There is a saying: “Life is First Draft”. Means you pretty much make it up as you go along, and there is never a chance for a re-write. Of course, that doesn’t apply to Phoenix a.k.a. Rachel Summers. ‘Bacon-cheeseburger deluxe, with all the trimmings and a coke!’ a waiter calls out in a diner. ‘That’s mine, thanks!’ Rachel replies. For her, this is a world that never was. In the one she was born into, the human race was at each other’s throats with virtually everybody ganging up on its mutant minority. While Rachel was still a kid, that conflict exploded into open warfare - brother against brother, mother against son - the whole of humanity choosing up sides with quarter neither asked for nor given. Life devolved, faster than anyone could have thought possible - into the most awful of nightmares. But that was then, a future that hasn’t happened yet, where all its possibilities - good and bad - remain up for grabs.
Rachel raises the deluxe cheeseburger to her mouth. This is now. Of the time to come, she, like Ishmael, of the whaler Pequot, alone escaped to tell the tale. The problem is, along the way she fell in with bad company, and her memories got somewhat seriously scrambled. Her head is full of jumbled images, but she cannot tell true from false, real from fake - the ones she lived though, from those she was given. Rachel has a sense of what is coming - a certainty that something must be done, but no way of knowing if she is making things better or worse, preventing the holocaust to come - or guaranteeing it.
‘How’s it taste?’ the young waiter asks Rachel, who replies ‘Outstanding!’ to which the waiter remarks that by the way she is polishing it off quickly, he would assume she has never had one before. ‘Not in a while’ Rachel replies. Indeed, in the world she came from, they mostly ate protein packs - high-energy rations laced with psycho-active narcotics to keep her docile. The thing was, she didn’t need the drugs. A Hound served its master because that was what it was trained to do, and in her day, Rachel was the best.
Rachel smiles at the waiter and asks him if he has any apple pie. But suddenly, three thugs burst into the diner: ‘Freeze, suckas!’ one of them shouts, armed with a rile. ‘Hey no problem man, we’re cool!’ the waiter exclaims as he and other staff stop moving and raise their hands over their head. Rachel continues eating though, ignoring the thugs. ‘Miss? Ah, miss? C’mon lady, don’t do this, give us a break will ya, they got shotguns!’ the waiter whispers as Rachel just sits at the counter. One of the thugs orders the register and safe unloaded. Seeing that Rachel has not even turned to look at him, he exclaims ‘Hey! You deaf, honey-bunch, or brain-dead? Pay attention when I talk to you!’ he shouts.
‘Enough’ Rachel utters. The three thugs look worried, and drop to the floor as Rachel uses her power on them. She then uses her power to crush the guns up as if they were soda cans. ‘That’s better. Things a girl has to do…to enjoy a meal in peace!’ Rachel mutters, while the waiter, other employees and patrons all look on confused. Rachel tells herself that there was nothing to it really, that she used her telepathy to short-circuit their brains into a fugue state, and her telekinesis to deal with their weapons. ‘So about that pie…huh?’ Rachel begins, as she turns around and sees someone watching her. ‘No! Yes oh yes! Please! Oh yes! It can’t be!’ Rachel gasps.
She gets up and rushes out the door of the diner, with the waiter telling her that there is no need to run, as they called the cops and the danger is over. Rachel tells herself that she must be nuts, as Franklin is just a kid in this era, not grown up like when she knew him, before wondering what that proves, reminding herself that she back-timed, and Franklin could have as well. ‘Franklin?’ she calls out, but there is no sign of him. ‘Franklin!’ she exclaims, thinking to herself ‘I hate it when he does this’. She looks around, still no sign of him. ‘FRANKLIN!’ she shouts, before taking to the sky in a burst of cosmic energy. ‘She’s flying!’ the waiter exclaims as he and others gather around and look up. ‘Look at them wings, like a bird made of fire!’ someone else remarks. Another bets that she is a mutie, to which another asks why she didn’t help them with the thugs inside. ‘How do you know she didn’t?’ another person asks.
Throughout the city, a very special few (some mutants, others like Dr Strange - masters of the arcane arts which allow them to perceive what most cannot, and others like Spider-Man, born normal but granted super-human abilities by an accident of fate hear Rachel’s mental cry. But though she uses all her psionic strength and skill, the mind she seeks remains hidden from her, prompting her to wonder if he was ever really there. ‘By the Vishanti - a disturbance in the astral planes such as I’ve not sensed since…the night of Dark Phoenix!’ Dr Strange gasps. In another part of the city, an elderly homeless woman glances sideways, while a young girl tells her mother that someone is calling her, only to be told that nobody said a word and to eat her broccoli, as it was just her imagination. A young woman working at Burger Queen looks anxious as she too feels the sensation, while Spider-Man’s spider-sense goes off.
Hovering in the air, Rachel looks sad and wonders if it is because she misses Franklin that her power conjured up his image, only he seemed too real. ‘This isn’t funny, Scrapper! Show yourself or I’m outta here…and I’m never looking back!’ Rachel calls out. Suddenly, ‘Just playing it safe is all’ Franklin Richards replies as he emerges in the air alongside Rachel, who asks ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Franklin replies that the last time they met it was like one of those fights that his Uncle Ben used to get into with the Hulk, so he figured he would give himself room this time to get out of the way.
Franklin smiles and tells Rachel that she looks good. ‘You too, Scrapper’ Rachel replies, to which Franklin asks ‘You’re not ever gonna let me live that nickname down, are you?’ ‘Worked hard enough to earn it!’ Rachel replies. ‘Mostly tossing with you, as I recall’ Franklin tells Rachel, adding ‘Probably why Power Pack were the only kids our folks could trust as baby-sitters!’ Franklin then asks Rachel what is wrong and why he is doing all the talking. Rachel replies that she is not sure if there is anything safe for her to say. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Franklin asks. ‘This is wrong’ Rachel exclaims. ‘Not from where I stand’ Franklin tells her. Rachel tells Franklin that she has been lied to by experts, so she wants to know why she should trust.
Franklin asks Rachel if she wants to scan her thoughts, to which Rachel asks what that will prove, and remarks that telepathically, or physically, she only sees Franklin when he wants her to. ‘You could hide anything!’ Rachel exclaims, to which Franklin tells her that it is trust, pure and simple - a leap of faith. ‘Yeah. Headlong into the abyss. Why should I?’ Rachel asks. ‘Because the Phoenix has no choice but to follow the dictates of her heart’ Franklin tells her as he leans in towards her, and they kiss passionately, causing the sky to errupt with the passion of the fiery cosmic Phoenix.
Later, at Four Freedoms Plaza, home and headquarters of the Fantastic Four, where Reed and Susan Richards a.k.a. Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch, Sharon “She-Thing” Ventura, Ben Grimm and the young present day Franklin Richards are gathered with several members of the mutant hero team X-Factor - Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey and Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast. Rachel and the adult Franklin stand before everyone, as Franklin announces that he is sorry for the trouble he caused. Playing “Dr Who” without a “Tardis” isn’t as easy as it looks Franklin supposes that he got a little scrambled along the way. She-Thing replies that is good to hear, as a couple of times these past few days he has given them quite a turn. Franklin calls her “Ms Marvel” and tells her that it has been just as hard for him, finding that the world he remembers is not quite the world that is.
‘Anyway, I figure this is our second chance’ Franklin announces, adding that he and Rachel have earned it. They are going to give themselves the happiness that they never had in the future where they came from, and maybe ensure that future will never be. ‘Whoa! Time for a reality check here!’ the Beast exclaims, while Cyclops asks ‘What about my son? You’ve taken my son. Give him back to me!’ Reed quietly tells Cyclops to take it easy, pointing out that Franklin is a being of immense power, so they don’t want to antagonize him. Reed then calmly tells Franklin that he left some unfinished business here: ‘Cyclops’ baby, your younger self, unconscious…X-Factor’s Ship…there’s still Ahab to consider. Franklin, Sue and I - your mother and I - we want what’s best for you…’ Reed begins.
