Once upon a time a girl took a ride on a bullet into outer space. It’s okay though it was a ghost bullet. And she kept it ghostly always and nobody ever got hurt. So that probably made it okay. All she had to do was keep it together forever and ever until she died. Everything would be okay. The end.
And at this very moment, Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde lies phased in the bullet shaped starship. A tear falls from her eye - as she careens through space towards a planet.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, on Mt Tamalpais. Erik Lehnsherr a.k.a. Magneto, the Master of Magnetism sits and concentrates. Blood trickles from his nose, and he thinks to himself ‘Once…once upon a time…when I was in outer space…I saw the most remarkable thing’.
Working with the High Evolutionary in space, Magneto noticed something, and alerted the High Evolutionary. Checking his monitors, the High Evolutionary announces that it is a projectile of some sort, and that the scans suggests it is phased, but there is someone inside it - a human mutant generating a phase field. He adds that it looks as though it came from Earth. ‘Do you know who this could be? Should we retrieve it?’ the High Evolutionary asks. ‘Hm’ Magneto replies, pausing. ‘No idea’ he declares, before he and the High Evolutionary return to what they were doing.
‘Of course I did. At least I assumed, and yet - and yet we had other things to do…such as save the mutant race’ Magneto thinks to himself, recalling how he put that magical, remarkable thing out of his mind, memorized the unique tastes of the metals in her phantom body, and kept track of the taste as he returned to his labours - labors that shall end today, or so Magneto hopes. ‘What is he doing?’ Scott “Cyclops” Summers asks. ‘I can’t - I still can’t get in. He’s locked me out even more, somehow. This psychic defense of his is practically impenetrable’ Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen replies. Scott replies that he doesn’t even understand how that is possible, and as Emma reaches out to touch Magneto, she is blocked by a force field. ‘Jeez, look at the guy. He looks bad, right? I mean - he looks really bad’ Scott exclaims.
Emma remarks that Magneto has looked better and motions to his nosebleed, before announcing that Warren is coming. Indeed, Warren “Angel” Worthington descends near his teammates, exclaiming ‘She’s coming back!’. ‘Who?’ Scott asks. ‘Oh God…I didn’t mean to read your thoughts, but you’re thinking so loud…’ Emma exclaims. ‘Kitty - Scott, Kitty’s bullet -’ Angel exclaims. ‘What?’ Scott gasps. ‘It turned around, it’s coming - it’s coming back, Scott. Kitty Pryde is coming home!’. ‘I…that’s…’ Scott begins, before turning to Magneto. ‘You’ he declares.
‘This is you, isn’t it? This is your doing. Somehow this is you!’ Scott exclaims. ‘Do you really think he’s -’ Emma begins, while Scott replies ‘Call it a hunch’ before exclaiming that they need to get back to Utopia now. He asks Emma to get Nightcrawler, ‘On it’ the telepath replies, while Angel exclaims that this is good news, but Scott quickly reminds his friend that a giant bullet is coming straight at them and it is about to be visible to anyone that decides to look up into the sky. ‘I don’t know how far away it is and how fast it’s coming home but we’re t-minus that to complete global panic!’ Scott declares.
There is a bamf as Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner teleports in, ‘You rang?’ he exclaims. Scott tells his friend that there is an emergency and that he needs him to take them to the X-Club straight away. ‘But I just got here’ Kurt jokes. Scott asks Emma to stay here with Magneto. ‘If his condition worsens or -’ he begins. ‘Of course’ Emma replies, while Angel asks ‘Why now? Does anyone have any idea why all this is happening now?’. ‘Yeah. I think Magneto wants to say he’s sorry…’ Scott replies as Kurt teleports he and Angel back to Utopia…
…and into the laboratory of the X-Club. ‘…but every effort at retrieval caused visions, cataplexy -’ Dr Kavita Rao remarks. ‘What if that’s because they were going for the vessel and not the cargo?’ Madison Jeffries suggests. The former Alphan adds that they are talking about the Master of Magnetism, and exclaims ‘What if he’s pulling at the ferromagnetic properties of -’, but Jeffries is interrupted by the arrival of Scott, Kurt and Warren, and Scott shouts at Doctor Nemesis, asking him for a status report: ‘Is Kitty Pryde alive?’ he exclaims. Doctor Nemesis motions to a computer reconstruction of the bullet moving through space. ‘First thing’s first’ he declares, remarking that the big bullet was racing through space, and that Cyclops and the Beast made sure they were tracking 24/7 changed direction and now it is heading to Earth at nearly the speed of light.
