X-Men '92 (1st series) #2

Issue Date: 
September 2015
Story Title: 
Chapter Three: Those Who Help Themselves Chapter Four: Love is a Battlefield

Chris Sims & Chad Bowers (writers), Scott Koblish (artist), Matt Milla (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Travis Lanham (letterer), Pepe Larraz & Jim Charalampidis (cover artists), Heather Antos (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

As prisoners of Cassandra Nova at the Clear Mountain facility, the X-Men are forced to undergo time in the Mind Fields observed psychically by Cassandra Nova. Wolverine is forced to contend with various enemies, which soon transform into himself at various stages of his life. Wolverine knows that something strange is going on, but Cassandra wins him over, and Wolverine embraces all of his various selves, becoming approved by the Bureau of Super-Powers. Cassandra next visits Storm, who also sees various versions of herself, before Cassandra tells her that she is going to lead the New X-Men. Storm is concerned for her friends, before Cassandra places her in a container where Storm sees various pieces of her life replayed. Storm then learns about the Shadow King being inside Cassandra Nova. Storm learns about the Shadow King's return via the gang called the Shadow Kings and is tormented by Cassandra's plans for the future. Storm uses her powers to break free of the container she was placed in and challenges Cassandra Nova. But Nova takes Storm out, and rejects her for the BSP. Rogue and Gambit share a Mind Field. Gambit wants to kiss Rogue, who relives her first kissing experience with Cody, which ended so badly. She recalls how the Brotherhood manipulated her into taking Ms Marvel's powers and how she went to the X-Men for help. Gambit remembers his wedding and how he abandoned his wife. Gambit and Rogue are about to kiss again when Cassandra appears and tells them that the X-Men are heroes, they must send a positive message. Several X-Babies are watching Gambit and Rogue, who attack Cassandra, until she turns them into puppets and shows them they life they could have together, full of traditional family values – if they want it bad enough. Rogue them promises that one day they will be engaged to be married, and Cassandra gives them BSP approval. Next up is the Beast, who only has a brief conversation with Cassandra before she rejects him for the BSP. Meanwhile, Jubilee is playing a video game as she was not allowed to undergo the Mine Field process. She sees a projection of a small pink-skinned body who seems to be trying to get her to follow him. Jubilee loses her guards and chases after him. The projection flies through a locked door and Jubilee breaks into the room, where she finds an assortment of odd mutants in the shadows, including one called Chamber. Jubilee is slightly nervous around some of them, such as Feral, before the Beast is thrown into the room. Jubilee is pleased to see him, and Chamber takes the two of them into another part of the area they are locked in, where the Rej-X, as they are known, as forced to strip Sentinels for parts. Finally, at the X-Mansion, X-Force arrives! Cable, Domino, Archangel, Bishop, Deadpool and Psylocke explore the grounds after receiving a psychic distress call from Xavier – but when they find Xavier they are horrified to discover he is dead!

Full Summary: 

In Wolverine's Mind Field:
'H Command, this is Logan! Encountering stiff resistance. Could use some back up!' Wolverine a.k.a. Logan calls out over the communicator attached to his goggles as he dodges some tendrils that lash out towards him. The sounds, the smell in the air – everything about this screams “wrong!” - and he should know. As a mutant, Wolverine is blessed – some might say cursed – with the heightened senses of a creature meant for the wild. To say survival is like second nature barely scratches the surface. That's why he puts the incongruences aside for the moment, and does what's necessary to stay alive. In reality, his enhanced instincts, combined with an adamantium-laced skeleton, a set of razor-sharp claws, and the uncanny ability to heal from almost any wound, make him the most formidable member of the mutant heroes known as the X-Men. In short, he's the best there is at what he does. And what he does isn't very nice. That is why he is first.

'Missed him, Red!' Cyber shouts to Omega Red, who thrashes his tendrils around again. 'Silence, Gaijin. Strike now – again!' the Silver Samurai exclaims as he waves his sword about. 'Fear not, Samurai. He will fall and be consumed by my mutant death factor!' Omega Red boasts. 'His end will free my eternal soul! Lady Deathstrike claims, while Viper tells the others to leave enough for her trophy case. 'Bad news, Weapon X. All agents are down. You're on your own' a voice responds via the communicator. 'Hmph. What else is new?' Logan mutters.

