Four lost New Mutants, Sunspot, Magma, Karma and Wolfsbane, disbelieving stand in ruins in front of waned posters that announce most of their teammates and the X-Men have been terminated.
Illyana screwed up royally, Sunspot announces. He’s searched all over. They are the only ones there. Rahne can’t even pick up a hint of a familiar scent. Or a human one. They better face facts. The others are lost in space and time. And so are they!
Karma adds that Illyana was trying to teleport them home and in a sense she has. That’s the ruin of Xavier’s school!
Elsewhere, a computer announces that mutant intruders have been found in the forbidden zone. While the four wonder what happened, Sentinels identify them and three of them suddenly show up in front of the youngsters, intent on killing them.
Karma orders everyone to scatter. Wolfsbane quickly moves her aside before the Sentinel’s blast can kill her. Shan realize painfully that her power can do nothing here and she orders Rahne to save herself.
However, before the robot can kill the two girls, they see a familiar shape in the air. And, moments later, Cannonball propels through the Sentinel, destroying it.
Magma and Sunspot make short work of the second Sentinel whereas the third again is after Wolfsbane and Karma. Rahne tries to run and dodge it as fast as she can, but one of its giant steps wipe out her whole lead. Suddenly, a familiar voice orders them to hit the deck. It’s Dani Moonstar holding a big plasma rifle and riding on Brightwind. She fires at the Sentinel, managing to damage it and Magma finishes it off.
Canonball picks Sunspot and Magma up without a decent greeting while Mirage orders the other two girls to climb up behind her on Brightwind. If they are not long gone and undercover before the Sentinels scramble their tag team, they are dead!
Meanwhile in the present, Magneto, helped by some flying robot constructs, spends his time literally cleaning up the New Mutants’ mess in their rooms. Danielle is the worst, he remarks. Not filth, but clutter. She spent most of her life alone in the Rocky Mountains, he muses, that made her extremely self-reliant, but she still isn’t altogether comfortable with civilization or used to dealing with people. The last is a trait he shares.
On her desk he notices an unfinished letter to her parents. Should he send it as it is? Or leave it, so she can finish it when she returns?
Suddenly, one of his flying constructs sounds an intruder alert. They tangle up the intruder, Stevie Hunter. She doesn’t even listen to Magneto’s apology and angrily asks why he is scaring her like this. She is a member of this school’s faculty she reminds him. She was associated with it and Charles Xavier long before he took over as headmaster. She has every right to be there! And every right to be angry, he agrees and apologizes again.
Somewhat mollified, she asks what these critters are. He calls them widgets. Remote units he tinkered together. Animated by a broadcast beam generation of his natural magnetic power. This is a huge estate and he cannot be everywhere at the same time. They help him keep the house in order and maintain security.
In a school without students, that seems a lot of effort to no good purpose, she remarks. He replies the New Mutants will return. Is he sure? Stevie asks. He hopes, he… believes.
Is that important to him, she asks. Whatever promise he made to Charles, it died with the kids. His obligation is fulfilled. True, he assumed the duties because of a promise made to an old friend. But since then he has come to know the children and care for them. They have come to mean too much to him to abandon them.
In the future, the Sentinels in their headquarters scan for the mutants to no avail. But they are sure they have to leave their refuge sooner or later and then they will be eliminated.
The mutants have been brought to the heart of a mountain. Sam explains that a long time ago Larry Trask built this place when he recreated the Sentinels and turned them loose against the X-Men. After came Steven Lang with pretty much the same notion. When Lang died his “Project Armageddon” went into the dumpster too. The base was abandoned, pretty much forgotten. They figured it was wicked touch, turning it into their secret hideout.
Much like Edgar Allen Poe’s Purloined Letter, Dani adds while cleaning Brightwind. The prize that’s sought but never found, because it’s in plain sight, where nobody thinks to look.
Shan shivers with cold, the others look around and Magma heats up to provide some warmth. Cannonball admits the place used to be comfier when more of them used it. Just he and Dani left now. They’re used to living rough. Helps keep their edge sharp.
