It’s ironic isn’t it? Jean Grey Summers has been to the ends of the universe and back, she has raced comets around the moon and has circled the globe at the speed of thought. However, she still cannot get a good night’s sleep the night before a long flight. If her husband, Scott Summers, knew that she was suffering from pre-trip insomnia, he would most likely pop open his stitches from laughing. Jean would laugh too, but telekinetic meditation takes a lot of concentration.
While Scott sleeps on a mattress and pillow, the only furniture in the entire room, Jean floats upside down, “sitting” Indian style with her eyes closed. In addition to meditating, she is doing a house cleaning of sort. Throughout the mansion, there is a lingering psychic detritus, similar to the stench of tar and nicotine on a coach after a smoker has been over. However, this residue has been left by Bastion and his Zero Tolerance forces. He took all their possessions and left nothing but psychic tarnish. While Bastion is long gone, his hatred remains.
With her telepathy, Jean begins to destroy any psychic remains of Bastion on the estate. Jean finishes and feels better about herself, but knows that getting rid of Bastion’s hate was only the easy part. Bastion was deadly but he did not leave as deep as a psychic scar as Remy LeBeau did. He was their friend, their teammate and just revealed to have been their Judas. Gambit’s “betrayal” has poisoned everyone’s thoughts, especially those of the woman named Rogue. Jean is troubled over how Rogue keeps on hiding her feelings, yet the untouchable woman still keeps a Queen playing card that Gambit once gave her. Unfortunately, X-Women tend to be stubborn, or at least that is what Jean has heard. Bishop, Gambit and Professor Xavier are gone. There is a lot of pain trapped in the halls of the institute. Everything has gone out of whack.
Below Jean, Scott begins to moan in his sleep. Just as Jean thinks to herself that maybe they shouldn’t leave, Scott screams out in pain. Startled, Jean falls to the floor and lands on her butt. Jean gets up and asks her husband if he is all right. She felt his pain though their psychic rapport and…now she has bruised her behind while he has fallen back to sleep as if nothing has happened. Jean pulls the covers back over Scott and thinks about how the man can sleep through anything. He sleeps so confidently, as if he knows everything will be all right. He is lucky. She, however, is wide awake and is still stuck on the same nagging question: Will the X-Men hold it together?
Down in the kitchen, Cannonball, Cecelia Reyes, Beast and Iceman stop eating breakfast and look at Marrow in shock. Maggott is the only one who does not eat and simply looks out a window. Last time she was up in the surface, Marrow rudely says, she learned that staring was considered to be a bad manner. As Marrow dips her fingers back into a jar of honey, she asks the X-Men to take a picture and gawk at it later or she will snap their necks. “Somebody give me syrup,” she adds.
Beast and Cecilia, however, look at Marrow for a totally different reason. Cecelia transfixes her eyes on the large bone growth that is between Marrow’s eyes and covers her forehead and the bridge of her nose. Cautiously, Cecelia asks Marrow if the protuberance that grew overnight hurts. Sarcastically, Marrow says that she does not know. She then breaks off the bone and offers to drill it in Cecelia’s skull so she can tell her. Beast is astounded, while Iceman looks away in disgust covers his eyes. Interested, Beast asks Marrow if he can see the bone structure. Having had enough, Iceman gets up and asks if anyone wants his waffles. Cannonball decides to pass too.
Jean walks in and greets her friends, but is caught off guard by the sight in the kitchen. Enjoying the attention, Marrow tells them that, if they thought the last trick was great, then they are going to love this next one. Marrow picks up a bowl of food and dunks her head right into it, slurping and chomping on everything in it. Feeling ill, Iceman excuses himself, because he needs some air.
Beast and Cecelia, however, examine the bone piece. Beast decides that he will have to look at the castoff more closely later on to see how the calcium ossifies to create speedy, though disgusting, growth patterns on Marrow. Still transfixed on the bone, Cecelia mumbles that she would like to examine him with it later. Surprised, Beast tells Cecelia that it was very forward of her. Cecelia realizes her mistake and corrects herself, stating that she wants to examine “it.” Playing the role of the flattered bachelor, Beast tells Cecelia that all part of him are at her beck and all…after he kisses his lave goodbye, of course. “I said ‘examine it,” mumbles Cecelia, who finally gives up and says an embarrassed, “Oh, God…”
Cannonball turns his attention to Marrow, whose face is still in the bowl. The young X-Man tells Marrow that he knows she is not used to life outside of the Morlock Tunnels, but she is old enough to know how to use a spoon. Maybe she is, replies Marrow, who knows? Suddenly, Marrow throws the bowl away and screams that it is tough to count the birthdays when she is not allowed to see the sun. Eying the mess, she apologizes, because she just remembered that she doesn’t know how to use a mop either.
