Holding a dead and bloodied guard in his hands, Wildside announces that human flesh and bone just isn’t what it used to be. The new Mutant Liberation Front is on a mission and they have breached the home grounds of Henry Peter Gyrich, notorious anti-mutant National Security Advisor. On-hand are Forearm, Tempo, Reaper and Wildside, all recently liberated from prison.
Tempo exclaims that Wildside makes her sick - there was no reason to kill the guard. Reaper counters that it was better him than them, and knowing Wildside, if they didn’t feed him a Rent-a-Cop every once in a while he’d turn on the four of them. Forearm interjects that he agrees with Tempo, but it does at least look like the only opposition they’re going to face is human guards - and maybe that’s why their other two “high-and-mighty” new teammates decided not to participate. Above them, a sinister figure perches in the trees, unnoticed.
Meanwhile, inside Gyrich’s compound, a video screen depicts the scrambled, shadowy outlines of the MLF members currently outside. A security guard explains to Gyrich that the figures can’t be made out clearly - something, or someone, is scrambling the security system’s frequencies. Gyrich wants to know why they’re being affected at all - none of the mutants that escaped from the Whitman prison are electro-magnetic wavelength disruptors. When it becomes clear nothing can be done to correct the surveillance systems, Gyrich suggests they look on the positive side of things - the encounter will allow them to observe the prototype in action. He tells the guard to contact Hardaway and tell him to move in… for the kill.
Back outside, Forearm is explaining that he’s rather surprised that Gyrich doesn’t have better security; a pig like him must have enough enemies. Just then, the lurking figure from the trees grows a pair of claws and proceeds to slash Forearm across the back. Reaper wants to know what hit Forearm but the attacker, oozing like liquid metal onto the ground, announces that he did. His name is Hardaway and he’s the first of many who are going to do to mutantkind what mutants have done to his kind. He explains he’s the prototype of a new life of biosentries, whose business is the death of all mutants. With this, Hardaway forms a scythe with his arm and swings at Reaper.
Tempo tells Wildside to distort Hardaway’s senses, while Tempo’s own temporal flux slows him down. Hardaway says No - both of their powers are psionic in nature; they don’t actually distort time or reality, merely his perception of both, and to avoid that he’s switching to his cybernetic systems. As his computer systems take over, he stretches his arm out and grips Tempo in an enormous fist, causing her to announce that it is disgusting and that she wants someone to get Hardaway off of her.
Just then, Hardaway’s head is bathed in an explosion of fiery energy. Wildside wants to know who’s responsible and Reaper announces that it looks like the cavalry’s arrived. Locus, descending from the sky alongside Moonstar and her steed, says that it looks to her like the four of them could use the help. Moonstar explains to Reaper that her neural arrow prevented Tempo from getting crushed - does he have a problem with that?
Gosh no, replies Reaper caustically, not at all - by all means, Moonstar and Locus should come right in and save the day. Hardaway, crouched on the ground in agony, begins mumbling, asking what the mutie witch did. She showed him, made him feel, the pain all over again, the pain of losing his wife and son to mutant scum like all of them. Locus replies that, yup, Moonstar’s arrows really can do a number on ya, that’s for sure… but she’s a phase-shifter, so what she can do to someone is a heckuva lot worse. As a high-pitched squeal fills the air, Locus explains that she can shunt you where you’ve been before… or where she’s been before…
And as Hardaway’s torso hits the ground, she adds that her powers don’t mean she has to shift all of someone to a new location, do they? Wildside, extremely impressed at her vicious brutality, facetiously asks Locus if she’ll marry him. Tempo, on the other hand, only mutters that she hates this and she hates all of them. Forearm, nudging her with his elbow, asks if she really means that. Tempo clarifies that she hates almost all of them, and still hates all of this.
Locus tells Tempo to go home to mommy and daddy and watch MTV and work at a Pizza Hut, then - and ignore the fact that mutants are being slaughtered each and every day by people like Hardaway. The rest of them, she says, whilst teleporting Hardaway’s legs back to the current scene, have a job to do - no matter how dirty it is.
