An isolated cabin in the middle of the night, Cain Marko a.k.a. the unstoppable Juggernaut moans and clutches his helmet-covered head, ‘Stop it, stop it, stop it!’ he shouts, smashing through a wooden table. Cain then slumps into a chair, ‘Maybe you thought I was an easy mark, seeing as how I was a sleep and all. Thing again pal, nothing gets through this helmet!’ he shouts to his tormentor. The short-lived X-Man grits his teeth and exclaims ‘You were giving it your best shot though, weren’t you? Whoever you are, you got better psi-powers than I ever met before, better’n’ my crummy step-brother, even. It’s just you ain’t got squat to throw against the amulet of Cyttorak. And come morning…I’m gonna be out there looking for you!’ Juggernaut boasts.
Meanwhile, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, inside the Crossbeam Motel, on Route 10. Professor Charles Xavier is in the twelfth day of his new life - or the early hours of the thirteenth. And because he came here looking for his father, it is his sister he dreams about:
(In Xavier’s Dream)
‘Do you think there any revelations to be found here, Charles? Seriously?’ asks Xavier’s diabolical twin, Cassandra Nova. ‘Do you think finding out what Brian Xavier was will tell you what you are? Or what you used to be?’ she asks. Xavier replies that it is a place to start and remarks that the past doesn’t define a person, but helps to explain them. ‘It’s a Rosetta stone for the unconscious’ he remarks. ‘If you think that, my sweet brother, you’re running into trouble’ Cassandra replies, before remarking that Charles has scarcely more memories of their father than she has - ‘And I died here in the womb!’ she remarks, motioning around. ‘He died when you were seven. He was an absence in your life. Not a presence!’.
Cassandra tells Charles that he was the same for his own son - ‘Perhaps that’s why David felt he had to win your love by murdering the future!’ Xavier replies that he gave David what help he could. ‘And my love. Unconditionally!’ he exclaims. ‘You might have tried giving him the strength to bear his afflictions!’. Cassandra suggests, remarking that Joe MacTaggert did that much for his child ‘Although, admittedly, he didn’t do so willingly’ Cassandra adds, referring to Proteus’ possession of Joe MacTaggert. Cassandra asks Xavier about the child he bore himself - the alien Brood Queen he incubated in his own mind and body. ‘That ought to give you a unique perspective on the whole parent-child dynamic’ Cassandra remarks, suggesting that perhaps Xavier is more comfortable with monsters - the Shadow King, the Brood, Proteus - because they absolve him of any duty to care, and reduce everything to his favorite dialect of control.
Xavier wakes suddenly, and slumps over in his bed, reeling from the dream.
The next day, at the Ryking Secure Psychiatric Facility. ‘A gift of sorts from a father to a son’. Xavier wonders if he has been here before, and supposes that he must have, but that was in another life. ‘You got any coins in your pocket, Professor? You’re gonna need to go through again’ a Security Guard remarks as he runs a detector across Xavier as the Professor enters the facility.
Shortly, a Doctor leads Professor X along a corridor and asks him how he knows Carter Ryking. Xavier replies that their fathers worked together at Alamogordo when they were children. ‘In a sense, he’s my oldest friend’ Charles adds. The Doctor runs his eyes across some files and warns Charles that he will find Carter much deteriorated. ‘When he lost his - abilities, in what the tabloids called the M-Day Decimation, he responded very badly’. The Doctor tells Charles that it is probably best he go into this with low expectations. ‘What do you mean?’ Xavier asks. ‘I mean, this won’t be a meeting of minds - unless you brought both minds yourself’ the Doctor explains, opening the door to the ward.
Carter Ryking is slumped over against a wall which has small lines carved into it, a tally, he’s been counting something. ‘One is his - one for his hand. Knock knock knock. On the door’ Carter mumbles, rubbing his finger across the tally. Xavier stands with the Doctor and two other staff as he calls out to his long-lost friend. ‘Not here. Not here. He left. He already left. I can pass on a -’ Carter begins to say, until he turns around and sees his visitor. ‘Ch - ch - Charles?’ he exclaims. ‘Where are my manners? I hope you’re well!’ Carter exclaims, shaking Xavier’s hand.