'Patient appraisal:' Cassandra Nova remarks, stating that the subject goes by “Logan” which is most likely an alias, the lone wolf of the team – or so he would have everyone believe. She notes that the subject often utilizes “tough talk” to intimidate others, and his mutant gifts make him prone to reckless abandon in combat. He loses control often, needlessly endangering those around him. Despite it all, he sees himself as an honorable man driven to violence by his enemies, which brings us up to date. She adds that today they teach Logan that the real enemy lies inside.

In Wolverine's Mind Field:
'Five of you... six of us! I like those odds' Wolverine declares as he lunges at his enemies, claws at the ready. 'Come get some!' he shouts at them as he engages them all in physical combat – until the guises of his enemies are gone, with Logan at different stages of his life revealed to be underneath each of them. 'It's showtime, Bub' Wolverine in his yellow and brown costume snarls as he removes himself from the Silver Samurai. 'Finish the mission!' Wolverine in his early yellow costume declares as he pulls the Viper character away. 'RAAAAGH!' the Weapon X Wolverine shouts as he pulls himself from Cyber, while a savage Wolverine is revealed to be under Omega Red, and a civilian Logan under Lady Deathstrike. 'Who's got beer?' that version asks. 'What the blazes?' the Team X Logan asks as the other five leap onto him. 'Get off me!' he shouts at them.

Cassandra checks her chart and remarks that Wolverine was ravaged by years of exposure to violence and victimization, that his mind is a fractured and dismal place, with so many savage impulses vying for control. She states that a lesser man might have given up, but Logan is nothing if not resilient. She finds his strength inspiring. She knows that Xavier felt that way, too, one. But ultimately, Professor X failed him by simply pointing him at evil mutants and pulling the trigger. “Weapon X” indeed.

In Wolverine's Mind Field:
The 1992-era Wolverine suddenly slashes through the others, deciding that it has to be some kind of virtual reality simulation, trying to throw himself off by making him fight himself. 'Joke's on you, whoever you are – I've been doing that all my life!' Wolverine calls out.

Cassandra Nova wonders how one goes about fixing something this broken, and adds that to a man with razor-sharp claws, every problem looks like it should be cut to pieces. She thinks that the answer likes no in changing the man, but changing the problem – one that can't be sliced to ribbons.

In Wolverine's Mind Field:
More Wolverines from different eras appear – Department H Wolverine, Patch, leather-clad Wolverine, X-Force Wolverine and Logan as a child. 'Yer a good looking bunch, I'll admit... but you studs got no idea who you're dealing with!' Wolverine exclaims. 'Yer kidding, right?' Patch replies.

Cassandra looks pleased with herself, 'Test his effectiveness, and that's when you'll see if he truly believes in the solution. She adds that the years of stabbing have gotten him no closer to his goals in life, instead it has cost him everything. Family, friends... true love.

In Wolverine's Mind Field:
More Wolverines appear: 'Ain't much for games, but I'm starting to figure out the rules to this one!' Wolverine announces. His claws keep the others back, and he declares that he has had just about enough of this foolishness. 'Joining the X-Men meant I had to swear off using my claws to carve up anything that wasn't a robot or a machine' Wolverine knocks the final versions of himself away, 'But for you... I'll make an exception!' he exclaims as he lunges forward and shoves his claws through Cassandra Nova, who just smiles.

Cassandra turns to look at Wolverine, 'Tell me, how does it feet, Logan? Failure, I mean...' 'Wouldn't know, lady! I'm an X-Man – we saved Westchester! We're heroes!' Wolverine declares. 'Says the man doing his best to gut an old woman. It's the duty of heroes to protect the weakest among us. But forget about the elderly -' Cassandra mocks as she grabs Wolverine by his throat and holds him overhead. 'What about the children running around right now with sharpened pencils between their fingers, pretending to be the famous Wolverine? Acting out your deplorable exploits?' Cassandra asks, before slamming Wolverine into the floor, Saving Westchester? Violence begets violence, Mr Logan – and there's none more violent than you'.