Moonstar explains that Locus could have shifted into the house anytime she wanted to; she was there earlier posing as a UPS delivery person bringing a package to Gyrich. Tempo is shocked and wants to know why the four of them were sent to break-in first. Moonstar replies that the boss wanted to see how the four worked out… and, obviously, they have a ways to go. A high-pitched squeal fills the air again and Gyrich appears. Look what she found and phased, announces Locus, one government bureaucrat mutie-hatin’ piece of filth… every pro-Gee-Cee terrorist group should have one to beat up on, huh?
Gyrich is shocked to see Hardaway and exclaims that makes three people they’ve killed. Wildside tells Gyrich it’s Sesame Street time and that one biosentinel and one “rent-a-corpse” only makes two. Locus explains to Wildside that Gyrich’s actually right… he had a guy inside with him, and what’s a girl to do? Amidst this, Forearm reaches into Hardaway’s exposed chest cavity and pulls out a grotesque, dripping heart full of metal wires and tubes. He tells Gyrich to not get holier-than-thou with them, and asks what Gyrich did to Hardaway -- if not turn him into an emotionless killing machine? Gyrich’s response is, defiantly, that he doesn’t have to answer to a mutant.
But, clarifies Moonstar, he does have to answer for many things. For crimes against mutants, the MLF will hold Gyrich as a prisoner of war… and he will remain their prisoner until mutantkind is freed from the tyranny of human oppressors. As a now-familiar squeal fills the air, Locus tells the gang to get ready - they’re going home.
The meeting room of the Commission on Super Human Activities, Washington, D.C., the following morning:
Nick Fury and Charles Xavier are communicating with Valerie Cooper and Forge via video-screens. Fury explains that he thinks underestimating the new MLF would be a big mistake. When Valerie Cooper asks him why he says that, Fury further explains that this MLF has a much more clinical approach than when Stryfe led them, that’s why. Forge wants to know how so, and Fury even further elaborates that the MLF has been systematically getting the materials they need - equipment, personnel, armament - like they have an overall plan.
This, in turn, is playing out on another video screen - inside X-Force’s headquarters. Cannonball announces that he’s prepped the IPAC, just in case, and Cable tells him that’s good - he never thought that when he patched into the CSHA security systems they’d pick up a gem like this. Meanwhile, Valerie Cooper states that, if the new MLF is that well organized, they have to “nip them in the bud” fast. She then addresses Xavier expectantly, but his only response is that, since the X-Men just returned from Genosha, he is reluctant to send them back out again. Xavier then points out that this kind of situation is precisely why X-Factor was developed… isn’t it?
Cable then tells Cannonball to start scanning for the on-file genetic signatures of MLF members that X-Force has encountered before. Cannonball is confused; he thought they just said they’re going to send in X-Factor. Cable tells him to just wait and see... as Forge speaks up and explains to Xavier that they can’t use X-Factor. With all the media attention the incident is getting, he explains, X-Factor can’t rescue Gyrich without appearing to condone his actions and policies. Xavier mutters about the wonders of politics, then asks who’s supposed to go in and do the dirty work when no one else wants to?
Screen off, lights on, orders Cable. Then, cocking his energy rifle, he answers Xavier’s question: take one guess! As usual, right? asks Cannonball, before continuing: so Val Cooper, Professor Xavier, Forge and Nick Fury get to just jaw on an’ on while X-Force fights their battle for them? It doesn’t seem quite fair to him anymore. Cable points out that no one ever said it would be fair - just necessary. Shatterstar adds that, if he’s not mistaken, there’s an expression on this world - is it not the right time to “get their hands dirty?”
Meanwhile, on an island inside the Bermuda Triangle, Tempo sails through the air, contemplating what an animal Wildside is; he enjoyed beating Gyrich. She wonders why she doesn’t just fly away, why she’s so afraid of leaving, when Moonstar catches up to her on her black steed. Moonstar notes that Tempo doesn’t spend much time with the team and Tempo shoots back that she doesn’t particularly like Moonstar - or what she represents.
Moonstar coolly asks: then why stay with them? Tempo mutters that it’s funny she should ask. She says it may be fear, or insecurity, or conflicted convictions… or all of the above… of none of the above. She asks Moonstar why she does it. Moonstar replies that she fell screaming from the skies, an angel cast out of a heaven she didn’t belong in; she has held life in her hands, and stared death in the face. She got tired of never knowing which was the better alternative, until Reignfire showed her the way - that an angel of death for humans could be an angel of life for mutants.
