Young Trevor Chase dashes through an alleyway, pursued by several thuggish members of the Friends of Humanity. He doesn’t know who they are, or why they’re after him, but he knows he’s gotta run. Two hours ago, Trevor left his home in an affluent part of town, to rendezvous with a special friend of the family. Raven Darkholme has been a reassuring figure in his life since his mutant powers began to blossom. She promised everything would be all right, and no one would find out about his ‘secret gift.’ He wanted to believe her but, as he finds himself confronted by a dead end, he wonders just where she is when he needs her.
His pursuers catch up with him. He knows he’s in serious danger, as they know he’s a mutant. For the first time in his young life, he knows the meaning of fear. Reluctantly, he decides to use his mutant power, which until two years ago was the subject of countless nightmares. Since then, he has begun to control his ability to alter transpatial realities in an effort to keep it locked down inside of him. Now, the normality of his life has been shattered, and he warps everything within a five-foot diameter as a defensive measure. The walls, trash and ground warps and folds in on Trevor, but suddenly his concentration is broken when a rock hits him square on the forehead.
The thugs approach wielding baseball bats. They taunt him, saying the fun’s about to start. They tell him that someone real important doesn’t like him, and he wanted them to give him a message. “Said to tell you, it’s from Raven.” Trevor is clearly surprised to hear the name. The Friends of Humanity pummel him relentlessly and, as the pain becomes an icy numbness, all he can think of is Raven’s promise that no one would find out.
(twenty-four hours later)
Deep underground, in an intentionally nondescript government building, set amongst many other such buildings in the Georgetown district, Val Cooper oversees a special operation. Below her vantage point, she can see Sabretooth, Wildchild, Forge and Polaris being escorted by heavily armed troops. They are shackled and powerless. Val isn’t happy about them being tied up, but then she wrote most of the rules governing this kind of operation.
Val asks Agent Lanning why she’s only counting four members of X-Factor, and asks where Mystique is. Lanning replies that she had to use the ladies’ room before starting. Val asks if she had an escort. Lanning replies that two female agents accompanied her. Immediately, Val starts running, as Lanning adds that he watched as they went inside to ensure it was secure. “Agent Daniels came out to stand guard at the door while Agent Banyon…” Val cries back to him to stand his post and get her a security team to the ladies’ room - now!
Moments later, Val discovers the two agents lying unconscious on the floor. She’s grateful that Mystique at least left them alive. Val puts out an alert for Mystique, but hopes they can find her themselves. She orders the building shut down. No one gets out without a full DNA scan. Right now, she adds, Raven Darkholme could be anyone.
(Eisenhower Medical Center)
Soon after, a doctor arrives to check on Trevor Chase’s progress. He is heavily bandaged and his injuries are very serious. The nurse explains that he’s in critical condition, and the E.R had their work cut out for them. He enquires about the boy’s parents. She replies that this is the first time they’ve left his side all night. They’re with police detectives trying to figure out who did this.
The doctor asks if they know anything, and the nurse replies that the E.M.S workers who brought him in said something about the Friends of Humanity. The nurse adds that, with everything that’s been going on with mutants lately, they had to expect something like this. She’s the only one who’ll look in on Trevor. The Legacy Virus has scared people. The doctor places a hand on Trevor’s chest and says he will be avenged. He then turns into his true form; the decidedly more feminine Mystique.
Meanwhile, X-Factor’s members are interviewed by an unseen interviewer. They are placed in the center of a room with a light focused only on them. Kyle Gibney is the first in the chair. The interviewer asks what he feels about their little team of mutants. He replies that Forge is cool to be around, but kind of bossy. Polaris is very sweet, and a good listener. He is asked about Sabretooth and Mystique, and whether they fit into the team. Kyle doesn’t think they fit, but he’s not the one calling the shots.
He is then asked about the leadership of X-Factor. Kyle replies that they don’t need a leader. They know what needs to get done, and they do it. However, Mystique and Sabretooth seem like they’re running some kinda game of their own. The final question concerns Shard. “Shard?” Kyle replies, “Doesn’t he play for the Islanders? A goalie or somethin’?”
At a police station somewhere in the capital, Sergeant Vitali calls Bartlett to find out how the forensic report on the Chase case is going. They’re not moving quickly enough for Vitali, and he wants it yesterday. He is interrupted by his assistant, Donna, who asks him for the Chase file. He points to it, and asks her to inform the chief that he’s still waiting for forensics to give him what he needs to nail those Friends of Humanity creeps once and for all. He wonders who they know to be able to walk away from a thing like this. Donna thanks him for the file, and departs. Moments later, Donna returns and asks for the file again. Vitali says he just gave it to her. Leaving the station is the shape-shifting Mystique, and she’s carrying Trevor’s file. Vitali’s been hoodwinked.
