Route 206N, near Sparta, NJ, 11:23pm EST
Along a windy road set in the mountains there lies an armored vehicle being driven by a VAULT security team. The soldier riding shotgun yells at the driver, Mickey, to stop. Mickey sees what he sees, a woman in tattered clothing straddling the middle of the road. Mickey slams on the brakes, bringing the vehicle to a dead stop.
Mickey and his cohort step out of the truck and approach the woman. They explain they’re a security transport team and don’t have time to change a tire and offer to call for mechanical assistance. The woman, bathed in the glare of their headlights, tells them it’s much more than that. Mickey asks if there was an accident. His partner inquires if anyone was hurt. With a wicked smile the woman says “no”, but adds that someone will be.
She reaches for a device and holds it in front of them, arm outstretched. She activates this mechanism, an electro-magnetic scrambler, and both men’s suits pop and fizz as they become inoperable.
The woman rushes over to a group of men hiding nearby. She tells them everything’s gone perfect so far. The group’s leader is pleased and hopes their armor-piercing shells are strong enough to break through the transport doors.
With that, the men open fire. The vehicle sustains some minor damage. The leader yells at them to keep at it, pour it on. They bust through and quickly render the security team inside as inert as their friends outside on the ground. The leader steps inside the bay and explains to his quarry, Rusty Collins and Sally Blevins, that as members of Friends of Humanity they couldn’t sit around and watch as they went unpunished for their crimes against humanity, against the normal citizens of the land. He tells the former MLF members they will pay for their crimes against mankind.
Camp Verde, AZ, 9:12pm PST
Cannonball watches as the IPAC touches down in front of him. His team is returning from a mission from which they rescued three of their members from a menacing group of mutants known as the Externals, mutants who supposedly can’t die. Cannonball was unable to join them on the mission as a matter of honor, but nonetheless they achieved what they set out to do.
Boomer, Siryn and Warpath exit the IPAC and head over to Cannonball. He asks if they’re ok. They all agree they’re doing fine. Cannonball is happy to hear that because they have another mission that needs immediate attention. Feral grits her teeth, incredulous Cannonball has them going on another mission so soon. Cannonball tells her they have friends that need rescuing. Feral doubts they’re any friends of hers.
Sunspot asks who he’s talking about. Cannonball tells him it’s Rusty and Skids, and explains to the rest of them they were old teammates from when they were New Mutants. They don’t have much time to waste, Cannonball finishes, and orders them to get Crule out of the IPAC and into the Triage tent.
A look of guilt spreads across the faces of Rictor and a few others. Ric tells Cannonball they can’t exactly do that. Cannonball turns around, looking a bit angry and asks what he means by that. Rictor, Shatterstar and Sunspot explain he wouldn’t shut up and were worried he might recuperate and attack them and only did what seemed logical at the time. Cannonball yells at them to just spit it out. They explain since Crule’s fiberglass cast floats they dumped him in the Pacific Ocean.
Speaking of Crule, the purple-skinned External lies face up on the ocean waters amidst the glow of the full moon.
A bit later, Warpath, Siryn and Boomer are all costumed and ready to go. Boomer jokes a nice long bath would’ve been nice. Cannonball promises her some suds time after they’re done with this one. Quietly, Cannonball mutters he’s in charge of the loony-bin, still contemplating how they could have thrown Crule into the ocean.
As X-Force boards the IPAC Rictor asks for more details on Rusty and Skids’ kidnapping. Cannonball informs them about the Friends of Humanity, another mutant-hate group and how they stopped them via transport from the federal facility they were being held. Cannonball says these Friends of Humanity are intent on making an example out of them.
Sunspot argues Rusty and Skids were brainwashed by Stryfe and weren’t responsible for their actions, that a government team even proved that. Cannonball confirms Sunspot’s comments, but tells him it must be a desperate situation otherwise Charles Xavier would never have called them for help.
Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Westchester, NY 12:32am, EST
Xavier is on a call with Valerie Cooper, government liason with X-Factor. She can’t believe Xavier contacted X-Force in regards to the Collins/Blevins situation. Charles looks up at her image on the monitor and says it was the most logical decision he could make. Val is obviously upset and says it was totally illogical to let X-Force go free in the first place.
