Ungava Bay, Canada, where the lives of the Uncanny X-Men and Alpha Flight, two teams of super-heroes, comprised of mutants and super-humans, and also a group of humans whose lives have been drastically changed after receiving god-like powers, are all about to enter a very challenging phase in their own lives, which may have profound effects on the rest of existence!
Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, also known as Talisman, is the newest, youngest, and one of the most powerful members of Alpha Flight. At the request of her father she was sent to accompany the young X-Men Shadowcat in her search for the missing X-Man Rachel Summers, who fled the group after learning that her father’s wife was pregnant with a baby boy. Elizabeth was not impressed at having to go in search of Rachel, but decided that it would be a good chance for her to do some of her own exploring, little does she know, she is under the watchful eye of the Norse trickster God, Loki.
Elizabeth calls out to Kitty, who raced off ahead of her, and mutters that she likes nothing better than to have to chase runaway Yankee heroes, especially when one of them is as crazy as the proverbial loon! The longer it takes for Talisman to find them, the more worried she gets. As she climbs rocky caverns beneath the fantastic citadel the mystical powerhouse thinks to herself how hard it is to believe that yesterday the citadel didn’t even exist, moreover that it may well be a preview of what the entire world may soon look like. Talisman feels like she has been wandering through the catacombs forever and wonders how deep down she is.
Talisman treads carefully over the radiant lichen, as while it casts enough light for her to see, but it is very slippery. She thinks of how she would give anything for a pair of jeans and some hiking boots, as while her costume may look rather keen, it is not the most practical of outfits. The archeology student treads further and further into the catacombs, all the while noticing how the geological formations make no sense, especially as there are layers of surface tundra beneath strata of primordial bedrock – almost as if something had flipped the whole stretch of coastline upside down.
As she runs her hand along one of the out-of-synch walls, she stumbles across a sketchbook, stuffed into the rock. Elizabeth pulls the rock apart, and after opening the book, she sees that the name on the flyleaf is Paul Domenic – the architect who was transformed by the fire fountain into Master Builder! She flicks through the book and realizes that his power created the city, yet the further she gets in the book, the less spectacular the designs become. She wonders why, when she comes to the last drawing – shoddy lines, and no sense of depth or perception. Talisman doesn’t believe that Domenic could have done this last picture, and thinks some kid must have done it.
Suddenly, Kitty phases through some rocks and asks Talisman if she was looking for her. In her holier-than-thou tone of voice, Elizabeth asks Shadowcat if anyone ever told her it is rude to scare people like that. Shadowcat says sorry and adds that sometimes she forgets that not everyone is used to her phasing abilities. Talisman and Shadowcat walk down another tunnel and the Alphan says to the X-Man that she isn’t used to anything in the „super-hero business“. ‘That’s right, you’re the new kid on the block’ the perky Kitty says. ‘I am not a kid’ Talisman shoots back, adding that she is in college. Kitty adds that she is too, sort of, before telling Elizabeth to come and see what she found.
Further still into the catacombs, Kitty shows Talisman her discovery – and Elizabeth cannot believe her eyes. Walking amongst the Viking style village, Kitty tells Elizabeth she doesn’t know, as her majors are in science and physics, and that all she knows about Vikings, she learned from old movies. Talisman tells Shadowcat that her archeology advisor at University would go positively ape if these are authentic – a Norse settlement perfectly preserved. Kitty wonders how it got buried, as an earthquake would have done it major damage. She greets her flying purple dragon as Lockheed flutters nearby and asks him if there was any sign of Rachel, the dragon of course, offers no response.
Talisman kneels down and picks up a runestone as Kitty asks her if she thinks the village was hidden deliberately before asking if the runestone is important. After examining it, Elizabeth replies that it probably isn’t, but that she would need to know more about the people who lived here. She says that she will try and translate it later, while Lockheed nudges Kitty ahead. Shadowcat realizes that Lockheed has found Rachel, and she and Elizabeth follow the dragon’s lead.
Kitty and Talisman eventually find Rachel Summers crouched over on a small hill deep within the catacombs. Kitty calls out to her, but Rachel just tells her to go away. Kitty tells Rachel that they were worried about her so came to help. Tears streaming down her eyes, Rachel looks up at Kitty, and calling her a ‘stupid meddling brat’ asks her if she cannot take a hint. A telekinetic blast goes right through the intangible Kitty as she warns Talisman to stay back, as she and Rachel are teammates, she decides it best she handle it.
Kitty slowly approaches Rachel and tells her she knows what she is going though, and tries to assure her that it is not the end of the world. Rachel announces that it is the end of hers as her father’s child is going to be a boy. Rachel asks Kitty if she knows what that means – that the unborn baby should be her, but it won’t be, and if she is not born here and now, she cannot exist in the future. Kitty reminds Rachel that she does exist though, but Rachel tells Kitty that her past is a lie. Kitty asks if that is so bad, and as Rachel looks downcast, Kitty reminds her that she has seen her world, and tells her she does not care for it.
Kitty tells Rachel that in her memories, she saw the limits of her life, and saw her loved ones slaughtered. Putting her hands on Rachel’s shoulder, Kitty suggests to her that her time-shift to her past, their present, may have changed the future for the better. Kitty adds that their story may have a happy ending, and asks Rachel if that is not worth the price? Rachel hugs Kitty and between sobs, says she guesses so, but it still hurts.
Looking on at the two X-girls, Talisman solemnly sees how Rachel wants a family, a father she cannot have, more than anything, whereas Talisman turned her back on her own father. She thinks of how she resented and even hated her father for so long, blaming him for her mother’s death. She wonders though, in trying so hard to hurt him, whether she has just hurt herself more.
The three girls assemble, and as Elizabeth asks what happens next, rocks start to fall from the ceiling. Kitty thinks the cave must be collapsing, but Talisman tells her they cannot, as the area is tectonically stable. Rachel tells the others that they will not make it to the surface through the tunnel, and Kitty asks her if she can sense where the Fire Fountain is. Rachel replies that she can and nods in its direction. Kitty suggests she use her telekinesis to blast a hole in the wall to the Fountain. Rachel obliges, and grabbing Elizabeth by the hand, Kitty with Lockheed rush to the hole, with Rachel keeping them covered. In a very unselfish move, Talisman tells Kitty they cannot leave Rachel, but Kitty replies that Rachel can take care of herself.
