In Manhattan Harbor and on part of Manhattan’s soil, rests an alien structure, reaching upward, impossibly high, above the buildings back toward the starts that spawned it. It sits atop the rubble of a building that once housed the organization known as X-Factor, formerly believed to be human beings dedicated to controlling and eradicating mutant elements from human society - but in reality a group dedicated to improving human / mutant relations and the lot of mutantkind. The men and women of X-Factor are mutants themselves, like Warren Worthington III, Bobby Drake and Hank McCoy, a.k.a. Archangel, Iceman and Beast, respectively.
‘Warren…there’s something Bobby and I have been meaning to talk to you about…something a bit delicate’ Hank tells his friend as he and bobby approach him. Bobby remarks that things always seem to be so nuts lately, that it seems like there is never a good time, before stating that months ago, when things started falling apart here, when everyone thought Warren was dead, they met a woman named Cressida Desford. This name sparks Warren’s interest, and he turns slightly to his teammates, ‘Cressy…’ he begins. ‘You…you mean you really do know her?’ Bobby enquires, before Warren asks them to tell him about it. ‘Very well’ the Beast begins.
Warren Worthington the Third a.k.a. Angel flies happily through the clouds, smiling. A voice can be heard singing: “If I had the wings of an angel…I’d fly over these prison walls…straight home to the arms of my mother…”, and darts are thrown at Angel - of course, not really Angel, but the screen which his happy face is projected on to. ‘Enjoying yourself, Arcade?’ Miss Locke enquires as she enters the room where the trouble-making Arcade is reclined in his chair, watching footage of Angel. ‘Tremendously, Miss Locke’ Arcade replies. Miss Locke points out that Arcade is tearing holes in the screen, to which Arcade replies ‘So? We’re on an expense account’, and throws more arrows at the screen, adding that their client - their extremely wealthy client - will pay for it.
Miss Locke tells Arcade that sometimes she thinks his problem is that he never spent any time behind prison walls, or in the arms of his mother. Arcade smiles and reminds Miss Locke that he doesn’t pay her to tell him what his problem is. ‘I pay other people to do that…and then I usually kill them’ he reminds her. Another woman suddenly enters the room, ‘Arcade…’ she calls out, and Arcade turns to her: ‘Well, speak of the devil! If it isn’t our lovely little piggybank, Miss Cressida Desford herself!’ Arcade exclaims. ‘Must you do that?’ Cressida asks. ‘What, kill my psychiatrists? No…but it’s such fun, so why not’ Arcade exclaims, before mocking psychiatrists. ‘I think she means the screen’ Miss Locke explains.
‘I mean the pictures of Warren…the Angel. Do you have to deface them like that?’ Cressida asks. ‘Not if you can think of a better way of defacing them’ Arcade grins, before telling Cressida - Cressy - not to be a hypocrite, and reminding her that she hired him to murder Mr Warren Worthless - he then corrects himself, Worthington III, for what he did when he founded that well known mutant-hunting organization, X-Factor, and then filled its good clean ranks with his fellow mutants - the X-Terminators. Images of Angel alongside Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman and the Beast appear projected on the screen. ‘Boy, who they think they’re following with those clever disguises is beyond me. But the general public can be so gullible!’ Arcade declares. Another image appears, and Arcade compares the mutants in their two different outfits and comments that they couldn’t look much more like the stalwarts of X-Factor.
Cressida announces that she thinks the public is beginning to catch on now, and holding a dart in his hand, Arcade agrees ‘At last…how could they not? With all the violent attacks on mutants lately…it begins to be pretty obvious that the mutants’ attackers and their defenders are turning up in the same places and the same number with surprising regularity…’, adding that it is amazing how some people can’t take a gentle hint until a brick falls on their heads. ‘If you say so’ Miss Locke replies, before Arcade tells Cressida that he wants to be certain they understand each other exactly: ‘Since angel died before I could deliver him to you I agree in his place, for the same price, to lure any two of his X-Factor cohorts into Murderworld, my traveling death maze - and kill them’ Arcade states.
