Early morning on Muir Isle and Sean Cassidy is on the last stretch of his ten-mile-morning jog, when he is attacked by a young Native American man in a very familiar black and red costume. Despite Sean’s fighting skills, he stands no chance against his attacker. The few punches he lands don’t even slow him down. Standing over him, the young man asks if he doesn’t recognize him. How quickly some forget the one they’ve murdered.
Getting his first good look at his attacker, Sean bursts out: “Johnny, it can’t be you!” He saw him die! Landing a final punch, the attacker’s reply is then he is a ghost. And unless Sean’s precious teammates do what he says, he will be one too.
At the same moment in New York, Charles Xavier drags himself back to consciousness out of a nightmarish jumble of pain and blood and faces-hearts-minds consumed with hatred. It takes some time before the images make any sense. And he is surprised to see the Morlock leader and Callisto smiling down on him.
He is at her place, she tells him and warns him to take it easy. He had a pretty rough night. He demands why he is here and gets a shock when he sees the fetish style clothes the Morlocks have dressed him in. What has she done to him? he exclaims.
Saved his life, for starters, Cal replies calmly. But he doesn’t have to thank her or anything. The Morlocks just love being taken for granted. By the way, she likes his new look. A distinct improvement. That makes one of them, Charles grumbles and tears off the leather belts adorning his chest and head.
He still hasn’t got the foggiest notion what she is talking about. What is the last thing he remembers? Cal asks and Xavier is surprised to find he isn’t sure. Something did happen and it must have been serious.
Cal hands him a hot beverage and explains last night he was beaten nearly to death. One of her people found him and dragged him underground. The Morlock Healer restored him to a semblance of health. Semblance? Charles repeats. Callisto points out that he was clinically croaked on arrival. The Healer brought him back. Trouble is, he wasn’t exactly in tip top shape himself. He’s been unusually busy of late. Saving Xavier nearly did him in. It’ll be months before he will be able to treat anyone else.
Xavier is grateful. Cal adds that the damage was too severe. Xavier looks and may feel okay but he isn’t. He’s got to give his body a decent chance to finish the job. That means taking things real easy. Any extraordinary physical or psychic exertion… and he’s history!
They leave her quarters and enter the Alley. Xavier gets his first look of it. When he asks how many Morlocks there are, she tells him none of his business. Who leads them, she? Storm, she replies to his surprise. He reminds her that Storm isn’t a mutant anymore. No matter. She took the spot from Cal in fair combat. She wants it back the same way. Until she regains her powers, or different ones or dies, she is still boss. That means they play by her rules. And anyone who thinks different answers to her.
She leads him to an old-fashioned train, offering to drive him home. What future do her people have down here? he asks. Better one than him not so long ago, Callisto quips. They can’t hide forever, he pleads. They are outcasts! She reminds him. They don’t want them on the surface and the feeling is mutual! She tried his way once. She’s got the scars to prove how dumb a mistake that was!
Suddenly, Sunder calls her. He and a few others carry the corpses of four young children. Annalee’s kids, he tells her. Somebody shot them, murdered them in cold blood.
That’s the reality of mutants’ existence! she shouts at Xavier. They’ll always be targets, even babies who never did anyone harm! She gave her word to Ororo that mutants will coexist with humanity in peace. But if they want a race war, they will get one!
The Rocky Mountains, just west of Colorado Springs. Dressed in a copy of his dead brother Thunderbird’s X-Man uniform, James Proudstar, the Hellion who has taken on his brother’s name, reminisces about his brother.
Smuggling, Banshee into the country was easier than he figured. Taking a piece of debris, he wonders if this is a piece of the plane John flew to his doom. James remembers when Xavier brought John’s body home. He told their parents they should be proud of him. That he died as bravely as an Apache should.
James tried to take his place. But nothing he’s done has made a difference. They breathe, they eat and move, but there’s no more life in them. Grief has made them hollow shadow selves. Banshee could have spared them that, he could have saved John, but he didn’t!
With his strength, he begins to deform the piece of metal. Xavier lured John away from his family with his snake tongue and psi powers. James blames him for John’s death and means to make him pay.
