‘So, what were you feeling, James?’ a posh voice calls out to James “Warpath” Proudstar of X-Force. ‘What do you mean?’ Warpath replies as he appears to be sitting out in a desert, under a pyre where his brother’s body burns. ‘My brother was dead! I was watching his body burning in front of my eyes - I could practically see his spirit rising from the flames - what do you think I was feeling?’ James calls back. ‘I don’t know. I’d rather you tell me’ the posh voice replies. The voice suddenly takes form, as James looks behind him and sees the telepathic Emma Frost - ‘The cold, and calculating White Queen’ he remarks. ‘You’re the one taking a mental stroll through my memories!’ James points out.
In truth, Warpath and the White Queen are in one of the White Queen’s offices at the Massachusetts Academy, home of Generation X, her students. James tells Emma, whose hands are on his head, that she must have figured it out already. Emma replies that she has, and remarks that they are witnessing the moment the boy named James Proudstar became a man. Emma breaks telepathic contact and remarks that the road James chose - ‘The path of war, if I may be so trite’ was never really true to his spirit. ‘Was it, James?’
‘I was angry’ Warpath replies, remarking that he lost his brother before he ever really got the chance to know him. James stands up and reminds the White Queen that he blamed Charles Xavier for that, because he took John away, made him an X-Man and that got him killed. ‘I was wrong though’ James admits, reminding Emma that no one got john killed but John. Emma tells Warpath that he was also equally wrong to blame the Hellfire Club for the destruction of his reservation and its people.
Emma narrows her eyes and tells Warpath that he seems to have quite the penchant for doing that. ‘Doing what?’ James replies. ‘Blaming the wrong people for tragedies in your life?’ Emma replies, sipping some coffee. ‘Misplacing your emotional baggage’ Emma adds. ‘You should talk, lady!’ Warpath snaps back. Holding up a photograph of himself and his former teammates, the White Queen’s Hellions - himself, Tarot, Empath, Roulette, Catseye and Jetstream - four of whom are now deceased.
‘Look at you now. Trying all over again with a new group of kids’ James tells the White Queen. ‘Why?’ he asks, reminding Emma that the Hellions are dead - and Generation X can never be them. If the White Queen takes in what Warpath is saying she makes no comment, instead tells him that he didn’t come all the way to Massachusetts with his X-Force friends to talk about her. ‘So let’s talk about you then. And why you continue to live a life that brings you so little happiness…’.
At that moment, on the sprawling school grounds, the White Queen’s co-headmaster, Sean Cassidy, the former X-Man known as Banshee walks with his daughter, Theresa a.k.a. Siryn. Banshee smiles at his daughter and asks her to tell him about Warpath, remarking that he seems to care for her quite a bit. ‘He’s a good man, Dad’ Siryn replies as she gathers up some golden leaves that had fallen from the trees. ‘He helped me through some difficult you know’ Theresa reveals. Sean lights a pipe and asks Theresa if she means the drinking that she told him about.
Siryn tosses the leaves into the air and lets them fall around her as she confirms this, remarking that James was there for her before the drinking became a permanent problem. Siryn explains to her father that James made her see that she didn’t need to use liquor as a crutch against the things that haunted her. ‘It was like a light being turned on in my head - light’s on, problem’s gone!’. Banshee warns Siryn that she shouldn’t think the solutions to those kinds of things are ever so easy, but tells her that he is happy to see she had people to turn to.
Banshee then asks Siryn if she loves Warpath as much as he seems to love her. Siryn pauses and looks to the ground, folding her arms across her chest as she replies ‘I - I love him, of course - but like a friend - there’s nothing between us like that!’. ‘Oh?’ Banshee replies. ‘Oh, what?’ Siryn retorts as she kicks a large pile of leaves, sending the leaves flying all over the place. Sean tells Theresa that he doesn’t think James feels the same way, and remarks that it is difficult enough to be in the line of work they are in without feelings of unrequited love tossing about in their hearts.
Siryn turns to her father and yanks his pipe out of his mouth, ‘Well then, speaking of unrequited love - tell me how Moira MacTaggert feels - being an ocean away at Muir Island - while you’re working with Miss Emma “Do-you-think-my-garter-belt-looks-good-with-these-lace-stockings” Frost?’ she asks. ‘The truth?’ Banshee asks. ‘It was enough to make her scream!’ he exclaims, unleashing a low-level sonic scream, scattering leaves all over Theresa.
