In the Kuwaiti desert, Forge, wearing some kind of visual analyzer, sifts through the wreckage of a crash landing. Standing over him is Henry Peter Gyrich and he wants to know the truth. Forge disagrees; they already know the truth; Gyrich just wants Forge to tell him he’s wrong. Gyrich asks him to humor him and make it official. Forge tells him that, officially, what they have is, in all likelihood, the remains of Asteroid M, the problem being that it’s roughly two thousand times too large for something that, even taking into account the seventy-five percent reduction in size due to the explosion in space, should have been reduced to a cinder upon re-entry into Earth’s orbit.
Squatting high on a ridge above the main body of the asteroid, which is surrounded by soldiers and scientists, Forge adds that the only way it could be intact is if something, or someone guided the remains through the planet’s atmosphere. Considering that half the marginally civilized nations of the world are frightened to agree to this multi-national strike force, their list of suspects is understandably short. Gyrich asks if one of the Acolytes could have been responsible but Forge informs him that none of those he’s met have that kind of power; certainly none of those involved in yesterday’s slaughter.
Gyrich agrees but acknowledges that they have no way of knowing how many mutants belong to the sect. A worker calls Agent Gyrich over so he and Forge follow him through the mangled remains of the asteroid, guided by the light given off by a lantern. Forge points out that traipsing through the remains of Magneto’s former stronghold is not a particularly wise idea but Gyrich tells him to save it. In America, he is a high muck-a-muck in the National Security Council and Forge is a freelance expert on advanced technology but, here in the middle-east, they are barely tolerated. Their guide tells them that, if it is of any comfort, the complex is totally without power and, if it wasn’t for what he’s about to show them, he would go as far as to say that the place is totally lifeless too. “You’ve found survivors?” asks Forge. He isn’t sure and was hoping they could tell him. He enters a doorway and lights up an eerie scene inside.
The broken, armored costume of Magneto remains in a seated position with some of the Acolytes, now only statues kneeling around him, genuflecting to the empty throne. Forge was here once before; moments before Asteroid M exploded far above the Earth and all on board were presumed killed. Anne-Marie Cortez, sister of Fabian, Chrome and Delgado certainly were but the armor is empty.
More than an ocean away in New York City, Jean Grey and Professor Charles Xavier enter the ABC studios. Jean makes light of the fact that he has shaved and eaten properly for the first time in two weeks but Charles replies that, with the current state of mutant and human relations in rapid decay, he is afraid that such personal luxuries as privacy and physical appearance are not paramount on his list of priorities. Jean is concerned, especially in light of the recent attempt on his life by Stryfe and had hoped that Charles would take it easy. Charles switches to communicating telepathically and tells her that his brush with martyrdom has altered the public’s perception of him. Their detractors have been using the press to their advantage for years; maybe it’s time they had someone to counter the Senator Kellys of this world. Standing near Senator Kelly is his aide, who offers an enigmatic smile. Can he hear their conversation?
Charles continues to point out that he’s more concerned with the third member of this debate. Graydon Creed is the man behind the so-called ‘Friends of Humanity (FoH),’ who mask their racial intolerance by using the first amendment right to free speech. Jean’s heard about Creed. He came out of nowhere and is incredibly charismatic. That makes him all the more dangerous, adds Charles. His charisma enables the FoH to hide in plain sight, allowing him the support of the people. Yesterday’s confrontation with the Acolytes will only be used to fuel the flames of anti-mutant hysteria that spreads across the country. Unfortunately, each terrorist act committed by the M.L.F or the Acolytes only adds credence to the Friends’ agenda.
Charles is finally seated and Ted Koppel’s replacement anchor on Nightline, Elton Cayer, introduces Charles and Senator Kelly to one another. They shake hands, Kelly telling Charles that he’s admired his work to which Charles responds by telling him his accomplishments are beyond reproach. Graydon Creed’s image appears on a large screen in the studio as he joins them via satellite. The show begins.
At St. Mary’s Boys Home, Teddy Matson lies asleep on the couch in front of the television, as Elton Cayer introduces the show, his opening comments referring to the latest atrocity committed by mutants; the Acolytes attack in Middleborough. Archangel picks up Teddy and carries him to his bed. It seems the Acolytes didn’t know what Teddy’s latent mutant abilities were when they attempted to kidnap him; no more than they knew he had Down’s Syndrome. He feels it is strange that, as mutants, they should recognize more than most that diversity is something to be celebrated rather than ashamed of.
