East Side, Manhattan, 2 A.M.
Alison Blaire, dressed in her Dazzler outfit, skates through the streets to get to a surprising gig she got. She is delighted, especially after last week’s disaster. Armored mutant hunters were invading a disco to hunt her and she got caught up in X-Men insanity. Was even asked to join them. She just knew her career was over. Who’d hire her after that mess? But then she got a call for a private party. A last minute deal. Ten minutes to get there, but the pay is excellent!
The streets are empty when, suddenly, someone shouts, “there’s the mutie!” Several armored goons like the ones that attacked the disco grab her. Dazzler protests that she’s not an X-Man. She’s a singer! Her powers are nothing! She can make bright lights! Big deal!
The men tell her the boss wants her. F.Y.I., Dazzler replies, she downplayed the power thing. She reaches into her purse and switches on her radio. She absorbs the sound to emit light. The leader tells the others to smash her radio. The racket will have people call the cops!
Not too far away is Iron Man. Four days ago, he watched as the world was destroyed. Now, he’s halfway to saving it. But he’s running on yesterday’s technology and it isn’t pretty. Power’s getting low. He hasn’t slept in days. He didn’t think he could get this tired. He urges himself to keep going.
He has no idea when he has landed and where he is heading. His tracker says the Hellfire Club. At least he’s a hereditary member there. He figures it could get worse. Then he notices the music, recognizing it as Pat Benatar’s Hit me with your best shot. Tony sighs as he sees Dazzler fighting the goons. One of them stamps the radio. Tony realizes it’s madness to waste what’s left of his power to rescue one girl when the world is at stake, but he does.
He uses his repulsors on the men to take them out. When he takes off one goon’s helmet, Dazzler blinds him with her lights. Recognizing, Dazzler and her disco era outfit, Iron Man has figured out when he is.
Still weakened he falls into her arms, admitting he can’t think of a single line of witty repartee and the situation cries out for it. Just shove him upright… Dazzler tells him they need to get out of there before the goons wake up. Does she know them? he asks. She admits that they were after the X-Men, and now they want her too. Long story.
He identifies her as Alison Blaire, the Dazzler. Alison is flattered he’s heard of her. But how? She’s just moved here and this is her second gig, well, it will be when she gets there. She’s a mutant, just not X-Men material. She can make lights, even use them to stun people, but she’s really a singer and she has to be at the Hellfire Club in eight minutes, she realizes.
Tony wonders at this. Things like this keep happening. It can’t just be coincidence; it has to be part of a plan, but whose plan? People have been helping him since the beginning of this quest, but so far he hasn’t told any of them who he really is. They’d have thought him crazy, but Alison’s still a kid. Probably still believes in fairy tales. What if he just tells her the truth?
And so he does. He tells her he’s Iron Man from the future and is wearing armor from his past. It’s not as powerful, so he gets tired. But he needs to do the job fast or the world will be destroyed… He could use her help. Alison agrees, but can it wait until after she’s done with the job? She’s down to her last 23 cent.
Iron Man agrees. Someone at the Hellfire Club has a device he needs. His friend Tony will meet her outside and tell her what to do.
He wonders whether he should have scruples about using the still inexperienced Dazzler. Still, fate dropped her in his path.
Soon Tony meets her in his civvies and pours on the charm. Unimpressed, Alison silently notes that he’s old and looks sick. She wonders whether they will let him in with his ratty clothes. He tells her he is a member. He asks her to sing. To dazzle and distract the audience. Iron Man will do the rest. Together they enter.
The moment they are in, Tony reaches for a drink. He’s older now and looks like hell, but he figures the booze will help explain his appearance and the bad suit.
Amidst the crowd are Sebastian Shaw and Donald Pierce, who make fun of Stark and his alcoholism. They note that Dazzler is there. The men should have abducted her but, if she was with Stark, the mercs probably backed off. Pierce wonders how that little tramp knows Stark. How do any of them know him? Shaw scoffs. He may have lost his fashion sense at the bottom of a bottle but, apparently, he still has what women want. So they just find another way to “recruit” her, Pierce decides.
Pierce greets Stark and asks to be introduced to Dazzler. He shows her where she can set up. Nervously, Alison hopes this is her big break.
The band begins to play and her voice soars. Soft lights begin to play around her, flashing off her face and jewelry. After several sets, everyone, guests and even servants, have wandered in to see the show.
Tony admits that she has star quality, even back then. He almost hates to leave the party, but does. His tracer leads him to a sub basement area. Soon his luck runs out as the Hellfire guards receive an intruder alert. Hearing them, Tony changes to the Iron Man suit.
