(less than five minutes ago)
The Acolytes, followers of the teachings of Magneto, the Master of Magnetism, have just learned the truth about the “death” of their personal savior. To the regret of Fabian Cortez, their former leader, the Acolytes have also learned of his part in the affair and are now letting him know their displeasures. Yelling out in vain for his former followers to stop, Cortez finds himself facing four Acolytes at once. Using his powers, Cortez briefly repels his attackers but faces a horde of others. Taking advantage in this lull of hostilities, Cortez again voices his innocence and asks the group why they are so willing to take the world of a stranger over his.
Hovering nearby, a dark pink-skinned man with a flowing white cape and angelic attire suggests that it is perhaps because they sense, in their hearts, that he’s not a “stranger” at all, but the voice of Magneto! Introducing himself as Exodus, a name given to him by Magnus himself, the newcomer tells the group that he is the guide by which mutants will rise from the genetic quagmire that is humanity.
Using her powers to dissipate the air around Cortez, effectively suffocating him, Amelia Voght tells her victim that Exodus told them that he tried to kill Magneto, leaving him to die on Asteroid M. The power she uses now, she tells Cortez, is the least of the horrors she should visit upon him for betraying their trust. Using his own powers to stop Voght, Exodus informs Cortez that Magnus is a forgiving man and bears no ill will towards him… and neither should they.
Turning his attention now to the Acolytes, Exodus tells the “children of Magnus” to prepare themselves for the ascension. As the Acolytes begin to leave, Cortez leaps toward Exodus, intending to kill him for taking the group he has spent do many months to form. With a casual thought, Exodus repulses Cortez with a blast, laying him low. As he fades away through teleportation, Exodus informs Cortez that if it were up to he, he would hurl him to oblivion like the insignificant flea that he is. However, Exodus tells him, Magnus has decided that he should suffer… slowly… as the victim of someone else’s legacy.
For only the third time in his life, Charles Xavier looks into the mirror and does not recognize the reflection. The first occasion was when he realized that he was a mutant and the second was when he woke on a wind swept morning in far-off Tibet and realized that he would never walk again. Today, the reason for his melancholy is that, on this morning, he has to bury Illyana Rasputin, an innocent child who trusted him. Sitting in his wheelchair and gazing somberly into the misty bathroom mirror, Xavier questions all of his decisions, which have led to this moment. All of his X-Men had a life before he came along. They all gave up everything they held dear to risk those lives and fight for his cause. How does he now face them? What does he have to offer greater than anything he has taken away?
Appearing suddenly, the holographic image of Lilandra, empress of the Shi’ar, answers Xavier’s question: As always, now and forever, he has his dream. Greeting him as her love, Lilandra tells Xavier that while the responsibilities to the Shi’ar Empire demand her presence, she has sent her holographic image to offer what solace space and distance will allow. When Lilandra asks what has happened, Xavier informs her that he has lost one of his own. Unlike Thunderbird, Cypher or Warlock, he tells her, Illyana was a child who had every right to believe in him, and he failed her. Comforting Xavier as much as she can, Lilandra replies that, while she does not know the details, she is sure he did everything that he could. In the end, she says, it is all that any of them can do.
As her holographic image begins to lose coherence, Lilandra explains that her technicians cannot maintain the transmission any longer. In her final moments, the empress tells Xavier that whatever he is experiencing, he is not going through it alone. A moment later, she is gone and Xavier is alone once more. Rolling his wheelchair into his study, Xavier dismisses Lilandra’s sentiments. Ever since the day he discovered he was different, he has been alone. He will always be alone. Opening a computer panel, Xavier activates it. As the words “the Magneto Protocols” appears on the multiple small screens, Xavier tells himself that for all of the people who depend on him to not allow this confrontation to end like every other… he will not fail them.
Gazing out of a window on the Avalon space station, Magneto examines the Earth below. Apologizing to his “children” on the world below, he tells them that he cannot save them all. In his youth, he believed that he could save all but now he realizes that the Earth is doomed. And, he continues, if mutants are to survive, as they must, then their future lies here, among the stars… in Avalon! As he walks through the space station that is now his home, Magneto thinks back to the day he almost died on Asteroid M, as it plunged into Earth’s atmosphere. The Acolyte called Chrome had sacrificed his life to transform him into omnium, insuring that he would survive the fiery crash to Earth. Magneto’s benefactor had died so that he may live.
