(Shown with flashback illustrations)
Cannonball a.k.a. Sam Guthrie explains to Bobby “Iceman” Drake that the Marauders started as far away from the X-Men as they could get - then slowly spiraled in so that the X-Men didn’t see them coming. ‘Vargas? Who cares about Vargas? Who even knew if he was alive or dead?’ Sam remarks, before revealing that the next victim of the Marauders was some priestess - the Dark Mother - and although the Marauders had to wade through a couple of hundred warrior nuns to get to her…’But I guess sacrilege doesn’t bother them any more than murder does’.
Cannonball remarks that the body count kept climbing as the Marauders took out some building in Dresden - the Wohnhaus Strucker - they just razed it to the ground and eighty-three people were killed, while a hundred and fifty others were injured. By then it seemed that the Marauders were ready to move on to the big guns, the ones who were guaranteed to make a fight of it. Gateway. The Witness. Cable….
…’Us?’ Bobby asks. ‘Us’ Sam replies. Inside the Blackbird, one wing damaged thanks to the former X-Man, Shiro “Sunfire” Yashida, the men turn to the control panels and Bobby exclaims that the targets do not make any sense. ‘Where’s the connection?’ he asks. Sam replies that he doesn’t know, but that is the information Emma got when she picked the Marauders’ minds. Sam motions to a satellite image on one of the monitors. He tells Bobby that he cannot pick up the Mansion in real-time, but that this is the last archive, showing the mansion with smoke and debris. Another image shows where Providence Island should be, but instead there is nothing, just empty ocean.
Angrily, Sam exclaims that he has to get out there and see if Cable is still alive, to which Bobby reminds him that the Blackbird is crippled, so they would be flying subsonic, adding that he doesn’t think they can make it to Providence or the Mansion in time to make a difference. ‘So what? We do nothing?!’ Sam exclaims. ‘We just sit here and run the scoreboard while all our friends get taken out one by one?’ Bobby motions to the unconscious Sunfire lying on the floor of the Blackbird and tells Sam that, actually, he thinks what they do next depends on Shiro. ‘I mean he dropped right into our hands. Be a sin not to follow that up…’.
Meanwhile…at the Xavier Institute, home of the X-Men in Westchester, New York, the Acolytes have made their grand entry, and their leader, Exodus, tells Heather “Tempo” Tucker to maintain the time differential at this level. While the X-Men Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde” and Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin” are practically frozen in time thanks to Tempo’s power, Heather replies that she will hold it as long as she can, though it is kind of a strain. Exodus replies that they must waste no time then, and motions in the direction of the first target.
As the Acolytes follow Exodus through the mansion, passing various frozen students on the way, Carmella Unuscione remarks that she hates slow time, as it makes the air feel thick and slimy. Joanna “Frenzy” Cargill tells her long-time teammate to be stoic, ‘At least you still get to breathe’ she points out. As they enter another room, Marshall Evanstone the third, better known as Random, motions to a body on the floor and asks if that is the first target. Exodus replies that it is, to which Random remarks that it looks as though someone may have saved them a job.
Exodus checks her pulse - it’s Ruth Aldine a.k.a. the Xavier Institute student known as Blindfold, and he announces that she is dead. Frenzy asks ‘How?’ to which Exodus replies that he is examining the minds of the others around them to ascertain that. Exodus then looks at Josh Foley a.k.a. Elixir and explains that Blindfold touched him, touched the dark place that kills on contact, but that Elixir has no idea why. ‘Perhaps she saw us coming?’ Frenzy suggests. Exodus replies that it is for the best, as it would have given him no pleasure in killing her, before declaring that this target is dealt with, and ordering Frenzy and Random to bring him the books.
