Night time, a forest of barren trees. A thin man is running panicked. Beneath his feet, the ground seems strangely fleshy. He jumps down. Behind him are armed men in strange body armor.
Stop. Just stop now! one of them orders. He fires his rifle and the shockwave sends the fugitive flying to the ground. Don’t! he asks, don’t make him-- Please don’t make him… Blue energy begins to crackle around him…
Another day, a bustling east-African town. Within the hospital, a frustrated woman is giving birth. Get it out of me! she shouts. That’s why they’re all here, getting the full force of her charm, the unfazed doctor replies wryly and tells her to push.
The woman shouts in pain and curses her nervous husband. She can’t believe she let him put something the size of a goat’s head inside of her. Pleadingly, he replies he didn’t know the condom would split. His father had used it for twenty years without a problem. She should have let her father use the farm tools on him like he wanted, she replies with another final scream as finally the baby is born.
What is it? What is it? the father asks anxiously. It’s a baby, you fool, the doctor replies. He has a son! the father shouts. He will teach him everything he knows! Well, that’s the first twenty-four hours of his life taken care of, the doctor addresses the serene looking baby boy. He’s a tough little man, isn’t he? Not a sound after the longest journey of his life so far. The couple look at each other happily.
Suddenly, the baby begins to crackle with electricity. Moments later, the hospital explodes.
The X-Men’s HQ in San Francisco:
Storm’s still rather basic quarters:
While she peels an apple she is conversing with her husband, the Black Panther, via video conference. Is that really her room? he asks. It looks like a cell. The current headquarters is somewhat basic, she replies. Good morning to you too, my love. early evening in Wakanda, he tells her. And he’s afraid this all is an instrument of continental diplomacy rather than the usual pathetic entreaties of a lonely husband.
Ororo reminds him that he agreed she should spend some time with X-Men. In fact, she thinks it may even have been his idea. So she’d like him to believe, he replies wryly. Seriously, a situation came to his attention this afternoon that he needs her help with. She becomes more serious as he begins to describe the problem.
Since he puts money into Mutantes sans Frontieres and MSF now funds the X-Men it’s really MSF territory and so it’s tricky. But he would want her view of the situation on the ground to be the primary one. And he thinks it’s X-Men business. She knows what east Africa can be like about news. The reports he’s getting are three weeks old. Something’s happening in Mbangawi…
Soon, Ororo – dressed in two towels – has gathered Cyclops, Beast, Armor, Wolverine and Emma Frost into the kitchen, all of them still very tired as she describes the situation in Mbangawi, more precisely a village name Karere. They are experiencing a spate of what are being described as mutant births.
Now Henry is paying attention and asks for details. Spotty, she replies. It’s not a part of the world where information moves very well. One child is reported to have incinerated what passes for a hospital in Karere. Stories of boneless babies born with speech. Babies who are literally difficult to see, who vibrate and are partially insubstantial. Babies who hang in the air like balloons. Babies who vomit acid.
Armor looks shocked, and the others attentive. Ororo continues that the birthrate is way above what it should be and even assuming fifty percent of these reports are confused, people there are not equipped to deal with this kind of thing. They need help and the situation demands investigation.
What are the odds of one African town having mutant births? Scott wonders. Henry corrects him. First point: Africa is not a country. Two: they cannot possibly be mutants! The X-gene powers up at puberty, not birth. So this is something else. That alone makes it worth their time.
Logan protests that he doesn’t see what makes it their business. The same thing that always makes it their business, Ororo replies. That no one else cares! This ain’t on them, he insists. Cyclops decides curtly that they go in. But not in costume and not like soldiers. Field gear only. Let’s try not to scare these people. He tells Henry to get on the line to Warren and Paige to see if they can get a Mutantes Sans Frontieres team in there.
While the others leave, he asks Ororo to stay. He turns away as if preparing what to say. Not being completely stupid, he knows that Africa is a continent, not a country. That said, he thinks they are going to be following her lead a lot here. He knows she was born in New York City, doesn’t he? she replies wryly. To a Kenyan princess and an African-American photographer, and she spent the best part of ten years in the Serengeti being worshipped as a raingoddess, he continues undeterred. She was joking, Ororo points out. He knew that. He also recognizes… He rehearsed that in his head first, didn’t he? she asks with a smile…
While he also recognizes, Scott continues that the Serengeti too, isn’t Africa, he’s leading two white Americans, a white Canadian, a Japanese girl and a white woman of indeterminate ancestry who speaks in a fake English accent into an African country. So if she doesn’t mind a little more consultation than usual… He’ll consult her? She may faint, Ororo replies. She’s been spending too much time with Emma, he accuses her. Doesn’t that accent of hers…bother him? she asks. No, he replies with a smile. That smile may have been too much information.