Thinking back to decades ago, Magneto remembers the death of his first child, Anya. Long before he chose the name Magnus, he was simply Eric Lehnsherr. On the night of his mutant powers’ manifestation, powers which had been delayed from puberty by a bout of hepatitis, Eric’s house caught fire, with his daughter inside. The panicked crowd, who had witnessed Eric’s powers earlier that day, prevented Eric from saving his daughter… and his wife, fearing what her husband had become, had fled. Though he had no reason to go on, he did, evading the soldier who came looking for him.
When the soldiers finally found Eric in a graveyard, they attempted to arrest him for atrocities against humanity. Instead of finding an easy target, however, the soldiers found a man reborn. Reborn into something more than he was, Eric used his powers to force one soldier to slay his comrades and then eventually himself. With the death of the soldier, the world lost the heart and soul of Eric Lehnsherr and found in its place the entity known as Magneto.
Placing his helmet on his head, Magneto proclaims that he has to be strong because Xavier and his X-Men are too weak to do which must be done. No matter what happens to Xavier or himself, the welfare of the “children” is paramount. Whether they be the innocent, like Doug or Illyana, the lost, like his Acolytes, or the misguided, like the fools Xavier counts among his X-Men, they all need to be protected and awakened from the dream that Xavier has lulled them in – they all need Magneto!
Looking into the empty refrigerator of the X-Men’s mansion, Kitty asks Ororo what is the story? Did the professor put everyone on a strict diet? When Storm remarks that they have not had time to attend to shopping, Kitty retorts that it is such a normal thing to do. If they all still lived normal lives, Kitty notes, she would be in Dearborn, holding her parents’ marriage together and Storm would be in Kenya… and Illyana would still be alive. When asked by Kitty if she would rather be normal, Storm replies no, not for a moment, not once. Opening the window with a gust of wind, Storm flies herself and Kitty into the darkened sky. Holding Kitty aloft, Storm tells her friend that while their genetic birthrights do demand sacrifices, they also force them to look at life in all its myriad diversity with their eyes wide open, challenging them to enjoy every day, every moment of their lives.
As the rain clouds begin to part, the two X-Men notice a scene below, which causes Kitty to cry out in horror. After she has descended, Kitty asks Colossus what he is doing. Standing before a barrel containing a roaring flame, Colossus watches as the flames consume several of his paintings, while holding more in his hand. Responding to Kitty’s question, Peter replies that he is getting on with his life, or rather what passes for a life without his sister… his brother… his parents. When Kitty chastises him for trying to destroy what his heart and soul captured on a canvas, Peter offers the work to her, if she feels so strongly about it. When Kitty tearfully asks what he is feeling, Colossus’ countenance remains stony as he replies, nothing. Kitty attempts to hug her steel-skinned friend but, not receiving any response, grabs the artwork and runs away in tears.
In a clearing directly abutting the X-Men’s grounds, lays a church, the hallowed remains of Salem Center’s First Mission House of Worship. In its history, the church was a place of worship to pilgrims, princes and paupers. It was a place where two governors came to wed. Today, it is where the X-Men have come to bury their fallen.
Helping Banshee to set up the chairs in front of the chapel, Bishop asks Banshee to explain the purpose of a “memorial service.” The girl is dead… what more is there than that? Commenting on Bishop’s claim to being from the future, Banshee asks if nobody takes the time to mourn the passing of the friend there. Retorting back that Banshee does not sound like he believes he is from the future, Bishop offers to tell him of his own. It was rumored amongst the halls of the XSE, Bishop tells Banshee, that he was the last hope, the custodian of the next generation…
Interrupting Bishop’s prognostication, Banshee suggests he should go leap in front of a bus. If he does, then all of his little stories will not mean much of anything. Informing Bishop that he does believe that he is from the future, Banshee remarks that he just doesn’t believe it is his future. As Bishop claims to be from a dark place where no one knows how to dream or strive for a better way… if he believed that was his future, Banshee explains, then he and the rest would be fools to go on. Taking to the air by the flight powers of his sonic scream, Banshee tells Bishop that though the X-Men are a goodly number of things… they are nae fools.
