Somewhere…Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen stands in front of the imprisoned Sebastian Shaw, and thinks to herself that Shaw would tell people that in many ways, she owes him her life. In her weaker moments, Emma wonders if Shaw is correct. But she knows he is still a monster, and if any man who ever walked deserved the sobriquet, it is he. Emma recalls that as the one-time King of the Hellfire Club, Shaw gave her everything that Emma could not or did not earn for herself - including her first real understanding of power. Emma admits that in what was one of the greatest mistakes of her life, she, as a young girl, tried to beat Shaw at his own game.
Shaw watches Emma as the blonde temptress recalls that Shaw had made an enemy of Prince Namor - or the other way around, she doesn’t remember - and she was stuck in the middle of it - between two men that hated each other almost as much as they both wanted her. Emma reminds herself that she made Namor believe that she had killed Shaw, and by made, she means telepathically - an incursion into the mind of the ruler of Atlantis. By any measure of law, a declaration of war, she did not care.
But Namor made it clear anyway, that any kind of psychic incursion into his mind would be treated as such. And that leads Emma to why she is here now, trying to hide the one man on Earth she is afraid of from the only man alive that she - well, the only man alive that she would hate to cross. Emma smirks, while Fantomex and Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde wearing a specially designed suit stand behind her. ‘We’re going to kill him, right? We’re going to take him out to the woods somewhere, drop him to his knees, and put two in the back of his head, execution-style’ Fantomex asks. ‘You’ve recruited us to help you kill him’.
‘The hell we are!’ Kitty exclaims. ‘I don’t know who you are, French guy, but I say non to killing him or anybody else. It’s kind of why I came’. Kitty reminds Emma that not only has she masterminded the kidnapping of the secret prisoner from Danger and the brig, but has she and Fantomex riding shotgun with her. ‘How the hell did you explain that to Scott?’ she asks.
Emma smiles and puts an earring into her ear as she tells Scott that she is taking “The Pryde girl and the Frenchman” on a global shopping spree and doesn’t know when they will get back. ‘Uhm. What? You what?’ Scott smiles as he looks up at Emma from where he lies in bed. With a sheet barely wrapped around her, Emma looks at her lover and replies ‘Shopping. You know, it’s a thing that girls do. It’s the thing that people do in the aftermath of profoundly earth-shattering events especially. You know, save the world, suffer tragic losses, grapple with the dramatic usurping of the status quo…some people like to go out and engage in some deep tissue retail therapy. That doesn’t sound ridiculous, does it?’ Emma asks. Scott replies that it sounds completely ridiculous, to which Emma drops her sheet and tells her lover to live with it.
‘Don’t worry about Scott’ Emma announces from inside EVA, adding that they will only be gone a day or two at the most. ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
Back on Utopia, Victor Borkowski a.k.a. Anole is being examined by Dr Kavita Rao, while Doctor Cecilia Reyes and Danger monitor other patients. Anole explains that he woke up feeling lousy yesterday morning, like the first morning when you realize that you don’t just have a cold, and then it hit him, his neck began to hurt and he felt cold, but hot. Anole tells Kavita that he even went to the drug store and got whatever crap they sell, hoping he could catch the virus early and tamp it down some. He still went to classes yesterday, but did not make it to school today. He got across the bat to here, and right now it is too much, he cannot swallow and his head is killing him. Victor tells Kavita that he tried crashing but couldn’t get warm, which is when the coughing started, and he couldn’t stop - he began coughing up blood, and that is when he knew the over-the-counter drugs were not going to help him.
‘Doctor…do you know what’s going on?’ Victor asks. Kavita checks Anole’s tongue and tells him that it is hard to say. ‘On a micro level…you’ve got the flu and what’s I’d guess is pneumonia. And on the macro…’ she adds, while Dr Cecilia Reyes tells Scott “Cyclops” Summers” that on the macro level this looks like the early stages of an influence pandemic, and explains that preliminary tests are positive that it is the HX-N1 strain that was encountered in the Sublimecorps headquarters by Wolverine. Scott exclaims that an outbreak here could be a disaster and declares that if mutant-to-human transmission is an issue, they need to seal the island. ‘Utopia is now under quarantine until we can figure out what the hell is going on!’ Scott orders.
Meanwhile, at the restaurant Mama’s on Washington Square in San Francisco, Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier and Alison “Dazzler” Sinclair are out having a meal. Jean-Paul’s phone rings, it’s Cyclops, who Jean-Paul tells to slow down as he doesn’t understand him. ‘I - forget that. I suppose I do understand. Yes of course. Please keep us informed’ Jean-Paul remarks, before hanging up. ‘What was that?’ Alison asks. Jean-Paul tells his friend that the details were a little sketchy, and he cannot believe he is saying this, but they think there is some kind of mutant flu outbreak on Utopia, and Cyclops has shut the place down - any mutants there are staying put and any mutants in San Francisco cannot go back. ‘My God, do you know what this means?’ Jean-Paul exclaims. ‘Of course I do. Not to whistle past the graveyard of anyone’s misfortune, but…until further notice it means’ we’re the X-Men!’ Dazzler grins.