He hears a noise and turns around to find his Hellion teammates, Empath and Roulette. Brusquely, he asks them why they are here. To help, dummy, Roulette lectures him. Even he cannot be stupid enough to believe he can deal with the X-Men himself, Empath adds arrogantly. Thunderbird is quick to point out that’s none of his business. Empath reminds him that they are teammates and therefore should look after their own. Thunderbird stresses this is personal between him and Xavier. As he strides away, he warns them not to interfere.
Told him, Roulette tells Empath. Manuel remarks James is too pigheaded for his own good; he needs them. Unimpressed, Roulette accuses him of just doing this to bust T-Bird’s chops. She knows him too well, he admits with a smirk. If in the process some X-Men are hurt, or worse, so much the better. After all, they are the Queen’s deadly enemies.
Roulette wishes she had his confidence. He points out they have her luck power. In addition, he plans to let the humans do the fighting. And at the appropriate moment, they will unleash Firestar! The young red-haired mutant girl appears from the skies on cue and lands, asking where the others are.
Manuel takes her in his arms and explains the White Queen felt only they could be trusted with this special mission. Angelica Jones aka Firestar is impressed.
Roulette watches them, disgusted by her naivety and the way Empath plays her. She intends to cut out his heart, should Many ever try that stunt with her.
Manipulating Angelîca further, Manuel asks if she loves him and would do whatever he asked to, without hesitation. More than anything, she wants to make him happy and protect Thunderbird from the evil X-Men. Passionately, Firestar agrees as she kisses him.
In the meantime, at the X-Men’s home:
The X-Men are in a Danger Room session with New Mutant Cannonball, overlooked by Rachel Summers, Cypher and Kitty’s dragon Lockheed. The X-Men have Cannonball surrounded. The game’s tag, Wolverine announces, and Sam’s it. His pleasure, Cannonball replies and flies for Nighcrawler, who teleports out of the way. Cannonball ricochets towards Colossus, who swats him away. Sam is protected by his powers. He is knocked into the wall, but is none the worse for wear.
Shadowcat lectures Colossus that touching Cannonball is the same as being tagged. Now he is on Sam’s side. Wolverine joins her lecture. Accusing him of being careless, he lunges for Peter, who stumbles over the partially phased Kitty and falls spectacularly. Kurt and Kitty laugh at him while Sam comes flying again. Nightcrawler teleports again, Kitty phases and Sam hits Colossus squarely in the chest.
Rachel decides to spice up the exercise. She programs an environment, the Dyson Sphere of Lila Cheney, which Sam and his teammates visited last summer. Also present are Lila Cheney, a freebooting warrior Vrakanin and another Cannonball.
The Vrakanin fires at Wolverine who falls off the bridge. Rogue catches him but Cannonball slams into both.
At that moment, Callisto and (a slightly more dressed) Xavier enter. Cal announces she believes this little lost lamb belongs to them. Pretending everything is normal, Xavier wishes them a good morning and asks Douglas to return the room to normal. Cal leaves and Xavier thanks her.
Looks like he had an adventurous night, Rogue suggests. He is told it had its moments, he replies stiffly. If they’ll excuse him… Cute outfit, Rogue teases, and the entire group laughs when Sam reminisces that when he wore a similar outfit, Xavier lectured him about school standards. He’s got to admit though, he blushed, Xavier didn’t.
Meanwhile on a cruiser in the mid-Atlantic:
Ororo stands on deck, looking at the ocean and musing that she can hardly believe that within the week she will be home in Africa. When last she tried to leave New York, a demon sorcerer transformed the city and all its people into their ancient barbaric equivalents. She found herself recast as a warrior princess and sorceress. Was that because, before her powers were stolen from her, she was a mutant or is there some deeper meaning?
She gasps when suddenly she has a vision of unfamiliar mountains. She hears her name and turns around to see an apparition of her mother. Storm exclaims her name but the image of N’dare disappears.
Ororo remembers she saw the apparition before but thought it was a hallucination. She wonders if she is going mad, but thinks that N’dare’s appearance coincides with those strange mountains. They must be important to her life. She must find them – and hopefully her destiny!
At Xavier’s school, Charles tries to relax with a bath. He tries to examine himself with his psi-powers. Even that slight effort leaves him weak and shaking. His condition is as bad as Callisto said. He’s like a broken toy that’s been glued back together, only the glue hasn’t set. Until it does, the toy is vulnerable.