Elsewhere on the island, Gyrich, trapped within a narrow cell, calls out to Reignfire, rhetorically asking if he’s the leader: the one who led the assault on Whitman Prison. Reignfire replies that he is Reignfire, and that he wishes to apologize for the beating Gyrich received during Wildside’s rather exuberant interrogation. He assures Gyrich that it is not his preferred method of operation. Gyrich caustically asks what is his preferred operation - cutting down innocent security guards from a mile up in the sky? Kidnapping? Stealing? Murder?
Reignfire replies that those are merely means to an end - the method by which the MLF will accomplish their goal is one which he believes Gyrich would actually admire. Gyrich notes that he doubts that very much. Reignfire continues, unfazed, explaining that the MLF will use a public official guilty of crimes against mutants to foment anger and dissatisfaction within the human race, and then use that disaffection and isolationism to create an army dedicated to his cause. That army will then rally and stake claim to one place, one country, that they can call their own; only after they are safe within the boundaries of the very laws that humans have created will they seek to overthrow humanity’s oppressive rule on the rest of the world.
Gyrich retorts that humanity isn’t the oppressor - it’s the oppressed. Super-humans, whether by accident of birth or fate, have cowed humanity into submission and Gyrich is simply serving his country - not to destroy mutantkind, but to protect humankind. Reignfire, walking away, replies that Gyrich’s work on Project: Wideawake and with Martin Strong at the Foundation Center are attempts to rob mutants of their very genetic heritage – and, if that fact is true, as they both know it to be, then is that not to be defined as genocide?
Back outside, night has fallen, and Locus patrols alone on a moonlit beach. From the bushes near her, a hiss can be heard, before being quickly silenced. Quiet, says Cable, clamping a hand over Feral’s mouth. Locus continues past, not noticing the intruders, and Cable informs Unit Two that his unit is in position. Elsewhere, Unit Two - consisting of Warpath, Shatterstar and Siryn, reply that she copies and that they are just about ready. Siryn asks Cannonball if his unit is ready. Cannonball replies that Unit Three is in position and ready whenever the others are.
Cannonball then adds that they should all be careful - he recognizes the place from Xavier’s files; Magneto used to use the island as a hangout. Whoop-dee-doo, replies Rictor, adding that he’s much more upset that he’s worked his way down to Unit Three - he keeps getting demoted. Sunspot shoots back that it is their misfortune to be so encumbered by his failings… woe is them. He then asks Cannonball if they should begin.
Cable explains that it’s just like they discussed - he and Feral will be on a five-minute delay, and they are to keep the comm-links on during the entire operation. If they learn that Gyrich is dead or too difficult to extract, they are to bug out immediately. They can subdue as many members of the MLF as possible, but they are not to hang back after the clear signal is given. Cannonball, blasting off, announces to Unit Two that he’s moving in - now!
Cannonball thinks to himself that it’s time to try a little trick he’s been working on with his kinetic blast field - letting it build up more and more in front of his flight path, then erupting it outwards as he hits the wall. As the doors of the island stronghold explode open upon his impact, he mutters that it worked like a charm. In his wake rush Rictor, Sunspot and Boomer. Rictor notes that when you ask Cannonball to kick up some noise, he sure can deliver, can’t he? Sunspot replies that Cannonball always seems so well-behaved most of the time… but he must simply be another headbanger in disguise. Boomer adds that, oh yeah, that’s Cannonball, alright - what a party animal. Boomer then stops and announces she’s got movement - up in the walkway, at six o’clock.
