An average American town where the average American family collectively watches eight hours of television a day; fifty-six hours a week; two thousand, nine hundred and twelve hours a year. In that context, one begins to understand the power of the medium!
This time, however, television seems to exercise an uncanny influence on the citizens of Rutland, all of them peculiarly riveted in front of their TV sets, thoroughly besotted, watching as “… It’s time for another thrilling adventure of Cable and Shatterstar!”
Unbeknownst to everyone, what they are watching is not a TV show with actors but a holovid that depicts the final battle against the madman known as Mojo, one hundred years in the future! Digitalized by Mojo and trapped inside this holovid of the future are Cable and Shatterstar, both fighting for their lives against Mojo’s army. Shatterstar informs Cable that this is the day he dies. “Not if I have anything to say about it, Shatterstar,” Cable retorts.
Shatterstar thinks that Nathan has misunderstood him. He reminds Cable that the two of them now stand on Shatterstar’s homeworld, one hundred years in the future! It’s a time of war. A time and place where the creature called Mojo rules all… and it is Shatterstar’s destiny to die this day!
Nathan reminds Shatterstar that he knows enough about time travel to know that nothing is certain. He knows that as far as destiny goes, only a person can choose the path s/he is on. Shatterstar, in response, argues that if the choice is his… he chooses to fight on! Saying this, he dives down on the scores of hostile, brutal beings that have menacingly surrounded Cable and himself and prepares to draw blood. While shooting some of his assailants, Nathan pities the poor kid, thinking that Mojo has Shatterstar’s head so turned around he doesn’t know which way is up.
Mojo’s voice, acting as the narrator of the “show,” is suddenly heard, enthusiastically informing the audience that it’s been like this for days or weeks or maybe for hours; neither man can know the truth: Cable, that war-torn man from millennia in the future is once again fighting side-by-side with Shatterstar, the prince of blades, in this entertainment-crazed dimension! “Tonight’s episode: Ask Me No More Questions And I’ll Tell You No More Lies!” And just remember – DON’T TOUCH THE DIAL!” Mojo orders the audience.
As the fight continues, Cable pleads Shatterstar to listen to him: they have to get out of here! He believes none of this is real; somehow, Mojo has recreated… Shatterstar interrupts him to remind him that he was and will always be a warrior born. Bred only for battle, he will see the tyrant Mojo fall!
Cable realizes he never thought about his similarities with Shatterstar before. Both of them, thrust out of the future to the present. Both of them, chosen at birth to stop a mad despot. Cable lost Aliya while Shatterstar lost his Windsong. Maybe together they can stop this before they’re out of time… and out of luck!
Slaying all adversaries in his vicinity, Shatterstar asks Cable – if, of course, Nathan survives this conflict – to tell everyone in X-Force that there is no way he can repay them for their friendship. He was proud to have fought alongside them!
Shatterstar suddenly sees Mojo nearby and rushes forward to confront the insane dictator of Mojoworld. “Nooo!” Cable screams – in vain. Mojo invites Shatterstar to come near him; the dance is nearly done. Brandishing his sword, Shatterstar attacks him… and Mojo, with a single strike, almost slays the brave warrior.
On Earth, in a television station outside Rutland, the true Mojo – his presence inside the holovid being merely a digitalized version of himself that he projected there – is watching what just happened in the holovid. Excited to see Shatterstar fall, Mojo exclaims it’s brilliant; colossal; stupendous! He then grabs the microphone and again serves as the narrator of the “Cable and Shatterstar show”: “Is this the end of our heroes? With Shatterstar doomed, what fate is in store for Cable? Stay tuned, true believers… and DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL!”
In the station, as in everywhere around Rutland, people have become entranced, irresistibly drawn to the “show,” doing nothing but watching Cable and Shatterstar’s adventures. The people in the station do not even notice Mojo moving around them. Mojo wonders why he didn’t do this long ago. A nation of couch potatoes, giving off enough ambient energy that slowly, seductively, he can draw off and beam it back to Mojoworld!
Meanwhile, in Mojoworld, the members of X-Force, who arrived in this dimension intent on rescuing Cable and Shatterstar, have just watched Shatterstar fall in action in the one and only television set found in Mojo’s empty palace. Mourning for his teammate’s apparent loss, Caliban exclaims that Shatterstar is dead. “No” Rictor, Shatterstar’s closest friend, refuses to believe. His teammates, however, are brooding, as are Longshot and Dazzler, the two former members of the X-Men who have long been fighting to overthrow Mojo’s tyranny.
