The Qortex Complex
Inside David’s mindscape, dozens of weird creatures are locked away in cells. The cells are stacked in rows with row after row on top of each other. The prisoners are trapped in their cells by beams of energy that act as bars across the doorways. In the middle of the room, a tall armored man drags a small one by the arm. The man being dragged is shouting to his capture that he will kill him. This is a place of captivity. It’s a place where the vile and viscous of a dozen realities suffer for their sins.
It’s a place where Tyrannix the Abominiod swivels his mouthpiece through the bars of his cell into the cell next door. The squid-like being hisses to his neighbor that they are dragging out another one of the levitators. In the next cell a woman called Ksenia Nadejda Panov plays with iconic scalpels that come from her hands. Tyrannix tells her that it looks like Zubar, to which she seems unimpressed at having her peace disturbed. She asks if Zubar is struggling, to which Tyrannix tells her he is but the Hazeguard has hold of him tightly. Tyrannix narrates to her what is happening. He tells her that the Hazeguard has strapped Zubar down in a chair and he can see the Xtractor and the needle.
In the center of the room, Zubar has been strapped down to a chair much like one at a dentist’s surgery. The Hazeguard stands on one side of him and the Xtractor the other. The Xtractor is wearing a large suit of armor, and on the end of each of his fingers is a needle. The chest area of his armor is transparent and beneath a thin human torso can been seen wearing the suit.
Zubar screams as one of the needles pierces his neck. None of them know the truth as to why they are dragged out day after day. None of them know what sickly essence it drains from them. They can’t remember how they came to be here or even if they will see release.
Tyrannix, still with his mouthpiece poking into Ksenia’s cell, says that it sucks the badness out like it’s pure evil. Ksenia looks through her bars at the scene and says that there is plenty of evil to be found in this place but very little attention to detail. She points out to Tyrannix that beneath the Xtractor’s armor he is frail. He relies on the Hazeguard to subdue them. Only when the prisoners are emptied and exhausted does he handle them. In the middle of the room the Xtractor drags the unconscious body of Zubar back to his cell again.
Ksenia tells Tyrannix that that is the weak moment, which is the moment she waits for. She turns around and goes to the back of her cell. She waves her hand towards Tyrannix’s mouthpiece and slices the end off with her ionic scalpels.
Elsewhere in a darkened place filled with bees, a voice calls out. It seems relieved as it says that they are back with them. It says they know they might be confused but to remain calm and pay attention. They will start with the manifesto just like always.
The bees vanish and a crack of blurry colors appears. The voice starts listing off points and begins with one: things are different now and they should forget the old ways. Secondly, his isn’t the life where the guy with the biggest pecs wins, not anymore anyway. And thirdly if he is ready to think for himself then there is no end to the wonders he will achieve.
As David opens his eyes, fully standing before him is a man dressed in a monk’s robe and holding a walking cane. They are in small wooden room with a bed, washing up bowl and simple furniture. The man introduces himself as Merzah the Mystic, Chohan of the 7th Ray, Hierarch of the Age of Aquarius, old-assed spyhunter and quaffer of beer. He fixes broken things and this is their 29th session together. He then gets David to speak.
David introduces himself as David Haller. His father is Charles Xavier, the closest thing his species has to a living saint. David then asks if Merzah has heard anything from him today to which he says that he hasn’t and then gets David to get back on track. David continues and says he grew up on an island off Scotland having spent of his life in an induced coma. He exhibits a suite of omega level skills almost without limit, his hair resists all attempts at restyling and he is possibly one of the most powerful beings in the world. Also to use the scientific term he is *$&%£* insane. But today he feels good all things considered. David is shirtless and wearing loose fitting orange pants. He has his legs crossed and is floating a few feet up on the air. Merzah opens the door to the room and tells David to stop with the “floaty” and asks him to take a walk.
Kangchengyao, North Sikkim District, Himalayan India
They step outside and David comments that it’s a weird, weird place. Merzah asks what he expected; this place is full of weird folk. Around David stands an array of strangely dressed people. Tents are scattered across the snowy landscape and the whole area of surrounded by a large wooden wall. Merzah goes on and asks David if he knows how much strain a lifetime being a psyker puts on the brain. He gestures to three men in costumes standing next to him. The Telectrician, Master Mental and the Human Guess; they were the best but now they are old, confused and fragile. David solemnly chips in that they are also forgotten.
Merzah tells him not to be like that. There is still greatness here, that’s which he built the commune. Neuronauts deserve a dignified retirement just like everyone else. Suddenly reminded of something, David turns around to a short old man dressed in a top hat and suit. David puts his hand on his shoulder and greets him as Mr. Zardu. He asks if he has been off saving the world again. Mr. Zardu mistakes him for someone called Nogi and then says that he has triumphed over the grotesque beetlepeople. Their antenna shall adorn his trophy hall. He then excitedly asks David to fetch him chocolate and dancing girls. David says he’ll do that and then places his hand on the side of Mr. Zardu’s head. He says that they finally have his psychic tumor on the run, so why don’t they smoke it out for good? Merzah tells him he has his back as David starts to activate his power. David glows pink with energy and he projects it through his outstretched hands into Mr. Zardu’s head.
