Where do dreams go to die? For Peter Rasputin, once called Colossus of the X-Men, that place is here, Avalon, a space station cloaked in orbit far above Earth.
But deep within this sprawling, professed haven for the disenfranchised, the onetime farm boy, the would be artist, is about to rediscover something he has always known - that dream die hard. Wearing one of the usual reddish-brown robes that the Acolytes wear, Colossus stands before the young mutant called Neophyte, who is shackled and solemn. Colossus tells Neophyte that he realizes this all seems hopeless to him, but that he needs to understand this entire complex was created by Magneto, to offer hope of a better world for all of them.
The former X-Man reveals that he petitioned to defend Neophyte in this trial because he believes the man he once knew as Magnus would ultimately have forgiven Neophyte for his transgression against Magneto’s cause. ‘But there is nothing I can do, tovarisch, if you refuse to help me prepare my defense’ Colossus points out. Weary, Neophyte asks Colossus why he risks his standing among the Acolytes to defend him. ‘Because I am firm believer in second chances’ Colossus explains, adding that if he doesn’t, the punishment for Neophyte’s crime is death. ‘Is it not possible…that I deserve to die?’ the young mutant asks.
Neophyte declares that when he was lost, alone and confused, the Acolytes took him in and taught him the word of Magneto. But by helping Professors Xavier’s X-Men to defeat the Acolytes, he betrayed his brethren’s trust in him. ‘How can a jury of my peers find me anything but guilty?’ Neophyte asks, terrified. ‘Peers? You and I are the closest thing to that on all of Avalon’ Colossus replies, pointing out that the rest of the Acolytes blindly follow the words of their chosen messiah, the two of them are the only ones brave enough to seek out the truth behind those words and act upon what they find.
‘Is that what this is about…Peter? Are you pleading my case for betraying the Acolytes…or your own for having turned your back on the X-Men?’ Neophyte enquires. There is a bright light in the darkened room, and then a creaking noise, and Colossus turns to the shadows as a voice calls out ‘An interesting question, Neophyte. Come with us, and we will no doubt discover the answer together’.
Colossus tells the intruder that they can’t be serious, as he has had no time to prepare the boy’s defense. ‘Do you honestly believe, Rasputin, that anything you have to say will change the outcome of the verdict?’ the voice calls out. It’s Amelia Voght, who Colossus tells ‘Of course I do. He has the right to -’, but Neophyte interrupts, still weary, he remarks that he has been on the run for weeks, trying to put distance between himself and his destiny, and that he is tired of running, so he wants to get this over with.
One mile directly above, as far removed physically from his followers as spiritually, sits the chosen messiah of the Acolytes. He is unshaven and stares blankly ahead. He was born Eric Magnus Lennsherr, and spent many years of his life known as the mutant called Magneto, self-proclaimed Master of Magnetism, and self-appointed savior of the mutant race. Those days are over. As Magneto sits silently on his throne in a sprawling chamber, the enigmatic Exodus stands nearby, gazing out at the moon. ‘They doubt, my lord. There are those among your flock who feel that you - through no fault of your own - have abandoned them. They think simply because Charles Xavier shut down your mind, that you no longer see, no longer hear. That you neither taste, nor feel’.
Exodus wonders why this is, and why they doubt that he is not only Magneto’s most-favored disciple, but also the eyes, ears and voice of Magneto as well. ‘How dare they doubt me? How dare they doubt…us?’ Exodus wonders. But there comes no reply from the empty vessel that is Magneto. No answer, save perhaps, for the whispers that echo within the head of the man called Exodus.
Suddenly, the young mutant called Scanner materializes in the chamber. ‘Forgive the intrusion, Exodus…’ she calls out as she kneels before him. ‘Not at all’ Exodus replies, before asking if everything is prepared for the trial. Scanner replies that it is, and reveals that the Neophyte is being brought to the justice chamber now. Glancing behind herself, Scanner sees Magneto, slumped over in the chair. ‘Lord Magneto…it has been so long since any of us have seen him. He looks so…so different’ Scanner thinks to herself. ‘Splendid. I will be along -’ Exodus begins, before realizing that Scanner was looking at Magneto. ‘That was foolish, child. You should have known better’ he declares. ‘What? What did I do?’
‘Do not treat me like a fool, woman! You dared to stare upon the face of Magneto - when I have made it clear that none but I shall know that honor!’ Exodus booms. Turning around, he releases a powerful surge of energy towards Scanner, knocking the young woman backwards in a pain that she has never known. In truth, her mutant power to project herself astrally, as she is doing now, should protect her from such physical assaults. It is a cruel testament to the power of this man, that he almost casually cripples both her body and spirit with something less than a stray thought. Lying on the cold floor, Scanner tells Exodus that she is sorry. ’I meant nothing by…’ she begins, to which Exodus declares ’Exactly. You meant nothing - because you are nothing!’, and he grabs Scanner (still in her astral form), by her throat and holds her high above his head.
