When X-Factor’s massive Ship was snatched into orbit around this alien planet, Ship fell into the hands of the mysterious space gods, called the Celestials, while the members of X-Factor were teleported below, into the midst of a battle between the monstrous Rejects and the handsome Chosen. Archangel, mistaken for one of the Rejects, was captured by the Chosen Lord Rask…
Rask stands behind the pink-haired Princess Seera from their V.I.P. seating at the large facility known as the Arena, as Seera looks longingly at Archangel, thinking to herself that he said he came here from a world beyond the stars, that he is not a true Reject and therefore doesn’t belong in the Arena. ‘Why won’t they believe him?’ she wonders. Seera reminds herself that Archangel touched her, saved her life, which is why Rask captured him. ‘Why is Rask so eager for him to die?’ she wonders.
Standing down in the Arena, a large round fighting pit, Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel shouts ‘Your shackles can’t restrain me! Hear this, you of the Chosen! I am not some animal to perform for your pleasure!’, indeed, Warren’s razor-sharp wings have been contained in a device strapped to his body. Lord Palik sits on his throne near Rask and Seera and remarks ‘He’s spirited, Rask, I’ll give you that. The wagering for and against him breaks all records…and his defiance, to a point, will amuse the crowd and whet their appetite for blood. But it would be a dreadful bore were his arrogance to persist…’
‘I won’t fight in your Arena…nor kill another being for your amusement!’ Archangel booms, before forcing his wings out of their shackles. Palik watches, pleased, and calling Archangel a Reject, tells him that if he will not fight to amuse them, then perhaps he will fight to save his life. Palik clicks a small button on his throne and telling Archangel that behind the door is one of his own kind, another Reject, strong, virtually invulnerable, and who has no compunction against killing him.
Suddenly, a large prehistoric-type Reject lunges out of the door, and smacks Archangel over. ‘No!’ Archangel shouts before he takes flight, as high as the dome covering the Arena will allow him, and tells the Reject that thuds to the ground that they are on the same side, that they shouldn’t fight each other. ‘Why should we die for the pleasure of the Chosen?’ he asks, while the massive crowd of Chosen begin to boo and shout ‘Fight!’ and ‘Kill him!’. An angry Palik tells Rask that the crowd is growing restless. ‘Soon they will turn on you!’ he warns them. Rask tells Palik not to fear, and assures him that Archangel will fight - against his will - and to the greater glory of the Chosen.
‘Punish them, guards! Release the goads!’ Lord Rask booms. ‘The goads!’ ‘The goads!’ chant the crowd as deadly baubles with spikes are tossed into the Arena, soaring towards Archangel and the Reject. ‘Two thousand on the Archangel!’ someone in the crowd shouts. ‘Three thousand on the giant!’ cries another. Warren spots the goads and begins to fly from them as he realizes that they are tracking him. The giant Reject cries out in pain when the spiked goads smack into him, and Warren too is soon overwhelmed, as there are too many goads to dodge - and as they sink spikes into him, he discovers that the spikes are drugged.
Hovering mid-air, Warren feels the drugs burning into his veins, searing his brain. The giant has dozens of the spiked goads in his body now too, and tells Archangel that this is his fault, for he wouldn’t fight, nor die clean. ‘And now - you will die dirty…and in pain!’ the giant Reject warns Archangel. ‘Will I, monster?’ Archangel retorts, before boasting that they shall see whose blood stains the sands today, and unleashes three razor-sharp feather-knives at his opponent, who shouts ‘I withstood the goads! Think you that mere feathers can slow me?’. As the weapons set into the giant’s flesh, Warren tells his opponents that they are not simply feathers, but knives, laced with a neural disruptor. This doesn’t stop the giant through, as he leaps up at Archangel who still hovers mid-air, and grabs him. Warren fends off the giant, thinking that one wing-knife would have felled an ordinary man, but this giant has three lodged in his hide and his grip is strong as ever.
