Whistling Nathaniel Essex sits on a bench and reads a newspaper. The headline on the frontpage is “The end of the Great War.”
A blind, young flapper walks towards him and asks him to stop that incessant whistling. Addressing her as “Adler,” he asks if she doesn’t like it, as she sits down. He always found it most stirring. He sings out a part of the melody. It was on his mind. Did she know it was twenty years to the day it debuted? He was there. Yes, St. James Hall, Irene Adler agrees. She was there, too. She had a fit. That was her? he smirks. He remembers. The opening of the ninth variation… and then… foaming mouth and twitching limbs. He thought it an average weak woman, overcome with emotion. And he was right, he adds cruelly. He could never understand how such hysterical drama could be prompted by such a lovely piece of music. Whatever was it about Mr. Elgar’s Nimrod that disturbed her so?
A war is coming, the blind seer replies. Of course, a war is coming, he interrupts, this peace won’t last and they need to choose their sides. And, if she wants his advice, why choose anything but the winning side? Ethics, she replies curtly. But she is not here to discuss philosophy with a sophist like him. She came here to tell him something. It will change everything! She knows he is an evil man, but she fears that their fates are joined together. And whether they end up on the winning side or not, she thinks they need to be on the same side. Listen… She whispers something into his ear. Oh, he mutters. As he spasms his eyes turn from white to red and black fluid bleeds from his eyes and mouth. “You’re a ghost,” he repeats muttering, as he lies on the ground before passing out.
Was she expecting that? an elegant, blue-skinned woman asks Irene. She admits she wasn’t and is surprised. Though she supposes she could have expected it. What did she tell him? Raven Darkholme asks. Irene looks up and asks if Raven trusts her. Raven replies, if every part of the world succumbed to dust, the last thing remaining would be her trust in Irene. What they have is immortal. She helps Irene up. Irene begs her not to ask again. She will tell her if she ever needs to know, and they must hope that it never comes to that. The two women walk away, hand in hand.
As he steps into his lab, Mr. Sinister sardonically thinks of his current home, Krakoa, or Utopia - the summer-remix, as he calls it. He admits it is better than the last time the mutants thought of an island home: Utopia was a dingy rock in the sea. He chides himself for referring to “the mutants.” He is now one of them. His secret lab is not on Krakoa though. Imagine Scott Summers entering and asking what all the clones are for…
He looks at his latest experiment, activating the X-gene, checks some genetic aspects then looks at the database. 25 logs. No surprise they are looking tired, he addresses his test subject. So he is 26, he muses. So, what do his messages in a bottle tell him? What’s on his schedule today? He reads the entries and grins. Today is a red-letter day! He must remember to act surprised…
Shortly thereafter at a meeting of the Quiet Council, the ruling body of Krakoa, Magneto announces that he will step down from the Council and retire to Arakko.
Mr. Sinister furtively studies the reactions of the other council members. Charles Xavier always wears the Cerebro helmet, so he cannot see the despair in his eyes. He must have guessed this was coming. For a man with his telepathic gifts to be surprised by anything speaks of his cowardice. Magneto was speaking directly to Xavier. They and Moira MacTaggert had a plan for the salvation of mutantkind and fear it is going awry. They are wrong, it is going exactly as planned. Their mistake was thinking it was their plan.
Emma Frost is jubilant. When she discovered the extent of Erik and the Professor’s scheme, she was incandescent with rage. She is entirely focused on the council now. She’s had enough of useless men.
Speaking of useless men, Sinister has no high opinion of Sebastian Shaw and figures he is entirely under Emma’s thumb now.
As far as Kate Pryde is concerned, she is so busy running the Marauders she will not notice things on the council going wrong, until it is too late.
Exodus’ nose curls in disgust as he stomps away. Sinister figures he is adding Magneto’s name to the list of villains Sinister is already on. He despises Sinister for many reasons, but that he electively became a mutant is the biggest one. In his eyes it is blasphemy. Religious nut. Supremely powerful Sinister secret: Sinister is terrified of him.
Ororo looks less surprised. She knew. As monarch of Mars, Magneto informed her of his move. She doesn’t like Sinister either, which he considers fair. He used to be a huge racist. He excised that part of his personality. All beings are inferior to him Why differentiate?
