Starcore Space Station hovers around the planet Earth. Personnel go about their business when an alarm suddenly sounds. ‘Status alert?’ Dr Corbeau asks. ‘Priority alpha!’ someone reports, and the crew go wide-eyed when they see the Shi’ar stargate flares wide open in spectacular display. ‘So… so beautiful… but already gone!’ someone utters. The crew spring into action, tapping away at controls, while an officer announces that they are trying to draw a destination fix from the readings, but are having trouble. ‘Just do it, people! This is what it’s all about, the whole reason we’re up here!’ Dr Corbeau declares, while he contacts the United Nations, reporting that they have a breach. He tells them that something has come through from the far side of the galaxy, and that it is heading for Earth.
And on Earth, something is in the air tonight. Dusk falls hard on Anchorage, Alaska, this midsummer eve. Darkness settles in early, promising the storm to come, and weighing most heavily on Jean Grey. As the rain beats down outside, the woman sometimes called Phoenix stands in the living area of a very nice cabin, holding herself. ‘Where are they?’ she wonders, expecting them both back before dusk, before the lightning got close enough to interfere with her telepathy. Jean is a psionic of the highest order, and it has been said she is capable of probing minds and moving mountains with the same ease of thought - but others know her better. She thinks that she and Scott have lived here long enough now to be able to read the local sky to see the signs for miles. ‘And after what we all went through last week… I have a hard time believing he’s out in this kind of weather again by choice. Especially with poor Nate, a kid who’s the farthest thing from local to this area - to this world, for that matter’.
Scott “Cyclops” Summers is Jean’s husband, her partner and her teammate in the X-Men, fellow mutants, bonded by more than just their common cause. Their shared determination tyo help shape a safer, stronger world or mutant and human both - if not in this lifetime, then perhaps the next - for the sake of the children, at least. The next generation of all-too-human mutants. Suddenly, ‘Check it out, Red!’ a voice calls out as the front door slams open. ‘Look what followed us home!’ Nate “X-Man” Grey exclaims as he stands in the doorway, his jacket wrapped around a young boy, while Scott helps an old man towards the front door, everyone sopping wet.
Nate is another dangerously powerful psionic, but also a refugee from another world - a world where Jean, Scott and the others failed to rise to such a challenge - and very, very few survived to tell the tale. Nate rushes over to the couch and puts the boy on it, while telling Jean that they both need medical treatment, fast. Scott helps the old man to a chair and tells Jean to call Doc Kincaid, to try his home number first at this hour. ‘Already on it, Scott’ Jean replies as she picks up the phone receiver, while lightning flashes in the sky. Jean then realizes that the power is down. ‘What’s going on here, guys?’ she asks. Nate asks for a first-aid kit, and Jean reports that she has it. Scott starts boiling some hot water, ad assures Jean that they were not looking for any trouble out there - just the opposite, really. He adds that Jean’s fishing suggestion wasn’t panning out half-bad.
Scott and Nate sit on the shore of a lake, Scott’s fishing rod is already in the water, while Nate is putting the bait on his. ‘But you don’t believe her, do you, Scott? I mean, Jean didn’t stay home just to prep the rest of the meal…’ his voice trails off. Scott replies that Jean is deliberately giving them time alone. Nate stands up and casts his rod into the lake, asking if Jean is always so obvious. ‘Now that you mention it…yup’ Scott replies. He stands up and offers to give Nate a piece of advice. ‘Depends…’ Nate replies as he hands Scott his rod. Scott tells him that his new lure weighs out perfectly, but that it feels to him that the tie is got solid buy and action, with good spring, only this far north, his line needs to hit with a longer skip, to draw up the deepwater fish. ‘Works for me, m’man!’ Nate smiles as he catches a fish and reels it in. Scott realizes that he and Nate are so different, and they have a lot to learn from each other.
Suddenly, they hear a noise coming from the woods behind them. ‘Something just came down, Scott! About a mile - maybe a mile-and-half -’ Nate begins as he takes flight into the bushes, while Scott follows on foot. And soon, Nate comes to part of the forest that has been decimated - with one large tree fallen onto a boy. ‘Over here!’ Nate cries out, while an older man tries to lift the large tree off the boy.
