(Avengers Academy, south campus border)
Juston Seyfert stands on the cliff top, eye-to-eye with his giant Sentinel. He has a tool box with him because his Sentinel is in a bit of a mess. He intends to fix it but the robot reminds him that it is capable of self-repair. Juston replies that he knows it is, but he makes the repairs look good. As he prepares to light the blowtorch, the Sentinel detects a hostile mutant threat. Juston assures it that they are at the academy now. The mutants are their friends. However, he hears a snikt and quickly turns around to see X-23 standing there. She tells him that they need to talk about his Sentinel.
Juston admits that things got a little weird the other day. It was a bad idea to have him guard the mutant kids as he knows what Sentinels mean to them. “They exist to exterminate us,” she replies. Juston assures her that his Sentinel isn’t like that. He reprogrammed him so he’d never hurt a mutant now. “Destroy all mutants!” states the Sentinel, right on cue. Juston covers up his face and sighs. He reckons it’s some kind of glitch; something in his AI perhaps. It’s nothing major. It’s like a parrot saying a bad word that it overheard. Laura asks the Sentinel what its prime directive is. It replies that it will not abandon Juston ever, no matter what. Juston explains that his mom left when he was little and he guesses he has issues. But, she heard it herself. He’s perfectly harmless.
Laura asks the Sentinel to continue listing all directives. It explains that it will not only protect Juston, it will preserve and protect all life. It will not harm any living being except to protect Juston, itself or other living beings. It will also apprehend or destroy all mutants. Laura glances sideways at Juston who shrugs. “I can’t erase it,” he cries. He explains that the best he can do is to make it the least important directive and establish others that override it. It’s encoded into his makeup, he adds. He can’t figure out how to shut down ‘destroy all mutants’ without erasing his mind altogether. Laura replies that erasing its mind is what he must do.
Juston is alarmed and replies that he’s his friend, but X-23 tells him that it’s a machine; a machine programmed to kill. “So are you,” replies Juston, angrily. X-23 orders him to shut it down or she will. Juston stands in front of his Sentinel and reminds her that the school is where you get the chance to do something good with your life, no matter what you were made for. It’s a place where you don’t get punished for what you might do wrong or because bad people stacked the odds against you. If Laura doesn’t like that, he adds, then she can leave!
Before X-23 can blow a fuse, the White Tiger appears and asks Laura if there’s anything between her and Juston. She’s only asking because she was thinking of asking him to a Lila Cheney concert. But, if she has digs… Laura asks if she is attracted to him. Ava removes her face mask and replies that she likes the retro-grunge look, and he’s very sweet to his robot. “A genocidal killing machine,” replies Laura. Ava says that, to Juston, the Sentinel is like a pet. She asks Laura if she ever had one. Laura informs her that when she was small, at the facility, she was given a dog. She became attached to him but then she was ordered to kill him. Ava is shocked and asks if she actually did. Laura replies that she was told that if she didn’t, he would be taken from her and slaughtered slowly and painfully while she watched. Ava asks what she did. Laura explains that she held him as long as she was allowed. She told him she was sorry and thanked him for the happiness he brought her. Then, at the last possible moment, when they came for him, she…
Laura stops talking as the memories flood back. She turns and says that the robot isn’t alive. It’s not the same thing. She tells Ava that if she wishes to pursue Juston then she can go ahead. She doesn’t want to talk anymore.
(Global communications monitoring room)
X-23 makes her way to the comms room and meets Hank Pym at his request. He wishes to discuss the X-Men situation. A television news report on the screens behind him comes from Siberia where a team of X-Men has established massive domes growing crops to feed the world. Over in the Middle East, weapons have been dissolved. X-23 tells him she’s not certain what he means. Hank motions to an image of Emma Frost on the screen and explains that he was there when Cyclops and the other four absorbed the power of the Phoenix. He was afraid of what might happen but, in the days since, they’ve done nothing but good. They’ve fed the hungry, quelled violence and brought clean water and power to all corners of the planet. The X-Men are spreading their utopia around the world. He tells Laura that she used to be one of them. If she wants to join them, leave the academy, then he’ll understand.
On screen, an image shows Colossus destroying stockpiled weapons. Another shows Emma Frost destroying an entire factory of mutant-hunting Sentinels, each intended to be able to defeat hundreds of mutants. Within minutes, she melted them to slag. From the reporter’s viewpoint, it seems that if the X-Men want peace, then that’s what they’re going to get. Laura tells Hank that she will stay at the academy. There is no place for her in Utopia.
As she leaves, Hazmat walks over to her and says she heard them talking about the Phoenix Five. She was wondering just how powerful they are. X-23 replies that she isn’t certain. Hazmat reckons they can do some pretty amazing stuff. Does she think they could make her normal again? She understands that they’re mad at the Avengers for trying to stop the Phoenix Force, but Laura is a mutant. Maybe if she asked them for her? Before Laura can respond, Striker appears and tells them that the Sentinel is totally freaking out. X-23, Hazmat and Giant Man all rush outside and see the Sentinel crouched down with its hand open. It says that there is an omega-level mutant threat. It transfers all its power to its combat systems and prepares to remove Juston and his friends to a secure area.
