(150 years from now, in the here and now)
At breakneck speed, a lone figure makes his way over and through the crags of the rocky shore. As he hastily makes his way over the desolate terrain, he smells the telltale scent of sulfur, telling himself he should have known. Crawlers.
There could be ten of them, he muses, then thinking there might be only one. Hard to tell with the way they jump all around. Behind the fleeing man, nearing ever closer with each appearance, are two clouds of brimstone-like smoke. As the man speaks into his helmet’s microphone, calling for Rover to get down there, two more plumes of dark purple smoke explode into existence, through which two blue-furred, elf-like demons appear, both of whom favor in appearance the X-Men of a century and a half ago called Nightcrawler.
One of the two Crawlers gives a playful Boo to his prey. From behind the man, who has just entered the remains of an ancient building, comes another Crawler, who drops down from the ceiling with another boo. Taking stock of his situation, the man notes that there are five Crawlers. Outnumbered five-to-one, the man is weaponless and protected only by his helmet and X-Man jacket. Speaking to these generally silent creatures, the man tells them that he supposes that they’re all thinking, “Let’s just pick on the poor little human out on his own,” aren’t they? Well, he informs them, they haven’t met his big mate then – have they?
Looking up at the massive hole in the building’s roof, the man looks at his “mate,” Rover, and instructs him to introduce himself. When the five Crawler look up, they see the silhouette of a gigantic Sentinel, horrendously damaged but very much functioning and following the instructions of the human. Obeying its master, Rover introduces itself with a single word: Destroy. The five Crawlers stand motionless as Rover lifts its hand, repeating its single-word vocabulary, and displays the glowing energy weapon in its palm. They are likewise motionless as Rover fires his weapon, incinerating the flesh off the skeletons of the Crawlers where they stand.
Speaking to Rover, the human muses that the Crawlers probably figured out who he was… but he didn’t catch any of their names; Wankers. As Rover flies down into the building at the human’s side, the man looks over the remains of four Crawlers, telling himself he could have sworn that there were five. Changing the subject, the human tells the Sentinel that this is bollox. They can’t stay out there one minute longer; the Beast knows the place like the back of his hand. Rover remains silent as it looks down at its master, who thoughtfully surveys the ruins of the mansion that was once known as Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning.
An electronic voice breaks the man’s thoughts, as it apologizes for being late. Looking to the source of the voice, a slightly luminescent, floating silver ball, the man mocks that it is sorry. Five minutes ago he could have done with some help! To this, the floating ball explains that it ran into Apollyon the Destroyer. Otherwise it would have made the rendezvous on time. Suddenly, the ball begins to change shape, growing arms and legs from its mass until it has formed a humanoid body. As it transforms, it explains that the servants of the Beast get closer all the time. It’s transformation now finished, the now female silver humanoid welcomes the human to Megamerica and introduces itself as E.V.A. She’s from the Institute.
E.V.A. surmises to the man that he must be Tom Skylark. In reply, Tom states that he doesn’t use his own name, mostly. The pair of them work as a team – “Rover and I.” He’s good with machines, if he may say so. Surveying the giant Sentinel, which has clearly seen much time and action since its creation, E.V.A. notes that it seems to be a first generation Sentinel… one of her remote ancestors. Such a strong machine. She is a Generation N unit from The World, she continues. As an external artificial nervous system, she was bonded to the man Fantomex once, but… that was… long ago. Before what happened to him… Now, she continues, she is all alone.
Saying he is sorry to hear that, Tom tells E.V.A. that Rover may be an antique but they built their killer robots to last in the old days. Now calling out to Rover, Tom tells his Sentinel to say hello to E.V.A. Obeying its master, Rover lets out a bellowing Destroy. Introductions made, Tom lowers his helmet’s visor, which looks very much like an homage to Cyclops’, and tells E.V.A. that Rover’s vocabulary’s not much to write home about but he means well. And, he continues, he’s saved his life more times than he can add up.
E.V.A. ignores Tom’s attempt at humor and stares transfixed at an object strapped to the back of Rover. It is a slightly luminous, giant egg. Speaking of it, E.V.A. tells Tom that the energy signature is so symmetrical… so profound… Is it really… Fearing that she will never finish her sentence, Tom breaks in, asking her what she thinks. The Proud People, he informs her, found it on the moon. If it wasn’t real, does she think the Beast’d be so eager to get ahold of it? They’ve been chased the whole bloody way across the Atlantic!
