The time is late afternoon. The century is not his own. But soon the world would be. He moves forward in total confidence of that one truth. He is a weapon, the last Nazi bomb launched from the past to win a war long mistaken to be over. Only now he wields the abilities of the most powerful telepath in history. A wonderful gift he will put to grand purpose - total domination. His time at war had taught him that a people taken by force would never stop fighting their oppressors. To achieve a lasting change the squalid masses must believe a movement is of their choosing. And to stir a frightened people to action, one need only justify, with great passion, their hate and bigotry as just. ‘One foot at a time’ he reminds himself. ‘There are many steps yet to take’.
He strides down a recently devastated street that is partly blocked off by a police cordon. A police officer notices him approaching and reaching to his holster, gasps ‘Oh - dear lord!’, but suddenly, he is calm. ‘I - I understand’ he utters, as the other man walks past him, then steps onto the police car. ‘All heil the Reich Eternal!’ the police officer calls out, saluting the Red Skull! The diabolical villain tells himself that there is much blood to be spilled, and using his newfound telepathy he raises his hands, and calls out ‘Citizens, fellow human beings, I implore you - WAKE UP!’
New York had survived a seemingly endless torrent of chaos and suffering. And after the avalanche the Red Skull set upon the city, the loathing was palpable. A nauseous tension hung in the air. Uncertainty loomed. A city awaiting its biopsy report. And today the Red Skull would call upon his famous bedside manner to deliver the news - prognosis terminal. Civilians start to gather around, as he tells them that they pass this monument of death and that it suffocates their hearts. ‘It fills you with a terrible fear. Who among us will be next?’ he asks, adding that there can be no safety living among creatures that bring down buildings without warning. ‘But what can we do? What is the solution?’ he asks them. His eyes glare at them as his power takes control and tells them that they are the solution. ‘You are the chemotherapy needed to eradicate this cancer growing in our midst!’
The Red Skull continues, telling the civilians that they have heard the stories of everyday men and women taking it upon themselves to remove mutants from their neighborhoods - removing them the only way possible - eradicating them like vermin. ‘You anxiously hold on to hope that this bloodshed will end and peace will find a way. It will not. It can not. These mutants will attack again until we are DEAD!’ The Red Skull then calls out to his team, his S-Men: ‘To me, my S-Men! Bring to me the villainous architects responsible for this heinous attack! Let these good people hear for themselves!’ he declares, as a puddle of water glimmers and flashes to life, transformed into a portal by the woman called Dancing Water. Her deceptive beauty standing in stark contrast to the corrosive hatred that has long since encompassed her soul.
‘People of New York - we offer you these women, members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!’ Dancing Water declares, as the captive Rogue and Scarlet Witch stand amongst the S-Men, whose membership includes Mzee, Dangerous Jinn, the Goat-Faced Girl, Tsar Sultan, Living Wind, Honest John and an old woman. All of the Skull’s S-Men have endured terrible experiments to ready themselves for the coming war. Physical alterations, cellular amalgamation, Zola’s genetic enhancement therapy and the possession of cursed relics - they have given over their lives for this moment. Even still, now here, on the precipice of the attack, the horror that comes next gives each of them a momentary pause.
The Scarlet Witch steps forward and introduces herself as Wanda Maximoff, the daughter of the terrorist Magneto. She introduces Rogue as her ally, and announces that they take responsibility for this act of courage. ‘We will not rest until our world is free of the human threat’ she states. ‘MONSTERS!’ a human shouts, throwing some rubbish towards them. ‘Murdered my brother!’ a man calls out. ‘Ya hear ‘er? Get me a gun!’ someone shouts. ‘Kill the dirty muties!’ another exclaims. ‘Yes! Rise up! Stand and be counted!’ the Red Skull urges everyone, using his telepathic power on the civilians, stating that he unlocks in them the sight. ‘Look close - you can see the vile x-gene in their blood!’ he remarks, telling the rallying civilians that they are mankind’s defenders. ‘White blood cells, go forth - hunt and kill the foreign mutations!’ he orders.
The crowd of civilians rallies together, ‘Find ‘em!’ someone calls out. ‘Kill the sons of bitches!’ another exclaims. ‘Take back out city!’ someone suggests, before a man shouts ‘Look! There’s one!’ and pulls another man off his bicycle. ‘The hell do you think you’re going?’ another calls out, assisting in the assault. ‘Hey - get off!’ the man on the bicycle tries to break free, but a man walks over with an iron pipe in his hand and declares that his kinds ain’t gonna fight with mutants for a place in this world. ‘Stop - what the hell are you?’ the man on the bicycle calls out, but it’s too late, as the lead pipe is bashed into his face. His name was Anthony Miller ,and he will never feel the frustration that the answer would bring him. He will never know why his life was suddenly ended. And perhaps that is a small blessing.
