In the bleak, unforgiving darkness, the voice of a little girl speaks quietly. Mommy… is screaming. “Mommy,” however, now no longer screams, her open mouth gaping mutely, just as her open but sightless eyes no longer see. Her own life’s blood has been sprayed upon her inert form, lightly coating her arm. Reviewing its handiwork, a phantom, yet monstrous form grins toothily, even as the little girl within smiles devilishly. Her screams are… yummy, the little girl continues. When the door opens, revealing a wide-eyed man, looking into the room with horror, the little girl thinks, Daddy… is next…
The little girl wakes up with a start, yelling out the name Veeda repeatedly. Rushing into the room and turning on the light, Veeda calls out to the girl, calling her Tildie and letting her know that she’s there. When Tildie announces that it came back, Veeda replies that it was just a dream. Still shaken, Tildie remarks that she doesn’t want it to come back. To this, Veeda states that it never will. It never will. Watching all of this through a one-way mirror, a shadowed form stands silently.
Nothing has changed, Kitty Pryde thinks to herself. As her taxi drives away, the young woman takes a moment to stand still, her two suitcases in hand, to take in the sight of the mansion she once called home. The place was destroyed, she thinks, and now it looks like nothing happened. No time has passed.
Walking closer to the front door, Kitty’s mind walks further back in time. She can see herself, slightly younger, speaking with Professor Xavier. He tells her that they can send her furniture after her, or home to Deerfield. The past-Kitty replies no, asking him to keep it there. She intends to visit them every chance she gets.
Her mind returning to the mansion itself, Kitty thinks that, of course, the Professor would have it rebuilt this way; give everyone a sense of stability. Continuity. Nothing has changed. Not even her.
Rather than walking to the front door, Kitty decides to phase through the wall next to it. Emerging on the other side, Kitty finds another memory of herself preparing to leave. Instead of doing so, the mid-teen Kitty turns around, exclaiming Professor Xavier is a jerk! Continuing her way into the foyer, Kitty thinks to herself that she’s a kid again, out of her depth – completely overwhelmed by everything there and it isn’t even the Sidri, or Sentinels, or the Brood that surrounds her… It’s the smaller pieces. Shards. Of her.
Leaving her bags behind, Kitty approaches the stairs, stopping long enough to treat herself to another memory. In this one, her even more youthful self surprises Piotr Rasputin at the foot of the steps, holding a piece of mistletoe over his head and saying, Merry Christmas, sexy. The ever-bashful Piotr opens his eyes in embarrassment, exclaiming her name. The Kitty of the present does not react. Instead, she turns away and continues on deeper into the mansion.
As she phases through another wall, Kitty thinks to herself that she hopes she’s not late. Arriving on the other side, on the stage of a packed auditorium with the entire assembled student body, Kitty emits a simple “hi” and states that it is possible that she’s late.
Quite so, states Emma Frost, scantily clad as ever and currently standing at the podium, flanked by the seated Cyclops and Beast. Now addressing the student body, Emma tells them that this is Kitty Pryde, who apparently feels the need to make a grand entrance. To this public insult, Kitty retorts with an apology, saying that she was busy remembering to put on all of her clothes. With a demeanor belying her words, Emma tells Kitty that she’s so gushingly glad she could join them.
As Kitty makes her way to her seat, Emma turns back to the crowd and informs them that Miss Pryde will be teaching advanced computational theory, as well as acting as a student advisor and liaison to the administrative staff. Speaking quietly under Emma’s words, Cyclops leans toward Kitty and tells her it’s great to see her. With a wry smile, Kitty apologizes for the timing and asks if she missed the Sorting Hat. Just Scott’s scintillating introduction speech, the Beast adds. Even he was bored, Cyclops admits about himself.
Still speaking, Emma tells the students that, since Professor Xavier is away on sabbatical, Mr. Summers and herself will be acting heads of school. Doctor McCoy and Miss Pryde will round out the senior staff, along with… Logan, who is… elsewhere. Catching the vagueness of this statement, Kitty asks the Beast what she means by “elsewhere.” It means, replies the Beast, they’ve narrowed it down to “else.”
Continuing, Emma informs the students that this is a place of learning, not just about their mutants gifts, but about the world. Respect for their teachers, mutant and human alike, will be expected of all of them. Control of their powers, the safety of those around them, is or paramount importance. Violence of any kind will not be tolerated.
Without warning, the ceiling to the massive hall is ripped open by two Sentinels, with a third closing from the air behind the first pair. Fulfilling its prime directive of the destruction of all mutants, the lead Sentinel reaches down for Emma Frost, preparing to crush her in its massive hand. As the assembled students react to the sight, the Beast begins to take off his suit and tie to move into action. Not needing to remove any such clothing, Cyclops opens his visor and projects his powerful optic blast. In calm contrast to all of this, however, Emma Frost simply presses a few buttons on her control pad, deactivating the Danger Room simulation labeled “Scenario 274.” The Sentinels promptly disappear from sight, revealing the wholly intact roof above.
