Only moments ago, Jean Grey was among friends, speeding toward the safety of home aboard an airplane. Now, however, she has been transported someplace else. Jean asks if Scott, Storm, and everyone else are okay. A metal hand reaches out towards her and a voice tells her that he can’t speak for anyone else but he’s fine, thanks for asking. He adds that she, on the other hand, looks terrible. Which is how he’d guess someone would look after breaking into Stark inter… Shocked, Jean notices the metal figure before her as Iron Man. Iron Man says to her that she’s skipping ahead a bit, but yes, he’s Iron Man.
He then asks Jean who she is. She is Phoenix, one of the original members of the Uncanny X-Men. Names and affiliations which have no corollary in this alternate reality. For unbeknownst to Jean, this Earth is a distorted mirror-image of the place she calls home. At that moment, Jean tells him to save it. She adds that he gets major points for somehow yanking her from the rest of the X-Men on the jet but he should have done his research better, Iron Man is dead! She then unleashes a blast which knocks Iron Man backwards. When it does, Iron Man thinks to himself that he will be if he takes another hit like that. But, according to his suit’s onboard computer, she’s hitting him with pure telekinetic energy. In the absence of an external power supply, that would indicate she’s generating it naturally. He wonders if that is possible.
As he picks himself up, he mentions to Jean that he died, and no one told him? How embarrassing. Jean tells him that she saw it happen. She was there when Iron Man and a host of other heroes sacrificed their lives to save humanity. She then asks him if he is going to tell her what’s going on there, or does she have to get ugly? Iron Man tells her that he doesn’t believe either is a possibility. He then challenges that he’s going to take her out with a repulsor blast until he can get to the bottom of it. Unexpectedly, Jean reacts in pain. Iron Man is confused because he hadn’t even done anything yet. Jean feels herself being pulled back. She can feel it, but from where? With that, Jean disappears.
Iron Man reacts that fortunately he locked onto her with his sensors. So unless she, disappears… Seeing Jean has left he mentions that, as Tony Stark, he created the most powerful body armor on the planet, he’s certainly not about to let one mysterious redhead confound him. He then calls Pepper Potts and tells her to get a hold of Dr. Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, and tell him it’s important. He also tells her to see what she can dig up on something called the X-Men.
On Earth, a young lady asks her new husband if he’s going to admit it. Her new husband asks back if it is the part about being in love with her; he thought he covered that in the wedding vows. She replies that he did, she was talking about the other part. As they reach a clearing in their view so they can view the gorgeous scenery, he concedes. It was a brilliant idea to honeymoon in the Colorado Mountains. His young bride agrees. There’s just something about there, like they’re a thousand miles from anywhere. It’s so beautiful, so untouched by the rest of humanity, so…
Suddenly, two aircraft zoom right over their heads. One of the aircraft fires upon the other, a jet, and informs them that by the authority of Operation: Zero Tolerance, they are ordered to land. The jet is on loan to the X-Men – mutants born with powers that set them apart from the very world they’re determined to protect. Their pursuers, an international militia known as Operation: Zero Tolerance. Down on the ground, the young lady asks her husband what they are looking at. Her husband tells her that he has no idea. But he can tell her this: it’s something bad. His wife says that she assumes he means for the people on the jet.
On the jet, Logan informs everybody that the bad news is that they’ve been hit again. The good news is Jean is up and around. He asks Red (Jean) if she’s okay. Jean tells him that she’s fine except that whatever it was on those ships that took her out just then, seems to be affecting her telepathic power. In her mind, she knows that she should tell them about her surreal encounter with “Iron Man” but it will have to wait until they’re out of trouble. Instead, she asks Storm about the cabin. Storm informs her that it has been compromised. She is summoning her control over the wind to compensate for the decompression. Jean adds that she may be able to keep them aloft with her telekinesis for a few minutes.