Xavier smiles and replies that he is fine, before asking Carter how he is. ‘A little pressured for time, you know. Counting the days. Counting the days’ Carter replies, motioning to the tally on the wall he adds that he is down to one now - unless he made a mistake somewhere. Xavier informs Carter that he has come to ask a favor, and asks ‘You know my powers involve telepathy? Mind-reading?’. Carter looks at Xavier and replies ‘Mine involve pain, I think. And needles’.
Charles explains to Carter that he has lost some of his memories because of an accident, and that he thought one way to retrieve them might be to access the memories of people he has been close to. ‘People who were at me at different stages of my life’. Carter grabs Charles by the shoulders and asks him if he knows how to count. ‘Yes, Carter. I know how to count’ Xavier replies. ‘Up or down? It makes a difference!’ Carter exclaims. ‘One for his hand. Two for his feet. Three - what’s three? I don’t think I want to remember!’. Carter exclaims, before giving Charles permission to read his mind. Xavier thanks Carter, who tells Charles that he can only read the surface. ‘Just what I’m remember now. You’re in it!’ he exclaims as Xavier begins to concentrate.
(Flashbacks, years ago / Inside Carter‘s Mind)
Charles and Carter are playing with toy trains and planes, ‘And the jet goes dukka dukka dukka - and you’re dead!’ exclaims Carter holding the jet plane up. ‘I’m not, I’m not, you missed!’ Charles exclaims, while his mother, Sharon, and father, Brian stand in the doorway, ‘More tests?’ Sharon asks. ‘No. No, Brian, I won’t let you!’ she exclaims. ‘This isn’t right, he’s just a child!’. But her renowned scientist husband replies that Charles is not “just” a child, that he has the x form of the allele - fully expressed.
Brian crossly reminds Sharon that Doctor Milbury has already explained this to her, and exclaims that Charlie is the next big thing - the thing that comes after humanity. ‘If he was “just a child”, we wouldn’t be here!’ he exclaims. Dr. Xavier adds that kids are resilient, that nature makes them that way, so Charlie probably won’t even remember any of this. Charles looks at his father, who remarks that even if he does remember it, even it if it hurts him, it is what they signed up for.
‘Aaaah!’ cries Carter Ryking as Dr. Milbury stands over him, removing a needle from his arm. ‘Yes, that one hurt a little, didn’t it, Carter?’ Dr. Milbury remarks, telling Carter to wave his arm around and the sting will fade. Dr. Milbury holds the needle up and turns to Charlie, asking him if he remember which injection comes first. ‘The blue one?’ Charles replies. ‘Exactly. Well done’ Dr. Milbury remarks, before re-filling the needle as he mumbles ‘One for his hand as he knocks on the door. Two for his feet as he crosses the floor. Three for his eyes as he finds where you’re hid…’ his voice trails off as Charles interrupts, asking why they have to have so many shots and tests. ‘Immortality, Charlie, your genes - your genes will live forever!’ Milbury replies as he sticks Charles with the needle, and a red diamond flashes on his forehead.
(Present / Reality)
‘Carter, that - that mark on Doctor Milbury’s forehead -?’ Xavier asks. Carter replies that it was always there, but that it was just energy. ‘Nobody else could see it. Only me’. Carter remarks, before declaring that his father said that too, about living forever. ‘But - I counted and it’s finished now. Almost. Almost finished’. he exclaims, rubbing his hand across the markings in the wall. Xavier thanks Carter and tells him that he has given him a lot to think about. ‘Think quickly, Charlie. Don’t dawdle’ Carter replies.