Seera watches intently, and tells herself that the impact of the two men colliding has dislodged some of the goads, so they will both have more control now. Seera knows that the giant Reject is a veteran gladiator, but that Archangel is swift and fierce. ‘He can’t have come all this way…just to die!’ she exclaims. ‘Four thousand on the giant!’ someone standing nearby exclaims. ‘Three thousand on the Angel!’ a well-dressed woman announces. Palik turns to Rask and remarks that Rask is already the most admired man in Chosendom for capturing that winged fiend. Rask replies that it was nothing, and tells Palik that he makes too much of his humble effort, while thinking to himself that with every wager the purse grows, and his cut increases. ‘Most admired, the old fool says…perhaps, and soon I shall be the richest!’ Rask thinks to himself.
Up behind the throne, the duallers and other less-than-perfect members of the warrior class wager for lesser stakes. ‘One-hundred on the giant!’ one of them exclaims. ‘Fifty on the Angel!’ declares the amnesic Bobby “Iceman” Drake. ‘You think Angel has a chance, Iceman?’ Bobby’s companion, Lev, asks him as he hands his currency over. Gazing out to the Arena battlefield, Iceman remarks that he may not know who he is or where he came from, but he certainly knows that there is something indomitable about the winged devil. ‘He won’t bow to any man…Reject or Chosen!’
The giant Reject jumps up into the air and grabs Warren, forcing him downwards towards the sand-covered ground as he remarks that he is getting weak. ‘Maybe feathers work after all!’ the Reject remarks, boasting that he is still has enough strength left to crush Archangel’s head. With his head trapped between the giants’ hands, Warren feels like he is in a vice, he can’t think, can’t breathe, but knows that the edge of his wing can still cut through the giants’ thick hide - and so Warren slices his opponent’s throat.
There is a mighty scream, and both men plummet to the ground. ‘A scream!’ ‘Who’s hurt?’ ‘Which one is dead?’ ‘The giant…he’s on the ground…’ ‘He’s been injured’ ‘Dead!’ ‘Not yet! Look…he still breathes! He speaks!’ people in the audience begin to exclaim, indeed as the Reject reveals that his name is Agrom, son of Vlon of the Shattered Peak. ‘You have won...for a time. Make your death blow sure and swift…and speak my name before my funeral pyre that Brother Moon will know who’s come to join him…’ Agrom declares.
The tired Archangel stands over Agrom’s weak body, while the audience gets to its feet, shrieking a single, irresistible command. It echoes and intensifies the goad-induced roaring in Archangel’s ears - the blood-lust surging in his veins…. ‘Slice him!’ ‘Kill him!’ the Chosen boom. Warren looks shocked, then covers his face with his hands. ‘KILL! KILL!’ the crowd roar. ‘No!’ Warren shouts, before taking flight, ‘He’s innocent, caught in your trap! It’s you who must die!’ Archangel tells the Chosen as he flies towards Palik and Rask.
‘He’s attacking us! Activate the grid - now!’ someone shouts. Instantly, a beam of energy is emitted and strikes Warren, causing him to scream. ‘Stupid. Can’t get through to them. Should have known…only way out…is…death…’ Warren thinks to himself as he is held in stasis. Seera watches in horror and begins to cry, thinking that it is her fault Archangel is in there, tortured, hanging in the grid like an insect in a spider’s web. The massive crowd begins to cheer, and streamers are thrown about. Seera thinks to herself that Archangel was strong, defiant, even under the influence of the goads. ‘Magnificent in his…primitive passion’. Seera notes the other Chosen cheering and realizes that they love Archangel. ‘For a while, through him, their repressed passions will find release…until, like spiders, they suck him dry…and dead’.
