“Run, boy, run!” When King Arthur shouted those words to Tom of Warwick, it was a call to arms across the land. For though Camelot had fallen, Arthur knew that his dream…his hope…would live on in the young. The daring. Hundreds of years later, Charles Francis Xavier had a different dream. One where mutants – men and women with strange and often frightening powers – could peacefully co-exist with a growing humanity that would often fear and hate them. Toward that end, he recruited two teams of unique Children of the Atom. He named the first the Uncanny X-Men, and the second the New Mutants. Today, the New Mutants are called X-Force. And the dream? The dream has become a nightmare named Onslaught.
Roberto “Bobby” DaCosta playing soccer is a yesterday among yesterdays. For the scene playing out now, has already occurred. A time when the only thing Bobby had to worry about was an opening down field. In Brazil, soccer was the king of sports, and with his skill, Roberto was a prince. Sitting in the bleachers, Bobby’s father, Emmanuel DaCosta asks young Juliana Sandoval, Bobby’s girlfriend, if she saw the last move. ‘My son is an artist with the football!’
Juliana smiles, for it is a wonderful thing to be young and in love, and have the one you love be like a shining star that fell to Earth. Bobby aims, shoots, and scores. This was a champion match between arch rival schools. But in another time, this game would go unfinished, stopped by the startling revelation that Bobby is not an ordinary boy, but rather the solar furnace who will go on to be known as Sunspot.
In whatever place this is, Roberto wins the game however, and the crowd cheers for him. Bobby is happy. After the game, Bobby and Juliana kiss, to which Bobby’s father tells them that there will be plenty of time for romance later…once Roberto has showered and changed. Juliana tells Bobby to listen to his father, but Bobby replies ‘What better reason to be late than one more kiss?’
As Bobby proceeds to the showers, Juliana tells his father that Bobby acts as if this is the last time they will be together. Emmanuel tells Juliana not to question love, for like youth, she should enjoy it while it lasts. Bobby tells them to wait where they are as he will be right back. He thinks to himself that Juliana is right, that he is just a fool in love, but that they will always be together. If that’s what you want, Roberto, we can make it so. Bobby is surprised by the voice in his head, but the voice tells him that he can trust him and that he needs his help.
Bobby sees a small boy in the darkness that has now surrounded him, and the boy tells him that he came to him first because he needs him to convince the others. The boy tells Bobby that he is now and will always be the heart and soul of X-Force, for without him, the rest will not follow. Bobby watches as his hands glow with power, he declares he will always be different, be an outsider ‘…without my father…Juliana…without love…’. The power flares over him, as the mysterious boy says Perhaps, but what about the others? As the ebony energy slowly envelops the boy, Bobby remembers, and knows that he has no choice.
Nighttime now, at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Salem Center, Westchester, New York. Once, these walls stood for something – an ideal that was taught by a good man and learned by eager students. Now, it lies wasted, charred by the brutal war that the psionic manifestation Onslaught commands – and a surprise attack from the genetic manipulator known as Mr. Sinister. X-Force pitched their last battle here – and lost.
Suddenly, Theresa Rourke Cassidy a.k.a. Siryn bursts through the rubble, gasping for air, she thought they would be dead for sure. Rubbing her face, Siryn remembers how she and her teammates were protecting Nate Grey from Onslaught, only to be blind-sided by Sinister, who somehow turned Nate’s power against them. ‘Nae! The others!’ cries Siryn, who quickly uses her powerful sonic scream, breaking not only the rubble so she can get back into the mansion remains to find the others, but also breaking the deafening silence.
As she hovers above her unconscious teammates, Theresa’s thoughts turn back to the prayers she learned as a child and she tells herself to be calm, as her friends will be all right, after all, they have been in worse scrapes than this. She gores over to Sunspot and holding his head up she asks him to give her a sign. She checks his pulse and heartbeat – none, but she remembers that none of them know how his powers work, so maybe she cannot hear his heart.
