In a desolate section of the West Texas Basin. The ground rumbles as a man-made storm roars across its cracked earth. The word has been passed through underground channels. A gathering will take place in Burning River Canyon. A celebration that will not be classified, quantified or commercialized. A millennial rave that will attract only those intrepid enough to brave a hostile and unforgiving climate. A convocation that will bring together the fringes of late twentieth century culture in raucous celebration. A festival that will unite a motley collection of freaks and geeks, deadheads and gear heads, techno-pagans and tattooed prodigies - and, oh yes, five individuals whose unique DNA has given them super-human abilities…the members of the mutant strike force called…X-Force!
The massive convoy of vehicles comes to an abrupt halt at the Burning River Canyon, and the mass of unique individuals begins to go about setting up for the festival. X-Force’s convertible stops, and Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith stands on the car, looking around, she exclaims ‘This is even better than I imagined. We are going to have such a good time!’ James “Warpath” Proudstar remarks that he has never seen anything like this before. Theresa “Siryn” Rourke looks sceptical, and mutters that spending a weekend in the desert with a bunch of lunatics is not her idea of a good time. Roberto “Sunspot” DaCosta tells Siryn to chill out. ‘Don’t you think we deserve to cut loose and have a little fun?’ he asks, while Danielle Moonstar, affectionately called Dani, tells her friends that she is getting a really weird vibe.
Walking amongst the mass of gathered people, Warpath asks ‘Weird vibe, Dani? I can’t imagine why. We’re only surrounded by enough crazy people to fill a small town!’ Sunspot declares that is the fun of it, everyone here is free to express themselves however they choose. ‘No one’s constrained by society’s convention’. Siryn remarks that they usually have to hide the fact that they are mutants, but here, she doubts anyone would care. ‘Some of these people are pierced in places that I dinnae want to think about!’ Theresa adds as she looks around at the strange grouping of people.
Meltdown smiles and points at a large structure up ahead: ‘Look, everybody, there it is! The exploding Colossal Man himself!’ Meltdown explains that, every year, a team of artists and craftsmen build the colossus out of wood and metal and neon, and that once he is raised, it signals the festival’s official start, and then at the end of the third night, the colossus is blown to smithereens in a pyrotechnic extravaganza that lights up the desert. ‘At least that’s what I read in Gumbo 3000’ Tabby adds. Typical. Boys always will make any excuse to blow something up’ Siryn mutters, to which Meltdown exclaims ‘Says who? Girls like explosions just as much as boys. I should know!’
Warpath declares that after his experience with Martynec and Stryfe, he has had his fill of death and destruction - even the symbolic kind, before telling his friends that he is going back to the car to set up the tents before it gets dark. Siryn tells James that she will help him, as all the psychotic revelry is giving her a headache. ‘Guess that makes the three of us. Too bad Richie’s not here’ Tabitha remarks as she puts her arms around Bobby and Dani, and refers to their new friend. Moonstar informs her friends that when she called him to let them know where they ended up after leaving Missouri, Richie said that he didn’t need their protection anymore and then hung up on her.
Sunspot tells the girls to forget about Richie Alegria, ‘He was only using us because he needed to keep those mob guys off his back’ Bobby adds, when, suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘Bobby? Tabitha? Dani? Who let you guys out of school without a pass?’ The trio turn to the direction of the voice: ‘It can’t be…’ Bobby whispers. ‘Well, what do you know?’ Meltdown remarks. ‘What happened to you?’ Dani asks as their fellow former New Mutant, Xi’an “Shan” Coy Manh a.k.a. Karma - appearing as she never has before! With short pink hair and wearing a tight purple tank top and low-cut jeans, Xi’an exclaims ‘Okay, so I cut and dyed my hair. Don’t look so alarmed!’ before asking if that is any way to greet their former teammate. ‘It hasn’t been that long since our little New Mutants reunion’ Karma adds.
After leaving Vietnam as a child, Xi’an Coy Manh came to the United States, where she became one of the original New Mutants. Family matters compelled her to leave the New Mutants before the group disbanded and became X-Force. Moonstar and Sunspot embrace their fellow founding New Mutant, while Dani tells Xi’an that she is so much braver than she. ‘I’d be too frightened to do anything that radical to my hair’. Karma replies that she needed change, and reveals that she found a doctor who thinks he can undo the damage Spiral inflicted upon her brother and sister. ‘While they’re undergoing treatment, he convinced me to try to reclaim my own life’ Karma explains.
Bobby asks Shan how she ended up here, to which Shan motions to two girls standing nearby. ‘My girlfriends Simone and Jessikah are documentary filmmakers. They dragged me along with them’ she explains, motioning to the two girls who are in an embrace. ‘Hi’ one of them exclaims. ‘I’m getting all this on video for my graduate project’ the other remarks. Karma asks Bobby what is up with him, ‘I thought your scene was more uptown’ she remarks. ‘Not anymore, Shan. Somebody’s frozen me out of my inheritance. I’m sooo broke!’ Bobby replies, suggesting they don’t talk about that. ‘I’m here to party!’ he exclaims. ‘I second that motion!’ Meltdown declares, leaping into the air.
