“Here’s the thing, Charles…
It’s not a dream, if it’s real.”
- Moira X
X0: The X-Men, year one. The Dream:
A funfair, in Oxford, United Kingdom:
A young Charles Xavier, still a student, sits down on a bench enjoying himself. A young, auburn-haired woman, Moira Kinross, wishes him a good afternoon. Politely, he begins some small talk and asks if she is enjoying the fair. She gibes some thought to his question. It seems like the kind of thing she should enjoy, and yet…She looks around at those people and knows it’s just a show for those who need one. A distraction from what’s really going on, if you will.
She sits down and returns the question. He is, Xavier replies. It seems like the kind of thing he shouldn’t enjoy, and yet… a little parting of the clouds, a little shining of the sun and all seems right in the world.
Having a good day then? she asks. Is it that obvious? he grins. You’d have to be blind not to notice… Moira muses, she was just walking though the fair, walking past the caged beasts and the games of chance, past the fortuneteller selling his wares:
“See the Magician, the metal metamorph, the great sword and the girl with a foot in two worlds.
See the Tower. The axis, the pillar of collapse and rebirth, the monolith of ascension.
See the Devil: the red god and the lost cardinal of the last religion…”
Then, at the far end of the fair, she saw him sitting there and she thought to herself: there he is, what she’s been looking for. The strong man. Xavier begins to demur but she interrupts him. And she wondered why, under the parting sky and the brilliant sun, was this strong man smiling so. He was, wasn’t he? Does she want to know why? he asks. Very much so, she assures him. He was smiling because recently he had the most wonderful dream of a better world and his place in it. Addressing him by his name, she replies it’s not a dream, if it’s real.
Taken aback, he asks if they know each other. With a slight smile, she replies they go back quite a ways. Who is she? She suggests he read her mind. He does and what he sees leaves him speechless.
X1: The X-Men, year ten: The World
Mystique and Toad returns from their raid to Krakoa via one of the island’s portals. She tells Toad to go play with some other mutants and visits Magneto’s home, the House of M. Magneto welcomes her back and asks if she has noticed the effect this place is having. Almost overnight it seems, Krakoa has become a wellspring of hope – a home of dreamers and true believers. Even he finds himself affected by it. Dare he dream of success?
Mystique states they lost Sabretooth and he did them no favors when he killed several guards, But yes, she has it, referring to the USB drive she holds. Before Magneto can take it, she withdraws her hand and announces she has demands. Does she now? Xavier (who’s been unnoticed till now) states. Is helping her fellow mutants not enough for Raven Darkholme?
She needs more! Xavier probes her mind and sees that. He admits that’s fair, as they have further demands as well. Really? she asks sarcastically. Is helping his fellow mutants not enough for the great Charles Xavier? He sticks the drive into a port and tells her they are building a better world. And everyone who would live in it, owes something.
X2: X-Men year 100: The War
Northern Territory, the Nexus:
Four X-Men are fighting the machines / human alliance. One of them, Perceval, a yellow-skinned young man, lies dying on the ground. “There was a dream,” he mutters. “Our dreams are the same. While you slept, the world changed.”
One of their foes probes his mind to announce he is dying. A tall robot with spindly legs asks if there is something salvageable from its mind. He is told that they are wiping on termination now. Some kind of mnemonic trigger when they start to flatline.
The tall robot asks about the other mutant. He refers to a woman with a transparent upper part of her skull, showing a mechanic brain. Called Cylobel, she was born in the Khennil. Bred as a black brain telepath – a natural Judas – subversion was written into her DNA. The guard announces that normal field protocol is sure to fail – athey have to give her a bath. One of the robots suggests they not give up too easily. Where is that human ingenuity they always go on about? Maybe the current misfortune is making it feel conversational. Another robot asks Cylobel what she and her friends found rifling through the Nexus. And where did they run off to? What friends? Cylobel claims.
Said two friends are watching the proceedings hidden. One of them, Rasputin, a metal-skinned woman with long, black braids, telepathically talks to the other – Cardinal – a red-skinned mutant, who is reminiscent of Nightcrawler.
Rasputin telepathically tells Cylobel to buck up and promises to save her. Cylobel retorts she shouldn’t. She recalls that once she had no name and had blood on her hands… before Rasputin saved her, named her. This was all for nothing, if Rasputin doesn’t make it back.
Cardinal agrees and tells Rasputin they need to go. Rasputin retorts that, just because he was bred to be a coward, doesn’t make hero one. She won’t run!
Cylobel screams as the robots torture her with electricity to make her talk.
Cardinal announces he is planting the black seed of Krakoa and will wait for Rasputin as long as he can, before closing it on the other side. If she doesn’t come, he will see them both when the world is made again. Will he pray for her? she asks Of course, he prays for all living things. She calls that his problem as she springs into action, wielding what looks like the Soulsword. He’s forgotten that machines have no soul and that the humans lost theirs a long time ago!
With a strike, she disables one of the robots. Defending Cylobel, Rasputin asks how long until the gate is grown. As the gate is growing, Cardinal tells her not much longer. Hold them off a bit longer. Rasputin deflects their bullets, remarking she was made for that. The humans find that neither plasma nor metal faze her and call in back-up.
