Skin sits with a knife held to his throat. He looks up into the eyes of its wielder, a woman named Tores, but is unable to move; her other hand rests on his chin and restricts him from acting.
Growing up on the streets of East Los Angeles, Angelo Espinosa had accepted that death might come early to him early in his life. As a student in Generation X—the team of mutants in training—he had also frequently faced the threat of early death, but had avoided that fate enough times that he had begun to hope that he might be of that rarest of breeds: a survivor. But now, he faces death again.
Back on the streets of L.A., where any survivor’s luck he may have had runs away scared and screaming. Death this day is beautiful and smells of Chanel Allure—not that it makes the dying any easier.
Suddenly, the scene pauses, as if it had been recorded on a VCR. The silhouetted man watching the screen emits a gurgling noise, then turns to face the viewer. He wears sunglasses and a scarf over his mouth, which garbles his speech. He then pulls the scarf down so he can speak, revealing an iconic, mustachioed smile. “Sorry gang,” he says. “It’s not easy to talk wearing Chamber’s scarf like he does!”
The man stands up, removes his wig, and addresses the audience directly. “You’ve probably guessed that I’m Stan ‘The Man’ Lee by now. The sparkling wit sorta gives it away! I told Jim Robinson and Chris Bachalo we wouldn’t fool anybody!” he says, remarking on what his sly method of sneaking the credits into the book. “Hey, wanna see our scintillatin’ story? I can picture you saying: ‘why d’ya think I’m here, dummy?!’ It’s called, ‘The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship!’” Stan says, before remarking that those Comicraft guys are always showing off.
Picking up the remote, Stan remarks that the story he was watching on the TV can wait until next issue. He flips the channel toward the story he wants to share now, along the way passing an episode of ‘Baywatch’ featuring a large-busted woman running along the beach. He remarks that he was saving the episode for later. He then finds the channel he wants, which bears the image of Emma Frost, the co-leader of Generation X. Stan bets she would be the coolest babe on ‘Baywatch’ if she wanted to be. Her co-leader, Sean Cassidy, probably wouldn’t want to lose her though. Changing the channel, he lands on an image of Banshee, shown smoking a pipe. Better smile when saying his codename, Stan says.
Together, Stan says, Emma and Sean lead the colorful cohorts of Generation X, who consist of Everett Thomas, codenamed Synch. He’s their very own ‘Mr. Cool.’ He also introduces Jubilation Lee, whom he insists is NOT his daughter, despite rumors to the contrary! Of course, they must not forget poor Monet St. Croix, who got shortchanged by simply being known as M.
“Speaking of names,” he asks, “why would a gal like Paige Guthrie let herself be called Husk? And why did I give myself the boring job of naming people whom you probably know as well as I do!? But lovesick Paige would never forgive me if I didn’t also introduce J.E. Starsmore, or Chamber to you.” Next, he presents Skin, wondering at the same time whether that’s also the mutant’s mysterious last name. Penance ought to be around there somewhere too, Stan adds, but when she starts to come into the image, he remarks that this flashback saga doesn’t include any of them! He just didn’t want them to feel left out.
The fantastic fable he has in store for the reader today, he says, involves Sean and Emma in an adventure they shared many years ago—only they don’t know that they shared it! “And if that doesn’t getcha goin’, I’ll never throw an excelsior at you again!”
New York City…
If you’re going to make an entrance into society, Manhattan is the place to do it. This is where the oldest money is. The surest finance. Watch now as one such entrance upon Manhattan society is about to be made. Her name is Emma Frost. Sweet sixteen and never been kissed…with a forged invitation and a stolen Bob Mackie dress.
As Emma enters the ballroom, the butler welcomes her to Samuel Cumberland’s annual gala. He’s sure Mr. Cumberland will be delighted to see her again. She did say she knew him, right? Emma replies that he knows her parents.
This is the third such event that Emma has attended, but the first of which she didn’t have to use her burgeoning telepathic ability completely to gain entry. For Samuel Cumberland did indeed know Emma’s parents once; it was a year before they disinherited her. Since then, it’s been the streets—hunger and alleyways and cold, cold nights. But that won’t last for much longer—not with Emma’s powers, which get stronger and stronger each day.
