Warren “Angel” Worthington III battles an infernal enemy in mid-air… until the injured mutant plunges headlong to the ground.
“… And many around them shall stumble and fall and be broken and be snared and be taken and they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness…”
Sitting in a chair, an elderly woman, named Josie, is reading to her little grandson from the Book of Isaiah. The kid, bored to death, asks his grandma to get to that battle she told him about. He remarks that this Gabriel cat sounds cool, the way he booted Lucifer out of the kingdom and all.
The old lady agrees; what a battle it must have been! She tells her grandson, Eric, to imagine the flurry of wings, the flash of swords… Suddenly, she gets herself together and exclaims that they must continue with Isaiah. As Josie resumes her reading, Eric can’t help but think this is boring. He also realizes his grandma’s got wrinkles on her wrinkles. If he were her, he’d kill himself!
Josie turns to him and asks him if he’s listening. Acting all saintly, Eric assures her he is and pretends to find it very inspiring. Josie agrees and returns to her reading. Eric has other concerns, though: he suddenly spots his grandma’s purse in the pocket of her dress. Eric realizes this is holy temptation, placed right in the path of his eyeballs: it must be a sign! He asks the Lord to forgive him – he shall not resist, may he burn in Hell, amen – and slowly slips his hand in his grandma’s pocket and extracts her purse.
Much to Eric’s horror, though, his grandma suddenly feels his hand. “What’s this?” she mumbles just as Eric barely manages to conceal the purse behind his back. Eric nervously tells her it’s nothing: she was just so moving he had to hold her hand! Grandma is very pleased to hear this by her ‘darling angel’: he did understand the good book! “Sure, gramma!” Eric replies and argues that the best part of the Bible is where everyone begats everyone else!
“Oh you! So naughty…” Josie giggles, holding Eric’s hand while Eric thinks that her gross old paw won’t let go of him! “How about a kiss to grand-mama?” Josie suggests while leaning closer to him. The boy mumbles that he’s got to run and instantly flees, slamming the front door behind him.
Josie suddenly smells something from the kitchen and rushes there, only to discover she forgot the toast in the toaster! In vain she tries to open the toaster, as its door has stuck shut. When she finally manages opening it, the toaster spits two, now burnt, slices of toast right at her, causing her to exclaim “Oh, goodness!” Holding the plug of the toast and examining it, she considers the possibility that maybe the plug is wrong for the outlet. However, when she uses the plug to the mixer, she’s surprised to see that the mixer is also shaking rather violently.
The elderly woman thinks that kitchens are so dangerous these days. As she goes to her back yard – all the while complaining about her arthritis – she is exhilarated to see it’s a lovely day. She approaches her apple tree and spots an apple that she really wants to eat. She then places a bucket on top of a box and gets on top of it, in order to reach the apple. However, in vain she stretches as the branch is out of her reach.
“Josie!” a female neighbor screams upon seeing Josie standing on the bucket. She quickly rushes to Josie’s side and forces her to get down, arguing that Josie could fall down, get a sunstroke, have a heart attack, break a leg: she’s too old! She tells Josie to get back in the house and not take such chances. “But… I just wanted…” poor Josie mumbles as she is escorted back in the house.
Left alone in her living room, Josie thinks that it’s nice to have a neighbor who cares but… She stops thinking about that, feeling rather tired and decides to watch some TV. Josie turns it on while examining her needle-point sketch – depicting several types of fruit – thinking that it needs something… but what? She has been trying for years to finish it but realizes she probably never will – maybe tomorrow…
Suddenly, she remembers that she needs bread and thinks she’d better go to the store. However, the newscaster is reporting nothing but death, chaos, murder, causing Josie to reconsider her decision and decide to best stay inside.
As she examines herself in the mirror, Josie wonders if she always had so many lines in her face. She bitterly discovers she looks like a roadmap. She also wonders about that pain she now has: arthritis or it could it be… cancer? She reaches into her pocket to find her pain pills only to discover her purse is gone. She realizes Eric must have stolen it from her – the stupid, fat, old Grandma.
