Uncanny X-Men Annual '96

Issue Date: 
September 1996
Story Title: 
Destiny's Child

Terry Kavagnagh & Howard Mackie (writers), David Perrin & Nick Gnazzo (pencilers), Art Thibert & Harry Candelario (inkers), Malibu (enhancements), Kevin Somers (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterer), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

In the middle of nowhere, the mutant called Preacher is still plagued by visions that haunt him, and he paints everything that he sees – including the mysterious woman called Shard. He realizes that the painting of Shard matches a painting  he made of the X-Man called Bishop, and sets the cabin he is in ablaze as mercenaries arrive to bring him in. They don't find him, but rescue what paintings they can. The paintings are taken to a facility where several men in shadows try to make sense of the precog's messages. They are annoyed that Preacher wasn't captured – just like the data from X-Factor's base was not recovered recently. Two failures is not good for their operation. One of the officials knows who Shard is, and reports that he wants her in custody, and orders the Hound be released. Bishop and Storm arrive in Las Vegas, the city where Bishop grew up in the future. It's much different than he remembers it. They are watched by Wild Child and Shard. Shard wants to speak with Bishop, her brother, she wants to be accepted by him and can't understand why he has not reached out to her, even though she has been in this time for some time now. Bishop tells Storm that he has lost his sister twice, and that this Shard is nothing more than a fading memory. Storm suspects that Bishop might have more in common with Shard than he thinks. Shard confronts Bishop, but he refuses to look at her. While the Hound is deployed over Las Vegas, Storm and Wild Child leave Bishop and Shard to talk. They remember their past, how they were rescued by the XSE as children and served with that team. But today, they can't quite come to terms with each other, and Shard realizes that Bishop is trying to make a place for himself in this  reality, and tells him if he doesn't ewant her she will go, out of his life forever. Suddenly, Preacher reveals himself to them, and Bishop remembers Preacher from an earlier adventure. Preacher reveals a tattoo that he drew on himself – of he and Bishop running from the Hound. Shard knows of the Hound and Bishop wonders who has targeted them – they don't get any answers from Preacher as the Hound finds them and attacks them. Bishop and Shard put up a good fight, but the Hound succeeds in taking Bishop's matrix projector, which causes Shard to vanish. Bishop dreams of the first time Shard died, before Storm and Wild Child return. Preacher has vanished, too, but left a cryptic drawing in the sand. Bishop worries that details of Shard's existence will fall into the wrong hands. At a secret government facility, Shard is held in some sort of suspended animation while scientists try to extract information from the matrix projector that the Hound took from Bishop – they want to know the secrets of the future. Memories are torn from Shard's mind, before Bishop, Storm and Wild Child break into the facility. They fight the Hound, who can adapt to their abilities, and during the battle, Shard destroys the matrix projector, and all the secrets of the future along with it. Shard then seemingly vanishes, leaving Bishop upset. They defeat the Hound, but the scientists escape, and the facility is set to detonate. Storm, Bishop and Wild Child are able to escape just before the explosion. Once inside a Blackbird jet, Wild Child laments Shard's loss, before Shard appears before them, now a photon-based life form. She is happily reunited with Bishop, who accepts her, while Storm wonders about the mysterious agency they encountered, and whether the future they fight to protect the world from may came to pass. Preacher is now in another cabin in the middle of nowhere, this one sponsored by an organization that is able to keep watch on him and the paintings he draws – including one of an onslaught to come. Keep watch over Preacher is Bastion – and his tolerance for mutants is zero!

Full Summary: 

If ever there was a “middle of nowhere”... this is it. An in old and decrepit hunting cabin, tucked away in this secluded valley of the Colorado Rockies, marks civilization's vain attempt to to gain some foothold in this unforgiving wilderness. But, until three months ago, even the hunters had long forgotten this site – then came the young mutant known only as Preacher. To escape his past, he came to face his future, a future which assaults him with an unending storm of precognitive images – a storm that threatens to swallow him whole. Here, alone, he is free to paint the scenes which fill his head, threatening his very sanity, onto an artistic canvas. Several paintings already line the bleak cabin, images of mutants can be seen on some of them – like Wolverine and Professor X. The long-haired mutant called Preacher renders wildly, frantically at a canvas, as if the fate of the world depended on it. Over the past months he has filled hundreds of paintings with the faces of people he is familiar with – and some he has never met, places he has never been before and landscapes he has never seen. Like the scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the meaning behind most of the paintings remains a mystery – until today.

