Pete Wisdom is dead. Shot in the head while his protégés - the outlaw band of young mutants known as X-Force - were saving San Francisco from the ravages of a mutagenic bio-engine. They are James Proudstar, Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith, Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie and Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson. Wisdom had shown them a new path, a new way to use their powers to bring justice and retribution to those who would persecute their kind. A new way to building a better world, one that cost Wisdom his life. Now, an old face has returned - Domino, former friend, former leader, former mentor, running scared with a price on her head and no one else to turn to be the pupils who abandoned her.
Flashback, Six Months Ago:
Nevada, inside a small facility which has a wire fence surrounding it, the words “Nevada Stockade: Trespassers will be met with lethal force” on a sign attached to the fence. Inside, Pete Wisdom sits at a control station, smoking as usual, and calls out ‘Alright, boys and girls, you’ve got your shiny new togs. We’ve run through all the theory. Now it’s time for the practical. Are you ready to play?’ he calls out, while the four members of X-Force, clad in their new leather costumes, stand in a large, seemingly empty room. ‘We’re ready. Let’s go’ Cannonball reports. Wisdom smirks as he tells the young mutants that there is one thing he forgot to mention: ‘This may look like a Danger Room, but it isn’t, there are no safety protocols for starters!’ he adds, as several panels in the floor whirl open, and large robots emerge from under the floor.
Wisdom reveals that this is a mothballed Hulkbuster base, so these robots were designed to subdue police and even terminate the Hulk, if need be. ‘They mean business…so should you. Have fun!’ Wisdom exclaims. ‘Oh, crap!’ Meltdown mutters, while Proudstar tells his friends to get their game on and move, as he rushes towards one of the massive robots. ‘MOVE IT!’ Proudstar shouts, smashing one of the robots with his impressive strength. Cannonball calls out ‘Attack pattern Sparta’ and orders Proudstar to shield Meltdown, while instructing Bedlam to release an EMP wave, with a broad dispersal yield. ‘I’ll run field overview’ Cannonball announces. ‘Copy that’ Bedlam replies, as he concentrates hard. Proudstar covers Meltdown and Cannonball blasts overhead, while in the control booth, Wisdom watches his team, and continues to speak to them via the communicator. He tells Bedlam ‘You can do it. Concentrate…you can do it…think it and it’ll happen’ he exclaims. An instant later, Bedlam releases his electrical energy, taking out several of the robots.
‘Good work, Jess. I reckon a 70% kill. The rest must be EMP shielded’ Cannonball reports as he blasts overhead, while telling Meltdown to get front and center, as he wants plasma bombs, hard and sharp, to take out their sensors. ‘I’m on it’ Meltdown replies as she moves towards some of the robots, while Cannonball tells Proudstar to stand by for a strafing run pick up. Cannonball blasts down to grab Proudstar, and as he pulls him into the air asks ‘Uhh, brother, are you putting on weight?’ to which James exclaims ‘Hey, I’m just big-boned is all!’ before Sam reminds him of all the cherry choc chip ice cream that he has been eating.
Meltdown looks at her hands, frowning, she tells her self ‘Okay, I can do this. Time to get hot…’, while Wisdom watches intently, ‘Remember what I told you, visualize - sharpen your focus on the plasma - make the light a weapon’ he tells her. ‘…feel the burn!’ Meltdown declares as he plasma manifests no in the form of time-bombs, but in several beams, which strike a robot and take it out. Up above, ‘Ready?’ Cannonball asks Proudstar, who replies ‘Nope, but let’s do it anyway’. ‘YeeeHAAAH!’ Cannonball exclaims as he blasts downwards, and drops Proudstar out of his arms, ‘Incoming!’ Proudstar exclaims as he drops onto several robots. Cannonball orders Meltdown and Bedlam to move in, but Wisdom interrupts, and overrides Cannonball’s order. ‘The three of you stand down’ he orders them. ‘Say again?’ Bedlam asks, confused.
‘Don’t play the muppet with me, Jesse. You heard. I’ve taken James off your com loop, too…he’s on his own’ Wisdom announces. Proudstar finds himself back up against a corner, several robots closing in on him, one of which releases tentacles, wrapping around Proudstar’s waist and arms. ‘I know what you’re doing’ Cannonball tells Wisdom as he flies up to the control booth. ‘Then you know it’s for his own good’ Wisdom replies, stubbing out another cigarette. Cannonball frowns and remarks that those machines are built to take down the Hulk. ‘Physiologically, James is the nearest thing we’ve got to him’ Cannonball adds, while pointing out that the machines may be more than a match for him, that they could cause him some serious harm. ‘They could even kill him’ Cannonball adds.
‘Then he knows what he has to do’ Wisdom replies. Bedlam and Meltdown look at each other, while Proudstar, his costume torn apart, struggles against the robots, and calls out ‘I could really use a hand here’, but Wisdom tells him that it isn’t coming, that he will have to help himself. ‘You know what I mean’ Wisdom adds, but Proudstar replies that he can’t, that he has tried, but it just doesn’t happen. ‘Then make it happen!’ Wisdom tells him. Wisdom remarks that when the High Evolutionary messed with everyone’s mutant powers, it rebooted their genome, so they now have complete access to all their capabilities, not just their limited ones. ‘So stop playing the big girl’s blouse and fly!’ Wisdom orders. ‘I CAN’T!’ Proudstar shouts as one of the robots clamps its hand down on his face. Wisdom touches his ear piece and speaks loudly into his mic, telling James that he can and will, because if doesn’t, then he will personally come down there and kick James into orbit. ‘I…’ Proudstar utters, when suddenly, he bursts up skyward, through the robots, and right out of the facility.