He wonders why Colossus is on the Council. Probably because he is a good man, a bulwark against bad men like him. What the others don’t know, though, is he is under some Russian mind control.
He has no idea why Nightcrawler is here either, but figures he is too busy with his not-a-religion and-not-being-a-cop with his buddy, the definitely not-a-huge-danger with a terrible haircut Legion. As such, he is arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Conversely, his mother Mystique is a big player and holds a major grudge against Xavier and Magneto. They dangled her along with the promise of eventually resurrecting her wife Destiny while planning to never do so, on Moira’s orders. But now Destiny is back as the final member of the Council.
Sinister tells himself to act surprised and shouts what!
Xavier was hoping he’d reconsider, but Magneto thinks considering recent events it is better he retreats for some time. He has done what he can as a council member. He can serve better elsewhere.
He abandons the cause once more! Exodus huffs, while Emma suspects Erik and Charles of playing yet another secret power game. She demands his stepping down should be instantaneous, meaning he has no hand in the choice of his successor. Magneto bristles, he gave everything for mutantkind. Emma bluntly accuses him of quitting. He has given up the chance of defining his legacy. His legacy is deceiving this council. She asks for a vote on whether Magneto should be removed immediately. Exodus, Shaw, Kate, Mystique, Destiny and Sinister agree with Emma, while Xavier, Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler stand behind Magneto.
Magneto harumphes as he puts on his helmet and announces he will be more at home among the Arakkii. He understands if they come for you with a knife, they do it from the front. Emma snaps at him to spare them the self-pity. This is his own doing. He thought he knew better than his fellow mutants. They are all Homo superior. Save them from the men who think they are superior!
And so the Quiet Council start interviewing potential replacements: Among them is Warren Worthington aka Archangel pointing out the work he is doing with X-Corp. Plus, actual Angel is comforting optics.
His Co-CEO Monet St Croix applies for the position only because she doesn’t want Warren to get it.
Gorgon simply says his name while the even more unstable Vulcan boasts he ruled an actual space empire. He is overqualified.
Abigail Brand, head of SWORD, admits she said she wouldn’t just join Krakoa but a Council seat could convince her. They are working on a galactic scale now. She has been doing this all her life. If they play her way, they can actually win…
Brand’s ex, current head of X-Force, Beast has actually prepared a PowerPoint presentation to convince them they need his precise intellect.
Afterwards the council members discuss the candidates. Kate complains to Kurt that Hank used to be fun, remember? Before all the black ops, before he dated Brand. She can barely tell them apart. She can’t help thinking if they selected one of them, the other one would assassinate that person. Was that a bad break-up? Does anyone know? Kurt agrees that they are both completely unethical and he doesn’t trust either one on the Council. Sinister loudly agrees. Being untrustworthy is his job. Essex, Exodus warns him. Deliberately misunderstanding, Sinister corrects himself, that is their job. Plenty of unethical to go around.
Nightcrawler suggests Legion for the Council. He hasn’t volunteered, but Kurt could talk to him. Xavier believes Legion is still too unstable. He adds that he has once again approached Namor who again refused. He believes it is mostly his ego. To join someone who is strong without him diminishes his own status. He considers the Arakkii. An outsider’s perspective might be helpful. She talked to a few on the Great Ring. They were not interested, Storm replies. For them taking a seat without having to fight for it is an insult.
Kate shouts out to Cypher if he is interested. He replies in the plural that they are not. They think it will compromise everything. Sinister thinks to himself that the “we” is meaningful.
Sinister suggests that as an elite club they should be elite. There has to be someone better for them. Nothing but the best for the Quiet Council. Apparently, he has given Exodus an idea.