As he tucks Teddy into bed, the mother superior enters the room, recognizing Warren, who asks her not to call the police, as he’ll be gone before they arrive. She tells him that not everyone believes that mutants are to be feared and hated; indeed, some of them are grateful to the X-Men for risking their lives on their behalf. Faith is important, but it is comforting to know that angels truly do walk among us. Warren appreciates the sentiment but wonders, after everything he’s done in his life, that sometimes he thinks he’s beyond redemption. As she moves to turn off the television, she says that he could have told the authorities about Teddy being a mutant but spared him instead the scorn and scrutiny of public servants like the so-called honorable Senator Kelly. As Creed, on Nightline, is pointing out, that if the government won’t defend the common man, then it’s time they defended themselves, she asks Warren if there’s anything she can do. “You can pray, mother, pray for every one of us.”
Back in the studio, a debate begins between the three guests, each passionate about their respective views on mutant/human relations. The main crux of Charles Xavier’s argument is that there are a few high profile mutants who, regretfully receive the lion’s share of media attention. The X-Men have helped mankind on more than one occasion and many other mutants live normal lives but with the added fear of being stripped of their rights by people like Creed. Creed responds by calling him an apologist for mutants and asks for Kelly’s feelings on the X-Men, especially in light of his wife’s death at their hands. Kelly, however, defends the X-Men to a degree, pointing out that they weren’t necessarily responsible and he resents Creed using his wife’s death to create a clever sound bite. He never has and never will advocate the blanket extermination of any race, mutant or otherwise. Genocide is as wrong now in countries such as Bosnia and Somalia and as it was in Germany fifty years ago. While he is happy to control the more scurrilous amongst the mutant community, it is vital to do so without trampling on their rights as American citizens.
Charles applauds his sentiments but Creed continues playing to the camera, putting the countries elected officials on notice as of now, in the name of the Friends of Humanity. They are part of the problem, when they should be part of the solution. Watching the show are the Upstarts, consisting of the Acolyte Fabian Cortez, Shinobi Shaw and the time-displaced Trevor Fitzroy. Cortez is furious, calling Creed an amateur and a human amateur at that, asking how he can even be considered to be a member of the Upstarts. “He’s done nothing to prove himself while I…” Murdered Magneto, the others add, slightly bored with Cortez’s incessant need to mention the fact.
Trevor Fitzroy adds that he dispatched most of the Hellions whilst Shaw murdered his own father, Sebastian. It should be clear by now, even to one not privy to the future that the leadership of the Upstarts is nothing, if not transitory. Cortez turns on him, annoyed at his constant references to ‘shades of things to come.’ He tells him that if he really knew what was going to happen, he’d be in first place instead of last. Fitzroy taunts him, asking if he has spent so much time with his flock of sheep that he can’t bear the slightest challenge to his authority. Shinobi tries to calm the situation down, reminding them that the reason the game was started in the first place was for fun, a brief respite from the sheer tedium inherent in wealth and power. If they aren’t going to enjoy the game, then why bother?
The Gamesmaster appears from nowhere, agreeing with Shaw. He tells the group that, when he was first approached to arbitrate their friendly rivalry, he was given the impression that they would all behave in a manner appropriate to the next generation of leaders, instead of the spoiled children they are. He suggests that they focus more closely on the prize at hand as it’s the nearest any of them will come to omnipotence. Cortez tells him to then stop trying to divide their attention with new candidates. The Gamesmaster agrees, saying that the mutant that Fitzroy has been molding for membership will be the final member of the Upstarts. Fitzroy is shocked at the fact he knows about this, asking how he knew. “There is nothing I don’t know Trevor; it’s part of my charm,” comes the arrogant reply.
Back in the Nightline studio, Elton Cayer shows a clip of the attempted assassination of Charles Xavier in Central Park the previous month, saying that he was evidently targeted for taking an unpopular, politically incorrect public stance; that mutants are humans too. He tells Charles that he’s grateful that he has made a full recovery, but mentions that there are others who are asking, “Hasn’t he learnt his lesson?” Isn’t Charles going to be satisfied until he becomes a martyr for a cause that isn’t even his? Xavier replies that the only thing more frightening than dying, is living in a world where one man is too frightened to help another. He also objects to Cayer saying the cause isn’t his own, pointing out that one needn’t be a victim of something in order to understand it and make a stand. When the time comes that people are restricted to helping their own, is the day he believes there will be no hope for any of them.
