In the Palace of Slumber in Tabula Rasa, a confused Cyclops reacts to the Savage’s announcement that Tabula Rasa is still in danger. The Immortal Man retreated. What’s the big threat? The Savage points at the sky. The sun. Their world grew with either no light or a trickle of slow light. This fierce sun is new to them. The unguent he prepared applied to his skin protects him both from the sun and their scanners… but most inhabitants don’t have that. Danger wonders how on Earth the Savage picked up the word “unguent.”
The Savage suspects that they have a word for genetic damage causing out of control replication in cells. Cancer, Cyclops agrees. Shortly every living thing inside Tabula Rasa will have that, the Savage continues.
Storm is maintaining the cloud cover. It’s not enough, the Savage tells her, and not permanent.
They probably don’t have a word for “superheroes,” Scott tells the Savage. But finding solutions is kind of what they do. They’ll help!
Actually, they do have an equivalent word, the Savage lectures him. In fact, a superior, less discordant word. Don’t worry, Magneto assures him sarcastically. They are X-Men, which means they save people who aren’t properly grateful and not even slightly respectful.
Cyclops calls the other teams to report. From the river floor, Namor announces that he and Hope are continuing their diplomatic mission.
As they are about to enter the river beings’ dwellings, Hope points out that they are trying to persuade them that they aren’t under attack. Is he sure swimming in is a good idea? “Doubt me not, tiny redhead!” Namor commands. He swims inside the Queen’s chambers, booming Imperius Pax! Then he kneels down.
Surrounded by frightened guards, he assures the queen they come in peace. Hope nervously points out they don’t understand English or Cod Latin. Staring the Queen in the eye, Namor agrees. She returns his look, puts one of her appendages into his hand and they walk into another chamber. Namor orders Hope to stay behind. This will be a private audience. Hope nervously waves at the armed guards. Anyone know what’s going on? she asks.
In a tunnel far beneath Tabula Rasa, Colossus, glowing with Juggernaut energy, is trying to find his sister. When Cyclops asks about the situation, Colossus answers briefly. He calls out for her and suddenly finds her unconscious, surrounded by reptile-like predators. He clenches his fists and the Juggernaut energy begins to transform him…
Hope calls Scott, informing him about the situation. Finally, the queen and Namor rejoin them. The queen seems peaceful.
What did he do? Hope asks Namor. She understands them, he explains, and, more importantly, trusts him. She knows they will help her. How? Hope asks. Namor is fluent in a tongue that all understand, he informs her. He takes the queen’s hand, wishing her farewell and hoping this will be the start of a lasting friendship between their people. Then they kiss.
Ick! Hope sputters. He didn’t really imperius sex her? A mere gentleman does not tell, Namor informs her. A king is far more discreet. When Hope shows her disgust, sputtering Ick! Ick Ick! he lectures her that she is being parochial and prejudiced. There are many forms of beauty. She is a dignified queen of a noble people. Namor is nothing if not cosmopolitan in his tastes. He’s got tapeworm goo on his upper lip Hope informs him.
Magik awakes calling Cyclops, who asks if her brother is there. Illyana looks around to find the beings that abducted her torn apart. “Brother?” she asks and she finds him, his body having grown strange protrusions, his hands turned to claws. “What is happening to me?” he mutters. Hold on to that me! Illyana orders sharply. He is changed by experience. The hand of Cyttorak is upon him. But the him is there. No matter what horrors he faces, he is still himself! At times like this, it can be all that keeps you together! She urges him never to forget who he is and he slowly turns normal again. Cyclops calls them again. Magik assures him she has found her brother and they are both fine.
The rescue workers tell the X-Men they are not leaving. They still need to find out what happened to their families. They could be alive! Psylocke interrupts that their investigation showed that before Tabula Rasa grew, the people responsible completely cleared the area. They did it with a nuclear device. It would have been instantaneous. There would have been no pain.
Angrily, the worker asks why they didn’t stop them. The X-Men weren’t there, Psylocke replies evasively. She’s sorry for his loss. Sorrier than he could know.
