A city whose towers reach high for the sky. Streets with futuristic vehicles. And skating along the highways on a mission are Doug Ramsey, riding atop Warlock, who’s in the form of a skateboard. Once upon a time, this used to be New York. Now it’s simply called the City. The boys are cruising uptown where the “good” people live. Fantastic fairy tale towers gleaming five miles high. Linked by a spider-web network of skyways, this is the future and, at first glance, it is a dream come true.
Suddenly, they are followed by a pair of cops – here called administrators – in a car with an X-symbol. Both of them wear helmets and slinkier versions of the New Mutants outfit. They shout at Doug to stop. No can do, Doug shouts back while wondering whether they can swipe the uniform design. They fire at Doug and he asks Warlock to pour on the speed. Warlock blows a raspberry at the cops while Doug asks him to manifest a shield just in case. Suddenly, he reaches a road block. The cops anticipate the imminent capture, ticked off that Doug is wearing an Arbitrator’s uniform.
However, things turn out differently as Warlock shifts from a board to a flier and takes off The Arbitrators lose control of their vehicle and go off the road. On Doug’s order, Warlock saves them and their car and puts them down on the road. Maybe next time they should drive more carefully, Doug suggests.
The Arbitrators announce they are grateful, but they can’t just let them fly off. How are they gonna stop them? Doug asks. Check out the wall. They left a little something for uptown to remember them by. He sure hopes they get the message, said message being Humans are people too!
Xavier’s Mansion is now a museum called Heroes Plaza, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the great was so that Homo sapiens superior, mutantkind, could achieve its destiny as true masters of the Earth.
A guide announces that this was home to the two teams founded by Charles Xavier, the X-Men and the New Mutants. After Xavier was murdered at the hands of federal troops, the mantle of mutant leadership passed to his best friend and colleague, Magneto, the father of their society.
Among the statues of the fallen heroes is one of Danielle Moonstar. The true Dani, disguised with a cap and a jacket, critically stares at the statue, wishing she looked half as good in reality. She muses on how weird it is reading how you died. Weirder still, knowing it can’t happen unless Illyana shows up to return the four of them to their proper time. If that happens, should they let history take it proper course or try to change things? And if they do, who’s to say things won’t get worse than in this particular future?
Sam joins her, asking if she is ok. Sure, she replies sarcastically. They’ve lost half their team, may be trapped in the wrong time, in a utopia for people like them. What could be better? She’d always hoped that they’d all live happily ever after to a ripe old age. These plaques tell them most of them didn’t. She’d rather not have known.
Maybe that’s part of getting older, Sam suggests. Facing up to unpleasant truths kids get to hide from. Weirdest thing to him is that most everyone they’ve seen uptown is a mutant. Right, Dani replies bitterly. Everyone not wearing a slave tag. They are only human, and that’s less than nothing. Let’s roll, she orders. They have work to do.
A little later, she sneaks out of a hospital, loaded with stole supplies meant for the humans downtown. However, she is grabbed by two Arbitrators, who try to arrest her. As she struggles her jacket comes loose. Seeing her uniform underneath gives them pause, allowing her to use her spirit forms, manifesting their desires. That gives her enough time to run away to a hoverglider with Sam at the wheel. They race downtown but she finds she lost the medicine along with her jacket.
Uptown is breathtaking, a thing of beauty. Downtown is old. The basement, musty and dusty, forgotten and ignored. Streets shrouded in perpetual shadow, lined by the ruins of once proud skyscrapers, whose tallest towers don’t even come near to the lowest levels of uptown. Sam and Dani are about to land when they hear sirens. Arbitrators race by above them, clearly not interested in them but someone else. Sam wonders. In all the time they’ve been here, he’s never seen any Arbs downtown. He wonders what they are after.
The answer is two mutant children of human parents. The mother cries for her children to be returned, while her husband tries to hold her back, telling her this is for the best. As the Arbitrators jump into the flightcar with the kids, he promises that the parents’ stipend will be increased. She doesn’t want their bloodmoney, she wants her kids, the mother shouts and tries to reach for them. The arb swats her aside, making her fall to her death, or she would. But Cannonball flies up to reach her but, before he can, another being leaving a rainbow streak of light behind her in the sky and catches the woman.
Isn’t that a trademark of one of the Power Pack kids? Dani wonders. Yeah, the older girl, Julie Sam recalls. The Power girl catches the mother while Sam destroys several skycars, throwing the arbitrators into the last flying car. As a result, the car is overcrowded and the engines are straining. Sam suggests they lighten the load by handing over the prisoners. One Arbitrator warns him that he is interfering with officers of the law. Ain’t his law, Sam shoots back. Wouldn’t care if it was, cause it stinks! Now return those children or he’ll take them. The Arbitrators shout after him he will pay for this.