On the brink of despair, Josie enters her garage and gets into her car, wishing she could just leave. Sometimes, when she looks into her own eyes, she remembers… When she was young… Smooth skin… No pain… How she loved to dance and drive and flirt… She was so pretty… And Bill! What a thrill when she met him – how they flirted! She even remembers her polka-dot dress…Josie realizes she hasn’t driven in years… everyone says she’s too old… but it would be so easy… just turn the key and go! She’s ready to do so but realizes it’s so hard; she’ll never get out of the garage.
Suddenly, she sees an image in the car mirror, a reflection from the garage windows – it’s a falling angel! A vision! “Oh… oh, now,” she exclaims as she realizes in horror she’s seeing things, being an old, senile… “My life might as well be over” she finally proclaims. “I’m ready” she adds, ready to drive, perhaps one last time. And just then, a bang is heard.
Josie wonders what that was. Even though it’s dark in the garage, there’s suddenly so much swirling, white light out there. Josie goes out – floating feathers all around – only to see Angel lying half-naked, injured and unconscious in her back yard! Stunned, she wonders if she’s died and gone to her reward: she’s been sent an angel!
Suddenly, Josie fears the ‘angel’ may be dead but as she approaches him, she finds out that he is alive. Looking at her hands, an enraptured Josie realizes she’s touched an angel! “Battle… losing… Mephisto…” a delirious Warren mutters. Josie gathers from his words that he was up in the sky: he was in Heaven and he fell from some great battle! She wonders if it could be the battle the Bible tells of but then realizes that battle was too long ago. In agony, she wonders what’s wrong in heaven. “My feathers… must have them all!” Warren mumbles, not fully conscious yet. Eager to satisfy the angel’s will, Josie starts chasing around for all the missing feathers.
A little bit later, Warren lays, face-front, to Josie’s bed. Josie has collected all the missing feathers and hopes this glue recipe she has prepared is right; she worked on it last Christmas. Josie decides to stick the feathers on slowly, one at a time. Overwhelmed by the beauty of Warren’s feathers, she wishes she could have one. Still, she remembers the Angel said he needed them all. However, Josie can’t resist the temptation and puts a feather in her pocket, hoping that Angel won’t miss this one.
Still delirious, Warren mumbles about the others… the Beast… “The Beast! Could it be?” Josie wonders, recalling the golden-eyed Beast of the Apocalypse, Revelations 13:1: the Beast with ten horns! Josie realizes that this poor angel may have to get back and help save the kingdom of the Lord. She decides to hurry up with gluing the feathers: even her arthritis pain is now gone!
Josie then goes to the kitchen, wondering what angels eat; what if he doesn’t eat meat?! She decides it’s better if she just gives him everything and prepares all sorts of food for him. As she carries the tray with the food, she sees a bird in the living room – a bird that somehow got into the house. Josie gently guides the bird towards the window and sees it off as it flies away. She then realizes she’s stepping on her fruit sketch. As she looks at it, she realizes it really needs something to tie it together. In a flash of epiphany, she sketches a pedicle of leaves framing the fruit: that does it!
Josie enters the bedroom, wondering if the Angel is asleep. She starts shivering; it’s a miracle! She – poor old Josephina – with an angel in her bed! She wishes Bill were alive to see this. Holding the feather she “stole” from Angel, she realizes she shouldn’t have done that and glues it back on Warren. Josie then urges him to wake up; he must eat…
Warren slowly opens his eyes. He realizes his wings are intact. He looks at Josie and smiles at her. He then gets up. Josie tells him to wait; he can’t go yet; he must eat something. “Please?” she says as she presents him with the tray. Warren picks an apple from the tray and kisses Josie’s right cheek. “Goodness gracious!” she exclaims. She mumbles that he’s welcome… come back anytime! As Warren gets out in the back yard, Josie can’t believe she has been kissed by an angel!
