(Avengers Academy, student lounge)
Wiz-Kid, Hazmat, Ricochet and X-23 are gathered together to discuss recent events at the school. Wiz-Kid explains that he’s asked them to come because they have something in common. They are students, but they are also mutants. He explains that the Avengers being at war with the X-Men puts them in a difficult position. When they brought all the X-kids over for ‘protective custody,’ it got worse. He asks if anyone else is uncomfortable acting as prison guards for folks just like them.
Hazmat raises her hand and informs him that she isn’t a mutant, but Wiz-Kid replies that it might be true, but she is Japanese. People rounded up because of their race, imprisoned over some perceived loyalty to the enemy, even when they haven’t done anything wrong? “Sound familiar?” he asks. Hazmat knows what he’s talking about… the internment camps from World War II. She asks if he’s seriously going there. Her great-grandfather was in one, crammed together with three families and no heat. These kids have rooms with cable and the internet! Ricochet says that a comfortable cage is still a cage. However, the guys from X-Men’s science club are going along with it.
Wiz-Kid reckons they might not have much choice. It bugs him. He turns to Laura and tells her that she knows both sides better than any of them. What does she think? Ricochet points out that she is Wolverine junior and he’s the one who brought the kids to them in the first place. He knows where she stands. “Do you?” asks Laura as she walks away. “I wish you would tell me.”
Hercules is preparing for a fight by taping up a golden shield. Tigra holds his helmet and informs those present that Sebastian Shaw broke out of his cell two minutes ago. Hercules says the miscreant cannot escape the Mighty Hercules, but Madison Jeffries wishes escape was their greatest concern. He explains that Shaw broke through into the storm drains which empty into the ocean. But, the security web at sea level hasn’t detected him which means he is still there. He explains that Shaw is one of the X-Men’s deadliest enemies. He converts energy into physical power, but it’s his ruthlessness that sets him apart. His memory was recently wiped and he’s supposedly been trying to build a new life, but he’s just learned the truth about the man he once was… in detail. Dr. Rao adds that if escape wasn’t his motive they must conclude that it was revenge, specifically against Emma Frost who erased his memories. The worst thing that ever happened to Emma was when her students were killed. Shaw knows how much that hurt her and how much it would hurt if it happened again.
Madison reckons they should evacuate the students, but Tigra thinks that it might play right into his hands. After a recent attack, Giant-Man upgraded their defenses. Each dorm-room has its own protection. This is the most secure location in Southern California. Their security web frees them to look for Shaw and can help them find him. Hercules says that, even so, they should alert the students. They are warriors. Again, Tigra disagrees. She feels that the situation is too tense and this could be the spark that tips them into chaos.
Dr. Rao agrees with her. Several of the students consider Shaw a friend and only know him as a harmless, befuddled amnesiac. They may try and help him. Tigra thinks that’s even more of a reason to take him down. She asks Dr. Rao to stay there and coordinate their efforts. The rest of them will fan out. Madison tells them that if they find him they should sound the alarm before engaging him. Their powers match up well against him but they should underestimate Shaw at their peril. He believes one can erase a man’s memories but you can’t erase who he truly is and history proves Shaw is two things - he’s a survivor and a killer!
Outside, Hazmat catches up with X-23, who asks what they will decide. Hazmat replies with sarcasm that they’ll decide that they love to listen to themselves talk, but she knows they’re kinda worried that Laura will narc on them. Laura assures her that she won’t. Hazmat asks what she meant when she said she was conflicted. Is she conflicted or does she honestly not know how she feels about stuff? Laura replies that she was raised to obey orders and to suppress her feelings. It’s hard for most people to understand. Hazmat says she might be surprised, but adds that in the end, Laura went her own way, yes? Laura tells her that she did in matters of death and survival, but she has difficulty with more nuanced situations.
They look down and see Mettle surfing again in Loa’s wake. Hazmat says that it’s one of the things she likes about Ken. He just knows how he feels and he puts it right out there. It’s so pure. The X-kids and academy kids might be all ‘West Side Story’ but he and Loa don’t care. They’re surfing. It must be a Hawaiian thing. Laura replies by asking if it makes her happy that she relates to him on this level. “Of course,” replies Hazmat, explaining that he missed surfing so much and Loa found a way to let him do it again. Laura then asks why Jenny becomes angry when she speaks to him.