The Red Skull broadcasts his hatred. Festering emotions the citizens have dammed up burst wide, and madness engulfs Manhattan. ‘Why are you doing this?’ a man asks as he is pulled from a bus by several civilians. One of the S-Men shifts from a human form into that of a green insect, and announces ;Killing the few to save the lives of many’. The transformation to insect form is excruciating. A curse that Tsar Sultan accepted to ensure his son never die as his wife had, trapped in the flames of their home, set ablaze by a rampaging mutant. ‘But you needn’t concern yourself’ he tells the man as he shoves a spike through his chest.
Citizens who moments before were going about their business have become packs of rabid killers. ‘He isn’t right! He’s one of them! See the black mark of X on their souls!’ the Red Skull calls out, while Honest John pours his master a glass of alcohol.
A woman called Natalie Turner runs down an alleyway, she is a loving and gentle mother of three, who awoke five days ago with eyes that could see through walls. ‘Help me!’ she pleads, while being chased by one of the S-Men, who appears as a genie and throws bolts of energy at her. ‘I am helping you, gene pig!’ he calls out. ‘The gift of my ruby inferno is a swift jaunt to the phantom planes!’ he exclaims. Ironically, today, Natalie was on her way to the bus station, to journey to a School for Gifted Youngsters in hopes of learning about her new condition. But Dangerous Jinn has found her first.
‘I have served the will of man for eons, little dove. And my new master’s will is clear -’ Dangerous Jinn calls out - before a familiar red, white and blue shield is flung into his face. The shields owner is Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America. He towers before the panicked mutant woman. The very sight of him calms her fright. ‘Commander Summers, how to proceed?’ Captain America asks. Alex “Havok” Summers briefly considers to whom he is giving orders, but there is no time for nerves here, as he orders Cap to get the girl to safety, before calling out to Wolverine, telling him to put them on the trail of the attackers. ‘Ain’t gonna be too hard, Havok…entire city is out for mutant blood’ Wolverine a.k.a. Logan replies.
Several police officers rush towards a man in a suit. ‘This one’s got the mark!’ one of them calls out. ‘I can see it - crush his skull!’ another exclaims. ‘Please - please don’t!’ the man pleads. His name is Peter Brown, and he told his mother he would pick up his younger brother from physical therapy in time for dinner. When the boy’s treatment went long, Peter took a walk. As the baton cracks his skull, he is grateful that his brother wasn’t ready. Grateful the boy wouldn’t see him beaten to death. ‘Howdya like this, ya mutie scum?!’ one of the officers asks as they beat Peter relentlessly. The image of the family he’ll never again see offers Peter some comfort…the men who trounce his attackers offer more, as Havok blasts one of the officers away with a surge of plasma energy, and Wolverine kicks the other attacking officer in the face, ‘The hell’s gotten into you?’ Wolverine asks.
Havok tells Wolverine and Cap that they need to find any mutants they can and get them to safety. He instructs them to split up but to stay in contact, and they will regroup when more help arrives. ‘Split? Alex, until we know more -’ Cap begins, but Havok interrupts him: ‘You wanted me leading - I’m leading. You want me to step down, you just give the say so -’, so Cap admits that he shouldn’t second guess Alex, that it is his call. ‘Good. Now get out there and save people’ Havok declares. ‘Go be Captain America’ he calls out as Cap rushes off. Fire caused by the rioting civilians has started to spread, while Havok smiles and tells Logan ‘And you. Go be Wolverine’. Logan unsheathes his claws.
The Red Skull stands atop a car, some of the S-Men around him, rioting civilians gathering in numbers, raising their arms above their heads like the Red Skull’s, listening as he declares ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. We will do something - RIGHT NOW! We will protect ourselves and take back our future!’ He then points to a woman holding a baby, ‘That one! She’s a mutant! Kill her!’ he orders. No…’ the woman utters, while the Red Skull announces that the child is human, so it may live. Were the Red Skull listening, high above the chanting crowd, he would hear the thunder of sudden storm clouds. Still, even if he had heard the warning if imminent attack, it would have made no difference, as a lightning bolt blasts the Red Skull and some of his S-Men, Thor slams down onto the Earth.
