After leaving Ravencroft Asylum, Sally Floyd’s car has been wrecked by having the dead body of Violet Sanchez thrown at it and is cordoned off by police investigators. Arriving at the scene are Detective’s Izzo and Patterson, Sally’s editor, Neil, and a news photographer.
Detective Izzo notices the photographer and comments that they are going to have to go public with this. He sees that Sally is distracted, and asks her if she heard him. Sally replies that she did, but her focus is clearly elsewhere. Detective Patterson asks Neil for his newspaper’s cooperation. Something like this has to be carefully orchestrated. Izzo clarifies that his partner means there is certain information that they want to get out, and certain things they don’t.
Sally talks to herself quietly, wondering how she’s going to explain the incident to her car insurance adjuster. A paramedic treats her for shock. Neil agrees to their proposal, but says that they get the exclusive, and it’s only fair that Sally writes it considering the ordeal she’s been put through. This is fine with the detectives, but Patterson insists that Sally accepts their offer of police protection. She’ll be under constant surveillance. Sally is aware enough to ask just one question. Motioning towards her car, she asks how the hell they’re gonna protect her from someone who can do that.
Patterson assures her that they have a lot of experience, and begins to tell her, “I spent three years on the Mutant Crimes Unit…” before she interjects, reminding him that he’s never had to deal with anything like this before. She doesn’t feel he has the first idea of what is happening here. As Violet is taken away on an ambulance stretcher, she tells him that these people are just convenient targets for him. They’re disconnected and powerless. She saw the future inside the nuthouse, and it’s not pleasant.
The mutants who are left with powers are now in control, and who is going to police them when there are no mutants left? Izzo says the deal stands, and The Alternative gets the exclusive as long as Sally accepts police protection until they get this ‘Ghoul’ into custody. Sally then remembers Congressman Sykes. He’s going to have a frickin’ field day with this.
The Alternative’s headline reads ‘Mutant murders. Serial killer The Ghoul strikes multiple times in the city.’ The paper is on screen behind Sally, Congressman Sykes and the host of Fox’s Face Off television program. Sykes tells his audience that it’s painfully obvious that this story was kept from going public just to they could claim that all mutants are safe. Sally denies this, and says he’s using the fact that a mutant has murdered innocent people to justify all the fiction. He can’t get elected by demonizing an entire section of the population! Sykes replies that he can if they act like demons.
A pre-prepared image appears on screen behind him. It’s Pyro, who Sykes claims was charged with over seventy mutant crimes, including the murders of three police officers in the Bronx. He can also cite the example of the Toad’s attack on Saint Dunstan’s elementary school, or numerous acts of criminal destruction committed by Juggernaut. As Cain Marko appears on screen, Sykes adds that there are a thousand examples that he’d be happy to rattle off.
The host, Kevin, thinks that’s an interesting point, and turns to Sally, asking how she feels about police officers being overextended when it comes to crimes committed by superhumans. Sally replies that she thinks Congressman Sykes has an uncanny ability to predict the future of crime in the United States. Are they sure he’s not a mutant, she asks, mischievously. Sally gets off her seat and addresses Sykes directly. She says that advocates of the Mutant Registration Act completely ignore the fact that mutant crimes are in exact proportion to non-mutant crimes. Also, metahumans are technically humans, and this means they have the same rights under the constitution as she does. Thirdly, she suggests Sykes has a word with his research people, since the Juggernaut is now reformed and was never a mutant.
Sally points the viewers to a new image behind her. It shows one of the former mutants that the Ghoul photographed and sent to her. She asks the viewers to spot the odd one out. Matthew Shepherd was murdered because he was gay. Michael Donald was lynched in 1981 because he was black. A Pakistani-American lost his life in a fire because he was a Muslim and a mutant farmer was tied to a stake and burned by two drunken teenagers. What’s the difference? she asks. As the screen changes behind her, showing a Ku Klux Klan gathering, she adds that a free society doesn’t register people for being black or gay or Muslim. That’s going to change if Sykes gets his way and starts registering mutants.
