Montclair, New Jersey:
Several armored and heavily armed men are clandestinely observing, as Bobby Drake knocks at the door of the flat belonging to his girlfriend, Opal Tanaka. Seconds later, pandemonium breaks out, as them men silently attack, only to find that Drake ices up and protects the startled Opal with an iceshield, whereas his fellow X-Man, Rogue, attacks them from behind, sarcastically remarking that she is impressed: No ‘ Die, Mutie, Die!’ No ‘humans must rule!’ If it weren’t for Cerebro identifying their unique alpha-brain patterns, she’d never have known to find them here.
Opal demands to know what’s going on. She hasn’t heard from Bobby in three weeks, then she opens her front door to discover her home has suddenly been turned into a war zone. Well, that’s one way of looking at it, Iceman lamely admits, but personally he’s more a “the glass is half full” type himself.
Rogue points out that, with Magneto attacking, this doesn’t rate anywhere near as the “best time to attack the X-Men” scale. She wonders why the men don’t say a word or even moan as she tears into them. One of them suddenly smiles and asks: Designate Rogue, care to test your invulnerability parameters? He points a weapon at her. Does she honestly look like the kind of girl that would kiss and tell, she jokes before a blast zaps him, courtesy of new arrival, Bishop, who wryly remarks that her secrets would appear to be safe with him, as he has been reduced to some kind of biochemical ooze.
Wasn’t that a little extreme? Rogue asks. Bishop explains that he was only using a fraction of the bio-electrical energy stored within his body. The man should only have been rendered unconscious. As it is, he is in no better condition than the man Rogue slammed into the tree. Rogue looks up to find that her other opponent also has been reduced to pink slime. Did they self-destruct rather than allow themselves to get caught? she wonders. But that’s crazy. Anyone who attacks the X-Men ought to know they don’t kill.
Behind his iceshield, Iceman tells Opal to still stay down. He’ll be back in a minute. Opal angrily tells him to stop treating her like an innocent bystander. She deserves some answers. Bobby explains that, about an hour ago, Cerebro identified some “genetic anomalies” in the area round her house. Instead of getting her worried and concerned, they decided it was better…
Better if what, she asks annoyed. Better to use her as bait for some kind of psychopath who’s gunning for him? Professor X, Storm and Cyclops weren’t present, right? Bobby agrees, not realizing where she’s going with that. Because only he could have come up with a plan this insensitive, she shouts.
Curious neighbors come close, as Iceman tells her to keep it down. Bobby apologizes, telling her that he had a lot of his mind, with his powers acting up, Colossus joining the Acolytes after the death of his sister and… Shoving him away, Opal asks him to listen to himself. He’s talking about fanatical mutant sects and people dying as if it happens every day. To tell the truth, he begins lamely…
If he and Hiro want to get themselves killed playing dress up and using powers, fine. Others prefer living in the real world, a world she though she could pull him into when they first started dating. There are many people who are more than happy with their normal bring lives. As she runs away, the neighbors tell him that she obviously wants to be left alone. Sadly agreeing, Iceman leaves on an iceslide.
Washington D.C., a party featuring some of Washington’s dignitaries, as well as Professor X and a rather nervous Storm, who wonders if it isn’t extremely risky to venture that far into the lion’s den.
Not far from them, Senator Kelly is engrossed in an argument with an elderly man, named Ambassador St. Croix. Kelly reminds the ambassador that they both toured the devastated area. The estimated damage to Westchester County alone is in excess of thirteen million dollars. How can he or any sane American argue against the initiation of the Magneto Protocols?
St. Croix tells the senator to keep his innuendo to himself. “Any sane American” knows Magneto is the most dangerous mutant on Earth. The people of the world need a real line of defense against the fortress he has orbiting over their heads, while all Kelly’s friends in the Senate have to offer is another photo-op.
Kelly is called away on some business and Ororo and Xavier introduce themselves to St. Croix, with Xavier asking for a moment of his time. Outside on the balcony, away from prying eyes, the two men suddenly act like old friends, as St Croix asks him if he is getting cockier as he gets older. He’s been a member of Xavier’s “mutant underground” since they could both stand up straight and this is only the second time they’ve met in person. The information he has is vital, Xavier starts, but St. Croix tells him he could have psi-scanned him. Could it be, Charles finally agrees with him that the world is ready to learn he truth about Charles Xavier? Xavier stiffly replies that if, he thought he could do more as a mutant - instead of posing as a human - he would do it. The political climate in this country, being what it is, he feels anonymity is paramount.