‘I…I…I’m not a petty woman, or a vindictive one…but what happens when…what his friends did when they joined him…was a betrayal of all mutants…a betrayal of the worst sort’ Cressida mumbles, looking to the floor. ‘You must tell me what you’d consider a betrayal of the “best sort”…a black tie betrayal?’ Arcade enquires. ‘Selling someone’s personal secrets to the National Enquirer? Cheating on your boyfriend only with someone he respects?’ Suddenly, a boy enters the darkened room. ‘Momma…’ the boy calls out. Cressida turns to him, ‘Dominic…’ she begins, before hugging him and asking him if he is ready to do what his Momma tells him. Arcade smiles, while Miss Locke frowns. ‘Let’s go see X-Factor!’ Cressida tells her son.
Meanwhile, at X-Factor’s headquarters, Iceman and the Beast are sitting on a sofa in the living room. Tabitha “Boom-Boom” Smith stands nearby, while Sally “Skids” Blevins sits across from them. Young Artie Maddicks sits on a chair, forlorn, he projects an image of Angel. ‘I don’t know, Hank. Things could get worse, you know’ Bobby remarks. Hank replies that he knows they could, ‘But Lord knows they haven’t been great lately’ Hank adds, reminding Bobby that they founded X-Factor to help mutants, that they thought they were being so clever, setting themselves up as a “mutant disposal unit”, so they could get mutants under their protection and teach them how to use their abilities, and somewhere along the line, helped create a national anti-mutant sentiment that’s so out-of-hand it’s like it’s become open season, or something.
‘I know…but establishing this cover was Warren’s idea…and he meant well…’ Bobby points out, to which Hank states that his reward for his good intentions was to pay the highest price of all. Suddenly, a small ball of flame bounces into the living room. ‘Hey, watch out!’ Bobby exclaims. ‘Don’t worry! I’ve got it!’ Sally calls out as she picks the flame up with her deflective field. ‘What did Rusty think he was doing, Skids?’ Bobby asks. Sally explains that Rusty was trying to make popcorn and his flame got a little out of hand. ‘Well, we know you kids need to practice using your talents, but please either do it more carefully or do it elsewhere’ Bobby exclaims. Artie projects an image of Jean, and someone calls out ‘Look, your upsetting Artie, too. He wishes Jean were here’.
‘Poor kid, I think he misses Warren, too…’ Bobby remarks as Artie projects another image of Angel. But Hank announces that he thinks there is more on Artie’s mind than just missing Angel, explaining that when the murdering vigilantes, the Marauders, caught up to Warren, he was trying to save Artie’s life. Hank goes over to Artie and announces that what he thinks they are seeing here is your classic “wallowing in guilt”. Iceman tells Artie that no one blames him, and that he needs to stop blaming himself. ‘Try to think of something else’ Iceman suggests. But, both he and Hank are confused when an image of a small boy with wings, not unlike Warren’s, appears, projected in Artie’s thoughts. The confusion continues, when the boy appears on the other side of the living room window. ‘Tell me I’m seeing things’ Iceman utters. ‘Hi!’ the boy with wings smiles, before flying away.
‘Where’d he go?’ Iceman asks, looking out the window, unaware that the boy is just hovering below their line of sight. ‘I’m not sure, but let’s get out there and see if we can find out!’ Hank exclaims. Iceman agrees, and suggests they use the alley door so that no one spots the X-Terminators actually leaving X-Factor’s office. Iceman opens the window and the Beast tells Sally and Tabby to stay here, and if Cyclops and Marvel Girl get back from their shopping trip, to tell them what happened. ‘There he is! Let’s stay with him!’ the Beast exclaims as they see the boy. Iceman forms and ice-sled and they ride it out the window, but Bobby explains that the boy is flying faster than he cam form the ice sled, and he doesn’t want to risk overusing his power. ‘Or you know what can happen…’ Iceman reminds the Beast. Sally and Artie stand at the window, and Sally exclaims that she hopes Beast and Iceman will be all right, while remarking that she doesn’t even know where they are going, to tell Scott and Jean.