Preacher looks shocked, stepping back from the canvas he has completed, the one painting which holds the key to all the others. The recognition was instantaneous and undeniable. A portrait of this beautiful and dangerous-looking young mutant, which flowed from his mind's eye, was hauntingly familiar to Preacher. The woman in the painting appears to be leaping through the air, she wears a costume with an X on it and has an M across her face. She isn't familiar because it is the very face that has been swimming through the corridors of his mind all day. She's familiar... just because. 'There's another' the Preacher utters, glancing towards a stack of paintings, he goes over and begins to search through them, 'Where is it? It's one of the first ones I did after getting here! WHERE?' Preacher calls out, before going wide-eyed as he comes across the painting that he was searching for: 'It's him! Bishop... the X-Man!' Preacher utters as he picks up the painting of Bishop and places it next to the one of the young woman, the pictures linking up to form one complete image.

'The picture is complete. The backgrounds match line for line, but placed together... the canvas darkens' Preacher remarks. He knows that they are part of it, the shadowy future which looms just at the edge of his mind. He doesn't know if these two are victims, or the cause. He looks around the cabin, patches of paint cover the floor and walls, as Preacher thinks that the tempest in his mind shows him so much – yet tells him so little. He knows that he has stayed too long already, and holds up several matches, which he lights, deciding that he has exposed too much of what is left of his soul – and it is time to move on. He throws the matches at the paintings of Bishop and the mysterious young woman, setting them alight. Preacher decides that he has got to see if he can do anything to prevent what he sees.

Outside the flaming cabin, a team of mercenaries has arrived. One of them radios the command base, and reports that they have made contact, but the place is ablaze. 'We're going in' he reports. One of the mercenaries kicks the door down, but they find the cabin empty. One of the mercenaries reports that there is no sign of the target, and that all the paintings are burning. The team is ordered to salvage any paintings that they can, and when they come across a painting of the mercenaries entering the cabin, one of the commanding officers points out that it looks like the target knew they were coming.

Later, at the command base, several officials are examining the salvaged paintings. One of them remarks that the mutant precog known as Preacher seems capable of staying one step ahead of them, adding that they had hoped to convince him it would be in his best interest to assist them with the “program”, and reveals that their superiors are not happy. 'This is the second incomplete mission on the part of the special ops teams' the official remarks, reporting that the first failure was not recovering Forge's database from X-Factor's Falls Edge Base. The official explains that X-Factor was away on a mission, and the designs for Forge's mutant neutralizing weapon should have been theirs for the taking, but instead, two of their top field men are run off by, and he quotes: “A ghost of a giel who materialized out of nowhere”. He states that as a result, the transmission was interrupted and all they have is encoded gibberish, and now there is this debacle. He hopes that he can be given something – anything – they can use from the bits and pieces of paintings that they have in their possession.

One of the officials informs the other looks at the painting of the young woman and reports that she appears to match the description of the girl responsible for the Falls Edge disruption, adding that they have received confirmation from the field agents. 'They believe she is called Shard' he states. The other official asks what they knew of her. 'All is still speculation, at best... but you've read the reports' the second official responds. 'Yes, I have' the first official declares. He turns to the others and tells them that it is time to show their superior that they are a capable operation, worthy of their place in the new administration. 'I want this Shard and Preacher both – in our custody within the week' he declares, reporting that they have clearance to go priority one. 'Unleash the Hound' he orders.

High above the dry Nevada Desert, a state-of-the-art Blackbird het appears to pause for a moment, and two figures step out into open air. The X-Man known only as Bishop feels no fear as he plummets towards the dusty ground eleven hundred feet below, as a simple song from his childhood keeps playing through his head. “Luck be a Lady Tonight..”

Ororo Munroe, called Storm, for her mutant ability to bend the weather to her will, is that lady, as she swoops down and grabs Bishop before he lands on the ground. Bishop recalls that the song is an ancient hymn taught him on the streets he scavenged to survive – an echo of the golden age, from the time before his birth – before the reign of the Sentinels – a tale of today, and his prayer for tomorrow.

