The X-Men’s temporary island headquarters in the Bermuda Triangle. Currently, Carol Danvers is battling in hand to hand combat against the three Starjammers, Raza, Ch’od and Hepzibah. One would expect the fight to soon be over. Surprisingly, things haven’t worked out that way. Ch’od for one is enjoying himself immensely as Carol is giving them one hell of a workout.
Monitoring the bout is NASA physicist Peter Corbeau, another of the X-Men’s trusted associates. Carol’s bio-readings are incredible and her performance superb, he thinks. She should have been slaughtered long ago, but she actually has a change of winning!
But that moment, Ch’od lunges at her with a speed that belies his bulk… and misses. However, Raza and Hepzibah tumble Carol and the Starjammers beat her through sheer strength in numbers.
In another part of the island, Peter Rasputin is recovering under the watchful eye of his little sister, Illyana, and teammate Kitty Pryde while watching TV.
Kitty muses that Peter’s recovered well. It seems that she joined the team only yesterday, yet she’s fought demons, supervillains, aliens. She’s seen people die, violently, horribly. She’s almost died herself more than once. If she had any smarts, she’d chuck this and go back to living a normal life. But she isn’t normal. Their powers give them special responsibilities. She wonders now, do they give them special feelings too?
When she saw Colossus killed, she thought she’d die as well. She’d never felt so hollow and empty, like somebody ripped out her heart! Then later, when she discovered he was still alive she kind of felt… worse…
At first, she couldn’t move. He looked so beautiful. She was afraid to do anything for fear this would turn out to be a dream and he’d disappear in her arms. Suddenly, she hated being fourteen, a kid. That scared her. But then she hugged and kissed him, taking refuge from emotions, sensations she’d never experienced and didn’t understand in acting like a kid, and everything was fine.
But everything isn’t fine. The feelings won’t go away. She wishes she could talk to someone about this. But the professor’s sick and it’s none of the guys’ business. That leaves Ororo, but suppose she doesn’t understand?
In the meantime, Corbeau has evaluated Carol’s performance. He explains that years ago when she was transformed into Ms Marvel, her genetic structure was irrevocably altered. In addition to gaining superpowers, she was evolved into a perfect physical specimen of humanity. She may have been stripped of those powers, but the basic genetic material and modifications remain intact.
Ch’od chimes in that this explains Carol’s superb performance in their duel. She may not be what she once was, but she is far superior to an ordinary human.
She doesn’t feel superior, Carol shoots back. She could handle losing her powers. It’s the way she lost them that hurts. Even after all these months. When you lose something… someone – that fundamental, it always hurts, Moira chimes in, adding that she was observing the workout on the monitors.
Carol asks after the Professor. He’s no better, Moira sighs. He breathes, his heart beats, His body functions. Beyond that…
Nightcrawler teleports in, announcing that Lilandra is asking for Moira. She promises to be in directly.
Kurt teleports back to the improvised medical center with Moira’s message. By his side are two more team members, Storm and Wolverine. Near Moira stand Lilandra and Oracle, the telepath of Lilandra’s Imperial Guard. Moira tells Oracle they are ready. Xavier is all hers.
Oracle spent a full day in meditation, preparing for this moment. Carefully, she picks her way into Xavier’s mind and then, without warning, she’s caught in a psionic riptide and tumbled headlong into chaos. In an instant, she dies a thousand gruesome deaths, victim of a savage conflict being waged within Xavier’s brain. She’s assaulted by myriad images, real and imagined, unable to tell which is which, she drowns in a maelstrom of agony. She screams a shriek of pain and terror that echoes Xavier’s own and senses a curious duality to the man’s psychic aura, a sense of hunger, insatiable predatory alien, coupled to so foul and evil a presence that the moment she perceives it, she denies it, forgets it.
Xavier, aware of this, sobs in frustration and despair, while at the core of his being, in his very soul, something grins in triumph.
The rapport is complete. Xavier’s torment is now Oracle’s and through her it finds physical expression. Her body twists to the limit of human endurance, is torn by terrible wracking spasms, while ultra-energy psibolts explode from her like lightning, incinerating whatever they touch. Kill! she screams To live… must kill!