Logan asks them to just hold it together long enough for them to land. Cannonball mentions that may be sooner than later, the loaner isn’t built for combat like the Blackbird. Jean then asks Scott Summers, Cyclops, how they are doing. Scott tells her worse than worse. Whoever their attackers are have also taken out the controls. He adds that to be honest, every second she can keep them telekinetically airborne is a miracle. He then notices that the other two bogies that were tracking them have just doubled around in front. He’s going to try to evade th…
Just then, Cannonball tells Cyclops to hold his course and asks Storm to cover him, he’s going in. With that, he launches himself into the air using his mutant power. As he heads towards their attackers, he thinks to himself that in his head, he realizes that he’s protected by his kinetic blastin’ field. Heck, he reckons after takin’ on Gladiator, he’s practically downright invulnerable. But this feels different. Whoever set them up, has done their homework real good.
In a bar in Canton, Ohio, a couple of the patrons ask the waitress if she can turn up the “idiot box;” Worldwide Sports is on. When she does, a CNBC special report comes on. Roger Kren, who is sitting in for Trish Tilby, tells the viewers that what they are seeing are images being broadcast live via satellite. The mutant attacking the aircraft has been identified as Cannonball, long suspected of being a member of the purported terrorist faction known as the X-Men. There, in studio, to put the images in context is Henry Peter Gyrich of the National Security Council.
Gyrich says that at 1900 hours, E.S.T., three high security assault ships were on field maneuvers somewhere in the Colorado Mountains when the pilots were attacked by five members of the outlaws known collectively as the X-Men. What the mutants may or may not have known is that they were engaging operatives of Operation: Zero Tolerance. A task force composed of representatives from several countries determined to contain the mutant menace once and for all. That said, the governor of Colorado has deployed the National Guard to contain the situation. Within the hour, federal marshals will be on-site as well, to question all the participants.
Mr. Kren asks Mr. Gyrich that, as impossible as it sounds, is he saying that the United States government has granted permission for a paramilitary organization to operate on American soil and to open fire on her citizens? Gyrich asks how do they know the “X-Men” are American citizens. They know nothing of them save they are a threat. What he’s saying is, remember Onslaught – an estimated thirty-four U.S. citizens slaughtered by a mutant; Captain America, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four among them. Consider the legacy virus – a disease spread from mutant to mutant. A virus that now, it seems, has spread to the human population, as well. He’s saying the assassination of Graydon Creed, a pro-human rights activist brutally murdered on the eve of his election to the presidency of the United States. This sequence of events, combined with the threat the mere presence of mutants poses has given credence and momentum to those within world governments who seek to strike back at this unseen enemy. Whether they like it or not, it seems Operation: Zero Tolerance has begun.
In the bar, most of the patrons rejoice and mention that finally, those freaky mutates are gonna get what’s comin’ to them. Not everybody joins in the impromptu celebration. Susan and Richard Okada aren’t, because they’ve seen this side of America once before. When they and all things Japanese were the unseen enemy, shuffled off to “relocation centers” for the “greater good.” They believed, afterwards, that it could never happen again. Even now, they want to believe that, more so than ever.
In the skies above Colorado, Cannonball mentions that he doesn’t like the looks of it. Three “somethings” just sprang outta the ship. An’ if it weren’t for their human-sized shapes, he’d reckon they were… Sentinels? He deducts that if they are Sentinels, they ain’t ever like any he’s ever seen. One of the flying beings, “P.S. Alpha” informs units Beta and Gamma to prepare to strike mutant-designate: Cannonball on his command. The other beings acknowledge and lock onto the target.
Sentinels – a single word which can summon a multitude of horrific images for anyone born with the X-factor gene that creates human mutations. Over the years, there have been several manifestations of the mutant-hunting mechanisms, each sharing one common trait: they get deadlier with each incarnation.
