‘I’m the True Friend? The…the True Friend is going to be me? Th-this isn’t happening!’ Doug “Cypher” Ramsey exclaims as he stares at a possible future version of himself, decked out in Warlock Tech armor. ‘It is, Douglas. It will. It already has for me. Face your future, don’t fear it. Tell yourself to embrace the possibilities!’ the future Doug announces.
But, chaos has erupted in the New Mutants’ San Francisco home, as the future Cypher has taken over the bodies of both the future Cannonball and future Karma. Tentacles spill from both bodies, comprised of Lockware, they thrash about, breaking furniture and generally creating a big mess, while the present New Mutants - Cypher, Dani Moonstar, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, Amara “Magma” Aquilla, Warlock, Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man and their friend Clarice “Blink” Ferguson watch on in horror.
The True Friend announces that he is very disappointed with Sam and Karma, as he had no idea they were so unhappy with things that they felt they had to come back here and try to change them. He adds that it’s required him to expend a ridiculous amount of energy projecting himself back through their Lockware to take control of the situation. ‘I’d come in person, but we can’t both be here, Douglas. And you have to be here’ the future Cypher remarks. ‘This really isn’t happening…’ Doug mutters, while Moonstar shouts ‘Explanation, somebody! Fast! How the hell is this happening? Doug…why is he you? Doug?’, but the present Cypher has no response. The True Friend, in the other body this time, states that the trouble is, Sam and Karma have made a mess, that they have created terrible ripples through direct interaction. ‘All of you now have fore-knowledge, and that makes you a ripple. I have to act decisively. Forgive me’ he calls out.
‘Look out!’ Magma warns as both future Cyphers launch an attack, knocking Magma and Sunspot aside. ‘What would make Doug turn against us?’ Sunspot wonders. X-Man is thrown aside by a tentacle as the True Friend explains ‘I haven’t turned against you. Quite the opposite’. Warlock catches X-Man in a net which he has transformed his hand into. ‘Dani! What do we do? Do we actually fight our friends?’ Sunspot asks as he dodges a tentacle which slams into the table. ‘We’ve no choice!’ Dani replies as she, too, dodges a tentacle. ‘Non-lethal restraint! Take them down before they trash us and the house!’ Dani calls out.
Suddenly, ‘Got it. Take them down…or take it outside!’ Sunspot exclaims as he grabs both future Cyphers and tackles them through the large window, taking himself with them. They land on the street below. X-Man, Warlock, Magma and Moonstar rush over to the window, ‘Good play from Sunspot! We’ve got more elbow room outside!’ Moonstar exclaims, while telling her team to back Sunspot up and protect the civilians and neighbors. Parked cars are turned over onto their sides as the future Cyphers attack Sunspot, a surge of energy rocks through his body. ‘Ouch! Bobby’s done!’ X-Man calls out, while Moonstar sees Bobby land against the door that leads to the apartment of the neighbor who lives below them. Dani drops down from the window onto ground level. She starts to walk down their stairs into their neighbor’s house, calling out to Bobby, and to Mrs Livitz, their elderly neighbor.
The two future Cyphers turn their attention to Magma, X-Man and Warlock. ‘Let’s keep them at arm’s length!’ Magma exclaims as she releases a burst of lava along the road. ‘Affirmative, Amara. The tech they wear makes them super-tough and dangerous!’ Warlock exclaims. Magma’s lava reaches one of the future Cyphers, the one in Karma’s body, but the one in Cannonball’s form is still moving. ‘As you’ll eventually learn, the Lockware soaks up pretty much any kinetic attack…and can effortlessly reuse the energy!’ the future Cypher exclaims as he uses the lava to raise a nearby car overhead. At the same time, Moonstar has found Sunspot, who is okay, but Bobby mutters that his head is spinning. ‘No sign of Mrs Livitz. I guess she must’ve been out, thank God’ Moonstar remarks, while the present Cypher points out that he doesn’t think anyone is anywhere.
‘Look out, Self / Friend Nate!’ Warlock calls out as the future Cypher throws the car towards Nate. ‘I got it’ Nate exclaims as he creates a telekinetic pulse to knock the car back - ‘Crap! I hit the tank!’ Nate warns everyone as there is a massive explosion. Nate, Magma and Warlock are also knocked backwards. Cypher moves forward and tells his teammates to look around: ‘With a blast like that…why is the street empty? Why aren’t there people fleeing?’ he calls out. Moonstar decides that Doug is right, and exclaims ‘The place is deserted!’ The two future Cyphers appear overhead, and one of them announces ‘Everyone is still there, Dani. it is you who are not. I’ve shunted us all sideways out of the timeline so we can stop damaging it. I have placed us in a state of un-time’ the True Friend explains.
