It is six weeks since the X-Men were found by the crew of the Jinguchi Maru. Now, the ship approaches its homeport of Agarashima, on the main Japanese island of Honshu. The ship has been on a two-year voyage around Antarctica and the scenes they witness on their return are more than a little shocking.
The X-Men and the ship’s crew look at the city from out a fair distance out into the sea. The city is ablaze and the heat coming from shore is as hot as an open blast furnace, even from this distance. Piotr asks Ororo if there’s anything they can do, but even she dare not try. Banshee asks what he thinks may have caused this and Wolverine replies that it’s probably an earthquake. Kurt Wagner feels empathy for his new friends and enquires about the family of crewman, Matsunaga. He tells Kurt that they live in the west of the city, in the heart of the firestorm. His father told him how terrible the firebombing of Tokyo was during World War II, but he never believed.
Scott points to a location on land and asks Captain Hama if he can put the X-Men ashore there. He says it’s impossible. The harbor is littered with wreckage and his ship is desperately needed to evacuate refugees. He dare not risk her. Scott understands and asks Nightcrawler to teleport to the north point, clear of the fire. He does as he’s asked and jumps to shore. Not long ago, he would have made this jump in stages but, with the training and practice, he made it in one and isn’t even winded.
He waves to Storm, who tells the others that he’s given the all clear. A few minutes later, Kurt is joined by the rest of the team. He informs them that the firestorm is moving. If they don’t move fast they’ll be trapped there. Storm assures him that she has summoned a wind which should hold the fire back a while. Scott says that’s all they need and tells them that they’re heading for Shiro Yashida’s ancestral manor, outside the city. They have no passports, no money and no way of even contacting the Professor. Like it or not, Sunfire’s their only way out of the country.
It’s a long, hard trek through the battered city. Time and time again, they find themselves giving dazed, overworked rescue teams a badly needed hand. Storm feels that each child’s face she sees is like looking into a mirror. She looked like this once, wandering the streets of Cairo after her parents were killed. The hours pass and cramped, inner city alleys slowly give way to the open parkland of the exclusive residential district. The firestorm still rages, unchecked over a dozen miles away and the X-Men take a breather to take everything in. Scott has swallowed some smoke, so Ororo provides him with much needed fresh air. Banshee, meanwhile, wonders where everyone went. Agarashima is a large city, yet it almost looks deserted.
Wolverine finds a newspaper and tells them that the place was evacuated after an early warning of a big ‘quake. Scott thinks it’s strange that there weren’t any pre or after-shocks. It doesn’t make sense. Wolverine replies that he only knows what he reads in the paper. “You read Japanese?” Scott asks. Apparently, he’d never asked, and Scott says next time he’ll know better. He can’t shake the feeling that what happened wasn’t a natural disaster, which makes it vital they find Shiro and contact the Professor. They’ve been out of touch far too long.
At that moment, some twenty thousand miles above Earth, a massive imperial starship pulls out of its parking orbit and heads into deep space. Aboard the vessel, Charles Xavier sits in a hoverchair, watching his world disappear into the blackness of space. He’s seen pictures of it, but the reality is so much more beautiful. A lieutenant approaches Lilandra and, giving her his captain’s compliments, informs her that they’re about to warp. Lilandra tells Charles that he would prefer them in their quarters for the transition and they head off. Charles asks if he has done the right thing, in leaving Earth. Even though the X-Men are dead, there is still Jean, Warren, Bobby and Hank to name but a few. Lilandra replies that they have their own lives to lead and he should let them be. “We live, we love. That is all that matters.” They kiss passionately.
The X-Men arrive at Shiro’s estate and keep well back, as the place is heavily guarded. Wolverine’s seen less hardware and bodies around Fort Knox. Kurt notices government limousines in the courtyard, so it must be an important meeting. Logical, says Scott, as Shiro’s the head of an influential family. He then gets the team into costume, as they’re about all they have to establish their bona fides.
Scott asks Ororo to whip up some cover, so she creates a fog, which baffles the guards in the estate below them. First an earthquake with no warning, then a firestorm and now a pea-soup fog!! Agama thinks he hears something, as the X-Men shuffle past, unseen, but Taedo tells him he’s imagining things. The X-Men’s infiltration is going well, but it soon ends with a blinding flash of light, courtesy of Shiro Yashida; Sunfire!
