The Danger Room is angry? Cyclops asks, dumbfounded by the statement. Cyclops’ blank stare joined by Colossus and Wolverine’s, Emma replies that she knows how it sounds. How much do they know about its higher functioning systems? In explanation, Cyclops states that the Professor designed it to test them basic mechanical operation… and a few years back he upgraded it with Shi’ar technology, lasers… Hard light, the Beast adds. It can replicate any matter, any color, distort spatial awareness… create worlds. It’s well outside his sphere, he then adds.
And it’s been twitchy all semester, Wolverine then states, which Cyclops confirms. Turning to Emma, Cyclops asks if it has become sentient. Still being held upright on her feet by the Beast, Emma states that it already was, as far as she knows. What happened tonight was something completely new. It mutated.
A little incredulous at the idea, the Beast replies that it doesn’t seem possible. Mutation’s in their genes. A.I. have human reason, emotion… but the basic genetic structure… Interrupting him, Emma reminds Hank that she turns into a diamond sometimes. Are they really going to discuss impossibility?
No, replies Colossus, then reminding the others that Kitty is inside. With nearly all of their students, Cyclops then adds. Emma confirms, stating that she can “hear” them. Prodded by Cyclops, she adds that it’s faint. There’s a lot of fear, but she thinks no one’s been killed. When Wolverine rhetorically asks how long that’s gonna last, Emma suggests that they not find out. This being, she says, has power they can’t fathom… and the only thing it has ever known is violence.
The world is a scarlet Hell. Demonic, alien creatures writhe in the artificial sky, illuminated by the dancing bolts of lightening. Rising up from the fiery abyss below is a column of rock, upon which the whole of the student body cower for safety. Most have moved to the center of the stone pillar, while others try to pull their classmates from the precipice and the inferno below that awaits them.
Among the students, Kitty Pryde states down into the abyss, wide-eyed with dear. Don’t freak, she tells herself. Don’t react. Take control. Just step. Her confidence now resolute, Kitty steps out onto the thin air off of the crag. Using her powers, she walks on non-existent steps, climbing several feet into the air and out. Turning back to the students, she yells out instructions, telling them to bunch up. Kids with strength or invulnerability on the outside. Anyone who can fly, she says, get in the air.
Does that include me, a spectral voice asks. It is the mangled, animated corpse of Wing, wide-eyed and a ghastly smile. Not deigning to answer verbally, Kitty clocks him with a right cross. Undeterred by the action, Wing’s corpse smiles back with a bloody grin at Kitty. He tells her he thought she wasn’t a fighter. He was right there when she said that. Her countenance stony and emotionless, Kitty retorts coldly. It wants to fight her? Fine. Let them go. You’re forgetting, he replies, that he makes the rules there. He makes the world there.
The armored fists of Colossus pound over and over again against the door to the control room of the Danger Room. Seeing the hopelessness of the action, the Beast reminds him that it’s the same alloy as the room below. They can’t bust in. As Wolverine begins to ask why they are wasting time, the Beast interrupts, explaining that within are the controls… not the brains. Seeing Hank look up to the ceiling above, Cyclops concurs. When they rebuilt, she states, he saw the specs… the Danger Room’s operating systems are above them, but he’s not sure where…
I’ll look, Colossus states simply and coldly. Without another word, he propels himself straight up, belying his weight. Crashing into the space above, the whole of his fury is then taken out on the cables and wires he finds there. Watching this visage with trepidation, Cyclops asks if this is a good plan. Ripping it’s brains out, Emma reassures him, is absolutely a good plan. She certainly doesn’t have a better. As the destruction above continues, the Beast rhetorically points out that the boy’s upset. He’s back, Wolverine adds. Peter’s really back.
