It’s a warm, sunny day in New York City. Dressed in a hat and a trenchcoat, in an attempt to conceal his “monstrous” physical features, Hank McCoy has a walk downtown. His thoughts are as gloomy and melancholic as bright and joyful the day is. Hank ponders that life can be rough. He thinks it can get to a point where it seems like everything is crashing down around one’s ears. Sometimes one can feel that way even when things are going smoothly. That’s when one needs to escape and get lost in a crowd – like Hank does now.
On a bittersweet note, Hank thinks that, even thought he’s also known as the Beast, he’s no beast; in fact, he’s kind of a sweetie! But he’s a mutant. That’s the reason he has to bundle up like it’s January while it’s May. The sight of his furry l’il hide has been known to get non-mutant pulse rates a’galloping! Hank has heard this phrase countless of times before: “How dare this stinking mutie go walking around normal folks, like he belongs or something?” Vexed, Hank thinks that, apparently, it doesn’t matter if this “stinking mutie” regularly risks his life for the sake of all those indignant straights.
Still, he sometimes likes to go mingling incognito among the unwashed masses. It’s his way of getting a taste of how it feels passing for normal. It’s the only time he’s just another Joe; no worries, no responsibilities, no surprises. A million miles from the Danger Room: there, he never knows what to expect. And he hates getting hit in the face with a snowball, especially when it happens without warning.
Beast is practicing in the Danger Room. Suddenly, he gets a snowball thrown in his face – courtesy of Iceman – and crashes down to the floor, after standing twenty feet above it, much to the dismay of his tailbone. Annoyed by the stunt Bobby just pulled, Hank tells him that a friend would have informed him he was part of this test run.
Sporting a mischievous smile, Bobby insists that’d be cheating. Equally cheerful, Archangel agrees, arguing that a real pal wouldn’t ask such a thing from a friend. “Tell that to my aching derriere, Warren” Hank moans as Archangel offers his hand to help him get back on his feet. Warren asks him if he wants to give it another try. Hank thinks he’ll pass. He doesn’t seem to have all his cylinders firing today.
Archangel rather rigidly states that, in their line of work, that’s a good way of ending up dead. Please, no sermons, Hank implores him: he gets enough from Scott. As he is about to exit the room, he explains to them that sometimes a body gets tired and loses its edge. After all, he’s only human… “Sort of,” he adds in a lower voice as he leaves. Bobby and Warren remain skeptical over this last remark.
Walking in the corridor, Hank is fully aware that Bobby and Warren meant well. However, he knows there are times when one just doesn’t want to hear too much truth. He suddenly stops outside a room, hearing someone say “Just a little bit more, Christopher.”
Standing outside the nursery room, he sees Marvel Girl telekinetically moving a spoon towards baby Nathan Christopher Summers, Scott’s kid, the latter seated on a high baby chair. Jean urges baby Christopher to eat all his Pablum; otherwise, he won’t grow up big and strong, like his daddy. The spoon gets closer to the boy… and Christopher telekinetically repels it, throwing the food all the way back to Jean’s face, much to her chagrin! “Chris-1. Jean-0,” an amused Hank thinks.
Jean looks crossly at the toddler… and Nathan, seemingly calm until then, bursts into tears, realizing he did a bad thing. Her face suddenly beaming with joy, Jean holds Christopher in her arms and tries to appease the “big fella” by telling him that it’s all right; no harm done. She assures him they will get back to the old feedbag later. However, right now, she thinks it’s tickle time – and playfully swirls the baby around, contained as he is in her telekinetic bubble and proceeds to tickle him.
With a disgruntled face, Hank moves on, thinking about babies. What are his chances of ever having one? Next to zilch. And if he did have one, what would it look like? As he momentarily glimpses at himself in a door glass, he thinks that his child might take after its father. That would make for a delightful childhood, he bitterly contemplates – and tries to imagine all the marvelous names his child would have to grow up with.
“’Morning, Hank,” Cyclops greets him. “Is it?” Hank wonders. Scott asks him where he’s heading. “Out. Just out,” Hank responds. Scott asks him if he’s okay. Beast assures him he is, why wouldn’t he be? He jokes that one can never be too rich or too slim. Cyke is aware that something’s bothering him. “Just life in general,” Beast scores him off and hastily puts on a hat and a trenchcoat and leaves.