Storm carries Bishop through the air towards Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world, if you believe the hype. Approximately fifty years from now, Bishop will be born to the streets below. Twenty years after his birth, this mutant with the power to absorb and rechannel projected energy, will find himself a member of the mutant police force known as the Xavier Security Enforcers – the XSE. But that is all in the future, and today has barely begun. Soaring across the city, Storm tells Bishop that, despite her innate inclination toward the more natural wonders of their world, she cannot deny the vibrantly thriving life of this city, and asks him if it is as he remembers from his future. 'Not even close, Ororo. The Vegas I knew used up all its luck in the Summers Rebellion' Bishop replies, remembering the destroyed city he comes from, he informs Storm that often when they were young, he and his sister would climb amongst the ruins of the Lion's Den Ghetto at night, wondering what it was meant to look like. He adds that the old ones on the street, the ones who had been around since before, would speak of the lights – always of the lights. Bishop then admits to Storm that he doesn't believe he is ready for this.

Nearby, watching from the rooftop of another building:'That's them. Count on the X-Men to be prompt' the mysterious Shard remarks. With her is Kyle Gibney a.k.a. Wild Child who asks Shard what they are waiting for. 'Let's go meet your big brother!' he exclaims. Shard tells her fellow X-Factor member to give her a minute, as this is turning out to be tougher than she thought. Kyle tells Shard that he knows, and that he is sorry, but that he is also anxious to get back to Falls Edge, as Forge is likely having a cow already looking for her and this Holomatrix Projector. 'And when he finds out it was me who took you both halfway across the country to hook up with your brother...' his voice trails off, as Shard tells Kyle that she understands, and that she knows Forge said it would be dangerous for anyone to know that she exists, but this is important to her – a lost more important than she realized until this very moment.

Thoughtfully, Shard adds that if she is ever going to accept the reality of her situation, the reality of herself, if she is ever going to make it work as a glorified hologram from a future that may or may not happen, then she needs to be accepted by Bishop again. Shard remarks that she can't help but wonder why Bishop hasn't tried to contact her yet, as he must have known that Forge fixed the Matrix Projector. 'He must have heard I'm back'. Shard remembers being a child, sitting with her older brother and a man around an open fire, roasting a rat. She and Bishop were the only family each other knew, taking care of each other the best they could through the worst of times – until Hancock found them, at least. 'Love, American style, 2013 AD' Shard remarks, while wondering what has taken her big brother so long to contact her.

'She's not my sister, not in any way that matters anymore...' Bishop tells Storm, adding that he has lost his sister – twice now. Storm looks at Bishop as he tells her that this Shard, as she insists on calling herself, is nothing more than a fading memory, yet to be born. 'Tomorrow's videotape today, for all intents and purposes' Bishop remarks, adding that nothing will come of this as he and Storm set down on the ground. Storm tells her friend that she truly hopes that is not so, as she suspects he still has much in common with such a lone and lonely child. Bishop hangs his head as Storm informs him that she merely agreed to arrange this midnight reunion in response to a request from Wild Child.

'Rest is up to you, babe' Wild Child tells Shard, suggesting that the only man who knows her better than him is just a shout away,  and that there is nothing between the two of them anymore. 'Exactly what I'm afraid of' Shard replies. “Afraid”? Wild Child quotes. 'Did you say -' he starts, before Shard leaps off the rooftop, '...I definitely did not' she calls back as she somersaults towards the ground below. Wild Child leaps after her and tells Shard to think of this as another of her XSE field manoeuvers, one in a series – only this particular mutant bad guy from the future ain't as bad as his haircut. 'He's your brother, kid. He has to love you' Wild Child tells Shard. 'From your lips, Kyle... to his ears' Shard replies, looking over at Bishop, who stands nearby.

Shard goes over to Bishop and puts a hand to his face, 'How's it – I mean, what're you...c'mere, big guy' she smiles, but Bishop can barely look at her, turning to face Storm, who looks back at him, while Wild Child frowns. '... we're home again, brother!' Shard exclaims, throwing her arms around Bishop's broad shoulders, she tells him that  it feels so weird sometimes, lately, especially, and that to look in the mirror and wonder at what she sees – a random array of electronic particles and light waves, nothing more than a “hollow-gram” of the commander she once was. Bishop doesn't put his arms around Shard though, and Shard appears forlorn as she looks at Bishop and tells him 'Just one look in to your eyes and – and...' her voice trails off. 'Oh' she utters, hanging her head and closing her eyes, as Bishop refuses to look at her.