The True Friend continues, revealing that he had to stop the ripples, so by removing the New Mutants from the timeline, he can shore up the butterfly effects. ‘It doesn’t matter what you do now, because there is no now. My future is safe’ he explains. ‘Can he do that? Is that even a thing?’ Blink asks as she suddenly teleports away. Sunspot tells Nate that they should check it out, and he pushes himself upwards on a surge of energy, landing on a rooftop high above the others. Nate closes his eyes and concentrates, informing his teammates that there are no minds here, except for them. Standing on the rooftop, Sunspot looks around the brightly-lit city and reports that there is no sign of any life as far as he can see.
Blink returns, ‘Did you -?’ Cypher asks her, but Blink announces that she went to Utopia, Westchester and Avengers Tower - ‘The whole planet is empty!’ she exclaims. The New Mutants and Blink regroup and look up at the two Cyphers. ‘Okay, you’ve got us. Explain why you’re doing this’ Moonstar calls out to them. ‘To stop Sam and Karma. I told you that’ one of the Cyphers replies. ‘They came to the past to alter the future. They didn’t want me to make the connection that would enhance me…but it had come so far. That device in Stroud…it showed me dimensions. It rewrote my brain so I could speak the language of dimensions’. The future Cypher continues, explaining that it could take total control of the Transmode technology in Warlock and splice it with the genome’s genetics.
The True Friend continues, stating that he could right all the wrong that had been done, that he could make everything better. ‘I could create the perfect closed system and look after everyone on Earth forever. Isn’t that what a true friend does?’ he asks. ‘Okay…that sentient alien black box interdimensional sat-nav thing? I think it did way worse things to Doug than we realized’ X-Man announces. ‘No kidding’ Dani mutters, while Cypher exclaims ‘But…but I don’t feel like that. And Sam and Karma - they can’t like this perfect future you’ve made if they’ve gone to these lengths to stop it!’ he adds. Warlock tells his friend that even benign dictatorship still equals dictatorship. ‘Warlock’s right. Can’t you see that? It doesn’t matter how good your intentions, if you control lives you don’t make them better’ Moonstar tells the future Cyphers.
The present Cypher announces that he wouldn’t want to live in a future run by him, or anyone else for that matter. ‘How would I even begin to know what the best choices to make for people are?’ he asks. ‘You know because it’s in your head. The scale of insofar. The omniscient scope’ one of the future Cyphers replies, adding that he will immediately know he knows what is best. ‘No. We reject this. Utterly!’ Moonstar calls out, annoyed. Suddenly, Warlock is taken under control by the future Cyphers. ‘Reject all you like. Protest. Be defiant. You forget…I control everything!’ the future Cypher exclaims as he downloads himself into Warlock, and using Warlock’s form, shifts into a larger size, and lashes out at the New Mutants, smashing his fist down, he breaks up the ground and knocks them over.
‘Warlock! He’s taken over Warlock!’ Sunspot shouts. ‘Look out!’ Cypher exclaims as he dodges the punch. He then calls out to Amara, who is wrapped up in one of the tentacles. ‘It’s got me!’ Amara shouts. The future Cypher tells her to relax, to accept the Lockware and let it end her fears, worries and doubts. Moonstar urgently tells her team to keep clear of Warlock and not to let his tech touch them, while ordering Sunspot and Blink to help Cypher. Blink teleports them up to where Cypher has been captured. ‘Get offa him!’ Sunspot exclaims, tugging at one of the tentacles. Blink then teleports away with Cypher, while X-Man tells Warlock that he is sorry, before knocking him over, crashing him into a nearby car, with a telekinetic surge. ‘Impressive’ Moonstar tells Nate, while Blink and Cypher teleport in. ‘Exhausting. Biggest TK push I’ve managed since my powers got cropped’ X-Man announces.
‘Pardon me for saying so, but aren’t we just delaying the inevitable?’ Magma enquires as she uses her power to melt the tentacle that is wrapped around her. She drops to the ground, while reminding her friends that the future Cypher can soak up anything they throw at him and dish it back - he told them so. ‘We can’t keep going indefinitely. It’s not like someone’s going to turn up and rescue us’ she points out. Moonstar tells Blink to take Warlock out of the equation, to put some miles between them. ‘I’ll give it a shot’ Blink replies, while Dani tells Doug that she thinks he is their only hope. ‘Give us some insight. Something!’ she exclaims, while Doug remarks that Nate is the real expert in alternate timelines. ‘I think that’s what we’re facing here’ Doug adds. ‘It’s not the future. It’s a future. This version of me is desperate to stop us doing anything that will change the course of his development’ Cypher points out, while Blink approaches Warlock, still possessed by the True Friend.
