(New York City, in The Alternative’s offices - pre M-event)
Sally Floyd is a reporter with The Alternative, a small newspaper in New York City. When M-Day hits, an event that has been described as the third most important event in the last seventy-five years, after the Normandy invasion and Moon landing, she is only half-conscious. This is despite it being 11:15 on a Tuesday morning. Her colleagues are working on their stories, the same as usual, when something outside their windows distracts them. A glowing white light is about to change things in a big way.
Moments later, Sally is groggy, but she can see the vague form of a human being trying to help her. Her eyes begin to focus and she recognizes the friendly face as belonging to her editor, Neil. Sally has a cut on her face, probably from flying glass. As she comes around, a guy rushes in. “Oh my god! Come outside, quick!” he cries. Staff members hustle towards the door, with some grabbing their equipment on the way. Sally asks what the hell just happened. Neil admits he doesn’t know. There was a flash outside, and then a massive concussion, which shook half the hinges off the doors. Someone might have set off a bomb, he conjectures. He hopes it wasn’t a plane. He asks someone to check the newswires, before whispering to Sally, “Is that alcohol on your breath?”
Sally pulls away from him and replies that it’s cough syrup; and what does he mean, check the newswires? They are the frigging newswires. One of the reporter’s informs Neil that all the electrics are out. TV’s, computers, everything. He just lost two hours of a sports report. Sally grabs her PDA and rushes outside, figuring that, as it’s on a battery, she might get a signal. As she steps outside, she stands alongside her colleagues, aghast at the sight that confronts them. In the street, lying amongst several wrecked cars, street signs and having torn up the street, a giant orange dragon lies dead.
(a few days later)
Sally is at the funeral in the pouring rain. A huge rectangular hole has been dug to accommodate the body of the dragon. It turns out he had been a mutant named Ned Ralston. She had interviewed him once for a piece about ethnic diversity in Brooklyn. Ned didn’t have a fancy moniker like Nightcrawler or the other heroes. He was just an ordinary guy, shaped like a dragon, who had the power to fly. She remembers that he liked to play pool. Could you play pool with wings? she wonders. Ned hadn’t been around for a while. His dad got sick and died, and he was out flying for the first time in a year; just catching his thoughts, she guesses. Now, here he is.
All that remained of him after he took a header into Fifth Avenue from a mile above was shovelled into a coffin and buried. Nothing is going to be the same, and nobody cares. Only two people attended his funeral. One of them who looks like she could be his mother, cries openly as her companion shelters her with an umbrella. The priest completes his sermon and they depart, leaving Sally alone at his graveside. She cares.
Over the next few days, news reports begin to arrive from all over the world. The majority of mutants appear to have lost their powers. Sally reads the reports as they come in. The body count is staggering. People were caught in mid-flight like Ned, whilst others, like Tony Romeo, owner and main attraction of the Inferno nightclub, spontaneously combusted. Jeannie Martin of Long Island suddenly found her forty-inch neck, unable to support the weight of her head. Twenty-five years of misery ended with a snap. No one called the cops for hours.
The changes were arbitrary, as if God was trying to prove a point - that life is unfair. Some mutants retained their shape but lost their powers. Gary Peterson drowned in ten feet of water when his gills closed up. Latonya Jefferson woke to find her near-impenetrable skin gone. What was she to make of that? How do you go from ugly to beautiful overnight? Suddenly, the mutants were at one-hundredth of their former number. People were scared and some of them lashed out, usually at no one in particular. It was like an anti-bomb went off, and instead of causing mutations, it reversed them. Sally is sent to cover the fallout.
Congressman Sykes is holding a press conference, and he is surrounded by both reporters and secret service agents. He is assuring the press that this ‘depowering’ of mutants doesn’t affect his position on the matter of mutant registration. One reporter comments that a lot of people have accused him of pandering to the fears of voters with his self-admitted anti-mutant stance. How does he respond to questions raised that his affiliations with known anti-mutant organizations are behind the proposed mutant registration bill?
Congressman Sykes replies that they know that terrorist groups are actively recruiting disaffected mutants as they speak. These people are a bomb. He has made his feelings clear over the years. Certain civil liberties take a back seat in time of war, he explains. He’s trying to guarantee the safety of all citizens. Sally fires her own question at the congressman. She asks if this isn’t just another way of saying that all mutants should be put in jail, or run out of town until he’s satisfied they won’t eat his children.