Amara criticizes this place is as dank and dark as a tomb. Maybe that’s what it is, judging by what they’ve seen of the world outside, Roberto remarks. Sam spoke of “us.” Who were they? Whatever happened to them? No one they know, Sam replies evasively. Sentinels nailed most. The rest are… safe…
He’ll believe it when he sees it, Roberto replies glumly. They ask him, nowhere is safe. Perhaps nowhen either. These robots are nothing compared to Magus. The laws of his mad Technarch society require that son duel father to the death for his right to live. Warlock tried to run. Magus wouldn’t let him. He followed Warlock to Earth…
… and the New Mutants into Limbo when Illyana teleported the lot of them away from his ambush in Manhattan, Sam completes his sentence. They ran again, back to Medieval Scotland, where they met and saved Robert the Bruce. Roberto wanted to stay. But they decided they couldn’t. They left. Which is when things got really screwy.
How does he know this? Bobby asks surprised. How does he think? Sam replies. He’s older and greyer but still Sam Guthrie. That caper is part of his memory. That is how he and Dani knew they were in trouble. He remembered the ambush from when he was a New Mutant.
What happened? Bobby asks. How, why did everything go wrong? Beats him, Sam admits. Anything bad in the world all of a sudden got blamed on mutants.
Sam’s narration accompanied by pictures:
America’s enemies had mutant spies and saboteurs, so people said, wrecking the American economy and defense. The draught of ‘86 was their fault and the winter of ‘90 and the great ‘quake. They were responsible for the decline in morale. They were a sign of God’s displeasure and so on. Be funny if it weren’t so tragic.
Finally, the government took action. ´They called on the sanctioned superteams: Freedom Force, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, to take out the outlaw outfits and characters. Bad guys would go to prison, the rest into protective custody which was prison by another name.
He guesses, given the tenor of the times, the other heroes thought this was for the best. The feds reactivated the Sentinels, supposedly to help out. Then came the double-cross. Sentinels went after all enhanced power beings and they didn’t take any prisoners. They told the world they were the guardians of the nation, charged with preserving the purity of the human gene pool. They’ve been fighting and killing each other ever since.
Rahne walks up to Dani who is still brushing Brightwind. Not turning around, Dani orders her to leave her be. Are they not still friends? Rahne asks. That was a different Danielle Moonstar, who lived in gentler days, comes the reply. She’s not her. That’s daft, Rahne insists. Angrily, Dani turns around and shouts at her, calling Rahne a foolish child. Hasn’t she heard a word Sam said?! To her, Rahne is dead! Dani held her in her arms, after the Sentinels struck her down. She was covered in Rahne’s blood. She felt the last beat of her heart, heard the last thought from her mind. She fought death for Rahne and lost! She won’t go through that again!
Rahne runs away, horrified. Hard lesson, Sam shrugs. Had to be learned. Of their generation of superbeings, he and Dani are pretty much it. All that’s left. They’ve buried friends, lovers, family. This is almost like a video game, no matter how hard they fight, they can’t win. Best they can manage is to hold their own. Trouble is, robots don’t get tired. They don’t get distracted. They never quit. So he guesses they will.
They’ve been gathering every mutant they could find from across the whole world and evacuating them on his girlfriend Lila Cheney’s Dyson Sphere on the other side of the galaxy. Whether on that artificial world or some other real one, they’ll resettle and start over.
Just cut and run, has that become the favorite solution to everything? Sunspot scoffs. If they stay, the war will gut the planet and nothing will be left for nobody, Sam retorts. That what he wants? He probably is right though. They are taking the coward’s road. But they don’t see any alternative. And they feel they’ve earned the right.
What about them, Karma asks. Without Illyana to take them home, they are trapped out of their proper time and lives. Where do they belong, where should they go?
Before Sam answers, the worldwide video net goes on. The Sentinels are making a broadcast. The Sentinels announce the capture of Lila Cheney, who is held at Manhattan prime facility pending final disposition of outstanding terminal sequence.
It’s a set-up, Sam states. Fact Lila’s still alive and that the Sentinels are telling them about it means they are using her as bait. What will they do? Roberto asks. Lila’s their teleporter, Sam replies. They need her to get them on and off the Dyson Sphere. She’s also the woman he loves. He won’t abandon her. He’s glad some things haven’t hanged, Roberto states, and the mutants offer their help.
Manhattan over the years has changed, now belonging solely to the Sentinels. Suddenly, streets buckle, worn and derelict structures collapse. An earthquake, upper-medium in the Richter scale. There were no pre-shocks, no warning of any tectonic activity. But then the tremor isn’t a wholly natural event. The crustal flaw, the potential was there, but nothing would have happened, had Magma not given the ground a shove.
