San Francisco, specifically a booth at Ribstickers BBQ restaurant. ‘Okay, who’s hungry?’ a waiter calls out as he approaches the booth where nine friends are crammed in. ‘Why, that would be everyone’ Dani Moonstar calls out. ‘Well, enjoy your - food?’ the waiter gasps as Warlock extends a forked tongue and grabs some meat straight off the plate. Clarice “Blink” Ferguson laughs, while the waiter turns to Amara “Magma” Aquilla and tells her that Ribstickers hopes it all “sticks to your ribs”. ‘Well done staying on company message despite the distractions’ Amara smiles. The waiter quickly walks away, past two other staff, one of whom remarks ‘That blonde girl, Amara, nearly worked here. Can you imagine?’ to which the waiter sighs ‘Let’s cherish the “nearly” part of that sentence.
Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie pours himself a glass of soda and announces ‘This is great. How long has it been since we all hung out together like this?’ and adds that all it took was the threat of an insane megalomaniac from the future to do it. ‘Nice one, Sam!’ Dani whispers as she sits between Sam and Doug “Cypher” Ramsey. Sam quickly realizes what he said and tells Doug that he is sorry. ‘I dint mean -’ he begins, while Dani points out that the True Friend wasn’t Doug, just a possibility, which is never going to happen now. Doug frowns and replies that he isn’t sure. ‘The point is, it was my potential. It’s still…inside me. What if I can’t change my future?’ he asks. Doug reminds Dani that he can read her- he can read her slightest micro-expression, and he sees that she has doubts. ‘That’s okay’ he assures her. ‘Self has no doubts, Self / Friend Doug! You are A-ok!’ Warlock exclaims as he leans into his dear Friend and wraps an arm around him. ‘Warlock! Ow! Not so tight!’ Doug exclaims.
Doug remarks that he is still feeling odd, and asks ‘Am I the only one?’, explaining that it feels like something is not right, that something is off. ‘I can’t put my finger on it. It’s like it’s right in front of me, but I can’t read it’ Doug explains. Dani asks Nate “X-Man” Grey if that could be shock from temporal shifting, ‘Absolutely’ Nate replies, adding that you shift enough alternates like he, and you’ll wind up with a father who’s only ten years older than you are, and a niece from an alternate future that may or may not exist. ‘And I’ve met enough other me’s to last a lifetime!’ Nate adds. With a martini glass in hand, Clarice tells Doug not to let the fact that might become a mad, universal dictator spoil a good time. ‘That could happen to any of us. Carpe Diem, my serious friend! Carpe Diem! Or, in this case, Carpe Margaritas!’ Clarice shouts, and one by one the young friends put their glasses into the middle of the table and clink them together - Sam, Dani, Doug, Warlock, Nate, Clarice, Amara, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta and Xi’an “Karma” Coy Manh. ‘To a new start!’ someone exclaims. ‘New start!’ everyone agrees.
Later, at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in Westchester, New York. Doug sits in a chair, a device attached to his head with lots of wires sticking out of it. ‘I probably shouldn’t have…enjoyed myself so much last night. I am a little fragile’ Doug mutters, while telling Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast that he is probably getting all sorts of weird readings. ‘Nope, just tequila fumes’ the Beast replies while hanging from the ceiling and reading monitors at the same time. The Beast tells Doug that he is fine, that there is a little background temporal radiation and some tachyon residue, but otherwise, Doug is as clean as a whistle. The Beast flips down to the floor, near where Sam, Warlock and Dani are sitting.
The Beast then gives Doug some pills and tells him to take one every four hours. ‘Are these for the temporal radiation?’ Doug enquires. ‘No, the hangover’ the Beast replies, before suggesting Doug lay off the “laughing juice” as he is a lightweight. The four friends leave the laboratory, and Warlock remarks ‘So you’re all right, Self / Friend? Hank / Friend says so, and he is an expert’. Doug replies that he doest feel all right, to which Dani suggests that that is the hangover talking. Further down the corridor, they are greeted by Bobby, Amara, Clarice and Nate who are standing with Iceman and Kitty Pryde. ‘Kitty!’ Doug exclaims when he sees his old friend. ‘Hey, Ramsey. We were all worried about you’ Kitty tells him.