She suggests they just cut loose with their powers and sort out the damage later, an instruction to which the other two readily acquiesce. Rictor says he’d like to see the “MLF-feeb” who can stand up to a combo of Boomer’s plasma-bursts, his vibe-quakes and Sunspot’s solar blasts. Cannonball, rejoining them as they obliterate the walkway above them, suggests that they turn down the volume and see what-
Suddenly, an energy arrow comes whistling out from the cloud of dust and rubble they’ve kicked up, prompting Sunspot to leap aside and scream Incoming! Cannonball, however, fails to react fast enough and suffers a direct blow to his forehead, screaming in agony before collapsing. Sunspot grabs hold of Cannonball to prevent him from falling while Cannonball mumbles that his family’s dead, all of them, but he’s still alive - he’s alone…
Rictor asks what Cannonball is babbling about and Boomer notes he’s talking about his family - but why? Rictor then asks what hit Cannonball - to which the answer is readily supplied, as Moonstar appears from the wreckage, another energy-arrow strung on her bow. She explains that she hit him; she showed him what was afraid of the most - living forever while his family and friends all died. She notes that fear hits you like an ice pick to the base of the skull. Then she asks if anyone else cares to give it a shot - Sunspot, perhaps? Or did his lightweight brain already endure life’s greatest fears when Magnum P.I. was cancelled? Sunspot, in total shock, can only call out Moonstar’s name - Dani - and ask if it’s her?
Back outside, Siryn demolishes a wall with her sonic scream, while Warpath and Shatterstar prepare to move in to the complex and provide a second distraction. Warpath agonizingly quips that Forearm is a foregone conclusion, and that they can for-get about him. He then punches Forearm in the face… for sure. Forearm replies that Warpath remembers what Cable said the first time they met - he just keeps getting stronger! Smashing Forearm upside the chin, Warpath replies that may be so - but it still isn’t enough to take him out!
Siryn explains that Warpath can take care of himself and tells Shatterstar to move in and draw the MLF out from whatever nook and cranny they’re hiding in. Just as Shatterstar confirms this instruction, Wildside and Reaper leap from above, ambushing the two X-Forcers. Grabbing Siryn, Wildside asks whatever gave them the idea that the MLF needed to hide from either of them? Shatterstar can only reply with disbelief at the fact that Reaper might be foolish enough to face him in combat again.
You betcha, ponytail, quips Reaper, arcing his scythe as Shatterstar barely ducks in time. Hurtfully calling Reaper “whiteface,” Shatterstar asks, having already lost a hand to his superiority with a blade, which limb would Reaper prefer to lose this time? Shatterstar grows impatient and suggests he just give him a matching set, proceeding to slice Reaper’s other hand off. His sword to the defeated Reaper’s throat, Shatterstar explains that Reaper is undone - and that his orders were to subdue as many members of the MLF as he could. One less opponent at the end of the day, explains Shatterstar, is one less opponent who may kill him tomorrow.
Before he can deliver the killing blow, however, Wildside calls out to Shatterstar in a singsong tone and, grasping an unconscious Siryn by the throat, asks that Shatterstar put his nasty little pig-sticker down… because if he doesn’t, the canary gets her throat ripped out. Shatterstar is very upset.
Within the prison catacombs of the complex, Cable and Feral sneak deeper. Cable asks Feral if she’s got anything yet and notes that they’re running out of time. Feral replies that she smells starch and a stiff upper lift - yup, a bureaucrat is dead ahead. Arriving at his cell, Cable calls out Gyrich’s name. Gyrich replies, surprised, with Cable’s. Cable asks Gyrich if he was expecting someone who cared; Gyrich replies that he was actually expecting S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers or possibly even X-Factor. Apologizing sarcastically, Cable explains they’re all too squeaky-clean for a dirty mess like this one. He then spreads some “thermite gel” on the lock of Gyrich’s cell and melts it off, while explaining that sometimes you need a band of “terrorists” to stop a band of terrorists. Suddenly, Feral hisses with great agitation - Cable asks what it is, and she replies that they’ve got big trouble.
Energy crackles through the air, causing both Cable and Feral to scream in pain before slumping to the ground, smoldering. Reignfire steps forward, announcing that it is a pity to see a mutant soldier of like mind kowtowing to the needs of a human butcher like Gyrich. He explains that his MLF and Cable’s band of renegades have so much in common and asks if they can’t surely find some common ground from which to proceed in their quest for mutant freedom? He notes that Cable understands that, for mutants to achieve what they strive toward, there is a need, indeed a preference, for sacrifice and bloodshed. Reignfire states that the question he poses to Cable, then, is whether he will join Reignfire in his war, or - in betraying his own kind and choosing not to - will Cable die with any shred of honor whatsoever?