The Massachusetts Academy, where Jonothan “Jono” Starsmore a.k.a. Chamber decides that the idea is, if he is watching, then he is training. As long as he can convinced Sean Cassidy, the headmaster, of that, then he can get away with spending the afternoon of a school day watching Emma Frost the White Queen, the other headmaster, and his teammate M chasing each other around the Biosphere like a couple of field mice.
Jono perches himself on a ledge around the inside edge of the Biosphere and watches as Emma rushes through the lush forest landscape, while M flies overhead after Emma. ‘That lass... she’s gifted. That’s putting it mildly’ Jono thinks to himself about M, while recalling that Sean and Emma call this game Hunter-Hunter, that the idea is to slap your opponent on the heel, like an Indian counting coup. Given that M is fast and strong, and airborne, and Emma is a telepath who knows what you are thinking pretty much before you think it, Jono gathers that Emma is running scared with M hot on her heels – so to speak.
But, M face-plants into the muddy ground as Emma dodges her student’s grasp. Jono climbs the biosphere wall for a better view, and as far as he could tell and as human sight could register, when M took the plunge, somehow not so much as Emma’s heel was hanging out where M thought her teacher was. So he guesses that M learned a valuable lesson.
‘At some point you’ve got to let your brain go – and let your power take over’ the White Queen announces. Chamber communicates with Emma telepathically and as M’s body sinks deeper into the ground, he tells Emma that he doesn’t think M heard her, unless she has learned to hear through four feet of top soil. ‘I meant the lesson for you, Jonothan’ Emma tells him as she taps M on her heels, explaining that M has already learned it.
Jono goes over to the mud and grabs M by her ankles. Trying to pull her out of the mud, he tells the White Queen that he thinks she is stuck hard. ‘Really?...You think?’ Emma mutters.
Chamber reports that if M doesn’t budge, he can blow the ground out from around her psionically. ‘You deal with it. I have every confidence’ Emma tells him. Jono speaks to M, telling her that if she can hear him, to press to her left. Suddenly, a fist bursts up through the ground, ‘Just as soon not, thanks!’ M declares, as she breaks free from the mud, covered in dirt and dripping wet. M announces that she has a preference to be intact rather than serve as one of Chamber’s physics experiments. ‘Nice to see you again, gal’ Chamber tells her, before M asks which way Emma went.
Jono tells himself that M is a nice sort, until she opens her mouth. ‘That’s the real reason I hesitated to blast her out of the dirt. I took this as my cue to let the ladies commune with nature’.
Nearby, Emma has indeed been communing, with something she and M both describe as a “glowing egg” hanging over a branch. ‘What... what is it?’ M asks as she approaches Emma, who has a look of shock on her face, and gasps ‘Ha...Haroun! As the glowing energy vanishes, Chamber repeats ‘Haroun? What’s a Haroun?’
Later, inside the Academy proper, Jono sits on the stairs on some stairs in front of the girls’ bathroom, realizing that he didnt’ see the energy until it was just fading in the air. He is waiting for M, who soon approaches the bathroom. ‘Nice grooming, lass’ Jono tells her, as M is still wet and dirty. ‘Sean closed his office door? He never closes his office door’ M remarks. ‘Seems he does at least once’ Jono points out, informing M that Emma is in there with him, and that they want to see her. ‘Something about some mysterious manifestation you saw and I didn’t’ he adds.
Angelo “Skin” Epsinosa pokes his head around the corner and asks ‘Mysteries? Manifestations? Aliens, maybe? Gets hairy around here when we do aliens!’ Seeing M, Skin asks ‘Hey, M...fashion statement?’ M replies ‘Training accident’ without looking at Skin. ‘Tasty’ Skin tells her.
‘You’re gross, Angelo’ M calls out as she passes Chamber and goes into the bathroom.
‘This is news to you?’ Skin jokes and asks ‘What’s the buzz?’ as Paige “Husk” Guthrie approaches her teammates, and informs Angelo that Jono says they have a problem with aliens or something. ‘Did Sean close his door?’ Paige asks. ‘Did I just say that?’ Jono mutters.
In the bathroom, M stares into the mirror. ‘I can’t believe I let those barbarians see me like –’ she tells herself, before suddenly, seeing the reflection of a muscular man approach her in the mirror. ‘Who the –’ M gasps as she spins around, but finds no one there. ‘It looked like... like... nobody’ she tells herself.
