A television news program shows footage of the massacre in the small city of Cooperstown, Alaska: firemen extinguishing the fire, Marauders fighting the Purifiers, federal officers registering the damage. “The Cooperstown Massacre,” a voice announces. For months now, the world has waited and wondered how an entire town could have been wiped out; how every child in that town could have been murdered and who could’ve committed such an affront against all that is right and good in the world in such cold blood. Who could unleash hell on Earth?
“Now we know the answer,” the speaker’s voice informs the audience: Mutants. Now they know this, thanks to cutting-edge data recovery work by Cooperstown Victims for Truth and excellent reporters from the online blog Purity of Knowledge. Most shocking is what declassified documents released via the Freedom of Information Act by the Mothers of Cooperstown activist group has revealed: the insanity of Cooperstown happened because of a mutant birth. While the identity, and the fate, of both the child and parents remain classified at the highest levels of government, the speaker urges the viewers to make no mistake: a mutant was born and hell followed with it. “Cooperstown paid an unspeakable price and we say, never again,” he stresses.
The speaker finally reveals his face to the audience and introduces himself. He’s Simon Trask. For years, his family has been synonymous with putting human safety first. In the weeks and months to come, he assures them they’ll be hearing more from his Humanity Now Coalition. Their goal is simple: to protect the future of mutantkind. He wishes them good night and “God bless.”
Sadie, the mayor of San Francisco, is sitting in her office as she pauses the TV image and turns to Cyclops, Beast and Emma Frost, all of them watching the video. Sadie fears it only gets worse. Friends of hers in the State House say Trask is quietly putting together power bases in the Senate and in state legislatures. He wants to start legislating mutant reproductive rights. In the wave of Humanity Now releasing their first media salvo, there’s been fourteen reported cases of mutant hate crimes across the country. On an average day, there’s three.
Cyclops reassures her she didn’t sign up for this. The X-Men moved out of a giant target; they never meant to turn San Francisco into a mutant hunting ground. They can reloc…“Like hell,” Sadie cuts him off. She didn’t open up her city’s doors to mutantkind as a publicity stunt. No one leaves – unless they want to, of course. The three X-Men smile with relief as Sadie reminds them this is San Francisco. The hated and misunderstood have always had a home here. They should let their people know that here, they can live and love and make as many damn mutant babies as they like. They will be welcome, she reassures them, stressing every word. She tells them to spread the word: in San Francisco, mutants will be welcome. “From Ghirardelli Square to the darkest alley in the worst part of the town so help me God.”
San Francisco – The Richmond District
In a Russian diner, a customer call out at the waitress, verbally abusing her in his mother tongue: “More drinks, moron! You hear me? More drinks! Now!” he demands, sitting on a table with his two equally rough-faced companions. The frightened waitress hurriedly apologizes and brings them new drinks. “Idiot!” the man pushes her off, turning the tray over and throwing the waitress on the floor with his push.
Behind the waitress, Piotr Rasputin is – seemingly – glassily aloof, refusing to even turn his back and acknowledge what’s happening. The man who pushed the waitress asks his comrades if they saw that; that big bear didn’t even move! “Of course not. You stupid little thugs,” the leader of the group, a bald man with a huge cross tattoo adorning his forehead scolds them. He tells them that the man is smart enough to sit there and drink in quiet like a man. This big bear knows what’s good for him.
“I knew you’d know what’s good for you, comrade, yes? Yes you do, yes you do,” the tattooed man tells Nicolai Rasputin. Nicolai’s wife, Alexandra, is frightened, crouching on the floor, watching as her husband is being held by the tattooed man’s accomplices. “You son is a mutant, you big bear!” the tattooed man tells Nicolai. “Like me, yes?” he taunts him. The teenage Piotr and his little sister, Illyana, watch their parents’ plight hidden in the shadows. “Piotr, what…?” Illyana is about to ask him before Piotr shushes her.