Xavier assures Carter that he will visit him tomorrow, if he will be allowed. The Doctor tells Xavier that he will see him out, and remarks that he thinks this visit did Carter some good. ‘He doesn’t normally engage with -’ the Doctor begins to say, until Carter suddenly shouts ‘Charlie! He knocked on the door last night. That’s one, isn’t it? When he knocks on the door, you’re down to one!’ a panic-stricken Carter mutters as he points to one of the lines on the wall.
Xavier makes his way along the footpath, out of the Ryking Psychiatric Facility and thinks that it is strange how the past keeps bleeding into the present. ‘Although perhaps it shouldn’t seem strange at all’ he decides, returning to his rental car as he thinks about Alamogordo - such an assemblage of talent - his father, Kurt Marko, Irene Adler, Milbury. ‘But they were all geneticists. At what was meant to be a nuclear research facility’.
Xavier is unaware that he is being watched, that a sniper holds his rifle towards him, with his back in the target zone as Xavier thinks to himself that forebodings press down on him like a physical weight, before deciding that there is something else also - something more immediate - the certainty that he is being watched. Charles’ eyes glance backwards, while thinking that the mind-scape of any place is a continuous weaving, that human minds are only a part of it, as are birds, small animals, even insects. ‘A blank space in that weaving means one thing and one thing only - it means someone nearby is using a mind-shield’.
Xavier decides that he needs to know why, and as he opens the door to his rental car, a flock of birds suddenly take to the air, Xavier uses the tools that come most readily to hand, knowing that the pigeon’s perception is that the man on the roof behind him is nether food nor threat, blends into the background, seen, and then forgotten. Xavier decides that he should probably be ashamed of this, that his rules of engagement should be more rigidly defined. ‘Like, first, do no harm’ he tells himself as dozens of pigeons suddenly swarm in on the sniper, startling him and causing him to lose focus. ‘Well, I’ll do as little harm as I can. As little as it takes to throw off his aim, and shelve this small enigma until the larger one is resolved’ Xavier decides as he speeds away in the rental car.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan, at the exclusive Hellfire Club, where Roberto “Sunspot” DaCosta, and Sebastian Shaw, members of the Inner Circle, sit opposite each other, while other men sit around them. Sunspot exclaims ‘To say that this displeases me, Sebastian - is an understatement on a monumental scale!’. But Shaw replies that he doesn’t know where DaCosta’s grievance lies, and assures him that he has been entirely honest with him. ‘After the fact’ Bobby remarks, but Shaw exclaims ‘Before the fact, there was nothing to be honest about!’.
Sunspot grimaces and exclaims ‘You kept this…device on the Club’s premises but mentioned it to no one!’ Sunspot declares that he only learned of it when it fries the brains of two men in his employ. Shaw replies that machine doesn’t relate in any way to the Hellfire Club, or to his duties as its officer. ‘No? Then what does it relate to? Tell me that!’ Sunspot exclaims. ‘It belonged to my father!’ Shaw announces. ‘Your father was a nobody, you said’ Sunspot replies, as he looks out a window. ‘I did not say that!’ Shaw exclaims. ‘A miner. A man who worked with his hands’ DaCosta reminds him. But Shaw explains that his father was a miner when he died, before remarking ‘You know he belonged at one time to the Club’s English chapter. He seldom spoke about those years’.
Shaw continues, revealing that before his father died, he told him to keep this machine by him at all times, though he didn’t say why. ‘That’ doesn’t inspire my trust!’ Sunspot replies. Shaw asks since when has trust figured in the workings of this establishment and tells Sunspot that if he wants him to look into this further then he will. ‘Do so. Find out what the device did when it activated. And report back to me personally - whether you feel it concerns me or not!’ Sunspot orders. Shaw leaves the room, and Sunspot remarks ‘Next order of business, gentleman. There’ll shortly be a vacant position in the Inner Circle. Let me hear your nominations…’.