The flying boy moves lower to the ground, and flies past some civilians. ‘Come on!’ he calls out, and Iceman and the Beast leap off the ice-sled, and run after the boy. ‘It’s a publicity stunt!’ someone calls out. ‘It’s mutant monsters chasing a cute little winged boy!’ someone else calls out. ‘Winged boy?’ someone asks. Nearby, Arcade is in disguise - blond hair and moustache, wide-brimmed hat, he uses a communicator to radio Miss Locke, informing her that the mice have passed checkpoint three and are still in hot pursuit of the cheese. Iceman and the Beast rush into the alleyway, following the boy. ‘I think he went through that door!’ Iceman remarks, and as they enter the run-down building, the Beast tells his friend that it crosses his mind that this chase has been a little too easy, and it makes him suspicious.
‘What do you suspect?’ Iceman asks. ‘That our cherubic playmate might just be leading us into a… trap’ Beast exclaims, as a door slams behind them, and he and Iceman find themselves in a large empty room. A voice calls out, ‘Welcome to Murderworld, your lives are now in our hands…and your own, of course. Please move away from the door’. Beast turns to Iceman and suggests that they get out of here. ‘Right’ Bobby agrees. ‘Wrong!’ he exclaims as flame throwers create bursts of flames that keep Iceman and the Beast away.
From the control room, Miss Locke continues to speak over the announcer: ‘I repeat, please do not linger by the door. Move deeper into the maze’ she orders. ‘How we doing?’ Arcade enquires as he enters the control room, removing his disguise. ‘They’re in the maze…but so is my son!’ Cressida announces. Arcade tells Cressida not to worry, for as long as he steers clear of the main action, nothing in there can hurt him. Arcade explains that the whole set up is computer controlled, that the systems won’t react to him. Looking at the monitors which display what is happening in the maze, Miss Locke informs Arcade that Iceman is concentrating his power at the source of the flame, that she thinks he might be beating it.
‘So give them the next step in the treatment’ Arcade smiles. ‘Very well’ Miss Locke complies, before speaking into the communicator, ‘Gentleman, prepare yourselves for phase two’ she tells them, and Iceman and the Beast duck for cover as lasers are fired from the wall.
Shown with flashback images in Cressida’s memory:
Cressida frowns, and thinks to herself that she was so sure when she started, that this was the right thing - but wishes she could be as positive now. Her mind wanders back, reminding herself that there was a time when she never had any doubts, never any regrets. She remembers life at the boarding school which was across the lake from the boys’ prep. Cressida decides that she may have been backward for her age, for she didn’t have any boyfriends or close girlfriends, for that matter, but she had consolations - her secret hobbies, her daydreams. Superhero posters lined her dorm room walls. She was ordinary - rich, but ordinary, and obsessed with people who weren’t. Other girls had their rock idols and sports heroes, while Cressida had super heroes, daydreams of mutant lovers.
And then one day, she was alone, as always, and realized there was someone at the school across the lake who was probably even more concerned than she was with learning at the age at which mutant abilities manifest themselves, and shoe secret life put hers to shame. She remembers looking out the window at night, and seeing the figure of an angel across the moonlight. She started reading a report on mutations by Professor Charles Xavier, and knew that she had to meet the boy across the lake.
Cressida later learned that all the girls wanted to know Warren Worthington III - because of his looks, because of his charm, because of his wealth. But she wanted to meet him because of the secret he’d managed to conceal from everyone but her. Eventually, Cressida did meet him, and Warren was so grateful to have someone to share his worrisome problem with. That nature eventually took its course - and they became intimate. But, by the time she found out that her association with Warren caused certain changes in her body as well, Warren was gone, transferred to some even more private school in upstate New York. Cressida had to live alone with her disgrace, telling her parents she couldn’t know for certain who the father was - and never even trying to let Warren know. But, she didn’t care, Dominic was the best thing that ever happened to her, and she didn’t want to share him with anyone.
‘How could Warren have done it? How could he and his friends have created an organization to threaten the lives of mutants…the lives of mutants’ friends and supporters…the lives of the children of mutants…the life of my little Dominic? They deserve to pay!’ Cressida decides, narrowing her eyes.
