Alice Springs Region, Australia. 50 years from now…
Kadee, an Aboriginal woman, rests on her bed. Her husband Burnum rushes into the room and tells her they need to leave immediately. Kadee doesn’t understand; why isn’t Burnum at work? Where are they supposed to go? By the time he explains, Burnum says, it will be too late.
He escorts Kadee out of their house by her shoulders. They find their fellow villagers running around in a panic. Burnum curses; the news must have already spread. Again, Kadee asks what is going on, but Burnum still refuses to explain. Kadee stops and turns to him. Since she’s not his child, but his wife, she demands he explain the situation. With a grave expression on his face Burnum, informs her that he picked up chatter on a high-level security band. In less than ninety minutes, there will be a tactical nuclear strike right where they stand. Fortunately, he has found a way out for Kadee and himself. As she limps along with her husband, away from their panicked neighbors and toward a nearby jet, Kadee asks him to slow down. She doesn’t want to rush because she is afraid she might lose the baby. “The whaaaat?” Burnum asks. Apparently, this is the first he has heard of it.
Burnum and Kadee make it out on the last flight before the first missile. They were my parents, Bishop later recounts. My life, from the very beginning, has been ruled by luck and horror. Yeah, I’m lucky to be alive. But I was born into a world of horror. Probably would have gone crazy, except for one thing—one core belief. That I am a child of the atom. And I was born for a reason.
Immigrant Processing Center, Sheepshead Bay, New York. Thirty-seven hours later…
Burnum and Kadee wade through the over-crowded, hectic immigrant processing center, a room watched over by several ominous Sentinels. Kadee worries the Sentinels will detect they are mutants; Burnum asks her to keep quiet. He knows a man in North Jersey who can provide them safe housing.
Although they try to keep a low profile—specifically because of America’s strict “No Mutants Welcome” policy—Kadee and Burnum do not evade detection for long. One of the Sentinels points at them and sounds the mutant alert. It then fires a shock-blast, knocking Burnum to the ground. Another Sentinel fires on Kadee. She blocks it by generating a spherical energy shield. Her efforts prove worthless, as the Sentinel follows up its initial attack by binding her in a mercurial substance.
The authorities put Kadee and Burnum on trial for being mutants. The trial lasts three seconds. The judge reads the charges—Burnum can regenerate low-grade tissue and has enhanced stamina, while Kadee can absorb and dispel energy—then sentences them to a mutant internment camp in Sheepshead Bay. This unsanitary, overcrowded camp—where scientists perform illegal experiments on mutants—becomes the place Lucas Bishop calls home.
Sheepshead Bay, seven months later…
Kadee goes into labor. The camp doctor is nowhere to be found, leaving the difficult delivery to Burnum and two friends. After much struggle, they deliver the child, but to Burnum’s horror, it is not breathing.
Most people don’t remember anything before the age of two or three, Bishop later recalls. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I swear I have memories from seconds after I was born.
Burnum removes the umbilical cord wrapped around his child’s neck and breathes life into his mouth. It finally gasps for air, and once it begins breathing, begins crying as well.
I remember fighting.
Kadee and Burnum fight too—mainly with each other. Although they were supposedly happy once, none of their behavior during this time at the camp displays any evidence of this. Kadee spends much of her time with other mutants, away from her family. She essentially creates a mental force-field between herself and her husband. With her gone, Burnum takes the most care of their son. He doesn’t talk much. He just plays with the young boy and comforts him when he needs it.
Later in his life, Lucas Bishop will remember the tight muscles of his father’s chest, the way he smelled, and how safe it felt in his arms.
By the time Lucas turns three, two more people join his family. The first is his little sister Shard. The second is his grandmother, whom Lucas had never before met. She had been in another camp and heard about Burnum and Kadee’s presence, and somehow worked out a transfer to get into their camp. Lucas never thinks to ask how she got the transfer, but knows enough to feel thankful anyway.
His grandmother, an elderly woman with striking white hair, tells Lucas one day that she had dreamed about meeting him. They spend as much time together in the camp as the guards allow. In her soft, whispered voice, she regales Lucas with stories of mutant heroes from the past: mutants who did the right thing, no matter what, even in a world that wanted them dead.
Lucas often drifts to sleep dreaming about these stories and the heroes within them. He dreams of a man with long brown hair who fires a red beam out of his eyes, a metallic boy with super-strength, a little blue demon with horns and a tail, a feral-looking man with Aboriginal features and claws coming from his hands, and finally, a graceful woman with white hair soaring on the winds she creates herself. The stories of these heroes play in Lucas’s head all night long.
Around the time Lucas turns five, the camp begins grumbling with rumors of some new initiative; something their captors intend to do to all of them. Sheepshead Bay is a camp for experimentation, after all. They want to see how much pain mutants can withstand so they can work out their cataloguing glitches. The guards begin pinning down individual mutants and branding a large “M” over their right eyes. Lucas is horrified to come home one day to see his mother wearing a large, white bandage over her right eye. When she sees her son, Kadee slowly removes her bandage, revealing a burned, bubbling scar, and gives Lucas some simple instructions. “When they do this to you, and you scream,” she says, “…you scream at the monster. That red-haired monster! She did this to you, not us!”