The team gets ready and meets in the hangar. All of them are wearing khaki pants and shirts styled like the original X-Men uniforms and baseball caps with an X-logo. Save for Emma, of course, who is wearing a white tight microdress with thigh-high boots in what could be considered a similar style. How come they all have to wear Scott’s GI Joe uniform of the week and Emma gets to wear what she likes? Logan protests. If he were sleeping with the leader of the pack, she’s sure he could wear whatever he wanted, Emma informs him. Presumably a fresh animal skin of some kind. Cyclops comforts Wolverine with the hope that there’s beer on the plane.
Aboard the plane, Armor teases Logan that he’s drinking already. Shaddap! He tells her gruffly. What’s his problem? Hisako asks. Never known a trip to that part of the world that didn’t go bad the second his feet touched the dirt, comes the reply. How so? she asks.
He calls up a holographic map and shows her the surrounding countries. Rwanda to the west. Genocide, corruptions, journalists being disappeared. Burundi to the southwest. Cold war, child soldiers, one of the poorest countries on Earth. Uganda to the north. A million and a half people are refugees in their own country. The army abducts little girls for “wives.” Tanzania to the east. Massive drugs gateway. One in ten people have HIV. All that on either side and Mbangawi’s even got to deal with pirates on Lake Victoria. Mbangawi is like craphouse central!
Emma, who’s been listening in, joins the conversation. It could be worse, she points out. They installed a new leader a few years ago. Educated at Eton, no less. Dr. Joshua N’Dingi. Doctor Crocodile, Logan uses his nickname. ’S what they call him, he explains to Hisako. Burned up in a car accident in England. Got a permanent half-mask where the skingrafts didn’t take and what did take looks kinda scaly.
He’s done wonders for the country, apparently, Emma points out. Yeah? Where is he today, then? Logan asks. Far as they can determine he has to leave the country for a month of every year for medical maintenance. He would have just left when this whole thing started. Convenient, Logan replies.
Let’s get on the ground and see what’s happening before they decide to apportion blame, Emma suggests. Why wait? Wolverine shoots back. African heads of state are all the same. Put ‘em in power and they all go nuts. Nelson Mandela? Emma points out mildly as she moves in closer. Armor makes a gagging noise at being threatened by Emma’s breasts.
Logan turns to her. Let him tell her something about Nelson Mandela. He ran a guerilla war—which means he ran kill teams. Civilians died. What do they call that kind of person in the United States? A terrorist? Hisako replies, hesitating. Don’t sound so surprised, he replies. Give the man credit. He copped to it himself. “I do not deny that I have planned sabotage. I planned it as a result of a calm ad sober assessment of the political situation.” Ain’t no saints in Africa, is all he’s saying. Know how Mandela got caught in the end? No, but he’s going to tell her, Armor fears. The CIA told the South African security forces where he was.
Taking away his cap, Emma announces that she does so enjoy Mr. Logan’s little history lessons. He’d actually make a good teacher. If he could get over his alarming predilection for making students wee themselves in the Danger Room.
Sitting in the front, Cyclops tells Storm not to listen to Logan. She always listens to Logan, she replies surprisingly. He’s wiser than Scott ever wants to admit. Scott should know better. So should he, Cyclops retorts. Last time they were out, Scott talked about Zimbabwe, Ororo reminds him, and he was right, too! Robert Mugabe. “Let me be a Hitler tenfold”, he said and then actually grew himself a Hitler moustache. Scott would be shocked at some of the reports T’Challa and she get from there. Not the sort of thing that makes the western news services.
This is going to be very close to home for her in a lot of ways, she confides. The Serengeti’s on the other side of Lake Victoria from Mbangawi. She’ll almost be able to-- Scott interrupts her, telling her to look out of the window to her right. She looks out in surprise and wonder to see the Serengeti below her.
He took the long way round, Scott explains. Looped over Narok, so he could come back the other way and give her a good long look. Ororo thanks him and takes his hand.
What’s all this then, Emma shouts mock-scandalized and orders Ororo to unhand her property at once. Grinning, Ororo tells her to shush and pulls her to the window. Just look at this with her. Hmm, Emma announces critically. No shops, no room service within a thousand miles, no hotels that haven’t been fashioned from twigs and elephant dung… no, she just doesn’t see the appeal.
Soon the plane lands. Okay, Scott reminds them. Mutantes Sans Frontiers have their team here. The idea is to get a sitrep from them and then decide what their first move is. Scott tells the others disembark first. Beast explains that their main concern is eliminating the possibility of some mutagen in the environment. Any number of things could be affecting the birth rate, and God only knows what may be lurking in the water table, if not the food chain itself. Not to mention… guns.
What about guns? Scott asks, bringing up the rear along with Ororo. Guns can’t… “Oh,” he mouths a moment later, as he steps out of the plane and sees they are surrounded by young soldiers with guns pointed at them. So, he’s thinking this’d be a good time to consult with Ororo about African things.