She sees the stars with eyes that are not her own. She can hear the pounding of a heart - feel it pounding in a chest that belongs to someone else. At long last, she can taste the night - she doesn’t care that it is with someone else’s tongue. After many months, knowing nothing more than the frozen, unyielding embrace of a coma…Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen is free. Right now, her mind is inside the body of the X-Man known as Iceman a.k.a. Bobby Drake. And as the moon shines down on her/him, Emma, in Iceman’s body, drops off the side of a very high bridge, plummeting to the water below. The experience of being in someone else’s body is not totally alien to her. As the Hellfire Club’s White Queen, she spent the better part of her life traversing from one mind to another, violating the very essence of anyone she so chose, losing herself in the memories of others, altering, at times, opinions of those who opposed her. This time is different, this time it is about survival. This time - it’s for the children.
Flying over the bridge are Ororo “Storm” Monroe and Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel, who calls out to Emma, ‘Don’t make me do this!’ he shouts. ‘Don’t force me to injure the body of my best friend - just because you refuse to listen to reason!’ he exclaims as he releases several of his neuro-blades, but as Storm points out, they do not seem to have any effect. The two heroes fly faster down towards the White Queen, and Warren points out that the reason his neuro-blades are having no effect may have something to do with what Emma has done to Bobby, pointing out that since taking possession of his body, Emma has done things with his powers that they have never dreamed of.
Storm reaches Emma and tells her that they realize how disorientating this must be for her, but insists that she returns. ‘By fleeing the Mansion, you have -’ Storm begins, but Emma interrupts, ‘- I escaped your lies, Ororo! Nothing you can do will prevent me from being united with my students!’ she shouts. ‘NOTHING!’, before she suddenly lands in the water with a splash. ‘Woman, we have told you - the Hellions are - dead!’ Storm declares. Warren tells Storm that he doesn’t like the look of this, remarking that Emma hasn’t been inside Bobby’s body for half an hour, and she is already using his mutant ability as if she were born with it. ‘So it would appear’ Storm agrees, motioning down to where Emma has covered the river in ice, effectively slowing down their pursuit of her. Storm adds that this means the White Queen is out there, somewhere - with all the power of Iceman at her command.
Emma emerges, five seconds later, nearly three miles down the Hudson River. She tells herself that she has no way of knowing how long she was in a coma, and that the last thing she remembers is that idiot cyborg Donald Pierce leading a squad of Sentinels into the heart of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle. Emma decides that the fact that the X-Men survived that assault does nothing to address her only real concern about the outcome of the battle - what happened to the young mutants who trusted her to train them, lead them, protect them. ‘What really happened to the Hellions?’ Emma wonders.
Back up in the sky, Storm and Archangel get a telepathic request from Professor Charles Xavier, asking for their status. Warren asks Storm if she wants to tell him the bad news, or if he should. Storm replies that she is the leader of the Gold Team, so the fault is hers, and informs Xavier that the White Queen has managed to elude them for the moment. ‘We will attempt to -’ Storm begins, but the Professor tells her that will not be necessary, and announces that he wants her and Warren to return to the mansion at this time.
Xavier explains that he and Banshee are only moments away from New York City, and that even if he was not following Emma’s distinctive thought patterns, he has a fairly clear idea of where she is heading. ‘As you wish’ Storm replies, while inside the Blackbrid Sean Cassidy a.k.a. Banshee, piloting the jet in civilian attire, asks Charles if that is wise, adding that Emma Frost was never what he would consider the most stable of lassies, ‘If there’s to be a confrontation…’ Sean begins, but Charles tells his old friend to make no mistake, that there will be one, although he doubts it will be between them and the White Queen. ‘Rather, Ms Frost will have to deal with a power far greater than her own. The power of truth’ Xavier explains.