Sykes points out that black or gay people can’t single-handedly destroy a nuclear power station. Muslims don’t flatten mountains with a bat of their eyelids. Mutants have done this and will do it again. He says she talks about freedom, but it exists only as a quaint notion in some fractured, liberal ideology. He feels Sally doesn’t understand that what America’s public servants have always known, is that freedom isn’t the choice of the voting masses. What people really want is to be safe.
(after the show)
Sally is led to her car by two officers who are there to protect her. She wonders how people are going to feel safe if a weasel like Sykes could come to their door and electronically register them at any hour of the day or night. One thing’s for sure: his program displayed all the foresight of a U.S. military exit plan. She is frustrated that he didn’t need to explain what he was proposing. He just needed to throw pieces of paper around and call it to the attention of the voters so it looked like he was actually doing something in Washington. Still, who cares? It’s not like anyone ever listens.
As she approaches her car, the officers wave goodbye. However, before she gets in, she is surprised by a female voice coming from nearby. She looks up and notices a young red-haired woman, looking disheveled and exhausted. With a faint moment of recognition, Sally asks if she knows her. The woman tells her she is called Sarah Purser. Sally put their flying club in her diaries last year. Sally remembers that her sorority got into trouble for buzzing the TV studios. She asks what she is doing on the edge of the roof.
Sarah looks across the city, and remembers when she had her mutant powers. She could fly across the city, seeing how the lights twinkled when it was warm. She always used to think that rare perspective belonged to herself and the swallows. It was something really special. It was all she had, and now she knows what her government did. They took away their powers and she got left with squat. She can’t fly anymore. “Why would they do that?” she asks, rhetorically. She sniffs, and adds that she’s heard about Sykes talking about freedom, and she wonders what the hell he knows about freedom. Flying is freedom, and being glued to the ground is worse than jail. Tears stream down her face.
Sarah stands up and opens her arms out wide. Events happen just the way she rehearsed it. She asks Sally, “Tell me something, Miss Floyd. If I close my eyes, an’ I flap my arms really hard… do you think I’ll still be able to fly?” Without waiting for a response, Sarah falls backwards, with the knowledge that this will be her last flight. Sally reaches out and the officers stand helpless as she plummets to the sidewalk. She is killed instantly, as Sally buries her face in her hands.
(sometime later, afternoon)
Sally’s Mutant Diaries column reports on the sad demise of Sarah Purser. She wanders into The Alternative’s office feeling a little wretched after seeing Sarah die. One of her colleagues, Eric, doesn’t really know what to say, but Sally thanks him anyway. She finds some flowers waiting for her, and also a young man wearing a blue jacket with yellow edging. He tells her she looks terrible, and asks how he looks. Sally turns and asks if he’s one of the interns. He replies that she can call him Beak if it helps.
Sally places her hands on his shoulders. “Beak? Barnell?” She can’t believe how he looks now, and he jokes that the least they could have done was give him a nose job or something. On the whole he’s pretty happy with how he looks. He hands Sally an envelope inviting her for an interview. Cyclops sent him. The interview will have to be offsite as things are weird right now. Sally’s pleased at getting the interview, and she asks how he feels. Barnell grins, and says he doesn’t feel bad. Still can’t fly though.
As Barnell departs, the phone rings and Sally picks up. It’s the Ghoul, and he asks if she received the flowers he sent. They’re to celebrate his story. He knows she probably said those distorted things on TV because the police told her to. She’d be amazed at how much he sees. He asks if she read the note. Sally tells him he’s sick. The Ghoul replies that he’s doing a public service, and wants Sally to acknowledge the fact. He asks her to read the note and then she’ll see. Sally tells him she wants an interview. Maybe they can set up a conference or something. The Ghoul is saddened that she thinks so little of his intellect.