Moira figures that she is under Xavier’s control and he’s using the psibolts to attack the medical unit and himself. She wouldn’t have believed it possible of him to think of suicide. Moira orders Wolverine to sever the energy link between the two telepaths. Storm’s winds throw Wolverine at them and he slashes through the power binding Oracle to Xavier. As Moira hoped, the super-dense metal disrupts the delicate matrix and the show is over.
Nightcrawler and Storm quickly extinguish the burning parts of the room. A desperate Lilandra notes there is no change within Xavier, while Moira tries to help up Oracle. The telepath announces she is well, but Xavier has withdrawn deep within himself and is at war with himself. She has done her best, but no outside force can help him. His recovery is completely up to him.
Kitty phases into the room, asking what’s going on. Kurt tells her and Kitty informs them that they are talking about the X-Men on TV. The other X-Men quickly join her and Colossus, who explains that it is a satellite transmission of a British news program called “Panorama.”
The program shows scenes of the X-Men’s battle with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, while the anchorman announces that the X-Men are one of the most mysterious groups of so-called superheroes. What makes them unique is that its members are mutants.
The scene shifts into the studio where John Cheever is interviewing Senator Robert Kelly, chairman of an ad hoc congressional committee on mutant affairs.
Kelly immediately takes issue of the program characterizing the X-Men as “heroes.” The recent fight in New York destroyed a 200-million dollar building, hardly the act of heroes. They are outlaws, pure and simple.
He does not believe it, Nightcrawler snarls. They were defending themselves in both instances. Should they have done nothing and let themselves and innocent bystanders be slaughtered? He’s wasting his breath, Wolverine tells him. The best arguments on Earth won’t convince that creep. His mind is made up.
Do the facts support such a contention? Cheever asks Kelly. In each case the X-Men fought recognized criminals and in Washington they saved Kelly from certain assassination.
That isn’t the point, Kelly brushes this argument aside. Who are these X-Men? What gives them the right to take the law into their own hands? Things are out of control, there are too many superbeings, too many mutants, with more appearing virtually every day, not merely in the USA, but throughout the globe, yet little is known about the force which creates them or of the effect their presence will have on the rest of humanity.
He seems to be saying that mutants are dangerous simply because they exist, Cheever observes. That’s an odd position for an avowed civil Libertarian. He can’t deny it, Kelly admits. But there are certain extraordinary cases that transcend morality. The bottom line is that the national security may be at stake. Mutants as individuals, as a group, as a species must be investigated. Everything possible must be learned about them. And if they prove to be a threat, then, regrettable as it sounds, they must be dealt with.
Moira and Carol have joined the others by now. They all feel anger or shock or, in Logan’s case, cynicism. Moira points out that Charles worked with the government when he formed the X-Men. There are computer files on the original team and probably on the new members too. They’ve been lucky and safe so far, but that won’t last. Those files have to be destroyed.
No problem, Kitty replies. They simply design an open-ended virus program to erase any references to the X-Men and plug it into a central federal data base. From there on, it’ll infect the entire system in no time. The Starjammers can create it.
Meanwhile, some two thousand miles westwards in the Rio Diablo mountains a sleek unearthly shuttlecraft lands outside the house shared by former X-Men Polaris and Havok who are busy cooking, As the mood is about to get romantic, there is a knock on the door. Alex Summers answers and is surprised to find his elder brother Scott at the door. He’s not alone, Scott explains and introduces the man next to him as Christopher Summers, Corsair, leader of the Starjammers and their father.
While Alex has to handle that revelation, as Scott had to a week earlier, at the east coast an official-looking car approaches the main entrance of the Pentagon and three passenger alight. One wears the uniform of a captain in the Canadian Armed Force, one that of a US Airforce colonel and the last – Ororo – a civilian outfit.
Is she sure that crazy stunt will work? Wolverine asks Carol who asks him in turn to trust her. Nightcrawler stays back in the limo to help in case there’s trouble.
