Mississippi, the home of Mystique and Rogue, both members of the Uncanny X-Men, who are currently involved in a rather dire battle against the deadly Marauders! Emma “the White Queen” Frost lies motionless on the ground. ‘Status? What’s our status?’ she asks herself, knowing she must start with that and see what follows: telepathically examining the room, the sultry White Queen realizes that Rogue’s prognosis is poor, and not because her blossoming psychosis, but because she has been shot in the chest and now has shallow breathing and an arrhythmic heartbeat.
Emma notes that Karima Shapandar, otherwise known as Omega Sentinel, has been possessed, taken over by the digital entity known as Malice, while Regan Wyngarde a.k.a. the uppity Lady Mastermind, has also seemed to have defected to the Marauders side, though hers seems to be voluntary - as does Mystique’s herself. Emma decides that this sudden betrayal may be the reason Raven Darkholme came back to the Academy in the first place. ‘Paranoia? Perhaps. But how far back does this go?’ Emma wonders.
The White Queen knows that all that’s left on the side of the X-Men is Iceman, but in his human form, Bobby Drake is useless in battle, while Wolverine a.k.a. Logan is where one would expect to find him - threshing flesh and bone - not to mention whatever else gets in his way. Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Dr. Hank “Beast” McCoy and Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie are all okay for now, and Emma knows that she is too - for as long as she can remain conscious. ‘On the whole, I have to say there are some aspects of this situation that are frankly regrettable!’.
While Rogue lies bleeding on the floor, shot by her own mother, Mystique, Wolverine, Cannonball, Cyclops and the Beast struggle against the overwhelming force of the Marauders - Scalphunter, Vertigo, Arclight, Prism, Harpoon, Blockbuster, Riptide, Scrambler and the possessed Omega Sentinel. Cyclops fires an optic blast through Omega Sentinel while ordering Iceman to get Rogue out of here. ‘The rest of you, make every move count!’ he adds.
Scalphunter fires a shot at Cannonball, but Sam is protected while blasting. ‘We’re wasting our shots! Vertigo, bring him down!’ Scalphunter orders. The sultry Vertigo grins wickedly, ‘Sure thing Scalp - but what is down, anyway? Y’know?’ she asks while using her abilities to twist Cannonball’s mind so that he can no longer fly in the right direction. Bobby meanwhile has managed to avoid anymore attacks and reaches Rogue, only for Mystique to stick a gun to his head - ‘I’m sorry, Iceman. Rogue is ours!’ she exclaims.
Iceman grabs Mystique’s wrist and tries to wrestle the gun away from her, ‘You psychopath! You’ve lost your mind!’ Bobby exclaims, while asking Mystique what she did to him. Raven knees Bobby in the stomach while replying that she used a neural inhibitor on him, explaining that it was in her lipstick - and elsewhere! Bobby tries to smack Raven in the face, but she blocks his attack as she tells him that his ice-form is just too powerful, so she had to make sure he couldn’t use it. Elbowing Bobby in the face, causing blood to spurt from his mouth, Raven tells Iceman that, to his credit, she cannot remember when she enjoyed an ambush more, referring to them having sex.
Nearby, Riptide tosses calcified bone fragments at Wolverine while twisting his body at a supersonic speed and boasting that he will strip the meat off Logan’s bones before he can be reached. ‘You heal fast, but there has to be something left of you to heal!’ Riptide exclaims. ‘Keep up the infield chatter there, bub - gives me something to aim for!’ Wolverine replies as he manages to reach Riptide and gashes the villain’s arm with his three deadly adamantium claws.
Blockbuster slams the Beast into what is left of one of the interior walls while Emma telepathically calls out to Cannonball, who looks up from where he lies face-flat on the ground and sees Cyclops fire an optic blast at Prism, which bounces off and blasts Scalphunter’s weapon. Emma tells Sam to snap out of Vertigo’s warp and listen to her, as they do no have much time left.
Arclight attacks Cyclops, while Wolverine concentrates on Blockbuster as Emma explains to Cannonball that Omega Sentinel hit her with some sort of bio-toxin, that she can no longer move, and the only way she is remaining conscious is by of bootstrapping her own brain chemistry. Emma reveals that she has been picking at the edges of the Marauders’ psi-shielding and that she has discovered this is not a grudge match, it’s something much bigger. Sam cries out loud as Emma downloads everything she has found out into his brain - the Marauders gaols and remaining targets, as it may give him some slight advantage, Emma even apologizes for the pain it causes him.