As Kitty and Elizabeth race through the makeshift tunnel to the Fire Fountain, Rachel remains in the Viking village and summoning all of her strength, she uses her telekinesis to slow the cave’s collapse. Through the tunnel, Kitty and Talisman come to the end of it – literally, as the tunnel ends and drops off right into the depths of the Fire Fountain. Kitty tells Elizabeth she hates heights commenting on the drop. Spying a nearby ledge, she asks Talisman if she can reach it, and Talisman climbs over to it. Shadowcat tells Lockheed to keep Talisman company, as she races back through the tunnel to get to Rachel! As she runs back to the village to get Rachel, Kitty has to do it phasing, so that the falling rocks just pass through her. Too bad that being intangible slows her down, because she has to become solid to take another breath – but she can’t if there is no room for her body!
Back on the ledge, Elizabeth thinks that her power to disrupt spells is not much good against an avalanche, and hopes that Kitty is all right – but wonders what she should do if Kitty isn’t okay. Kitty phases into the village and sees Rachel inside a telekinetic energy cocoon to protect herself, before noting that the village is all gone, and thinks of what a waste it is. Rachel calls out that the pressure on her is increasing, that it now feels like she is carrying the weight of the whole world. She cant hold it much longer- lucky for her though, Kitty appears beside her, and she tells Rachel to take the biggest breathe she can, and the two become intangible just in time before two boulders fall on top of them.
As Kitty holds onto the weak Rachel, they trudge towards the Fire Fountain, intangible, Kitty hopes they wont get lost. Meanwhile, Talisman wonders where the X-Men are as it is taking so long, when suddenly, they phase through the wall. Kitty gasps for breathe, and realizing Rachel is too weak to climb, she air walks the two of them up to the ledge Talisman sits on. Elizabeth helps the girls up, as Kitty announces that it took a lot out of her and Lockheed fawns over her.
Realizing they still have to get up to the main walkway that runs around the Fire Fountain, Kitty tells the others she can air walk herself up, but is too weak to carry them too, and tells them she will go for help. Rachel announces that she is feeling better, and tells Talisman she thinks she can carry her. ‘You “think”?’ Elizabeth shoots back, still clutching the sketchbook she found. Already in mid flight, Kitty warns the others to be careful of the fountain, as they haven’t got much room between them and the Fountain in this pit, and a long way to go.
Rachel says ‘Tell me about it’ as she lifts Talisman up more. The Alphan reminds the other girls that the Fire Fountain somehow transforms humans into super-beings, and they have no idea what it could do to them – suddenly, Talisman brushes the fountain. Further down the pit than the other girls, Kitty calls out, concerned for Rachel, as everything goes black. Kitty Pryde realizes that the Fire Fountain vanished the instant Talisman touched it. The Fire Fountain returns and Kitty runs across the air towards the other girls, who were blasted into the wall of the fountain, creating small holes.
Kitty asks them if they are okay, and they seem to be. Catching her breath as they continue to float or fly up the fountain, Elizabeth suggests that seems how she affects magic, this means that the Fountain’s source is magical. The girls reach the main walkway around the fountain, and as they rest, Elizabeth proclaims that the instant she was in contact with the Fountain, she felt super-charged, which, she adds, is probably why neither she or Rachel were hurt by the backlash, probably she was somehow able to protect them.
Shadowcat says that sorcery doesn’t just happen, that spells need to be cast, and Rachel asks what she is getting at. Suspiciously, Kitty tells the other girls that the cave-in was not a accident, which she thinks means somebody was afraid they would learn something they weren’t supposed to. Kitty gets up and begins to walk along the walkway; Lockheed and the other girls follow her. Kitty runs off a checklist – the citadel; the transformations; the people who underwent them, has been presented as the best thing that has ever happened – the solution to war, prejudice, famine, disease – all of humanity’s ills! Kitty thinks it might be, but adds that she suddenly has many doubts.
The girls walk in a line, and Talisman asks Kitty if she thinks that Cyclops, her teammate, and his wife who was the first to be changed by the Fire Fountain are lying. ‘Let’s find out’ says Kitty! As the three girls leave the walkway, they fail to notice the sketchbook, which Talisman put down, still lying on the walkway…
Meanwhile, most of the other heroes are all being treated to a royal feast, hosted by those humans transformed by the Fire Fountain. Walt compliments Cornucopia on her feast, telling her it was the best food he has ever eaten, and Aurora adds that the clothes Cornucopia made for him are the loveliest he has ever worn. Carla Ballinger asks the Alphans what else a Cornucopia is for but to feed and clothe the world.
Madelyne Pryor turns to her husband Scott Summers and tells him she wishes she could be as cheerful, but she keeps thinking of Shaman, and how as Anodyne, she should be able to heal any wound or disease, and yet, she cannot cure Shaman. She asks Cyclops why this should be, and her husband suggests that perhaps it has something to do with balance, that for all the goodness she has done, a little sadness is needed. He reminds her that thanks to her his optic blasts are under control - and he is going to be a father.
Scott places his hand on Madelyne’s stomach, but she tells him that he won’t be able feel anything yet as it is too soon. Scott tells her that he just wants to make sure everything is okay, and Madelyne asks him that with her as mother, how could anything go wrong? As the two lovers share a passionate kiss, Madelyne notices someone out of the corner of her eye enter the room. It’s Jeanne Chretien and she doesn’t look too good, holding her head and walking clumsily into the room.
As the meta-human codenamed Earth-Mover takes a seat at the table, Scott comments on how it is interesting the way the new powers seem to relate to primal aspects of one’s personalities and lives. At seeing how exhausted Jeanne is, Madelyne goes over to her. The healers takes Jeanne’s hand and asks her if she has been working or running a marathon. And with that, the healing fire bounces off Madelyne and onto Earth-Mover. Wearily, Jeanne Chretien tries to tell Madelyne something, but even before she finishes her sentence, Madelyne tells her that she understands and just tells Jeanne to get some rest, while she takes care of things. Madelyne calls over to Scott and tells him that she has to take care of something. He asks if he can help, but Madelyne replies that it is ‘Nothing earth-shattering’ before telling him to mind the party, and leaving.
Elsewhere within the giant citadel, Kitty Pryde and Lockheed make their way through one of the hallways. The young X-Man thinks to herself that Talisman and Rachel have gone to the library to try and translate the stone they found, before deciding that Alpha Flight’s team leader, Heather Hudson has already been exposed to the Fire Fountain, and that she shouldn’t be trusted. Kitty starts to look for Professor X before seeing a light shine from beyond a door. Kitty peeks into the room and sees Wolverine laying on a bed - and Madelyne Pryor leaning over him, using her powers!