‘Excellent, Rask!’ exclaims Lord Palik as he and the others nearby look upon Archangel, unmoving and held in stasis. ‘He fought…he won…and remains as unpredictable, as dangerous as ever!’ Palik exclaims, before announcing that the betting on the next match has already begun, and will even break this record. ‘I don’t suppose you planned it this way, Rask?’ Palik asks. ‘You credit me, most perfect, with foresight I don’t possess!’ ‘Make way for the perfect Seera! Your kind must cringe in the shadows while perfection is served!’ Rask booms as he, Palik, Seera and the other nobles walk past the dualers. ‘HEY!’ shouts Iceman angrily. Seera notices him and tells herself to remain calm, maintain control so as not to cause Rask to become suspicious.
‘Our kind?’ Bobby shouts angrily. ‘We dualers are twice the warriors as you effet -’ Lev stops him before he can finish his sentence, putting her hands to his chest. Iceman powers down, but Lev shrinks backwards, apologizing to him, she tells him that it wasn’t her intention to touch him, only to stop him. ‘I feared that, through ignorance, you would say something you would regret’ Lev explains. ‘Learn this and guard your words and actions!’ Lev exclaims, before explaining to Bobby that the scientists have decreed that the dualers who have second forms like his ice and her fire, are to be tolerated, but are considered half-Rejects.
‘We live on the sufferance of the Chosen…’ Lev exclaims, to which Bobby asks if they choose to live on their own sufferance, who are the Chosen to stop them. ‘Perhaps you and the Angel aren’t all that different in your defiance…’ Lev suggests, before reminding Bobby that she first saw him in his ice form and mistook him for a Reject. ‘I would have matched you against the Angel’ she reveals. ‘Could you have taken him, I wonder…?’ Lev asks. Iceman replies that in single combat he thinks he could, but motioning to Rask reveals that he would rather take Rask on.
Nearby, Seera’s mind wanders back, recalling how Archangel saved her from the Rejects. ‘Surely he can’t be one of them’ she tells herself, adding that she does not believe Iceman is one of the Chosen, instead he must be one of the five who arrived with Archangel. Seera remarks to herself that she hoped the shock of seeing his friend would restore Iceman’s memories. ‘But why should he recognize a friend when, jammed as he was, he doesn’t know himself?’ Seera asks herself. Seera reminds herself that many of the Chosen were mind-twisted in the battle, and not surprising, as there was more than the usual jammer backlash. ‘They say that Reject jammers attacked a red-haired telekinetic…one of the Chosen, by her form…though no one recognized her. Another stranger…? I wonder where she is now…?’ Seera thinks to herself.
Meanwhile, from the heights of the Reject city, the mindless Vlon rocks his doll and stares off into space, while below, a filthy cell on the refuse-filled lower level, two guards mind a very special prisoner. ‘She eats nothing. Drinks nothing. She’s unconscious…and we’re stuck here guarding her…we might as well guard a corpse’ one of the Rejects remarks to his fellow. ‘Nevertheless, she’s perfect in form. And will therefore be rich and powerful among the people…’ the other remarks, while Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey lies chained, resting on some straw in a corner of a dank cell.
‘There are others to trade. They say she fought like one of the Rejects! They jammed her good - who knows what state she’ll wake up in? If she wakes up at all’ the first Reject points out. The larger of the pair remarks that their leader, Zharkah has taken an interest in this one. ‘She’s still breathing…still alive?’ he asks. ‘If you call that living. She’s alive…so far…!’ the second replies, closing the door as they leave the cell.
On the far side of the Reject’s city, in an area unclaimed by any tribe, Zharkah and the Beast accompany a party scavenging among the artifacts of a civilization already lost. Rummaging through some boxes, the one-eyed Zharkah thinks to herself that the red-haired captive of the Neakj Clan is due for a prisoner exchange, and realizes that she may be on of those the Beast is searching for. ‘Should I tell him?’ she wonders, before deciding that she is obviously one of the Chosen, and wonders how the Beast could claim her for a friend. ‘I like the Beast. I want to trust him, and yet, there is more to his being here than he has revealed’ Zharkah decides.