Worried, Siryn doesn’t understand, for they all suffered the same attack ‘how is it I alone…survived?’ Siryn doesn’t get overcome, instead, she stands up and reminds herself that they have all been trained never to give up. She knows that they need help though, but all the communications equipment is damaged.
Siryn uses the psi-link that all X-Force members have with their oft-absent leader, Nathan Summers a.k.a. Cable and she calls to him, not knowing if they are still linked or even if he can hear her thoughts, ‘but we need ye Cable, like never before!” Siryn uses every ounce of her will power, reaching out with her thoughts…and it pays off, for a bedraggled Cable answers her cry. Siryn points out that she can hardly hear him, and Cable informs her it if because of Onslaught and all the psionic interference. Theresa tells Cable that she can hardly hear him, even though he is only in New York, not far away, fighting for his life. Cable tells Theresa that he will be there as soon as he can, and to be strong ‘Always darkest before –’ he cuts out, and Siryn screams when the psionic feedback hits her.
Cable’s gone, so Siryn realizes that it is up to her. She knows that if she can just save one of her teammates then she can hopefully find out what ails the others. She starts with Meltdown.
Elsewhere, the young woman codenamed Meltdown has an authority in her voice she has only recently acquired. She was once a confused, shaken girl who could easily be taken advantage of – abused even. Often her tormentors were men – the last one went too far. Holding one of her trademark “time-bombs”, explosive blasts of plasma energy, she looks down at the mutant villain known as Sabretooth and tells him to get up. She throws time-bombs at him and tells him that it is not like he didn’t have it coming to him.
When no one else thought Sabretooth deserved another chance, Tabby went out on a limb for him – and he betrayed her trust, brutally; Viciously. He tries to run from her powers and she calls him a wimp. But as he lies on the ground she knows she just killed him and it would seem implausible that he would do anything ever again. However, Victor Creed is a resilient man, and he survived. Getting up he snarls and tells Tabitha that he is going to gut her this time, but as she sends several time-bombs flying towards him, Tabitha says ‘Fat chance’ and as he falls to the ground ‘Loser. Lets go again’.
Suddenly, Sunspot, followed by the mysterious boy emerge from some bushes, and Bobby asks Tabby if in the end, this is all she wants. ‘I knew it had to be too good to be true!” declares Meltdown, to which Bobby tells her she must know why he is here then – for they each have to decide which is more important – what they want individually – or what is best for the team.
He asks Tabitha if that is what becoming “Meltdown” was all about – no more running, but facing whatever cards she is dealt. He tells her that this is why X-Force needs her – for her fighting spirit against the insurmountable odds. Tabby starts to ask Bobby if they are all dead, but he tells her that they aren’t yet, however, with each passing moment he thinks they might lose one – or all – forever. Sunspot asks Meltdown if she will follow him, and as she looks down at the dead Sabretooth, she smiles and says ‘Yep, wouldn't miss it for the world!’
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…A story which has been told a thousand times unfolds again. A rocket ship spirals towards Earth, its sole passenger is the last, best hope for a new generation. Tragically, the ship crashes in a Nebraskan cornfield. Amazingly, no one is hurt, and a car passing by sees the crash. ‘Stop the car, Nathan! Stop the car!’. Standing over the small spaceship, they see the passenger, ‘Stab my eyes, Beatrice! He’s alive!’ ‘Caliban likes this part the best!’ says the gray-skinned boy in the space ship.
Years pass… and Caliban has grown into a healthy…err, mutant… Holding up a tractor with just one arm, Caliban tells “Pa-Nathan” that he fixed it like he asked. Nathan wipes his hands and tells Caliban that he has done good, as Beatrice tells Cal that ever since he came to live with them, things have a habit of falling into place.
In another time, another place, the mutant tracker with a childlike sensibility called Caliban was among the last of a slaughtered group of mutants known as Morlocks. The Morlocks lived in sewers beneath New York and in the shadows. Caliban smiles as he tells his Cable and Domino – err, Nathan and Beatrice – that he likes it here, for this was all he ever wanted. Sensing mutants, Caliban puts the tractor down and rushes away, telling Nathan and Beatrice that he will be right back.
