Illyana Rasputin, partially covered in armor, desperately holds off a horde of demons with her back to a rock, brandishing her Soulsword. Time has no meaning in Limbo, so she has no idea how long she’s been fighting. It feels like an eternity. Perhaps it is.
Once she was absolute ruler here. Things have changed. A new order has arisen in Limbo, determined to cast her out or destroy her. She’s taken a terrible toll but, fast as she strikes down her foes, a score rises to take their place They look like her demons, creatures of living flesh and blood but they are not, for the Magus has infected them with the Transmode virus.
One of the demons touches her leg, infecting her in turn. She slashes her Soulsword through her leg. The magical weapon purges the contamination from her body, but her leg is now covered by eldritch armor, just like her left arm and shoulder. She wishes she knew where it came from and what it will mean when her whole body is covered. Perhaps this is where she finds out.
The next moment, she chokes out You! when she realizes who the rebellion’s leader is: her former right hand demon S’ym. Gloating, he tells her Magus made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, to hold the throne he always served. He informs her that he is now a techno-organic being, transforming whomever he touches as they do to whomever they touch. With each step, S’ym makes her realm more and more his. Sooner or later, it will be her turn. Unless she follows Belasco’s example – like daddy, like daughter – and runs away.
Illyana raises her sword. Belasco may have raised her and taught her the black arts, but he is no more her father than the man who sired her, she shouts. If anyone has earned that title, it’s Charles Xavier, and he wouldn’t run from anything!
Magik stabs her Soulsword, capable of disrupting any magical spell or entity, into the ground. Limbo is a realm forged and shaped by magic, so the very fabric of this unreal reality is suddenly, violently torn asunder.
Somewhere in this universe, a fringeworld, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. People come here to buy and sell anything and everything. There’s one city, a sprawling appendage to the much larger starport and that consists mostly of a bazaar which is always open and always busy. Of course, the real actions occurs in more intimate surroundings, in this case a bar called M’n’dens.
At the counter sits Charles Xavier, who informs his compatriots of the Starjammers, Corsair and Binary aka Carol Danvers, both dressed in hooded cloaks that there are no bounty hunters or officials of the law after them here.
Pleasant change for once, Corsair mutters and points out a middle-aged man dressed in a version of Scottish Clan clothing to Carol. He’s the owner of this place and nothing moves this rock without his knowledge or permission. If anyone has what they need… And if he doesn’t or turns them down? Carol asks. Ship won’t go much farther without major repairs, Chris Summers reminds her. They don’t make them and soon, they re done.
Corsair addresses the man, Haggard, who instantly recognizes them and remarks that the imperium wants them badly. Warrants all over. Biggest bounty anyone’s ever heard of. He of a mind to collect? Corsair asks challengingly. Not… today, comes the reply.
Some distance away at the counter Xavier tells his lover Lilandra that this room is covered by psi-dampers. He can maintain a passive scan to warn themselves and Corsair of any attack, but any attempt to probe deeper will set off alarms and some very nasty defenses. Lilandra states that Haggad is a careful man. That is why he has survived so long. They Starjammers should profit from his example.
She notes that she now counts herself as a member of that group. The expatriate empress assumes the role of a pirate and rebel? She’s almost tempted to let her sister keep the throne she stole from her.
She notices Xavier is withdrawn and asks what the matter is. He admits that he was thinking of the New Mutants. He knows he left them in good hands, but in a very real sense they are his children. He can’t help worrying.
She reminds him that she promised they will someday return him to Earth. That seems more and more like a dream, he sighs, a holy grail he’s lost like Lancelot did. Never to find again. There are times he feels like he’d pay any price, make any sacrifice to go home, and yet… there are far worse fates than exile with the woman he loves. He supposes he can only hope and pray he’s made he right decision leaving Magneto as headmaster of his school and accept the happiness he has rather than constantly yearn for what might never…
Startled, he interrupts his own sentence as he notices a familiar thoughtflash. Impossible! he shouts. He tells Lilandra to stay here. He’ll be back as soon as he can.
He runs through the bar, following the familiar thought pattern, surprised that she is far more afraid than angry. Uncharacteristic. He’d have expected the reverse. He finds the one he looks for, Illyana Rasputin in the bazaar on an auction block, about to be sold off. When Illyana angrily protests, the auctioneer shoots her with a minimal shockpulse of pleasure which immediately subdues her.
