The med-lab at the Xavier Institute, where Shadowcat and Colossus of the X-Men, aided by Hellion, Dust and Elixir of the junior-team are watching a holographic recording of the brilliant Beast as they tend to the injured Blindfold. The hologram of the Beast explains the priorities that must be considered when it comes to people in a coma. Shadowcat asks Colossus to fast-forward, as she wants to know what the Beast says about blood pressure.
Shadowcat taps a needle loaded with a drug and tells Elixir to keep his hands on Blindfold, warning him not to break skin contact with her for a second. ‘I won’t!’ the wide-eyed teen replies, before Shadowcat plunges the needle into Blindfold’s throat. Suddenly, ‘Pryde!’ a voice shouts in Shadowcat’s head, causing her to fall backwards, while telling her assailant - the White Queen - that she is practicing surgery without a license, and asking her to come back later.
The White Queen replies that there may not be a later, and pulls Shadowcat into the Astral Plane, despite the younger woman’s protests. The Sultry White Queen stands, pleased with herself, while Shadowcat exclaims that she is needed down there, as Blindfold is in a coma, and that the longer they leave her, the less chance she has of waking up. The White Queen assures Shadowcat that she will not keep her, and remarks that, in objective time, this will take less than a second. ‘It’s about the Destiny Diaries’ she reveals.
Shadowcat frowns and assures the White Queen that the Diaries are safe, adding that Exodus showed up and tried to steal them, but then he gave up and left, but they don’t know why. ‘Don’t you? Then I’ll tell you’ the White Queen remarks, before informing Shadowcat that the Diaries she has are decoys and not real. ‘What? Then they’re perfect copies, right down to the creases on the spines!’ Shadowcat exclaims.
‘No, they’re blank. But you and everyone have been conditioned to see them as real. My word for you is “spark”, remember?’ the White Queen asks. Suddenly, Shadowcat does remember, being back in Cyclops’ study a few months ago, where she told Cyclops that she was scared the Diaries might fall into the wrong hands, and he said….
(Shown with flashback illustration)
‘The best hiding place would be one you don’t even know yourself. We could set up some kind of double-blind’. ‘Meaning what, exactly?’ Shadowcat asked Cyclops. ‘Meaning we don’t just bury the Diaries. We bury the hole’ Cyclops explained, before telling Shadowcat to go and hide the diaries somewhere safe, then the White Queen can remove the memory from her mind and lock it with as post-hypnotic key. Cyclops added that the White Queen can tell Shadowcat - everyone - to see the Diaries as real, so even an enemy with psi-powers will not be able to pick the location from any of them.
‘This won’t be easy now’ Shadowcat remarks. ‘You’ll forgive from being brusque. I’m currently entombed in a basement and recovering from a neurotoxin attack’. The White Queen remarks, before asking Shadowcat what her word is. ‘Then I’ll be on my way and you can go back to playing doctors-and-nurses’. Shadowcat replies that her word is “Flint”. The White Queen remembers now, and declares that it is too far for her group to reach, so it is up to Iceman and Cannonball now.
Speaking of which, Iceman and Cannonball arrive in Flint, Michigan, with former X-Man-turned-villain, Sunfire, tied up in the back of the Blackbird. The White Queen is in telepathic contact with Cannonball and asks him what he is seeing. Cannonball replies that they are in an industrial park, full of abandoned buildings, most of which are falling down. The White Queen informs him that the structure on the far left is the one that they want, to which Cannonball replies they are going in.
The White Queen informs the men to be aware of a psionic dead spot, forty miles ahead and heading straight towards them. ‘Marauders’ the handsome Iceman suggests. ‘Almost certainly’ the White Queen replies. Iceman asks the White Queen if she wants the books intact, to which the White Queen replies that Sinister does, so, ideally, they need to reach the books first. ‘Failing that, we need to make sure that he doesn’t get them’. Cannonball remarks that is not an easy brief if the Marauders are already on to them, to which the White Queen offers to give him an inspirational speech about how hardship builds character. ‘No thanks. Just play us some muzak in the background!’ Cannonball replies as he blasts a gaping hole into the side of one of the old buildings.