Kitty quickly phases out of sight as Madelyne leaves the room, and the young mutant notes too how Madelyne is acting like she doesn’t want anyone to see her. Kitty enters the room once Madelyne is gone and wonders what she was doing to him, as Logan doesn’t need healing flames, he has his own healing factor. Kitty thinks it is a possibility that Madelyne was messing with Logan somehow!
Shadowcat tries to wake Logan, and eventually she does. Kitty relates to Logan what she saw before Logan tells her that he is not angry, as Madelyne just burned out the berserker within him, he adds that he is sane now, human! Sarcastically, Kitty tells him that that is great, before reminding Logan that if not for his berserker rage, his mentor Ogun would have killed them both! Wolverine asks Kitty if she is saying he cannot hack it as man, but only as a psycho?!
Kitty apologizes before asking Logan if he found Snowbird. Wolverine grows concerned and tells her that he cannot remember. He proclaims that he, Pathfinder and Beastmaster all split up, and that he thought he had a scent, but afterwards, drew blank. Cautiously, Kitty reminds Logan that his berserker self is the wild animal side of his nature, and tells him that Beastmaster, who controls animals could have made him quit. Logan asks why, and Kitty reveals her suspicion about everything.
Wolverine goes quiet before announcing that he cannot spot Beastmaster or Pathfinder’s scents, so they haven’t found Snowbird and come back here. He adds that Madelyne’s stunt may have given them an unexpected edge, that he was sometimes a nutcase with the berserker side of himself, but with it gone it makes him no less dangerous! While Madelyne has made him whole, he is now human and completely beyond Boyd Wilson’s control. Logan sheathes his claws, and tells Kitty to alert Xavier and have Aurora meet him at the main gate – and quickly!
Moments later, Aurora, carrying Wolverine and Lockheed the dragon flying at their sides are streaking across the whiter-than-pale snow before landing where Logan’s trail ended. Aurora tells Logan that she knows this ridge, for it is the one where her brother and she hurled Shaman’s medicine pouch! The two former teammates stare at the hordes of demons all from the medicine pouch, tearing each other apart.
Logan slides down the ridge, ordering Aurora to stay in the background, that he will call her if he needs her to bring the cavalry. Logan looks at the demons strangely and tells himself he should not have shot his mouth off the way he did to Kitty, as his old self would have just waded through the demons like the were water – now he doesn’t want to go near them!
Logan, with Lockheed in tow, enters a small almost hidden cave, he can smell Narya strongly, and cannot believe he missed her before. He recalls that she took sick the moment the Fire Fountain appeared. As Snowbird is part magical, and Shaman magical, he believes there has to be a link to the magical Fire Fountain, and he doesn’t think it will be a pretty one.
Deep within the cave, lying on some straw, Wolverine has found Snowbird. No longer is she the personification of beauty, but withered, broken and dying. The goddess, weak with pain, calls out to her dear friend, asking him to let her end her days alone. Logan goes over and grasps her hand and clutches her close to his own body, he tells Narya it is not her time, despite what some people may think.
Meanwhile outside the cave, Pathfinder, Beastmaster and a group of wild animals are waiting. Rodriguez asks Logan to walk away, adding that they mean him no harm. He announces that they would cure Snowbird if they could, but tells him it is too late for that, as in this changing world, there is no place for the likes of her or Shaman. He asks Logan to let Beastmaster and he put Snowbird out of her misery. As Pathfinder tries to enter the cave, a stream of flame hits him back, before Logan and Lockheed appear, and the X-Man tells the meta-humans that if they want Snowbird, they have to get through him!
Meanwhile, back enjoying the feast, Jaques Morales, the meta-human codenamed Brawler asks Colossus if he would like to wrestle after dinner. Northstar looks over, petulantly at his sister and Walter, who are professing their love for each other, when as Brawler tells Colossus that ‘That’ll be the day’ Rogue walks into the room, dressed in a simple yet elegant blue gown. Brawler comments on her looks to the other men nearby, and as Rogue walks over to him, he asks her what a nice girl like she is doing – she cuts Brawler off as Rogue announces she is looking for her first dance. She turns to Jean-Paul and asks him.
Not wishing to make eye contact, Jean-Paul announces that he would rather not. Cocking her head to one side, Rogue tells Jean-Paul that it is only a waltz and its not like she is asking for marriage or anything! Over on a couch, Walt shouts over to Rogue that it is a good thing she isn’t asking for marriage, because even simple friendship is more than Northstar is prepared to give. As Northstar takes Rogue’s hands and starts to dance with her, the X-Man thinks to herself how unfair Sasquatch’s comment is, as for those few minutes she absorbed Jean-Paul’s psyche she became him, and learned all his secrets – that none of them understand him the way she does!
Rogue tells Jean-Paul that he doesn’t have too, and the Alphan shoots back that he does. To the amazement of the onlookers, Rogue and Jean-Paul dance, and she tells him how much it means to her, as she never went to high school or had a prom, for everywhere she went, her powers made her cover up from head to toe - until Madelyne healed her. Rogue laughs with happiness and cries that Madelyne set her free.
Standing to one side, Heather Hudson tells Puck and Charles Xavier that she wishes she could laugh like that. ‘An’ trip the light fantastic, eh, Heather?’ Judd says. Charles tells them there is no reason to stop either of them now. Puck tells Charles that it is great being “normal” height, but that when all his instincts and reactions are geared to the old body, he has some problems – like trying to walk all over again. Judd adds that it is funny, for over the years he got used to the pain caused by his condition, but now that it is gone, he doesn’t feel quite right. ‘How’s that for irony eh?’
Heather announces that she too has been thinking along the same lines and tells Charles and Judd that it is probably because they have been given such wondrous gifts while Snowbird and Shaman lay beyond their help. Heather hides her face behind her hair and looks to the ground. She says that she cannot shake the feeling that something is missing, that even though she now possesses powers and abilities beyond most people’s wildest fantasies, she thinks she has lost something incredibly precious. Charles Xavier looks at Alpha Flight’s leader with a degree of concern, and perhaps some suspicion.