Mr. Zardu falls to the ground unconscious and Merzah asks David if he got it. David replies “like a womp rat from a T-16.” Mr. Zardu will sleep for a day but he’ll be okay. He walks away with a smile on his face and Merzah tells him that it feels good doesn’t it. When he asks what he means Merzah explains that helping someone feels good. He then calls David his father’s son, to which David suddenly looks sad. He asks Merzah if he’s sure he hasn’t sent a message. Merzah says he’s pretty sure he hasn’t sent one in the last ten minutes and then asks David what’s on his mind.
Still looking forlorn David tells him that his father wanted to fix him. But then the very moment he dumped him here it’s “oh sorry son.” David becomes angry and starts to shout at Merzah. He starts mimicking Xavier and says there are things I got to do; I can’t really talk about it. Be back before you know it; eat your greens, do as you’re told and toodle bloody pip. David calms down and apologizes for his outburst. He says he knows he’s been a terrible burden to his father. He has all these powers and bugger-all control. How does he know he hasn’t left him here with all the other scrap-brains? As he says it he starts activating another power. This power lets him create pink scalpel like energy come from his hands.
Not knowing what to say, Merzah starts mumbling and then says he wouldn’t worry about it. The great Professor X wouldn’t fail someone he loves. He tells David to stop fiddling with his powers before he goes blind… there’s something he wants to show him.
Inside David’s mindscape, Ksenia is strapped to the chair with the Xtractor and the Hazeguard standing over her. The moment has arrived and the Xtractor’s needles have taken their grizzly toll. Her power is depleted, her strength drained and her will exhausted (Though not as quite exhausted as she pretends). She’s unstrapped from the chair and the Xtractor tells the Hazeguard he has it from here. As she is returned to her hell, she feels the great Xtractor pause and his grip slacken as if distracted by a thought. As the Xtractor starts to take off his helmet to reveal his face, she hears his voice thick with bitterness. Underneath the mask is David and he whispers, “the great Professor X does not fail the ones he loves.” He laughs and scoffs at the thought but before he can do anything else Ksenia suddenly leaps into action and punches him in the face. She then bites him in the neck, deep enough to draw blood.
In the real world, David, who was walking up some stairs, suddenly shakes as Ksenia takes over him. In her voice, David proclaims that it’s his time and his moment. Knowing what’s just happened, Merzah swears as David turns around and makes energy scalpels come from his fingertips. He says that he is Ksenia Nadejda Panov and the world shall tremble before him.
Inside his mindscape, David is struggling with Ksenia. The Hazeguard rushes towards them from behind and strikes Ksenia with a scythe-like weapon, causing her to fall away from David.
In the real world, David regains control and deactivates the scalpel power. Merzah asks if he is okay and David tells he is just lost concentration for a second. Merzah asks if the jail-cell mindscape is still working out. He tells him it’s perfect, like bloody Alcatraz for the psyche. It’s a mental metaphor that helps him visualize the situation; he’s just got to concentrate. Merzah tells him that his ego is infested by hundreds of predatory dissociative personalities, visualizing it is only half the problem. David says that he knows that but, for the first time in years, he’s keeping them locked down and using their powers when he needs them. No not their powers… his powers. He’s not been this calm in forever.
The two reach the top of the stairs they were walking up and find themselves on top of the wooden wall to the compound. David tells him that he wishes he had a goal, something to keep him focused. Merzah looks out across the mountainous landscape and tells David it’s his lucky day and then directs him to look down.
Below them they see a mob with burning torches and weapons. When David asks what that is, Merzah tells him it’s what hate looks like. He explains that they’re locals; a few holy types from the mountains. He asks David to role-play. Suppose his crops fail, his ox dies, his kid gets a boil on his ass. Say no one ever told him that random %*$&£ just happens. Then say there’s a crew of weirdo wizards living in a commune in the hills. It would sound mighty suspicious. David looks down to the mob and mutters that they blame them. Merzah says that they’re human and they’ll blame whatever they don’t understand on whoever they don’t understand. It’s what his dad has been fighting his whole life.
David starts to shiver from the cold and Merzah decides to bring up the subject of Xavier again. He says he couldn’t help but notice that his lapse in concentration coincided with their discussion on Xavier. The shadow of greatness looms large. He tells David he isn’t here to tell him how to feel about his dad. But there is something Xavier understands more than most. When it comes down to it it’s not the things causing &%*$% that really matter. It’s whether the people with the means to stop it do so and how they go about it. David looks forlorn again and remains quiet. His eyes glow red and he then lifts his head up and says that he’ll need Merzah’s help, to which he replies that that is a damn good start.