(one hour later)
Standing before the grave of Illyana Rasputin, Storm addresses the large group of mourners, all of whom are dressed in their respective costumes and uniforms. Delivering her eulogy, Storm tells them that she chooses to believe that Illyana is looking down on her friends and family and is elated to see them all there, draped in the colors worn in defense of a dream in which she was engaged for almost half of her life. A life that, while tragically short, was filled to overflowing with enough contradictions to fill several lives. Telling the group that they could learn from her example, Storm points out that Illyana taught them to cling to life with both hands and wrest what happiness they can from every moment of their lives. If they take her lessons to heart, Storm tells them, Illyana will have won her battle and she will live within every one of them until they breathe their last.
After the Beast gives a solemn amen, the group disperses, exchanging hugs and moments of grief. Grabbing Colossus’ arm, Xavier tells his student that he wants him to know how terribly sorry he is. Glaring down at the chair-bound Xavier, Colossus asks why does he doubt that? Shrugging off Xavier’s hand, Colossus answers his own question; perhaps if is because he has trouble believing anything he says. Reminding Xavier of he asking him, years ago, to leave the Ust-Ordynski collective and use his powers for the good of the world, Colossus tells Xavier that never once did he question the validity or the cost of his dream! In those years, Colossus says, he did not fail Xavier or his dream. However, the opposite occurred, Xavier and his dream failed him. Worse, Colossus continues, it failed Illyana… and for that, he will never forgive him.
As Xavier begins to reply to Colossus in agreement, his words are drowned out by a voice from above. As the former-mourners look up, they see the floating form of Magneto, crackling with power. Explaining briefly that he had spent the last several months tending to his wounds, watching the X-Men, X-Factor and X-Force responding to various threats, Magneto states that unexpected developments have necessitated that he take a more active role as savior to his genetic brethren. Further explaining that he is there out of respect for Illyana, not out of lack thereof, Magneto states that he wishes to prevent others from sharing the same fate. He is there, he tells the group, to offer sanctuary from the coming storm of death that will soon rage across the planet. He’s returned to offer an alternative to the genocide of their people. He is offering… salvation.
Appearing suddenly, on cue, the horde of the Acolytes, led by Exodus, announce their presence. Taken aback at being caught off guard, the X-Men prepare for battle but under Cyclops’ command wait for their orders. Laying Wolverine low with a simple blast, Magneto explains that his near discorporation within the Earth’s EM field left him more powerful than he imagined. Turning to Xavier, Magneto tears apart him wheelchair, disassembling it into dozens of parts. Looking on in impotence, the rest of the X-Men realize that they cannot move. Magneto is gripping the iron in their blood. While they still possess their abilities, they have no conscious way of accessing them. Hearing this analysis from Storm, Bishop weakly asks about powers that are involuntary.
Addressing the X-Men as a whole, Magneto tells them that there is no need to attack, for he did not come to engage them in battle. Rather, Magneto tells them, he came to help them… to help all mutants. Turning to the Acolyte, Senyaka, Magneto tells all that in order to help, he must demand loyalty. When Quicksilver, Magneto’s son, cites crimes committed by Senyaka, the murder of dozens of innocent humans, Magneto replies that if he had not been in Antarctica, gathering his strength, he would have given his blessings to the Acolyte’s mission… but he did not. Citing a need to maintain order, Magneto wraps Senyaka’s whip around him, crushing him to death. When the Earth opens to swallow all those who oppose him, Magneto says, it will be done of his word and his alone… the word of Magneto!
As the X-Men react in horror to his actions, Magneto explains to them that he has not slain Senyaka, but liberated him from the enslavement that was life. Ranting further, Magneto tells the group below that the time for choosing has passed and, from this day forward, any who do not stand with him can be counted as his enemies. Those who will stand, he tells them, will enjoy the sanctuary he has constructed. Drawing their attention skyward, Magneto tells them to behold… Avalon!