At Arbor Magna the Five have finished another resurrection. While they take a quick break Exodus addresses Hope Summers as messiah and politely asks her to take a walk with him. She asks him not to call her “messiah.” He accedes but she bristles, realizing he is still doing it quietly. He explains he is a mutant of faith. He has that faith in her and she cannot prevent it. Hope’s coming rekindled the fecundity of mutants. The Holy Spirit came upon her. She corrects him the Phoenix came upon her. There is no need to get religious. Exodus replies that the Nazarene mutant started a religion among humans by bringing back a few from the dead. He just watched Hope beat that in the last few minutes. And now they have given them actual Heaven. Irritated at the people bowing to her, Hope replies they don’t like that word. The Waiting Room is just a back-up. Which is a cowardly word for Heaven, Exodus retorts. They don’t like saying Heaven, because it scares them with its honesty. He touches her shoulder. Brushing off his hand, she asks what he wants from her. Exodus smiles…
A little later, the ancient mutant sorceress Selene is making her case to the Quiet Council. Emma snarks that she doesn’t think a vampire queen is what they are looking for in replacing Magneto. Selene calmly replies their real problem is that they think that they are replacing Magneto. They lost Apocalypse. They filled his place but didn’t replace him. Selene offers skills that none of them have. None of them know magic. Krakoa has borders with mystical realms. Expertise there is what Apocalypse gave them… and she knows far more magic than he ever did. They are vulnerable to anyone with a grimoire and a bad attitude. Look at the giant magical beasts the ex-Pretender threw at them. She solved that problem, not them. Then there is the Krakoan mission: The Five are at work. How long until all sixteen million Genoshans are brought back? A decade maybe or more? She brought back Genosha in a day.
She brought them back as zombies, an unimpressed Kate points out. They weren’t, Selene shrugs, but that doesn’t matter. She did it. Perhaps her knowledge can improve the Five’s circuit. Sinister is only on this council for his library of genes. They may fear her but she can be at least as useful as the pallid ghoul. Maybe Genosha could be back in a year… if she helped. But most of all? They stand at the edge of eternity: They have joined their fellow Externals as immortal. She has been there and can show them the way. She will join them, as all of mutantkind will join her…
Wait for it, Sinister grins inwardly…
Yeah, that sounds like a good pitch, a voice from outside the circle announces, but it needs to be her. Hope Summers joins them. Xavier protests that she hasn’t been invited to this session. They can arrange a time for…
Hope interrupts, they should cut to the chase. It has to be her. She steps into the circle joining a furious Selene. Calling her child, she suggests Hope has other things to do like resurrecting everyone. Calmly, Hope replies they do and will. The Five have been working their asses off on this. It’s been their whole lives, but there’s been enough stuff going on which the Five aren’t sure about. She’s been a good soldier for a year now, and the soldier has lost a little faith. They all have. Hope points out the whole island rests on the Five. If they are not being heard or are worried about what’s going on, that’s a real problem. So, if they want it, the Five need to have representation on the Council. They want it.
With a grin, Sinister asks if he is the only one who hears an “or else” here. Hope walks away again while stating it’s more than that. It’s weird, but all the mutants love them. She’s embarrassed by how much they look up to the Five. She doesn’t think that hearing she was refused will make the Council popular. It’s not really an ultimatum. She just doesn’t see that they have any other option.
Xavier turns to Selene and tells her the Council will discuss the matter. Angrily, she snaps that if Hope can play this game… the girl talks about sacrifice? The External Gate that reached Arakko… Apocalypse made it from the bones of her fellow unaging Externals. The only reason the Arakkii were here is because of the murder of her peers. Think of the disruption if the gate… just went away. She too walks away while adding to Sinister that, yes, he hears an “or else.”
Sinister thinks to himself that she is bluffing but he admires her style. And he loves her cape.
Nightcrawler wonder how seriously they should take her threat. Sinister suggests some kind of deal to help her save face. But she hasn’t got the power. He is convinced that she doesn’t but tells himself not to let everyone know he is the smartest person in the room.
Emma announces she thinks Hope has them. She used to be scared of her. No longer. She thinks, Hope will make a lovely addition to their little club.
The debate on Hope starts and Sinister watches. Exodus pushes for Hope. Sinister knows that the Hellfire group will be for Hope, as Exodus has struck a deal. Mystique and Destiny will be pro, as they explicitly owe Hope for bringing Destiny back. The rest will vote against, either out of loyalty to Xavier or wanting to consider the various candidates more closely. He plans to join them, to distance himself from the various disasters that Hope being on the council will help precipitate.
Xavier asks if they should immediately vote on Hope or continue to discuss the other candidate further?
