Gilgit, Pakistan. 1000 hours local time:
Hope just witnessed a man blowing himself and his surroundings and possibly her friends up. She runs to the ruins, trying to find a sign of her teammates, and finds a moaning mass of flesh, Kenji who has protected the others with his body. Are they okay? she asks. Nothing about this is “okay,” he replies with some of his tentacles connected to Gabriel’s face. He explains that he linked with him, so he could accelerate Kenji’s subjective experience of time. At least enough for him to build a barrier before the blast hit.
Hope notes that Pixie is missing, while Kenji bitches about Hope expressing no concern about his body being ripped with shrapnel and fire. Oh God – Martha! Transonic exclaims. The living telepathic brain of Martha Johanson lies on the ground, its protective suit ripped.
Agitated, Kenji runs towards her and gently lifts up the brain. He insists they return to Utopia at once. Hope reminds him that, without the teleporter Pixie, that isn’t an option. They’ll find her but their number one priority is being elsewhere. They can’t have people think mutants were behind this.
Suddenly, they find the suicide bomber, very much alive, groaning in the center of the explosion. It seems they have found their mutant, Kenji spells out.
Eight minutes later, with them gone, a group of stylish young Chinese people with exotic weapons arrive. Detonation was aces, their leader announces. Grab their spectacular Mr. White Man and cancel any witnesses! Can they take profile pics? another young man asks while playing with his smart phone. Friends access only, his leader agrees.
They find that “Mr. White Man” is no longer around. Maybe the superfast kid took him, one of them suggests. Good thing his pink fly girl is their new groupie then, the leader decides, referring to Pixie who is trapped in a forcefield.
Utopia, 19:28 hours local time:
Scott Summers tells his lover Emma Frost to remember this day. He is calling it now: Hope Summers will be the death of him! Emma reveals they have a pool running if he is willing to wager on that. Logan started it but, since he left, she took over administrative duties. Most bet on “crushed by a Sentinel,” though “hypertension” has been surprisingly popular of late. They lost forty dollars when he made it back from the Negative Zone, one of the Stepford Cuckoos announces.
He asks them if they and Cerebra can tell him where Hope has disappeared to. Celeste reveals Hope left for Pakistan just west of the Chinese border. Cerebra detected a mutant and she took her team to meet him.
A new mutant… Cyclops wonders. Emma telepathically orders the Cuckoos not to answer. She tells him he has bigger things to worry about. Leave that to her. And Hope will undoubtedly insist on “debriefing” them upon her return, no matter the excruciating irrelevance of the events. That’s true, Cyclops replies. If anyone needs him, he’ll be getting insulted by Namor over something or other. He asks them to put him down in the death pool for $20 on Hope, $5 to Atlantean “fishmonster.”
Did she make him leave? Irma Cuckoo asks Emma who denies this. She and Scott share a relationship based on mutual respect. But she’s asked them to keep the mutant signal a secret from him, Irma points out. They don’t have secrets, Emma clarifies. They merely have things-she-yet-has to-tell-him, one of them being about her vile, manipulative bastard of an ex, Sebastian Shaw. She had faked his death twice to keep him from King Namor’s murderous rage… Listen to her prattle on! Suffice it to say, she thinks her boy trouble has become Hope’s problem. So for all their sakes, let’s hope these kids never find him.
Hope’s group and their mysterious stranger have gathered in a building. Hope informs him that they came to her to help him. But he just killed a dozen men and almost killed her team, so she is much more inclined to see him hurt. If he wants to change her mind, talk fast!
The stranger assures her he never meant to hurt her friends. Only those other men, the butchers. Hope trains her rifle on him, reminding him that’s not how it went down. He can still get back in her good graces if he tells her right now where Pixie is, the girl with the wings. He swears he never saw anyone like that. Hope tells him he has three minutes to convince them not to throw him to the wolves. Who is he? Raising his hands, he promises he doesn’t know.
Kenji tells Martha he sees no chance to get her home. Without her casing, she has no life support system. But, if it is not too forward, he has a solution. His tentacles hook up with her brain.
The man assures Hope he has no memories of his life earlier than a few weeks ago. Because those butchers out here did this to him, took his life, his past, his name. And they experimented on him. He is not even human anymore. He wanted to die but as a result of what they did, he can’t!
Hope announces this doesn’t make any sense; he isn’t like the others. The other new mutants were younger and half-formed. There’s something he isn’t telling them.
