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Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (penciler), Jason Gorder (inker), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo (cover artist), Matthe Waite (variant cover), Jon Moisan (assistant editor), Bill Rosemann (editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (Exec. Publisher)
Cullen has turned into a giant soul monster and attacks X-23. Realizing they can only turn him back with the Bloodstone ring, Cammi, Nara and Anchronism desperately look for it. Moments after Cammi finds it, Reptil lands next to her, his tail accidentally swishing the ring into the ocean. Nara dives after it, recalling her history. Her parents were member of the Royal Guard who proved to be agents of Attuma and were slain. She was exiled to the surface. She finds the ring moments before Anachronism is about to kill Cullen. Cullen grabs her and squeezes. She manages to turn him back via skin contact with the ring, but she is already mortally wounded. Her death causes Anachronism to go ballistic.
Seeing Cullen having turned into a giant soul monster and attacking X-23, Nara figures there is something seriously wrong with her. She admires the strength and brutality. On any other day she’d be all about the show. But today she is not even watching, because Aiden is hurting and she wants it to stop. She swears, realizing she’s become a girlfriend.
Nara orders Aiden to snap out of it and tell them what happened to Cullen. He mutters he released it… He did it for them, Nara corrects him. He did it for Aiden. Now what can he do for Cullen? How can they get him back? Cammi figures it’s the Bloodstone ring that holds the monster back. Cullen pulled it off and must have dropped it in the sand.
X-23 has taken some wounds and realizes she doesn’t know how to kill the creature. Cullen attacks again. That moment, Nico and Chase (as Darkhawk) come from the air, attacking Cullen.
As Cammi, Anachronism and Nara desperately comb through the sand, Anachronism explains it’s called a Glartrox. They found an entry on it in one of Cullen’s dad’s cryptology books. An extra-dimensional parasite that bonds with a person’s soul. Feeding off their fear and anger. The more emotion it consumes the stronger it becomes… the more control it has over is host. This one seems pretty strong, Nara points out. Aiden continues that Cullen spent two years trapped alone in a nightmare realm with that monster eating his fear. If they are lucky, he’ll chew them in paste before laying his eggs in their souls.
Cammi tells them to stop. All they gotta do is find that Bloodstone ring. Then it’s sleepy time for “Mr. boogie badass,” Cullen’s his old self and their likelihood of violent death drops right back down to a comfortable Murder World 91%. Nara asks what if they can’t find the ring. There’s one other way, Aiden admits hesitantly. But they don’t have to worry about that, Cammi announces triumphantly and holds up the ring, ‘cuz Cammi rules treasure hunting! Now what? she asks.
Reptil lands next to her and his tail swats the ring out of her hand into the ocean. Unaware of what he has done, Reptil apologizes. They are fighting a big monster thing in the woods. Nara caresses Aiden’s face and tells him it’s all right. They go help hold him off. She’ll make herself useful for once and fetch that ring.
She jumps into the ocean. In the water, she berates herself for caring so much about a boy she knows she can’t keep. She remembers her childhood in Atlantis.
flashback to Nara’s past:Her mother trained her to fight and told her they are only pushing her because they love her. Growing up a child of the royal guards, she was taught to love Atlantis. That’s what she was taught. But what she learned was different.
Still a child, she was brought to King Namor, who announced that her parents revealed themselves as agents of the traitor Attuma and attempted to assassinate him. As she can see, referring to their corpses, they failed. He did not summon Nara to punish her for her parents’ treachery. These crimes are theirs alone. Nor is he asking her to forgive their death. She’s earned her contempt. Keep it. But he does hope she will accept a last gift from her king. A lesson to be learned from this mess. Trust in herself and no one else. She’ll be less often disappointed.
His guards ask what they are to do with Nara. Namor orders her exiled to the surface.
The Present:Diving deeper Nara realizes nothing good can come from the relationship. The smart thing would be— Bugger the smart thing! she swears. She loves him! She spies the earring ahead.
On the surface Aiden, Nico and Cammi can’t really do anything against the monster. Reptil attacks in his dinosaur form, to be swatted down. Black Magic. Straight up, Nico orders and black energy engulfs Cullen but doesn’t do much. That was her best shot, Nico states.
Aiden explains he is getting bigger and stronger by the minute. They have to end this before he gets tired of toying with them. How? Cammi demands. Aiden explains Glartox cannot survive in this dimension without their host. If they kill the host—Cullen, Cammi points out and refuses. Nara’s gonna find the ring. They have to buy her time. They are out of time, Aiden replies. If they let this go on he’ll slaughter everyone.
Cammi reminds him Cullen let the monster out to save Aiden’s life. And now he’s gone, Aiden replies. He’d do anything for Aiden, Cammi continues. And he is doing this for Cullen, Aiden replies. Cullen told him how to end it if things ever got out of control. He made him promise. He promised he’d put him out of his misery!
Cammi orders the others to distract the creature. Chase flies Aiden onto its back where he finds Cullen enmeshed with the monster. Aiden apologizes and raises his axe. That moment, Nara dives up and shouts at him to stop. She’s got it!
The demon turns toward Nara and Aiden falls off its back. Nara figures she is doing this to save him and, because she doesn’t want him to, turn as hard as she is.
Aiden shouts at Nara to run. It will take a lot more than Bloodstone’s imaginary friend to do her in, she replies. The creature grabs her in its claws and squeezes. Despite the pressure, Nara holds on and asks what to do with the ring. Touch the ring to his skin! Aiden shouts. Is that all? she asks, already breathing blood. She does so and the demon disappears into Cullen.
Cammi helps him up to. They turn around and see Aiden cradling a dead Nara. Aiden cries out in pain and rage.
Anachronism, Cammi, Cullen Bloodstone, Hazmat, Nara, X-23
DEAD: Juston Syefried, Kid Briton, Mettle, Red Raven
The cover is a homage to “Conan the Barbarian.”
The story is narrated by Nara.