Franklin’s eyes light up red, so Susan quickly smiles and exclaims ‘I’m so happy for you both!’ Reed smiles as well, and tells his adult son that he is so proud of the man he has become. ‘Ben!’ Johnny gasps, unsure of what is going on, but Ben Grimm tells Johnny to let the scene play out, and take it from there. She-Thing looks at the young present day Franklin in Ben’s arms and asks what is going on, as little Franklin is getting weaker by the minute, and Reed and Sue are not acting like themselves.
At that moment, ‘I’m fine, Hank’ Jean tells the Beast, who replies that he never doubted it for a moment, while Cyclops asks Rachel where she will go and what she will do. ‘Where the mood takes us. The rest we’ll make up as we go along’ Rachel replies, telling Cyclops not to worry, as she will stay in touch. Hank realizes that Scott and Jean seem to have forgotten about Chris, and wonders what Franklin has done to them, while Susan approaches Jean and remarks ‘She’s a lovely child, your Rachel’. ‘She isn’t “my” anything, Mrs Richards’ Jean replies sternly. ‘Not now, no, but someday…’ Susan replies, while suggesting that there is something magic in parents being given a view of the person their children will become.
Marvel Girl spins around to face the Invisible Woman and exclaims ‘Parents? I’m not even married! And out of nowhere, I’m face to face with the product of my life to come! Not only that she’s tied intimately into the power I abhor…and a world where all I hold dear has been destroyed!’ Jean adds that that it is like all the pieces of her life are locked into place without her having the slightest say. ‘So you’ll pardon me for not seeing any magic - special or otherwise - here’ Jean exclaims as she heads down inside the Plaza. ‘Rachel, she doesn’t mean…’ Franklin begins, but Rachel replies that Jean Grey is her mom, and that she senses the essence of her thoughts as naturally as she does her own. ‘She’s hurt and angry and scared’ Rachel remarks. ‘Because she blames herself for a lot of what’s to come’ Rachel adds, to which Franklin tells her that if all else fails, she will still have him.
Soon, everyone is saying goodbye to Franklin and Rachel. ‘Take care, son. Be well’ Reed tells Franklin, who calls Reed “Dad” and tells him that if he ever needs to him, to call and he will be there. Susan embraces Rachel and tells her that she is glad she and Franklin found each other, and to give Jean time, as she is sure to come around. Everyone watches as the Phoenix symbol lights up the sky when Rachel and Franklin depart. Susan exclaims that this was a glorious day, and Reed announces that a celebration is in order. Ben suggests a raincheck though, ‘As in when we got proper cause!’ he exclaims, telling his friends that he did not want to speak up in front of the boy because he has this way of fixing reality so nothing gets in the way of what he wants.
Ben continues, ‘Aside from the fact you just accepted his every word at face value…didn’t he just help his younger self permanently lock down his powers so he couldn’t use them ever?’ Ben admits he may have missed something here, but points out that if young Franklin, as of now, doesn’t have any super powers, then where did his older self gain the ability to travel in time, not to mention all the other stunts he has been pushing. Reed and Sue suddenly come around. ‘Reed…my head…?’ Susan exclaims while Reed remarks that he had the strangest sensation, as if his very thoughts were being turned inside out. Ben tells Reed that Franklin must have zapped them, to make sure they saw things his way. ‘A transitory reconfiguration of reality!’ Reed declares. ‘Whatever. Least he didn’t nail us all’ Ben points out, to which Reed explains that Franklin is not hostile, simply directed to the point of obsession. ‘He’s desperately afraid, that much I sense. But of what? And seeking safety. To get it, he’s prepared to do anything’.
Meanwhile, forty-odd miles upstate from Manhattan, amidst the ruins of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The teenage Ororo “Storm” Munroe lurks towards the ruins with her companion, the mysterious Gambit. Some student’s power get a wee bit out of control, hmm?’ Gambit asks. ‘Hardly’ Storm replies, informing Gambit that the mansion was blown up by one of the X-Men’s foes, Mr Sinister. ‘Like the name’ Gambit tells her. ‘A man who dresses as you do…and calls himself Gambit…is hardly in a position to cast aspersions’ Ororo remarks, to which Gambit tells Storm that he liked her better when she had the brain of a kid to go with her body. ‘Life is tough’ Storm mutters as she hushes Gambit and tells him to follow her lead. They approach a hatch, and Gambit asks her if she needs him to override the alarm. ‘Already done’ Storm replies, to which Gambit remarks that there is probably a back-up. Indeed, as within the control room of the sub-basement, the man called Cable receives an alert signal.
Climbing down into a tunnel, ‘Stormy…’Gambit begins, ‘Do not call me that’ Storm tells him. ‘There are better ways in. I mean, way we’re going…might as well hammer on the front down and announce ourselves’ he points out. ‘You believe you can do better, thief?’ Storm asks. ‘Couldn’t hardly do worse’ Gambit replies, but as they turn around, they find Cable standing in front of them, with a massive weapon, he informs them that they are trespassing. ‘My sentiments precisely - about you!’ Storm exclaims as she drops down and kicks the weapon out of Cable’s hand, before leaping up to kick him in the face. ‘Excellent move. Superb follow-through. Unfortunately, young lady…I have the edge in size, strength, speed and knowledge!’ Cable replies as he knocks Storm in the face, and trips her up.
Cable pins Storm to the ground, and aims a weapon at Gambit, warning him to stay still, while telling Storm to stop struggling, that she cannot budge him. ‘Perhaps not physically…but once I put a lightning bolt…where it would do the most good!’ Storm replies. Suddenly, Sean “Banshee” Cassidy and Forge of the X-Men, as well as the New Mutants Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, Tabitha “Boom-Boom” Smith and Warlock appear behind Cable. ‘Cable, man, what’re ye - glory!’ Sean exclaims as he sees the teenage Storm. Cable explains that her caught some intruders. ‘Any objections?’ he asks, while Cannonball remarks that the girl’s voice sounds awfully familiar. ‘Query, self-friends - evaluation analysis of female captive’s physiognomic parameters reveals a match-state with those of…’ Warlock begins, before Forge exclaims ‘Storm!’ But Boom-Boom declares that she has seen the files, and that this jailbait is younger than she is. Cable lets Storm go, and Forge helps her up, as the young woman announces that, nevertheless, she is who she appears to be, and remarks that there have been many changes in her absence. ‘Shall we compare notes?’ she suggests.
And soon, the mutant heroes are gathered in a lounge area, while the image of the adult Franklin appears on a large monitor. Cable informs Storm that he runs the New Mutants now, and that Banshee and Forge have been staying with them and X-Factor while they conducted a search for the rest of the missing X-Men. ’Our information about you, Storm, was that you were dead’ Cable exclaims. Storm explains that was misdirection, courtesy of the creature who abducted her - Nanny. Storm tells the others that Nanny sought to add her to her menagerie of mutant orphans - for her own good, Nanny clamed to “protect” her from the dangers in store for mutantkind, but to do that, since all Nanny appeared to care about were children, she felt obliged to regress Storm to that state, but she managed to escape.
Storm looks at the monitor and remarks ‘But that face on screen. Is that not -?’ to which Cable announces that he calls himself Franklin Richards, the grown-up version of Reed and Sue Richards’ only kid, and claims to be from the same future that Rachel-Phoenix came from. Cable informs Storm that he showed up one morning, resurrected Xavier’s school, but as it was evidently in his time and conjured up a passel of his students to do with it - plus an older incarnation of Banshee, as headmaster. An image of these other students appear on the monitor, and Cable points out that some of them, such as Cypher, they knew, but most they did not.
Cable continues, announcing that if that was not problem enough, it turned out Franklin had major trouble on his tail - somebody after his scalp in the worst way - ready and willing to stomp whoever got in the way. His name was Ahab. ‘When all was said and done, grown-up Frankie teamed with young Frankie to permanently neutralize the kid’s powers - active and latent both - so that he couldn’t access them ever again’. Cable adds that according to grown-up Frankie, that pretty much guarantees the future that he and Rachel fled, where mutants are hunted enemies of the state, to be shot on sight, will come to pass. ‘This cannot be! He cannot be!’ Storm exclaims, ordering that someone alert the Fantastic Four, that they must find Franklin at once. Cable points out that Ahab is still the threat, but Storm tells Cable that he doesn’t understand, that in the future he spoke of Franklin was killed. ‘Whatever this lost soul claims, he is either an imposter - or something far worse!’ Storm declares.