Josie watches Warren fly away. As she walks into the kitchen, the song “Get Happy” can be heard. She tosses the toaster into the trash, exclaiming “Die, monster!” Putting fancy clothes, sunglasses, gloves and make-up on, she gets into her car and drives away into the neighborhood, a big smile plastered all over her face.
It’s a typical Atlanta summer night. The mutant known as Storm rides the jet stream south, thanks to her ability to control the weather. Ten miles above the earth – in the cold, clear air where only she can breathe – Ororo Munroe soars almost as fast as man’s machines can fly. She moves freely here, bending the stratospheric winds to her will, with minimal effect to the world below. On cue with the sunset, boomers and thunderstorms are trying their best to drown the place.
Somewhere else, someone is looking forward to Storm’s arrival. Tonight’s different; she senses that right off. A texture to the breeze as it rakes her skin, an essence that marks it as something more than natural, and wakes the huntress in her. She knows that arrogant witch, Storm, will be here soon… and the fun will begin.
Meanwhile, Ororo flies downwards, thinking that, in her time, she has been called a goddess. She’s actually a mutant. She leads the X-Men, a band of outlaw adventurers, although they are, in truth, what some people refer to as “super heroes.” Their charter is to protect this world and its people from any who would do them harm and, more importantly, seek out others like themselves, help them learn to use their extraordinary powers and then choose a lifepath that will endanger neither themselves nor society around them and if possible, benefit both. Ororo knows it’s a noble dream: would it were as easily done as said.
At the same time, the person Ororo is to rendezvous with is rather wryly thinking that the wind-rider is such a princess; a little miss perfect that makes the rest of them look like club-footed clods. And yet, she’s noticed a wild streak in Storm, that’s why she set their meeting here, in this nightclub, wanting to see if a stroll on the wicked, wild side will shake Storm’s precious serenity.
Ororo reaches the ground and enters the club. A woman at the entrance tells her she’s expected: table thirteen. As Ororo enters the dance floor, she notices there’s too much noise, while also detecting an undertone to the dancing crowd that makes her think she’s walking amidst a pride of hungry lions. She feels that, deep inside, she wants to react in kind; bear fangs and claws and show that she is also to be feared.
Suddenly, a man approaches her. “Lookin’ to party, sweets?” he suggests to her. “For a party, yes. But not you,” Ororo coldly rebuffs him. “Your loss,” the man replies. If she changes her mind, he’ll be waiting! Ororo notices that in superficial form – look and costume – she and the man appear much alike. After all, with her Mohawk hairstyle, leather vest, boots and spiked collar, Ororo isn’t that much different from the other extravagantly dressed partygoers. However, in substance, they are not alike at all. She wonders which is more disturbing: their similarities or their differences?
Going through several rooms, Ororo asks a waitress about table thirteen. The waitress points her at the next room, informing her that her sister’s already there. Puzzled, Ororo heads to the room. She has no sister… but then, how was the waitress to know that the woman she referred to… is a metamorph?!
“Mystique?!” Ororo exclaims in shock, upon seeing Raven Darkholme waiting for her in table thirteen, bearing Ororo’s face, only with shorter, spiky hair and red eyes. Mystique hears a loud thunder outside, louder than the band. She discerns a flash of embarrassed anger on Storm’s face. Got to her! Raven realizes in satisfaction. She believes this is the least Storm should have expected.
Mystique offers Storm a seat. “Ororo… surely you didn’t expect me to appear in public wearing my own face?” Mystique remarks, realizing Ororo’s shock. Being the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Mystique is an internationally notorious terrorist; thus, she thought this camouflage would avoid any… unpleasantness. She believes Ororo has nothing to fear. A truce exists between them; her safety is guaranteed. On that, she pledges her word of honor. “Assuming, of course, that word means anything” Ororo retorts.
