Some people will tell you it’s the roughest bar in San Francisco’s Mission District, which most people will tell you is rough enough. It’s not a bar that outsiders stumble into by chance. And heaven help them if they enter by choice. Its customers always seem to be waiting for the next big score, the next bust, the next brawl. Small time, big time…criminals, fugitives…they thrive securely in the mean, sullen atmosphere.
Most days. Today, the bar has an unexpected—and unwelcome—visitor: a large, gray wolf, who sits at the end of the bar, licking his menacing chops. As soon as the bartender sees him, he startles and backs away.
Later, some will claim it was a small bear. Others, an amazingly large timber wolf. For all, all will charge for the back door without bothering to speculate.
As the patrons burst out the front door, a man standing on top of the building lowers a lasso and ropes his target: a tough, black-haired man wearing a ponytail. The lasso loops around this man’s neck and left wrist, and his captor swiftly yanks him onto the roof. “Hush,” his captor—a silver-haired bounty hunter—whispers to him. “You don’t wanna disturb your drinkin’ buddies in mid-run. Might give ‘em a real bad Charley horse t’stop short an’ come back to see what the noise is,” he says. “Might also make my finger twitch on the hair trigger of this sawed-off shotgun you’re usin’ for a chin-rest. That’d mean bringin’ you back to Los Angeles without a head—an’ some folks might have trouble believin’ you were really Wesley Long, wanted for armed robbery an’ skippin’ on a 40K bailbond.”
The bounty hunter forces Wesley down the ladder at gunpoint. Wesley asks if he’s some kind of law. “Just a private businessman, Wes,” the man answers. “O.Z. Chase, bounty hunter. You’re worth 10 percent of that bail you ran out on.” Wesley reminds his captor that doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily collect that money; he’s not in L.A. yet, after all. He offers these tough words a moment too soon, as the timber wolf emerges from the shadow a second later, striking fear into Wes.
“Okay, boy. Into the truck. You’re scarin’ Mr. Long,” O.Z. says to the wolf. It doesn’t budge. “Hey! I said into the truck, you ornery beast!” Still, the wolf refuses to move. Finally, O.Z. relents, pulls a Cuban cigar out of his front pocket, and tosses it to the wolf. It chomps down on the cigar enthusiastically and devours it whole. “Disgustin’, ain’t it? I hate that animal. Just lucky his taste in beer runs cheap—otherwise, I’d never have gotten ‘im into that bar tonight.” Wes cowers as O.Z. nudges him into his truck, where the wolf currently sits. He doesn’t expect him to ride beside that monster, does he? O.Z. tells him he could tie him to the fender like a dead deer, but the civil liberties union always complains when he does that. Besides, he’ll be okay—if he doesn’t crowd the wolf or move around too much. He’ll be safe in an L.A. holding cell soon, he says. The sooner the better, Wesley replies.
Wes asks O.Z. what he calls the wolf. O.Z. hardly bothers to call him anything at all; he’s too contrary to respond. He explains that a fellow he know left the wolf with him as a marker on a debt. That guy called him Cerberus. In Greek legend, he explains, Cerberus is the beast who guards the gates of Hades—at least he hopes it’s legend.
With that, Chase gets on his C.B. radio and checks in with his transponder. He asks if they have any more marks for him. A big firm—U.S. Bail Bonds—has been calling for him, the receiver says. They want him to go after a very special individual in San Diego—for a very special bonus. “Real fine, darlin’,” O.Z. responds. “Tell ‘em I’m comin’ home.”
The Hotel Coronado in San Diego Harbor is an elegant holdover from the last century—and never more so than at sunset, when the beach grows deserted expect by those who appreciate the fading sunlight and the peaceful quiet—while they last.
Today, a brawny, dark-haired man sits on the beach, listening to his Walkman while he soaks in the sunlight. His associate Logan approaches. He tells Petey their vacation is over; it’s time to get to work. Standing between Peter Rasputin and the sunlight, Logan tells him to turn off that concert. As he says this, however, he accurately identifies the music. It’s her, he barks! He’s listening to her on that tape! Peter replies that it’s beautiful music; she has a fascinating voice. Undeterred, Logan unsheathes his claws and destroys Peter’s Walkman. “Friendly advice, bub,” he says. “—when you’ve come to hunt, don’t get sentimental about the prey.”