Down in the maze, lasers continue to fire at the Beast and Iceman. ‘What do you think, Hank?’ Bobby calls out. ‘I think we’d best keep dodging the blasts or we’re going to be French-fried!’ Hank replies. Bobby explains that he meant what strategy can they use. He suggests he could try icing over the blaster, but the way his power has been acting up lately, he is not sure it is safe to produce that much ice. As another laser blast narrowly misses them, Bobby decides that, nevertheless, they may lack an alternative. Round a corner, Dominic is flying through the maze and realizes that it sounds like the men are in trouble. ‘Mama told me to bring them here…but I don’t understand! What if someone gets hurt?’ the boy thinks to himself.
‘Careful! That one nearly got you!’ Iceman calls out to the Beast as another laser zaps towards them. ‘In order to get us both safely out of here, it may be necessary to take some chances’ Hank tells his friend, before asking Bobby to get him up to the projector. ’Okay, I’ll risk that. Then what?’ Bobby replies. Hank tells him to stand by, and adds that if his plan works, he shall shortly be needing a safety net. The laser continues to strike at Hank and Bobby’s feet, while Iceman creates a ladder of ice, ’Perfect!’ Hank exclaims as he climbs it, while Bobby tells him to be careful, reminding him that the laser projector can change its firing angle. ’True…but not nimbly enough to keep a bead on the agile little Beast!’ Hank replies, as the laser narrowly misses his head. ’I hope you’re right’ Bobby frowns as Hank continues to climb the ladder.
Back up in the control room, Miss Locke tells Arcade that it looks as though the heroes have found a way out of this one. ’Can’t let that happen now, can we?’ Arcade smiles, while Cressida exclaims ’They’re so close…’, and Arcade presses some buttons on the control panel, and replies that it is tantalizing, escape just within their grasp - when, suddenly, the floor opens up beneath Bobby, and he begins to fall downwards. ‘Yow! What happened to the floor?’ Bobby calls out, while Hank leaps up and grabs hold of the laser projector, but drops back towards the opening in the floor, only it closes as he lands. ‘Whoa!’ Hank exclaims as he has a near-miss with the laser, which forces him deeper into the maze. With the laser beam hot on his heels, the Beast has no choice but to carry on into the maze. Little Dominic is hovering nearby, ‘He lost his friend…I hope he’ll be all right’ he thinks to himself, before deciding that he better go see, so he flies onwards,
‘HEY!’ a voice calls out - it is Bobby, who has created a large web of ice, which has prevented him from falling further, he is high enough that he can bang on the trapdoor. He calls out to Hank, and tells him that if he is still up there, to pound on the floor so he knows he is all right. ‘Hank? Can you hear me?’ Bobby calls out, pounding on the trap door, but he gets no response.
Watching from the control room, Arcade remarks that he does so love this newest Murderworld of his, like a videogame - the longer the victim survives, the faster and deadlier the traps become. ‘They’ve fought nobly so far’ Cressida points out. ‘Ah…that nobility is part of the game. Each X-Terminator will take chances for his friend’s sake, he’d never take if he was alone, or they were still together. In trying to find and save each other, they get themselves killed’ Arcade explains. Suddenly, ‘Oh! Look!’ Cressida gasps when she sees her son flying near the laser projector. ‘In one of the rooms where the traps are active!’ she exclaims.
‘Mister! Mister! Listen! It’s me, Dominic!’ the boy calls out as he lands on the trap door. ‘Nice to meet you, Dominic. Come to gloat? You seem a little young for that’ Iceman calls out. ‘No! Listen. Wait. Your friend went away. I’ll find him and make him come back’ Dominic replies. ‘Are you nuts? That room you’re in is a death trap! Find Hank and stay with him!’ Bobby calls out, adding that he will find a way out of here, and then will find them both somehow. ‘Uh…okay. Bye’ Dominic calls out, as the laser projector turns in his direction.
However, in the control room, ‘Ms Desford! Don’t touch that switch!’ Arcade exclaims, but too late, as Cressida flicks a switch and replies ‘Are you joking? That laser was aiming at my son! I had to turn it off!’, to which Arcade goes over and turns the laser back on, telling Cressida that that had better be the last time. ‘I can’t be responsible for anything that happens in Murderworld if you start interfering…you got that, toots?’ he warns her. ‘But I’m paying -’ Cressida begins, but Arcade leers at her and exclaims ‘I said, you got that?’. ‘Oh - yes! At least let me use the loudspeaker to tell Dominic to come back here’ Cressida replies. Arcade tells Miss Locke to give Cressida the mike, and taking it, Cressida looks at the image of her son on the monitor and speaks through the announcer, she exclaims ‘Dominic Desford! This is your mother3 speaking! You get out of there and come to mama right now!’.