The tattooed mutant opens his shirt only to reveal a tattoo on his chest – a tattoo depicting Piotr in his fully armored, metallic form. “A strong boy. Healthy and proud and strong, no?” he further taunts Nicolai. He tells him there are men in Moscow that know how to treat healthy and proud and strong boys like Rasputin’s son. Flabbergasted, Piotr whispers to Illyana whether she saw that his tattoos move…
The tattooed man asks Nicolai what they will do about this thing. Nicolai is but a farmer. He needs every hand he can get to work his land. It would be a shame for the boy to be disappeared. And then of course they would keep an eye on the girl, too… It is a damned disaster, the tattooed man sneers, as Alexandra sweeps her tears in a handkerchief. “Please… please, not…” Nicolai begs him. He stresses they’re his children. He asks the tattooed man what he wants.
The mutant retorts he didn’t want to be burdened with the terrible knowledge that Nicolai and his wife have birthed an abomination like himself. All he asks is a small weekly consideration to keep the secret. After all, it endangers his life, as well. “Anything, anything, just name the price,” the desperate Nicolai replies. The tattooed man thinks he’s a smart bear. A smart bear always knows what’s good for him, yes?
“The big bear knows what’s good for him, yes?” the tattooed man loudly exclaims. “If you say so,” Piotr remarks, without still turning to face him. The tattooed man wonders: who is he? Where is he from? He hears some Siberian farm hick in him. Piotr hesitates for a second before he replies “I’m from Cleveland”. Livid with anger, the tattooed mutant demands they get him out of here! “You heard him! You want trouble? Get out! Go home!” one of the mutant’s companions growls and breaks a bottle to intimidate Colossus. “Make me,” an undeterred Colossus replies. He has nothing else to do and no home he cares about.
Deep below Graymalkin Industries – Marin Headlands
“Home sweet home, uh?” a nervous Pixie stammers as she sets up her stuff in the new room she shares with fellow teenage X-Man, Armor. “Yeah, I guess. For the time being, anyway,” Armor remarks, while casually leafing through a magazine, sitting on the upper berth. “Bottom drawers for me, all right?” Pixie asks her. Armor has no objections. She nonchalantly informs Megan that she was talking to Nightcrawler… Mr. Wagner… Kurt… Anyway, as more X-Men come to town and get situated and stuff they’re going to be moving them out into the city with them. Like chaperones or something. “Uh. Cool?” Pixie exclaims. She asks Armor who’s the other girl staying here…
Her question is swiftly answered, as X-23 suddenly enters the room, a towel wrapped around her head, glowering as always. “Hello again,” she grunts. A slightly intimidated Megan greets her and announces she took the bottom drawers. Is that okay? Laura pauses, glares at Megan and throws the towel on the floor. “I don’t care,” she chugs, emphasizing each word. Pixie’s frightened eyes fix on the bloody towel.
A little bit later, Pixie goes out to the verandah where Emma Frost relaxes. “Ms. Frost?” a hesitant Pixie calls her name. “Emma, darling,” the Emma corrects her. She tells Megan that she received the most fascinating party invitation and she’s trying to decide if she should attend. She urges Megan to come and join her by her side. She’d offer Megan some brandy but she’s too young to appreciate it – surely Logan has left some beer under a rubbish pile somewhere in the commons, she adds.
Pixie nervously stammers that it’s X-23 – Laura… She took a shower and… Megan pauses as she produces the bloody towel. She wonders: Could Laura be hurt and not telling anyone? “It’s not her blood, darling,” Emma corrects her. She thanks Pixie for bringing this to her attention and dismisses her: “You can show yourself out.”
Shortly afterwards, Emma enters the room that Cyclops has configured as a baby room, in the hopes that Cable and the baby will someday return. Holding a baby-sized shirt, Cyclops admits he might be completely losing his mind. He was thinking it’s been about four months since Nate – since Cable – went off into the time stream with the baby. He assumes she’d be bigger now, bigger baby, so she will need bigger baby clothes. If they come back, she’ll… Pausing, he realizes he’s packing up clothes for an imaginary baby that’s running through time and who may or may not ever return, let alone return as an infant. What if she comes back as an old woman? He wonders if he’s insane.
“Sentimental,” Emma corrects him. She finally decides to confront him: what isn’t he telling her? What have Warren and Logan been getting up to lately? That quiet little band of theirs, going away without warning and then coming back sullen and moody. Nobody talking over breakfast; the banter not so witty anymore. Why do they all come back so dark and sullen? Even for X-Men, they’re sullen. And considering Scott’s lot, that’s really saying something.
