Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner grins as he tosses a baseball across a field. He recalls that when he first came to Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters he knew nothing of baseball. Back home in Germany, their sport was what Americans call soccer, and Kurt was very good at it. But, to his surprise, he quickly discovered that he was even better at this new game. Best of all, being a teleporter… he doesn’t need a team! Kurt teleports in quick succession to the batting pitch and hit’s the ball, while several of his little Bamfs are on the field. Kurt tells himself that he can play all the positions himself - well, almost. He strikes the ball again, and it lands out field, where two of the little Bamfs try to catch it. Kurt knows that they do their best to help, and teleports over to grab the ball himself.
He decides that now comes their real test, as he fields the ball, makes his throw to second base, and teleports back to the base path, while his companions have a fair chance to tag him out, as several of the Bamfs climb on top of each other to try and catch the ball, but their style of play is somewhat unique, and Kurt decides that it is going to be close - he slides towards the base, just as one of the little Bamfs catches the ball. Kurt and the Bamfs turn to another Bamf who extends his arms, ‘The referee calls it, mein freundes. Safe… by a heartbeat!’ Kurt declares.
The memories then come to Kurt as naturally as breathing, the dark sky is replaced by a sunny day, and the field now full of his friends in the X-Men - Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Rogue, Kitty, the Professor. Kurt remembers so many joyous afternoons horsing around on the great lawn behind the mansion, when the X-Men weren’t risking their lives battling evil and saving the world, they were just the best of friends having fun together. And if, occasionally, a fly ball went a tad too high and the fielder chasing after it to go blow a kiss to Air Force One, well, the President didn’t seem to mind the lipstick on his window. That was the kind of world they lived in - they were a team - they were a family. Now, to Kurt, all of that has changed. So many of them have gone their own separate ways, down roads he never imagined possible. Today it seems that people who were once closer to him than his heart have become strangers - and worst of all, Kurt doesn’t know how to wing them back.
Kurt drops the baseball, ‘Stupid game’ he thinks to himself. ‘Stupid man - for thinking he could turn back time’ he decides.
Up at one of the windows of the Jean Grey School buildings, the young mutant called Rico tries to bang on the window and call out to Kurt.
As the Bamfs look up at Kurt, he tells them that he doesn’t way to play anymore. ‘Stop pestering me, Bamfs, I’m tired of this foolishness’ Kurt exclaims. ‘LEAVE Me ALONE’ he shouts as they continue to watch him. Suddenly, the darkened sky is filled with a brilliant light, as the beautiful Jean “Phoenix” Grey appears before a stunned Kurt. ‘Hey, Elf, is that any way to talk to your friends?’ Jean smiles. ‘Jean - but you’re dead!’ Kurt declares. ‘So were you, Kurt, but look at you know’ Jean responds, adding that there are more mysterious to creation than even the X-Men know. She tells Kurt that he has to have faith - in the man that he is and the path that lies ahead.
Even as Kurt “hears” the words, the image before him fades away - just like a moment from a dream. Kurt smiles and crouches down over the Bamfs, asking them to forgive him. He explains that he was feeling sorry for himself, when in fact he should be thanking the Almighty, for giving him a second chance. Kurt hugs the little Bamfs, as Rico continues to look out at Kurt from the window.
Shortly, in his room, Kurt is in the shower, while the Bamfs scamper about a cross the bed, one reads a paper and another sleeps. Kurt tells himself that this is a big day for him, part of the reason why he went outside to play some sunrise baseball, was to deal with an attack of nerves. One of the Bamfs brushes his own hair as Kurt steps out of the shower, and another Bamf holds Kurt’s toothbrush up for him. Kurt looks at them and decides that they do their best, and make him smile - and it works - but that still doesn’t slow the beating of his heart. One of the Bamfs holds up a hairdryer and blow-dries Kurt’s hair, as Kurt tells himself that leading a team of heroes into battle is easy, only these aren’t X-Men, active or potential, they are not even the old student team of New Mutants - they are just ordinary kids, who happen to have super powers, trying to find ways to help them live “normal” lives.
As Kurt puts his shirt on, one of the Bamfs holds up two different ties for him to choose from. Kurt frowns and realizes that the problem is that he is nor sure that is even possible. Regardless, he will try to do his best. Kurt goes over to a photograph on his chest of drawers, and picking up a cross, he looks at the photo of Amanda Sefton, and prays that she is watching over him. ‘Wish me luck’ he utters. Kurt starts to leave his room and looks at the Bamfs, telling them that this is the first day, and it is important ho him. ‘Don’t muck it up’ he asks them.