Outside in the corridor, Skin asks Paige if she wants to go out there and look for aliens. Husk tells him that he might get through life a little easier if he just backs off a little. ‘Do I look like the kinda guy who can afford to back off? Oh, no no no, chickie. I’m the kinda guy...who just wants to have a little fun!’ Skin exclaims, grinning as he leaps into the air, and starts swinging from a chandelier.
Chamber tells Husk not to humor Skin, as he is just trying to goad her. Husk replies that she knows, but that she hasn’t so much as gone for a run today, and she wonders what will come up. Husk then shifts her form into a diamond-hard state, and she literally starts climbing the wall.
Jono thinks to himself that Husk is the nicest girl he knows, but that she does have the chronic need to overcompensate, like when she morphs into something – in this instance, a crust of pure diamond, the toughest form that Jono has ever seen Husk grow. He decides that he will have to talk to Paige about her overcompensation some time, if he ever gets her to hold still long enough.
‘You’re whaling on that chandelier, Skin!’ Husk calls out. ‘Nothing compared to what you did to the wall, Husk!’ Skin retorts as he swings towards her. Husk grabs one of Skin’s legs and asks him how they plan on getting down. ‘What do you mean we?’ Skin asks.
M exits the bathroom and asks what is going on as she looks up at her teammates. Chamber informs her that they are letting off steam, before telling her that she cleaned up nice.
Meanwhile, while two of Chamber’s teammates are making a shambles of the school’s main lounge, others are out and about, getting accosted by what appear to be ghosts. Everett Thomas a.k.a. Synch is down by the river. Not normally the brooding type, it appears that is what he is doing, when suddenly, a woman in a pink costume appears before him, seemingly out of nowhere. ‘Where did you come from? Don’t I know you –’ Synch begins, before the woman runs towards him, and transforms into a large purple cat. ‘CATSEYE!’ Synch exclaims as she scratches his face with her claws. ‘Right, Everett. Catseye. And we’re calling you in’ Catseye tells him. Catseye was one of the Hellions, the group of young mutants the White Queen used to train. ‘No, that wasn’t Catseye...and I can prove it’ Synch tells himself, looking at his blood-stained hand. The Hellions all died – and the White Queen has never gotten over it.
In the gym, Jubilation Lee a.k.a. Jubilee is working out, balancing on a beam. She tells herself that there is nothing to her left and nothing to her right, while carefully placing one foot in front of the other, for lately, Jubilee has been getting very serious about keeping in top fighting form. Suddenly, something upends Jubilee and she falls off the beam, ‘TAROT!’ Jubilee gasps when she sees the dead Hellion standing over her, a tarot-card creation of Death, holding a scythe, at Tarot’s side. ‘...bet your socks it is, dear Jubilation’ Tarot remarks. Tarot also died when the Hellions were slaughtered. She suggests to Jubilee that she warn her little friends that their time is coming too. ‘Meanwhile, don’t draw too many royal flushes’ she adds. ‘Excuse me?’ Jubilee asks, before Tarot vanishes.
Back in the longue, Sean Cassidy a.k.a. Banshee and Emma have left Sean’s office, and seeing Skin swinging from the chandelier, and Husk sticking to the roof, Sean shouts ‘How many times have I got to tell you – not in the main building!?’ But Skin just smiles and replies that he doesn’t know what came over him. ‘That’s what we’ve got gyms... and workout rooms... and a whole bleeding Biosphere for!’ Sean replies, before asking M if she cares to give her friends a relatively soft landing. ‘Yes, Sir’ M replies as she flies upwards and takes hold of Skin, before Banshee asks his students what they know of people seeing ghosts, or apparitions or spooks.
Suddenly, Jubilee rushes into the lounge, ‘Hey, guys! I just saw Tarot... out in the gym! Big as life!’ she exclaims, while Synch enters as well, declaring that he saw something that looked like Catseye by the river, but that it wasn’t Catseye, he is sure of it.
