The hot, barren landscape takes a toll on the Exiles. As they march aimlessly through the desert Panther jokingly asks whether the Tallus has any water in it. Blink looks down at the device clasped around her forearm, more a reflex than anything. Surprisingly, it chooses that moment to come to life and alert Blink to the Exiles’ newest mission, “overthrow machines.”
Blink notes the vagueness of the message. Polaris jokes that on their next mission it’s just going to say “fix.” Maybe the machines are using the desert as a staging ground for an invasion, Forge offers, but before the group can discuss his theory Hank hears something unnatural and rushes toward the cliff ledge. Polaris flies after him saying she didn’t hear anything.
Looking down over the ledge the billowing cloud of dust below suggests she may be wrong. Emerging from the dirty mist is an enormous, ebony machine resembling a centipede with a large optic lens at its head.
Blink readies a teleportation shard and scores a direct hit on the machine’s lens. Beast leaps on the thing and makes his way up the legs. When he nears the head he forcibly tears it apart from the rest of its body. The machine falls limply to the ground, sparks firing out from the exposed wires.
The team is pleased with their quick victory, but it is short-lived as a group of four Sentinels land side by side in front of them. The Exiles scramble to avoid getting trounced upon. One of the Sentinels announces that they refused to surrender within the six second window and orders them destroyed. All four open fire with an energy pulse from their hands. Wanda, in the center of the group, manages to shield them, taxing her energy manipulation powers to the max.
Holding her hand to her head Wanda admits she never had to stop that much energy before. She looks a bit woozy and worn out, which is probably why she’s caught totally unaware by a giant Sentinel fist coming crashing down right on top of her. She’s as good as dead as the shadow of the fist silhouettes her body, but mere feet above her it stops. This time its Polaris who’s come to the rescue, telling the Sentinel that nobody’s going to lay a hand on her sister.
Smiling, the green-haired Exile takes to the air. “Dance puppets!” she cries, utilizing her magnetic prowess to decapitate one of the Sentinels. She then forces two of the three remaining to aim their arms at each other, palm out. Activating their energy pulse the two Sentinels obliterate each other. The last Sentinel she forces to its knees, but Forge, surveying his tech, warns that it already set a self-destruction sequence. Beast suggests they get moving, but a panicked Forge says they only have five seconds.
With one quick motion Polaris flings the metal warrior into the sky. It explodes with a powerful fury, but none of the Exiles are harmed.
Ultron, Vision and M-51 stare up at the large monitor adorning the entrance wall. They watch the Sentinel’s playback of the battle with the Exiles. M-51 recommends taking the Exiles alive. Vision agrees, adding that they need to study them to figure out how they survived the genetic cleansing.
Cerebro’s icon replaces the video feed on the monitor. It agrees with the Tribunal’s logic, though once again questions their hesitance to joining the A.I. shared network, which would undoubtedly speed up the process of decision making. Cerebro blames their makers for imbuing them with a sense of individuality.
Ultron counters that a unified system would open them to the possibility of widespread corruption should their programming ever be compromised. Shouldn’t a machine mind have greater patience than a human one, Ultron adds.
Cerebro once again acknowledges their logic and then orders them to capture the humans before they reach the perimeter. Cerebro adds that it wants to be notified immediately following their extermination.
Thanks to Forge’s techno-wizardry the Exiles find themselves being transported along the desert terrain via an amalgam of machines. Using the robot centipede’s body and a Sentinel head the Exiles need only to hold on for dear life as they cruise inexorably toward their destination.
Polaris, at the tail end of the metal beast, remarks how familiar the robot creature feels to the weird neighbor kid’s Frankentoys from the movie Toy Story. Still tinkering with the Sentinel, Forge says he was lucky he still had a head to use for a controller after Polaris smashed those Sentinels around. Wanda pumps her fist in the air, reliving Lorna’s magnetic exhibition.
As they continue to make their way across the desert Panther questions what’s so different about this world, as it seems like any other desert he’s been to. As they pass a road sign telling them they are now entering Pennsylvania Panther gets his answer.
Digging around in the Sentinel’s head Forge yells to his team that he’s been able to extrapolate some of the history of this world…
The big divergence of this reality came after a meeting of Charles Xavier and Henry Pym. There, Xavier showed Pym his Cerebro and how it could be used to detect mutants. After putting their heads together they came up with a way to modify it to detect any extra-powered individual in the hopes of locating heroes in distress or criminals in hiding.
When Pym brought over some of his experimental processors to widen Cerebro’s range he was unaware that a rogue Ultron robot had infiltrated his Avenger’s mansion lab.
When Cerebro was brought online it was initially a huge success. It worked so well that it was a huge target for their enemies and was relocated to Washington D.C. What nobody realized was that the rogue Ultron merged with Cerebro and when the government sent a wave of mutant-hunting Sentinels after the X-Men and Xavier tried utilizing Cerebro to reprogram them the new personality emerged. The Sentinels were reprogrammed, but instead forced to hunt and destroy all Homo sapiens.
As the battles continued Cerebro realized the Sentinels wouldn’t be strong enough to take the human population down. Upon discovering the U.S. military’s secret Machine Man program it took it over and stepped up production and soon the war between humans and A.I. escalated.