Xavier steps up, announcing she is not for sale. He is her patron. The auctioneer reacts with anger. Nobody gives him order on his stage. He shoots Xavier with the same weapon, pain this time instead of pleasure. Xavier realizes the weapon acts on the nervous system, but it can only affect him if he allows it. Despite the agony, he slugs the auctioneer. He cradles Illyana and lifts her up, but cybernetic police units capture the two of them with tentacles.
Luckily, that moment Binary makes her entrance and shoots them, making a most decided stand against slavery. As she is joined by Corsair, she asks if anyone else wants to give them an argument on that score. As the auctioneer recognizes them as Starjammers, he surprisingly does not. More policemen come and the Starjammers are teleported up to their skimmer hidden in a cave on the planet in answer to Corsair’s emergency signal.
Aboard Ch’od reminds them that a certain someone promised him on “scout’s honor,” whatever that is, to this once stay out of trouble. It wasn’t his fault, Corsair protests. Brought home souvenir? Hepzibah asks Charles. A rescue, Xavier replies. A… family matter. He did not mean to involve the Starjammers. He’s one of them, Raza reminds him. His every decision and act “involves” them.
Angrily, Corsair turns to Xavier and demands to know what this was about. That stunt of his may have botched their deal with Haggard. It sure as sin blew their cover! Lilandra orders him to hold his tongue. Charles had good reason. Corsair shouts back at her, reminding her that she is not Majestrix Shi’ar anymore.
Xavier explains that this is one of his students from Earth. Surprised, Chris Summers asks how she got here. He assumes she used her mutant power to teleport. Whatever, she needs immediate medical attention.
Sikorsky raises Illyana in a hover field and announces his preliminary bioscan shows that her hurts are mostly superficial. Prognosis hopeful. More than one can say for the rest of them, Corsair mutters.
The ship computer Waldo addresses Corsair, asking if he got him anything. Nothing, comes the reply. He orders Waldo to reinforce their screen. And be ready to lift the Skimmer at a moment’s notice. Word will spread. Even if the Imperial fleet hears nothing, bounty hunters are certain to.
Later, in the Starskimmer’s infirmary, Illyana awakes panicked, still believing she is on the auction block. Xavier calms her. When she realizes it’s him, she hugs him joyfully. Lilandra feels some pangs at this as she sees how happy Illyana and Charles are. She is sure she will lose him again to the students he loves. The life that gives his existence meaning and purpose. She could go back with him, Carol suggests. Duty rules her life as much as his, Lilandra replies. If she leaves her sister on the throne, the Shi’ar will revert to their aggressive, warlike ways. Blood will run between the stars and worlds without number will burn. She cannon leave while she has breath to stop Deathbird anymore than Charles will now stay.
Later, still at the dinner table, Illyana happily babbles. She enthuses how wonderful it is to see the Professor is really okay, as they only had Magneto’s word for it. She interrupts herself. Corsair wouldn’t know yet: he’s a granddad! Scott and Madelyne had a baby boy. She doesn’t know his name yet. They’re treating it like a state secret or something. His teammates congratulate Corsair and Charles states the world seems to have been very busy in his absence. You bet! Illyana agrees. Last she looked, the Mets were in the first place by miles. She hopes they go all the way and win the World Series! A little confused at this conversation, Corsair pardons his ignorance, as he’s been out of touch for a while… but who are these “Mets?”
Xavier returns the conversation to more serious matters. How is Magneto coping with his new responsibilities? Is all well at home? She wishes, Illyana replies sobered and relates how the Marauders massacred the Morlocks. When the X-Men tried to help, they got cut to pieces too.
The New Mutants were told to stay behind. But then, Karma was worried about her younger siblings, so Illyana teleported her to her apartment. The kids were gone. A booby-trap had been left in their place. A bomb. Illyana barely got them out. The other New Mutants came looking for them. In the tunnels, they were ambushed by Warlock’s father, Magus. He wanted his son’s life and theirs because they’d befriended Warlock.
Illyana teleported them to Limbo, figuring Magus couldn’t follow. But he did. He tore her realm apart. It felt like her body was being ripped to pieces. Inside her head, she couldn’t stop screaming.