As the gigantic structure, built of a technology not yet seen on this planet, descends, it can be seen as far away as New York City and its shadow throws several million people into preternatural darkness. The effects of its presence, in violation of the Earth’s electro-magnetic field, can be felt worldwide and will ravage the citizenry of the planet for weeks to come.
Aghast at the construct hovering impossibly above them all, Xavier realizes that it is not a haven… but a fortress. Further, to his horror, he recognizes it is laden down with Shi’ar weaponry Magneto could only have appropriated during his time with the X-Men. Telling Xavier that he sees he now understands, Magneto tells his friend that he will never be an apologist again. Instead, he is the future ruler of a world dominated by homo superior. Offering one last time for Xavier to join his ranks, Magneto invites him to witness, from a distance, the final gasping breath of humanity.
As Exodus ascends to the sky, bringing along with him the Acolytes, Magneto descends to Xavier. Grasping Xavier’s chin in his hand, Magneto tells him that that, not along ago, he tried his path. Now, Magneto asks Xavier, does he have the courage to do what he has done? Is he willing to walk down Magneto’s path for a time? Answering his question with a mental blast, Xavier asks Magneto if he doesn’t realize there is little difference between him and the same monster responsible for the death of his parents and sister? Can’t he see that he’s become what he hated most in others?
Nearby, Iceman, noticing energy begin to erupt from Bishop’s eyes, asks what is happening. Explaining that his power does not include an on-off switch, Bishop informs Storm and Iceman that his ability to automatically absorb any energy directed at him apparently include Magneto’s.
Having recovered from Xavier’s attack, Magneto now begins to float away. Noting that Stryfe’s Legacy Virus has made mutants not long for this world, Magneto tells Xavier that, unless they, as a race, take action, Illyana will be but the first of scores of innocent victims to die.
Sensing an electro-magnetic rupture an instant before it happens, Magneto turns his attention toward the X-Men, but is too late. Having absorbed his capacity of energy, Bishop expends it, violently propelling Magneto across the clearing and into the chapel. Taking charge, Cyclops tells the rushing horde of now free X-men and allies to stand down. Sensing his leader’s intentions, the Beast informs the rest that the closer they get, the more likely Magneto will once again assert his powers over their bodily functions. Turning to Bishop and apologizing, Cyclops begins to blast the X-Man with his optic powers, charging his energy reserves again. In pain, but understanding their need for power during the coming fight, Bishop tells Cyclops to do what he must.
Freeing himself from the church with a violent explosion, Magneto yells in rage, asking if this is how he is repaid for his courtesy? Changing his previous offer, Magneto informs the X-Men that whomever does not join him now, will be killed here and now. Preparing for Magneto’s assault, Cyclops, Storm, Polaris, Havok, Jean and Jubilee all grab Bishop, filling him with their energies. Seeing their plan, Magneto informs the group that he plans to use Avalon’s weapons to turn all of Westchester County into a smoldering crater, a testament to a world that for every life claimed by the Legacy Virus, ten thousand humans will be taken as penance.
Flying up to greet Magneto, Rogue points out that Stryfe, the creator of the virus, was a mutant and humans cannot be blamed for the disease. Sidestepping the point, Magneto tells Rogue that without humanity fighting mutants, they would not be scattered into factions fighting amongst themselves. Stryfe, he says, was merely the finger upon a trigger loaded and aimed at mutantkind. Apologizing for the need of her action, Rogue kisses Magneto, saying that she will try to kiss some sense into him. Amazed at the response, or lack thereof, Rogue states that she was supposed to absorb his power. Replying that she did, Magneto informs Rogue that he has grown so powerful that it did not make a difference. Even with half of his power gone, it is still more than enough to eliminate anyone who seeks to stop him from doing what he must do to save his people.
Slapping Rogue away with his powers, Magneto thanks her for the sweetest reminder of what might have been… and what may yet be if any would accept the truth and join him. Tearing apart a metal fence with a wave of his hand, Magneto reshapes the iron bars into manacles and ensnares many of the X-Men and allies below. Many, but not all.