Wolverine falls through the floorboards, and lands in a body of water. 'Okay, sucker – you've taken your best shot! Now -' Wolverine begins as he leaps up above the water, until Cassandra appears and pulls him back down. 'Please. This is hardly my best' she boasts. 'Why -' Wolverine begins as Cassandra's hand holds his neck. She tells him that there is a better way, one without the claws. But Wolverine tells Cassandra that she doesn't understand, he can't get rid of them. 'They made me-' he begins. 'Nonsense. Come now, Logan. Let me have them' Cassandra replies. 'You asked for them' Logan tells her as he pops his claws – only it's not razor-sharp adamantium claws that appear, but a large bunch of red roses. 'Ah, how thoughtful. My favorite!' Cassandra smiles. Cassandra takes some of the flowers and remarks that they will look lovely in her parlor. 'How -? My claws – what'd you do with 'em?' Wolverine asks as he tries to pop them again, but only more roses appear. Cassandra tells him that she replaced them with something more delicate. 'Hard to imagine you doing much harm now, eh?' she adds.

The other Wolverines start to return, gathering around Wolverine. 'Oh, look at the pretty flowers' the child Logan calls out. 'Is this real? Can't feel... can't tell anymore what's -' Wolverine utters, water giving away, leaving him with just some rose petals scattered around him. 'Easy now, bub – we'll patch you up real good' Patch jokes. Cassandra checks her clipboard and announces that the subject shows great promise, that the road to recovery will be difficult, but he won't be alone, as soon he will join the others – disarmed and ready to serve a gentler, kinder Westchester. 'After all, kindness is the only weapon any of us truly need' Cassandra remarks. 'Y'know, a hug can be stronger than adamantium' Weapon X tells Wolverine, putting his hands on his shoulder, as Wolverine hugs the child version of himself, and leather-clad Wolverine puts a hand on Wolverine's other shoulder. X-Force Wolverine and Fang Wolverine close in as well. 'You're not trying to kill me?' Wolverine asks. 'No, bub... you're not trying to kill you. Not anymore' Fang Wolverine points out as they all embrace.

BSP APPROVED is stamped across Wolverine, as he and the other versions of himself still hug. 'A very good start, indeed' Cassandra remarks as she walks away from them, holding her clipboard. 'NEXT!' she shouts.

'This sucks!' Jubilee exclaims as she plays an arcade game, while the Mutants Affairs officials Miles and Rachel stand nearby. 'You can play as Dazzler, but not me? What's with the headband, anyway? Like, the 80s called, and they want -' Jubilee begins, before screaming as fuzzy projection appears next to her – of a young pink-skinned boy. 'The heck?' Jubilee asks, before the mysterious boy turns and runs away. 'Hey, don't run off, little guy! I didn't mean to -' Jubilee calls out, but gets no response. 'Okay, fine... let's play chase' Jubilee remarks, before calling out to Miles and Rachel and informing them that something is wrong with the game. 'Like what?' Rachel asks. Jubilee puts her shades down over her eyes, 'It won't stop exploding!' she exclaims as she releases a blast of brightly colored lights. 'What?' Miles gasps. 'Can't see -' Rachel exclaims. 'Keep the change, dweebs!' Jubilee jokes as she grins and rushes out of the room, following the now floating projection of the pink-skinned child. 'Okay, Shorty. Game on!' she calls out to him.

In Storm's Mind Field:
'Hello again, Ms Munroe. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting' Cassandra Nova says to Storm a.k.a. Ororo Munroe who is surrounded by panels of bright lights. 'Enough! Save your apologies. What is this place? Where are the others? If you've harmed even one of them, I swear -' Storm threatens. Cassandra interrupts her, 'Please, no swearing. It's unbecoming of one so... regal'. She assures Storm that her friends will join them soon. 'But first, a question: do you ever tire of standing in Cyclops' shadow?' Cassandra enquires. 'I stand in no one's shadow!' Storm retorts. 'Not even your own?' Cassandra asks. 'Consider these pieces and the path you followed to become the woman you are today. Every step has led you to this moment' Cassandra states.

Storm sees reflections of herself all around – as a child and teen in Cairo, then in her “goddess” look. Her early days with the X-Men, her “punk” look and a placid version, wearing a long cloak. 'What is this? A trick of the mind? My childhood in Cairo before I gained control over the forces of nature? Reflections of myself as I was and have been'. She turns to the placid version and gasps 'By the Bright Lady – one I might someday be?'

