The sun shines down over white-clouds covering the blue sky. Civilians point upwards.‘Look! It’s Prime!’ someone shouts as an extremely muscular hero clad in red, blue and gold with a long cape flies over them. He is Prime - an Ultra without peer, basking in public adoration, preening his vanity, feeding his ego… and he loves it. ‘Get a load of this, folks!’ Prime calls out as he hovers above them and flexes his massive biceps. ‘Yeah, lap it up, you saps’ he thinks to himself, before looking at the babes below. He decides that if he plays this right, maybe he can get lucky - but which one. ‘Or… which ones?’ he wonders.
‘Hi, Prime!’ a woman waves out to the hero. Glancing among the crowd, Prime suddenly sees an elderly Aboriginal man looking up at him. ‘Hey, is that shrimpy guy snickering at me?’ he wonders. The old man is the enigmatic Gateway. Indeed he is snickering, and Prime wonders what he is finding so funny. The massive hero then flies downwards, boasting that he is going to have to wipe that smirk off his munchkin face.
Prime doesn’t strike Gateway, he just comes to a halt several feet in front of him. ‘Okay, Yoda - you wanna share the joke with the rest of us? Come on… spit it out before I kick your butt into… orbit… uhh…’ Prime groans, while one of the women in the crowd exclaims ‘Why’s Prime picking on that cute little man?’ Prime goes wide-eyed, and suddenly is knocked over by a cab and there is a flare of brilliant light. The front of the cab is wrecked, and the driver gets out, while Prime gets to his feet. ‘Oh, man! I don’t believe this! I moved outta New York to get away from meatheads like you!’ the driver shouts. He waves his cigar at Prime’s face, and declares ‘Twelve cabs in twenty years, trashed from under me cause o’ bums like you! If it wasn’t the Hulk or the Thing it was Spider-Man or some other spandex schmuck!’ he mutters. ‘Who? Where am - what’s happened to me?’ Prime asks, rubbing his head.
‘Great! So now you’re Dorothy and this ain’t Kansas no more! But before you click your heels home, pal, you owe me a cab!’ the driver snaps as he looks up at Prime, who towers over him. Prime doesn’t respond to the driver, instead he turns to Gateway who is floating in front of a tree. ‘You! You’re behind this, aren’t you? What’s going on here? Tell me!’ Prime shouts, before flying towards Gateway, who remains as silent as ever. ‘Hey! Come back here!’ the cab driver calls out. ‘I’ll make you talk!’ Prime threatens Gateway, but as he attempts to grab him, he appears to falter mid-air, and falls to the ground. ‘Not again!’ Prime mutters. ‘It’s Prime! He’s back!’ one of the crowd exclaims. ‘Yeah…back to square one after my detour to the Twilight Zone. That pipsqueak’s gone…and so are all the answers…except…this paining in the dirt?’ Prime tells himself, looking at the ground in front of him. He sees that it is a painting of a Phoenix and gets a bad feeling about this. ‘Is this a sign? A threat? Or a warning? And does this mean I’m part of it?’ Prime wonders. One of the women asks him if he is okay, to which he assures her that he is fine. ‘But for how long?’ he wonders.
Project Pegasus, headquarters of the reality-displaced Squadron Supreme, where the super swift Whizzer stares up at a console and tries to make order out of chaos. ‘This sucks’ he thinks to himself, deciding that he is lousy at math and is trying to calculate the dimensional multiplicity mechanics mentally. The Whizzer realizes that the bottom line is an energy wave with readings off the scale surges through the Multiverse, alerting their computers to the existence of a previously unknown universe. And, since then, dimensional breach anomalies have been appearing all over the place. ‘So the new kids on the block must be paying us visits… can’t say I like this too much!’ he thinks to himself. The Whizzer knows that the rest of the Squadron thinks he is jumping at shadows, but he thinks they are wrong and that this is a disaster waiting to happen. Speeding across the room to another console, he decides that he should run this past some of the others, maybe they can shed some light on the source.
He sits at a console and tries to contact the Avengers, but the video-screen just has their “A” symbol and some static, while a recorded message states that the Avengers are unavailable at the moment. The message asks ‘Would you care to leave a video message’ to which the Whizzer replies ‘Uh… no, thanks’. The message bids him a nice day. ‘Yeah, whatever. All right - who’s up next?’ he wonders, before another static image with the Fantastic Four’s logo appears on screen, and a video mail service invites him to leave a message. The Whizzer frowns and decides ‘Okay. Third time lucky’ as he presses another button. ‘Good morning, sir! How might I be of assistance?’ Dr Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast asks as he appears on the monitor. ‘GAAAH! I…I… er…’ the Whizzer begins. The Beast identifies the Whizzer and deduces that he wishes to discuss the most recent dimensional anomalies occurring in the greater New York metropolitan area.