Meanwhile, at the aforementioned Westchester Mansion, which serves as Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the X-Man known only a Bishop has engaged with a robot opponent in the Danger Room. ‘So, this is the legendary Danger Room, eh? Somehow I thought it would be…bigger I guess. What about the famous X-Men hologram training scenarios we always heard about as children?’ a voice calls out to Bishop, who replies that the Shi’ar technology does exist, but he simply chooses not to use it. ‘Now please. Shut up -’ he begins, before the robot punches him in the face. ‘Your incessant noise is distracting me’ Bishop tells his mysterious companion. ‘Are you serious? Too distracted to take on a…what’s the word… “robot”?’ the voice asks.
‘Oh how the mighty have fallen. You ask me, Bishop - you’re just getting soft in your old age’ the voice remarks. ‘I am not…soft’ Bishop replies, adding that he is not asking for anything. ‘Maybe not. But you are slow. Or you would have saved yourself from this old standby’ the voice criticizes Bishop as the robot picks him up and holds him over a hole which has opened up in the floor, flames below. Bishop is dropped towards the fire, but he manages to grab onto the side of the floor, ‘As in grabbing onto the sides…like this?’ he asks. ‘Something like that. Yes. Grandstander’ his mysterious companion mutters, adding that they have seen that particular look of righteous indignation on Bishop’s face before. ‘But remember the rules - no powers’. ‘And no weapons, either. I remember’ Bishop replies as he pulls himself out of the hole, and moves towards the robot, declaring that the day he needs either powers or weapons to defeat something as simplistic as this construct is the day he ceases to be of any use to his teammates in the X-Men.
Bishop lashes out with more anger than seems appropriate for this exercise session, which is precisely the case. For the man called Bishop is not as frustrated by the fact that he’s under attack, as much as by the company he has chosen to keep this day. ‘Very impressive, Bishop’ Shard remarks as she steps towards Bishop, who kneels beside the fallen form of the robot. ‘Speaking on behalf of the entire XSE…I’m embarrassed for you’ Shard declares as she tosses a towel to Bishop, who asks ‘What do you know, Shard? You’re a hologram, for crying out loud! You’re not even real!’, to which Shard smirks and reminds Bishop that she knows everything he painstakingly programmed her to know, and points out that when she was his commanding officer in the XSE, none of them had the luxury of “training”, for each day on the metacentric peace-keeping force was, in and of itself, an exercise in survival.
‘This was stupid of me’ Bishop remarks, adding that in one breath, he says he is trying to live in the moment, instead of the future from which he comes, and then he turns around and installs a program reminiscent of all that has ever been important in his life. ‘What’s the big deal? Is it such a crime to miss me? You do miss me, no?’ Shard asks. ‘More than life itself’ Bishop tells her. ‘Good, because I -’ Shard begins, before suddenly she seems to go off-line, stopping mid-way through her sentence and coming to a stand-still. ‘Shard? Hello…?’ Bishop calls out, before Jubilee approaches him, ‘Sorry, B! My fault!’ she tells Bishop, explaining that the holo-program automatically goes into freeze mode when the rooms fills with “us unauthorized minors” she tells him. ‘Am I, like, interrupting anything?’ Jubilee enquires.
‘Not at all’ Bishop tells her, explaining that he was just finishing up here. ‘Cool. So who’s the babe?’ Jubilee asks, looking at Shard. ‘She was hardly a “babe”’ Bishop replies, explaining that she was, at one time, the youngest mutant to attain the rank of field commander in the XSE, and reveals to Jubilee that Shard was also his sister. Jubilee smiles, ‘You never told me you had a family. Cool!’, before asking Bishop if he is going to introduce them. ‘Computer: continue program’ Bishop orders, and instantly, Shard springs back to “life”, ‘Miss you too, you - HEY!’ she exclaims as she sets her eyes on Jubilee, announcing that she recognizes her from a handful of holovids that survived in her era. ‘You’re Jubilation…the last X-Man’ Shard declares. ‘Yeah, so I’ve heard’ Jubilee mutters, adding that nobody wants to fill her in on how she got that tag. ‘If my brother is pretending to know, he’s bluffing. The few details we had of this era were sketchy at best’ Shard informs Jubilee.
