Aboard their makeshift raft, the X-Men struggle to maintain control of their transport as the storm rages around them. Ororo has taken to the air to try and attempt to bring the weather under control but it is fierce and she is finding her power might not be enough. Colossus feels like they’ve been fighting the storm forever, but Wolverine says he should count his blessings. This is summer and, in midwinter, it gets really rough. The other X-Men feel helpless against such a torrent and Wolverine asks Cyclops why Storm isn’t using her powers to calm things down. Ororo asks him what he thinks she’s been doing. Even her powers have their limits, and she fears she passed them long ago.
Suddenly, she spots something on the horizon: a ship. On board the Jinguchi Maru, First Mate Takeda informs Captain Hama that they have positive radar and visual contact on some kind of small craft. Lookouts report survivors visible. Hama thinks it’s a miracle anyone could survive in this sea. Takeda reminds his captain of their mission security but Hama says no orders will allow him to violate the law of the sea. He orders them brought aboard immediately.
With the last reserves of her strength, Storm creates an area of relative peace around the two vessels and the X-Men board the freighter. The ship’s crew are a little taken aback by their catch. Blankets are brought out and wrapped around them and Takeda thinks that they’re probably American super-beings. The costumes are familiar. They might be S.H.I.E.L.D., or even the Avengers. Hama asks him to be quiet, as he welcomes the strangers aboard his ship. Cyclops thanks him for rescuing them and introduces himself and the others as being X-Men. Hama has heard of them. Cyclops is about to mention that they need to contact Professor Xavier but Hama insists that radio communication is forbidden. They are on a government mission of some…delicacy. He is afraid that, until they reach Japan, he must insist that they remain his guests. He asks Takeda to take them down below.
At that moment, six thousand miles due north, it is time for farewells. Jean is dressed in casual clothing and descends the staircase, saying her taxi is waiting. Lilandra asks if she is sure she will not stay, but Jean says she can’t. There are too many memories in this house. She has to deal with the fact that Scott and the X-Men are dead, and she and Xavier just remind each other just how alone they are. With a final embrace, the two friends part and a door closes on a portion of Jean’s life, perhaps forever.
Lilandra watches her taxi depart and thinks that Jean is far too young to have such desolation in her eyes. She begins to think about Charles. Strange, she thinks, the tricks fate plays on one. She had the pick of the finest consorts in her galaxy, yet she lost her heart to Charles Xavier. They are so different, yet, with him, she is happy. She picks up a coffee pot and tries to remember how to make it.
Sometime later, she carries a tray up the mansion’s staircase. She is grateful for small mercies. Earth’s technology may be hopelessly primitive but at least she can metabolize the local food. She wishes that was her biggest problem. Charles has been withdrawing more and more in the past weeks. He spends all his time in his study, staring into the fire. She knocks on his door and enters. She tells him that she’s brought him coffee and bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon. She sneaked a bite of fish downstairs and it’s very good. Without even facing her, Charles replies that he’s not hungry.
He sits, looking at photographs of his original X-Men and the ones brought in to replace them. Lilandra says that all things die; not always at the time or in the manner of our choosing. Charles says he knows but he keeps thinking about if he’d never formed the X-Men; if only he’d let them live their lives in peace. He keeps going back to the beginning.
Charles was working towards his doctorate when he met Moira MacTaggert. It was love at first sight for them both. The years that followed were the happiest of his life and they talked of marriage. But, before that talk became reality, he was drafted and Moira promised to wait. He was in hospital, recovering from battle wounds when he received her letter. She was breaking off their engagement and returning to Scotland, though she wouldn’t say why. She told him not to follow her. She didn’t reply to his calls and letters and, when he tried to see her, she was turned away.
Charles went a little crazy, bumming around the Mediterranean. Eventually, he came to the island of Kirinos. The people there needed his help and, in return, they gave him the care and love he needed to burn the psychic poison out of his system. In time, feeling more of a man than he had in a long time, he left Kirinos and moved on to Cairo, Egypt. There was no particular reason he chose there. He was simply young and had money and had no real desire to return to the United States and his research into genetic mutation.