Back at Four Freedoms Plaza, ‘Penny for them, Cyclops?’ Susan asks. ‘My thoughts are hardly worth even that, Mrs Richards’ Cyclops replies, to which Susan suggests that she be the judge of that. The two of them are still standing on the rooftop, and Susan brings Cyclops a hot drink, while Scott asks ‘Why is she so angry?’ ‘Your sweetheart, Jean Grey?’ Susan asks. ‘I love her, she loves me, shouldn’t that be all that matters?’ Scott asks. Susan replies that it should but it often isn’t. ‘That’s for sure’ Scott mutters. The Invisible Woman tells Cyclops that so much of Jean Grey’s life seems totally out of her control, that whole pieces exist that she feels she had no part of, and yet must bear responsibility for, and deal with the repercussions. ‘She denies because it’s the only way she knows of asserting herself, and her free will’ Susan explains.
‘No matter who gets hurt? Or how miserable it leaves her?’ Cyclops asks. Neither Cyclops nor the Invisible Woman are aware that two Sentinels are creeping up behind them, as Scott tells Susan that sometimes Jean says she wished the Fantastic Four never found her, and that Mr Fantastic never woke her from suspended animation. ‘She means more to me than my life - but I don’t know how to reach her anymore’ Cyclops remarks. Suddenly, ‘That, laddie-buck…just became the least of your worries’ Ahab exclaims as he appears alongside the Sentinels who fire their weapons at Scott and Susan, taking the two heroes down.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Cable, the New Mutants, Storm, Banshee, Forge and Gambit have gathered with Marvel Girl, the Beast and the rest of the Fantastic Four. Storm is explaining to everyone about the reality where Franklin Richards comes from. ‘Originally, the Kitty Pryde of our era was physically transposed, courtesy of Phoenix - with her adult self. According to Kate Pryde - and confirmed later by Rachel when she back-timed here physically - that future is one where most of those we know as super-beings (whether hero or villain, mutant or otherwise) have either been slain or imprisoned in concentration camps’ Storm announces. She continues, explaining that North America is ruled by Sentinels, who are attempting to expand the fulfilment of their prime directive - the extermination of all variants from baseline, homo-sapiens to encompass the entire world.
Storm reveals that the key element in this scenario was the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly, and the X-Men thought they had eliminated the time-line by saving the senator. Thoughtful, Reed remarks that although the details may have changed, the general thrust of history appears to have not. ‘Which means in effect, what -’ Forge begins, ‘- we’re all of us doomed?’ the Beast asks. Reed replies if that world comes to pass, then yes. Sharon tells Ben that she is worried about Franklin, as he has not stirred since this afternoon. ‘This deep a sleep -’ she remarks, ‘- ain’t natural, I know’ Ben agrees, before telling Reed that they have a billion pieces to this puzzle, and only one person he thinks can make them fit. Jean addresses Ben as “Thing” and tells him that it isn’t just Franklin, that she felt something from, as she sensed a wrongness from Rachel. Cable suggests that it makes sense, if there is a bond between them it should cut both ways. ‘Let’s get moving! The sooner we find them the better, I suspect, for all concerned!’ Reed suggests.
Elsewhere, ‘I am AHAB! Hound-master. Hunter of mutants. And their slayer!’ Ahab declares as he introduces himself to the Invisible Woman and Cyclops, who are currently strapped to some machinery, unable to move, while several Sentinels stand nearby. Ahab explains that after Pryde’s time-switch, the hierarchy set in motion appropriate counter-measures, seeding he and his at this temporal nexus to prevent any further re-writing of for what is them, history. ‘And who better to aid me in my sacred task…than the parents of those I seek!’ Ahab exclaims. Cyclops points out that Ahab has had precious little success so far, while Susan calls him a monster and tells him that nothing he can do will make her betray her son, adding that she will die first.
Ahab tells Susan that considering this installation is known as the Tomb, that is an apt, albeit futile, boast. ‘For in a way, die you shall!’ he threatens, declaring that the transition process has been refined considerable since young Rachel served as the initial prototype. As the process begins, Ahab tells the heroes that essentially the genetic software of their DNA is over-written by a new program, re-shaping their mind and body to his purposes. Ahab adds that for Rachel, the process took the better part of a year. ‘For you, only seconds’ he declares, as Scott and Susan soon appear as Hounds - their costumes are different, and they have chains over their bodies. Ahab adds that despite the shortness of the process, it is no less painful, no less effective, but far more permanent. ‘Hounds you are. Hounds you shall remain - for as long as you draw breath!’
Cyclops and the Invisible Woman both kneel before Ahab, who smiles and remarks that in all the ways that matter - intelligence, strength, courage and power - they are as they were, but now all the old loyalties are gone, replaced by absolute devotion to him. ‘If I say kill, that you shall - even those who once you loved’ he remarks, before demanding that as they have a special affinity to the location of their blood relations, he wants to know where they are. ‘There are two loci to my son!’ the Invisible Woman replies, to which Ahab tells her that he wants the adult, before asking about Rachel. ‘Master - I - cannot find her!’ Cyclops replies. Ahab tells himself that should not be, but realizes that Cyclops isn’t lying - he genuinely doesn’t know. ‘But she’s his daughter - even her psi-talent should be able to masque her from him’ Ahab tells himself, before shouting ‘No matter. They’re young, those two, and in love. Find one, you’re sure to find the other’. He tells his pets to lead the way, and smirks as he declares that it has been too long since those children have beheld their master!
At Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, a park designed by the same man who crafted Manhattan’s famed Central Park, who learned, locals say, with pardonable pride, from mistakes made the first time across the river. In the dead of night, Rachel and Franklin are sitting be the edge of a pond, little Nathan Christopher Summers is with them. Rachel tells Franklin that in all her life she has dreamed of a moment like this, lazing away a sunny summer afternoon with her sweeties. “Sweeties”?’ Franklin exclaims, asking if he has a rival. ‘Darn straight, I got a baby brother!’ Rachel replies, to which Franklin reminds her that she didn’t, as she was an only child. ‘Times change’ Rachel tells him. Franklin asks her if she believes that is possible. Rachel points out that they are both here, and tells him if that is not the prime definition of a miracle…her voice trails off, while Franklin reveals that he keeps getting this sense that there is something missing.
‘Don’t look to me for answers’ Rachel replies, pointing out that her memory has more holes in it than the federal “safety net”. ‘Maybe I can help?’ Franklin suggests, but suddenly, ‘Sorry boy - others have a prior, pre-eminent claim on your services!’ Ahab booms as Cyclops unleashes a powerful optic blast, knocking Franklin over. ‘Ahab!’ Rachel screams, while Ahab asks her if she really thought she could escape him. He adds that his armoured bionics are shielded against Rachel’s psi-power, though he doubts she could bring herself to do him harm anyway, but the boy is another story, and he orders the Invisible Woman to restrain Franklin.
Susan does as commanded, placing Franklin in an invisible bubble. ‘Mom - what’re you doing?’ Franklin exclaims. ‘My master commands. I obey. The slightest sign of resistance, Franklin…I’ll compress my invisible force field and crush you to a pulp!’ Susan warns him. Ahab looks at Christopher and asks Rachel if that is her half brother. ‘Thought Frankie “vanished” him out of existence’ Ahab declares, while Rachel hugs the boy and tells Ahab to leave them all alone. Rachel thinks to herself that Phoenix is just a name to Ahab, that he should not have any idea what that means what she can do. But Rachel finds herself with nothing happening - she cannot use her power, as if it has vanished.