“Ag, she donnered you, boykie,” says Maggot to Cannonball. Cannonball has no clue what Maggot is saying, so the youth offers to repeat it again slowly. Jean says good morning to the two boys and asks if she is interrupting an intellectual conversation or some macho talk. “No static here, doll,” replies Maggot with a smirk, “Rich, maat?” Angered, Cannonball tells Maggot not to call Jean a doll, because she is a lady and deserves respect. Jean, smiling, tells Sam to make friends, not war. She turns to Maggot and tells him that she noticed he hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. Would he care to join her? Maggot leans back with his hands behind his head and explains that he doesn’t touch the stuff…unless of course it is served in bed, then they can talk. “Oh, boy…” mutters Jean. Shocked, Cannonball repeats to himself that he isn’t hearing this kind of dirty talk as he leaves the kitchen table.
Outside, Jean thinks about how Maggott and his two “pets” have decided to take up residence in the mansion, but she is uncomfortable since they don’t even know the boys’ real name. Who are they? What do they want? She doesn’t sense a consciousness when she scans the creatures, but there must be some thought buzzing around in there. Can she and Scott leave before finding out what those maggots are thinking?
Out in a stable on the estate, Storm removes a block of concrete from the ground, while Wolverine smokes a cigar and stares up. Exerting force to lift the concrete, Storm asks Wolverine if the sky decided to fall while she was not paying attention. Wolverine sniffs the air and explains that he smelled the new, strange, unfamiliar scents. He admits, he doesn’t like the newcomers. They smell like trouble. Jokingly, Storm tells him that it is a wonder that he can smell anything aside from his cigar smoke. Storm moves the concrete piece, with a lightning bolt chiseled on it, aside. Storm explains to Wolverine that they must give their visitors the benefit of the doubt and trust the instincts of their teammates for now. Isn’t that what the X-Men are about? Sure, replies Wolverine, is that why she is so annoyed about Marrow living in the basement? It must have slipped her mind to roll out the red carpet for the Morlock. Storm shoots Wolverine a dirty look. Taking another puff of his cigar, Wolverine tells Storm that it is hard to turn the other cheek when it is your cheek that is doing the turning. Having had enough, Storm tells Wolverine that he is fresh. He can leave her now, for she does not need his help.
Wolverine pops his claws, but offers to stay anyway. He begins to use his claws to dig through the dirt to help Storm, since he cannot mess up his manicure like hers…isn’t that right Jean, asks Wolverine. Impressed, Jean enters the barn and explains that she knows that she was downwind from him, so he couldn’t have smelled her. Also, she floated across, so there was no noise. How did he know she was there? There are some things that a man knows, explains Wolverine. Jean senses that Wolverine is tense, but does not say anything. Wolverine offers to give her and Scott a ride to the airport. Jean thinks to herself how Wolverine does not want her to leave, but would die before admitting it. Jean politely declines and asks what they two of them are doing.
Wolverine unearths a box and Storm explains that she is trying to determine what assets the X-Men have left. An asset other than Storm’s sense of humor of course, adds Logan. Lowly, Storm tells Logan that he is near her last nerve. Storm opens the box to reveal her old tiara, some gold jewelry and coins, and several lock picks. Jean is mesmerized by the jewelry and asks if they are real. Storm reveals that they are as the day she liberated them from their former owner. Storm puts on her tiara and tells her best friend that old habits die hard, no matter how much a person trusts their adopted family. An adept thief divides his or her equipment and earnings in multiple cases for extreme times.
Pessimistic, Wolverine tells Storm that, after she trades that gold for money, she better hide it under her pillow, because they don’t know who they can trust with all the unknowns in the mansion. Concerned, Jean asks Logan if he is that concerned about their guests. Wolverine tells Jean that he isn’t worried about himself, because at the end of the day he knows they have nothing he cannot handle. He turns around and asks the new arrivals if his assumption is right.
