Utopia, the island home of the X-Men - or at least, some of them. Cyclops a.k.a. Scott summers stands in his briefing room alongside his partner, Emma Frost the White Queen and Doctor Nemesis. Before Nemesis gives his report, Scott already knows - this is it. A hologram of Hope, surrounded by the Phoenix Force, is projected, as the expert scientist, Dr Nemesis, states that Hope’s pulse was different from her previous energy flares, that it was directed outwards, that it was a signal. ‘People will notice this’ Nemesis points out. ‘You aren’t shouting’ Emma tells him, while Cyclops has turned away and stares out the window. ‘In this case, it’d be redundant’ Doctor Nemesis replies, throwing his hands in the air, he mutters that sometimes words speak loudly enough for themselves, no matter how small-brained the folk you are talking to are. ‘I only wave hands when it’s complicated and the vestigial minds who plague me will miss the implications’ he adds.
Scott frowns as he tells himself that this is what they have been waiting for - this is what they have sacrificed everything for. ‘This is where we buy ourselves a new tomorrow. It has to be’ he thinks. Emma places a hand on Scott’s shoulder and remarks ‘So…the simmering pot boils over and is poised to make a terrible mess. What now?’ Scott tells her that they are on the radar now, that someone will come, and that they have to be ready for anything and everything. ‘No matter what happens, we keep her safe’ he announces as he leaves the room.
Down in the X-Brig, Hope stands before Unit, who is encased in a stasis field. She tells the strange being that it was a flare-up of the Phoenix power, and explains that she has had them before, but that this was bigger, and different. ‘What does it mean?’ she asks. Unit smiles, and replies ‘It’s been a pleasure to know you, Miss Summers. You’re a very special girl’. Hope hangs her head and asks if it is really going to be that bad, to which Unit replies that he honestly doesn’t know. Suddenly, Danger enters the chamber and informs Hope that Scott wants to see her, immediately. Hope glances up at Unit as she prepares to leave, but Unit raises a hand and tells her that if she will give him one last second, he would like to give her one final piece of advice.
Unit tells Hope that people talk about destiny, but that the greater part of destiny is choice, that there are some things which only a select few can achieve, that there are things that only a single individual can. ‘But if they do not choose to do said things, it means nothing. You will always have a choice. Make your own destiny. Never be anyone’s pawn.’ Hope closes her eyes as she considered Unit’s words, before taking leave. Danger frowns as she looks up at Unit, who utters ‘Come universal Utopia, your sacrifice will be remembered’, before telling Danger that whatever happens, to make sure she gets lots of readings, as Hope is a terribly interesting girl. ‘Yes’ Danger replies. ‘Ahem’ Unit declares, correcting Danger: “Yes, Sir” he tells her. Danger stares blankly at him, as Unit tells her ‘Politeness, Danger. You are very much my remedial student. Hope’s much better than you. Do pay attention’.
Later, on the shores of Utopia, Captain America of the Avengers stands in the waves that crash onto the beach. ‘We need to take Hope into protective custody’ the hero announces. Cyclops stands on the beach alongside Emma, Magneto, the Sub-Mariner and Colossus. A former Avenger himself, Namor the Sub-Mariner tells himself that people will ask why he stands with the mutants. He reminds himself that he is king in his own right, and while a mutant, the humans do not consider him one. ‘Mutants are loathed. I am feared…but respected. This is not my fight. I need not be here’ Namor decides, but he continues to watch Scott Summers and understands what is happening. Scott Summers is a man stating the autonomy of his people.
Hope crouches on a rock nearby and watches as Cyclops and Captain America point at each other.
Namor tells himself that Scott Summers is a man rejecting the idea that the fears of a mob should govern their destiny, a species of 200 declaring war on the United States of America.
Cyclops’s visor glows red, and an instant later, a powerful surge of red optic energy blasts towards Captain America at close range, sending the hero careening backwards into the water.
Namor tells himself that he admires Scott Summers. ‘I would have his woman, of course. But that’s a compliment, in its own way’ Namor smiles to himself.
Up above, the SHIELD Helicarrier floats over Utopia, jets ready for action.
Namor tells himself that the reason he sides with the mutants is simple. ‘How could I not? There are those who would stand with the many against the few. But Namor will never be amongst them’.
Colossus is propelled into the air by Magneto, smashing through the Helicarrier, Emma rushes Hope to safety, while Namor dives into the water.
Soon, Colossus, mystically enhanced by the power of Cyttorak, is underwater, and he is surprised that so few of his friends have asked the obvious question - why has he stayed in his steel form since becoming Cyttorak’s Juggernaut? Nearby, Luke Cage and the original Spider-Woman, both of the Avengers float in the water, while Namor battles the Thing. Colossus battles underwater with the Red Hulk, while telling himself that the other part is not surprised, for he knows exactly why they don’t ask - it is because they are scared of him and scared of the answer. Colossus understands that, for he is scared, too. In steel, he is a super hero. But in flesh, he is a man, and no mere man could hope to control the urges that haunt him. He tells himself that in steel, he thinks he an hold on in any reasonable situation.