Nearby, a group calling themselves the Sisters of the New Earth are conducting a cleansing ritual using soil and stone. ‘Oh, Gaia, Earth Mother, we ask your blessing for this gathering - and offer ourselves in humble supplication to your nurturing being’ one girl sitting in a rock formation exclaims, while others are gathered around the outside of the formation. Suddenly, a woman clad in black and wearing a long flowing cape appears beside the circle. ‘A circle of protection? How quaint’ she remarks. The blonde woman in the middle of the circle explains that the canyon is a place of great power, and with the assembly of all these beautiful, wild, artistic souls, there is a great deal of chaotic spiritual energy that needs to be grounded.
The young woman smiles and holding up a stone, asks the newcomer if she would like to place a stone and channel some positive energy into the circle. ‘What’s happening?’ the young woman wonders as the stone suddenly floats up out of her hand, and more stones begin floating up out of the circle. ‘A parlor trick to someone who has lived as long as I have’ the strange woman declares. ‘Who are you?’ the young woman in the circle asks. ‘A true witch, girl. One who has watched the rise and fall of empires. You see you and your “coven” are right about one thing. This canyon will soon be the focal point for a powerful eldritch energy - from which none of your new age pseudo-magic can protect you!’….
At the festival campsite, Warpath and Siryn are almost finished with the tent, as Theresa tells James that she hates this place. ‘It’s as if the whole world’s gone stark raving insane!’ she exclaims. ‘Uh-huh’ James replies as he bangs in another tent peg. As some people dance past, Siryn exclaims that she knows everybody thinks she is being uptight, ‘But is it too much to ask for a little restraint? Siryn realizes that the people who dance past them are naked, and exclaims ‘Oh me God! Did you see that?’ she asks. ‘Uh-huh’ James replies. ‘Jimmy, those people weren’t wearing a stitch of clothing!’ Siryn exclaims. ‘Uh-huh’ James replies as he continues to put the tent pegs in.
‘Oh, you’re not even listening, y’big lug!’ Theresa exclaims, standing up. ‘Did you say something?’ James asks, looking up from the tent pegs. ‘You’re a million miles away’ Siryn remarks. Warpath gets to his feet and apologizes to Siryn, remarking that he keeps thinking about Martynec and Stryfe. Warpath reminds Siryn that for the past few years, all he really wanted was to find out who killed his family. ‘And now that I know, I don’t feel the way I imagined I would. I don’t feel happy or vindicated’ he explains, turning away. Siryn hangs her head as James reveals that he feels empty.
Siryn gets to her feet and puts a hand on James’s shoulder, reminding him that he has been through a lot in the past week. ‘Ye nearly died’ she adds. ‘I did die!’ James tells Theresa, adding that if it wasn’t for her administering CPR, he would not be alive right now. ‘Stryfe, the monster who had ordered the massacre of my reservation, commandeered my soul the moment I flat lined’ James recalls. His mind flashes back to the recent events, and James declares that if DanI’s Valkyrie sister hadn’t brought the rest of X-Force to the infernal dimension where Stryfe was holding him captive, Stryfe would have used him as a ticket out of Hell.
(Flashback, takes place between X-Force (1st series) #74 and #75)
‘You did the right thing by calling me, James. Now get out of here. Leave the clean up to me’ the White Queen tells Warpath as they stand over the body of Edwin Martynec.
James declares that he should be happy that Stryfe is going to spend the rest of eternity in the torment that he deserves, and should be satisfied that Emma Frost promised to make sure that Edwin Martynec and the rest of the murderers who took part in the Camp Verde massacre will pay for their crimes. James tells Theresa that he called himself Warpath because he was angry at the world for taking everyone he loved away from him. ‘I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to define myself by rage’. ‘Then the question is, who do ye wanna be?’ Siryn asks. ‘I wish I knew’ James replies.
Siryn tells James that they have been friends for a couple of years now, and remarks that she knows him better than most people. ‘Believe me when I say, there’s always more to ye than a vengeance-driven warrior’. Theresa tells James that he will figure things out, but not to make himself crazy in the meantime. ‘I think you have more faith in me than I do, Terry’ James replies, before taking his leave, announcing that he is going to take a walk. ‘Are you gonna be okay, Jimmy?’ ‘I’m working on it’ James calls back. Siryn leans on the bonnet of the car, puts her arms behind her head and thinks to herself that she wishes she could help James, but knows he has some things to deal with on his own.
Theresa hopes that James knows she will always be there for him, and admits to herself that almost losing James made her realize how much he means to her. Suddenly, someone touches the car and exclaims ‘Whoooee! A fifty-nine Eldorado! Now, while ah’m sure it lacks the hi-tech conveniences of the PACRAT, ah bet it’s still one sweet ride…’. Siryn spins around and smiles: ‘I’d know that drawl anywhere!’ she exclaims, ‘What’re ye doing here, boyo?’ she asks. ‘Don’t tell me the prodigal’s finally returned?’. The new arrival replies that he doesn’t know, but that it is plain to see nothing ever works out the way we expected!’