‘Proud and defiant, just like when we first met. I’m glad. I’ll enjoy breaking you anew all the more’ Ahab declares as he raises his whip, essentially a neural disruptor derived from a designed used by the Genoshan Magistrates. The whip scrambles the synapses so that the harder you try to use your abilities, or move or just plain think a coherent thought, the more you feel like you’re tearing yourself apart. It hurts, too. And ultimately even the most powerful beings can burn themselves out, physically and psychically, and an unfortunate side effect - laying waste to the local landscape in the process. In desperation, a last-ditch effort to save themselves, and in less time than it takes to tell the assaulted mind and body shut themselves down - and an instant later, Rachel, Franklin and Christopher lie motionless before Ahab.
Soon, back in the Tomb, Franklin and Christopher are held prisoner in some sort of stasis tank, while Ahab holds Rachel up against a wall, the transformed Cyclops and Invisible Woman look on. Rachel tells Ahab that he does not look happy and asks him what is wrong. ‘Things not going according to plan? Hours of effort, zip to show for it? Too bad’ she declares. Ahab asks her if that is any way to talk to the man who helped make her what she is. ‘You miss those days, admit it. The glory of standing first among Ahab’s hunters’ he exclaims. ‘You wish’ Rachel replies. Ahab tells her that his will rules, and that in time, she will yield. But Rachel tells Ahab that she is not a scared, shattered kid anymore, lost and lonely and hurt that she would respond to a gentle hand from anyone.
‘you really believe you’re a match for me?’ Ahab asks. Tears stream down Rachel’s face while Ahab holds a hand around her neck. ‘Got the guts to try me in a fair fight?’ Rachel asks. Ahab tells her that she is just full of vinegar this morning, and grins as he remarks that Rachel poses an almost irresistible challenge. ‘Only thing is - I don’t need to accept. Not so long as I’ve got your baby brother to take your place!’ Ahab exclaims. ‘NO!’ Rachel screams. Ahab asks her how she is going to stop him, pointing out that she is a shadow of herself, weakening by the minute. Suddenly, the mutant proximity alert alarm sounds. ‘How nice. It appears, young lady…the cavalry’s come…to attempt a rescue!’ Ahab exclaims.
Indeed, Marvel Girl, Beast, Banshee, Storm, Forge, Gambit, Cable, Cannonball, Sunspot, Boom-Boom, Warlock, the Human Torch, She-Thing and Ben Grimm bust into Ahab’s base, powered up and ready for action. ‘There’s the creep, Reed! Bet he can’t believe his eyes. Figure we’d never track you down, Ahab?’ the Human Torch exclaims, but Reed tells Johnny not to get cocky, and announces that tracing the residue of unique energies left after each of their previous encounters with Ahab may have led them to his base, but it does not guarantee Ahab’s defeat. ‘Against the combined power of the Fantastic Four, the New Mutants, X-Factor and the X-Men - Reed, you gotta be kidding!’ Johnny declares. Storm reminds the Human Torch that Ahab hails from a world where all of them area dead - most, she suspects, at his hand. ‘So let’s quit jawing, girl, and pay the slime back in advance!’ She-Thing exclaims.
‘Wait!’ Reed calls out, as he alerts everyone to who is standing at Ahab’s side. ‘Very perceptive, Richards. That must be why they call you “Mr. Fantastic”!’ Ahab mocks, while Reed asks what he has done to the Invisible Woman and Cyclops. Reed ignores the comment and sees that Franklin and Nathan are imprisoned, and asks why Rachel is not. Ahab tells Reed that if he likes, he cam join his wife as a member of the Hound pack, otherwise he will have to serve as her prey. Cyclops and the Invisible Woman move forward, flanked by dozens of other Hounds, and Cyclops unleashes a beam of optic energy at She-Thing, who exclaims that Cyclops isn’t fooling around, that his optic blasts are at full force. Storm calls her Ms Marvel and tells her to hold on, as she is the only one who can handle them.
Mr Fantastic comes to Sharon’s rescue, drawing Cyclops’ fire away from her, as Reed’s elastic body can more easily take the punishment of the blasts. ‘Thanks Reed, much appreciated!’ She-Thing exclaims as she engages the other Hounds in battle, while Jena Grey throws up a telekinetic shield to block the Invisible Woman’s force field. ‘Creep’s got these critters popping out of the woodwork!’ the Human Torch exclaims as he engages the Hounds in battle, while Cannonball blasts towards one of the Hounds and tells the Human Torch that he cannot help but think these used to be people just like them, before Ahab made them into Hounds. Sam adds that he is scared he will run into someone he knows.
Jean grabs Susan’s wrists, thinking to herself that they are at a murderous disadvantage. ‘We don’t dare hurt Scott or Sue. They have no such compunctions’ Jean tells herself, while Reed extends his body towards Banshee, telling him that while Sue is focused on Jean, he needs to blindside her with his sonic scream. ‘No problem!’ Banshee replies, adding that the right frequency will shut Sue right off, but as he unleashes his sonic scream, Sean wonders what happens later when she wakes up, as nothing will have changed, she will still be a Hound, sworn to Ahab’ service. Reed extends his hands down to catch Susan as she falls to the ground.
Cable calls out to Warlock, asking him if he can reorient his receptors to absorb Cyclops’ eye beams. ‘Affirmative, nano-teacher-Cable’ Warlock replies. ‘Then what’re you waiting for - lock him down!’ Cable orders. Warlock moves towards Cyclops, and snares him, ‘Teacher - self-friend Cyclops under restraint!’ Warlock calls out. Ben Grimm holds onto the unconscious present Franklin, and fires a gun at the Hounds, announcing that each of the stun charges can drop a bull elephant, but the Hounds keep coming after a whole clip. ‘Perhaps you fellas just don’t know how to hit!’ Gambit exclaims as he kicks one of the Hounds in the stomach, while Boom-Boom unleashes her time-bombs on some approaching Sentinels.
‘Another Hound down - leaving me a clear run for their boss!’ Cable exclaims as he rushes towards Ahab, and grabs his harpoon, attempting to wrest it from him. ‘Fool! This harpoon is bonded to me - it’s an extension of my life-force. None but Ahab can wield it!’ he shouts. Cable realizes that Ahab has a point, and finds his hands burning. ‘His face!’ Cable thinks to himself, surprised. ‘What’s wrong, Cable? See someone you know?’ Ahab asks, as he smacks Cable to the ground, before laughing. Storm goes over and frees the adult Franklin, telling him to pull himself together. ‘Storm? Why are you…so short?’ Franklin asks, rubbing his head. ‘Move! Before Ahab springs any surprises!’ ‘Right play, Wind-Rider. But then, that was always your gift - leadership. This time, however…it comes too late!’
Ahab presses a button, and a bright light engulfs the room, as Ahab declares that in the final analysis, he has no interest in taking prisoners. He stands on a platform, while everyone else drops to the ground in agony. Ahab declares that where he comes from, the only good mutants rest under tombstones. ‘Time you joined them’ he remarks, before explaining that this field effect they are caught in is particularly nasty, that it acts on living tissue, fatally, and so fast, physical incapacity is virtually instantaneous. ‘But then, I can see you’re all well aware of that’ Ahab remarks, explaining that where he stands is the only safe are in the whole complex, so there is nowhere for them to run, and even if they could run, no place for them to hide.
‘Even baby Phoenix is flesh-and-blood. She’ll fall for all her fabled power - as sure as any!’ Ahab exclaims, but suddenly, the adult Franklin Richards stands before him, hovering over the fallen heroes, wearing only his briefs, he suddenly materializes a new costume - one that resembles the standard X-Men costume, but with a 4 on his chest. ‘I’m not Phoenix, Ahab’ Franklin exclaims, energy surrounding him. ‘So I notice. Questions is, what are you?’ Ahab replies. ‘You won’t hurt her. Or anyone!’ Franklin exclaims as he uses his power to destroy Ahab’s equipment, setting everyone free from the energy field. Ahab decides that it is time to go, and tells his Hounds to heel. ‘That includes you, Rachel!’ he declares, as Susan and Scott gather at his feet. Rachel looks up at Ahab, she wants to heel, still, and always, a reality locked into flesh and spirit, body and soul. That once she would have obeyed with all her heart. ‘No’ she whispers.