Scott tells Jean that they never got far enough to see what that something was, once they found the campers, but it was apparently that the dad was badly wounded and deep in shock. ‘And the boy’s worse’ Nate adds. ‘Way worse’ he remarks, holding the boy’s head, he adds that it is all he has been able to do to hold the boy together telekinetically for this long. Scott remarks that they can’t waste any more time here. Jean informs the men that she has been psi-scanning for the Doc all over town, more than willing to out them as mutants if she has to, but she can’t even pick up a trace right now, not under these conditions. Thunder booms while Jean hands Nate some bandages that have been boiled. She tells the men that someone has got to go into town after the Doc. ‘You could do it fastest, Nate - as the crow flies - but you telekinesis is needed here…you’ve got to stay’ Jean tells him.
Scott points out that Jean has to keep her mind on the Doc, on the search, not on the road. ‘I’ll drive’ Scott reports as they leave. The old man gets to his feet, ‘Please…no…’ he utters. Nate turns to him and tells him that Scott and Jean have gone. He points out that the man shouldn’t move too much. ‘No time…’ the man begins, when suddenly, his eyes flash red and his voice changes, ‘But your powers, boy…so miraculous…you can cure my son…my Jeff’ the man declares. ‘Stop his suffering…heal him completely…before it’s too late…’. Almost reluctantly, Nate replies ‘Yeah, probably’, while he remembers a girl in New York, a friend called Jam, who lost an arm in a tragic accident. Nate recalls exactly what he did for her - and the price she paid for it.
Nate tells the older man that miracles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and that he won’t make that mistake again. ‘I won’t do that to your son’ he adds. ‘You… won’t?’ the man asks, when suddenly, the door slams open - Scott and Jean have returned as the rain continues to pour down. Scott announces that the car won’t start now. Jean reports that the road is washed out for hundreds of yards down the kill - so no one is getting in or out of here for the duration of the storm. ‘Look’s like we’re effectively cut off from the rest of the world. So we’re all we’ve got’ Jean adds as she kneels before the man and tears his trouser leg so that she can tend to his wounds. Nate kneels beside the boy and tells him that until a few months ago, he could have treated his symptoms and dulled his pain. ‘But I’m not a telepath anymore he explains. ‘Hur… hur…’ the boy utters. ‘Maybe Jean, though -’ Nate begins, when suddenly, the boy reaches up to Nate and grabs him by his shirt, ‘No…you help me… not her… I’m afraid of her…’ he utters in a strange voice.
The boy is crying and blood trickles from his nose as he tells Nate that he is afraid of what is happening to him, and that inside, it feels so bad, and hurts so much. ‘Please…make it go away, please, make it stop… forever…’. Nate turns away from the kid, he can’t imagine what the boy is going through - half of his organs crushed and most of his bones broken, only even this much alive because of his telekinetic grip. Nate decides that it is just a matter of releasing the boy, of allowing nature to run its course here. ‘But I won’t. I can’t he tells himself. ‘Can’t…?’ the boy utters. Jean has wrapped the older man’s leg in a bandage, while Nate decides that he doesn’t have to play God, either, as there is a middle ground here, a very human middle-ground. But, when he looks at Jean and the boy’s father, he goes wide-eyed - ‘What is that? What am I looking at here?’ he wonders, as he sees Jean kneeling in front of some sort of robot.
Suddenly, the boy is gone, replaced by a strange purple-skinned, white-haired creature with orange eyes. ‘He knows, Modt! The child sees through the reality we wear, to the reality we are! He is every bit as powerful as we feared! Every bit dangerous as ourselves!’ the creature exclaims, before shouting ‘Kill him! Kill the abominable one…!’ Nate is taken aback, but before he, or the strange creature can act, twin beams of solid optic energy hammer into the creature, blasting him through the cabin wall, fired from Cyclops. ‘You fool - no!’ the old man begins. ‘Perfect time, Scott, as always’ Jean remarks, before declaring that it is her turn now, as she picks up the old man in a telekinetic field and throws him out the door. Jean looks at the purple creature and tells Scott and Nate that she is sure she recognizes him, even from here. ‘You may not have gone looking for it, guys, but unless I’m wrong - please, please let me be wrong - you brought home trouble alright… big trouble’ Jean declares.