Elsewhere, a man is wearing jeans a jacket with the collar pulled up. ‘You appear troubled, my friend’ a woman remarks as he passes where she is sitting on a pile of pillows. ‘Come, sit. I’ll read your fortune. My name’s Clarissa’ the woman offers. ‘Nathan’ the mysterious man replies, before telling the woman ‘No thank you’ as he did not come here to have his fortune read. ‘Aren’t you even the least bit curious about the future, Nathan?’ Clarissa asks. ‘I’ve seen the future, Clarissa. That’s why I’m here. It is time I check up on tomorrow’s best hope’ Nathan remarks, walking away. ‘Huh?’ Clarissa mumbles, confused.
Nearby, Dani, Bobby, Tabby and Shan are making their way through a massive crowd. Shan remarks that she is the last person to accuse anyone of being too serious, before asking Dani what the matter is. ’Aren’t you having a good time?’. Moonstar replies that she doesn’t know. ‘There’s something in the air - like the calm before the storm’ she remarks, adding that she cannot shake the feeling that someone is watching her. ‘You’re paranoid, Dani. Nobody’s paying attention to us’ Sunspot declares. ‘Yeah, by comparison to everyone else in this freaky crowd, we’re practically young Republicans’ Meltdown jokes.
Suddenly, Tabby sees a human gyroscope and exclaims that it looks like a blast, dragging Sunspot towards it. ‘Um, Tab, this may not be the best idea right now -’ Bobby begins to reply, but Meltdown tells him not to be a ‘fraidy cat. ‘Get that cute Brazilian butt of your in line!’ Karma quietly asks Moonstar what the deal is with Bobby and Tabitha: ‘When did they become a couple?’ Dani asks Shan why she says that, to which Shan replies ‘Look at them. They haven’t been more than an arm’s length away from each other all day’. Inside the human gyroscope, Sunspot shouts ‘TABITHAAAA…’ as he tries not to vomit, spinning around and around in the contraption. ‘Oh, give me a break, Bobby. You’ve been spun around worse than this in the Danger Room!’ Meltdown replies.
‘Si. But I never wolfed down a tofu burrito before a Danger Room session, either!’ Bobby exclaims, while Moonstar explains to Karma that they have been travelling in pretty close quarters over the last few weeks. ‘If something’s going on between those two, it’d be hard to keep it a secret. Not to mention the fact that she and Sam are technically still together’ Moonstar adds, to which Karma suggests that since Sam joined the X-Men that relationship has been on hold. ‘Trust me, long distance relationships never last’.
Karma and Moonstar walk towards a tent, and Shan asks Dani if she ever had a thing for Sam. ‘You two were constantly competing - always trying to one-up the other’ Shan reminds Dani, adding that that kind of tension can lead to things. ‘On television, yes. In my life, no. Sam’s cute, but not my type’ Dani replies, before asking Shan ‘What about you?’. ‘Oh, definitely not my type’ Xi’an replies, before Dani points out Karma’s friends in the tent, and announces that she is going to get a drink. ‘What’s a “smart” drink?’ Moonstar wonders as she sees a sign.
‘What’s up, ladies?’ Karma asks her friends as she walks over to them. Simone replies that she and Jess are going to the robot demolition derby. ‘Gotta capture all that metal-crunching mayhem on tape’ Jessikah replies. Karma tells her friends that she will hook up with them later, explaining that she and Dani have a lot of catching up to do. Moonstar hands Shan one of the “smart drinks” and asks Shan quietly if her friends know she is a mutant. Xi’an replies that Simone knows and Jessikah suspects, adding that she will probably tell her soon.
‘And tell me, mademoiselle, are you officially part of X-Force now?’ Karma asks. Dani rolls her eyes and replies ‘There’s that question again. I’ll let you know when I figure it out’. The two old friends exit the tent and Dani remarks that it seems like forever since she has been able to “dish” with a girlfriend. Karma tells Dani that when she gets back to New York she should call her, as she is sharing a loft in the Village. As Danielle and Xi’an make their way back into the crowd of people, they do not see the mysterious woman in black nearby, who exclaims ‘Ah, Dani Moonstar…fate has brought you here to me, little girl’.
Elsewhere, Bobby and Tabitha are part of a large crowd who has gathered around two performers, one of whom announces that, for their next death-defying stunt, they will juggle the flaming torches, while reciting poignant selections from Suzanne Somers’ classic poetry collection “Touch Me”. ‘If this crowd likes two guys juggling giant match sticks, they’d love the show I could give them!’ Meltdown winks, to which Bobby grabs her by the arm and exclaims ‘You can’t be serious, Tab. You can’t use your powers in public! That’s crazy!’. ‘When did you turn into Theresa, Bobby?’ Tabitha asks. ‘Aren’t you tired of hiding who you are, day out and day in? I am’ Meltdown exclaims, adding that this is one big, wacky freak show. ‘This is the perfect place to go public!’