Bursting with energies, Bishop discharges it against Magneto. As he does so, Bishop retells the irony of the situation to Magneto; his and Xavier are both fighting for the same cause. It is only the methods they’ve chosen to adopt that will separate the X-Men and the Acolytes forever. Bearing the brunt of the barrage, Magneto retorts that there will be no “X-Men” or humans to protect, only a mass grave for which only a world of walking corpses shall mourn. Continuing his assault on the Master of Magnetism, Bishop is joined by Gambit, Sunspot and Iceman.
Watching the battle from the side, Jean analyzes their situation and laments. She point out that they are in a double bind. Magneto is holding Avalon together by sheer force of will and the greater strain he is placed under, the more the integrity of the structure suffers. Flying skyward, Jean begins to use her telekinetic ability to hold Avalon together. Storm, meanwhile, weighs the options of keeping the base together, and then wonders how many more lives will be lost if they do not end the battle with Magneto here and now.
Having snuck up behind Bishop, Colossus strikes, ending the X-Man’s advantage over Magneto. Citing that perhaps there is an alternative, Colossus wonders if they can look differently at Magneto. Over the years, Colossus tells the others, he has witnessed the indignities heaped on Magneto and has been privy to every agonizing step of his struggle. Much like the professor, he says, Magneto has never faltered in his commitment and perhaps if he had had the strength of conviction to follow Magneto earlier, fought more aggressively for the rights of mutants, he would not be at the grave of his sister. Helping up the exhausted Magneto, Colossus clarifies his statements, telling Magneto that, if he will have him, he would like to join him in his chosen plight. There is nothing left for him here.
Despite the unbelieving cries of Colossus’ teammates, Magneto welcomes the former X-Man to the fold and to the future. Magnetically lifting Colossus to Avalon above, Magneto informs him that he will join him shortly. Turning to Xavier, who is still laying on the ground, Magneto tells him that he is glad that he was here to witness this final humiliation. Perhaps now, Magneto postulates, he will realize what he has always known… that the weak have virtually no chance of inheriting the Earth.
Citing that weakness has always been a matter of perspective, Xavier begins another telepathic attack on Magneto. Mocking his foe, Xavier tells Magneto that while he fancies himself ruling the world, in truth, the world has always ruled him; it took away the family in which he was born, in robbed him of the family he created and changed him from what he could have been; a force of good in the world. He could have been more, Xavier tells Magneto, but he lacked the courage to rise above the challenges and, instead, became the angry man he sees before him.
After Cyclops informs the professor that Jean can no longer hold Avalon together, Xavier simply replies that he will use his mental power to commandeer Magneto’s own. Stepping up his telepathic attack, Xavier moves his body forward, dragging it with his arms, despite his lifeless legs. Inching closer, he eventually grabs Magneto by his cape, pulling himself face-to-face with him.
Still ranting on his own, Xavier asks Magneto if he realizes which of the two of them, who both started in the same place in their lives, has kept their promise to keep the dream alive. Only one of them has been true to his word. For years, Xavier tells Magneto, he convinced himself that he wasn’t to blame for his actions, each confrontation would be their last… He had to believe in him, Xavier tells Magneto, in order that he could believe in the dream “to which they’d dedicated their lives.” Spitting his words as coldly as he can, Magneto tells Xavier that he has wasted his time… for the man who made that promise, the man who shared his hopes for a better world, hasn’t existed in years, if he ever existed at all.
As the two rise high into the atmosphere, taking Avalon with them, Xavier and Magneto are locked in an eternal conflict, a genetic Cain and Abel. Still in command of Magneto’s powers, once in space, Xavier magnetically hurls Avalon into the void. Still, lacking the courage or resolve to end the life of his former friend, Xavier likewise hurls Magneto away, knowing that he will return.
Now lacking the power of flight, which accompanied Magneto’s power, Xavier begins to fall to the Earth. As he falls Xavier thinks that while he would like for it to be over, the struggle, the conflict… but the motivation to continue spurns him on. His fall is brief, however, as he is caught by the high-flying Archangel, who safely returns Xavier to the ground below. As he returns the professor to his waiting pupils, Archangel attempts to dissuade any fears, telling the professor that he is there. Of course, Xavier replies. He would expect nothing less… from any of his X-Men.