Then maybe she can help, a new voice states. They turn around and see Martha housed in a new body that is created from Kenji’s flesh and connected to him. Martha tries to connect telepathically with the stranger, only to be thrown back by his psychic defenses.
Hope has had it. The stranger assures her he isn’t trying to hide anything. Besides, he survived that bomb. Does she really think her rifle would make a dent? Talk! she orders.
The stranger’s story:
He was born a few weeks ago. He doesn’t know how else to describe it. He came into being as a complete blank. No idea who he was, where he was, how he got here. Unlike being born, he awoke, knowing words and meaning. Just not the language of everyone else around him. He was unwelcome. Desperate and fairly certain he must be mad… Until his fortunes changed.
He was run over by a jeep. That initial accident turned out to be a blessing. The men he met that day spoke his language. He finally learned where he was: the Xinjang province in Western China. The man who found him – Jin Billion – took him in. He has incredible technology and tries to help him. Together they discovered that he survived the crash because he is no longer human. Because of whatever experiment the butchers here did to him. Jin showed him evidence they had gathered. Horrible images of dissected men, women and children. Apparently, he was one in a long line of victims. It was clear to all of them that he had the opportunity and the ability to put an end to these horrors. His new friends armed him and dropped him across the border into those monsters nest. And he used the only thing he knew about himself to do what’s right. Using himself as a bomb again and again.
Laurie announces this is deeply messed up, while Velocidad is sure he is lying. The stranger becomes angry at the accusation but Hope orders both to can it. She informs the man that his powers didn’t come from any experiments. He is a mutant like them. That’s how they were able to find him in the first place.
The stranger doesn’t know the term. “Baby, we were born this way” Laurie quotes. Everybody look at her astonished. What, she asks defensively. They assume just because she reads that she listens to classical or some crap? And is she the only one who gets that song’s about mutants?
That moment, the wall caves in, thanks to the very big guns of Jin Billion and his people who want the stranger back. The stranger asks them to lower their weapons. The children just came to talk.
Gabriel shouts that those are the psychos that attacked him and Pixie. Surmising he means the cutie little pink-girl, Jin announces they may keep her. She would make an epic go-go dancer for his Thailand night clubs.
Velocidad tries to attack him but can’t. Jin informs him he has super-weapons of all sorts; stolen, alien, experimental. Sometimes, he dumpster-dives Stark International and just wires junk together for surprises.
The stranger gets between the two groups and tries to appeal to Jin that the kids aren’t part of this. They aren’t Pakistani military. They are mutants and think he is a mutant, too. Maybe he wasn’t experimented on, after all. Angered at hearing this, Jin takes him in a headlock and fires his weapon at the kids. They just broke his new toy!
The kids attack. Martha gets into one man’s head to find Pixie. She learns they’ve kept her nearby and sends Velocidad the memories of where she is. Be back in no time, he announces, to them anyway.
The others keep on fighting. Hope tells Jin to let the stranger go but Jin isn’t interested. His only goal was to create a little havoc so this dance party serves him as well as Mr. White Man. Both cases, locals get scared, he sells more weapons. And everybody named Jin Billion wins.
The stranger gets agitated when he hears that. Jin mocks him. His victims were bloody war men nonetheless. But the stories they fed him were fan fic and the pics were all from Jin’s personal collection.
Angrily, the stranger frees himself and uses the weapon on Jin. With him dead, the fight is over and Velocidad has also managed to free Pixie. “Flight,” Primal suggests and Velocidad agrees. He sped past the Pakistani security forces heading here.
Hope asks the stranger if he is okay. Not the least bit, he replies. He is back at zero. The only thing he thought he learned about himself were lies. No, he knows one thing: He is a murderer!
Hope asks him to come with them. He was manipulated. He can’t hang this on himself. Besides, he is why they came here. To offer him refuge.
Kenji asks Martha how she is enduring without her casing. She tells him she feels wonderful, thanks to him. And, after years without any real sensation, she is happy to even feel pain.
Transonic urges them to get out and so does Gabriel. Hope pleads with the man to accompany them. And he agrees. As the security forces arrive, Pixie teleports the team out.
Moments later, they arrive on Utopia to be expected by Emma and Scott, who goes ballistic when he recognizes the stranger as Sebastian Shaw, shouting what the $&%# is he doing here?!