‘Big girl’s blouse, moi?’ Proudstar asks as he flies higher into the air. ‘I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go’ Bedlam mutters. Wisdom lights another cigarette, inhales it, then remarks ‘That’s my boy’.
‘This’s kind of…interesting’ Domino remarks as she and X-Force enter a room in an apartment building in San Francisco. She adds that she read about this in “Homes and Gardens” and calls it dumpster chic. ‘Hah! Hah! Why don’t you say “I told you so” and get it over with?’ Meltdown suggests frowning. ‘Is that what you want?’ Domino asks her. ‘That’s enough!’ Cannonball orders, holding his hands up. He points out that when Pete was murdered, their security was compromised, they had to move fast and go underground. ‘Cool view for underground’ Domino remarks, gazing out over the sprawling city.
X-Force are wearing formal wear still, and sitting down at a table, Jesse reveals that Tab went online and hacked databases, found them somewhere central, but secure, where they could hole up. He explains that this was a new office for a Pacific Rim Bank that suddenly went belly up, and everything got snarled in red tape - construction is abandoned until the courts sort it out. ‘It’s not gonna happen anytime soon’ Jesse adds. ‘Tabby hacked a database? Our Tabby, the one with the memory of a goldfish?’ Domino asks, surprised, quickly turning around and adding ‘No offense’. Frowning and with an icy infliction, Tab replies ‘None taken. You’ve been out of the loop too long, you’re old news. A lot of things have changed. Us especially’.
Making some coffee, James tells Domino that aside from enhancing their mutant powers, Pete taught them other skills, ways to survive outside of the system, live off their own resources. ‘You mean he’s turned you into mutant survivalists!’ Domino exclaims. Cannonball informs Domino that they stopped the city from becoming a mutant army that would have slaughtered every non-mutant on the West Coast, to which Domino asks how many died in the process - hundreds? Thousands?, causing Sam to get to his feet, ‘I don’t know. All we knew was that we had to get the job done’ he tells her. Tabby puts a hand on her hips and exclaims ‘Hey, you weren’t there! You didn’t see what was happening. So either put up or shut up’, before reminding Domino that she came to them for help.
Domino hangs her head and replies ‘You’re right…I’m sorry. You’re old enough to know your own minds’. Moving on, Jesse asks Domino to tell them about Tsung, and what they are dealing with. Domino reveals that after she dodge his virtual bullets in New Delhi, she dropped off the world, tried to find out who or why someone would set Tsung onto her. She explains that she dug up all she could on him - primary lesson of warfare being know your enemy. ‘What I did find were whispers, rumors and half truths. An enigma shrouded in a mystery’ Domino adds, announcing that Tsung was born in the far east, the son of a Hungarian physicist and a Chinese witch-woman, and that his power manifested early, that he used it to build a criminal empire spanning parts of China, India and Russia - mostly drugs, and prescribed nuclear technology.
Domino continues, remarking that there is a story that the Hand attempted to recruit him, and they don’t usually take no for an answer. Tsung returned their emissary, served with saffron rice and rose tea, and the Hand never bothered him again. Domino tells X-Force that she also heard that to test himself, Tsung would order bull elephants be pumped full of a potent cocktail of narcotics to make them stronger, faster and totally insane, and he would kill them - not with a virtual bullet, but with his bare hands. ‘Then one day he was gone. Walked out on his empire and never seen again’ Domino reveals.
‘These could all be lies or all be true. I heard so many contradicting stories about him, it’s impossible to sort fact from fiction’ Domino remarks, adding that, either way, it is an effective smoke screen, the only certainty is he is looking for something. James asks Domino if she has any idea what, to which she replies ‘Me’. ‘What makes you so special?’ Meltdown enquires. ‘I don’t know. Maybe the fact that he’s killed me once already!’ Domino replies. ‘Oh…’ Meltdown frowns.
Meantime, in California, an aeroplane lands on a dirt runway. Several cars are parked, as men in suits wait. The passenger entry / exit door on the plane is lowered, and the body of the stewardess falls onto the stairs. Marcus Tsung stands over her, before walking out of the jet, to where one of the men approaches him, extending a hand, he welcomes Tsung to the United States. ‘On behalf of my government and my employer, I am authorized to extend you every courtesy’ Tsung does not shake the man’s hand, but he does thank him, and walks with him towards one of the cars, bare foot, as he wears no shoes. ‘Tell me, do your men here also know my name?’ Tsung asks. ‘Yes, Sir’ the official replies.
‘Pity’ Tsung remarks as he raises a hand, and something flies towards them. ‘Sir?’ the official enquires. The object lands amongst the other men, and explodes, killing them. ‘Unfortunately, my mission here is of such secrecy, that I must kill everyone present…I’m sure you understand’ Tsung remarks. The official looks shocked, before falling to the ground, a pool of blood forming around him. ‘Thank you for your cooperation’ Tsung remarks, before walking off to the remaining car, his bare feet leaving bloody footprints in the sand. Suddenly, one of the officials who survived reaches for a weapon, but Tsung hears them, and spins around ‘Americans!’ he exclaims, firing a gun, which causes the jet to explode, engulfing everything around it - except for Tsung, who speeds away in the car….