Jean and Storm turn to see Cannonball, Maggot and Cecelia in the barn with them. Cannonball apologizes for interrupting but explains that they were just heading into town and he wanted to see if anyone wanted to join them. Sam adds a desperate “please” at the end. Annoyed, Maggot tells the X-Men that they really know how to make a guest feel welcome. Sam tells Storm that Scott thought taking the new members into Salem Center would be a good bonding exercise. He got volunteered as the leader. Storm asks Sam if Maggott and Cecelia have been debriefed on the protocols regarding excursions into Salem Center. Maggot informs Storm that they are all hip to the proper X-Men etiquette in town. Sam asks if the also read the part about not giving lip to his superiors. Maggott admits that he hasn’t. He was distracted by the cigar smell. Wolverine puts on his hat and leaves the room and warns Sam to watch his back or he might start liking Maggott.
Tired of waiting, Cecelia tells the group that all she wants is real coffee, not the sludge that Iceman made that morning. If town is where the coffee is, then she is there ten minutes ago. She will read the protocols later on. Cecelia grabs Cecelia and tells her that there is no need for the attitude; they just need to make sure everyone is careful. From above, a raspy voice tells Cecelia that Jean is right. Jean thinks about how Marrow’s voice sucks the air out of the stables faster than any of them can process who is speaking. Marrow eyes them like a cat stalking its prey. Jean swears that if Scott looked into those eyes he would cancel their plane tickets in a heartbeat.
Marrow, who is on the rafters, explains to Cecelia that they are dangerous, nasty mutant who might scare the good taxpayers of Westchester. She jumps to the ground in front of Cannonball and tells Sam that she is hurt, because he forgot to invite her on his trip. Stuttering, Sam explains that he did not forget; they just don’t have any holographic projectors at the moment. Storm steps in front of Cannonball and tells Marrow that she is not allowed to roam outside the mansion grounds. It is a privilege she must earn first. Marrow understands what Storm means. They X-Men must keep the ugly mutants hidden in tunnels where they won’t offend anyone. Only the good-looking ones can roam. What if Marrow decides it is her right to choose where she goes. Will Storm kill her? Telepathically, Jean tells Storm that Marrow is trying to bait her in front of the others. She cannot play her game. Storm thanks Jean, but adds that she is quite capable of dealing with this child.
Wolverine comes back to the entrance of the stable to watch. Out loud, Storm tells the “miscreant” to listen, for she will only explain this once. Maggott suddenly interrupts and tells the Morlock that he really didn’t want to go into Salem Center anyway. Why don’t they hang back and compare sob stories. Marrow pushes Maggott’s face away with her hand and tells him to save it for Storm. She is the one who is going to need it. Marrow stalks out of the room as Maggott tells her that a simple “no thank you” would have worked well. Wolverine asks Storm if Marrow ruffled her feathers. In response, Storm crashes a bolt of lightning through the stable roof. Jean looks up at the hole and Wolverine asks her if there is room left on her plane.
At that moment, Sebastian Shaw, the Black King of the Hellfire Club, finds himself in his inner sanctum in Venice, Italy. Shaw looks at a holographic projection displaying the current changes in his companies stock compared to his competition. Shaw Industries is clearly in the lead. Shaw addresses his servant, Kiko, and tells her that, the tighter his grasp on the elements that will restore the Inner Circle to its former glory, the farther things spin out of control. The Tomorrow Agenda debacle nearly killed him. Black Air continues to act as a self-destructive group and, of course, there are those problems with Donald Pierce and Madelyne Pryor. Being the king isn’t as cracked up to be, isn’t it?
Of course not, answers Kiko, who asks Shaw if he is ready for his tea. Shaw confirms and asks for something sweeter later to help him relax. “Of course, my Black Ki—,” says Kiko, who suddenly freezes along with the tea she is pouring and the bird that was flying in front of her. A voice tells Shaw that time has stopped, for they need privacy. A figure enshrouded in darkness hands Shaw a message. Shaw is impressed and tells the man that seeing as he is not dead is a testament to his smooth break of his defenses. He also lauds the manipulation of the time-flow. He will allow the figure to answer one more question before his patience ends. Who is he? The figure tells him to read. Shaw opens the manila envelope and is shocked. You understand, states the mysterious figure. The figure leaves, but not before telling Shaw not to mention this meeting to anyone, for what was done to time can be done to the heart. Time resumes as normal and Kiko tells Shaw that his tea is ready. Shaw does not answer and simply places the letter, which has a gold Egyptian emblem on it, on the table.
