The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning – Salem Center, Westchester County, NY
Boomer, Shatterstar, Sunspot and Warpath were engaged in simulated battle in the mansion’s Danger Room, when the walls shook with the force of a mysterious blast – a blast that came from Dr. Henry McCoy’s lab. For weeks, Beast has done little else but obsess over finding the cure for the Legacy Virus, a gene-specific designer virus which primarily targets mutants. No one is surprised to discover they were right – that Beast’s 30-hour a day work schedule would ultimately give way to disaster.
The four members of X-Force rush inside the lab to see what has happened. Warpath employs his superhuman physical strength to lift some debris while asking Shatterstar if he can see anything through the smoke; despite his heightened senses, James himself can barely see a thing. Shatterstar points him at the sight of Beast, lying on the floor amidst the debris from the explosion. However, from this distance, it is impossible for Shatterstar to tell if Hank is alive or dead!
Hank weakly mumbles he’s alive. Either that or the hereafter is not nearly as peaceful as it purports to be! Warpath advises him to save his breath. Shatterstar believes they should free Hank from this wreckage before he attempts to indulge in his usual stream of consciousness ramblings! “No problem, kids” Hank replies and explains he’s too depressed, anyway: the moment he thought he was going to die, his life flashed before his eyes and he was being played by Jim Carrey!
While Sunspot and Tabitha are extinguishing the fire, James tries to help Hank get back on his feet. Shatterstar discerns that Hank sounds a bit different. “No doubt, ‘Star” James agrees – judging from the looks of the lab, it’s a miracle Dr. McCoy even survived! He thinks they should get him to the infirmary before… “No!” Hank strongly refuses. “But, sir…” James insists. “I think I’d better go to the infirmary instead,” Hank “corrects” him. “Uh… sure” a puzzled James replies.
As they exit the lab, Shatterstar asks Hank if he has any idea how this happened. Beast explains that he mixed this and that and… boom. “Boom?” a confused Shatterstar repeats. Warpath urges Shatterstar to give Beast a moment to gather his thoughts. Hank pleads them to give him two, if they’re so inclined, and rubs his head.
Tabitha intervenes, arguing that Beast is making as much sense as he ever does. Still, she thinks they’d better sift through this and make sure there aren’t any potential fires in the making. Hank believes that Boomer is right and asks Shatterstar and Warpath to let him go off and lick his wounds appropriately, assuring them that, in no time at all, he’ll be his same old lovable self. Shatterstar asks him if he’s sure. “Of course, I’m sure,” Hank replies. “Who else could I be?”
New York, New York
White Queen loves this city. Though born and bred in Boston, it was here on Wall Street that she parlayed a respectable family fortune into an obscene amount of money through the auspices of Frost Enterprises. While “Who’s Who” would describe Emma Frost as being simply a gifted entrepreneur, those who know her better might attribute her business savvy to her genetic mutation: her ability to manipulate the minds of others.
Emma is notoriously difficult to surprise. Not impossible, however: she enters her private office, smiling complacently, only to discover Iceman sitting on her chair, the entirety of the office encased in Bobby’s gigantic ice sculptures.
Understandably shocked, Emma asks Iceman what he’s doing in her office. Receiving no response, Emma asks him if he heard her before: she demands to know where he got off barging into her… “Shut up, Emma” Bobby cuts her short in an authoritative manner and orders her to sit down. They’ve got to talk.
At that moment, nestled somewhere in the Colorado mountains…
Bishop and Gambit stand on the balcony of Archangel’s house, staring at the firry slopes of the snowy mountains. “I was fifteen,” Bishop suddenly mutters. “Pardon?” Remy asks him. Bishop clarifies that he was fifteen before he saw his first tree. Before that, in the future where he was born, he’d been raised in a defoliated zone… a city. He was in one of his first assignments with X.S.E., when he remembers standing on the side of the mountain at Shadow Rock, seeing trees as far as the eyes could see – much like here. Bishop admits it was both beautiful and terrifying, because it was a challenge to everything he thought he had known about his world.
Seemingly irresponsive to Bishop’s memory, Gambit asks him whether this is his version of an apology for never trusting Remy before he even got to know him. “Don’t bother” Remy coldly adds. “Apologizing… or trusting you?” Bishop asks him. Either, Remy replies. Bishop accuses Gambit that sometimes he is indeed something of a jerk. “There you go, mon ami,” Remy ‘congratulates’ him, “there’s something you can always count on.”