Hank ponders that if anyone’s got the right to occasionally snit, it’s him. After all, he’s a cute l’il furry freak whose only friends are other freaks. Of course, all of them can pass as humans, when they like – unlike Hank. Is it any wonder that he sometimes gets the blues? In a half-hearted attempt to joke, Hank tells himself that wasn’t meant to be a pun. Luckily, he knows one sure-fire cure for the blues: go take a walk in the Big Apple. They say that New York is the greatest city in the world – although, some might argue to the point. All Hank knows for sure is that it’s a terrific place to get lost in order to sort things out. He always manages to properly realign his attitude on these little strolls. And thus he is now here, walking downtown.
Browsing through the crowd, Hank thinks that they call New York a melting pot. He can almost see the day when a mutant will be able to go among these folks without having a lynch mob after him. Of course, he also knows that today is not the day, so he keeps his hat pulled low. Seeing a woman walking around in an expensive fur and another begging in the streets, he realizes that New York is a city of extremes; if something exists, one will find it here. Seeing a boy throwing his baseball against a wall in an alley, he also contemplates it’s got to be a strange place to grow up in. The town’s confusing enough living here as an adult, let alone…
He suddenly pauses, as he hears someone bawling: “There she goes down the alley! Get her!” Puzzled, Hank turns around and sees a quintet of men, some of them brandishing crowbars and chains, enter an alley, proclaiming “It’s party time!” Immediately realizing there’s trouble there, Hank decides that taking it to the high ground might be a good idea; it’s best to know exactly what’s going on before committing himself to action. He would feel silly if it is just some teenager trying to catch up with his girlfriend. However, for some reason, he doesn’t think that’s the case. Gentlemen callers don’t usually come around carrying crowbars and chains.
Hank quickly ascends the backstairs of an apartment house and then leaps to the roof of the adjacent building, now standing right above the alley, watching the five men balefully clustering a blond woman in a white dress. One of the punks tells the woman that they’ve been looking for her. Another guy reveals that Joey told them what she did to his brother. A third guy, with sunglasses, flaunts his jackknife, snarling that no one treats a Rattler like that. She’s going to have to pay for that… in blood!
Suddenly, though, the punk is thrown a stone in his face. Beast lands to the ground and tells the Rattlers that no one’s going to do any bleeding here today, urging the “little psychopaths” to go home and watch some boob tube. Hank quickly turns to the damsel in distress, and tells her not to worry. He’s got everything under… under…
Hank finds himself unable to complete the phrase. One glance at the woman – slim and slender, with a face right out of a Renaissance painting and a cascade of blond hair streaming down her shoulders – and he’s lost. He’s never seen anyone or anything so beautiful in his whole life. He realizes the dastardly crime she must have committed against Joey’s brother. She obviously broke the poor kid’s heart… and almost gets a 5-inch blade driven into Hank’s own heart, as the man with the sunglasses tries to stab him! Hank avoids the strike and punches his assailant, deciding to keep his mind on the problem at hand; time enough for romance later.
As Hank takes all five men on, he estimates that they really aren’t much of a threat: just a bunch of street toughs flexing their muscles. He’ll be able to handle them without breaking a sweat. After all, he’s been trained to take on super villains, real Earth shakers. He identifies the group as nothing but a band of snot-nosed kids, heading for trouble. He decides to go easy with them and not really turn up the juice. He can’t use an elephant gun to solve an ant problem.
And then, one of the men hurls a brick at Hank, getting him in the back. As Hank collapses to the ground, one of the men congratulates Shank, the man with the sunglasses. One thug wonders what’s with this dude. Shank tells him it’s a freaking mutie, that’s what! Another thug asks what they should do with him. Shank tells them to waste him and is about to exercise his crowbar on the unconscious Beast. Suddenly, though, the quintet looks at something, all of them gasping in horror.
Hank remains senseless for a while. As he starts waking up, still half-asleep, he mumbles that next time he will definitely use an elephant gun! Suddenly, realizing that something has transpired, Hank, eyes wide open now, sits up on a couch, within an apartment, shouting “Say what?!” His next spontaneous query is: where is he?
“In my apartment,” the ravishing woman from the alley responds, comfortably seated on the ledge of a window nearby. “And you’re…?” Hank inquires. She introduces herself as Synthia Naip. Hank asks her whether she carried him here or he was capable of walking. “Do I look like I could carry you?” the enigmatic woman glibly reples. “Guess not,” Beast admits. Synthia thanks him for his help back in the alley. Sure, no problem, Hank replies.
As Synthia sits next to him on the couch, he asks her what happened after he hit the canvas. Did those punks give her any more trouble? “Nothing I couldn’t handle,” Synthia cryptically replies. She admits that he surprised her showing up the way he did. She had no idea he was on the roof. Hank wearily admits that mutants have a talent for showing up just in the nick of time.