Elsewhere, at Harborsite Motel—which boasts its Dazzler concerts as an exclusive engagement—Dazzler lifts weights in the weight room. The establishment’s manager tracks her down mid-lift and tells her everyone’s looking for her. The very least she can do, he says, is make herself a bit more…available. Dazzler, still lifting, reminds him she’s in his lounge for every performance and rehearsal. She doesn’t cut either one short. However, any time she has left is her own. The manager replies that they’re talking guys who just wanna share a few drinks and have a couple of giggles. They’re talking business, he says—the kind of thing that keeps the spenders coming back for more. Alison tells him to check his contract—all those little typed words they both signed. It says he hired a singer, not a B-girl.
“I hired a mutant, doll! There’s plenty who wouldn’t,” the manager snaps back. He expects a return on his favor. His regulars are connected, he adds—as in mob-connected. Some of them invest in his place. It excites them cozying up to a real, live mutant. Oblige them, he insists. Dazzler, flinging her sweaty towel in his face, tells him he got a class act at a cut rate because of what she is. She warns him not to push his luck beyond that. Angered, the manager sics his bodyguard, Truck, after her. She knows nothing about gratitude, he says to the towering man. Talk to her!
Truck obliges his boss with glee. Grabbing Dazzler by the arms, he pulls her in close to his face and tells her he likes to work close when he talks. “Truck,” Dazzler tells him, “you’re about to be cured of that.” She unleashes a full-body blast of light into his face, repelling and blinding him. Her strobe light hits him with an intensity that sends the big man reeling and crashing into the mirrored wall. Now that they’ve talked about gratitude, she says to her manager, how about they try respect. The manager cowers. Trembling, he reminds Dazzler she hasn’t collected her pay yet and begs her not to hurt him. In response, she tells the little man to take this job—and turn blue. With that, she casts a refractory blue pall over his face that causes him to appear blue when he looks in the mirror. Horrified, he runs out of the gym, screaming. Dazzler stands triumphant.
Behind her, a man begins to clap—much to her surprise. She pivots around and sees the X-Men’s Wolverine, fully garbed, crouching on a balance beam. “Nice touch, the blue light,” he says. “But it was overkill with the big bozo. Waster power you’re gonna need—facin’ me.” He unsheathes his claws with a characteristic SNIKT! His name is Wolverine and he’s the best he is at what he does. Even among his peers, the mutant super heroes known as the X-Men, few can match his him at fighting—and winning. Still, here in this hotel spa, aided by her own mutant ability to absorb sound waves and convert them into any form of light, Alison Blaire is about to give it her very best try.
Do buy herself some time, Dazzler fires a plasma beam at a nearby weight rack. It collapses between herself and her attacker. Then, she begins to run. Until she regains the initiative, she better make this a running battle, she tells herself. The problem with that, though, is what—or whom—she might run into.
As she darts out of the room, she runs headfirst into the X-Men’s Colossus, already in his steel-coated form. As much as it pains him to be a part of this, Colossus says, they couldn’t send just one X-Man for the task! Dazzler guesses she should be flattered. However, with his size, his strength, and his body that can shift into living steel, she decides she’ll have to play it sneaky instead. She fires a beam of light at his eyes, momentarily dazzling him, then slips between his legs. She only makes it a few meters before Colossus smashes his fist into the ground, sending a shockwave through the concrete that lifts Dazzler off her feet. As he does this, Colossus tells her playing it sneaky won’t be enough—at least not with the mistakes she’s making, such as letting Logan force her outdoors, away from an easy source of sound like the motel’s Muzak system.
Dazzler, grabbing the hose used to fill the swimming pool, asks if he’s sure that’s a mistake. Maybe it’s the musician in her, she says, but moving farther away from that so-called music might be the only fringe benefit of this surprise attack! Besides, Colossus should know by now that Dazzler can easily store energy within her body and release it later, at her will.
