(Palo Verdes, former home of the West Coast Avengers, California)
Hank Pym is in his laboratory and feeling pretty distraught about what’s happened to Jocasta. She lies on the operating table, unconscious and the worse for wear after a recent attack that has debilitated her. Tigra and Quicksilver enter the lab. Tigra tells Hank that she loves him and realizes he’s been up to his neck in weird pretty much his entire adult life, but doesn’t he think dissecting his dead ex-girlfriend is crossing a line?
Hank appreciates her concern, but he rejects the premise of her question. Dissection is performed on biological organisms. Jocasta is a machine intelligence. He’s not sure she can actually die at all. He intends to find a way to restore her. And, he adds, it’s imperative that he learns who attacked her. They either have a traitor or an infiltrator. All their students are in danger.
Pietro agrees. But, what Tigra is too tactful to say is that they feel Hank’s emotions may be clouding his judgment. He’s too close to the situation to be objective. Hank’s been at this for days. Has he found anything? Hank leans back and rubs his forehead, slightly exasperated. He replies that he’s only found traces of electromagnetic energy and it’s a form he cannot identify, even after searching alien databanks. He reckons Pietro’s right. He does need help and he is too close to this. He should have realized sooner. But, to do that, he says Pietro needs to put aside his feelings. With the mention of electromagnetic energy, Pietro suddenly realizes what Hank may be asking.
Outside in the basketball court, the original team is playing with the new students, boys versus girls. Reptil, Finesse, Mettle, Hazmat, Striker, the White Tiger, Lightspeed, Wiz Kid and Batwing enjoy pitting their strengths against one another. As Finesse passes to White Tiger, Lightspeed gets caught up in the moment. “Go White Tiger. Go team girls!” she cries. Reptil resorts to cheating and gets a ticking off from Julie Power.
The White Tiger tells Reptil that she doesn’t mind playing hard but, from the first minute they arrived, he’s been hating on her. Why doesn’t he man up and tell her to her face what his problem is? Humberto replies bluntly that they shouldn’t be there. Her brother, the original White Tiger was a hero who he looked up to. For him, he’s the White Tiger. He reckons she has a long way to go before she deserves the name. She replies nonchalantly that his comments are fair enough. She can prove herself to him all day long.
Before their bickering can continue, Batwing and Wiz Kid fly over and Batwing asks them to follow. As they head off, Hazmat asks Whiz Kid, or ‘Asian stereotype boy’ as she calls him, what’s got him so worked up. A new Scientific American? “The name’s Wiz Kid, sullen teen stereotype,” he replies, “And if you haven’t heard…” Batwing interjects. “Magneto’s coming, Hazmat! Magneto’s coming here.” Finesse’s face lights up.
Magneto has arrived in Palo Verdes along with the leader of the Uncanny X-Men Cyclops and Scott’s girlfriend Emma Frost. Hank Pym thanks Scott for coming. He shakes Hank’s hand and thanks him for putting up with the news copters. Given recent events, it only helps them to be seen cooperating with the Avengers. And, adds Magneto, since Hank wasn’t among the Avengers who plotted to murder his daughter, he’s glad to help. “Ah, right,” says Cyclops nervously. He turns and looks up at Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel who dominate the skyline. He asks Hank if that’s a Sentinel. “Destroy all mutants,” says the Sentinel. Juston bangs it with his elbow. “Fzzatt… welcome honored guests.” Hank thinks it best they go inside.
Meanwhile, Magneto and his son Quicksilver greet each other and Magneto asks if he’s well. Pietro replies that he’s not insane, if that’s what he’s implying. Magneto assures him that he didn’t mean anything by the remark, but Pietro asks how his plans to destroy the X-Men from within are proceeding. Magneto isn’t pleased with the comment, and asks Hank to let them be about their business.
As they walk away, Pietro tells Finesse that Magneto‘s there in the flesh. The man she blackmailed him into teaching her his methods. How does he strike her now that she’s seen him in person? She looks at Magneto leave and replies, “Old. Old and sad.” Pietro heads to the Academy and tells her that he fooled her and she has disappointed him. She’s disappointed him greatly.
As the group enters the building, Hawkeye grabs Hank and tells him that he’s with Pietro on this. Magneto and the White Queen? It looks like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to him. He mentions that Wolverine took all the X-Men he trusts and split from these guys. Some kind of philosophical disagreement, Wolverine said, but he smells a rat. Does Hank remember when Magneto brain-zapped the X-Men into fighting them? Hank appreciates Clint’s concern, but he explains that he consulted Wolverine on this and he vouches for them both. They, of all people, surely cannot begrudge someone a second chance.