Looking in a container, Dr. Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast tells himself that Zharkah is a friend, and therefore he should tell her that he is from a far off world. ‘But if I do, she’ll think I’m mad’ he believes, while Zharkah decides to say nothing about the red-haired woman, just to watch and wait, let the Beast keep his secret, and she will keep hers. Hank decides that it is best to continue to let Zharkah think that he is a lost Reject who was caught in a jammer backlash and that his memory has been partially erased. ‘Look! Diapers! Clothes for Whilge’s baby!’ Hank announces, holding up some small clothes.
Zharkah replies that the clothes may have to be modified, as the baby may end up looking like his father, when, suddenly, an astral projection from one of the other Rejects appears, informing Zharkah that Whilge’s baby is coming. ‘They’ll do all they can, but -’ the Reject begins, before Zharkah announces that she will return right away, and with the other Rejects, begins to return to the city, urging the Beast along. Hank asks Zharkah why she is acting so grim, pointing out that babies are born everyday, and where he comes from, birth is a joyous occasion.
‘Joyous?’ Zharkah asks, before telling the Beast that his comment almost makes her believe that he is not from this charnel world. ‘For where, on this peace-forsaken planet, do the odds favor the new-born…or their mothers…even among the Chosen, infants born dead out-number the viable!’ Zharkah explains. ‘Birth…a time of joy…? And terror, too. I know, my friend, of my own four dear babes, only the one survives!’ Zharkah reveals.
Soon, they arrive at Whilge’s, and Zharkah asks one of the others how her friend is doing. The Reject replies that Whilge’s fine, but that the infant is weak. ‘Her heart, perhaps…’ he suggests. The Beast follows Zharkah to Whilge’s bed, and Zharkah calls out to her. Whilge is holding her four-armed baby, and reveals that she is alive, so far, and will call her Zheopah, after her father. ‘She’s beautiful, isn’t she? She’s got her father’s arms…’ Whilge remarks, smiling. Standing beside the bed, Beast tells Whilge that her baby has her ears. ‘She’s a…a cute little thing…’ Hank remarks.
‘Men! I know what you’re thinking, my friend. She’s a right little monster, now, but all new-born babies look like lizard-meat’ Zharkah tells the Beast, while reaching out to Zheopah, and remarking that she will improve with age. ‘If she gets the chance…’ Whilge adds, before extending the baby to Zharkah, asking her if she would like to hold her baby. ‘Smile for auntie Zharkah’ Whilge tells her baby. ‘Wake up, my little darling, and - NO! Dead! She can’t be!’ Whilge exclaims, holding her now-dead baby in her arms, before letting out a painful scream that can be heard all over the Rejects’ city.
Later, the wind moans bleak and cold, high overhead, mother moon shivers and pulls closer her shroud of mist as Zheopah’s body lies in a cradle placed upon a stack of wood. ‘Farewell, my little Zheopah. May your soul rise to the embrace of mother moon…and when next she releases you for a sojourn upon this world, take care…and choose as your abode a child of the Chosen, for there, at least, you will have a fair chance for life!’ Whilge declares, before setting alight her poor dead child. ‘A slim enough chance at that, from all you’ve told me, Zharkah, but, listen…I have a background in biochemistry. I might be able to help your people stabilize genetically, and -’ Hank whispers to Zharkah as the two of them, flanked by others, watch Whilge.
‘Silence!’ Zharkah tells the Beast, ‘That is Chosen talk’ she exclaims, adding that she will not hear it spoken here. ‘It is not our way to meddle with the mingling of mother moon’ Zharkah tells her friend. ‘But think, Zharkah, is this wise? The stories say that mother moon made us, yes…and gave us hands, that we might tend her world’ the Beast points out. Hank adds that mother moon also gave them minds so that they might know her world and learn to shape it to suit their needs as well as hers. ‘Are we fulfilling her command, when we allow her people to die for want of a little effort in her behalf?’ Hank adds.
