Officer Nixon forgot he was dead the first time he witnessed his daughter die. The vision was so real; he felt like he was there, right next to her, when she was bludgeoned over the head. She looked older, but he knew it was her. The second time he saw her die, and the third time, he recognized her as well. It never got easier, either. Seeing your baby die never does.
The spectral Officer Nixon stares at myriad different paths, all projected onto pink crystals, laid out for his daughter. In all of them, she meets a grisly end: throat slit, drowning, eviscerated by Wolverine, slaughtered by the Thunderbolts, incinerated by a Sentinel, grafted onto a machine, and many more. In every variation of her future, Kiden Nixon will die prematurely. In every variation, that is, except one. Kiden has one chance to survive… even if it turns her into a monster.
Kiden returns to the apartment of Doctor Cecilia Reyes. Her entrance wakes up both Lil Bro and his amnesiac older brother, Bobby Soul, who asks what Kiden learned. He notices a bruise on her face and asks what happened; did someone beat on her? Kiden covers her eye and says it’s nothing, but Bobby Soul refuses to let it go. Did Doctor Reyes do something to her? Again, Kiden says nothing happened; she got careless and fell. Right, Bobby says; sidewalks must have fists now. Since he refuses to let the issue rest, Kiden fesses up and begrudgingly reveals what happened.
“The doctor went straight to a pay phone,” Kiden says, folding her arms. “You wanna bet she’s not turning us in? Cops are probably on their way while we stand here being all chatty.” Tatiana, wearing an arm-sling and dressed in a borrowed Xavier Institute T-shirt, pulls pack the operating room curtain and asks what happened. Kiden asks her if she can walk. No, Tatiana tells her, before commenting on Kiden’s bruised eye. Kiden asks if it makes her look like a badass; Tatiana tells her she looks more like road kill. She notices Kiden packing up their bags, and asks why she wants to leave. It’s not safe, Kiden says. Tatiana reminds her no place is safe, but Kiden doesn’t care. Tatiana refuses to run after finding someone as nice as Doctor Reyes; Cecilia can help them, she says. Kiden asks if she would bet her life on that. The way she sees it, they can trust no one. They trusted Ms. Palmer, Tatiana says. Besides, she is tired of running. When does it ever stop? “It doesn’t,” Kiden says.
A short while later, Cecilia Reyes returns home with some groceries, only to find her apartment empty. She finds a hand-written note from Bobby on the coffee table. Dr. Reyes, thanks for helping. We didn’t take anything, the note reads. Scribbled beneath Bobby’s message is post-script from Tatiana: except for clothes, and some food. Will pay you back. Cecilia sighs and closes her eyes. “Damn.”
New York City…
It’s a chilly, overcast day in New York City. An elderly woman sits on her fire escape, reading the newspaper in the company of her cats. Below, residents of the city walk down its sidewalks, oblivious to the “WANTED” posters stapled to the telephone poles, bearing the pictures of Kiden Nixon, Tatiana Caban, and Bobby Soul. An undercover cop, standing outside of Kiden’s old apartment, reports back to his superior using a discrete headset. It’s only a matter of time before the kids return home, he says while doing his best to act nonchalant.
Meanwhile, across the street, Sniper Chick also reports back to her superior. She tells her boss she is aware of their competition; she can clearly see the undercover cop also staking out Kiden’s old crash pad.
A pizza deliver guy on a moped cruises down the street while yammering into his cell phone. He tells his buddy on the phone that women like it when guys treat them poorly; it’s like an aphrodisiac or something. He parks the moped and grabs his pizza delivery, but in the blink of an eye, it vanishes out of his hand. His jaw drops.
Both the undercover cop and Sniper Chick witness the pizza’s disappearance, but only the cop cares to investigate. Sniper Chick continues speaking into her phone. “Miss Nixon has never been subtle,” she says. “We’ll have to work on that first. Amongst other things.”
The subway tunnels…
Kiden, Bobby, Tatiana, and Lil Bro camp out in an alcove alongside one of New York City’s many subway tracks. They finish eating their stolen pizza. Kiden dangles her legs out of the alcove and stares longingly down the tunnel at the approaching train car. Bobby, meanwhile, tries to help Tatiana with her injured arm. She asks if she is still bleeding, but Bobby assures her she isn’t. Cecilia did a good job on her stitches. Tatiana remembers the doctor calling her tough; no one has ever called her “tough” before.