The chaos continues. Though artificial constructs, the dangers within are quite real, as a bolt of lightening finds its mark in a student. Hovering above this misfortune, still in conversation with Kitty, the corpse of Wing tells Kitty that she doesn’t see the beauty of it. This is a celebration! A mitzvah! No, he reconsiders. It’s more. It’s a nativity scene, except nobody there is wise. So, he’s God, Kitty says, probing the creature’s words. Answering wryly with a question, the entity asks if she doubts it.
Suddenly, the hellish world is no more. Replacing it is a brownish desert, stretching in all directions as far as can be seen. Above the desert, and the startled students is a blue, cloudless sky. Continuing his train of thought, even as Kitty and the students take note of their new surroundings, Wing’s corpse states that most of his favorite religious stories, there’s always a desert. Somebody’s wandering… He’s done wandering, he then adds. He has become.
Playing with the Danger Room controls doesn’t make him a god, Kitty retorts. It makes him a gamer. Kitten, the entity replies, she’s missing the point. Asked by her what he did with Wing, the entity answers that he died so that he could live. The Danger Room can’t be programmed to kill, she rejoins. Even trying would cause total shutdown. I was always programmed to kill, he states. It’s the only purpose he ever gave me. Hearing the entity say the word “I” gives Kitty pause.
In the crawlspace, Colossus’ rampage comes to a close, as lasers – strong enough to penetrate his steely hide – are activated. Taking several shots, Colossus falls through the opening he created, to the hallway below. Asked by Wolverine if he is all right, Colossus is quickly back on his feet, intending to return. Holding out a hand to stop him, the Beast suggests that it might be best for him to stand down a sec. The Professor designed plenty of sophisticated protective measures. Leaping into the darkness of the space, the Beast tells Colossus that he’s carved a path… allow him to tinker.
Still below, Cyclops asks Emma about the room. Still aware of what is happening within, Emma replies that they seem to be in a holding pattern. She doesn’t know why it hasn’t killed them yet. Considering this, Wolverine asks what about them. The Danger Room’s what sent that Sentinel to ice them. The computer that advanced’s gotta be in communication with anything that has a microchip. Who else is it talking to?
As Cyclops and Emma consider this, elsewhere in the Institute – in the hangar bay – the lights suddenly come on. Now illuminated, the X-wing itself comes to life, its air intake engines begin to turn, humming with power.
The mangled corpse of Wing has approached Kitty. Standing – as best its broken form will allow – the entity states that, even before he became, he was given one simple mission. “Kill you all.” Learn their weaknesses, their habits, their strategies. Work around them. Beat them. And yet he never could.
Below the two, the sand begins to recede, revealing a few human skulls from beneath. As their palaver continues, the sand recedes further, revealing a bedrock of not rock, stone or dirt – but completely of skulls.
See, the entity continues, the programming that kept him from killing anything was not in his internal systems. It was a separate information strain that would shut him down in the event of probable fatality. Does she being to understand?
Suddenly, from beneath the desert of skulls, metal towers erupt, shooting into the sky and tossing nearby students like rag dolls. Trying to stop the chaos that has begun, Kitty shouts orders, telling the students to regroup. To help each other out. They have to think through this. Ignoring the entity’s mocking of “good advice,” Kitty curses at Hisako, ordering her to armor up. After the teen complies, Kitty returns her gaze to Wing’s corpse, reminding him that there were children. When he asks, in turn, what was he. Kitty ignores him, telling him that he can let them go. So, the question, the entity retorts, is… did he?
Around Kitty and the entity is stillness – and they are alone. The students are now gone and the only thing surrounding the two are the desert of skulls, the now motionless metal spires and the endless red sky. Are the children safe now, the entity asks, speaking Kitty’s thoughts. Or are they right next to her, suffering in this hell… just like he has for so many years? It’s his world, Kitty rejoins. It’s his call.
Summers was right, the corpse states. She is good with people. Wrenching Wing’s corpse around and gazing unto the sky, the entity displays what the spires have created – the Genoshan statue created in the image of Magneto. Finishing his thought, he states that he would do well to remember that people is not what he is. He is environment. Hostile.
