Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith sits solemnly on the edge of a building structure, high over San Francisco as the sun sets in the background. The world weighs heavy on her shoulders, heavier still since she is a mutant, a unique twist of fate, a stray protein of a DNA chain that makes the ordinary extraordinary and gifts the lucky recipient with abilities some only dream of. Right now, she doesn’t feel so lucky and as for dreams - try nightmares. As a mutant, her super ability is to turn light into a weapon. As a member of X-Force, she is a genetic freedom fighter, visiting retribution on those who persecute mutantkind. Two days ago, she saved a friend from an assassin, an act which cost the killer his life, and has prompted her to ask herself some hard questions, the answers to which lie somewhere else.
New York City, two police officers approach a house down a street lined with houses joined together. Inside the house, a teenage girl with short ink hair stands in the middle of a very untidy room. Her mother, cigarette in hand, starts calling out to her husband. ‘Frank! Frank! Will you come and talk to y’daughter for a change! She never listens t’me anymore!’ the mother calls out. ‘Why’s she only my daughter when there’s trouble?’ Frank calls out from the next room. ‘Hello? Excuse me? I have a name, you know. I have rights!’ the girl exclaims. Her mother tells her that the only rights she has are to breathe in and out and not make this any worse than it is. ‘What the hell happened in here?’ a wide-eyed Frank asks. ‘Nothing. That’s my point, genius. I told her to clean this pit up yesterday. Instead she sneaked out and spent the night who knows where. I just caught her creeping back in!’ the mother explains.
The woman asks Frank when the last time he came in here anyway, to which Frank points out that their daughter isn’t a little girl anymore. ‘I can’t just, y’know…’ he mutters, when suddenly the doorbell rings. ‘You are in serious trouble, young lady’ the girl’s mother tells her. ‘You say that like it’s a new thing’ the girl mutters, while Frank opens the door, to find two police officers waiting.
‘Frank Casey?’ one of them asks. ‘Yes, officer. Is there a problem?’ Frank replies. ‘No problem’ one of the officers remarks, before both grin, and their eyes glow green - before Frank is incinerated by a burst of flame. ‘Frank?’ the woman calls out when she sees the flames, but the police officers are gone, replaced by strange humanoid creatures with large weapons in the place of one of their arms. ‘Oh my God…’ the woman utters. ‘The secondary progenitor. Kill it’ one of the strange beings declares, and fires a blast towards the woman, but she dodges it. ‘Mom!’ the girl exclaims. Her mother tells her to run, while one of the beings races off after her. ‘Bring her…alive’ the other creature orders.
‘Please...why?’ the woman asks, before the other creature fires his weapon at close range, and she is engulfed by the energies. ‘Mom!’ the girl calls out as she hears the chaos. She makes it to a window, and tries to open it. The second creature appears behind her, telling her not to run, as they won’t hurt her. ‘You got that part right, cause’ I’m outta here!’ the girl exclaims, tears in her eyes. A strange-looking dark is thrown at the girl, and she falls to the kitchen floor, unconscious. The creature picks her up and joins his comrade, ‘Both progenitors are dead. We have the anomaly’ he reports. ‘Good. Clean this place’ the first replies, and the exit the house, and once they are clear, it explodes.
Back in San Francisco, a reporter stands on a busy street, where civilians start to gather around her as she announces into her camera that Senator Kelly is chasing the presidential ticket, and the anti-mutant question has risen once again. ‘Nowhere more so than here in San Francisco, where an estimated third of the city’s population recently underwent involuntary, violent mutation at the hands of force or forces unknown’. The reporter states that the effect was only temporary, but that eighteen hundred people died as a result, with many more suffering from post-traumatic stress. She declares that this scenic city by the bay has seemingly returned to normal, but if you scratch the surface, you will see the fear and apprehension in people’s eyes as they look at their friends and neighbors and ask themselves: ‘Were you a mutant?’
The civilians gathered nearby all start looking at each other, ‘I’d normally object to any kind of prejudice, but this is different. Mutants are dangerous. People died here! We have to protect our own!’ a white man declares. ‘You can’t justify persecution no matter what., Hasn’t history taught us anything?’ an elderly woman exclaims, while a young black woman shouts ‘We should round ‘em all up and dump ‘em out on the island…out on Alcatraz!’