With the earthquake as diversion Mirage, Karma (dressed in body armor) and Wolfsbane fly on Brightwind (passing the ruins of the Marvel building). Wolfsbane sets off to find Lila’s scent. Dani orders Karma to stay with Brightwind. She gives her a plasma rifle and orders her to fly top cover for Sam and Sunspot. She’ll go with Wolfsbane.
Why? Rahne asks. Working together like they did in the old days, won’t that be painful for her? Rahne asks. It’ll be hard for both of them, Dani replies, but it’s better.
Meanwhile Cannonball (having learned to control his rocket blast’s sound) carries Sunspot. “Stealth-Sam,” Bobby thinks, what a concept.
That moment, they are hit by an energy blast. Sam drops Roberto while he is out of control. Roberto sees the Sentinel who caught Sam; it is painted to resemble Captain America. It is ignoring Sunspot in favor of Cannonall. Sunspot hits the derelict ruin behind the Sentinel and it drops on the Sentinel.
Sam warns him the fight isn’t over. That’s a modular Sentinel, he explains. The limbs, head and torso are all capable of independent operation. Big deal, Roberto replies and fends off the attacking arm with a girder. However, the other arm attacks him from behind. Instinctively, he rolls with the attack, while the first arm captures him with a net.
Sorry he had to learn the hard way, Cannonball tells him as he clobbers the hand. He adds that the pieces keep coming at you from every side till the target’s worn down and overwhelmed. And they learn from each encounter, so you can’t beat them the same way twice.
Behind him, Karma on Brightwind shouts and fires at another Sentinel part. Sunspot’s injured but tells himself to get over it. When he was star striker for the Vilat School Thunderbolts, he played when he was hurt. This is no different. He kicks the remaining hand over to Sam, who smashes it into the ground.
Meanwhile, Wolfsbane and Mirage have infiltrated the Sentinels’ HQ, hidden by the cloaker fields built into Mirage’s uniform. They find Lila hanging captured in an energy net, flanked by two guarding Sentinels. Dani is suspicious at the Sentinels displaying her so openly. She smells a trap, but can’t see it.
She orders Rahne to grab Lila while she provides cover fire. Rahne quickly evades the Sentinels’ grip but wonders why the last robot is just standing there. Using her senses, she drops the Sentinel and orders Dani to ignore it. Lila is her target. She begs her to trust her as she used to in happier days: Shoot Lila!
Dani does so, and “Lila” is revealed a Sentinel using a cloaking device to appear as Lila. Whereas the real Lila is hidden in the other Sentinel shell. Rahne gets ready to escape with the exhausted Lila. No need for that the teleporter tells her and teleports them to Dani’s side. She apologizes for getting careless with the last jaunt, then teleports the three of them away before more Sentinels can attack.
They all meet up. What happens next? Amara asks. Hasn’t she guessed? Rahne asks pointedly. The others go to Lila’s world to join those they rescued while the New Mutants get left behind. She saw the truth in Dani’s thoughts when she was too busy fighting to hide them from her. They never meant to take the New Mutants with them. No, Sam replies simply.
The New Mutants are horrified and angry, feeling betrayed. Sam tells them they don’t understand. If they come with them, they won’t return to their proper time. They have to leave the mutants here, where Illyana can find them. So she can bring them safely home. That way the historical pattern is preserved. Change the past, who knows how it will affect the future, their present.
The past already has been changed, Rahne argues. Sam told them he knew where to find them and save them from the Sentinels, because he remembers being rescued, but he wasn’t with them. How can he remember something that in their timestream never happened? Suppose Illyana doesn’t come for them, Karma adds, what then?
She has to! Dani shouts in desperation. Abandoning Earth isn’t salvation, all they are doing is buying themselves time! The Sentinels won’t stop here. They will come after them. It may take years, even centuries. But they will come. Even if they destroy the Earth, nova the sun, they couldn’t stop them. The present is finished and the future as well. Their only hope lies in the past. They can change what was, but only if they stay!
And so they stay behind, wondering whether they did the right thing. Sunspot announces he is glad they are staying. He wants this chance to fight and try to make a better world. He is through with running, no matter how sensible. Better by far to risk everything and even perish in a noble cause.
Shan isn’t so certain. She has known death and war almost her whole life. She hoped in America she would at last know a little peace. Instead, she has stumbled into another war that may already have claimed the lives of her brother and sister.
Rahne hugs her, promising they are all right. They have to hope. Sunspot suggests they better get moving before the Sentinels find them.
Amara first lights up and creates a huge volcano in Manhattan as a little something for the Sentinels to remember them by.