Sam returns the kids. While the mother is happy the father points out accusingly the cops will be back and they’ll find them, no matter where they run or hide. Sam reminds him he saved his family. He is not their enemy.
An elderly woman in a Power Pack costume tells him they can’t help it. To them, despite Sam’s kindness, he is one of the oppressors. Julie? he asks. She’s Katie Power, she corrects him, Julie’s younger sister. And he’s Sam Guthrie isn’t he? She hasn’t seen him in ages. Interesting how he hasn’t changed a bit. She flies off and Sam follows as Katie suggests he come with her and tells her his story. She loves stores.
The father glares after them. That stipend was just what he and Merisa needed, to find a decent place, decent clothes, decent food, to finally make something of their lives. It was their chance, too, not only the kids’ and they ruined it.
Uptown in the office of the Chief Arbitrators, the officers report the incidents of resistance. They were all caused by young people, ultra-powered mutants, mixing vandalism with petty theft.
He was that age once himself, the Chief Arbitrator states, and was too often tripped by his hot-headed nature. But he learned to control himself, the woman at his side, his partner states. Usually the hard way and at a fearful cost, he replies.
He asks the commander to visage the perpetrators. As the commander’s features flow like mercury, showing the faces of Sam, Dani, Doug, Warlock, Katie and the father, the Chief Arbitrator’s eyes narrow as he recognizes them. The elderly woman the commander adds is the renegade Kate Power. They’ve been after her for years, but never caught her.
Small wonder, replies his chief. She survived the Sentinels and was a hero of their revolution, until she turned against it. The last face is the sub whose children were the object of today’s culling raid. He’s provided them with a lead to the agitators’ whereabouts. A special strike force has already been assembled. The chief decides that he and his lady will accompany them. They must deal with this personally.
Meanwhile, miles below. Sam and Doug pass out supplies to the kids while Warlock entertains them with his grimaces. Dani and Kate watch. Dani grimly announces it’s like coming home to the reservation. If they weren’t here, the adults would have driven away the kids long ago. For all their efforts, this only takes care of today. What of tomorrow?
She talks as though she already knows the answer, Kate observes. She possesses the deathsight, Dani explains, the Valkyrie gift of sensing those about to die. Too many of these children will. Kate agrees. Malnutrition makes them weak and disease, abetted by poor sanitation and virtually nonexistent medical facilities does the rest. Or they are killed. Or they kill themselves. Dying is easy downtown. The community spectator sport.
But why? Dani demands angrily. There must be scores of mutants uptown whose powers could make a real difference. Easily, Kate agrees. But most of them simply don’t care. Why should they? a newcomer asks. Most of their friends and family don’t consider the people here even people, less than animals. They are the true humans and the subs merely their brutish subhuman forebears.
The three newcomers are teenagers dressed in a mix of New Mutants and Powerpack uniforms. The speaker is a handsome boy with angel wings. The kids immediately run to the newcomers like they are familiar. Kate introduces them as New Mutant Bratpack, named for her truest friends and companions of youth who fought most and hardest of all to defend the innocent, the helpless, the children.
The flyer introduces himself to a flattered Dani as Archangel and he admits that she’s lots prettier in person than her statue makes her out to be. While introductions are made, Kate talks about the great war. Out of that nightmare came downtown. Non-superpowered beings were still needed for the most menial and degrading tasks, but they were completely excluded from all other aspects of life uptown. As uptown grew higher, the gulf between societies became an abyss. These young ruffians are her attempt to bridge that gap.
Suddenly, there is an attack. The food truck becomes the victim of a controlled volcanic eruption. Arbitrators attack. Kate tries to run interference, allowing her kids to flee and Dani observes she seems to possess all the Power Pack’s abilities.
As Kate swings around for another attack, an Arb’s gun takes her out, so the New Mutants join the fray, with Dani shouting after the boys that they can’t go plowing into them half-cocked, the arbs have powers too!
However, another volvanic blast almost takes out Warlock. Cypher orders Warlock to merge with him, despite the risk to Doug. Cannonball is taken out by an adult Sunspot who tells Dani and Cypher two lives for their surrender. Dani yields.
It is spring. The fields are full of wildflowers. The young boy has never seen so many colors and the air is heady with their scent. A hawk circles lazily overhead, and he can hear a lark singing close by. He wants to lie in that field and listen to the buzzy bees go about their business and watch the clouds flow majestically by, their beauty inspiring his imagination to cast him higher than any bird, to the furthest reaches of space and time.