They ran through time. First to the past, then the future but, along the way, they got separated down two different timestreams. She couldn’t help the others; she was too busy fighting for her life, because Magus had turned her demons in Limbo against her. She fought them as hard and long as she could. But it was no use. She hit limits. They had none. She was alone. They were an army. She figured better death than becoming Magus’s creature. She used her Soulsword and all her power to wipe Limbo clear of his influence. Her last thought was of the professor.
Only, she didn’t die. She hugs him, telling him how she found herself on this crazy world, where none of her powers would work and she thought she was done for. She was so scared until he came. Crying, she tells him she knows she screwed up. What they did was stupid and she’s sorry, but each time it seemed the right thing to do. They figured they had no alternative. She breaks down crying.
When she’s calmed down a bit, Lilandra asks what this means. What he always feared, Xavier replies, a covert war for mutant supremacy. From the images he perceives in Illyana’s memories, these Marauder are also mutants whose goal is apparently world domination.
Carol points out that she thought he couldn’t read Illyana’s mind. Charles realizes she is right. In the past, he couldn’t, but her daemonic psi-blocks are gone. Does that mean she is finally free of the sorcerer Belasco’s influence? Lilandra wonders. He wishes that were so, Xavier admits, but fears it isn’t. It is more as though Illyana’s psyche has been split in half, much as she says Limbo was. This Illyana Rasputin may be more pleasant and indeed more normal seeming than Magik, but it is only part of her being. A shadow of her true self.
She figured this was too good to be true, Illyana sighs. She hoped she’d simply gotten better, cast the dark, magical side of her out when she blasted loose from Limbo. Is that what she wants? Xavier asks. It’s what everyone else wants, she replies. Her brother, Peter, would be overjoyed to see her like this. And she really wants him to be happy, except that she misses her magic so. She’s afraid of it, but she needs it. Right now she’s human again; the girl she would have been, if not for Belasco, only she feels empty, more dead than alive. Xavier hugs her.
Later still, with Xavier and Illyana dressed in more practical outfits and Liladra in battle armor, the three of them and Binary are ready to go to Limbo. Xavier explains to Corsair he has to make the attempt. Via Limbo, Illyana can travel to any point in time and space. Her own control is wildly haphazard, but now that he can access her thoughts, he believes he can direct her to pinpoint accuracy. Somewhere, somewhen, out there are the rest of his students. If the merest chance exists, to save them, he must take it.
They may not even get out of the gate, Corsair points out. If Illyana’s ploy worked and Limbo is destroyed she’s stuck here. Or if anything goes wrong, they could end up dead anyway. There’s no guarantee the Starjammer will still be here when they return. Would he rather he abandon the children? Xavier asks sternly. He’s simply laying out the odds, comes the reply.
There’s no need to worry, Illyana chimes in. With the prof guiding her, she can bring them back in a heartbeat or three. With that, she teleports them away. Corsair has little time to worry as suddenly something hits the hull. Waldo informs him they may have a problem. As far as his sensors can determine, this planet is being torn apart!
The others have arrived in Limbo to find it a lovely landscape instead of the nightmare realm they were expecting. Illyana realizes the Soulsword did this. Cleansed the land, made Limbo what it should have been, before Belasco got his scummy claws into it. After she threw Belasco out and took over, she tried to make things better, but every spell she cast had a dark twist to it. No matter how hard she tried, they all went wrong. Because she used black magic, the evil nature of the power itself tainted her enchantments. But now the shadow’s gone. She’s not sure whether to laugh or cry. If her land has a last chance to be healed and whole, maybe so does she? Only does she want it? she wonders silently.
Not her land, a techno-organic S’ym announces. Never again hers. Limbo belongs to S’ym and through S’ym the Lord Magus!
Is that so? Binary asks and blast him only to find S’ym absorbs the energy of the plasma bolt. Illyana asks Xavier to help. S’ym mocks that only she can counter his power. He is about to attack Xavier.
Illyana grabs her Soulsword and with it her magical power, manifesting armor, and horns. She attacks S’ym to defend Xavier. He realizes that with her arcane might she reclaimed the transcendent evil that goes with it. Yet she did it to save him.
