X-Factor’s holographic member, the girl known only as Shard, has become “unstuck in time”. She plummets through the Time Continuum, reliving the last moments of her life in the past over and over again. Her time with X-Factor, the United States Government mutant operatives. The Falls Edge Compound, X-Factor’s secret home and headquarters. Polaris, Mistress of Magnetism. Sabretooth, the feral mutant psychopath. Searing memories of Sabretooth’s unleashed fury, then pain as claws ripped through Shard’s holographic “flesh”. There was a moment of disbelief as her form began to unravel, then as darkness closed in on her, the overwhelming realization that she is dying…for the second time in her young life.
The memories of Shard’s second death fade, and her trip through the Time Continuum Shard rapidly begins to plunge back towards the future in which she was born. Back into a world town asunder by anti-mutant racial strife. Shard relives her childhood in which she and her brother, Bishop, emerged from the shadow of the Sentinels to become members of the Xavier’s Security Enforcers - X.S.E. Mutants policing mutants in hope of a brighter future. It is this future that she plummets towards, all the while wondering…’Is it real or is it a dream?’.
‘It has to be a dream!’ Shard exclaims as she finds herself lying on rubble-covered ground, a voice nearby exclaims ‘Shard’s down! And we’ve got incoming!’. Bishop takes charge of the situation, ordering Malcolm to cover Shard. ‘Randall! On me! These Exhumes have picked up some firepower!’ Bishop exclaims. Shard sits up and looks around ‘Bishop? Malcolm? Randall? Exhumes? Where - I remember this!’ she exclaims as she dives for a weapon, and joins in the battle. ‘I lived this!’ she tells herself. ‘An enclave of Exhumes hoarding weapons left over from the Summers Rebellion. But this all happened…in the future!’.
Shard turns to her brother, ‘Bishop?’ she exclaims. Bishop tells his sister to not look so surprised to see him. ‘You’re the one we thought we’d lost there for a second!’ he declares as he blasts the approaching Exhumes while telling Shard that Fixx, Greystone, Archer and the rest of the rogues can use her and her team on the flank. ‘Intelligence underestimated how many Exhumes would be in this enclave!’ Bishop announces. ‘On it, bro!’ Shard shouts as she thinks to herself that Fixx, Greystone and Archer are X.S.E. rogues, not part of any team and working the fringe of standard operations as they are rejected and feared by the rest of the corps. Shard watches Fixx attack her opponent with her psychic powers, while the seemingly deranged Greystone smashes his opponent down.
Shard thinks to herself that the trio are good, but they are also mavericks. ‘Some say the best at what they do. Regular Logans’. Shard doesn’t think she has had much dealings with them, ‘Or have I?’ she wonders, confused at how everything seems so familiar and yet so fragged up at the same time. Suddenly, a horrid looking Exhume smashes Shard from behind. She moans and falls to the ground, while the Exhume’s nasty voice shouts ‘Thinking talk going to get little police girly-girl killed! The Exhume, in its odd speech pattern remarks that Shard’s weapon is gone, ‘Your husk is mine!’ it tells her.
Indeed, Shard cannot reach for her weapon which the Exhume knocked away, and she finds herself pinned beneath the Exhume as drool splashes from its mouth. ‘Sucking you up and making you one of us. Long life. Lots of humans to eat’. ‘Thanks…for…the offer…but…not today!’ Shard exclaims as she uses her mutant power to absorb light particles around her and project them as raw concussive force to push the Exhume from her, declaring that it will be a cold day in Alaska before she needs a gun to take out an Exhume. ‘As long as I’ve got a shred of my Xavier-given mutant power, I’ll look tight into your mouth and I’ll…I’ll…die!’
Shard looks into the creature’s mouth, she stops, and begins punching it, until Bishop comes over, telling her to stand down, as it is done. ‘Orders are to bring all Exhumes in alive. Our scientists are trying to figure out a way to bring them back to real life!’ Bishop explains. Shard asks what the point is, as they are dead, even scientists cannot change the past. ‘Maybe we’re so caught up with the rules and regulations that we’re not changing anything!’ Shard suggests. ‘Look at the world we’re living in, Bishop!’ she exclaims. ‘Orders -’ Bishop begins, until shard interrupts, declaring that maybe the orders are just wrong.
‘Now get that thing out of my face!’ she exclaims, motioning to the Exhume. Fixx and Archer approach Shard, and Archer, his face covered by a bubble-like mask, tells Shard that those were strong words. ‘Do you believe them?’ he asks her. ‘I’m in no mood!’ Shard retorts, before the dark-haired Fixx reveals that there are others who think the same way. ‘If you want to meet them…come to the old Sentinel tact base’ she announces. Fixx and Archer take their leave, while Shard rests against some rubble. ‘Tomorrow. Midnight. Be there, you won’t be disappointed’ Archer tells Shard. ‘Right’ Shard replies, before telling them that she has to rest.