Down below, the mob is suddenly distracted by David speaking to them telepathically. He tells them to listen without sound. He is the lightning in their spines and they will hear him and understand him. He floats above them, glowing brightly. Vivid colors and runic writing swirl around him as the mob looks up at him amazed. He tells them that there are two ways this can end. The first is that they can embrace them without fear, forgive their strangeness and greet them as equals. They will find they can be very grateful towards friends. With that David uses his powers to heal any wounds the mob people have and then create crops and vegetables around them.
Inside David’s mindscape, the Xtractor and the Hazeguard have subdued a number of personalities and are extracting their powers.
The second way is to hate them. Wallow in their ignorance to persecute and fear them. They will find that he can provide plentiful ground for terror if they provoke him. With that, David summons a power that creates red snake-like demons to project from his body. The mob recoils in fear as the snakes lash out towards them. David halts the power and asks them to decide. The mob stands still for a few seconds, looking at each other for a cue. Then they all kneel on the floor and bow down to David. Stunned by this, David is speechless. When he does speak, he simply tells them to go home.
The mob starts to disperse and Merzah comes out of the compound to see David. He commends David for what he did but David tells him they wanted to worship him. They would have done whatever he said. Merzah tells him there’s always a third way, the trick is not taking it. David thanks Merzah but he replies that it was nothing and someday David will be doing it solo. Merzah gingerly asks David what would have happened had the mob chosen option two. David looks at him silently but, before he can answer, he suddenly blurts out an odd sound. His eyes light up with orange energy and the energy spills out of his ears and mouth too.
The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, Westchester, N.Y.
Inside the school a scream rings out. The precognitive mutant Blindfold is knelt down on the floor, clutching her head and screaming and saying sorry. Two other students rush to her aid and Shadowcat phases through the wall calling out Blindfold’s name. As more X-Men arrive, Blindfold, still clutching her head, tells them that someone has changed the future. One of the students points out that she’s crying but another asks where from as she has no eyes. Blindfold collapses backwards and is caught by Shadowcat. She says that the old king is dead, long live the new king.
Back in the Himalayas, David is screaming as blood gushes from his nose and his eyes light up with energy.
Inside David’s mindscape, Ksenia sits in her cell, musing over how she tasted freedom and how she vows it won’t be the last time. Suddenly, the Xtractor collapses on the floor and explodes with a bright pink energy. The energy bars keeping the prisoners in the cells are turned off as small explosions happen throughout the compound. The needles on the Xtractor’s suit activate and shoot out towards various prisoners, stabbing them and extracting their powers.
Back in the real world, David is catatonic as energy pulses from him. Suddenly, an image of his father lying dead on the floor flashes into his mind. David manages to call out to him, just before he falls unconscious on the floor.
When David comes to, he finds a gravely injured Merzah lying on the floor. He tells him not to move but the man just groans in pain. Merzah assumes that the protestors came back but David tells him, whilst stuttering, that it was him but it was an accident. Merzah realizes that David is next to him and tells him he can’t feel his legs. David tells him that it was his father and he felt him die. He felt it happen and something changed in his brain. He tells Merzah he’s scared. A weak Merzah tells him that he’s a good kid and to try and believe it. He says the X-Men will be here to collect him because they look after their own. With his dying breath, he tells David to meet them as a friend, always as a friend. With that, he passes away.
David wipes a tear away from his eye and says that they might not all be inclined to friendship; they’re a bit picky like that. With that, David stands up and surveys the damage. Dozens of bodies lie amongst the burning debris of the destroyed compound.
In David’s mindscape, there is silence. Only for a moment before the whispering begins. Everything’s changed; the prisoners are broken and drained all at once and yet they are not beaten. A weak Tyrannix struggles to his feet and realizes the doors are gone. Ksenia picks herself off the floor and Tyrannix points out that the Hazeguard is dead and the Xtractor’s unguarded. In the middle of the room, the empty armor of the Hazeguard is scattered about. The Xtractor kneels on the floor with his extendable needles lying limply around him.
Ksenia starts to lurch forward and shouts that the Xtractor is hers. Before she can make it past her cell, a yellow arm slashes at her throat with its claws. None of the others hear her aborted threats amidst the rush. Nobody notices the newborn thing squatting rat-like on the dead chest of Ksenia, slurping greedily at her flesh. After all, what’s one more friend amidst the legion? This is the Qortex Complex; place where the vile and vicious slither forth from shattered brain cells with the same sneer on every lip. Their jailer is outnumbered, alone and unprotected. As the legion of personalities advance on the weakened Xtractor he sits in the center of the room… easy prey.