Sinister begins to silently predict how his fellow council members will vote on Hope. A ‘no’ from Xavier and Colossus, a ‘yes’ from Mystique and Emma. He himself votes ‘no’, certain in the positive outcome. However, he is in for a surprise when Destiny votes ‘no’. He begins thinking frantically, while the others vote: ‘no’ from Storm and Nightcrawler, ‘yes’ from Exodus.
Why didn’t he just burn all of Destiny’s DNA? He cursed silently and wonders what she knows. He needs Hope on the Council. Finally, Sinister interjects that he wants to change his vote. Give the girl a chance, spirit of youth, fresh blood and all that.
Shaw and Kate vote ‘yes’. Emma summarizes that is six-five in favor, unless Sinister wants to flip-flop again. Hope takes the Autumn Seat.
Xavier announces he will inform Selene. Sinister walks away, pointedly not looking at Destiny.
Xavier finds Selene overlooking several hills and apologizes it is not the right time for a seat on the Council… but they all agree her idea has real merit and they wish to work on a partnership. Her desire to take more of a role on Krakoa is a wish they wish to encourage and facilitate and…
He suddenly notices her silence. Is this something she is taking particularly well or particularly poorly? Feelings? As if they matter, she replies with a smile. This all quite simple: they made a decision, and they’ll live with the consequences. At her gesture a giant monster rises, formed from the Otherworld Gate.
The Council members see this as well. So, she was bluffing? Nightcrawler sarcastically asks Sinister. She was! he blurts out before correcting himself, he thought she was.
The monster breathes fire at the ground.
This is what comes from a snap decision, Nightcrawler seethes. They should have taken their time to defuse this. He changed his vote on a whim. For a man who brags about being a genius, he is an absolute fool. He teleports away.
Sinister turns to Mystique and Destiny. Did Irene know this was going to happen? he demands. Why didn’t she say anything? Irene coldly replies that Mystique’s boy is right: Sinister is a fool. She doesn’t know anything. After all these years, he hasn’t learned how her powers actually work. She doesn’t see the future. There is no “the” future - there is no destiny. She and her wife walk away.
Sinister swears as he sees the other council members fighting the Kaiju. It’s already gone awry. He heads to his secret lab, where Cy-cat (a cat with Cyclops’ powers) and Professor Plod (a turtle) are waiting. He gives order to take a surface scan of relevant data from his brain and upload it to the clone. In the meantime, he wonders.
Selene shouldn’t have escalated. There’s something else he doesn’t know but he knows it now, so he can try again. He takes up a rifle and gets ready to fire it at someone. Then he stops and decides against that action. One day is not enough. The genetic breakdown is significant now, he figures. It is possible the clone is exhausted and this won’t work. Selene’s attack is a minor diversion. He needs more data. At the least he needs to earn where the point of divergence is. It could be just chaos theory, but perhaps not. Magic always throws a spanner in the works for rationalists. All sorcerers are desperately annoying. Plus, all the scented candles are just unbearable. If magic has gotten in the way of his plan he is going to be furious.
His plan? He has been working with the idea of chimeras – living mutant circuits - but he has had older methods, methods no one else uses, because they lack his singular perspective. You don’t need to combine mutant powers to achieve wonders. You can do a lot with a single mutant power, if you treat it as a resource and don’t get hung up on the person it is connected to. He opens a jar full of eyeballs. They are cloned from Scott Summers and are munition for a certain gun. He did it because it made him giggle. All mutants are useful tools… a resource to be exploited.
He gives orders to upload the data stream of the battle. He thinks he was a pure determinist once. He believed that, if you knew everything, you can predict everything. He found the limits of that approach, when the Phoenix incinerated him. There is the unruly move, the unprecedented. It was most annoying. He turned to empiricism. Do an experiment and repeat, learning what you can each time. Classical science, the trouble there is only one Earth. You cannot treat life as an experiment, as one cannot repeat it. Or so he thought. He grins broadly.
Imagine someone whose consciousness moved back in time to when they were born when they died, immolating the timeline when they did so. Now consider this: Take this individual, clone them, activate the X-gene. As time progresses, upload whatever you want in the clone’s brain. When you grow bored of the timeline, kill the clone. And then your earlier self can download what your future self had uploaded into the clone at that later point.
He smiles at the Moira clones in the test tubes. The problem with Moira MacTaggert? She was a terrible scientist. Believing a database as small as ten was sufficient to draw any meaningful conclusions…