‘Tibet was a waste. A million hours meditating wouldn’t touch the dead weight on my chest. Chuck was the only father most of us had. Disappointing the old man is a rock-bottom pain that nothing can turn off’ Wolverine a.k.a. Logan thinks to himself as he walks down an inner-city street, hands in pockets, head down, cowboy hat covering his face. ‘Dying at Scott’s hands…seems Chuck left with things as bad as he’d ever see’ Wolverine decides, as a gust of wind blows his hat off. He goes over to and picks it up from where it lands at the entrance to an alleyway. He sees “DIE MUTIES” spray painted onto the alleyway wall. Wolverine tells himself that the world waited for Chuck to die before entirely wiping its hind end on his dream. ‘Considerate’ he thinks to himself.
Wolverine carries on down the street, and finds people holding a candle-light vigil, while police have cordoned off an area. ‘Almost a relief he didn’t live to see this. Hate like this…looks you in the eye. Shakes your faith in the whole mess’ Wolverine thinks to himself. Approaching the cordon, he shows one of the officers his Avengers ID card, ‘Giant damned scar in bold type across the heart of the world. Broadcasting the root of this catastrophe through a bullhorn’ Wolverine thinks to himself. ‘The mutants are back’. Paramedics are on scene at the site of the disaster zone. Fire fighters are assisting with the location of survivors under mountains of rubble. Havok, Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, the Falcon, Captain Marvel, Iron Man and Daredevil are on hand to assist.
‘Smelled around for survivors, Cap’ Wolverine calls out to Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, who replies ‘And?’, but as they turn to paramedics carrying a body bag, Wolverine tells him that he is sorry. Thor approaches his teammates, and Wolverine remarks that Avalanche was rehabilitated, he can’t see him doing this. ‘His eyes were vacant. Something was off’ Cap replies. Thor announces that, for years, he has witnessed this enmity between man and mutant, and that he believed the resolution to simply be a matter of time - that the inherent nobility of mankind would prevail, and peace would follow. ‘It is no longer a conflict I will stand by to let run its course’ the Asgardian god-warrior states. Hammer in hand, Thor adds that whoever did this wanted to start a war. ‘They will have one. This craven has earned the full attention of Thor, God of Thunder’ he frowns.
Captain America declares that they will find who was behind this, and will avenge the fallen, but that right now, their first priority is to prevent more bloodshed and to ensure no one uses this catastrophe to further an agenda of hatred. Motioning to where Havok is assisting a fire fighter, Captain America informs Wolverine that Havok has agreed to lead an Avengers unit, and that he will publicly announce Havok will head up this investigation. ‘People need to see humans and mutants committed to working together, now more than ever’ Cap explains. ‘Before mourning turns to violence’ he adds. Wolverine looks sceptical and points out that there are a lot of people dead at the hands of a mutant. ‘And you want the brother of a mutant nearly took over the planet to head up the Avengers’ response to this? Gonna piss folks off, Steve’ Wolverine tells Cap. ‘Gonna get mutants killed’.
Cap replies that he thought Logan would have been supportive of this. Wolverine points out that Cap couldn’t have thought he would have been too supportive given he didn’t raise it with him first. ‘Logan, this is why Charles put his students in uniforms and sent them out into the world. To protect and serve - to win hearts and minds’ Cap declares, adding that Alex is a strong and ethical man, a proven leader, a man who normal people can identify with as they navigate this. ‘Picking the pretty mutants to be our public face, Steve?’ Wolverine asks. ‘He won’t frighten people, I won’t lie, that’s important. What matters most is that he’s a good man. The mutant community needs -’ Cap begins, before Wolverine interrupts him: ‘Listen to you. “Mutant community”. There ain’t no such thing, Cap’.
Wolverine continues, stating that it is a load of drunken sincerity, feeding an illusion that they all belong to something bigger. ‘It’s just more of the cult kool-aid Scott was selling’ Wolverine adds, as he and Cap watch a fire fighter bring an elderly man over to Alex, telling him that he wanted to thank him personally. Alex Summers a.k.a. Havok extends his hand to shake the old man’s, as the old man remarks ‘I…I know we lost a lot of people, and I hope…it… you saved my life, saved my Elana’s life…I don’t care what they’re saying about mutants…there ain’t enough heroes in the world’, as he ignores Alex’s hand, and throws his arms around him, hugging him. Alex just stares straight ahead, taken aback, while Thor sits down beside Cap and Logan.