“Second chance,” replies Clint. Magneto’s had like thirty! How many more times are they gonna get burned before they stop cooking naked? Hank reckons that if he can tell him who attacked Jocasta, he’ll take his chances. She asks Clint to stay and supervise the students. Things are tense enough with Pietro in there. Clint turns his back and shouts to anyone who’s listening that they’re gonna work on resisting mind control today, for no particular reason. Watching from a distance, Reptil knows that Finesse wants to know what the teachers are talking about. Well, so does he. With her lip-reading and his ability to morph his ears into a pterosaur’s, they should go find out.
Inside, Emma Frost suggests a mind scan of everyone on campus to see if the perpetrator is among them. Pietro tells her they don’t violate their student’s privacy. Hank admits that he hoped Emma could do a surface scan for hostile thoughts. Emma does as he wishes and immediately senses a fair amount of mystical energy, notably from Reptil, White Tiger and Tigra. She tells Tigra that she adores her outfit. She shouldn’t let anyone ever tell her it’s inappropriate for a teacher. She adds that the magic creates interference and makes it tricky to skim thoughts. She’ll need to probe people one by one, in depth. Hank says that’s more invasive than he’d hoped, but necessary if there’s a traitor among them.
He decides to assemble the students and asks Magneto to analyze the trace energy that remains. “Certainly,” replies Magneto, “After we discuss terms.” Cyclops is surprised by this, but Magneto explains that, in return for his aid, his son must agree to no longer involve himself in mutant affairs. He’s sorry, but he feels Pietro has done enough damage. Pietro snaps back, pointing out that mutants are his people. Magneto’s the one who damaged their cause, not him! Magneto replies that it’s clear they don’t teach history at the school. It was Pietro who coerced his sister into warping reality to create an entirely new world, and when it collapsed in her despair, she nearly exterminated mutantkind altogether.
Pietro stutters as he replies that he was trying to save her. Magneto was the one who gave her up. He would have let Wolverine kill her. Magneto says he doesn’t dispute Pietro’s intentions, but he does dispute his judgment and mental stability. He tried to fix his mistakes and restore mutant’s powers with the Inhuman’s Terrigen Mists and failed, causing war between them and Earth. “That wasn’t me,” replies Pietro. “It was a Skrull.” Magneto thinks not. A shape-changing alien masquerading as him was responsible for all his misdeeds? He thinks not. A child could see through his lies. Indeed, one did, or is there some other reason Luna won’t speak to him? Tigra is surprised and asks if this is true. Pietro lowers his head and doesn’t respond.
The conversation is watched and listened to by Reptil and Finesse, who is shocked by the revelation. Acting instinctively, Finesse smashes through the observation booth window and hurls her Billy club at Magneto, striking him in the face. Magneto responds by using electric cables to grab her and hold her tight. She shouts down at him that Pietro learned everything he taught him and tried to be exactly what Magneto wanted. Magneto asks his son if he knows her but Pietro strikes him in his anger, sending him crashing into another window. “Don’t you touch her!” he snaps. “You poison everything you touch. Wanda! Me! I won’t let you corrupt her too!”
Hank tries to grab Pietro but Magneto pins him against the wall with a large machine and tells him it’s a family affair so he shouldn’t interfere. Cyclops asks Emma to put a stop to this, but Emma jokes that she thinks she could get them a show on Bravo. “Emma!” replies Scott, unimpressed with her timing. Emma says all right, but before she can use her mental abilities, she is struck from behind by Reptil who uses his tail like a club in his dinosaur form. He tells the others that they attacked Finesse so they should take them down.
Cyclops blasts Reptil, but the commotion is heard outside and Hawkeye acts quickly. He grabs an explosive arrow from his quiver and fires it inside. The X-Men and Avengers are blown off the ground as Hawkeye yells “Avengers Assemble.” The kids look on, wondering what’s going on. Whiz Kid is torn as he’s not only a student but he’s also a mutant. Hazmat tells him to pick a side, but Lightspeed reminds them that they’re supposed to be on the same side.
“Big shock, you can’t decide which team to play for,” Hazmat quips. Julie starts to ask what that’s supposed to mean, but Hazmat reckons she knows full well. Her ‘Go, Team Girls’ line, her rainbow trail. No boyfriends in the twenty-first century! She admits she isn’t phobic but Julie should accept who she is.
Magneto finds the student’s charging towards him arrogant, telling any teacher listening that the X-Men prepare their students for war whilst they play dress-up. He uses his abilities to hurl training equipment in their way. Finesse kicks him from behind, asking him why, if he‘s such a great teacher, are his kids so damaged? She tells him he tried to destroy Pietro but he won’t give up. He’s a better teacher than he ever was. Magneto cracks open a pipeline and a gaseous cloud pushes Finesse to the floor, but Quicksilver recovers from the explosion and rushes towards his father. Magneto tells Finesse that maybe he is a great teacher to inspire such loyalty. Perhaps he underestimates him.