Bobby suddenly notices the rats in their cramped living quarters and throws up his arms in exasperation. He refuses to do this anymore. Do what, Kiden asks? Survive? No, Bobby says; he refuses to live like an animal. Maybe he could handle it if it was only him, but he has a little brother for whom he needs to care, and his brother deserves better. He intends to give him a better life, before this type of living is all he remembers… if he lives long enough to remember anything, that is.
Kiden asks where he intends to go; the entire city is looking for them. Bobby tells her he can start over somewhere else in the world. What about Ms. Palmer, Kiden asks? Tatiana reminds her they do not even know where to find their old teacher, and besides, none of them are fighters. Did they forget why those people took Ms. Palmer? “We’re the reason she’s in trouble,” Kiden says. Bobby, however, refuses to sacrifice his brother, or either one of his friends, just to rescue their old mentor. They mean more to him than she does. Kiden tells him that isn’t the point. She pulls on her hood and jumps down onto the tracks. She is going for a walk; if she doesn’t return in a couple of hours, they should go on without her. As the roaring train approaches, she turns to her teammates and tells them she does not want them to get hurt. Bobby screams for her to get out of the way; Kiden simply says goodbye. Although she freezes time and gets out of the train’s way, her friends only see her disappear, seemingly under its wheels, as it whizzes past.
Lil Bro, meanwhile, seems to be paying attention to something else entirely. While Tatiana and Bobby Soul try to figure out their next step, Lil Bro reaches out and grabs the hand of a nearby phantom man: Officer Nixon. The officer, Kiden’s deceased father, leans down and whispers something into Lil Bro’s ear. Suddenly, Bobby and Tatiana notice a blue light permeating their alcove. They turn and see an astral projection, emanating from Lil Bro’s eyes, that depicts Kiden being punched by the Sniper Chick, Ms. Palmer shackled to a chair, Kiden lying bound and gagged on a stretcher, and a simple business card bearing the words “Empire State University”. Tatiana gasps, and tells Bobby to pack his things.
Empire State University…
As she rounds a corner on the ESU campus, Kiden derides herself for abandoning her friends. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she says. What does she even plan on doing? Walking right up to her enemies and fighting her way to Ms. Palmer? “Jesus, what am I doing?”
“Praying, from the sound of it,” someone says. Kiden turns and sees her nemesis, the Sniper Chick, standing defiantly on the corner. Kiden asks if she plans on beating her up again. Perhaps later, she says. First, she wants to do an experiment; pain doesn’t seem to work on everyone. Kiden asks if pain worked on Ms. Palmer. Sniper Chick says she wouldn’t know; all she wanted from Ms. Palmer was fear, specifically enough fear to lure Kiden. Kiden asks why she didn’t just kidnap her instead, but Sniper Chick insists that would defeat the purpose.
“Who we are, what we become, results from choice. You had to choose this path, Kiden. If you had chosen another, I would have made adjustments. But this – this moment – is yours,” she says. She senses Kiden wants to hit her. Go ahead, she says. Put a bruise on her face, if she can. Kiden backs down. Sniper Chick calls her a fast learner, one who possesses the most basic instinct of every living creature: survival. Kiden clearly wants to live. Kiden insists she only wants to help her friend. The woman tells her friends can be replaced. After all, everyone gets used; it’s only a matter of how, and how much. The way she sees it, her job is to teach Kiden the skills she needs to take advantage of that inevitable exchange of power.
Kiden curses at her, and says she doesn’t even know why this woman wants to help her. Whipping back around, Sniper Chick grabs Kiden by the chin and tells her she is helping her because it’s her job. She breaks people in; she makes new people out of their old, useless shells. Kiden elbows the woman in the neck, but the attack proves futile. Sniper Chick grabs her by the hair, puts her in a chokehold, and plunges a loaded syringe into her neck. “I’m going to break you, little girl,” she says. “I’m going to break you all.” Kiden, foaming at the mouth, collapses. Sniper Chick gets back on her cell phone and tells her boss the job is done; they can now bring the others in.
