New Warriors # 46

(Child's Play 4 of 4)

Paige Summary

In her sparrow form, Paige observes X-Force and the New Warriors as they attempt to rescue her brother and the others. She is X-Force's surprise, only to be used if necessary, but it becomes more and more apparent that she will be needed. When everyone has been defeated and the air becomes silent, she reveals herself. The stillness reminds her of the day her father died, and Paige realises that she should never have followed X-Force - that she isn't ready for this. She doesn't know what to do with her power, which is completely stupid and useless. Afterall, what can the ability to shed from one skin to another do against someone as powerful as the Gamesmaster? With powers like hers, her brother Sam will die. She realises, suddenly, that being a mutant isn't as exciting as she had thought, that it's not a game after all.

She screams for the Gamesmaster, refusing to just give up, to tell him that there is still a player left in his game. The Gamesmaster is pleasantly surprised. He had not realised she was here, having been unable to read her mind while she was in a transformed state. This, he reflects, is strange as he had been able to do so when she first learned of her powers at home in Kentucky. Maybe, he suggests, he couldn't read her mind because of the interference caused by Siena Blaze's powers. Paige does not know why he could not read her thoughts, but she tells him that she will not let him kill her brother. She is informed that the game is over and that the rules of the game dictate that her brother and all of his friends must die, so that a new game may begin. Paige refuses to be intimidated and questions him, asking who makes the rules and why he has to keep playing the games. The Gamesmaster tells her that he makes the rules and must keep playing because he must, so Paige challenges him to a new game. If he loses then Sam and the others live, and if he wins he gets to keep her. The Gamesmaster does not seem impressed and wants to know what entertainment a girl like her could possibly provide. Although she admits that she can't entertain him much right now, Paige talks about teenagers around the world waking up to discover that they're mutants and they all want to know the same thing - what will they do with their powers? Who will help them learn to use them? Who will they become? She proposes that the Gamesmaster try to find and guide the next generation of mutants, before Xavier, the Acolytes or anyone else. With a smile, the Gamesmaster tells her that she wins.

Paige wakes up to find her brother crouched over her, telling her what a big risk she had just taken and that he's proud of her. Because of that pride, he won't get angry at her for not telling him that she was a mutant and for sneaking along with X-Force against their mother's wishes. She points out that everyone would have died if it weren't for her, and while her brother agrees he asks her to think about the price she will have to pay later on for winning this one battle.

Wider Issue Summary

Bantam and X-Force emerge from the portal at Shinobi Shaw's Swiss chalet, where they encounter the New Warriors. Thrash suggests that the two teams put aside their differences for once, and work together as they are all working towards a common goal - to save their kidnapped teammates. Cable and Thrash exchange information and they discuss what they know of the Gamesmaster. Unbeknownst to them, they are being observed by a small sparrow. They decide to attack on several fronts, in an effort to stretch the Gamesmaster's focus. Split into three teams, they go for the direct approach and attack immediately, as the Gamesmaster has probably read their minds and know what they're planning to do.

The Gamesmaster, from his position in the mindstream (which he cannot escape), decides it's time to deal with the situation himself rather than depending on the Upstarts. Using his telepathic powers, he takes control of the minds of the mutants he has already captured and finds the experience to be fun. Moving his pawns into place, the Gamesmaster becomes more excited, enjoying the anticipation he is feeling from them. It is so different from his normal state of drifting aimlessly along and without anything to believe in. He looks foward to fighting and killing them all. The Gamesmaster uses Karma to attack Rictor and Shatterstar, and sends Nova to attack the others. The group are surprised at being attacked by their own teammates and friends but quickly realise that they are being controlled by someone else. As they fight, the Gamesmaster admires their movements and actions, while he sends Moonstar in to temporarily paralyse the neural-synapses of anyone left standing. With one group down, he turns his attention to the second, using Siena Blaze to attack them. Although they are knocked unconscious, they are saved from death by the actions of Speedball. The Gamesmaster is disappointed that he underestimated one of the team, but it matters little as Speedball himself collapses. The third group contains Cable, Domino and Thrash. The Gamesmaster sends Firestar, Justice, Cannonball and Boomer after them, but Boomer is taken down by Silhouette. The Gamesmaster is pleasantly surprised, especially when she manages to cloud his ability to see through his pawns. In the confusion, the remaining pawns are all defeated. However, Cannonball seems to stop of his own violation, seconds before he would have killed Cable with his blast effect. With his pawns all defeated, the Gamesmaster reveals himself. He declares that the Younghunt is over, and uses his own powers to stop Cable, Domino and Thrash. He disappears, to consider what he will do with the prizes of his game, but he is about to be faced with yet another surprise.

With both X-Force and the New Warriors down, Paige Guthrie reveals herself from her hiding place. Having already changed from a sparrow, she now changes back to her normal self and, despite her doubts and fears, screams for the Gamesmaster to tell him that there's still one player left and his game is not yet over. She tells him that she will not let him kill her brother and challenges him to a new game. If the Gamesmaster loses, Sam and his friends will live, and if he wins, he will get to keep her. She proposes that the Gamesmaster attempt to find and train the next generation of mutants before anyone else can. With a smile, the Gamesmaster tells her that she has won. Paige wakes up to find that her brother and all the others are fine.

Rictor rings Rahne Sinclair aka Wolfsbane, to warn her that the only remaining members of the Upstarts, Fenris, might try to capture her. Rahne tells him that she and X-Factor will keep a look out, while in the background her team have already captured the mutant brother and sister. Cable, meanwhile, believes that their victory was a hollow one if they just handed over the next generation of mutants to the Gamesmaster. Firestar tells him that what they have really done is to make sure that people like them will be there to help young mutants before the wrong side can get to them. Cable agrees and decides that if they're going to be playing a game, they will play to win.

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