Pietro begins to run around his father quickly in order to create a vacuum whilst Cyclops destroys one of Hawkeye’s arrows in mid-air and asks him to listen, but Clint asks him to snap out of it. Emma’s mind-controlling him. He knew someone who dresses like that couldn’t stop being a bad guy. Bikini-wearing Tigra steps in and barks, “Oh, really? What does that make me then. Dr. Doom?” She adds that no one’s controlling anyone. This is all just testosterone-fuelled nonsense. Emma agrees, and now that her headache is down to moderate hangover level, she’ll freeze everyone in their tracks.
She turns to Magneto and tells him she can’t stop him thanks to the helmet he pretends he wears to block mind control rather than to hide his grey hair. But, surely he perceives the drawbacks of a former mutant terrorist being seen fighting the All-American Avengers. Magneto replies that public opinion means nothing to him, but Emma asks if the same goes for his son.
With everyone except Emma, Magneto, Tigra and Hank frozen in their tracks, Magneto asks if she wants him to admit that he was a poor parent. Emma replies that Medea was a poor parent. She killed her children. He seems intent on torturing his for eternity. Emma brings everyone out of her control and Magneto removes his helmet and says they have both made mistakes but he is attempting to atone for his. He tells Pietro that he cannot help him. He is a grown man and will not let him. Perhaps he has forfeited the right to try. But, he adds, he must do what he can to prevent the damage he did to him from hurting others.
Pietro asks if he really thinks so little of him, but Magneto replies, “No. Of myself.” Pietro then suggests that in future, before involving himself in mutant affairs, he will consult with a fellow mutant they both trust. Storm perhaps, or Beast. But it will never be him. Take it or leave it.” Magneto turns his head away and tells Pym that they should get this over with.
They head inside and Magneto stand over Jocasta with his fingers extended, manipulating the energies radiating from her robotic body. He finds it interesting. The energy, he explains, is not simply electromagnetic. It’s also rife with tachyons and a variety of antiparticles. He would hypothesize that energy of this nature could be used to create portals across great distances, between dimensions or even through time. Hank reckons that Jocasta’s attacker likely wasn’t one of them. It could have been someone from another era or plane. Kang, perhaps. Even Ultron. Given that, he tells Emma to hold off the mind-probing. He can’t justify that kind of invasion of privacy, especially towards minors, without an imminent threat.
Magneto can see he’s provided no answers and far more questions and he apologizes for that. Hank assures him that he did what he was asked to do. “Did I?” he replies, looking at Pietro. He guesses there is no reason to linger, so they make their way outside. As they head to the Blackbird, Tigra stands Reptil and Finesse in Magneto’s way and tells him they have something to say. She explains that they’re not usually ones to start a fight, especially Reptil. He knows better. They will be disciplined for what they did. “Sorry,” says Reptil, a little sheepishly.
Magneto says he would prefer they not be disciplined. They were protecting their own kind from outsiders, and he finds that an admirable quality. He tells Finesse that she has an intense stare. Is there something she would like to say to him? She asks outright if he really hired assassins to attack his son and his sister in their sleep. Magneto leans in towards her and whisper in her ear. “They were under orders not to injure them. But don’t tell him that.”
Hank speaks with Scott and he wonders if, given what happened, if they are fostering isolation – an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Maybe they should promote more fraternization between their schools. Basketball games, say, like the East and West Coast Avengers used to have. Scott replies no offense, but he’s not running a school. He’s preparing his kids to survive genocide. They don’t have time for baseball. However, Wolverine feels differently. He took half the kids and reopened their old school in Westchester. He may wish to call him. He might think it’s a good idea.
Later, Quicksilver hits the tennis court and plays a game against himself, running from end to end. Finesse arrives, but Pietro says that while he appreciates her coming to his defense earlier, he’d prefer to be alone. She replies that his father is intimidating, but he defied him and stood up to him when he was just a kid. Pietro informs her that it was Wanda who gave him the courage to do that. He knew he had to do it for them. For her. Finesse grabs a racket and replies that she always did what her parents wanted. It didn’t change anything. It just made them want more. Pietro replies that they are criminals like his father. He feels it’s best to put any thought of having a normal relationship with them out of her mind... as for as that is possible.
Finesse strikes the ball and Pietro sprints after it. She tells him she’s been thinking. She doesn’t want him to teach her to be like Magneto anymore. “Hallelujah,” he replies, returning the ball. She then tells him she’d like him to teach her to be more like him. He says all right then, but she’ll have to work on her serve for one thing. She has all the grace of a construction worker with a sledgehammer!