The Pentagon is in Washington D.C. and represents the line of defense for the United States of America. Sometimes, however, that line blurs between legal and less legal, as is with the case of Ambassador Johanna Cargill, known as Frenzy among her fellow Acolytes. In a dark room within the Pentagon, Johanna finds herself restrained in a chair, while two men and one woman from the Pentagon question her. One of the men approaches Johanna and tells her that they appreciate that she is willing to talk, but she is not being too forthcoming. The other man tells her that her reticence is quite the contrast to the speech she gave that day in front of the United Nations. She couldn’t shut up about Magneto and his vision for both races.
The woman in the room comes to Johanna’s side and informs her that diplomatic immunity means nothing in this room. As far as Johanna should be concerned, they are her judge, jury and executioner if she continues to refuse to help them. The first man speaks up again and tells Johanna that, if she tells them what they need to know about her employer, she might leave the room alive. Weakly, Johanna lifts her head and tells them that Magneto is not her employer, but her savior. She would die before betraying him. Johanna asks them if they know what they are up against but then realizes that none of her captors are moving.
A telepathic voice sounds in Johanna’s head and tells her that they cannot hear her. Five minutes from now they will be in the commissary with no memory that Johanna was even there. Startled, Johanna turns around to see Jean Grey, arguably the most powerful telepath after Charles Xavier. Jean is dressed in a black shirt and green skirt, with a blue shawl. Jean tells Johanna that it is lady’s choice: they can do it the hard way or the easy way.
Several hours later in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a line forms outside a bookstore filled with people all wanting to get their copy of “Born Normal,” signed by its author, Jean Paul Beaubier, former Olympic skier and member of Alpha Flight. Jean Paul sits at a table and hands a woman back her book, who tells him that he is an inspiration. Next in line is a portly man to holds bag and hands Jean Paul his book. Nervously, the man tells him that he thinks it is brave of him to write this book. Many people aren’t willing to accept a gay celebrity. Annoyed by the comment, Jean Paul tells him that it is fortunate that he does not care. The portly man reaches into his bag and tells him that maybe he should care. In fact, continues the man as he pulls out a gun and aims it at Jean Paul’s head, maybe he should die for being an unclean abomination. The people in line scream and run away, but Jean Paul simply sits there.
Before the portly man can pull the trigger, Jean Paul uses his super speed to grab the man’s gun, turns it around and stuffs it into the man’s mouth. A guard rushes over and is amazed to see anyone move so fast. The guard takes the man away and the crowd returns to cheer and clap for Jean Paul, who thanks them and asks who is next in line. Jean Paul sees Jean Grey in the crowd and the woman telepathically asks him if this is what happened to Northstar, Alpha Flight’s “great firebrand.” Jean Paul continues to wave and answers back in his head to Jean that the crowd loves him because he is a celebrity, not because he is gay or a mutant. He can live with that. Jean comes closer and, as Jean Paul signs another book, she asks him if he can stand by and sign books while the world is near genetic war. Without hesitation, Northstar says yes and excuses himself. After receiving his book, a man tells Jean Paul that he is an inspiration, to which the celebrity replies, “So I’ve been told.”
Soon, in Boston, a man and a woman run out of a building and scream for help, for there is a mutant and he is horrible. The crowd in the market rushes over to a nearby apartment building and decides that they don’t need to call the cops, because they have numbers. The crowd then taunts the mutant to come out. A young teenager, wearing a large overcoat with a hood pulled up, comes to the doorway and tells the people that he does not want trouble and explains that he has come for help. The crowd grabs him, but one person reminds the others to be careful, because he could be radioactive. In Spanish, the teenager asks the crowd not to hurt him, but they refuse to listen.
The crowd drags Hector Rendoza to the to ground and rips off his coat, revealing the boy below, whose skin is gone, showing all the muscles and bones beneath. Ironically, most of the people in the mob know Hector, yet none recognize him now, only one week after his mutant gene expressed itself. Hector continues to scream for the crowd to stop and, to his surprise, they do, at the behest of a lady nearby. On the ground, Hector crawls into a fetal position and is surprised to be alive. Jean Grey comes over to him and he asks her how she stopped them. Jean explains that she is a mutant like him, to which Hector points out that she is a lot prettier.