Illyana attacks S’ym but he split his body apart before her Soulword can cut him. If even a molecule of him remains, he can reconstitute himself, he tells her, and by his presence alone infect Limbo with the Technarch transmode virus. Her Soulsword can keep him a bay, but only if it remains here. The moment she removes it, the moment she uses her sorcery, he is free. The more of Limbo Sy’m transmodes, the weaker she becomes. And should all Limbo be transmoded, she’ll never be able to teleport again. Her magic will be gone and her mutant power as well.
He transforms into a dragon and flies off. Illyana shouts threats after him, vowing this realm is and will remain hers. Is she going to abandon them? Lilandra asks Charles. He doesn’t know, as he can no longer read her mind. If she doesn’t go after, S’ym she is lost, she realizes. If she does, her teammates are. What should she choose? she asks Xavier. That s for her alone to say, he replies. She decides they find the mutants first, then afterwards it will be Sy’m’s turn. She places the Soulsword back into the ground and teleports them away.
A world that’s a utopia for mutants and hell for ordinary humans. Cannonball, Mirage, Cypher and Warlock are prisoners here in a room with a hypnotic field that saps their willpower, making them more accepting of their fate.
The older Amara and Roberto enter the room. Amara assures them it isn’t like they are about to be executed. No, Dani snarls back, brainwashed, by two people who used to be their teammates. This is for their own good, Roberto assures her. That’s what the government told her Cheyenne ancestors, she replies, when they promised that the treaties would last for as long as the grass grew and the fish swam. She figures he is about as trustworthy.
And they, Roberto replies, are a threat to all they’ve built. A society built on prejudice and discrimination ain’t much to be proud of, Sam points out. He has no right to judge, Roberto retorts, especially since he has no idea what he is talking about. They’ve only seen taken out of context bits of their society. The re-education process will show them the whole, teach them what every child here learns from birth, so they’ll be able to accept it for what they are. They’ll fit in here. They’ll be happy.
Why not let them make that decision for themselves? Doug asks. Because the choice is not what’s important, comes the voice of Professor Xavier, as Illyana teleports them here, only their conversion. As so often, so sadly happens, the best and most noble of reasons inspire the most heinous of atrocities.
He addresses Roberto, telling him by their lights this may seem a necessary act, but all his eloquent rationalization will no make it right. He thought he taught him better.
The Professor was killed, Roberto replies, mutantkind was nearly exterminated. It’s hard to hold onto a dream when you’re fighting for survival. That is when you must do so hardest of all! Comes the reply. He thinks they’ve done pretty well, Roberto insists. He knows, Xavier replies. Therein lies the tragedy of his life and this future. Farewell. Illyana teleports them all away.
Same place, a different future, where the Sentinels rule. Said Sentinels are about to attack their friends, making a last stand, when suddenly Binary arrives and takes out the Sentinels, aided spectacularly by Cannonball. Doug joins with Warlock to help too.
Happily, the other mutants greet Professor X, but the two groups of mutants stare at each other awkwardly, wondering whether their friends will become the future versions they have seen. More Sentinels show up and Illyana teleports them away to what they think is safety on the Starskimmer.
Instead, the first thing they see on the Starskimmer’s screen is a burning horizon, courtesy of Magus who demands Warlock or worlds without number will fall before his righteous wrath, as this one has. Aware of his son’s presence on the ship, he orders him to stand forth and meet his fate.
Ch’od points out that Magus’ power scales are way beyond the capacity of their defensive screens.
Warlock gets ready to sacrifice himself. Doug tells him not to give up. He reminds him that they defied Magus. He won’t let them get away with that. They either beat him or die with Warlock. Warlock turns to Xavier, asking what to do. Xavier replies that the Maguswar is what is evil here. It is responsible for this planet’s destruction. it must be changed. But that is something, he fears, only Warlock can accomplish.
Outside, Magus’ voice booms that he grows weary of waiting. Perhaps they require further persuasion. He uses tentacles to breach the hull, intent on infecting them with the transmode virus.
Xavier orders Magma outside to get into direct contact with the planetary surface. Magma raises and cools a pillar of molten rock to create an islet upon which to stand. He asks her to sense the world far below. Amara senses its dying agony. Xavier tells her to give that pain voice and hold back nothing.