He laughs in wonderment and true joy, a strange and alien sound amidst the stifled sobs and prayers around him and papa’s hands tightens gently on his shoulder. Be brave, his father tells him. Show them you are not afraid. And the soldiers’ guns chatter, bullets fly. He hears screams. His family are hit. Death rushes towards him. His mind burns. Power he never dreamed existed comes alive, reaches out, the bullets meant for him seeming to move in slow motion. The simplest of matters to use this strange new ability to move them aside ,make them miss.
He is falling with his family into blessed eternal oblivion. Shot like them. Killed like them. Horrified, he claws out of the mass grave, his formerly black hair now white.
Magneto awakes. His memories are still vivid, every detail etched with acid. His power first manifested itself that morning. It saved him. Why couldn’t it do the same for his loved ones? He gets up to pour himself a drink. Sometimes, he wishes that he hadn’t struggled so hard.
Xavier’s school is empty with the New Mutants gone. Is he a fool for believing they are not dead and will some day return? Probably. Is his dream a harbinger of mutantkind’s eventual fate? Possibly. But will they be the victims or the executioners? He senses he has reached a crossroads. The Hellfire Club has invited him to join their Lords Cardinal as their White King. The idea is preposterous. They are villains, among the school’s deadliest foes. But then, so once was he. If they stand alone, they could be destroyed. If he accepts the alliance… they could be destroyed. Enraged he throws the glass against the mirror. The choice, the responsibility is his, but he doesn’t know what to do!
In the future, the New Mutants and Kate are stuck in a paralysis field. As two beings enter, Dani remarks they are about to meet the head honchos of this rathole. One of the Arbitrators warns her to watch her tongue. The Chief Arbitrator remarks that Danielle has called him far worse in her day, occasionally with good reason.
Shocked, the mutants recognize the Chief Arbitrators as adult versions of Roberto and Amara. Angrily, Dani shouts No! If they are in charge here, they have changed, because the Sunspot and Magma they knew would never be part of such a cruel and repressive society. Easy to condemn, he shoots back, when she doesn’t know what she is talking about.
There was a war, he reminisces. The bloodiest and most terrible in human history. If Magneto hadn’t forged an alliance between Xavier’s School and the Hellfire Club, mutantkind would have been exterminated. Sam refuses to believe that. Roberto doesn’t care. After the victory, many wanted the surviving humans to suffer the fate they’d planned for mutants, but the Lords Cardinal decided instead to be merciful. They provided them a place to live. Mutants built this city for themselves, why should they share the fruits of their power and labor?
If he has to ask, then there’s no point in telling him, Sam replies. They have downtown; if they live in squalor it’s by their choice, Roberto replies. They could prosper, if they wanted. But they’d rather despoil their homes and then blame mutants for their misery. What about their goons trying to kidnap little kids? Sam asks. Amara speaks up, explaining this was a “culling search.” Genetic scans determine those among the subs’ progeny with a strong mutant potential. They are fostered to homes uptown where their potential can be realized to its fullest extent. This is their way of maintaining the spirit and reality of Xavier’s school.
Nobody was ever kidnapped into Xavier’s! Doug shouts. As he recalls, Mr. Nobody, Roberto replies amused, Cannonball snatched Doug out of his home the night Warlock arrived. He wasn’t given much of a choice. They dragged Doug right into the team. Speaking of Warlock, where is he?
Beats him, Doug replies. Probably scared stiff and hiding from his dad, Magus. That’s why they are in this mess. Magus wants ‘Lock dead and he’s willing to go to any length to get him. Does Roberto remember? Or didn’t that happen in his past?
Meanwhile, unnoticed under Cypher’s feet, Warlock extrudes a molecule-thick strand and destroys a powercable beneath the floor. With the forcefield disrupted the mutant break out and fight.
But reinforcements show up. Kate destroys the window and intends to cover them while they flee. Dani refuses. They are strangers here; they wouldn’t know where to begin Kate’s work. She should leave and finish the job she started. Reluctantly, Kate leaves while the others are overpowered.
Roberto angrily accuses Dani of arrogance and stupidity. What right do they have to judge their society? They argue and Dani threatens what she’ll do him, once she gets her hands on his younger self. In their era, this future hasn’t happened yet. It can still be changed. And she’ll make sure it is.
Roberto and Amara decide that their psis will modify the New Mutants’ thoughts and beliefs, to bring me into harmony with their community. They’ll be able to live peaceful, productive, happy lives among them. And if they are returned to where they belong, they’ll believe this is the way human society should be. This may seem a horrible fate but, when it’s done, they’ll thank them for it.