Teon is surrounded by beautiful girls on his throne, though the women now all have babies. Teon has begun thinking differently about his life. He corrects himself. He began thinking differently when his mutant powers activated months ago. Whereas now he is beginning to question his line of thinking.
He was so frightened when everything changed. In his fear, he reacted to everything around him with only the most basic instincts. A desperate bid for survival. Eat. Mate. Fight.
He pushes the women trying to touch him away. He is not fighting to survive anymore. Once all his needs were fulfilled, he began to feel wants. But even things like love and recognition seemed to come true as soon as he discovered them. But is that all there is to life? Or is there something more?
The statue of him falls down and an image of Hope catches it. She tells him he cannot stay here anymore. He can be more than this. She needs him to be more.
Most people hate Hope Summers, Kenji Uedo aka Zero thinks to himself. In general, it is hard to like someone who tells you they are “important,” Doubly so, when they use the word messiah. Nonetheless, there are people who persist in standing by their ginger demigod. So step one was to remove them from the equation. Either by force – like Cyclops who was put to sleep by Emma Frost. Or by suggesting they could be otherwise occupied – like Velocidad and Pixie, who are busy making out.
Kenji can do that sort of thing now. Everything he strived for as an artist, he can do now easily. And with this new art, his thoughts can enter minds, affect the audience in purer ways than he ever dreamed possible, by splitting off small parts of himself and having them enter the others e.g. through the ear. He is finally ready to unveil this new experimental period of his work. And its greatest piece will be the end of Hope!
He turns to Hope Summers, who hangs tied to an X-shaped part of Kenji. He reminds her hat this is the reward of a savior. The ire of those who never asked to be saved. The other possessed X-Men cry for her blood.
Hope wishes this was an illusion, but realizes it’s real. Because every face she sees stares into her. Like they want something from her so bad that they’ll tear inside her to get it. And that’s been her reality since her very first breath. When she first met Kenji, she thought she could help him. But she can’t help anyone. All she does is destroy everything around her and everyone she touches.
In one of the buildings, the amnesiac Sebastian Shaw has taken a shower and wonders what to do now. Is he going to be what others make of him? What they tell him to be? Or will he choose what to make of himself? The first lesson he learned in this new life was betrayal. And here he is met with hostility and secrets. Does he trust Hope? Suddenly, Teon kicks in the door. Hope, he simply says.
In his quarter, Kenji paints Martha, enthusing how good it feels to create. When he is finished, it will be quite a statement. This isn’t what she imagined his dreams would be like, Martha observes. He tells her this is real. Is he joking? she asks. She is a telepath and lived for years as a brain. She knows the difference between dream and reality.
She wakes up in Kenji’s bed. He never showed her his painting. So where is he? Kenji assures her he is with her. His mind exists in every bit of his body including that which he uses to protect her. So they are never apart. Martha gets up. Yet he chooses to be more present somewhere else. Does she even want to know where he’d rather be?
Outside, Kenji accuses Hope of betraying all mutants just by claiming to be their messiah. Her name itself is a lie. She cannot offer them salvation! The truth is they were all born damned!
He dangles her downward. His father was born into a culture that would destroy him simply for what he was. And so it is with all of them. They were born as mutants into a world that would applaud their death!
The others grab at Hope. Emma Frost mockingly informs her she is suppressing her powers and brain just enough for her to witness her own crucifixion.
Kenji announces they must extinguish the lie of any messiah here to right the world for them. Only then can they be steeled for the bloody task of fighting a corrupts world themselves!
Laurie cannot stand it anymore. She shouts stop. She doesn’t want to kill Hope! They have to end her lies! Kenji replies. But now he can finally stop her. He can finally change minds.
Laurie angrily asks if he is controlling these people somehow. Then he is no better than Hope! She tells him to let everyone go. His tentacles grab her. He’d hoped she’d have the stomach for this but he won’t let her weakness interfere--
That moment, the other four - Velocidad, Pixie, Primal and Shaw – confront them. “Dude, what the hell is wrong with you?” Gabriel shouts. They immediately attack the drones and Gabriel frees Laurie. Seriously, Gabriel addresses Kenji, tell them he is not going cliché super villain on them! Because that is really the vibe he is giving off.
He is trying to free them! Kenji shouts. Running towards him and Hope, Velocidad replies he gets the moody artist thing, but they aren’t gonna let Hope or anyone else get hurt.
