Bowser arrives at a top secret military base in the middle of nowhere, U.S. of A. He flashes the guard his credentials, which reveals him to have Level 12-A security clearance. The guard calls his boss, Major Daniels, and informs him of his arrival. Neither of them even knew security clearance went past ten.
Bowser descends into the facility, where he is greeted by General Perkins, who worked with Bowser on the Osio operation. He asks where Bowser has been, as he’s been missing the last couple of weeks. Bowser replies that they’re all out of control; got to be stopped - time for the final solution. His manner surprises the general, but he replies that Operation: Zero Tolerance has started and operatives are already in the field.
Bowser says this news is excellent, and that it’s time to unleash the hounds to hunt them down. Perkins says he’s been waiting on his word. Bowser produces a red key, as does Perkins. Together they will begin a new dawn for mankind. Before they begin, they are interrupted by an agent monitoring Sabretooth. They’ve lost contact with him. His bio-sensors are off-line. Bowser asks if he’s telling him that he’s not under control. That is unacceptable!
(Fall’s Edge, Virginia)
Sabretooth, wearing his inhibitor collar, looks directly into one of the many cameras fixed on him. He hopes Forge is watching, but if he isn’t, he knows Forge checks in on the monitors every few hours. He informs Forge that he knows all about his little operation, so he’s making these tapes for posterity’s sake. He says the collar is a good one, and kinda makes him wish he’d got some smarts when his mutant genes kicked in. However, he didn’t. He just got big, nasty and mean.
He tugs at the collar, and reels in pain as an electrical charge courses through his body. He then faces the camera again. “Guess what,” he taunts, “I’m still standing!” He lives for the pain, and found some pills recently that help the pain slide down real nice. The collar’s coming off, and then he’s coming for Forge. He pulls again, warning them that, by the time he and the rest of X-Factor see this little video, he’ll be long gone.
(Washington D.C. - The Pentagon)
A meeting breaks up, attended by government staff including Dr. Valerie Cooper. The briefing is over, and Operation: Zero Tolerance is in full swing. It is a task force comprised of agents from several of their allies. OZT’s directive is to contain the mutant population once and for all. Their orders are to stay out of their way. The chairman adds that there will be further briefings, as details are made available.
A man named Gray asks Val for a word. He informs Val that there are too many in the government that do not agree with all that is transpiring. There are some who know that X-Factor feigned their deaths. He adds that X-Factor is in danger. Sabretooth was a plant; a failsafe device. He is being set loose - the hounds are being set loose. As Val rushes from the room, he hopes she can save them. They’re all they have.
The compound is still hidden under an electrostatic dome, which keeps prying eyes out. Wildchild makes his way, acrobatically, to Sabretooth’s cell, carrying a large side of meat. He is approached, surprisingly, by Aurora. She’s the last person he expected to see. She coyly informs him that she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him. She treated him so badly the last time they saw each other, and wants to make it up to him.
Kyle is confused, so Aurora explains that she’s feeling much better than last time they met. He’s putty in her hands, but Forge grabs Kyle’s shoulder and says that’s enough. Kyle doesn’t think it’s any of his business; they’re all adults. Aurora replies, “Well, most of us are. She then transforms into Mystique. Kyle has been hoodwinked.
He’s furious, and it takes all Forge’s efforts to keep him away from her. Forge calls for her to apologize, before he allows Kyle to wriggle free. She smiles, and says she’s sorry he’s so ugly. “Mystique!” replies Forge. Mystique relents, and apologizes for using her shape shifting powers to fool him into believing she was the girl of his dreams. It won’t happen again.
(a few minutes later)
Mystique is pleased that Kyle didn’t pick up on her scent, and comments that not only did she pass the visual, but she could have passed a retinal scan and was able to alter her body chemistry to replicate Aurora’s scent. Forge is impressed, and Mystique shows him what she’s really come to see him for. She kisses him, tenderly.
Whilst Sabretooth struggles through the pain barriers as he tears away at the collar, Val Cooper races to the compound, frantically trying to raise Forge on the radio. Unfortunately, the electrostatic dome is making communication a problem.
Meanwhile, Kyle, now extremely grumpy, saunters to Creed’s cell with the meat. He thinks he gets treated like dirt. Suddenly, he sees Polaris crash through the wall and into his arms. He promises to handle whoever did this, but Lorna assures him that it was her fault. She and Shard have been training together, and she bobbed when she should have weaved. Shard pops her head through the hole, and tells Lorna she though she’d have seen that coming. It’s a standard X.S.E. maneuver. She flies back into the training room, and asks Kyle to clear up the mess while they go back at it. Why should today be any different? mutters Kyle.
Through gritted teeth, his primal anger shoving him past the pain and with one last almighty effort, the collar is broken. Creed looks up at the blood-splattered camera lens. “Aaah! That feels nice! Ready or not… here comes daddy!”
Kyle arrives at his cell, and calls for Creed to stand back from the containment lasers so he can chuck in his hunk o’ meat. The lasers are switched off, and Kyle wonders where on Earth he is. He reminds Creed that he can’t even think about attacking him while he's still wearing the… He suddenly stops talking as he notices the collar on the floor, lying in a pool of blood. “…restraining collar.”