Suddenly, Meltdown shouts ‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and cats - tonight, for one night only, witness the amazing pyrotechnic wizardry of Tabitha!’ People turn and watch as Meltdown’s body generates plasma time-bombs - charged spheres of bio-electricity that explode on her command. ‘And now, for my big finale!’ Meltdown exclaims as she creates a massive explosion overhead. ‘If you enjoyed my performance, wait until you see what my partner can do!’ Everyone turns to Sunspot, who looks horror-stricken as Meltdown exclaims ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the fabulous Roberto!’ ‘The fabulous Roberto?’ Bobby mumbles.
‘I’m going to get you for this, girl. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But one day’ Sunspot snarls at Meltdown, arms folded across his chest, while Tabby covers his laugh and points at him, while the crowd of people wait in anticipation. ‘C’mon, dude, show us what you’ve got!’ someone calls out. ‘Put up or shut up, amigo!’ someone else yells. ‘This isn’t going to be one of those Jim Rose circus acts, is it?’ another person calls out. ‘All right, you asked for it!’ Sunspot declares, asking for everyone’s attention, he declares that deep in the heart of the Amazon he met an Indian shaman who knew the secret language of fire. ‘And before he died, he taught me how to master the living flame’ Sunspot remarks.
When Roberto was fifteen, his body became a solar battery, charged with the heat from the sun. ‘Behold!’ Bobby exclaims as blue flame suddenly bursts form his hands. ‘We can’t compete with that, Mery’ one of the jugglers exclaims, while the other asks Sunspot how he did that. ‘You’re with Industrial Light and Magic, right?’. Meltdown and Sunspot revel in the applause, while Tabitha replies ‘If we told you, we’d have to kill you’, and Bobby declares that they cannot reveal their tricks of the trade. ‘What a charge. Maybe we’re in the wrong business’ Sunspot remarks as he and Meltdown make their way through the crowds of people. Meltdown tells Sunspot not to let the applause go to his head, ‘Even though we were fabulous together!’
Nearby two people dressed up in costumes fit in well amongst the myriad of partygoers. However, they are paying particular attention to Bobby and Tabitha: ‘Look at them using their mutant powers openly’ one of them remarks. ‘They believe they’re safe in this crowd. They don’t realize I can get to them any time I chose’ the male remarks, narrowing his eyes. ‘Do you want to wipe Sunspot out now?’ the female asks. ‘In time, my space warping angel. I want DaCosta to suffer as I have’ the male replies. ‘I want to watch his entire life collapse around him’. He boasts that he has already taken his fortune from him, and next, he will pick off every one of his friends. ‘Then, and only then, will Roberto DaCosta and I have our day of reckoning!’. The man addresses his female companion as Locus and tells her that they have spent enough time here. ‘Let us depart’ he exclaims, to which Locus - the powerful mutant formerly of the Mutant Liberation Front - suddenly rips open Space-Time. ‘You got it, honey. One trans-spatial portal coming up. And I I haven’t told you…I’m so happy to have you back!’ Locus exclaims as they vanish.
Elsewhere amongst the festivities, Warpath sits amongst a group of people banging against various drums. Dani approaches James and asks him if she is bothering him. ‘No. I heard you coming about twenty yards away’ James replies, adding that most people’s footsteps are loud, but hers are like a whisper. ‘Guess that’s one of the benefits of your heightened senses. No one can sneak up on you’ Danielle replies. James asks where everyone else is, to which Moonstar replies Theresa is at the campsite still and Karma is with her filmmaking pals, while Bobby and Tab are probably somewhere getting into trouble. Still in his trance-like state, James tells Danielle that he is sorry if he seems distant, and assures her it is not personal.
Moonstar tells James that the two of them don’t know each other very well, but that if he wants to talk about what happened when he died, then she is here for him. ‘I know a little bit about the afterlife’ Dani adds. ‘I was a Valkyrie, remember. Chooser of the slain. Angel of Valhalla. All that jazz’. James reveals that it is living that worries him. ‘Every day my memories of my family seem to fade a little bit more. What if one day I can’t remember the sound of my father’s laugh or the smell of my mother’s flat bread?’. Danielle remarks that, a long time ago she learned she could create illusions drawn from other people’s psyches, and explains that she has always used it offensively, turning her opponents’ deepest fears against them. ‘But I can also use my gift to find and project the memories you think you’ve lost’ Dani explains, ‘If you’re okay with that’ she adds.
Warpath drops his trance-like state and turns to Dani, telling her that he is, and asks her to go ahead. ‘Everything you’ve ever experienced lies deep within your mind. Only time obscures the details’ Dani remarks, telling James to close his eyes and think of something positive from his childhood. James replies that he had a cat named Coyote. ‘I loved that mischievous old tom’ James remarks. Though she hasn’t the telepathic power of Charles Xavier or the control of Jean Grey, Dani’s empathic sensitivity allows her to navigate through the complex layers of her team-mate’s thoughts and emotions: ‘Open your eyes, James’ Dani exclaims.