Shortly, Kurt enters the kitchen, and in his native tongue bids good morning to Dr Cecilia Reyes and Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast. ‘Don’t you look sharp’ Cecilia smiles, while Kurt explains that he is trying to make a good first impression. ‘Coffee’s fresh, my friend - have a cup’ the Beast smiles, handing Kurt a cup. Kurt thanks his friend and tells him that it smells delicious. Hank adds that it is his own brew, before telling Kurt that he owes him, for helping him and Ororo. ‘The debt is to Amanda. She’s the one who brought you back from oblivion and made you both whole’ Kurt replies. ‘She saved us all’ he adds, hanging his head. Cecilia looks up from the tablet she is looking at and tells Kurt that she is truly sorry. ‘I know how hard it is to lose someone you love’. Kurt smiles and reminds Cecilia that he chooses to follow the path of hope. ‘Amanda - and fate - may surprise us yet’ Kurt points out.
‘A man of faith, I like that’ Hanks smiles, putting a hand on Kurt’s shoulder. ‘A man of faith, Hank, who needs a job. What can I do?’ Kurt asks. ‘I dunno. What can you do?’ Hank replies. ‘Save worlds, do trapeze acts, swashbuckling swordplay - I’m afraid it’s a limited repertoire’ Kurt smiles. Cecilia suggests to Kurt that he audit some classes, evaluate what they need, apply that to what he has to offer. ‘We’ll take it from there’.
And just like that, Kurt’s new adventure begins. He walks through the sprawling Jean Grey School, past Rockslide, Match, Cipher and Transonic, as a voice calls out to him ‘Pretty cool place, huh?’ Bamfs run around Kurt’s feet as he turns to see an astral projection of his long-time teammate Rachel Grey walking alongside him. ‘Certainly different from the school I remember, Rachel’ Kurt smiles. ‘Cliché though it may sound… there are so many students’. Rachel tells Kurt that it is a brave new world. ‘And scary. I think I make the students nervous’ Kurt remarks. Surge and Indra walk past Kurt and Rachel, while Gentle, Oya and Eye Boy stare at him. ‘Some of them, for sure. Others, not so much. Same as you did the X-Men when you first met’ Rachel points out, reminding Kurt that in time, he won them over - and the same will apply to the kids. ‘You make it sound so easy’ Kurt smiles.
‘It can be as hard - or as easy - as you choose to make it. It’s your call, Nightcrawler’ Rachel remarks. Kurt tells her that she sounds like her mother, Jean. ‘She’s a tough act to follow’ Rachel replies, adding that she prefers to focus on what is tangible. ‘You need a job’ Rachel points out as she appears in her physical form, alongside Nightcrawler, as they arrive at the Danger Room. Kurt appears puzzled, but Rachel tells him that she has an idea.
And shortly, Kurt and Rachel stand side-by-side in the old standard blue and gold X-Men team uniforms worn by many members over the years. ‘I haven’t worn this training uniform in ages’ Kurt smiles, while some Bamfs are at his feet in the cold, sterile Danger Room. Rachel tells Kurt that it is no worries, as it looks almost as great on him as it does on her. ’Get your game face on, Kurt’ Rachel adds. ’Here come the kids’. Indeed, the doors to the Danger Room open, and six young mutants enter, all wearing the modern black and gold training uniform that many of the students wear. ’Good afternoon, students. You may call me Nightcrawler’ Kurt introduces himself, adding that here in the Danger Room, they will learn how to properly use and control their mutant abilities. Among the six students are Cessily “Mercury” Kincaid, Hisako Ichiki a.k.a. Armor, Rico, Crosta, a girl with antlers and boy with a corpse-like body.
As the sterile Danger Room chances to a battle-ravaged city scenario, Rachel and Kurt’s uniforms are replaced with their current costumes, as Kurt tells the students that within these walls, they can create any environment imaginable. ‘Don’t bother telling yourself it’s fake - because it isn’t’ he adds. Several large Sentinels loom over the mutants, as Kurt tells the students that as far as they are concerned, these constructs are real .‘Those are Sentinels!’ the girl with antlers gasps. ‘Where’d they come from?’ the corpse-like boy asks. ‘Best gym class ever!’ Mercury declares. ‘Uh, Cessily, Sentinels kill mutants’ Crosta points out nervously. ‘Who cares, it’s just an illusion’ Rico mutters, while the corpse-like boy tells him that it sure feels legit. ‘They have doubts’ Kurt remarks to Rachel. ‘Big mistake, kids. You’ll have to learn your lesson the hard way -’ Rachel begins, as their costumes change again, into warrior-like outfits, as the landscape around them transforms into some alternate planet.