The man lands in the dirt and starts to transform, ‘Yes, terrans…’ he calls out, while Jean adds ‘Big as it gets, I’m afraid. Very, very afraid - Modt and Jahf, first guardians of the M’Kraan, Crystal Heart of Reality!’ Jean declares, as Modt a gold and blue robot-like-being stands as tall as the mountains, while Jahf, the purple creature, stands on his companion’s shoulders. ‘Judgment walks your world!’ Modt booms, while on the cabin porch, Scott asks Jean how and why the guardians are here, in their backyard. He points out that if not for the weather, they would be visible from town at the size, so their covers would be literally blown sky-high, and their life here as they know it, would be over by now. ‘Forever’ Jean agrees, now wearing her green and gold Phoenix costume. ‘Your grandparents dragged down along with us, generations of hard-earned reputation ruined’ Jean points out.
‘No need for all that, mutants. Just give us the boy’ Modt declares. ‘The boy…?’ Scott asks. ‘Should’ve known ‘Nate mutters as he takes flight towards the guardians. ‘NATE!’ Jean screams, while Nate tells them both to stay out of this. He adds that he has no idea what these freaks want from him, what they think he did or didn’t - or might do - and he doesn’t much care at this point. ‘They want me - they GOT me!’ Nate shouts as he surrounds himself in a telekinetic bubble and uses it to uppercut Modt’s large head, ‘Careful what you wish for, suckers!’ Nate shouts, while Modt is briefly knocked off balance, and Jahf starts to slip from his large companion. Cyclops fires a powerful optic blast while Jean unleashes some telekinetic fury, remarking ‘He has no idea, Scott, no clue what he’s up against…’. ‘And he said so himself. Never seems to stop him, far as I can tell…never even slows him down’ Scott adds.
Nate realizes that his “parents” are trying to help him, and tells Modt to ignore them. ‘It’s easy, really - I do it all the time! Just follow my lead!’ Nate jokes, dodging a punch from the large robot, while Jahf falls off this time and calls out ‘Break him, Modt -!’ as Jean and Scott continue their attack against the much larger guardian. ‘I’ll handle the locals’ Jahf grins as he lands without injury. Jean urgently calls out to Nate, telling him that he doesn’t understand, she explains that the guardians are actually living facets of the crystal itself, empowered by the entire neutron galaxy at its heart, completely invulnerable, indestructible and invincible. Nate is shocked to discover that his telekinetic shields are starting to buckle already, cracking under the pressure that Modt used in his second punch.
‘Dolts!’ Jahf snaps as the creature strides towards Scott, who tries to force him back with an optic blast. ‘Unstoppable force has met immovable object!’ Cyclops declares. ‘If that is what you…believe…’ Jahf replies, before moving forward enough that he punches Scott, knocking him back. ‘No - I won’t let you harm him, guardian - I won’t let you touch either one of them!’ Jean warns Jahf as she catches Scott telekinetically and sets him down safely. ‘Excellent. Jean psionically deflected the brunt of Jahf’s blow - and positioned me perfectly’ Scott thinks to himself as he fires an optic blast at Modt’s large feet, while Jahf asks Jean if she honestly thinks she can hurt him. ‘Probably not, runt…but we’re betting your partner can’ Cyclops calls out, and Jahf looks up as a large shadow looms over him as Modt turns to grab Nate who flies past him, but the movement and the optic blast topples Modt down on top of his partner. ‘You did it, Scott - you actually dropped a guardian of the M’kraan in its tracks!’ Jean exclaims as she helps Scott to his feet. ‘We did it, Jean! You set me up to set Modt up…’ Scott begins ‘And I took him down!’ Nate exclaims as he flies over to Scott and Jean, his costume badly torn.
