It’s 7:23 pm at Unitech Corporation, Valhalla, New York. Inside a large, nondescript building with a huge satellite dish mounted on the roof, Jill Spalding studies data being produced from tests being carried out on X-51. She reads the data and is surprised at the results she is getting. Solar cell nanotechnology micro-assemblers, servo thrusters, acoustic pick-ups analyzers and digitizers? This goes beyond anything she ever imagined possible.
She sits, rubbing her aching feet as X-51 remains motionless inside the machine which scans every part of his incredible body. She’s studied Aaron many times in the past but so much about what she knew simply no longer applies. Her mobile phone rings and she answers it, only to find her estranged husband, Peter, on the other end. He asks how Aaron is doing and she begins to answer, but lowers her voice to a whisper. She tells him that she’s been running the diagnostic and he hasn’t said a thing since she began; that was over three hours ago. For all she knows, his audio receptors might be picking up every word they’re saying. He asks what she’s turned up and she replies that she has more info than she is capable of understanding or believing. There’s no doubting the empirical data however. To begin with, Aaron’s new body superficially resembles his original one but, upon closer examination, it’s actually nothing like it at all.
She informs Peter that Aaron is now essentially comprised of microscopic super-computers called nanites, which continuously expire and replicate. They are like human blood cells, only working at far greater speeds. They are what enable him to automatically repair any damage inflicted. And, although he subconsciously thinks that he still possesses certain features inherent to his original design, such as telescopic limbs, that’s no longer the case. Instead, she continues, the nanites can multiply themselves instantaneously, actually increasing the mass of certain parts of Aaron’s body.
She adds that he’s been completely transformed; even the glow of his eye is a manifestation of some sort of Sentinel technology. “The Sentinels?” asks Peter, “You mean the robots created to hunt down mutants?” Jill confirms this, explaining that they were designed many years ago by a scientist called Bolivar Trask but what she’s seeing has no more in common with the original Sentinel schematics than Aaron’s old body did.
It’s 8:41pm at the government office of the Commission of Superhuman Activities in Washington, D.C. and Henry Peter Gyrich is at his desk when the phone rings. An extended conversation ensues between himself and Sebastian Shaw. He wonders how the hunt for X-51 is going. Gyrich replies that new information has been brought to light which he is not yet at liberty to reveal. Shaw says that while he remains free, X-51 remains a menace to the general public. “Only to mutants; the Avengers suspect the introduction of Sentinel technology into the robot’s systems,” Gyrich replies.
Shaw says this is impossible; besides, that wouldn’t explain all of X-51’s behavior. After all, X-51 even attacked him. Gyrich admits this is true but asks Shaw to answer this; “Shaw industries is the leading manufacturer of Sentinel components. When was your last inventory?” Shaw stutters and says that he’s not certain, asking why he wants to know. Gyrich tells him that if X-51’s behaving like a Sentinel, even one with a glitch, the programming must have come from somewhere. Shaw asks him to hold on a moment, turns while covering the phone and sniggers to himself. He returns to the conversation and Gyrich says that it must be no easy task running his corporation. Shaw replies that he has no idea. He’ll have his people double-check the inventory for the theft of any equipment and will be in touch.
He puts the phone down as Tessa stands behind him, rubbing his shoulders. He knows that Gyrich has finally pinpointed X-51’s location. That’s very convenient, especially in view of poor Henry’s well-founded fears. He supposes that every legitimate businessman must fall victim to a bit of industrial espionage every now and then. There’s no telling what might be ‘stolen’ right out from under their noses, or when it might turn up, “Eh, Tessa?”
By 11:58pm, Peter Spalding has arrived at Valhalla and Hal, the security guard, accompanies him to Jill’s laboratory. They chat on the way and he mentions the crazy hours that his better half has been working lately. He replies that he’s gotten used to a lot of strange things in his time. He thinks to himself that one of them certainly isn’t dealing with an estranged spouse who wants nothing more out of him than a divorce. He meets Jill and their eyes meet. There is tension in the air but they are both unwilling to deal with their problems right now. He asks where Aaron is and she tells him that he’s sleeping.
Aaron returns home and calls for his dad. Home is where the heart is, he thinks, a place never far from our minds. It’s a place for family. He enters the house, telling his dad something is wrong. He climbs the staircase and pushes open a door hoping his father is inside but, instead, the massive Master Mold looms down on him, a representation of Sentinel technology slowly replacing the memory of his father. He screams.
X-51 wakes up and approaches Jill and Peter. He tells them that they know what the problem is. The Question remains, how do they make it go away? Peter puts his arm on his shoulder and Jill tells him that it’s difficult to say with absolute certainty. Each nanite in his body has its basis in Sentinel technology. The very programming is executing a massive rewrite of his original system directives, forcing him to react violently toward anyone who happens to be a mutant, whether good or evil. He has fought against it as best he could, but now the nanites are reconfiguring his CPU in a “Final attempt to Sentinel-ize you.” Aaron sits down and holds his head, saying there must be something she can do. She replies that there is, but she’s afraid he won’t like what she has to say.