As Husk is brought back to the ground, Banshee remarks ‘Diamond, eh? Not bad’. Husk tells him that she is sorry, but Banshee points out that they have bigger fish to fry, and sends Paige to the infirmary. ‘You know the drill’ he adds. ‘Urg’ Husk mutters, and as Banshee puts a robe around her, he tells the rest of Generation X that they have a meeting to call. ‘At least my gross medical self-exam gets me out of the meeting’ Husk thinks to herself. ‘Are you all right, Emma?’ Sean asks. ‘No. Not really’ Emma replies, rattled by the sudden appearances of her precious dead students.
In the infirmary where Paige is headed, the mysterious girl called Penance is having a run in with one of the Hellions, Bevatron. Despite being one of the most physically powerful creatures on the planet, with a density that approaches that of a dwarf star, Penance is skittish as she sees Bevatron, although no one could know whether she registers him as one of the Hellions. But, as she tries to touch him with her contracted tendrils where everyone else has fingers, she puts them against his chest, and realizes that she is not touching something humanoid. Penance retreats, wide-eyed, and raises her hands to her face. She is a dangerous girl, more dangerous for her fear. And the image of Bevatron, even when it isn’t blowing off blinding light at someone who is used to the shadows herself, is enough to move anyone to wanton destruction.
There is a loud crashing noise as Penance starts tearing up the infirmary. ‘Who’s there?’ Paige calls out, before rushing into the room, despite Jono telling her to be careful. ‘Penance? What?’ Husk calls out, while Banshee reminds Husk that there is no telling what is going on with Penance. ‘Oh, she’s just a girl, Sean. I wish you’d all stop treating her –’ Husk begins, to which Skin mutters ‘A girl who can crush a truck between her finger-tips’, while Husk concludes ‘- like she’s some kind of monster!’ Penance pulls back, wide-eyed still, and with her dangerous “claws” covering her face, while Husk points out that she is shaking, and that she needs some reassurance. ‘Aye, but it’s never been safe to –’ Banshee begins, while Emma shushes him, pointing out that Paige is currently diamond-hard, and as Husk wraps her arms around Penance, Penance does the same. ‘Do you have any idea how long it’s been... since this child has been hugged?’ Emma asks. It is true, and Generation X have a pretty good idea of what – or who – has spooked Penance. Penance knows enough to be careful as she can with Paige’s diamond skin, and backs off when under Paige’s tattered robe, the diamond begins to crack.
Banshee, the White Queen and the young heroes have their meeting, but no one knows why they are seeing dead Hellions alive – but the Academy becomes a sinkhole of depression, no one wants to get up in the morning, with everyone becoming imitation Chambers, huddling in their corners with their attitudes, only they aren’t near as good at it as Jono.
Another day, the sun shines down. While Everett and Angelo pack a jeep with some duffel bags, Everett tells Banshee that he can’t handle the depression around here, and that he is grateful Sean is letting him and Angelo skip campus for a few days. He adds that it has been almost a week since they have seen these “visions”, but that nobody seems to want to do anything about it. Banshee tells Synch that he doesn’t know what he means, reminding him that they had a meeting about it the other day. ‘Everybody’s talking past everybody else, man. If it was really Catseye – even her ghost – I’d’ve been able to get in synch with her... but I couldn’t, get it?’ Synch explains. Banshee replies that he does, and tells Synch that he and Skin need to call in when they get to Boston. Skin is rummaging through one of the bags, while Synch asks ‘See what I mean, Jono?’ before he and Skin drive off in the jeep. ‘Did he say something to me?’ Jono asks Banshee, who replies ‘I forget...’
The atmosphere around the Massachusetts Academy starts to get to Chamber, too – and he has a built-in immunity to induced depression. He asks Banshee if he thinks things are a tad weird around here, but Sean tells him that everyone just has spring fever, is all. Jono glances sideways and thinks to himself ‘I’m depressed normally – well beyond anyone’s power to add or detract. Besides... spring ended months ago!’ Soon, pretty much everyone’s eyes are glazed over with a crust of apathy. Sitting in some grass, leaning against a tree, Jubilee tells herself that she should be working out on the trampoline today, before wondering how many blades of grass fit in a square foot. Husk finds some diamond chips and supposes that she can set up a scholarship fund now, while, on the road, Synch asks Skin if he feels the weight come off his shoulders. ‘What weight? What shoulders?’ Skin replies.