Shard thinks to herself that she has to rest for a minute, as the fight seems to have weakened her, before she seems to plummet through the Time Continuum again. ‘It’s not a dream!’ she tells herself, remarking that she has lived it all before - or at least will live it. ‘Things that I can’t quite remember!’. Shard recalls that Archer, Fixx and Greystone were her teammates, ‘No! Something else! Something separate from the X.S.E…something forbidden! But something noble! They became my friends…we were going to change the world!’
‘Change it all! How can we? This world is shot!’ Shard exclaims to herself as she finds herself on a rooftop, several buildings over from Four Freedoms Plaza, the former home of the Fantastic Four. ‘You decided to come. I had a feeling you would’ Fixx, sitting nearby, remarks, adding that she tends to be a pretty good judge of others. ‘Good for you’ Shard retorts, before asking what this is all about. Fixx’s assures Shard that she will find out, but not here, and adds that she has to check inside to see that they have no unwanted company. Fixx lets her power, manifesting as small fairies, fly into the building, while Shard asks what they are. Fixx explains that the experts say they are the manifestations of her mutant psionic power, and tells Shard that to her they are just her others, doing what she needs done, and they also allow her to maintain a psionic rapport with the rest of the group.
‘All clear’ Fixx exclaims, as she enters, before telling Shard not to let Greystone bother her. ‘He’s just like that’. ‘Like what?’ Shard asks when suddenly, Greystone jumps down beside her, ‘BOO!’ he shouts, trying to scare Shard, who steps back from his oversized form. Greystone examines Shard and asks Fixx what she is bring him her for. ‘Cute. But way too young. Me…I go for a woman with some experience’. Greystone shifts into his true form, more average-sized, as he declares that he wants someone to share the war hut and keep the fires burning. ‘Someone like you, Fixx’. An unimpressed Fixx replies ‘In your dreams, retro boy, telling him to cut the Maori warrior routine, as she knows he was born and raised in New Jersey.
Fixx tells them that they need to move inside before a patrol picks them up and starts asking questions they do not want to answer. As they make their way up some stairs, Archer is waiting for them and tells Shard that he is glad she decided to join them. ‘I haven’t decided to join anyone yet, Archer!’ Shard retorts, before asking ‘And who is us? Who is he? The guy in the shadows?’. Archer, mask removed, revealing his shocking white hair, replies that “he” is one of them, and “he” will always be one of them. ‘That is all you need to know for now’.
‘Fine. Do you and your little band of rebels have a name?’ Shard asks. ‘Rebels?’ Archer replies, telling Shard that she misjudges them. ‘As for a name…’ don’t know. I guess you could call us the X.U.E. - Xavier’s Underground Enforcers. Those who want to repair that which has been broken’. ‘Cute’ Shard replies, before asking what they are going to repair. ‘Xavier’s dream!’ the man standing in the shadows behind Archer replies. Greystone tells Shard that she might have noticed that things are heating up between mutants and humans once more. ‘And, how, once again, despite the X.S.E., mutants are barely holding their own’. Greystone exclaims that the dream of Xavier stands no chance given the present conditions of the world. ‘The world has been destroyed’.
‘Shattered beyond any means of repair. And it is all due to the failure of those in whom Xavier put his trust…the X-Men!’ The man in the shadows remarks to Shard ‘You’re not arguing with me even though I have maligned the name of the legendary X-Men…good’. He exclaims that there is no room in this group for hero worship. ‘We have a plan. But before I reveal it to you I need to know if you plan on joining us’. He warns Shard that some of their actions may be considered criminal. ‘They may mark us as traitors amongst our own kind’.
‘If you swear to me that you will remain true to Xavier’s dream - all I can say is…what do we do next?’ Shard exclaims. ‘That’s where I come in!’ Fixx explains, telling Shard to hold still, ‘This may tingle, but…it shouldn’t hurt!’ she exclaims as she lets one of her psionic fairies fly through Shard’s forehead. ‘What did you do to me?’ Shard asks. ‘Welcome to the traitors, Shard. You are now part of the X.U.E.’ Fixx announces, explaining that Shard is now psionically linked to the others through her.
Fixx adds that it comes in handy, especially for what they have planned. ‘Which is?’ Shard asks. ‘Fitzroy!’ announces Archer. ‘Excuse me?’ Shard retorts. ‘We need him and we need you to get to him!’ Fixx explains, before asking her what she can tell them about Fitzroy that isn’t in the X.S.E. file. ‘Plenty, but…I’m feeling a bit light-headed. Must be the whack to the head I took yesterday…’ Shard replies, wearily.