1:02am on the Hudson River. Aboard a large oil ship, the captain and one of his crewmen are on the bridge when they hear a noise. The crewman asks what it is and the captain replies that it sounds like jet fighters. They see lights pointing to the sea and look up to see a group of huge Sentinel’s flying overhead.
Back in Valhalla, 1:19am, X-51 reels from what Jill has told him, unable to accept what she’s saying. She tells him that his systems are corrupted and the only way to purge himself of the invading program is to jettison his entire storehouse of memory; quite simply, to erase his hard drive. X-51 says that this would render his mind completely blank, like an amnesiac. Jill agrees, adding that his memory would never return, but the only way she’ll be able to reprogram the nanites to function without the Sentinel imprints is to begin installing a completely new system. She apologizes to Aaron, but it’s the only solution she can offer. Both she and Peter are clearly upset at the prospect of losing their old friend and Peter asks her to give him a moment to take it all in. X-51 instead tells them that he understands, but perhaps there is another way, another hope: a gentleman who’s familiar with both mutant and Sentinel alike. He establishes a link with the computer’s mainframe, using a satellite to contact him.
Elsewhere in New York State at the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning, Professor Charles Xavier’s computer receives an incoming message from X-51, saying that he is in dire need of urgent assistance. The screen reads, ‘Accessing file: Xavier Protocols… Beginning file transfer.’ In outer space, an A.I.M craft uncloaks itself and several operatives dressed in space faring suits depart, heading for an orbiting satellite. They dismantle it over a period of eight hours and get back aboard their craft, which cloaks itself once again.
2:00pm and X-51 looks dejected. Peter asks what happened and he replies that he isn’t sure; the transmission suddenly cut itself off at the source. Peter asks if he has given thought to what Jill suggested but Aaron asks him if he would do it. He can regain control of his systems but at what price? The memories of his friends, the two of them, even his father, everything he is would be gone forever. He wonders if he’d be better turning himself in to the authorities but they tell him that they would just dismantle him without giving it a second thought. Peter says that at least what Jill offers is a future, if not a past.
Suddenly, the building begins to shake and masonry begins to fall around them. To their horror, the roof is torn apart and the terrifying figures of three huge Sentinels appear. They say they have located X-51 and he must surrender or face immediate termination. ‘My life already isn’t worth much,’ thinks Aaron. Thinking quickly, he puts himself between the Sentinels and his friends, deflecting falling masonry with his forcefield before picking them both up and flying away as one of the Sentinel’s hands tries to grab them. Even though his own life isn’t worth much, his friends’ safety comes first. He manages to evade capture as Hal, the security guard, comes running, reaching for his pistol as he enters the laboratory. Once there, he looks up to see the one of the Sentinels looming over him.
It’s 2:04pm in a sub-basement within the Hellfire Club in New York City, where three Hellfire Club guards monitor the progress of the Sentinels and see Hal on their screens. “Ha! Get a clue moron. This is where you’re supposed to haul your sorry butt out o’ there,” grins one. Behind him stands Sebastian Shaw, holding a glass of red wine with Tessa, as always by his side. He smiles but says that they can hardly blame the poor fool for being shocked. The Mark VII Sentinels are well beyond state of the art and, unlike their predecessors, for the very first time, human operators wield control under his watchful eye. Not only that, he says, but their sudden appearance will help corroborate Gyrich’s suspicion of a recent theft, providing them with a perfect alibi. He orders the guard to crush Hal and then eliminate X-51 once and for all.
Back in Valhalla, X-51 tells the Spaldings to get out before rescuing Hal from one of the Sentinel’s mighty fists, finding himself being punched into the ground for his efforts. As the three terrified civilians flee the building, they get a perfect view of the sheer magnitude of the situation, as all three Sentinels dwarf the building and effortlessly dismantle it. Inside, X-51 is caught with cables, which spring from a Sentinel’s hand and is then enveloped in the hand itself. He thinks to himself that something is definitely out of whack here. Sentinels are only supposed to attack mutants but they’re obviously making an exception in his case. He guesses it doesn’t really matter as, one way or another, he’s already had enough.
Using the blaster on his chest, he frees himself from the hand but is grabbed by another and simply thrown away. He feels that it’s odd that he thinks of them as ‘only robots,’ and it’s pretty obvious who sent them. His database brings up information on the Sentinels, showing they originated from Shaw Industries. Nearby, Nurse Coerbell asks a gas station attendant called Otis for $20 of unleaded. As he pumps the gas into the car she asks him if he can hear a whistling sound. He turns and sees the flailing figure of X-51 heading towards the station in freefall. He grabs Nurse Coerbell and runs from the car. X-51 hits it, resulting in a huge explosion while the three Sentinels approach from above.
They land and search the wreckage for signs of their target. They scan for his residual patterns but find no traces of him. “Too flamin’ bad tin-man!” says a voice in front of them. They look at their new opponent and Sebastian Shaw’s face drops as he watches events on a monitor. “No, Impossible. Not him, not them, not now!!” he says. The unmistakable sound of Wolverine’s claws popping shows he is ready for action as he, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Jubilee, Psylocke and Angel rush the Sentinels. He tells them that it looks like they’re gonna have to deal with the X-Men!