(two weeks ago)
It’s nighttime and Juston is with his Sentinel, which is projecting an image of his father in front of him. He tells his father that maybe he and Chris could come over and visit for spring break. His father replies that they’ll try to, but he’s not sure he can take the time off work. He tells his son that he still doesn’t understand what he’s doing at the academy. They miss him and believe he should be there with his family. Juston replies that the people back home freaked out over his Sentinel. The only way he could keep him was to come out to Avengers Academy.
His father grimaces and tells him that he isn’t like the other kids. He doesn’t have powers and he’s afraid he will get hurt. The Sentinel is a machine. He should give it back to the government. Juston says a flat out no. He thinks they’d melt him down because he’s outdated. Worse than that, they might make him hunt mutants again. His father asks him to stop calling it a ‘he.’ It’s not alive. His brother needs him. Juston turns his back and says they can’t have this fight again. He ends the transmission and then climbs onto the robot’s chest. He feels like sleeping outdoors again. He asks the Sentinel to repeat its prime directive. “Unit will not abandon Juston. Not ever. No matter what,” it replies. Juston says that’s right, and it works both ways.
Juston is kneeling on his Sentinel’s chest. It is in pieces after being attacked by Emma Frost. His fellow students and Hank Pym are backing Juston up and Hank tells Emma to go. She isn’t wanted there. Emma replies that she’s always found him one of the less objectionable Avengers but he is sorely trying her patience. She informs him that the Sentinels were created to kill mutants. Such a thing cannot be allowed to exist and, now that she has the power of the Phoenix, it won’t! She asks nicely, one last time, for them to step aside. There is no need for them to get hurt defending something designed solely to be destructive. X-23 snikts her claws and replies that there is the best reason. “He is one of us!”
Finesse contacts Quicksilver and asks him to respond. Pietro’s image appears from her Avengers card and he asks what she wants. She informs him that they are under attack from Emma Frost. She is trying to destroy Juston’s Sentinel. “What?” he asks. “Is that all? Let her,” he adds. He’s disapproved of it from the start. Finesse says he doesn’t understand. In spite of whatever faults it may have, Juston loves it and it loves him. They need his help. Pietro replies that his sister needs his help. The Avengers need his help. She has no idea what’s going on in the world. She should let Emma melt the robot and she’ll go her way. The thing is a monster, tainted from the moment of its creation.
Finesse says her parents are criminals. His father is Magneto! Does he feel the same way about them? Pietro replies that he has no time for bleeding heart rhetoric. There are many things that merit his attention and this is not one of them. The Sentinel is an emotionless machine. It is of no benefit to anyone. Let it die! He signs off leaving Finesse to sigh that he is an emotionless machine and so is she. One of them will benefit someone.
Meanwhile, the Sentinel states that there are hazardous energy levels present and that Juston must take cover. Juston says no way. He needs help to put him back together. It replies that it is capable of self-repair, but Juston reckons it’ll go faster with him guiding it. He isn’t leaving it. He then orders it to open the cockpit. Emma takes the fight to the Avengers by taking out Giant-Man and Prodigy, but seems surprised that they would risk their lives for an abomination. Striker replies that some people think that’s what being gay makes him. He knows Emma doesn’t think that but, if she did, would it be okay to use her powers to try and make him straight? Emma tells him he is being ridiculous. Sentinels were built for violence. To kill. She takes out Lightspeed and blocks Striker with a forcefield.
Reptil is at full size as a T-Rex, so X-23 leaps from the top of his head towards Emma, saying that she was created to kill. She will show her. She strikes Emma across the chest but Emma has transformed into diamond and the claws slide off her. She warns Laura that she has a mind and can make choices, but she will not have the choice to cut her gain. As Laura and Reptil fall to Emma’s blasts, Hazmat informs Emma that she is radioactive. She could kill a whole city. She doesn’t have a choice about that. Will she fix her and make her normal again, because if not she’d better kill her. She assaults Emma but she shrugs off the attack.
Emma has finally had enough. She keeps several students at bay as the Sentinel rockets towards her. The palm of its hand glows white as it seeks to destroy her. “Ah, finally,” smiles Emma, “This is what I came for.” She unleashes a massive concussive burst of energy at the Sentinel which rips most of its outer layer away and thrusts it into the ground. Giant Man gasps but Emma asks him to stop. “It’s not as if it’s… alive?” Emma looks down at the shattered Sentinel and sees Juston lying there in the cockpit, seemingly unconscious or dead. Emma is shocked. She states that she didn’t sense any thoughts within. Hank replies that she wouldn’t have. He installed campus-wide scramblers to block mind-reading and control. He’s sure she could override them but she wouldn’t have known to try.
