Salem Center, New York. The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning.
“Been a long time,” Cyclops remarks, while driving his car, approaching the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Sitting in the car next to him, his wife, Phoenix, argues that it just feels like it every time they come back, no matter how long they’ve been gone. After all, this is the only home either of them knew for so many years, since the moment their mutant powers first manifested – the moment they had to begin hiding what they were from humanity, from their friends, from their family. She asks Scott if he’s sure he’s ready for this.
Cyclops wonders aloud whether they have a choice. According to Storm, Professor Xavier’s in bad shape. Frustrated and worn down by the strain of the last few months – his imprisonment, Cerebro’s betrayal, Magneto’s rise to power in Genosha – the X-Men’s failure to save the Skrull homeworld must have been the last straw. Maybe even enough to break him… “Again,” Jean grimly reminds him, alluding to the Onslaught ordeal. Scott insists that the Professor needs them now, just like they all needed him when they first got here.
Jean wonders: what if it’s too late, though? She’s picking up a riot of emotions from inside, but nothing from the Professor himself. It’s been a while now, in fact. She’s been trying to connect with him telepathically since Ororo’s call and she just keeps hitting the same brick wall.
As Scott stops the car in front of the mansion and they get out, Jean recalls that Charles has been so much to so many of them. Father, mentor, friend, he always seemed so strong and sure, almost indestructible… until recently, at least. What if they expected too much of him all along? Could they have given him more support? Should they have been there for him? “Instead of trying to build our own lives finally, setting out to make a place for ourselves, and the family we want, in the world he taught us to fight for?” Scott retorts. “Hard one to call, Mrs. Summers, you tell me,” he remarks and then grabs the doorknob and enters the mansion.
The team is in the hall, bickering among themselves, everyone conspicuously upset. Gambit, carrying a backpack, is about to depart, ignoring his teammates’ pleas. Storm insists he’s overreacting, as usual. If he would simply sit down and talk to them about… Uninclined to persuasion, Gambit violently cuts her off and argues he’s done talking about it! He’s done with Xavier altogether now… done and gone! Marrow declares she’s right behind Remy. “Sorry, Sarah, but…” Remy is about to retort but Sarah interjects: “Ears up, Cajun!” She stresses there’s no way he’s leaving her alone with that old ba…
Colossus intervenes and assures her she’s hardly alone here. He also reminds her that her body has undergone a major transformation recently, so it would be best to stay with the X-Men until they can confirm her full recovery. Next to him, Rogue remains eerily silent, merely watching as Remy is about to take leave.
Standing nearby, Shadowcat, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are commenting on Gambit’s imminent departure. Kitty admits she can’t help feeling sorry for Rogue. “I mean, look at all the girl’s not sayin’…” she remarks. However, she confesses she’s starting to think Gambit’s got the right idea. Xavier’s become so rigid lately… so bitter… maybe they should all be getting out of here while they still can. Kurt implores her to try and calm down. He stresses that the Professor is merely tired and on edge, like the rest of them; perhaps more so. Burnt out, as Kitty would say. Lighting a cigar, Wolverine urges them not to kid themselves: Xavier’s a lot more than that. He reminds them he spent time in Chuck’s head lately and he isn’t going nowhere n…
“Stop! Stop this now! All of you!” Jean’s telepathic voice suddenly screams in everybody’s head, striving to dissolve their altercation. Equally disturbed and angry, Scott wonders what the heck is going on – are they all out of their minds? Hypnotized by Mesmero, maybe, or bewitched by Selene? “Perfect. Jus’ perfect,” Remy notes, his voice colored with bitterness and irony. He gibes that the teacher’s pets are here to save the day and show them little tadpoles how to behave. “Whoa… whoa…” Scott takes huff at Remy’s aggressiveness. “Forget it, Summers… de crazy ol’ goat all yours,” Remy blurts out. Sarah seconds that: they’re out of here!
“Not “we”, kiddo. Not this time,” Remy dashes her hopes. “Remy, please…” Sarah starts pleading him. Gambit retorts that he brought enough trouble down on her already by leaping without looking. He instructs her to stay here for now, with Colossus and the others. He promises he’ll be in touch soon as he gets settled. As he drives off with his motorcycle, he addresses Colossus, as he if were there, in front of him, and asks him to stick close to Sarah and take care of her always… she’s worth it.