Storm turns to where Cassandra stands in a doorway, darkness closing in except for the light from behind the door. 'To me. I founded Clear Mountain to save the world from mutants that hate and fear mankind. My patients are sanitized to perfection here, within the Mind Field' Cassandra states. She adds that in this world of perfect, well-behaved mutants that she is creating, some naturally stand more perfect than others. 'That is you, my dear – the perfect Storm' Cassandra explains. Storm warns Cassandra that she would do well to free her now, as she will tolerate this charade no more. But Cassandra tells Storm that this is no game – Westchester needs the X-Men – the New X-Men – and that Storm is going to lead them. “New X-Men”? Storm asks, enquiring as to what Cassandra has done with the old ones – her friends. Cassandra points out that even now, Storm is more concerned with her teammates' well-being than her own. 'Yours is the noblest soul I've ever encountered' Cassandra tells her. 'What do you know of my soul, mind-witch?' Storm responds.

'Quite a bit, actually' Cassandra replies, as she appears much larger than Storm, darkness all around save for the bright cube that Storm now appears trapped inside.  'No! What are you doing – stop this!' Storm pleads. Cassandra tells Storm that it is time, that Xavier has had her cooped up for far too long, trapped playing one of the roles he scripts so well. 'But you are meant for far grander things' Cassandra assures Storm. 'How are you doing this? How do you know about -' Storm starts to ask. 'About your claustrophobia?' Cassandra asks.

Flashback images appear on the walls of the cube that Storm is trapped inside, firstly of Storm as a child, pick-pocketing on the streets. Cassandra tells Storm that she has watched her from the shadows since she was a child. 'While the other x-Men were waiting for Xavier to give them purpose in life, you were living on the street, discovering what it meant to be alive'. Storm looks around and utters that she can feel it growing smaller by the second. Another flashback, to before Storm put an “X” on her uniform. 'I bore witness as you spread the message of mutant harmony to the masses of Westchester'. 'I'm suffocating...' Storm gasps.

Another flashback, of Storm facing off against Callisto. Cassandra tells her 'You weren't given leadership of the Morlocks. I was there when you took it from Callisto!' A fourth flashback image, of “punk” Storm fighting alongside Wolverine and Rogue, Cassandra tells her that when she lost her powers for a time, she could feel the darkness in her then. 'The other X-Men never once questioned your capabilities. But each side of your personality just formed another wall'. 'WHO ARE YOU?' Storm cries out. Cassandra grins, 'Who am I? Well...' she begins, before the Shadow King takes her place, revealing himself. He grins wickedly: 'I'm the one who can let you out of your box' he tells her. 'SHADOW KING!' Storm gasps, wide-eyed in terror. 'No, it isn't possible! We defeated you!' she utters.

More flashback images, this time of the Shadow King in his human form, and Charles Xavier. The Shadow King tells Ororo that she knows better than anyone how difficult he is to best. 'You were the catalyst for my first encounter with Xavier at the Pizza Haus in the mall'. The Shadow King admits that he was bloated and unprepared – his overconfidence left him trapped inside the emptiness of the Astral Plane, where he languished for years, until the day he found his way into another weak-minded fool. This fool appears in a flashback image playing out before Storm's eyes. He was a member of the Shadow Kings, but he served his purpose, only the Shadow King could feel something calling out to him, a mind more powerful than his own, desperate to be free. Another flashback image, to the wreckage of Apocalypse's clone banks, where he and Cassandra found each other. Their combined power was so great that upon rebirth they were flooded by the psychic feedback of nearly every soul on Battleworld.

The Shadow King / Cassandra declares that through all the noise, some managed to scream louder than others, and those voices belonged to the other X-Men. X-Men whose districts were plagued by hardship and catastrophe. Magneto. Apocalypse. Exctinction. But X-Men were always the common thread Cassandra states that Westchester has seen its wars, but by comparison, they live in a fragile paradise, and she knew that if she didn't do something to change the X-Men in Westchester, they were destined for the same fate as the others. Storm looks shocked as an image of Cassandra with Baron Kelly appears. Cassandra points out that she was born a monster, but became a politician, and the day the Westchester Treaty was signed, Baron Kelly and she established the Bureau of Super-Powers. She was given full authority to do whatever necessary to ensure a peaceful human / mutant cohabitation, and she got to work. Cassandra warns Storm that she takes her job very seriously, and boasts that she will die before she see the Thors place a “Suggested for Mature Audiences” sign outside Westchester.