Upstairs, Dazzler is finishing her concert and wonders where Tony is.
Donald Pierce figures that maybe they can get Dazzler without violence, since she is so naïve. He praises her concert and tells her he’d like to make her an offer after the party. He is interrupted by an alert and learns Iron Man is in the armory. Dazzler figures something is wrong and follows.
Downstairs, the armored guards attack Iron Man and Tony now realizes they belong to the Hellfire Club. He shoots them, then gets into the armory where he finds a panel of Doom’s time machine plugged in.
As he makes a grab for it, he is attacked by Pierce’s personal energy siphon. Tony realizes that Pierce is the brain behind the armored suits. Of course he’d want to study Doom’s micro circuit…
Pierce hits Stark, announcing that this is his lucky day. He calls the guards to his workshop and looks forward to unmasking Iron Man.
That moment, Dazzler comes to the rescue. Falling equipment creates the noise to fuel her lights. She stuns Pierce.
She runs to Iron Man’s side and urges him to get up. Iron Man tells her weakly his armor is drained. He needs to plug it in somewhere and recharge it. He recalls there are solar cells and asks her to make full spectrum light and focus it on his armor. Needing noise, she smashes the empty armors, then shoots a gun. She tries to think of sunlight and begins to charge the armor. When it’s up to 85 percent, she finds she is out of noise and therefore out of power.
That moment, guards arrive. Iron Man fires a repulsor at them and orders Dazzler to keep the sunlight coming, as well as grab the cylinder behind her and stuff it in the duffle. With that done, he flies away with her.
Ali worries they’ll call the cops. Iron Man points out they won’t want them nosing around in their basement. What about that old guy, Tony? Alison asks. Iron Man asks her not to worry. He is already gone.
They land on a deserted street and Iron Man praises her for keeping her head. Thanks to her, he is one step closer to saving the world. Yeah, but she doesn’t think the Hellfire Club will recommend her to their friends, she remarks. So much for paying the rent. No problem, he replies and gives her some money. Her fee for tonight’s engagement, he tells her. Cash left over from his tussle with the Tinkerer, he thinks to himself.
She thanks him and asks how he knew about the sunlight thing. He reminds her he is from the future. In the next few years, she is going to find she can do lots of things she thought were impossible.
Will she be a star? Dazzler asks. More than a star, he assures her. She’s barely begun to tap her potential. And what she does, she is going to be amazing! Now go on inside. She walks to her apartment. Iron Man suggests she not completely write off working with the X-Men. He thinks she’s going to be their kind of woman.
As he focuses on his next step, he is suddenly hit by an electric field and stunned, courtesy of Sebastian Shaw, who takes away his bag. Taking out the time machine parts, Shaw announces that his collection is complete…
Tony Stark sees his friends: Pepper Potts, Rhodey, Thor, Steve Rogers… They are alive! he realizes. No, Pepper corrects him. They are still dead. Before his eyes, they all begin to burn as they remind him everyone on Earth burned and it was his fault.
And he cannot change it, Reed Richards reminds him. The timeline… How many times have they discussed the potential ramifications of amending the timeline?
He will fail! Dark Phoenix announces. And they will burn!
Iron Man awakes screaming and still tied up, thanks to Sebastian Shaw, who tells him not to pass out again. He needs him later. Iron Man is going to help the Hellfire Club change the future…
Iron Man recognizes Shaw and remembers he hit him after he said goodbye to Dazzler. And now he’s put together the majority of Doom’s time machine from the segments Iron Man gathered. He thought it was Donald Pierce who was studying the part of the time machine. Maybe if he’s lucky, Shaw is as stupid as his somewhat fey dress sense and he doesn’t know what the time machine…
Shaw hits him. The time machine! he spells out. Does he think he allows Pierce his little experiments with impunity? He is always one step ahead of him. The Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle is his for a reason! He was looking for scattered parts of Doom’s time machine and Iron Man just happens to come here carrying all the pieces? That almost seems like something preordained.
Iron Man realizes he dresses stupider than he is. Shame.
There is a booming noise from above. They know how to throw a party, Iron Man jokes. Damn them! Shaw mutters. The X-Men have won this battle, he announces, but if Iron Man activates the time machine, the war will be over very quickly indeed. He can make sure Charles Xavier is never even born! He can mold the world in the Hellfire Club’s image! Sideburns and ponytails all around, huh? Iron Man jokes.
Shaw warns him he cannot survive another shock of this magnitude and orders him to activate the time machine. Iron Man agrees if he is let down. Shaw complies, warning him he has incapacitated him before and can do it again. Don’t cross him!