‘NOT YET…’ a voice booms, as Modt’s large hand slams down on the heroes - narrowly missing them as Nate throws a telekinetic bubble around the trio. Modt then explains that such power as the “whelp” possesses is what drew them here in the first place. ‘Told ya’ Nate mumbles as he moves the bubble away from Modt, who reveals that a recent break from another reality traced directly to this region, and caused an unsettling vibration within the living crystal, so they were dispatched to find its roots. ‘He’s talking about the seawall, right, the one that come through from my world for a while? But I didn’t have anything to do with that’ Nate remarks. ‘Did I?’ he wonders, as Modt starts to follow them, trampling his way through the forest. ‘You are the only remaining source of that singularly-destructive energy-signature here, Nate Grey. And the crystal gave us leave to deal with the source as we see fit. To spare it, even if proved to be alive…and under control. Deemed safe enough by us’.
‘So you tested him, at first, creating a situation that you thought would measure him somehow. A crisis that would force Nate into action, one way or another…’ Scott remarks. ‘And he passed your tests, didn’t he? Without abusing - or avoiding - the responsibilities of his power…’ Jean points out, as Scott adds ‘Establishing that he does have control’. Jean tells the guardians that Nate is “safe enough”. Standing on the giant Modt once more, Jahf calls out ‘True. But he recognized that it was a test - and that alone is too ominous for my liking!’ the indestructible creature then jumps towards Nate’s telekinetic bubble, and shatters it. ‘Hang on…’ Jean calls out as she and the men start to free-fall. Jean tells them that as soon as she catches her breath she should be able to telekinetically slow their fall. ‘Then what, Jean?’ Scott asks, pointing out that the storm is clearing, and they are less than a half-mile from town already. ‘Unless we wrap this up right here - right now - a lot more than just our lives are going to be endangered’ Scott adds.
Jahf grins and tells the X-Men that perhaps they have not heard - there is nothing they can do against him, against Modt, nothing at all. Suddenly, the giant guardian puts his hand out and catches the heroes. He tells them that Jahf is correct, and that all of them know it. ‘You are helpless’ he declares. ‘But I am not’ he states, and with his other hand reaches out to grab Jahf, announcing that he wholeheartedly disagrees with his fellow guardian’s assessment. ‘The youth’s strength is certainly formidable indeed, far more than either of us suspected. I watched, and learned, as he brought it all to bear…against the temptation to use such forces unwisely. I saw, as he tried so determinedly to be heard…and struggled so desperately to listen’. Jahf is surprised by this, and calls out to his companion, but Modt just states that Nate Grey has passed his test, but Jahf did not. ‘If it is any consolation though, my little friend, you did prove your point - absolute power corrupts absolutely’. And with that, Modt and Jahf vanish, and Jean telekinetically lowers herself, Scott and Nate to the ground.
The next morning, the sun starts to rise. Scott knocks on the door to Nate’s room and enters, telling him that Jean claims his shirt didn’t even survive the washing machine. ‘Are you sure about this, really…do you definitely have to leave today?’ he asks. ‘Nope’ Nate replies, doing his boots up, he explains that he doesn’t want to risk wearing out his welcome on the first visit, either, now that they are not complete strangers. ‘Any time, kid’ Scott replies. ‘Wherever we are’ he adds, before handing Nate a costume, telling him that since his old boots seem to fit him so well, he should try the rest on for size. ‘Fits like a glove, actually…familiar colors, too…but I’m not X-Men’ Nate replies as he enters the living area where Jean and Scott are waiting for him. Nate runs a hand through his hair as he stands before them, showing off the blue and white costume. ‘Neither is the uniform, trust me’ Scott replies, referring to his old X-Factor costume, he explains that it comes from a time when he and Jean had broken away from Xavier to go their own way.
Suddenly, the phone rings. Scott picks it up: ‘Summers. Hold on, Ororo. She’s right here’ Scott answers, while Jean stands at the door and watches Nate take to the sky. ‘Wear it well, Nate’ she smiles. ‘Thanks, folks…thanks for everything!’ Nate shouts out, flying through the skies, he smiles. ‘New look, new connections - and maybe - just maybe - a whole new lease on life!’ he declares, unaware that down below in the forest, he is being watched, as a woman looks up, ‘Wishful thinking’ she tells herself, deciding that Nate races towards his death, faster and faster each day, and that he reeks of it already. ‘And now that I’ve finally picked up your sumptuous scent again, it’s just a matter of time ‘til you belong - body and soul - to your beloved Threnody…’ the woman snarls…