‘Sure, Mama. I will’ Dominic replies, but he announces that he firstly has to find the other man, or else something might hurt him, and with that, Dominic flies on through the maze of Murderworld. ‘Of all the times to be disobedient…’ Cressida mutters, before informing Arcade that she is going after her son, and that she expects him to make certain his high-tech chamber of horrors does not harm Dominic. As Cressida leaves the control room, Arcade replies that he will do what he can, while, beneath the trapdoor, Iceman maintains his position on the ice-web, and thinks to himself “This is your mother speaking…?”.
Down another corridor, Hank finds himself at tangled in many coils that have appeared before him. ‘Well, I certainly blundered into this! There are more of these things wrapping tighter every second!’ he thinks to himself. Suddenly, Dominic flies towards him and asks ‘Hey, mister, do you need help?’ Beast is surprised to see the kid and tells him to get back - he swats Dominic aside and tells him that it is for his own good. ‘If you get too close, these tentacles will be the death of you’ he tells him, before telling Dominic to stay out of the way - but the coils wrap around Hank even further. ‘But the cold man…’ Dominic begins. ‘I wish he could tell me…in person…his ice would…help!’
Dominic decides that he has to find the cold man, but as he turns around, his mother is there. ‘If you’re not too busy, young man, I’d like to have a word with you’ she exclaims, asking him why he didn’t go back to the control room when she called him. Dominic replies that the two men who followed him got into trouble, so he has to help them. ‘Those men were fooling you. They don’t need any help. And you shouldn’t have been talking to them in the first place. They’re bad men!’ Cressida exclaims, before telling her son to go. ‘But, Mama, I -’ Dominic begins, but Cressida isn’t interested, and tells her son once again to go.
Cressida turns to the Beast and tells him that she has a bone to pick with him. Hank isn’t able to respond as the coils continue to trouble him. ‘Just what do you think you’re doing, encouraging my son to play where he could get hurt…and alienating his affections?’ she demands. However, Iceman suddenly appears and sees Hank in trouble. ‘I’ll have you out of there in a second, buddy!’ Bobby calls out, as he freezes the coils in ice. ‘What are you doing?’ Cressida demands. Bobby explains that super-freezing the metal should make it brittle enough to shatter, before his friend has any more than a slight chill.
The Beast wheezes as he tries to catch his breath, while Bobby asks him how he is feeling. ‘Worried about…what the next…trap will be’ Hank replies, Suddenly, the floor begins to lower, with Bobby, Hank and Cressida on it. ‘Nothing we can do now but wait for it…’ Bobby points out. ‘You could have made it out of here…’ Hank points out, but Bobby replies ‘By running out on you? Get real’. Cressida is surprised, and calls out to them: ‘What is this? You’re both members of X-Factor, renowned mutant haters…so why are you showing concern for each other? You’re both mutants!’ Iceman turns to her, and exclaims ‘Well, pardon me, but do you have some problem with that? The man happens to be my friend!’ The Beast adds that they wouldn’t leave anyone to die in a place like this - or anyplace, for that matter. Bobby points out that truth in advertising hasn’t been one of X-Factor’s highest priorities.
This causes Cressida to tells them that it does harm mutants, and that they should think of the bigotry it spreads, that harms mutants, and the friends and relatives of mutants. She adds that she is afraid that it is her fault they are here, because she wanted to get back at X-Factor for what they did. ‘Why is it so personal to you. Are you a mutant?’ Bobby asks, the trio begin to sweat. ‘A mutant lover is more like it…and my son, Dominic…is the son of a mutant…the Angel’ Cressida announces. In the control booth, Arcade smiles and looks at Dominic while listening to the conversation. ‘Are you telling me that kid’s wings are real?’ Hank asks. ‘What, are you joking?’ Bobby enquires.