As Emma descends the staircase onto the main floor, she remarks that she just needs to make one pass to gather what she needs. The thoughts of the strangers comprising this elite crowd begin trickling into her brain, most of them useful stock tips.
May have to call the broker tomorrow. Tim said I should buy steel.
What a delightful creature.
By stock in Wakandan Airways—about to sign a trade agreement with America.
Mr. Cumberland stops Emma before she hears the rest of that thought. He asks her if they have met. Emma remarks that it was a long time ago. To her displeasure, she then hears Mr. Cumberland thinking that Emma looks about the same age as his daughter, but that he still wouldn’t mind…
Thankfully, the stray thought of a nearby stranger interrupts this unpleasant, prurient rumination. Stark Industries. Buy, buy, buy… stock’s about to explode. The mind-picking continues.
I should have killed that man in the obvious way. But no, I had to show off. Used my powers—
How can I tell my brother that—
Don’t sell shares in Cummings Aeronautics. Never mind the dip in price. Secret contract with Uncle Sam’s about to happen. Something about a ‘heli-carrier’?
Again, a stranger interrupts her, only this time it is Ben Nishimura who asks for her name. After Emma tells him who she is, she remarks that she is delighted to meet him. As she makes her way toward the exit of the ballroom, she overhears someone else saying they want to sell their shares in gamma research because some experts consider it too volatile to be used productively. Another voice in her head expresses a desire to invest in Reed Richards’ patent for unstable molecules.
When Emma finally reaches the other end of the ballroom floor, she starts feeling nauseous. Fortunately, she thinks she learned enough, and read enough minds. Now, she just has to capitalize on what she learned—if she doesn’t fall ill first. She decides to head to the rest room.
She approaches the door to the ladies room, closer to the verge of fainting with each step. She overextended herself, she thinks; she’s not yet as powerful as she thought. She just hopes she can get to the ladies room without—
Suddenly, the large hand of a powerful man appears in front of her, and pushes the door open for her to enter. He asks her to allow him to open the door for her. Emma looks up at the massive man, thanks him, and asks if she knows him. As she says this, she realizes that she does remember him: he’s the man from the ballroom floor who was thinking about a murder he had committed! The large man tells her he doesn’t believe they’ve met, although he would like to remedy that sad fact. He introduces himself as Harry Leland.
As Emma looks into his smiling face, she reminds herself that he was thinking about murder—and how he had powers. Perhaps there are others like her, she thinks—others born with abilities beyond those of ordinary people. She also remembers that he was thinking about something else, too—something she didn’t understand. A word. Hellfire.
In turn, Emma introduces herself to Mr. Leland, remarking to herself that he might be a dangerous man, but she also wagers he could be a useful one—for her. She doesn’t want to be rude, she tells Mr. Leland. She would love to talk, but she’s afraid she’s not feeling well.
How terrible, Leland remarks. He proposes that he could take her home; they could talk in his car. Emma replies that such a thing would be wonderful. She just asks him to giber her a moment. As she enters the ladies room, she tells Harry that he really is a lifesaver. He’s glad she thinks so, he says. To himself, however, he remarks that few people do. He smiles at Emma one last time and tells her he will be waiting for her out in the hallway.
Inside the bathroom, the minutes pass like sinking anchors. Emma, lying curled on the floor, isn’t sure how long she’s lain there. She may have passed out momentarily, but she isn’t sure of that, either. This is crazy, she tells herself. Too much mind-reading for one night… my head feels as if it’s about to explode. I’ll tell Leland I’m tired…maybe arrange to meet him another time. But not tonight. The man’s dangerous, and I’m not quite myself. It’s better to cut and run. Be satisfied with all I’ve picked up this evening.
She remarks to herself that with the knowledge she’s gleaned from the party, combined with what she’s heard at the other events she’s crashed, she can now make her fortune. If she takes the little money she’s stolen and saved, and invest it based on this knowledge, she should be able to make a profit by nightfall. Finally, she will begin to crawl out of the gutter she’s been living in.