Inside the jet, Cyclops thinks to himself that he has the ship under marginal control, but only with Storm and Jean’s help. That means they’re not able to back up Cannonball. Inside the jet, Logan tells “one-eye,” Cyclops, that the kid is good but he doesn’t see what’s happenin’. The Sentinels are just cornerin’ him, so that the ship can take him out. Cyclops answers not if he can say anything about it. At that moment, Cyclops pulls off his protective glasses and unleashes the full force of his optic blast on their attackers. It was a hit, but the reckless maneuver only underscores the fact that they’re literally flying blind there. They, whoever they are, have them on the run.
Just then, their jet takes a direct hit and Scott falls out. Logan immediately takes over the controls of the jet and asks Storm if there is any sign of Cyclops. As Storm watches him being flown away by two Sentinels, she replies mercifully that he is alive. Logan says that it is clear what they’re doin’. Separatin’ them, pickin’ them off one at a time. Worse yet, they’re succeedin’.
As the struggle is occurring over the skies of Colorado, the New York state police converge on the private estate located at 1407 Graymalkin Lane in Salem Center known as the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. To the outside world, it is an exclusive school run by the world renowned scholar, Professor Charles Xavier. In truth, however, it is much more than that. There in the relative obscurity of Westchester County, Xavier teaches young mutants how to control and utilize their burgeoning powers in the hopes that, as X-Men, they will one day make his dream of peaceful coexistence between man and mutant a reality.
One of the cops asks his partner if he has any idea what they’re doing there. Near as anybody’s explained it to him, they have no probable cause, no warrants, no nothing. The other cop answers that they have their orders. They hold the place until the Feds arrive. He adds what’s the big deal, it’s probably drug related for all they know. Nothing there ‘cept a buncha well-to-do bluebloods. The other cop says Feds. Always love a mystery. Before he can say anything else, a multitude of vehicles and helicopters arrive on the scene. Upon seeing them, he points out that he’s never seen feds like that. The cops are then informed to stand down; their assistance is no longer required.
In the emergency room of Our Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Bronx, the doctors are huddled around a television watching what is happening out in Colorado, specifically Storm attempting to fend off the Sentinels ship. One of the African-American doctors mentions that he knows why they’re all hot to take out the X-Men, but now they’re messing with a sister. He asks one of the other doctors if he ever told him that he met her once in Harlem and how she turned his whole life around. The doctor tells Carter not recently. He adds not to let the way she looks fool him; underneath it she’s still a mutant. Carter says yeah, he guesses, still. He then asks Dr. Cecilia Reyes where she weighs in on all of this. Cecilia tells him that she thinks a mutie is a mutie is a mutie. It’s time someone stopped talking about the problem and finally did something about it.
In the skies over Colorado, Storm continues her assault on the OZT ship. Just then, she is shot and mentions that she was prepared to evade an energy blast, but this? It’s some sort of expanding polymer and she is soon trapped. Since she was a child, Ororo Munroe has been claustrophobic. Despite all her combat training, she still suffers from an ingrained fear of being trapped. As she sinks like the proverbial stone, she can’t help wondering if this was just a fortuitous move on the Sentinels part. Or somehow, did they know exactly the effect confinement would have on her? As she begins to fall to the ground, Sentinel units Beta and Gamma converged on her.
In the jet, Logan is struggling mightily with the controls. He exclaims that there’s no way in blazes is it going to end this way. Aboard the OZT ship, they mention that it doesn’t make any sense; the jet appears to be in a free-fall. From inside the jet, Logan challenges them to follow them right into the side o’ the mountain. As he does, Jean informs him that she can’t hold the ship together much longer. Logan tells her not to worry. They ain’t gonna be there for the big one, he’s usin’ the trees to slow their fall. Just then, he grabs Jean’s hand and tells her to hold tight, they’re outta there. Jean asks to where. Logan tells her that he guesses they’ll know when they get there.