Emma adds that they will only have the advantage if Sam can get out of here alive, ‘I know you’re going to hate me for this - but you’re the best chance we’ve got’. Emma remarks, before Sam suddenly bursts forwards, his blasting effect exploding behind him while he shouts ‘Emma, no!’, but Emma just tells the former New Mutant to relax and let her drive as she takes telepathic control of his motor functions. Sam continues to blast past everyone else, against his will, he cries out that this isn’t over, and asks Emma not to do it - but it’s too late as he blasts past Harpoon who is about to stick a large spike into Iceman’s back - lucky Emma enables Sam to grab Iceman and pull him away in time, where in an instant, they arrive outside the mansion and at the Blackbird.
Back inside, Arclight disposes of the Beast, while Mystique kicks Cyclops hard in the head, and Scalphunter fires several bullets through Wolverine’s chest. Inside the Blackbird, Sam leaves Bobby on the ground before piloting the ship, under Emma’s control, and getting away as fast as Emma can force him to.
Inside the mansion, Mystique stands over Rogue’s motionless body and orders the Marauders to stand down, pointing out that they have got what they came for and are still on mission time. ‘Damn. Just when I was getting myself some closure!’ Scalphunter remarks. Soon, the Marauders are outside, Lady Mastermind is helping the injured Scalphunter, and Mystique carries her daughter, while pointing out that it would be unfortunate if they were to be followed when they leave.
‘Oh, right’ Arclight mutters, ‘Not gonna happen!’ she exclaims as she slams her hands to the ground. ‘Trust me!’ the feisty woman adds as her seismic powers reach Mystique’s home, causing it to explode, then crumble to the ground. Lady Mastermind remarks that she hates to be the one to spoil a “Kodak Moment” and asks what about the ones who got away. ‘They didn’t get away, Wyngarde’ Raven replies. ‘They just chose to die somewhere else!’.
AS the Blackbird soars across the sky, Iceman tells Sam that he cannot believe he just ran from a fight. Piloting the aircraft, Sam replies that it didn’t run, that he was pushed, to which Bobby suggests Sam turn them around while there is still time. Sam replies that Emma was right, there is no time, and that the Marauders have a list of targets. Sam admits that he doesn’t see the connection, but that they have got to warn everyone that the Marauders are coming. Sam then radio’s back to the X-Men’s mansion, asking Kitty and Piotr to “come in” - when suddenly, the Blackbird tilts to one side, as one of its wings has been struck by a powerful burst of flame - and someone is flying alongside it.
Meanwhile, at that moment at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Salem Center, New York, Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde and Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin are in one of the comm. Rooms and Kitty informs Colossus that there was suddenly nothing, the whole board has rolled over and died. Piotr assures Kitty that it could be nothing, to which Kitty replies that it doesn’t feel like nothing, as aside from losing the link with Cannonball, she cannot get a hold of Cyclops’ team either. She adds that she tried getting a hold of Cable on Providence Island, but only received more deafening silence.
Colossus asks Kitty if he should take the second Blackbird and rendezvous with Cyclops and the others. ’You mean, split up? Some day I’ve got to sit you down in front of some good horror movies, babe!’ Kitty exclaims, before reminding Colossus that Scott said to stay here and look after the students, before suggesting they reset the alarms. Making their way through a corridor, Kitty decides that she will start with The Shinning or Dark Water, to which Colossus replies that if they are frightening, then he will need to be comforted and reassured. ‘Yeah. I’m seeing all kinds of possibilities here’ Kitty jokes.
One of the Xavier Institute students, Blindfold, is standing the shadows of the corridor as Kitty and Piotr walk past, and once they are gone, goes to find her teammates who are in one of the rec rooms. Assembled are Hellion, Elixir, Dust, Mercury, Anole, Rockslide and Pixie. Blindfold addresses Elixir, who greets her and remarks that he doesn’t see Blindfold in her very much, before realizing how the comment he made could be interpreted wrong, and apologizes to Blindfold, who is indeed blind.
