(The Xavier Institute)
Two baseball teams, comprising of members of the X-Men and Generation X, are playing on a sunny day in Westchester. They’re enjoying themselves for a change, a rare thing these days, and the game eventually ends in a tangle of bodies after Bishop tries to steal home. Wolverine arrives and tells Storm that the sound of laughing used to be heard more than it does now. Himself, Storm, the Russkie and the elf; they were good times. Storm agrees that it’s nice to see them all smiling again, even if it is just for today. Logan asks rhetorically when it happened, when life started slamming them so hard that they forgot how to laugh?
Suddenly, their attention is grabbed by a phenomenon that Beast says has all the attendant figurations of a trans-spatial warp, though it possesses an energy signature that he’s never seen. Wolverine knows the scent even before the imminent arrival of their former colleague, Colossus. Everyone is surprised to see him and even more surprised to see that he is carrying the injured body of Callisto, who is dressed in a strange armor. Piotr informs them that he has returned after all this time because they need their help.
(New York City)
Marrow, a young member of Gene Nation has plans for a group of humans travelling on the subway train deep below the city. Her partner, the muscular, hulking figure known as Hemingway snaps an electrical cable powering the train and the people inside look on, peering through the darkness, nervous about what is about to happen.
(The Xavier institute)
Colossus explains what has been going on in his life since leaving them and hooking up with the Acolytes. He finishes off by explaining that, after fleeing the space station, Avalon, he awoke somewhere in the Antarctic. Magneto was gone and he was eventually found by Callisto, who revealed little before she passed out. Hank, Scott and Jean take care of Callisto in the medlab, while Storm tells Piotr that he did the right thing bringing her to the institute, and it is nice that he has returned home. Piotr replies that home is a country that no longer exists; his family long since dead. He has not returned; he is only here because Callisto needed help, period.
Callisto begins to waken and struggles, shouting, “It has begun!” Scott asks her to calm down but Callisto is agitated and informs them that the only reason she braved the transport back here was to stop a handful of renegade Morlocks, who call themselves Gene Nation. Every moment they waste allows them to come closer to achieving their goal. Beast inquires where her loyalties lie but Ororo asks him if he would question her loyalties, as she also once led the Morlocks. Callisto responds by telling Storm that at least she took her responsibility more seriously, and tells Beast that he needs to trust her.
Colossus steps up in Callisto’s defense, saying that he trusts her, but Wolverine tells him that the others might be willing to forget that he upped and walked out on them to join Magneto, but he isn’t nearly so forgiving. Beast interjects, reminding Logan that, if Piotr is back, it must be important. Scott takes the lead and asks Callisto what she can tell them about Gene Nation. She produces some glowing spheres (holographic pictograms), which she tosses into the air and starts the story at the beginning.
She informs them that, when Piotr’s brother, Mikhail, teleported the few surviving Morlocks from this plane of existence, he didn’t make it through; trapped in a world that made the tunnels beneath Manhattan seem like paradise. They adapted. Years passed at a more accelerated rate there and, despite the hard work, they actually came to enjoy the world they were forging for themselves; until the second generation came of age. In the holograms, the predominant members of Gene Nation appear: Vessel, Sack, Ever, Hemingway and Marrow.
She continues to say that the young among them were disenfranchised, angry, consumed by rage that they, the elders had been driven from their original home on Earth. That they accepted their fates made them appear weak and pathetic so they rebelled against them and found a means to come back to Earth. Their leader is a girl named Marrow, a child of twisted vision who will stop at nothing to redress past wrongs. Jean heads over to some hi-tech equipment in order to telekinetically activate the Cerebro scan and ascertain their next possible target but Callisto destroys the machine, warning the X-Men that Gene Nation was simply testing them in their earlier encounter, preparing for today, today being the anniversary of the mutant massacre.