Jenny admits that it’s stupid. It all started when ‘evil’ Reptil said something about her and Ken hooking up just to mess with her head. Ken killed someone in the war against the serpent. Does she know what that’s like? She then remembers who she’s talking to and says the whole Ken thing has nothing to do with her. They were getting hot and heavy when she freaked out and ran away. It wasn’t him, though, she adds. Her powers first kicked in when she was with her old boyfriend and he almost died of a seizure. She can’t stop seeing it, especially when she’s with Ken. He’s immune to her powers and she knows that in her head, but it doesn’t change how she feels.
Jenny knows that Ken thinks she’s lying and that it’s all about his looks, but it’s really not. He’s such a sweet guy and he really cares about her, so maybe she should just suck it up. Laura disagrees. She thinks that if it feels wrong she shouldn’t do it; not to please someone else. She will lessen herself. “What if I lose him?” asks Hazmat. Laura replies that she will be sad, but she will be strong. Hazmat reckons Laura knows pretty damn well how she feels about things. She’d say her problem is is that she doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and she knows what they say. It’s all small stuff!
(the lower storm drains)
Madison Jeffries has armored up and is scanning the tunnels, wading through a few inches of water in search of Sebastian Shaw. He radios back to Dr. Rao that he’s picked up his trail. There isn’t much tech down there but what there is reads him headed towards the main generators. It looks like he’s trying to cripple the security web.
From nowhere, Shaw swings from an overhead pipe and kicks Jeffries. He informs him that he is indeed headed there. But, with him around to fix them there wouldn’t be much point. Jeffries stands and replies that Shaw has expended a lot of energy smashing his way into the tunnels. Grabbing him with cables from the wall, he adds that he bets Shaw was betting on him recharging him. Well, he can stop Shaw without hitting him. Shaw then snaps an electric cable and walks into it. He tells Jeffries that he has a common misconception about his powers. It’s true that kinetic energy works best, but he can absorb any form of energy... including electricity. He smashes Jeffries in the face and his armored helmet is ripped from his head. “I’m shutting this place down, and you with it,” exclaims Shaw. Jeffries radios for back up, but Shaw finishes him off before continuing his journey.
Up above, Reptil chats with Finesse. He tells her that he saw the future and they were together. They are meant to be together. Finesse replies that he saw a possible future, one of many. It has minimal bearing on their lives. Humberto admits that he thought, time-travel aside, that there was something between them. Finesse replies that there was, but the more he tries to limit her choices, the weaker it becomes. X-23 appears and wishes to speak to Finesse. Reptil tells her he hasn’t finished, but Finesse says they have and Reptil leaves, disappointed.
The two girls head to the research library and Laura informs Finesse that she needs more information on the dispute between the X-Men and the Avengers. Finesse access the computer and brings up an image of Jean Grey as Dark Phoenix. She explains that she was the first Earthbound host of the Phoenix. Laura replies that Wolverine loved her too and it hurts him to speak of her. Finesse says Jean Grey couldn’t control the Phoenix Force and the central question seems to be whether it’s presumed the new host, Hope, can.
There are two schools of thought, she continues. Some believe that Hope is the savior of mutantkind and that she will use the Phoenix to create a utopia. The time-traveler Bishop, whose face appears on the monitor, believed that she would kill a million human beings in an instant - bringing about a dark future. X-23 says she is acquainted with Hope. What she seeks is hard data supporting either position. Finesse admits that there is none. It is all conjecture and speculation. The X-Men believe Hope can control the Phoenix Force and the Avengers do not. They want to hide her from it. Ultimately, they are all motivated by their own instincts and emotions.
Laura tells her that she is used to relying on her instincts, but in this case it isn’t working. Finesse replies that history supports the Avengers’ position. In the past, hosts have been corrupted by the Phoenix. But, that’s not what is bothering Laura is it? She wants to decide whether she stands with her current classmates or her former ones. Laura admits that she dislikes seeing them held against their will. She understands that it’s for their protection but it’s also true that if left alone they would likely endanger themselves. It’s ridiculous to compare it to internment camps or prisons, but it’s also not far from the mark. Finesse tells her that the choice is being taken away from them. Laura knows this, but she is concerned that her own emotions and prejudices, having been confined most of her life, are affecting her feelings. Finesse replies that this is not her area of expertise, but perhaps they should. Laura thanks her and says she doesn’t know why the others call her cold. Finesse asks if she’s helped Laura make a decision. They look down at the two opposing sides squaring off against each other. “Not yet,” replies Laura.
Shaw is making his way through the subbasement when he hears a voice come out of thin air ordering him to surrender. Shaw turns and sees no one, but figures it’s Hercules using magic to remain invisible. He asks if he is afraid to face him man to man. Hercules replies no, but there are children’s lives at stake and he can take no risks. Shaw smashes him in the face which makes him visible again. “You did that by talking, idiot,” snarls Shaw.