Scott pauses, before asking ‘How’. ‘How do I know?’ Doctor Nemesis retorts, declaring that he no longer possesses the capacity to evaluate what is and isn’t completely off-the-chars insane while dealing with the X-Men. ‘And I’m the man that spent most of his adult life hunting Nazi super clones through South America!’ Jeffries calls out to his teammate, and hands him some papers. ‘Is this accurate?’ Nemesis asks, glancing over the papers. ‘The math is right. The science is dubious. But the math is right’ Jeffries replies. ‘Damn’ Nemesis mutters, while Scott exclaims ‘What? Is she alive? Is the bullet solid or phased?’
Doctor Nemesis replies that they will know sometime tomorrow, adding that it is going so fast that by the time it is close enough to scan it will be too close to stop. ‘Everything’s going to be okay. Kitty’s coming home and Magneto’s bringing her here’ Scott tells himself. ‘Scott -’ Doctor Nemesis calls out, but Cyclops tells them to trust him on this. ‘And if you don’t - you just said yourselves - we can’t stop it. Either she’s coming home and it all works out, or she’s dead, the bullet is heading for Earth and it - and we’re all dead anyway, right?’
Jeffries suggests that they could start building an interstellar ark, but one of his teammates hushes him. ‘Sorry, yeah. Either we live or we won’t he remarks. ‘Okay, so…so let’s say I’m right and we live. How do we hide the bullet from every single long-range deep space sensor and every prying eyeball that we can for as long as we can?’ Scott asks, before telling the X-Club that their job is to avert global panic. Scott makes his way out of the lab, asking somebody to find him Dr Cecilia Reyes, as he needs a mutant-specific medical support for Magneto. ‘Scott…’ Doctor Nemesis calls out. Scott turns back to the X-Club: ‘Get it done, guys. Get me a doctor. Stop panic. Save the world. It’s an order, not a request’.
Meanwhile, somewhere over Kansas, a Blackbird jet belonging to the X-Men soars across a farmyard. ‘Are you alive?’. ‘No’. ‘Are you a vegetable?’. ‘Yes’. ‘You’re beer’ Fantomex exclaims. ‘Dammit’ Logan a.k.a. Wolverine mutters. ‘Wait a moment -’ Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin exclaims, while Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock asks Fantomex if he considers beer a vegetable. Suddenly, Cyclops appears on the monitor, asking Fantomex where they are and how far away are they. ‘And hello to you again, Scott. Where’s the fire?’ Fantomex asks. Urgently, Scott tells Fantomex and the X-Men that he was wrong. ‘Do not stop for coffee on your way home. Don’t stop for anything. It’s Kitty. She’s coming back!’ Scott reveals, which causes Colossus to smile - and the Blackbird speeds across the sky.
On Utopia, Scott and Emma meet with Doctor Nemesis and Jeffries, who have the Stepford Cuckoos and Danger hooked up to some machinery. ‘Wow. So what‘s it do?’ Scott asks. ‘Summers, be quiet. The grown-ups are talking‘ Doctor Nemesis exclaims, while Jeffries tells him that they are going to hypnotize every deep space observation satellite that might happen to see the bullet into… ‘Well, not seeing the bullet‘. ‘Do what now?’ Scott asks. ‘Half psychic trick, half computer hack. We obfuscate the truth as though we were playing with the perceptions of a human mind -’ one of the Stepford Cuckoos explains.