Xavier reminds Val that after his appearance on Nightline a few weeks ago they agreed that if FOH should add terrorist activities to their repertoire they would have to be dealt with. He asks if she remembers this conversation they had.
Val looks away and admits that’s what they talked about. Xavier points out she can’t use X-Factor or it could look bad in the press. And with his X-Men all over the globe and nobody else knowing that Rusty and Skids were actually headed to him at the mansion X-Force was the only team he could turn to.
Charles assures Valerie X-Force will be able to pull this off provided her information was accurate. Val says she’s positive it is and reminds him they have a mole in the Friends’ organization. Val adds X-Force better strike quickly and efficiently to pull this thing off. Xavier tells her it’s what they do best.
The late Tina Valentino’s brownstone, Norwell, MA
“You said I could kill her!!” Domino yells as Grizzly holds her tightly in the crook of his arm. The person she’s staring at vehemently is Copycat, the mutant who took her identity and fought alongside X-Force. She wants Vanessa dead, but Hammer and Grizzly want to use her to locate X-Force. Hammer, sitting in his wheelchair next to Grizzly, offers amnesty to Copycat if she tells them where X-Force and/or Cable are.
Domino kicks and screams saying they can find them without her help. She will keep her promise to Cable to find the kids, but she doesn’t want Copycat’s help. Grizzly tells her to stop embarrassing them.
Copycat wants to know how they found her. Hammer explains her escapade with Deadpool went out on the Boston police scanner, which he received and used to lock onto her mutagenic signature, which he traced to Tina’s home. Grizzly adds that taking the place of Domino was quite a mistake and that she would’ve been better off killing her. Domino “grrrrr’s” in response.
Hammer turns his attention to the unconscious bodies of Deadpool and Sluggo lying on the carpet, smoke still rising from their backs where they were shot. Hammer thinks the police are going to be curious if they find their bodies in the house of the woman they killed earlier. Copycat says they’re not dead and grabs a gun out of Domino’s leg holster. This angers Domino even further and she curses Vanessa out. Copycat says they need to buy some time. She then lets loose on the two, blasting them a few times each.
Domino’s eyes go wide, shocked Vanessa would kill in cold blood. Copycat reminds her it was Grizzly who shot them in the first place. She assures Domino it’ll take a lot more firepower than that to actually kill them and she was just trying to buy them some time.
Copycat tosses Domino’s gun back to her and asks the three “idiots” if they’re still coming. Domino reluctantly agrees to follow her, but swears if she’s lying it’s the last thing she’ll ever do. They load onto a ship and blast off.
The Sun appears over the horizon of Earth as it rotates along its orbit. A being just beyond the grip of Earth’s atmospheric pull flicks his finger and a pulse wave riding along the electromagnetic field finds the shattered remains of the orbital station once called Graymalkin. He brings it toward him and as it approaches, smiles, for he is back and has found a place to call home.
Midwest airspace, 11:54pm CST
X-Force, still aboard the IPAC, reviews a news broadcast sent over the airwaves a few hours ago. Trish Tilby recaps the FOH attack with video footage from the federal transport’s security camera. She identifies the abductees as Collins and Blevins and revisits their recent encounters with Freedom Force and as members of Stryfe’s MLF. Tilby adds there’ve been confirmed reports that Collins and Blevins were forced to act against their will while with the Mutant Liberation Front.
Sam clicks off the TV at this point and points out Tilby’s spin on the story paints a decent light on the two and shows the FOH to be the bad guys. Cannonball wonders that if people knew the real truth, that Rusty and Skids weren’t being charged with anything and were actually headed to Xavier’s, would they still be as forgiving.
Feral folds her arms across her chest and complains most people want to see them dead or in jail. She adds how Val Cooper thinks of them as outlaws. Feral thinks they should blow up some buildings and act like they’re really crazy. Boomer smiles as she elbows Feral in the shoulder and asks her what she means by “act.” This proves to be the final straw and Feral prepares to claw out Tabitha’s eyes. Cannonball intervenes, and sarcastically mutters to himself how X-Force is a bunch of professionals.
Immediately after, Cannonball reports they’re approaching Plum Island. Sam gives the group one last brief, explaining they can’t use too much force or they’ll be portrayed poorly in the media and will only help the FOH cause.
