‘Look at them - staring - though the second you look up they’ll look away like you’re not some disgusting freak - like they don’t hate you because of what you are’ Shard, a girl from the future thinks to herself as she sits in the corner of a dirty subway train, paper littered across the floor, and spray paint scrawled across the walls and seats. ‘I’ve only got one question’ she thinks to herself: ‘Are those looks for you, buddy? Or for me?’ she wonders as she looks at the person sleeping on the seat across from her. Shard recalls what Havok recently said to her: ‘Take the day…go into New York. Walk around…get the lay of the land. This is the world you’re trying to save…better get used to it!’
Shard looks up, startled, as someone shouts ‘Hey, MUTIE!’. ‘What?’ Shard whispers, before suddenly realizing that it is not she that is being screamed at. It only took a second, but felt like forever, and then, for a moment, she is happy - but just for a moment. ‘You got wings too, mutie? You gonna fly?’ someone bullies shout as they chase a young man through the subway train. ‘C’mon, mutie-boy…teach us to fly!’ one of the thugs yells, while their victim pushes past the various people standing in the aisle. Shard watches the bullies run past her and thinks to herself that she shouldn’t get involved, as the bullies will corner him eventually, take his lunch money, maybe beat him up a little. But, Shard looks into their eyes and sees something, and her choice is made.
The train stops at a platform and the doors open, the victim runs out onto the platform, ‘Which way, Johnny?’ one of the bullies asks. ‘Just follow me!’ Johnny exclaims. Shard thinks to herself that the bullies think they have their prey, trapped him at the edge of subway platform. ‘He’s thinking, “once chance…”’ she decides, as one of the bullies yells ‘Look at him, Johnny! Which way you gonna run now, huh?’
Shard steps onto the platform: ‘Don’t do it, man!’ she thinks to herself, but it’s too late, as the apparent mutant leaps in front of the approaching train. ‘Did you see that?’ one of the bullies asks. ‘Crazy mutie!’ another shouts. ‘You think you got away, don’t you?’ Shard remarks to herself. ‘It takes a second that feels like forever’ she adds, telling herself once again that she shouldn’t get involved, before leaping off the platform and onto the tracks, where the boy sits, while the train approaches. ‘Hey, kid, my name’s Shard. I’m a mutant from the future, who’s not even a real person anymore - but you - you have really ruined my day!’ Shard thinks to herself as the train passes, and people on the platform look on. ‘Everybody like my phase capabilities?’ Shard remarks to herself as she holds the boy against the wall. ‘So much for just getting the lay of the land’ Shard adds, while the bullies decide to make their getaway. ‘You know you dropped your bag’ Shard calls out to the boy she rescued, but he rushes back onto the platform and runs through the crowd. Shard just sighs.
Later, at the New Jersey Headquarters of the team sort-of-known-as X-Factor, a place of sanctuary for a team in transition. A place where these outcasts, sworn to saving the past from a future it seems bent on creating, can regroup, find refuge, and reflect. Or at least, they can try. Shard sits in the living area, and examines one of the books from the boys‘ bag: Evolution, a Theory in Crisis, and finds chapters on math, science and social studies, but nothing about growing up as a mutant. Shard decides that the kid from earlier cannot be much younger than she is, ‘And yet…I’m so much older!’ she tells herself.
Suddenly, another girl from the future appears in the living area, standing behind Shard, Fixx remarks ‘We thought we heard someone in here’, before remarking that Shard is home early, and asks her if she feels acclimated yet. ‘I don’t know if that’s possible’ Shard replies, to which Fixx points out that she only gave it two hours. Shard ignores that remark, so Fixx begins to walk out of the living area, remarking ‘So I guess you know what you’re talking about’ before asking Shard if she wants to join her for some ice cream. ‘It’s chocolate…’ Fixx adds. ‘I - no…there’s something I’ve gotta do’ Shard replies, sighing as looks at a label on the inside cover of the book, that reads “Property of Bronx High School of Science”.
Later, Shard stands outside the High School, and thinks to herself ‘This is how it’s supposed to be. Kids go to school with other kids…and they grow up…have fun…get married…have kids of their own and everything’s peachy keen. But you sent me out to learn, Havok…and I’m learning…that when it comes to growing up a mutant…our worlds aren’t that different after all’. Shard sees the boy from earlier, sitting on a bench, being watched by some other kids, when suddenly, someone shouts at her: ‘Okay. Let’s go!’ Shard turns and sees some kind of school security officer, telling her to come on. ‘You don’t understand!’ Shard begins to protest, as the officer grabs her, telling her that kids go to school, or so the truant officer says, suddenly, the his arm passes through Shard, and she vanishes. ‘Where’d she go?’ the officer asks, confused.
Later still, school has finished. The other kids give the apparent mutant room as they all file out of the building. ‘Wouldn’t want to get to close to the freak’ Shard thinks to herself. Shard watches as he walks along the sidewalk, hanging his head, she thinks to herself ‘It you’re alone it means nobody’s chasing you! That’s what I tell myself sometimes. So, ain’t we a pair…’ Suddenly, Shard calls out: ‘Hey…Kevin, right?’. Kevin steps backwards: ‘Who - what are you doing here?’ he asks. ‘You dropped these. Just thought I’d return them’ Shard explains as she hands Kevin his bag. ‘Oh…thanks’ Kevin replies as he takes his bag. ‘You’re a mutant’ he remarks. ‘Big “M” on my face gave it away, huh?’ Shard jokes, before telling Kevin that she heard what the other kids yelled at him this morning. ‘So…are you…you know…?’ Shard asks him. ‘I guess…’ Kevin replies, to which Shard asks him what he does. ‘You know - do you have some sort of power or something?’.