‘You’ Thor calls out. ‘Yes - me. And you. And us’ the Red Skull replies. The lightning bolt has also disrupted the Skull’s electrodes, momentarily removing Xavier’s gift. ‘Red Skull…?’ Wanda utters as Rogue helps her up. ‘On his ass, but more importantly - not inside my head!’ Rogue exclaims. Thor tosses his hammer, but the Red Skull ducks it. ‘Craven beast - slither back to Hela’s foul pit!’ Thor tells him, before the tortoise-like Mzee lunges at him, knocking him backwards into a butchery shop. He has been struck harder, but not often. ‘Mother -’ the butcher calls out, while Thor and Mzee quickly compose themselves. The crooked emerald inside the tortoise man’s heart ‘I have no fight with you. I battle only the mutants who slaughtered my family…but I will not be held back’ Mzee tells Thor. ‘We will see’ Thor replies.
But, Mzee starts running towards Thor, boasting that he is made inflexible by the gravity of the true soul, that he is the impossible strength. It is fact: Mzee is lord of the physical will, unstoppably by any force on Earth. But, Thor is not of Earth, and his slams his hammer into Mzee’s face, drawing blood. Mzee then topples backwards. ‘Sleep well, unstoppable force’ Thor calls out, before a voice says ‘Mighty, Teutonic warrior!’, and Thor spins around, seeing one of the S-Men standing before him. He holds his hand out and introduces himself as Honest John, and that he would like to be Thor’s friend. ‘To show you things, but in a new light’ he adds.
The city has gone mad around him. Roaming gangs screamed slurs and attacked the innocent. And Steve Rogers was losing himself to it. He sees a riot squad blocking off the footpath where two men are attacking a woman. ‘Help me!’ she screams. He’d wanted to do more than second guess Havok’s orders. He wanted cleanly to break the mutant’s neck. ‘Why are you resisting this?’ one of the riot squad asks. ‘Let the mob to its work. It’s natural’ another points out. ‘Deep down - you agree’ a third tells him as Cap tries to push through them. ‘Let them do what needs to be done, Cap -’ another suggests. Cap keels over, ‘They’re right - how can it be so clear now - America needs this?’ he calls out.
‘Mutants need to die’ someone remarks. Cap grits his teeth, trying to resist. ‘The nation - the world - all better off without them - safer’ he decides. One of the riot squad asks Cap to join in the effort, and Cap, clearly trying to resist, states that it is a curse on them all that these mutant freaks are back. ‘I knew -’ he begins, while one of the rioters tells him ‘You knew what Scott Summers was really doing - help us stop him -’, but, suddenly, ‘NO!’ Cap booms, as she bursts upwards, using his trusty shield to knocks the riot squad members out of the way. He is no ordinary man. He is Captain America, and his resolve is unwavering. The Red Skull’s hatred finds no grip on Captain America’s noble heart. But, for how long?
Meanwhile, more men have chased the woman down an alleyway, and backed her against a wall. She tells them that she hasn’t done anything, that she isn’t a mutant, that she is just like them. ‘You’re not like us! You’re nothing like us!’ one man shouts. ‘I can see it! The x-gene in her cells!’ another says, while someone calls her a freak and a monster. Alex appears on the ledge above, and reminds himself that the people in the mob are not in their right minds. His blood boils regardless, as he releases the cosmic radiation stored in his body in a contained burst against a wall, collapsing it with the precisions of a demolition engineer, burying the mob underneath it, and buying him moments to get the woman to safety.
‘Why? Why are they doing this?’ the woman asks. Havok tells her that he doesn’t know, but assures her that the Avengers are going to stop whoever is responsible. Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘You are no Avenger’. It’s Captain America, and Havok turns to him as he says that the crowd here is subdued, and that once this woman is seen to safety, he wants Alex gone. ‘This is why we stay in a unit!’ Cap shouts. He moves towards Alex and grabs him but his shirt, ‘Your showboating almost got that girl killed!’ he yells. ‘Just another mutant sob story doing things your own haphazard way! Reckless like your brother! Worse still - incompetent!’ Cap declares. Havok brushes Cap off of him, ‘Get ahold of yourself “soldier”!’ he orders. Havok explains to Cap that something is making humans hate mutants, and that he is getting caught up in it. ‘Let’s see some of that famous strength of will because there are people’s lives on the line. And believe me when I tell you…I am not a fight you want’ Havok warns him.
Wolverine hadn’t taken a life since Charles Xavier’s funeral. His attack against Tsar Sultan is measured, his intentions non-lethal. ‘Is this your best, mutant? Who do you think you face? The insect is mighty!’ Tsar Sultan declares, shoving his stinger into Wolverine’s face, Logan realizes his mistake too late. ‘Drink now, friend, live through the lethal paranoia of my Cassandra Toxin!’ Tsar Sultan calls out. ‘See the black future you create!’ he adds. Wolverine rubs his face, ‘Oh, God…no…It’s true…I’m so sorry…so sorry…’ he utters. The poison strips away reality, exposing the victim’s most dreaded possible future. Logan stands by his son lying face down in a shallow pool. For this man has already lived his greatest nightmare. ‘I’m so sorry…’ Wolverine utters. ‘So that’s what it sounds like when you apologize’ Wanda remarks as she appears nearby, and casts a spell that knocks the cap off a fire hydrant, causing the water to spill out at Tsar Sultan, blasting him back.
