(Braddock Manor, England)
Having emerged intact from a propane gas explosion, the Fury proceeds to give Cannonball a good going over. It tries focused plasma beams, meson cutters, sonic-pulse cannons and rounds of depleted neutronium. It also utilizes its raw strength, speed and what passes in its matrix for guile. Yet, Cannonball survives. As the Fury adapts to its target, the target, though wounded, adapts as well. If the Fury had the capability for emotion, it would find this annoying. Instead, it increases its capabilities. Even mutant physiology has limits, whilst the Fury does not. The target may be smarter but, in the end it will perish; like all before him.
(The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Westchester, a few minutes earlier)
The Blackbird takes off, carrying four X-Men on board. Storm pilots the craft, flanked by Wolverine, Sage and Nightcrawler. At their current trajectory and acceleration, they expect to reach England in a matter of minutes. They dare not attempt contact with their colleagues in England in case the Fury infiltrates their network again. Logan thought Sage’s net was secure but, apparently, even she has her limits.
Nightcrawler mentions that the interdiction gas released during their battle with Sage will keep everyone at the mansion unconscious for hours. They’re on their own. Logan asks what if things go wrong, but Kurt replies that he left Scott and Emma a note. Storm asks Sage if any of her systems can be trusted. Only her brain, she replies. She is about to inform Storm of information she gleaned from the Fury while they were in sync, but she suddenly notices a tremendous surge of energy beneath the Irish Sea. The signature is unmistakably that of Marvel Girl.
Rachel Grey emerges from the sea feeling fine, but immediately feels faint and begins to fall again. Nightcrawler teleports from the Blackbird and catches her. Safely inside the craft, Sage asks her to catch a few breaths, as her mediscanner reads her as being more dead than alive right now. Rachel can’t remember being hit so hard. Among the X-Men, it’s so easy to take survival for granted. Wolverine’s healing factor could make him virtually immortal. She herself has cheated death many times, bouncing between dimensions, from one end of time to the other.
She towels herself off and looks at a holempathic crystal attached to her necklace. As she thinks about when Emma said she shouldn’t have been born, Jean Grey’s voice replies from the crystal. “Emma’s a cow.” The image of Jean appears. “Mom?” exclaims Rachel. Jean tells her that this holempathic imprint is the essence of all that she is. No matter what happens to her body, her soul will always be with her.
She smiles and tells Rachel that how she got here isn’t important. “What matters, daughter, is that you exist.” She thanks Rachel for taking her old codename. The uniform Rachel now wears is one Jean never got to wear while she was Marvel Girl. It makes her proud that Rachel has claimed them both. A tear trickles down Rachel’s cheek and Wolverine’s voice surprises her. He leans on the back of the seat and tells her that her mom looks good. He explains that Jean made the crystal before she died, almost as if she knew what was coming. Not just her fate, but Rachel’s, too. She should cherish the moment, and all that comes with it.
Rachel replies that this isn’t the uniform she would have chosen for herself. Wolverine thinks maybe that’s why she left it. He says the rest of them on the team are pretty much hardcases, ‘cept maybe for Nightcrawler. “Not me?” asks Rachel. “Girl, not even close,” Wolverine replies. He says that whatever her origin, here and now she gets to start fresh, to be the girl and live the life that shoulda been hers first time round; to truly enjoy the miracle that any of them exist at all. They hug each other, but need to get to work.
Storm informs them that they’re approaching Braddock Manor and puts the ship in stealth mode. Logan is eager for action, asking for a target, but Sage warns him that the Fury will catch him as soon as he lands in a monofilament spider web. Before he can escape it, the Fury will fillet the flesh from his bones, faster and more expertly than an angler guts his fish. She adds that he probably won’t die, though he’ll wish he could. More importantly, he’ll be useless to them. Rachel asks if she has a better idea. With a raised eyebrow, Sage replies that she has, absolutely.
Meanwhile, Cannonball continues to try and evade this killing machine. He’s running outta room and tactics, and the Fury tears its way towards him without mercy. The Fury has him cold but Sam knows better, and out of nowhere comes a blast of energy that topples the Fury. Bishop appears carrying a large tank of liquid nitrogen. Looks like the Fury forgot about him.