As Whilge stands over the fire, crying, Zharkah realizes that she was right not to fully trust the Beast, as he doesn’t think like a Reject, even one who has been jammed. ‘His philosophy is much like that of the Chosen’ Zharkah decides, before telling the Beast that she believes he means well, before asking him to answer her this riddle: ‘How can we, weak and flawed as we are…we, who have so decimated our world and out own kind…gain the wisdom to say what part of ourselves should be kept, and what part cast aside?’
Meanwhile, plumes and waves crest in the wind-driven sky, catching and reflecting the Chosen’s city’s lights. But, beyond the light, their currents roil, dark, turbulent, uncontrolled. Below, the Hall of Science and Genetics sparkles with its own enlightenment, two scientists travel in a hovercraft. ‘Our ancestors chose, Scientist, those traits of physical perfection that we would promulgate’ the younger remarks, to which the older Scientist replies ‘And yet our numbers diminish! Why!?’ The younger Scientist goes on to ask ‘Have our genetic samples grown distorted over time…like the programs of our failing robots? We can no more repair them, than -’ he is suddenly interrupted by the older, ‘Blasphemy!’ he exclaims, declaring that their ancestors set the standard, provided the material for perfection.
‘The Beginagains would redefine perfection, Sir. They say -’ the younger scientist begins to say, until the older interrupts, ‘Enough!’ he exclaims. ‘You are young, Scientist…impetuous! You must learn to think before you speak!’, before motioning to something and asking ‘What of that batch?’. The younger scientist looks, ‘That one?’ he asks. ‘Promising, actually, Sir. We should salvage two - maybe three. Perhaps you are right, Sir, and we may yet salvage this generation’.
Crouching behind a barrier is Princess Seera, ‘Stop talking and move!’ she thinks to herself. ‘I can’t believe this! Me…the perfect Seera…entitled to go anywhere…to have anything…crouching here in terror of being discovered with a bag full of nutrient…stolen for a screaming baby from the stars!’. Seera gets to her feet, pulls her cloak up around her, and uses her powers on a scientist that she rushes past, telepathically telling him that he has seen nothing, and that nutrient is missing because he himself spilled it. ‘I…spilled…it…’ the scientist mutters.
Seera rushes into a basement like area, where pipes run along the walls and floor, and rat-like creatures scurry around - not the kind of place for a Princess. Still cloaked, Seera rushes along, thinking that the baby is hungry, broadcasting his rage and distress to her. ‘I’ve blocked his distress from the others…so far I’ve succeeded…but for how long?’ Seera wonders. Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Halt! Who goes -?’ the armored figure realizes that it is Princess Seera, who almost bumps into him, and he informs her that he was set to guard this sector, and that he felt a blankness here. ‘You’re hiding something, perfect Seera. In that bundle, behind your mind -’ the armored figure remarks, before Seera shouts ‘NO!’ and uses her powers to jam him, sending him careening to the ground.
Seera continues to run through the basement complex, ‘I jammed him too hard!’ she tells herself, realizing that he may never wake up. She regrets that she hasn’t been allowed more practice, and decides that it is foolish to allow the Chosen to use their powers only in battle. ‘The Rejects use theirs constantly…as naturally as they breathe!’ she exclaims to herself, knowing that even with superior numbers and technology, the Chosen are hard pressed to defeat the Rejects. ‘When I rule the Chosen, I will change all that!’ Seera boasts.
Shortly, she arrives at her quarters, where ZZ-105 is tending to baby Christopher Summers. Seera apologizes to her robotic companion for being late, explaining that she ran into a telepath who registered her awareness block. ‘I’m afraid I jammed him rather harder than I meant to’ Seera admits, to which ZZ-105 points out that if this telepath registered it, then others will also. Seera picks up Christopher as she replies that she knows, before remarking that they will have to move the baby somewhere else father from the center of the city. ‘Come little greedy-gut, Seera has brought you some lovely nutrient!’ Seera tells the baby.