Cassandra continues, declaring that she will strip every ounce of attitude from the X-Men, with or without Storm's help. 'But I want you to know I'm a fan, and I'd sure like you on my team. What do you say? Cassandra asks.

'I – I -' Storm begins, wide-eyed, the cube has closed in around her so that she has no room to move. 'I AM LIGHTNING! I AM WIND!' Storm screams as she releases a charge of lightning inside the cube, which shatters, and winds swirl around her as she is freed. 'I am STORM! And I say never!' Storm shouts at Cassandra / Shadow King, who holds up an umbrella. 'Tch. I expected this from the others, you know, but I hoped you had a bit of sense' Cassandra remarks. Storms calls her a madwoman and exclaims 'In trying to protect us from a future uncertain, you would tear down everything that makes our home special in the first place'. Storm declares that the Shadow King has possessed Cassandra's mind, that she is no savior, but an old nightmare lingering long after the world around has woken up. Storm starts to run, warning Cassandra that she will stop her, that the X-Men will stop her, they will rise as they always have, to lead by example and defend those who need them the most. 'That you thought I would join you only shows how truly mad you are!' Storm declares.

Suddenly, Cassandra opens the umbrella, which slams into Storm, 'Just because I'm disappointed, Storm...doesn't mean I'm unprepared' Cassandra points out as Storm is knocked off balance and falls off the space they are standing on, down onto another platform. 'NOOOOO!' Storm cries out. 'Stay in your box, then. Play the good soldier, just as you always have. You could have been so much more' Cassandra remarks, as BSP REJECTED is stamped over Storm.

Elsewhere: 'Almost gotcha, little – whoa, what's this? You want me to go in there?' Jubilee asks as she follows the floating pink projection of the child, who points at a door with a large X on it. Jubilee checks the door, it is locked. 'Let's see if Gambit's as good a teacher as he thinks' Jubilee remarks as she starts to pick the lock, and when the door opens, 'Okay, what's behind door number – weeeeeird?' Jubilee gasps as she sees a group of strange beings in the dark room behind the door.

'Oh, no – Nova send another nom nom to punish Rej-X' Caliban exclaims. 'Relax, Caliban. I don't think she's one of Nova's' Maggott remarks. 'Why not eat her just to be sure?' Feral suggests. The pink projection was that of Artie, who stands next to Leech. Behind them are Gorgeous George, Sauron and Masque. 'No, don't – Artie brought her to us. She will help Rej-X' Leech exclaims. 'Bah. No help for us' Masque mutters. 'Oh, gosh. This is bad. Way to get in over your head again, Jubes' Jubilee remarks to herself. 'Shoot, shoot, shoot. What would Wolverine do?' she asks herself. 'You know Wolverine? Cool' a voice is projected into Jubilee's mind. 'Who said that?' Jubilee asks. 'Ello, love' Chamber declares as he steps out from behind some boxes. 'Oh, wow. Talk about a wrong turn!' Jubilee exclaims.

In Rogue's Mindscape:
Breakstone Lake, on the grounds of the X-Mansion, under the moonlight, its surface becomes a glittering blanket of stars, the perfect setting... for romance! 'Beautiful tonight' Remy “Gambit” LeBeau remarks to Rogue, who is wearing a long white dress. He leans in towards Rogue as they sit on a blanket on the shore of the lake. 'It is... the candlelight, the stars. You really went all out, Swamp Rat!' Rogue replies. Gambit tells her that he wasn't talking about the picnic. 'Gambit was talking 'about you' he points out. 'You sure now how to flatter a girl. But you're not so bad yourself, long as we stay in the dark' Rogue replies. 'C'mon Rogue... ain't you tired of hiding 'em under long sleeves an' smart remarks?' Gambit asks, running a finger across one of Rogue's gloved hands. 'Dang it, Remy!' Rogue shouts, pulling away. 'You know I can't touch you without absorbing your powers, your memories – maybe even your life. I can't take that risk on account of your dang flirtin'!' Rogue exclaims. Gambit puts his hands on Rogue's shoulders and asks 'What if Gambit wanna take that risk?'

Gambit continues, telling Rogue that he never had nobody to open up to before he joined the X-Men, before he met her. 'Maybe now... I'm willing to share everything'. Wide eyed, Rogue asks Gambit what he is saying. 'Je t'aime, Rogue. Gambit saying he love you' Remy reveals.