On a patio in a garden, Emma holds a book in her hands. ‘Read some Sartre...? Why bother?’ she asks herself. In the gymnasium, M is working out, and suddenly, wonders where she is, while Penance wanders the grounds, seemingly confused. Chamber wonders if his friends are letting him know what a bloody drag it is to be around him sometimes. Casually, Banshee asks Jono if they have something on the agenda for today. ‘You mean like classes... meals? Maybe a nap?’ Jono replies. While walking away, he decides that these are not the people he is used to living with, that he would say they were strangers, but somewhere in his bio-nuclear gut, he thinks there is a real stranger lurking around these parts somewhere. Indeed, standing in the shadows of a building, a man creeps, his red eyes glaring out through the darkness.
Whatever is causing this malaise is centered on Emma, for as she sits on the gazebo, the “illusions” start getting offensive – as the muscular Hellion Beef bursts from the ground, breaking up through the gazebo, and sending a shocked Emma through the air.
As the gazebo is blown apart, everyone on campus sees it – but has a hard time caring. Jono rushes back to Banshee, who is staring in the direction of the explosion. ‘Sean? Sean! Anybody home in there? Banshee! That’s Ms Frost gone exploding up into the sky!’ Jono calls out. ‘Yeah, she’ll do that once in a while’ Banshee remarks casually. ‘Banshee... be a hero!’ Jono tells him, putting his hand on Sean’s shoulder. Banshee takes flight, his sonic scream filling the air as he does, before he grabs hold of Emma before she hits the ground. They turn to the ground where Beef burst through, but find nothing out of the ordinary, and Beef nowhere in sight. ‘Nice explosion’ Banshee remarks. ‘Yeah’ Chamber replies while Emma casually turns back to her book.
It is clear that Emma is haunted – and hunted as well. Once, there was a man named Trevor Fitzroy who attacked the Hellfire Club, and in the process, Emma was left in a psionically-induced coma, while the Hellions took on Fitzroy and were slain by Fitzroy himself or some Sentinels. When the White Queen woke up after the tragedy, she blamed herself for letting the Hellions go into battle untrained. Now, through Emma, something has a bead on the next generation of X-Men. Emma is sure it is the enraged psychic remains of the Hellions – but it isn’t. It’s something else. ‘I want it back, please – may I have it back?’ Emma asks, while a shadowy figure asks her what it is she wants back. ‘My soul...’ Emma utters, dropping to the ground and clutching her head as she remembers her mysterious encounter.
No one else could handle the crush of emotional torpor that Chamber is used to living with every day, so he takes matters into his own hands. He starts doing some research on the computer. ‘Emotional torture wearing down the psyche. It’s got to be someone’s modus operandi’ he tells himself, wishing he had more to go on than Banshee’s database. ‘A glance of a figure... an ultimatum...’ he thinks to himself, before turning to the window when he hears sirens and sees fire trucks driving past the Massachusetts Academy. He turns the police radio band on and learns that every fire truck in Berkshire Country is being summoned to Snow Valley as the old town hotel is going up in flames. Chamber tells himself that some of the folks who are best equipped in the world to see to the emergency – Generation X – are right here and can’t be bothered. ‘Well, no matter. I’m on my way’ he decides.
But, that is easier said than done, as Chamber finds that the roadside is blocked for forty miles bit fire fighting equipment, and decides that it would be a lousy entrance. ‘Couldn’t help thinking that. It was the old stage musician in me’ he thinks to himself. As the sirens continue, Chamber rushes to find Emma curled up on a sofa. He tells her that she has to snap out of this thing, as it is souring everything around. ‘Maybe she heard me... maybe not... made no difference’ Chamber realizes as Emma just remains curled up on the couch. He goes into another room where Paige and Jubilee are playing table tennis – both with blank stares on their face, neither look up at Jono. He soon finds Banshee outside and asks him to fly him to the Snow Valley Hotel, that they have to get there right now. ‘Yardwork!’ Sean replies as he holds a shovel in one hand. ‘Excuse me?’ Jono asks him. ‘Got to keep this place in order. Yardwork! Very important’ Sean explains. Going into the Biosphere, Chamber sees M watering some plants and asks her to fly him into town. ‘Oh, these sirens are so... disturbing’ M remarks. ‘Are they?’ Chamber replies. ‘What if I can get the sirens to stop?’ he asks.