Soon, it is Lucas’s turn. They strap the five-year-old boy to an operating table. The tattoo artists sharp red needle in a cup of red ink and holds it menacingly over Lucas’s face. He then gets to work. The horrors of this experience will never escape Bishop. In his future, every time he squints, rubs his eye, or even blinks, he will remember this moment.
Once they finish with Lucas, they bring in his baby sister Shard for her turn. Lucas is infuriated. If he could tear out his own heart and throw it at them, he would. Instead, he’s left with nothing but his weak little five-year-old fists to fight the grown men in the room. They quickly beat him senseless. As Lucas lies on the floor, he cannot help but ponder why mutants deserve such treatment. In his opinion, none of them deserve it. Where are the mutant heroes to stop it?
It takes a few weeks for the headaches to subside. Lucas spends this painful time wandering the camp, listening to people talk. By this point, he notices everyone has a brand—and that it isn’t just their faces that are scarred. “Think they branded the monster?” he hears one inmate asking another. The other inmate doesn’t seem interested in discussing it, so the first one continues. “Huh. Hope. Should’ve called her Despair.” Lucas interrupts the two men and asks who the monster is. Genuinely surprised his parents have not told him yet, they tell Lucas to ask his folks about the monster that killed a million humans—and to ask them why they’re here, in the camp. The other man mutters something about not being in the camps for long, but his friend silences him.
When Lucas gets home, he asks his grandmother about the monster. Don’t listen to what those men were saying, she says, adding that those men were not there—and stories have a way of getting twisted. Lucas insists; he wants to know about the monster. Gently, his grandmother explains that the girl was not a monster. She was around at the time of her birth, and everyone was overjoyed. Besides, with all the talk about the monsters and the mutants, people seem to have forgotten the witch.
Lucas asks what she means. His grandmother explains how the Scarlet Witch cast an evil spell on mutants everywhere. All over the world, mutants lost their special gifts, and there were no more mutant babies. “If the little girl you call a monster hadn’t come along, there would have been no you. No Shard. No daddy or mommy, either,” his grandmother says. That’s why they were so excited about the little girl, the first new mutant baby in years. She gave hope to them all.
Even with his grandma’s loving description, Lucas imagines a scowling little red-haired infant with evil, glowing green eyes.
In the camps, Lucas has no television, no books, no comics, no movies, and no music. He has only his grandmother’s stories to entertain himself, and these stories fill his head. He listens eagerly to the story of the coming of the baby, followed by the massacre of all the infant children in a town in Alaska. He listens to the tale of the X-Men and their desperate battle with the crazy zealots who wanted to kill all mutants. These stories swirl around in his head, like the stories about the crazy days before the birth of Jesus, like Herod ordering the massacre of the innocents in Bethlehem to prevent the ascension of the King of the Jews. Somehow, even though these stories are scary, Lucas considers the time in which he heard them the happiest time of his life.
Then, hell comes home. The mutant prisoners rebel, inciting the backlash of both the guards and their Sentinel overlords. This rebellion will later be known as the “Summers Rebellion”. Although it should be a happy time for Lucas Bishop, the rebellion takes everything from him. He watches a Sentinel blast his father, whose body vanishes in a wall of fire. With tears in his eyes, Lucas kneels in his ashes and screams. He will never press his face in his father’s chest again.
While the battle rages, Lucas searches for his mother. He finds her using her rechanneled energy to create a force-field around herself. She lets her shield down for a moment amidst an explosion, and in this crucial timeframe, a Sentinel smashes her into the ground. Lucas will never see his mother’s face again either: her angry, scarred face that he wished, just once would have looked at him with something other than resentment.
With both his parents dead, Lucas hears the words his grandmother uttered echoing in his skull: if the girl had not come, there would have been no daddy of mommy. But the girl had come, Lucas thinks. And it was like daddy or mommy had been born just to die.
The fighting and the chaos and the bleeding continue. In the middle of it, Lucas searches for his sister Shard and his grandmother. He keeps praying he will find them alive—or not at all. While in a graveyard of mutant corpses, some guards spot Lucas and open fire with explosive rounds. He runs, barely escaping. Somehow, he makes it out of the camp and heads for the nearby city of Manhattan. Lucas hopes it big enough for him to hide in.
Thankfully, he learns the city is huge and crowded. Lucas is seven years old, alone, hungry, sporting a giant “M” tattoo on his face, and has never seen the world outside of the camps. Any of the people he sees in the city could turn him in for a reward—especially after the carnage of the rebellion. Worse, he has no skills, no abilities and no frame of reference for the insanity of the city. Fortunately, he can understand a tiny bit of the words on the signs, thanks to the bit of reading his grandma taught him. However, after a while, Lucas stops worrying even about that. He only worries about his growing hunger.
One day, he steals a bag of groceries from a man in a market. His victim shouts, alerting the police sirens. At this point in his life, Lucas knows nothing about the police; his experiences have been only with camp guards. Nevertheless, he knows he has done something wrong, and that the screaming in the skies is about him.
With the groceries still in hand, Lucas turns the corner of a dark alley and passes by a tall, silhouetted man. The man grabs him by the collar. “Huh. What ‘ave we here,” he says. “You wanna be a mastah thief, you gonna need some sliver moves’n ‘at,” the man says, wishing the boy had at least swiped something decent. Lucas looks up at the man in terror; who is he? “Me?” the white-haired, red-eyed man asks. “I’m an X-Man. An’ right now, I’m about de only one in de whole wide world who’ll give a damn about your mutie ass.”