Soon, Random and Frenzy - who briefly served as an Interim X-Man - are searching for the books, and Random, a former associate of the government sponsored X-Factor, asks Joanna if she ever wonders if they’re doing the right thing. ‘No. Only a fool second-guesses herself in the midst of a war’ Joanna replies. ‘Since when were we at war?’ Random asks. ‘Since we were born!’ Frenzy replies as she kicks open a door. Random tries to put the door back up, remarking that it wasn’t locked, while Frenzy goes about tossing books around, telling him to shut up as she is tired of his scruples and hand-wringing.
‘Either you believe in what you’re doing or else - Ah!’ exclaims Joanna as she finds what they have been looking for. Holding up one of Destiny’s Diaries, Joanna remarks that they are exactly where Mystique said they’d be. Frenzy remarks that it is a pity, as she would have enjoyed dismembering Colossus to loosen Shadowcat’s tongue. Random picks up another of them and asks if these are the books they were sent to get hold of. ‘Obviously’ mutters Frenzy. ‘The big strategic resource? The prime target?’ Random asks. ‘Yes!’ Joanna exclaims, exasperated. Random hands volume 11 to Frenzy and motions to a page, ‘Then look at this. And tell me who’s the fool now!’.
Meanwhile, Iceman and Cannonball stand on a large chunk of ice that Bobby has created, and Sunfire lies on below them. ‘Wake up, Sunfire!’ Cannonball exclaims. Shiro does, ‘So cold…can’t -’ he begins, until he sees the X-Men standing before him, and at just how high up in the air they are. Sam remarks that it is quite a view. ‘Makes you wish you’d brought a camera - or a parachute’. Sam then informs the former Horseman of Apocalypse that they know all about the targets now. Cable, Blindfold, Vargas and the others. ‘Bobby was all for shaking you down and trying to find out who you’re working for, but I said what the Hell. You’d never talk, so we might as well finish this’.
Sunfire gets to his feet, remarking that Cannonball bluffs very badly, to which Sam replies ‘That’s why I never bother’. Shiro remarks that he can fly from this place long before they can - he is interrupted by a punch from Sam, who remarks ‘What, with your bio-thermal powers and all? No, you can’t, Shiro’ he declares. ‘And this is gonna make you laugh!’ Sunfire falls back down onto the ice and Sam asks him if he feels how cold it is, before informing him that Bobby is so good at controlling temperature now that he can control the chemical reactions that involve a heat exchange.
‘He was practizing with the Blackbird’s engines when you were out, and he’s getting pretty good. He’s blocking your powers at source’. Sam then reminds Shiro that he already told him he killed his best friend, Cable, ‘Only I didn’t believe you then. Now - now I do!’ With that, Sam lunges at Sunfire, who replies ‘Don’t reproach me with Cable’s death, Cannonball. We do what must be done - what the X-Men lack the courage to do!’ Shiro smacks Cannonball over, declaring that the Marauders have the measure of the X-Men. ‘We’ll turn out the lights and destroy you in the dark. You wont even know why this is happening until it’s too late!’.
Sunfire shoves Cannonball back into some ice, while Sam remarks ‘You really lower your guard when your blood is up - don’t you?’ and tosses Sunfire off him, before remarking that is just as well, and punching him in the face, knocking him out, Sam remarks that he is not really cut out for interrogations. Bobby slides down on an ice-sled and asks Sam if he got everything he needed. Sam replies that he thinks so, and remarks that this was never about killing the X-Men, but blinding them.
Back at the Institute, Exodus reads through one of the Diaries and remarks that it seems blood must be spilled after all. He orders Tempo to slow them down to normal time, ‘What, all the way?’ Heather asks, to which Exodus replies that the children will not harm them, nor will the obscene automata massing outside. ‘All right. You’re the boss. But this is going to be messy!’ Heather remarks as she returns time to normal.