Meanwhile, in the library, Talisman compliments Sam Ross on how vast it is. Sam tells Elizabeth that the knowledge of the ages is at his fingertips, but he cannot find anything to aid her father. Sam Ross tells Talisman that Shaman’s world is no more, that Earth has become a place where Michael Twoyoungmen can no longer survive, and compares it to the way the dinosaurs could not survive the ice Ages. He tells Elizabeth he is sorry. Cynically, Elizabeth tells Sam Ross that it was magic that took her father’s spirit from her in childhood, and it is only fitting that it claims his body as well.
Examining the runestone she found earlier, Sam tells the young Alphan that it is quite fascinating, as it is a dedication stone, marking the deity to whom the settlement was consecrated, and the souls of its people pledged. Talisman wipes her eyes as Sam Ross announces the objects of such stones, were usually Odin and Thor. Elizabeth says she knows that, but feels this one is different. Sam holds it up to his face and agrees with her, announcing this one is almost unheard of – a dedication to Loki!
In Asgard, Loki curses as he watches continues to watch Talisman from his viewing glass. He complains that he has given the “fools” the power to reshape their world. He wonders why they are being so contrary about it, and why they cannot accept his gift without questions. Loki sulks, and curses those who sit above in shadow, for at their bidding, to gain a prize beyond price, Loki humbled himself by doing a “good deed”, but to his surprise, the old gods told him it was not sufficient. Loki decides he must still prove himself worthy, but wonders what use are his efforts, his hopes and dreams, if the mortals refuse the glory he offers them?
Northstar and Rogue stand on one of the balconies overlooking the snowy terrain, they stand in the darkened sky, bathing in the yellow moonlight. Rogue comments on how hard it is to believe that they are standing 500 miles below the Arctic Circle. Jean-Paul tells Rogue that his sister says with the Fire Fountain’s help, the entire planet can be like this – paradise reborn. A new Garden of Eden, with super powers for every human being. Rogue asks Jean-Paul if that bothers him.
The powerful Alphan replies that he learned very young that one does not ever get something for nothing. He adds that he wants to know what the price is. Rogue asks Northstar if it is not just “sour grapes” because Aurora is happy and he is not. Jean-Paul tells Rogue that for this once, he wishes it was.
Back inside the main dining room, Heather announces that it is the powers mutants and super humans possess that make ordinary people afraid, but if everybody had them, if everyone could start even, it would virtually eliminate the insecurity and maybe even the prejudice that goes with it. Cornucopia mentions that there is so much need in the world, and asks where the harm in answering it is if one can?
The large wooden doors slam open, startling even Rogue and Northstar on the deck. Wolverine has returned. With Lockheed flying at his side, Logan pulls behind himself a makeshift stretcher, and over his shoulders is a body. Logan tells Cornucopia that she is talking dreams. ‘It’s past time you lot woke up an’ took a long hard look…at reality!’ Cornucopia asks Wolverine what he means by all this, and Logan, drenched in blood and sweat, tells everyone that the party is over. Logan walks through the groups of people, and he tells Charles and Rachel Summers to stay out of his thoughts.
Logan lifts the body off of his shoulders and throws it onto the large table. He announces to everyone, whether they want to listen or not, that they have been conned from the very start. The body is of Boyd Wilson, Beastmaster. Madelyne rushes over to him and as she touches him, she announces that he is barely alive, but enough so that she can pull him through. Anodyne turns to Wolverine and asks him what happened, and where Pathfinder is. As Logan drinks some wine, he replies that Rodriguez is ‘Flying with the angels’.
Wolverine cuts the strings to the stretcher and carefully he gathers who is on it. He reminds the others that for some time some of them have wondered what the price of the fantastic powers the Fire Fountain gives out is. He pulls away a blanket, ‘Well, here it is’, revealing the withered form of Snowbird. Logan douses himself in wine as he announces Narya became ill the moment the Fire Fountain came into being, that Shaman, whose powers derive from magic, went crazy the moment they entered the citadel, while Talisman neutralizes magic, that’s why she disrupted the fountain with a single touch. Logan proclaims that he figures the Fountain’s genesis, the energy it uses for the power transformations, has to be magic.
As Talisman helps her father stand, Sam Ross steps forward and announces that it is not simply magic – but all the magic – in the world! Sam proclaims that he has known all along, read it in his library, that the fountain will grow, spreading its influence across the globe. He adds that everyone who lives will become like they are – except people like Snowbird and Shaman who are doomed.
Wolverine says a very defiant ‘No’ as Rachel Summers asks the senior X-Man if he has the right to prevent it, and to think of the world and what his doing to it, as this is their chance to remake it. With passion in his voice often not heard, Northstar shoots back to Rachel that it is only if they are willing to sacrifice their friends. Rachel tells the Alphan that in her memory are the moments and manners of all of their deaths. She adds that she will do anything to prevent that. Logan tells Rachel that it is her choice, but she has no right to make it for other people.
Shaman speaks with the last of his energy and reminds Logan that he is a doctor, and that his oath, as Shaman and physician, demands he work for the benefit of his fellow man. He says that perhaps it is best if his and Snowbird’s time comes to an end. Colossus speaks next, and for the benefit of those who do not know, he announces that he is a peasant, and his family are farmers, that their land is good and they work hard, yet despite their best efforts, many in his country go hungry. He asks how many in the world are starving or without a decent home.
Kitty walks up to the man she cares for deeply and asks him if he is saying this is good. Trying to plead with her, he replies “yes,” that with the Fountain they can end famine, disease, want, hatred, possibly even war, and he asks her if that is so bad. ‘A rational transaction huh’? Kitty mocks. ‘The needs of the many balanced against the lives of the few’. Kitty asks Piotr to think about whom the few are – not just Snowbird and Shaman, but Doctor Strange, Amanda Sefton, and maybe even Storm and his little sister – Illyana, not to mention the others!
Kitty pulls away from Colossus and announces that she will not accept this gift so tainted with innocent blood, that she stands with Wolverine. Brawler tells Kitty that this is their, referring to the meta-humans, citadel and in part also their gift, that they will decide what to do with it, and live with the consequences. Half Brawler’s size, Wolverine stands up to him, saying ‘Or die with them’.
Colossus pleads with Charles and Heather, asking them to stop the madness before it is too late. For the first time on this little “adventure” Professor Xavier makes an assertive stand – telling Piotr that there is only one way, and asks the Russian mutant to stand aside. Colossus sheds a tear, and asking Charles to forgive him, he says he will not move.