Images flash through Shard’s mind, and she remembers everything as if it was happening right now. She relates everything she sees back to the X.U.E. - about her and Fitzroy being in the same academy class. About them being friends - and more. But that was all before she knew Fitzroy used his powers to drain the life force from others in order to open one-dimensional portals, or that he was forming his own crew of rogue mutants. Then the others told Shard everything they knew about Fitzroy.
But Shard slips through the Time Continuum again…finding herself with her brother, Bishop, and the peculiar mutant called Bantam. ‘No more fairy tales, Bantam! Start telling us the truth about Fitzroy or I’ll think about turning you over to the Pool people!’ Bishop warns him. ‘Come on, Bishop! Not the pool! I’d never survive that! I’m telling you the truth!’ Bantam exclaims. ‘He could be anywhere! He’s making time jumps now!’ Bantam reveals. ‘You getting this, Shard? Time jumps!?’ Bishop exclaims, before remarking that Bantam must think the two of them are a couple of fools. ‘You hoping for the good cop / bad cop routine? Well, I’ve got news for you, Bantam…I am the good cop!’.
Bishop calls over to Shard, who doesn’t answer, so he calls out to her again. ‘Yeah…I’m fine, bro’ Shard replies, before remarking that she is thinking about how nice Bantam is going to look in one of the Pool’s brain drain rigs. ‘I’m not lying! He’s planning something big! I catalog all his time jumps!’ Bantam replies urgently. Shard asks him why, to which Bantam replies that he doesn’t know, claiming that Fitzroy doesn’t tell him anything. Shard looms over Bantam as she asks him where Fitzroy is. Bantam replies that he cannot tell her, for he has already said too much, and Fitzroy will kill him if he says anything more.
‘You’re assuming I won’t!’ Bishop booms as he stands behind Bantam. ‘Talk!’ he orders, asking where they can find his boss. ‘Where is Fitzroy!?!’ Bishop asks again. ‘They were telling me the truth! Fitzroy is experimenting with temporal passages!’ Shard thinks to herself, remembering that up until now, the X.S.E. has only pegged Fitzroy as a teleporter of short distances. ‘I thought Archer’s tales about Fitzroy were some sort of a test to see how far I’d go with them. But if he can do it. And the X.U.E. can use him…’.
Shard turns to her brother, ‘Enough, bro!’ she exclaims, remarking that Bantam is not going to talk. ‘Turn the vid scans off and leave me alone with him for a while…he’ll talk’. Shard tells her brother. As Bishop leaves, Bantam asks Shard if she thinks he is scared of her, or her threats, or of the X.S.E. ‘I lived through the camps! I never got a mark! Lived through the Summers Rebellion! I’m going to live, girl!’ he boasts. ‘That was a mistake!’ Shard exclaims, before she fades away.
Floating through the Time Continuum once more, Shard tells herself that Bantam never spilled it, he would never have given up Fitzroy. Even so, Bantam revealed enough to enable Shard to turn traitor. ‘Enough to throw away everything I believed in for the dreams of a bunch of other traitors!’ she tells herself. Shard admits that, up until that point, she was fooling herself into believing that she was working undercover for the X.U.E. - she wanted to find out what they had planned and then turn them in. Except, in finding out that what they said was true, seeing the possibilities it could all be made better. ‘That was the turning point for me. I never told Bishop. Never reported them to anyone. And it all came back to Fitzroy…’.
Soon, at the Pool, an expansive maximum security prison for the dregs of mutant society. The mere threat of which has been known to set many criminals on the path to righteousness. Most mutants spend their entire lives trying to ensure they don’t wind up walking through these gates. Others, however, are motivated beyond fear…like the individuals disguised in black who stealthily make their way into the Pool, passing the guards who stand around.
Deeper inside the Pool, two guards find themselves knocked unconscious as the intruders push their way past them, into a locked part of the facility, where Bantam is being kept. ‘Hello, Bantam. Time for us to have a serious talk!’ one of the intruders exclaims.
Soon, at Four Freedoms Plaza, ‘I can’t believe we did this!’ Shard exclaims, while Greystone remarks that he cannot believe how easy it was. Greystone jokingly suggests Shard could file a report with the X.S.E. and let them know where all the holes in their grid are. With Bantam cuffed nearby, Archer tells Greystone to be quiet, as none of them feels too good about what they had to do tonight. ‘We betrayed our own!’ he points out. Shard motions to Bantam and asks if it was worth it just for him.
Suddenly, the shadowy figure from earlier stands before the X.U.E., declaring that it certainly is worth it. ‘Tonight you have become traitors, but, if all goes as planned…you will soon be heroes. The X.U.E. all watch him as he exclaims that the more difficult part is yet to come - especially for Shard….