In Chinatown, an elderly man inside a clothing store tells his visitor ‘Eight hundred, thirty-two dollars for the week. Times are tough. There’s a recession on. Our arrangement with the Association is nine percent. Nine percent of eight-thirty-two is, what. Seventy-four and - we’ll just call it seventy-five. Is that right? I think that’s right’. But his visitor, a man in a red and black spandex outfit, replies that the Collective demands half. ‘That’s - I’m sorry. Did you say half? That’s not the agreement’ the old man replies. But the visitor begins to glow, so the old man holds out eight dollars and exclaims ‘Here, take. I don’t want any trouble! Just take it -’, but his visitor is actually the Collective Man, who manifests his four other selves and exclaims ‘Half. The Collective was not asking. These are the needs of your comrades’.
The old man declares that is not how it works, and warns the Collective Man that the Black Dragon will hear about this. ‘Will he? I’d gladly tell him myself if I could find him’ the Collective Man smiles, before the five beings begin tearing apart the old man’s store - throwing things everywhere. “The Black Dragon” he quotes. ‘You people should be ashamed. Letting a Gweilo transform you into running dog capitalists. Letting a Gweilo protect you’. He grabs the old man and exclaims ‘I don’t care if he calls himself “Black Dragon”…or “the Wolverine”. He’s still a Gweilo with money and he cannot help you now!’ The old man pleads with the Collective Man, exclaiming that he has children and grandchildren. ‘I’m sure they’ll make glorious workers one day’ the Collective Man remarks, frowning.
At that moment, inside a large auditorium at Worthington Industries HQ at San Francisco, Kate Kildare, the X-Men’s new public relations manager, stands with Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel on the stage, while the media get ready in front of them. Kate announces that they want to address the world as to what has been happening on Utopia these last 24 hours. Kate explains that they are seeing what they believe is the early stage of a pandemic outbreak, and that recently a squad of X-Men encountered a contagion known as HX-N1, and they have reason to believe that this is the genetically altered influenza virus causing the outbreak.
Warren takes the microphone and explains that aside from the three medical professionals already on the island, the CDC has been dispatched and should be arriving within the hour, while an island-wide quarantine has been in effect since yesterday morning, and no fatalities have yet been reported. Warren assures the media that no new cases of flu above what is to normally be expected have been spotted on the mainland, but that said, they have contacted all hospitals in the area to be advised and on alert. Kate tells the media that they now know about as much as the X-Men do, and opens the floor to any questions.
‘Are the X-Men prepared to say that mutants are making real people sick?’ one reporter asks. ‘Mutants aren’t real people, too? Go to hel -’ Warren begins, but Kate interrupts, ‘- to be clear, there have been no cases og human infection by HX-N1 and every possible measure that can be taken to contain the outbreak is being taken’ she announces.
On Utopia, Scott is watching the recording. ‘God’ he mutters, while an astral projection of the White Queen appears alongside him. ‘How bad is it?’ Emma asks. ‘Not great. Don’t come home’ Scott replies. From inside EVA, Emma reclines in a chair and replies ‘The hell we won’t. You’re in full-on crisis mode and you can’t very well -’, but Scott interrupts, telling that if she comes home and gets sick she is no use to any of them. ‘Be pragmatic for a second, Em. If anything happens to me -’, but Emma tells him to shut up, and that nothing is going to happen to him. ‘It will require more than the flu to knock you down’ she points out, before asking Scott how he is feeling. ‘Tired. But I’m always tired’ Scott replies. Emma tells her lover to take care of himself, and to keep her informed. ‘And give my regards to Warren. His PR flack was worth the money’. Turning back to Kitty and Fantomex, Emma declares that it appears that Utopia is closed for business, so they have got themselves some extra time to kill - ‘Pardon the expression’.
Meanwhile, at Sublime HQ in downtown San Francisco, The enigmatic Lobe stands with his associates Verre, Bouncing Betty, Burst and Thug, and declares ‘Well, today it sucks to be the X-Men. And good riddance…’, as they look into a room where five young people are waiting. Lobe asks Verre to prepare the doses, before asking if they have been triple-checked against the test subjects meaning they are live and ready to go. ‘Yes’ Verre replies in French. Looking at the inhalers in the briefcase, Lobe exclaims that weapons of mass destruction never looked so adorably collectible. ‘Who knew an entire species could be made irrelevant with something so tiny?’ he asks, before shouting ‘To me, my X-Men!’ as he enters the room where the five young people - three men and two women - are waiting.