Professor X, Wolverine, Cyclops, Rogue, Northstar, Talisman, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers and Lockheed are all that are left to save the world as they know it. Looking over at the other side – Heather Hudson, Sasquatch, Aurora, Colossus, Madelyne Pryor, Puck, Rachel Summers and the remaining six meta-humans, Rogue says she likes long odds, but that these are ridiculous! Cyclops reminds Rogue that for the X-Men, being the underdog is par for the course! Shadowcat tells Scott to joke all he likes, before asking him how they are supposed to fight their friends, reminding him that his wife and unborn son are on the other side.
As Scott unleashes a powerful controlled optic blast he asks Shadowcat to hope that ‘this will prove as hard for them, as for us’. The optic blast knocks Sasquatch, Colossus and Brawler down, for now at least. Everyone on the side of Cyclops and Xavier start to battle those on the side of Heather and Madelyne. Hoping to insert some confusion amongst their foes, Nightcrawler grabs Talisman and teleports away. Professor X shouts out to his followers that the Fountain is the key, while Rachel Summers proclaims that she will make sure none of them get anywhere near it!
By focusing her telekinesis, Rachel Summers takes flight, and using her telepathy she can trace Nightcrawler’s thoughts, even when he teleports – and interrupt him mid teleport, stopping him and Elizabeth from reaching their intended destination – by anything short of death! Rachel does so, by interrupting Kurt Wagner in flight, and knocking Talisman out of his grasp.
Paul Domenic, the Master Builder tells Wolverine that he can shape stone, however he pleases, with a single thought! And he does so, by summoning a giant rock to cut Wolverine and Northstar off as they try to get to the Fire Fountain. Logan orders his former teammate to find another entrance to the Fire Fountain and get inside, before Domenic cuts it off completely!
Sasquatch, Colossus and Brawler are back in the game and as they rush forward to battle their opponents, Colossus pleads with his teammates, telling them that he doesn’t want to hurt them. Sasquatch tells Colossus to speak for himself, as for the sake of the world, this is a battle they have to win! As Xavier unleashes a psionic bolt he realizes that while he is the strongest telepath here, he has no counter for Rachel’s telepathic abilities, and the newest X-Man believes with all her heart that she is right – as do Xavier’s side about themselves. Cyclops’s optic blast and Xavier’s psionic blast are both powerful, but can do no harm to the worlds’ greatest leader…Heather Hudson, who stands protected just by being.
Meanwhile, Brawler attacks Rogue, who attacks Sasquatch, while Northstar and Aurora battle it out in the air. Wolverine cuts down Descard’s giant plants, each side battles each other for the noblest of reasons. Meanwhile, tanks to Earth-Mover, the ground beneath the most powerful, Talisman and Xavier, gives way, the two falling down the fissure, Xavier telepathically summons Nightcrawler, who reaches Xavier, and Northstar who manages to get Talisman, just before the fissure closes.
Telepathically, Charles tells Jean-Paul to carry Elizabeth to the Fire Fountain, while he telepathically masks their movements. Holding onto Northstar for dear life, Elizabeth gasps, proclaiming that she never dreamed anything could move so fast! Reaching the Fire Fountain, the always forward Northstar tells Talisman that he has done his part ‘Stop gawking and do yours’! Talisman asks how she is supposed to extinguish the flame, and tells Jean-Paul that it is too powerful for her. ‘Are you afraid Talisman, that the effort will kill you?’ Jean-Paul asks. In the light of the all-powerful Fire Fountain, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen can only reply ‘Yes’.
Suddenly, Master Builder and Aurora appear. The meta-human asks the Alphans to allow him to alleviate their concerns, and with a tap of his staff, Talisman and Northstar become encased in a crystal egg. Talisman asks Northstar to run before it closes, but the more experienced Alphan tells the younger that had they meant to harm them, they would have done so. He adds that since the Fire Fountain is magic, then so must Master Builder’s power. He suggests to Talisman that she may be able to disrupt their prison. Hesitantly, Talisman says ‘I suppose…we’ll wait and let them make the next move.’
Domenic tells the Alphans that this is not what they want, and that their sole purpose is to help the world to make everyone’s lives better. Aurora has become momentarily sidetracked as she finds Domenic’s sketchbook. She alerts Domenic to her finding and as he asks the Alphan where she got it from he rips it from her hand and tosses it off the walkway, down into the bowels of the Fire Fountain. Domenic curses the book, believing he was rid of it forever. Aurora protests, telling Paul that his drawings were beautiful, she asks him why he would want to throw it away.
Inside the crystal cage, Talisman figures out what is going on and realizes why the citadel and all its furnishings seemed familiar – because they were all from Domenic’s sketchbook! Master Builder tells Talisman to shut-up, but the young woman doesn’t. She tells Domenic that he is crazy and should be proud, as those creations of his are magical, far beyond the capabilities of any human agency – and with his newfound power, Domenic now had the ability to make his designs a reality.
Domenic turns away from Talisman as she speaks the truth. The Alphan tells Domenic that she said “magical” because it is what they were. She asks the weeping meta-human if this is the key – ‘To transform people, does the Fire Fountain consume not just the world’s magic, but their own inner magic as well?’ Bluntly, yet solemnly Talisman asks if that magic includes the ability to dream, imagine and create also.
Master Builder removes his helmet and reminds Talisman of the sketchbook and how the last pages she saw were nothing but scribbles. He says that a baby could do better. Domenic confesses how wonderful it was at first, that all his fantasies could suddenly, with a wave of his own hand be made real. He proclaims that when he ran out of sketches and other things to copy he tried to come up with something new – he thrusts his own hands into the crystal confines, freeing Elizabeth and Jean-Paul as he cries that he couldn’t. Talisman rushes over to the cowering Domenic as she understands what the price is – ‘The special part within ourselves…that allows us to create!’ Aurora looks slightly uncertain about what to do, before admitting that this changes everything, and they have to alert the others.
Meanwhile, the battle between Wolverine’s team and Heather Hudson’s team has moves outdoors. As the two teams continue to engage in battle, Wolverine tells Cyclops that this fighting is getting them no where. Scott asks Logan if he is eager to add to his body count, referring to Rodriguez, and Logan replies that he had no more choice then – than what they do now. Scott professes that he does not accept that before Heather tells him that this is his final warning.