The New X-Men and the rest of the Institute students are returned to normal, and Julian Kellar a.k.a. Hellion exclaims ‘Hey! Is this open day or something? Who are you guys!?’ Exodus introduces himself, ‘I am the path that you have yet to tread he remarks’ before Rockslide tries to throw a punch, ‘Yeah? Be a lot easier to tread on you if you were on the floor!’ he exclaims, but Exodus doesn’t move, ‘I have no time to chastise you. Still less to teach you’ he remarks as Rockslide literally has his arm crumble into small rocks, before being tossed to the wall.
Exodus exclaims that it is Kitty Pryde he must talk to, as she is the last owner of these Diaries. Mercury calls out to her friend Rockslide, when suddenly Kitty appears, phasing through Random she exclaims ‘Current owner!’ and snatches the Diary back from Exodus, before telling the students not to worry, as the X-Men are here. ‘And note that plural!’ someone exclaims as Colossus smashes Exodus in the face.
‘Well, you heard her! Come on, guys, let’s give these scumbags what they’re asking for!’ Julian exclaims, leading his team into battle. Frenzy tells Hellion to mind his manners, calling him a little boy, she declares that the Acolytes have fought real X-Men, and made them bleed. With that, she tosses Hellion aside, while Rockslide comes up behind her, ‘Sure. But just their knuckles, right?’ he remarks, before tossing Frenzy towards X-23, while Exodus throws Colossus over to him. Unuscione and Armor go head-to-head, while Anole takes on Random, and Dust and Mercury face off against Tempo.
X-23 lunges at Frenzy with claws outstretched. ‘You can’t cut me, girl - my skin is tougher than sheet steel!’ Joanna begins to tell X-23 to surrender, when suddenly she screams, as X-23 slashes her shoulder. Kitty phases up through the floor as Tempo rushes past, Kitty trips her up, remarking that she doesn’t know what it is she is doing, but that it is kind of like what Northstar does. ‘Only, you know - less is less’.
Suddenly, ‘Halt! On the authority of the O*N*E, cease and desist - or you will be fired upon!’ one of the Sentinel Squad officers exclaims as they appear near a gaping hole in the mansion. Exodus flies towards the Sentinel and declares that, in his day, a man didn’t put on armor until he’d prayed and fasted, until he was sure that his heart was pure. ‘Learn humility, little warrior - or dress in sack cloth!’ Exodus exclaims as he begins to use his powers to tear the Sentinel apart.
Exodus returns to the battle, remarking that it is time to get to the heart of the matter, he turns to Shadowcat, informing her that she will feel his presence in her mind, his hand on the tiller of her consciousness. ‘Don’t!’ Kitty exclaims, backed up against a wall, Exodus tells her that she cannot resist his will, and forces her into the wall, trapping her so that she is half stuck there. Kitty screams, clutching the Diary with one of her hands, Exodus informs her that she will remain like that, half ghost, half solid until he decides whether she is to live or die.
‘Where are the Destiny Diaries?’ he asks. Wide-eyed, Kitty replies that he is holding them in his hand, to which Exodus warns her to tell him the truth, because lies will go hard with her. ‘These books are forgeries. No, not even that - decoys! Their pages are all blank!’ he exclaims, showing Kitty, who just cringes, then looks away with fear, while Exodus realizes that Kitty sees this as real, and suspects that someone has altered her mind, seamlessly, perfectly. He turns to the Acolytes and informs them that the battle is over, and that they will find no more answers here.
‘How’s that?’ Random asks. Exodus replies that only five telepaths in the world could have done that, and he can vouch for both Sinister and himself. He points out that Jean “Phoenix” Grey is dead and Xavier has been stripped of his powers. ‘By my count…that leaves one’….
Mississippi, Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen lies motionless as her lover and teammate Scott “Cyclops” Summers flicks a lighter on in front of her, and asks her how she is holding up. Emma telepathically replies that she is fine, that she can flex the tips of her index fingers now. ‘It’s endlessly diverting’. Scott remarks that Hank says Emma’s central nervous system isn’t harmed as far as he can tell, but that the burns are bad, though the paralysis will wear off soon. Motioning to where Dr. Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast and Wolverine a.k.a. Logan are clearing a path under Mystique’s old mansion that they were buried alive in, Scott points out that they will have a way out of here by then.
