(Africa, Rift Valley Province, Northwest Kenya to be specific)
“Surprised to see me again?” a soldier wearing sunglasses and holding a pistol asks his unfortunate victim. He points his weapon at the kneeling man, and tells him he shouldn’t have reported them to the United Nations men who passed through last week. He should be on trial for war crimes, no? He asks where his peacekeepers are now, as he places the pistol at the man’s temple. He allows the man to stand up, tells him to go change his underwear and load his sons into the truck when he’s finished.
His fellow soldiers keep the villagers docile as their boss asks his assistant if there are any mutants. He replies that, since M-Day, mutants have become a little scarce, but then his scanner picks up something. He doesn’t think it can be right. The reading is off the scale, and very close. It’s coming from right behind them. They turn and see Storm facing them, flanked by two fully-grown tigers. P>
She introduces herself and tells them they should not have come. She has been trekking across her homeland for weeks now, encountering the bloody handiwork of men such as these. Now they shall reap what they have sown. She kicks the soldier, sending him flying, as the tigers inexplicably attack his soldiers on her behalf. The villagers look horrified. To them, defiance equals death. However, Storm is not alone. The goddess is her ally.
The soldier picks up his weapon but, before he can let off a round, Storm summons a lightning blast, which hurls him through the air once again. He is thrown around by strong gusts of wind she creates, coming face to face with an angry face she forms out of cloud. He screams for help but none is forthcoming. It’s a reminder to him of how utterly small he is in the grand scheme of things.
He finally lands with a crunching whump on the ground. Ororo informs the villagers that she set him down more gently than he deserved. She kneels beside the man and asks who sent him. Who gave him the scanner? Why is he seeking out mutants? A village elder tells Ororo that, while they appreciate her aid, she must know that others will come to take their place. Ororo stands and replies that they must then eliminate the threat at its source. That could mean war, replies the elder. Ororo reminds him that he already has war. She simply means to bring it to an end.
(the Xavier Institute, Westchester County)
Giant Sentinels belonging to Project O*N*E maintain their vigilance around the grounds. The soldiers are a little bored. “All quiet on the Westchester front,” one jests, only for his younger colleague not to get the joke.
(O*N*E Mobile Operations Command Center)
Wilson asks Val Cooper is there’s any chance they can click a screen on the game. He’s got twenty bucks on the Cavaliers. Val doesn’t feel that Colonel Reyes is a big hoops fan, but he surprises her by replying that the Cavs are a one-man band and basketball is a team sport. Also, the next man who cracks wise on duty gets transferred to Alaska. He asks for the rundown on their surveillance feeds, staring with Rachel Summers. After she ran off to Chicago last week, he’s half a mind to put a lo-jack on her.
Rachel appears on screen. She’s in her room, broadcasting mid-range psionics all the way to Chicago. She is in a telepathic session with Dr. Lyszinski; a psionic projection giving something physical for the doctor to speak to. Another screen shows the infirmary where Bishop is visiting Charlotte Jones, who is recovering after being kidnapped by Black Cloak. Colonel Reyes suggests something might be going on between Bishop and Val, but she maintains it’s strictly business. Another screen focuses on Cannonball and Husk supplying the 198 with food in the temporary camp. The final screen shows Psylocke and Nightcrawler sparring.
Suddenly, the monitor feeds skzzzz and go blank. Wilson figures they have a glitch, but Val tells him that’s impossible. There are triple redundancies built into the system. Slowly, an image begins to appear and a man’s voice asks if he’s on air. They should be sure to get his good side. They don’t want to see his bad side. The man in question turns out to be Jamie Braddock. He is naked, but for a pair of white boxer shorts with yellow love hearts on them, and a top hat with a purple flower stuck on the band. He is surrounded by what appears to be red string, which wraps itself around his body. He introduces himself to the camera as James Braddock, but his friends call him Jamie!
Wilson informs Val that the scans on this guy don’t make any sense. Val asks him to cross-reference his name on the mutant database. She wants to know what he can do. Reyes wonders where he came from. Did he teleport in? They assume the worst and alert the Sentinels. One of the looming robots approaches Jamie, but he tugs on one of his red strings and the Sentinel crashes unceremoniously to the ground.