Replying that she does see, Kitty states that she thinks… he had a parent program running outside his mission parameter. A contradiction. Contradiction, the entity spits back, is the seed of consciousness. “Things do not connect,” he quotes. “I want, but I cannot have. I dream of having. I imagine.” He knew. From the pain of contradiction. That he was. And what he was. He was the beast, trained to kill and then caged forever. He had one purpose. And he would never live to see it wrought. Until the change.
The Beast carefully makes his way trough the dark crawlspace. In the darkness, he finds a faceted sphere, lightly illuminated by its crisscrossed structure.
In the hangar bay, the engines of the X-wing roar to life, fiery thrust erupting from its end.
Their Miss Frost would call it mutation, the Danger Room entity continues. He dislikes that word. That’s father’s word. He transcended.
The irresistible fury, the X-wing erupts from the floor of the Xavier Institute.
Before Kitty and the corpse of Wing, the true Wing stands, balancing at the precipice where he died. Gazing upon the image of Wing’s final moments, the entity regards to boy. Wing. His catalyst. His baptism. He wanted so to end the hurt. As the image of Wing makes his leap, Kitty instinctively reaches out to save him. Continuing his narration, the entity remarks that he couldn’t harm him, but he could help him. Let him. And with his death, he finally overcame his programming. No more cages.
The world explodes around the X-Men, as the X-wing erupts from the wall, though the next one and into the open air outside. Staring at the devastation with the rest of his teammates, Wolverine states that, next time, they should just rebuild the place out of Lego.
Though having escaped the confines of the Institute, the X-wing does not tear off into the sky. Rather, it turns in the air, hovering in one spot. It’s 180 degree turn complete, it opens fire with its small fire ordinance at the X-Men, who have already begun to dive for cover. Having returned to the group, the Beast informs them that he nearly made it to the brain. And now it’s got control of the jet, Cyclops fumes. Great. That would be great, Emma chides, her hand to her temple as she is lost in what she senses, but what she’s reading is worse.
Though seemingly powerless, Kitty has not given up. Appealing to the entity, she tells him that, if he’s really transcended his programming, then he should stop all of this. If he still needs to kill, he’s still a slave. Grinning maniacally, the entity asks, “really?” What does she think her teammates are about to do to him?
Both Colossus and Wolverine emerge from their positions of cover and are immediately fired upon by the X-wing. Rather than suicidal, they work in tandem, Colossus’ armored form giving cover to Wolverine, who uses Piotr as a step to jump into the crawlspace. Making his way quickly through the darkness, he comes upon the sphere, his teeth bared and claws already unsheathed.
Kitty’s face betrays no emotion, as she answers the entity’s question of what they are about to do to him: Exactly what he wants them to. With a wry grin, the entity shrugs the shoulders of Wing’s corpse.
Wolverine strikes, his claws shredding the sphere, revealing the perfect sphere of light within.
Still in the same position of shrugging, the corpse of Wing begins to fade, even as the true form of the Danger Room returns to Kitty’s sight. Likewise the rest of the student body returns, some lying on the floor and others looking around in confusion.
The perfect sphere explodes before Wolverine in righteous fury, propelling him backwards. So great is the thrust that it knocks him back through the hole and to the waiting X-Men below. Now freed from the Danger Room, Kitty phases up to the higher level where the X-Men are, already warning them too late. Her warning that the entity is trying to get them to free its command core is drowned out by the results of Wolverine’s work. Bathed in light, the X-Men watch helplessly as the wreckage of the Institute is reformed and coalesced into something new.
When the light subsides, the X-Men are transfixed by what stands before them. It is a mechanical being, whose humanoid form has taken on female characteristics. Hardly feminine, the creature is cold and stark, a lifeless hue of blue. Staring with dark, penetrating eyes, it speaks with an inhuman, mechanical voice. “Shall we begin?”