Entering another barn, Caliban sees his friend Sunspot and asks him if he has come to stay with Caliban too, for there is lots of room in the barn. Slowly, Sunspot tells Caliban that he doesn’t know if he will understand this, but that he needs to come with them. Bobby tells Caliban that they need his childish sense of hope that there will be a brighter tomorrow.
Meltdown declares that this never happened in Caliban’s life, to which the gray mutant smiles and asks if that matters, as he is happy. Frowning, Caliban asks if what they want is to take him away from his happy place to that “other” place – where Onslaught is. From in the shadows of the barn the young boy tells Caliban that where they are headed, Onslaught cannot hurt them. Caliban realizes he knows this boy, but does not remember who he is. The boy tells Caliban he is a friend, one whom he has trusted for years. Caliban just replies that he doesn’t understand.
At that same time, Siryn whacks her fists against Caliban’s chest, ‘Ye big lug, wake up!’ But she gets no response, and thinks that the whole team is slipping away from her.
In a time that never was, a homeland that is near forgotten – an Apache reservation, the home of John and Jimmy Proudstar. John Proudstar, the former X-Man known as Thunderbird died on one of his first missions. He was never able to see the inspiration he would bring to his younger brother, James, who would become the strength and speed of X-Force as Warpath.
Running alongside a herd of buffalo, John tells his brother that he never thought he would say it, but he has done him proud. James replies that he is only doing all right, for he has finally turned his life around. As they jump onto a large buffalo, John tells his brother to forget his life, they need to turn the herd around before someone gets hurt. ‘Together, there isn't anything we can’t do!’ James declares. The mighty beast falls and Proudstar tingles with excitement. In some way, he knows the brothers are working side-by-side in a way they never got to – and now, may never again.
Later, James asks John if it will always be like this, but before the older Proudstar can answer, Sunspot, Meltdown and Caliban arrive. Bobby tells Jimmy that it is his courage that brings the team together, for he has taught them to put aside their personal doubts and face the challenges ahead. James asks Bobby if his brother can come to, but the mysterious young boy tells James that Thunderbird’s time has long past, and only Warpath has the choice to continue. James frowns.
At the mansion, Siryn gives Proudstar mouth-to-mouth and tells him that if she ever needed him, it was now. ‘Come back t’me, Jimmy!’
Then, in a place that is neither far nor near. Sunspot leads Meltdown, Caliban and Warpath and tells them that they need to hurry, for they have to find him soon. Caliban declares that he senses him near, right on top of the hill. When they reach the top of the hill, everyone is shocked to see Shatterstar and ask him what he has done to himself. Leaning against a tree as he lies in the grass, Shatterstar replies he hasn’t done anything other than merely take time out to ‘smell the vegetation’. ‘“Roses”, it’s “smell the roses”’ Tabby tells him. ‘Yes!’ he shouts.
They stare in awe because they expected to find Shatterstar upon some battlefield, like the Great Norse Gods who look forward to a Promised Land called Valhalla, he would be out with his blade drawn, fighting the good fight. What else would one expect from a warrior born? Sunspot asks him if he will go with them, but Shatterstar replies ‘I do not think so’, for back “there” there are too many questions unanswered. Beginning with “Who am I really?” He tells them that here it does not matter, for here ‘I am me’.
This shocks his teammates, and Tabby tells him he has to come with them, for it is all or nothing. Sunspot tells Shatterstar that no one has reason to be confused about himself more than him, and he respects what Shatterstar is going through. Sunspot tells Shatterstar that it is he who brings a passion to the team, a passion which is uniquely his, and that if he ever wants to learn the answers about life, the only way is to come with them. Shatterstar frowns, unconvinced. Suddenly, the mysterious boy who has been following them appears in the sky and says: Your time grows shorter. If you wish to continue…go now. For soon, you will not have the choice.
