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There is a place that exists sideways of the normal Earth. And that place was named in the late ‘90s over a century ago. And the name of this place is… the Negative Zone! Some people are hard at work in the Negative Zone. A storm is coming up and it doesn’t look so good. One of the workers, Keith, doesn’t feel so good about it. His coworkers laugh at him and don’t want to hear about it. Keith tries to warn the others, but they simply refuse to listen. After all, they are all in protection suits, so what can happen to them?

But Keith is right this time: the workers have got a Stormsign! They panic and inform the homegate that they are heading back. The storm breaks out and kills Keith. The others activate their jet packs on their suits and hurry back to their spaceship, but the storm hits that as well. The workers try to reach their bosses, Stark-Fujikawa, but the connection gets loose…

Planet Earth…

A shaggily clothed man wanders through the desert. Time weighs heavy on him. Near on seventy-five years, he has been in the desert, and it’s a long way back. All that time, just thinking, meditating, laughing and crying every now and then. Sitting still and looking for a god or a devil to tell him what to do with this dry old life of his. And finally, the Word came, from up or down the man doesn’t know.

He recalls what the Word said: “There’s a Messiah come, and there’s a Herod too, and that Messiah, it’s one of your kind. Find this child, and do right by that child as well. The One is one of many children, and it’ll serve you right to have search that child out. To find this child, go to Halo City.” And the man began his quest, and arrives at the front gate.

The man enters it and looks around at all the many people who try to get in. Once at the front desk, the man introduces himself as Dust, the name he uses now after so many aliases of the past. Another mutant gets impatient and claims to have been in line first and says that Dust cut him. The clerk tells Dust to go back at the back of the line but Dust doesn’t want to and attacks the mutant using his mutant powers. Dust laughs at the fact that this is the Halo City security. If Bishop would be there, he would laugh.

The others realize that Bishop was in the 20th century X-Men, and it couldn’t be that Dust isn’t… he wasn’t… naah! Dust looks serious, and says, “Yes, I was.” Dust makes short work of the others and apologizes for it, but he has to go into the city immediately and find the children.

Another Halo City mulls over what he finds of Halo City, as he looks at the many poor residents: “Even during renovation, Manhattan retains that Chinese-checkerboard design. But there’s only one line that really means anything. The Thirteenth Street Line. Nice clean-jungle-of-cash-and-penthouse-keys midtown expanded like a well-fed belly into downtown, pushing it back to make more space for banks and bonds.

And whatever happens, however many times they push back or build over the place, anything downwind of thirteenth street always turns to garbage. These are sinking people.” This is where the man came from, he remembers.

He was lucky, he says. He dragged himself over the fault line and dragged himself up. He has prepared for this. Ever since the Night of the Long Knives, as they call it now, the night they killed the Special People. The ones who tried to reintroduce the world to magic, to hope, to independence, to justice. The man saw it happen on the news, and just knew it. Someone had to show them, he says, show them all that it takes more than gunfire to kill an idea.

The man stands on a high skyscraper and keeps remembering. He knows that he has deliberately cut himself from everything in the last month. He has allowed his hate to grow inside him, spreading and boiling like a mushroom cloud. He knows that he has no life, no ties, not even a home or love. He believes that it’s time to show them that a man without love… is A Man Without Fear! The mysterious, black-clothed man elegantly jumps off the tower, into the streets deep below him, recalling what other heroes and villains live in this world.

Across this future, in Transverse City, where Detroit once stood, there is a ghost cast in steel. Dead hacker Zero Cochrane remembers how his mind was plucked from the Net by subversive computer intelligences and placed in a fearsome chromed shell, and knows that it is still searching for something to place faith in. But until he can find something worth spit in this world, the Ghost Rider will continue the streets of the future!

Across this future, in hiding, the man who was president dreams of murder. The 20th century knew him as Dr. Doom, implacable nemesis of what was arguably America’s most famous family: the Fantastic Four. Here at the end of the 21st century, he is simply Doom. And soon… very soon… he will remind them all of how he came to that name!