Emma is concerned and she asks how he is. Hank picks him up and informs her that thankfully he is just stunned. The Sentinel protected him. The machine tries to get up. “P… klik. Protect…” it groans. Despite having lost part of its body and the fact that it is on fire, the Sentinel gets up. Short-circuiting as it speaks, it reiterates its duty to protect Juston as it moves in Emma’s direction. Emma holds her hand out to protect herself from its attack. Juston wakes up and warns it that Emma will kill him. He has to run and get away. The Sentinel doesn’t hear him. It flies towards Emma so Juston orders it to obey its prime directive. “Repeat prime directive!” he asks. The Sentinel appears to stop and state that its prime directive is that it will not abandon Juston. Not ever. No matter what. However, with a spark of electricity, it manages to override its prime directive and goes back to protecting him. It raises its hand which glows with power. Emma takes to the air and as Juston runs towards them screaming, she obliterates the Sentinel, sending pieces of it all over the campus.
Juston sinks to his knees in despair. He believes that if his CPU survived he can still put him back together. Emma tells him no. She holds the CPU in her hand and melts it. “It’s over,” she states. She then folds her arms and informs Juston that usually she melts Sentinels down. This one, however, she took apart so he can reconstruct its body. As she said before, Dr. Pym can craft a new CPU, one that doesn’t include a drive to slaughter people like her. She considers this eminently merciful, but she can see that Juston disagrees. That’s fine, she adds. If he wishes to vent empty threats at her she’ll give him twenty seconds. Then, he has places to be.
Hank places a comforting hand on Juston’s shoulder and replies that he has no threats. He says that the Sentinel overrode its prime directive. He is one of the foremost experts on robotics in the world and he knows that this is impossible for a machine. Emma replies that it may be for a properly-functioning machine but this one most certainly wasn’t. She tells Laura that she’s returning to Utopia and she would very much like her to accompany her. A new era for mutants is beginning and she belongs with her people. Laura snarls back at her and warns her that if she ever sees her again she will kill her. Or, Emma will kill her. She would prefer either before going anywhere with her. Emma flies away, saying you can’t save the world without upsetting someone. For Laura’s own sake, she adds, she hopes she has no further reason to return to the academy.
Once Emma has gone, Hank Pym tells Juston that he’s not the kind of man who says empty words just to make people feel better, but when he tells him this he means it. He didn’t lose a machine today. He lost his best friend. He will never forgive himself for failing to stop it. Before Juston can respond, Quicksilver appears. Everyone turns to look at him. He is holding something in his hand. “Oh, please,” he says. “I’m getting nauseated just listening to you all. Really, I had to do this for the sake of my own sanity” Juston looks at the object in his hand and rushes towards him. He recognizes it immediately. Pietro tells him it’s his Sentinel’s CPU. He explains that once he saw Emma levitating it, he switched it with a unit from one of their training robots. They’re quite similar. It was all faster than her eye could see and their defenses prevented her from sensing his mind. It’s remarkable given the splitting headache Juston’s whining has given him.
Juston is aghast. He tells Pietro that he is a mutant. He must hate Sentinels. Pietro replies that the heart wants what the heart wants. Juston’s wants the Sentinel and his wants quiet. Juston doesn’t know how to thank him, but Pietro does. He asks Juston to keep his excessive displays of emotion to himself. Finesse, however, simply throws her arms around him and gives him a big hug. Pietro grins and reckons he may be able to stay a few moments longer.
(ten minutes later)
Using his super speed, Quicksilver rebuilds the Sentinel from scratch. Juston asks if it’s really him. Hank asks him to check for himself. Juston asks the machine to state its prime directive. It replies that it will not abandon Juston. Not ever. No matter what. Juston grabs its face and says that’s right. Pietro asks Hank for a word. He explains that it’s getting bad out there and it’s only going to get worse. He then turns and heads away from the academy.
(the next day)
Hank and Tigra gather the students outside. Tigra tells them that no one was seriously hurt yesterday but they were incredibly lucky. Hank adds that the war between the Avengers and the X-Men is escalating. They are hearing some frightening things. Quicksilver has gone back to his sister. Hawkeye is with the other Avengers and he thinks they are taking the fight to Utopia. He suspects this will not end well. He doesn’t think that Tigra and himself can run the place themselves as they can’t be there all the time.
Tigra tells them that what Hank is saying is that they’ve already been caught up in the conflict, but it isn’t like the war against the serpent when the entire world was under attack. This is the X-Men fighting the Avengers. The only reason that they are in any danger is that they attend a school called Avengers Academy. They believe that they should go back to their families. If that isn’t an option, then enough money will be provided for them to start over wherever they like. Hank lowers his head and apologizes for having to say this, but it really is for their own good. As of this moment, there is no more Avengers Academy.
Striker can’t believe it. He asks if they can come back when the war is over. Hank tells him he would like to say that is the case but he has the feeling that when this is over, the world will be a very different place.