‘- which means we visit one of my favourite worlds. Kurt’s the hero; I’m his sidekick!’ Rachel continues, as both she and Kurt hold large swords. The kids look around, as a horde of aliens rush towards them. ‘Leading the baddies is one of the most sinister creatures in all creation’ ‘She looks like Emma Frost!’ the corpse-like boy points out. ‘This is no game, babies’ a demonic-looking Emma Frost shrieks as she moves alongside her alien warriors. ‘Yield - and become our slaves - or suffer a fate far worse than death!’ she warns the young mutants. ‘We have a better idea…’ Kurt declares as he leaps into the air and dodges a laser fire, kicking the gun that it was shot from, while he pushes his hand down on another of the aliens. ‘Save yourself a lotta pain - and surrender to us!’ Rachel calls out as she kicks two aliens over at once. Rachel then tells the kids not to just stand there, and reminds them that they have powers of their own - so now is the chance to use them.
Mercury tells Armor that she heard what Ms Grey said, so they should show ‘em what they can do. The young women move into action, with Armor manifesting her super-strong exoskeleton of psionic energy. She hammers her adversaries, while Mercury’s liquid metal form creates two large swords for arms, and she slices her foes’ weapons to bits. Kurt decides that they make a good team, and would expect no less from two of the most experienced students. Kurt thinks to himself that the boys give a fair account of themselves as well, especially Rico, who’s scorpion-like body scuttles towards the demonic Emma Frost, tossing aside two aliens, he lunges towards his foe, ‘I’ll take care of Ms Frost!’ he boasts, but the demon Emma grabs him, ‘Once she’s beaten, we win the game - hey!’ Rico gasps as Emma grabs him by his throat and holds a dagger to him. ‘Foolish boy - what makes you think we pay the slightest attention to your rules? You lose against us, you pay the ultimate price!’ she grins. ‘Rico, look out!’ a wide-eyed Cessily calls out.
But, suddenly, ‘Danger Room, freeze the program!’ Nightcrawler shouts, and suddenly, all of the alien constructs stop moving, as does the demonic Emma Frost. ‘This training session’s on hold - for the moment’ Kurt remarks. He turns to the students and points out that these are all illusions, but that should not fool them, as the room is testing them, evaluating their capabilities, pushing them to their limits. ‘The only difference between here and reality is that the room will give you another chance’ Kurt adds. While the real Rico is set free, an image of he and Emma is projected, and Kurt tells Rico to never do the obvious, as direct assaults hardly ever work. Kurt adds that it is far better to catch your adversary by surprise - ‘Like so!’ he declares as several of the Bamfs teleport in and attack the hologram of the demonic Emma. ‘That’s why this is called the “Danger” Room’ Kurt explains. Rachel turns to the other students and points out that here they train against some of the deadliest adversaries imaginable, and by doing so, they attempt to develop a strategy to defeat them. She adds that along the way, they occasionally get hurt, but that in the end, with the Room’s help, they almost always find a way to win. Kurt smiles and suggests they start again and this time, find ways to do better.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, in a small tavern across the road from a large sign that reads: “NARWAL - the North American Robotic Weapon Advancement Laboratory“. ‘Location neutralized, Killian’ a voice calls out from inside the tavern. A large green-skinned man with a long beard, a patch over one eye and a large cannon strapped to his back lumbers forward, ‘Minimal booty, I fear. Hardly worth the energy it’ll take to transmat ‘em’ he reports. Killian, a man with mutated red skin encased in a large yellow armor replies ‘True that, Broadside. But it’s still profit, nonetheless. Send ‘em on their way’. A woman in a silvery-white costume, with similar color hair and red designs around her eyes reclines on a table and remarks ‘Poor pickings, all around. If this slop is what these yokels drink, the place has no right to call itself a bar’. The patrons of the bar lie slumped on the floor, as Killian addresses the woman as Bess and tells her not to get carried away, and reminds her that they are here on a mission.
A hologram of an unusual man with a clump of hair sticking up and a thin moustache appears. He tells Killian to remind his crew of where they are, pointing out that this planet is not to be taken lightly. ‘The prowess of its defenders is known throughout the universe’. The man adds that he is a merchant and is not here to start a war - merely to acquire a valuable commodity. The large man sees, via his projection, some civilians cowering before Broadside and he asks ‘Speaking of profit, Broadside, would you kindly dispose of these pathetic wretches’. Broadside holds a weapon to them and tells them to stop their wailing, as it isn’t like he is going to kill them. ‘Although, considering the fate in store for y’all…y’may wish I had!’ he declares as he fires the weapon, which strikes each of them - and they vanish, all except for their clothes.