Iron Man walks towards the time machine. He realizes Shaw is right. He can barely stand. Still weak from whatever Birch did to him. He doesn’t need to stand, Iron Man figures, just activate the machine with the preset coordinates taking him back to Birch’s base.
The power builds up. While Shaw is entranced, Iron Man hits him in the face. Looking at the glowing panel, Iron Man realizes he thought he’d come to this moment filled with anger, justice or the need for redemption. But right here and now? He just wants his friends back!
But the next moment, everything goes dark. The building’s power supply has been cut. Shaw attacks him, demanding he turn the power back on. Iron Man feebly jokes he’s power mad. As Shaw hits him, Iron Man thinks what a lame sub-James Bond line to go out on. But then both hear a snikt and, as Wolverine attacks Shaw, Iron Man knows it might not be him who’s dying today.
Wolverine threatens Shaw with his claws. He told Cyke he hates leaving a fight half finished. And then he heard all this shouting here. And look what it led him to. He slashes at Shaw, continuing that he just dropped on his tubbo friend Leland by the way. His Inner Circle‘s gonna be a whole lot thinner without him in it.
“Animal!” Shaw cries and hits him. Wolverine will find that any attack on him is returned ten-fold. He reminds him he absorbs kinetic energy and turns it into raw strength. If he has killed Harry Leland, then both Shaw and the Hellfire Club owe him vengeance and bloody retribution! He keeps on hitting Wolverine straight out of the room.
Iron Man uses the chance and emits a last weak repulsor blast against Shaw, who grabs him and throws him upward through the ceiling, into the party room.
Iron Man lands at the feet of Colossus, who believes him to be another foe. Iron Man tries to identify himself, but already Colossus’ fist is raised and about to be brought down. Miraculously, Tony is saved by a quick teleport courtesy of Nightcrawler, who has recognized him.
Iron Man moans he feels like the morning after one of Tony Stark’s penthouse parties. Teleporting with him seems to have that effect, Kurt agrees, but he thought better a dicky tum than Colossus taking his head off. Has he arrived to help them? Nightcrawler asks.
That moment, the lights return. Back-up generator has kicked in, Iron Man realizes. That means the time machine will be activated again and calibrated to take him back to Birch’s base. Kurt Wagner… another dead hero he’s run into. He can’t save him, he thinks. He thanks him and leaves.
He runs inside again and sees Cyclops running through the hallways. Cyclops, the final of the faces on Birch’s display. It was inevitable he encounter him.
“Jean!” Cyclops cries and Iron Man stiffens as he sees the redheaded woman stepping towards Cyclops. Dark Phoenix, Iron Man mutters. She turns towards him. What did he say? she asks sharply. He shouldn’t be here, Jean announces.
Cyclops interrupts. He’s been searching for her all over. Is she all right? Mastermind was up here… Is he? Still controlling her? No, she… took care of him, Jean announces ominously and walks away from him.
Scott shouts after her to wait. Please let him help! He’s losing her, he announces helplessly. The woman he loves, and he is powerless to save her…
Iron Man recalls Reed Richards’ words about not being able to change time. He knows, but he’s Tony *%$* Stark! When has he ever listened to other scientists telling him what can and can’t be done? Listen to him! he urges Scott. Nothing is inevitable. His actions can still decide this! Does he love her? She doesn’t have to change! He can save her! Iron Man can save them. How does he know… Cyclops begins but, that moment, Colossus cries out that he can hear police sirens. They have to go!
Running up the stairs, Tony hopes Scott can save Jean from the Phoenix. Maybe she never changed and there is no power for Birch to use. He’s in danger of changing the past… changing everything! And he doesn’t care anymore. Just get to that time machine and pray that Shaw hasn’t--
Shaw hasn’t. He’s still busy fighting Wolverine, who is joined by Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus, the latter of whom tosses Shaw out of the window. Iron Man stops for a moment to watch the X-Men. They are so young! The uncanny X-Men… They were amazing!
Colossus jokes that high society dining may not be for Wolverine, who agrees. Iron Man plans to leave but suddenly finds that some force is levitating him, taking him down to the time machine.
Phoenix stands there waiting. This, she points to the machine, is connected to her. So is he. The Phoenix can feel it. How? Iron Man says he doesn’t want to hurt her. He just has to change things, save people! Just let him go through the portal, please!
The Phoenix is an elemental part of the universe, she announces, a being of space and time. He shouldn’t be here! With barely a gesture, she takes control of all the pieces he has fought so hard to collect and destroys them. With a red light glowing in her eyes, she announces she has to go now. Scott is looking for her. It… has to begin. Some things are inevitable.
You too will fail, are the words Iron Man remembers as he stares at the remnants of the time machine.