‘Come and get us if you can…’ Jesse Aaronson a.k.a. Bedlam snarls as he fires a blast of energy at the television, shattering it. ‘Cause I got your mutant menace right here!’ Jesse mutters, his hand charged with more energy. ‘Could you quit killing the TVs Jess? If the news makes you mad, try switching the channels. It’s cheaper’ James Proudstar suggests as he carries a large meeting room table over his head with ease. ‘Hey, I like the news okay, that newsgirl’s hot. It’s those other mooks that get me riled!’ Jesse mutters.
James Proudstar is an emotional and physical anchor to his friends, he is big, buff and impervious to just about everything - he can fly, too. Bedlam plays electromagnetic and bio-magnetic fields like harps from hell. He’ll give your laptop and your cerebellum a hard time.
James sets the large table down inside X-Force’s office headquarters and tells Bedlam that people are scared, that he can’t blame them for being frightened over what happened. ‘Watch me! They’re dumb, bigoted dirtbags who need a wake-up call!’ Jesse replies, adding ‘What about those poor folks who were mutated by the bio-engine? Talk about trauma! They need medical help, counseling, but they’re probably going to be too petrified to ask. God knows how they’re holding up’. Jesse points out that if those “nice” folk down there knew X-Force was up there, they would be coming after them with guns and torches and pitchforks like something out of an old horror movie. ‘And they call us monsters’ Bedlam scowls.
‘That’s because we are’ Domino points out as she enters the large office space, carrying several large books. ‘They’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, but think it’s the whole thing. If they knew half the stuff we do about the mutant world, they’d all pull together, regardless of creed and color to wipe us from the face of the Earth…and they’d all die trying!’ Domino declares. Domino is a former freedom fighter and former team leader of X-Force, now back as field controller. She projects a probability altering field that stacks the odds in her favor. You do not want to be standing next to her in a thunderstorm!
James begins putting some chairs around the meeting room table and tells Domino that not all humans are sweetness and light. ‘What about all the crimes that humanity’s pulled on mutants over the years?’ he asks. Domino starts placing the books on the table and replies that she doesn’t have all the answers, that they just try to do what they can to stop bad situations becoming worse and spilling over into genocide. ‘There’s a lot of work to be done. We all need to get started’ Domino remarks, before asking where Meltdown and Cannonball are.
Meltdown is still sitting on the edge of the construction tower, when suddenly, ‘Hey’ Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie calls out as he appears next to her. Sam hands Tabby a cup of coffee, ‘Decaf?’ Tabby asks. ‘Would I dare?’ Sam replies. Sam is X-Force’s team leader, named Cannonball thanks to the propulsive force that hurls him through the air. Sheathed in an energy field that protects him against most things except maybe the affections of Miss Smith. Tabby glances away, before telling Sam that she senses a whole bunch of questions that he is just busting a gut to ask her. ‘That right?’ she enquires. Sam replies that he was worried, pointing out that Tabitha has been really quiet lately, which isn’t like her.
‘Well, frying the face off a guy then watching his brains blown out the back of his head would upset even the sunniest disposition, you think?’ Meltdown replies, frowning. ‘Works for me’ Sam replies, asking Tabby if she wants to talk. ‘Why? I’m glad that maggot was put down. He would have killed us all. Wish I’d thought of it sooner - that’s not what you expected to hear, is it?’ Meltdown replies. Sam frowns and replies that what she said is the understatement of the millennium. ‘What’s brought this on?’ he enquires. ‘Nothing…everything…’ Tabitha replies, before adding that when Pete wisdom said they’d burned their bridges, made themselves outsiders, she didn’t realize it would be like this. ‘For all he taught us, I thought it’d be the same as before. Dangerous…exciting…scraping by on the skin of our teeth kinda thing’.