Meanwhile, a dark and silent helicopter – top-of-the-line government issue, without a mark to prove it – slows to a seeming stop above the outskirts of the Desert City, and again, a figure is released into the wind – this one both more and less than human – as the horrifying Hound seeks his scent, claws at the ready and fangs bared.

In a hotel lobby, Storm and Wild Child have changed into civilian clothing, and watch the goings on of others in the lobby. Ororo tells Kyle that she isn't sure it was wise to leave them, to which Kyle remarks that he doesn't recall Bishop and Shard giving them any choice. Kyle suggests to Ororo that she enjoy it while she can, for between portable image-inducers and a Vegas casino, it doesn't get any better than this for today's mutant. 'Where else could a guy with a face only a blind mother could love, hanging out with a goddess a among us, share a drink without drawing a crowd? 'Any “Kalvin Clein” commercial' Ororo replies. 'A joke...?' Kyle asks, holding a jug of beer. 'Wit and wisdom from Mother Nature herself?' Kyle enquires. Storm sips her own drink and admits that she must be more nervous for Bishop than she realized.

Back outside, Shard frowns as she tells Bishop that this is hard for him, for both of them, and that their past is very much alive here, if nothing else. She adds that she can't help remembering the brother who was always there for her, with her, in the shadows of the Lion's Den. Memories flood back to her as she reminds Bishop that they earned a major rep together, stealing from the other gangs and making some major enemies in the local mutant militia. She tells Bishop that Billiboy was bound to come back at them again sooner or later, of course, they knew that – they all knew that, which is why Hancock was ready for him. She remembers Billiboy grabbing her by her throat, only for Hancock to attack him, but that only led for Billiboy's Enforcer to lash out fast, slicing Hancock across his back. Bishop tells Shard that it seemed like slow motion to him at the time, and remarks that he was even slower, that he felt all that rage, years of helpless fury and frustration, all the kinetic energy that his own mutant body was already storing, he remembers releasing the furious energy, too late though, as he unleashed the energy on the Enforcer, but Hancock was dead. Shard tells her brother that Hancock never blamed him for that. 'You have to know that... and you saved my life' she points out. 'For what that's worth' Shard adds. She then remembers the two of them being approached by Amazon, Malcolm and Randall, who already knew of the two of them by name, and invited them to join them in the XSE.

Shard reminds Bishop that was their chance to escape the streets finally, to find a way, a purpose that could make a difference. 'Maybe all the difference in the world' Shard remarks, hanging her head, reminding Bishop that his reaction to this incredible opportunity, the very first words out of his mouth without a second thought were “Not without my sister”. Bishop suddenly turns around and asks Shard why she is doing this, why she brought them to this place, of all places. Bishop explains to Shard that he has made a conscious decision, difficult as it has been, to avoid all associations with the tomorrow that he – they – come from, trying to build another life for himself today, to accept this time that has trapped him. 'You're fighting to figure out who you are here and now, big brother. I'm trying to figure out what I am' Shard replies, turning to Bishop, she reaches out to touch his chest, but she simply passes through it 'You...feel real' Bishop replies, as he then puts a hand to Shard's face. 'To one I trust, if I allow it...when this allows it' Shard responds, pushing Bishop's hand away. She then tells Bishop that what is left of her life, her very existence, such as it is, depends on the proximity of a “matrix” projector now, and that if he really wants her gone, really wants her out of his life forever, it won't take more than the flick of a switch. Shard adds that it seems she is all but defined by her surroundings these days, more dependant than ever on places and people she trusts and understands already.