Around the country, people are watching a news report, where a white man in a blue suit says ‘We all know in our hearts what needs be done…we should have had a national conversation about the mutants when we had the chance’ he remarks. A waitress in a diner stops what she is doing and watches the man on screen, who continues, remarking that they dodged a bullet, that something had decimated the mutant numbers, and they were disappearing - almost gone, but now, after this Phoenix business, people should make no mistake - the clock has started again. In a family living room, a man and his son are watching the same report - only the man on screen is now of dark color, as are the father and his son, who has horns on his head. The man declares that what happened in New York is a wake-up call, that there is still time to correct the ship and to stop this before it starts again.
An Asian woman is drinking wine in a backyard Jacuzzi with a male mutant and they too are watching the report only the person they see on screen is also Asian, while a journalist asks ‘By “stop this” you mean…you’re advocating what exactly? Sentinels on every street corner?’, to which the man explains that he is simply a messenger, and that he doesn’t have the answers. ‘But if we don’t do something, they will eventually overwhelm us’ he adds, while, in the living room, the father gets up and goes into the kitchen, where he picks up a large knife.
In the diner, the police officer sees that the waitress is hovering off the floor. He reaches for the gun strapped to his waist. ‘Are we too high-minded to consider basic survival?’ the man on screen asks. In the Jacuzzi, the woman picks up her wine bottle and raises it over her head, listening to the man on screen ask ‘What did we do to the mutants the last time their numbers surged?’ An image of the Red Skull appears on screen, as he declares ‘GENOSHA’. With that, blood splatters up against the television in the living room, beneath a photo of the father and his son. In the diner, the policeman shoots the waitress down. ‘Mankind murdered sixteen million mutants’ he adds, while the woman in the Jacuzzi has slammed the wine bottle into her friend’s head, and pushes him under the water.
The man on screen appears a the Red Skull still, and announces that when, once again, mutants number in the tens of thousands, he asks whether they will sit back and hope things will go differently this time. ‘I think we saw their answer yesterday in New York’ he adds. In the television studio, the man in the blue suit is really none of the men who appeared on screen. He adds: There is no compromise in evolution, my friends’, before the live screening ends. ‘And we’re clear’ someone calls out. The man stands up and walks towards the real Red Skull, ‘Don’t worry, they all saw me as their ideal leader, as instructed’, he points out. ‘A necessary deceit, for now’ the Red Skull replies. He calls the man Honest John, the Living Propaganda and tells him that one day, mankind will know and esteem him - the man who opened their eyes.
Elsewhere, Rogue is strapped to a disc that rests on a platform extended out into a deep silo-like room. Her arms and feet stuck in round balls. She tells herself that she has woken up in worse situations for sure, but not many. She decides that “alive” is plenty to be grateful for, after being knocked cold by villain types, and hopes that Wanda is alive, too - much as she hates her. ‘She’s Erik’s daughter, and if these folks were dumb enough to kill her…we’re all in for some bad trouble’ Rogue tells herself. A door at the end of the platform opens, and two of Rogue’s attackers enter, the blue water-like woman with tentacles for legs, and a large turtle-man. ‘Ah, here come the geniuses now’ Rogue mutters. ‘You attack the X-Men’s home, decimate Charles Xavier’s mausoleum and stab the daughter of Magneto - what’s the encore? You digging up Jean Grey?’
The turtle man holds out a sandwich to Rogue’s mouth, while the woman replies ‘You speak of genius choices, Bella Mia? You, former member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. You and my father both. You remember him? Dominikos Petrakis? Avalanche?’ the woman asks, adding that Avalanche paid for his crimes. She warns Rogue that she will too. The turtle man tells Rogue to eat. ‘It is butter of peanut and crushed fruit preserves’ he explains, assuring her that it is good. Rogue ignores the sandwich and tells her captors that the X-Men are not people she wants a war with. ‘I promise’. The water woman asks if the timing is inconvenient. ‘We didn’t choose when or where mutants ruined our lives’ she declares.
The turtle man holds up a glass and the water woman calls him Mzee, informing Rogue that years ago, in Ethiopia, her lover Magneto’s henchmen wiped out Mzee’s village, his family and everyone he knew. Mzee stares back at Rogue with his sad face, as Avalanche’s daughter reveals that he hid in an oil drum, but he could hear everything. ‘Could you smell the blood of Mzee’s family on Erik’s hands as you pleasured him?’ she asks, as Mzee raises the glass to Rogue’s mouth. Rogue realizes that she was half conscious when she was kidnapped, awake enough to see that the woman is made of water. As Rogue starts to drink the water in the glass, she borrows a neighborly cup of super powers with a touch. She spits the water out of the glass at Avalanche’s daughter, and it strikes her in the face, a connection has been established through the water. Rogue then grabs the glass by her teeth, and flips it up, covering her own face in the water. She is grateful to Gambit and all those kinky bondage drinking games.