Meltdown turns away and tells Cannonball that it never really hit her until she saw him dead in that chair - for all their mutant powers, someone just walked up and shot Wisdom in the face. ‘What’s that to stop happening to any of us? This isn’t the same old game, Sam. Loud and big and noisy like with the X-Men. This isn’t Professor Xavier’s way…’. While people down below go about their business, Tabitha continues, declaring that this is nasty, mean, anonymous deaths at the hands of strangers who have never worn costumes or used codenames in their life. ‘They’ll kill us if we don’t get to them first. We can’t afford to be soft anymore’ Tabitha states. Sam tells her that they can’t afford to let all this turn them into murderous, avenging angels. ‘We’re not out for revenge, Tab. It’s justice we’re after’ he points out.
Sam continues, stating that doing the wrong thing for the right reason just doesn’t wash - murder is murder, Pete didn’t want them to become killers. ‘Maybe he should’ve look where it got him!’ Tabby replies ‘You don’t mean that’ Sam tells her. ‘Don’t I? When we were up against the fallout from that mutagenic bio-engine, we had to save a city full of mutated crazies fro themselves. It’s tough picking a single face out of a crowd. We saved thousands, some died. We couldn’t help them all, but we did our best’ Tabitha tells Sam, while adding that Tsung was one man, that he had a mom and a dad and might have been kind to puppies - or ate them. ‘Who knows? Despite the fact his people leveled a city block to get at us, you held back, didn’t you? Saw him as a human being, right up until he was stamping on your throat!’ Tabitha exclaims.
Cannonball frowns and replies ‘Sure, I do. Because no matter how dire stuff seems, there’s always alternatives. Maybe harder to find, tougher to use, but they’re there’. Tabitha turns away, while Cannonball tells her that he won’t kill a man. ‘Take everything he is, everything he has. I won’t do it. And deep down neither will you’. Meltdown begins to cry, and turning back to Sam, explains that she thought he was going to die. She reminds him that they meant something to each other once, and she can’t - doesn’t - want to lose him. Sam places a hand on Tabby’s face and tells her not to worry, as he isn’t going anywhere. They then kiss, with the sun glowing behind them.
Meanwhile, in New England, a couple are unloading grocery shopping from their car, when a voice calls out ‘Daniel and Carol Lindenbrook?’, the couple turn, ‘Yes. Can I help you?’ Daniel replies. A bald man stands before them, ‘It’s more what I can do for you, old friend’ he remarks. ‘Just listen to my voice and only my voice. There is nothing else but my voice’. Carol and Daniel drop their groceries. Eggs smash and cartons crack against the ground. ‘“The woods are lovely, dark and deep and I have promises to keep…and lies to go before I sleep”!’ the strange man remarks. ‘…and miles to go before I sleep’ Daniel utters. ‘Remember…remember…’ the man tells them, as they keel over, and transform into hideous creatures. The strange man frowns, before a voice calls out ‘Comrade Doctor?’, to which the doctor replies ‘Hello, Major Lieutenant’, as he looks at the hideously transformed Carol and Daniel Lindenbrook. ‘Welcome back’ the doctor tells them. ‘The world, comrade Doctor…is it given?’ they ask. ‘It is’ the doctor tells them. ‘War!’ one of them exclaims.
Soon, a boy on a skateboard rolls up to the driveway. ‘Hello, Philip’ the mysterious doctor remarks. ‘huh? Who are you?’ the boy replies. The doctor reaches into his jacket and claims that he is an old friend of the family. ‘Yeah, right! You’re a creep. Where are my folks? My dad’s gonna be so mad at you for sitting on his car. He’ll kick your butt and I’m gonna watch!’ the boy exclaims, stepping past the spilled groceries. ‘Children…I love them’ the doctor mutters as he fires his weapon at the boy, shooting a strange dart into him.
Meantime, in San Diego, a man and a woman stand on a dock, a large cargo ship is nearby, and they are surrounded by crates and boxes. ‘Are you certain she’s on this one?’ the man asks. The woman replies that intelligence lost her in the Gdansk Shipyard, she was trapped and disappeared. ‘This vessel was the only way out. This was its destination. If she’s anywhere…it’s here’ the woman remarks, unaware that another woman is crouched behind some crates, and suddenly, she raises a weapon and fires it at the first woman, seemingly destroying her.