Meanwhile, Polaris is next up for being interviewed. She is asked several questions, including one about the situation last week when she was almost killed by Havok. She says that there are no apparent side effects, and the doctors have given her a clean bill of health. She believes that she could serve on a mission designed to bring Havok in, and until recently she enjoyed working alongside the rest of X-Factor. She is asked if she now has reservations. “More than you could count,” she answers. She considers resigning hourly.
The Friends of Humanity are a thinly veiled organization which operates under the pretext of community service, but which specializes in genetic bigotry and acts of terror against mutants. In the squalor of their den, the thugs who beat up Trevor Chase feel safe, as they’re sanctioned from the very top. They’re itching to go out again and kick some more mutie butt. One of them advises that they should stay low while their superiors clear everything for them. The top man is connected, and watches out for humans. Suddenly, the lights go out.
In the dim light that remains, they see Mystique standing before them. She’s holding a gun, and hopes they’re not scared of a little darkness. That would destroy her image of them being big, powerful men, following the word of Graydon Creed, who go out and crush mutant-kind like the insects they are. She drops the gun; pretty much asking them to attack. She changes into a California-blonde stereotype and says, without the gun, maybe they’ll let her get close enough to be their every dream. She then shifts to a more fearful image, and adds that she could also be their worst nightmare. Personally, she’s opting for the second.
Sabretooth is next in the chair. He acknowledges that the only reason he’s still alive is because of them. He is asked about Forge. He replies that he’s a brainy boy scout. Polaris is a stuck-up princess with a sweet pair of legs, and Wildchild is just an ugly runt who doesn’t have the guts to be him. “Mystique?” the interviewer asks. “Mine,” Creed replies. “Sooner or later. I can wait.” He is then also asked about Shard. He knows nothing, and asks who he is.
(at that moment)
Maintaining the more fearsome of her identities, Mystique goes on the offensive. One guy is hurled through the window, and Mystique hot foots it after him. She tells the guy that he’s gonna tell her why they attacked Trevor Chase, who sent them after him, and how they knew he was a mutant - and he’s going to tell her now!
Seconds later, she returns to the den and looks for the two other men, and tells them that, if they give her what she wants, then maybe she’ll kill them quickly. The first guy tells his friend to stick with him and be quiet. They’ll slip out the window and head down the alley. They have a couple dozen members nearby who’ll help them take care of the mutie. As he leaps into the alley, the second guy isn’t forthcoming. His friend turns and asks him to hurry up already. Out of the darkness, his friend appears and tells him that he thinks they lost her. They head down the alley and, as they run, the second guy asks again why they had to kill the kid, anyway. His friend replies, “You know why, because he told us to.” As he climbs a fence, he suddenly realizes that this isn’t his friend after all.
Mystique shifts into an even more fearsome shape; like a green dragon-winged reptile. She grabs the first guy in her clutches and asks him who sent them after Trevor. The guy is petrified; as much of his boss as he is of Mystique. He can’t tell her, or he’ll kill him. She replies that she will do much worse, and tosses him into a row of garbage cans.
(a short time later)
It’s Forge’s turn for being interviewed. He too is asked about Shard, but replies that he has no idea what they’re talking about. He asks if that’s all, but they haven’t finished; they’re not even close. They suggest he takes a seat and prepares himself for a long evening. Suddenly, the door swings open and Val Cooper enters the room, apologizing for the intrusion, but they have a situation on their hands. She needs to consult with Forge.
Val explains that Mystique is rabbiting and they can’t find her. Forge leaves the room, telling her he’ll take care of it, just like the good little soldier he’s always been. He tells his interviewers that they’ll have to conclude this some other time. His interviewer emerges from the shadows. It’s Bastion, and he feels they will. They can then discuss the difficult road ahead for X-Factor. It’s time his militia began to focus on the task at hand, and he assumes he can count on Val Cooper’s full cooperation. “Yes Bastion, as always,” she replies.”
(one hour later)
Forge is at the Eisenhower Medical Center and joins Mystique at Trevor’s bedside. She asks how he found her, and he replies that the restraining device, which was implanted into her neck, puts out a signal. It doesn’t make it too difficult. Of course, she made it easier by just sitting there and waiting for him to show up. He asks what’s going on, and who the boy is. She tells Forge that he’s a friend of the family, and they should leave it at that. He asks if she’s ready to head back to Fall’s Edge without a fight. She asks for a minute.
On the television above the bed, a politician is asking the viewers to vote for him. He explains, “The world is changing faster than you know it. Come November, it is up to all loyal Americans to respond to those changes with the greatest power anyone can yield… one vote. When it comes time for you to yield that power, remember to cast your vote for Graydon Creed; humanity’s friend.” Mystique turns and aims her weapon at his face, and warns that she’s coming for him.