Sykes recognizes Sally. He says it’s been almost a year since he’s seen her, and that it’s nice to see she’s back on the circuit. He’s sure he speaks for everyone when he says that they’ve missed her wit. Sally asks how he responds to accusations that calling for an identification system for American citizens with certain genetic tendencies amounts to a witch-hunt. Isn’t that just the rhetoric of bigotry and hatred for which he’s been criticized by such organizations as Amnesty International and useyourvoice.org?
Sykes replies that they have a process in their country called democracy. He has as much a right as anyone to voice his opinion. Sally tells him that no one’s denying him his freedom of speech. He’s right up there with the guy who called on them to assassinate the president of Venezuela. But, she continues, inciting a mob mentality towards differently-abled people isn’t necessarily protected by the constitution.
Sykes becomes agitated at this line of questioning. He informs Sally that he’s studied the constitution. He believes in all Americans’ constitutional right to protest when they see fit and to voice their opinions, whether popular or unpopular. He believes in his constitutional right to express his views on any subject without fear of attack by those with personal axes to grind; just as he believes in her right to drink alcohol excessively and skew articles against him.
Sally remains calm. She tells him that she’s flattered that a man of his stature takes an interest in the personal lives of those reporting on him. Sykes says she’s not a reporter. She’s a fashion columnist with a left-wing rag that specializes in character assassinations.
Sykes tries to divert attention from her by asking for questions from someone else. However, Sally pipes up again, asking how he responds to people who say he’s a bigoted jackass who wouldn’t recognize the constitution in a line-up of elementary school textbooks. Sykes gives her a withered look. He knows this conference hasn’t gone well.
That night, Sally Floyd wrote only two sentences, which summed up their confrontation. ‘I called him a bigot. He called me a communist.’ Her editor, Neil, yelled at her and sent one of the beat reporters to interview the mayor’s aide instead. She realized that it didn’t really matter what happened to a few dead mutants unlucky to be caught either in mid-air or downstream. The real story is about the ones who were left.
Sally returns to The Alternative’s offices, and informs Neil that she wishes to bring back the Mutant Diaries. They can call it something else, but she’s got to get this stuff in front of people. There’s something immense happening out there. Hundreds and thousands of people have undergone a life-altering event. They’re in danger of being buried if no one sits up and pays attention. Neil asks how he’s going to let her loose on this one. She’s like an angry Doberman with a pencil. She called a U.S. congressman, and he quotes it back to her, “A bigoted jackass.” Sally smiles and says it was a slip of the tongue. She meant to call him a fascist loon.
Neil walks off. He can’t trust her when her objectivity goes out the window. He tells her that she’s a good reporter, but everyone goes through hard times. It’s only been six months since she lost Minnie. Sally becomes animated, and replies that it’s been six months, not six weeks. She misses her every moment of every day, but she hasn’t killed herself yet. She says she really wants to go back to work, full-time. She’s been in therapy and she needs to write about what’s happening to these people.
Neil asks how he’s sure he’ll get more than one column. She promised him she’d go to A.A. and he doesn’t think she’s been once. He can’t rely on her. Sally is desperate, and promises to go tonight. She’ll stay sober. She asks him not to decide if she’s ready to go back to her own column full-time. She’ll decide that. She puts her hand together and gives him the Bambi eyes. “Please?”
(a few days later)
Fortunately, Neil’s a pushover and, after putting out a couple of calls and running a small request on the letters page for anyone who had a story to contact them, she got a promising lead from an orderly at Midtown Hospital. They’d just pulled in this patient…
The orderly sneaks her into the hospital through a back door, and leads her up the staircase. She puffs and pants. Sally’s in good shape, but her fitness is poor. The orderly introduces her to Gina Gonzales, one of their EMTs. Gina admits they could get into a lot of trouble if anyone knew they were doing this, but Sally assures her that this is all in confidence. Gina explains that they received an anonymous call on an untraceable line the other day. She and her driver, Jerry, were supposed to go check out someone who got hurt under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Gina and Jerry arrived at the bridge, only to find Cyclops and Wolverine of the X-Men underneath it. They were standing next to some kind of hi-tech casket with a body inside it. Gina was really nervous in their company, and wondered what the heck they could want with them. Cyclops explained that he didn’t have much time. He knew this was an unusual request, but they were unusual times. They’d lost a lot of good people, and the one in the casket collapsed right after the flash. Doctor McCoy managed to stabilize him, but with everything happening at the mansion, Cyclops figured he’d be safer with them. Wolverine explained that the machine helped to regulate his blood flow. The doctor asked if they could monitor him for a while. He’d consider it a personal favor. They would return for him when things calmed down.