Blindfold replies that there is a light, but that the darkness is better to see by. ‘It has much to do with seeds. He knows our minds, and means us harm! What intervenes is gold, inlaid with jet!’ the young woman remarks cryptically. ‘Can we do it after Grey’s Anatomy?’ Rockslide asks. Elixir remarks that this is going the same way as all of their other conversations, and asks if it is okay if they skip the part where Blindfold passes out and he just calls the Beast straight away. Blindfold grabs Elixir’s wrist and exclaims ‘What intervenes is gold!’ Elixir tries to pull back, ‘Thank you, says the patient!’ Blindfold mutters, while Elixir tells her not to touch him, when suddenly, swirling masses of black and gold matter sweep around them….
Back in the Blackbird, Cannonball steadies the jet while asking Bobby how the ice is. Bobby replies that it is no good, explaining that he needs to get sub-zero to jump-start himself. ‘Then you take the wheel - I’m gonna go deal with this!’ Sam announces, before blasting out of the Blackbird, where former X-Man and Horseman of Apocalypse Shiro “Sunfire” Yashida hovers over the damaged wing which he caused and remarks that he wishes he could have met the X-Men in battle, as there would have been more honor to be had. ‘But in these times, honor has little meaning!’ Shiro exclaims, only to be smacked over by Cannonball.
‘Thanks for marking the occasion with a speech, Shiro. I knew I could rely on you!’ Cannonball exclaims, remarking that it gave him the time he needed to get those bay doors open. While the two tussle in mid-air, Sunfire exclaims ‘Master and disciple, Guthrie. This is fitting. You’ll die exactly as Cable died!’ Suddenly, a look of shock spreads over Sam’s face. ‘Nate? You’re saying you killed Nate?’ he asks, before smacking Sunfire aside again and telling him ‘Sorry, wouldn’t matter who told me that, I’d still be saying “show me the body”!’ Sam exclaims as he forces Sunfire downwards, while Shiro exclaims that Cannonball is meant to be invulnerable while flying, before pointing out that a snail can be cooked inside its shell, and therefore so can Sam in that blast field of his.
‘Well, in theory, yeah’ Sam replies, ‘Never happened yet, though!’ he remarks as they slam into a cliff face. Sam then asks Shiro if he and Cable tussled, and why he didn’t tell him about it. Sam continues to punch Shiro, demanding an answer, when he suddenly looks up as a landslide comes down on the two of them.
‘Okay. This may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!’ Iceman exclaims as he stands at the hatch of the Blackbird, reassured in the knowledge that if his plan doesn’t work, then no one will ever know about it - before leaping from the jet without a parachute or other device. Free-falling, Bobby witnesses his body suddenly ice-up, ‘Yes, yes, yes! I am back in business!’ the founding X-Man exclaims as he quickly uses his powers to create an ice-slide, enabling him to safely reach the cliff side and rescue Cannonball before he is covered in rock.
Sam holds onto Sunfire, rescuing him also, before asking Bobby how he managed to ice up. Bobby replies that the wind-chill factor did the job, not to mention being nine thousand feet up in the air, before mentioning the list of targets. ‘We were at the top, right?’ he asks. Sam replies that they didn’t even place, and reveals that Rogue was at the top, and second was….
‘Foley! What the hell did you do?’ one of the New X-Men asks as they stand over the motionless Blindfold, blood trickling from her mouth. Elixir replies that he didn’t do anything. ‘You saw! She just grabbed both of my hands!’ Josh replies. Holding his hands up - one black, one gold, Elixir exclaims that the black area, the part of him that kills, was right there, Blindfold touched it, ‘And she…she…’ Josh’s sentence fades before Rockslide remarks that perhaps she isn’t dead. Rockslide suggests Elixir touch Blindfold with her other hand and see if he can bring her back.
But Elixir points out that he already did that, as Blindfold touched both his hands. ‘Oh God!’ he exclaims, while Hellion orders Pixie, who is trembling, to snap out of it and go and find one of the teacher. ‘You’re right!’ Pixie exclaims as she takes flight, announcing that she will go get Shadowcat, as she will know what to do.
Kitty and Piotr are tending to some equipment, while Kitty explains a scenario from a movie to Piotr, ‘Then he wheels his bike around the corner and he sees these two creepy little girls’. Kitty remarks. ‘Little girls are scary?’ Colossus asks. ‘They’re dead girls’ Kitty explains, to which Colossus remarks that, logically, that makes them less dangerous. Kitty calls Colossus a “dialectical materialist” and tells him that it is not about logic, but about the shiver down your spine. ‘The thrill of the -’ Kitty begins, before pausing. ‘Of what?’ Colossus asks. ‘Of the unexplained’ Kitty concludes, before asking Colossus if his ears just popped.