‘Um…yeah’ Kevin replies, before asking Shard to give him a second. ‘Lemme warm up and I’ll show you…’ he tells her as he holds his hand out and begins to move his thumb, ‘Warm up and you’ll show me?’ Shard thinks to herself, before Kevin asks ‘Happy? I can do the other thumb, too’ he boasts as he holds one hand up with his thumb completely bent backwards. He adds that he can’t get his other thumb all the way back, but nearly. Somewhat shocked, Shard asks ‘Um…the others saw you do that?’ before she bursts out laughing. Kevin asks what’s so funny. ‘None of them can do it!’ he exclaims. ‘Kevin…heh…you’re double-jointed!’ Shard tells Kevin.
‘Well, what do you know…who would’ve thought a little photon-based mutant girl, life-form like me would make a friend? Not me. I’ll tell you that much…’ Shard thinks to herself as she and Trevor walk side-by-side down a street. Shard asks Trevor what happened this morning, to which Trevor replies that the bullies were saying stuff like that only other mutants are gonna hang out with him now. ‘…good think you found another one’ he tells Shard, who smiles.
Shortly, Shard and Trevor sit across from each other on the subway train, and Trevor asks Shard what he should do now. ‘What do you mean?’ Shard replies. ‘I have to go back there tomorrow…you don’t - you don’t know what it’s like!’ he exclaims. Shard touches the “M” tattoo covering her face and tells Kevin to believe her when she says that mutants around here have got it pretty easy compared to where she comes from.
Shard motions to the other end of the carriage, where a woman is watching her and Trevor. ‘Over there. You see?’ Shard asks Trevor. ‘What are you doing?’ Trevor asks. ‘Watch!’ Shard smiles, as she fires a blast of energy, which knocks the nosey woman’s hat off her head. Shard tells Trevor not to look so green and that some people should mind their own business. ‘Uh….yeah…I guess…’ Trevor replies. The train comes to a halt and Trevor tells Shard that she should come back. ‘Really?’ Shard asks. ‘Yeah, I…I think it’ll be cool’ Trevor tells her, before he gets off the train, after the startled woman. ‘I guess I’ll see you tomorrow’ Shard calls out.
The next day, at school, Trevor has his locker slammed in his face. ‘Hey, mutie-boy. You make any friends, mutie-boy?’ one of the bullied asks. ‘Come on…where’s your friend now?’ another asks.
Nearby, Shard walks the school grounds, thinking to herself: ‘I did it, Havok…I’m out there. In the middle of it…and I guess it ain’t that bad…this is the way it’s supposed to be, right? Kids go to school with other kids…they grow up, get married, have kids of their own‘. Looking around, she wonders where everyone is. Suddenly, a small rock is thrown at her. Then another. And another. ‘What the -?’ Shard wonders as one hits her in the shoulder. Turning around, Shard finds herself confronted with a dozen school kids. ‘Can you see it? There’s something in their eyes…’ she thinks to herself, before seeing Kevin, standing at the back of the group. She calls out to him, but one of the bullies tells her to leave him alone. ‘HE’S NOT ONE OF YOU!’ the bully shouts before throwing more rocks at her.
Shard ducks, luckily for her, half of the rocks phase through her body, ‘At least they don’t hurt…’ she tells herself, but she is getting weary, and asks them to stop. ‘…On the outside’. Kevin watches, and does nothing, as Shard falls to the ground. ‘Where’s your powers now, mutie? Huh?’ one of the bullies shouts as they gather around. Some continue to throw rocks, others watch. It is a second that feels like forever, then, suddenly, Kevin marches across the school yard to where Shard has fallen, ‘Do it, Kevin! Come on!’ one of the bullies exclaims. ‘Yeah! C’mon, Kevin!’ another yells. ‘I…I thought you were my frie…my fre…God…’ Shard mutters, looking up at Kevin who looms over her with a rock, while the sun shines down on them and some clouds begin to form.
Shard sees other people outside the gate, and believes that they can all see that Kevin is scared. ‘Kevin…don’t make me hurt you…’ Shard warns him, while deciding that one of the bullies is stupid, screaming about how he is not afraid. ‘I’ll make him afraid. I’ll make them all afraid!’ Shard decides, before unleashing a burst of energy at a nearby tree, which implodes, and gains everyone’s attention. ‘Holy…did you see that?’ one of the bullies exclaims. Shard gets to her feet, energy pulsing, she stands before Kevin, the bullies and the other kids.
‘Dirty mutie could’a killed us all!’ one of the bullies shouts as they all run away from Shard. Shard watches them leave, recalling what Havok said to her: “Take the day…walk around…get the lay of the land…this is the world you’re trying to save…better get used to it”. Shard looks over at the people behind the fence, watching her, then she hangs her head, standing alone in the school yard.
Shard walks slowly back towards headquarters, making it back before dark, ‘Acclimated. If that’s what you call it’. She tells herself once again that if you are alone, it means nobody is chasing you. ‘Makes me feel better’ she reassures herself as she phases into headquarters. Alex “Havok” Summers calls out to her, startling her as she spins around. ‘Are you all right? You look kind of out of it’ Havok tells Shard, who replies that she is fine. Alex asks Shard how it went, to which Shard replies ‘Not so bad’. Havok mentions something about training tomorrow. ‘Saving the world is tough business. And we have to be in shape’ he tells her. Shard replies that she will be ready. ‘It’s what I do’ she thinks to herself as she closes the door to her quarters and hangs her head, sad.
The next day, inside the Bronx High School of Science. Kids go to school with other kids - it is how things are supposed to be. For a moment, Kevin is happy. The bullies mock him, trying to pull their thumbs back behind their hands. ‘Look! Look! I’m doing it!’ one of them laughs. Kevin’s moment of happiness doesn’t last long.