He expected as much! Kenji rants. He put pieces of himself into each of their minds months ago, when he connected them all to enter that hospital in Germany. He tried to influence their thoughts since then but he could never completely override Hope’s mark on them.
Gabriel is disgusted as he tries to free Hope. Kenji shakes him off. The others fight as well. Magneto levitates Primal, announcing that Hope’s power didn’t activate but corrupt them. Pixie teleports him away. She suggests they grab Hope and let everyone’s temper—she cannot finish as Celeste and Irma Cuckoo attack her.
Hope is brought before Emma Frost, who suggests her spoiled little mind needs scrubbing, just like her friend. Said friend, Shaw, hits Emma unconscious.
While Erg and Dragoness hold onto Hope, a piece of Kenji burrows into her neck and she finds herself once again in his apocalyptic mindscape. Ironically, he asks her to excuse the kidnapping within the kidnapping but he wanted to make sure she understands what is happening here.
Hope asks if he is controlling the mutants. He doesn’t control people, he replies. He can slip his little parasites into someone’s head, but he merely whispers among their thoughts. It took a great deal of work to turn some of these mutants against Hope, but some took nothing at all. These are the people she is trying to save, her fellow mutants, and several of them hate or fear her almost as much as he does!
He is right, Hope admits. She made mistakes in leading this team. She hasn’t been the best person, a good enough friend, to help them all through this. She’s sorry.
Angrily, Kenji traps her and accuses her of manipulating them and stripping them of their self. Hope retorts that he’s a hypocrite. And she doesn’t just mean because of the people he turned into an angry mob. She’s talking about Martha.
He admits Hope’s smarter than he thought for figuring that out. He knew Hope had been influencing them. Hope could make her will contagious. Then he saw Martha Johansson. What better opportunity to observe how Hope affects their minds than on a girl who was nothing but? He let her container be destroyed by the bomb blast and made her new body, giving him unfettered access to Martha’s mind. He never expected their relationship to work out so perfectly.
She’s sure Martha’s happy to hear that, Hope replies wryly as Martha appears next to her. Kenji believes this to be an illusion. Telepaths like Martha can’t enter his thoughts without his permission. After all, how does she think he managed to plan all this while chained to this thing?
Martha didn’t have to enter his mind, Hope replies. She invited Martha into hers.
Nervously, Kenji tries to explain to Martha, who destroys him, announcing she never had a heart for him to break.
Kenji falls apart and dissipates in reality. Hope grabs Martha’s brain while the others expulse the parasite bits of Kenji.
Later in the medical bay, Cyclops announces he wouldn’t call this a success. Nemesis, insulted, claims he built an optimal living space for a severed brain. After Martha jammed the anime kid’s powers, he couldn’t hold her custom made bits together, so unless they’ve got a spare body somewhere… Danger adds she’s begun altering the design of Martha’s unit. It may take some time getting used to Shi’ar technology and the new features.
Hope takes Shaw aside, thanking him. She’s decided to trust him which is why she hands him the fact file about himself. Shaw is unsure if he wants it but now the choice is his.
Later, Hope meets with what is left of her group. Laurie explains she never intended things to go the way they did and she is glad none of them were hurt. But whether she was under Kenji’s influence or not, she betrayed Hope too. Kenji is gone and she still feels the way Hope treated them was wrong.
Hope admits she’s right. She’s been treating them all as weapons. It was easier filling her thoughts with tactics and making their time together about drills. Especially when it seem every time she cares about someone she loses them. Everyone she grew up with. Her father. Idie had to be taken away. But the way she was running things never made it any better. So once she realized what her powers could do, she just let herself think about what she wanted from them all and it was easy to edge them towards doing it. Because otherwise she didn’t think they’d stay with her. She apologizes.
Gabriel is glad to hear that but assures Hope they didn’t just follow her because of some mutant persuasion powers. She saved their lives! Each of them, the first time they met. Not her, Pixie begins to protest but shuts up when Primal growls at her.
She took a risk for them, for the future… it was inspiring! Laurie explains that’s how she needs to lead! Inspire respect because she can’t really demand it.
Hope asks if they are willing to give her another chance to try. If she is willing to listen and perhaps read some books on conflict resolution, Laurie replies.
Shaw reminds her that after all she is giving him a chance. Fight! Teon shouts.
Gabriel remarks if they want to light up some mutants and get this party going he doesn’t see any other choice. She’s a good chip, Pixie assures her, and she doubts anything could change that.
In their festive mood, none of them see the picture of Dark Phoenix that slipped out of Shaw’s file…