Rubbing his face as Rogue approaches him, Wolverine mutters ‘One nice familiar scent mixed with one I ain’t so wild about’. Rogue tells Logan that they know who is causing this, but Wolverine asks for a second, as he is metabolizing a nightmare toxin ‘We need the X-Men’ Rogue tells him. ‘We need the Avengers’ Wanda announces. ‘Lucky dames - you got ‘em both’ Wolverine replies, adding that he already picked up Johann Schmidt’s stench a block back, as the Red Skull has an oily garlic sweat, the same stink you pick up from low demons. ‘Bit of trivia’ Wolverine remarks. ‘Tell him’ Wanda says to Rogue, who announces that it is much worse than just the Red Skull. ‘Logan, he dug up Charles. He’s bonded himself to Xavier’s brain’ Rogue reveals.
The change happens immediately. The man is gone and the killer has been set loose. Drool spills from wolverine’s mouth as he leaps away from Wanda and Rogue. ‘Stop, dammit! We need a plan!’ Wanda calls out. ‘Save your breath, nutty rice. He’s reached “foaming at the mouth”!’ Rogue tells Wanda, and as she races after Wolverine, Rogue points out that they are well past the “make a plan” phase.
At that moment, Thor, God of Thunder, is lost in the syrupy power slogans of Honest John, the Living Propaganda. The villain’s every word seeping influence and confidence. ‘You are very simply on the wrong side of the greatest struggle of our time. We fight the darkness that comes for all mankind’ Honest John tells Thor, for, those entranced by his words see in his place their ideal leader - in Thor’s case, it is his own father, Odin. ‘The deviants are rising among the citizens of Midgard! You must aid the Red Skull in his work’ “Odin” tells Thor. ‘Asgard will stand on the right side of history’ “Odin” adds, while Thor announces ‘The suffering…Red Skull incited this…as vile as a beast as any I’ve -’, but the Red Skull appears nearby, and announces that the people of this city rise of their own volition, that they rise in defense of their culture, their family and their prosperity.
The Red Skull’s telepathic power influences Thor as he asks ‘Will you ignore them in this hour of grave need, Odinson?’ He declares that the people of Earth are awaiting a blond, blue-eyed Teutonic God-Hero to aid them. ‘You will answer mankind’s call’ he orders.
Suddenly, from above, a silent assassin drops towards the Red Skull - and were it not for the Red Skull’s newfound telepathy, he would surely by killed by Wolverine. Still, there is a price, and Wolverine manages to slice off the Red Skull’s right hand. The Living Wind steps forward and blasts Wolverine back. Wolverine had often considered how fortunate the world was that the great power Charles Xavier possessed was given to a noble and ethical man. Should such power have been born to a weak man, the consequences would have been catastrophic. But this - this is the worst possible scenario.
Logan’s claws pierce the ground as he steadies himself, no longer being blown away, he races back to the Red Skull, for this is the only way out - the Red Skull must die. The Goat-Faced Girl is bandaging the Red Skull’s injury, but the Red Skull sees Wolverine approach her and tells her to forget him, and to cast her gaze on Wolverine. The Goat-Faced Girl activates her depletion effect, negating the X-gene of any who meet her gaze. In a second, Logan will realize she has shut off his healing factor - at the worse possible moment, as Thor drops down from above, hammer in front oh him, he strikes Wolverine with explosive results, and a massive KRAGROOOOM resonates around the city.
Under his mask, the Red Skull smiles. The plan is perfect. ‘Pour’ he tells Honest John, who pours his master another drink. Thor throws the broken body of Wolverine over his shoulder. The man who took the Red Skull’s hand is now crushed between Mjolnir and the hard earth. The god his ancestors prayed to…now his servant. ‘The true god of man has returned in our hour of fire need. We are blessed!’ Honest John calls out. ‘I serve the Reich Eternal’ Thor announces as he kneels before the Red Skull, dropping Wolverine at his feet. Psychopaths cannot feel love. Not in the traditional meaning. To a psychopath, domination is the closest sensation to love. Though it is much greater, its intensity all-consuming. Fire burns through the city, destruction all around the Red Skull. A man hangs by his neck from a lamp post. Five minutes after his arrival, the city now lays naked before him. Submissive and adoring. Tonight, for the first time since his return, the Red Skull is happy. The Red Skull has fallen in love with New York.