‘So yeah…I was in a pretty bad way back there’ Bobby “Iceman” Drake remarks, sitting in the passenger seat of a truck.
(flashback to X-Men Manifest Destiny #2, narrated by Iceman)
While Mystique attacked the hospital staff and security officers, Bobby lay on the floor, the neurotoxin running like wildfire through his system. Struggling to get up, Bobby didn’t think it would have done any good even if the doctor could have got to him. Bobby could feel his body, his mind, shutting down, like the lights going out on a comms board. That was the wrong metaphor, Bobby decides. ‘I was melting’ is more correct, as his thoughts leaked out of him like blood out of a wound, and he thought to himself, out of nowhere, just go with it.
‘So what did you do?’ the truck driver asks Bobby. The handsome X-Man replies that he just let it happen, but that he put his own spin on it. ‘You know how they say you replace every cell in your body every seven years?’ he asks the trucker. ‘When I use my power, my body turns to ice’ he remarks, turning his hand to ice to demonstrate. ‘But I also control the moisture in the air. I can turn that into ice too’. Bobby explains that the ice inside him, and the ice around him, is all the same thing.
Blood lies in pools on the floor where Bobby struggles to get up, the toxin inside is killing him because it is such a massive overdose for someone of his body mass. The concentration of the chemicals in his blood is enough to kill him ten times over. But Bobby began to control the ambient moisture that is effectively part of his body mass too, and began to ice up as far as he could, drawing all that moisture towards him, into him, then he released it again, three times, like passing air through a filter, Bobby let the poisoned molecules of his body dissipate into vapor, and remade himself out of fresh, clean ice, like a body swap, done one piece, one cell, at a time, until he was finally as good as new. While Bobby reconstructed himself, the hospital staff, including the nurse Mystique injured, now recovered, watch him.
‘So don’t take this the wrong way, but how come you’re telling me all this? Super heroes don’t normally do that, do they? They play it close to the vest’ the trucker asks Bobby. ‘The truth? I’ve been looking at your face all this time’ Bobby replies. ‘Why? You looking to make a move on me or something?’ the trucker asks. ‘I wanted to see how you reacted to the story. If you were her, I’d know by now’ Bobby explains, referring to Mystique. Bobby reveals that part of him almost wants Mystique to succeed, as someone he love and respects died because he trusted her. ‘I feel like I deserve to be punished for that!’ Bobby explains, adding that he doesn’t want to be taken by surprise.
Suddenly, a Police Officer on a motorcycle speeds up behind the truck. ‘Aw man, we got us a cop on our -’ the truckie begins to say, when suddenly the Police Officer pulls out a rifle and begins shooting at the front of the truck. The truckie swerves the truck, while Bobby tells him to stop the truck. ‘She’s only after me!’ he exclaims. ‘She? That’s a guy, you moron!’ the truckie replies, only for Bobby to kick the truckie out the door. ‘I’m doing you a favor here!’ Bobby exclaims as the truckie falls onto the edge of the road, and rolls down into a ditch. ‘Lousy thieving mutie…son of a…’ the truckie mumbles.
The Police Officer blows out one of the trucks tires, causing the truck to tumble onto one its side, and slide along the road for some distance, before exploding - and Mystique shifts into her default form, bringing the motorcycle to a halt not too far away, grinning wickedly as she does. Suddenly, Bobby emerges from the fire in his ice-form, ‘Can’t kill me with fire, Mystique. Not any more!’ Bobby announces as he walks to Raven Darkholme, telling her that if she wants to finish this then she will have to look him in the eye as she pulls the trigger. Bobby drops his ice, shifting to his human form, and Mystique raises her rifle to his chest….
San Francisco, late one night, the young mutant Jonas Graymalkin sits on a hill, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge.
At that moment, senior X-Man Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy a.k.a. the Beast, sits in his lab at the X-Men’s new headquarters, various monitors displaying images and data of Jonas. ‘Results of examination - physical and psychological, genetic and telepathic’ Hank begins, recording himself as he remarks that the subject is a mutant as whose powers are enhanced strength and agility, not to mention showing signs of invulnerability. Hank remarks that Jonas’ powers are limited however, to locations with insufficient photonic sources, such as darkness. Hank explains that the absence of light triggers Jonas’ mutant abilities.