As Warpath looks out the window, watching Siryn and Banshee, the White Queen asks her former pupil why he continues to stay with X-Force. ‘They need me’ James replies quietly. ‘What for?’ Emma asks, pointing out that there is little his enhanced strength brings to X-Force that other’s can’t duplicate or surpass. ‘Of what of your espoused “caused” under Cable’s guidance?’ Emma adds. ‘”Do unto them before they do unto you” -?’ Emma declares that it is a childishly useless approach to life. ‘Well it sounded pretty good when we first started out’ Warpath replies, leaning on the fireplace mantelpiece.
(Inside Warpath’s mind / flashback illustrations)
‘Weren’t anger and revenge your stated motivations for joining them?’ Emma asks. ‘Do you remember how it felt, James - after you found the Camp Verde Apache Reservation decimated - and all of your people - your family and friends - dead?’. Emma asks as she goes inside James’ mind, to that very moment. ‘How empty that must have felt’ Emma remarks. ‘To have prepared them all for a traditional burial - only to hear the sirens off in the distance as the Police, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the paramedics show up’.
Emma reminds James how he dealt with the incessant questions, the probing and prodding, how even though they were just doing their job, their presence felt like such a violation. ‘That must have made you so angry’ Emma remarks, before reminding Warpath that the Police decided the massacre was the work of professionals - a clinical, methodical, military-style sanctioning of an entire town full of people. ‘How did that make you feel?’ she asks. ‘Angry’ Warpath replies quietly.
(Reality / Present)
‘FURIOUS!’ shouts Warpath, clutching one of the white masks worn by the Hellfire Club stooges. Standing face-to-face with the White Queen now, he remarks that he thought the Hellfire Club had slaughtered everyone he cared about because he decided to leave the Hellions. But the White Queen tells James that he was thinking no such thing, and he knows it too. Emma tells James that he knows, has always known, in his heart, that the Hellfire Club never had anything to do with the murder of his people, and smacks the mask out of Warpath’s grasp, where it lands at their feet.
The White Queen asks Warpath why she would have wanted vengeance on him for leaving them, and asks him who it was that encouraged him to go back home again. ‘You did’ James mumbles softly. ‘And do you remember why I did so?’ Emma asks as she kicks the Hellfire Club mask into the fireplace as Warpath replies that after the incident with Xavier, when he learned that he was wrong to blame the Professor for John’s death, Emma knew he wasn’t happy, that he had lost a sense of place and a reason for even being with the Hellions anymore.
Emma reminds James that he came to her so she could help him become like his brother, until he learned that was no longer what he wanted out of life. ‘So tell me then, James, why do you persist in following in John Proudstar’s footsteps?’, while the mask begins to burn in the fire place.
Elsewhere in the sprawling mansion, another fire place is stoked, as Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie of X-Force tells his younger sister Paige a.k.a. Generation X’s Husk, that she sure has a funny way of following in his lead. Sam exclaims that looking to Professor Xavier to help with their mutant powers is all well and good, as it worked for him, and that the Massachusetts Academy is as good as the Westchester Academy - ‘But really, Paige - the White Queen is your teacher!’ Sam exclaims, annoyed.
Hugging herself on a sofa, Paige replies that the White Queen is more like her principal, but Sam just asks her what kind of a role model the White Queen makes. ‘I mean, short of the fact she’s fought the X-Men more times than fingers I got to count - she also got her last group of students killed!’. Sam adds. Paige looks away from her brother, then covers her ears as he exclaims that their Mother asked him to check on her, to make sure that she is okay up “Yankeeland”, as their Mother referred to this place. ‘Never mind you’re in Red Sox territory, but I figured -’ Sam mumbles, when Paige interrupts, ‘You’d come up here and lecture me?’ she exclaims annoyed, before ‘You know how I love to hear from the Sam Guthrie book on How to be a Right Proper Mutant!’ she snaps.
‘Oh now I’m bleeding, you cut deep, girl’ Sam replies sarcastically, before telling his sister that he is not trying to tell her how she should - Paige interrupts again, getting to her feet she begins quoting her brother: “Live your life, Paige, but when I was with the New Mutants we would run off behind the Professor’s back there. Then we’d get Magneto to fold our laundry, and we’d zip on up to Asgard with Bird Brain squawking in our ears!” Sam frowns and tells Paige that she is his little sister and can at least pretend to respect him. Husk replies that she does respect Sam, but that sometimes she doesn’t understand him.