That makes the impression on M – the promise of a measure of peace. He wraps his arms around her as the super-strong young woman flies to the scene of the fire, and starts to descend, but in the wrong place, so Chamber tells her not to set down amongst the flames, but by the pond behind the hotel. M does so, causing Chamber to think that his friends are not beyond reason or redemption, that whatever is chewing their insides was something they wanted to shed. Chamber then instructs M to just circle the area while he douses the fire. ‘You’ll stay...right, M?’ he asks, but as she takes to the skies, M offers no response. ‘Communicative sort. I can’t fly through the sky like some I know’ Chamber thinks to himself, but he unleashes his bio-nuclear core to the elements, which causes the pond to steam up into a contained cyclone, which blows up from the pond, and whips through the roof of the pine forest, shields M who is absently flies above, and it passes over the heedless, ineffective firemen, before hovering over the hotel, stagnant in a tail, narrow thunderhead as the last of the fire trucks arrive and the last of the sirens stop blaring.
However, Chamber’s ride loses interest and she flies on back to the Massachusetts Academy, presumably to water some more plants. Chamber supposes that he ought to thank M, as the trajectory of her exit helped suck his thunderhead into the position he wanted it. No matter, there is nothing more for Chamber to do but climb the hill from the bank of the pond and hope there wasn’t too much damage in the intervening minutes. Trudging up the slope, he tells himself that the longer it takes him to get up the hill, the likelier it is that a fireman will think to use the pond as a water source and see him. But, nobody does. And, arriving at the still burning hotel, Jono decides that it is a comedy of errors – rafters burning and hoses running out of water – and enough vapor hanging in the sky to flood a small village. Chamber hopes he can shoot a blast of psionic energy up into the sky and keep what is left of his body intact at the same time. He does so, and in spectacular display, the energy strikes the clouds and rain begins to pour down over the remains of the hotel. Soon, the firemen mostly go home, or back to wherever firemen go.
Chamber, however, has a harder time of easing on down the road, but manages to hitch a ride in the back of a farmer’s truck, sitting on some hay bales, with pigs at his feet. It’s not that he dislikes the rural types who mostly populate Western Massachusetts, he does like them. He thinks about what to say to M on the way home, and it’s not like his sinuses are what they once were. ‘Peace, brother!’ Jono calls out to the driver when he gets off the truck. Arriving back at the Massachusetts Academy Jono finds Paige outside reading a book. ‘I... hitchhiked. In a pickup truck full of hay and pigs’ he tells her. ‘Nice quiet day, yes?’ Paige replies. Chamber knows that there is a problem, and he’s probably the only one who does. That is probably why he was the first one the stranger hit with the next phase of this siege. His head suddenly hurts, the way it used to hurt when he was a little kid, with a migraine, when his head and body were whole. He doesn’t feel himself fall to the ground.
But, when he looks up, Chamber finds himself in an old city, a misty city, the way Great Britain is chilly. He is in London, and realizes that he is whole again. It feels odd to him. ‘Here?’ Jono asks as he sees a sign for the Hellfire Club. He approaches the door and announces ‘I have an appointment to see –’ but the man at the door interrupts, ‘- Miss Frost’ he states, before asking Master Starsmore to follow him. ‘Excuse me, but what am I supposed to –’ Jono begins, but the figure turns around, and snarls ‘Miss Frost will give you your instructions’. It is indeed a face, not a mask, and it is one Jono had seen somewhere before. The face is greyish, with red eyes, and he looks like some sort of demon.
Meanwhile, in Boston, a ninety-five minute drive to the East, Synch and Skin are sitting at a table in an outdoor cafe, ‘Nice girls, huh?’ Angelo remarks. ‘Yeah, right...when they tried to get us to come to a Friends of Humanity meeting, we should’ve gotten the idea’ Ev replies. ‘Live and learn, bro. Live and learn. Next time...’ Angelo begins, before Everett announces that something has been bothering him. ‘Like I ain’t noticed’ Angelo remarks, while Everett explains that the ghost, or vision, or illusion or whatever he saw, he has felt funny ever since, like a planted a germ in his head. Just then, someone behind Everett accidentally brushes his arm against his back. Angelo remarks that everyone was getting that way as soon as they saw one of the Hellions, like something was bringing everybody down, which is why he wanted to leave. Angelo then notices that food is floating around them – mushrooms and luncheon meat – and asks if they ordered this. ‘Oh, that’s me...or probably the waiter or somebody. Somebody with latent mutant powers probably brushed by mine and I reflexively “synched on him”. He’ll go away’ Everett explains, before Angelo tells him that he thinks it is time they went away. ‘Home?’ Everett asks as they walk over to the jeep. ‘Yeah. Like right now’ Angelo tells him.
