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Peter David


  EISBN# 978-0-7851-7996-2

  © 2013 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. All characters featured in this novel and the distinctive names and likenesses thereof, and all related indicia are trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. No similarity between any of the names, characters, persons, and/or institutions in this novel with those of any living or dead person or institution is intended, and any such similarity which may exist is purely coincidental. WWW.MARVEL.COM

  ALAN FINE, EVP - Office of the President, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. and EVP & CMO Marvel Characters B.V.; DAN BUCKLEY, Publisher & President - Print, Animation & Digital Divisions; JOE QUESADA, Chief Creative Officer; TOM BREVOORT, SVP of Publishing; DAVID BOGART, SVP of Operations & Procurement, Publishing; C.B. CEBULSKI, SVP of Creator & Content Development; DAVID GABRIEL, SVP of Print & Digital Publishing Sales; JIM O’KEEFE, VP of Operations & Logistics; DAN CARR, Executive Director of Publishing Technology; SUSAN CRESPI, Editorial Operations Manager; ALEX MORALES, Publishing Operations Manager; STAN LEE, Chairman Emeritus. For information regarding advertising in Marvel Comics or on, please contact Niza Disla, Director of Marvel Partnerships, at [email protected] For Marvel subscription inquiries, please call 800-217-9158.


  Stuart Moore, Editor

  Design by Spring Hoteling

  Senior Editor, Special Projects: Jeff Youngquist

  SVP of Print & Digital Publishing Sales: David Gabriel

  Manager Digital Production: Tim Smith 3

  Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso

  Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada

  Publisher: Dan Buckley

  Executive Producer: Alan Fine

  To Axel for thinking of me,

  Stuart for guiding me through,

  and Joss for being astonishing.
























  Special Preview: New Avengers Breakout



  I’m all alone.

  I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, and part of me wants to run home screaming to my parents. I’m thirteen years old. Well, thirteen and a half. Worse, I’m the age where “and a half” actually means something, like it’s a point of pride because you’re six months closer to hitting the age of consent in four more years and the drinking age three years after that. Anyway, the point is: thirteen. And a half. Someone who’s thirteen and a half shouldn’t have to be dealing with things like this, things my parents would be helpless to do anything about.

  I mean, what the hell would I say to them? “Mom, Dad…the X-Men have been captured. Any thoughts?”

  It’s a horrifying situation to be in, knowing that I’m so far beyond their ability to counsel me or give me advice or help me in any way. This can’t be made better with a plate of fresh-baked cookies and cold milk while my father assures me that the other girls are just jealous of me, and my mother says I should be proud of my damned hair that defies even the most dedicated hairdresser’s efforts to straighten it out. All those pleasant bromides, all those assurances, don’t mean a thing in the face of…oh, right…THE X-MEN, THE GREATEST TEAM OF MUTANT HEROES EVER, HAVE BEEN CAPTURED. And I’m the only one who can do anything about it.

  It’s not fair that all this is getting dumped on my shoulders. Who am I? Katherine Pryde, teenage big-brain, who usually wears her Mogen David around her throat and her heart on her sleeve.

  I’m in the hold of a small hovercraft that’s barreling down some random street in New York, which shows you just how screwed up my life has become, because when was the last time you saw a hovercraft buzzing along in Manhattan? The bad guys are in the front section of the ship. I can’t see them. I can hear them talking about their plans, but only in broad strokes. None of it makes any sense.

  Then I hear my name. Some goon is asking about me. Some woman is responding. Her voice is familiar.

  I decide I have to take the chance and see what’s going on.

  I put my hand tentatively against the bulkhead, and then ease my molecules into it. I’m able to pass through it entirely, like a ghost. I hold my breath because I don’t know what would happen if I tried to inhale inside a wall. It makes me feel tingly as I phase through the wall and emerge on the other side.

  And I see the woman. Her back is to me, but I’d know her anywhere.

  It’s that Miss Frost woman. The one who was head of that other Academy my parents wanted me to go to before they decided I’d go to the one run by Professor Charles Xavier. This woman, this Emma Frost, who looked me straight in the eye and told me that we were going to be great friends.

  And what the hell is she wearing? Panties, thigh-boots, a corset and a cape, all in white? Who’s flying this ship? Hugh Hefner?

  Emma Frost and her goon squad are holding the X-Men prisoners. I gotta help ’em. But how? These guys have guns and super-powers, and I’m just me.