Watching them from the interior of the house, Professor X wonders who these two are. He knows their names, of course, but there’s so much about these newer X-Men that is a mystery. He thinks that, certainly, he can trust his original students yet…
“Professor Xavier… you’re still here?” Archangel exclaims upon entering the room, thus cutting Xavier’s musings short. Warren informs him that Betsy is resting comfortably. It’ll be a while before she recovers from her wounds – before she adjusts to what happened – but Warren is sure that she is going to be fine. “So then, Warren, I can’t convince you to come back to Westchester?” Charles dismally wonders. Warren reminds Xavier that he has the most powerful mind on the planet: if he wanted to, he could surely convince Warren of anything.
Xavier finds this to be a particularly cheap shot; Warren should know that Charles would never use his mutant ability in such a fashion. Warren reminds Charles that he’s talking to him, one of his first X-Men. Warren was there when Charles made an entire town forget that the X-Men had torn up their main street fighting the Sentinels. Warren remembers Charles memory-wiping more than one bad guy to keep him from recalling where the X-Men lived. If Charles wants to pass himself off as Martin Luther Xavier… that’s fine by Warren. “But some of us know better,” he adds.
Xavier grabs Warren’s arm and asks him where this hostility is coming from. Xavier can’t deny that he made some difficult choices in the past but he likes to think it was for the greater good. He’s sorry if Warren feels… “No, sir,” Archangel interrupts him. “I’m sorry.” Warren mumbles he’s just tired – tired of the fighting, tired of defending a world that doesn’t even want them in it. He asks Xavier if it so wrong to just want a little time to rest. “Not at all, son,” Professor X replies.
As Bishop and Gambit approach Xavier and Warren, Gambit cheerfully asserts that Archangel will be back before he even knows it. Bishop is surprised to find himself agreeing with Gambit and argues that being an X-Man isn’t something you can walk away from. Xavier says nothing at this, sitting quietly, pondering his options.
Rather amused by the drastic renovation of her office into nothing short of an igloo, White Queen wonders whether Iceman realized he wasn’t cut out to be an X-Man and decided to use his mutant ability to pursue his first love: interior decorating!
Uninterested in her caustic remarks, Iceman recalls that he already asked Emma once to help him develop his ice powers. Back then, Emma was inside his mind and used his abilities in ways he never imagined. Emma realizes that apparently he forgot what happened next: she told Bobby that if he wanted it bad enough, he’d figure it out on his own. “But I guess I was wrong,” she remarks, sporting a dismissive smile. “Guess again,” Bobby replies. “Wha…” she exclaims but then instantly collapses to the floor!
Screaming in pain, she manages to gather her strength to ask him what he’s doing to her. Iceman coldly informs her that he’s freezing the flow of blood to her brain. Struggling to utter some words, Emma congratulates Bobby for getting the hang of it. Shocked, Iceman realizes that in some sick way she’s enjoying this, isn’t she? Emma confirms that, through her mumblings.
Burning with rage, Iceman crushes some of his ice sculptures with his fists, telling Emma that this isn’t a game and asking her to look at him: this is his life they’re talking about here! His chest was shattered in the X-Men’s battle against Onslaught’s herald. If Bobby can’t figure out how to heal these injuries, it means he will be stuck in his ice form forever! Iceman proclaims that he’s through with Emma’s head games: she’s going to help whether she wants it or not!
Cyclops and Phoenix have just landed on a rocky, deserted area with their jet. Puzzled, Cyclops exclaims that this doesn’t make sense. Jean considers the possibility that this isn’t the right place – where four of the X-Men fought for their lives against Onslaught’s herald. Scott insists that this is the right place. Jean retorts that, according to the images she sees in his mind through the psychic bond they share, this entire landscape should be so much debris.
Scott agrees: curiously enough, the rocky landscape looks completely untouched, as if no one has been here for hundreds of years. He tells Jean that the two of them, as Cyclops and Phoenix, have faced probably every threat imaginable – from the Sentinels to the horror that was the Dark Phoenix – but this is different. Different yet… familiar. Scott admits that he can’t stop thinking that in Onslaught, they have met the one threat they can’t possibly hope to stop.
Huge formations of ice break out from the interior of Frost Enterprises and ensnare the entire building. Standing outside and watching this sublime spectacle is Jubilee, a student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and Banshee, headmaster at the school that once belonged solely to Emma Frost. Jubilee remarks that it looks like the ice cube is sharkin’ on Ms. Frost’s case. She asks Banshee if they should get involved. Sean is negative, though: he doesn’t think so.