Outside of the Xavier Institute, one of the Sentinels informs his cohorts to alert command central that the jamming signal has been transmitted. He adds that, for all intents and purposes, the mansion is without internal defenses. As planned, security has effectively been breached. With security taken care of, more man-sized Sentinels enter the Institute. Their sensors indicate no life forms in the immediate area – humans, mutant, or otherwise. Internal cloaking devices operational, no discernable resistance expected. They then alert the prime unit that the perimeter is clear.
At that moment, a vehicle arrives carrying the prime unit. The man that steps out of the vehicle marvels at what is happening. In more ways than one, he dares to say that looking out at this, this den of iniquity, this “home” that stands as a mockery of all thing human – he can only reflect upon how far he has come since his own humble beginnings. By the light of the holographic images which so brilliantly display the X-Men’s final flight from justice (the fiery crash of their jet) he cannot help but savor the blessed irony of it all. How much more sweet would be the fruit of retribution on behalf of humanity if these mutants understood that in a very real way he owes his creation, his very existence to them and their kind. His name is Bastion, and he is a man on a mission.
Driven by the conviction that mankind is on the brink of an evolutionary abyss, he has spent the past several months building the anti-mutant task force called Operation: Zero Tolerance. Now, his crusade is about to come to fruition. He then asks for all field units to report. One by one, each of his Sentinel units inform him that mutant designates Storm, Cannonball, and Cyclops have all been neutralized. Mutant designates Phoenix and Wolverine condition to be determined. Bastion tells them that to that, his brothers and sisters, he says amen.
On the television, Roger Kren tells the viewing public that he can’t help thinking that he’s looking at the beginning of a very dark time for the American people. Henry Peter Gyrich interjects and says that perhaps what they are seeing is a people, a race, working together to take destiny in their own hands. In the Long Island home of the Drake family, there’s every indication that not everyone in the country shares this view. Specifically, the X-Man, Bobby Drake and his father, William, recently the victim of violence in defense of his only son. Bobby says to his son that he knows he promised that he’d stay with him until he got better, but… His father tells him that he has to do what he has to do. He adds to give them one for him, Iceman. As Bobby turns into his ice form, he tells his dad that he will. He begins to tell his father something else but his dad tells him he knows. As he hugs his son, he tells him to go make him and his mother proud. With that, Iceman takes off from the house.
At Salem Center, Bastion orders command to open a channel to Xavier. Somewhere in the New Mexico desert, in a facility which formerly housed the Hulkbuster base a holographic channel is opened up to a cell buried several hundred feet beneath ground level. One which is occupied by Professor Charles Francis Xavier, founder of the Uncanny X-Men, currently remanded to federal authorities in the wake of Onslaught. Bastion asks Xavier if he recognizes the door he is standing in front of. Xavier does immediately, it’s his school. Xavier mentions that it was impossible for him to extract the codes from his mind, he said so himself. He asks how did he…
Bastion tells him that he used an alternative – someone whose normal psionic defenses were not as “mature” as his. He then tells Xavier to be silent or he’ll miss the best part. Eventually, Bastion makes his way to Xavier’s “war room.” He says to Xavier that from there he sat and planned his confrontations with all those that stood in the way of his goal. He tells him not to get him wrong; he fully understands that his intentions were noble. History is very kind to him in that way. But the fact remains, he failed. And that failure will ultimately cost every one of them unless changes are made now. Changes the weight of which came to rest upon his shoulders the moment he became a man.
He tells Xavier to understand him then when he says he takes no joy in this. Bastion tells the computer that he is Charles Francis Xavier and asks it to acknowledge. After a brief pause, the computer acknowledges. Bastion tells the computer to open all the files for the danger room schematics, the Xavier protocols, and for the mutant underground. Xavier informs Bastion that the files will do him no good; they’re all encrypted. They’ll mean nothing to him. Bastion replies naturally. He would have expected nothing less. But, they’ll break that encryption code, one file at a time. They can do that because they have all the time in the world. Bastion then tells Xavier that he wanted him to see it. But more than that, he wanted him to understand. His goal? His crusade? His sacred dream? It’s over.