Colossus replies that his ears never pop, ‘I think the pressure just -’ Kitty begins, only for her and Colossus to be knocked aside, as moments after five figures descend upon the Institute, there is a massive explosion. Kitty and Colossus look up and see the five mysterious intruders - Exodus! Frenzy! Tempo! Unuscione! Random!
The sky is dark as Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy a.k.a. the Beast of the X-Men hangs upside down from a tree and looks at a large compound through some binoculars. The date is the 25th of June, and he puts another entry into his field journal, an entry describing how Dr. Kavita Rao’s research and the data from Breakworld have proven to be both a blessing and a curse, as Hank knows that without affected DNA samples to test on, anywhere the data may lead him is purely academic.
Eyes fixed on Neverland, the Beast reminds himself that they had heard rumors of it, whispers and reports of mutants disappearing, vague rumblings from Cable and Chamber. The Beast makes his way into the chilling facility, reminding himself that no one know where the concentration camp that Weapon X had created was, nor what happened there - whether it was for experimentation, or worse. ‘Mutant kind’s greatest enemy? Canada, apparently’. Looking around at his surroundings, the Beast decides that Neverland was humanity at its darkest, and knows that it could be his last hope.
Seven hours ago, the Beast was gathered with his teammates Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Logan a.k.a. Wolverine, Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde and Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen. ‘Empty’ Wolverine declared as he turned his body away from the computer generated image of Neverland. Hank asked Logan if he could be a tad more specific, to which Logan replied ‘Really, really empty’. Logan adds that he did not stick around and do inventory, as there was no one there, ‘Just the smell of death’. Emma frowns, ‘How enlightening’ she remarks, before reminding Logan that it was a mutant death camp, and asking him if he smelt mutants too. Cyclops turns to the Beast and asks him what he is thinking. The Beast replies that there could be records, genome transcripts, and at best, tissue samples. ‘I’ll call if I run into trouble’ he declares.
While making his way through the chilling complex, Hank thinks to himself that Neverland is something the others can understand. But the extinction of a species? Too big. ‘Neverland is something they can blast, or stab…or harden themselves too. But they don’t see it like I do. Our looming extinction…that’s not something they can fight. But I can. Neverland is a means to that end!’ The complex is a mess. It seems that nothing has been left intact - except for the cruel words painted in red on a wall: All muties must BURN! Hank kneels before it and turns his head away.
Finding a lab, Hank realizes that he is not the only one interested in this nightmare, as he discovers computer records, data, journals - all of which have been thoroughly gone through before he even set foot in Neverland. Hank believes this to be the mysterious “other” that the High Evolutionary taunted him with - moving step by step as Hank does, but days ahead of him. ‘Even running the same search protocols through the Neverland computers that I would have’ Hank realizes, before deciding that the masters of Neverland were excellent record keepers.
‘The journals of monsters’ Hank exclaims as, wide-eyed, he begins to read:
Day 582 - disposal of experimental test subjects
Day 607 - removal of rotting cadavers
Day 641 - science division requests for additional subjects
Day 701 - termination of resistance in the yard.
‘No…oh dear God!’ Hank exclaims as he reads the next file:
Day 724 - Neverland Facility Closure - purge of remaining prisoners. A deep grave was dug in Neverland, and the remaining mutant prisoners all lined up along the outside of it, before being shot in the back by the Boxbots and falling to the mass grave, already filled with countless other mutants.
Hank rushes to the location of the mass grave, now covered over, and begins scratching at the ground, ‘No…no. Please tell me this didn’t happen! I’m sorry, I didn’t…I didn’t think…please…please…!’ he exclaims while furiously digging. Suddenly, his quest is interrupted - ‘Henry, Henry, Henry - how touching!’ a chilling voice exclaims. ‘I was hurt you didn’t invite me to join all your fun…but I know how personal genocide is for us!’ the new arrival exclaims. Hank looks up - ‘You…’ he snarls as he lays eyes upon his visitor. ‘You, indeed!’ replies the Dark Beast, grinning furiously….