‘- and I translate into the machine code equivalent of a hallucination or a hypnotic state. This modified Cerebro tower broadcasts it and we fool every satellite in the sky’ Danger remarks, hooked up to a computer. ‘Really? How does that even work?’ Cyclops asks. ’What? It works, don’t worry about it’ Jeffries assures him, adding that it will blind them too, but they already know where the bullet is headed. ’And it’ll work until everybody can just look up and see the damn thing anyway’. ‘That’s all we need it to do’ Scott tells Jeffries, calling him by his former codename, “Box”, before congratulating the X-Club and the Stepford Cuckoos on some nice work. ‘Get it up and activated!’
Shortly, back on Mt Tamalpais, Emma continues to watch over Magneto, while telepathically communicating with Cyclops. ‘He envies you, somewhat, I think’ she remarks. ‘I haven’t - well, darling, I haven’t checked, but you don’t need to be a psychic to figure thinks like this out’ Emma tells Scott. ‘It’s your…comfort ability…with power. Poor little Scott Summers - the boy most likely to have a nervous breakdown - prepared his whole life to lead an army by everyone he ever knew and trusted. And then it’s time to grow up and lead and - and it’s an awkward fit on him, sometimes’ Emma adds.
Emma presses against Magneto’s force field once more, ‘He’s better at walking across that high wire than he knows but he’s still Scott. He still can’t help looking down and getting terrified. Then you blow in with a certainty and confidence that he’s lacked his whole life…the difference between you and him is that he has to work so hard to keep together what simply falls into your lap fully formed. And the compassion that just radiates out of the core of who Scott Summers is might as well be Chinese algebra to you…between the two of you there’s -’ the White Queen stops her thoughts, as Cyclops and Rogue appear behind her - with Dr Cecilia Reyes in tow. ‘Emma’ Scott exclaims. ‘He’s getting worse’ Emma replies, while Scott motions to Cecilia, who declares that she will do what she can. ‘But if he can’t be touched…’.
Up on the ridge, several others have arrived to see what is going on, including Cannonball, Mirage, Sunspot, Pixie and Rockslide. ‘He is a complete blank slate in there. His consciousness, personality, his ego…all singularly focused with such intensity there’s nothing but pure will that remains. It just vibrates out of him’ Emma declares. ‘What vibrates out of him?’ Scott asks.
Am I dying? Shadowcat wonders to herself.
‘”Home”’ Emma replies. ‘It’s…difficult to articulate; it’s an aggregate of thoughts, of emotions’. Dr Reyes scans Magneto with some sort of instrument, while Emma continues: ‘Home. Homecoming. Tribes. Unity. Nativity…not just the words - the concepts. The feelings they evoke, their resonant emotions’. Emma declares that Magneto is willing them all here, all together. ‘In his way…I think he wants you to see this is as much about her as it is about you and what you’ve accomplished’ Emma adds, while Nightcrawler clasps his hands together as if he is saying a prayer. ‘I don’t…I don’t know what to do with any of that, Em’ Scott replies, as he and Emma embrace.
Back on Utopia, the X-Club are speaking to Mister Fantastic over a monitor. Mister Fantastic stands in front of the rest of the Fantastic Four as he tells the X-Club that they might fool some of the satellites some of the time, but that they cannot fool his satellites ever, at any time, for any reason. ‘What the hell are you guys trying to pull?’ he asks. ‘The phase vessel that’s trapped Kitty Pryde for however-long is coming back to Earth. That’s the good news. The bad news it it’s moving at a velocity so great that -’ Doctor Nemesis begins, before Mister Fantastic interrupts: ‘- that you decided to hope Ms Pryde was still alive, that the bullet was still phased, and to conceal the thing rather than set off a panic’.
‘…you…make it sound bad when you put it like that’ Doctor Nemesis replies. ‘Well, it is, and she is. Phased and alive, I mean - congratulations, X-Men. You’re getting your man back. We’ll do what we can on our end to help smooth any feathers you manage to ruffle’ Mister Fantastic exclaims, before telling the X-Club that next time they should try asking for permission rather than apologizing after the fact. ‘It’s time your people got out of the shadows’ he adds, before ending the transmission.