Callisto continues to say that Gene Nation will stop at nothing until they have their revenge for that night, the exact anniversary being at 2:15, forty minutes from now. Scott asks where and what will be their target, and Callisto replies that it will happen where it all began. Their intention is to kill a human for every Morlock who died that day, and, heaven help them all, she doesn’t think they can stop them.
Elsewhere on the grounds, Gambit is taking advantage of the Institute’s medical rehab unit, clearly worried about the after-effects of his kiss with Rogue. He knows that the truth will inevitably come out. The phone rings and he answers. He says hello, but no-one replies until Rogue finally says hello back. Remy asks where she is and she tells him that she’s still on the road with Bobby. She needed some time away after what happened, but she’s glad to hear that he is up and around. She says she has to go, as they’re heading to Seattle before it gets dark. Her nervousness gets the alarms ringing in Remy’s mind. ‘She knows…Of course she knows. She was inside my head when we kissed!’ He tries to tell her to stay put so he can meet her but she apologizes and hangs up the phone. Remy beats the wall in frustration, asking why, after all this time, this has to happen and why did he have to drag Rogue into this mess?
The X-Men’s Blackbird flies towards Manhattan through the night sky, piloted by Cyclops with Beast, Jean Grey, Psylocke and Archangel all passengers on their way to check on Callisto’s story, which Beast for one questions. Scott asks Beast to check out the bio-signature from the abandoned housing projects where Callisto claimed Gene Nation planned to re-stage the Morlock massacre. Somehow, Cerebro’s detection program has been completely blacked out, consistent with the advanced technology displayed by Callisto’s armor. Jean adds that it is the same technology that has allowed her to teleport Wolverine, Storm and Colossus into the projects, leaving them to act as backup. She hopes they arrive in time to do more than simply bury the dead. In the back of the plane, Archangel tells Psylocke that he’s thinking about how the cycle of hatred never ends. “The massacre was where you lost your original wings wasn’t it?” Betsy asks. Warren replies that it’s more than just that; he wonders if Mister Sinister understood the forces he unleashed that day.
Mister Sinister is preoccupied with the thought that several lifetimes’ worth of work may be unravelling before his very eyes. Threnody arrives, but Sinister tells her he thought he’d made it clear that he wasn’t to be disturbed. She replies that it’s the X-Men, whose bio-signatures have been detected, indicating they are en route to Manhattan. The second Blackbird with Gambit onboard, however, has a trajectory for Seattle, and she was asked to inform him if Gambit ever travelled there. Sinister hasn’t the time to speak and dismisses her, adding as she leaves that he has much to ponder, not the least of which is whether years of carefully executed machinations are finally bearing fruit, or simply rotting on the vine.
Wolverine leads the team through the projects and says the place reeks of death. Piotr asks Callisto to forgive Wolverine, whose grip on humanity, he says, has become more tenuous lately. Logan replies that one thing that doesn’t change is that the X-Men are still cleaning up after the Morlocks. Callisto stands up to him and tells Logan that the only reason she is there is because she is taking responsibility for her people’s actions, and what has not changed is her whole-hearted commitment to leadership. Storm is affronted by the comment but Piotr steps in before more heated words are exchanged. He tells Callisto that blaming Storm for the ultimate fate of the Morlocks is like him blaming Professor Xavier for the death of Illyana and, during his time on Avalon, he had time to reflect on things. He thought of his insane brother and lost sister, his parents, who were butchered because they gave birth to mutants. His father once told him that life is a river; you cannot blame the water for running with the current. Callisto apologizes to Ororo, as Wolverine asks if they can get on with the task at hand.
Storm suddenly looks horrified and Wolverine turns to see a man, wrapped in the wreckage of his own bicycle and nailed to the wall, dead. Behind him, painted in blood, is a message. ‘X-Men and women, party’s this way.’