Following Remy’s leave, silence falls. Scott is the first to break it. He realizes they walked in on the middle of something – and he’s sorry about that, he asks them to believe him – but he’s hoping the details can wait until Jean and he have the chance to talk to Professor Xavier. “My apologies, Scott, but the Professor asked that you wait as well,” Ororo catches him off guard. She explains that he only wishes to speak to Jean. “Wh-wha… why…?” Cyclops stammers, at loss to understand. Jean reassures him she’ll be fine and asks him not to worry. How bad can it be, after all?
Meanwhile, in a house far from there, a frightened Nina, surrounded by the rest of the strange-looking Mannites, clings to her doll bunny, while wondering: where’s Dr. Renee? Where are they? Headcase admits he doesn’t know, adding that they can’t stay, anyway. Darco explains that’s why Glub brought Nina here. Nina’s been everywhere, she knows everybody… Glub hastily apologizes: he didn’t mean to gobble Nina up so fast like that! Totem tries to justify their actions by telling Nina they were in trouble – big trouble – and they can never go back home again!
“I know. Sorta,” Nina replies. She reveals that something really, really bad is coming. She can’t picture it, not for sure. It’s more like she feels it behind her eyes, inside her thoughts, like a jumble of colors – ugly, rotten, smelly colors. Grace assures her they’ve all felt it. In their own different ways, each and every one of them Mannites has been having their own share of these visions. Nina asks them if they all ran away from home. “You ran away first,” Totem harshly berates her. “Totem…!” Headcase rebukes him. “She did,” Totem insists.
Grace thinks Nina has to meet their latest, even their last. She presents Nina with a baby sleeping in a cradle, a baby of lidless, dark purple eyes with no pupils… Beautiful Dreamer. She informs Nina that the baby sees tomorrow and talks about it today. However, he must have seen something horrible yesterday. Something so horrible that he’s so scared to wake up now! Still, she believes Nina can help him, like she did with that old one back where they were locked up. “Charlie…? You know about Charlie?!” Nina exclaims in surprise. Grace reveals that the Dreamer saw what Nina saw, when she cut out with Xavier. Nina explains that Charlie helped her as much as she helped him; they had to help each other.
An utterly confused Cyclops asks Storm what this is all about. Why all the secrecy and closed doors? She’s the only one Xavier’s confided in so far as he can tell, so he pleads her to talk to him already and tell him the truth: is it a resurgence of Onslaught? “Absolutely not,” Storm rules out his suspicions. She is confident that Charles has purged these demons, quite literally, as he has repeatedly assured them all. He is no longer capable of becoming such a monster. Why would Scott think otherwise? Scott claims that he wants to believe that Charles is strong again; stronger than ever. On a second note, though, as his voice gets lower, he confirms that maybe he just wanted to believe that because he had other plans…
Just then, Jean exits Xavier’s study. “Jean…? How is he?!” Cyclops asks her. “Better see for yourself, Scott,” she enigmatically replies and informs him he’s asking for him now. Scott hesitantly complies and enters Xavier’s study, asking him if everything is okay here. The Professor’s back is turned to him, as he gazes outside the window.
Meanwhile, Rogue is packing her things, telling Kitty that she just needs a break; some time in the city, around strangers. She feels it’s like they’re permanently under siege lately, from enemies and each other. Like they are just sitting around waiting for the next crisis to hit. However, Rogue wants to be a normal person for a while, even if it’s just pretending. For the first time in months, there’s no emergency hanging over their heads – and the others can get in touch if a problem does crop up.
Rogue suddenly has an idea: why doesn’t Kitty come with her? Kitty admits it sounds great, but she can’t go bail out on Nightcrawler right now. She’s worried about him. She’s not sure he realized how difficult it would be coming back here, how big a change it would be from Excalibur. Kurt was the team leader – he made it his life, for so long – and then he thought they could just fit right back in here again but…
“You’re jus’ making excuses now, Kitty,” Rogue cuts back with a smile and grabs her arms. After all, they can invite Kurt along! Book a hotel, live on room service… and par-taay! “Okay, I’m there!” a convinced Kitty enthusiastically exclaims. “Phase one… straight down through the floor…” she jokes as she indeed phases through the floor, only to add “… but phase two could get a little sticky…”
In Colossus’ bedroom, a frustrated Peter tells Kurt that he doesn’t even know where to begin. One moment, Sarah is warm. The next, she is wild… Kurt notes that the two need not be mutually exclusive. Peter admits that Sarah is a remarkable girl. He has no doubt of that. Wonderfully passionate. Colorful. But it was difficult enough to reach her already and now that she has experienced such a radical physical metamorphosis, he’s not sure he knows who she is anymore. Kurt is not sure she does either. He suspects that is the true problem. He tells Piotr that all he can do now is wait. Marrow will only accept the help she herself chooses.