She stresses that keeping the faith that the child will return isn’t insane. But hiding something from her – or trying to shoulder the burdens of leading the last of his species alone – that would be insane. If it’s so hard for him to say, Emma reassures him, she could simply pluck it from his head. She could… “No, you couldn’t,” Scott retorts and grabs her hand, preventing her from touching his head. An upset Emma rushes to the corridor, where Storm passes right past her. Ororo calls her name. “Your highness,” Emma scoffs at her.
Somewhere outside of Old Crow – Yukon, Canada.
Locked inside a box for safety reasons, in the interior of a warehouse, Madison Jeffries frantically writes in his journal: “Them damn halo-lamps from level 38 tried to kill me again last night. Matter of time, reckon were never happy w/ wattage + I made better in my day anyhow. Then automated toilets – nice one Japan – got found by kitchen battalions some time before 0500. Ambulatory toilet assault waves kept me busy rest of day. Worried machines are headed for nanolab. Movements last few weeks suggest it anyway. Making final push down to lab. Tonight. Only 1 floor away now + I have only one bombpack left anyway + last thing I need = machines accessing nanotech war-swarms that…
Madison suddenly pauses as he hears something and wonders what the hell that was. He then continues with the final entry of his siege journals: Hold thought/some damn thing or other just blew up somewhere. Can’t let it stop me. Taking out damn lab up once + for all now + will be done with hit + worry. If I never write another word, that’s where + why + how I died.
Finishing his final entry, Madison exits his box and turns on the disassembled machines left on the floor all around him. He uses his power to communicate with and control machines, pushing them into being restructured as giant mechanic winged bugs: “Machines. 1000!!” The newly formed mechanical creatures object: “10101 00100.” Madison releases a new command in a more high-handed manner: “Now! I’m not asking! Then report back!” he orders his constructs and urges them to go.
However, as soon as they cross the corridor, Madison’s constructs are shattered by a blast. The perpetrator, another sentient machine vaguely reminiscent of a motorcycle, appears and begins blasting at Madison. Jeffries quickly assembles together a new mechanical construct of a more humanoid shape. He orders the spawn he ‘procreated’ to go and save his life. The robotic being complies and faces off against the other machine. “Good boy,” Madison applauds and seizes the chance to escape through a wall on the floor, heading to the nanolab. He freefalls and crashes down to the lab. Moaning with pain, he realizes he’s too old for this. As he begins placing some devices of his on the main panel, he mumbles that it’s a damn shame; he could’ve saved the world from this lab.
Suddenly, someone enters the lab, calling his name. Startled, Madison screams with surprise. He admits he’s indeed Madison Jeffries before he tells the man who called him that he almost gave him a heart attack! He asks the man if he’s a robot. The man, Dr. Nemesis, armed to the teeth with blasters and electric shockers, ignores the question and tells his companions he’s found Jeffries. He thinks he’s brain-damaged but he found him.
Beast and Archangel enter the lab. Beast tells Madison that he’s a hard man to find. The less-than-lucid Madison manages to recognize Hank and greets him. Madison recalls they got into his head. They used his powers to make automated mutant death camps. He came up here because he wanted to be hard to find. To get it back together. He wonders: how the hell did these three…? Nemesis explains they blew the damn doors off. Didn’t he hear the explosion? He finds this a proof that Jeffries is brain-damaged. Annoyed, he stresses Jeffries is not even a doctor. They don’t need…
Archangel cuts Nemesis off and informs Jeffries they’re putting together a science team tasked with solving the mutant birth crisis – and they need someone good with machinery. Will he join them? Madison explains he got up here to create in peace. He just wanted to make his machines and get smarter. Problem is, he did get too smart. So did the machines. They decided they didn’t need him anymore. They learned how to self-replicate and adapt. They sealed off the bunker to the outside world and have tried to kill him ever since. So, yes, he would very much like to get the hell out of here. As he exits the room, he also casually informs them he just planted a big damn bomb in the room and they should probably run as fast they can.