‘Wow. A sister. That is so…so! I usually try not to think about it…but when my mom and dad died, I guess that officially made me an orphan. Duh!’ Jubilee exclaims, adding that flying solo isn’t such a bad gig, now with friends like Wolverine and the rest of the X-posse, but that it must be the ultimate to know your real family is alive somewhere. Jubilee then asks Bishop why he didn’t bring Shard back in time when he came here. Bishop ends the program, and informs Jubilee that it would have been impossible. ‘Howya figure? Randall and Malcolm came back’ she points out. ‘Don’t tell me. There’s, like, some “no girls allowed” rule I didn’t know about?’ Jubilee remarks. ‘No. It’s because she was dead’ Bishop reveals. Jubilee calms down, and quietly replies ‘Dude. Like I’m sorry. H-how?’, and as the Shard holo-image stands motionless, Bishop turns and walks away, announcing ‘I killed her’ as he goes.
Meantime, at Frost Enterprises, one of the hottest stocks on Wall Street, it is also housed in one of the tallest buildings on the Upper West Side, a sleek, fashionable building, it is also the most heavily fortified. Still in the body of Iceman, Emma peers around an alleyway corner, thinking that if she was her usual attractive self, it would be a simple matter to walk in and make herself at home, even if no one believed she was the long lost Emma Frost, at least she would have her telepathic abilities to get what she wants. Emma decides that since Iceman is too easily recognizable as an X-Man, even her version of him, she thinks that the first order of business is to concentrate and de-ice herself so she can slip by the guards.
But, Emma struggles to do this, and screams out in agony as her bones begin to re-form in the shape of ice. She realizes that she has no way of knowing exactly how Bobby Drake’s human form is regained. She quickly reverts back to ice-form, when suddenly, the lights of torches are shone her way. ‘Over here, Brett!’ someone shouts. ‘I think we got something!’ another declares. ‘Shouldn’t we follow procedure - call for backup?’ another enquires. Suddenly, the two men reach Emma, who turns to face the alleyway wall. ‘Greg…what is that thing?’ Brett asks. ‘You’re the detail-monger, Brett…you telling me you don’t recognize the Ice Kid?’ Greg replies.
‘It’s “Iceman”, you idiot…and appearances to the contrary, I am not he!’ Emma exclaims. ‘What do you mean? You’re not Ice Boy…or not Iceman?’ Greg asks, aiming a pistol at Emma, who sighs, and mutters ‘Neither’. One of the guards announces ‘Whoever you are - or aren’t - you’re obviously somewhere you shouldn’t be’ and adds that ever since Ms Frost’s disappearance a while back, things have been kind of tense around here. ‘So why don’t you just go back home like the filthy little mutate you are?’ the guard adds. ‘It’s “mutant” you idiot…and the only place I’m going…is inside that building’ Emma declares, turning to face the guards, she tells them that the only choice they have to make is whether they will still be alive when she comes out.
‘That’s it! I’m gonna stand here and be threatened by somebody with a homo superiority complex? You think I’m a nobody rent-a-cop, just cause I don’t got a fancy costume and super powers? Let’s see what happens to your ice body…when I blow a hole right through the center of it!’ the security guard shouts as he fires the pistol, sending a bullet through the chest of the over-sized Iceman / White Queen standing before him. ‘There - now we all know exactly what happens’ Emma mumbles, unimpressed. ‘Fortunately for all of us, this body seems quite capable of adapting to any alteration to its form. You can only imagine the inconvenience it would have caused if I say shattered into a million pieces?’ Emma states.