Kitty suddenly phases through the ceiling and tells the boys that a change of scenery could make the difference: who’s up for a road trip? She announces that she and Rogue are heading for the Big, bad Apple and they’ll take all the company they can get. “Now?!” Nightcrawler exclaims in shock. He retorts that, under the circumstances, a vacation seems most inappropriate, almost disloyal. Kitty reminds him this place survived without them for years; the X-Men managed just fine.
Colossus adds that perhaps Sarah might benefit from a new environment, temporarily. “But the Professor’s condition…” Nightcrawler retorts. “Is nothing more than exhaustion,” Kitty insists. “Remember ‘Dr.’ Wagner?” she reminds him what he said earlier. After all, Professor Xavier couldn’t care less about them being here just now. They aren’t even allowed to see him. She thinks Scott, Jean and Ororo can handle him for a while. Best thing the rest of them can do, though, is get out of their faces.
In her room, inspecting herself in the mirror, Marrow tries to convince herself that she can do this. She did it once already, for Xavier. She just has to do it for herself now. She just has to concentrate, the way ‘baldy’ taught her; the way he drilled into her, over and over again. She begins focusing on the ‘horns’ – the bones protruding on her forehead. She focuses through the pain and maintains her focus… and finally succeeds in pulling her bones back into her forehead! “Wow,” she exclaims, as she sees her face in the mirror. She is unable to believe she made it, when suddenly she hears a knock on the door. “N-nooo… Grrn… Not now!” she growls but it is too late, as she loses her focus and her ‘horns’ resurface on her forehead.
She opens the door and sees Colossus standing on the threshold. Piotr asks her if everything is all right. There is something he hoped to discuss with her, but if this is an inopportune moment… Sarah asks him to do them both a favor and cut to the chase. She urges him to just tell her which of the house rules she broke this time and who exactly she has to maim to get some space around here!
In outer space, Bishop tells Deathbird this was a mistake. Despite its strikingly humanoid shape, this planetary body the two of them are currently on appears to be dead and there is no indication anything here can get them to Earth any faster. Deathbird retorts that the sensor-readings that drew them here revealed terrestrial D.N.A. traces; fossilized but terrestrial mutant D.N.A. Also, according to the readings, the atmosphere is oxygen-rich, perfectly suited to carbon-based organisms. She wonders: is not Bishop intrigued in the least?
Bishop admits he’s more curious about her sudden scientific curiosity. He’s known her longer than most and even better than she suspects. Unless there is a reason for this detour – one she’s ready to admit out loud – they should just chalk it all up to a technological malfunction and head high again. He argues there’s clearly no life here; perhaps there never was. Deathbird retorts that if he must continue to doubt her, perhaps he would begin by explaining that… and points him to a rocky, pyramidal construction nearby. “Fair enough,” Bishop complies and suggests they get a closer examination. However, as they approach it, Bishop reminds her it’s been months since he’s seen Earth. If this thing isn’t directly connected to home somehow, then he’s still not interest…
“…Hold back!” he suddenly cries, scrutinizing the pyramid. He informs her there’s something… someone… inside. “Yes,” Deathbird agrees. She explains she went to a lot of trouble to arrange this rendezvous. “Rendezvous…?” Bishop repeats in confusion. “Wh…?” he is about to enquire when Deathbird shoots him with an energy weapon, effectively neutralizing him. “Frankly, human, I got a better offer,” she declares, standing above the unconscious mutant.
Back to the mansion, most of the X-Men are about to depart, intent on enjoying some time off the team. Marrow keeps bubbling, telling Colossus that Boston’s in a completely different state, so if they’re going to drive the whole way, out in the open, across a bunch of borders, she figures they’re definitely going to need fake passports or something! “She’s all yours, Rasputin. Best o’ luck,” an amused Rogue quips. Piotr, carrying almost everyone’s luggage, insists she’s welcome to join them – more than welcome! A smiling Kitty advises him to give it up. This ship’s sailing south with a crew of three. “C’mon, ‘crawler… all aboard!” she wails in excitement.