The Helm of Hades, the helmet that rendered him invisible is knocked clean off. Hercules figures it’s just as well. Subterfuge in battle offends his honor. Shaw tells him he understands that Hercules used to be his match, but now he’s barely stronger than a normal man. Hercules replies that he understands nothing. He tears the tape from the Shield of Perseus and informs Shaw that it turns any man to stone. Shaw simply closes his eyes and knocks the shield from his grasp.
Shaw tells Hercules that he quite well educated, apparently, and he knows what the gaze of Gorgon does. Hercules then pulls out the Sword of Peleus, stating that it can cut through anything and has little force for Shaw to turn against him. He slashes at Shaw, but when the blade connects it charges him up. Shaw laughs and finds it interesting that it appears he can absorb some magical energy as well. He smashes Herc into the ground, suggesting that next time he tries a normal sword.
Up above, Reptil, Striker and White Tiger confront some of the X-students, with Reptil asking what part of ‘confined to campus’ they don’t understand. Surge replies that they understand it, they just don’t accept it. She’s heard good things about Roscoe’s chicken and waffles and figures she’ll go get some. Do they think they can stop her? Mettle and Loa arrive and Ken tries to calm things down. He thought they were cool. Velocidad replies that they’re not. Most of them can actually tell when they are being discriminated against.
Reptil asks the approaching Lightspeed to call Tigra but she says she has tried. The comms are down. The White Tiger warns the students that this is not a fight they want. They are outnumbered. However, Ricochet, Wiz-Kid and Hollow appear and Johnny informs her that, actually, they are with the X-kids. They stand with them, but Crosta has had enough. He exclaims that he is Atlantean and cares nothing for their surface disputes. Great change is coming, he adds. Salvation or destruction, he must stand with his people.
As he leaps towards the water, Juston Seyfert’s Sentinel catches him and closes its fingers around him. It asks Crosta politely not to leave the school grounds. Surge can’t believe that they have a Sentinel. Reptil knows this could be trouble and wonders where the heck Tigra is.
Tigra is busy confronting Sebastian Shaw who points out that her self-powered defenses are impressive but useless. She warns him that he isn’t getting anywhere near the kids, but he asks if she really thinks she can stop him. “I know I can,” she replies as she leaps over him and wraps her arms around his neck in a choke position. She tells him she doesn’t need to hit him. She doesn’t care how tough he is. His brain needs blood and if she pinches off the carotid arteries and jugular veins, he’s going down. Shaw leaps backwards and smashes her against the wall, taking them both right through it. She releases her grip as she falls unconscious. He rubs his neck and tells her that, of all of them, she came the closest to stopping him. However, nothing is going to keep him from this.
Meanwhile, as the Sentinel defends itself from the students, Lightspeed remarks that they kept a Sentinel on campus! Knowing what they represent? Reptil replies that he told Juston to keep it out of sight, but he needed him to secure the perimeter. The thing is built to detect mutants. As Dust flies over it trying to block its vision, she corrects Reptil in that it’s built to kill mutants. Juston, at its controls, assures Dust that it’s not like that anymore. “Destroy all mutants,” states the Sentinel. Juston nervously informs them that he just says that when he’s over-stimulated. Surge powers up and says she’ll melt its brain, but Wiz-Kid leaps to its defense and tells her it’s a good Sentinel. They play basketball…
Transonic topples Wiz-Kid from his chair and asks everyone to decide what side they’re on. X-23 leaps towards the Sentinel and replies that she has. She points out that there are sound reasons behind the Avengers bringing them there but many of them might make stupid choices if they left on their own. But, to deny them those choices because they are young… that isn’t right. She rips into the glass behind which Juston sits and the Sentinel says, “Alert. Protect Juston.” X-23 replies that it can protect him if it likes, but if it strikes her it might hit Juston. She assures him that she won’t hurt him, but he’s going to have to take the Sentinel away from there… Now! Juston can take a hint and he walks the Sentinel into the sea out of harm’s way.
Hazmat asks X-23 if she’s turning against them after they accepted her. From what she’s heard, they never did. With everyone gathered around, Laura replies that they did accept her and Jenny helped her reach a decision. She understands why the Avengers brought the X-kids to the academy. There are, she adds, too many ways to justify something that is wrong, but they don’t change the fact that it is wrong. There are few things more precious you can take from someone than their free will.
“I couldn’t agree more,” replies Sebastian Shaw, who now stands above them, chest bared. “Hello children. How convenient to find you all here.”