(Inside Warpath’s mind)
‘This is incredible, Dani!’ James exclaims, as he finds his cat, Coyote, in his lap. He stands up and Coyote hangs around his feet, while James stands before a homestead, and a voice exclaims ‘You’re home, son!’. James sees his mother, father and grandfather on the porch, and remarks to himself that he was worried this would feel as hollow as Stryfe’s demon servants’ deception, but this actually feels real. Suddenly a voice exclaims ‘Did you really think you could forget us, runt?’. James spins around and gasps ‘John?’. Indeed, standing before him is his older brother, John “Thunderbird” Proudstar. ‘We’re your family, little brother. We’re bonded by blood and sprit’.
John remarks that in his life he let rage blind him to the things that were important - friendship and family. ’Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t live your life as if you were at war’ he tells James. ’”Warpath”. What kind of a name is that for such a compassionate soul?’ James’s mother asks. ’Though life if often difficult, remember that we walk with you every day, James. Flesh is ephemeral. Your spirit is eternal’ she adds. ‘Right on, Mom’ John agrees. James and his mother clasp hands as he tells her that he misses her so much. ‘I wish you were still alive’ he adds.
James’s mother tells him that they will be together again, but until that time, he must follow his heart. ‘I - I love you all’ James calls out to his family. ’We know, runt…we know…’ John replies as Warpath’s family fades from view.
‘They were there, as real as I could hope to remember’ James tells Moonstar, before thanking her, remarking that he has been so obsessed by the way his family died that he forgot the way they lived was so much more important. Suddenly, James notices the ground starting to shake, and asks Dani if this is one of her illusions. ‘No! This is all too real!’ Danielle replies as she is knocked over, asking James if he remembers the uneasy feeling she had earlier. ‘Now it’s a full-on alarm!’ ‘We’d better -’ James begins, before the sand suddenly rises in the form a large hand out of the ground and smacks him square in the face, knocking him out.
Moonstar realizes that she has seen this kind of elemental magic at work before, and knows there is only one woman capable of bending the earth to her will. ‘Selene!’ Moonstar exclaims as indeed, the mysterious woman who had been lurking around reveals herself. ‘It’s been a long time since our paths crossed, Dani Moonstar’ the Black Queen exclaims, adding ‘I’m flattered you remember me’. Moonstar declares that she remembers how Selene tried to turn her friends Wolfsbane and Magma into slaves, and warns Selene that if she thinks she can play her like that, then she is mistaken.
With a thought, Dani Moonstar creates a bow of pure psionic energy - however, before she can create an arrow of the same potent ethereal, Selene’s geomantic magic engulfs her in a liquid earth - ‘What the -?’ Dani gasps as the sand rises around her, quickly hardening into an unbreakable shell of marbleized rock.
Less than a mile away, Dani’s plight goes unnoticed by her friends Sunspot and Meltdown, who are caught up in the rhythmic undertow of sound created by four synchronized (and bottom heavy) car stereos. ‘I haven’t let go like this since Carnivale in Sao Paolo’ Bobby remarks, to which Meltdown replies ‘Shake it, don’t break it, Bobby!’. The music pushes them together, awakening an attraction and stripping them of inhibition. ‘Tabitha!’ Sunspot exclaims. ‘Bobby…’ Meltdown replies. A desire is ignited - and they move closer still, pressing their lips together…’EEEEWWWW!’ someone in the crowd exclaims, before Bobby and Tabitha pull away from each other. ’Wow…what did we just do?’ Bobby asks. ’Um…I’m not sure but - we don’t we try it again?’ Tabitha replies. ’I’ll second that motion’ Bobby remarks as they begin to kiss once more.
While hearts beat faster in one corner of the festival, Moonstar’s heart grows cold with fear elsewhere. She is trapped in a formfitting prison of earth and stone, she can barely move her mouth to speak: ‘Selene, why are you doing this?’ Dani manages to ask. ‘Can’t you feel it, girl? The nine realms are moving into alignment!’ Selene replies. The Black Queen explains that, for one glorious moment each millennium, the mystical energies of this dimension conjoin with eight others, and the person who can harness those other-dimensional currents will gain power that has not been seen in a thousand years. Holding out a box, Selene declares that to channel such power requires the talisman contained in the box, a runestaff carved from a root of Yggdrasil, the world tree that connects each of the nine realms.
Selene declares that obtaining the box took centuries, and opening it requires more work still. ’You see, Eitri the Dwarf forged this puzzle box in such a way that it cannot be opened - unless touched by the blood of an Asgardian!’. Moonstar sarcastically replies that she doesn’t think Thor is going to voluntarily contribute to Selene’s blood bank, to which Selene puts her fingers to Dani’s frozen face, remarking that she hardly needs the Thunder God when Moonstar is available. ‘You were consecrated as a sister of the Valkyror. Your blood will serve as well as any born to the Golden Realm’. ‘No…’ Danielle whispers, but it’s too late as Selene grins when she sticks the tip of a dagger into Dani’s head, drawing blood.