‘Suit yourself!’ Ahab tells her as he hurls his harpoon towards her, but suddenly, Jean Grey catches it with her telekinesis. But it is difficult, and Jean tells Franklin that she can’t hold it, ‘Do something - “magic” it away like you did his machine!’ she exclaims. Franklin replies that he is trying, but it is not working. Jean realizes that Franklin sounds panicked, that something is happening which he doesn’t understand. ‘Welcome to the club, kiddo’ Jean thinks to herself, before realizing that it is up to her. Jean dives towards the harpoon and wonders if there is some connection between Franklin and Rachel - that his power is up, and hers is down, and vice versa.
‘Get down, girl - duck!’ Jean calls out as she leaps in front of Rachel and then cries out in agony as the harpoon strikes her. ‘Mh - Muh -’ Rachel begins, while thinking to herself ‘Mother!’, before calling out ‘Jean - relax’. Rachel explains that the harpoon is keyed specifically at its victims. She thinks to herself that it resonates to Jean because of who the two are - mother and daughter - that’s how come Jean could drain the harpoon’s power. ‘The pain’s awful, I know…but my own power can heal that. If you’ll allow…’ Rachel offers, but Jean does not respond.
Reed, Storm and Hank move towards Ahab, with Reed telling him that it is over, that he has lost. ‘Only a battle, Richards. And the beauty is - the horror for you - I know how the war ends. Whatever you to me now…you’ll still meet me in the days to come!’ the villain warns the heroes. He tells them that sooner or later, he will have their heads. ‘In the meanwhile - every time you look at Cyclops and the Invisible Woman…you’ll see my mark on their faces…and in those scars, your own fate’ Ahab booms, before vanishing with an ominous Bamf, leaving the bewildered heroes without time to act.
‘They collapsed as soon as Ahab teleported!’ Jean exclaims as she, Reed and She-Thing crouch down beside Cyclops and Susan, while Reed announces that Ahab has shifted transition frequencies, that his tracker equipment is not registering any trail, before asking Forge and Beast to examine Ahab’s equipment. Forge stretches his body to join Forge and Beast at a console, with the Beast announcing that it looks bad, no record of any other bases. Forge adds that this is a one-way matrix, which creates Hounds but does not reverse the process. ‘There has to be a way!’ Reed remarks. But Forge explains that it is not simply a mechanical transformation, as the modules interact with elements, energies in Ahab himself. So without him, there is no joy, not even a hope of transforming Cyclops and the Invisible Woman back to normal.
‘I won’t accept that! We’ll find him then, and if necessary, force him!’ Reed declares, when suddenly, Boom-Boom and Storm alert him to the fact that Rachel has fainted. The others gather around, while Ben tells Reed that this is not sleep, that young Franklin is in a coma. Ben hands Franklin over to Reed, who remarks that Franklin has been like this since he combined with his older self to permanently lock down his powers. ‘But why?’ Reed wonders. He tells everyone that they cannot do any real good in this place, and to secure the facility and strip it of anything they might need. Warlock notices the adult Franklin, his eyes now sunken and hollow, glancing around the room. ‘Query: entity-self-ident-Franklin, operation status?’ Warlock calls out. Franklin replies that he is fine. ‘I’m fine. I’m…fine’.
Later, as the desperate operations shift back to Four Freedoms Plaza, Cyclops, the Invisible Woman, Rachel and present day Franklin are all laid out on examination tables. ‘More we learn…worse it gets’ Forge exclaims. The Beast examines Franklin and announces that their DNA matrices scan precisely along Ahab’s outline, and that any cure requires a reconfiguration of the double helix of every cell in their bodies. Forge adds that without the original genetic template to work from they have no idea which pattern would revert them to “normal”. Hank explains that their cure could turn out to be worse than the disease, but assures Reed that does not mean they won’t try. Anguished, Reed remarks that, in their own way, Rachel and Franklin are no better, when by rights they should be completely healthy, but their lives are draining away. ‘Is that what you want, Franklin?’ Storm asks as she turns to the adult Franklin, who exclaims ‘Of course not! You’re talking as though it’s my fault!’
‘Not intentionally. Not consciously. But yours, nonetheless’ Storm tells the adult Franklin, who retorts ‘No!’ Storm looks at Franklin as she reminds him ‘We were escaping from the camp -’ but Franklin interrupts, asking ‘How would you know…you weren’t even there!’ Calmly, Storm explains that Kitty was there, and so was Rachel, so through them, she was. ‘You managed to cry a warning…a split-second before a Sentinel burned you to ashes’ Storm reveals. ‘But that would mean…I’m…’ Franklin’s voice trails off, so Storm finishes his sentence for him: ‘Yes. Dead’.
Reed announces that he thinks he has known all along, but that the thought of his son - his only child - dying, and so cruelly, so young, he couldn’t bear it. ‘So what am I doing here? How can I be?’ the adult Franklin asks. Reed points out that they cannot even begin to fathom the full extend of Franklin’s powers, and supposes that in that final split-instant before the end, he cried out in a primal scream of denial which propelled him into a time and place where he remembered being safe. ‘That’s all I am? A memory?’ Franklin asks, when suddenly, ‘Scrapper!’ Rachel exclaims as she rises. Franklin goes over to her and tells her to hush, before asking her if she knows what his father said is right. ‘A shadow being using the dream-walking power of my younger self to give form to my desire. That’s why Franklin’s in a coma’ he remarks.
The adult Franklin continues, explaining that the young Franklin cannot maintain the dream-form when he is conscious. ‘And I can’t survive without it’ he points out, adding that he steals energy from Rachel to make the dream reality. Arms folded, matter-of-factly, Jean Grey declares that it is an open-ended equation - that eventually, Franklin will drain both Rachel and young Franklin dry. ‘What do you care?’ Rachel thinks to herself as she looks at Jean, who points out that it will be the end of Rachel and the end of Franklin. ‘Merely the postponement of the inevitable’ she remarks. Rachel and the adult Franklin embrace, with Rachel declaring that at least they will be together, they will be happy. But Franklin tells her that it is not just the two of them. ‘If my string’s run out - I won’t prolong the fantasy at the cost of an innocent life’ he declares.
And so, shortly, the adult Franklin holds the unconscious present day Franklin in his arms as he stands in a large device. Reed stands at a control panel and explains that as Ahab’s booby-trap affected them, so will this modification affect Franklin. Reed tells Franklin that as he discorporates, the energies he absorbed will flow back to their natural bases - Franklin will regain his powers in full force, the potential they see actualized in the adult Franklin. ‘The ultimate implications of that, I can’t even begin to guess’ Reed declares, suggesting that it could totally void Rachel’s presence in their reality - that she could cease to be as well. ‘Small price to pay for the salvation of the future. A way, perhaps, of atoning for Dark Phoenix. Of proving Phoenix is a force for life!’ Rachel declares. ‘And love, Red’ Franklin tells Rachel. ‘Never forget that’ he tells her.
Franklin tells his father that he is sorry he cannot help his mother and Cyclops, while Rachel telepathically tells “Scrapper” to leave that to her. Rachel turns to Jean, and exclaims ‘Jean - Momma - you ever wonder what the Phoenix is…who I was…your folks have a holempathic crystal imbued with both our essences. Like I said when I left it for them - something to remember me by’ she remarks, as Franklin calls out ‘Bye, all!’ ‘Merciful lady!’ Storm gasps as Rachel unleashes powerful cosmic energy in the laboratory, the Phoenix symbol glowing bright throughout the room. ‘The readings are off their scales!’ someone calls out. ‘Rachel, what are you doing?’ Beast asks.
‘What comes naturally, Beast, what else?’ Rachel replies, boasting that she is fire and life incarnate. ‘Now and forever - I am Phoenix!’ she exclaims, before revealing that Aunt Sara told her once how after some Atlantean nutcase named Attuma had transformed her into a water breather that Phoenix put things right by rebuilding her from the genes on up, nothing to go on but her instinct. ‘Now it’s my turn’ Rachel exclaims as cosmic energy washes over Cyclops and the Invisible Woman. Franklin tells Rachel that he never got to see her as Phoenix, in all her glory. ‘A sight to remember. A memory to treasure. Farewell my love’ he declares as he vanishes in a burst of energy, leaving little Franklin lying on the floor, rubbing his eyes. He calls out to his mother and father and tells them that he feels all woozy, asking if his dream-self was out playing while he as asleep.