Later at Mt Tamalpais, night has fallen, as more and more mutants have gathered. Standing around small fires for warmth, they all cast their eyes skyward. Suddenly, Magneto opens his eyes. ’Scott!’ someone calls out, pointing skyward, as there is a bright streak across the star-lit sky. ’There she is!’ Emma exclaims, hugging Scott, while Wolverine, Colossus, Angel, Psylocke, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Doctor Nemesis and Graymalkin stand around them.
In the sky, the bullet speeds into the atmosphere, and begins to burn up. ‘Oh no. I’m going to the wrong place. Dying shouldn’t feel this hot’ Kitty tells herself.
‘What’s happening?’ Colossus asks, concerned. As the bullet heads towards San Francisco, Magneto uses his powers to re-direct it down towards them, though he is under incredible strain. ‘Holy cats!’ Pixie gasps, as Magneto’s power goes one step further, and reaches out to Kitty herself, drawing her out of the bullet. ‘Oh my God. I’m - is this for real - am I really - is this for real - is this for really real? Am I really home?’ Kitty thinks to herself as Magneto lays her down in front of everyone. ‘Du bist tsu dar, tzatzkeleh’ Magneto utters, blood still covering his face, before he collapses at Dr Reyes’ feet. ‘Katya - Katya, Katya - my -’ Colossus exclaims as he rushes towards Kitty.
They extend their hands to each other - but Kitty passes through Colossus. ‘No - no -’ Piotr exclaims, before asking Kitty what is wrong and why she is still phased. ‘Can you -’ he begins, but Kitty points at her throat, unable to speak. ‘Oh no. This is a nightmare. Why can’t I?’ she wonders to herself. ‘What does this mean?’ colossus asks. ‘WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?’ he shouts, as everyone stares at them, and Reyes continues to check Magneto.
Later, back on Utopia. Cyclops sits alone, while in the X-Club laboratory, Shadowcat is placed into a tank, and Colossus stands outside it, pressing his hand up to hers through the glass, while Wolverine stands with Doctor Nemesis and Madison Jeffries as they tinker with the machine. Dr Rao begins to work on Magneto. The Sub-Mariner swims alongside an underwater vessel, piloted by the White Queen. They move over several Atlanteans standing in New Atlantis, as the White Queen is shown the pillar which holds up Utopia.
In one of the residential parts of Utopia, Fantomex brings Psylocke some flowers, while in San Francisco, Dazzler and Northstar have apprehended a criminal, and pose for the media while the criminal is placed into a Police wagon. In a church, Nightcrawler talks to Pixie, while on a basketball court on Utopia, founding X-Men Angel and Iceman play a game of one-on-one.
Cyclops still sits alone, when suddenly, the White Queen approaches him. Scott gets up, and he and Emma embrace, while the sun begins to rise in the distance.
Second story, narrated by Daruxus Dax:
Everybody hates this time of year but everybody loves hating anything these days. Especially if it’s something that might suggest that some people somewhere might actually be feeling something they’re not. I’ll tell you a secret though - I kind of love it. Night’s Festival. The bottom of the well. The end of the road. It’s the time of year we’re as far away from the sun as we can get. It’s the darkest, the coldest, the worst. The end of the cycle. Tomorrow it gets better, because it can’t get any darker or colder. Because today’s our rock bottom. That’s just fact. So, you know - mathematically, if nothing else - this is as bad….
A cloaked figure moves through the alien city, while listening to an announcement: ‘Repeating…I’m sorry, folks, I’m sorry - apparent reports from the deep space observation agen - God - oh God - they’re saying impact is five cycles away - five cycles until an object from space collides and - and we’re dead, we’re dying, we’re all dead - this is a complete planetary holocaust -’. The cloaked figure glances sideways and thinks to himself that this is bad as it cane get, while others begin running about in fear.
My name is Daruxus Dax. These are the last five years of my life.