He still can’t remember being attacked or who was responsible. It’s almost embarrassing, a telepath, founder of a group of super heroes, mugged like a normal person. He is in no shape to lead the X-Men and will have to curtail teaching as well. He has to take a vacation.
That moment, the phone rings. He moves, suddenly answered by pain. On the phone is Nightcrawler, who informs him of trouble in the situation room. Xavier orders him to call the X-Men.
Xavier realizes that he didn’t sense Kurt’s feelings before. His head hurts; it’s impossible to concentrate. He can barely “hear” Kurt’s thoughts. This shows how serious the situation is.
Soon the X-Men gather to hear and see a televised message of James Proudstar. Kitty informs the others he is one of the Hellions. She has met him before.
Thunderbird informs them that he has taken Banshee prisoner. In 24 hours, he plans to kill him. He’s hidden him somewhere inside Cheyenne Mountain. If they want him, come get him! He will be waiting. The message ends.
Kurt summarizes that Moira MacTaggert has confirmed Banshee’s disappearance.
Xavier muses that Thunderbird blames them for his brother’s death and wants his revenge. Logan praises the kid for his play. No matter what they do, they’re in trouble. To save their friend, they gotta penetrate NORAD headquarters, one of the most heavily defended military installations in the world. The moment they show themselves, they’ll trigger every alarm in the place. They’ll be fighting the air force as well as Proudstar. Even if they win and rescue Banshee, their rep will be in the mud. This caper could really make them outlaws.
Kitty suggests they explain and ask for help. Take too long, Logan dismisses the idea. Besides, who would listen? Should they abandon Sean? Kitty retorts. Nope, X-Men look after their own, he tells her. He just wants everyone to know the stakes.
Xavier suggests they see to their friend first, then worry about the consequences. He wants them airborne within the hour.
Soon at Cheyenne Mountain, codenamed Valhalla, the nerve center of the North American Air Defense Command:
Shadowcat secretly phases into a storage room and then tries to notify Xavier, who realizes his powers are so weak he cannot even properly receive her thoughts. He orders Rachel to form a psilink between himself and the X-Men. Kitty wonders why Xavier uses this inopportune time to break Rachel in on a new job, but doesn’t comment. Thanks to the psi-link, Nightcrawler can see the room through Kitty’s eyes and teleport in safely. Now knowing his surroundings, he teleports in the rest of the team.
Despite his exhaustion, he ‘ports back to the Blackbird one last time to talk with Xavier. He doesn’t like the idea of leaving the professor alone. Xavier reminds him he was a soldier before Kurt was born. The Blackbird is cloaked and, if his powers fail, he has Lockheed to protect him.
Kurt leaves and Xavier is relieved, finally able to show his weakness. He didn’t want to burden Kurt with this, as it is his first mission as X-Men leader.
His mind moves to Thunderbird, who died here. Xavier was in telepathic contact with him at the time. He always wondered if he could have done something to save him. He activates the portable Cerebro unit to locate Banshee.
Outside the Blackbird, Roulette throws a black bad luck disk at it and instantly the systems fail. Empath enters the plane and hits Lockheed with a burst of terror so that the small dragon flees for his life.
Flush with that initial victory, Manuel turns on Xavier. The Professor feels he wants to yield but fights intellectually against Empath’s emotional control. Slowly Xavier is gaining but, before he can win, Roulette hurries aboard and kayos him with a shot of nerve gas.
Inside NORAD, Rachel screams when her contact with the professor is violently broken. Kurt wants to teleport back to the Blackbird but Kitty tells him he is too weak and runs back instead. She finds the professor alone, alive but unconscious. Lockheed is gone and so is whoever’s ambushed them - Cerebro’s thrashed.
Nightcrawler berates himself for not anticipating this. Cyclops or Storm wouldn’t have made such a mistake! Pragmatically, Wolverine points out it’s done. He is still the boss. So what’s their next move?
Kurt turns to Rachel. She is their back-up telepath. So she should scan for Banshee. Vehemently, Rachel refuses, reminded of her past in her era when she was a Hound forced to hunt mutants. Mutants who were then slaughtered. She breaks down, unable to tell her friends.