He continues to point out that it doesn’t matter. He respects the purity of her blood, and thinks they are a lot alike. He knows she doesn’t appreciate him right now but, given time, he hopes she’ll consider him a friend. Sally tells him that she’s nothing like him. No one with half an ounce of sanity could hate himself as much as he does. She informs him that the detectives told her what he is. He’s some sad sack little Pinocchio who wants to be a real boy. The Ghoul puts the phone down and Sally picks up the envelope with the note. Inside is another photograph. It’s a picture of more dead former mutants with the usual sign, ‘Not enough died.’ She asks someone to get Neil, now!
The Mutant Diaries report on ‘The Alley’ that runs underneath New York City. This is where the Morlocks live, and a young woman named Marrow has often lived in the sewers, championing the Morlocks’ cause for many years. The first time Sally interviewed her for the diaries, Marrow threatened to kill her… twice.
Sally meets with Marrow in the tunnels. There are other mutants around, but they mostly keep themselves to themselves. Marrow explains that, two weeks ago, she received word that there’d been an incursion from the surface. All she knew was that there was some kind of commotion. When she arrived she found thirteen dead, and the ambulances never arrived. They stacked the corpses in a pile when they began to rot and then burned them.
Sally asks if anyone said why no one came. Marrow tells her that, the louder Congressman Sykes calls for mutant registration, the easier it is for him to hide the truth. Americans are already labeled and registered a hundred different ways. There are social security numbers and credit cards. Such indignities afford you the privilege of police and ambulance services.
Sally asks if she feels safer down in the sewers, despite the conditions. Marrow thinks that, before M-Day, she would have said yes. Now, however, they’ve lost two-thirds of their number, and over four-fifths of the remainder also lost their Morlock shape or powers or both. They have to stay there because they have nowhere else to go. Very soon, she adds, they’re going to have to realize that they can make it on the surface. If that happens, she doesn’t know if they’ll survive.
Sally asks Marrow if she will stay. Until the bitter end, she replies. She explains that, when she was a child, she thought she might grow up to be beautiful, like Sally. She thought that things on the surface mattered. But, this happened to her instead. She turns her back and reveals her bone structure in its full glory. Her disfigurement is a trophy; a reminder that beauty and ugliness can coexist. She believes that humanity can accept the Morlocks as they are, without change. She hears and sees everything they do. She can taste their potential. However, she concludes, until the day comes when they can leave the tunnels and remain free, she’ll stay. They need her now more than ever. She picks up a fellow Morlock who is small in stature named Irving. She informs Sally that Irving has no possessions, no income and no family. The least she can do is offer him hope.
Sally is at her apartment and she has guests. One of them is a criminal psychologist, and she is joined by Detective’s Izzo and Patterson and Sally’s uniformed protection. Izzo keeps a watch out of her window, whilst the psychologist explains that geographically stable serial killers are creatures of habit. They can predict their behaviors with alarming regularity. For instance, they love to take souvenirs of their victims. It feeds their consuming need for power; even esoteric little bits of information. They often drive VW Bugs. Sally replies that she drove one until someone smashed it.
The psychologist wishes to talk about the Ghoul. She confirms that he’s male, probably in his early to late twenties, most likely Caucasian, feels he lacks power, and he might have attempted suicide in the last three to four years. He going to be arrogant about proving his intelligence to Sally, and he probably has a history of substance abuse. “Don’t we all,” replies Sally. She stands and comments that the psychologist said he might have the hots for her, judging by the things he’s saying. Does she ask him out? Detective Patterson feels that if the Ghoul is encouraged, he might want to communicate. He looks at a photograph of Minnie and asks Sally if it’s her daughter. A look from Sally brings a swift apology.
Sally asks if this is their plan. She bats her eyelids and tells him he’s a sexy, sexy man and he gives himself away? Patterson knows he’s too clever for that. All they’re asking is that she offers him enough rope to hang himself. Sally slumps back into the sofa, and resigns herself to becoming the Ghoul’s pen pal. The Psychologist feels that they should encourage him. Serial killers are almost always exposed by their biggest weakness, as much as they want to hide. They want to be seen, especially by a pretty young girl who can get them their publicity. Sally jokes that she’ll put him in touch with her agent.