The White Queen remarks that there should be a roomful of fermentation vats. ‘Does that check?’ she asks telepathically. ‘Yeah. Tell Logan the whole place smells of stale beer. Makes us miss him’ Iceman replies, referring to Wolverine. The White Queen tells her handsome teammates that they need to go up five floors, and is about to give directions to the stairs, when Cannonball begins to blast through the floor boards, with Iceman right behind him on a beam of ice. ‘Gone’ Cannonball remarks, referring to the stairs, and suggesting to the sultry White Queen that she just give them the compass directions, and they will deal with the terrain.
The White Queen gives some more directions, and explains that there should be some doors, the third along which is an office, and the Diaries are under the floorboards. ‘Look for an airtight plastic case with an “X” logo on it’. The White Queen adds that they should hurry up, as the psi-blip is right on top of them. Entering the office, the boys discover a gaping hole where the office should have been. ‘Okay. We’ve got a problem’ Iceman announces.
Meanwhile, in Caldecott County, Mississippi, at the ruins of Mystique’s mansion, the White Queen, Wolverine, Beast and Cyclops are gathering themselves after the recent traumatic events. Cyclops asks his lover the White Queen for a situation run down, to which the White Queen replies that their Mansion is secure, but that Blindfold is down. She adds that Colossus is coming to collect the four of them in Blackbird II, while Iceman and Cannonball are going after the diaries. ‘And I’ve regained partial control over some of my fine-motor functions’ she adds telepathically, explaining that she will not try to talk until she is sure she can do it without drooling down her chin. ‘I have a duty to my public’.
Cyclops informs Wolverine and the Beast that the Blackbird E.T.A. is twenty minutes, and suggests they be ready to move. ‘Move where? We don’t have a game plan, Summers. We’re still just reacting’ Wolverine replies, pointing out that was their mistake the first time they ran into the Marauders. Cyclops declares that they are out of the same for now, whether they like it or not, and that it is down to Iceman and Cannonball to turn this from a rout into something else. ‘I think they’re up to the job. But it doesn’t hurt to pray’.
Back in Michigan, Cannonball and Iceman are searching through the rubble. ‘Great. Just great. How can we tell which piece of rubble is from which room?’ Iceman asks, to which Cannonball replies that he is open to suggestions, but points out that if he starts blasting his way through this much then the main walls will fall in and then they will be worse off than they are now. ‘Okay. Let’s think this through’. Iceman begins, before pointing out that the Diaries are sealed, so will not take water damage. He begins to make a suggestion, when a large thud is heard above them - Blockbuster of the Marauders. ‘Looks like we ran out of lead time’ Cannonball remarks. ‘Yeah. Are you tired of running?’ Iceman asks his friend. ‘To my bones’. Cannonball replies. ‘Good. Me too’ Iceman exclaims as his ices-up.
Outside, the Marauders - Scalphunter, Vertigo, Arclight, Riptide, Harpoon, Prism and Blockbuster, along with former traitorous X-Men - Mystique, Gambit, Lady Mastermind and the Malice-possessed Omega Sentinel - have gathered, and discover another former X-Man, Sunfire, in the back of the Blackbird. ‘Well, look what we’ve got here’ Scalphunter exclaims, before Mystique asks Sunfire if he accomplished anything, besides getting himself captured alive? Sunfire replies that Cable is dead, before pointing out that some of Mystique’s team were less successful in meeting their mission briefs. ‘Besides, I’m far from accepting the logic of you leading us’ Sunfire adds.
‘Answer the question’ Mystique demands, ignoring Sunfire’s snide remark. Sunfire replies that Cannonball and Iceman changed course to come here, and that they mentioned the Diaries. ‘I believe they’ve gone into that building to retrieve them’. Mystique turns to Scalphunter, field leader of the Marauders, and remarks that they will split up and take them from two sides. ‘Choose your team’ Mystique declares. ‘My team chooses itself. I’m guessing yours does, too’ Scalphunter replies, before turning to leave in one direction, flanked by the Marauders and Sunfire, while Mystique, Gambit, Omega Sentinel and Lady Mastermind go in the other. ‘Hey, this is gonna be fun, boys and girls. While it lasts’ Lady Mastermind remarks.
