This the land of lost hope, a realm of nightmare. It mixes what was with what is to bring forth what is yet to be. The future of a lost and lonely little boy.
Reed Richards carries the dead form of his wife. Daddy! cries a horrified Franklin. You killed her! You killed Mommy! Uncaring, Richards orders his son to leave. This is no place for him. With tears in his eyes, Franklin demands he explain. He killed them all! It was logical, his father explains. It was necessary. How could he know, how could he be certain?
Walking past the dead shapes of his teammates and She-Hulk, Richards replies that he is a scientist. He’s always certain. This time he was wrong! shouts the voice of a newcomer, also cradling a dead female form. Only it didn’t just cost him the lives of the Fantastic Four. He killed the X-Men as well! Behind Wolverine, the dead X-Men, Havok, Psylocke, Storm, Longshot, Rogue, Dazzler and Magneto are impaled, hanging from trees.
Wolverine gently puts down Shadowcat’s body, as he recalls that they came to Richards for help. Franklin realizes he is bleeding badly. Ignoring the boy, Wolverine reminds Richards that they trusted him. They put Shadowcat’s life into his hands. And because of him it was all for nothing.
Franklin asks him to please not hurt his daddy. Wolverine attacks, but Richards’ pliable body easily escapes him. Wolverine succumbs to his injuries and also dies.
He’s dead! Franklin cries. Then he no longer matters, his father replies as he walks up a set of stairs. Franklin asks him not to talk like that. It’s the way he is, Reed responds. Franklin tries to drag him back, pulling his stretchable body, begging him not go up to the bad place. He must, comes the reply and Franklin is forced to let go.
At the top, Reed lays down Sue an altar. Every step of his life, every decision he has ever made has led him inexorably to this moment. Franklin begs him not to touch the book. It’s the cause of everything bad that’s happened. The book he refers to – Reed Richards’ Journal State University – is held up by his father. This is culmination of his work, he announces as a sinister glow lights his face.
Tears in his eyes, Franklin begs him not to do this. Don’t make the scary face. With an evil grin, Reed pulls off his uniform to reveal armor underneath. Is it so difficult to comprehend? he asks. Victor von Doom and Reed Richard are but opposite sides of the same coin, twins in spirit that have finally irrevocably become one. With that, he completes the transformation and puts on Doom’s mask.
Franklin awakes, crying out daddy! in horror. He tiptoes into his father’s lab. He knows he’s not supposed to bother him when he’s working there, but he’s always working.
He had a dream, he announces. That’s nice, Reed replies, absent-mindedly while muttering something about calibrating anti-matter synergistic wave matrices. He activates the comm-link and informs Sue that something seems to be bothering Franklin. He is in the middle of some delicate calibrations. Would she mind taking care of him please?
Suddenly, an invisible force field shaped like a seat envelopes Franklin and flies him to the archive where Sue is busy. Amused, she asks him what he’s doing up after his bedtime. He had a dream, he tells her. One of his special ones? she asks and hugs him. She assures him everything is all right and that he’s safe with her. She asks him to tell her about it.
All the Fantastic Four were in this bad place, he tells her and the X-Men too and everybody but Daddy was dead. And he opened this awful book and he turned into Dr. Doom. Sue wonders whether this is normal childhood anxiety or a premonition of sorts.
She suggests he help her unpack those crates which have been lost since forever, since before she and his dad were married. Unpacking one crate, she finds her grandmother’s tea service and then Reed’s old journal. Franklin cowers in fear, shouting that that’s the book from his dream!
Sunrise over the coast of Muir Isle and Moira MacTaggart’s research center. Currently, the X-Men have sought refuge there. Alex Summers, their newest member, walks up to the Blackbird, greeting Rogue who’s been working on it. He asks if she needs a hand. Coolly, she blows him off. Angrily, he reminds her that she was an X-Man long before they came along. She has no business talking to him like that. Rogue shouts back that things have changed. If he wants a place with them, he should earn it the same way the people he’s replacing did, with sweat and blood!
Within the center’s crowded infirmary lie the few survivors of the Marauders massacre, named for the mercenaries who slew the Morlocks. Among the wounded X-Men are Nightcrawler in a deep coma, Colossus trapped in his armored form and finally, in a life support module, Shadowcat, locked in her phasing mode and drifting further and further apart. Her only way of communicating with the team is through the team’s telepath Psylocke.
Their visit over, Storm, Wolverine and Moira leave. Kitty is glad they’re leaving. She tries to be cheerful to buck up their spirits but it’s hard when they all know she’s dying.