Later, the Whizzer finishes his explanation: ‘…and that’s about it, Beast. Since we picked up that energy wave, there’s been too much trans-dimensional activity’. He adds that from what he can track, smaller Time-Space anomalies originate in this new universe as well - there is no telling where they open over there, or what falls through. Whizzer remarks that the Multiverse is turning into Swiss cheese, and he is not sure if their fabric of reality can take the strain. The Beast informs Whizzer that he and his fellow X-Men recently journeyed to this new venue themselves, and remarks that in many ways, it is like their own world - perhaps in too may ways. The Beast instructs the Whizzer to transmit to him what data he has and then he shall put his mind to the problem forthwith. The Whizzer asks if they can’t do anything about it now, ‘All in good time my friend’ the Beast replies as the Whizzer presses a button on the console. The Beast informs him that he will be in touch when he knows more. The video montior goes blank, and the Whizzer turns from the screen, frowning. ‘Time. Yeah, sure. Hate to tell you, pal…I gotta hunch the clock’s been running on this one…and you, me and the whole creation’s in for one heck of a wake-up call’.
A young blonde woman with round glasses sits in a booth at a burger restaurant. ‘Oh, marvelous. Here they come - the shiny, happy people from school. They always look cool and spotless and they never have a bad hair day’ she thinks to herself as she glances over at two guys and girls who walk past, laughing as they carry their trays. ‘I hate them’ the blonde girl tells herself. She wonders if they would think she is a dweeb and how they would react, if they knew that she was Mantra. ‘I’d never be home alone on a Friday night, I’ll bet’ she frowns. Suddenly, she looks worried as the kids from her school turn to her. ‘Who’s your friend, Lauren? He’s cute’ the girl with red hair smirks. ‘I’m alone, thank you. I have no idea what you’re - oh!’ Lauren gasp as she glances sideways and sees an elderly Aboriginal man sitting next to her. ‘The Munchkin and the dweeb! What a pair!’ laughs one of the young men.
‘Oh, that’s just great. What little credibility I had just took a nosedive’ Lauren thinks to herself as she looks at the man beside her, unaware that his name is Gateway. Lauren runs her hands through her hair and wonders where he came from. ‘Is the circus in town?’ she asks herself, before telling him she is sorry about that “Munchkin” crack, and claims that they are not bad people, just dumb ones from the shallow end of the gene pool. She asks him if he has a name, but when she gets no response she introduces herself, and supposes that he must be the strong, silent type. Lauren tells her new companion that just once she would like her life to go smoothly. ‘Sometimes I feel so frustrated and inadequate I could scream’ she reveals, and as Gateway sucks a soda through a straw she asks him if he is okay with her telling him this. ‘I mean, no one’s ever really cared about what I think or feel before, but somehow - I can talk to you’.
She takes off her glasses and declares that she has always been “good ol Lauren”, who does what she is told and never complains ‘Friday night - you need a baby sitter? Call Lauren - she won’t have a date’ Lauren then announces that she is sick of it, and declares that she is special, and more than anyone knows. ‘I’ll show them! I’ll make them all sorry because I’m Ma-’ Lauren starts to say, before looking at Gateway and mutters ‘I’m rambling. Sorry’, while telling herself that she nearly let the cat out of the bag there. Lauren and Gateway look at each other as Lauren tells him that people only see one side of her - but there is this whole other part no one knows about. She smiles and supposes that it might be a matter of confidence? ‘I know I’m not that bad looking. Perhaps if I stopped hiding behind these glasses and gave myself a chance…’ she ponders, looking away, but when she looks back at Gateway, she finds that he has gone.
‘Great, he wasn’t my type, but it about sums up my luck with the opposite sex!’ Lauren thinks to herself, when she notices something that Gateway has drawn with the salt, poured from the shaker. ‘A burning bird? No, wait. It’s a Phoenix, the mythical bird said to rise from the ashes of it’s own destruction. English lit strikes again!’ Lauren tells herself, putting her hand on the drawing of salt, she knows that it is only a picture, but wonders why it feels so wrong. Curious, Lauren thinks that this might be what being Mantra means. ‘Am I able to sense these… these warnings? That little guy coming here was no coincidence. He came to show me this’ Lauren realizes, telling herself that he came to forewarn her of something terrible that is going to happen - something Mantra will have to face. ‘But… when?’
