Young Franklin Richards is having a nightmare. He sees the evil face of Onslaught grinning at him with teeth bared. This face of evil hides something far darker and more disgusting; one child’s fear. Franklin is understandably afraid. His whole family have been taken away from him during the battle against Onslaught and in his dream, he is alone in a world of darkness. Being the son of Reed and Sue Richards, he was born with extraordinary powers and now, being the sole survivor of this legacy of power he is arguably the most powerful mutant of all. There is no true definition of his reality-altering potential, because there are no true limits.
Standing on a thorny branch in his T-shirt and green pants and holding the blue ball he has carried ever since he lost his family, he hears a familiar voice behind him say his name and turns to see the vague images of his family standing nearby. He begins to run towards them, noticing the figure of his mother first with his Uncle Johnny lighting the way. As he gets nearer, he sees the hulking figure of his Uncle Ben and then his father, with his elasticized arm outstretched. Franklin reaches out with his own hand to touch his father and shouts, “Daddy! I knew it, I knew it all along, honest - you’re alive.” Unfortunately, as their hands are about to touch, his father’s evaporates and his whole family take on the form of a head with Charles Xavier’s face on one side and Magneto’s on the other as Franklin screams, “Nooo..”
He has Professor Xavier talking straight into his brain and Magneto laughing at him and in a determined fashion, says they’re “cutting me off from my family, but they’re ‘my’ family and this is my place, so it’s clobbering time.” He takes a swing at the mask of Magneto and as the mask shatters, the young face of Joseph is revealed. Franklin recognizes his face as belonging to the one who made his folks go away. As he stares at the face, Beast’s hand reaches to him and he says, “Hardly.” Franklin knows his voice which is the joined by others and even more including Rogue; hands belonging to the X-Men telling him that even Joseph couldn’t do that alone. He was one of them now, part of the team and so is he. The voices say he is one o’ the X-Men, one big happy family, “all you’ll ever need Franklin, forever.”
As the blue ball drops to the bedroom floor, Franklin wakes up with a start, his face drenched in sweat, his body shivering and shuddering; again. At first he doesn’t know where he is, or where he’s been sleeping but when he hears the McCoy’s downstairs, he remembers, though groggily, the trip he had made with Beast and some others to the McCoy’s farm in Dunfee, Illinois. Artie says, “Fran’in? Don’t be scared Frank’in” as Franklin sits up in his bed, flanked by his buddies, Artie and Leech who are both awake now. His two friends are both mutants who have been living with the Generation X kids of late. Leech is an energy-damper while Artie is a visual telepath, deprived of vocal chords which he more than makes up with by creating visual images. As the three kids huddle together in the bed, Artie creates an image of a sheep jumping over a fence. Leech says he and Artie can stay with him if it’ll make him feel better and Franklin replies that he’s not afraid, but they can stay anyway. Franklin snuggles up to a teddy bear as he drifts off into unconsciousness.
(the next morning)
At dawn, Ororo Munroe takes to the skies and revels in her freedom as she flies over Dunfee, surrounded by a flock of birds. She loves it here as it reminds her of her youth spent in the Serengeti, Africa. There are wide expanses as far as the eye can see over the state’s agricultural landscape. It’s been a while since she could say she’s enjoyed anything at all, ever since Professor Xavier’s incarceration she supposes. She thinks about Xavier’s role in the creation of Onslaught and the shadow that it has cast over all who wear the X. She questions whether they were wrong to follow one man’s dream.
She swoops down to the McCoy farm, over the animals and machinery dotted around the place, still thinking about the faith they put in him and the burden his shoulders carried. She enters the kitchen and finds Edna McCoy, Hank’s mother drying a tumbler as Remy sits at the kitchen table, an empty plate in front of him. She asks Ororo to call her Edna as they don’t put much stock in formality in these parts and asks her to seat herself next to Remy as she has another round of cakes on the griddle for him. “Another?” Ororo asks. “Another,” Remy replies. Edna says it won’t take a moment to double them all up again to which Ororo asks, “Again?” Remy offers the same repeated comment. He clearly has quite an appetite. Edna reassures them by telling them not to worry about the child either. The best thing for him now while he’s trying to adjust to the loss of his family is country air, country rest and - “Country cooking,” adds Remy. Ororo’s attention is caught by Hank bounding down the stairs wearing a football helmet with Franklin and the two young mutants in tow.