Unbeknownst to all parties involved, up above, a man sits in shadows and watches this attack unfold. The lady’s got nerve, he observes. However, the joke may be on her because of the way she’s charging. He comments that this wing of the place is mostly deserted, so there’s no need for him to enter the mix—yet. He’ll wait and see what happens.
Down below, what happens is that Alison swings the pool hose like a whip, wraps it around Colossus’s feet, and gently jerks it, sending him into the water. By the time he resurfaces, Dazzler is already on her way up to her room. Wolverine finds his comrade in the pool. After telling him to cut short his little swim, he tells him they can end this by cornering Dazzler. She’s boxed herself in, he says; he orders Colossus to guard the door while he goes through the window. Dazzler may be good, but she’s not good enough—just like he said at the start.
Logan insists they turn her away. They’re professionals; she’s not, he says. It’s as simple as that. Rogue, crossing her arms, swears Logan is the most infuriating man she knows. Alison Blaire is a fellow mutant, she reminds him, and in addition to being a friend of Storm’s, she’s come to them for help—just like Rogue herself did not long earlier. There’s a big difference, Logan responds. These are their lives; Dazzler just wants to play superhero while her showbiz career is in the dumps. Nightcrawler interjects and accuses Wolverine of twisting the girl’s intentions. She asked to train with them, he says—to hone her powers and use them positively to help curb the recent anti-mutant hysteria.
“Hysteria she helped fan when she went public about bein; a mutant, elf,” Logan reminds him. “Now she wants to make it all better. Well, our game isn’t somethin’ you jump in an’ out of like the latest fashions she wears.” Nightcrawler asserts that Alison has the raw talent, and that he and Rogue are convinced she’s serious about developing it. He suggests Wolverine is merely being stubborn because she keeps requesting he not smoke around her. Logan replies he’s being stubborn because, with the country’s current mood, one serious fumble by any mutant could put them all in trouble—fatal trouble. The professor says it’s up to them, he adds. He asks Peter where he stands.
Peter, however, finds himself distracted by a sight outside the window: Dazzler playing her guitar to the attentive New Mutants. He continues to stare silently across the elegant grounds of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Returning to reality for a moment, he says that instead of arguing, they should try a Danger Room session to see if her abilities are as fantastic as her voice.
Later, in compliance with Peter’s request, the X-Men put Dazzler to the test in the Danger Room. She wears a protective golden suit as she dodges the obstacles and lasers they send her way. From the observation deck, Nightcrawler comments on her excellent performance to Wolverine. She’s doing better than even he did during his first session. Wolverine remains silent while Dazzler overcomes the trials. His silence continues even when the rest of the X-Men vote to accept Dazzler’s request for re-training. To challenge her even further, Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler engage her in combat in the Danger Room. The battle is intense and grueling, but she manages to neutralize everyone—except Wolverine. Although Dazzler’s own skills improve by leaps and bounds during these brief sessions, she is unable to thwart Wolverine’s approach. He sneaks behind her, grabs her around the neck. Gotcha, he says. As she struggles to break free, he tells her she should have blinded him so he couldn’t dodge her attacks, then gone after him with her laser blasts. “That’s the trouble with you, songbird. You give a good performance—I do it for real!” With that, he swipes his claws across her chest.
She begins to cry as Wolverine walks away. Some types might settle for just slicing her practice armor, he says. He tells her to stick with showbiz, before she—or someone else, like one of his friends—gets hurt. He’d hate to think of what he would do to prevent that.
Dazzler recovers from his taunts and the traumatizing incident—she’s too tough and abhorrent to self-pity to not recover. However, the incident haunts her for the remainder of her training. Ultimately, Professor X assembles the team and addresses Dazzler: apart from one dissenting opinion, they believe she’s ready. Naturally, he says, they’d be please if she wished to say longer, and perhaps consider joining them. Dazzler rebuts she’d be a risk to the secrecy that protects the X-Men and the New Mutants—and making it on her own has always been important to her. However, she doesn’t like doubt, particularly from a group she respects so much. “Let’s settle this, Wolverine,” she says.
“Even if you don’t like the results? Name it,” he replies. Dazzler proposes a final, surprise test, in real-life conditions. They’ll call it a graduation exercise, she says. She’ll assume full responsibility and assure no innocent lives are threatened. “Barest hint of that possibility—you automatically flunk, darlin’,” Logan replies. “An’ if I’m part of it…you will anyway.”