In Moira’s office, Moira grimly states that the atoms of Kitty’s body are drifting farther and farther apart. In a matter of days, the deterioration of molecular bonding will cause irreversible brain damage.
That moment, Magneto contacts them with good news. He has learned of an experimental device by Reed Richards that may reverse Shadowcat’s condition. He means to contact him immediately. Storm reminds him that the Fantastic Four still consider him a supervillain. How will they ever learn otherwise if he doesn’t give them the opportunity? Magneto retorts. Richards is a rational and honorable man. He will know the truth when he hears it.
Meanwhile, speeding back from the port of Ullapool with a week worth of groceries are two other recent members of the X-Men, Dazzler and the enigmatic amnesiac Longshot. Longshot is fascinated by the ocean. Suddenly, he dives into the water. Dazzler lights up to find him. Glowing bright as the sun, she finds him as well as one of the missing fishermen from a recent shipwreck. How did he know where the man was? she asks while helping the two men aboard. Just lucky, he guesses, as he draws a blanket around their guest. Dazzler decides to take the fisher along them to Muir and misses his sinister smile.
Back at Four Freedom Plaza, Franklins is finally asleep. His mother wishes she were dreaming as well as she clutches her husband’s journal to her chest.
Reed enters and tries to surprise her. Coolly, she blows him off. She shows him the journal, asking if he recognizes this. He does. He thought it was gone for good. She wishes it had been, Sue replies stonily. She’s read it. She suggests he do so too, especially the pages relating to the rocket flight that transformed them into the Fantastic Four.
While he sleeps, Franklin projects his astral form into the living room. He wants to grab the book and run away, but his image form has no solidity. It can’t affect the real word – and in these heavy shadows he can hardly be seen. All he can do is watch, mesmerized by what’s happening – as the mouse is by the hunting cobra.
Downtown in Greenwich Village at Raglan’s coffee house. Downstairs is a bistro, and some of the best jazz in the city. Up a flight is an equally renowned reference library currently used by Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk. A waitress brings her some coffee and a snack and asks if she is working on a case. She’s done with the legal racket, Jen replies, but as a weird sort of fundraiser her old school is restaging the Magneto trial before the world court. She got conned into being defense counsel. The case looked open and shut at first. But the more she gets into it, the more complex it becomes.
As the waitress tempts her with some cake, Jen is suddenly bothered by the smell of a cigar coming from behind a shelf. Sticking her head through it, she asks the person to extinguish the cigar, only to see that it is Ben Grimm. Why is he hitting the books? Jen asks. He’s gotta recertify his pilot license, he explains. Did she mean that guff about Magneto? He’d quit before defending that creep. Everyone deserves a fair trial, she reminds him. Did his victims get one? he asks. Maybe things aren’t that simple, she replies crossly. She’s talking like she could get him off, he observes. Once a crook, always…
Their argument is interrupted by the sound of an explosion. It comes from a building site threatening to crumble. The two of them immediately race to assist. While She-Hulk props up the scaffolding Ben holds up the wall of the brownstone next door. Jen struggles with the scaffolding. With the whole structure unstable, it’s giving way.
Before that can happen though, the girders glow as Magneto uses his powers to lock the steel within the framework into place, preventing any structural stress from tearing the building further apart. He asks them for their assistance to restore the scaffolding to its original position. Jen is up for it while Ben grumbles that he probably blew the place up in the first place.
As the Human Torch joins them, Magneto orders him to weld the main girders and braces back into place. Johnny complies, realizing only while he is working that he’s taking orders from Magneto! When he hesitates, the Thing shouts at him that the “bum” is making sense. With the four of them working together, the crisis is soon past.
Later on the roof of Four Freedom Plaza, after Magneto has repeated the explanation for his presence, they discuss matters with Reed and Susan, who is holding Magneto prisoner in a forcefield bubble. He agrees with them that they have no reason to trust him, save perhaps that he asks for it. That’s asking a lot, She-Hulk observes. Would he be as forthcoming, if positions were reversed?
Catch-22 he states. How can he prove that he is trustworthy, unless they trust him? He adds that he does not as for himself. Whatever their feelings towards him, Shadowcat and the X-Men have never done the Fantastic Four any harm. Richards’ device is her only hope. This is a bad time, Reed ventures. Tomorrow will be too late, comes the reply. Reed warns that there are no guarantees. The device is experimental. Too much can go wrong. Johnny carelessly suggests he give it a try: what could go wrong? Magneto agrees. Better the dimmest chance than no chance at all. He begs Reed to save Kitty.