Of all the sorts of victories, this kind is his least favorite, Scott muses. It’s not ideal, the Savage agrees, but if there’s life around to feel it, it means it’s a victory of some sort. As long as they can feel, it’s a victory. What now? Scott wonders. The Savage suggests they take inspiration from his fellow inhabitants. Look at what his unwife did to them. He destroyed their village, their works of art, their temples and they rebuild. The temple-- Betsy begins to protest. That was a particularly sad loss to the Immortal Man’s rage, Magneto interjects smoothly. Give them a blank slate and they start anew, the Savage points out. They should do likewise. They should do everything they can to help. What does he have in mind? Scott asks.
And so designed and constructed in a joint operation between SWORD, SHIELD and the X-Men, the Tabula Rasa sphere isolates the unique habitat from the contemporary ecosystem. All life, even subterranean, is confined to the locale. Even the river is diverted to restore the lake condition to Namor’s new allies. Tabula Rasa’s eco system is now fuelled by residual Celestial energies dispersed through the environment.
Meanwhile, the dome’s artificial sky protects individuals from the ultraviolet radiation and disease strains that they lack any resistance to. Placed in a twenty mile exclusion zone, it’s often described as the Area –51 of the 21st century. Many believe the story of it being a separately evolved eco reserve a cover for an even greater mystery. Trained patrols prevent the curious getting in and the occasional Tabula Rasa fauna from getting out.
Finally, in its heart, there is a memorial to the 3000 people of the town of Beaver Lake who were killed in the tragic prologue to this outburst of new life. The investigation to discover the atrocity’s true perpetrators is ongoing but detectives involved admit to lacking any significant leads.
Namor and Hope sit in a field outside the dome. Namor observes that the task is complete. The kingdom is secured and he can return to his own.
If she called him the king of Ab-lantis, would he judge her? Hope flirts. Yes. Favorably, Namor replies somberly. Hope admits swimming with him was a hell of a lot more fun than doing laps. She’d love to see Atlantis. She has his permission to visit whenever she wishes, he tells her. She was kinda hoping for…
Namor interrupts that he reserves personally showing his kingdom for women he is seducing and she is simply not his type. Hope protests that she didn’t mean that, then reminds him in a huff he just sexed a tapeworm! Yes, but a man must have standards. She is a child and, even if she weren’t: redheads - “Ick! Ick! Ick!” he laughs.
Back on Utopia, Cyclops and the Savage watch Emma Frost in the medlab. Emma’s arm has been molecularly reattached to her body. The Savage notes she is precious to Scott and finds the notion charming. They have something akin to Apex love. To think they hold something like a shadow to the passion of his unwife and he… They try, Cyclops replies wryly, his sarcasm unappreciated.
Storm asks for an explanation of the term “unwife.” The Apex only take on gender when they enter breeding couples. They wanted to, but could never decide upon their roles. Each would prefer the other to be the wife. And now, even as the last two of their species, it’s less likely than ever, they’ll come to an agreement. He/ she/ it… Unwife will have ideas of how he can regather the Celestial energies to try to rebirth their people. He would, in his place. But in the end, this Savage will just have to stop the Immortal Man. A task only made possible with their help.
Storm points out that the Savage is in his place. The Apex were about more than merely being the Apex, he replies. What’s the point in living, if you surrender everything that you are living for? Some costs aren’t worth paying. Storm understands. He’s glad. He’d fear for them, if they didn’t. It’s the only line between his unwife and he, the Savage announces as he teleports away.
Psylocke is training in the gym. Magneto joins her, observing that the English are so famed for their politeness. And she hasn’t even said “Thank you.” She didn’t know what to say, Betsy stresses. He brought down the murals showing X-Force. He’s kept their secret. He’s covered their mistakes.
He owes X-Force, he reminds her. It was the least he could do and even without the debt he’d have done it anyway – they are all on the same side. And what side is that? she asks. Oh, he thinks she knows, he replies and leaves.
Betsy kicks down a training sack. She wishes she bloody didn’t!