The Red Hulk begins scratching at Colossus’ helmet, pressing his thumbs into Colossus’s eyes, making everything unreasonable. Colossus feels it spasm inside him, she tries to warn the Red Hulk by pulling away, tries to make him understand that he shouldn’t make him angry. The Red Hulk raises his fists, but the Red Hulk has no idea who - what - Colossus is. ‘And my fear is too weak a leash’ Colossus thinks to himself as is mystically enhanced armor transforms further, ‘I disappear for a while’ he tells himself as his now massive body looms over the Red Hulk.
Hope Summers is confined to a room with the other students. ‘So, Frost dragged me into Utopia and told me to stay out of the way. I was so surprised I didn’t even break her nose’ the young woman thinks to herself. ‘She tells all the other students to not let me go anywhere. And, to give them their due credit, they tried’ Hope tells herself as she stands over the motionless bodies of several other young mutants. Fiery energy flicks around her, ‘They’re my friends, but they don’t understand. They don’t know what it feels like. Like my whole body is a flaming heart. I’m petrified. I’m in rapture. I don’t know what’s coming next. I know it’s all that will ever matter’ Hope thinks as she examines the flames around her.
‘Logan doesn’t understand, either’ Hope decides as Wolverine appears in the room, claws bared and ready for battle. Wolverine lunches towards Hope, just like she told him too, for they agreed that if it all went bad, he should kill her. ‘I told him to be sure’ Hope reminds herself. Spider-Man enters the room, but with Wolverine’s claws inches away from Hope, the young woman decides that it has not gone bad, and wonders why no one trusts her. She engulfs Wolverine in flame, knocking him aside. She knocks Spider-Man back, too, while telling herself that Logan, Emma, Scott, the Avengers and the X-Men, none of them trust her, none of them understand what she has to do. But they will, so she runs, creating a hole in the wall of the building, she leaps off the edge of Utopia, knowing that she is not running from a fight, but towards one.
Back under the water, the first thing Colossus’s feels as he comes back, is enjoying how the cartilage in Red Hulk’s nose slides beneath his knuckles. The behemoth sees dead fish circle upwards, killed by the shockwaves of their blows, but all he can think is “more”, as he punches the Red Hulk backwards, and smiles as his blood tints the sea. ‘I always wanted to work in watercolors’ Colossus tells himself. ‘Regrets? I have regrets. Like him only having so many bones in his body’ Colossus declares as he moves forward and punches the Hulk up against a large structure. The Hulk, bruised and bloodied, just looks at Colossus and laughs, motioning behind him.
Colossus looks up and sees the pillar that supports Utopia, realizing that they have damaged it. He knows it would snap easily, and prays that the brutish Hulk understands. Colossus removes his helmet, and the Red Hulk understands, as he punches Colossus in the face. Colossus’s screams of “harder” are suffocated by the water, but the message carries, and the Red Hulk continues his savage assault. Colossus knows that Cyttorak doesn’t care who bleeds on his altar, so long as someone does. And eventually, Colossus is rendered unconscious.
Above the water, Cyclops and Danger are on the run inside one of the buildings, and the voice of Magik tells Cyclops that her brother has fallen. ‘Understood’ Cyclops calls back, before asking Danger where Hope is, as he releases another optic blast. Danger reports that Hope is off-island, and is still attempting to reacquire her location, but with no success. Cyclops tells Danger to spread the word, and announces ‘Avengers Protocol. Activate’.
Elsewhere, specifically in the office of Kate Kildare, superhuman public relations specialist. ‘Heh’ she mutters as she looks at her mobile phone, “Avengers Protocol: Go” appearing on the screen. Kate glances out her window, ‘So this is it’ she tells herself. ‘Tis is how the world ends’. She sits down at her desk, and prepares an email ‘Not with a bang…but with a press release’ Kate remarks as she clicks the send button.
A Letter to Humanity:
Today, agents of the United States government came to our house to try to take a girl into their custody.
They will attempt to mitigate this by saying it wasn’t an arrest.
I ask you, it someone arrives at your front door, wanting to take away your family, without any justification or permission, what would you call it?
This is worse than an arrest. This is an attempted kidnapping.
They will also attempt to justify this by saying “This girl is dangerous.”
By which they mean “She is a mutant.”
We have seen that mutant sovereignty, even if confined to a single island, will never be respected. WE will never be respected. Those who claim to fight for a better world are those who would keep us on our knees. Their jackboot rise only so it can crash down harder.
Previously, I have made threats. I implied there would be a price to pay for a transgression like this. I noted that we possess the power to destroy whole cities if those who persecuted us did not relent. I said that if we were pushed, there would be consequences.
They pushed us.
We have just been proven liars. Be grateful we aren’t as bad as you think we are.
In the days that come, remember this was not of our choosing. But know that even if we forgive it, we will not forget the day when our worst fears were proved true. That even those who claimed to be our friends thought us property.