Intrigued by the word “mutant,” Synthia asks him if that’s what he is. Mutant, mutie, Homo superior – folks have lot of colorful names for his kind, Hank explains. Synthia pensively remarks this is interesting. Looking all around the thoroughly bare apartment, devoid of almost any furniture save for a few, Hank assumes she hasn’t lived there long. “Relatively speaking, no,” she admits. She’s a stranger to this… town. Gently folding his face, she assures him that in many ways she is as lonely as he is. Not looking straight at her, Hank asks her what she knows about his being lonely. “There’s a lot I know about you, Hank McCoy” Synthia assures him.
Puzzled, Hank asks her how she knows his name. Caressing his right hand, Synthia asks him if he can feel it deep in his heart: their souls have touched and found a kindred spirit in each other. Kissing his hand, she claims that she realized that the first moment their eyes met. “Eyes? Yes… Eyes…” an increasingly confused Hank mumbles. Synthia asserts that she’s the woman he’s searched for all his life; she is the loving heart that will drive off the dank and lonely night. She asks him if what she says is true. “Every word,” a mesmerized Beast assures her, as he puts his hands around her waist. Synthia insists that he is just what she most needs: strong arms to hold her; someone to watch over her; a protector. And then, they finally lock lips.
Later, Hank wakes up in a bed. He starts looking for his unlikely new lover, wondering whether he’s left alone. He puts on a bathrobe and moves around the apartment, thinking that it is such an empty place. As he enters the kitchen – barely furnished with a table, chairs and a fridge – Hank realizes that food doesn’t sound like a bad idea. He opens a cupboard, only to find it bare. The fridge is in the same sorry state and Hank hopes that maybe there’s a diner somewhere in the neighborhood.
“There is, but who needs it. I’ve already fixed you breakfast,” Synthia suddenly replies, apparently reading his thought, as she enters the kitchen, also dressed in a bathrobe. Guiding him in another room, she informs him that she’s made a double helping of everything and asks him to sit down and dig in; he needs to keep his strength. Hank hesitantly complies. Synthia also sits down and Hank asks her where she’s from. Far from here, she replies. “Being enigmatic, are we?” Hank remarks. Synthia assures him it’s not that: it’s just hard to pronounce. Besides, what does it matter where she comes from? Hank assumes it doesn’t.
Looking into his eyes, Synthia argues that all that’s important is how they feel for each other. She urges Hank to stay by her side; she’ll take him to places he never dreamt existed; together, they will explore realms beyond the reach of his imagination. Hank nervously exclaims she couldn’t do that… could she? Synthia assures him that there’s no end to the pleasure she could give him. She tells him that all she asks in return is her protection and then buries her face in his hand. Hank swears he’d never let anyone harm her.
As her face rises from his hand, blood dripping from her lips, Synthia assures him she knows. Hank is shocked to see the blood on her lips and realizes she broke the skin in his hand! Smirking, Synthia asks him whether it hurt… terribly. “No… not at all,” Beast admits. He leans closer to Synthia; their faces become one as they exchange a passionate kiss. Synthia’s teeth have left a bloody mark on his hand.
A lunar landscape, devoid of life, with a sky the color of blood red. Only a multi-tendril monster, the stuff of opium dreams, creeps amidst this rocky, harsh wasteland. A slithering nightmare.
The doors opens. A man exits an apartment. He looks human – in his leather jacket, sunglasses, wavy longish hair – but Hank doesn’t buy the lie. The Dark One radiates a black and ominous power that chills Hank to the bone and then strides off, a sinister purpose in his gait. His eyes are constantly in motion, searching for something – or someone. Hank pities the poor soul he seeks. Then, in a flash of pure horror, he realizes the person he’s hunting is…
“Synthia!” he screams as he wakes up. “Thank God…” he sighs in relief upon finding her sitting on the floor. Kneeling close to her, he tells her that he had a dream. There was this thing that turned into a man… “And he’s coming for me,” Synthia completes his phrase. Hank asks her if she knows. Synthia assures him she knows about dreams. Hank confirms it was just a dream. He asks her why she’s so sad. Because I know too much, she explains. She knows it’s a harsh world out there with so few happy endings. Hank snuggles against her, as she gently folds his hair. Her eyes closed, she suddenly opens them – eyes the color of sea.
Later, Hank is comfortably lying on the couch while Synthia is playing with his hair. Hank admits that she’s become his entire world, even though he knows so little about her. “What are you, my love?” he asks her. Synthia replies she’s anything he wishes her to be. Hank murmurs that she does such strange and wondrous things to him. “Nothing you don’t want me to do,” she assures him. Hank assumes she is not completely human, is she? No, she clarifies. She tells him that neither is he.