Kitty phases Wolverine through the walls as they try to follow the very faint trail of Banshee. Kitty hopes Ray will be okay. Logan points out she has secrets that are tearing her apart. She is ashamed for having survived and the price she paid doing it. They can’t worry about her now. Banshee has priority.
Meanwhile, Nightcrawler teleports Rogue back to the Blackbird so she can take care of the Professor. He doesn’t believe Proudstar’s claim that he will face them alone. They might be up against the Hellions or the Hellfire Club.
He teleports back. Rachel is still out of it. Colossus wonders what happened to her to leave such awful scars. Nightcrawler snaps that currently he is more concerned with their own future. They’ve barely begun this mission and already their most crucial teammates have been crippled, their forces split. Would this have happened if Storm or Cyclops were in charge?
Colossus reminds him that Xavier trusted Kurt to assume their place. He would not have done so, if he did not think him worthy. Besides both Ororo and Scott made their share of mistakes All that is asked is he do his best. But suppose that best is not good enough? Kurt asks.
Meanwhile, a guided tour comes through the War Room, among the guests Empath, Roulette and Firestar (who is the only one who’s paying attention to the tour guide). Manuel muses that the X-Men should be in the complex by now. He is certain they are wearing all sort of devices to prevent their being detected. Roulette throws a bad luck disk and those gadgets stop working.
A moment later, there is an intruder alert, defining the intruders as mutants. Empath uses his power to intensify the general’s natural concern to a full-blown panic. And so General Morrison calls for the “secbots” and orders terminal force. The two Hellions smile at the confusion. Firestar slips away, figuring to do her bit and make Manuel proud.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the giant complex, Shadowcat and Wolverine find an unconscious Banshee chained to a radiator. Wolverine hits Thunderbird who is hiding in the shadows. Wolverine goads him to fight like a man for once. Thunderbird attacks and Wolverine blocks his blows, He admits that Thunderbird might even be better than his brother, but he is the best!
While the men are busy, Kitty phases Sean free, but then gas comes in through the air ducts. A neurotoxin. Wolverine orders Kitty to get herself and Banshee out. He quickly kicks Thunderbird several times to finish the battle.
Kitty comes back to get Wolverine, a big mistake as her intangibility doesn’t protect her from the gas. She falls and becomes unconscious.
Wolverine gets distracted by that, allowing Thunderbird the chance to hit him square. Wolverine sidles over to Kitty, hoping to get her outside, but the gas gets to him as well.
Thunderbird is about to flee. He turns back, seeing that by choosing to help Kitty Wolverine has doomed himself. He finds he isn’t happy at this. He swore the death of all the X-Men, so Xavier would suffer as his parents had, before he took his life a well. All he has to do is seal the escape hatch and the deed is done, but he finds he can’t. Instead he drags the two unconscious X-Men outside and equips them with gas masks and the antidote.
He tells himself that they had nothing to do with John’s death. The girl wasn’t even an X-Man at the time. He wonders if this decision makes him a coward. If so, there is only one way to make amends: by slaying Charles Xavier!
Meanwhile, the other X-Men too hear alarms. A moment later, the secbots burst into the room. Nightcrawler orders Colossus to hold the fort and protect Rachel. He’s going for reinforcements.
A moment later, Kurt brings Rogue back with him. He asks the others not to hurt the soldiers. They aren’t their enemies. He teleports atop a secbot, but finds he cannot dislodge his helmet. A moment later, tangled wire traps him, getting so tight he cannot breathe anymore.
Colossus asks Rogue for a fastball special and he bowls into the secbots. The soldier who has captured Nightcrawler runs away with his prisoner, though he admits to himself he doesn’t understand the general’s order. He was there when the X-Men saved their butts from that Nefaria bozo. He hopes the prisoner can give an explanation.
Colossus does his best against the other secbots while Rogue orders Rachel to snap out of it. However, Rachel doesn’t react. To makes things worse, Firestar makes her entrance and flies straight toward Colossus, whom Empath told her is the most dangerous one. She flies upwards and outside with him. Sensing the heat flash Rogue shields Rachel with her body.
In the control center, the general asks what that is when the Captain drops the tied-up Nightcrawler in front of him. The Captain suggests he interrogate him. Nightcrawler tries to explain. The general interrupts him. Nothing he could say could make a difference. He orders the Captain to execute him. He’s a prisoner! the captain protests. It is a mutie, is the reply.