Hank agrees with his mother’s comment, providing there’s enough food for them too. Franklin and Leech sit at the table and tuck in as Artie creates an image of himself eating a horse. Their breakfast is interrupted though when Norton McCoy, Hank’s father opens the door and invites them to take a trip on the Tractor-Express, taking off from McCoy Station, before heading for the outer edges of the McCoyville fields to check the run-offs. The kids dash outside as Edna follows with their coats, telling her husband not to dare take the kids before breakfast. Too late, as the excited youngsters head for the tractor. Remy too fancies the idea and Ororo tells him to go.
As Ororo asks if she can shower, Hank cuddles his mom, asking her not to get too mad at his pop as he can down the flapjacks if she insists. Edna tells him that Franklin’s been so quiet, so withdrawn and wasn’t about to eat anything anyway. She says that bringing him here was a good idea, not only for the child but also for Hank’s father. Norton’s been talking about changes he senses in the country, a subtle shift ever since the trouble in New York. Then with the murder of the politician on the television news, it frustrates him. He doesn’t know how to help his son and how to be there for him like he used to be. Hank replies, “Same as always mom, just by being here.” Franklin watches them hug through the window, a family scene he himself wants so badly.
Meanwhile, the sign outside Graydon Creed’s headquarters is being taken down as a group of men chat in a bar opposite. Creed’s volatile crusade against mutants has all but ended but as things change on the main street of Dunfee, things inside the bar are all too familiar. A short stocky man, Buck, slurs his words a little as he tells the others that the job he had answering phones at Creed’s campaign headquarters was the best he’s ever had but now, there’s no more work thanks to the mutants, their Onslaught and the assassination of the greatest hope in the country. Mike, the barman, tells him to watch his words but a larger man seated next to Buck called Grange Janssen says he should let the man speak. Buck continues to tell them that his wife left him for a mutant with… an interesting mutation, but Grange asks him to continue what he had said earlier about Hank McCoy being back in town.
The shorter man says he got information from Winkie the mailman through Lincoln at the diner. Number Eighteen (Hank’s football number) is back in town and freakier than ever, and he has a couple more freaks in tow. A third man, Corrigan, slim and blond with a blond goatie steps in and comments that McCoy, the Beast o‘ Dunfee took them right to the state trophy all by himself, the first year he picked up a football the way he heard it. He added that McCoy played in Grange’s position and bumped him to fullback. By the second varsity, McCoy had already had an offer from the Dallas Cowboys. Before he gets the last word out, Grange punches him off his seat and without even glancing in his direction tells him to shut up. Grange turns to Buck and asks him if he can buy him another drink, though they’ve both had a few already.
Back on the McCoy farmstead, the tractor has broken down and Norton works on the engine, not sure why it stalled in the first place. Remy watches over the three kids who are playing in the field nearby. Franklin, it appears, has whipped the tractors distributor cap and Artie creates an image of a tree growing tractors, implying he wants Franklin to plant the cap. Leech, wearing a Venom baseball cap tells him that Franklin’s plan is way cooler than that but it’s a secret mission and they’ll have to wait to see what he has planned. Remy tries to jump start the tractor (Elsie) using his kinetic energy and Elsie roars into life. Norton says they should rustle up the boys but when he turns round and looks at the clearing they were in, there’s no sign of them.
Elsewhere on the farm, the three scamps have managed to get lost but they hit the floor when they sense Gambit’s energy signature which he uses as a flare to alert Storm and Beast. The two X-Men immediately sprint from the house and Hank knows that the flare came from the perimeters bordering the Janssen Woods. His mother reminds him that it is now public land, ever since the county assumed it all in probate when George Janssen’s corn crop busted a couple of years back. Storm asks for specifics, a location fix and Hank replies jokingly with some obvious directions but Ororo isn’t impressed with the timing of his humor.