(One mile away)
A member of Gene Nation known a Reverb uses his powers to determine that the X-Men have found their sign and they aren’t happy. Good, says Sack, it will make them careless. Marrow asks Sack to hush, as Reverb’s telepathic powers are delicate and he needs space to track the X-Men’s thought prints. She asks who is joining them and Reverb answers four of them, muffled by a tech-cloak. “But that’s our own!” he exclaims, “Wolverine, Colossus, Traitorstorm and… by the lights, Marrow, Callisto! Somehow she has followed us here!” Marrow asks him to calm down and inform the others that it is time to begin the end.
Wolverine continues to lead the quartet through the tunnels. Colossus is nervous about it being a trap, but Callisto is sure they can’t be seen; her cloaking technology is very advanced, to which Wolverine asks how they found the time to develop high-end techno crap. Suddenly, before she answers the giant Hemingway crashes through the wall behind them and grabs Colossus around the waist. Callisto is surprised as he has mutated more than last time she saw him, but wonders how that is possible. Hemingway pounds on Colossus, happy to kill one of Mikhail’s siblings as Wolverine attacks him from behind but as he leaps, he is caught in a wave of water thrown up by the arrival of Vessel. He says they are at cross-purposes; he wants them all dead but the X-Men want to live. “Any suggestions?” Wolverine replies, “Yeah, Vessel, six spring to mind,” and he pops his claws.
Storm summons lightning bolts, as she watches Vessel throwing Wolverine around and sees that he seems stronger than when they encountered him the last time, which adds credence to Callisto’s claim that they may have simply been gauging the X-Men’s abilities then. Callisto stops Storm in her tracks, telling her that the attack is just a diversion. Callisto navigates, as Storm carries her on her winds down the tunnels to where the real action is. She tells Ororo that the kids are ruthless and angry at the world. They’ll take it out on anyone, and says she remembers what they did to Mikhail. “Mikhail? You claimed Peter’s brother died in transit between the two worlds.” Ororo points out. “Did I?” replies Callisto.
As they approach a junction, they see a group of people running for their lives. Callisto says they are upworlders, judging by the way they’re dressed; recent transplants. She thinks they were probably hostages from a commandeered subway car. When Storm asks why she would think that, Callisto replies that, in another time and place, that’s what she would have done.
She grabs the last man out, who begs her to let him go. Callisto asks what happened back there and he stumbles over his words, but informs her that a girl made of bones let them go, saying they’d served her purpose. That doesn’t make sense, says Storm, but Callisto says that Marrow wanted to frighten them and have them scurrying through the tunnels the way they did when the Marauders decimated them. “Maybe,” the man says, “but probably not.” Suddenly, he produces a weapon and shoots Callisto through the shoulder. She falls to the ground and grabs her shoulder, which bleeds profusely as Storm goes to help her.
Behind her, the man falls to the ground also and in his place stands Sack, holding the gun to the back of Storm’s head. Sack has left his host body alive and he asks Storm if she is proud of him. She replies that she is, and that’s why she’ll be gentle. She creates a powerful whirlwind, which knocks Sack clean off his feet and deposits him at the feet of the young girl known as Marrow, who tells Storm that she knew she wouldn’t kill, as she is as weak as she remembers. Storm takes to the air and says that they have never met, but Marrow replies that they have, once, many years ago. She was called Sarah then.
This triggers Ororo’s memory and she asks if she is the one Cable told her about, the one that held the Ceremony of Light? Marrow says it was before that. It was the night she took over the Morlocks. Storm was beautiful while Callisto was ugly. Ororo was the bright lady, while Callisto was dark. Marrow had such hopes that she would lead them from the tunnels, into the light. Ororo tries to remind her that she and Charles Xavier offered them a place at the institute but Marrow responds with scorn, telling her that she owed them more than simply a place upworld with the humans, where they would be feared and hunted.
A set of lights is flicked on, as she adds that Ororo was too weak to fight for a city free of upworlders and, since she didn’t, they decided to come back and do it themselves. Storm is shocked, as the lights illuminate a group of terrified people lying on the ground, some tied to the fence, with incendiaries attached to their bodies. Marrow revels in gloating that Storm is responsible for this, due to her actions all those years ago. She rips off the front of her vest and reveals a similarly styled device attached to her own heart. She tells Storm that she is the only one that can stop her by stopping her beating heart, but feels that she is too cowardly to prevent their deaths.