Cressida puts a hand to her face and grins, ‘Of course not! They’re mechanical…just a gimmick! My original plan was to lure Warren here…and I wanted to use a really spectacular, irresistible piece of bait’ she announces. Hank grabs Bobby when he sees his friend stumble. ‘Is it getting kind of warm in here…or is it just me?’ Bobby asks. Cressida explains that it must be the next trap, when suddenly, Arcade’s voice is heard over the communicator, ‘Hot enough for you in there? If it isn’t now, it soon will be’ he tells them. ‘Listen, pipsqueak, at least let the lady go! She’s paying you after all!’ the Beast calls out, but Arcade replies that he did warn her not to interfere, and reveals that she paid in advance.
Cressida is surprised, and tells the Beast and Iceman that she can’t believe they are thinking of her, after all she has put them through. She adds that she can see why they were Warren’s friends, as they are generous and sensitive, like he was. ‘I think that’s why, of all of them, he was the one I most wanted as the fa…uh, I mean…’ Cressida’s voice trails off as she stops herself from speaking further. ‘Are you telling me Warren wasn’t your only -’ Hank begins, but Cressida quickly replies that it was him, that it had to have been. Helping the ailing Bobby, Hank asks Cressida what makes her so sure. ‘Were any of the other…uh, suspects…concurrent?’ he enquires. Cressida reveals that right after Warren she also met the Mimic and the Sub-Mariner. ‘And they…we…uh…’ she begins. ‘Then either of them could have been -’ the Beast points out, but Cressida replies that a woman can sense these things. ‘Irresponsible flake…just Warren’s type’ Hank thinks to himself.
‘It’s getting hard to breathe…’ Cressida remarks, and watching on the monitor in the control booth, Dominic shouts ‘MAMA!’ and flies towards the console, to which Arcade tells him to get away from the equipment. ‘Mama if those men were friends of my Daddy, then I don’t want them to get hurt!’ Dominic calls out through the microphone. He adds that he doesn’t want his mother to get hurt, either, and exclaims ‘I’m not the one who got fooled by someone bad, Mama! You are!’, and while Arcade tries to pull Dominic away, the young boy tells his mother to let the men go, and make the bad man let them all go. Arcade smiles and asks Cressida what it is going to be. ‘I get paid, whatever you decide’ he adds.
‘Oh, heavens…abort the sequence, Arcade’ Cressida calls out. Bobby has reverted to his human form, the ice all around his body melted. ‘You’re the boss’ Arcade grins, as he cancels the trap, before informing everyone that the main computers are portable, and the rest of the tenement is going to blow up in ten minutes from now. ‘So don’t stick around trying to learn any of Murderworld’s secrets!’ Arcade suggests, before exclaiming ‘So long - and have a nice day!’ Dominic flies out of the control room, and Arcade remarks ‘Cute kid. Spunky’, while Miss Locke mutters that she wished the kid had been the target and not the client. ‘I hate kids’ she adds. Arcade agrees, while Dominic smiles and calls out for his mama.
Cressida tells the Beast and Iceman that she hopes there are no hard feelings, to which Hank replies that they will live, and suggests that although this may not be the best time to say so, but that if her son ever does show signs of being a mutant, that she should contact X-Factor. ‘If we can’t hep him, we can refer you to someone who will’. ‘All right’ Cressida replies, when suddenly, Dominic rushes in: ‘Mama!’ he calls out. ‘Baby!’ Cressida gushes as she takes her son in her arms. As Hank helps Bobby onwards, Bobby jokes “Melting…I’m melting…oh, what a world, what a world…”, to which Hank suggests that the heat in there affected Bobby’s brain. Arcade listens over the monitor as Cressida tells Dominic to put on his special jacket, the one that hides everything - because if anyone ever finds out that he really does have wings, they will be in trouble.