Back at Xavier’s, Beast sits atop the hood of Iceman’s rental jeep and bids his girlfriend, Trish Tilby, ado. Beast jokingly tells Trish to make sure that Iceman’s foot doesn’t freeze to the accelerator and she should make it back to Manhattan in one piece. Iceman comments on how it was clever to make hood ornaments with motor-mouths, before he enters the jeep. Iceman tells Beast to hurry up, because he wants to beat the Long Island rush hour and get to his home for his mother’s stuffed macaroni. Trish adoringly tells Beast that she misses him already and asks that he call her soon. Beast promises that, as soon as Bell Atlantic rewires the school, he will bombard her with nothing but calls and e-mails. The two kiss. Iceman looks at them and is disappointed over losing his breakfast and now losing his appetite for dinner. Under his breath, he tells Beast not to knock out Trish’s tonsils; he has to pay extra if the upholstery of the jeep is damaged, too.
In Scott and Jean’s bedroom, Wolverine looks out the window and tells Scott that the two of them have always been straight with one another and, even though he is not in the best shape right now, the Canadian mutant cannot keep his lips tight. It used to be that the X-Men ran out to stop evil mutants. It was simple: bad guys on one side, them on another. However, post-Charles Xavier, it seems that they are leaving the coop open to the wolves. There are a stone cold killer, a self-loathing pacifist and a lethal freak show walking about the mansion and they know next to nothing about them. Wolverine admits to Scott, who lies in bed with bandages still wrapped around his waist, that he has no clue what the X-Men are doing.
Scott sits up in bed and tells Logan that the team will do what they always do: survive. For the moment, they will do so with some extra company. The X-Men have a responsibility to Cecelia or at least until she gets back up on her feet. Beast and Joseph vouch for Maggott. Taken aback, Wolverine apologizes. If Magneto vouches for Maggott then he must be a good guy. How many Gambits are they going to have before they get the message? Cyclops looks at Wolverine and recalls a certain wild card that he had begged the Professor to keep away from the school. Instead, Xavier offered Wolverine a hand and Cyclops is glad he took it. The Professor is gone, says Wolverine, and the last time he extended his hand it was to Sabretooth and Xavier nearly lost his hand.
Wolverine sighs and tells Scott that he doesn’t want to fight, but he is not the Professor or Cyclops. If Wolverine is going to watch the team while Scott and Jean are gone, then he should expect the rules to change. Scott openly admits that he doesn’t believe Logan. Logan tells Scott not to say that he didn’t warn him. Before leaving Logan tells Scott to look after Jean. Scott says he will and also tells Wolverine to have faith, because he does. He is in the minority then, says Logan to Scott.
In Salem Center, Cannonball, Jean, Maggott and Cecelia walk down the street to get some coffee. In front of them, a mother pulls her son, Brandon, along, because she doesn’t like the looks of Jean and the others. The excited son tells his mom that those “kids” are cool. The mother tells Brandon not to talk back to her and pulls him along. Under his breath, Brandon mutters that he wishes he was a mutant; then he could hang out with the cool kids.
Maggott tells Cannonball that they live in a very dull town. He sarcastically says that he is trying not to blink so he doesn’t miss anything. Annoyed, Sam tells Maggott that, if he doesn’t have anything nice to say, don‘t say anything at all. Didn’t he learn some manners? Tired of hearing Sam and Maggott rant on, Cecelia demands to get some caffeine soon. Jean tells Cecelia that they make a nice coffee at Harry’s Hideaway. Disgusted, Cecelia asks Jean if she is referring to the “rat hole” behind them. She could smell the salmonella from the street.