Instead of backing down from the challenge, Storm, relishes it, but backup arrives in the form of Callisto, Colossus and Wolverine, who tells her that she doesn’t have to do this. “Yes, Logan, I do,” she replies as she stands her ground. Marrow begins the fight by throwing a couple of bone daggers ripped from her own body towards Ororo, but she catches them in mid-flight and the two run towards each other, now similarly armed. As they cross paths in mid-leap, they slash at each other and, when they land, it is Marrow who finds herself with injuries to her chest. “Have I made my point Sarah?” Storm asks. Marrow scowls at her. “You drew first blood?” Ororo licks the blood off the dagger but Marrow simply launches another attack, asking if she is trying to impress her to death.
Their battle is fierce and Marrow even manages to stab Storm in the side of her waist with another dagger she pulls out of herself. Piotr is unhappy that she is cheating, but Logan tells him that life is cheating, asking what his point is. Logan is confident in Storm’s abilities. More blows hit home and both fighters bleed, as the daggers find their targets. Storm wants to settle this another way, but Marrow replies that there is no other way; Storm left them with no choice. She tells Marrow that, where there is life, there is choice, and she chose to do evil.
Suddenly, from above, Reverb decides that the battle is too close for comfort and uses a psionic stab to cause Ororo to lose concentration. Colossus and Wolverine spot him immediately and Piotr is about to deliver a fastball special before Ororo says that will not be necessary, as she turns, hurling her two daggers towards Reverb. They both hit him in the chest, killing him instantly.
A clock begins to tick, as Ororo slowly recovers from Reverb’s attack. Marrow stands nearby and taunts her, saying the noise she hears is the thirty-second timer, and it’s a pity she won’t be around for the finale. “All that boom and blood and body parts in your honor.” She leaps onto Storm and holds a dagger to her throat as the countdown continues. She wants Storm to know that, before she dies, knowing that she’s taking the innocents with her, she wants Ororo to look into her eyes and stare into the darkness, at a void she created. As leader of the Morlocks, she let all of them down so she can now look at what her weakness led to. She held Marrow’s life in her hands once and she destroyed it.
Suddenly, Storm grabs Marrow’s wrist, forcing her to drop the bone dagger. She reaches back with her other hand and turns her fingers into a claw shape, which she then thrusts as hard as she can into Marrow’s chest cavity, pulling her still-beating heart from her body in one swift motion. Marrow clutches her chest with her last breath as Ororo stands over her, blood dripping all around her, telling Marrow that life is hard and, whether to deal with it or not, is a choice each and every one of us makes every day of our lives; a choice, sadly, that is no longer hers to make.
Soon, the innocent hostages are freed from their shackles, the incendiaries attached to them no longer armed. Hemingway, Sack and Vessel are shackled and in Callisto’s care, as she tries to persuade Piotr to return with her. She may look older but she still has plenty of loving in her bones. Piotr has no doubt about that whatsoever, but declines. They kiss, before Callisto leaves with her prisoners into the tunnels.
Ororo asks Piotr if he is going. Piotr replies that he would give all that he is to stay with the X-Men, but his place is no longer with them. Maybe he’ll return someday, but not until he has come to terms with the mistakes of his recent past. Ororo hugs him and tells him that she loves him before he departs. Wolverine tries to comfort Ororo with his words, reminding her that Marrow was twisted and had to be stopped. She did that, and maybe sometimes it’s that simple. Ororo says it is the simplicity she finds so terrifying. For a moment, she held Marrow’s life in her hands and she knew there was nothing she could do to erase a lifetime of disappointments and failures and hate. As they leave for the exit, Wolverine says that that is why they keep doing what they do. Being an X-Man is more than just protecting the same people who fear and hate them; it is about trying to make sure life doesn’t keep turning people, or mutants, into monsters.