ZZ-105 watches Seera feeing the baby and tells her that she used to guzzle her nutrient just like that. ‘Did I?’ Seera remarks, before asking ZZ-105 if she felt like this when she held her. ‘I never had anything to love before…except you, ZeeZee’ Seera remarks, before wondering if he really is from another world. ‘Does he have real parents somewhere…or are the strangers born from machines like the Chosen?’ she asks. ‘If he has parents, then where are they? And if I find them, will I have to give their baby back?’ she asks, worried.
Long ago, the tunnels beneath the river were filled with skimmers, hauling freight for a bustling metropolis. Now, they have become home to the Beginagains - and their message of brotherhood and hope. Scott “Cyclops” Summers, leader of X-Factor, uses his optical powers to clear some rock, ‘A useful power’ his companion, Dykon of the Beginagains remarks, adding: ‘Especially in these latter days. The repair-bots are rusty and not so quick to clear the tunnels of debris’. Scott replies that he plans to do more than that, remarking that his son is lost out there, as are his friends. ‘I must find them, even though your father is reluctant to help me’ Scott exclaims.
Dykon points out that his father believes that Cyclops is the prophesised savior from the stars who will lead their world to peace. ‘And that once you have found your friends, you will leave. Of course…he once thought they were our saviors!’ Dykon adds as he and Scott emerge from one of the tunnels, motioning at one of the massive, gleaming space gods - Celestials - standing nearby. ‘A more understandable error. He’s awe-inspiring. Tall as a mountain, seemingly oblivious to our passing’ Scott remarks.
‘Oblivious indeed, watch’ Dykon begins, kneeling down, he touches the ground and reveals that he has the power to shatter the earth. ‘To strip it from beneath his feet…and yet, he will continue to hover precisely where he was standing…until for some reason of his own, he decides to move on’ Dykon remarks as indeed, the ground beneath the Celestial’s feet shatters. ‘His power is enormous. And he’s just one of them!’ Scott gasps. Dykon informs Scott that their mind-travelers say that the space gods have been here before, and that each time they judged the people of this world and found them acceptable, and so they were spared. ‘But now - you see what we are…what we’ve become’ Dykon remarks.
Dykon declares that the Chosen find solace in their mood-minders and symbolic battles of the Arena, while the Rejects stubbornly refuse to consider any alternatives to death. He adds that the Beginagains preach a new beginning, but do nothing to accomplish it. ‘How could they not find us wanting…? They will destroy us, as surely as we are now destroying ourselves’ Dykon declares. Cyclops tells Dykon that he wonders what would happen if every power on this world was suddenly turned against the space gods, if that would drive them off. ‘Every power?’ Dykon asks. ‘With Rejects and Chosen…and Beginagains cooperating with each other. Yes, that would bring a kind of peace’ Dykon declares, before telling Cyclops that his scheme is madness, and yet, they might accomplish it - if only he will lead them.
Later, a new day has dawned, and a refreshing breeze has swept the clouds from the sky. Last night’s massive funeral pyre was a monument to failure. Today’s fire will celebrate success. Vlon continues to sit in his position high above the Reject’s city, while dozens of Rejects have gathered around Zharkah and the Beast. ‘Attend me, my friends! We are here tonight to celebrate with Nikoh, his coming of age!’ Zharkah exclaims, motioning to the small Reject standing before everyone. Zharkah declares that this is a time of pride for all of them, but particularly for the father and mother who bore and raised Nikoh, and now offer him to the Djade tribe, that all of them might share in his power.
Nikoh holds a small stick at each end, and concentrates hard. The stick begins to smoke - then bursts into flames. ‘Well done! The Djade and mother moon, you remain our Nikoh…’ Zharkah exclaims, placing a wreath on his head. ‘But let all others honor you as incendiary…and may our enemies grow to fear your power!’ Zharkah exclaims. The Beast listens as another Reject turns to one of her fellows, asking if they have heard about the Reject who defeated their Agrom in the Arena. ‘He’s given the Chosen cause to fear. They say he attacked their leaders!’ the Reject exclaims. ‘What tribe?’ the second Reject asks telepathically. ‘No tribe claims him, though many wish they could. They say his wings are sharp…and his feathers can be flung likes knives…’ the Reject reveals.