‘Yeah…I can only imagine…look ummmm…Ice Person…all things considered...if you want inside…I don’t think anyone’s going to mind. Much’ one of the guards calls out. ‘ENOUGH! I’m through wasting time with fools - when anything might be happening to my students!’ Emma exclaims as she grabs Greg and Brett by their necks, lifts them up and slams them against the wall. ‘Phone ahead, gentlemen. Tell the rest of the security force that I’m coming in - and the body count will be a lot lighter if no one tries to stop me’ Emma suggests as literally drips away from the alley, leaving a trail of melting ice behind her. ‘He - it - is melting, Brett, sliding across the street’ Greg exclaims. ‘Yeah - so? What am I supposed to do about it? If he wants into the building…it don’t look like you or I can do anything about it!’ Brett points out.
‘Amazing. For years I’d always dismissed Iceman as the class clown…but the truth is, his powers are almost without limit!’ Emma thinks to herself as she begins to reform inside Frost Enterprises, where a security officer called Collins announces that there is a security breach as he sees a stream of ice strike a security camera down. Since shortly after puberty when her mutant ability to manipulate minds began to manifest itself, Emma Frost’s entire life has been one of control. Controlling her financial empire, and anyone who got in her way, even to a lesser degree, the students who were her Hellions. So if she lashed out at her employee harder than she should, it was because she was lashing out at herself - for losing control of the situation.
Using the power of Iceman, Emma blasts Collins with a surge of ice, engulfing him and leaving him on the floor as she turns away and wipes her face, telling herself that she is spoiled, not used to physical conflicts. She hangs her head and recalls that even before the coma, she had other people deal with the hand to hand battles, and for that matter, the whole reason she founded the Hellions was to protect her way, to make her life, and to help them. ‘I did it all to…help the children’ Emma decides.
The White Queen travels the several floors to the records room without incident, and begins tapping into a computer, frustrated that she cannot get a hand on the physical exertion riff. ‘All I ever had to do was think about something - it seemed - and it would happen. The new Porsche that Poppa insisted was too expensive…? One stray thought later - and I woke up to find it in the driveway’ Emma recalls. ‘A failing grade in economics…? My Professors “suddenly” decide I’m the class valedictorian’. Emma always found it amazing what you can learn just be mingling at a cocktail party on Wall Street, when you possess the ability to read minds the way normal people read books. Emma knows that some people would argue she used her powers selfishly by building a financial empire for herself. ‘They’d be right’ Emma decides.
She continues to tap away at the computer, the screen blank, while she remembers a quote: “Use the asininities you’ve been given…to make life easier…to take what you want…when you want…”. Suddenly, six names flash up on the screen - Tarot. Roulette. Catseye. Jetstream. Beef. Bevatron. Each name with DECEASED written alongside. ‘No. Computer…? How…? How did this happen?’ Emma utters, eyes-wide. ‘HOW DIS THIS HAPPEN?’ Emma screams. Images flash across the computer monitor - of Fitzroy and Sentinels and her students. The computer relates to Emma: ‘Chronological anomaly designate Fitzroy…depleted Roulette…depleted Catseye…Tarot…depleted Bevatron of energy for “fuel” needed to open time portal’.
Emma remembers, seeing the murder of each of her former students, depicted in the heartless, lifeless light of computer generated images. Emma is thankful, perhaps for the first time in her life, that she is not privy to the thoughts of her students, in what was no doubt the agony, fear and hopelessness which defined their final moments. Emma wonders if her students thought of her, if any of them were sonically crying out to her from across the void…as they were pulled kicking and screaming to another plane of existence. Who among them cursed her - for having abandoned them in their darkest hour? Who blamed her…as she blames herself? Emma drops to the floor, ‘…all of you…please. Forgive me. Forgive me, because I know…I never will’ Emma utters.
Suddenly, over half a dozen Frost Enterprises security personnel burst into the room, ‘Free - er, hold it right there, buddy! No one’s going to question us if we kill one trespassing mutant!’ one of the officers shouts. ‘Do it. Please’ Emma utters, still sitting on the floor. ‘What? What are you talking about? Don’t try to bluff us, Iceman…we’ve enough fire power to reduce you to a five pound bag of ice!’ one of the security officers exclaims, while another demands to know what Iceman is doing here. ‘Shut up and fire! Do me the favor…do the world a favor before I do any more damage than I’ve already done….DO IT!’ Emma screams. One of the security officers frowns, before remarking ‘You heard the man, people…’, and all of the officers raise their weapons, while Emma stares blankly back at them.