Longshot admits that he’s afraid about Shatterstar. Even though Cable and Shatterstar are trapped inside Mojo’s digitalized state, what they have just witnessed in this television is no fantasy. “Madre de Dios!” Rictor exclaims in anger, slamming a wall with his bare fist. He retorts that he did not come back to this team to see his amigo die! He will find a way to get to Mojo and free Shatterstar even if he has to split this planet in half to do it!
“What a surprise, you’re only making this situation worse,” Domino tells him and urges him to calm down. She reminds Julio that, since Longshot comes from here, he certainly knows more about Mojo than they do and if anyone can get at him… “I wish,” Longshot remarks, his face visibly hardened. He fears that even his much-touted “luck” cannot help them now. Shatterstar is lost…
“You’re wrong,” a voice belies Longshot’s judgment. “You?!” Quark, one of the rebels allied with Longshot and Dazzler, exclaims in disgust, pointing his gun at the unexpected visitor… Spiral!
Spiral indeed appears before them and insists that Shatterstar can be saved, although they must act quickly. Meltdown, however, wonders whether Spiral thinks they just tuned in! They all know she’s worked for Mojo longer than her six arms combined. She advises Spiral to take her arms and get out before she blasts her!
“Child… perhaps I didn’t make myself clear,” Spiral cuts her short. She informs the team that, with every passing moment, Mojo siphons off energy from Earth, making him near unstoppable. Suffice to say, that is not where her interests lie. However, she warns Longshot that, the longer they wait, the digital images of Cable and Shatterstar will fade. She confesses she cannot do this alone and insists she needs both Longshot and Siryn to act as guides. Theresa instantly turns to Longshot and asks him if they can trust her. “It’s… as they say… a longshot at best” Longshot wittily replies.
Suddenly, Mojo’s minions, Magog and Gog’n’Magog storm inside the room. Magog instantly orders his son to kill the lot of them! “It’s a trap!” one of X-Force exclaims. Spiral insists that this is not of her making and tells Longshot and Siryn that they must go now if they want to get inside. “Inside?” Siryn wonders. Longshot grabs her hand and tells her to move! For whatever her reasons, Spiral is the only teleporter they have and if she’s going in, so should they!
Rictor retorts that if anyone should go, it should be himself! Theresa tells him to grab her hand, then, before it’s too… Before she even has a chance to finish her phrase, though, Theresa, is pulled inside Spiral’s teleportation whirlwind, together with Longshot. In a blinding flash of light and sound, the three of them are gone.
Always cocky, Tabitha sneers at Gog and Magog, warning them that if they want a fight, they’re going to learn the hard way that X-Force doesn’t go quietly! Magog retorts that she will also learn that Mojo’s army is more than his son and himself! Indeed, dozens of monstrous-looking warriors make their entrance, armed to the teeth.
Inside Mojo’s holovid, Cable urges the dying Shatterstar to hold steady, as he uses what he can of his telekinetic powers to keep them together until… “Spare yourself, Cable,” Shatterstar interrupts him. He reminds Cable that, as a warrior, he is glad to have died in battle. As a man, his only regret is not having learned the truth about his identity. The riddle of whether or not he was Benjamin Russell will now never be solved.
“Maybe not,” Spiral retorts, suddenly appearing before the two men, in the company of Longshot and Siryn.
Watching through monitors in the TV station of Rutland, Mojo is dumbfounded, at loss to understand what is happening here. He wonders: how did Spiral get on his show? He approves all rewrites; he approved all guest appearances! He decides he’ll break all her six arms and then he’ll break her neck! He’ll kill them all! He’ll… Suddenly, much to his chagrin, the signal is lost!
Seeing that the signal is lost, Caliban exclaims “Caliban did not break TV!” Releasing his solar bursts on several of Mojo’s warriors, Sunspot pleads Caliban to guard that box with his life; something tells Bobby that if Cable and the rest are to return, they’re going to need it! “And then what, Bobby?” Sunspot asks himself. He knows that he can blast away at Mojo’s troops with his solar energy all he wants but if Shatterstar has died, what are they going to do?
Nearby, his teammates are also dealing with Mojo’s army. Tabitha admits that having Rictor back on the team might not be such a drag after all. Rictor remarks that people change; no one should understand that better than her. Meanwhile, Caliban is frantically pounding the TV set, hoping to fix the image!
The Weisman Institute for the Criminally Insane – also located in Rutland, Vermont
It is here that Siryn and Shatterstar first learned about Shatterstar’s other identity: a boy named Benjamin Russell. This is another time. Another when.