Nightcrawler looks into the crowd and sees the two Hellions. Empath influences him, making him go berserk with rage and hatred. Nightcrawler easily teleports out of the ties, shouting now they’ll learn what it means to have a mutant as a most deadly foe. He begins attacking the soldiers, while he shouts anti-human diatribes.
Firestar flies upwards with Colossus, her microwave power playing havoc with him. He could kill her with a punch, but has scruples as she is only a young girl. He tries to reason, asking why they are attacking. She replies the X-Men started this. Empath said so. They want to hurt Thunderbird. They hate the Hellions!
That is not true, Colossus protests. Firestar insists the man she loves wouldn’t lie – except this feels wrong! She isn’t evil, she doesn’t want to harm anyone. But if she doesn’t, Empath won’t care for her anymore. She’ll be alone again like before and she’d rather die! She has to do this!
Having taken care of the soldiers, Rogue comes flying after them. She quickly absorbs Firestar’s power. Posessing her memories, she realizes Firestar is a nice kid and Empath mucked with her emotions. She brings them both down.
In the War Room, Empath is enjoying Nightcrawler’s mad struggle, psychically egging on all the combatants when suddenly Thunderbird grabs him by the shoulder, shouting he told him not interfere. He should rip out his black sadistic heart! He’s ruined everything!
Empath tries to use his power on him but, before anything can happen, Shadowcat phases in and drags Empath downwards through the floor to where Wolverine is waiting.
Wolverine grabs him by the lapel, daring him to do his thing; he might have himself another slave. But if it doesn’t work… He unsheathes his claws. Empath faints.
Nightcrawler turns normal again, realizing he saw Empath and Roulette before he went berserk. They did that to him. He grabs Roulette, making the soldiers believe he now has a hostage. They open fire at him and he climbs up to the ventilation duct with his unconscious prisoner.
Thunderbird swears this is a disaster. Not what he intended at all. Now innocents may have been hurt and killed, all his fault! His path seemed to certain and right. How could everything have gone so terribly wrong?
Kitty tries to grab him and drag him down too but Thunderbird reacts faster.
Downstairs, Kitty wonders that Proudstar didn’t seem happy and he did save their lives. Wolverine doesn’t know why but suggests they make sure they are among the survivors. Kitty muses that she read the files. John Proudstar seemed like a pretty decent fella. Too bad his kid brother turned out such a jerk. Wolverine agrees. Johnny was a lot like him. Shoot! he swears when a light falls on them. Make a move, the soldiers tell them, and they’ll be glad to.
Elsewhere, Rachel awakes and is ashamed for failing the team. None of them is perfect, Colossus points out kindly. How does she feel? Miserable, but physically okay. Rachel is torn, unable to tell them what she did. She bursts out she senses Logan and Kitty’s thoughts. Colored with pain, they are trapped and fighting hard but they are outnumbered.
Rogue demands she lead them to their friends but Rachel begs her not to ask that. At least tell them why? Rogue snarls. When Rachel just stammers, Rogue decides she’ll do it. Let her absorb her powers. Rachel is alarmed if she does so Rogue will know her secret. If she doesn’t, friends will die.
Nightcrawler teleports in with an unconscious Roulette. The others tell him what’s wrong. He decides to teleport to his friends’ side and asks Rachel to guide him. She agrees to accompany him, taking courage from his example. Rogue flies upward with Firestar to join the professor in the Blackbird.
Unfortunately, Proudstar has gotten there first, demanding Xavier open his eyes, The end of his life is at hand. If he tries anything, he will gut him. The White Queen gave all the Hellions defenses against his mind sorcery.
Xavier remembers being gassed. And the gas has inhibited his psi powers completely. So he observes James’ body language, noting silently that a fundamental conflict is tearing the boy apart. He desires Xavier’s death, yet resists.
Xavier points out that he has nothing to lose by fighting since, whatever he does, James plans to kill him anyway. James admits he’s right and that he is gutsy.
Praise indeed, Charles replies. James’ brother set a splendid example. Rarely has he seen such a courageous man. Angrily, James orders him to shut up. He has no right to speak his name. He killed him!