Suddenly, Talisman, carried by Aurora, re-enters the fray. She tells Heather to stop, and with a sense of authority in her voice, she tells everyone to listen to her. Walt asks Heather if she thinks it is a trick, and the apparent world’s greatest leader replies that she doesn’t think so. Talisman begins to relate Paul Domenic’s tragic revelation and her own grim deductions. Kitty Pryde adds to Elizabeth’s story by revealing that the same thing happened with Cornucopia, like when you show her a recipe or costume she can duplicate it exactly, but she cannot originate her own. In conclusion, Talisman announces that those who are changed by the fire Fountain are given power beyond their wildest dreams, but in the process, they lose the ability to dream – ‘that indefinable, transcendent something that makes us human’.
With the horrible secret revealed, a voice bellows from above. ‘And is that so bad a thing, mortal – so high a price to pay – for becoming like unto a god?’ Lightening flashes as Loki, introduces himself as their humble benefactor. Hovering above the heroes he reminds them all that thanks to his Fire Fountain they are no longer human, and asks them what need they have for their so-called “humanity”.
Paul Domenic shouts up at the Asgardian god and announces that what gave his life meaning was not the ability to build – but to create. He asks Loki what good the gift is if it costs one their imagination? Unimpressed by the way he has been spoken to, Loki reminds Domenic of who he is speaking to, and tells him he does not like that tone of voice. Loki smiles and motioning towards some of the others, the god tells Domenic that his views are not shared by the majority of his companions. Loki asks Domenic why for his sake the rest of the world must suffer. Madelyne, Heather and the six remaining humans changed by the Fire Fountain all look around at each other, with their own thoughts as Loki says ‘Think not, my friends, about what shall be lost here…but what is to be gained’.
Cyclops asks Loki what happens to those who already possess powers as they will be no better off than before. Before he gets an answer he suggests that they will be the only ones left with an imagination – the only dreamers in a world that cannot dream. Scott asks how long it will be until they are resented for that, then hated and finally killed? In the end, he says, they will not have changed anything, as far as mutants are concerned at least as they will still be outcasts, targets even!
With his voice growing louder, Loki tells Cyclops everyone will yield - or they need not wait for the hour of their destruction, as it is at hand! Rising from the snow around them, Snow giants begin to appear. Loki tells the heroes that even their considerable might is no match for his snow giants, creatures who are as ancient and eternal as the planet, and as mercifully powerful as winter!
Cyclops tells Loki that one does not force gifts on people, they must be accepted to have any meaning at all. Loki proclaims that the gods have always known what is best for mortals, and asks why no one will trust him. As Cyclops unleashes an optic blast on Loki, he tells him it is because throughout creation, Loki has always been known as the God of Lies!
Gathering himself in the snow, Loki is furious that a mortal has struck him down, and he tells Cyclops that he and the others will pay dearly for that! As one of the snow giants strikes the land where the heroes are assembled, Aurora and Northstar grab who they can before everyone else is scattered. Jean-Paul adds that when the X-Men make enemies, they do not fool about! Telepathically, Xavier tells the X-Men and Alpha Flight to set aside their differences and work together, or they are lost. As Sasquatch and Colossus tip over a giant, Sasquatch agrees with Charles, and Piotr tells Loki that he will not be forced to any decision, by anyone.
Back inside the citadel, the wondrous palace begins to slowly crumble. Shaman tells Boyd Wilson that he now has the perfect opportunity to slay him and Snowbird, for they lack the strength to stop him. As Shaman helps Narya to her feet, Beastmaster stands nearby as Twoyoungmen tells him if he is squeamish, he can simply abandon them to be buried with the crumbling citadel. Boyd helps Snowbird up and he and Shaman carry her out of the palace as Boyd proclaims he has seen enough blood today and almost became as much beast as the animals he commands. He adds that the memory still sickens him, and while he still doesn’t like mutants, he is no murderer. He says that he will save them if he can.
Loki proclaims to the heroes that their defiance comes to late, and alerts them to the citadel, as the Fire Fountain bursts from its confines and reaches forth to transform the face of the world. Nightcrawler tells Rogue that the sight is unbelievable, and the super strong X-Man tells him to watch this as she flies towards Loki she thinks to herself about how she always wondered what her limit was, whether she can absorb the power of a god…but as Rogue makes skin to skin contact with the god, her attempt was futile, as she is stunned.
Talisman turns now to the meta-humans and asks them to help her. Brawler asks the young woman why they should and tells her that they do not want her to win. Talisman tries to reason with them, telling them that they have been deceived from the beginning, as Loki never intended allowing them a free choice. She turns to Madelyne whom she believes is the most reasonable, telling her that at every stage Loki manipulated them all. She asks why else would Earth-Mover try to bury her and Kitty and Rachel, or Beastmaster and Pathfinder do their best to murder Snowbird? Talisman asks them if they are killers, if it is in their true nature, before reminding Anodyne she is a healer and asks her if this is the kind of world she wants for her children – one paved with the blood of the innocent?
Madelyne reveals that Loki’s gift was her greatest desire, her fondest dream come true and that it didn’t seem to matter that by accepting it and becoming Anodyne, she lost herself. Madelyne calls up to Loki and asks him if he hears her – ‘I deny your gift, I want no part of it, as I deny the false god who proffers it!’ Looking down at her, Loki tells Madelyne she said brash words, and she will have cause to regret them.
Suddenly, one of the snow giants takes a swing at Madelyne with a giant club. But Sam Ross pushes Madelyne out of the way, and he pays for his brave actions by being knocked miles and miles away. Phil Descard uses his powers of plants to create a giant set of vines, ensnaring the giant. Madelyne tells Descard that they will not last long, as the giant’s natural cold is freezing them.
Northstar receives a telepathic message from Charles Xavier, who tells the powerful Alphan to get to Madelyne’s side, as she has mere seconds to save the life of Sam Ross. A heartbeat later, Northstar has gathered Madelyne, and the two have flown miles away to Sam Ross’ side. As Madelyne rushes over to her friend she tells Jean-Paul she can feel his pain and that it is a miracle he has survived this long. Madelyne places a healing hand on Sam, but as she uses her healing flames she becomes startled, as they begin to die out!