As soon as she hits the sky however she feels she may have overreacted to his levity. From the air she spots Franklin, Artie and Leech just ahead in a forested area but before she can begin her descent, a bullet glances her shoulder and shocks her into losing control of her flying causing her to drop towards the ground rapidly. Luckily, before she hits the field, Beast leaps to grab her using every bit of his agility. Gambit and Norton run to him and Remy asks if she’s okay. Hank replies that she’s fine, just shocked and it looks like the bullet went clean through. He looks furious.
Franklin and his friends have got up and continue their journey but Franklin halts them and asks them to hang back while he does something. As Artie calls after him that it’s all right, he and Leech will be fine, all alone, behind him a man grabs Leech and covers his mouth as he whisks the young mutant away. A second man grabs Artie.
Meanwhile, Edna McCoy, having heard the shot has come to see Ororo and has brought a first-aid kit and some blankets with her. Norton tells his son that they’ll bandage his friend up just fine and tells him and Gambit to go get ‘em. Edna reminds them to be careful and to bring the little ones back safely. “Take care of mom and Storm dad, “ Hank replies. “We’ll take care o’ business,” adds Remy. Ororo prays to the goddess that they are all right. Franklin meanwhile makes his way through some corn fields and thinks about how Artie and Leech have finally listened to him for once and stayed behind like he asked. He spots something across the field in a plume of dust, the something he was trying to protect them from.
Elsewhere in the forested area, a group of ten men stand around talking as Grange and Buck, who is still drinking from a beer bottle stand nearby, both armed with rifles. Someone in the group mentions that they can’t believe that Grange was talking sense for a change and couldn’t believe it when he shot the witch-lady down, though it does appear the town is rife with them now. Grange, rifle slung over his shoulder smugly gloats to Buck, telling him, “Told ya Buck. Get together enough right-minded people with enough like-minded ideas…” to which Buck adds, “And enough beer. Tha’s important. Don’t forget the beer.” Grange continues to point out that you can make them all see the truth sooner or later, no matter how long it takes. He asks rhetorically whether he wishes the big, bad beast of Dunfee High had the guts to show himself now with the odds so even when suddenly, Hank’s head appears upside down next to him. Grange lets out a gasp as Hank grabs him and tells him he can change his trousers soon as he gets back home to mommy Janssen. He asks about the kids and a couple of the other men cock their rifles and Hank sees Artie and Leech tied together against a tree. Hank asks if this is an appropriate time to surrender.
Back in the fields, Norton, Edna and Storm continue their search for the children but can’t find any sign of them. Storm notices something wrong in the atmosphere, her mutant abilities being attuned to this kind of thing. She notices a breach of some sort, warping the magnetic fields and says they must really investigate it. Norton prepares to alter the tractor’s course but Edna insists that the children must come first and the phenomenon can wait until later. In the field, a circular motion is appearing, forming a crop circle of sorts.
Gambit watches Beast’s predicament from the trees nearby, thinking sarcastically to himself about how Hank had told him to hang back as he could handle the locals seeing as how he grew up with them. Hank is now himself tied up, hanging from a branch next to the kids. He demands Janssen release the boys as promised but Grange grins and replies that he didn’t say when. He is using them as bait to see what else appears from the forest. Beast is angry and insists they tell him where Franklin is at least, and how long he’s been separated from Leech. Grange asks, “The cute li’l blondie? We never touched ‘im. He looked so….normal.”
Back in the fields, the magnetic disturbance turns out to have been created by Franklin himself. As surprised as can be, Joseph suddenly finds himself stood within the circle, in uniform, not knowing where he is or how he arrived there. Franklin looks straight at him and says, “Hi Joseph.”
Gambit now finds himself heading for the fields to find Franklin. He knows he is now the priority after Beast’s subtle reminder and needs finding fast before someone gets really hurt. Without Leech to dampen his powers, Remy knows just how dangerous Franklin can be.