Suddenly, the door to the room bursts open, and loud-mouthed Tabitha “Boomer” Smith of X-Force makes her presence known, ‘Yessireee, goys and birls!’ she jokes. ‘Not since Bill Buckner let that baseball roll between his legs has Boston seen such a tragedy in the making! In this corner, weighing ninety-five - if she’s a pound - with golden locks we all know are born of nature’s finest chemicals, is Boomer, Queen of Consumption! Challenging her peroxide spending might is the hobbit from Hollywood, the pipsqueak from the Pacific - the Princess of Purchase herself - Jubilee!’.
Jubilation Lee bursts in front of Boomer, with her teammates M and Synch behind her she exclaims that this is a no holds barred, three-hour shopping spree at Fanueil Hall. Jubilee declares that, whoever spends the most of Cable’s or Irish’s (Banshee’s) money is the heavyweight champion Mall Rat of the world. ‘You cowpokes wanna see the American economy recover by dinnertime?’ she asks excitedly. Paige stares at her teammate, and Sam says nothing to his girlfriend. ‘GUESS NOT!’ Boomer and Jubilee exclaim in unison, their brightly colored sunglasses covering their eyes. ‘You know you’re wrong’ Sam and Paige both tell each other, before cracking up with laughter, and hugging. ‘Ain’t we a pair, huh?’ Sam remarks, to which Paige remarks that beings mutants is easy for them, but being family is hard.
Outside, Banshee and Siryn watch as Boomer and Jubilee rush past. ‘Have fun kids!’ Sean shouts, while remarking to Siryn that from the way the girls are moving, you would think they had gotten hold of Emma’s Platinum Cards. ‘Or someone’s’ Terry whispers.
The White Queen asks Warpath why it is that he thinks of them all as his family now. ‘Because Emma, they are - I guess’ James replies, causing Emma to ask him what it is that X-Force do that has anything to do with what he wants. ‘What do any of us want?’ James replies. ‘A place to feel comfortable? People who you like and like you back? A reason to get out of bed in the morning?’ he suggests as he picks up an ornament. The White Queen frowns as she replies that they are all logical desires, were James a normal young man, ‘But what nineteen year old with a choice would live underground with a group of outlaws - working for a man who believes that in order to prevent anarchy one must foment chaos?’ she asks.
‘Well, what am I supposed to do?’ James replies. ‘You tell me!’ he exclaims, smashing the ornament in his hand. Emma crouches down to pick up the pieces of her smashed statue, while James asks what his life - or the people who taught him, including Emma, ever done to prepare him for anything except what he is doing now. ‘James, stop your whining, please’ Emma replies, remarking that she is so tired of people blaming others for their misfortunes. ‘It’s so trendy’ she remarks, before asking James if he understands what she is saying.
The White Queen tells Warpath that what he is today is of course, a direct result of the influences he has experienced, and the hardships he endured as a child. ‘But what you will develop into as a young adult should be a conscious and direct choice on your part’ she adds. ‘I think I heard all this on Oprah last week’ James mumbles, to which Emma ignores, instead she looks at herself in a mirror and tells James that he survived. ‘Of all my original class of Hellions, only you and Manuel managed to do that!’. The White Queen asks James if he realizes how valuable the gift of life really is, and quietly admits that she never admitted it herself until just recently.
‘It infuriates me to see you doing so little with the opportunities available to you!’ Emma adds, before remarking ‘Which beggars the question…what is it that you want to be, James Proudstar?’. ‘I don’t know’ James replies, to which the White Queen asks him how he will ever learn what that is if he persists in perpetuating the same mistakes which have made him so unhappy to begin with. ‘I don’t know…’ he whispers again, looking rather forlorn. Glancing out the window, Emma declares that they have come back once again to what she asked of James earlier - ‘Give me one good reason why you’re staying with X-Force?’, as she looks down at Banshee and Siryn, still walking around outside.
Meanwhile, a world away, specifically at the main research facilities for the Verschlagen Biochemical Research organization in Neustrelitz, Germany, where an apparent incidence of industrial espionage turns ugly. ‘Halt!’ a group of mercenaries order a lone figure, dressed in black, running swiftly from them. The man being chased turns and fires his weapon, but the mercenaries return the action three-fold, and the man quickly falls to the ground. ‘Gestorben?’ one of the mercenaries asks. ‘Ja’ another replies, when suddenly a woman with a trio of guard dogs arrives, ‘Show me his face!’ she exclaims in her native German.
One of the mercenaries removes the man’s mask and gasps, quickly telling Frau Verschlagen that they didn’t know it was him. ‘He turned to fire upon us - we merely defended ourselves!’ he exclaims. ‘Do not overly concern yourself with this incident, Herr Frocht, I know your men were only doing their jobs’ Frau Verschlagen replies, holding up her husband’s mask, she exclaims that what worries her is not that they killed her husband, but that he obviously suspected that their son, Asahi, was being kept here. Frau Verschlagen declares that it therefore stands to reason that her husband’s employers suspect as well - which means they had best prepare for a little visit from the Japanese Clan Yashida!.