The psychologist figures that Sally should go about her business; let him write and occasionally call. They’ll have him on tape for a voice analysis the next time. He’s going to want to tell his story. When he starts talking, she adds, they’ll shove a microphone down his throat. Sally appreciates the levity.
The Mutant Diaries report on two brothers named Joe and Jim Prindle. They’re exactly alike, and yet they have nothing in common at all. It explains that, in high school, Joe was a straight-A student, whilst Jim preferred video games and sports. Joe couldn’t get a date, and Jim couldn’t fend the girls off quick enough. Joe seemed destined for Brown University and Jim eyed a career at Denny’s. In just one day, everything changed.
Three weeks after the identical tins turned seventeen, Jim began to glow with what doctors described as a ‘preternatural inner light.’ Within hours, he found himself capable of transforming the atomic structure of certain compounds and elements - plastic became charcoal, wood became water and a glass of coke became a glass of mercury. In effect, with some restrictions, Jim could turn lead into gold. The next few days saw a dramatic change in their fortunes. Jim entered Charles Xavier’s mutant academy, where he was taught how to hone his abilities. Joe continued with his studies.
Sally interviews the twins, and it becomes clear that Jim always thought his brother should get a life, whereas Joe felt his brother, because of his genetic quirk, was getting an easy ride. Sally asks Joe if he thinks his brother should be accepted back, now he’s lost his power. Joe replies that he always had a problem with the parable of the prodigal son. This guy was a total loser, yet he somehow got to come home and cash in. He and Jim are identical twins, so how come he ends up having to deal with real life while he got to cash in?
Joe recalls how his brother took off one day and started making money on the talk show circuit right after he mutated. He used to be on Leno a lot with his alchemy. He guesses he was big in Japan. Their dad called him a few times but they never heard back. Meantime, he went to college, got his degree, got married and divorced and tried to pay alimony for their two kids. He buried their mom and saw dad into his twilight years. Never a word came back from Hollywood, except maybe a card at Christmas, written by Jim’s latest secretary.
Jim protests his innocence. He doesn’t think it was his fault. He had talent. Joe reminds him that now he doesn’t, and he’s here at his door looking for a handout. He tells his brother that he gets from life exactly what you put in. He put in nothing, so he shouldn’t come looking for sympathy because he’s not going to receive any.
Sally drives a replacement car to Zoco, a fancy restaurant in New York City. She could have listened to the brothers arguing all day, but she has plans. As she approaches the meeting with whomever Cyclops had sent, she has a weird feeling that something is missing. She follows the maitre’d into the restaurant. Things often come in threes. There was Sarah Purser who was miserable that now she couldn’t fly. Then there was Beak who could never fly so good anyway. Losing his avian form is the best thing that’s happened to him. Number three? Number three turns out to be a doozy.
She is shown to a long table in a secluded part of the restaurant. Seated at one end is Warren Worthington III, better known as the high-flying Angel. He says hello, adding that it’s been a long time. She takes a seat, and says he never calls or writes. Maybe it’s because he dumped her like a sack of wet diapers. Warren assures he didn’t mean to hurt her. He was young. He offers her a drink, but Sally replies that she’s giving it up for lent. “And just for the record, I wasn’t hurt. I was mad. You were a tool.” Warren says he wants to make amends. What with everything that’s happened at the mansion because of M-Day, he has a massive story for her.
Sally produces her PDA and tells him she chooses what to write. She doesn’t care who he is. Warren informs her that this is important. He offers her an exclusive, but they’ll need to do it in two parts. She asks what’s so amazing at the mansion that the world needs to know. He stands and replies that it isn’t about the mansion. He wants her to write his story. He removes his jacket. He’s wearing nothing underneath on his torso, so when he turns his back on her, she can clearly see two bony stumps projecting out of his back. “I want everyone to know what’s happened to my wings.”