Across this future, mutancy was the social and political bugbear of the closing years of the 1900’s, but, with a mysterious exodus of mutantkind in the first half of the 2000’s, the evolution specter lifted. In the last half, the X-gene again exploded across the world, a new world that understood little and cared less. In 2099, the mutants have organized, as of old, and found independence in the state of Halo City. These are the new X-Men, and they will set this world on fire!

Across this future, the most inspiring sight of late 21st century Manhattan is also its saddest. A brilliant man addicted to drugs by the vicious corporate system, which would have used his genius to free his genetic structure of the chemical, if the attempt has not been sabotaged. Miguel O’Hara’s genome was fused with that of a spider. And now, this Spider-Man continues to attempt to free his world of secrets.

Manhattan, across the Thirteenth Street Line…

A man tries to sell a poor family drugs, and they want to take it. The black-clothed man intervenes and crushes the drugs in the dealer’s hand. The black-clothed man tells the dealer that he wants some words with him. As he stands victorious, a red “DD” symbol mysteriously appears on the man’s costume. The father of the family gets angry at Daredevil for intervening and wants the free drugs. Daredevil activates his bo-staff and knocks the family out. The dealer tries to escape, but Daredevil throws his staff towards the man and hits him, making him trip and fall.

Daredevil taunts the dealer and hurts him. Daredevil tells the dealer that he wants reasons and names, or else! The dealer claims to work for Alchemax and that they own the downtown city and that Frank Wilson generated the project.

Daredevil holds the dealer up by his head and shows him the drugs, and asks the dealer if he knows what he’s selling. The dealer obviously didn’t and panics when he finds out that he was selling Chain, a drug with a 30-year cell punishment.

Daredevil denies that and, according to the latest news, despite of MegaCorp affiliation, the sentence for possession of that drug is now death! Daredevil gives the dealer the drugs back and then kills the man and leaves.

In a while, a SHIELD prowler will pull up. And they will smile at the unexpected little boost to their arrest rate.

Dust continues to scout Halo City. It’s more relaxed than he thought it would be. He finds Shakti and knows that she is one of the new X-Men. He grabs her arm and orders Shakti to bring him to the children. Shakti tries to telepathically attack Dust’s mind, but he is unharmed by it.

The feedback troubles Shakti and asks Dust how old he is. Dust smiles and shows Shakti the pendant that hangs around his neck, and replies that he was around the 1990’s. Shakti asks Dust who he is, but Dust doesn’t have the time for this and wants Shakti to bring him to the children immediately.

Manhattan…

Daredevil ponders the city. “Under cover of the night, hope walks the streets. Increasingly in these post-revolutionary days, small groups using the name Re-Activ-8 are appearing across the country and reclaim the honorable concept of civil disobedience.”

Daredevil spots two women who are part of the movement. Daredevil recognizes the woman as Mirelle Radley, a former news reporter, and Suzanne Carter, a former Stark-Fujikawa engineer. Daredevil knows that the two women are working together to do a friend a favor. Their mission is to steal a Storm-Richards personal stealth unit, something that is indeed worth stealing.

A missile goes of in front of the Alchemax building. Suzanne recalls how it took her four hours and two smart chips out of Mirelle’s old camera to lash the thing together. The plan was to divert attention from them, while they steal the stealth unit. The plan works. Daredevil goes after the missile in an attempt to stop it. The missile explodes, and Daredevil gets caught in it.

Morphine Somers lights up a cigarette. He remembers his past. Morphine recalls how he was handed the administration of Halo City by Doom during the revolutionary presidency. Doom is gone, but Morphine’s legal fixing of Halo City’s autonomy remains. And since Doom is gone, Morphine can show his true colors: those of a dyed-in-the-wool carpetbagger.

Someone knocks on the door and Morphine tells the person to come in. The door opens and Morphine gets attacked! Dust and Cerebra stand smiling in the entrance. Dust tells Morphine not to bother using his aging powers, since it won’t do much on a 150-year old man like himself.