Spiral teleports Cable, Shatterstar, Longshot, Siryn and herself right outside the Institute’s front gate. Nathan holds Shatterstar in his arms, the latter barely clinging to life. Siryn asks Cable how Shatterstar is. Ignoring Theresa, Cable tells Spiral that if she has some sort of plan, he’d like to hear it… now.
Suddenly realizing where Spiral has brought them, Theresa explodes, wondering why the devil she’s done this. Spiral explains that she did it because this is where the hero of their world will complete his cycle; here is where the life and death and life of Shatterstar begins anew. She then asks Siryn to take them quickly to the bedside of Benjamin Russell, considering she’s been to this place before.
Siryn protests to Cable that she doesn’t know if she can do what Spiral is asking. The time she spent here is foggy at best; they still don’t know what Gamesmaster did to her. Longshot intervenes and assures Theresa that if she leads them inside, with a little luck, they’ll find the boy. “If you say so, Longshot…” Theresa mutters.
As they all approach the entrance to the Institute, Dr. Weisman comes out and gives them an icy reception, telling them that this is a private institution and unless… Siryn, however, interrupts Dr. Weisman and addresses her by her name, wondering whether Weisman recognizes her. Cable, however, believes they have no time for this. Using his telepathy on Dr. Weisman, he imposes his will on her, making her utter, “There’s no need to detain you, go on ahead.” As they enter the Institute, Siryn expresses her hope that Cable never uses his telepathy on them like that. However, like he always taught them, if an opponent gives them an opening, they should seize it!
Soon, Theresa leads them outside a door, informing them the boy is in there. Even though the door is locked, Cable boasts that they haven’t made a lock yet that telekinesis can’t pop… which he does, in no time.
They all enter the room, where they discover a patient, identical in appearance to Shatterstar, lying comatose on a bed. Spiral begins recounting his life story: Benjamin Russell. When Benjamin’s mutant powers manifested themselves, he was hurled into a coma. Since that day, he has been kept alive only by artificial means. They boy has no family; no life to speak of – other than the role he was destined to play. Spiral then addresses Longshot, telling him that he knows what must be done.
Now taking Shatterstar’s body in his arms, Longshot informs Cable that among his people there is a way that they live on. He’s heard it called a “soul”… others call it a “life essence.” To Longshot’s people, it is simply “uemeur.” Nathan contemplates that what Longshot just told him is incredible; the Askani believe in a similar concept…
Longshot goes on to inform them that this is the greatest honor that one can bestow upon another. A gift, like no other – both in what Shatterstar gives and in what Benjamin Russell accepts. As he approaches Benjamin, Longshot now carries a bright glow in his hands – the dying Shatterstar’s life essence – which he bestows upon the comatose man.
Siryn, however, asks them: what do they know about the lad? She wonders who speaks for this Benjamin Russell. Cable has another thing to ask: how did Spiral know to come to this place? How did she know about this particular boy?
“Is it not enough that Shatterstar will live again to fulfill his destiny?” an emotionally charged Spiral retorts, tears streaming down her face. “Is it not enough to say that both young men mean more than all the world to me?”
Everyone present now stands silent as they bear witness to a moment of wonder: Shatterstar’s essence, his very soul, enters the body of Benjamin Russell. And then, just a moment later, Benjamin/Shatterstar rises from the bed. “I… live” Shatterstar says. For the first time in a long while… he feels whole. “Thank you” he utters.
“And now it’s time to say good bye to you and all your friends! Like forever!” Mojo suddenly roars, appearing before them as a digital projection. Longshot orders Spiral to get them out of here. In a whirling twister of energy, they are all teleported back to Mojoworld. Before they even land on the ground, however, Cable telepathically asks Caliban to break the transmission signal before Mojo can trace it back. Caliban complies and knowing just what to do, he destroys the TV set in Mojo’s palace!
Lost somewhere in the transmission between Earth and Mojoworld, Mojo becomes a victim of his own desires: as Caliban breaks the signal, Mojo begins dissolving. “Noooo! I told you not to touch that dial!” he screams just before he fades.
Domino wonders if Longshot’s luck held out, while Siryn assumes that Spiral can get them back to Earth again. Nearby, Rictor asks his best friend, Shatterstar, if he’s alright. “I think so, yes,” Shatterstar replies. He feels he now knows enough to move forward. His life is now forever tied to the past of a young man who gave him a chance to seek a path that he, alone, must choose. He is glad to have finally gotten to the floor of all this. “Bottom, amigo. To the “bottom” of this,” Rictor corrects him. “Whatever, Rictor,” Shatterstar replies and suggests they just go home.
And somewhere, the Gamesmaster watches… and laughs… and laughs… and laughs…