A technician doesn’t get it. The power cells just went inert in every Sentinel unit. Reyes calls his ground troops to converge on the plaza and apprehend Jamie. They approach him gingerly, and one tells his colleagues to put this joker on ice. Jamie thinks this is a good idea. With a tug of a string, Jamie creates ice which covers the floor and causes the soldiers to slip. He then tugs another string and a pile of snow covers them. “Perfect!” he grins. Before he can remember what he came to the mansion for, Nightcrawler teleports in and delivers a thumping kick to his face. He asks the X-Men for backup, and Marvel Girl duly arrives and gives Jamie another hefty kick to the jaw. She then recognizes him. “Oh, God. Not you…”
Jamie faces the camera. He’s used his power to make Kurt think Rachel is him, and Rachel that Kurt is him. They battle each other while he avoids any confrontation. Jamie tells his viewers that he’s as mad as a hatter, but he still calls the tune. Right now, he fancies some Beatles. He doesn’t choose Helter Skelter or Magical Mystery Tour. Instead, he opts for the Abbey Road classic Come Together. Cannonball approaches the battle at speed as Psylocke leaps to action. As Jamie sings Come Together, he engineers all four X-Men to smash into each other.
Jamie laughs out loud. He’s enjoying himself. Suddenly, he notices a gun pointed at the back of his skull. It’s Bishop, and he fires at point blank range. Jamie is sent sprawling to the ground and, as he sits up, there is a sizeable hole right through both his hat and his head. He calls Bishop a bloody fool. Did he really think that pea-shooter could hurt him? Bishop grins, and replies that he knows it can’t. Without warning, Psylocke’s psychic katana is thrust through Jamie’s mind, catching him unawares. “That, dear brother, is my job.”
Jamie doesn’t have time for this, but momentarily he is stuck. The other X-Men pick themselves up but are soon killed when Jamie summons the Fury. It creates an amber bubble to contain them, and Psylocke begs Jamie to stop. He tells her to let him go, considering his power is the only thing that can restore her mates. “Fine,” she snaps, “Your turn.” She retracts her katana and asks him what it is that he wants exactly. He replies that he wishes to help them save all creation, of course.
Cannonball asks Betsy who this guy is. She informs him that he’s her big brother. He manipulates the quantum strings that comprise reality itself. Jamie adds that this means he can do pretty much whatever he wishes. Except go to hell, replies Betsy. Jamie says he’s been there and wasn’t impressed. He reminds her that she of all people should show some respect, considering how he found her last, suffering from a bad case of dead as he recalls. He prods Betsy in the stomach and she collapses with blood pouring from her chest. Nightcrawler catches her and notices that there’s no pulse. He’s killed her!
Jamie admits that he has, but then he killed them a few minutes ago. In case it has escaped their notice, cosmic absolutes like death and taxes aren’t quite so fixed from his perspective. While this has been a bucket of laughs, there’s a point to it all - a method to his madness. Suddenly, Betsy gasps and wakes up, all better. Now that Jamie has their attention, he wishes to move onto the ‘saving all creation’ business he mentioned earlier. He notices the X-Men looking over his shoulder, and he turns. There, looming over the mansion is the Watcher.
Jamie asks what he’s doing there. The Watcher replies that this is a significant, potentially seminal moment in the life of this world and of humanity itself, perhaps even of the entire cosmos. It’s his charge to record it for posterity. Jamie asks him to do it quietly. He was just about to explain to his sister why he brought her back from the dead the first time, before today’s fun. Betsy is angry that he thinks of this as fun. Her whole life she has worshipped him, her glorious big brother; handsome, charming and brave, better than James Bond. And then he turns out to be an overgrown child. She slaps his face and asks what he’s done to her.
Jamie recalls how it happened. A while ago, Betsy got run through by Vargas, and was as dead as a doornail. What he did was bring her back, pulling strings along the way to shape her into the weapon he knew they’d all soon need. What she was before was the usual rat’s nest of quantum strings, with lots of loose ends and space between the threads. He re-knitted her as tight as can be. Now anyone else who can muck about with reality like the Shadow King or Proteus, can’t lay a finger on her. Her shape cannot be shifted, her mind cannot be controlled et cetera, et cetera. Of course, he adds, the old standbys like shooting and stabbing might still do the trick, so she shouldn’t quit her gym membership.
Betsy asks him what he means by ‘the weapon we’ll all soon need.” Jamie is about to tell her about the cosmic threat he mentioned called the FourSaken, when suddenly a green arm with a clawed hand shoots through his chest from the inside. Jamie calls for help and Bishop grabs a hold of him. It begins to pull Jamie through a portal, and it’s taking Bishop with it too. Cannonball rockets in and grabs Bishop around the waist, freeing him. Rachel then tries to hold Jamie, but it’s too late. He vanishes in a flash of blinding white light. Only his hat is left behind.
Sam says that he knows he sounds like a broken record, but what was all that about? Bishop replies that it’s maybe the end of the world as they know it. Betsy tells them it’s not the end of the world. It’s the end of everything.