Mystique compliments her on this comment; she thinks there’s hope for Storm yet! However, she tells Ororo that if it causes her such distress to wear her face, that’s easily remedied. Indeed, she instantly shapeshifts into Kitty Pryde and lights a cigarette! Furious, Storm demands that Mystique stops this! She can play with Ororo if she must but she should leave the child out of this! Amused, Raven realizes she must have struck a nerve and shapeshifts into another Ororo lookalike. Mystique notices that Storm masks her fury well and wonders how far she dares to go.
Storm struggles to retain her composure while actually venting her anger on the weather, initiating a downpour outside the club. She asks Mystique to get to the point. She summoned Ororo: why? “All in good time” a clearly amused Mystique replies and asks Ororo to control herself: she’s frightening the humans. And I must admit… not only them, she contemplates.
There is silence between the two of them, as Ororo pulls deep within herself to calm her rage and the tempest it spawned. However, it takes an effort she finds herself less and less willing to exert. Mystique, on the other hand, can behold the abyss in Storm’s eyes. She knows Storm is a vital, passionate woman and wonders how long she can deny her natural human emotions – what will happen when that volcano erupts?
Raven finally makes her question to Storm: where is Rogue? Rogue is her daughter, as much hers as if she were her own flesh and blood – not some pretend-protégé like Storm’s Pryde brat! Raven has been trying to contact Rogue for days at Xavier’s school… Storm explains that Rogue has run away. Mystique curses them all! She knew something had happened.
Ororo explains that Rogue had been under considerable – and increasing – strain lately. Professor Xavier believes it’s a re-manifestation of the psychic instability that prompted her to seek his aid. “Fat lot of good he’s done her” Mystique dismissively remarks, clenching her teeth. Ororo asks her if she could do better.
A scantily-clad waiter suddenly approaches them. “Freshen your drink? And how about you name your poison?” he provocatively asks them and refills Mystique’s glass. Mystique teasingly tells him that Storm will have hemlock. The young waiter reveals his ignorance, admitting he doesn’t know that brand. “Never mind,” an amused Mystique replies. She urges Storm to behold: superior service merits an appropriate recompense! Saying this, she passionately kisses the waiter.
Watching this, Ororo thinks that Raven is so free, so casual with her favors; giving and taking pleasure when and as she pleases, whereas Storm herself dares not. Mystique knows that – which is why she does it. Ororo thinks her own face is stone, whereas Mystique’s is quicksilver; filled with emotions that mean nothing. She wonders: which one of them is the better off?
Mystique finishes the kiss and slaps the waiter’s butt. “Delightful boy,” she tells Ororo as the waiter leaves the table. “Such a pity, my dear, you don’t know what you’re missing,” she adds. She then remembers there is a reason for their meeting, other than this game of one-upmanship: Rogue. Rogue stands falsely accused of murdering an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Mystique is working on clearing her but in the meantime a federal strike force is on her trail. In their possession is a weapon capable of stripping any super-being of his powers – perhaps, permanently.
Storm wonders how she knows this. Mystique explains she has her sources. “What are they?” Storm asks her. Raven believes she should know better than ask. However, she assures her they’re unimpeachable. Ororo asks her if she knows where Rogue is. Mystique presents her with a paper; a list of Rogue’s haunts. The most likely possibility is Caldecott County on the Mississippi, the place where Rogue was born. Realizing that Storm didn’t know, a satisfied Mystique remarks that everyone has his/her little secrets… or perhaps Rogue doesn’t trust them as much as they believe.
Ororo wonders why Mystique is telling her this; why involve the X-Men at all? Storm would have thought this a perfect opportunity for Mystique to win Rogue back. Is that not what she wants? “More than anything,” Mystique assures her. However, even if Raven succeeded, nothing would have changed. Rogue’s power will still be out of control and Mystique will still be unable to cure her. She admits that she thought of allowing the feds to catch Rogue and use the neutralizer on her. Rogue would be normal then, able at last to touch and be touched, to live an ordinary life.