Suddenly, Professor X appears in the room, followed by Banshee. ‘STOP!’ Xavier telepathically calls out, and remarkably, the security personnel do so, caught in the almost casual psionic grip of arguably the most powerful telepath on the planet. Though he is not one to use his mutant ability against those who cannot resist his will, there are times, like these, when Xavier finds it necessary. He faces Emma, as doe Banshee, who asks her if she is out of her head with grief, and what she was thinking. Charles remarks that it is clear she was seeking an extreme form of retribution for crimes committed by the Upstart known as Fitzroy, and tells Emma that what happened was a tragedy of the highest order. ‘But you cannot -’ he begins. ‘Don’t tell me what I can or cannot feel, Charles Xavier! You have no idea what it is I’m feeling - or why?’ Emma declares.
‘I…accept that. And I apologize’ Charles replies, before asking Emma to tell him, in her own words. Emma stands up states that it is true that Fitzroy may have killed her students, but that she is the one who set them up as targets. ‘I’m the one who spent years traveling the globe - finding the most impressionable of the young mutants…I’m the one who gathered the sheep for the slaughter’ she states. Charles tells Emma that he can appreciate her sense of responsibility for the welfare of the Hellions, adding that he has often felt the same way over the years, but explains that each and every person is given a free will to make their own choices in life. ‘The Hellions chose to follow you, just as the New Mutants cast their lot at first with me, and later with Cable as X-Force. But you -’ Xavier remarks, before Emma interrupts him again, leaning over his hover-chair, she tells him that she is not talking about anyone else’s actions, but her own.
The White Queen continues, telling Xavier that she never had access to Cerebro as he did, so she had to scour every square inch of the planet, using all the wealth and resources she had accumulated over the years, following every lead, checking under every rock, searching for anyone who showed even the most remote manifestation of a mutant power. Emma explains that when she did find them, one student at a time, she hid them - from Charles, from Magneto, from Project Wideawake, that she rearranged their brain engrams so that they could not be detected. She asks Xavier if it never occurred to him, to question how she had gathered so many young mutants. ‘I stacked the deck in my favor - because I honestly believed that I had more to offer them’ Emma explains.
‘Don’t you understand? They would have been better off with you!’ Emma snaps, adding that the Hellions trusted her with their lives, yes, but that it was a trust she didn’t deserve. ‘I failed where you succeeded, Charles Xavier. I failed…and they paid the price for that failure…with their lives’ Emma utters as she collapses to the ground. Sean walks over to her, ‘Woman…? Emma…give me your hand. We cannae afford this any more’ Sean tells her, extending his hand, adding that they cannot afford to keep fighting amongst themselves. He remarks that there is nothing she can do about the past, nothing to be done to ressurrect those children, to offer them another chance, but that together, they can look forward, right here, right now, they can start working to build a better world for the next generations of mutants, of humans. ‘Of all of us’ Sean adds. Emma reaches up and takes Sean’s hand, before Banshee picks her up and takes her in his arms. He realizes his words do nothing to assuage her guilt, which in truth, is not his intent. He doubts he will ever find it in his own heart to forgive the White Queen, but his is a heart that is not big enough for hate. Filled, as it is, to overflowing with hope, Banshee leaves the room, carrying the White Queen.
Charles turns to the large monitor in the room, which still lists the names of the six young Hellions who recently died. ‘Forgive me as well, children. Not for what I have done, yet rather for what I have failed to do. If there was a way to exchange places with any one of you…an opportunity to give back to you that which was taken…know that I would do this in an instant’ Charles remarks. But he knows that is not possible. ‘All I have to offer you is a promise’. Charles states that never again will the blood of innocents be spilt in this insane conflict between races, between fractions. ‘Never again’.