Shortly, Blockbuster smashes his way into the old building, clearing an entrance way for the others, before Scalphunter orders Riptide to take point. ‘Anything moves, you just turn it into runny chuck steak’. Riptide begins to reply ‘That would be my pleasure’ but doesn’t quite get the sentence out, as Cannonball blasts through the floorboards and collects Riptide on his way. ‘Enjoying the ride?’ he asks the Marauder. ‘I’ll flay you to the bone!’ Riptide snaps back. ‘Not inside my blast field you won’t’ Cannonball replies. ‘Well, let’s see about that!’ Riptide exclaims as he starts twisting his body.
Elsewhere in the building, Mystique, addressing Omega Sentinel as Malice, asks for a reading. Malice replies that she can see their two teams and one static mutant trace, with two more coming towards them, and fast. ‘They’re choosing to die like men at least’ remarks Gambit as he and the woman ready themselves battle. ‘Yes. I look forward to you making the same choice’ Mystique tells her oft-foe, Gambit. Suddenly, Cannonball bursts into the area, ‘Ready Riptide?’ he asks the Marauder, before tossing the fast-spinning villain down towards the former X-Men, causing them to all fall through the floor.
Cannonball rejoins Iceman and asks his friend if he is ready. ‘Soon as they’re in position. You want to count me in?’ Iceman asks. ‘Three!’ Cannonball exclaims as he blasts downwards, with Iceman following on an ice-sled. Cannonball blasts around the Marauders, bouncing off of some large tanks like a pinball. ‘Two!’ he shouts, while the confused Marauders huddle together. ‘One!’ Cannonball exclaims, giving Iceman the cue. ‘Zero. As in degrees!’ Iceman jokes as he covers the entire chamber - including the Marauders - in solid ice.
Cannonball points out that they have bought themselves a window and suggests they make the most of it. Motioning to Arclight who he suspects is using her powers to shatter the ice, he remarks that the Marauders will not stay frozen for long. Iceman slides down and joins Cannonball while remarking that a plastic capsule ought to float if there is nothing blocking it. ‘And man, we’re overdue for a break’ he adds, when suddenly, a red plastic capsule pops up to the surface of the rising water in the chamber. Cannonball collects it while Iceman exclaims that as they have got what they came for, it’s time to hit the road.
Back at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Shadowcat, Hellion, Elixir and Dust are still working on reviving Blindfold. Getting no response from shocking Blindfold, Shadowcat exclaims that they have to try again, despite Dust’s objections, pointing out that they might cause Blindfold brain damage. Shadowcat replies that is why Elixir is here, as he can heal the damage, and declares that she is going to keep doing this until - suddenly, a hand reaches up off the table and grabs Shadowcat’s wrist. ‘Thank God!’ Shadowcat exclaims, to which Blindfold, now sitting up replies ‘Must we? I suppose we must. But not yet. Ring the bells. Sound the alarms. He’s coming! Oh, he’s coming!’ she exclaims hysterically. ‘Somebody has to warn them!’.
Back in Flint - perhaps that somebody has arrived, as Cannonball and Iceman round a corner, the canister tucked safely under Cannonball’s arm, and therefore protected by his blast field, both men are suddenly smashed aside as Mr. Sinister shouts ‘Why do I take the trouble to delegate - if I end up doing everything myself?’. As Cannonball and Iceman smack into some rubble, Sinister’s lackeys appear behind him, with Mystique remarking that the situation was under control. ‘Of course it was’ Sinister replies snidely, before demanding that someone bring him the books.
Mystique walks over to Iceman who is holding onto the canister now, and tells Iceman that, as always, his intentions are good, before pointing a gun at him and telling him that he let himself down by his performance, before firing at point blank range. Gambit walks over to Cannonball, while Scalphunter tells him to get out of his way. ‘This is my kill!’ he exclaims. An anguished Cannonball looks at Gambit, who stares back at him, before tossing a kinetically charged card at him, just as Scalphunter fires his weapon.