Senator Kelly finds himself agreeing with his point. Creed calls them misguided dreamers who believe in a world that cannot exist. The world is an ugly place. Charles responds by saying this is all the more reason to bury their differences before they bury themselves.
At Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Piotr Rasputin sits quietly, sketching the faces of those he watches on television. With the suicide of his brother and the brutal murder of his parents, he has taken to contemplating whether his power, this existence as an X-Man, is of any value. He hears coughing behind him and turns to find his little sister, Illyana. He asks her why she’s awake at this late hour but she tells him she was asleep, but had a dream that when she needed him, he wasn’t there. He had left with momma, poppa and Mikhail. He assures her that will not happen, but she should be in bed as she is still feverish. She runs to him and gives him a heart-shaped card with ‘I Love Peter’ written on it. She hopes she spelled it right and he says she did. She should rest easy, knowing that no matter what, he will always be there for her.” We will be there for each other Piotr, always,” she whispers.
Nightline continues as Elton introduces his next guest, Hank McCoy, better known as the Beast, a former Avenger, who is a rare breed in that he is a mutant largely accepted by the public. Also on satellite feed, Hank greets Elton and wishes Graydon Creed a harty ‘sieg heil.’ He launches straight into a series of verbal putdowns, not giving Creed the opportunity to respond. He completely takes over the show, saying that it’s about time the public moved into the twentieth century, adding that, statistically speaking, he bets that some of their best friends are mutants. Creed finally gets a few words in, arguing that is just his point; mutants are trying to hide among the rest of humanity, doing who knows what amount of damage to their gene pool. Hank responds by continuing his tirade, trying to use humor to dilute Creed’s arguments. He ends this attack with a raspberry.
Charles puts his head in his hands and sighs but Hank’s fellow X-Men back at Harry’s Hideaway loved his performance. Iceman, Archangel and Storm smile but Bishop doesn’t really understand the social significance of a raspberry. Warren explains things to him. Charlotte Jones wonders whether antagonizing the enemy is such a good idea; especially on national television. Bishop begins to agree with her, but his attention is caught by an attractive waitress, who asks if he wants another Dr. Pepper. He feels there is something familiar about he but cannot pinpoint it.
Warren offers a toast to Professor Xavier’s new career as the Montel Williams of mutantdom. Bobby adds they should also toast to the Beast’s attempt to single-handedly set the mutant movement back thirty years and asks Ororo for her opinion. Ororo puts a more serious spin on things, offering instead a toast to all those who have gone before them, including Mimic, Thunderbird, Cypher, Cable and Warlock, to name but a few. She also toasts others who supported them such as Mariko Yashida and Sharon Friedlander and even to their adversaries like Magneto, the Hellions and the Marauders for missed opportunities and for the good they could have done. Bishop raises a glass to the future, but remains suspicious of the waitress.
Back on Nightline, the show ends and Elton wants Hank on the phone. He is grateful, however, that he chose to moon Creed after they went to a commercial break. Senator Kelly, removing his microphone, tells Charles that it appears they have more in common than they would have realized. Charles has always believed that, underneath everyone’s surface, people are fundamentally the same. The Senator asks him, off the record, if he actually feels there is nothing to fear from mutants. Charles wishes he was that naïve. He believes that mutants, as a race, want nothing more than to peacefully coexist with humans. It is the detrimental ambitions of the individual, mutant and human that they must guard against. Kelly assures Charles that he is taking measures to prevent just such threats. They shake hands and Kelly asks if they can maybe get together for dinner but Charles tells him that he is heading to France at first light; a field trip for his students. Watching from the studio floor, Jean never thought she’d see the day when those two would sit down and talk. Welcome to the nineties.
Suddenly, a voice in her head tells her that, actually, Senator Kelly isn’t the monster everyone thinks he is, not once you get to know him. Jean wonders who it could be and notices Kelly’s aide smiling. She wonders if a mutant in the Senator’s entourage is a good thing, or a disaster waiting to happen. She takes hold of the Professor’s wheelchair and asks him about France. He informs her that he has been in telepathic contact with Scott throughout the telecast and they’re ready to make their move.
Outside the studio, Scott tells him that the Blackbird is primed and fueled, and he has alerted the gold team. Wolverine insisted on joining them and Dr. MacTaggert will be flying in from Genosha to meet him at her country estate outside of Paris. Excellent, he replies. Jean asks what’s going on in Paris and Scott informs her that all the evidence they have indicates it’s the base of the Acolytes; they’re taking the battle to them.