‘In any event, that’s the story’ the Beast tells Archangel. ‘Poor, poor Cressy’ Archangel replies, while Iceman tells him that Dominic seemed like a nice kid. ‘He is. He’s a terrific kid. But he’s not mine’ Archangel announces. He turns to face his friends and adds that the way things turned out, he wished Dominic were his son, as things would have been so much better. ‘Would you mind explaining that?’ the Beast asks. Warren tells Bobby and Hank that he is sorry they got mixed up in this, and is sorry they had to tangle with that lunatic, Arcade, but that Cressida can’t be held responsible for the things she does - or what she believes. ‘You mean her elevator doesn’t go all the way to the penthouse?’ Iceman asks. ‘You could put it that way if you want to be cruel’ Warren replies. ‘Oops’ Bobby mutters, while Archangel reveals that he has known about Cressy’s delusions for a long time, and explains that her doctors contacted him, he was hoping to hear that things had gotten better. ‘She does have some of her facts right’ Warren adds as he begins his story about Cressida.
Flashback images narrated by Archangel in the present
Cressida did go to the school across the lake from Warren when they were kids - before he even grew his wings, and for a while, they did make beautiful teacher-chaperoned music together - dancing at school proms. Cressida had a wicked crush on Warren, but he couldn’t compete with the passion she had for super heroes. Warren explains to Bobby and Hank that as far as he knows, though, he is the only one she ever met, except for the two of them.
Then, when Warren transferred schools and met Bobby, Hank, Jean and Scott, he lost touch with most of his old classmates, but he used to get a kick out of wondering how Cressy would react if she ever found out why he had to leave. It never occurred to Warren that Cressida had heard of the Angel and added him to her fantasy roster of dream dates.
After that, Warren and Cressida hardly ever say each other, and over the years, their only contact was the occasional Christmas and Birthday card - and one engraved invitation. Warren tells his friends that he will never forget how happy she looked that day, how sure, in spite of how young she was, that Derek Desford was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. Warren liked Derek as soon as he met him, and liked him even better that after he found out that Derek was a brilliant scientist, with degrees in genetics and biophysics, and that he was convinced that mutations were a benign phenomenon, destined to improve the lot of humankind.
Warren decides that it is no wonder that Cressida and Derek loved each other - they shared the same dream and obsession - and before long, they shared something else as well, another life to love. A little before Dominic was born, Warren’s identity became public, and after that, the Desfords couldn’t get enough of him. They took up as much of his time as he would let them - marveling, asking questions and listening. It seemed to them, that being able to fly, having wings, must be the most wonderful thing in the world. Warren never dreamed where that would lead them.
Shortly after, Dominic was born, and the Desfords adored their baby, but wished they could find a way of giving him wings, then they would be making little Dominic part of the brave new world. Warren has read Derek’s notes - he was very methodical, most of them were over Warren’s head. But, basically, the process involved cellular transplants from birds, splicing their genetic material with that of a human being. Derek decided to accelerate the process with carefully controlled exposure to that one force they know of that promotes mutation - nuclear radiation. Warren knows what they had done was totally irresponsible, but they meant it for the best, and it seemed like it had worked - Dominic, still an infant, grew wings.
Warren thinks they were the happiest people he ever knew, but he only saw them once or twice after that. He tells Hank and Bobby that they know how busy his life got - how crazy things went for all mutants, but he assumed Cressida, Derek and little Dominic were doing okay - until he got the first letter from Cressy’s doctors. Derek had been wrong about what constituted a safe, controlled dose of radiation, and exposure to it gave him cancer, and Derek died from it. Dominic developed cancer, too. When Cressida realized what had happened - and what could happen, she couldn’t cope.
‘You’ve heard the fantasy she cooked up, and for someone in her kind of pain, it makes a certain kind of sense’ Warren tells his friends, adding that if Cressy never had a husband, then he never died of radiation poisoning, and if Dominic inherited his wings from his father, then he was never exposed to radiation, either. Hank asks how long the boy has, and turning away from his friends to look out over Ship, and towards the city, Warren replies that he doesn’t have long, but that at least Dominic doesn’t know. ‘Maybe, if there’s a miracle, he could live to see ten. I felt…responsible’ Warren adds, before revealing that he had been paying Dominic’s medical pills, and when everyone thought he was dead, the payments were stopped, which is why he supposes Cressida went completely over the edge. ‘But I’ll make sure they’re covered again…that Dominic’s taken care of…till it’s time for him to fly with better kind of angels than me’.