There is a language to life and death. It varies in nuance from universe to universe, but it is essentially the same. A binary state. First it is off - 0. Then it is on - 1. And out of life comes death, and out of that temporary death, life is rewritten. Recoded. Reformatted. Transmoded. Transformed. Returned. Deep within an ocean, some fish swim about. Suddenly, a hand bursts up, right through one of the fish, which is then infected with the Transmode Virus. Following that, several figures burst through the water’s surface.
Utopia, San Francisco. And, when life is recomposed in such a way, when it is rewritten and sent back - 0110 - it is invariably with a purpose. Six figures appear on the shore of Utopia, trudging up through the water. The purpose needs no translation. 01100101011. Their eyes glow red. They are the Hellions. ‘010001101101’ exclaims one of them.
Elsewhere, Doug “Cypher” Ramsey screams as he wakes from his dream, or, rather, her nightmare. He sits up in bed. The pain of his burns keeps him awake. He remembers what happened. That awful thing - Face lost control and he blasted him, hurting him. Big deal, for much worse than that, Face killed - suddenly, Doug looks out the window, and sees several figures walk past, three of them are carrying a coffin overhead. ‘Wait! Wait! I can’t be late! I can’s miss the funeral!’ Doug calls out as he rushes outside. ‘Not her funeral. Not Karma’s’ he thinks to himself, remembering the attack that killed Karma and injured him. He stands amongst some gravestones - Jean Grey. Banshee. Nightcrawler. Caliban. Synch. ‘Wait! Don’t start without me!’ he shouts.
But the others don’t turn to him, they just walk past him. ‘Hey, can you hear me? What’s happening?’ Cypher exclaims, when, suddenly, ‘What is that? What is that?’ he gasps as a tentacled creature rises from another crave - his own grave. The headstone reads “Doug Ramsey: Born. Died. Reborn. May he rot in hell for eternity”. Doug realizes that it is some kind of Transmode / organic hybrid, some kind of horror. ‘Help me! Can’t you see it? Help me!’ Doug exclaims as the mourners turn to him, surround him, reach out to grab him - but when he sees their faces, they are different - they are Transmode. ‘100001’ one of them gasps. Another tells him not to resist, and another orders him to comply.
‘You’re me! You’re all me! You’re -’ Doug bursts out as he sees the faces in more detail. ‘You’re everything and everywhere and inside my head and in all universes and -’ Doug thinks to himself, when suddenly, he screams again, and sits up in bed. ‘Okay. I hope to God this is waking up for real this time’ Doug tells himself inside the lodge home of therapist Gus Grim, in the Colorado Mountains. Doug remembers that Mr Grim invited the New Mutants here after Karma’s funeral. ‘Morning’ a woman calls out as Doug enters the kitchen, where some of his teammates are eating breakfast. ‘Good morning Ellie’ Doug replies. Doug knows that this is a safe place, a sanctuary where they can quarantine themselves from this altered reality and interact with it as little as possible.
‘Breakfast, self-friend?’ Warlock smiles as he and the others turn to Cypher. Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, Nate “X-Man” Grey, Amara “Magma” Aquilla and Clarice “Blink” Ferguson all turn to Doug and smile, but they are too nice, he can feel their caution when he is around. ‘They know the bottom line is I did this’ Doug tells himself. A television is switched on, and a news reader announces that King Namor of Atlantis, whose war with the so-called “surface dwellers” has intensified. As he sits down, Doug tells himself that this reality is so messed up. The news reader explains that King Namor has been in conflict with the surface since his wife, Susan Storm, and their young children, were slain in battle with Ms Storm’s ex-husband, Reed Richards, and subsequently King Namor has vowed vengeance on all. ‘Soooo messed up’ Doug thinks, watching a recording of Namor attacking some soldiers.
Magma tells everyone that they need this to stop, or that they need to find a way out of here. Blink agrees, and adds that she recognizes everything about this world, but that none of it fits together. Sunspot asks Doug if he has figured anything out yet, to which Magma tells Sunspot to give Doug time, but Doug replies ‘You mean about the evil, future version of me who’s behind all of this?’. Sunspot tells him ‘As a matter of fact, yes’, and asks about Dr Strange’s idea, and whether Doug is strong enough to try it. ‘I…I…uh…’ Doug’s voice trails off, and suddenly, he knocks a glass of juice off the table and onto Sunspot. Bobby brushes the juice off and after Doug apologizes, tells him that it was not his fault. ‘It is! It damn well is! Everything is my fault!’ Doug exclaims, before turning and walking away. Warlock calls out to his friend, but Doug tells him that he just needs to be on his own. ‘Is it just me, or is he getting closer to the edge? How long are we going to let him…you know…go around unsupervised?’ Bobby asks. ‘I mean, shouldn’t we watch him? What if he…starts to become what we all know he’s going to become?’ Bobby suggests.
Outside, ‘Hey, Douglas’ Gus Grim calls out to Doug as he approaches a barn, where Gus is prepping a horse, Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie leans against a fence, while Danielle Moonstar is riding a horse. ‘Mr Grim’ Doug replies, while Sam asks his friend if he has come for a ride. Doug replies that he doesn’t think it is his thing, while Dani sees Doug and waves and smiles at him ‘How are you?’ she calls out as she rides over to the fence. ‘Oh, not so bad, you know…’ Doug replies, when suddenly, the horse starts snorting and looks panicked. Dani tells the horse to take it easy, while Doug turns away and throws his hands into the air, exclaiming ‘Actually, I’m not okay. Even your horse knows that there’s something wrong with me!’ Doug points out. He throws a hand to his face and exclaims that this is all his fault.