To Emma’s surprise, another woman asks her if she’s okay. The started Emma picks herself up off the floor and remarks that she’s fine. The woman, commenting that she say Emma at the party, tells her she looks rough. Emma thanks her and clenches her hand over her face; she claims she’s having a migraine. The woman offers her a few Aspirin, but Emma declines. She’s just going to head home, she says, thinking to herself that she will do so only after dealing with Leland.
To her surprise, however, Leland is nowhere to be found when she returns to the hallway. It looks like patience isn’t one of his traits; he’s flown the coop. She takes that as a sign to do the same; she’ll be out of there before they even notice the ink on her invitation is still wet.
Emma heads to the busy New York City street outside the ballroom, where she contemplates whether to get a hotel room uptown or downtown. She finds reassurance in the fact that if the market pays off the next day, she can maybe rent someplace honestly. Intent on thinking positively, she tells herself the market is going to do well—very well. She’s going to make enough to buy somewhere, she thinks. This is the start of something—something big.
She walks by a group of men in tuxedos smoking on the corner, presumably outside the party she just left. One of them catcalls her, telling his buddies to check out the fox. It’s a shame the party girl is leaving the party without a daddy, he says, heckling her. Another of the men swings around a light pole and stands in her way. He’s a Scorpio, he says, and he bets she’s a Leo. Is he right? He’ll be her daddy, he says. Emma asks the guys if they shouldn’t be inside with their nice, shiny tuxedos. The Scorpio replies that they’re bodyguards. And here Emma thought they were ambassadors, she replies. The Scorpio replies that their bosses don’t need them inside.
Sweating profusely, Emma tells the Scorpio that she doesn’t need him out there either. Not taking the hint, the Scorpio leans in, sniffs her hair, and tells Emma she smells good. She replies that he certainly doesn’t. Asking her what’s the matter, he insinuates that because she was just inside with all the big shots, that she thinks these guys aren’t good enough. Emma meekly replies that she never said that. To herself, she realizes that she may have just started something bad…
Nearby, two detectives sit inside a nondescript car as part of a stakeout. It’s been a long night for NYPD Detective Sean Cassidy and his partner, Lowell Fontaine. Surveillance is never fun, but this particular assignment has been interminable. The night is about to get longer, too—and a lot more eventful.
Sean, peeking out the window, asks Lowell if he also sees what’s happening on the street corner. “No way, Irish!” Lowell says. “We’re supposed to be watching Leland’s comings and goings. You know that. You wanna blow our cover?”
Sean reminds him of what’s happening to the girl, but Lowell will have none of it. She’ll be fine, he says, ordering Sean to stay put.
Meanwhile, the Scorpio tells Emma to prove that she thinks the thugs harassing her are good enough by giving him a kiss. After asking if he’s joking, Emma asks if he will please just let her by. The rest of the men surround her. She isn’t going anywhere, they say. They tell her to give their friend a kiss—for starters. They’re not going to give her a choice, are they, she asks? No, the Scorpio tells her. In that case, Emma smiles, and tells the Scorpio to pucker up. He then closes his eyes, protrudes his lips, and tells her to make it a wet one. Whatever he says, she replies, as she stretches back her hand. With her manicured nails protruding as far as possible, she brings her hand hard across his face, drawing blood with her feral scratch.
As Emma takes off running, the wounded brute, with his hand over his bloody wounds, screams that she blamed near ripped his face off! He tells his friends to get her. Detective Cassidy, meanwhile, decides he needs to help Emma after he sees this scene transpire. Lowell’s implores him to stay put while he calls for backup, but Detective Cassidy doubts they will arrive in time. The girl might be dead by then, he says. Lowell reminds him of their assignment. This isn’t Interpol, he says, referencing Cassidy’s previous line of work; in New York, cops follow orders, or people get hurt. Cassidy, reminding his colleague that someone is about to get hurt, counters that no assignment is more important than an innocent life. With that, he leaps out of the car and chases after Emma, ignoring Lowell’s objections as he goes.
Emma, meanwhile, heads down dark alleyway that she hasn’t traveled in a while. Still, she recalls that she should be able to give them the slip on the other end. To her horror, however, she finds the exit at the other end closed. She grips the chain-link fence in desperation. Behind her, she hears a familiar voice, asking her about that kiss. Emma turns to face the man following her, and is knocked unconscious by a swift punch to the face. She falls into a pile of garbage.