A short time later Cerebro decided the easiest solution to victory would be to make the environment uninhabitable to living organisms. He was joined by the latest android, Ultron, as well as the Vision and the one sentient Machine Man and together they developed a new model of the neutron bomb, which spread cellular-destroying radiation across all of North America and parts of South America killing all humans, animals and plants in its wake.
Hours later, as night begins to fall, the Exiles set up camp, positioning the macabre Sentinel in a semi-circle, protecting them from the wind. A campfire is roaring in the center of the gathered heroes to help keep them warm. The Exiles take this opportunity of peace and quiet to reflect on the world, wondering what happened to its residents.
As to the question of any survivors Forge is pretty positive no one survived, that it happened too fast. In fact, he adds, other countries have sent missiles over only to have them redirected back. Forge figures it’s only a matter of time before Cerebro tries exterminating all life worldwide.
With a panic Beast suddenly realizes they all could be soaking up this life-killing radiation. Forge quickly assures him they’re safe, his Geiger counter is picking up no traces. He guesses the decay rate was pretty quick so as to allow plant life to return.
Wanda wants to know where the little white guy is and why he isn’t showing up to tell them anything. She figures the machines have already won so how are they supposed to make a difference. Blink doesn’t think they would be sent there for no reason, that there must be facts they don’t have yet. This prompts the Panther to question what “putting a world back on course” is anyway. Who decides the path a world should take, he asks. How do they know this isn’t how the world should have ended up, he furthers. Arms folded around her knees Blink glumly says she doesn’t know.
Polaris refocuses the team on their mission. She figures it’s going to be a snap with her and Wanda handling the robots while Blink takes Beast and Forge into the command center where they’ll rewire Cerebro to take fast food orders. T’Chaka looks at her a little hurt and asks what he’s supposed to do. Lorna says he can bounce around a lot and crack jokes.
Panther asks Polaris why she had to mention food. Blink puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder and promises to remedy that once she’s had a good night’s rest. Beast stretches out on the serpentine robot body and agrees sleep would do them all a world of good. Forge adds that it’s too bad robots don’t need sleep.
Blink is the first one to wake the following morning. She looks out over the horizon to see which direction the sun is rising. “South” she says to herself and points in that direction. A second later, Blink, and she’s gone.
This scene is being taken in from afar by the robot triumvirate. They decide to take action right away. It starts with a tranquilizer dart to the neck of their most dangerous opponent, Polaris. This startles Beast and he awakens with a fierce rage. He leaps, growling, and tackles the nearby Ultron. All the commotion wakens the rest. Forge quickly surveys the battle field and notices Blink is missing and Polaris is knocked out.
Panther is the next one into the fight, scoring with a flying kick to M-51. The last robot standing, Vision, turns to Wanda and pleads with her to stop, explaining they weren’t trying to attack them. Wanda isn’t listening and uses her powers against him.
M-51 is back on his feet and wraps Panther up with his outstretched arm. Forge sneaks up behind though and uses some of his hidden cache of tools to quickly disassemble said arm. Beast takes a cue from the machinesmith and uses his brute strength to rip off one of Ultron’s.
Vision rallies to his friend’s defense, punching Hank in the face with the density of a diamond. Hank shakes it off mentioning that he just spent the night using a rock for a pillow, then headbutts the android.
Ultron fires an energy blast with his remaining hand, which is directed at Beast. He’s hit pretty badly, but Wanda uses her energy-altering powers to relocate the attack onto the Vision.
It seems as though the Exiles just might pull this one off, but then a cloud of mist rolls in. Panther’s the first to notice the noxious fumes and tells his teammates to stop breathing. He’s too late, though, and the entire group drops to the ground unconscious. M-51 ceases his attack, explaining that they should be out for about two hours. Vision wishes they had done that to begin with.
A transport vehicle arrives at the scene. Vision, carrying Wanda, points out that if they don’t bring them in Cerebro will send every AI in the country after them. Ultron agrees they must be brought back to the lab and asks M-51 to pick up his arm for him. Vision asks how they’re going to justify keeping them alive. Ultron says he has some ideas and with all the Exiles secured in the vehicle they take off.
Moments later Blink returns with some food. She’s stunned to find the camp deserted and begins searching the surrounding area. Two hours later she’s worked her way into the city and runs into all manner of robots as she blinks back and forth, but no luck. She leaves the city limits in frustration screaming “Damn it!” at the top of her lungs.
Blink starts yelling at the Tallus, asking it to give her some answers, a clue, anything. “We’re trying to fix things for you, whoever y--“ she starts to say, but then the Tallus interrupts. “The dome building on the north end of the city, the spired turret.” Blink looks at the Tallus dumbfounded and thanks it.
Blink shows up at the dome and finds her teammates in some sort of stasis tubes with oxygen masks draped over their faces. The only one she doesn’t see is Polaris, and curious she looks around.
What she finds is an absolute horror. In a separate room she discovers Polaris’ body splayed out with wires and robotic gizmos attached at various parts of her body. What looks like her heart is held in some sort of container at the head of the table. A robot, Jocasta, stands over Polaris holding a scalpel-like blade.