‘What?’ Hank exclaims, before announcing ‘I claim him!’. Hank declares that there can only be one person who fits that description. ‘He’s called Archangel…and he is a member of my tribe, X-Factor!’ Hank remarks, before boasting that now he knows where Archangel is, he is going to free him. ‘But he’s a prisoner…in the Chosen city’ one of the Rejects remarks. ‘You’d invade their city?’ another asks. ‘Nonetheless, I will free him…and teach the Chosen the danger of threatening a member of my tribe!’ Hank announces. ‘Steal a captive from the Arena?’ another Reject asks, surprised, remarking that it has never been done. ‘And yet -’ another begins, before Nikoh asks Beast to take him with you. ‘I’ll set their Arena on fire and burn it to the ground!’ Nikoh exclaims.
Hank tells Nikoh that he is a brave lad, and one with vision. ‘You know, it might just work!’ another Reject declares as Hank, Nikoh and the others begin to run to tell the other Rejects. ‘When can we begin?’ one of them asks. ‘As soon as we’re organized’ Hank replies, while Zharkah just watches them go, not joining in. Hank points out that it will take planing, and boasts that they will bring the Chosen’s decadent society crashing down about their ears.
Meanwhile, within the Chosen city, a practice area called the War Room lies, though most of the Chosen use it occasionally to hone their powers, those identified as dualers practice there almost constantly, against robots and holographic images - and sometimes against each other, like Iceman and Lev right now. ‘Fire will win over ice, Iceman. I beat you before…melted you from the sky!’ Lev boasts as Iceman encases her in a block of solid ice. ‘You took me by surprise, Lev, in the midst of a larger battle. This time, you haven’t got a chance!’ Iceman boasts. Lev is surprised to find she cannot get out of the ice block, and that her flame is flickering. Bobby explains that with the ice surrounding her, he replaces what she melts, until her fire has consumed the oxygen and can burn no more.
‘You surrender?’ Bobby asks. ‘For now. Until I think of some way to counter this!’ Lev replies, before Bobby releases her from the ice block. Lev admits that Iceman is better at fighting one-on-one than any of the Chosen, but that she could still beat him in a melee. ‘No way, my friend. Not any longer!’ Bobby begins to reply, when suddenly, he sees Rask, Palik and several other nobles standing at the entrance of the War Room. ‘Listen to the un-Chosen braggart!’ Rask booms. ‘I stated a fact, Lord Rask. But if you think that you could defeat me…?’ Bobby replies defiantly, standing in front of the towering man. ‘Ha!’ Rask laughs, before calling out to Palik and the others and asking them to step behind the barrier so that he may teach the half-Reject some humility. ‘A lesson he sorely needs’ one of the other nobles remarks. ‘What do you expect?’ Lord Palik asks. ‘He’s like all the dualers…imperfect in form and manners’.
Lev retorts ‘We dualers are a barbarous lot, and surely the Iceman doesn’t have a chance. Still, out of a loyalty to my own kind, I’ll match any wager that you perfect care to make against him!’. Rask begins the battle, immediately blasting Bobby with an energy beam derived form his fists. ‘Notice, scum, that I have a strong personal energy field!’ Rask boasts, while Bobby ice-sleds past him. ‘What kind of energy? Magnetic? Telekinetic? No time to find out now!’ Bobby thinks to himself, though certain that Rask controls the power through his hands, so Bobby aims an ice bean at Rask’s hands, but Rask shapes his energy into a shield, blocking the ice, before using the energy to attack - smashing it through Bobby’s ice-sled.