As Skin and Synch head home, Chamber is still living this fantasy past. He stands before the White Queen, who introduces herself, and tells him that she understands he has a nuclear core that can generate immeasurable energy by force of will. Chamber knows this is an illusion, but he is compelled to play out his role. The White Queen remarks that as a member of the Hellions, he will be required to put that power at the disposal of the Hellfire Club, without question. Chamber knows that Emma is living through this torturous charade with him, and that all he has to do was deviate from the script to blow it wide open. But, he hesitates and says ‘Uhh – yes, Ma’am’. For, he is whole again, with a stomach and a mouth, and flesh – and that made him weak, and no doubt, that was what the one who cast the illusion into Chamber’s mind is counting on.
Even as Chamber walks through this nightmare, he is vaguely aware of being moved from where he fell, indeed, as M and Husk both in a trance-like state carry him to the Biosphere. Banshee, the White Queen, Jubilee and Penance are all in the Biosphere, hung from a tree like sides of beef, with Penance actually held partially creased by the growth-induced tree trunk. From what Chamber understands, this force has actually re-focussed Emma’s own enormous psychic power to get Generation X to jump through these hoops. Outside the Biosphere, Synch and Skin pull up in the jeep and see Paige and M. ‘Hey, Paige!’ Synch calls out, before telling Skin that they are walking stiff. Skin wonders what is going on here, and Synch tells him that it must be something bad. He looks into the Biosphere and they see the others not moving. Synch tells Skin to keep his head straight, as they have to get them out of there, and he has a bad feeling about this.
Skin tells Synch that the air feels funny, like swimming through jell-o. ‘Well, jell-o or not, we’ve got to get through it – at a dead run’ Synch replies. ‘Right with you, bro!’ Skin calls out as he follows Synch towards the biosphere. They get ten feet in, maybe less, and while their teammates are frozen in place, their brains drenched in their most dire disturbing fantasies, Skin and Synch fall to the ground, as space around them burns like the hearts of a star – their minds then burst with an onslaught of the despondency and pain that had built gradually in the rest of Generation X in the course of these horrid days. Without a word or coherent glance, the captive bodies of M and Husk take Synch and Skin’s bodies, dragging along their tortured souls and hanging them up with the others – which is when the figure of the new master of this place coalesced in the air before the young heroes. ‘Excellent...quite satisfactory...’ the demon known as D’Spayre calls out.
Then, as horrors broke through the resistance in their minds, they begin to “hear” the demon think through their dears. ‘...fresh meat... emotionally unformed... yet powerful... and mine’. D’Spayre states that through flaws in the mature personality of their leader, “the Frost female”, he calls her, the new ones, whose minds he was unable to contain before they left, will come along nicely, and quickly, as the others crumble in the face of their nightmares, so too will he probe the fears in these souls, and direct them to bring the fears of all this world to slake his appetites. As D’Spayre says this, Skin extends a finger past the others, to reach Chamber. Although he doesn’t know it, this sets up a biological arc between Chamber and Synch, meaning Synch manages to absorb Chamber’s own energy through it, which frees him from his state of mind. ‘D’SPAYRE!’ Chamber exclaims.
The demon turns to Chamber, ‘You... the young energy cell... you are more resistant than I estimated’ D’Spayre remarks, deciding that he can use that, but Chamber, not knowing how he got here, or whether this is even the real world,, uses Emma’s meticulous training, which has prepared him to do at least one thing well – improvise – and he casts a powerful surge of energy towards D’Spayre, knocking the demon backwards. ‘Bend... to my will... or I will break you!’ D’Spayre threatens. Chamber thinks that sometimes these subhuman “whackadoodles” who infest Sean’s computer database actually look for things to do or say that energize Generation X to reach beyond any place they have ever gone before to do them in. Inside the Biosphere, in an energy shootout with an extra-dimensional demon while his mates are trapped there with him, Chamber knows that he has to blow D’Spayre to smithereens, and himself, too, for that matter, but cannot figure a way to control it so that he wouldn’t take everyone he cared for with them. Chamber pours the bio-nuclear energy on at D’Spayre, who continues to try and manipulate the young hero.