‘You might say that, youngster!’ Reed replies as he picks his on up, asking him how he feels. Franklin replies that he is hungry, when suddenly, Johnny calls out to Reed, ‘Feast your eyes!’ he exclaims as Susan and Scott both sit up, returned to their true forms. She-Thing remarks that the red-head has her scary side, but also has her moments. ‘AHAB!’ the Invisible Woman gasps. ‘Long story, Sue. And good riddance’ Sharon exclaims. ‘Was that…what it was like for Rachel?’ Scott asks. Storm tells Cyclops that was only a taste. ‘What for you was but a day on his leash…for her was over half her life’ Storm points ouit, before asking Rachel if she is all right.
Rachel looks at herself and realizes that she is still here, wearing her Hound costume. ‘Does this mean we failed? The future’s unchanged?’ she asks. ‘Did Scrapper die for nothing? Wasn’t once bad enough - do I have to live through that nightmare all over again?’ Rachel exclaims, looking at herself. ‘Rachel!’ Jean thinks to herself. Rachel turns to her and exclaims ‘Mom? I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted to find my home. My family. Same as Frank’. Rachel begins to cry as Jean turns away from her. Rachel covers her face, before taking to the sky in a burst of cosmic energy. ‘He got lucky. His search is over. Me - I guess I’ll have to start fresh and make my own’ Rachel cries.
‘Rachel - wait!’ Jean calls out. ‘I didn’t mean!’ she calls out, before realizing that she did mean it. ‘A part of me. Somewhere inside. Every time I see her. All I see is myself - locked in a box that is the future - condemned to a fate as pre-ordained and unchangeable as the sunrise’. Jean announces that she feels all this rage, so much resentment that there is no room for anything else. ‘And I strike out…when I want to embrace. Susan tells Jean that at least she has friends and family to sustain her, and points out that Rachel is the sole survivor of a world where they are trying with all their might to erase from existence. ‘Hard for you, yes. How much worse for her?’ Susan remarks, before pointing out that Rachel is Jean’s daughter. ‘Is this really how you want to leave things with her?’ Susan asks. ‘Jean?’ Scott calls out. Concerned, Jean replies that she doesn’t know - about this, or anything.
Beast goes over to where Warlock is playing with Franklin and Christopher and asks if everything is okay. ‘Self unable to engage in interpersonal dialogue’ Warlock replies. Everyone is watching the children and Reed remarks that the extraordinary resilience of children is amazing. Forge points out that there are a couple of downsides, and tells Reed that his son will need training in his power more than ever, and announces the future is still up for grabs. ‘Like Ray said, all our work may’ve been a waste of effort’ The Human Torch looks nervously at Boom-Boom as he informs Forge that it is easy enough to find out, as they have a time machine. Cannonball sees Boom-Boom staring intently at the Human Torch and tells her to give it a rest, as the Human Torch is married.
Reed tells his the Human Torch that, actually, he launched a probe soon after Franklin’s arrival, and their initial encounter with Ahab, and explains that there now exists temporal riptides of frightening intensity, radiating outwards from the time bubble they recently encountered, which literally smashed the probe to atoms. He declares this means there is no way to scan their immediate future. ‘I can’t help but thinking that may be for the best’ Reed adds, announcing that the only way to determine the future s by living through it. ‘Forewarned, though, Reed…is forearmed’ Forge points out. Ben Grimm yawns while Sunspot smiles, and Storm suggests that they will have to do what they ca to ensure what comes are the best of times and not the worst.
Soon, everyone is fathered on the roof of Four Freedoms Plaza, while Ship looms down on them in the background. Cyclops asks Storm where the X-Men go to from here, and informs her that the X-Men are welcome to stay with X-Factor, as Ship has plenty of spare room. Storm gazes up at the massive Ship and remarks that it is a most impressive vessel, but points out that there are still too many X-Men missing. Hank smiles and asks her if she wants their help to find them, to which Storm replies ‘Perhaps’ and declares that whatever the future, the present grows increasingly dangerous. ‘There are too many major forces on the loose, out for our blood’ Ororo points out, adding that if all of them are searching for the X-Men, there will be no one to defend those left behind. Storm declares that the risks are so great, they dare not leave themselves vulnerable on any front, so joining forces may well be the safest course.
Warlock has transformed himself into a dinosaur and gives Christopher and Franklin a ride, while everyone else is gathered close, except for Jean Grey, who hangs back from the others, looking upset. Reed and Cyclops shake hands, and Reed tells him that if the need arises he need not hesitate to call on the Fantastic Four. Reed remarks that they have been through so much together, that it has left them more than friends. ‘As far as the Fantastic Four is concerned - we’re all family!’ Mr Fantastic declares. Storm then replies ‘These days, Reed…that means the world’.
Later, at River Road, Annandale-on-Hudson, a half mile from the main campus of Bard College. All her life, Jean Grey’s known this old stone house, watched her dad conduct tutorials, made her big sister Sara’s life totally nuts, hung out and had adventures with her best friend, Annie Richardson. In the fullest, richest sense of the word…this is home. Sitting in a living room, Jean sits on the edge of a couch. The room is dark except for a small glow. Jean recalls what Reed said - “Family”. “We’re all family”. Jean reminds herself that Ororo said that meant the world. Rachel said her essence - the totality of life and being was in this crystal - hers and Phoenix’s. And all Jean has to do to know them - to grasp the embodiment of past and future - and in way, accept it as her present - her destiny - is pick it up ….
Jubilation Lee a.k.a. Jubilee. She is a fire-cracker, and loves to show it off. ‘Come one, come all - open your eyes and uncork your imaginations - ‘cause the show of shows is about to start!’ Jubilee exclaims as she leaps into the air and releases several brightly colored, dazzling “fireworks”. Right now, she is in Madripoor, a small island nation tucked in between Singapore and Sumatra - specifically, the courtyard of Madame Joy’s (an establishment , like the island itself, about which the less said, the better). Jubilee has been here long enough for the exotic to fade into commonplace, and her thoughts turn more and more towards the home she left behind. Nothing there to go back to really - but that doesn’t stop her missing it all the time.
So, to ease the pangs, Jubilee does now what she did then - street performance. She takes the balls and strings and streamers of wild energy (articulate quasi-animate plasmoids) that her body generates - and mind, controls - and runs them through the crowd. She scares some of the gathered crowd, but entrancing some, and even the most outraged shrieks have an edge of delight, before running the whole kut-and-kaboodle skyward for the finale. The audience begins clapping with joy, and Jubilee bows before them: ‘Thank you, thank you! You think this was something - wait’ll you see act two!’ she exclaims, until Wolverine a.k.a. Logan goes over to her and tells her to ring down the curtain, as she is done for the night.
Around here, Wolverine is known as Patch. Within less time than it takes to tell, the two are alone in the courtyard. Jubilee hangs her head and mutters ‘Terrific. Outstanding. One lousy look and you scared everyone so bad they’ll never come to see me’. Jubilee declares that this is, like majorly, unfair, telling Logan that she did not break any of his stupid rules, she just got a little stir-crazy. She tells him that it happens, and she went cruising for a little action, to have some fun. ‘I mean, where’s the harm, Wolvie, aren’t we supposed to be among friends in this dump?’ Jubilee then sighs, as she finishes. Logan lights a cigar and remarks that he wondered if she was ever going to pause for breath. ‘Ha. Ha’ Jubilee mutters.
‘There are friends, girl -’ Logan begins. ‘Don’t do that man, how many times I gotta warn you! Those cigars are murder!’ Logan ignores the girl, continuing his sentence: ‘and then there are friends’. Wolverine then begins coughing profusely. ’I told you. I told you!’ Jubilee exclaims. ’But does the man ever listen? No way, ho-say!’ she declares, remarking that she only nursed Wolverine back to what passes in him for health these days, only scrounged him food when he was hungry and watched his back when he was sick. ‘I’m his only partner - but I guess ’cause I’m just a kid whadoo I have to offer that’s so important, so why should he bother paying attention, right?’ Jubilee mocks that Wolverine will say “They’re my lungs, It’s my life”. ’Big-time macho poop!’ she declares.