Lobe greets and congratulates them, informing them that they have been chosen as the final test subjects in the Sublime Corporation’s most exciting biotech test to date. ‘From a possible test field of 2000, only you five remain’ he declares. Lobe boasts that history will look back on the five of them in he same way that they look back on the first men and women in space. ‘You people are pioneers. The first humans that chose to become superior. Who took the reins of evolution in their teeth and rode off into the sunset’. Lobe announces that here at the Sublime Corporation, they believe there are no more mutants - just people. He hands out the inhalers and explains that they are their doses, custom-crafted to their genetic makeup to enhance their genetic makeup. ‘Very soon, this is what we’ll offer all of our clients. But today…today it’s you and the one quick, sharp breath that’s between you and real-life superpowers. Modeled directly on mutant kind’s best and brightest’.
The young men and woman raise the innhalers to their lips, as Love tells them to go forward and conquer their destiny. The shocked blonde woman drops to her knees, while Lobe tells her that it is okay, that it will feel a little funny at first. She convulses, as a growth appears on her back. ‘Change always does. Besides, you’d not be getting your money’s worth if there wasn’t some semblance of drama’ Love adds. The blonde woman smiles as she gets back to her feet, feathered wings extended out behind her. The brunette man convulses as his form increases in mass, while the dark-haired man covers his glowing red eyes. The red-haired woman smiles as she leans backwards and the blond boy hugs himself as a chill escapes his mouth. Lobe grins, ‘This is what you spent all that money on, folks. Now who wants to be a super hero?’
Back on Utopia, ‘This is not looking great’ Kavita Rao tells Cyclops as men in quarantine outfits move about the mutants in the sick bay. Kavita adds that with so many people living and working in such close quarters, this kind of velocity is to be expected in an outbreak. She tells Cyclops that they are still waiting for the X-Club’s full work-up on the strain, but what they know so far is the best possible news - that 72 hours into the outbreak they have zero cases of human contamination on the island. ‘That is the beginning and the end of the good news’ she adds. Kavita explains that on top of typical sever flu symptoms, the most concerning effects of infection seem to be power dampening.
Kavita explains to Cyclops that mutants with full body physiognomies are having profound breathing difficulties, and that those with extra-biological powers and abilities are having trouble making them work. She reveals that Iceman cannot even chill a glass of water. ‘He’s not the worst of the “big guns” though’ Kavita announces. ‘No? Who is?’ Scott asks, before he sees that Wolverine is in the quarantine, with a blanket around him, and hooked up to a machine to help him breathe!
Back in Chinatown, the Collective Man stands before several people, and with a curtain behind him in the warehouse where they all sit, he announces that the Black Dragon is dead. ‘And if he is not, I welcome him to come and challenge the assertion. But in the meantime, the Collective Man pulls the curtain to one side, revealing the heads of five men. The Collective Man announces that they all agree that in the Black Dragon’s absence, the time has come to be reminded of the glories of the revolution. ‘And I am the man to do the reminding’ the Collective Man boasts, before telling the men and women that they come to this country and have fallen back on the old ways, allowed themselves to fall under the sway of gangsters, thugs and pimps.
The Collective Man raises his arms above him, and his other selves appear, surrounding those seated around the table, while he exclaims ‘Rather than acting for the benefit of the Collective, you acted for the benefit of yourselves. Namely, self-perseverance. Rather than standing together, you stood apart and allowed the bourgeoisie to exploit the fruits of your labours’. Everyone stands up and raises an arm into the air: ‘Comrades. The revolution has arrived’ the Collective Man announces.
Elsewhere, Angel, Northstar, Dazzler and Pixie a.k.a. Megan Gwynn are in an apartment, where Warren tells his friends that they have arrived at the conclusion that to reassure the public and to help maintain law and order, they will organize the extant mutants in San Francisco into a de facto X-Men team. ‘That’s us, by the way’ he points out. Warren declares that they will up their visibility, PR space and get out on street patrols a little. ‘People will freak our’ Pixie points out, to which Warren tells her that will do anything they can to help reassure people that the X-Men still have their backs. A pair of legs drop down alongside the window, while Warren tells his teammates that it was not that he doubted their capabilities as a team, but he called in one of the big guns. Ororo “Storm” T’Challa appears, smiling she exclaims ‘Hello, everyone. We’re going to be fine. I promise’.
Elsewhere in San Francisco, police fire at a vehicle which speeds along a street, with several bank robbers inside it. The media is covering the robbery, when suddenly, the vehicle comes to a stop - and explodes in the street - an optic blast fired at it - as the five young people now dressed in matching costumes appear. ‘Don’t move’ “Cyclops” exclaims, while Lobe, watching the coverage on several monitors, grins, ‘Showtime!’