Outside the mansion, Dazzler thanks Professor X for not objecting to her proposal. She worries she’s foolishly letting pride get the better of her. If she were, he would have objected, Xavier responds. By challenging Wolverine’s doubt, she must be hoping to eliminate any of her own. He offers her a suggestion or two before she departs. With that, Dazzler leaves Westchester, and resumes her life on the West Coast—waiting for the ultimate test to come at last.
Wolverine and Colossus come crashing into Dazzler’s motel room through the door and window. They find it empty, prompting Colossus to ask if they made a mistake. Wolverine tells him to trust a man with animal senses; she’s there somewhere. He barely finishes suggesting they watch the dressing alcove when Dazzler, garbed in a new costume, bursts into view and hits play on a portable tape deck, which loudly fills the room with music. Wolverine and Colossus barely get the chance to hear it, however, for the throbbing sound waves are swiftly absorbed by Alison Blaire’s mutant body and transduced into light—brilliantly gleaming, pulsing light. Dazzling light.
Colossus, barely able to speak, mutters that Dazzler’s new costume seems to help her control and amplify her powers. The light she projects is too strong and too intense for them to avert or shield their eyes. The two X-Men can only reel as Dazzler continues to shine.
Moments later, when they regain some of their senses, they stagger around the now-empty room. Colossus’s pupils ache. It takes him a moment to realize that he can once again hear the music, which means Dazzler has departed. She’s may be gone, Wolverine says, but she’s not gotten far enough. He points to her outside in the parking lot. She’s flashing light that even their recovering peepers can spot her, he says. At his command, Colossus grabs hold of him and leaps to the ground below. She was foolish to not score on them while they were weak, Logan observes. If she wants to throw that opportunity away, he’s more than happy to take advantage.
As they chase after Dazzler, Colossus suggests that maybe she’s adhering to Professor X’s lesson to always move a battle away from places innocent bystanders might stumble. Perhaps she’s not running, he says—but leading.
Meanwhile, from the shadows above the motel, the observer remarks that he had better join in the following of Alison. He’s got to be ready to move when this business ends. He steps back into the shadows to head in the direction of the chase, toward the waterfront.
The final confrontation occurs near the beach, on a condemned pier scheduled for demolition. They won’t hurt anything there, Dazzler says to her assailants—except for each other. Of course, they could avoid that by declaring the trial complete. She’s obviously improved over her training period, she says, and her new outfit—a design of Professor Xavier’s—allows her not only to store sound more efficiently, but to gauge and focus her light powers better than she ever could before! “So, what you’re facing is—”
“Window dressing!” Logan interjects. He tells Colossus to forget how much he likes her singing and show Dazzler what getting tough is really like! At his urging, Colossus hoists one of the sturdy pier supports out of the water and prepares to use it as a weapon. He tells his comrade that although he was selected for this mission, whereas Logan volunteered, he does not shirk once committed—particularly since Alison herself insisted they hold nothing back! With that, he chucks the log in Dazzler’s direction. The massive piling hurtles as easily as a javelin, but to Colossus’s horror, Dazzler makes no effort to duck or dodge it—until, at the last instant, when she shoots a thin laser blast, with unequalled precision, and rends the log in two. She doesn’t stop for applause.
The separate pieces soar past her and pierce the sides of a docked freighter. Dazzler turns and uses them as steps to vault herself onto the ship’s deck. Once aboard, she turns and fires a focused laser beam at the dock, severing it from the shore—and leaving Colossus and Wolverine liable to fall when it collapses. Colossus takes the time to explain this to Logan, who leaps away from his frustrating peer and grabs hold of the boat. Colossus is not so lucky, and tumbles into the water when the wood gives way beneath his feet. Wolverine, hanging by one arm, looks up at Dazzler. Cute, he tells her—but he’s still coming for her.