Jean thanks him and explains that he is needed, which is the good news. However, he is needed by a world that fears and hates what they do not understand. Jean holds up Hector’s face and he tells her that truthfully he has nothing going on in his life right now, but realizes that he does not know Jean’s name. Jean tells him to call her Phoenix and Hector tells her that he would love to help. The two walk away from the market, whose shoppers and rioters are still frozen. Hector asks Jean how long she is going to keep everyone like that. Jean tells him forever and Hector asks if she is serious. “Probably,” replies Jean.
Not everything about Brooklyn is true. Not every bakery or bar or dry cleaner is a front for the underworld. One or two are maybe, like Caruso’s. Three men in suits smoke cigars and drink coffee in the back of the bakery. One of the men tells his companions that the Feds have nothing on them and, if they did, they would be busting on Tony Soprano by now. The leader of the group tells his lackey to shut up with the show and asks if he can focus on reality for a few moments so they can get some business done. A young man in a blue suit walks in and comments that reality is an interesting comment. The men recognize the young man as Paulie Provenzano. The men reach into their coats and tell him not to take another step. One of the men asks Paulie why he is here since, last he heard, the man joined the army. Paulie corrects him and tells him that he joined the Marines. They push a body real hard in the Marines. He pushed his body farther than he thought possible. One of the men asks Paulie if this is some joke, because he missed the punch line.
Paulie explains that the punch line is that he is a mutant. Apparently, he is indestructible, which means guns, knives, and bazookas do nothing to him. He is like the Thing, but without the brick mouth. The leader realizes that Paulie wants a job in his crew, but explains that he wouldn’t be popular if others knew that he was turning mutants into made men. Paulie comes to the table and explains that he doesn’t want to work for them. He wants them to work for him. He understands he doesn’t deserve all the money, but half at least.
The three men begin to laugh hysterically and the leader is about to answer Paulie when they take out their gun and shoot several rounds each into Paulie’s chest. Once the smoke of the guns fades, the leader is left in awe. Paulie is still standing, unharmed, though his suit is covered with bullet holes. Angry, Paulie tells them that these were his best threads. He smashes the table and sends one of the men against a glass case. Paulie easily beats up the three men and tells them that he used to idolize them when he was a kid. Now, though, he is stronger than all of them. There is a new Paulie in town and they should spread the word as soon as their jaws heal.
From behind, Jean Grey tells Paulie that this was the most pathetic display of mutant powers she has ever seen. Paulie turns around surprised to see a woman who wasn’t there seconds ago and is also surprised that she can talk in his head. That explains the echo, replies Jean. Unimpressed, Jean tells him that he is one among a handful of people born as mutants and asks if he is content with being a big fish in a small cesspool. Paulie explains that the idea sounded good at the time and asks Jean why she came. Is she here to invite him to join a band of mutant outlaws out to fight against a world that fears and hates them? Jean asks Paulie if he has ever heard of the X-Men. Paulie asks her who hasn’t heard of them. Paulie goes over to the bar and tells Jean that he is going to grab a box of cannolis and then they can go. Jean is surprised that he is so willing to go, but Paulie explains that he is going just to see her in tight leather. Jean rolls her eyes and wonders if it was this difficult for the Professor.
Soon, Jean and Paulie pull up to the front doors of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning in Salem Center. Paulie comments on the nice place and remembers hearing about some mutants living in the sewers beneath Manhattan. Jean rubs her head and tells him that he is thinking of the Morlocks. The two get out and Jean tells him to go inside and meet Jean Paul and the others. Paulie walks to the front door in the remains of his suit and asks if he is dressed appropriately, because he doesn’t want to make bad impression. Jean tells him that she doesn’t think it is possible for him to make a good impression and tells him that she will come in a minute, for she is waiting for a friend.
Paulie goes in and Jean hears a woman from above tell her that, if she is expecting a friend, then she expects too much. Jean looks up to see a girl flying in the air, wearing the uniform of the former X-Man, Sunfire. The woman suddenly yells at Jean, as she realizes that the woman is using her psionic powers to hold her in stasis. Does Jean have any idea who she is? Jean tells her that she knows that she is not Sunfire, the man Jean called to aid the X-Men. The woman explains that she is his sister, Leyu. She came because her brother was not interested in her request for help and she thought it would be amusing. So far, she is wrong.