  I wait. I wait for my moment, and suddenly I’m making my move. We’re not in the ship. When did we leave the ship? I don’t know, but suddenly I’m in a building, and the X-Men are in cages. I move through a wall, and there’s one of the X-Men—Storm, the weather witch—drugged up and in a cage. I go to her and suddenly she’s telling me to get away, and oh my God, it’s Emma Frost, she sees me and she’s sending her goons after me. I run, my heart throbbing, and I dive headlong into the floor as Frost screams behind me, “Seal the complex! Organize search teams! I want Kitty Pryde found at once!” I’ve never heard such pure evil, such vindictiveness, and I know she’s going to do terrible things to me.

  And then I’m out of the building, sprinting down an alleyway. It’s so cold, and I’m only wearing jeans, a tube top and a light vest. I’m shivering with both chill and terror, and suddenly lights illuminate the alleyway behind me. It’s a car bearing down on me, and I’m running and I can’t see, I can’t concentrate, I’m just too terrified. I stumble. I fall. My mind is scattered. Instead of phasing through the ground, my arm hits hard.

  There’s no pain. I don’t know why. I feel like there should be.

  There’s nothing in my field of vision except cascading waves of light from the car’s headlights, getting brighter and brighter. I try to scream. I want to desperately. It’s stalled in my chest, and I’m physically forcing it up, up to my throat and then out, first small and strangled and finally out—

  And I sit up, jolted awake by my own scream as it hauls me into the waking world. Instantly I clamp my hands over my mouth, terrified that I might have been loud enough to disturb my parents. It was so nice of them to let me crash in my old room here in Deerfield while I’m between apartments; the last thing I want to do is repay their kindness by disturbing them in the night.

  I hear nothing. Bullet dodged.

  I click on the lamp that’s sitting on the nightstand and squint against the illumination. It’s three in the morning. My room is a memorial to the person I used to be, the walls festooned with posters of boy bands that once meant the world to me. Back when my world was easy. Back when my world made sense.

  The letter is still on the nightstand. Crisp white paper, neat
ly folded in threes. It should be a small wadded ball, or torn to shreds. That’s what I should have done with it. But no, the letter just sits there, taunting me. I should have ripped it up, yet there it sits, like a zit on prom night. If I had destroyed it, then knowing its author, knowing her, another one would simply have shown up, and another, and then hundreds more, blowing through the windows and down the chimney like in Harry Potter, filling the living room with nothing but her, that witch.

  I take a moment to reflect on my dreams. For most people, nightmares are random, deep-seated thoughts and fears that seep from your subconscious into your sleeping mind and toss you into the midst of impossible worst-case scenarios. What does it say about my life that everything I just dreamt about actually happened to me, beat for beat, note for note? All of those emotions, all of those horrifying first encounters, as fresh and real to me as when I first experienced them years ago. Unfiltered, unchanged, undimmed by the passage of time.

  I thought I’d left them all behind. After all, in my “career,” I’ve gone on to experience far worse nights than that one. I’ve experienced heartbreaking loss.

  There was Jean Grey, the red-haired heroine who was probably the most powerful telekinetic force on Earth…the woman who actually saved me that night from the guys chasing me in the alleyway…beloved of the X-Men’s leader, Scott Summers…


  There was Peter Rasputin—Colossus—the metal-covered Russian farm boy, impenetrable on the outside, sweet and easily wounded on the inside…beloved of…me…


  And others, too.

  I remember when I was twelve, and Joey Reisman got hit and killed by a car while he was crossing the street going to a deli. I had a crush on him at the time and I cried for weeks. Literally. For weeks. Death seemed unimaginable to me.

  Now it’s called a day at the office.

  I’ve left the office. I’ve left the X-Men.

  Yet the letter sits there, taunting me.

  The letter from her. Miss “We’re going to be great friends.”

  I pick it up with the intention of finally crumpling it and freeing myself from her, once and for all. The letterhead, lightly embossed in simple black letters that do nothing to convey what “Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters” really means.

  “Dear Kitty”

  An overly obvious endeavor to be friendly. Like we’re even remotely friends.

  “Dear Kitty: With the new semester beginning, it is our belief”

  Our? Yours and who else’s? Scott, who’s now your boyfriend, and what the hell is up with that? Or did the whole group vote on it? Or is it just you, writing with the imperial “we” like the queen bee-yotch that you are?

  “that you would make a valuable addition to the faculty. Your responsibilities would include”

  The letter is less than half a page. It says what my duties would be, tells me the starting salary—fixed, no negotiation—plus medical and, hey, dental. I’d really need that considering my teeth are already on edge just from the thought of dealing with her.

  It concludes:

  “Please feel free to call my private number, provided below, during normal business hours.”

  I check the number against a keypad to see if by some chance the digits correspond to 914-SKANKHO. Sadly they don’t.

  That’s all there is to the letter. No apology for past wrongs. No attempt at explanations. Once she was evil, now she’s good, and we’re all just supposed to accept that and move on.