Cardinal announces the gate is open. That moment, a giant Sentinel behind the two women grabs Cylobel and Rasputin can only keep it off herself with a forcefield. Rasputin attacks the machine, while Cylobel telepathically begs her to save herself. Rasputin screams in denial, but is about to be overwhelmed.
The Tower of Nimrod the Lesser, the Human-Machine Monolith:
Two hunters bring the imprisoned Cylobel before Nimrod’s throne. He observes to his ally, Omega Sentinel, that her faith in humans has paid off once again. They come bearing gifts.
The two humans kneel down before Nimrod respectfully and ask for his wisdom and counsel. He tells them there is no need for formalities. They are allies – equals of a kind – and they are always welcome. Omega Sentinel asks what they need.
They explain that, earlier today, at least four mutants infiltrated the Nexus and accessed the mainframe. They do not know how they masked their entry, how they gained access and what they found. One died. At least one escaped and they caught this one. She once was… a hound, Omega interrupts. From the SalCen Khennil. The last strain of mutant produced by their breeding program.
Nimrod is intrigued and orders Cylobel to give him her eyes. He wants her to look at him when he says this. He is so sorry for what they did to her. In fact, he is embarrassed and ashamed at what they did in the name of both expediency and annihilation. They bred her not only to be a slave but to betray her own people. How in a good and just world did higher-functioning programs believe that could ever be a good idea? And, speaking personally, he finds it encouraging that her litter failed so miserably. Bad ideas should die a bad death. He finds hope in that. And she should too.
Cylobel glares, then swears that, if it takes a thousand years, they will endure and erase him from existence. That’s the spirit! Nimrod cheers her on and claps his hands. He loves it.
With a smirk, Omega Sentinel points out that will not be that day. Today, Cylobel will tell them what they were looking for. If they found it and what they wanted it for. Cylobel refuses.
Omega asks about standard operation protocols. The hunters reply that they tried. But she was bred to withstand that. It might not work, but he wants to give her a bath, the second hunter adds. See what comes out in the wash. Nimrod agrees enthusiastically. Omega Sentinel considers it. The AI is young. Still learning. Parsing the data comes without a clear window of recovery. They could learn what they need tomorrow or in decades, when the information is useless. Are they sure? What else are they going to do? the female hunter asks. Please, let him, Nimrod pleads and is happy when Omega Sentinel accedes.
Nimrod gives order for preparation and a man-sized tube is erected. Cylobel struggles, asking what they are doing. Nimrod apologizes for what he is about to do to her. He explains he built something… a repository of sorts. A monument to understanding the mutant anomaly. But sometimes innovation has a biological cost. And when you add that to her… unwillingness to let them know the things they need to, necessity limits their options even more.
Tentacles grab Cylobel and lift her above the tube filled with a green fluid.
Soon, all of these chambers will be full of her kind. Their bodies and, more importantly, their minds will be submerged in femtofluid, where they will be suspended and distilled to nothing but data curated by an AI of his own making. Unfortunately, for one of his to flourish, many of hers must perish, including her. So, as she fades away to nothingness, do find it in her heart to forgive him.
Angrily, Cylobel vows she is not afraid to die for what she believes in. Unimpressed, Omega Sentinel replies that causes have long seemed to be fatal for her people. And, while this is a kind of death, it’s not one she can escape from.
Cylobel is dropped into the chamber and soon floats in the fluid.
At the no-pace hub, Cardinal apologizes to Rasputin. He wishes he were made some other way, but he is not capable of violence. If he could trade places with Cylobel, he would. Tight-lipped she replies that Cylobel was gone by the time she was done fighting them. And he watched. Right now, she would take his trade.
They reach Krakoa and the rest of the team who ask what happened. Rasputin announces that Perceval is dead and Cylobel probably too. She is addressing Wolverine, a man in a green Magneto outfit (North), a plant-man (Krakoa) and Kuan-Yin Xorn. Wolverine announces that they were both good soldiers. Did they die for nothing or was it worth it? Cardinal replies they’ve got it. Wolverine orders them to follow him. The old man’s waiting…
X3: X-Men, Year one thousand
The Archive of Nimrod the Greater, The mutant library (Formerly the Tower):
In a tube, there is still a corpse that looks like Cylobel’s. An elfin, blue-skinned being announces they are losing them and there is nothing they can do to prevent it. There is too much machinery floating around inside there and not enough soul to save, let alone copy.
The Librarian is addressing a small flying Nimrod, who blames itself. It simply wasn’t built to maintain integrity for a millennium. Holding the Cerebro helmet, the Librarian replies that it’s no one’s fault. It did exactly what it was made to do. Nimrod created a collective consciousness of mutantdom – a living database of Homo superior – in order to provide a tactical advantage in a war. Who could have known how pointless and useless that war would be? Who at the time could have seen the surprising end of the mutant-man-machine war?
They step on a balcony. So good to be done with all that, Nimrod announces. Are they done with the past? the Librarian wonders. That’s what a legacy is. and it’s why they keep dinosaur bones around them. They look at the Preserve, a jungle, in whose shadows a human-looking man and woman are hiding.
A reminder of what the world used to be like and what they overcame. It’s important to keep a record of the great sins of history. Even better to preserve a remnant. Something to point at and hope to God they never have dominion again.
“You’ve forgotten that machines have no soul and that the humans lost theirs a long time ago.”