He orders them to stand where they are, or face the wrath of the protector of Japan. Cyclops tells him that it’s the X-Men and they come in peace. Storm notices his troops surrounding them and one of them asks Sunfire what his orders are. Banshee asks him to call off his dogs; he knows who they are. “Do I?” he replies. “The X-Men I remember do not skulk like thieves in the night. Arrest them captain!” Misty Knight suddenly appears and tells them to leave the X-Men be; prime minister’s orders. Cyclops wonders what she’s doing here. She’s Jean’s roommate. Sunfire reminds her that she is a guest in his country, but Misty’s not going to argue and tells him that his premier wants the X-Men inside, pronto.
A large truck with ‘MacRay’ livery pulls up in a street nearby. The driver tells his colleague to activate all systems and alert the assault team. They strike at midnight!
Inside one of the estate’s spacious rooms, Prime-Minister Fukada is seated at a table alongside his aid, Osama, as Sunfire launches a verbal volley towards him. Cyclops wonders what on Earth he’s talking about and feels a fool just standing there. He needs an interpreter. Colleen Wing stands only a few feet away from him. Osama responds to Sunfire’s tirade by mentioning that the communiqué stated that Agarashima would be destroyed by an earthquake at eight o’ clock this morning and it was. All Japan is threatened and he personally welcomes all the aid he can get. Sunfire says they need no American lady detectives like Colleen Wing, even if she is his niece. They also need no American superheroes. His power alone is enough to protect Nippon.
Colleen, who understands him perfectly well, responds with a “Hah!” Sunfire warns her to mind her place but Colleen isn’t intimidated. She says that, like him, she is Daimyo and Samurai. Unlike him, she knows her limitations. Grandstand plays won’t save them. Their only hope is teamwork. Scott has had enough of playing gooseberry to a conversation and heads off to find a phone. As he walks away, Colleen checks him out, thinking he’s quite a hunk. It’s a shame that Misty says he’s spoken for.
Scott finds a telephone but also finds Misty Knight hugging it, with her boyfriend, Danny Rand, a.k.a Iron Fist, on the other end. He wishes that he and Power Man could be there to help out but they’re neck-deep in cases right now. He tells her to take care of herself and she says that she misses him. She gives Scott the phone and he realizes that he hasn’t actually had time to rehearse what he’s going to say to the Professor. Jean and Hank are dead and he still can’t believe it himself. He wonders why he still feels nothing for Jean. My god, he thinks, he loved her.
Scott makes the call but the operator informs him that all the numbers he gave her are no longer in service. He thinks there must be some mistake but she tells him that the service was discontinued at the request of Dr. Charles Xavier. Scott puts down the receiver and says that’s insane. He tells the passing Banshee that Charles has shut down all the school phones, even the emergency direct line to Cerebro. They have to get back there. Sean says that’s fine by him but Colleen is looking for him and says it’s important.
The two truckers check the time. It’s 2345 hours and time to open up. Greg asks Jake if he’s certain that they can take Sunfire. He’s no pushover. Jake replies, as he swings open the doors of the truck, that these babies can pulverize any mutant scum living, without even working up a decent sweat.
Meanwhile, up in the house, Wolverine wanders through the estate and recalls that, last time he was in Japan, he was just a punk kid. He never figured he would return. He reckons he should have stayed in the Savage Land, as he’s no time for civilization. Too many rules, too many flamin’ people saying no. He wants to cut loose every time he fights, but has to hold back. His thoughts are interrupted by the presence of a Japanese woman walking across the garden. Wow, he thinks. The woman turns and sees him, half hidden by the shadows. She is a little shocked by his appearance and asks who he is, and what he wants.
Wolverine speaks to her in her own language, asking her not to be frightened as he means her no harm. He says that he thought the garden would be empty. He likes gardens and their solitude. He apologizes for scaring her and says he’ll go. The woman replies that the fault is all hers. She is only a girl and hasn’t the courage of her cousin, Shiro. She adds that he speaks Japanese very well for an American. He sits beside her on some decking and tells her that he had good teachers, but he isn’t American though; he’s Canadian and one of the X-Men. Shiro has often spoken of them with respect, she tells him, and introduces herself as Mariko. Wolverine appears very relaxed in her presence, as he replies that his name is Wolverine. Lord, she’s beautiful, he thinks. “That is a name?” she asks. “No, not really,” he replies, “Not between friends. My name is Lo…”
The entire garden is suddenly rocked by another earthquake and both Wolverine and Mariko have to run as the place collapses around them. He instinctively grabs hold of Mariko with one arm and pops the claws on the other, ready for danger. He tells her that he’ll get them out of there, but he knows it’ll be like running across a floor full o’ marbles. As they cross the garden, a tree begins to fall towards them, but Wolverine easily shreds it and, shielding Mariko with his body, he bulls his way through the crumbling manor house. He soon finds that his fellow X-Men have had the same idea.