'Places – and people – I can't afford to lose... again' Shard adds. Bishop tells her that is enough and pulls away from her. 'My mistake, Bishop. I thought you were someone I knew' Shard declares, turning away. Bishop looks at her and tells her to wait, but Shard announces that he won't be hearing from her again. 'Shard... we are being watched' Bishop reveals, as suddenly, 'No, no – NO, NO, NO!' Preacher exclaims as he leaps from some bushes, declaring that this wasn't supposed to happen, they weren't supposed to know. Bishop recognizes Preacher from Humanity's Last Stand as the zealot. 'A Last Stander?' Shard gasps, while Preacher frowns at them.  'One of the Second Secessionists, the madmen responsible for the Gulf of Kentucky?' Shard asks, raising a fist. Bishop tells her to stop, and that that has not happened here. 'Not yet' Bishop adds, adding that Preacher has so far, at least, proven most dangerous to himself. Preacher raises his hands and, wide-eyed, announces that they used Joelle, tried to hurt her, so he ran and ran and ran – but the shadows followed.

Preacher raises his sleeve, revealing a tattoo, an image of Bishop and Preacher pursued by a creature. Preacher explains that they thought they could take him, take his vision, his tools to stop him – but he still has  to see, to share, so he used thorns and berry juices, it was all he had to paint this tattoo, this is what haunts him. Shard realizes that Bishop and Preacher are running from the Hound. 'You know the beast?' Preacher asks. Shard explains that Wild Child does, and that X-Factor barely survived a confrontation with the creature on their home turf recently. Shard adds that the Hound is the prototype for the whole twisted program, decades of mutant blood and betrayal. Bishop asks Preacher where the Hound is now, and who has targeted them, and for what reason. 'I saw what you see here, X-Man. No more or less' Preacher responds. Shard begins to ask how reliable these so-called visions of Preacher's are, when suddenly, there is a faint taste of ozone in the air, the telltale scent of an ionized cloaking field in transition, to those with a nose to know 'Never mind' Shard mutters as the Hound appears, his clawed hand passing through Shard's holographic form, while knocking Preacher backwards. Bishop is able to use his skills to flip backwards, his skills honed and cultivated in a harsh, cruel world to come.

Shard goes over to Preacher, while Bishop confronts the Hound, firing his weapons at close range, but the Hound barely flinches, and grabs Bishop by his head, forcing him to the ground as Shard leaps towards him. 'Quarry sighted' the Hound declares, before Shard lands on his back, 'Whoa there, Jawbones, rein it in already – rein it in!' she exclaims as she blasts the Hound's head with energy. The Hound is only briefly distracted though, and grabs Bishop's arm, 'Locked' the Hound states, while Shard tells him that, like it or not, that is her big brother he is trying to – kill? 'Achieved' the Hound announces as he rips one of the gauntlets from Bishop's wrist, and Shard vanishes – and Bishop is once again lost to the nightmare, this time he and Shard are older, fighting as part of the XSE, Bishop remembers telling Shard to pull back, that they were exposed at their current location, and they were being ambushed. Bishop recalls Shard telling him that it was too late, that Monk had gone over and Recoll was down, and amazon was trapped at his side. Shard then told her brother to cover her that she was taking it to the Gangers, as she leapt towards their foes.

'SHARD!' Bishop shouts, opening his eyes, he sees a woman standing over him – it's not Shard though. 'I am sorry, Bishop' Storm declares, informing the now shirtless Bishop that he was alone when they returned to find him unconscious. She creates a small raincloud above him and rain falls onto Bishop's head as Storm suggests he remains still for a moment longer so that she can cleanse his wounds. 'Forget him. What happened to Shard? Wild Child asks, looking around. Bishop gets to his feet and Wild Child tells him to talk fast, asking where the Matrix Projector is, and what happened. Storm tells Wild Child to be quiet, as Bishop reports that the last thing he remembers is some sort of cybernetic mutate which Shard called the Hound, attacking them out of nowhere, soon after the untimely reappearance of that strange young man again. Bishop rubs the back his head as he informs Storm that it was Preacher, and that the boy claims to have been on the run since their first encounter down south.

Wild Child reports that Bishop is telling the truth, as he is picking up one scent, young and tired beyond his years, reeking of fear, and another, with the particularly nasty stink of government blood. 'It's the Hound all right...but the cloaking field covers his tracks. We've lost 'em' Wild Child snarls, gritting his teeth. 'Not necessarily...our young friend appears to have left us a clue before running off again' Storm points out, motioning to an image drawn into the dirt beneath their feet. Bishop looks at the pattern which looks like several circles connected together and suggests that it will have to be enough to follow. Bishop adds that the matrix is built on his sister's memories, bits and pieces of her experiences, their lifetime – memories of things yet to come. Bishop hangs his head as he starts to say 'If such details of Shard's existence were to fall into the wrong hands... into any hands...' his voice trails off.