Logan sits down and leans against a wall, asking Jubilee if she ever quits with the motor mouth. Jubilee replies that ideal world exists in a state of balance. ’You talk so little, leave a big hole inna scheme of things, someone’s gotta talk a lot to make up for it, you know?’ Logan replies that he is learning, to which Jubilee asks him if he is okay, and tells him that if there is anything he needs to just say the word. Logan replies that he is fine. ‘Yeah, right. Tell me another one!’ Jubilee exclaims as she sits down opposite Logan, asking him why he keeps driving himself. ‘Are you blind or stupid or just too plain stubborn - can’t you see what I’s doing to you?’ she asks him. ‘I mean, what’s so important you gotta keep going, keep on pushing no matter what?’ Jubilee asks, suggesting that he turn whatever it is he is doing over to someone better equipped and qualified to do it.
Logan informs Jubilee that there isn’t anyone, to which Jubilee leaps to her feet and tells Wolverine to give her a break. Logan explains that there is no one that he can trust. ‘Like I said, there are friends - and friends. People you pal with - and the ones you die for’. Logan explains that each carries its own set of obligations and each person has to decide what they are and how best to carry out them. ‘You’re talking about the X-Men, right?’ Jubilee remarks, before asking ‘So who are they anyway? May be a totally happening reality to you and Psylocke, but I never heard of them. Like its y’know some kinda secret society or something. I mean, what make’s ‘em so special?’ Jubilee asks.
Wolverine corrects Jubilee: ‘Us, kiddo. What makes “us” so special. ‘Cause you’re part of it now, Jubilation Lee!’ he exclaims. Jubilee folds her arms and frowns: ‘My luck day - and don’t call me that, okay, I’ve told you my name’s Jubilee!’ she exclaims. Wolverine reminds Jubilee that they are mutants and tells her that sets them apart from the get-go, because they are born with abilities and powers that mark them as different from the rest of the human race. ‘Big deal’ Jubilee mutters, creating a small “firework” she tells Wolverine that if he asks her, mutants go on about their being so “different” from everybody else as their way of staking a claim that they are special and important. Logan tells her that he wishes that was true, but explains things go deeper than that - and nastier.
Logan tells Jubilee that a man who runs the hundred meter sprint in nine seconds accomplishes a feat to be celebrated. But no one goes nuts because that is a goal that everyone can dream of attaining. Logan points out that mutants like Quicksilver or Super Sabre can do a mile or more in that time - so who can even hope of matching that? Logan adds that being different makes a difference and points out that if you wear the wrong color kerchief in some neighborhoods, you are possibly signing your death warrant - or if you have the wrong color skin or the wrong religion. ‘Mutants are that some distrust, that same fear, pushed as far as it can go’ he declares.
‘But that’s nuts! I mean, some mutants are skuzzwads, okay, so are some people, who cares? You don’t trash everybody because of it!’ Jubilee declares. Logan explains that people care because they are afraid of what mutants can do. Still smoking his cigar, Logan tells Jubilee that before her time there was a man named Charles Xavier, who wrote about the coming of mutantkind - he called it a genetic watershed in the evolutionary history of the human race, akin to the transition from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon. Logan informs Jubilee that nobody knew Xavier was speaking from first-hand, personal experience, because he himself was a mutant - telepath, just like Psylocke.
‘Speak of the devil’ Jubilee mutters as Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock approaches them. Jubilee adds that if this Charley-guy was anything like Psylocke, she is glad they never met. Logan assures Jubilee that Psylocke is on their side, explaining that she always was until the Hand got a hold of her and tried to make her their pet master assassin. ‘That’s the point! They turned her inside out - rebuilt her body and her brain in their image. And sent her out to nail us!’ Jubilee exclaims. Logan points out that Betsy didn’t, that she broke the Hand’s conditioning. Jubilee asks Wolverine how he can be so sure, to which Logan replies that he has no choice, as the state the X-Men are in, they need everybody they can lay their hands on. Jubilee tells Wolverine that he better be right, as it is her butt. ‘Mine, too, darling!’ Wolverine replies.
Wolverine explains that Xavier knew that while he may have been among the first of this new generation, there would soon be others, and it would not be safe for them to learn as he did - by trial and error, especially if their abilities were more physical. Logan reveals that Charles turned his family’s estate, just upstate from New York City, into a school for gifted youngsters, and also learned, at the cost of his legs, that mutants, same as their parents, come good and bad - and the bad had to be fought. Wolverine explains that, back in those days there weren’t nearly anywhere near the number of “characters” there are now - the Fantastic Four had just come together, the Avengers weren’t around, and Xavier figured a team was needed - of mutant super heroes.
Shown with illustrative images, narrated by Wolverine.
Wolverine continues, informing Jubilee that Xavier found five kids - choosing kids for the same reason the military does, they are flexible, adapt fast and well to new situations and regimes, and they responded to authority. And the kids believe - given them the right cause. But the problem wasn’t making them go, it was holding them back. Most of all though, they had no real concept of mortality, death - even as an abstract - it is something that happened to other folks, never to them, so they were willing to throw themselves around without a second thought.
Wolverine adds that someone older might not only think, but question. ‘Nice piece of work, that guy’ Jubilee remarks, but Wolverine explains that they were simpler times, with more straight-forward attitudes, and explains that he thinks Charles didn’t believe the job would get quite so dirty - or the eventual cost come anywhere so high.
Shown with illustrative images, narrated by Wolverine.
There were jobs that needed doing, and Xavier and his X-Men were the only ones qualified. The original brief was to find mutants and bring them to the school where Xavier would teach them how to use their powers so they would not be threats to society - and, where necessary, take on the occasional villain. It started with a bag - with a man who turned out to be an old friend of Xavier’s, who called himself Magneto, the Master of Magnetism.
Wolverine reveals that there was a time after that where it looked like Charles was right - the X-Men were celebrated as heroes. But the pendulum began swinging back the other direction when an anthropologist named Bolivar Trask published a series of articles proclaiming a mutant menace - and it struck a chord too, because the public seemed to lap it up - the wilder the story, the better it sold - and the truth did not matter. But Trask had what he figured was a sure-fire solution to the threat - robotic mutant hunter-killers that he christened “Sentinels”. The trouble was though, Trask was about as good at robotics as he was at anthropology, and his toys turned on him - would have tried to conquer the world, enslaving all humanity if the X-Men had not stopped them.
Suddenly, ‘But that particular threat never went away, did it, Uncle Wolvie?’ the adult Franklin Richards asks as he and Rachel Summers appear. ‘No matter how hard the X-Men tried, how many battles they won…the Sentinels always survived’ Franklin declares. Jubilee looks confused, and Betsy telepathically tells her that she is not sure about these two either, and explains that some shield inhibits her own psychic scans of them. Wolverine is not particularly phased by Franklin and Rachel’s sudden appears, and turns away from them, remarking ‘Seems to be the nature of the world, boy…nobody dies forever’.
‘HEY!’ Jubilee shouts, declaring that she does not mean to be rude, but that they were in the middle of a story here. ‘I mean, okay, hoo-rah for the historical context and all…but I still go no answer to my question. Wolverine tells Jubilee that people grown and change and the realities that were acceptable when you’re young, do not always hold when you’re even a little older.
Shown with illustrative images, narrated by Wolverine.
Wolverine informs Jubilee that the time came when the original team decided to strike out, each on their own, and what was old, gave way to the new, but the luck of the old didn’t carry completely over to the new - for although the original team suffered its share of bumps and bruises, they all came home from every mission. Fate, though, had other ideas for the second generation of X-Men, as the first time out of the box, they lost Thunderbird.
That changed things for the X-Men - told them they were not mortal - it was not “fun” for them the way it was for the others. But they carried on, regardless. Went through changes of their own, until once where there had just been the X-Men, you now had the New Mutants, X-Factor and the new British group, Excalibur. Wolverine adds that there were more mutants than there had ever been, and never a greater danger - or a greater need.