Smoking his pipe, Sean explains that they trailed Emma because the Professor himself asked them to keep an eye on this little sit-down. However, Banshee thinks that if this thing between Iceman and the White Queen is going to be resolved, one way or another, Emma is on her own.
Inside Emma’s office, Iceman has ensnared her hands with ice-generated cuffs, effectively immobilizing her on an ice-wall. Amused, Emma informs Bobby that if this is supposed to intimidate her, it’s not working. “To be honest, I used to pay good money to…” she begins blabbering when Iceman cuts her short, telling her to save it!
He explains that, for months, everywhere he went, images of hers kept popping in and out of his head. At first, he thought it was some bad mental aftertaste from having her inside his head. Then, he thought that she was somehow manipulating him… as if a part of hers never really left. Bobby admits that, now, he doesn’t even care. He just wants his life back! Emma assures him that he’s welcome to it, because, as far as lives go, his is pretty pathetic! Saying this, she kicks him in the face.
Bobby crashes down on the floor, mentally berating himself for being so stupid: he should have seen that one coming a mile away – or maybe she knew exactly what to do because she was reading his mind, he wonders? Emma’s voice in his head informs him that he was right the first time: he is stupid.
Looking around, Bobby realizes that Emma is gone and wonders how this happened so quickly. His father, William Drake, suddenly appears before him, chiding Bobby for blaming others for his problems. William admits that he always hoped he raised his son to be a better man than that. However, Bobby is not a real man, is he? He’s a mutant. He’s a…
Before “William” can finish his phrase, Bobby passes right through him, telling Emma that he’s not falling for it; he knows it’s just an illusion she’s placed in his mind. He tells her that, if that was her best shot, she might as well come out now. The night he realized how intolerant his dad was about other people was the moment he stopped letting his words and disappointment define his self-image. Emma mockingly tells him to stop it: he’s inspiring her!
Bobby’s one-time girlfriend, Opal Tanaka, suddenly appears before him. “Image? I guess that’s what we were always about, huh, Bobby?” Opal tells him. She asserts she was never really his girlfriend. He never really loved her. He just needed her there to make him look good. Iceman tells her it’s a nice try… but not even close. He did love Opal and she loved him. She left because he was too self-absorbed to recognize a good thing when he saw it. “Opal” insists it could have been magic.
Beast suddenly appears. He tells Bobby to come forthwith and hither and yon… they should stop wasting their time with this silliness and just party; the indomitable Ice-Man and blue-furred Beast together again! Bobby insists Emma’s not listening to him: he won’t be bullied or seduced or distracted. He’s stopped lying to himself and he’s not going to listen to anyone’s lies again. He’s aware that he has power; more power than he ever thought he did and he’s through with not living up to that potential!
Emma insists that, if that’s true, Bobby should change back to his human form. Bobby is shocked to see that Emma is still shackled on the wall; she never really freed herself; she was there all along. Emma again urges him to change back. “And what then?” Bobby miserably wonders. He dies? Emma assures him he won’t die and again pushes him to change back. Bobby doesn’t trust her, though. Emma corrects him: he doesn’t trust himself. If he wants it badly enough…
“But I don’t know how!” Bobby explodes. That’s why he needs her to show him! Emma advises him to stop analyzing everything to death. There are some things in life he can learn only by doing. She urges him to ask himself: what if he doesn’t try? Will he able to live with himself if he doesn’t do it on his own?
Finally, Bobby concentrates hard. Screaming with pain, he reverts to his human form. Panting from the effort, Bobby realizes he did it: he’s in his human form again, his chest intact. As every glacial sculpture starts melting, Emma frees herself. “Now was that so hard?” she tells Bobby.
As Bobby lays half-conscious on the floor, Emma tells him that she was helpless the day her Hellions died. She had discovered them and trained them – in her own way, she even loved them. When she learned how much potential Bobby had, she was angry at him. Right or wrong, she felt, here he was, all these years “playing” at being an X-Man; never challenging himself to go any further that he needed to. Emma apologizes to Bobby if she had to push him too hard to get him to realize this.
Bobby asks her not to apologize. It hurts but he’s alive. In the end, he did it, right? Emma assures him he did it. “And the best part of all… you did it all by yourself.”