Her name is Domino and she has been many things in this life: mercenary; bandit and co-leader of this band of misfits. In an empty black space, she fires a gun and asks ‘who’s out there?’ Much more than that, they do not even know about her – starting with her real name. The laser passes through Sunspot as he reveals who is there. Domino tells them to go away, for she never wanted any part of this, that it was all Cable’s deal, not hers. She informs them that she will be fine her, and so will all of them. ‘All alone? In the dark?’ Sunspot asks, before asking Domino if there is nothing from her life that she would want to keep – nothing that would fill this emptiness.
Domino hesitates before she says ‘Maybe…then face the light of my past’. She suggests that it might be easier to be alone in the dark. Sunspot tells her that she needs to know they need her leadership and the promise that they can accomplish anything. Sunspot tells Domino that while Cable is their strength, their caretaker, she brings them a belief in themselves and that without it they cannot be their best.
Domino is about to reply, when the mysterious boy appears, he tells Roberto that he has them all now and all he needs to do is bring them into the light – and all their dreams will be fulfilled. He urges them on, telling them that if “he” finds them here, then they will not be able to complete their journey. Sunspot asks the boy who it is that he fears, but the boy replies that it matters not, and urges them into the light, ‘and do not look back’…
…‘There is nothing more for you hear’ says the boy as he transforms into Onslaught. He was so certain that the night’s manipulations were compete that the guide reveals himself too soon. For such is the arrogance of the one being who would destroy the future. The hope for tomorrow. The nightmare that is Onslaught. X-Force turn back and see the powerful being behind them, and Caliban tells them that looking back is a good thing.
Warpath reminds them that they were told to hurry, but Sunspot decides that Caliban is right, and stunned, they watch Onslaught. Warpath wonders if they have been used. But Bobby points out that in the desire to realize their dreams, Shatterstar continues, saying that they ‘forgot the only way to a brighter tomorrow’ ‘is by kicking butt today!’ declares Meltdown. ‘Starting with you, Onslaught,’ barks Domino.
At the mansion, Siryn keeps a sole vigil, praying...then suddenly, her teammates wake up. Domino is relieved they are back, but Bobby points out they might not have been anywhere at all, for he suspects this was controlled by Onslaught, and his desire was to win at all costs. What goes unsaid however, was that together, they each glimpsed a bit into each other’s souls – bonding this team in a way they never were before.
James asks Siryn if she has been at the mansion all along, to which she informs him she was there all night. He cuts her off and asks where Risque is. Siryn informs him that she doesn’t know, for Risque wasn’t here when she awoke. Worried, James grabs Theresa’s arm and asks her what she means and reminds her that Risque was with them when Sinister attacked. Theresa suggests that Risque might not have been hurt as much as the rest of them, or perhaps someone else took her. Furious, James asks ‘who took her’, but Siryn tells him to let go as he is hurting her.
Caliban steps between them and tells them to stop, for he senses someone else here. It is the mysterious boy, who tells them not to be afraid and reveals that in his last moments he has come only to thank them, and tells them that they have all unselfishly won much this night. Turning to Siryn, he reveals that he could protect only one member of the team and therefore chose her, for she alone is the team’s inspiration, and tells her that she has an unshakable belief in that what they do is right.
Sunspot asks the boy what…who… he is. I chose well, declares the boy, who remarks that a memory is a fading memory at best. He reveals that he is what Onslaught could never fully control or destroy. The goodness of a young Charles Xavier. Domino asks him what happens to him now, and passing his hand through hers, he reveals that thanks to her victory over the dark he is free, and while Onslaught remains separate, they need to remember that they all represent the next generation of mutants. The young. The daring. A light Onslaught could never extinguish.
Sunspot, Siryn, Warpath, Meltdown, Caliban, Shatterstar and Domino...X-Force remains whole, standing once more as they watch the child’s image fade with the coming dawn. Although they are left in the ashen ruin of Xavier’s former home, and while they know with the likes of Onslaught and Sinister still out there, they may have lost a battle…but the war still goes on. Yet, tonight, somehow, they feel certain they won more than all their battles put together, that this was their greatest victory. “Run boy, run!”