It is the middle of the night at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, in Salem Center, New York. To the outside world, the Institute is a place for “gifted” young men and women to come and learn. That, however, is an exaggeration of the truth. The Institute is the former home of Charles Xavier, one of the world’s leading authorities on genetic mutation, and it is, in fact, headquarters fro two groups of mutants - men and women with extraordinary powers. The Uncanny X-Men, and, at least for now, the Unpredictable X-Force.
One member of the young heroes in X-Force is Tabitha “Boomer” Smith, who walks down the stairs towards the kitchen. Still wearing her team uniform, but with pink-bunny slippers on her feet. Stepping into the kitchen and turning on the light, Boomer is surprised to see her five teammates - Theresa “Siryn” Rourke Cassidy, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, James “Warpath” Proudstar, Shatterstar, Caliban - standing there. ‘Umm, I know this isn’t my birthday…so what’re you guys doing down here in the dark?’ Boomer asks.
‘We’re here to help ye’ Siryn replies. ‘For your own good. For your own safety. Before you’ve taken complete leave of your senses’. Tabitha knows what Siryn is speaking about, after all, she has been warned and repeatedly ignored those warnings. What Tabby doesn’t know, is that there is a price to be paid for that. Boomer bursts out in laughter, ‘If this is a joke - I don’t get it!’ she exclaims. But no one is laughing. Because no one finds it funny. Siryn points at Boomer and tells her that she has a problem and that she must own up to it before it’s too late. ‘Oh, and who died and made you the leader?’ Boomer snaps back angrily, before asking where Cable is.
Suddenly, someone approaches Boomer from behind, tapping her on the back, Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie enters the kitchen, telling Boomer that nobody died, that Cable isn’t here, and that Cable made Siryn deputy leader following his departure to the X-Men. Boomer stares at her boyfriend, still unhappy at him for joining the X-Men, she nevertheless leaps into his arms, urging him to make the others understand that there is nothing wrong with her. ‘I mean, they’re all acting like I was on drugs or something!’ she exclaims.
Sam pushes Tabitha off him, ‘No! You have got to change the direction you’re on!’ he exclaims, telling Boomer to take responsibility for her actions, or else face the consequences. ‘Will someone please tell me what everybody’s problem is?!’ Boomer exclaims, smacking her hands against her head, frustrated. Caliban hangs his head and announces that he doesn’t want to go first, but that his friends say he lost the most. Shatterstar tells Caliban to continue as he begins operating the hologram projector, which projects images of what Caliban is speaking about.
Caliban remarks that Boomer knows about him, how he was a Morlock, who lived under the city in tunnels, until that day, when Sabretooth and the Marauders killed almost all of Caliban’s friends. Caliban points out that Sabretooth hasn’t just killed Morlocks, but also other mutants - and humans too. Even children. Horrified at the images displayed on the projector of Sabretooth slaughtering some Morlocks, Boomer turns away, and Shatterstar switches the projector off. ‘That’s what this is about?’ Boomer asks, hugging herself and hanging her head. ‘My…helping Creed?’.
Caliban approaches his friend and tells her that he didn’t want to upset her, ‘It’s just why would Boomer be nice to Sabretooth - when Sabretooth is a killer?’. This angers Tabitha, who swirls around, ‘How dare you?’ she exclaims. ‘We took you in, Caliban, without so much as a peep!’ Boomer asks Caliban if he thinks that they all forgot that he was once a Horseman of Apocalypse, and that he kidnapped Jubilee, and before that Shadowcat. ‘Your hands aren’t exactly clean!’ she points out. ‘Caliban doesn’t understand. He washed his hands this morning. With soap!’ the Morlock replies, holding his hands up for everyone to see.
The room begins to glow orange as Boomer charges up a plasma time-bomb, ‘You don’t want to get into this. None of you do. We’ve all got our dark secrets - and some of us don’t have them in the hark anymore. RIGHT BOBBY?’ Boomer shouts angrily, asking him how much damage he caused as the Reignfire. ‘Was it my imagination, or were you willing to kill us all?’ Boomer asks. Sunspot hangs his head, unsure of how to reply. Cannonball comes to his best friend’s defense, telling Tabitha that she cannot change the subject like that. ‘This isn’t about Bobby. This is about you’.
‘WRONG!’ Tabitha shouts back. ‘This isn’t about anything other than one thing - giving somebody a second chance!’. Boomer exclaims that she isn’t an idiot, she knows what Sabretooth did, but that he has changed, especially after Wolverine popped a claw into his brain. ‘Now he’s like when somebody gets sober’. Boomer tells her teammates that they should buy into that or else they should take a much closer look at Sunspot. ‘Cause nobody knows when he’s gonna freak out - and turn back into Reignfire!’ she exclaims.
Sunspot replies that there is someone who knows, he does, because he is in control. ‘Says you’ Tabitha snarls. ‘Yes, I say so!’ Bobby exclaims, adding that he appreciates Sam sticking up for him, but that he can defend himself. Bobby explains that thanks to Cable, Reignfire is behind him. Tabitha smirks, ‘So…we’re in agreement, then. That someone can change and put their past behind them’.