As streamers of raw fire erupt from Magma’s hands, she also shifts the tectonic balance of the ocean floor, slamming a fissure right onto the part of Magus’ body that’s attacking the Starskimmer. He bellows more in surprise than actual pain.
Xavier orders Magik to teleport to the sea bottom. Illyana complies and teleports a section of the trapped body away. Magus screams in agony and the tentacles on the ship dissolve.
Outside, Cannonball gets Magma away to save her from Magus. Magma orders Sam to put her down again. The Starskimmer fires at Magus to no avail as the plasma weapons only replenish him. Amara explains that her powers are the only thing keeping the planetary cores alive and the world itself intact. Sam doesn’t believe she is strong enough. Xavier replies she will be once he augments her power with his own. Reluctantly, Sam returns her to her islet again.
Aboard the Starskimmer, Sunspot admits he feels so useless. What good is his strength here? Xavier reminds him that not everyone in a team is essential to the resolution of every conflict. He’s done his part in the past and no doubt will again. For the present, he should practice patience, hard though it may be. Roberto thinks that Xavier speaks as a father should. As his real father almost never does, though he would give his soul to have him do so.
Turning into a helicopter, Warlock flies off to confront his father by himself. He is firing at his father, willing to kill Magus. His father slaps him aside, commending his effort, but it is futile.
Sunspot catches Warlock, whose lifeglow is almost extinguished. Doug shouts there has to be an answer. Magus has to have a vulnerable spot. Xavier ells him to think about who and what their foe is – therein lies the key he seeks. Gimme a break! Douglas thinks. They’re staring death in the face and the prof is acting like they are in class. That moment, he has an idea.
Xavier reads his mind, then tells Mirage to strike the first blow by confronting Magus with his terror. She tried that before, Dani replies. But his strength is way out of her league. He busted her illusion instantly. Xavier promises to augment her power as he did Magma’s.
Doug tries to rouse the injured Warlock. Again, he uses his life-energy to jumpstart Warlock. Warlock warns him. He needs too much energy. Doug would die! Carol draws Doug away. No need to kill himself to recharge Warlock when her starbolts can do it better and more easily. Doug calls himself a dunce. He should have thought of her right off.
Warlock is again restored, while outside Magus rages. He threatens to kill the mutants as well. Magma finds she cannot hold out much longer. That moment, a giant Warlock confronts his surprised father. Actually, a spirit form, thanks to Mirage.
Xavier shares his powers with Karma as well and allows her to possess Magus. He stands frozen while Doug and Warlock merged fly up to his head and probe into his primary genetic structure. Merged, even in thought, as Douglock, they decipher his genetic formula.
That moment, Karma breaks down and Magus realizes that Warlock has soulmerged with a bioform. He fires at Douglock but their selfdefense systems deal with it. Magus then whips up some giant-sized antibodies. Luckily, the boys get some help, courtesy of Binary and Sunspot.
They become more and more and Douglock panics. He asks Xavier for help. However, Xavier refuses or Cypher will always depend on him. He tells Doug that the key is within himself. Be calm and have confidence in his own abilities and courage. The boys obey and read Magus’ genetic code. Magus is like Warlock and Warlock is a part of him. The key is knowing himself. Doug acts and Magus screams in pain. Binary and Sunspot leave. Magus seems to explode and soon Warlock and Doug join the others.
Team supreme, Doug laughs. They don’t mess around. Such modesty Sunspot mocks. Is it over? Have they killed Magus? Doug explains he couldn’t kill, not even him. What did he do then? Corsair asks. Doug explains it was essentially a problem in software engineering. They tapped into the primary genetic code that controlled Magus’ shapeshifting ability. Then he defined the very nature of Magus’ reality. He wrote a regression program, then bounced him back to the Techarch royal crèche as a baby. It will be a while before he grows up and, by then, he’ll have a grown-up Warlock, plus the New Mutants, to keep him in line.
If they survive the futures they saw, Mirage thinks. If they come to pass. Warlock states Doug is in error. By referring to him and Magus as offspring and sire. That description is biologically accurate but self would not have survived so long, much less triumphed, had he not learned so much from interacting with the New Mutants and especially Xavier. He requests the honor of considering Xavier his true sire of his soul and spirit. Calling Warlock dear son, Xavier hugs him and replies the honor is his.