Back in Massachusetts, Warpath asks Emma what kind of question that is. ‘A valid one, I think, in light of everything we’ve discussed today’ Emma replies. Warpath quotes the White Queen: “Why do I stay with X-Force?”, ‘Because they’re my friends, that’s why!’ he announces, before declaring that X-Force are willing to fight for something important, something he believes in. ‘And that is?’ Emma asks. ‘Peace!’ exclaims Warpath. ‘Ah, I see. Anything else?’ the White Queen asks. ‘Well…Theresa Cassidy. She needs me’ James explains. ‘Does she really? Emma asks.
James replies that Siryn does, that she has had a hard life and needed a shoulder to cry on - someone she can depend on, and he has been there for her. He reveals to the White Queen that Siryn had a bit of a problem that he helped her out with. James tells Emma that he and Theresa went to Ireland together, and just last week she had a situation with her uncle and Deadpool, which they talked about. ‘She still needs me. I’m not about to let her down’. ‘I’m certain you won’t’ Emma replies, narrowing her eyes.
Changing the subject, the White Queen asks Warpath what his feelings were when he watched his brother’s body burning in front of his eyes. ‘What were you really feeling as you found your family dead?’. James doesn’t respond, so Emma asks ‘Do you know what I think?’. Staring away from his former leader, Warpath replies ‘No…but I’m sure you’re going to tell me’. Emma announces that she thinks Warpath is afraid to confront what he really felt, because if he does, it might finally force him to sever the ties he refuses to let go of - ties which bind him to a past which has nothing to do with what is really inside him.
Warpath remains silent and still does not look at the White Queen, who adds ‘Which keep you from becoming what you might otherwise want to. ‘Yeah, football hero, married, the house with a white picket fence and two kids’ James mumbles. ‘Right’. he adds, before asking Emma if she knows so much, then to tell him how she felt when she first found out that the Hellions had been killed. Emma touches the photo of her favorite students and reveals that she was mad at them - for not being better. ‘For having been undone by the very forces they were trained to fight against!’ she exclaims.
‘Bull! You know what I think Emma - I think this is a joke!’ James exclaims, standing in the doorway of the office, ready to leave. ‘Surrounding yourself with a bunch of kids all over again - like you’ll make a difference this time! You’re just using them - like maybe if they’re here, you’ll forget that deep down inside, you know you’re a failure - and that your failure resulted in the deaths of six people!’. Emma scowls, then turns her head away from James as he says those words, before Warpath suddenly slams the door hard, causing the vibration to knock pictures from the wall and ornaments from their places, as well as Emma’s photo of her Hellions, which comes crashing down at her feet. ‘Afraid. You were terrified, James’ she whispers.
In moments, Warpath emerges outside, the wind still blowing, he approaches Siryn and Banshee. Theresa smiles and waves at Warpath, asking him how things went with the White Queen. ‘As well as can be expected, I guess’ James replies, revealing that he is back to square one regarding who really did destroy Camp Verde tow years ago, but at least he now knows that it wasn’t the Hellfire Club. Banshee asks James what he was up there chatting with the White Queen about all afternoon, to which James turns and looks at the office where Emma is standing in the window, watching him. ‘Nothing much’ James whispers.
The White Queen proceeds to telepathically contact James, ‘Scared to death. Scared of life’ she remarks, telling James that he is still terrified, knowing that it could have been him. Emma ‘Every day spent fighting this ugly way could be your last. And you get by convinced that you’re just a heartbeat away from love and life’. The White Queen tells Warpath that the sad reality he refuses to admit, is that he is much closer to being a simple heartbeat away from misery and death.
‘All that time and “nothing much” is the answer?’ Siryn asks her friend. ‘She ignored everything I had to say’ Warpath replies, to which Banshee smirks. ‘Great timing!’ Cannonball exclaims as he and Husk approach the trio. Husk announces that they are going into the city to catch up with the others, and asks them if they want to join them and make a party out of it. ‘Yeah Paige…a party sounds like a great idea’ James replies, glancing at Emma’s office, only to see that she is no longer standing in the window watching him. Siryn asks Warpath what it is they are celebrating, to which James replies ‘How about to - tomorrow?’ he suggests. ‘That’ll do for starters’ Siryn replies.