Grange it turns out is the one doing the hurting as he connects with Hank’s jaw. He then grabs the back of Hank‘s head and tells him to talk. He wants to know the whole mutie plan for Dunfee now that they’re on to him anyway. Another man cuts in, saying it’s their women they’re after, and daughters. They’re trying to cut humanity off at its roots. Hank says, “Get serious people…I’ve seen your wives and daughters. ‘Ouch,’ thinks Buck; he doesn’t want to watch this and knows that Hank could probably free himself from his ropes without even trying if he wasn’t so concerned about what would happen to the kids. He wanders away from the lynch-mob as the mob hears a noise in the distance and wonder what on Earth’s happening.
Joseph crouches down and recognizes the little kid in front of him, asking him what he’s doing here, alone in the middle of nowhere. He thought he was on some kind of retreat with the McCoy’s in Illinois and looks around him as he speaks, realizing that this is indeed where he is. He tells Franklin that only a moment ago he was at the mansion in Westchester, attempting to repair some recent damage to the Z’Nox chamber’s psi-shielding. Joseph’s chatter is the lull before the storm as Franklin shouts, “Give me back my mommy and daddy !” Joseph is thrown backwards as Franklin expels a blast of energy around him. Once on the ground, Franklin leans over Joseph and adds that he wants his uncle, his family and their friends too. Joseph understandably asks what he’s talking about but Franklin just repeats his question. Magneto would have seen the child’s anger first but Joseph is not that man anymore and instead witnesses the pain in his eyes. However, despite this, Joseph is not without power of his own and uses a magnetic blast to protect himself, shouting at Franklin to let him go.
Watching from nearby, Gambit is shocked to see Joseph here in Illinois and partly out of jealousy, feels that it’s not the first time Joseph’s popped up where he doesn’t belong and isn’t too surprised to find him going up against Franklin. He’s had this coming for a while.
Back with the lynch-mob, they are suddenly flung all over the place as the tractor arrives in the clearing with Storm using her powers to cause powerful draughts to sweep them off their feet. Grange turns to the children and tells Sister Voodoo (Ororo) that she’s too late as her little friends will soon be worm food. Hank, as Buck rightly thought earlier, easily snaps the rope holding him and drops from the tree, grabbing Grange’s rifle and aiming it skywards as a round is fired. He tells him they’re children and asks if he’s completely lost it. Edna meanwhile uses a pitchfork to free Artie and Leech from their ropes. Hank shoves Grange to the ground and yanks his rifle from him, asking him if this is his response to everything; more violence, bigger guns, drunken mobs? Grange replies, “Like pappy always said, McCoy, whatever works!” Hank spins, still standing over Grange to find his cohorts all aiming their weapons at him.
Gambit looks on from the trees, unsure as yet how to play this one. He wants to see where the cards fall first. Joseph stands and tries reasoning with little Franklin. He fends off Franklin’s attack while acknowledging his reason for being there. He knows Franklin blames him for the deaths of those he loved, and tells him that he’s not the only one who feels this way, but he cannot fathom what Franklin expects him to do about it now. Franklin assaults him mentally and Joseph clasp his head in his hands as the unbearable pain hits him. Franklin has tears in his eyes as he yells at Joseph at the top of his voice. He says Joseph ruined everything, broke his whole world and he wants him to fix it. Gambit shields his face as the energies in the field build. He can’t imaging what’s going on inside Franklin’s mind as he’s already out of control.
The situation in the clearing is becoming tense. Edna holds Artie and Leech, clutching them tightly as she tells everyone to listen to what’s going on in the far fields. Beast tells them to walk away, run if they can before this thing gets uglier than their exalted leader’s waistband. He wants to get Leech out there but Grange tells him to save it; they’re not going anywhere. Norton McCoy then makes his move. He asks Grange if he’s gonna shoot his wife and kid now. Grange asks him not to do this but Norton continues to say he can maybe then go after li’l Tommy Brennan; he looks strange since losing two fingers in a hay-pulley accident last year. He then mentions one of Grange’s mob, Mac, who has a bit of a stutter. Mac proves he has in trying to deny this. Norton continues to mention ol’ Teach Shale who always dresses strangely for Sunday services, never mind Grange’s nephew with the earring and all that hair. “Pretty sure bet he’s dancin’ to a different tune if you catch my drift,” he adds.