He chose to remain there and work out the problems in his life before he could effectively return to his work. Besides, he was now enjoying his vacation. He had no idea, one day, as he strolled through the city’s main bazaar, that he was being closely watched. He wasn’t expecting trouble and had let his psychic guard slip a little. Before he knew anything was amiss, he felt feather-light fingers reach for his wallet and he ‘heard’ a bubbling telepathic laugh inside his mind. He turned to see a white-haired young pickpocket dashing away into the crowd. She was young and very skilful. Charles gave chase and almost lost her a couple of times. She knew the neighborhood and could slip through openings he couldn’t. He used his mental powers to keep track of her but that soon proved harder than he anticipated, as her thoughts were as elusive as quicksilver. There was far more to her than met the eye.
Soon, on a deserted side-street, he stopped the child in her tracks with a gentle force bolt. He removed his wallet from her tiny fingers. It wasn’t until he sought out new X-Men years later that he realized his little pickpocket was Storm. Even at such a young age, he recognized her mutant talent and opened his mind to probe further, but as he did so, without warning, he was smashed down with a psychic bolt. He screamed and almost passed out as the young Ororo ran into the shadows.
Charles picked himself up, sweating, having never encountered such raw power or malevolence. The psionic nexus was within a nearby saloon and so, on guard, Charles entered. His attack had been intentional. Someone had sensed his power when he stopped the girl, delivering a very blunt warning. The bar was fairly empty, with just a few people dotted around its darkened recesses. Despite the emptiness, Charles could sense the unmistakable undercurrent of tension, and of fear. He flash-probed everyone in the room but none possessed any real psi talent. He sat down and was given the menu by a waiter, knowing that his assailant was probably nearby and sizing him up. He decided to make his foe make the first move. He didn’t have to wait long.
Appearing through a set of beaded curtains, a portly man wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a red fez appeared, flanked by two young women. Their eyes met and, in that instant, the gauntlets were thrown. Without a word being spoken, they were bitter enemies. The two men spoke mind-to-mind and Charles’s skin crawled as he felt his thoughts. It was like swimming in a sea of maggots. The man sat down as the waiter hovered nearby and told Charles, telepathically, that he was Amahl Farouk. He ruled what the tourists liked to call the thieves’ quarter. He enquired as to the identity of his new foe. Charles didn’t humor him with a name.
Amahl bid him welcome anyway and told him that he owned this establishment. Should Charles wish to partake of any of its manifold delights, he had but to ask. Charles politely declined. Amahl sensed they were kindred spirits and asked Charles to join him. He would show him power beyond his wildest imaginings. Charles asked at what cost to his victims. Amahl responded by asking whether the lion concerned himself with the feelings of his prey. He took what was his by right, as did he. Many had tried to stop him and all had lived to regret it.
Charles responded by saying that they were both telepaths, true, but they also had a responsibility to use their telepathic abilities for the benefit of their fellow man. They were no kindred spirits and he would not rest until Farouk was brought to justice for his crimes. “So be it,” he replied.
(the Astral Plane)
Charles remained seated, but his physical presence was just a husk for his astral form, which left his body. He had never even met another telepath before, yet now he was preparing to fight one to the death. In his heart, he knew he had no alternative. Farouk also switched to his astral form and told Charles he could sense fear in him. Charles responded by pointing out that only a fool is without fear. “A fool, or a corpse,” Farouk replied. He laughed as he gestured and, in an instant, reality twisted inside-out around them. The dark confines of the saloon gave way to something else entirely. Charles found himself facing Farouk, atop a kind of spinning-top shaped platform, floating amidst a sea of planets and other astronomical features.
Farouk said that he trusted Xavier had no objection to his choice of site for their duel, he being the challenged, and all. Inwardly, Charles thought that it was, but was Farouk really so powerful that he could waste psi-energy on glorified special effects? It felt like his first night patrol in Korea. He was so scared then, he couldn’t think straight, and the worst thing about it was the suspense; knowing the enemy was out there, somewhere, wondering when he would attack.