“What were you saying, pup?” asks Creed. Before he knows what’s happening, Kyle is jumped on by Sabretooth and taught a thoroughly nasty lesson. Creed grins, and asks him if he’s going to answer him, or just lay there and bleed to death. He might want to try rolling onto his side, he adds; the blood won’t pool up in his throat as much, he adds.
(meanwhile, one level above)
Polaris and Shard rest after their workout. Shard tells her that she’s okay. Lorna asks what she means. Shard replies that she can take it. She’s been through a lot with Havok and Random, but doesn’t let it get to her. Lorna says she’s just good at hiding it. She then asks Shard if she misses her body. Shard admits that she misses a lot of what she used to have, but keeps reminding herself that she’s lucky to be alive in any form. Lorna replies that in every way that matters, she’s become real to them. Shard appreciates the sentiment. She always resented her brother, Bishop’s, decision to save her life by recreating her as a hologram, but she’s been like this for so long now, she’s starting to get used to it.
Lorna feels that she’s pulling her life together, too. She’s come to realize that she’s allowed others to call the shots for her for too long. Her parents, Havok and anyone else who wanted to capture her mind by capturing her heart. She’s ready to live life solo for a while; see what it’s like being on her own. Polaris heads for the showers, whilst Shard goes off in search of Kyle. He thinks she’s been ignoring him on purpose. Lorna asks if there could be love brewing between their X.S.E agent from the future and their resident Canadian? Shard assures her they’re just buddies.
As Lorna closes the door, Sabretooth appears behind her and slashes her back with his claws. Lorna falls, and the hulking figure of Sabretooth stands over her, menacingly. He reckons it’s just like old times, like back when they were part of the Marauders; when she was possessed by Malice. Polaris asks about his restraining collar, but Creed doesn’t respond. He just grins, and tells her he always thought they made a handsome couple. Then, she had to go all Girl Scout on him. The weakened Lorna looks up at him, and asks if this is his way of getting up his nerve to ask her out on a date? Now that’s the Polaris Creed used to know. He asks her not to move. He wants to remember her just like this - smart-mouthed and bleeding.
With Lorna’s head in his hand, Creed is interrupted by Shard. “Don’t!” she cries. She steps between Sabretooth and Polaris, but Lorna tells her to go warn the others; he’s not wearing the collar. Sabretooth tells them to stop squealing and die. He slashes at Shard’s torso. To her amazement, her body begins to depixelate. It causes her pain, and burns. “Lorna… help me.”
(at that moment)
After their kiss, Forge asks Mystique what they’re doing. She thought they were having fun, and asks if it wasn’t good for him. He cannot find an appropriate answer. She says that she’s not expecting him to start picking out curtains with her, but there’s obviously something between them. They know what they want. “Let’s just do it.” Forge considers the idea but, thankfully, the telephone saves him. He picks up, and finds Val Cooper on the other end. She screams at him to get out of there. She informs him that Sabretooth was a sleeper, and is loose. Forge can barely hear her and, before she can continue, the line goes dead - along with the lights.
From the darkness comes Creed’s voice. Forge asks what he’s doing there. He replies by asking if he thought he could keep him under lock and key forever. Did he think that he could do what Charlie Xavier couldn’t? Forge guesses that he underestimated him. Sabretooth informs him it was a set-up from day one. They’re mutants for crying out loud. No one in the government is going to trust Forge any more than they’ll trust him. Forge figured that out, and pops a panel open in the wall, grabbing a gun stored away inside the cupboard.
Creed says he was put there to take them out when the time was right. As far as he’s concerned, that time is way overdue. He grabs Forge from behind, and shoves him to the floor. “You’re all a bunch of patsies, Forge. You and the rest of X-Factor for workin’ for the government as long as you did.” He explains that he’s working for the government now, but on his own terms. They may not know it, but in the long run, he gets to do exactly what he does best. Forge… he gets to die. Blood spurts from Forge’s wounds as Sabretooth goes to work on him.
Suddenly, Mystique leaps at Sabretooth, having morphed into a wild animal. She manages to get in a couple of good shots, but her physical strength is no match for the bigger man. He grabs her by the throat and says she has ten seconds before he guts her. She screams as he slashes at her after just one second. “Oops,” he sniggers, “Never was much on book learnin’ or math!”
He then proceeds to taunt Mystique. He mentions Trevor Chase, and how she thought he was safe and secure. “He ain’t”. Before he can elaborate, the brave Wildchild reappears, and makes a play for Creed. His initial attack comes to nothing, and Creed asks if he’s as stupid as he is ugly. Doesn’t he have the sense to stay down? He tells Kyle that he could have taught him plenty about his powers and how to use them. In a different time, a different world, they could have made one heckuva team. Instead, all he’s gonna teach him is how to bleed. Kyle hits him with everything he’s got, but it isn’t enough.
(twenty minutes later)
Val Cooper is armed, and enters the compound via a tunnel in the mountainside. All is quiet - too quiet. She is prepared for anything as she carefully heads further inside, except for what she finds. Tied together, are the four members of X-Factor, dripping with blood. On the wall behind them, written in their blood are the words, ‘Welcome home Val! The hounds are loose! Mystique screams at her. “You did this, Val! You brought him here! Look what you’ve done!”