Scanner struggles to free herself, while Exodus declares that none of the Acolytes are worthy to gaze upon their lord in this hour of his most ignoble condition. ‘Can you not afford him at least enough dignity - to allow him to suffer free of your insipid curiosity?’ Exodus asks, while Scanner begs for forgiveness. Exodus drops her to the ground, ‘Of course. This once’ he tells her, before ordering her on to the chamber, and remarking that he will be along shortly. Scanner thanks Exodus, before departing. Exodus smirks and looks towards Magneto, ‘Alone again, my lord. Just you and I. just as it should be. ‘Tell me again how you suffered such fools, Magneto. For in truth, your “Acolytes” are trying my patience!’
Down below, Amelia Voght steps into the light, accompanied by the Acolyte called Javitz. Colossus exclaims that they were promised enough time to mount a proper defense, to which Javitz asks what about the promise that Neophyte made when he pledged his fealty to their lord Magnus? Amelia suggests Javitz forgive Rasputin for his naiveté, for as a former pupil of Xavier, Peter was never encouraged to think in such broad terms. Javitz reminds Voght that it is an affront to even mention that hated name in these halls, before going over to Neophyte and urging him upwards, he pushes him forward, telling him to move along as his destiny awaits.
Peter and Amelia follow, and Peter asks Amelia if her unfounded hatre for the Professor runs so deep that she is willing to take out her hostilities on him by prosecuting this boy in his place. Amelia states that her feelings for Charles have nothing to do with this, and points out that she was asked to assume this role by Exodus himself, just as she suspects Colossus was asked. ‘I ma merely doing as I have been asked by the voice of Magneto’ Amelia declares. Colossus tells her that their conversations of late have caused him to expect more from her than mindless obedience, and asks her how she can be responsible for the Neophyte’s fate when she is not convinced that his deeds necessitate punishment.
Amelia responds by telling Peter that she learned a long time ago that what she believes or doesn’t believe is inconsequential. ‘I found, when left to make my own choices in life, I invariably make the wrong ones. So instead - for better or worse - I do what I am told’ Amelia declares, to which Peter asks. ‘But isn’t that a choice as well?’, as they enter a large hall. ‘Certainly. But it is one which, for the moment, I can live with’ Amelia concludes.
At the sight of the main chamber, filled with the hostile faces of his “peers” and at least, for the moment, his compatriots, Peter Rasputin questions his own recent major life decisions. When he first chose to walk among the Acolytes, for a time he genuinely believed he could do so without abandoning all that was good about Xavier’s dream for a better world. He saw in Magneto a means to accomplish the same goals by employing more aggressive techniques. But since the moment Exodus assumed the mantle of leadership, it was clear to everyone assembled that a new day was dawning for these wayward Children of the Atom.
Colossus, Amelia and Javitz follow Neophyte as he walks to an altar, where Exodus is seated upon his “throne”. Standing on the stairs of the altar are several other Acolytes, all wearing the robes that Colossus and Voght wear. ‘Let it be shown that on this day…Scanner, Milan, Cargil, Unuscione, the Kleinstocks, Rusty Collins and Skids…each a faithful followers of he who is father to us all…bear witness to the charges against he who has betrayed us and all we hold sacred’ Exodus announces. Dropping to his knees, Neophyte announces that he accepts responsibility. Exodus tells Neophyte to be silent, and declares that what he feels is of no concern to this court. ‘All that matters, Neophyte, is that justice in the name of lord Magnus be delivered’ Exodus declares.
‘Justice? Nothing less than I deserve’ the young mutant replies, hanging his head. Exodus asks Voght if she is prepared, to which Amelia replies ‘Prepared and honored, Exodus, that I might be of some small use in exacting vengeance on behalf of Magneto’. Exodus states that the trial of the Neophyte can begin, and that it will serve as an example to all among them who are not completely devoted to their most sacred crusade. Unuscione frowns and thinks to herself that this “trial” is more than the boy deserves, especially considering what Magneto did to Senyaka when he acted of his own accord.
Acting as the prosecutor, Amelia addresses the Acolytes by stating that without faith, they have nothing. ‘This is as true here among ourselves, thousands of kilometers above the planet which spawned us…as it was when we lived among a population that feared us simply for being born Homo Superior’. Voght tells the Acolytes that she is speaking not only of a faith in Magneto, his ultimate wisdom and near infinite power which first brought them here, but rather the faith they must place in each other if they are to survive as a race. ‘For if we cannot trust ourselves, fellow Acolytes, who can we trust?’ she asks, as he teammates listen intently. Exodus watches Amelia closely as she adds that she is speaking also of the blind faith they have wilfully placed in the one who purports to speak the word of Magnus, as well as one who claims to have heard that word.