As he speaks, Tom strides easily into the open arms of Rover, which gently scoops him up. Nearby, E.V.A. begins her fluid-like transformation into a sphere, this time with a circular plane, which circumnavigates her equator. Now floating, E.V.A. informs Tom that after two more miles of irradiated ocean, they’ll reach the edge of the Manhattan crater. Hearing this, Tom tell Rover that there are two more miles of salt in its joints – what does he think of that? Answering his master as he rockets into the sky, Rover replies with an emotionless destroy.
In the center of the island that was once the city of Manhattan is a gigantic crater, filled with water. Outside the peaks that line the crater are the ruins of the once mighty city. Many landmarks dot the remains of the one-time metropolis, several of which did not originate there. Among the desolation rises the Eiffel Tower, London’s tower clock of Big Ben, the leaning tower of Pisa and the Taj Mahal. Now striding among the relics are newcomers Tom Skylark and Rover, guided by E.V.A.
Speaking of the city, E.V.A. informs Tom that they are walking through the Institute. They are trying to preserve the achievements of the past before they’re all used up as fuel or compost in the race to dominate the biosphere. They figured an interspecies group of X-Men might be the only way forward in a conflict like this one. The Xavier Creed, she tells them, has always stressed integrations. Never mind integration, Tom rejoins, the Proud People all died because of that bloody egg. He wants payback. If her X-Men think they can take down the Beast, then she can sign them up.
On a craggy peak, which rises from the sea like a constructed tower, sits a darkened fortress, from which smokestacks filled with orange plume rise. From within this malevolent structure a cold voice declares that God has abandoned his failed experiment, the Earth. Now is the time of blasphemous creation. Where men once walked, new monstrosities thrive… his ruined cities, their breeding grounds.
The source of the voice, bulky in form and draped with a purple cape, treads softly through the menagerie that is his laboratory. In giant, slanted vats grow more Crawlers, almost ready to be “hatched.” Almost in sermon to these still lifeless creatures, the figure preaches that Mankind nears final extinction. The mutants are but one of many species fighting for survival in this new world. All, great and small, rich and poor, will fall to his dominion and receive their maker’s mark. His mark.
His gray-furred claws dancing over a keyboard, the figure activates a sequence for the tubed Crawlers. As the liquid within begins to bubble with activity and life in all the vats, the figure, bearing an animal-like snout and fangs for teeth, announces to the Crawler that he will code such traits into it. He will give it wings and eyes that burn and voices which can shatter stone and bone and flesh. His pronouncement made, the figure steps into the light, displaying his regal attire which contrasts to his animalist features which earned him the name as the Beast so long ago. Snarling at his armies as they are being born, the Beast orders them to open their eyes and to prepare to die in the Apocalypse.
Back at the Institute, E.V.A. takes Tom and Rover through a populated area. As the Institute’s populace marvel at the sight of a Sentinel walking through their midst, Tom views the giant stone statue of Charles Xavier, whose attire and book he is holding help to portray his image and memory of his occupation as a teacher.
The attacks, E.V.A. tells Tom, come more frequently now… the Beast is pumping Crawler chimerae out of his bio-foundries as fast as he can dream them up. And he has the entire stolen mutant genebase to code and splice from. Great, remarks Tom. And the good news it? In answer to his own question, Tom states that the Beast can’t find them there. They have security shields. He saw them opening them to let them in.
Barely a moment goes by before Tom’s words are made folly. From its hiding place within the chest cavity of Rover, a single Crawler teleports with a gaseous explosion. Trying to compute the meaning of what just happened, the confused Rover can only offer an inquisitive destroy?
Moving into immediate action, E.V.A. begins to transform both arms into mini-canons, informing those gathered that a Crawler hitched a ride. As new Crawlers appear, all from small cloud of brimstone smoke, Tom states aloud that he thought they couldn’t teleport through the shield. Replying negatively, E.V.A. rejoins that there was only… but it’s duplicating itself. Pausing a moment to scan the Crawlers’ DNA, E.V.A. announces that she detects “Cyclops” traits and “Multiple Man” codes. Within minutes, she proclaims, there could be hundreds.
Hearing this, Tom speaks into his watch, ordering Rover to protect. As one of the Crawlers orders in German to fire, Rover moves swiftly, as ordered. Lowering its massive hands, it shields Tom in a cupping motion, which easily absorbs the optic blasts of the Crawlers. For the briefest of moments, the Crawlers begin to close in but Rover soon acts. Moving with lightening speed, it pulls its hands apart, swatting swaths of surprised Crawlers, as it emotionlessly says destroy.
Nearby, E.V.A. uses her arm-canons to dispatch the surrounding Crawlers. Still evaluating the situation, she informs Tom that each new duplicate increases its teleportation capacity. The meaning of this: Don’t let them near the egg! Continuing her onslaught, E.V.A. decides to call for help, declaring X-Men, emergency. In response, the Beak flies overhead, baseball bat in hand, shouting an emphatic Woo Hooo!