Bishop warns Sam to get clear but, as he turns, the Fury swiftly grabs Sam around the neck. Bishop is surprised at its speed. Sam tells Bishop not to worry about him, and to just make his play. Trusting Sam, Bishop hurls the container towards them and destroys it when it reaches them. Although fire doesn’t do much good against the creature, he wonders how it’ll fare against liquid nitrogen. His only concern is whether Sam’s protective field can protect him from being frozen to near absolute zero.
The nitrogen pours over them both, and Sam’s blast field does indeed protect him. The Fury’s arm snaps off, brittle from the effects of extreme cold. Immediately, Sam notices condensation building; a sign that it is melting already. Bishop wants him outta there but, suddenly, they are joined by Nightcrawler, who teleports both himself and Sage to the scene. Bishop notices lightning overhead and figures it is Storm’s doing. He thought she had better aim but Sage explains that her goal is not to strike the creature, but to ionize the air around it. The ice and fog surrounding it will occlude its optical scanners, while the electrical storm will neutralize its more esoteric sensor array. This will significantly degrade the function of its internal operating system.
The Fury appears helpless, for now. Sage says it is a window of opportunity and removes her jacket. Bishop can’t believe she’s going in unarmed against it, and says that at least he should go with her. Sage declines his request and strides towards their foe, telling him he might be detected.
Sage stands before the Fury. For all its power, she thinks, it really is quite stupid. It cannot invent strategy; merely following its programming. It responds to perceived threats. The Fury, blinded by the recent attack, doesn’t perceive Sage as being a threat, and allows her closer. It isn’t until its optical scanners finally recognize her that it begins to react. Too late. Sage ducks under its arm and punches her fist inside the Fury’s organic body. She grabs a small piece of machinery and retreats, as the Fury tries to react.
Sage is physically thrown away and Nightcrawler teleports to catch her before she lands. He teleports her back to Bishop and Cannonball, and warns them to take cover. Sam wonders what’s happening, as he sees the Blackbird flying overhead. Inside the cockpit, Logan informs Storm that missiles are locked, and Storm fires. Three missiles stream towards the Fury and a massive explosion envelops the creature in a white hot ball of flame.
Sam says that they tried explosives already and they don’t work. Kurt replies that these are hardly explosives. They are cluster munitions; a big bomb made up of lots of little bombs. Each bomblet, he explains, is a pulse generator producing flat planes of energy that sever the lines of force binding matter together; instant disintegration down to the subatomic level. Whatever they cut essentially ceases to exist. The Fury reels from each impact and, slowly but surely, its body begins to unravel, particle by particle, until it lies in a heap on the ground.
“My god!” exclaims Bishop, “Where’d that come from?” Kurt tells him that Sage found them in the X-Men arsenal. Bishop apologizes, but thinks that it can’t be this easy. Sage shows them the device she removed from the Fury. It is the core processing unit, and she stamps on it, shattering it beyond repair. The Blackbird hovers above them and Rachel telekinetically lowers herself and Wolverine to join the rest of the team. Sage informs Bishop that, as she speaks, the Fury is growing a new processor. For the first time, though, it is vulnerable.
In the smouldering pile of remains, tendrils begin to swirl and rebuild. Wolverine is wearing a strange contraption consisting of straps attached to a circular device pulled against his chest. He tells Kurt it may look silly, but he needs to strap himself in - no way does he look this silly solo. Kurt tells him he thinks it’s cute, but Logan replies that he thinks too flamin’ much.
They are strapped together, facing opposite directions. Rachel passes Kurt a small golden module and Logan asks Bishop how his aim is. Rachel informs Bishop that he’ll have a split second to find the target perfectly and pull them clear, or they’ll be dead. Bishops asks why they can’t have Kurt teleport. Sage reminds him that they’ve used it before and will use it going in. The Fury will note the event and prepare counter measures. Bishop promises he won’t let them down.