The moment Chamber realizes this, D’Spayre reads his weakness. ‘Here, young energy cell... I lose my hold on your helpless and weakened comrades...’ D’Spayre announces, and the trapped heroes start to wake up. They would loosen themselves if they had the time, and get out of the biosphere if they found the energy. ‘Look into your mind...upon the scenarios of hopelessness with which I have weakened their souls...’ D’Spayre calls out. Now, Chamber knows that the demon wants only him. He was enough to suit his purposes. He was within a hair of touching Chamber’s power. As Chamber blasts away at D’Spayre, his mind races. He has to figure out a way to save his friends, and he has to do it before D’Spayre shovels the memories of all their worst horrors into his brain. D’Spayre narrates as Chamber sees Banshee, leader of the people, taken advantage of as people overthrow him. His head placed on a chopping block, a large executioner looming over him. And Husk, trapped inside a taxi as the warren of humans around her crumbles. And the White Queen, in her darkest moment, looking on helplessly as the heretic slaughters her charges, the Hellions. ‘Feel... their... pain...’ D’Spayre tells Chamber.
Chamber is trapped in one horrific despairing fantasy after another, no idea who he is or which way was up – but his bio-nuclear body was in charge now, and he knew a way to reach out, for his teachers and classmates, if not for himself. A demon who fed on sorrow picked the wrong boy to try to overcome with the wares of his trade – wares that Chamber lives with every day of his splintered life. He takes what bio-nuclear energy his shattered flesh has to offer, and feeds it into the furnace of his stomach to contain all that the demon is. A funnel reaches as high as the tendered powers of his surrendered flesh can take it – and Chamber prays to whatever in this universe is holy, that somewhere, if for even an instant, D’Spayre knows what hits him and that it causes him pain. The energy rises in awesome fury and every atom and quark that once composed D’Spayre’s dismantled self speeds out somewhere in a different direction from every other, every quantum of energy headed for its own private parsec of space. Generation X, Banshee and the White Queen look to the sky, as the energy begins to fade like a whirlpool. ‘Did you see...what Jono?’ Banshee utters. ‘We saw’ Emma replies. ‘We all saw’ Synch declares.
Chamber knew that he wouldn’t be able to do that to D’Spayre and remain alive, too. ‘We’ve got to do something’ Synch declares. ‘Of course. We’ll set up a foundation for Jono...erect a memorial’ someone suggests. They know Chamber wasn’t the kind of person who could be bothered in life with that brand of foofarah, hefty-priced funerals with costumed mummers and torch-bearing maidens and such. ‘He saved not only us...but the entire Biosphere for maybe hundreds of miles. He was a hero!’ Husk exclaims. Synch looks upwards to the sky and tells the others to do the same. Chamber doesn’t want them calling him names like “hero” behind his back, and as red energy swirls about, ‘What the -?’ Synch asks as everyone stares in horror. Chamber doesn’t do it consciously, any more than disjointed energy has any consciousness at all. It is unknown how his essence homed in on the Massachusetts Academy, except that it is a warmer place than the edge of space, but the essence starts to form in an appearance that Chamber remembers.
As the energy comes together, Jonothan’s naked body stands before Generation X. ‘Jono! You’re...’ someone begins. ‘You’re –‘ someone else calls out. ‘Whole’ he thinks to himself, his stomach, chest and face restored. No bio-nuclear energy trying to escape. The first thing he recognizes when he realizes that he has eyes to see again is Paige. ‘Jonothan? Is that you?’ Paige asks. ‘I... I...’ Jono utters. It feels good, he thinks, as much as he can recall what feeling good is like. But, his center doesn’t hold, not that he could ever expect it would, and his powers flare up almost instantly. He is back to the way his teammates knew him, if not the way he knows himself. They fuss over him and maybe care about him, and, he thinks, maybe even love him. Paige looks on, not talking, and Chamber supposes simply wondering. Chamber thinks to himself that ‘One of these days, I’ll have to have a long talk with that girl... maybe’.