Jean ponders about Cecelia, who has her defenses high. She refuses to let anyone hurt her again. Jean supposes that having your life stripped away, because you are different will do that to a person. Besides giving her place to rest, Jean doesn’t know what the X-Men can do for Cecelia, especially when she blames them for losing everything she held so dearly. The group reaches a department store, but not before Cecelia notices the Salem Center Health Clinic. She rushes ahead and enters the store. Jean pities Cecelia; she has so much to offer, especially with her medical training…oh, my god, says Jean.
Sam and Maggott notice Cecelia stop and put her hands together as if praying. Maggott wonders what is going on and Sam jokes that there must be a sale on java. Cecelia simply tells the group to look. For a moment, Jean is paralyzed, though she is unsure if it is due to the psionic charge from the crowd, or its source. On the many television monitors in the room are broadcasts from all over the world. On those monitors are Earth’s mightiest heroes: the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Captain America. The heroes that the world once believed who died to stop Onslaught are alive and well. Jean has spent her life trying to block out the thoughts and emotions of others from penetrating her mind. However, just this once she lets the psychic dam crumble and allows the feeling of hope cascade through her as the crowd begins to clap. The hope washes over everyone and even unites Sam, Maggott and Cecelia, who actually smile. Strangers don’t seem like strangers anymore.
In Storm’s empty attic, the weather goddess uses her powers to water the one solitary hanging plant in the room. Wolverine tells her that all the new people they picked up during Zero Tolerance are staying based on Scott’s orders. They are the X-Men’s problem until Scott and Jean come back. Logan asks Storm about her game plan. No garden can flourish without plucking the weeds says Storm stoically.
In Cairo, Egypt, a plane is ready to lift off to Hamburg, Germany with connecting flights to the United States. As the plan is being boarded, no one seems to notice a man running across the runway towards a baggage car. The Egyptian man curses his slow legs. Before he collapses he throws the package, addressed to Ororo Munroe, into the baggage car. The man coughs out blood and realizes that he has found him. However, he has beat Ananasi. The bright one will come and stop him. The man then dies.
Jean’s group leaves Ashley’s department store silent. All are tingling in the feeling that they just felt inside the store and all is well until Maggott and Sam bump into each other, both accusing each other of being the bumper. Sipping her coffee, Cecelia tells the boys to relax. Sam mentions that Maggott hangs out with those slugs of his all day and doesn’t step on them. Cecelia reminds Sam that he is less coordinated than the slugs and then asks Maggott where the little slugs are anyway. As Maggott tells the group that he always keeps them close by, a homeless man near an ally hears a sound and looks into it to see some weird looking creatures. He leans into the ally and wonders if he could sell them. Suddenly, the creatures grab him and yank him into the alley, where slurping and chopping sounds are heard.
Later on, Jean and Scott dress for this plane trip. Scott is silent, until finally he tells Jean that he doesn’t think that they should be leaving. Jean pulls down her suitcases from the closet and asks if he really thinks so. Scott explains that some of the others are concerned. There are major issues to discuss and he needs a second opinion. What does she think about everything? Jean openly tells Scott that they don’t have all the resources. Some people don’t belong in the mansion. Others are falling apart. Impressed, Scott asks Jean if she was practicing this speech all day. Jean kneels by Scott’s lap and tells him that the X-Men have a history of coming up top when the odds are stacked against them. Though she loves being married to the big cheese, what she said is true with or without him. If he asked her this morning, she would have said they shouldn’t go. Scott asks Jean what changed her mind. Television changed her mind, replies his wife, and a shot of hope.
Outside, there is a standard goodbye from Cannonball, Storm, Beast, Cecelia and Maggott. Jean is certain that a bond may be forming between Cecelia, Maggott and the X-Men. As expected, Logan is absent, but that is because he isn’t good at goodbyes. Scott and Jean look back from their taxi at the institute. Scott asks Jean if she is okay. Jean confirms that she is and adds that she thinks they all are. If she knows the X-Men, by the time the two of them come back, things will be better than before they even left. All it takes is time.
In the basement, Marrow uses one of her bones to write on the brick walls. The Morlock mutters to herself about how Storm kept her from going on the trip outside and mentions that, if Storm pushes her around again, she should expect trouble. Wolverine lights a cigarette and asks Marrow what kind of trouble. Marrow tells Wolverine to leave, but the man refuses to. This is a school, not a cesspool like she is used to. Marrow is going to live in the basement. She has a lot to learn. The bell just rang and school is in.