“Be more’n a kiss you’ll be giving us now,” the Scorpio says as he beholds her unconscious body. While two of his pals join him in staring at her, his third pal has the sense to turn around to investigate the noise and shadow bearing down on them. Just when he makes out the image of what’s approaching, however, it’s already too late. He tries to warn his friends, but is dispatched by a furry claw speeding toward his face.
A mere fourteen seconds later, Detectives Cassidy and Fontaine arrive in the darkened alleyway, only to find it devoid of people. Fontaine asks Sean what he thinks happened. Sean comments that it must have been something bad—very bad. He points out the blood on the ground, noting that it ends at a manhole cover. When Lowell suggests they call for backup, Sean tells his partner he can do that, but he is going to proceed with finding the girl. He leaves Lowell on the surface while he removes the manhole cover and descends into the sewer.
Elsewhere, Emma Frost slowly regains consciousness. She emits a groan as her vision returns. Her ward remarks that he is so glad she’s awake. Understandably confused, Emma looks around and asks where she is. In response, her ward welcomes her to his place. Emma looks around and sees a subterranean laboratory, filled with all sorts of twisted utensils, specimens, and equipment. Strangest of all is the creature who brought her there: a tall, burly, blue-furred man with long blue hair. This Beast of a man holds in his hand a surgical utensil, which he uses to operate on the cadaver lying on his surgical table—the Scorpio thug from outside the party.
The frightened Emma coyly asks the brutish man what he is, and what he wants. Food? Does he just want food? The Beast tells her no, not her—never her. He would never hurt her. In that case, Emma asks him why? What is this place? The Beast tells her that he’s seen her; she lives on the street. “You dodge hard times like I do,” he says, gazing at her with one of his yellow eyes. “I look up at the world above and I see you once. Then I see you again. And again. I figure I like what I see. I start looking for you. Watching you.”
“And watching out for me too, it seems,” Emma responds. The Beast tells her that if they want a piece of her, they have to go through him first. Looking around the laboratory, Emma asks the Beast what all the stuff is. He simply tells her that it’s science, while continuing to cut through the corpse on his operating table.
When she asks what kind of science, he replies that he thinks he came from someplace else. “There was me and lots of others like me. We were bright colors and powers. We were in control. And I was smart. Smart enough to know what science,” the Beast says. When Emma asks what things are like for him know, he replies that he remembers formulas and equations, but doesn’t remember what they’re for. He knows when he was smart, he experimented on people—to have more knowledge, and to learn. When she asks if that’s what he’s been trying to do in the sewers, he responds in the affirmative.
Aiding him in her line of questioning, Emma theorizes that he has pieces of the jigsaw, but not the big picture on the box. The Beast guesses so—but asks what a jigsaw is. Emma asks what he wants to do with her. He’s seen her and he likes her and he wants her to be his friend, he replies. Together, they can help each other dodge hard times. Emma, examining a jar from his shelf, supposes she could maybe help her remember. She asks what he could do for her? Without even looking at her, the dark Beast tells her he could protect her. Emma begins to smile; when he remembers everything he knew, she says, that knowledge could very well serve them both.
She finally asks the Beast his name. He’s not sure, but he thinks his name is Perry, or Honk, or maybe Hank, Herry, or Henry. He doesn’t know. She’ll help him recall that too, Emma says. The Beast takes that to mean they have an agreement. He asks how they signify that. What do they do? Emma tells him that, traditionally, they would shake on it. He asks what, exactly, they shake. Does she mean like when his fur gets wet? No, Emma says—she means they join hands and shake them. The Beast tells her he can do that.
“D’na touch her, ye monster!” a voice cries out just as the dark Beast is about to take Emma’s hand. Startled, Emma and the dark Beast turn around, just as Detective Cassidy emits a sonic scream that propels the furry mutant into the wall. The scream is agony to the black Beast’s ears—like hot pins. The dark Beast smashes into a shelf stacked with jars and falls to the ground. Picking himself up, he tells the interloper that he doesn’t know who he is, but knows he doesn’t like him. Emma, cowering behind a chair, thinks to herself that she doesn’t know who the interloper is either, but she’s not sure she agrees with the last part of the Beast’s declaration.