As they enter the Pentagon, the guards remark to Logan that they are getting exceptionally strong readings from the metal detector. Storm prays Logan will do nothing rash while Carol tries to bluff their way through. Logan surprises them both by showing the guards his medical card. He explains that a good chunk of his skeleton is metal. Prosthetics. War wounds. That’s what triggered their snooper. The guard salutes respectfully.
Inside, Logan asks Carol if her pilot wings and the “fruit salad” she’s wearing are legit. As much as his, she replies. The wings and medals were earned. So was the rank. She was allowed to temporarily upgrade from major to colonel on missions. The clout came in handy. They’ll need it to breach the prime data bank in the S.I.S.O. – Special intelligence Service Operation vault. It’s the most heavily guarded area of the Pentagon.
Carol gives them a history lesson about the Pentagon, how it was originally built as a military hospital. Because of its size and confusing layout, people are always getting lost.
They pass a young woman at a water fountain. Carol and her crash into each other. The next moment, they lock eyes and both freeze as they recognize each other. The young woman is Rogue.
Both of their minds race back to a few months ago:
Carol was still Ms. Marvel then, a former Avenger trying to build a new life for herself. Rogue was there to ambush her and absorb her superpowers to be used later in a planned attempt to free her captured brethren in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But something went wrong. Carol fought too long, too fiercely and instead of temporarily stealing Carol’s abilities and memories Rogue’s transfer became permanent. It was a physical and psychic trauma that scarred both women.
Rogue shoves Carol away and is surprised that the blow hasn’t harmed Carol, as it was meant to kill her. Storm orders Wolverine to stop Rogue while Carol angrily orders that she is hers! Logan apologizes to Carol as he tackles Rogue, but Storm’s the boss.
Logan warns Rogue to stay calm and if she’s lucky she won’t get hurt. Unimpressed, Rogue swats him to the ceiling. Equally unimpressed, Wolverine lands again and hits her. A mistake as she pins his arm with superstrength and then kisses him to absorb his powers.
Wolverine cannot break free but he gets some help, namely a lightning bolt that hits Rogue courtesy of Storm. She tells Rogue this was a warning shot and suggests she depart while she is still able. Rogue doesn’t plan to. She’s been looking forward to meeting the X-Men and taking them apart.
More guards come in. Carol grabs one guard’s gun and fires pointblank at Rogue. With her stolen invulnerability, Rogue just laughs it off. With Wolverine unconscious and her unable to use her powers effectively in the corridors, Storm uses her winds to sweep Rogue away. She then creates a peasoup fog, while throwing a brief, meaningful look at Carol, hoping she gets the hint and accomplishes what they came here to do.
Moments later, the fog is gone and so are the “weird women” as one woman marvels. A guard remarks he heard one call the other an X-Man. He orders a Captain to sound a full alert. He wants those muties found – on the double!
Carol passes them by, fearing the X-Men are in real trouble now. And it’s mostly her fault. But when she saw Rogue, she couldn’t help herself. She doesn’t know what hurts more, the fact that Rogue took everything from her or the fact Carol will never be able to make her pay for it.
As she walks on, she doesn’t notice a black-haired woman with spectacles studying her. Raven Darkholme, deputy director of DARPA aka Mystique, picks up a gun and carefully follows Carol.
Elsewhere, Storm is carrying the unconscious Wolverine, cursing herself for the mess. Was Rogue alone? Have they wandered into the middle of a Brotherhood operation? She doubts it- Rogue’s demeanor was far too casual. Which raises an even more disturbing question. If she belongs here, could the Brotherhood be working in concert with the US government?
Storm hasn’t time to finish the thought as Rogues bursts through the wall behind her, Wolverine’s enhanced senses having led her to the two X-Men.
Storm contacts Nightcrawler over the comlink. He instantly teleports to her side and throws Rogue down with a judo move. Where is Mystique? he asks her. She and he have… much to talk about. Angrily, she attacks, smashing the wall as Kurt teleports out of her way a split-second before.
Wolverine awakes that moment, his consciousness and powers returning. Rogue wants to repeat the absorption process but Wolverine slugs her through another wall.