Logan pops his claws and Nightcrawler teleports them next to the reforming Fury. It’s grown faster than Kurt anticipated and he can’t reach its main mass. Logan begins cutting, hacking off tendrils and other body parts to get close to the creature. Logan shouts to Bishop to throw the tether, and it connects with Logan’s chest plate, just as Kurt places the glowing module inside the Fury’s mass. Its reaction is to try and expel the foreign body. Bishop yanks Logan and Kurt away from the creature, as Rachel takes over.
She reaches out with the power of her mind and uses her ability to manipulate matter with the force of thought. She concentrates hard. To her, the substance of the Fury is quicksilver. Her telekinesis can’t make contact, but the box serves as an anchor point. She takes hold of it and begins to squeeze, compressing its molecular structure until it forms a micro-singularity. The strain begins to show on Rachel, as she effectively builds her own black hole. This creates a gravity well of such unimaginable and irresistible force that even light cannot escape.
The Fury attempts to defend itself against such a barrage of power, but struggles. At the same time, all physical realities in the immediate vicinity to it are warped beyond recognition. Both space and time lose coherence. The X-Men look on and feel that they’re winning; the Fury’s breaking up. The Fury is in a race with its own annihilation. It creates localized tachyon shunts to bleed off the cosmic suction. It weaves polymer whips to shatter the containment vessel that causes this chaos, and increases its overall density beyond the point where it can be affected by the singularity. In a word; it’s adapting.
Rachel concentrates harder than ever, but feels she doesn’t have the strength. In a tried and tested manner, the other X-Men move towards her. Sage grabs her shoulders and Bishop, in turn, grabs Sage’s. She assures Rachel that they are a team; they can help. Storm holds on to Sage’s arm and Wolverine touches Rachel’s back. Storm uses lightning to create energy which Bishop amplifies. Sage channels the results into Rachel, who draws on Wolverine’s healing factor to keep herself alive in the process. Kurt and Sam watch from afar, impressed but anxious. This made a lot more sense when Sage explained it. The harder they press, the harder the Fury appears to resist. Considering the primal forces they’re playing with here, Kurt points out, what good is defeating the monster if they also destroy the world?
A huge vortex surrounds the Fury, but cannonball sees it struggling ever harder. It is regaining its form and Sam thinks it doesn’t look like they’re ‘defeating’ anything. The creature grows to more than ten meters tall, and Rachel begins to doubt herself. She can’t do this, she thinks. Astonishingly, Jamie Braddock, Psylocke and Captain Britain’s crazy brother, appears in the midst of the vortex. “’Course you can, scrumptious, ‘course you can,” he tells her. “It all depends on you.”
Sage reminds her to concentrate. She can’t lose control of the singularity. Rachel focuses once again and continues to pour on the power. The Fury, immense by now, marks its targets. It has faced them all before and overcome their best efforts. Why is this time different?
Rachel senses its confusion and thinks it doesn’t understand that their combined efforts are creating synergy. Their combined force transcends their individual efforts. Rachel keeps piling on the mass but keeps the matrix balanced. She struggles to contain the material within the vortex. She wants to create a controlled breach of the dimensional interface, to purge the Fury into a sidebar continuum all its own. She slowly shrinks the size of the singularity, as she increases its mass by quantum levels. Doing this, she creates the ultimate gravity field, a prison that even the Fury cannot escape.
Suddenly, the Fury is gone. Rachel passes out and the darkness welcomes her after the strain of the past few minutes. She awakens to Nightcrawler’s tender touch. She aches, but Kurt says they all ache, but that certainly beats the alternative. She realizes everyone’s okay and hugs Kurt, who says that thanks to Marvel Girl, they won! The whole team stare at the crystallized crater, which is all that exists of their battle with the Fury. Much of Braddock Manor is in ruins and Logan reckons Brian won’t be happy about what they’ve done to his ancestral home.
With all the excitement over, Sam needs hospital treatment. Logan congratulates Rachel, saying she did good. Kurt adds that they all did. He tells them that he knows that they had a few rough edges when they came together as a team, but they should savor the moment as they don’t come often. When they do, they make him glad to be an X-Man.