Juston asks it to take it easy and stand down. Hank asks what’s going on, but Juston admits that he doesn’t know. He just started saying something about an omega-level mutant threat or something, whatever that… is. Juston and Hank both look up simultaneously and see Emma Frost descend towards them. Hank says, “Hello Miss Frost,” but Emma replies that she is fire and life incarnate, but he can call her Emma. The Sentinel designates her as the threat and immediately sets Juston and Reptil down, takes to the air and attacks Emma with a burst of gunfire. Emma pushes her hand out and deflects the shells and thrusts the Sentinel into the dirt, forcing Juston off his feet as the robot impacts.
She apologizes to Hank Pym for disturbing his day as she understands the importance of structure and routine in a school. She’ll be on her way as soon as she’s melted the Sentinel. Juston screams, “No!” He informs Emma that the Sentinel is his friend and isn’t like other Sentinels. She replies that it’s exactly like other Sentinels. It attacked her didn’t it? Juston reckons it’s just that he’s never seen anything as powerful as her. But, he’s around mutants all the time and he’s never hurt any of them. She can ask around. Emma lands and spots X-23, telling her that she thought she would have returned to them by now. There’s no more schism and everyone’s together again. “Not Wolverine,” replies X-23. Emma admits that he’s quite stubborn, but she mustn’t exclude herself from Pax Utopia out of some misguided loyalty.
She suddenly realizes that this isn’t the reason at all. She states that Laura feels that she is damaged and that she doesn’t belong. But, she has the power to fix that now. She can do things she never dreamed of before. She can touch her mind and let her experience the benefit of years of therapy in an instant. She could make the traumas of her past seem like distant memories. She holds her hand out and asks Laura if she would like that. Laura immediately replies no. She’s already had her mind tampered with enough. Emma thinks that stubbornness must be in the genes. Ah, well, she sighs. Back to the business at hand.
X-23 informs her that the Sentinel has hurt no one, but its mutant-hunting directive remains an immovable part of its makeup. Emma replies that they were designed for one purpose - genocide. There is no place in Pax Utopia for such an obscenity. Hank tells her that he understands her position, but Juston really is bonded with it. Surely they can arrive at some sort of compromise. Emma admits that she does have a fondness for children. She suggests that she completely erases its central processing unit and remove its mutant-hunting directive along with everything else. Dr. Pym, she adds, is a master of robotics and artificial intelligence. He can create a new persona, one entirely benign. And, she continues, an aesthetic remodel. Something a bit less ‘death to all mutants’ and more ‘Iron Giant.’ They can’t have anyone getting the idea that Sentinels are an acceptable part of the world any longer.
Hank leans down and asks Juston if he thinks that is reasonable. Juston flips out. He says it sounds horrible. She’s just going to erase his mind, take away his personality and who he is, even though he’s worked so hard to be good. “No! I won’t let you.” Emma tells him that he’s anthropomorphizing a machine. It has no more personality than a toaster. She asks Dr. Pym to take control of his student. She has tarried much longer than she planned. She picks up Juston in a forcefield, but the Sentinel says, “Protect Juston. Countermeasures working. Engaged.” It blasts Emma with a sonic blast and she screams, holding her head. It then blasts her, transferring all power to its weapons. It tells Juston to run but, despite the assault, Emma turns and sets of a series of explosions within the Sentinel’s limb joints. It crumbles as she tells Hank that she will brook no further interference. She strongly suggests that he evacuate his students. What is about to happen is not suitable for children.
The giant Hank Pym grabs Juston and apologizes to him. He explains that they’re dealing with an incalculable power and she thinks they’ve provoked Emma as much as they dare. Striker points out that his Sentinel was just trying to protect him, but Hank replies that it’s just a machine. Striker grits his teeth and replies that Jocasta is just a machine. Now he gets why she left! Hank replies that he’s responsible for their safety. That’s a Phoenix back there, an unstable Godlike force that consumes entire planets. He can think of him as he pleases but he’s not allowing him to get in its way.
Emma focuses her power on the giant Sentinel, dissembling it piece by piece. She says it might be petty of her, but it might be the last Sentinel left on Earth so she’s going to enjoy taking it apart. Juston screams even louder as he struggles to break free of Hank’s grip. As he tries to break free, Mettle asks him not to look back. “Don’t do this,” cries Juston. He bows his head as tears pour down his cheeks. “I love him.”
X-23 remembers the words spoken by herself many years ago as she cuddled her dog and becomes angry. She leaps at Emma, slashing her with her claws. Emma is shocked and she asks what she’s doing. As several students move in to back up X-23, Hank sighs, “Oh, what the hell,” and tells Emma that he thinks the meaning is clear. If she wants the Sentinel, she’ll have to go through them!