This single drop of Danielle Moonstar’s blood causes the box’s latches to spring open. ‘At last…the runestaff is mine!’ Selene exclaims as the runestaff appears. ‘Already, the staff draws the initial surge of energy as the nine realms move into alignment!’ Selene exclaims excitedly, energy crackling all around her. Selene declares that once the convergence is complete, a torrent of mystical energy will charge this wand with world-destroying power. Moonstar thinks to herself that she cannot let this happen, and tells herself to flex hard enough so that she might be able to get her hand free - and her plan works, as her hand breaks free of the frozen sand. Moonstar tells herself that she must wake up James with a bolt of psionic energy. ‘Sorry I have to do it this way, James…but without a bow to focus my thoughts, I’m aiming blind’ Dani thinks to herself as she unleashes the blast on James, which charges through his body, waking him up.
Selene hovers in the air with the runestaff overhead, purple energy flowing around, she declares that when the moment of convergence occurs, the runestaff will drink in the unleashed energies and she will have power that will make her unto a god! Warpath reminds himself that his last encounter with Selene left him dazed and confused from her sorcery, as his strength is useless against her magic. James tells himself that Selene may not be immune to a telepathic attack, and uses his strength to free Dani from the frozen sand she is encased in, before Selene notices.
‘Nice move, James. Now that my hands are free, I can make this shot count!’ Moonstar exclaims as she unleashes a psionic arrow at Selene, her aim is true, and the bolt of psionic energy causes Selene to lose her grip on the ancient talisman. ‘The runestaff - NO!’ Selene screams, before Warpath catches it. But just as James touches it, the once-in-a-millennium convergence of mystical forces begins. Like a lightning rod, the World-Tree wood of the staff draws the other-dimensional energy into it. For all James Proudstar’s impressive strength, the arcane energies are too much for one human to bear. And though he tries valiantly to keep his grip on the staff, the vortex of primal forces rips the staff from his grasp.
The staff flies through the supernatural turbulence - only to lodge in the “heart” of the scrap metal colossus that watches over this desert gathering. As the mystic storm reaches a thundering crescendo, the neon and metal construct begins to shudder, and spark a life of its own….
While unfathomable forces rumble in the distance, two teens are still reeling from their own unexpected convergence. ‘I was way out of line, Tab. I shouldn’t have kissed you. I mean…we’re friends…’ Sunspot exclaims, but Meltdown tells him not to apologize, telling him that they didn’t do anything to be sorry about. Bobby asks Tabby what they do now - ‘Do we forget about it? Pretend it never happened? Start dating?’. Meltdown tells him to slow down, and asks why they need to decide anything right now. ‘Lets take things slowly’ she suggests, before seeing a body piercing tent and suggests they get pierced. ‘If that doesn’t take our minds off this, I don’t know what will’ Meltdown adds.
‘Of course, this will hurt. But only for a moment. Trust me’ the piercing “technician” exclaims as he puts some gloves on, while Tabitha lies on the chair, clutching Bobby with one hand, she suddenly screams. ‘I haven’t started’ the “technician” remarks as he stands over her with his instruments ready to pierce her bellybutton. Meltdown replies that she knows, and she was kidding. ‘Then could you stop crushing my hand?’ Bobby asks, when, suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘Geez, Tabitha! What in tarnation d’you think you’re doing t’yourself, girl?’. Tabitha and Bobby look to the entrance of the tent: ‘Oh, no!’ Meltdown gasps. ‘Not you!’ Sunspot exclaims.
‘Well, this isn’t the reaction I expected’ Samuel “Cannonball” Guthrie exclaims, smiling as he greets his former teammates. ‘From the look on your faces, you’d think I was Doctor Doom or something!’ Sam jokes. Meltdown lets go of Sunspot’s hand and sits up in the chair, exclaiming ‘Look, Bobby, it’s Sam. Sam Guthrie. Your best friend. My boyfriend!’. The “technician” leans back, exclaiming ‘Hey, missy! Do you want your navel to be pierced or not?’. ‘Oh, that Sam’ Bobby mutters, while Meltdown gets out of the chair, ‘Maybe later’ she tells the piercing “technician”. ‘Guilt-shame-embarrassment-disgrace-remorse-self loathing-dishonor’ are some of the thoughts that race through Bobby’s mind, while Sam asks them how they are doing. ‘Um…good’ Tabitha replies anxiously. ‘Yeah…bueno’ Sunspot mumbles, neither of them making eye-contact with Sam. Sam tells them that he got their postcard from Memphis and figured he would surprise them all.