Shatterstar comments that such manipulation of the media in his homeworld would be commended. Warpath grimaces, adding that it’s not so fun if you’re on the side getting slammed. He tells Shatterstar, who’s polishing his swords, to remind him later to discuss how much fun it was watching John Wayne movies growing up as a kid. Cannonball says he’ll fill Warpath in on one of his “favorite” shows, Hee-Haw.
With everything settled and the IPAC landed, X-Force rolls out. Upon entering the forest they regroup and Cannonball breaks them up into two attack groups for the “perimeter pinch”: Rictor with Shatterstar, Feral and Warpath and he with Boomer Bobby and Siryn. Cannonball tells them he wants it so quiet they can hear their heartbeats. He then wishes them luck
As Rictor and his team head off he and Feral remark on the new attitude of Cannonball. Feral comments they’ve lost one Cable for another.
The other squad faces some friction too as Siryn isn’t pleased she was passed over to lead the other unit. She tells Sam that if she’s good enough to be on the mission then she’s good enough to lead the second unit. Cannonball apologizes and explains it’s easier for him to turn to Ric and Bobby. Siryn tells him that if Cable had no problem turning to her then neither should he.
Cannonball understands her point, but they’ve reached the FOH safehouse and will have to table the discussion for the moment. Sam contacts unit two that they’re closing in. Sam notes the lights on inside, and is disappointed, hoping they’d all be asleep. Sunspot guesses they have guards on Rusty and Skids 24-7.
Cannonball tells unit two to move on his mark. Ric says they’re ready and asks why they’re always unit two and not them. Cannonball says according to Boomer it’s because they’re better looking. “Now move it!” he finishes.
Both sides of the safehouse are penetrated simultaneously. There are three armed men on the lower level guarding Rusty and Skids who are trussed up and suspended from the ceiling. The guards don’t stand a chance, all three taken down by Siryn’s scream and Boomer’s timebombs.
Cannonball orders Warpath and Shatterstar upstairs and Boomer and Feral downstairs to secure the building. They depart eager for more action. Sunspot looks up at his former teammates and jokingly asks how things are hanging. Skids calls him a “pathetic puppet of the sycophant harmony dream!!”
Moments later, Shatterstar and Warpath head back down the stairs, Warpath carrying at least six unconscious men on his back. Warpath asks if Skids has stopped complaining yet. Shatterstar adds that the ease of the operation and the lack of friendliness shown by those they’ve rescued make him almost regret participating in the mission at all.
The complaining is interrupted as a couple of FOH bodies come crashing through the wall. Boomer and Feral step out from the newly formed hole and announce the kitchen is secured.
Shatterstar continues his rant earlier saying how embarrassing the whole thing was. Warpath asks him what he expected, after all their enemies were only human. Cannonball tries to break the mood by ordering the team out of there. Rictor and Sunspot gather up Rusty and Skids who keep spouting their rhetoric about Stryfe and the cleansing of the world by fire and how mutants must rule. Sunspot sarcastically says “Well, we got what we came for.” Boomer wonders, with both of them such headcases, if it was worth it.
Cannonball picks up one of the FOH pamphlets littering the floor. A picture of Graydon Creed adorns the top and it reads:
“If you are Human. Then you are one of us!
THE FRIENDS OF HUMANITY
Welcome all beings of like
genetic descent, regardless of
race, creed or color.
Why allow yourself to become
made obsolete by the ever-
increasing threats of MUTANTS?
FRIENDS WANT YOU!!
Sam reads the pamphlet and it tears him apart to think about the hatred humans have for them. If they hate mutants it makes it easier for mutants to hate them. And since mutants can knock down buildings, burn the skies red, spit plasma and scream like thunder it makes it easier for humans to fear them. It bothers him so much that no one really sees the truth, that they’re all just people trying to live life each day.
Boomer wraps her arms around Cannonball’s. She points out they try to make both sides see the truth and guesses it’s all worth it if they can make any kind of difference. Cannonball questions if they’re making it better or making it worse. He wonders if there’s any way for them to really live peacefully with each other. Boomer has no real answer for him, but says they better because it’s not like there’s anywhere else to go. Cannonball agrees, but wonders what will happen if they really can’t make it work. “Where do we go from here?” here asks.