  I can’t.

  We’re supposed to trust her.

  I don’t.

  “Hello, Katherine. I’m sure we’re going to be great friends.”

  Her first words to me. I can still see her, standing there in my parents’ living room, with her underwear actually under her wear. That viper smile, those cold eyes. I could see right through her…

  No, you couldn’t.

  I’m busted by my own mind.

  The truth is, I couldn’t see through her. She seemed a little creepy, kind of standoffish. But she didn’t radiate evil. I had no idea the kind of stuff she was really into. No clue how truly and utterly dangerous she was. How could I have? How could anyone?

  Especially kids.

  All those kids, all those young mutants in the Xavier School, looking to her for guidance, for information, for the facts of mutant life. And the others were letting her do it. Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops. Hank McCoy, the Beast, one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. Logan—Wolverine—who could literally smell a threat from a hundred yards away: Why hadn’t he just gutted her and moved on? Why were such savvy people letting Emma Frost within a mile of easily influenced youngsters? Were they just willing to hand her an entire new generation of potentially evil mutants? Did people not understand what that meant anymore?

  Guess not. It’s all about branding these days. Even the evil mutants don’t call themselves evil anymore. And people buy into it. If Magneto called his followers “The Legion of Happy Fun Guys,” they’d probably have people lining up out the door.

  The school was part of my past. I’d moved on.

  And so had Emma Frost. But now she’s moved on to my former territory, molding and shaping a class of young “me’s.” And I’m supposed to…what? Stand by and let it happen?

  It wasn’t my problem.

  I was finished.

  I was done.



  John Donne.

  British poet, lived during the mid-1600s.

  No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

  I hate the way my mind works, especially when it starts free-form associating.

  The school bell is tolling, and even if I don’t go there, it’s tolling for me because we’re all mutants, all mutantkind, and what happens with mutantkind is also going to happen to me. We’re all connected. And if Emma Frost manages to undermine the values of the Xavier School, it’s going to wind up biting us all on the ass. And I’m part of “all” no matter how much I want it otherwise.

  My grandmother had a saying: One choice is no choice.

  I glance at the clock again. The numbers 3:03 glow in red.

  Maybe I can wake her up. If I’m going to be rousted from a sound sleep because of her, the least I can do is extend her the same courtesy.

  I pick up my cell phone and dial her personal number. My phone has a privacy block on it; she won’t know it’s me until she hears my voice waking her up.

  She picks it up on the second ring. There is no trace of slumber in her voice; she’s fully awake.

  “Hello, Katherine,” she says crisply. “I was expecting your call.”

  God, I hate her.


  “GENTLEMEN… I cannot believe you’re serious.”

  Doctor Kavita Rao was sitting in a conference room, staring at an impassive array of bean counters seated across from her. She wanted to lunge across the round mahogany table, grab the nearest man by his pressed, starched shirt, and give him a good shaking. Rao prided herself on her professional demeanor, however, so that was never really an option, no matter how much pleasure she would have taken in it.

  She was a slender woman, her dark skin, delicate features and red Bindi mark on her forehead conveying her Indian origins. Her black hair was tied back, adding to her all-business look, and she peered over the tops of her rectangular spectacles in the way she typically did when she was incredulous about something.

  “I’m afraid, Doctor Rao, that we have no choice,” said one of the bean counters. It didn’t matter to her which one it was; they were all the same as far as she was concerned. “This was not an easy decision to make…”

>   “This should not be your decision to make at all.” Her lips were thinned practically to invisibility. “None of you are scientists.”

  “Quite true,” said another bean counter. “And that is precisely why Benetech depends upon us.”

  “I’m not sure I follow, Mister…?”

  “Bean,” he said.

  She blinked and the edges of her mouth nearly twitched, betraying amusement. “Seriously?”

  “Yes. Why?” He stared at her in puzzlement. “Is there a problem?”

  Immediately, she got herself back under control. “Yes, there’s a problem,” she said curtly. “You’re talking about gutting my department.”

  “We’re talking about reapportioning staff and trimming back unnecessary expenditure—”

  “Excuse me, Mister Bean, but I prefer to use one word rather than fifty. You can rattle on as long as you wish, but ‘gutting’ seems the succinct way to describe what you’re proposing.”

  “Fine,” said Mr. Bean with a shrug. “You can use whatever terminology you wish…”

  “Thanks ever so…”

  “But the bottom line is that the board has asked for our recommendations as to what departments could be scaled back and, unfortunately, the research in which you’ve been engaging seems…what’s the best word—?”

  “Limited?” suggested one of the other accountants.

  “Yes, exactly, limited,” said Mr. Bean, his head bobbing. “That’s a good word.”