Exodus glances to Colossus, standing at the defense podium, while Amelia states that on the evening the Neophyte betrayed the Acolytes to the X-Men, his actions went a long way to eroding these faiths that lay at the heart of their movement. ‘For this reason alone, the boy should lose what he took away from us. Everything’, Amelia concludes.
Colossus addresses the Acolytes, telling them to ignore everything that the prosecutor just told them, for this has nothing to do with “faith” and everything to do with the reality of the man born Eric Lennsherr. ‘And therein lies the problem. For Magneto has been many things to many people. To some, he was considered a butcher himself when he exacted vengeance from the people who prevented him from saving his daughter…while to the others he has been considered a liberator’. Colossus continues, remarking that, to the X-Men, Magneto alternated for a time, between their deadliest adversary and most powerful ally. ‘Magneto once served as headmaster for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters when my own sister was alive. There were many aspects of the man’s life - his actions opened to many different interpretations’.
Colossus continues, ‘That is the reality of the man called Magneto. That is what this case is all about’. Colossus remarks that to Neophyte, Magneto was a man who would not stand by and watch as Moira MacTaggert was abused and tortured because of the mere fact that her genetic structure was less evolved than theirs. ‘Is it our place to say he was wrong? Does he not have the right - the responsibility - to honor the man in his own way?’ Colossus asks as he goes over and puts a hand on Neophyte’s shoulder. ‘You are good, Peter Rasputin. Very good’ Amelia thinks to herself, before calling to the stand Milan, to discuss how the young Neophyte first came to see the light.
Milan stands before his comrades, and using his mutant gift of projecting electro-magnetic thought waves into cognitive electronic imagery, it is easier for him to show his teammates exactly what happened that autumn evening in Switzerland. He explains that he, Unuscione and Cargill were investigating hushed rumors of a mutant boy who lived alone atop a mountain ridge, and having sequestered himself in an abandoned church, having all of them, at one time or another, known the need for sanctuary from a distrustful world, they took their time in drawing him out, speaking their words to closed doors for two days, before finally, the Neophyte responded - with a vengeance.
Milan reports that the Neophyte cried “teach me. Teach me of the man and his love, his devotion towards his people. Give me someone to believe in. Give me a home”. Milan reveals that the Neophyte studied the holograms and listened to the few recorded words of their savior. ‘Learning and - so we thought - believing’. Angrily pointing at Neophyte, Milan declares that they were wrong, pitifully wrong, for this entire time, he was waiting, planning to destroy the Acolytes from within. ‘Not true…’ Neophyte calls out. ‘No, child? Then, perhaps, you would share with us - in your won words - what could possess a person to turn one’s back on our fellowship?’ Amelia asks. His face covered in scratches, Neophyte looks up, and explains that when he first arrived at the Mount, it was true, that he felt with all his heart that Magneto was a savior for them all. But then Dr MacTaggert arrived, and he witnessed first hand the hypocrisy of the Acolytes.
Neophyte tells the Acolytes that on one hand, they profess to support Magnus’s goal of allowing mutants to live in peace. ’But you feel the only way to do that is by treating humans with the same hate they have for us’ he points out. Unuscione grits her teeth and narrows her eyes, while wondering what Voght is doing. ‘She’s not challenging his accusations! Who’s on trial here? Him - or us?’ she wonders. Neophyte continues, announcing that in the face of the Acolytes’ inhumanity to Dr MacTaggert, he realized that there must be another way, an alternative to the pain, suffering and deadly confrontations between their two people. So, knee deep in the rain and mud of Mons Saint Francis, he met that alternative face-to-face.
‘This other way - did it have a name?’ Peter asks. ‘Yes. CHARLES XAVIER!’ Neophyte shouts. ‘BLASPHEMER!’ Unuscione exclaims, annoyed. ‘In the name of Magneto - I would see you crushed in my psionic exo-skeleton before I allow you to speak that name again with such reverence!’ the young woman declares as she releases her psionic exo-skeleton, wrapping it around Neophyte. ‘No!’ Colossus calls out, telling Carmella not to force him to pi his own mutant ability against hers as he transforms into his organic-steel state, rushing towards the struggling Neophyte, only for the boy to vanish.
Voght announces that she has transmuted the boy to safety, for although she is certain he will die this day, that death will only come after the verdict. Neophyte materializes, safe, behind Voght, coughing as he tries to gather himself. The Kleinstock Brothers, Sven and Harlen, lunge at Colossus, ‘My brother and I knew you would eventually show your true colors, Colossus!’ one of them exclaims. ‘Idealist fools such as you can never be expected to change. After Fabian Cortex deceived us, we learned!’ the other declares as they punch Colossus, hard.