Sinister shoves Scalphunter aside while walking over to the motionless Cannonball, asking if the Diaries are intact. ‘They’re toast! I told you to get out of my way!’ Scalphunter exclaims to Gambit, who is kneeling besides Cannonball and replies that the fault was Scalphunter’s as he threw off his aim. Sinister picks the smouldering Cannonball up off the ground and remarks that this is a serious setback, as although they know the broad outline of what is about to happen, the Diaries would have confirmed time, place and names.
Lady Mastermind, Vertigo, Harpoon and Blockbuster all turn and look at Scrambler who has just made an appearance, before Vertigo turns to Sinister and asks what he is doing to Cannonball. The diabolical villain replies that he is erasing Cannonball’s mind. ‘Let the X-Men find him an empty shell. He can be a lesson to them, as well as to you’ he warns his Marauders.
Scrambler points to Iceman as he goes over to him, and someone else informs Mystique that her “boyfriend” is still alive. Scrambler mutters thay Iceman is hard to kill in his ice form, but that if they take away his powers then he will bleed out quickly. Suddenly though, ‘Scrambler, look out!’ Blockbuster shouts as Iceman blasts the Marauder with a close-range beam of ice, forcing him into Sinister, which causes Sinister to drop Cannonball, enabling Cannonball to get his blast field up and fly away.
Mr. Sinister is clearly annoyed, but a furious Cannonball blasts swiftly around the chamber, knocking all the Marauders over as he goes, before blasting out of the a wall and into open space.
Scalphunter begins firing his weapon at Iceman, but Iceman dives into some water created by the melted ice, and swims away. ‘Leave them to me!’ Mystique declares as she steps into the water and follows Iceman. ‘Why? If you’d finished Iceman properly in the first place, this wouldn’t have -’ Scalphunter begins, until he is interrupted by an agitated Mystique, ‘I said leave them to me!’ she snaps.
A weary Iceman emerges from the water, only to have a pistol aimed against his head. ‘I was going to ask you how you live with yourself - but that’s the wrong question, isn’t it?’ Iceman asks his one-time lover. ‘Is it? Why is that?’ Mystique replies. ‘Because I don’t think you even know who you are anymore. You’re not scheming. Working to a plan. You’re just rabid’ Iceman replies. Mystique frowns and absorbs what Iceman is saying. ‘You know nothing about me. Nothing about who I am or why I’ve done what I’ve done’ Mystique replies, before asking Iceman if it hurts to be used. ‘I withhold sympathy’ she mutters.
Mystique then lets of several pistol shots into the air, while telling Iceman that the next time she sees him - ice or flesh - then she will kill him, and not feel a thing. ‘Stay away from what’s about to come and you might just live’ Mystique warns the founding X-Man. Mystique then takes her leave, while telling Iceman, for what it’s worth, that he is the only X-Man who gets the courtesy of a warning - or a choice.
Back at the Institute, Blindfold tells Shadowcat that the light fades, but that they are still blind. ‘The battle eats the soldiers. The road maps hide the road. Johnny’s coming home, but he’s not marching. I don’t see how he could march after being blessed like that. And the mother will cry. And the machine will sing. And we’ll all go running to our places. If we can find out places…in the dark’. Blindfold exclaims.
Meanwhile, an exhausted Iceman arrives back at the Blackbird, where a motionless Cannonball is strapped into one of the seats, and shortly, the Blackbird takes off into the sky.
Henry McCoy. Field journal. July 1st. I like to think of myself as a reasonable man. By which I mean - a man governed by reason. Logic. Science. The rational consensus. I don’t let emotion blind me or control me. I keep my id nailed down in the basement where it belongs.
The Guthrie Farm, Kentucky, where a distraught Lucinda Guthrie has just found her son, Lewis, his body mutated, by motionless. Melody, Cissie and Jeb Guthrie are also in the field to witness the strange appearance their brother has taken on, while the abomination known as the Dark Beast asks his counterpart, Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy what he thinks. ‘A girl would give us a double check against this little rug rat’s Y chromosome’ Dark Beast points out.
So whatever this looks like - it’s actually a reasoned choice. Consciously thought out. Carefully considered. And I stand by my conclusions - as a good scientist would.