The rest of X-Force continue to look exasperated, ‘There’s no getting through to her!’ Sunspot exclaims. ‘She’s putting up a fight. We were all told to expect this’ Siryn adds. Warpath suggests to Tabitha that he might be able to put it another way, and explains that Sunspot earned their trust, after all, he was one of the original New Mutants, and whatever force possessed him, turning into Reignfire, was a separate persona entirely, not Bobby.
Warpath reminds Boomer that Sabretooth lived his life as an evil man, and for all they know, he is simply pretending right now. Warpath adds that one thing is clear though, Sabretooth is changing, growing, becoming more powerful. ‘How much longer before he simply reverts to what he always was?’. Boomer asks Warpath if what he is saying is that there is no such thing as redemption. ‘Then what are we fighting for?’ she asks. ‘What’s the point of the X-Men or X-Force, or Gen X for God’s sake - if we can’t really save anybody - we can only lock them away and give up on them?’.
Suddenly, Shatterstar shouts ‘Enough!’ and storming out of the kitchen, declares that he will no longer take part in this. Siryn tells everyone else to stay where they are, and follows Shatterstar out of the kitchen into the hallway, asking him what he thinks he’s doing, reminding him that for Boomer’s own good, they agreed to do this together. Shatterstar replies that what they actually agreed to do was help a friend who might be in danger. He points out that Boomer believes she can handle the situation. ‘Who are we to say she cannot?’.
Siryn tells Shatterstar that he doesn’t understand, and explains that sometimes people need help getting their lives back on track. ‘I had to face it with my drinking -’ she begins, but is interrupted when Shatterstar continues to walk away, declaring that he only knows what he has seen, and remarks that as it was with Rictor leaving, each person has their own life to live as they see fit, and that includes Boomer.
Siryn hangs her head, when a voice calls out to her telepathically, asking her how it is going. Siryn turns and sees Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men, with Ororo “Storm” Munroe at his side. Theresa tells the Professor that it is as he said it would be, Boomer seems to be following the pattern he described: denial, anger, bargaining, and then, hopefully, acceptance. ‘Only we’re still heavily into the “anger” part‘. Frustrated, Siryn explains that it is like talking to a wall, and that Boomer doesn’t see herself in the least bit of danger.
Storm touches Siryn’s face and points out that Boomer has a great deal riding on her friendship with Creed, and informs Theresa that even she has spoken with Tabitha about it, although Tabitha refuses to say exactly why, she can still be a very strong-willed young lady. Xavier tells Siryn that X-Force must be prepared to take this “intervention” to the next step. Siryn replies that she was hoping it would not come to that. Xavier telepathically asks her if she would like him to join her, but Theresa declines his offer, replying that he is welcome to stay psi-linked with her, but that this is X-Force business.
Meanwhile, in the South Seas, ‘More!’ screams a being of horrific power, as he feeds off the very life force of the Islanders here. ‘I must have more!’ he shouts, the bodies of dozens of Islanders lying scorched at his feet. He is simply known as Holocaust, and like his name, he once had the power to lay waste to an entire planet. But that was a different world. And as he is learning a different time. ‘Impressive’ a voice remarks. ‘You have decimated the entire population of this island, creature. What do you intend to do now?’.
‘Who…?’ Holocaust asks. ‘Fresh meat!’ he exclaims, grinning wickedly, he unleashes a massive burst of power at the new arrival, who just happens to be Sebastian Shaw! Holocaust’s power smacks into Shaw, but he simply absorbs it, though it rips most of his clothing off. The former Black King of the Hellfire Club, the world believes him to be dead. If all goes according to plan, the world, and his son, Shinobi, will soon hear otherwise.
‘That was…unnecessary’ Shaw tells Holocaust, informing him that he has succeeded in doing is ruining a perfectly good handmade suit. ‘And an expensive one at that’ he adds. The other part of Shaw’s mutant abilities is to rechannel the energies he absorbs - and give it back tenfold. He does so, smashing his incredibly powerful fists into Holocaust’s face. ‘I will KILL you for that!’ the deranged, displaced mutant shouts back. ‘Or, you can listen to reason and find that a partnership between us can prove mutually beneficial…’ Shaw suggests calmly. Soon. Dreadfully soon….
Back at the Xavier Institute, Tabitha exclaims ‘What are you saying? That I can’t be in X-Force anymore?’. Sunspot explains to her that what they are saying to her is that she alone has the choice. Theresa tells Boomer that if she wants to put her life in jeopardy and continue this “friendship” with Creed, then she can. ‘But we’re not going to let you do it without consequences’ Warpath warns her. Boomer turns her back to her teammates, ‘So that’s it? This is how you treat me? You tell me that you care about me - but I don’t behave the way you want me to - so we can’t be friends anymore?’.