Robust and muscular in physique, the Beak uses his powerful, winged arms to fly over the Crawlers, striking their skulls with the bat and clawing at their faces with his talons. His stoic, bird-like face belies the humor within, as he uses his arms to break a Crawler’s head, telling it to charm on.
Nearby, the battle has taken its toll on Rover, as several Crawlers continue to cling to its head, tearing it apart from the inside. Stuttering an electronic destroy, Rover’s voice fails and it collapses to the ground, taking the clinging Crawlers with it. Their target felled, the Crawlers jump the egg, still strapped to the Sentinel’s back, and begin to remove its trappings, shouting in German the whole time. Too late do E.V.A., Beak and Tom notice what the Crawler’s are doing. Once finished, the half-dozen disappear in a cloud of purple smoke, taking the Phoenix Egg with them.
Sometime later, back in the Beast’s fortress in Transatlantica, the host of Crawlers swarm about the egg, asking their master, ist gut? and are clever, ja?. Coldly, the Beast approaches his prize, telling his minions that they are all that he made them to be. Now eyeing the egg itself, he declares that it is greater than gold. More deadly than bombs. His Phoenix egg. His sweet Jean.
In a transplanted cathedral in the Institute, three unified voices call to one three address as wayfarer, telling him that his arrival may have come too late. Their last hope was taken from them, they continue. That immense power, that dread potential, now lies in the hands of the Beast.
Almost in explanation to their existence, the three remaining sisters of the Stepford Cuckoos emerge from the Cerebra chamber, announcing that they are the Three-In-One. In their dreams they have seen the Dark Age. Seen all history set back a thousand years by ignorance and war. Seen, worse than all these, a terrible flaw at the heart of things. How did his happen so quickly?
Standing in the shadows and casually leaning against the doorway, the wayfarer replies that he guesses no one thought Rome could fall either. Those guys had a postal service that could deliver mail across 170 miles in one day. They had indoor plumbing, the women were free, they had art and science and a communications network that spanned the civilized world. Within a hundred years, it was all debris and lice. Sometimes, he says, you gotta take care of what you got. Any more joy to share?
Answering the question of the wayfarer, who man who was once known as Wolverine, an aged, bald woman speaks out, replying “not much.” She explains that she has spent the last three months in silence, observing bird and insect behavior, cloud patterns, tides… somewhere, somehow, something has gone fundamentally wrong. Regarding the old woman, Logan jokingly mocks her with the name of Bad News Cassie and tells her it’s nice to see her looking so perky… “Missus X.”
In response to this, one of the Three-In-One asks Logan for a little respect for their headmistress. She is Cassandra Nova Xavier. Respect, Cassandra repeats with a laugh. Their universe is broken. They have no idea where the break occurred… all they know is there’s no one left to put it right. Except for them…
(150 years earlier)
In a desolate graveyard, a long man stands in silence as he stares at a gravestone through ruby-quartz glasses. The setting sun shines behind him, casting his shadow over the grave before which he stands. On the tombstone, the name of Jean Grey-Summers is engraved, below which the words she will rise again are etched.
From behind him, Scott hears a voice remember aloud that this will only be the third or so time he’s had to bury her. The words originate from Emma Frost, decked out in her costume, which reveals more flesh than fabric. Over this, however, she wears a fur coat and cap, to keep out the chill of the autumn air. It must be getting rather tedious, Scott dear, she mocks, returning to her joke - these reruns of his grief.
When Scott snaps back that it isn’t funny, Emma protests that it is, and he knows it. Replying no once more, he says aloud the name of Magneto, followed by Xorn… this last year, he says in exasperation. His eyes were opened, he tells her. Something about them, the X-Men, makes others want to kill them and nothing they do makes a difference. Difference to what? Emma counters. To people? For God’s sake, she asks Scott, who cares about them?
Switching subjects, Emma bluntly tells Scott that she wants to open the school. His eyes still cast down at the grave, Scott replies that it’s over. Even Professor X has retired, he tells her. The costumes, the heroics… done. As Scott begins to walk away, Emma calls out to him, telling him that she and he, together… think of what marvelous teachers they could be to a new generation of gifted bloody brats. They could inspire them to greatness!
Catching up to Scott, she asks him to imagine what they could do for one another. Doesn’t he want to inherit the Earth? After pausing for a moment, Scott continues his walk away, his face as grim as ever. Someone else can have it, he tells Emma. “No… I quit.”