Hank lunges at his wicked counterpart and claws him across chest, before smacking him in the face and asking him what he did to Lewis. The Dark Beast coughs, before revealing that he injected him with necrotized DNA - one of the Genoshan samples, along with an immune suppressant so his system does not fight the intruder. ‘What if his system shuts down, you psychopath!’ Beast exclaims, asking what would happen if Lewis goes into toxic shock. The Beast asks Dark Beast to give him the rest of the sample to see if he can flush it out of his bloodstream with a phage or an antibiotic.
The Dark Beast points out that Hank will compromise the experiment and adds that the boy will probably not survive now in any case. Hank replies that he is aborting the experiment, and warns the Dark Beast that he best pray the boy lives. ‘Give me the sample’ he demands. The Dark Beast reminds Hank that he told him when they started this that they would have to think the unthinkable. ‘I knew you’d let me down. But I didn’t think you’d reach your limits this quickly!’ he exclaims.
‘I’m happy to disappoint you’ Hank replies. ‘Oh, I’m not disappointed. Or even surprised, very much’ the Dark Beast exclaims, adding that everything in life is an opportunity to lean - and adapt. With that, the Dark Beast head butts Hank and tosses him against a building, where Hank smashes through the wall. Lucinda and Melody try to pull the Dark Beast back as he declares that these children are merely test subjects. ‘That’s what everyone is. Cannon fodder for the establishing of truth!’ he adds, tossing Lucinda and Melody aside, the Dark Beast declares that truth, as he doesn’t need to tell Hank, is their master and their God.
‘You’re fighting for the future of your species! Did that slip your mind?’ the Dark Beast remarks as he smashes his fists and claws into Hank, scratching him across his chest. The Dark Beast goes behind Hank, ‘It’s the only fight that matters’ he declares. ‘It’s the war in which nature enlists every last one of us - and you’re a deserter!’ he snarls as he pushes Hank’s face down, hard, into the ground. The Dark Beast remarks that Shakespeare nailed it perfectly, and begins a quote from the famous writer, when suddenly, ‘Hey!’ shouts Lucinda Guthrie. ‘That’s about enough!’ she exclaims as she fires a shot from a rifle at the Dark Beast’s shoulder.
The Dark Beast clutches his shoulder, complementing the Guthrie family matriarch on a good shot, but remarking that it is a pity it was only a birdshot. ‘Want to see what’s in the other barrel?’ Lucinda snaps back. ‘No!’ Hank exclaims as he gets to his feet. ‘There won’t be any need for that!’ he declares as he smacks his doppelganger hard in the face, rendering him unconscious. Hank tells Lucinda, who points her rifle at the Dark Beast as she, Hank and the three children gather around him, that he needs to examine Lewis, and he needs to do it quickly. ‘Is the second barrel…?’ Hank asks, his voice trailing off.
Lucinda replies that it is a six-ounce triple-aught, and warns Hank that if the Dark Beast moves a muscle then he is going to be a head shorter. Hank tells Lucinda that he is so sorry to have brought this on her. ‘Prove it!’ Lucinda snaps back. Hank kneels down beside Lewis, checks his airway, checks for concussion and hematoma. Hank picks the boy up before telling Melody to go and fill the bath tub with cold water, and asking Jeb to get as much ice as he can from the kitchen and tip it in. ‘Is Lewis gonna die?’ Jeb asks. ‘No, Lewis is going to be fine’ Hank replies, while thinking to himself that he did think the same thing as the Dark Beast - these are the perfect test subjects.
‘Extinction of a sentient race…’
‘You have delusions of adequacy…’
‘Escort Dr. McCoy to the outer gates, my business with him…’
‘Raise a glass when the last of you dies…’
‘Monitored your research, Doctor. I cannot see it leading to success…’
‘You walk on the bones of dead races…’
‘My business with him is…’
‘While the clock ticks and the mutant race gutters and fails…’
‘The bones of the dead…’
‘Business with him is…’
These words soar through Hank’s mind as he carries Lewis to the house, followed by the boy’s family, while desperately thinking to himself ’Finished. I’m finished…’.