Detective Cassidy then flies through the air at the Beast. He tells him he doesn’t care if he’s his favorite flavor, either; it looks to him like the Beast has eaten his fill anyway! Smashing into the Beast like a torpedo, he tells him to keep away from the girl. The shelf collapses onto the Beast.
Emma uncovers her eyes and observes the fight. It doesn’t matter who this guy is, or that he’s made a mistake, she thinks; what matters is that he’s trying to help her. Detective Cassidy stands up and looks at Emma. He tells her there’s no need to be afraid; the Beastie is down.
It turns out that Cassidy speaks a moment too soon: just as he turns his back on the Beast, it reaches up from the rubble and socks him across the face. Emma screams. The Beast, meanwhile, tells the fallen fighter that it no longer matters what his name is; soon he’ll have him labeled in jars. He’ll name every bit of him—find out why he seems so familiar to him.
Emma, still cowering in the corner, realizes that she can’t let this man get killed. He only intervened because he thought she was in trouble; he was trying to save her. She must try something, she thinks. What she’s about to try has never worked for more than a moment before, but this time, it has to. No, Hank. Not now, she thinks, telepathically projecting her thought into the Beast’s mind. It appears to work; he jerks for a moment, then steadies his claws. No death. Calm down. That’s a boy, she continues saying into his mind. Emma is amazed that her ability is working. She finally tells Hank to relax. He calmly turns to her, and gently says hi.
Hank asks her what they do now. Emma, steadying her aching head, tells him to hold on for a moment; she’s feeling dizzy. She’ll decide what to do in a moment. From behind, however, another voice interrupts her conversation with Hank, telling her she hasn’t got a moment. The voice then tells her to put her hands in the air.
Emma turns around and sees Harry Leland standing in the doorway, wineglass still in his hand, along with Detective Fontaine, gun in hand. She asks Fontaine who he is. He tells her that it’s his partner lying there next to her. They’re cops, he says and she and her trained gorilla are up to their necks in it. Leland interjects that he is quite shocked. Emma is surprised to see him alongside the detective. He tells her that he was making some final goodbyes at the party when Emma disappeared. He went looking for her and found Detective Fontaine, but now, upon seeing her in her current state—
They can find out everything they need to know when they get them to the precinct, Detective Lowell says, interrupting Leland. Emma smirks upon hearing this. She doesn’t think she’s going anywhere.
Two quick thoughts and an exchange of weapons later, Emma finds herself in charge of the minds of both Lowell Fontaine and Harry Leland. Harry hoists the unconscious Sean Cassidy into his enormous arms. Emma instructs them to take Sean straight to the hospital—and not to dawdle. Then, the two of them are to go home and get to bed. They are to make sure they brush their teeth and wash behind their ears first—and they are not to remember a thing of this in the morning.
“That’s that,” she tells Hank the Beast after they leave. “I have to say, this has been a very successful night in terms of honing my telepathy.” As soon as she says this, however, she realizes she failed to specify that the two men were supposed to go to separate homes and separate beds. “Whoops.”
With that, she tells Hank they had better get going. His place is a wreck. She tells him not to worry, though; if the rest of the day goes as planned, they’ll have the resources to set him up anywhere. And then, they’re going to help each other to get it. When Hank asks what they’re going to get, she replies with one, simple word: “Everything.”
end of flashback
With that, Stan “the Man” Lee turns back to the reader with the remote in his hand. “Call me a softie if you will, but I love romantic endings,” he says, while Dark Beast and Emma fade to black on his TV screen. “Of course, explosions and car chases are pretty nice, too. But now I’ve got to get back to ‘Baywatch’… I find it intellectually stimulating to ponder the profound philosophical message inherent in each bikini-clad episode. Anyway, I need to relax before facing the rigors of our next issue. I tell you, O keeper of the flame, you won’t believe what happens in our follow-up thriller! So don’t miss it, okay? I’d hate to have to sit here, talkin’ to myself!”