Elsewhere, specifically Dreamland, Area 51, Groom Lake, Shadowsands, a few of the names for this place without a name. It is a strange series of dome-shaped buildings connected together. A government research facility in the Nevada Desert so highly classified and restricted that it doesn't exist on paper. Inside a lab, a man called Dr Stephens stands near where the Hound has been restrained. Dr Stephens doesn't run this facility – anymore. He turns to a man standing in the shadows and informs him that the Hound is down, that is quarry has been caught and contained. Dr Stephens adds that the equipment has been calibrated to her energy signature already, and all systems are online, but that he needs authorization. 'Do it, Stephens. Initiate... total depixelation' the man in the shadows responds as a containment tank nearby suddenly lights up, as Shard appears within it. Dr Stephens taps away at a monitor and remarks that that is such an antiseptic euphemism for an operation which amounts to electronic vivisection. 'Your people must have worked long and hard on that one' Dr Stephens mutters.


The man in the shadows ignores that comment and asks Dr Stephens 'Is it suffering much?' Dr Stephens assures the other man that the containment pod is thoroughly soundproofed. He adds that her seeming existence is directly linked to this intriguing bit of technology that they are taking apart, piece by delicate piece. Dr Stephens informs the man in the shadows that they will spend the better part of the next decade translating and interpreting what little they have already downloaded here today – by he believes the entity called Shard will not survive this full interrogation. A computer monitor depicts the gauntlet from Bishop's wrist being examined, and another monitor depicts several images taken from Shard's mind.

Outside, near the barbed-wire fence surrounding this mysterious facility, an abrupt chill rolls in from the east, immediately followed by uncharacteristically strong gusts of heavy, humid winds from the northwest, stirring slowly, shifting sands into sudden, swirling storm. In mere moments, Hangar 19 is swallowed by the desert twister that rises up around the complex, engulfed in a passing chaos and confusion so concealing that anyone could move through it undetected – by almost anything.

The Hound looks up, while the mysterious man in the shadows calls out to Dr Stephens, who reports that he is encountering some resistance. He explains that they are experiencing significant resistance the closer they get to the encrypted data-parameters, constituting Shard's “mind-field”. He adds that she seems to feel somewhat protective of it. The man in the shadows instructs Dr Stephens to double the high-spectrum intensity of the laser-pulse barrage – triple it, if necessary. 'Then it’s is up to you to relieve her of that burden, Doctor – until we pierce the veil...' the man in the shadows responds.

Shard screams as the laser-pulse barrage is intensified against her. Memories are torn from her mind. Fights. Wars. Battles. Her brother. The man in the shadows remarks that memories are the most fragile pieces of the puzzle that is life, and faded and frayed over the course of time, torn and tattered at the edges from neglect, fragments often bent or broken...forced to fit the fantasy, not the facts. Sometimes, they are lost forever, before the picture is complete. He adds that the pain of depixilation is nothing compared to the fear, or at least so he imagines. 'But this, too, will be -' the man in the shadows starts to say, before one of the lab walls is blown inwards – Storm, Bishop and Wild Child have arrived! Bishop instructs Storm to continue to lay down covering fog and for Wild Child to secure the perimeters, while he works on the Matrix Projector. 'Not a chance, Bish! Never should of agreed to help Shard get together with her big bro in the first place... and I ain't about to start trusting you now. She's coming home to X-Factor with me!' Wild Child exclaims. 'She's not my sister, Wild Child. She's not anything more than a -' Bishop starts to reply, before he is confronted by the Hound.