Dust commands to see the children now, or else he will seek everything Shakti and Morphine hold dear and destroy it. Shakti tells Morphine that Dust is a lot of talk, but she can feel that he is sincere. Morphine smiles that he could beat them, but he decides to do what Dust says.

Morphine takes Shakti and Dust underground. Morphine explains that they let the kids stash down there under the administration building until the shelter is completely built. He knows that this is the safest place to be at the moment, since Halo City had some local trouble recently. Morphine asks Dust if he was really born in the 20th century and if he really knew Charles Xavier and the X-Men. Dust smiles and claims that he did. Morphine opens the door and allows Dust and Shakti to enter the place. Dust cries of happiness. When the smoke clears, Morphine proudly presents… X-Nation!

The members of X-Nation remain in the shadows. Dust takes Morphine’s flashlight from him and starts talking. He tells the children that he’s got two things to say to them, and they need to listen carefully. Dust says that he has walked a long way because he got told something. Something dreadful. Something important.

He reveals to the kids that one of them is going to be the one to lead mutantkind out of the hole it found itself in. But Dust knows that won’t save them all. Dust admits that he doesn’t know which one of X-Nation is going to be the Messiah. X-Nation doesn’t care much. Dust says that’s the first thing he had to say.

Dust takes of his hat, and reveals that he truly was born in the 20th century, and that he also really was born a mutant. He changed his name so often in the meantime that he don’t rightly know what name he was born with. But Dust does remember those days. He says that from the nineties through the great exodus in the late 2020’s, the days of the X-Men, of the dream, of the legends that wore the X.

But Dust wasn’t one of them. Dust kneels down and reveals that he didn’t have the guts. Dust says that he has even met Charles Xavier once, with Bishop and Cyclops, and he couldn’t look the fine men in the eye.

Dust cries and admits that he too was frightened. Too blasted frightened to give himself to the dream. So instead, Dust turned away and hid while those people fought and died for their place in the sun.

And that’s what Dust came to tell X-Nation: NEVER TURN AWAY! Dust knows that as soon as you turn away, the animals out there have won. Dust begs everyone not to turn away, and cries, begging to forgive him…

Manhattan…

The smoke of the explosion clears. Daredevil has survived the blast, but the Alchemax office is destroyed. Daredevil remembers that Alchemax offices haven’t been equipped with anti-missile structure since the close of the Corporate Wars some ten years ago.

Daredevil walks around a destroyed office and says out loud that he knows that Frank Wilson isn’t dead. And Daredevil is correct. Wilson gets up from under some bricks.

Daredevil tells Wilson that he knows that this is his office, since Doom posted all corporate directories and office plans on public access forums before he was disposed. It was a step towards making the corporations accountable.

Wilson asks Daredevil what he wants. Daredevil tells Wilson that he knows how he tried to exterminate the people of Downtown. Daredevil wants Wilson brought to justice! Wilson gets up and doesn’t want to be funny, but tells Daredevil that he could have just brought him to the law.

Daredevil isn’t impressed and tells Wilson that he is going to tell him something about “the law.” Daredevil explains that he used to love the law. He lived for it. But then he discovered that the law could be bought. Daredevil’s eyes angrily glow, and Daredevil adds that when he discovered that, when you needed the law most, the law… is blind. Daredevil’s eyes go back to normal.

Wilson tries to escape and wished that the court killed all the so-called mystery men when they had the chance. Daredevil wonders what good that would do. He knows that if the humans should have done that, soon after more would arise.

Daredevil knows that, wherever people like Wilson exist, there will also be heroes like him. Daredevil picks Wilson up and throws him at the back of the office. He asks Wilson to spread a message. Daredevil orders that everything past the fault is his and is not to be touched by the likes of Wilson.

And as for the justice, Daredevil says, well… let’s just say that he has visited a few of Wilson’s subordinates today. Daredevil hands Wilson all of his adulterated drugs, and wants him to take them all. And Daredevil will watch.

A few minutes later, Daredevil victoriously jumps out of the office. The sun comes up over the Thirteenth Street Line. It’s going to be a better day…

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