As both students and the senior staff begin to take stock of what just happened, Emma calls out to them. So, what have we learned? Answering her own question, Emma states that they have learned the first lesson: they will always hate them. They will never live in a world of peace. Which is why control and non-violence are essential. They must prove themselves a peaceful people. They must give the ordinary humans respect, compliance and understanding. And they must never mistake that for trust.
Behind the closed doors of their bedroom, Scott tells Emma that she should have warned him she was going to do that. When she replies that he would have said no, Scott concurs that he would have, among other things. Explaining her actions, Emma states that she scanned the students. Nearly ten percent of them were more than a little excited at the prospect of a fight. She thought they should know… When Scott begins to ask which were the ones, Emma stops him. She’s not Xavier, she tells him. She’ll go through the roster and try to narrow it down. Moving closer to Scott, Emma smiles romantically, adding that she will do it… tomorrow.
The peaceful night of the mansion’s grounds gives way to a new day. As the sun shines over the building and through the window into Scott and Emma’s bedroom, it illuminates the cuddling couple. Their mid-morning slumber is ended with the gruff voice of Logan, who crouches on the railing at the foot of the bed and asks Scott to tell him what stage of grieving is this. Denial?
The only warning Logan receives is a snarled grimace, which forms on Scott’s countenance. Half a moment later, Logan is ejected out of the room, forced back through the second story window by the scarlet fury of Cyclops’ optic blasts. Although he lands violently and uncontrollably on the school’s grounds, Logan quickly recovers and leaps to his feet, his adamantium claws popped and ready for battle.
Seeing that Scott has already joined him on the lawn, Logan asks if he struck a nerve. His face returned to his trademark emotionless demeanor, Scott replies to Logan that this is good. The guy who’s tried to steal his wife since the day he met them is gonna tell him all about what’s proper. Retorting back, Logan replies that the only reason Jean and he stayed together at all is she was too strong to give into what she really wanted. And he, Scott, was too scared. To this, Scott reaches up to his visor and informs Logan that his healing power’s about to come in really handy.
Watching the fight begins anew through the demolished window of her bedroom, Emma stands next to the Beast. When he asks her what this is all about, Emma rhetorically asks what does he think? Superpowers, a scintillating wit and the best body money can buy… and she still rates below a corpse. The situation no longer being of any interest, Emma walks away.
Shortly afterward, the senior staff of the Institute is gathered in the Danger Room by the Beast. Rather than a conventional location for their gathering, Emma, Logan, Kitty and Scott find themselves sitting on the islands of the Hawaiian chain, each land mass reduced to a fraction of their normal size so that they are hardly larger than a chair. Speaking to this gathering, the Beast stands in the ocean, berating his comrades, specifically Scott and Logan.
Reminding them that they did so in front of the students, Hank tells them that if Emma’s little game the previous day didn’t wind them up enough, they have to see their administrative staff trying to kill each other. The two of them should be long past that nonsense. Where on Earth did it come from?
Sitting on the Big Island of Hawaii, his arms folded across his chest, Scott replies that it didn’t matter. He’s not apologizing to Logan and he wouldn’t accept one in return. When Hank begins to remind him that he’s the acting head of the school, Scott interrupts. It was inexcusable, he agrees. And it’s going to make what he has to say all the more absurd, but he’s going to say it anyway. They’re a team. They’re a super hero team. And he thinks it’s time they started acting like one. Sitting two islands away, on the island of Molokai, Logan stutters out a request to hold everything; is this gonna’ be about tights?
Undeterred, Scott points out to the US mainland in the distance. It’s about everything, he states. Truth, perception… They’ve saved the world – worlds even – time and again. That’s the truth. That’s what they do. But the perception is that they’re freaks, or worse, that they’re Magnetos waiting to happen. They’ve been taking it on the chin so long, just trying to keep from being wiped out, he thinks they’ve forgotten that they have a purpose. He knows the rest of the world has forgotten.
Having a cloud drift into her face, Kitty mutters a protest and asks if this is like a theme thing, them being so big. Raising the control pad and pointing to it, Hank replies that, actually, it’s him. He programmed the Danger Room to replicate Hawaii because he thought it would relax their combatants. It appears he should have been more specific about the scale. Taking this in, Kitty asks everyone if they remember when this place was just flame-throwers and rotating knives. She misses that. Seated on the isle of O’ahu, Emma offers only a glance to Kitty and asks if they can please let Scott finish. To this, Kitty notices the effect of the cloud on her scalp, announcing that she now has cloud hair.
Returning to the subject at hand, Scott stands up and states that the point is this: they need to get into the world. Saving lives, helping disaster relief… they need to present themselves as a team like any other. Avengers. Fantastic Four – they don’t get chased through the streets with torches. When Logan chimes in with the worry of here come the tights, Scott apologizes; super heroes wear costumes. And, quite frankly, all the black leather is making people nervous.