The Beast remarks that exposure to electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths of 300 NM to 1400 NM - i.e. normal light, render Jonas powerless. ‘Synopsis: subject has powers in near total darkness; subject is unpowered in the presence of light’ Hank declares, before stating that Jonas appears to suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and that the traumatic event being hypothesized based on forensic analysis. ‘To wit, soil samples taken from under subject’s fingernails, analysis of dirt trapped in subject’s bronchial passages…suggests that subject - who, according to optical dating, appears more than 200 years old - spent the better portion of his life buried alive’.
Back outside, Jonas exclaims ‘This was lovely. This night. The meal. The music. It was all quite…intoxicating. I haven’t been out like that in a long, long time, as you can well imagine!’. Jonas turns to someone sitting beside him and declares that it has been longer still since he has had such pleasant company. ‘Please…don’t say anything. Not yet’ Jonas asks his companion. Jonas exclaims ‘I know why you’re here, why you…reached out as you did. You’re curious. Your friends, who seem quite upstanding, are curious. It’s understandable’. Jonas tells his companion that his friends what to know, and he himself wants to know, how he came to be so incarcerated. ‘Buried. As if a corpse’.
Jonas explains that he lay there for such a long, long time, until some manner of apocalypse decimated the area, upsetting the very structure of the earth that the Xavier Institute was built on - and thus unsettling Jonas from his confinement. This manner of apocalypse, as Jonas put it, was of course the Sentinel attack on the Xavier Institute. Jonas tells his companion that he is getting ahead of himself. ‘Neither the manner of my confinement nor the means of my extrication are your primary interest. You’re interested, I imagine, in why I was so confined’ Jonas remarks, revealing that he was buried simply for what he is. ‘But you know what I am, don’t you? After all, you’re just like me’ he tells his companion. ‘I’ll begin at the beginning, I suppose…’.
In his lab, the Beast states his hypothesis: ‘Since lack of light triggers subject’s mutant power and subject was without such light for over two centuries…conclusion would be that his subterranean incarceration actually prolonged his lifespan. Unfortunately, however, solitary confinement of that duration, no social contact, no visual stimuli, totally sensory deprivation…”Traumatic street” might not be sufficient to cover the torment subject endured!’
Outside, Jonas begins his tale:
(Flashback, over two hundred years ago, narrated by Graymalkin)
The handsome young Jonas Graymalkin grew up in the province of New York, on the very lands where his companion’s compatriots found him. ‘The only son to Charles and Marcia Graymalkin’ he reveals. Jonas exclaims that he had a good life, a happy one, but that there was much strife at the time, some tumult concerning taxation and representation in the British Parliament, but that he was not overly concerned with that. ‘I was sixteen years old and far, far more concerned with what I had discovered about myself. About what I was’.
Jonas reveals that it was a grey day, and he was in the barn…experimenting…with his newfound identity - when suddenly, his father caught him. ‘He was horrified. Speechless for a moment - until a single word came to his lips. A word that encapsulated what I had become’. Abomination Charles Graymalkin boomed at his son, before punching Jonas hard in the face. ‘A madman’s fury. A father’s shame’ Jonas tells his friend, recalling how he was knocked to the barn floor, and that there was no one else in the town, in the entire colony he’s imagine - none that his father knew at any rate. ‘And it disgusted him’ Jonas declares, recalling how his father continued to beat him, curse him and curse his mother’s womb for bearing him. ‘I was sixteen and my father was a strapping man’ Jonas tells his companion. ‘There was little I could do…before the world turned to black’. Just before the world turned to black though, his terrified eyes caught one last glimpse of someone else in the barn.
When Jonas finally roused, night had fallen, and his father had been busy - digging Jonas a shallow grave. Jonas tells his companion that he didn’t think his father knew, ‘At least I choose to believe he didn’t know’ that he was still alive as the dirt was being shovelled on top of him. ‘So consumed he was with his disgust’. Charles Graymalkin’s last words to his son were ‘Damnable monster! You are not my son! No such bane could ever spring from my loins! The earth take you, damnation!’. And the cold dirt continued to cover poor Jonas.