‘Or else brought the whole mess down on our heads’ Beast remarks, before asking Scott to slice through the beam he is holding. Cyclops tells Emma that he will be back in a moment, ‘Stay right there’ he remarks. ‘Very amusing’ Emma replies telepathically, assuring Scott that he needn’t worry, as she has plenty to occupy her mind….
….’Good afternoon gentlemen’ Emma remarks telepathically to Sam and Bobby, who streak across the skies in the Blackbird. Bobby clutches his head and tells Emma that her fine-tuning is way off, ‘That hurts!’ he exclaims. Emma apologizes and assures him that she will try to be gentle, before remarking that they seem to have been putting the pieces of the jigsaw together. Cannonball replies that, as far as they can tell, the Marauders have been hitting three kinds of targets - psychics and precognitives, people who have direct knowledge of the future, like Cable, and things like the Destiny Diaries that contain information about the future.
Emma remarks that it is most likely the Marauders are trying to deny the X-Men information about something that is about to happen, before pointing out that they did not get the Destiny Diaries, so the X-Men are still one step ahead of them for the moment. ‘One step ahead? Cable’s dead and the school’s been invaded! I’m not following your arithmetic!’ Sam replies, to which Emma assures him that there will be time to mourn later, but that right now they have to fight back. Bobby asks Emma how she knows the enemy didn’t get the Diaries, to which Emma ignores the question and orders the boys, who have Sunfire unconscious at the back of the jet, to turn around and head west, adding that she will explain as they go.
Back at the Xavier Institute, Hellion, Dust, Surge, Elixir, Mercury, Anole, Rockslide, Armor, Pixie, Prodigy and X-23 gather around the body of their fallen teammate, Blindfold, and Hellion exclaims ‘Man, did we blow it! Look at this place! Our home turf and we totally got out butts handed to us!’. ‘We? Our? Us?’ Rockslide asks, before exclaiming ‘What about the X-Men who were left in charge of us? We held up better than they did! At least we drew blood!’ he exclaims angrily. Julian replies ‘That’s not fair’.
Kitty, freed from the wall, exclaims ‘Fair or not - now isn’t the time!’, adding that she will be happy to have this discussion after she has told Blindfold’s family that she is dead. Suddenly, Prodigy, tells Shadowcat that he would hold off on doing that if he was here, as he doesn’t think Prodigy is dead. ‘What?’ exclaims Elixir. Prodigy turns to his friend and remarks that he has been thinking through it, pointing out that Blindfold is not suicidal, not even crazy, but that she talks the way she does because she sees the world from a weird angle.
Prodigy reminds everyone that pretty much the last thing Blindfold said was “thank you”, before calling herself Elixir’s patient. ‘Think about it!’ he remarks. Rockslide snaps ‘How about you think about it! That’s the closest thing you’ve got to a schtick!’ Prodigy explains that Blindfold touched both Josh’s hands at the same time, getting a double dose - golden Josh and dark Josh. ‘You think that was a coincidence?’ he asks. Prodigy points out that Blindfold sees the future, so she saw one of the worlds most powerful telepaths coming to kill her, and in his opinion, found the only place to hide - deep stasis - so close to death nobody could tell the difference.
Hellion replies that it is a nice idea, before pointing out that she is not breathing and that there is no heartbeat…his voice trails off as X-23 declares that Blindfold isn’t dead, because she doesn’t smell dead. Kitty asks Hellion and Rockslide to go and get a gurney up from the med-lab, to which Rockslide motions to his missing arm and replies that he is a little short-handed now. Pixie offers to go in his place, while Kitty spins around and turns to Prodigy, ‘David, I love you!’ she exclaims. Nervous, Prodigy thanks her, before asking if Colossus is okay with this. ‘Of course. I will hug you next’. Piotr jokes.