Banshee and Colossus help the civilians, whilst Sunfire and Cyclops blast away at falling masonry. Cyclops asks storm why she didn’t warn them about the quake. She replies that she senses nothing natural about the quake and she only senses natural things. Someone; some force made it happen. Colossus asks who that could be. Who could command such power? He soon finds that question will have to wait, as a nearby wall explodes and several golden Mandroids enter. Their leader warns them that the party’s over. His boss wants the government types as his special guests, and he sent the Mandroids to get them. They are to bring them back alive or leave them dead. It’s their choice.
Sunfire is outraged and informs the Mandroids that they are true sons of Nippon. They will never surrender and will fight. If any are to die in this place, it is the Mandroids themselves. Cyclops asks him to wait, as he recognizes the outfits. His warning comes too late. The lead Mandroid blasts Sunfire, which takes him down hard. This aggression acts as a catalyst for the X-Men to act. Cyclops informs them that the combat suits were designed to zap Avengers. There’s no way in heaven they could have been prepared to stop them. “Hit ‘em X-Men, with everything you’ve got!”
Nightcrawler recalls his six weeks of training aboard the Jinguchi Maru, courtesy of Cyclops, and reckons this is where they’ll see if it pays off. He uses his agility to dodge some blasts from Mandroid number three and lands between him and one of his colleagues, who tells number three to relax. No matter how fast he jumps, they’ll burn him. Nightcrawler grins and, as the Mandroid takes aim, he teleports away, leaving number three to take the brunt of the blast.
Colossus sees his friend’s success and hopes he can do as well. For all the help he has given the X-Men of late, he wonders why he even bothers to try. Everything he does seems to backfire. His doubts are shown to have some basis in truth, as he swipes at one of the towering Mandroids and misses. His carelessness allows the Mandroid to use the armor to send Colossus flying. Wolverine leaps onto Piotr’s assailant and tells him that the reverse polarity magnetic zap may have worked against his steel buddy, but it doesn’t rate diddley against adamantium claws. He shreds the helmet from the hapless Mandroid, which rips out the wiring controlling the suit.
With two Mandroids down, Cyclops focuses his optic beams on a third. He pulses his blasts, which sets up a specific pattern in the armor. He orders Banshee to join him and Sean swoops behind him, unleashing his own sonic blast, which counters Scott’s optic pulse on a fractionally different vibration frequency. The two opposing patterns create titanic molecular stresses that literally shake the armor to pieces.
Mariko tries to help her cousin out of the rubble, after he was caught unawares by the initial attack. He orders her to get away from there, as another Mandroid approaches, telling Sunfire that he’ll pay for defeating his strike force with his life. Sunfire points both his hands at the Mandroid and shouts, “No!” as he envelops him in a ball of red-hot flame. The Mandroid laughs his attempt off, taunting him that his efforts only serve to make him stronger. His suit’s thermo-couple unit has absorbed the energy, and Sunfire is a dead man. However, he is suddenly shrouded in a localized rainstorm; freezing rain which Storm has created. She drops the temperature around him in a matter of seconds and the suit goes from red-hot to freezing cold in a matter of seconds. The suit wasn’t designed for such stresses and the end comes quickly, as the suit breaks apart in brittle pieces.
The two MacRay truckers flee, having to warn their boss. As they drive away, Greg calls for Jake to look out for the pothole in front of them. As the truck’s wheels straddle the hole, two steel arms pop up and grab the truck’s axle. The truck crashes in a flurry of shredded metal.
Shortly, the X-Men round up their captives, while the authorities examine what’s left of the truck. Sunfire, meanwhile, is a little embarrassed at Mariko’s attempts at first aid. Scott asks Piotr to take Greg and Jake to the police for interrogation and he compliments the X-Men on doing a good job. There’s hope for them yet. “Hope for the X-Men perhaps, but for Japan, none.” They all turn around and see a hologram emanating from the Mandroid’s armor. The hologram is of Moses Magnum, master of the magnum force. He gives them an ultimatum, designed to be delivered to the prime minister. “You have twenty-four hours to acclaim me sole, absolute ruler of your precious island nation, or at midnight tomorrow, I will sink Japan!”