Raising her hand, the Maui-seated Kitty states that she officially doesn’t know why she’s there. She’s not a fighter, not like them. Dismissing this idea, Logan reminds her that she’s been in plenty. He’d take her at his back any day. Answering Kitty’s question, Scott replies that, no, she’s not a fighter. Her power isn’t aggressive. It’s protective. That’s good to show and people like her.
The proper sequence keyed into the controls, Hank announces that there they are, even as the scenery changes to a Hawaiian beach, the former isles becoming rocks on the sand. Ignoring the change in surroundings, Scott points out that, while Hank’s as articulate as anything, what people see is mostly… well… a beast. Emma’s a former villain. Logan’s a thug. Born and bred, Wolverine interrupts. And him, Scott continues, remarking about himself, he can lead the team. But he hasn’t looked anybody in the eye since he was fifteen.
Taking this in, Kitty states that she’s what – a P.R. stunt? Yes, chimes in Emma coldly, their own poster child. Isn’t it sweet? “The non-threatening Shadowcat” or “Sprite” or “Ariel” or whatever incredibly unimpressive name she’s using nowadays. Telling Emma to shut up, Scott continues. They all may have perfectly good reasons for not wanting to do this, but they’re the team he chose. So, he finishes, think about it. Already having thought about it, Hank asks if he’s the only one who’s dying to see the outfits.
Backstage, awaiting her cue to go out before the waiting audience, Veeda suffers through a production employee putting last-minute make on her. Finally having enough, Veeda asks her to take it away; she’s not going to get any prettier. Peaking through the curtains to the waiting mass of people, one of Veeda’s associates points out that she’s about it change the world – she’s gotta look glam! When the man then points out that there has to be a hundred reporters out there, Veeda ignores him, regarding the young girl standing at her side. Asking if she is all right, Veeda then asks Tildie if she’s not scared. Replying with a question, Tildie asks if she gets to sit near her. The question goes unanswered, however, as the speaker onstage asks the crowd to join him in welcoming renowned geneticists, Doctor Kavita Rao.
Standing on the lawn of the Institute, Kitty looks off into the horizon. Walking up to her from behind, Logan asks her if she sees something. She replies that Lockheed wanted to fly on his own. She thought he’d beat her there… The dragon’ll show, Logan assures her. He did. Turning to face her new teammate, Kitty remarks at his big entrance. Apologizing, he tells her he wasn’t planning it, he just… sometimes he goes off. More, since… Replying that she knows, Kitty returns her gaze to the sky. Super heroes, Logan states chidingly. “Summers has gotta be nuts.”
Now standing behind the podium, a dozen microphones recording her every word, Dr. Rao asks her audience: What is a mutant?
In a ballroom, set in a high-rise building and filled with the well-to-do, several masked gunmen turn the event into a hostage situation. One of them, spraying his machine gun into the air to get attention, orders everyone to get onto the ground. Now! Now! Another gunman, present the muzzle of his weapon at a frightened attendee repeatedly asks if he wants a bullet in his skull.
Listening to the radio, Scott Summers hears the announcer state that there is no word yet on the hostage situation in the Chapman Building but the FBI have cordoned off a four-block radius. These words being all that he needs, Scott massages his closed eyelids and then covers them with his visor. His mind now prepared and his resolve steeled, Cyclops states that it’s now or never.
Continuing her speech, Doctor Rao answers her own question regarding mutants. They’ve been called angels and devils… They’ve committed atrocities and been victim to atrocities themselves. They’ve been labeled as monsters. And not without reasons. But, Rao continues, she will tell them what mutants are.
Standing before the assembled mass of hostages, the gunmen’s leader smiles maliciously. His green, inhuman face, marking him as being a mutant, is the only exposed skin. The rest is covered in armor, chain mesh and a blood-red hood. Speaking to the crowd’s worries, he states that they are no doubt wondering what it is they want. Their money. Their daughters. Their flesh, peeled and roasted. Maybe they’re fanatics. Or maybe they’re just bored.
Mutants, continues Doctor Rao, are people. No better or worse by nature than anybody else. Just people. People with a disease.
In various locales in the mansion, the X-Men prepare for the coming mission. While Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde change in the women’s locker room, Hank McCoy packs up his spectacles in a case and places them in his locker. Logan, popping the claws that are the trademark of his namesake, Wolverine, asks Cyclops if it’s time to make nice with the public. Finishing placing his cowl on his head without disturbing his visor, Cyclops retorts that they have to do more than that. They have to astonish them.
This said, Cyclops leads the rest of his now-suited team into the Institute’s hangar bay. Moments later, the X-plane lifts off, propelling itself and its passengers to their mission. As they climb into the night sky, the cause of their assignment, the red-hooded mutant, looks out of the window of the high-rise, scanning the skies, almost in anticipation.
Getting the point of her speech, Rao triumphantly states that mutants are not the next step in evolution. They are not the end of humankind. The mutant gene is nothing more than a disease. A corruption of healthy cellular activity. And, now at last, she says, we have found a cure.