Arms open wide, Sam tells his friends that they wouldn’t believe how tense things are at the School these days. ‘Scott and Jean have temporarily moved to Alaska. Gambit left under a black cloud. And don’t get my started about Maggott and Marrow!’. Glancing outside the tent, Sam remarks that he knows this is an alternative culture kind of event, while Tabitha whispers ‘I’m not gonna tell him. You tell him’ to Bobby who quietly exclaims that he isn’t saying anything. ‘But is that big ol’ metal fella supposed to be ripping free of its mooring? Uh, guys?’ Sam exclaims, finishing his sentence.
With the runestaff lodged squarely inside its metal skeleton, the energy of the convergence somehow ignites in the inanimate colossal man the sparks of life - and a primal need to be free, as it breaks from its stage, and strides forward through the crowd. ‘Somebody grab the ropes!’ one of the partygoers exclaims. ‘Like that’s gonna help!’ someone mutters, as the crowd begins scattering in every direction. One of the civilians boasts that he can bring that bad boy down with his trusty twelve gauge in his pick-up. ‘I just hope I brought enough ammo’ he adds. ‘There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…’ someone else begins whispering. ‘Boy, did I pick the wrong day to quit psychedelics’ someone else declares.
Sam looks up at the colossal man and remarks that he may be getting cynical in his old age, but this sure looks like trouble. ‘Thank Heaven for the interruption’ Meltdown thinks to herself, adding that she would rather face a rampaging creature on the loose than deal with Sam right now. ‘I mean, I did invite him to meet us here, but I didn’t expect him to actually show up…and I certainly didn’t expect to end up lip-locked with Bobby’ Meltdown adds. Sam tells Bobby that he is going to fly up and try to get a better fix on the situation. ‘You with me?’ he asks. ‘Um…si…of course, amigo’ Bobby replies, while one of the partygoers exclaims ‘Hey, everybody! The Human Torch is here! Thank God you heroes returned! We missed you, Johnny Storm’, clearly he is mistaken.
Nearby, the mysterious man - Nathan - who had been lurking around the festival suddenly removes his cloak - he is Nathan Summers a.k.a. Cable. Gazing up at the colossal man, Nathan tells himself that his telepathic readings of the creature do not reveal any real consciousness. Cable knows that the fact that it is not sentient doesn’t make it any less dangerous, and tells himself that he has to decide whether to trust X-Force to handle this crisis on their own, or show himself and let them know that he has been surreptitiously keeping tabs on them since the took off on the road.
At the end of the final round of the demolition derby, only one machine of destruction is left functional - then again, that machine gets crushed as the colossal man steps onto it. ‘The colossal man’s moving? How can that be possible?’ Karma asks as she watches the proceedings unfold before her. ‘This is so rocking, Simone. This footage is gonna win us the Oscar’ Jessikah tells her girlfriend. One of the people in the crowd alerts everyone to the fact that the colossal man is making its way towards them. ‘It’s crushing everything in its path!’ someone else remarks. ‘It’s alive! It’s alive!’ someone shouts, before a shrill ‘RUN!’ is heard.
Shan sees the crowd panicking and tells herself that if she doesn’t calm the people down, someone is going to get hurt. And so, the now-pink-haired former New Mutant, with great effort, extends a telepathic blanket over the stampeding festival-goers. Taking control of the crowd’s minds, Karma moves them like chess pieces away from the colossal man’s path of destruction. Indeed, the see of hypnotized people walk away from the colossal man’s direction.
Meanwhile, ‘Foolish girl, you’ve ruined everything!’ Selene shouts as she smacks Moonstar in the face. The Black Queen strikes Danielle again, while exclaiming that she waited centuries for this day, knowing that with the runestaff in her possession, power unknowable would be hers. ’Now that mystical force has been squandered animating some overgrown tinker toy!’. Moonstar is knocked to the ground, trying to ignore the pain caused by Selene’s magically-augmented assault, she begins to focus all the psionic power left in her for one desperate counterattack.
‘Tell me, Selene, what is it that keeps a woman who’s lived as long as you awake at night?’ the weary Moonstar asks, before realizing what that is - and creates an illusion of Selene’s greatest fear - a withered, old version of herself. ‘No, it can’t be! Get away from me!’ Selene exclaims as a look of horror falls over her. ‘Time has been good to you, Selene. How many hundreds have died to indulge your vanity - to maintain your youth? Ah, but fighting the ravages of age doesn’t come as easily as it did a century ago’. The older version of Selene grabs the true Selene, telling her that sooner or later her magic will be as tired and aged as her body.
‘Don’t fear, sweetheart, you won’t be alone. I’ll be there with you - each time you stare into the mirror!’ the aged Selene illusion exclaims. ‘Never! Do you hear me? NEVER!’ Selene screams back. Magic relies on the confidence and concentration of its wielder - Dani’s illusion has broken both in Selene. ‘Get out of my head, Moonstar!’ Selene shouts, clutching her face as she exclaims that Moonstar has won this match. ‘But know this - you’ve cost me dearly, and I will not forget’ Selene warns Danielle, adding that, in the meantime, all the bloodshed that occurs this night is on Moonstar’s hands.