'Oh, no, no! Why'd ya have to go an' say it?' Rogue asks, leaping to her feet and covering her eyes, she starts to run away. 'Don't you get it? It don't matter if you love me – it don't matter how I feel about you. Even if I wanna love somebody, I can't. I learned that lesson back home, back when I was young and foolish enough to believe that maybe I could be like other people' Rogue informs Gambit. 'That I could fall for an easy laugh and a quick smile. That I could give my heart to someone with a kiss... without draining the life outta 'em' Rogue laments, recalling kissing Cody Robbins, and draining the life-force out of him. Rogue tells Remy that Cody thought he was in love, too, but he ended up in a coma – a second longer and he might have ended up worse than that. Recalling visiting Cody in hospital, Rogue tells Gambit that she knew then and there that she would never be able to touch someone – to love someone – no matter how much she wishes she could. 'But Rogue -' Gambit starts to interrupt. 'But nothing, Remy! You wouldn't understand!' Rogue exclaims

Rogue tells Gambit that he can control his powers, that he doesn't have to worry about blowing up his shoes when he is trying to get dressed, or a coffee cup at breakfast. She couldn't control her powers, and when she tried to learn how, there was no one left to turn to – except Magneto and the Brotherhood. Rogue remembers pleading to Magneto as Mystique, Pyro and Juggernaut looked on. But they were more interested in using her as a weapon than trying to help her. That is when they sent her after Ms Marvel – and she grabbed hold of her to knock her out, but she couldn't let go – or maybe it was Ms Marvel who wouldn't let Rogue get away while there was fight still in her. Rogue took too much, she stole her powers, her memories – and her life. Rogue tells Gambit that she knew she had to change before she did something even worse, that is when she came to the X-Men, where Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey and the Beast were waiting for her. She informs Gambit that she will never know if was her decision, or if it was something she did because there was a piece of Ms Marvel making her good.

'How can you love me when I don't even know who I am?' Rogue asks. But Gambit tells Rogue that he knows who she is – and exactly who he is, which perhaps is worse. 'You may have made a bad choice, but back in the Thieves Guild, Gambit didn't even know there was a choice. My whole life was laid out for me. The things we did... the people we loved'. He remembers dancing with a woman, and tells Rogue that it wasn't until he realized that he ain't who he really is that he got the courage to leave, and broke poor Bella Donna's heart when he did it. Gambit recalls sneaking out through a window one night, leaving Bella Donna, and tells Rogue that he wasn't gonna let nothing stand in the way of being who he is, and right now, this night who he is is a man in love with her. 'Remy, I... it just ain't that easy' Rogue declares. 'Who said it was easy, petite?' Gambit replies, adding that neither one of them will feel whole without each other. 'Maybe it's time we see who we are... together' Gambit suggests, as they lean towards each other, 'Oh, Remy...' Rogue utters, their lips almost connect – when Cassandra Nova suddenly appears, rising out of the picnic basket.

'No! No! No! Absolutely not. I would never have put you two together if I'd realized it would result in this vulgar display of sexual tension' Cassandra announces. 'What the -?' Rogue gasps. 'Diable?' Gambit exclaims.

Young versions of Havok, Colossus, Longshot, Nightcrawler and Dazzler – possibly X-Babies – are sitting on a sofa near Cassandra, who declares that the X-Men are heroes, and asks what kind of message does it send when they are always going on about how they want to be... to be... friendly?

 'Hi! Don't mind us!' Dazzler exclaims. 'Yeah, keep going!' Havok grins. 'So who was that lady in the bed? Were you two gonna kiiiiss?' Dazzler asks. 'I heard zat's how you make ze baby!' Nightcrawler remarks.

'Nova! I remember now!' Rogue tells Gambit, who agrees, and points out that she has them trapped in some sort of psychic illusion. He throws several kinetically-charged playing cards towards Cassandra, who blocks them with ease 'Look out, Aunt Cassie!' Dazzler screams, while Cassandra declares 'Sex and violence? Honestly, I have my work cut out for me with you two'. She then tells Dazzler not to worry, that she will protect her from this filth. 'You made a grande mistake, Nova!' Gambit calls out. 'If this ain't real – then I won't feel bad about tearing her head off!' Rogue exclaims as she flies towards Cassandra, but Cassandra grabs her and tosses her aside. 'Don't worry, Chere -' Gambit calls out as he lunges at Cassandra, his bo staff at the ready. 'Typical, Mr LeBeau. Always swinging your stick around and never getting anywhere' Cassandra jokes as she grabs the other end of the staff and knocks Gambit off his feet.