Raven asks Storm is she can imagine being terrified to touch her own child because that touch means destruction, as that child absorbs its parent’s psyche. “Or imagine being afraid to touch anyone for that same reason,” she adds. She asks Storm is she could endure such an existence. Ororo contemplates that, in a sense, she does. However, she tells Mystique that she does not.
Raven admits she was tempted and still is. However, the device is untested. No one has the slightest notion of whether or not there are any side effects or how serious they might be; the risk might be too great. Moreover, she can’t do… not to Rogue. She doesn’t have the right to make that decision; it has to be Rogue is alone. So, she has decided to leave Rogue to Storm. She trusts Storm’s pleased: the X-Men win again! “And the price?” Storm asks. Higher than you dare suspect, witch! Mystique maliciously thinks. If looks could kill… Storm contemplates.
Mystique tells her to consider it a gift… from a mother… to her child. She then leaves the table, realizing that Storm won’t follow her. With each step Raven takes in the jammed dance floor, under the Christmas colored strobes she changes shape, color, gender, style, totally different from one heartbeat to the next.
Ororo thinks she should follow: Mystique stands among the X-Men’s deadliest foes. However, she can no more violate their truce than she can abandon Rogue, even though she knows it’s a trap. As she exits the club and rises in the air, she thinks that this is the price with the mantle of responsibility; once assumed, it forever threatens to destroy its possessor. Yet, if ever denied, that act destroys one’s soul. It’s a hard faith, but the only one Ororo knows to follow.
Inside the club, Mystique sees Destiny waiting at a corner table, elegant and beautiful as the first day they met. She beholds Destiny in the flesh, whereas Irene sees her in her mind’s eye. Rave has always wondered which of them is the more fortunate.
Rave approaches Irene in the guise of a young woman, with floral pants and a beehive. “Hiya, grannie!” she greets Irene and wonders whether she’s a wee bit old for this joint. “No more so than you… Mystique” Destiny coolly replies. “Curses, foiled again” Raven smiles as she sips a drink and resumes her true form. Irene reminds her she’s a precog; she “sees” the future. She knew when Mystique would rejoin her and in what incredibly outlandish form. She then asks Mystique if she warned Storm of her prescient vision that whoever goes to Rogue’s aid will suffer the fate meant for her. Mystique tells her not to be absurd; of course not! This was a perfect opportunity to both save her daughter and cripple her foremost enemies. How could Destiny have expected Mystique to pass it by? Besides, with her power, Irene must have known Raven’s intentions – yet, she did nothing to stop her.
Weeping, Destiny admits that Raven and Rogue mean more to her than Storm. She could not bear the thought of either of them being hurt; she was too cowardly. Raven assures her she’s no coward; she’s stronger by far than her, most times. And even if she were a coward, Raven wouldn’t cherish her any the less. As she wipes away Destiny’s tears, though, Raven senses deeper meanings to her words, a secret desperately hidden, and wonders if she should dare pry.
“Wheels within celestial wheels, Raven,” Destiny exclaims. By saving Rogue today, they may condemn her tomorrow. By condemning Storm, they may doom the X-Men and thereby save the world. Worse fates, worse outcomes, Raven remarks – can Destiny tell for sure? Irene agrees that nothing is certain until it happens.
Now bearing the guise of a charming older man in a suit, Raven suggests that Irene lets the future take care of itself. For the present, the two of them have more important concerns. She then grabs Irene and the two begin dancing on the dance floor, amidst the eccentric youths. Mystique thinks they’re both hunters – Storm and herself. But Storm hunts and fights solely to survive, whereas Mystique’s goal has always been to win. Challenging Mystique is like dueling the devil; no quarters asked and less given. And tonight, despite Destiny’s misgivings, Mystique feels that she’s won everything!