Even as Wolverine springs upward, Dazzler’s hands are one of the derelict craft’s loading cables. She swings herself to the portion of the pier still attached to the shore. How far does he want to take this, she asks Logan? She’s heading for shoreside. Although he might make it in one leap, she threatens to blast him with her lights and nail him cold before he does. Once more, she stands triumphantly. Unfortunately for her, the sunken Colossus reaches up through the decrepit wood beneath her feet and pulls her into the water. The Russian-born mutant’s iron grip clamps on the Dazzler, draining her of breath and consciousness, trapping her so she cannot use her arms to direct her light powers. However, she can fire it out of her eyes as well, only not so subtly or gently—and this, she does. She apologizes to Peter for what she’s doing to him.
Colossus stiffens with shock and pain, his great body momentarily standing, flailing out against the relentless sweep of oblivion, until he slumps against the floating debris. Alison Blaire climbs wearily from the water. Upon reaching solid ground, she finds Wolverine staring her down menacingly. She was right, he says—it only took one leap. Now, it’s dues-paying time! He doesn’t think she has the scratch either, he says with his claws exposed. “Look at you,” he mocks, “—bitin’ back your tongue over hurtin’ Petey! You’re too soft for this business, Songbird!”
“Then I’ll make this a swansong you’ll never forget!” Dazzler shouts back. She unleashes everything she has at the approaching Wolverine. His charge, which began while he was still speaking, slows. The light surging out of Dazzler pounds Wolverine in waves of color. It sears at his perceptions, staggering and slowing him. However, he still nears. Not enough, he taunts. Instead of picking her shots and concentrating them, she blew it! And now, he says, his claws are within striking range purely because she let him goad her into trying to overwhelm him! No, Dazzler replies—she just let him think that.
Abruptly ceasing her light eruption, she focuses it into a thin laser beam, as sharp as a razor—or an Adamantium claw. She swipes this beam across his chest, just as he’s about to strike. As Logan stares down at the rip in his costume, Dazzler shrugs and returns his prior taunts in kind. Real enough for him now, she asks? Or should she have shaved his chest?
Wolverine stares at the opening, long and hard. Then, he lunges. She should’ve put him out! he says. She shouldn’t go for cheap psychological points when the chips are really down!
“Short of laying you wide open so we can all enjoy how long it takes your mutant healing ability to work,” another voice chimes in, “—she’s proved enough, Wolverine!” An crimson force beam strikes the ground immediately before Logan and knocks him on his butt. “The deal was that she handle the situation well. Nobody said she had to become you.” As he approaches Logan, Cyclops comments that it was a good thing he stayed to referee. Professor X had him come to give Alison some final tips for honing her light blasts—some of the same tips her used to master his own uni-beams.
Wolverine is shocked to see Cyclops. Colossus, meanwhile, emerges from the water, excited to see his old friend. He must’ve emerged from retirement, Colossus says. He’s away from his bride and his home in Alaska! Cyclops insists he’s just visiting—and that he’s anxious to get back to Madelyne. He asks if this trial is finally over. Colossus insists it is. While waiting for confirmation from Logan, he adds that he doesn’t want to be knocked into the water anymore that evening; he feels a terminal rust already. Once more, Logan remains silent.
Dazzler decides to settle for two out of three. With that, she moves off into the darkness, and whatever waits beyond it. “Kid better be all you guys an’ the others think she is,” Wolverine says after she departs. “Gonna be bad days ahead for every mutant—but especially for one—who made herself the most obvious target of all.”
The next morning, in Los Angeles, two men meet in an office building. One of them, O.Z. Chase, expresses astonishment at the identity of his next mark: the Dazzler? The lady who got folks all upset demonstrating some kind of light powers for a movie promotion? Not the usual bail jumper, he remarks. His client tells him that’s why the people he represents wanted to hire the best bounty hunter. That’s also why they’ve authorized their firm to pay him half of the quite sizeable bonus in advance—along with a box of his favorite cigars. They certainly know their man, Chase responds. And if the authorities aren’t moving on this, he’ll bring her in—mutant, superhero, or whatever she is. He departs.
After he leaves, his client thinks to himself that he’s certain O.Z. Chase will keep the Dazzler busy. And, at last, he will speed them up toward the beginning of the end. Now alone in his office, his hand begins to disintegrate, forming a pile of dust on his otherwise impeccably clean desk.