Rachel tells Wolverine that he says nobody dies forever, and points out that is sure not for lack of trying. She admits her memories are all jumbled, that the tighter she tries to hold on, the more they splinter in her grasp, and the faster the bits seem to slip through her fingers, but that some moments stand like mountains in the dessert - they cannot be missed, no matter how hard she tries. ‘You almost killed me, Wolverine!’ Rachel declares.
‘We’ve both killed. Odds are we will kill again. But this, Rachel, this is murder’ Wolverine exclaimed, his costume in tatters as he faced off against Phoenix, who screamed ‘I don’t care!’ Wolverine told her that she should, that she better, and told her that they call themselves heroes, that they represent the dream. ‘My dreams are nightmares!’ Rachel retorted, while Wolverine told her that they had to play by the rules. ‘Phoenix makes her own!’ came the reply.
At that moment, both Wolverine and Rachel recall the moment when his claws came out - razor-keen adamantium - the hardest metal forged, capable of cutting steel like butter. The memory stabs though flesh and bone to Rachel’s heart. She never thought he would, in a way, that hurt far more than the wound itself. Franklin puts his arms around the shaken Rachel, and Wolverine asks Rachel if she learned anything from that, telling her that the stronger you are, the more power you possess, the more you need limits.
‘Tell that to the Black Queen!’ Rachel snaps, telling Wolverine that Selene is a vampire, who preys on people. ‘We’re her food!’ Rachel exclaims, asking Logan if he ever considered the cost of what he did that night. ‘How many had she killed, before I went after her? How many have died since that would have been saved if you’d let me be?’ Rachel asks, to which Wolverine points out that once you rationalize one execution, how do you hold back the next time. ‘Selene was the Black Queen, but you’re Phoenix. I saw what your mom did, Ray, better you die - quick and clean - than risk going down that road’ Wolverine declares.
Rachel gets angry and powers up, telling Wolverine that he blew it, before asking him who went and named him the caretaker of her soul. ‘Here I am and here I stay - unless you’re of a mind to tie up this loose end…and take another shot!’ Rachel declares, getting closer to Wolverine, until Jubilee leaps into between them, ‘Back off!’ Jubilee exclaims, telling Rachel that if she has a grief to settle with Wolvie, that she had best be prepared to go through her first. ‘What’s this, Logan, you got babies to protect you now?’ Rachel ask. ‘I’ll show you “babies” you heifer!’ Jubilee retorts.
Psylocke walks towards Jubilee, ‘Enough!’ she begins, while Wolverine tells Rachel and Jubilee, who is throwing some fireworks at Rachel. ‘You and what army?’ Rachel shouts at Jubilee, while Franklin remarks that this is wrong, that this shouldn’t be happening. ‘I don’t know these two girls. They shouldn’t be here’ he adds, and an instant later, Jubilee and Psylocke vanish. ‘There. That’s better’ Franklin exclaims, before going over to Rachel and hugging her, while telling his “uncle” Logan that he is sorry, that this is not what he wanted, for them to have a fight. ‘Easy, Rachel, easy. I’ve got you’ Franklin tells Rachel, who replies that she feels so strange, so weak, like all her strength just washed right out of her.
Franklin assures Wolverine that they did not come to fight, explaining that he and Rachel are going to be together, and that they wanted to tell him so he could share in their happiness. Wolverine ignores the comment and asks where Betsy and Jubilee are. ‘They didn’t belong’ Franklin replies. ‘Just like that, you snap your fingers and reality reshapes itself to your specifications’ Logan mutters, to which Franklin explains that he is trying to make things better. ‘For who? Certainly not for them. Or me, either’ Logan replies’ only for Franklin to assure him that he can fix it. Wolverine points out that there is a world of difference between “can” and “will”, and informs Franklin that he lives in the world as it is, that he cannot arbitrarily remake it into what he wishes or wants it to be.
Logan agrees that for folks like them - mutants - it may well be a playground, but that it is one they share with the rest of their race. ‘And the fact we can hog it all for ourselves…means we have to be that much more careful to be more considerate of others less gifted’. Wolverine continues, explaining to Franklin that each life, each individual person is precious until itself, to be cherished and, most of all, respected. ‘That’s the difference between us and those we fight’ Logan explains. He adds that a villain figures the power he possesses gives him the right to act as he pleases - as an extension of his own will and desire, without regard for the effect on anyone else. ‘Might makes right. We’re here to say no. We are X-Men’.
‘There’s a reason people call us heroes. We stand for something. A dream, an ideal, a hope for something better than we are. What we do. How we act, matters’ Logan declares. Wolverine informs Franklin that there is a saying that means as much now - perhaps maybe more - as when it was first coined: “With great power comes great responsibility”. Logan tells Franklin that if he abandons that ideal, then everything he does, regardless of how noble the motives, will turn to dust. ‘And if it’s dust already?’ Franklin asks, forlorn. Wolverine assures him that as long as he exists, there are always options, and if you are playing an endgame, then you have got to ask yourself how you want to be remembered - what kind of legacy you want to leave behind.
‘Lies don’t last, boy, and a life built on them stands on sand’ Wolverine exclaims. ‘He’s right, Scrapper’ Rachel tells Franklin, taking his hands, before turning to Wolverine and asking him if he ever figured that when Professor Xavier brought him into the team, he would turn out to be the conscience. ‘Life’s full of surprises’ Wolverine mutters, adding that unexpected is what makes it so much fun, and that the trick with tempering is whether the blade emerges from the fire hard and true, or warped and ruined. He points out that unlike a sword though, they have the capacity to make that decision for themselves.
‘And if I make what you figure is the wrong one?’ Franklin asks. Wolverine tells him that a man has to know his limitations. ‘I’m no match for you, boy, nothing much I can do about it. Figure it’s luck that’s gotten me this far - unless some part of you wanted me to talk you out of it’ Wolverine replies. Rachel tells Franklin that the man she knows and loves will not. ‘Please, Scrapper. Do as we ask - bring them back’ Rachel exclaims. ‘It’s done’ Franklin replies, his eyes glowing red. ‘Whoa!’ Rachel gasps, thinking to herself ‘There’s that feeling again. Like I’ve been springing a marathon’, and suddenly, baby Nathan Christopher Summers appears in her arms. ‘How you doin’, baby brother?’ Rachel asks.
‘WHAT THE -?’ Jubilee exclaims as she and Betsy re-materialize next to Wolverine. ‘Hey - leggo!’ Jubilee complains as Betsy pulls her away from Rachel, while telepathically telling Jubilee to be silent and behave, that there is more here than the two of them can hope to understand, so for the moment, they need to leave it in Wolverine’s hands. ‘Baby makes three - whaddya figure, guys…we got ourselves one instant nuclear family?’ Rachel remarks. Franklin turns to Wolverine and tells him that by preserving his past, he may have condemned the future. ‘Anything’s possible. You want guarantees, boy, write a book’ Logan replies, asking Franklin what he would rather leave behind as his legacy - the best of him - or the worst?
Franklin does not get time to answer, as Rachel announces that they have to go and tell Scot and the others that Christopher is okay. ‘And sooner or later, I have to sort things out with my mom…’ Rachel adds. ‘Franklin!’ Wolverine calls out, but he still gets no response. ‘Take care, “Unca Wolvie” Rachel exclaims, while Franklin shakes Wolverine’s hand and tells him that he will remember what he said. ‘I’m glad’ Wolverine replies. ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’. An instant later, Rachel, Franklin and baby Christopher vanish.
‘Boy, that was creepy’ Jubilee mutters. ‘You know those two, right?’ she asks. ‘In a manner of speaking’ Wolverine replies. Jubilee asks if they are going to see them again, to which Wolverine tells her that anything is possible. Jubilee remarks that Wolverine is looking awfully pleased with himself. ‘Yup’ Wolverine replies, smiling. Jubilee asks him if he figures this was some kind of win, to which Wolverine replies that it was not some kind of win, but a big one - one of the best.