Continuously frustrated, Siryn screams at Boomer, ‘Are you that daft girl? Can you not see that we’re trying to keep you from KILLING yourself?’. Warpath tells Boomer that he cares for her, like a brother loves a sister, but that she is the one who is putting that friendship at risk. ‘All our lives in fact. If Creed were to get free and it was somehow due to your involvement…’ his voice trails off, as Boomer smiles and suggests that she clears all visits with Xavier before hand. Caliban remarks that he doesn’t understand, ‘Why is picking your friends so hard?’ he asks.
Boomer suggests that they decide upon a chaperone, or an observer in the Danger Room, looking out for her. Bobby tells his long-time teammate that he wants this to work out - without threats or consequences. ‘Do not put us in a position we do not want to be in, Tabitha. Make the right choice!’ he urges. Slightly forlorn, Tabitha asks if she can have one last visit with him, just to explain it, before asking Sam to help her with this.
‘We can cut some kind of deal…’ she suggests, putting a hand on Sam’s arm. Cannonball hangs his head, telling Tabby that he loves her with all his heart, but he swears this thing she is doing is wrong. ‘And I can’t be a part of it if you want me in your life’ he tells her. ‘But, don’t you get it, Guthrie? It was cause you ran off and joined the X-Men - you’re the one to blame!’ Boomer snaps back, before turning away and beginning to sob. Cannonball, Sunspot, Siryn, Warpath and Caliban stand behind her, and Cannonball replies that he isn’t to blame. ‘I’m trying to save your life’.
‘Fine, then. Since you all seem to know what’s best for me. Maybe I don’t belong on this team anymore!’ Boomer announces, throwing her hands into the air after wiping away some tears. Suddenly though, the Professor’s telepathic voice is heard, ‘That would be a terrible waste’ he tells the former New Mutant. ‘Professor?’ Boomer whispers as Xavier enters the kitchen, the other members of X-Force look at him, relieved that he has decided to get involved.
Xavier tells X-Force that he could no longer remain silent on the subject, and announces that he is speaking on behalf of Cable now, admitting that he and Cable do not agree on a great many things, there is one thing they do agree on, that Boomer has a home here, a family and friends. Xavier goes over to Boomer and tells here to never think that Victor Creed is anything other than an evil man. ‘Do not throw this life away for the likes of him!’ Xavier declares.
‘He’s evil?’ Boomer replies quickly, before excusing herself for living as she tells Xavier that he seems to have conveniently forgotten that the New Mutants went a long time living with Magneto, in this very house, having Magneto look out for them. ‘And if I’m not mistaken, it was all with your blessing!’. Boomer declares that whatever “evil” Creed has caused cannot compare to Magneto’s. ‘And you gave him second, third and fourth chances!’ she adds.
Xavier tells Boomer that she has just made their argument for them, and admits that trusting Magneto, one which he takes full responsibility for. Xavier remarks that he sometimes forgets that the X-Men were created not only to try and promote harmony between homo-superior and homo-sapien, but also to stop evil mutants from hurting anyone. Xavier tells Tabitha that whether or not Sabretooth has changed is not actually the point. ‘You have the choice not to endanger yourself and walk away unscathed. Seize that opportunity, Tabitha, your life is too precious’.
‘You don’t understand! None of you do!’ Tabitha exclaims, leaning on a table. Sam asks her to listen to them, but Tabitha begins to lie slumped over on the table, telling them that if they don’t believe in giving somebody a second chance, no matter how horrible they have been, or how badly they treated you. ‘Then I have to give up on Victor…just like I did with…my father…or me’. Boomer begins to cry.
Later, almost dawn, and Boomer enters the control booth of the Danger Room, exhausted after a long night of debating - arguing - with her teammates. For weeks now, she has secretly entered this place where Sabretooth has been housed. Showing him a bit of kindness in a world that has good reason to hate him. Sitting down in one of the chairs, Tabitha recalls how tonight she was forced to open herself up to the people she loves the most, explain her behavior - “for her own good”. So why does she feel so awful? Pressing a button on the control, a screen lights up, Danger Room Access DENIED. Unauthorized Entry Code. Boomer slams her fists against the control panel, thinking that she should have expected this, they changed the entry code.
Tabitha turns on the inter-comm and calls out to Creed, asking him if he is awake, she proceeds to tell hi that the others don’t want her to see him anymore. ‘Are they right?’ she asks. Tabitha presses herself up against the large glass window and peers into the jungle setting which is currently programmed to hold Sabretooth. ‘I need to hear it from you, Victor. That I wasted all this time - believing in you’. She gets no response, ‘Victor…? Hey! I defended you! Looked after you! You can at least speak to me!’ she screams at him. ‘You could at least…’ her voice trails off, before she runs from the control booth, covering her sobbing eyes.
The silence from the Danger Room is deafening, leaving Boomer haunted by Warpath’s words: Sabretooth lived his life as an evil man. For all knew, he’s pretending now. But one thing is clear - he’s changing - growing - becoming more powerful. How much longer before he simply reverts to what he always was? And deep within the faux jungle, a beastly shape moves, ever so slightly, jaws bared, and fire in his eyes…Sabretooth!