Suddenly irritated, Synthia argues that no human could make him feel the way she did; no human would want to! As she turns her back to him and gazes outside the window, Hank pleads her not to be angry. He didn’t mean to… He doesn’t know what he meant. He’s so sorry… Synthia tells him not to be. He can’t help what he is… he can’t understand. Hank retorts that he might understand if she’d only talk to him. He begs her to tell him what’s going on here. “Perhaps later,” she exclaims. She asks him to call it a night and disappears in the shadows.
Morning. Hank feels that the morning light burns some of the cobwebs from his psyche. He wonders what he has been doing. He doesn’t even know exactly where he is. He wonders how long he has been here. One day? Two days? He realizes that Scott and the gang will be wondering what’s become of him. He’ll have to give them a ring. However, Synthia doesn’t have a phone; doesn’t seem to need one; apparently doesn’t work. Hank decides he’ll take her out for breakfast and find a payphone.
As he gets up from bed and goes near the window, he reconsiders his decision: maybe he ought to make that lunch or even dinner. He feels so weak; all his muscles have turned to rubber. He’s never felt so wretched. He thinks that maybe it’s the flu.
Suddenly, as he gazes outside the window, he spots something that makes him think it must be a hallucination caused by the bug. But then, he realizes he’s real: that graceful form cutting through the morning sky is really his pal, Warren Kenneth Worthington III, a.k.a. the Archangel! Hank assumes that X-Factor must be beating the bushes, trying to find out what’s happened to him. He frantically tears at the window to call to Warren. However, the window jams up.
Synthia appears and asks him what he’s doing. Looking like a scolded child, Hank explains it’s his friend, Warren… Synthia wonders if he was going to leave without saying goodbye. She pulls down the window shades, without uttering a word. She tells him he looks tired, terribly tired. She believes that a little more rest is what he needs. Hank lies on the bed, closing his eyes, falling asleep from exhaustion.
Later, Hank is abruptly woken up by Synthia’s scream: “Hank!” He literally breaks through the bedroom door, reducing it to splinters and sees the most unbelievable thing taking place in the middle of the living-room: his four X-Factor teammates – their faces now monstrous and sporting razor-sharp teeth – have stripped, gagged and tied Synthia upside down in chains, ready to torture her with fire-heated iron! Appalled, Hank wants to know what the devil they’re doing. “Anything we want!!” Cyclops replies and unleashes his optic blasts on him.
As Hank collapses, Cyclops exclaims that this takes care of the old party pooper. He then tells Synthia he doesn’t like her looks: he thinks he will change them! Sporting a grotesque smile, he asks her what she thinks about that. “Bad idea, Scott,” Hank suddenly exclaims, as he grabs Scott’s head and knocks him out with a punch.
The rest of the team goes into action, just like Hank has seen them do it a thousand times before; that’s why he anticipates their moves and avoids their initial assault. Hank wonders if it is he’s never seen their true faces before this moment. Are his eyes only open now for the first time? As Hank takes Jean, Warren and Bobby on at the same time, he contemplates what people say: that love changes the world for you and makes you see it differently. If that’s true, his love for Synthia has revealed what a nightmare existence he’s been living. One Hank will never return to!
Hank swiftly eliminates all his teammates and then unties Synthia and holds her in his arms, asking her if she’s all right. “Yes…” Synthia replies and tells him that he saved her. As the two kiss, a telepathic conversation ensues:
“But I’m still your prisoner, aren’t I?”
“Aren’t all we prisoners to something?”
“I’m your slave and there’s nothing I can to break the chains that bind me.”
“Because you find the chains comforting. They are of your own making.”
“I’m beyond good and evil. I simply am.”
“Will I survive this passion?”
“I’m not sure either of us will.”
Hank wakes up. He feels he’s getting near the end of his rope; burning out; too wasted to even move. He tells Synthia he’s dying. Dressed in a rather revealing outfit, Synthia retorts that he only feels like he is. She reminds him that she had warned him how it would be: it’s nothing but feelings.
Crawling to her feet, Hank asks her why it has to be like this. Synthia pities him: poor Beasty, all confused. Hank recalls that she said she’d explain. Synthia considers that perhaps she should. After all, the time for Hank to play the knight in shining armor is almost upon them. “What are you?” Hank again asks her. Synthia explains that she’s something he couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Once, the cosmos was filled with her kind; their numbers seemed infinite. But then, they came. “They?” Hank wonders. The enemy, Synthia explains. Those that seek to annihilate them. The Dark Ones.