Later, at Mr Sinister’s laboratory. Unidentified bodies lie cut open on tables, or held in tanks of fluid, while the uber-villain Mr Sinister declares that he told them all at the outset, that a partial success in this matter is counted as a failure. ‘So how do you account for yourselves?’ he asks. Exodus, surrounded by Random and Frenzy, the Marauders Riptide and Blockbuster, as well as three former traitorous X-Men - Gambit, Mystique and Lady Mastermind - replies that apart from Bishop, who has not surfaced, they have taken out all the live targets.
Mystique a.k.a. Raven Darkholme informs Sinister that they have also completely neutralized at least one of the X-Men’s combat teams, and damaged their infrastructure badly enough to cripple them. Remy “Gambit” LeBeau motions to his former lover, Rogue, lying motionless on a table and tells Raven that she damaged other things along the way. Mystique replies that her daughter will live, to which Sinister exclaims ‘Of course she will! She has the content of the Destiny Diaries in her mind, so she’s a useful resource’.
Sinister remarks that the Diaries themselves eluded Exodus, to which Exodus replies ‘Yes’. Mystique is surprised by this and remarks that she told Exodus exactly where they would be. Exodus informs Raven that the information was incorrect, as those copies he found her fakes. ‘Then you should have stayed and located the real ones!’ Raven snaps, pointing out that when this starts, they don’t want the X-Men to have any clue at all what’s happening.
Mr Sinister declares that it doesn’t matter, to which Mystique remarks that if the X-Men still have the Diaries - ‘Then someone among the X-Men knows where they are’ Sinister concludes, and as he sits down, he places a device over his head - Cerebro - and exclaims that, thanks to the genius of Charles Xavier, he now knows where the X-Men are!
Henry McCoy. Field journal. June 27th. From the moment I chose to devote my life to scientific research, I knew I’d face ethical dilemmas. Animal experimentation - sacrificing innocent beings in the hope of helping others. An issue that hits home with someone who looks like me. Human trials - experimenting on people desperate for a cure, when they may not fully grasp the possible side effects. The question of whether to release or even pursue research that could potentially be abused - to harm others, to create weapons, to justify prejudices. I pursed science with eyes open. Prepared for the hard choice I’d have to make. Still, I have to admit…I never imagined myself here.
The Beast has been digging into a grave as the rain beats down upon him in the tragic land of Genosha. He passes up another body to his insane doppelganger, McCoy a.k.a. the Dark Beast.
Soon, they are in a laboratory, and Hank remarks that it is a well equipped facility. The Dark Beast replies that Xavier made sure he had all he needed. As he begins working on the body, Hank exclaims that he still finds it hard to believe that Charles gave McCoy free reign over this place. ‘Xavier knew you can’t make real progress by being squeamish’ McCoy replies, tossing another body into a pile. Annoyed, Hank exclaims that they are bodies of their fellow mutants, and that McCoy needs to treat them with respect, or else answer to him.
‘Oh please. We’re robbing their graves, cutting them open and poking around at their innards. Without the permission of them or their families’. McCoy replies, before sarcastically suggesting that Hank track down their next of kin and ask for permission, and maybe get his pal Nightcrawler to say a few prayers. ‘Or do you want to try and accomplish something?’. Hank looks forlorn, but replies ‘Put him on the table’ as McCoy brings him the next body.
‘Fascinating!’ Hank exclaims as he pokes about the body, all the while, McCoy hangs from some cabling above and watches, asking ‘What? That an hour ago you were wracked with guilt and now you’re gleefully violating that corpse?’ he asks. Hank replies that he was actually referring to the fact that this man died on M-Day, when he lost his ability to fly, and fell out of the sky, but still retained his feathers. Hank remarks that they know the mutant gene is a catalyst - and when activated induces body-wide changes at the cellular level, a seemingly endless variety of changes.