Much later, Bobby Soul slowly regains consciousness on an operating table. As his vision returns, he begins seeing a surgeon, and the menacing Sniper Chick. They discuss how to keep him restrained; Sniper Chick advises the doctor to keep the dosage high, so Bobby cannot escape. She gives him some orders on how to run his trial before she notices Bobby waking up. Hello, she says. She welcomes him to his last moment of consciousness before he transforms into a new man. “Bobby Soul. Man of souls. So tightly wound. So in control,” she says. As she exits the room, she tells Bobby she intends to have fun with both him and his little brother. She will return when they are both primed.
Tatiana, meanwhile, wakes up on a regal-looking bench in a gentlemen’s lounge. Someone approaches and offers her a glass of red wine, for her headache. Tatiana turns and sees the speaker: the Sniper Chick, dressed in a white business suit, with a black undershirt and a blood-red necktie. In one hand, she holds Tatiana’s drink, and in the other, Lil Bro. She tells Tatiana to take the drink before she drops the boy. Tatiana asks who she is, but instead of answering, the woman tells Tatiana what she knows about her and her mutant abilities. Where is Bobby, Tatiana asks? The woman informs her that Bobby, like Kiden, is undergoing treatment. Tatiana will undergo the same, depending on the outcome of their conversation.
Suddenly, Tatiana notices her former teacher, Ms. Palmer, chained to a nearby lounge chair. After checking on her, she asks why they did this to her. They did what was necessary, the woman insists. Bait, after all, only works if it has value to the prey. Bait, Tatiana asks? Does that mean this entire thing was a trap to lure in her and her friends? Why? They don’t even know each other!
The well-dressed woman tells Tatiana she need not know who she is, only what she does. She hurts people, in order to make them stronger… and a little hurt can go a long way. Does Tatiana realize she is a mutant, the Sniper Chick asks? And not just a mutant, but a mutant in a world where mutants are quickly going extinct? Does she understand how rare she has become? All over the world, people are placing bounties on the heads of mutant children, especially ones without families. Their power is a commodity; if Tatiana refuses to take control of it, someone else will. “Your fate is inevitable, little mutant,” the woman says. “Everything you love will be taken from you. Again. Unless you listen to me very closely.”
The Sniper Chick turns and paces around the room. What she offers, she says, is an opportunity to prepare for the inevitable, and, in doing so, reserve a life of comfort and safety for her future self. In a sense, she offers Tatiana freedom: a chance to survive on her own terms. Tatiana, however, is not convinced. This woman kidnapped her and wants to use her for her powers. That’s not freedom! That kind of survival doesn’t even sound appealing!
Tatiana may feel that way now, Sniper Chick says, but she would change her mind if she knew the alternative. She runs her fingers suggestively through Lil Bro’s curly hair. Tatiana asks her not to hurt him. Nonsense, the Sniper Chick says. She doesn’t hurt potential assets; she grooms them. She assumes this boy will eventually manifest some sort of mutant power, like his older brother, and has no problem waiting. Horrified, Tatiana acquiesces.
Having broken her captive, the Sniper Chick turns to leave. She asks Tatiana to think about their conversation, and what she said. Maybe something good will come out of it for her teacher as well, she says. Tatiana doubts it. Besides, she says, she and her friends were never given a choice in anything. “There’s always a choice,” Sniper Chick says as she leaves. “Choices are who we become.”
In the hallway, the ghost of Kiden’s father, internally agreeing with Sniper Chick’s statement on choice, approaches her and tells her the boy is ready. Her orders were to begin with Kiden, she says. The ghost says nothing; Sniper Chick yields and agrees to do as he wishes. We forget the good choices. We take them for granted, he thinks. But the bad choices… those linger. They eat at us. They murder. I made a bad choice, long ago. A bad choice, for a good reason.
He phases through the wall and into Kiden’s holding cell. Inside, she lies on an operating table, dressed in a hospital gown, shackled and unconscious. Now, it is time to pay, he thinks as he reaches out and takes his daughter’s hand. “Sweetheart. I’m here now,” he says. I love you. Remember that, if you ever forgive me. I love you, forever.