Loki appears by Madelyne’s side and reminds her that she denied his gift. Smirking, he tells Madelyne that she spoke with such considerable passion, and so fat be it for him to stand in the way of such a righteous demand. Madelyne tells Loki that he cannot, but the god replies it is done. Eyes wide, Madelyne cries that Sam will die. Sarcastically, Loki tells Madelyne it is a pity, as he is touched by her plight. His evil grin returns and he tells Madelyne he cannot help, as his powers have nothing to do with the healing arts, and reminds Madelyne that as Anodyne that was her gift.
Madelyne knows that she is trapped, whichever way she turns! Northstar alerts Madelyne that he could not feel a heartbeat from Sam. Madelyne walks up to Loki and asks him to help her save Sam Ross, as he is her friend. Loki puts a hand on Madelyne’s shoulder. He tells her she only had to ask, and after wiping away a tear, he makes a scratch down her face, and the healing flames appear.
As Madelyne glows in the healing light, Loki tells her she is all she was once again, but as she walks over to Sam, Loki grabs her by the neck and with one arm holds her up above his head. He tells her that he wants no more defiance, that his will shall be done and he tells Madelyne that she will do everything in her power to help make Loki’s will so. As more tears stream from Madelyne’s eyes, choked by Loki’s powerful grip, she can only utter ‘Yes’ when he asks her if he has her word.
‘Splendid’ cries Loki as he shoves Madelyne to the ground. Madelyne crawls over to Sam Ross and she tells him that he is part of her crew, as well as a friend, and while she failed that responsibility once, she will never again. As tears drop from Madelyne to Sam, landing on his cheek, they spark the healing light. Madelyne thinks to herself that she should have known her sins would not be so easily wiped away. Than she thinks of her unborn baby, and how it is innocent and should not have to pay for her mistakes, though he wouldn’t be the first she adds. Madelyne thinks that it might be better this way, as he will never know what he is missing out on, but to him, clouds in the sky will not be dragons or castles, but just clouds.
Loki and Madelyne now re-appear in front of Wolverine, Heather, Charles, Cyclops, Talisman and the others. Logan walks up to Loki and asks his teammates if any of them are interested in a piece of him after he has finished with him. Charles tells Logan to wait, before the founder of the X-Men advises Loki that the battle is over, as his giants have lost. Loki sighs and tells the X-Men and Alphans that Anodyne has changed her mind ‘ever a woman’s prerogative’ and she now accepts his gift. Loki adds that Madelyne wishes for them all too, and nudges her forward. Madelyne cries before agreeing with the trickster.
Loki proclaims that he is the victor here, before a blinding light proves otherwise, and the appearance of they who live above in shadow! Outlines of the five elder gods are seen in the sky, and advising all that they have witnessed and judged, they find Loki wanting – that his petition is denied! Enraged, Loki cries ‘No’ before being cut off by the center god, who reminds Loki that the terms of their agreement were specific: ‘A deed of goodness, a gift freely given’.
Shoving Madelyne to the ground yet again, Loki argues that he has done that, by giving the mortals the means to make their world a paradise. The center god reminds Loki that when the mortals said ‘Nay’ he forced them to accept. He asks Loki if that is the concept of “Freedom” and “Goodness”. The elder god continues, reminding Loki that by words and deeds he was to prove himself worthy of their bounty, instead Loki has branded himself the opposite.
Powering up, Loki calls the Alphans and X-Men profound names as he asks them if they know what they cost him. With a voice that booms louder than thunder itself, the elder god tells Loki to calm his wrath he orders him to harm no innocent, and to let his „guests“ to depart in peace. Adding to that order, the elder god tells Loki that in the name of his father Odin, he is never to harm them, on this sphere or another again. If he fails to obey this, then he shall feel the wrath of they who sit above in shadow.
Loki, very reluctantly, swears to uphold this. The elder god reveals to Loki that had he accepted the mortals’ refusal in good grace, then all would have been fine. He tells Loki not to blame the deeds of others for his own failure, as the fault lies within himself. With that, the sky becomes faceless once again.
Loki frowns and swears that someday there will be a reckoning. The trickster turns to the heroes and tells them that his word has been given, and popular to contrary belief, he shall not be forsworn. As he takes to the sky yet again, Loki warns the X-Men and Alphans to know that they have made an enemy this day, one whose reach is as long as his memory, and one whom prides himself on returning blow for blow in full measure.
‘You have refused my most generous favor. I therefore, take it back, together with every benefit derived from it’. With that, Puck shrinks in size, and the pain he feels is worse now than ever! Heather Hudson and the meta-humans all find themselves back in their regular clothes, regular height and powerless. The gifts of Anodyne’s healing abilities are gone now too, as Cyclops cannot control his optic blast. Kurt warns Scott to cover his eyes, as the former X-Man realizes he is back to the way he was, forced to hide beyond a ruby quartz visor.
Wolverine feels that he is crazy again, as are Aurora and Sasquatch too in their own way. Rogue stands away from the others and regrets that she will never touch another person again for fear she will absorb their mind and powers. ‘Some victory, folks! Pardon me…for not cheering’. Loki outstretches a hand and advises that all of this need not be, as the Fire Fountain still burns. He says he can undo all that he has done. Turning to those who were directly affected by the gift in specific, like Rogue, Aurora and Puck, Loki asks if this is what they truly want and if it is the lives they wish to lead. He tells them to think of what was, and what may be, if they just ask.
Loki tells them if they spurn him and all that is gone. Their world will remain dark and full of anguish, and moreover, from this moment, the suffering of their entire race, will rest on their shoulders he tells them. Puck steps forward and announces that it is a cross he chooses to bear, before telling Loki to do them all a favor, and take off, as they aren’t interested. ‘So be it, fools!’ Is the last words the trickster god says to the heroes of the X-Men and Alpha Flight, before disappearing in a blinding flash of light. With Loki gone, the Fire Fountain fades, and with it, the eldritch summer that kept the shore of Ungava Bay so warm. In the space of a breath, the air becomes bitterly cold, and the first flakes of snow begin to fall. In an eerie silence, the snow giants return to their mountain homes, leaving no sign that they had even been present.
Finally, the last of the Fire Fountain’s energy is restored to the world. Shaman tells Snowbird that she is healing before his eyes and the goddess comments on Shaman’s rejuvenation also. Now transformed back into the embodiment of beauty, Snowbird addresses those who helped to save her life, telling them that no words can ever express her thanks, and that she knows how heavily the decision has cost them. ‘But your sacrifice was not in vain’ the goddess says. ‘Loki’s gift – for all its good intent – would have cost the Earth its soul…leaving it perfect in form and feature, yet hollow and sterile within. In truth, that is a world and future I would have been glad never to see’. With that said, Snowbird transforms into an arctic owl, before departing to only where she knows.