Reed turns to Sue, who’s been standing aside, turning her back on him. He doesn’t want to go, but there’s a life at stake. There’s always a life at stake, she replies coldly, before telling him to do what he has to do. She’ll be here for him when he returns. Secretly, she wonders whether he is thankful for this emergency. It’s so much easier to deal with super heroic crises than the nuts-and-bolts of real life. Have they forgotten that the most heroic test of all is to be a good man or woman? Parents? A family?
Later still, three members of the FF, She-Hulk and Magneto are aboard the Fantastic Four’s plane on their way to Muir Isle. Jen refers to the FF uniform she’s wearing. She figured she never wear this outfit again, now that she’s back with the Avengers. Ben piloting the plane asks why she tagged along. Curiosity mostly, she admits. Who knows, perhaps Magneto has reformed. That’ll be the day, Ben snorts. If not and it is a trap, Jen continues, an extra set of muscles couldn’t hurt. She asks him if Reed is ok. He hasn’t spoken since she they took off. Ben suggests she count herself lucky, usually the problem is shutting him up. Jen walks back to sit beside the Torch, who’s looking daggers at Magneto.
Ben turns to Reed, asking him if something is bugging him. Reed asks him if he thinks he is … ruthless. Ben immediately replies that he isn’t ruthless so much as certain. Reed is the most certain guy he ever met. And because of all his work he’s absolutely certain that his conclusion is the right one, and being right, he’s prepared to do whatever’s necessary to resolve a situation. He guesses this is a kind of ruthlessness.
But… is he always right? Reed wonders. Pretty much, Ben replies, ‘cept for the one time Reed conned him, Suzie and Johnny into riding his rocket with him by telling them how safe it was. That was a mistake and it was a doozy. He always wondered how a big brain like Reed could forget about something as basic as cosmic rays. Concentrating on piloting, Ben doesn’t notice that his friend’s look has turned to one of utter horror at his words.
Eventually, the plane lands on Muir. Dr MacTaggert and Storm race to welcome the FF. Wolverine tags behind, snorting that he hopes their results are as impressive as their hardware.
Magneto exits first, asking about Kitty while the Thing and She-Hulk transport Richards’ rather huge device out of the plane, hoping the X-Men have big doorways. If they don’t, Jen and he will widen them, Ben remarks.
Storm asks where Richards is. They are ready when he is. Reed is still sitting within the plane, torturing himself with the possibility of making another mistake. His device is untested. Like his rocket was. The computer simulations are positive. But computers are only as accurate as the data they are programmed with. Garbage in, garbage out. He buries his head in his hands as he recalls that the simulations were favorable before their first spaceflight as well. He trusted them, and his loved ones paid the price. If history repeats itself, his arrogance may condemn an innocent girl. Or his caution will. Either way, he loses. He gets up when Ben looks after him. As he walks outside, he wonders where he is needed more, there or at home. Is that a question he should ask or an answer he should instinctively know?
As he exits the plane, behind him Franklin’s dream form manifests, clearly worried about his father. Still lost in obsessive thoughts, Reed walks past Moira and the X-Men without any acknowledgement, making even the Torch wonder what’s wrong with him, hoping it isn’t a marriage crisis between his sister and Reed. Wolverine grimly stares at Richards, causing Storm to comment why he’s doing that. Something about him doesn’t sit quite right, Logan announces. He doesn’t like it. Or him.
For the rest of the day, Mr. Fantastic conducts an exhaustive examination of his patient and makes the final adjustments to his equipment. Then at last, he joins the others, announcing there is nothing he can do. Angrily, Magneto shouts that he’s read the literature. This is precisely the sort of situation Richards’ mechanism was designed to deal with – the reincorporation of nuclear structures. It’s a process of molecular bonding, Reed explains with downcast eyes, but not of living tissue. Shadowcat’s condition is too far advanced. He dare not.
If he is afraid, they’ll do the job themselves, Magneto decides, using his powers to raise the device. They have the machine. They don’t need him. She-Hulk grabs his arm and applies a tiny amount of her strength, warning Magneto that this doesn’t belong to him. She suggests they resolve this in a rational manner, Ben catches the device and shouts at Reed that this is a heckuva time and place to get cold feet.
The Torch flames on, ready to attack, certain that the only language that mutant bozo understands is force. Wolverine immediately hits him in the stomach and warns him to mind his mouth and manners. Leave this to the grown-ups. Johnny flames off and crouches on the ground in pain.
Wolverine unsheathes his claws and Franklin secretly watching fears the worst: that Wolverine and his father are going to fight like in his special dream. Wolverine presses Richards against the plane’s hull with his claws, using the words from Franklin’s dream. They came to Richards for help. They trusted him. They put Shadowcat’s life in his hands. So you save her bub – or you die!!