'Target designate: Bishop. Mutant with the ability to absorb and rechannel concussive energies. Linked with target designate: Shard' the Hound states, announcing that its standing order is the apprehension of Bishop and to use lethal restraint. 'Don't let me stand in your way then, big guy. I'm a lot more interested in his little sister, myself...' Wild Child remarks as he leaps between Bishop and the Hound. 'But none at all need fall, Kyle' Storm declares as she blasts the Hound with a charge of lightning. 'Target designate: Storm...mutant ability to command elemental forces of nature...' the Hound begins, while Storm suggests they focus on the enemy at hand together. The Hound breaks free of the lightning as it states that temperature-resistant polymers are bonding, gyro-stabilizers are activated, and non-conductive insulation shields are locked down, meaning weather defense mode is online. 'Too late, Storm' Bishop calls out, pointing out that the Hound is specifically designed to counter any and all known manifestations of mutant energies.

'Our powers are useless...' Bishop resigns, while Wild Child decides that it sounds like Bishop has reason to know what he is talking about, so they will have to do this the hard way, as he turns back to the Hound, claws at the ready. 'Yes, we will' Bishop agrees as he fires a blast at the stasis tank holding Shard. 'That son of a – he's killing her, Ororo! He's killing his own -' Wild Child calls out, shocked, while Storm knocks the Hound aside with a powerful gust of wind and tells Wild Child that the task at hand, first and foremost, is survival. 'Bishop will do what is right' Storm assures Wild Child. Bishop declares that he will do what Shard would have done – what his sister did do every single day of her life with the XSE – sacrifice personal needs and feelings, risk anything and everyone to protect innocents from the horrors of tomorrow.

At the console where the gauntlet is being examined, Dr Stephens calls out that he might be able to flash-scan the gauntlet and download what they get to another facility, but he gets no response from his mysterious superior, instead he turns to find Shard, surrounded by a green glowing energy, lunging at him. 'Surprise, surprise, Dr L. Looks like the man of the house is already out of the house...and I'm not' Shard exclaims as she fires a blast of energy and explains that with the containment unit shattered and her connection to the Matrix severed, this is all she can do to pull herself together long enough to complete the mission. The energy strikes the gauntlet, much to Dr Stephens' shock, as the gauntlet is vaporized before his very eyes, along with the critical data stores, by the last of her coherent light. 'Nowhere left to hang my photons now, bro' Shard utters, reaching out for Bishop. 'Just get the others out alive, while you still can -' Shard adds. Bishop reaches back out for his sister, who tells him that is an order. 'The danger dies with me' Shard utters, before she vanishes completely.

Tears fall from Bishop's eyes as he realizes that it was her, it truly was Shard, and that she reacted, sacrificed hersef exactly as his sister. Energy glows around one of Bishop's fists, while Wild Child calls out 'And now, it's not, brainiac' as he stares up at the Hound 'Thanks to your stupid stunt-shooting, she's' Wild Child begins, before Storm calls out to him, warning him to beware, and telling him that he cannot stand alone against the Hound. 'And he will not' Bishop announces as he releases the energy around his fist, which strikes the Hound and knocks it backwards. Bishop goes over to Wild Child and tells him that he is under orders from his commanding officer to evacuate without casualties. 'How nice for you. But I've still got some seriously unfinished business... with Huckleberry, here!' Wild Child snarls as he lashes out at the Hound. Nearby, Storm and Bishop unleash their powers against the facility, with Storm suggesting to Bishop that they destroy the electronics systems first, as they cannot allow the stolen information to leave this room. 'The doctor retreated empty-handed, but his security personnel are bound to be -' Storm begins, 'Halfway to Vegas by now' Bishop tells her, looking at a monitor, he reports that a full-scale self-destruct sequence has been initiated – and they only have about five seconds before detonation.

In those fateful five seconds, all that was Hangar 19, all the modern mystery and mechanical magic – is no more, destroyed in a massive explosion. All evidence of the battle and bloodshed over proprietary rights to future events... is simply gone. And in those final five seconds, the X-Men... live! Swept skyward on a powerful upshear summoned by Storm, the explosive blast still ringing in their ears, rattling their bones – with the Hound hot on their heels. 'Bishop...pull up, pull up!' Wild Child exclaims as the Hound laps at Bishop's heels. 'Good instincts, Wild Child...' Bishop replies as he moves himself out of the Hound's reach, as the creature reaches the apex of its leap – and the infamous mutant who hunts mutants cannot actually fly. 'Yet' Bishop adds as they watch the creature fall back down into the flames of the secret laboratory.