The Beast states that, based on genetic analysis, as well as forensic study, it appears that Jonas’ powers did not manifest until his incarceration. ‘The lack of refulgence, of light in his - for lack of a better term but hardly a more descriptive one - grave appears to have triggered his mutant power’. The Beast declares that, if not for the triggering of his mutant power, Jonas would have died - very quickly, and unpleasantly. Hank remarks that it raises the question however, and he knows this isn’t a purely scientific inquiry, of what occasioned Jonas to be buried alive in the first place. Hank remarks that the White Queen’s previous conversation with Jonas hint that Jonas was the victim of some prejudice. ‘But if his mutant powers didn’t manifest until after, I’m unclear as to what that prejudice could be…’ Hank states.
Outside, Jonas’ companion, after listening intently, remarks ‘It wasn’t your fault, you know. I guess it wasn’t really your father’s either’.
(Flashback, over two hundred years ago)
Inside the barn, standing in the shadows, tears fall down the face of a horror-stricken young man as his boyfriend is beaten to apparent death.
‘It’s not like there was a lot of tolerance back then’ Jonas’ companion points out. ‘You…know?’ Jonas asks, turning to his companion, who has just come into view - it’s Victor Borokowski a.k.a. Anole. ‘Yeah. It’s okay, though. It’s all gonna be okay…’ Anole assures his friend.
Nightcrawler and Wolverine are discussing their good friend and fellow X-Man, Colossus. Nightcrawler remarks that since the move to San Francisco, Colossus wakes up before dawn, before his alarm clock even goes off, and begins exercising - lifting weights, jogging, everything. Nightcrawler adds that Colossus does everything anyone asks him to do - teaching the kids, lifting heavy things, the usual. ‘Is he painting?’ Wolverine asks, to which Nightcrawler replies that Storm arranged for canvases to be delivered weekly, but that they are all unpainted. ‘Alright. Fine. Let’s do this thing’ Wolverine replies.
Greymalkin Industries, Marin, Colossus’ face gets smashed in by a rocky hand, which shatters as it strikes Colossus’ steel form. ‘Awww…’ Rockslide complains, clutching the remains of his arm. ‘Why would you do that?’ Colossus asks as they stand in the kitchen. ‘I…I…uh…because I never liked you! Yeah! I hate you!’ Rockslide retorts. Rubbing his head, puzzled, Colossus asks Rockslide if he doesn’t want his arm. ‘Not now, I don’t! Hate you!’ Rockslide retorts as he skulks away, rocks once comprising his hand littering the floor.
‘…and, uh, then I broke’ Rockslide tells Wolverine and Nightcrawler, sometime later. ‘Did he laugh? Because I’m laughing’ Wolverine exclaims. ‘No, he didn’t laugh, jerk face. He didn’t even smile. And you know what? You know what? You guys are crappy friends!’ Rockslide tells the long-serving, senior X-Men. Nightcrawler tells Rockslide that they are only trying to cheer Colossus up. ‘You were supposed to pick a fight with him, not fall apart. You flunk, Pebbleslide. In life’. Wolverine exclaims.
‘Dammit!’ Rockslide exclaims, remarking that he doesn’t see how beating Colossus up would cheer him up anyway. ‘What else was on your list? Insulting his mother?’ Rockslide asks. ‘Peter’s mother is dead, Santo. She was murdered!’ Nightcrawler quickly replies. ‘Dammit! Can I just go?’ Rockslide asks. Nightcrawler thanks him for trying, to which Rockslide replies ‘I hate you!’ as he storms out of the room. ‘Now what?’ Nightcrawler asks Wolverine. ‘Got me’, Logan replies, before remarking that “bar fight” was the only thing in his “cheer up” bag. ‘Hell, if I knew how to cheer people up, I’d be cheered up!’ Wolverine exclaims, before asking Nightcrawler if he has thought of anything. ‘We keep trying’ Nightcrawler replies.