‘Well, well, so you can…’ Bobby mumbles as he sleds away faster. ‘You’re fast, you dualer freak, I’ll give you that!’ Rask shouts as he runs after Bobby. ‘You’re too slow!’ Bobby shouts, remarking that it takes Rask too long to shape the field and longer still to use it to advantage. ‘I think, perhaps, a thrust from this side…and, perhaps, from that…or maybe…I’ll take it from the top!’ Bobby exclaims as he casts various ice beams around Rask, confusing him, before Bobby lunges down at him and punches him in the face.
Rask falls to the ground, and Bobby quickly proceeds to encase his hands in ice-rocks, trapping them to the floor. ‘Use your powers now, Lord Rask!’ Bobby exclaims. Rask complains that his hands a frozen, and that he cant move, demanding for Iceman to release him, he calls Bobby a clown. ‘A clown am I -? Then laugh at this!’ Bobby exclaims, before telling Rask to say “uncle”, otherwise he will freeze his face.
‘Impossible!’ Lord Palik exclaims. ‘As you say, most perfect. Still…a wager is a wager, is it not?’ Lev remarks as one of the Rejects hands her her winnings. ‘And I feel sure the Iceman will give Lord Rask a re-match any time he asks’ Lev adds. ‘Indeed, Indeed. Iceman, though you are a dualer, you show remarkable control’ Palik announces, before declaring that if they had more with Iceman’s prowess among them, the Rejects would have been exterminated long ago. Another of the Chosen agrees, and Palik remarks that Iceman is to be admired. ‘Is that not so, Lord Rask?’ Lev asks.
‘A half-Reject who can best one of the Chosen is remarkable, indeed…and should easily defeat a full Reject’ Rask exclaims, before challenging Iceman to face the Archangel, in the Arena. ‘As you say, Rask, I beat you. I should have no trouble beating him’ Bobby exclaims, before walking over to Lev, who quietly informs him that they made a fortune there, as she accepted their wagers. ‘You don’t have that kind of wealth!’ Bobby reminds her, to which Lev admits it was a gamble, and that if Bobby didn’t win, the Chosen would have taken their winnings out of her hide. As Lev and Bobby begin to take their leave, Palik asks ‘What of Lord Rask?’, to which Lev apologizes to him and explains that Iceman’s power is to make ice, not to melt it. ‘The ice will thaw…in time!’ Bobby exclaims.
Below the city is the warren of machinery, pipes and corridors that services the Arena - and at the end of these winding corridors, is a cell, in which the Reject “animals” are shackled and kept until their next performance. Arms chained above his head, Agrom moans and wonders where he is. ‘Why am I not dead?’ he asks. Archangel is chained a couple of feet away, and replies ‘I…don’t know. By rights, you should be. I hurt you. I nearly killed you!’ Warren tells him. ‘Don’t blame yourself’ Agrom tells Archangel. ‘It was the goads. They’re poisoned…they sap your will’ he explains.
‘My wings are evil. The goads lessened my control. Released them to cut and maim and tear’ Warren tells Agrom. ‘The…being who gave me these dark wings used drugs to control and twist me to his own dark ends!’ Archangel reveals, adding that he vowed that never again would he be the puppet of another, ‘But still…I couldn’t stop them. At least I forced their blood lust away from you and against our oppressors’ Warren remarks, and points out that now he knows what to expect, he will know better how to fight it. ‘And I’ll destroy them, consciously, if I can!’
Unbeknownst to Warren, the Princess Seera has been watching him on monitors, thinking to herself that she owes him so much - her life, the baby, the chance to develop her jammer’s power. ‘He doesn’t know it, but he’s due to face his friend in the Arena! I can’t let that happen!’ Seera decides. The Princess tells herself that tomorrow she will move the baby to a safer location, then somehow, she must free Archangel. ‘But do I dare…? It’s my fault that he’s in that terrible state and yet…if he escapes, he’ll turn his fury to destroy us all…!’