Doug turns away, but Kitty points out that some bad stuff happened to him, so Amara and Bobby were just explaining. ‘Whatever you need, we’re here for you’ she assures her friend, before asking him if he wants to stay at the school for awhile, adding that they could use his smarts for some language and semiotics tutorials, plus he could use a rest. Kitty then tells all the New Mutants that they are welcome to stay if they want. Dani thanks Kitty, but points out that they should probably stay in San Francisco. ‘Sure’ Kitty remarks, while Dani explains that she promised to keep the team close to Cyclops after the split. Kitty looks confused ‘“Split”? What split?’ she asks. The New Mutants all look concerned: ‘The split between Scott and Logan?’ Cannonball remarks. ‘The one that led to the two teams’ Dani declares.
‘What? That didn’t happen’ Kitty remarks. Iceman adds that Wolverine and Cyclops had a falling out, but that they patched it up, which is why a school was established here, to balance out their points of view. ‘Everything’s fine’ Iceman adds. ‘No, Bobby, it’s not. It’s not. I should have seen it! I should have read it! But I was too upset!’ Cypher exclaims, and he turns and walks away, with Warlock following him. ‘Ribstickers’ colors are red. Red, not blue. Not blue. Not blue’ Doug mutters to himself as he walks down the corridors. He tells Warlock that it is right in front of their faces - ‘X marks the spot…on the wrong side! It’s reversed!’ he exclaims, turning back and motioning at the X logo on the right side of Kitty’s jacket. ‘Doug! Calm down!’ Kitty exclaims.
Later, at Greenwich Village, Manhattan, in the dead of night, the darkness is shattered by a burst of pink light as Blink teleports in with Dani, Nate and Warlock. DanI points out that Doctor Strange alerted them to this crisis in the first place, so they need his insights. Nate tells everyone to remember that everything is going to feel odd, and adds that Doug was right - an alternate reality has imposed itself upon them so convincingly they can barely detect it. ‘It has absorbed us, making us forget our own “now” by gradually overwriting out memories’ Nate explains. Looking at Dr Strange’s house, Dani points out that it looks really quiet, before tapping on her wrist communicator, calling into Sam, she asks him how Doug is. In a communications room at the Jean Grey School, Sam assures Dani that Doug is fine. ‘He’s immersing himself in data, trying to read all the differences in this world’ Sam explains. ‘Tell her I’m trying to detect the point at which things switched, and fix it’ Doug calls out.
Blink asks if they are sure this is the place, for closer inspection reveals that Dr Strange’s home is boarded up and run down. Dani agrees and remarks that it doesn’t look very promising. Blink then teleports everyone inside, and they find books stacked up high. Dani tells her friends not to let her remind them that this world likes the way it is, and just because they want to change it, doesn’t mean it wants to change. ‘We’re the intruders’ she points out. They make their way up some stairs, ‘Spooky, much?’ Blink mutters, before exclaiming that it smells like something died in here. Moonstar calls out to Dr Strange, as they enter another room. ‘There!’ Warlock exclaims as he sees a dishevelled man in the corner. ‘Go away!’ the man calls out, before suddenly large worm-like creatures with gaping mouths appear. ‘Uh-oh’ Moonstar exclaims. ‘What the hell is this?’ X-Man exclaims. ‘Magic. That’s what’ Blink declares. ‘Definitely magic’.
Moonstar tells her teammates that they are just a distraction and to take them down hard and fast. X-Man fires some TK blasts at the demons, which seems to hurt them. Blink teleports about the room, while Moonstar attacks one with a knife. ‘So does steel! I think they’re pretty weak…more an illusion than full-on sorcery!’ Moonstar announces. Blink declares that they also can’t harm them if the creatures are not here, and she teleports them away - but in the process, webs flick toward the young mutants. ‘Cobwebs!’ X-Man exclaims. ‘Okay, they do have some threat potential’ Moonstar mutters as some cobwebs wrap around her. ‘Don’t let it stick to you, Self / Friends! It will pin you!’ Warlock calls out. Blink comes to Moonstar’s rescue, as Moonstar tells her that she thinks they are better off stopping the guy behind the spells rather than trying to fight the spells themselves. ‘On it, Dani!’ Blink replies as she chases after the dishevelled man who is making his way out of the room.