'Oh, that is it! I didn't wanna have to do this, but – the gloves are off, Sugah!' Rogue shouts as she returns, pulling her gloves off, she flies towards Cassandra, bare hands ready to grab her foe. 'But isn't that what you were worried about?' Cassandra asks. 'That there isn't anything underneath?' she points out. 'My hands!' Rogue gasps, as they vanish. Cassandra now wears Ms Marvel's costume, and grabs Rogue, warning her that that was the latest in a long string of mistakes, but that she shouldn't worry. 'I can help' she assures her. Cassandra plunges her cane into Rogue's mind, announcing that it is going to be so much better, too. 'After all... I just want to give you what you want' Cassandra claims, opening Rogue's mind up to reveal Rogue and Gambit with two children. 'Merry Christmas, Remy Jr!' Rogue tells the boy, handing him a gift. 'Isn't this what you've dreamt of all these years? A life without tension. A life without angst and longing?' Cassandra asks. She continues: 'A nice, normal family! Husband and wife, taking care of their children and promoting traditional family values' Cassandra tells Rogue that this could all be hers, if only she wanted it bad enough.

Rogue and Gambit appear in their X-Men costumes as Cassandra's fingers stretch around Rogue, 'Perhaps it's time someone shows you the way!' Cassandra calls out. Rogue tells her to get away, but Cassandra's fingers have latched onto her. 'Don't think I've forgotten you, Mr LeBeau' Cassanda tells Gambit as her fingers connect with him, too. Cassandra tells them that they don't need to struggle or fight anymore. They are now puppets on her strings, 'You only need to let me take control' Cassandra declares. 'And free you from the heavy burden of all that desire'. Cassandra dangles the puppet Rogue and Gambit from their strings, Gambit tells Rogue that he understands her love is a precious gift, and Rogue replies that it is a gift she will give to him once the time is right. 'Of course. True love waits, Chere' Gambit replies as he places a ring on Rogue's puppet finger. The puppets clasp hands and Rogue tells Gambit that it feel so good to have a promise that they will one day be engaged to be married. 'Finally, proper role models!' Cassandra smiles, pleased with herself, as BSP APPROVED is stamped across Rogue and Gambit.

In the Beast's Mind Field:
Hank McCoy a.k.a. The Beast is behind bars, 'Well. As a wise man once said: “What a revolting development”' the Beast remarks to himself, before he sees Cassandra Nova walking towards him carrying a bucket. 'Ah, Director, I take it that perusing your research is out of the question' the Beast remarks. 'Ah, Henry, so very charming, Even when you're caged like a beast' Cassandra responds. The Beast tells her that he has been locked up before. 'If you're trying to goad me into giving in to my animal nature -' he begins. 'Far from it!' Cassandra interrupts him. 'May I be honest with you?' she asks him. “To thine own self be true” the Beast quotes, telling Cassandra that line is from Act 1, Scene 3 of Hamlet. 'That's what I find so delightful about you' Cassandra replies. She tells the Beast that unlike his teammates, he sets a marvelos example – he is well read, refined, has an interest in science that is bound to set young admirers on a path towards education. 'Why thank you' the Beast replies as he puts his head through the bars of the cage and Cassandra strokes under his chin. 'Good heavens! You're even polite! In another time, I would've kept you as a mascot, perhaps. Sadly, you're still a Beast'. Cassandra then stamps the Beast with BSP REJECTED.

'If it were only the hands and feet, we'd have something to work with, but alas. The children of Westchester need people to look up to, not furry animals' Cassandra remarks to herself. She wonders who is next, before grinning, 'Ah, yes. Time to feast'.