The man dodges the blast, but spins around, and his body transforms into a hideous creature similar to others that have recently manifested. ‘Traitor!’ he booms as he fires a weapon back into the warehouse, but the woman dodges it, ‘Too slow. Too bad’ she calls out as she fires another blast, striking the man and sending him down. The second woman goes over to him, ‘Lucky for me, they don’t make you like they used to’, and using the knife attached to her gun, she shoves it into his chest, and pulls out a spiked weapon. ‘In which case…you won’t be needing this’ she declares.
Back in San Francisco, smoke billows into the air above a United States Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are, which is restricted. A building is demolished, and bodies lie smoldering, disfigured. A huge crater is in the middle of the area, and at the bottom of it, a hideous creature lies.
At X-Force’s office, the team is seated around the meeting room table, and Domino tells her friends that she owes them an apology. ‘When you disbanded the old X-Force, left me and joined Pete Wisdom, I was angry. I wanted you to fail. Hew saw potential in you I didn’t, remade you into something vital and new. I’m sorry that I didn’t have his strength of vision, but I’m grateful now for the opportunity and honor to work with you again’. Motioning to the large folders on the table, Domino tells X-Force that they are Pete’s legacy from his time as spook in the British Secret Service, that it is an extensive black library on those individuals, organizations and governments who have committed unspeakable crimes against mutantkind. Domino reveals that she has trawled through the files and graded them on a triage basis, and announces that there are eighty-two cases required direct action, two hundred and three secondary incidents, and sixty tertiary.
Tabitha states that there is only one thing they want to do right now and that is find Pete’s killer, Niles Roman, and tear him apart. ‘Slowly’ James adds. ‘Not gonna happen. Not yet. I know how you feel, but we’re not in the business of revenge’ Sam states. ‘Excuse me?’ Jesse calls out. ‘I guess you haven’t been keeping up with current events, pal, but I thought that’s exactly why we’re here!’ he adds. James agrees, and points out that they are doing the work that none of the other mutant good guys will touch. Sam tells his teammates that Roman’s time will come, but not now and not today, as they are too angry, and it is blinding their judgment. ‘He’ll use that against us. He’ll be expecting us’ Sam explains. Domino agrees with Sam and states that going against Roman would be tactically unsound.
‘We don’t care! This isn’t business, this is personal!’ Tabitha exclaims, standing up. ‘Then you’ll die. Don’t play Roman’s game, bide your time, make him sweat, then move in for the kill’ Domino declares. James looks at Jesse and tells him that he doesn’t look too good. Clutching his head, Jesse replies that he it is his head. ‘Wow, this smarts’ he mutters. Tabitha asks him ‘What’s up’ and Jesse replies that it is like a Galactus-sized migraine but that it is coming in pulses, bio-EMP feedback, with spikes in it. ‘There’s a pause, then it’s starting over!’ Bedlam exclaims. Everyone stands up and gathers around, with Domino asking Jesse what their frequency is, and how often they are hitting. Jesse replies that they are intermediate, and in short and long bursts. ‘Ow! This hurts so bad!’ he declares.
Domino asks for a pen, to which Meltdown tells her ‘You’re not going to do some kind of gross emergency surgery, are you?’ Domino explains that she is writing down the message that someone is trying to send to them via Jesse, and tells Jesse that when the pulses recycle, to call them out, long and short. ‘Stand by, incoming’ Jesse replies. ‘Messages? Did I miss something?’ James asks. Sam explains that long and short pulses on a repeating cycle is an old-fashioned morse code. Still clutching his head, Bedlam explains that he is all done for now, and asks Domino if she is getting anything useful. Domino replies that she can’t tell, and announces that it says Valentina and then some numbers which read like coordinates. ‘Mean anything to anyone?’ Domino enquires. Sam, Jesse, Tabby and James all frown, and Sam reveals that they know her, that she is Major Valentina Rychenko of the Soviet Army, an old friend of Pete’s - and it sounds like she is in trouble.
At an undisclosed location, Valentina is surrounded by all sorts of weapons as she tinkers with some equipment, and the spike weapon she tore from the creature lies at her side.