‘One subject becomes telekinetic, another a giant jellyfish. All streaming from the same source’ the Dark Beast remarks. Hank replies that the retention of superficial characteristics, like these feathers, suggests the capacity for mutation may still exist in de-powered individuals, but that what is missing is the central processing unit, to put it in computer terms, the guiding hand, the “brain”. McCoy replies that there lies the problem, as they have both examined enough de-powered mutants to know their X-gene is gone.
Hank replies that it isn’t gone, they just cannot find it, adding that a part of the body, a chromosome, doesn’t simply cease to exist, it is not scientifically possible. McCoy tells Hank not to be so sure. ‘I’ve seen some strange things. Done some too’ he adds as he leaps down to the ground. Hank exclaims ‘Listen to me. Medicine can reduce the HIV virus to unpredictable levels in the body - but it’s still in there, hiding, waiting to come back’. McCoy replies ‘You’re comparing apples to oranges, and you know it’, before informing Hank that the computer has finished its analysis of the data they got from Kavita Rao.
McCoy declares that if the X-gene still exists in the de-powered, in any capacity, then Rao’s alien technology will find it. ‘What does it -?’ Beast asks as he walks over. ‘No. I…I don’t understand!’ he exclaims, upset. McCoy asks him ‘Why not?’ pointing out that it is as plain as day - even in the bodies of those who died before M-Day, the mutant gene has vanished. ‘Just as with the living, we find it in less than one percent of our subjects. In the vast majority, it’s missing, like it was never there’.
‘There’s been a mistake! Run the tests again!’ Hank exclaims, to which McCoy replies ‘No. My systems aren’t wrong, and Rao’s data isn’t wrong. It’s time to stop looking for something that isn’t there’. ‘I said…run them again!’ an angry Beast shouts as he smashes McCoy over the room, where he lands in the pile of bodies. ‘Poor little Henry…’ smirks McCoy, before lunging at Hank, who growls as they attack each other. ‘All though a life where you couldn’t count on anything, science was your work. And now that rock’s crumbling!’ McCoy exclaims.
‘It’s like finding out your parents don’t know everything. And can’t protect you. And may not even like you!’ McCoy exclaims. Hank tells him to shut up, exclaiming that this is not possible, to which McCoy replies ‘You keep saying that. And yet all the data says otherwise Not very scientific of you, Henry’. Beast calls McCoy a sick monster, ‘You’re enjoying this!’ he exclaims as he raises his fist again. ‘Beating on you? Damn right I am. But failing? No. I don’t much like that at all’ he reveals, stepping away from Hank, and slumping against a wall.
Hank suggests that they assume the data is correct, that the X-gene no longer exists in the bodies of the de-powered. ‘It’s still in us. The 200 or so who retained our abilities. Plus the dead mutants who never lost their powers. If we use our genome as a template, somehow re-created the M-gene and implanted it in others…’. Hank suggests. McCoy looks up at his doppelganger and declares that is the kind of thinking he can appreciate. ‘But creating an artificial gene and forcing it into a body…you realize what you’re suggesting, Henry’ McCoy asks, pointing out that, even assuming they pull it off, they could be creating monsters - or corpses. ‘That’s a typical day at the office for me, but for you…’.
Hank declares that he is aware of the risks, and remarks that they would require plenty of data, as they would need to compare the samples from the same individuals, both before and after they were de-powered, to see where the X-gene fits in. McCoy asks where they can get these samples from, to which Hank informs him that there is a drug called MHG - mutant growth hormone - which temporarily gives powers to normal humans. Hank reveals that use of the drug has been reported since M-Day, and adds that given the lack of “donors” the dealers must have a way to keep old samples vital. ‘Interesting’ replies McCoy, before asking Hank if he knows where to find such upstanding citizens. ‘No. But I have a friend who does’ Henry replies - Bishop!