Meanwhile, beneath Clear Mountain: 'Get! Me! Outta! Here!' Jubilee exclaims as she blasts her fireworks powers at the door. 'Oh, great. Not a scratch. Now I'm gonna get eaten by CHUDs!' Jubilee jokes. 'Easy, girl. Nobody's eating anyone' Chamber calls out. 'You sure about that, English?' Feral snarls. Chamber tells Jubilee not to worry about Feral, as she gets grumpy when lunch is late. Chamber introduces himself as Jono, and adds that his friends call him Chamber. 'Yeah, well, my friends are the X-Men! And they're gonna come busting through that door to free me any second now!' Jubilee exclaims. 'Or not' she adds as the Beast is thrown into the room by two of the Guard Command. Jubilee rushes over to the Beast and asks him what happened up there. Hank tells Jubilee that he is merely bruised, and explains that the session in the Mind Field has left him a bit drained. He adds that it seems the Director didn't care for his boyish charm, before he asks 'Where are we?' Chamber leads Jubilee and the Beast down some stairs, and Chamber remarks 'Quite a rescue, X-Man', as he offers to give them the tour.

Down the steps, there is a large basement area, where two Sentinels lay motionless on the floor, as they are stripped for parts. 'Same old story with a bit of a twist, innit? The mutants who don't fit in get sent straight to the basement, but Nova didn't just want us out of sight. Put us to work, stripping down Sentinels for parts. Hands, heads, sometimes feet' Chamber reveals. 'You're working for her?' Jubilee asks. 'No work, no food. I can go without, but kids like Artie and Leech...' Chamber's voice trails off. 'Point taken. But what is she doing with Sentinel parts?' the Beast asks. Chamber replies that all he knows is what he hears – a big project upstairs, something called an X-Sentinel. 'Curiouser and curiouser!' the Beast replies.

The X-Mansion: with the end of the Westchester Wars, the X-Men have tried to turn their headquarters into a home suitable for peace. But for some mutants, peace will never arrive. 'Stay alert, X-FORCE!' declares Cable as he and his team arrive at the X-Mansion. Cable is a hardened gun-toting warrior from a grim future. Bishop has a different gun and is from a different future, but he is just as hard. Deadpool is a lethal mercenary with a twisted sense of humor, while domino is an expert marksman with control over probability. Archangel has metal wings crafted by Apocalypse, and can fire “feathers” laced with a deadly neurotoxin. Finally, there is Psylocke, a psychic ninja who wields the focused totality of her telepathic powers. Cable remarks that the psychic distress call from Professor X would never have come to them unless he was desperate, as Professor X has never approved of their methods. Cable instructs X-Force to spread out, form a perimeter and move in.

'Back door's open!' Bishop declares as he blasts the backdoor down. Domino and Deadpool follow him, and looking around, Domino points out that it is too quiet, and there is no sign of the X-Men. Bishop doesn't like this, and adds that if something has happened to the Professor, then it may be too late to stop Westchester from becoming his future.

'Yeah, the grim darkness of a tomorrow whereb the mullet never went out of style' Deadpool jokes. Cable and Psylocke join the group, and Cable tells Deadpool to cut the chatter, before asking Psylocke if she has picked anything up. Psylocke reports that something is wrong, that the psychic traces are all jumbled, almost broken. 'Nate, we've got trouble!' Bishop reports as he steps into the next room. 'No!' Cable shouts as he and Domino rush into the room to find Professor X's contorted form motionless on the floor. 'Stab his eyes!' We're too late!' Cable exclaims, while Domino leans over the Professor and announces that he is dead!

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Gambit, Jubilee, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, Professor X (all X-Men)
Archangel, Bishop, Cable, Deadpool, Domino, Psylocke (all X-Force)
Artie, Caliban, Chamber, Feral, Gorgeous George, Leech, Maggott, Masque, Sauron (all Rej-X)

Cassandra Nova
Shadow King

Guard Command
Miles & Rachel

In Wolverine's Mind Field
Wolverine at various stages
Cyber, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red, Silver Samurai, Viper

In Storm's Mind Field
Storm at various stages
Rogue, Wolverine, Professor X
Baron Kelly

Cassandra Nova
Shadow King

Members of the Shadow Kings

In Rogue's Mind Field
Rogue at various stages
Gambit at various stages

Cody Robbins
Ms Marvel

Juggernaut, Magneto, Mystique, Pyro (all Brotherhood of Evil Mutants)

Beast, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Professor X (all X-Men)
Bella Donna

Colossus, Dazzler, Havok, Longshot, Nightcrawler (all X-Babies)
Gambit and Rogue's children

In the Beast's Mind Field

Story Notes: 

Jubilee jokes that she is going to get eaten by CHUDs, referencing the 1984 film of the same name directed by Douglas Cheek. A CHUD is a Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller.

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