The merchant holds up a device, which projects the image of a young woman, ‘Such a puny, pathetic, ordinary species - however did they spawn such formidable defenders?’ he wonders, suggesting that this creature may help provide an answer. ‘Her name is Ziggy Karst’ the merchant reveals. While Bess and one of the green-skinned, grinning Sea Dogs clink their next bottles of beer together, the merchant reports that Ziggy is, quite simply, a genius, for whom the pan-dimensional auguries predict and extraordinary future. The merchant boasts that he intends to control that future and informs Killian and the others that she is employed at one of the most heavily guarded facilities on this continent. ‘I want no excuses, I want that child’ the merchant declares. Killian frowns and addresses the merchant as Voge, assuring him that he will have her. ‘On that, you’ve the word of the Crimson Pirates!’ Killian declares.
Back at the Jean Grey School, Kurt is in the hangar bay, working on the jet called the Blackbird. A note has been scrawled across the side of the jet, “Kurt - the Blackbird is yours Have fun, little brother! Love, Ororo”. As he tinkers away with part of the jet, he recalls that after the slightly rocky start, the class went well. He decides that a number of the students have an aptitude for the life of a super hero. He wishes he could consider that a good thing. Kurt knows that his path is set, but that the students’ lives should offer more fulfilling possibilities. Kurt is happy to have discovered this gift from Ororo, his favorite aircraft, the X-Men’s old SR-71X Blackbird. He has been working on it all night. ‘Almost finished, Bamfs! A little more work and we can take the ‘Bird for a test flight’ Kurt remarks, before asking if someone can hand him the hex-ratchet.
‘Here y’go, Sir’ a voice calls out. ‘Thanks very much -’ Kurt replies, absently grabbing the tool, before he spins around, ‘Bamfs don’t talk - who -?’ he gasps, before peering down off the platform he is working on, he sees Rico, crawling up the side of the jet, he asks Rico what he is doing up so late. Rico explains that he doesn’t need much sleep, and tells Nightcrawler that he does what he does most nights - he goes exploring. ‘Wicked-cool plane, Sir’ he adds. ‘You don’t like rules?’ Kurt smiles. Rico replies that a lot of times, they are too hard a fit. ‘That could get you into trouble’ Kurt points out. ‘Story of my life’ Rico mutters, adding that it is hard to be like everyone else when you looks like he does. Kurt smiles and tells the young mutant that he certainly knows how that feels, before informing him that he is taking the Blackbird out for a test flight, he asks if he cares to come along. ‘Totally cool!’ Rico exclaims.
And an instant later, the Blackbird takes flight. ‘What d’you think?’ Nightcrawler asks. ‘Flies great - for such an old design…did I say something wrong?’ Rico enquires. Flying across the star-covered sky, Kurt tells Rico that appearances can be deceiving, as the SR-71X is more than a simple plane. ‘You want proof, look out the window’. Rico does so, ‘Where’s the sky?’ he asks as he cannot see the night-time sky. ‘Below us. We’re flying sub-orbit, about a hundred klicks up’ Nightcrawler explains. ‘Wow!’ Rico gasps. ‘That’s just the start’ Kurt adds, revealing that the power systems are capable of inter-planetary, inter-stellar and even inter-dimensional flight. Kurt tells Rico that wherever the X-Men have gone, the SR-71X helped pave the way.
‘That’s the International Space Station! I’ve dreamed of going there - but it’ll never happen’ Rico remarks as he sees the station floating above. ‘Why not?’ Kurt asks. ‘Just look at me. People see me, they see a monster’ Rico points out. Kurt asks the young mutant if he cares to fly the plane. ‘You bet!’ Rico exclaims. Kurt tells the young mutant that it is hard to blaze a trail. ‘Believe me, I know’. He points out that it is not impossible, and that Rico’s effort will make things easier for those who follow. ‘And your path will lead you to wonders - and adventures - you never dreamed of’. As Rico takes the controls, Kurt adds ‘That is why we’re here, I think - to show the way. And protect those who follow’. Suddenly, a hologram of Ororo “Storm” Munroe appears and she informs Kurt that she needs a favor. ‘Anything, Ororo, you know that’ Kurt replies. Storm reveals that they are registering a new mutant contact, surprisingly powerful, and in his vicinity. ‘Can you check it out?’ Storm enquires. Kurt smiles and asks Rico if he is ready for an adventure. ‘Absolutely!’ Rico replies, so Kurt tells Storm that they are on their way.
And, at NARWAL, the Crimson Pirates have broken into the facility, and fire their weapons at the employees. ‘No killing, Sea Dogs. We want everyone alive - there’s no profit to be made from corpses’ Broadside declares. ‘That goes for you, too, Bloody Bess!’ Broadside exclaims. ‘You boys ruin all my fun’ Bess complains. Killian tells Bess to save her death strokes for those who deserve it. ‘These fools mean nothing - the quarry that matters is the girl!’ Killian declares, while inside another part of the compound, Ziggy sits in a chair and reads something on a tablet, while strange rods hover around her as if she is levitating them.