Soon, Bishop, Storm and Wild Child are aboard the Blackbird jet, streaking across the Nevada Desert. Storm pilots, while Wild Child sits in the back with Bishop, 'She was nothing more than a memory to you all along, I suppose – a collection of memories, really – memories you just couldn't bring yourself to face here and now...' Wild Child begins, before Storm tells him that this is neither the time nor the place. 'So that's all we got left of her now, big brother. Both of us. Memories. The memory of her face...her voice...?' Wild Child continues, while Bishop hangs his head and tells him that Storm is right, when suddenly, 'Lighten up already' a voice calls out, and Bishop looks up to see Shard standing over him. 'SHARD?' Bishop shouts, surprised. 'Not quite in the flesh' Shard smiles, announcing that she is here to stay, projector-free, completely independent of any outside source for her template now, apparently, a photon-based lifeform, for all intents and purposes. 'Something brand new, as far as I can tell' she smiles.

Shard adds that she isn't sure if something went incredibly wrong back there – between the project's attempt to co-opt her and Bishop's timely rescue intervention, or if something went very, very right. 'But it is me, Bish' Shard announces. 'The real me'. Bishop smiles and wraps his arms around Shard, 'Beyond a shadow of a doubt' Bishop smiles adding that he knew that for sure in the very moment she sacrificed herself with that Drake-brained stunt, destroying the self-same Matrix-Projector that gave her life. 'Which, by the way, I'm gonna be needing you to explain to Forge...next time I'm outta town' Wild Child smiles, putting a hand on Shard's back, as they and Bishop begin to laugh.

However, Storm cannot help but share in the well-deserved joy and relief of her weary companions. She hangs her head and wonders if  Dr Stephens and the shadowed government agency he worked for – they never did establish which agency, or which government for that matter – did not somehow participate in the creation of the very nightmare they feared most – the dream of days to come. Storm hopes that the effort of four who wear the X will see the future unfold as it was intended – one day at a time.

Elsewhere, if ever there was a middle of nowhere – this is it. Nestled beneath snow-covered mountains and thick forests, there is a custom-built, well-appointed and fully stocked cabin, secreted in this secluded valley of the Colorado Rockies. Here, the young mutant known only as Preacher has come to face the future in the only way he can – painting wildly and frantically upon the government issue canvases provided by his newest patrons. Preacher now wears a patch over his right eye. And with every single stroke and splash of color, each and every shade and shadow applied – tomorrow comes alive again – and Preacher stares up at his latest masterpiece, heroes fighting an onslaught.

Preacher is being watched on a monitor, by a mysterious man standing in shadows. 'Limited as it is, Dr Stephens, the boy's vision can – and will – be cultivated. To be confirmed with the eventual capture of the one called Bishop, of course' the mystery man states. He adds that they couldn't break the light, but that the X-Man is flesh and blood – and flesh and blood are made to broken! The mystery man steps out of the shadows. He wears a black and pink costume. His name is Bastion – and his tolerance for mutants? ZERO!

Characters Involved: 

Bishop, Storm (both X-Men)

Shard, Wild Child (both X-Factor)






Dr Stephens

Zero Tolerance officials and soldiers




in Shard's memories:

Bishop and Shard as children




Amazon, Malcolm, Randall (all XSE)


in Bishop's memories:

Amazon, Bishop, Shard (all XSE)



Story Notes: 

This issue takes place between X-Factor (1st series) #126 and #127, between Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #337 and #339, between X-Men (2nd series) #57 and #58 and before the XSE mini series.

This issue contains “X-Men Timelines” profiles on Jean Grey, Iceman, Gambit and Banshee.

Preacher previously appeared in Uncanny X-Men Annual '95, and has not appeared since this issue.

The Zero Tolerance team failed to obtain Forge's database in X-Factor (1st series) #123.

The Hound first appeared in X-Men Prime #1, although unnamed, before being named in X-Factor (1st series) #123 where he fought the team. He has not appeared since this issue.

Shard was originally killed 70 years in the future as chronicled in XSE #3, and then her holographic body was destroyed in the first Bishop (1st series) #2.

Preacher refers to Joelle – who is Joelle Guthrie, who featured in Uncanny X-Men '95.

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