The Ryking Psychiatric Facility, there is a scream as Carter is held back by two members of staff. ‘His eyes! His eyes!’ Carter screams while a Doctor readies a needle. ‘Jeez! Hold him still, will you!’ one of the staff tells the other. ‘Just do it, Sayles. We’re not dancing here!’ the other exclaims. ‘One. One. One…Zero…’ Carter mumbles before his eyes roll to the back of his head, and he collapses. The staff member with the needle crouches down beside Carter and tells the others that, on second thought, they need to go get the log book and the Chaplain. ‘If he’s sober’ he adds. ‘Fruit loop’s gone and died on us!’ he exclaims, referring to Carter.
Meanwhile, night time has struck, and Xavier sits in his motel room, deciding that night makes him think of death. ‘Or perhaps - perhaps it’s the photographs’ he wonders as he pours through some black and white photos. He stares at one of his father, Kurt Marko, Irene Adler and Milbury and thinks to himself that he had two fathers - first Brian Xavier, who ignored him, then after he died, Kurt Marko who bullied and bellowed and crowed Charles into a corner of his own life. Charles looks at the image of Milbury - who took more of an interest in him than anyone.
‘But to what end? Did he - in some way I can’t even imagine - influence the decisions I took? The life I’ve had?’ Charles wonders as he draws a red diamond on Milbury’s face. ‘Holding his image in the forefront of my mind, I slip in the trance state I’ve been practising…I want some answers to these questions!’ Xavier exclaims to himself. But he gets something else entirely, as his musings on death and rebirth take a concrete shape - and face - life and death herself - Jean Grey…Phoenix!
‘I’m not sure if I can even describe how it felt…have you ever been under general aesthetic, Professor? Jean Grey asks as she stands naked in a cylinder. ‘Many times, Jean. Please keep still’ Xavier tells her as he taps away at a console. ‘Well, it was kind of like that. You wake up - and it’s only then that you realize you’ve been out’ Jean explains. Xavier analyzes some readings and quotes “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep”, but Jean, stepping out of the cylinder, tells him to leave Shakespeare out of this, as that is not what she means at all.
With mere thought, Jean conjures up her green and gold Phoenix costume, declaring that, for so long, she just used her telekinesis to play circus tricks, but now she can touch the atoms of the air and the spaces between them. ‘I feel like I’m kissing the whole universe on the lips’. Xavier asks Jean what it is that she is saying, to which Jean, examining her handiwork, replies that death and birth can be the same thing, that so much of life is just the routine - the default options. ‘The coffin we build around ourselves while we’re still alive’.
Xavier remarks that he can see where that might happen to the unwary, but that his life doesn’t permit of a routine. ‘I’m too busy for that’ he states as he continues to carry on with his work. ‘But that’s just it, Charles. You only see the coffin when it opens and lets some light in. When everything changes or -’ Jean is interrupted by Xavier who snaps ‘Or what?’. ‘Or stops!’ Jean exclaims, her eyes burning bright. ‘What? What do you -? Xavier asks.
(In Xavier’s Mind)
Xavier’s mind shifts, he sees Bishop, holding up a gun - pulling the trigger. The bullet explodes from the gun, and an instant later, Xavier is dead.
(Present / Reality)
Xavier, sitting crossed-legged with the photos sprawled around him, decides that something is wrong. ‘Something’s out there’ he thinks, casting his mind out like a net, looking for an owl or a dog whose eyes he can borrow. Indeed, several men dressed similarly to the sniper from earlier have descended on the motel. Xavier feels that the silence has a curdled sourness to it, an intense predatory feel. The night is empty, no animals about. ‘Perhaps…perhaps I was mistaken’ he realizes as he senses something else, he tells himself that the mind-scape has holes in it again. ‘I’m being stalked’ he decides, before picking up the phone, only for the wires outside to be cut.
‘I can only wait, and face whatever comes…’ Xavier thinks to himself, while the assassins turn the door handle, only for one of them to quietly say ‘Wait a second, it’s too dark’. Suddenly, a voice exclaims loudly, ‘You need a little here?’. All the assassins turn quickly, and looking up, they see Remy “Gambit” LeBeau, a deck of cards kinetically charged and giving off a red glow, Gambit tells them that they should be careful what they wish for.