Farouk told him that, also, as the challenged party, he claimed the choice of weapons. He switched into his psi-armor, holding in his hand a psi-blade. Before Charles had chance to switch, Farouk attacked, narrowly missing with his first strike. In a split-second, Charles also armored up, bearing a shield to protect himself. Although he parried every thrust, he somehow felt that Farouk was laughing at him and that he was playing into his hands. Indeed, Farouk felt confident and realized Xavier was a novice, despite his bravado. He told Xavier that this fight was taking place on a thousand levels and, at the speed of thought, he could switch level. He could not hope to match his stratagem. Xavier knew he was right and, though his shields held up, the strain was incredible.
Farouk taunted Charles, mixing truth with half-truth and he couldn’t tell which was which. Farouk informed him that his shields may protect him from a frontal attack but this was the domain of the mind and the only natural laws were of the imagination. As Charles parried yet another blow, he wondered what he meant, but soon found out as the energy of Farouk’s blade curled around him and caught him in his back. In the bar, his physical body stiffened and his jacket became black and charred, as if it had been seared by open flame.
Charles realized he was losing and would continue to do so as long as he fought on Farouk’s terms. He had been treating the battle like any other kind of physical fight, when all that mattered was matching his raw power. Farouk switched form once again into that of a giant demon. Charles lost his armor, as Farouk grabbed him in his giant hands. He didn’t try to stop him. Instead, he turned his concentration inwards, calming himself, clearing his thoughts of all unessential thoughts. He had been at war for three years and had just begun to rediscover the joys of life. He didn’t want to die. Farouk changed form like a chameleon, each more horrible than the last. Charles ignored them all, as he focused his mutant power into a beam of incredible strength and shot it in to Farouk’s brain like a laser. It was over in an instant. There was a burst of light, like a super-nova, and then nothing.
Back in the bar, the two men remained facing each other, not speaking a word. To everyone around them, there appeared to be nothing happening, but the mental battle was over and Charles had won. Farouk slumped to the table. Charles stood up, put on his hat, and exited the bar without a word, as Farouk’s assistants rushed to his aid. As he left, he remembered Farouk’s last words. Physical death would be instantaneous but that, in the mind, it would take forever; ‘infinite, never-ending agony.’ He’d meant that end for Charles, only to have it claim himself.
Charles ends his recollection to Lilandra by telling her that he touched his mind as he died. It was like a guided tour of hell. Amahl Farouk was the first evil mind he’d ever met, the first who made him realize how truly deadly mutant powers could be in the wrong hands. Then and there, he found his life’s work; to bring together mankind and mutantkind in peace and harmony and to protect humanity from creatures like Farouk. From Cairo, he moved east, from Israel to India and, finally, Tibet. There, he fought the alien conqueror, Lucifer, and lost the use of his legs. Eventually, he came home and formed the X-Men, first the old team, then the new. They became family, and he loved them all, so much.
Lilandra bends down beside him. She reminds him that his X-Men, his children, have either grown and left him, or they are dead. He cannot start again. There is nothing for him here anymore. He has done his share, and more, and should let others bear this burden. She offers her heart and soul, her life and her empire, and asks him to come home with her. “Leave…Earth? I can’t,” he replies. She asks why not. What’s to keep him? She says that she loves him and wants him to be with her. Charles replies that he loves her too and, yes, he’ll go with her, wherever that may lead him.
Jean Grey is at Kennedy International Airport, later that afternoon. As she checks in, a voice behind her asks what a nice gal like her is doing in a place like this. Jean turns and sees that the voice belongs to Misty Knight, her roommate. Jean asks how she is, as, last time she heard, Misty was in hospital. She holds Jean’s hands and says that she went swimming in the Hudson and caught a nasty bug, but she’s okay now. She asks about Jean. No complaints, she replies and asks if she fancies grabbing a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, Misty is already late for her own flight. She has to help her friend, Colleen Wing, out on a job in Tokyo. “Write postcards, hon, an’ give my love to Scott, huh? Be seein’ you.” Jean says sure, not letting on that Scott is no longer alive.
She waves her plane off barely half an hour later. As it fades from sight, Jean suddenly finds herself shivering. For the first time in her life, she is on her own, with no one to turn to or depend on, save herself. Though she doesn’t know why, that scares her, to the depths of her soul.