Soon, Wolverine is slumped over a table, dozens of empty beer bottles scattered across it, ‘Woof…I’ll be…good in like…hurf…like ten minutes. Isn’t…isn’t this fun?’ he asks. Colossus holds one beer bottle and stares ahead, while Nightcrawler mutters ‘Ja!’ in response to Wolverine’s question.
Later, Nightcrawler and Wolverine watch as Pixie tells Colossus a joke: ‘So the priest says “I don’t know, but his face rings a bell!”. Isn’t that the best?’ Pixie laughs. ‘But the man died!’ Colossus points out. ‘Well…yeah, that’s why it’s funny!’ Pixie explains.
Later still, Colossus joins Nightcrawler and the Beast at the cinema, and the Beast whispers that perhaps this was a poor choice in film, as it is really quite depressing for an “action-thriller”.
‘What did you say?’ Colossus asks Iceman, who replies ‘You know, a “lady of the night”, a ho -’ Iceman replies, until Wolverine punches him in the face. ‘Dammit, Drake!’ Logan snarls.
A bewildered Colossus stands with Blindfold and Loa in the communications room, where Loa explains that you type in stuff: ‘Like whatever you’re doing at the moment, called “tweets”!’. Colossus replies that he is doing nothing, to which Blindfold cryptically remarks ‘No…I’m sorry, please. No one will “follow” you’.
‘You have got to be %*$@ing kidding me! Again?’ complains Match as Colossus and Rockslide toast marshmallows on his flaming head. Rockslide tells Match to shut up and get some sensitivity. ‘His girlfriend’s dead or something!’ he exclaims, referring to Shadowcat.
Later still, Colossus, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are surrounded by civilians throwing streamers and confetti. ‘What the hell, Kurt?’ Wolverine asks Nightcrawler, who replies ‘It was called the “Colossus party!” I didn’t know!’. Suddenly, the crowd of civilians begins to run in all directions, as a trolley carrying several other civilians zooms towards them, out of control. Colossus shifts to his armored form, and digs his feet through the concrete road as the trolley coils against his powerful form. The crowd cheers, while Nightcrawler exclaims ‘Logan! I cannot believe you did that! People could have been hurt!’. Logan swears that it wasn’t him, to which Nightcrawler grunts that he believes him, before teleporting away. X-23 steps out of the shadows and remarks that Colossus does not look any happier. ‘Shut up’ Wolverine tells her.
Later, back at the X-Men’s headquarters, Logan exclaims to Colossus ‘That’s it! Enough already!’. Nightcrawler tries to calm Wolverine down, but Logan tells Colossus that Kitty is gone, they know, and reminds him that he was there when it happened. ‘We all lost her!’ he tells Colossus. Several others gather around as Wolverine tells Colossus that if he is going to curl up and die then to do it already, ‘You’re depressing everyone!’ he exclaims. ‘Your whole life has been a big pile of misery, we get it. So do something new!’ Wolverine declares, telling Colossus to make a choice and change his life, make a new start, which was the point of the X-Men coming to San Francisco.
‘JUST DO SOMETHING!’ Wolverine roars, raising a fist to Colossus, who armors up just in time as Wolverine’s fist strikes his hand. ‘Logan…if I could just “cheer up”…don’t you think I would have?’ Colossus replies calmly, before telling him to stop trying to help him. Colossus walks away from Logan, Kurt and the others, as Kurt suggests to Logan that it is perhaps best if they let him go. ‘Give him time’ Kurt remarks. ‘No. No way. I ain’t giving up. We just have to figure out what he needs’ Wolverine replies.
Later, the sun sets over San Francisco, and Colossus sits on a bench in the middle of a seemingly deserted park. Suddenly, a small voice calls out to him: ‘Excuse me, Sir? Could you help me rescue kitty?’. Colossus turns to the direction of the voice, and sees a young girl pointing to a tree. ‘She climbed the tree again, and you’re very tall’ the little girl declares. Colossus walks over to her and kneels beside her as she asks again if he would help her rescue kitty. Colossus takes the little girl’s hand and walks with her towards the tree. ‘Little girl…nothing would make me happier’ Colossus replies.