Jean lets Leyu go and the woman lands on the ground and pulls off her mask. Jean tells Leyu that Sunfire never mentioned a sister. Leyu does not care and tells Jean to pry into her mind if she must. Jean asks Leyu her age and the girl replies that she is older than Jean was when she started. Leyu then asks if Jean wants her help or not. Jean thanks Leyu and invites her inside. Leyu realizes that the situations must be dire if she is accepting the aid of strangers. Jean explains that they have both seen the news and things cannot get any worse.
Suddenly, Paulie comes crashing through the front doors of the Institute and lands in front of the women. Jean introduces Paulie to Leyu, who asks what happened to him. Jean does not know and asks Paulie what happened. Paulie starts to get up and tells Jean that he does not mind helping out mutants and all, but he did not sign up to work with a homosexual. Northstar runs over to Paulie, grabs him and dares him to say his comment again. Paulie tells Jean Paul to get off him, because he already explained that he is not into that kind of stuff.
Paulie explains that he is only afraid of catching something from Jean Paul. He is invulnerable and in “American” that means he cannot be hurt. Jean Paul can hit him as hard as he wants. Jean Paul uses his super speed to repeatedly hit Paulie in the face and asks him if he can hit him as often as he wants. Paulie’s nose begins to bleed as Hector comes out to explain to Jean that he tried to break them up. Jean tells Northstar to bring Paulie in so they can deal with this matter without fighting amongst themselves. Shocked, Jean Paul is surprised that Jean is blaming this on him. Northstar carries the unconscious Paulie and follows the others inside, mumbling that the homophobe gets to mouth off and he gets in trouble for defending himself. Leyu tells Jean that she has quite a team assembled and Hector tells her that he is just thankful for the opportunity to help out.
Once inside, Jean explains to everyone what they are up against. She is sure that everyone knows what is going on in Genosha. Magneto has a mutant army at his disposal. All they wait for is his Declaration of War. That happened this morning when Magneto revealed the symbol her brought to rally his troops around. That symbol was Charles Xavier, the man who has always opposed Magneto’s dream. Magneto explained that Xavier, who is chained against a wall by his hands and feet, would stay chained in Genosha until the last human fell.
Jean explains that she has no right to bring any of their lives into this kind of danger, but this is the conflict that the X-Men were formed to stop. If open war starts between man and mutant, they are all finished. By this time tomorrow, Magneto will have unleashed his dogs of war. Hector asks if there are any other X-Men around. Jean explains that, unfortunately, a group departed for parts unknown and she is unable to locate them. However, they do have resources. At the moment, her husband, Cyclops, and the man known as Wolverine are in Genosha but, as gifted as they are, it will take more than the two of them to stop World War Three.
Paulie regains consciousness and, in the Danger Room, the team gets into uniforms. Paulie asks if they will have enough time to train. Northstar tells him to relax and explains that several hours in the Danger Room and it will be as if they have been working together for years. The X-Men have it down to a science. Jean tells them that they are leaving immediately. Northstar is shocked and realizes that this is suicide. Jean explains that she has someone who has personal knowledge of Magneto’s base of operations.
Frenzy walks in and Jean introduces her to the others as Magneto’s former Acolyte and ambassador to the United Nations. Johanna tells Jean that it is nice of her to give her a second chance and she promises not to let them down. However, there is something wrong with Johanna, almost as if she is too eager to say this. Jean tells Johanna that she has faith in her.
Suddenly, the team hears the door ring. Jean tells the team to be alert, since no one should be able to penetrate their alarms system without them being alerted. Jokingly, Northstar tells Jean that, with the way the day has been going to so far, he wouldn’t be surprised if that is Magneto at the door. Horrified, Hector asks him if he really thinks this. “No,” says Northstar, “Not really.”
The group reaches the door and Johanna asks Jean if she can telepathically tell who it is. Jean reaches the broken doors and tells her that she is not picking up any psi-print, so it could be anyone. The bell rings again and Northstar agrees, though it could be anyone impatient. Jean moves the broken door to the side and is surprised to see Alison Blaire at the door, her uniform tattered! One of the others recognizes the pop singer, Dazzler, and comments that they have both her albums. “Hi, Jean,” says the former X-Man Dazzler, “Did I come…at a bad time?”