Rogue is able to use the water powers to move out of the restraints, and tells her opponents that she doesn’t want to seem ungrateful, and asks if they were really going to serve her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and with water to wash it down. Rogue drops to the platform and kicks Mzee down low, knocking him over and off the platform. Rogue gets to her feet and leaps towards Avalanche’s daughter. ‘The Geneva Convention has rules about torture’ Rogue points out as she punches the other woman in the face, but her arm just passes through the woman’s watery form. ‘Look at you, so pleased with yourself. I hate to be a wet blanket - but you overestimate your worth!’ she declares as she blasts the platform with a powerful burst of water, shattering part of it, and causing the end that Rogue is on to start to fall downwards.
Rogue realizes that the blast was meant to kill her, and if she isn’t important, that means they were after Wanda. ‘An aquatic teleportation cannot save you from this fall, X-Man’ Avalanche’s daughter calls out. Rogue decides that she is just a token to be held in case a use is found - a token to be killed should she prove difficult. ‘I am most definitely that’ Rogue tells herself as she leaps from the falling platform, reminding herself that Wanda nearly died protecting her, but that it doesn’t matter, as Wanda is too unpredictable to be left in anyone’s hands. Rogue dives forward, to where some water from the blast is still dripping off the other side of the platform, and using the water-based teleportation power she recently acquired, Rogue vanishes, knowing that the mission is clear - find the Scarlet Witch.
Elsewhere, The Red Skull stands over a bed, where Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch lies, a bandage around her stomach, where she was recently skewered. ‘Jew, gypsy and a mutant…yet so beautiful. So deceptively…human’ the Red Skull decides, before using his newfound psychic ability to order the Scarlet Witch to wake.
Wanda does so, and instinctively casts a hex, readying it to use against the villain. ‘You - get back - get the hell back!’ Wanda shouts. The Red Skull tells her that she slept poorly, and that bad dreams are a side effect of the pain relievers. ‘Happily, your wound is healed and the drugs will son subside’ the Red Skull explains. He turns and tells the Scarlet Witch that it was extraordinarily brave what she did. ‘Putting yourself in harm’s way to save your father’s whore’ he remarks, adding that he knew of Wanda’s father back when he was still a boy.
The Red Skull grins wickedly and reveals that upon learning of young Magneto’s unnatural genetic attributes, he intended t focus the entirety of his attentions on him, but, alas, he was distracted by duty. The Red Skull points out that had he killed young Erik Lehnsherr, as he considered, Wanda would not be here. ‘Wanda Maximoff. The final hope of mankind. It is curious how the world connects things’ he points out. He tells Wanda to follow him, and they step out onto a platform, inside a strange dome, it overlooks various different landscapes, and the Red Skull explains that it is his school for gifted humans. He adds that this is his multiregional training facility, and that one never knows where war will take you.
‘A war you want to wage on mutants like me?’ the Scarlet Witch enquires. ‘Yes’ the Red Skull replies, informing Wanda that out of respect, he will be upfront with her - because, beyond their obviously insurmountable differences, he believes their interests may intersect. Wanda follows the Red Skull down a flight of stairs, as the Red Skull remarks ‘Your motive in attempting to erase the mutants, for example’, to which Wanda tells him that if he thinks she will share any insights with the likes of him, then this will be a very short conversation. ‘You know nothing of “the likes of me”. I am not the man you knew - I am not nearly so confused’ the Red Skull replies.
The Red Skull’s mind wanders back, and he tells the Scarlet Witch that to him, 1942 was mere months ago. That Hitler was meth-addicted, unhinged, and he began to suspect they would lose the war. The Red Skull reveals that in preparation, his chief science officer, Arnim Zola, recorded his consciousness within a cloned body, preserved in a bunker to revive in seventy years when the world had forgotten him and his perceived atrocities. But, he awoke to an all-too-familiar world stage. In America, he saw the same embers that burned in Germany before the war - a frightened population of totem worshippers, living in decline, flinching at shadows - all hungrily looking for someone to blame.