Grange really is perturbed, telling Norton it’s devil’s talk, devil’s talk from demons infesting their town and their minds. He tells his gang that if any of them who aren’t with him against these monsters will go down with them. He pulls his rifle to his cheek to aim it but suddenly, several police officers appear and the Sheriff tells him to freeze. Sheriff Eddie warns Grange not to do anything only his mama’s gonna regret. Buck is standing with them, and apologizes to Grange. He tells him that as soon as he started sobering up and had a chance to stop for a minute and think about what he was doing, he called Sheriff Eddie from the truck for his sake, for everyone’s sake. Hunting season is over.
Franklin however isn’t finished by a long way. He tells Joseph that he doesn’t even seem sorry. Joseph reiterates that he isn’t Magneto and he’s not apologizing. In all honesty, he adds, he can’t apologize anymore. He tells Franklin that the truth is, he feels no guilt or culpability for the actions of Eric Magnus Lensherr because he does not remember them. He looks to the ground as he continues to say that the damage is nevertheless done, and Franklin needs to put a face to his fear. He says Franklin needs to believe this is his fault so he can believe he can help him. As energy swirls around Joseph, he relaxes and slumps, resigned to his fate. He tells Franklin that he cannot help him; he cannot begin to restore what he’s lost, the security of his family, his youthful certainty and confidence in tomorrow, the surety and strength of innocence anymore than he can himself. “Maybe,” he adds, “It’s all I can do to stop fighting you.”
Franklin though hasn’t calmed down and calls Joseph a liar, saying he’s hiding it from him; the top secret superspecial trick of how to make it all better again. He mentally assaults Joseph again and he groans from the renewed pain in his mind, Franklin saying he’ll just have to find it himself. Gambit finally makes an appearance and asks Franklin if he’ll do it even if he has to tear Joseph apart; even if it kills him. He says he sympathizes with Franklin more than he knows, and adds that he hardly trusts the man himself and he certainly isn’t about to defend what he’s done. However, he won’t just stand by either, letting him take on the burden of murder that Joseph isn’t up to. He asks Franklin to let him go. Franklin still has tears streaming from his face and struggling with his words, he asks Gambit to go away, he wants to be alone and doesn’t want him here. As he shouts that he just wants his mommy and daddy, he attacks Remy also and the two X-Men both fall helpless to Franklin’s mental power.
Gambit struggles to speak but tells Franklin that his mom, dad and family aren’t gone, and he knows that. They’re with him always, inside him always and says that’s why he can’t do this. Franklin begins to understand and wipes his eyes as he realizes that he is unable to stop what he started. His power is formidable and at the moment, is too much for his young mind to control properly. He says that he wants to stop before he explodes but simply cannot. Suddenly, Beast arrives at full speed carrying Leech with him. He tells Franklin he’s not alone anymore. They’re all together now, man, mutant power-siphon and bounding beasts alike to help each other. As Leech enters his proximity, Franklin’s powers switch off, relieving the two X-Men’s agony. Leech puts his arms around Franklin’s shoulders and tells him not to be mad. Franklin replies that he isn’t, not now, maybe just a little scared. ‘Out of the mouth of babes,’ thinks Remy as he and Joseph stand up.
Norton and Artie arrive and Norton tells them that Grange Janssen is gonna have some serious explaining to do to Judge Malloway, come the end of the month when the judge is due back from his fishing trip. He adds that the boys in blue must be half way to the lock-up by now with the whole lynch-mob and Edna is taking Storm to see Doc Jake for some proper patching up. The three youngsters smile as they look at Franklin’s little blue ball and begin to play.