Heather tells Charles that she wishes she could say she had no regrets, no second thoughts, and Xavier’s remorse is revealed too, when he proclaims that every time he will see a sick child or hear of someone going hungry, he will wonder if they made the right decision. Northstar appears with a gift of his own – Shaman’s medicine pouch. He mentions that the inhabitants seem to have gone back where they belong. Twoyoungmen thanks Jean-Paul before telling Heather that they can still make a difference, as heroes and people.
Shaman looks at his daughter with respect for what she has accomplished and he announces that Loki’s way was a quick and easy fix, while their own way will be longer and harder, he has always believed, that the best things are those that are earned, rather than what they are given. Talisman tells her father that it is a nice dream, and Shaman replies that it is true, before reminding her it is what makes them all human.
Morales helps Sam Ross to the plane as Colossus asks of there is enough room for everyone. Kurt Wagner asks whether they have a choice or not, before calling everyone towards the plane, announcing a blizzard is coming their way, and tells them they cannot afford to be caught on the ground. Heather walks over to Jean-Paul and asks him if he is coming with them. Northstar replies that they need the space on the plane, and that he can manage on his own. Heather asks him if that goes for Alpha Flight as well, and as Jean-Paul and Heather hug, he tells Heather that his sister has bound herself to Sasquatch, and while he does not approve, he cannot deny the depth of their feelings for one another, and so like a good brother, will respect her choice.
In flight, Jean-Paul tells Heather that without Aurora and his special partnership, there is little to bind him to the team. He suggests that it may change, but until then, he believes he deserves to seek his own chance at happiness. Boarding the aircraft, Heather wishes Northstar well, and hopes he will not be a stranger to them. She tells Cyclops she is the last to board. Talisman suggests to her father that he should use a ‘nifty take-off charm’ if he has one.
Xavier tells Cyclops that he cannot sense Rachel’s thoughts, and tells him that she isn’t aboard. Scott wonders why, and quickly leaves the aircraft. Seeing her husband out in the approaching blizzard, Madelyne wonders what he could be playing at. She rushes from the cockpit and into the crowded cabin, where the members of the X-Men, Alpha Flight and the seven surviving humans are waiting. She asks if anyone knows where Scott is going.
Colossus tells Madelyne that Rachel is still outside, and thinks to himself whether Rachel is running away, attempting to end her life rather than confront Cyclops with who she really is. On the other hand, he think, perhaps Rachel is going to tell Cyclops, though he wonders why here, and when it could endanger the rest of them. Kitty asks if they should follow, but Madelyne tells them not to, instead they will wait as long as they can, but she will not sacrifice the rest of them – even for her husband.
Back inside the now devastated citadel, Scott walks through the once-glorious hallways, calling Rachel, he asks her why she doesn’t answer him. He thinks to himself how much of an idiot Rachel is, and while it may not be her fault, she should have more sense, after all, Loki could have left booby traps, and if there is a way for the trickster to get around his word and strike at them, hew will find one.
Scott finds Rachel, and she tells him she is all right, while thinking to herself she should have known it would be he who was looking for her. She announces that she did not mean to alarm anyone, and tells him she will only be a moment. Scott sees that they are in the Fire Fountain chamber, he remembers how beautiful it was…he tells himself that if it was physically possible for him to cry – he would. Rachel picked up on those thoughts and tells herself that she will weep for them both…’Daddy’.
Scared, Rachel thinks to herself the moment she dreaded has arrived. She wonders whether or not to tell him. She recalls that her mother was Jean Grey, the woman Cyclops once loved, but in this reality Jean Grey died, and he fell in love with Madelyne Pryor, who he married and is going to have a baby with – a son - her kid brother! The world Rachel came from and the life she led is gone, she will never forget, but she can also never go back. She decides that here is where she exists now, and that is important. Her future and what she decides to make of it.
Scott tells Rachel that they have to go, and she says she knows. After finishing whatever it is she is doing, she announces she is ready, while thinking to herself of how she will reopen wounds that have barely healed if she tells him, and she will always remind Scott – and Madelyne too – of what he had, and what might have been. Rachel believes Scott is at peace with his ghosts, and thinks she should be at peace with hers.
As Rachel gets up, Scott says ‘I’m told you’re from the future’. Rachel corrects him, saying that it is “A” future, and they wont know if it is “The” future until they get there. Scott tells her that by then it will be too late, so they shouldn’t worry. He tells her his father used to say ‘As long as you’re alive, you’re never too late’. Hesitantly, Scott asks Rachel if her father died in the future. ‘All the X-Men died’ Rachel answers. Walking together, but apart back down the hallway, Scott tells Rachel she reminds him of someone. Rachel asks if that is good or bad.
Smiling, Scott tells her it is good, as the woman was very dear to him, that when she died, all the light and joy went out of his life. He says that a part of him will always miss her and that he never imagined he would be happy and fulfilled again – until he met Madelyne. He admits that it is not the same, but that does not mean it cannot be just as good, maybe even better. Holding onto Scott by his arm now, Rachel tells him that her mother had a saying – ‘Everybody deserves a second chance’.
Scott tells Rachel her mother must have been a smart lady, and Rachel tells Scott that when her parents were made, they broke the mold. She decides not to tell him. Scott tells Rachel that he was thinking the same thing about her, and Rachel feels that all of a sudden, she does not need to tell him, before they arrive back at the plane.
Minutes later, the aircraft housing some of the bravest mortals alive is southward bound through the swiftly gathering storm towards calmer, gentler weather. Meanwhile, the grass and wildflowers that carpeted the shoreline perish with the first gusts of arctic air. In due course, the rest of the citadel will vanish as well, no sign will be left to mark the battle waged on this spot – save for one. A defiant patch of life amidst Loki’s devastation. Deep down in the Viking village Talisman, Kitty and Rachel explored, is a reminder that humanity alone carries within itself the power to create a paradise on earth – on its own terms, by its own efforts – without the gifts or machinations of greedy gods. Which for better, or worse, is how it should be. And among the rubble and remains, among the barren ground and dwindling smoke and fire, a pink rose blooms, shining bright, it is a remembrance of what the X-Men and Alpha Flight accomplished, and what they had to give up.