Dani tells Doug to calm down, and points out that the future isn’t set. ‘You are not that person’ she assures him. ‘Not yet’ Doug mutters. ‘Not ever’ Dani declares, and tells him that if he helps them, he is the best chance they have got of altering his destiny and putting things right. She reminds him that Dr Strange has a plan, if he is up to it. ‘Only one way to find out, right?’ Doug asks. ‘Pretty much’ Dani tells him.
When the New Mutants tracked Dr Strange down, they found he was a drunken mess. But they have brought him with them to dry out, as they are going to need his help if they are to put this right. Now, night has fallen, and the New Mutants have joined Dr Strange in a sweat lodge. Dr Strange tells them that what they are about to do is dangerous, delicate and they may not succeed. ‘Question, Dr Strange? Do we have to do it in Grim’s sweat lodge?’ X-Man asks. Strange explains that it helps focus the efficacy of the conjuration. ‘It helps focus the efficacy of my perspiration, more like’ Doug mutters, while Strange announces that he is going to attempt to unlock and trace the astral pathways to Doug’s future self, and thus discover exactly where and how reality has been dislocated.
The Multiverse appears above them, and Strange states that it is the infinite temporal link between possible Earths, and that time flows with unnatural rapidity in this reality. Strange explains that the future is pressing backwards into theirs now like a malevolent entity, that it is shaping the present to suit its own needs. ‘How? How can it do that?’ Doug asks. Dr Strange tells him to think of the future like a black hole, altering the universe around it with its extreme gravitational force. ‘So…we’ve got to change the future to make the now revert to normal? We’ve got to change the future rather than the past to get the present to reset?’ X-Man asks. ‘Yes’ Dr Strange confirms.
As the fire flickers on the ground before them, Doug remarks ‘That sounds like a paradox. An infinite and inaccessible recursion’. Strange confirms that it will be hard and very demanding. ‘Wait…wait…there’s something in the flames’ Doug exclaims, as an eye starts to form. ‘Everything. You’re everything and everywhere and inside my head and in all universes’ Doug reminds himself, before shouting ‘Look out!’ as the mysterious creature appears, its tentacles wrapping around Sunspot and X-Man, knocking them back. Dani orders everyone to get clear of that thing, while Strange casts a spell to banish the entity. It works, and the tentacles disappear in the flames, as Dani goes over to Cypher, who was whacked by the tentacles before the creature was banished. ‘It may be too late, Doctor. Doug’s hurt!’ Dani exclaims, but as she helps him up, Doug whispers to her that it is okay, that he saw it, and he knows what to do.
‘I know what I have to do now’ Doug thinks to himself, as the next day, he stands on the edge of a cliff, looking very far down to the canyon below. ‘I have to end. If I end, my future self never happens. His future never comes into being. Time should snap back to where it’s supposed to be. It should reset and undo all the changes. It should bring Karma back’ Doug decides. ‘A life for a life. One life for the whole future’ he tells himself, some small rocks suddenly giving way beneath his feet as he stands on the edge. ‘If I only I could! But I’m not brave enough…’ he realizes. Suddenly, a strange voice calls out ‘Don’t you dare!’, and he turns his head around, but in the process, loses his footing, and he falls. ‘Help me! I can’t!’ Doug shouts, but he manages to grab hold of a ledge, though he is hanging hundreds of feet in the air. ‘What are you?’ Doug calls out.
However, Doug manages to pull himself up onto stable ground, ‘Wait…I know you! I recognize you! Oh my God!’ Cypher exclaims, as standing before him are the Transmode infected Hellions - Tarot! Roulette! Catseye! Jetstream! Beef! Bevatron! ‘We’re here to keep you alive, Douglas. Whether you want to be or not’ Tarot announces. Beef grabs Cypher and picks him up. ‘Let me go!’ Cypher exclaims, while Tarot points at Cypher and remarks ‘Who would have thought that something so great could emerge from such an unprepossessing pupae?’ Suddenly, blasts from above are fired down on the Hellions. ‘Solar blasts!’ Tarot exclaims, as a teleport signal above sounds the arrival Moonstar, Sunspot, X-Man, Magma, Warlock and Blink. ‘Back. The hell. Off’ Sunspot warns the Hellions.
The New Mutants drop down to ground level, and Moonstar aims her bow and arrow at the Hellions, warning them to let Doug go. The Hellions stand in front of Cypher and Tarot announces that if they want Cypher, they will have to get through them. ‘We’ve already died. What are you going to do to us?’ Tarot asks. ‘Stop! Stop this!’ Cypher calls out, before screaming and putting his hands over his head. X-Man points out that Doug is having some kind of seizure. ‘It’s starting!’ Tarot exclaims. While Blink asks how Doug is making those noises. ‘Yes!’ Jetstream declares. ‘Doug!’ Magma calls out, concerned, while Roulette tells the New Mutants that Doug doesn’t need their help. An instant later, Doug emerges from a sack of tentacles, his body is gray, with lots of glowing eyes all over it. ‘I don’t need anything anymore! The time has come, quite literally. The future is now!’ Cypher exclaims - ‘And the future is ME!’