I drank. didn’t pay for the bottle or anything, just - just went into the store and took whatever I wanted. I’ll tell you something I never told anyone - ever - the first night there was this kid - I was walking and drinking and -. The kid approached Daruxus Dax - who was walking past a burning shuttlecraft which seemed to be getting looted. Dax then punched the kid hard in the face, and he fell to the ground in a pool of his own blood. I threw up. Seconds after. I don’t know if it was drunk or if it was the adrenaline or the terror and shame but - but…see all night long, you’d keep telling yourself - it’s a bad dream. It’s not real. This isn’t really happening. And then I looked up…when I saw the two Police just staring at me, I knew. This was real. It’s the end of the world and nobody cared about anything anymore.
After everything went insane…after everyone and everything went completely berserk in the wake of the news…we all found ourselves in the weird place of knowing we were all going to die…later. Which wasn’t really all that different than the way things had been. We just had the exact date and time. After the world came to terms with the nightmare…the world sort of got back to work. The best it could, anyway. We had to do something. Five cycles is kind of a long time.
Walking home with a bag of groceries, Daruxus Dax tells himself that he always hated fruit, as he never had sweet tooth, but as everyone was given ration tickets every week. He leaves the can of fruit on a neighbor’s doorstep. So anyway it’s all just us left anymore to try and make things better for each other. You do what you can or you go crazy like everyone else. He walks to his house, while the neighbor reaches out and grabs the fruit.
‘Legions of the planet’s most wealthy and most privileged launch into the great beyond, seeking sanctuary on a new world that may or may not exist…. It’s been estimated that those aboard the so-called Ark Fleet are responsible for almost 40% of the world’s wealth’ a report revealed as Daraxus Dax watched the fleet leave his planet. The rich people just left. We were all alone. Sometimes we - the royal we, I mean - we as a race, as a species - sometimes we behaved very badly. And sometimes in the depths of the very worst we were capable of, you could find fleeting moments of our very best. Daraxus Dax tells himself referring to a riot.
Another can of fruit is left at the neighbor’s doorstep, and the neighbor takes it once more. It didn’t matter what we did anymore. So what we did was all that mattered. My father died. It wasn’t in riots, it wasn’t from starvation, it wasn’t from a giant, world ender meteoroid. Old guy’s heart just gave out in his sleep one night. People died just the same as they did before and it had nothing to do with anything.
In never found comfort in religion but as cycle five got closer you couldn’t avoid it. End-of-the-world cults sprang up, convinced that all we needed to do was punish ourselves hard enough, and the world ender would turn around or something. What kind of God would do this to his people? Freaks just made everything worse. Because everybody who believed something suddenly got to believe that they’d be proven right soon and somehow the rest of us had to start suffering now. The end times had a schedule and the true believers had a way out. The rest of us had to deal with it.
Daruxus Dax was carrying groceries home when he got caught in a quarrel between Police and a religious cult. He still managed to get home with a can of fruit and leave it at his neighbor’s door, and once more, the neighbor took the fruit.
Lying naked in his room, Daraxus Dax thinks to himself that it is Night’s Festival again, cycle four this time. We have one year left. I don’t want to die alone.
Winter passes. Summer fades. And Daraxus Dax decided that he wanted to see it, wanted to be there. Lots of folks went into bunkers - they built giant bunkers all over - but it seemed - well, would you rather die in a dark room underground getting crushed by a billion tons or…or in a nice park? Nobody was talking really. We were all ju - ‘Um. Excuse me. Have you - this might sound odd - have you been leaving cans of fruit outside my door? I think we’re neighbors’ someone remarks as they approach Daruxus Dax.
‘Yeah, I - they - I hate fruit. I thought - I just - why waste it?’ Daruxus Dax tells his neighbor. ‘It was…it was really kind, actually. Thank you. Why didn’t you introduce yourself?’ the neighbor asks, both staring up at the sky. ‘I don’t know. I don’t - there wasn’t a good time’ Daruxus Dax replies. ‘I don’t think you have to worry about that’ his neighbor tells him, before thanking Dax for being nice.
In the sky, Please, Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde thinks to herself as she phases the bullet through the planet - and it passes out the other side, hurtling through space.
Daruxus Dax and his neighbor kiss. ‘Did -’ Daruxus Dax asks. ‘Hah. We live’ his neighbor exclaims as they hold hands.