Meanwhile, Carol is admitted to the SISO vault, the prime computer center, still followed by Mystique who is looking forward to Carol’s death, a pleasure she has long denied herself. Mystique switches into the guise of someone Carol trusts, SHIELD director Nick Fury.
Elsewhere, Storm tries to keep Rogue busy with a minor hurricane as the girl laughs off her lighting attack. But then Rogue grabs her wrists and begins absorbing her powers. But this proves more than Rogue bargained for. Storm’s control over the weather has been honed and perfected by half-a-lifetime of practice and experience, Rogue lacks those critical assets and the weather around her goes wild.
Nightcrawler uses the opportunity to haul the semiconscious Storm away while Rogue generates a flashflood. This is not going well, Kurt exclaims while Storm remarks the more energy Rogue wastes, the sooner she will use up the stolen power.
Meanwhile in the vault: “Fury” addresses Carol and then fires, hitting her skull. Mystique is almost disappointed as Carol falls. This was too easy. Somehow she expected better.
Elsewhere, Rogue attacks again. Are they gluttons for punishment? she mocks. She thought they’d be long gone by now. They haven a prayer, she reminds them. At her weakest, she still possesses the powers of Ms Marvel and that’s more than enough to turn this entire building into a mountain of rubble.
Storm surprisingly snares Rogue with her cape, while Wolverine hits Rogue, making sure to touch only the cape, not the girl’s skin. Derogatively, Rogue asks if that is the best he can do. She’s a tough little cookie, ain’t she? he mocks. Well if a right cross to the jaw won’t do the trick, let’s see what happens when he tries some critical neural pressure points. That moment, Rogue tears out of the cape and breaks free.
Elsewhere, Mystique, still in Fury’s form, walks towards Carol’s still form, wondering why she was working with the X-Men and what they wanted from the library banks. Guards will be here any second. Danvers looks dead. She intends to administer the coup de grace to make sure but, that moment, Carol kicks the gun out of her hands.
She begins to slug Mystique, thanking heaven for her extraordinary reflexes. She dodged quickly enough, so that the bullet only grazed her head. Hurts like blazes but she will be okay.
Before her eyes, “Fury” changes into Storm. The shock of that transformation throws her off-balance for a moment, allowing her foe to seize the initiative as “Storm” kicks her. Carol has figured out her foe’s identity and takes her in a deadlock and the unconscious Mystique shifts back to her true form. Angrily, Carol shouts that she sent Rogue after her in San Francisco. If not for Mystique, she’d still be whole. She owes Carol and she’s going to pay with her life!
Elsewhere, Rogue mocks if the X-Men have had enough. They look tired, while she’s still fresh as a daisy. Suddenly, Storm creates a tornado centered on Rogue which carries her far away.
Storm suggests to the others they be gone before Rogue returns. What about Carol and the mission? Wolverine asks. This place is crawling with security forces, Storm replies. Battered and outnumbered as they are, they dare not risk a battle. All they can do is flee.
Elsewhere, Mystique is taken away by guards. She threatens Carol that she should have killed her. When next they meet she will not be so merciful. There is death between them.
Carol orders the guards to take her away. She will secure the S.I.S.O. vault until the duty staff arrive. She tells herself she should have killed Mystique. But she couldn’t. She’s not as ruthless as she once was. Her weakness will cost her. Mystique is certain to escape soon. And the irony is she doesn’t even remember why Mystique hates her so. That part of her memories was lost when Rogue stole her powers. But she is a survivor. She will handle it.
She launches the virus. But then subconsciously she uses the wrong access code, calling up her own personnel file as Carol Danvers and as Ms. Marvel. Her history, her life, compressed into a fraction of a microchip. The faces are familiar, but the woman they represent are strangers. They were women of great promise, with hopes and dreams. But their lives ended. They “died.” She can’t change the past and shouldn’t try, she decides and erases her files.
Soon she walks outside, wondering how that battle will affect the X-Men’s already lousy reputation. Nightcrawler calls her over to their limo. She tells them she’s glad they are okay and reveals she’s managed to do it. As far as the federal network computers are concerned, the X-Men have ceased to exist.
She thinks to herself that she finally laid her ghosts to rest and is free to begin her new life.