Synthia explains that the Dark Ones hate their light and pleasure and they have the power to extinguish both. Unfortunately, now that there are so few of Synthia’s kind and so many of the Dark Ones, the latter grow even stronger. She explains that one of them now stalks her. Hank remembers the being from his dream and realizes he’s the one she means. Synthia informs Hank that the Dark One will be here soon and she has no hope defeating him alone. She needs his help. She is extremely weak from fleeing this terror; that’s why she has been hiding on this backwash world, trying to regain her strength. It has been difficult because she had to carefully choose whose energies she stole. She only tapped into those who would side with the Dark Ones.
But then Beast came along. He was so astonishingly different. When Synthia first arrived, she keyed into the human factor because she thought them the world’s dominant species. She knew nothing of mutants until Hank showed up in that alley. His arrival truly surprised her. She didn’t sense his presence because he isn’t truly human. She doubts that the Dark One will be able to sense him either. She believes that a surprise attack by Hank might do the trick; get the Dark One lower his guard enough for Synthia to slip past it. She tells Hank it’s the only hope she has and begs him to help her. “For you… anything!” Hank readily replies.
While they talk, the Dark One approaches the apartment… his face strangely variegated.
Synthia urges Hank to listen carefully to what she says. She warns him that an encounter between beings of their ilk is like nothing he’s ever experienced; it will be disorienting. She instructs him to stand by a wall – that she points to him – and close his eyes very tightly. He is not to open them until he hears Synthia address the Dark One. He must then look at the Dark One and concentrate only on him. If he allows his eyes to stray, vertigo will overcome him. If that happens, all is lost for both of them!
She asks Hank if he understands what she’s saying. Hank replies affirmatively but retorts that he’s weak. Synthia tells him not to worry about that for the moment. He must hold his attack until he hears her scream the word “Now!” “What about you?” Hank asks her. She assures him she will be with him, fighting alongside him. She shall always be by his side in her own fashion.
As they kiss, Hank can feel his strength returning from that kiss, like fire burning through his veins. He thinks it’s like sheer torture and wild abandon; it’s like love. He then stands by the wall, as instructed. Synthia looks at the door, waiting for the coming of the Dark One. Indeed, very quickly, the door is lit by a preternatural light. The Dark One enters the apartment, gleefully smiling. Synthia greets him.
In an instant, the apartment, reality, everything’s melting away to an interdimensional smorgasbord of ever-shifting actualities. Hank feels his stomach breaking into an insane tarantella, threatening to revolt. He mentally curses Synthia for not warning him it would be like this: she’s always playing games and keeping him in the dark! However, he somehow holds it together and remembers Synthia’s words: Look only at the Dark One!
Synthia stands her ground against the towering mass of destructive force: the Dark One has reverted to his true form, the multi-tendril nightmare. Hank can feel the light Synthia projects rip into the monster. However, he senses the futility of her move, as the monster overwhelms Synthia’s defenses. “Now!” Synthia signals him.
Hank leaps against the monster, just as a mad howl, filled with a lifetime of anger and frustration, erupts from within him. He thinks that death takes note of his presence… but it is only a fleeting glance, terminated by the world exploding around them. He has never before felt such naked power released in such a devastating display: Synthia transmogrifies into her true form, a sublime and towering crystalline being that now lashes out against the Dark One, taking advantage of the distraction offered by Hank. Within the heart of the fiery cataclysm, Hank can still see a glimpse of Synthia.
With the monster reduced to nothingness, Synthia holds Hank in her arms. “Is… is that you?” Hank mutters. “It is me,” Synthia tells him. Hank tells her she’s beautiful. “And so are you,” Synthia replies. She tells him that once again he saved her life and for that she will always be grateful; to prove that gratitude she bids him farewell and asks him to return to his life and prosper. Beast asks her to wait… not to go…
He suddenly finds himself, wearing his trenchcoat, lying in the alley where he first met Synthia. A little boy asks him if he got mugged or something. The boy informs him it’s Monday, the same day Hank took his little walk. After inquired by Hank about Synthia, he tells him that he doesn’t remember any blond woman or street gang and the expression in his eyes shows that he thinks of Hank as some kind of headcase. Hank doesn’t try stopping the boy when he makes an excuse about hearing his mother calling and runs away. The boy couldn’t answer the only question that needs answering. Was Synthia nothing more than a hallucination caused by a bad hotdog? Or did Hank really meet and fall for the most fantastic woman that’s ever existed?
Hank realizes there’s no chance he’ll ever be able to track down her apartment or trace her. He admits to himself that there’s no way to tell if any of what he experienced was real. He wonders: did he really live out an unbelievable encounter? Or will he forever ache from a phantom memory? He may go mad wondering.
Then he feels it, as he takes his glove off and touches his right hand. It’s just there under the fur. The gossamer trace of teeth marks on his hand.