time she may finally have one of her best friends back. She prays that it will work, but as Douglock examines the recordings from Cypher he tells Kitty that it is wrong, as the ‘discs pertain to the deceased human being known as Douglas Ramsey. That is not who I am. I am…Douglock!’ Douglock tells Kitty that if she is asking him to be who she wants him to be, he cannot help her. Turning back to his research at the computer he excuses Kitty, who makes a feeble protest.

A forlorn Kitty Pryde leaves the library and Kurt steps from the shadows to comfort her. Kitty hears someone approach and tells Kurt that if it is him to go away, but Kurt tells her that after seeing what happened he will not. Kitty accuses Kurt of spying on her and mad at Kurt, she soon gets mad at Douglock and asks Kurt why Douglock cannot just be Doug. Nightcrawler hugs Kitty and tells her that Douglock can’t be who she wants him to be as everyone is entitled to his or her own unique identity. Kitty says that she knows before telling Kurt she wants him to see something.

Back in her room, Kurt stares at the computer. Reading the discs Kitty’s mother sent her, he tells Kitty he can understand how upset she would be, especially with the recent losses of Illyana and Rachel. The final file, Doug wrote it in the Danger Room control center after being unable to sleep, partly because he has figured out what scares him the most. He is not naïve enough to think the New Mutants are unbeatable, that any of them are immune to the dangers they face when they go into battle. He wonders however if it is too much to ask for a hero’s death? Doug says in the file that he doesn’t want to die, but if he has to that is how he would like to go out, for even though the physical strength and protection Warlock gave him are gone it doesn’t mean he is going to retire to the sidelines.

Doug Ramsey knows there is a place for him amongst his teammates, and if necessary he will lay down his life for them. Cypher remembers Danielle Moonstar and how before she even heard of the New Mutants her grandfather told her about brave warriors being granted “good medicine deaths”. Doug thinks he knows what that means now. Quoting Hamlet he writes: ‘If it be now, 'tis not to come ; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all’.

Kurt frowns upon reading the last file, realizing that it must have been written shortly before Cypher was killed by the Ani-Mator, he says. Taking up the Hamlet angle he quotes Horatio’s lines after Hamlet’s death: ‘Here cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest’. Kitty wipes tears away from her eyes and tells Kurt that after all this time she still cannot believe Doug’s gone, for she keeps thinking he will call and want her to come and look at the latest program he designed. Kitty admits that every time she looks at Douglock she hates him for being what he is not.

Nightcrawler tells Kitty that he knows she knows she must accept Douglock for who he is and not what he is not, that she cannot hate someone for not being what you expected them to be, for the joy of discovering who they are is part of the adventure. Kurt adds that Douglock cannot be Doug, but he can be her friend if she will let him. Kurt reminds Kitty of a time she was afraid of him, and tells her that it would have been very sad had she not opened her heart to him. Crying, Kitty tells Kurt he is right, that she is just trying to ‘raise the dead with megabytes’ and as the two friends hug, they remind each other that they are ‘Only human’, and neither notice Douglock at the door.

Characters Involved: 

First Story:

Britannic, Nightcrawler (both Excalibur)
Psylocke (X-Men)
Dr. Moira MacTaggert
Jamie Braddock

In flashback:
Jamie Braddock, as teenager and adult
Brian and Betsy Braddock, as children
Red Cross Workers
Joshua N’Dingi/ Dr. Croc

In future timeline:
Jamie Braddock
The Aryanites

Second Story:
Daytripper, Nightcrawler (both Excalibur)
passengers on aircraft

Third Story:
Douglock, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)
Courier deliverers

In flashbacks/computer images:
Cannonball, Cypher, Magik, Magma, Mirage, Sunspot, Warlock, Wolfsbane (all New Mutants)

The Ani-Mator
Right soldier

Story Notes: 

This annual contains three pin-ups, one of Nightcrawler, one of Ahab (Rory Campbell) and one of the Containment Chamber beneath Muir Island and is the final annual of the series, despite it running for several more years.

First Story:
Brian got lost in the Timestream between Excalibur #67 and #68 but was returned to them in Excalibur #75 through the combined efforts of Rachel Summers, Meggan and Amanda Sefton, however, Rachel was forced to take Brian’s place in the Timestream.

Jamie had been in a coma since Excalibur #56.

The caption states that Psylocke has hated Jamie for a long time. Actually in the past the twins were shown to have a close relationship with Jamie (as could be seen during the first Captain Britain series), until Brian learned of Jamie’s criminal activities in Captain Britain (2nd series) #10. Of course, one might argue that the evntual disappointment in their elder brother made the twins loathe him all the more.

Despite the exclamation at the end of the story that this is “Never the end”, this is Jamie’s final appearance so far. At Brian and Meggan’s wedding, Brian wished that his brother could be present, but hewas still in the coma. [Excalibur #125] Since the destruction of the Muir Island Research Station in X-Men (second series) #108 it is unknown what has become of Jamie as he was never mentioned and Muir Isle has not been shown since that time.

Second Story:
Amanda was given the “Senior in-flight passenger service relations interface manager” title around Uncanny X-Men #254 when she goes to Muir Island before being reluctantly joining the Muir Island X-Men.

Selene was captured and placed in the spooling chamber by Trevor Fitzroy, one of the Upstarts who were trying to dispose of Hellfire Club members. [Uncanny X-Men #301]

Third Story:

Cypher joined the New Mutants in New Mutants (first series) #21, and served with the team until his sacrificial death saving Wolfsbane in New Mutants (1st series) #60.

Cypher first “merged” with Warlock during the Asgardian Wars storyline (New Mutants Special Edition #1 & Uncanny X-Men Annual #9) There were some hints that the merges resulted in his getting infected with the Transmode Virus, but since Cypher died that plot-point is moot.
The mutants returned to Earth to find Magneto as their headmaster in New Mutants #35. In that same issue Magneto insulted Doug by forbidding him to take part in a team exercise.

The New Mutants beat the Magus decisively in New Mutants #50. Doug’s powers played a huge part in their victory.

Illyana “Magik” Rasputin succumbed to the deadly Legacy virus in Uncanny X-Men #303 while Rachel Summers was sent back to the future in Excalibur #75.

Kitty’s stand-offish relationship with Douglock lasted until Excalibur #104-105 when several of Excalibur embarked on a quest to discover Douglock’s identity, for Kitty still thought Douglock was Cypher, though as revealed sometime later, he is in fact Warlock.

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