Elsewhere, Sam makes his way through the crowd, telling himself that Karma did her best to keep the crowd under wraps, but she could not reach everyone. He reminds himself that he wanted to keep a low profile here, but it appears that he is going to have tot take care of that rampaging behemoth. ‘Or, perhaps not!’ Sam adds, as he sees Warpath, tangled in some ropes, dragged behind the colossal man. ‘This crazy thing’s unbelievably strong. I’m barely slowing it down’ James thinks to himself, wishing that he could get a decent foothold, before he is suddenly flung into the air.
Flying behind the colossal man is Siryn, who tells James to hang on while she stops the colossal man. She then modulates her voice to a destructive pitch, its sound is drowned out by the thunder of the animated colossus. The colossal man then swats Theresa away, without malice, but its actions motivated by a need to be free of these flesh and blood creatures that swarm around at its feet. Cannonball and Sunspot are in the air, and Sam tells Bobby to get Siryn to safety while he is going to go after the creature. ‘You sound as if you’re still in charge of X-Force, Sam’ Bobby remarks as he catches the shaken Siryn. ‘No offense, buddy. I wasn’t trying to be pushy. Old habits die hard’ Sam replies.
Cannonball remarks that there must be some kind of electronic operating system running the colossal man, and decides he may be able to disable a few connections or cut some hydraulic cable as he then blasts through the colossal man’s middle. ‘Cannonball?’ Warpath exclaims, still hanging by a rope to the colossal man. ‘Don’t know what Sam’s doing here, but his best didn’t even faze this creature!’ James declares, climbing up the side of the colossal man, James remarks that magic is holding it together. ‘And if I can just get to the source…I can pull the plug’.
James sees the runestaff in the heart of the colossal man, and reaches for it while the colossal man tries to shake Warpath off, ‘It knows what I want to do’ James realizes, while telling himself to hold on long enough to ripe the runestaff out. Warpath cries out in pain as he grabs the runestaff, ‘It’s like holding onto a live wire!’ he exclaims, before pulling the runestaff from the colossal man, and announcing that it is slowing down - but James realizes that from the way the colossal man is staggering, it is going to fall at any moment.
Meltdown sees this also, and tells James to get clear. ‘I’m going to finish that thing once and for all!’ Tabby boasts as she creates a large plasma time-bomb. James swings off the colossal man, shouting that they cannot let it fall into the crowd. Meltdown replies that she has that under control, before pointing out that she has never made her time-bombs this big, except a walking erector set calls for unusual solutions. ‘Say goodnight, Gracie’ she jokes as the huge time-bomb slams into the colossal man - and the construction goes up in a burst of flame, with Cannonball, Sunspot and Siryn hovering around the inferno.
X-Force, Cannonball and Karma gather together, while Dani asks if everyone is safe and sound. James replies that he thinks they are all fine, while Siryn explains that she and Sunspot vaporized the exploding debris before it hit the ground. ‘So now that the crisis has passed, can someone explain what in Heaven’s name happened?’ Theresa adds. Moonstar reveals that she and James tried to prevent Selene from using an ancient runestaff to capture the energy from an interdimensional convergence. ‘Unfortunately, the runestaff instead brought the colossal man to life’ Warpath adds. ‘Ach, me head’s spinning. This is all too much for this Irish lass’ Siryn mutters, while Karma smiles as she remarks that the other-dimensional forces weren’t the only things converging today. ‘Look at all of us, together again’. ‘Just call us the Ex-New Mutant Force’ Sunspot jokes. ‘Let’s not, and say we did’ Meltdown replies, while Cannonball declares that this has been some night.
James holds the runestaff and asks ‘What do we do with this?’, to which Moonstar opens a box for him to put it in and announces that she will contact Brunnehilde and give it to the Valkyries for safekeeping. ‘It shouldn’t cause any more trouble for another thousand years or so. I hope’. Cannonball puts his arms around Sunspot and Meltdown and exclaims ‘Man, the three of us, fighting side by side. Just like old times. What a rush!’. Sam adds that it makes him wonder why he left the team. ‘Uh-oh’ Meltdown mutters.
Later, as quickly as this transitory community convened, it disassembles, leaving little trace that it ever existed at all. ‘Hey, it’s the man from the future! Some festival, huh, Nathan?’ exclaims the fortune teller who spoke to Cable earlier. ‘It was interesting, yes’ Nathan replies as the woman is in a car, leaving along with the rest of the festival goers. ‘Things got kinda hairy there for a while. Good thing we had some guardian angels watching over us’ the woman adds. Cable agrees, adding that the “guardian angels” acquitted themselves admirably. ‘See you next year!’ the woman exclaims as she is driven away.
Nathan stands and watches as the sun sets in the background and the convoy of vehicles fades into the distance. His name is Cable, and once upon a time he took a group of mutant teenagers and made them soldiers. Recently, his charges, no longer children, left his command to pursue their own destinies. He came to this place to make certain that they could survive on their own. Now he knows that he trained his X-Force well. He can leave them to their own road. ‘G’journey, X-Force’ he whispers.