Wanda and the Red Skull stand on the edge of a waterfall and look down it, as the Red Skull declares that mutants are the ultimate invading foreigners, and the Scarlet Witch their greatest fear - and rightfully so. ‘I suspect you must agree - in some part of your soul - to have done what you did’ he adds. Wanda replies that she was lost. ‘My children dead, and my father, he needed to see…’ her voice trails off as the Red Skull remarks ‘Needed to see that our world was better off without mutants’. ‘No…’ Wanda begins, but the Red Skull grins wickedly, and places his fingers to his temples, as he telepathically tells the Scarlet Witch ‘Yes. You’ve never belonged in their world, Wanda. You see them for the danger they are. Deep down, you want to live in a world free of mutants’.
The Scarlet Witch appears blank, as the Red Skull continues with his menacing smile, announcing that they can use their fear of the mutants to unite humankind, to build an eternal Reich all of humanity under one flag - his. ‘You know what we must do. Do you have the power to do it again?’ Red Skull asks, before putting his hands on Wanda’s arms, as Wanda asks ‘To wipe them out? I…provided I had enough casting time and an immense source of power…’, to which the Red Skull assures her that she will have whatever is needed. ‘Yes. I can do it’ Wanda declares, narrowing her eyes.
The Red Skull receives a telepathic call from someone called Tsar Sultan, who reports that Dancing Water and Mzee have allowed the X-Man to escape. ‘Where is she now?’ the Red Skull asks, but Tsar Sultan replies that he doesn’t know.
The Red Skull turns and starts to walk away, leaving Wanda by the waterfall, he explains that he has business, so she should rest and regain her strength. ‘When I return we will discuss how to move our relationship into a more…physical domain’ he tells her. ‘Yes, Herr Skull. I serve the Eternal Reich’ Wanda replies. Suddenly, ‘Heard all I need to!’ Rogue exclaims as she appears behind Wanda, and grabs her face with a bare hand. ‘Remove your hands from me!’ Wanda shouts, punching Rogue, knocking her back. Rogue’s hand glows with pink energy and tells Wanda that she got what she wanted. But looking at her hand, Rogue is frustrated. ‘C’mon, you confusing, idiot power - work! Allakazoo - kala shazam!’ she shouts. The Scarlet Witch raises her own hands upwards and they burst with energy, as states that Rogue lacks the imagination to wield her abilities.
‘After Mount Wundagore, I am not merely an elemental mutant as I was born - I am a catalyst for the elements of chaos magic!’ Wanda declares as pink energy surges towards Rogue, who jumps into the air. ‘And it takes a witch to control magic’ Wanda points out. But as Rogue lands, she falls through the artificial ground. Wanda peers down the hole, and calls out ‘Ignorant trailer trash raised by a mutant terrorist - how else could you have turned out?’ Adding that Rogue is a murderous criminal, the Scarlet Witch drops down the hole and into some sort of laboratory, telling Rogue that “dirt bag” is embedded too deeply in her genes to outrun, but not to worry, as she is going to cure her.
Wanda sees Rogue standing in the darkened lab, next to a table where a body lies. ‘Turn and face me. Turn and face the last -’ Wanda begins, but she goes wide-eyed as she approaches Rogue, who has her hands covering her mouth, shocked at who and what she sees on the table - Professor Charles Xavier, half of his head removed, and his brain missing. Wanda hangs her head, ‘He…did this…took Charles apart…I was going to help him…dear God’ she utters.
Rogue begins to cry, and her mind wanders back to when she was first brought to Xavier’s school. She stood behind Xavier, near Lilandra, as Storm, Colossus, Kitty and Nightcrawler confronted the Professor. Storm told the Professor that he knows Rogue’s history, and asked if they were expected to fight beside someone they do not - dare not - trust. Storm declared that the X-Men would disband if Rogue was accepted, only to be told by the Professor to do what she must, as he would not abandon Rogue. The Professor pointed out that all mutants led extraordinarily difficult lives, and most mistakes deserve a chance for redemption, even if it meant Rogue would be his sole remaining student, she would have that chance.
Rogue is kneeling beside the table, and has a hand reaching up, resting on Xavier’s. Wanda goes over and puts her hand on Rogue’s shoulder to comfort her. ‘I’ll kill him for this. If it’s the last thing I do’ Rogue exclaims, looking up from under her hood, tears streaming down her face. ‘It won’t be…’ a voice calls out as someone else enters the lab. Wanda and Rogue turn to the door, ‘With your dear Xavier’s brain now fused to my own, I can clearly see what your final act will be…’ The Red Skull stands, with several of his S-Men begind him - Mzee, Dancing Water, the Living Wind, the Goat-Faced Girl, Insect, Dangerous Jinn and the old woman, as he grins wickedly and raises his hands, using his newfound telepathy, he declares ‘Begging!’