‘I mean, I can’t see the shape and inter-connection of space and time the way this other me does. But I can see the basics’ Cypher remarks, while Blink teleports herself and Warlock to Antarctica, and drops Warlock onto the cold landscape below. ‘He’s afraid of ripples. They damage his future. So let’s make some’ Cypher exclaims. Cypher points out that two versions of the same person can’t exist in the same time. ‘He told us that’ Doug adds. ‘So what happens if we bounce this Sam and this Karma back to wherever our Sam and Karma are?’ Doug suggests, before exclaiming that he needs Nate. The future Cyphers, still in the bodies of the future Cannonball and Karma, continue their rampage, tentacles thrashing about.
‘You know, I’m enjoying this. I’d forgotten how tenacious we used to be. But there’s really nothing to be afraid of - wait. What are you doing in there?’ one of the future Cyphers exclaims, while the present Cypher and X-Man are inside the Doug’s head. Doug explains to Nate that this is a trick he learned on Paradise Island to defeat the Ani-Mator, that Warlock helped him interface with his internal landscape, only he is not around now, which is why he needed Nate to form a rudimentary telepathic interface. ‘Dunno how long I can sustain it…’ Nate begins, but Cypher tells him that he just needs it to be long enough for him to disrupt his latent control of the Transmode, because what happens to him now happens to him then, even if they are outside the timeline.
At that moment, Blink teleports back to regroup with the New Mutants, as the future Cypher inside the body of the future Karma falls own, followed by the future Cannonball, who has regained control over his body. Dani and Cypher rush over to him, and Dani tells the future Sam that Cypher thinks he has restored the use of the Lockware to him. Sam replies that he has, and announces that he is not under the true friend’s control anymore. He turns to Cypher and remarks that he knew he would make sense of it, and decipher the problem. ‘I knew we could count on you, Doug’ the future Sam exclaims. ‘Not forever, clearly. You’ve got to go back’ Doug replies.
Suddenly, Warlock, still under the control of the future Cypher, appears. ‘Look out! He’s still got control of Warlock!’ Magma exclaims as the New Mutants are knocked aside. Cypher explains that he couldn’t disrupt the Transmode completely, while the future Cypher tells him to stop fighting. The possessed Warlock picks Doug up and the future Cypher states that he has only accomplished what the present Cypher is already thinking. ‘I am the future that you’re already designing. I am your outcome, and it will be better for everyone’ he states. ‘Let me GO!’ the present Cypher shouts, when suddenly, the future Karma puts the future Cypher under her possession, and he drops the present Cypher. ‘I’ve got him. God, he’s strong. Fighting me’ the future Karma exclaims.
X-Man tells the future Karma that they have got to go back, for if they go back, they break the un-time and reset things, at least for a while. ‘Ripples, huh?’ Karma remarks, while the future Cannonball tells Moonstar that they are going back, and that she should brace herself. ‘I hate to go. I hate to lose you a second time’ he adds. ‘What does that mean? Sam?’ Dani asks. ‘We’ve said way too much as it is’ the future Cannonball quickly adds. The future Karma taps something into her Lockware and announces ‘Temporal dilation set’. ‘But -’ Moonstar begins, before a brilliant light engulfs them all. ‘Can you feel that? It’s -’ Moonstar exclaims, before she, Sunspot, Magma, Warlock, Cypher, X-Man and Blink find themselves back in the New Mutants’ living room, with the present Cannonball ad Karma asleep on the sofas. ‘Everything’s back. Reset’ Moonstar remarks, before someone adds ‘Okay, so outside…’.
And, fifteen minutes later, Sam and Karma are awake, and everyone gathers around the kitchen table. ‘It’s like business as usual. A normal world full of people’ Nate reports, while Dani adds that putting two Sams and two Karmas in the same place caused enough of a paradox to whiplash everything back in place. ‘I hate time stuff’ Bobby mutters, while Cannonball announces that he doesn’t really remember anything, just a vague déjà vu, and Karma adds that she doesn’t even know where they went. ‘But I do. I don’t honestly know how I could ever become that, but it’s clearly a potential I have. Now I’m forewarned’ Cypher exclaims, while Warlock puts a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder.
‘But that’s half the battle, Doug. That’s always the thing with alternate pathways. Trust me on this. You know what steps to avoid because you’ve seen the consequences’ X-Man declares. Cypher announces that he is going to seek help - expert help - and that he will work to get this out of his head. ‘This imprint the alien tech left behind’ he adds. Magma smiles at Doug and assures him that they will be here for him, every step, and Bobby agrees.
Shortly, Blink, Karma, Warlock, Cypher, Sunspot and Magma walk down a sidewalk, with Moonstar and Cannonball walking some distance behind their friends. ‘Come on, let’s go look at the world the way it should be. Remind yourself it doesn’t need fixing too much’ Nate tells everyone as he leads the way. ‘I could remind myself I’m really hungry’ Doug suggests. ‘That’s the spirit, man!’ Bobby exclaims. Sam and Dani both frown and narrow their eyes. ‘We have to watch him’ Sam remarks. ‘Oh, we really do’ agrees Dani.