Suddenly, the squabbling Acolytes are surrounded by energy as Exodus separates them. ‘Enough!’ he exclaims, remarking that it appears he misjudged the amount of tension this would create. Exodus decides that rather than running the risk of fraying the edges of their delicate little tapestry any further, he will take this matter before Lord Magnus himself. As he begins to exit the grand hall, Exodus remarks that he is certain of Magnus’s decision before he has to ask the question, and announces that he will return shortly. Neophyte looks up at Amelia and thanks her for saving what little life he has left. ‘It was…nothing’ Amelia replies.
Cargill frowns and tells Voght not to fool herself. Skids points at Voght and declares that to them, it was a clear sign as to where her loyalties truly lie. Neophyte turns to Colossus and asks him why he didn’t just let him plead guilty for his crimes. ‘As a former X-Man, even you admit Xavier’s way is wrong’ Neophyte points out. Colossus replies that he never said it was wrong. ‘I said it didn’t work for me. Not now…not in the world as it exists’. Amelia smirks and asks Colossus if he has come to understand what she has suspected for some time - that perhaps neither Xavier’s dreams nor Magneto’s vision is one hundred percent correct. ‘Could it be the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the two?’ Amelia enquires.
Colossus points out that his presence here alone is testimony that anything is possible, while thinking to himself ‘Including the realization that it was not Xavier’s dream which didn’t work…but that I did not work hard enough…did not sacrifice enough to make that dream a reality’.
A moment later, Exodus returns, boasting that he has hard Magnus’s word and has come to speak in his name. Exodus tells Neophyte to step forward so that he might receive the judgment of Magneto. ‘Know that this decision was not made easily’ Exodus declares, standing atop the altar, he tells Neophyte to understand that despite Magneto’s current condition, their lord’s heart is still full to overflowing with love and compassion for all who follow him. ‘That is, all who follow him faithfully’ he adds. ‘I am called Exodus for it is my sacred duty to ferry his chosen people to a better place…as well as deliver the ungrateful and the unforgiving into the dark, cold embrace of oblivion’.
Power begins to surge from Exodus’s hand and he states that he does this with no malice in his heart. ‘But know that you are hereby sentenced to -’ Exodus announces, but Colossus interrupts, shouting ‘NO! The boy’s only “crime” was the strength of his own convictions!’ Peter exclaims that is something Magneto, as he knew him, would have respected and honored. Colossus points out that Magneto was a man whose entire family was slaughtered by an army of soldiers, men “following orders”, those same men who sent millions of their fellow human beings into a holocaust raging with the heat of stupidity and ignorance. ‘I came here to Avalon because I believed we were going to be better than that. It is the very same reason this boy came to you…to us’ Colossus declares.
Continuing, Peter asks if Neophyte is to be punished for refusing to sit back and blindly follow orders, if he is to be condemned for thinking differently, for refusing to stand back and watch as another living being was beaten and tortured. ‘Is this how far we’ve come since Magneto’s own youth -that we are willing, some of us eager, to send one more being to his death because he is “different” from us?’ Peter asks, stating that if so, then they should all follow, because eventually, that is where they will all end up - anyone who disagrees - who has their own opinion will soon enough be fodder for the flames. Colossus looks up at Exodus and tells him that if Magneto’s life has taught them anything at all, it was now not to follow the orders of others, but to follow as he has done, the dictates of his own heart.
The Acolytes listen intently, the room is silent, save for the echo of Colossus’s words. However, Exodus notes the faces of the Acolytes, the impression that those words have made, and as ever, he adapts to survive, and announces that he was about to say, he would have taken Neophyte’s life without a shred of remorse, but that Magneto is, by far, a more compassionate soul. Exodus’s power subsides, and he remarks that Magneto instructed him to banish the wretched Neophyte to the place of fools known as Earth. Exodus raises his hand again and engulfs Neophyte in power, telling him to begone, knowing that he is forever banned from the heaven that is Avalon. Turning, Exodus tells the others ‘Peace be with you’, before turning and leaving.
The Acolytes begin to disperse, and Amelia asks Colossus if it was worth it, to win his case, while at the same time alienating himself from the rest of the team. Peter replies that he doesn’t think that is what happened, and that if nothing else, he is confident that the rest of the Acolytes heard his words. ‘How long, I wonder, before they understand in their hearts that these are the true words by which men such as Professor Xavier and Magneto lived their lives?’ Colossus asks as he returns to his human form.
It is that question which haunts Exodus as he returns to his master’s side. A doubt he feels gnawing at the very heart of his soul, a doubt that after today the Acolytes will no longer believe he alone speaks for his lord. A doubt that might weaken him as surely as Magneto fell before Xavier. Exodus knows that without the faith of the Acolytes, he has nothing. Rather than face Magnus, he wanders the halls of Avalon alone, and thus he is not on hand to witness the faintest of a smile which appears like a faded memory across the face of Magneto…an enigmatic smile that signals, perhaps, the return of a messiah?