Gina shows Sally to a room and explains that the two X-Men left them some equipment; stuff to monitor the patient with. They’re not really sure how it works. The orderly tells her that he and his friend, Eddie, brought him to this room. He opens the door and says this is what they found when he thawed out. Sally is shocked. Inside the room, surrounded by hi-tech machinery and with tubes inserted into several parts of his body is Jonothan Starsmore, otherwise known as Chamber. He has a gaping hole in his chest and appears to be unconscious.
Sally moves towards him and she recognizes him from an interview she did for her diaries a few years ago. Back then he was a real sweet English kid, and they communicated telepathically, which was kinda weird. He wanted to know if she could get the soccer results on her PDA. She was surprised that there was this kid with a nuclear explosion for a heart, and he was interested in soccer.
Gina says he’s probably only interested in survival right now. The poor kid’s missing his entire heart, not to mention the lower half of his jaw. None of the doctors are sure how the mechanical heart keeps him alive, but they follow the instructions they were given and change his blood every other day. The orderly adds that EEG shows brain activity. It’s freaking most of the night nurses out. Everyone’s wondering if he’ll turn into an atom bomb when they switch the power back on… if they switch the power back on. He wonders when someone’s gonna tell them what happened to these people.
(sometime later that night)
Sally returns to her apartment. She knows that it’s the big question. Why doesn’t God have the good grace to tell them what the future brings? She’d know all about that, wouldn’t she? No one told her. She sits at her window with a bottle of beer, staring into the night. Neil calls and leaves a message on her answer phone. He wants to make sure she gets the article in by eleven. They go to press in an hour. He’s relying on her. Sally takes a photograph of her daughter and whispers, “Hi, baby Minnie…” She clutches the photograph to her chest and cries.
(the next morning)
A phone call wakes her from her slumber. She pulls the receiver under the covers and says she isn’t there. On the other end is Neil. He tells her she’s not gonna believe this. It’s a quarter of twelve and the phone’s been ringing off the hook since he got in this morning. People are going crazy over her column. He’s not exaggerating either. He received a call from the AP wanting to report on the Mutant Diaries as a phenomenon. Sally sits up. Neil informs her that he wants more of them, and is going to make it a regular column. He asks if she’s going to behave. These people need her. They’ve lost everything and they need to tell their stories. He doesn’t want her to let them down.
Sally gets dressed and makes her way to work. It turns out that people aren’t as indifferent to the plights of depowered mutants as she thought. The first story got picked up by AOL, and then by Time Magazine. The Alternative’s circulation went up by ten percent. More importantly for Sally, she began to get calls from people all over the city; all across the world who’d lost their powers. They wanted to tell their stories.
Oprah Winfrey did a piece on the old Mutant Diaries from a few years back and it made her book-of-the-month club. Best of all, Sally got to debate with Congressman Sykes on national television and wiped the floor with him. “Bigoted jackass” sounds better the second time you say it.
On the way home, Sally explains herself on the phone to Neil about her insults. She partly defends herself by saying that the audience didn’t stop laughing for five minutes. She’s also spoken with her agent this afternoon, who told her she has an offer from Larry King and one from Late Night. She butters Neil up by telling him that if he plays his cards right, she’ll mention his name to Conan.
She asks if Neil set up an interview with this homeless guy down at the shelter. There are a couple of people down there who’ve lost their powers. Before he answers, their conversation is broken off when she notices an envelope taped to her front door. “Not enough died,” it reads on the front. She tells Neil that she’ll call him back.
This isn’t the first time some idiot has taped something to her front door, and it probably won’t be her last. She figures it’ll be a little bedtime reading from some thirteen-year old from Iowa, desperate for attention. Inside there are a couple of printed sheets: little diatribes full of spelling errors with headers like, ‘The only good mutant is a dead one,’ and ‘Once a mutie, always a mutie.’ Her particular favorite was in there as well. It’s a phrase borrowed from Congressman Sykes first mutant registration bill that died in committee last year. ‘Give the mutants a number,’ it said, ‘and you will give them a face.’
She’s about to throw the stuff in the trash when she notices a smaller envelope hidden inside. She slips it open and sees what’s inside. Sally is horrified at its contents. She looks at photographs of several mutants who have clearly been murdered by the sender of the envelope. Beside each body is the same note that was printed on her envelope. ‘Not enough died.’ The note with them tells her that the sender wanted to show her a few more who died, now that they can’t defend themselves.