‘Stop this, now!’ Blink calls out, but the man spins around and tells her to leave him alone, while casting a spell - only for Blink to retaliate by opening a portal around his neck. ‘All right! All right!’ I’ll cancel the spell!’ the man exclaims. ‘Doctor Strange?’ Moonstar asks as she approaches him. ‘Is it the same guy?’ X-Man asks, while Moonstar tells him that they need to talk. Shortly, they are gathered in another room, with a fire blazing in the fireplace. ‘Doctor, we came to find you because you and the Defenders visited us. You warned us about a problem, a problem concerned us and our friends’ Moonstar reminds him. ‘You’re just manifestations…manifestations of the reality that went wrong…’ Dr Strange replies.
‘Do you remember, Doctor? You and the Defenders?’ Moonstar asks him. Dr Strange tells her that there are no Defenders, that they were disbanded years ago. ‘Never saw Surfer again. Never saw Hulk after they exiled him into space…’ he reveals, adding that he knew something was wrong, that he knew reality was twisted out of shape, but no one listened to him. Holding a mug of hot drink in his hands, Dr Strange states that only those rare few sensitive to the vibrations of reality could tell, but some had seizures and breakdowns, while some took their own lives in madness. ‘Poor, poor Clea’ he mutters, before telling the New Mutants that his life fell apart, that he was acutely aware that reality had buckled, but there was nothing he could do, as a malevolent entity outside time was choking the Timestream and creating eddies and ripples. ‘It’s taken a hard toll on me. As you can see by my present circumstances’ he adds.
Moonstar tells Dr Strange that they need his help, they need the Sorcerer Supreme. ‘But I’m not that! I’m nothing! I’m not the Sorcerer Supreme!’ Dr Strange exclaims as he throws his mug to the ground, shattering it. ‘I’m just a drunken wreck’ Strange mutters as he stands up and puts his head in his hands. Moonstar goes over to him and puts a hand on his shoulder, ‘I think you’re still in there, Doctor’ she tells him, pointing out that what he did with the dust and the cobwebs takes skill. ‘Just tell yourself this, Doctor. For the first time, someone believes you’.
Back in Westchester, Kitty enters the communication room and sees Amara and Sam. ‘How’s Doug?’ she asks. Amara announces that he still noting everything down, all the discrepancies he can find, like he is obsessive compulsive. Sitting at the desk, with various monitors in front of him, Doug calls out ‘I can hear you. I’m not going mad or anything…there are just so many tiny differences’. Doug adds that he is becoming convinced that this isn’t just not their timeline, but that it is worse. He stands up and holds a piece of paper with his notes up into the air. ‘Forget the reversal of our uniforms and Ribstickers having the wrong color scheme. Myspace is more popular than Facebook! Lennon is alive!’ he shouts. Amara and Sam look shocked, while Kitty asks ‘Your point?’ Doug decides that this isn’t just the wrong timeline, but that it is a timeline that should not exist. ‘This reality is a mash-up. It’s laden with paradoxes. This timeline has been forced into being’ he tells his friends.
At that moment, Bobby enters the room carrying a tray of food and drink. ‘Snack break! Hey, we need to eat, right?’ he points out, before asking why everyone is so serious. Kitty tells Bobby that things are getting weirder, and states that they are going to have to call Logan and Scott in, as this is getting big. Karma enters the room, with her companion, Face. ‘Hey, everyone. I thought Face could join us for a while’ she tells the others, adding that Face has been really upset since she went missing. ‘Karma, maybe this isn’t the best time to -’ someone begins, when suddenly, Face pulls away from Karma and then pushes her aside. His Face glows, and Cypher tells him to calm down, before Face releases a surge of energy.
Bobby manages to pin Face to the ground, and he tells the others to help him get Face under control. Iceman appears behind Sunspot, who then asks if everyone is okay. Sam and Amara are beside Kitty, who is holding Doug’s motionless body in her arms. ‘He was just grazed, but…Bobby, oh no, look!’ Kitty exclaims, when she sees a burnt form nearby - and then announces ‘Karma’s dead!’