The ladies love Paulie Doyle. In a city crawling with creeps and scuzzbags, Paulie’s manners and good looks make him a dream come true - right up until he opens their faces with his bowie knife, earning him the nick-name of “The Skinner”. That was, until tonight, when he met Erik - and the hunter became the hunted. Paulie looks up and sees a grey, winged humanoid demonic-like creature The creature is called Rune, and it drops down over Paulie, grabbing him, the creature is about to bite his neck, when suddenly, the world slips sideways, and they fall through a portal. Rune wavers, unsteady, unsure, dropping the hot dead meat like a sack of offal. Hackles rise as he tastes the air of this alien place. There is no acrid city stench, no blowfly hum of traffic. Just stillness and the call of the wild - and a forest where there was a city, a lone house at its heart.
Rune looks over at the house - actually a mansion, and peers through a window - where he sees two people - unbeknownst to him, they are Storm and the Beast of the X-Men. Rune realizes that this is another’s world, of beings only part human and creatures of immeasurable power and potential. Suddenly, he is aware of another’s presence and of being silently stalked. Primal instincts fire, accompanied by the uneasy sensation that he is no longer predator - but prey. Rune drags Paulie’s body behind him as he moves through this other person’s territory, their stalking ground. He came to feast, not to fight - especially not in this alien place against this unknown foe. Suddenly, reality warps again, and Rune and his prey vanish, beckoned back to the familiar scent of the city. He has violated the lair of a great beast, an ageless hunter, like himself, perhaps even greater. Now is not the time to face it on its own turf, but he will remember its scent for when that time does come, as surely as it must. And, perched in a tree, a very angry, naked Wolverine pops his claws.
The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, where Jubilee sits in the leafy calmness of the terrarium. She has been on quite a ride these last few days, along with her oldest friends, the X-Men - to another universe and back. The saved the place while they were there. Now, back where it all began, she kicks back and gets her head together. She likes to hang here when things have been wild - and the unexpected crusade into the Ultraverse was certainty that. Jubilee runs a stick through sketch images in the dirt before her as she recalls how Gateway, the enigmatic Australian mystic who lives among them, had started it all - sketching these images in the sand of the terrarium floor that sent Banshee calling to the X-Men for aid. It appears that Gateway was sketching the Phoenix, one of the most devastating threats th team had ever encountered.
The X-Men gathered - Wolverine, Storm, the Beast, Rogue, Bishop, Banshee and Jubilee herself - everyone who had been represented in the little mystic’s sketches. Then, without warning, he transported them across time and space into another reality known as the Ultraverse, where they allied themselves with two teams of the Ultraverse’s home-grown champions - the Exiles and Ultraforce, and did battle with the Phoenix which was threatening Ultraverse Earth. Things didn’t end there, as it turned out the Phoenix had already been dragged into the Ultraverse by an ancient and alien force that intended to use the Phoenix as a power source for its mother ship. Wild stuff - just crazy - threats and schemes and dangers so mind-bendingly big, it makes Jubilee’s head spin just thinking about them. Bottom line though, is that the won.
Jubilee draws a line through the Ultraverse world in the dirt before her, recalling that the X-Men, Ultraforce and the Exiles defeated the alien menace and sent the Phoenix out of harm’s way and saved the world. And that was it - end of story with no word as to how or why Gateway recruited the X-Men for the job. She wonders why Gateway recruited the X-Men for the job - was it because they knew the Phoenix of old, or was it a deeper, more subtle reason? She wishes she could have stayed a little longer to find out how different that alternative earth was - as it seemed like a good place. But, as soon as the threat was over, Gateway reappeared to take them home, snatching them up from the center of the Bermuda Triangle. Jubilee decides that it is almost like Gateway knew all along what was going to happen before it actually did.
‘Maybe that was it - wild and crazy and big through the whole adventure was, maybe it was just the start of something else - the prelude to something bigger‘, Jubilee wonders. ‘Something that Gateway was determined to see happen…’ Jubilee’s thoughts trail off as a small chunk of what appears to be gold, or some golden object, falls to the dirt before her. She picks it up and doesn’t know what she has found. She wonders if it is something they brought back with them through the vortex by mistake? Something from the Ultraverse? Something that is part of that bigger something? Jubilee turns and doesn’t see Gateway, sitting on a rock, nestled amongst the trees. ‘Who knows?’ Jubilee decides as she walks away. Gateway appears to be meditating, he doesn’t move, before suddenly, he cocks his head sideways and his eyes open slightly as he utters, perhaps laughs, ‘Heh!’