San Francisco – The Richmond District
The tattooed man’s three underlings have menacingly approached Colossus, one of them waving a broken glass bottle. The man with the bottle tells Colossus that he picked the wrong crew to mess with. Colossus very seriously doubts that. Enraged, the tattooed man tells his men to kill him. The man with the broken bottle aims at his face, but Colossus easily avoids his strike and knocks him out with a punch. Without even flinching, he uses his elbow to hit the other man right in the face and similarly render him unconscious. The third lackey confronts Piotr with a barstool but hesitates to use it. “Too late,” Piotr exclaims and knocks him out with a punch.
Towering over the three senseless men, Piotr boasts he’s not even sweating. The tattooed man opens his shirt to reveal his torso and encourages Peter to go ahead and touch him. All his secrets will be his, then; everything Piotr has to hide will be written upon his flesh. Colossus scoffs: what if he just beats him to death with a barstool? Grinning deviously, the tattooed man quips that then Piotr couldn’t earn money for him. “And then I couldn’t make you rich, comrade,” he adds with a sly smile. He urges Piotr to come and sit opposite him. He is an old man and Colossus could very clearly snap his bones like twigs.
“Idiot girl! More drinks!” the tattooed man curses the waitress. Seeing Piotr refusing to sit down with him, he sighs: “Fine, stand, don’t sit, I don’t care”. He asks Piotr if he needs work; money; papers. “Work,” Piotr replies. His papers, they’re not… Pausing, he reiterates he could use work. As Piotr finally complies and sits down him, the man admits he could also use a little muscle, seeing as how Piotr just flattened his. He asks Piotr whether he will work for him some. Piotr hears Cyclops’ voice in his mind, what he told him earlier that day: Whatever you have to do to start getting past this, wherever you have to go… whomever you have to hit… get past it. Go. Hit. Colossus remains silent for a moment before he accepts the man’s job offer: “Da.”
Far below Graymalkin Industries – Cerebra Room
Emma watches all the simultaneous news reports concerning mutantkind: mutant hate crimes on the rise; the brutal murder of every child in Cooperstown, Alaska owing to a mutant birth; three states having introduced legislation attempting to control mutant reproduction. “Screens off,” Emma commands and all screens shut down.
Storm enters the room and again addresses Emma. “Your highness,” Emma scoffs. Ororo asks her to stop it. Emma complies. Ororo asks her what she’s doing here, alone in the dark. Emma reminds her she’s the White Queen. She’s surveying her kingdom; all two hundred lights of it. Storm asks her what that means to her; being a Queen. What does she think it means to lead – not to teach, but to actually lead a people? Feeling worn out, Emma swears she honestly doesn’t know. She decides it would be easier to show rather than tell and uses her telepathy to draw Ororo’s mind into her mindscape.
“Ahh. Well,” Ororo mutters as she finds her mental self in a space of great white nothing, surrounded by innumerable versions of Emma Frost, all of them regal and imperious: Emma as Queen Cleopatra, Emma as Marie Antoinette, Emma as a geisha. “You asked,” Emma quips. Ororo admits that indeed she did. She tells Emma she’s surprised. She expected more from her than a gallery of dress-up options. “Oh, you great and gigantic cow…” Emma blurts out in anger and mockingly asks Ororo to ‘forgive’ her for not being actual royalty or simply marrying into it, alluding at Storm’s marriage to Black Panther, king of Wakanda.
Regaining her composure, Emma apologizes. She shouldn’t have snapped. She knows Ororo wants to help, she just… Honestly, she doesn’t know. Some days she feels like she’s just here for the shoes and the eternal hope that she shall be issued minions. Scott’s closed her out and she feels like a girlfriend and not his… his partner. Storm advises her to act like it, then. Scott’s been training – has been trained – for this his entire life, whether he knows it or not. If he’s shutting Emma out, it’s because he thinks he’s protecting her, saving lives, or both. Emma wishes to pout and stomp her heels, so be it, but she should know that neither serves nor saves anyone. If she’s acting in the best interests of those she leads then eventually her path will intertwine with his again. She guarantees Emma that’s precisely the path Scott is on. It isn’t easy and it’s rarely glamorous. If she would truly be a queen, if she would truly be a leader, she urges her to lead, then.
Later in the evening, Emma is at the verandah again, holding X-23’s bloodstained towel and talking into her mobile phone: “It’s Frost. I’ll be there."