He returns back inside, while Ororo stays for a bit, addressing St. Croix. She doesn’t understand. He’s human, yet he is willing to risk everything in order to work with mutants. This is close to political suicide… “Sympathetic” humans aren’t that rare, he tells her, as he sits down. For himself, it began over fifty years ago with Lenore. He shows her a picture of when he was young with his wife.
(St. Croix’s tale)
They’d married in 1947 and were on their way back from their honeymoon, when it all fell apart on account of a drunken driver. Somebody called an ambulance, while he was cradling his injured wife. Then, an odd thing happened. The shock triggered Lenore’s latent mutant power. She seemed to be oozing blackness. The ambulance drivers were horrified and refused to touch her – afraid of being tainted. Louis picked her up and started running to a hospital. He never made it. The moment she died, her body returned to her original state.
Why does he do everything in his power to help? The question is: how could he not?
Within the X-Men’s blackbird, Iceman is losing his patience with their silent prisoner.
Having no telepath around to question him, Rogue absorbs his personality. The instant it happens, she realizes that was a mistake. Upon contact, thousands images flood her consciousness, only a handful of which are vaguely human. The “man” simply explodes, while Rogue’s flesh painfully unravels into coils.
Meanwhile, in the warehouse district of Washington, Storm lowers herself and Xavier to a rooftop. Xavier informs her that, according to St. Croix, several weeks ago an attempt on Magneto’s life failed. Apparently, a multi-national task force managed to create an exo-skeleton capable of cloaking an individual from Magnus’ electromagnetic sphere of awareness. Tomorrow, that suit will be sent to Belgium to be duplicated by the Europeans. Xavier wants it now, so that Forge might adapt certain aspects of it, which will serve their need in days to come. He needs Storm to appropriate it for them. By “appropriate” he means “steal the information for him,” she asks. Is that what it has come to? How much more of his personal dignity is he willing to sacrifice to stop Magneto? If she isn’t up to the task, he will do it himself, he sternly states. Without a word, Strom flies up.
Against Iceman’s warning, Bishop grabs the horribly transformed Rogue, hoping that his own bio-electrical abilities will shorten hers out long enough to literally pull her together. Absorbing Bishop’s memories, Rogue suddenly cries out: Shard! Who witness? Who killed the X-Men”, before returning to normal. Weakly she tells him how she thought he was a jerk after he accused Gambit some time back. But now she’s touched his memories… she had no idea his life in the future was so hopeless.
Bishop calms her, telling her to concentrate on the here and now. Iceman asks what just happened and Rogue reveals that that “thing” wasn’t alive. But while she couldn’t pick up any coherent thought, there was a sort of programming to destroy them and she picked up a single word: ”Hodge.”
Landing on a roof, Storm lowers the temperature of the surface of the steel walls of the warehouse to circumvent the building’s external heat sensors and to make the metal brittle enough to shatter at her touch. Her mind wanders back to the moment she first met Xavier:
As a six-year old street urchin in Cairo, she remembers trying to pick Xavier’s pockets. Xavier caught her and mentally touched her mind.
Her dreams have brought her to the past more than once. But this time is different. This time she recalls a subtle mind-touch… steering her where, she wonders, as she grabs the CD with the data.
She may never know what it was, for it was at that moment that Xavier was confronted by Amahl Farouk. And now she wonders, as she leaves the lab, had the damage already been done? She would not see him again for almost two decades, about the time young Ororo began to question her role as a goddess. Wondering whether it was enough to simply be there for those who needed her. Was she fulfilling her destiny when Xavier invited her to join the X-Men or was she reacting to a psionic suggestion planted in her head years before?
Storm lands on the roof, announcing that she has done as Xavier requested. Yet rather than destroy the prototype, she felt the humans should be allowed to defend themselves. Xavier is uncomfortable with that but trusts her judgment. Does he really, she asks, turning away. When he first asked her to leave her home in Africa, she did so because he had convinced her of her greater responsibilities to the world. Whether she did so out of her own resolve or because she had little choice in denying any request from the most powerful mind on the planet is a question which she may never truly be able to answer. All she can say is that at this moment in her life she refuses to let him or anyone drag her through the mud and shatter her belief that the X-Men are a force for good. She will fight for him. Someday, she might die for him. But he is never to ask her to steal for him again She is an X-Man and they have to be better than that. With those words, she leaves him in the rain.