He would have given everything to save him, would gladly have died in his place, Xavier announces. Proudstar calls him a liar. Johnny had his whole life ahead of him till Xavier came along. It was his choice, Xavier reminds. Him. Proudstar laughs, Xavier is a telepath. He can make a man believe anything. Xavier admits if that’s true he has committed a grievous crime and James should kill him, but does he think so little of John Proudstar? Can he see him enslaved by another man? His was one of the noblest, most indomitable spirits he has ever known. He doubts John could have been controlled even for an instant, much less all the weeks he was with the X-Men. He joined them of their own free will and of that same free will he chose the moment and manner of his death.
Liar! James shouts, knife raised. “Then kill me,” Xavier demands. Proudstar is ready to strike, then lowers the knife. He sinks down, berating himself for his failure and cowardice.
Rogue enters, shouting she can incinerate him with Firestar’s powers. Leave him be, Charles orders and touches James’ shoulder. Is he a coward for not finding in himself the capacity to murder in cold blood? Because he realizes that would desecrate his brother’s memory? He has nothing to be ashamed of. Such knowledge does not come easily, to face and accept it takes the courage of a warrior born.
Later at Xavier’s, the X-Men as well as Cannonball, Mirage, Firestar and Thunderbird, are in the X-Men’s living room, listening to a news report that federal authorities have started a nationwide manhunt for the X-Men. Nightcrawler grimly spells out that Wolverine was right. Their reputation as heroes is definitely past tense. Xavier is convinced this will pass.
Firestar huddles upon herself, ashamed. Watching this, Sam is furious about what Empath did to her.
Rogue enters with Lockheed whom she found. Happily, Kitty hugs him and thanks Rogue.
James asks what will become of them. They can go or stay as they wish, Kurt shrugs. They are not to be punished? James asks. Kurt explains that the professor says if society forces them to be a law unto themselves, then it will be tempered by mercy.
James announces he will take his teammates home then. Now who’s been brainwashed? Rogue demands. James explains he belongs there. He has true friends among the Hellions. Not like Empath and Roulette. He cannot abandon them. He is done walking in his brother’s footsteps. He must find his own path and this is where he must begin.
And what about her? Xavier asks Firestar and offers her a place at his school. She’d love to, Angelica admits, but she can’t. She’s had rotten classmates like Empath before, kids who picked on her. But she’s never known anyone except her dad as kind as Miss Frost. She can’t run out on her.
Xavier hopes the White Queen proves worthy of such trust. Should circumstances change, however, she will always have a place here. Angel hugs him.
James offers to turn himself in to the feds and tell them what really happened. Xavier points out that nothing happened at Cheyenne Mountain that was not easily repaired. The nation was never in danger. And James has enough to cope with without adding a possible lifetime in prison. Everyone deserves a second chance. Even his teammates. Perhaps this does not serve the law, but to his mind it serves justice. He urges James to learn from his mistakes and be a better man. Therein lies the true memorial to his brother’s sacrifice and the means of proving himself worthy of his name. James promises to try and shakes Xavier’s hand.
Later, in the Rodriguez household at dinner. Listening to the same news report, Jaime’s friend Luis asks why Jaime keeps sticking up for the muties. Jaime forcefully switches off the TV. Some muties are bad like some people. Since when do a few crooks speak for a whole race? What if he was a mutant? Would he not be his friend anymore? Luis retreats.
Jaime asks his son Tomas why he is out here instead of doing homework. Tomas explains most is done and Nimrod helped him. Now he is using the computer. Jaime tells him to help his mother with the dishes.
Luis remarks his houseguest makes him nervous. Jaime doesn’t care. Nimrod saved his life. That makes him good enough for him.
In Tomas’ room, a somewhat but not quite more human looking Nimrod accesses the computer, deciding he must change his looks and behavior to blend in even more.
Rachel Summers escaped though time and he followed. He found himself caught in an unusual energy flux and found himself in this space time continuum. He has learned that there are significant anomalies between historical data and the world he remembers. He decides he moved crosstime as well.
Nimrod listens to the news report, that the Juggernaut has been sighted in Manhattan and decides his duty is clear. He will locate and neutralize the outlaws, both the Juggernaut and the X-Men…