A bit behind, Nightcrawler discusses with Wolverine and Storm. Kurt insists that it is not yet too late. If Ororo has any reservations at all about their departing right now… “Of course not, Kurt,” Ororo allays his fears. They have earned a rest. She’s confident they all need it and a recess might serve to diffuse the current stress. “Even if it’s the easy way out,” Wolverine grumpily remarks: sneaking off while Xavier’s busy with Jeannie and Scott.
Cyclops and Phoenix join them. “What’d we miss now, Logan…?” Cyclops wonders, seeing everybody ready to depart. Storm explains that Nightcrawler and the others are taking a well-deserved break from their ranks… effective immediately. “Good idea, actually,” Cyclops endorses their decision. Jean thinks it’s a perfect timing, too. Nothing looming on the horizon here. No outstanding threats to speak of…
“But what of their training, Jean?” an unshaven and dour Xavier retorts, suddenly making his entrance. He wonders: is this what he has done, what he has created? Are these the X-Men he struggled and sweated to forge, to mold, into a force to be reckoned with? Quitters and cowards who run off when the pressure is on?
Jean intervenes and tells the Professor that he should be resting: he is ill. Xavier retorts that this is what they would all like to think, apparently, but it’s far from the truth. He’s simply making a stand, here and now, maintaining his commitment to his old cause. He refuses to allow his values to be diluted by anyone, for any reason. He cannot afford to allow it. He built this team for a purpose – a purpose which has not changed – and he can build another in their place. “Go on then…” he urges them, “and stay gone.” “Mein gott…” Kurt mutters in shock. “Go, my friend,” Ororo urges him. It is for the best at the moment…
In shock, Cyclops interjects and asks Xavier to hang on: he can’t talk to them like that! Most of these X-Men have been loyal to him for years now. “As were you once,” Xavier somberly retorts. He stresses, however, that Cyclops has made his position all too clear. He wants to retire, to raise a family of his own, correct? He assures Scott he does not hold it against him. He asks him to do what he must and leave him to do the same. He then bids them all farewell and departs, with a grieving expression in his face, followed by Storm and Wolverine.
Elsewhere, Nina touches Beautiful Dreamer and admits she doesn’t really understand her special stuff… except what Charlie taught her. Curious, Headcase wonders what he taught her. Glub shushes him. Nina explains that Charlie just taught her to try, that’s all, and to keep trying until…
Suddenly, still touching Beautiful Dreamer, Nina’s eyes are peculiarly lit up and a monstrous face is momentarily reflected in them, just as Nina hears a single word echoing through her head repeatedly: “Die! ” “Nnnooo!” she screams, breaking her contact with the baby, almost falling back. “Get her,” Glub exclaims. Darco grabs her, just as Totem asks her: what is it? What’s coming after them? How can they stop it? Catching her breath, Nina admits she doesn’t know. She’s seen nothing like that before. She’s got to find Charlie!
At the mansion, conversing with Logan and Ororo in his study, Professor X argues there’s no sense wasting time. If he’s to organize a new team, they’ll need to begin drawing on the other students of their canon. Logan gets what he means: finding out who’s ready to move from the minor leagues to the majors. He stresses that he can help there. He asks Charles whether he should start with Generation X up at the Massachusetts Academy, or he thinks…
“I would think you’d have plans of your own, Wolverine,” Xavier interposes. “Me too,” Wolverine admits. However, he confesses that maybe he’s more stubborn than the others or maybe that mindlink he and Xavier shared had more of an effect on him that he realized. Bottom line: he’s here for the duration. “Truth be told, Logan… I don’t want you here,” Xavier catches him off guard. He justifies this by explaining he saw inside Logan’s thoughts, as well, and they have absolutely nothing in common. Wolverine’s basic nature is completely beyond his comprehension; he just can’t trust him. A resentful Logan insists he’s only offering once: does Xavier want his help or not? Xavier clarifies that if that is how Wolverine wishes to phrase it, no, he doesn’t. “Right,” Logan frowns and immediately departs. Undaunted, Xavier tells Storm that, as it stands now, he would prefer she approaches X-Force first…
Outside the mansion, Cyclops and Phoenix are bidding their farewells to the others. Marrow is already in one of the cars, grouching whether they can we get a move on here, trying to get Rogue off the hood of the car! “Sensitive as ever, gal,” Rogue quips. “But to the point, as always,” Kurt comments and assures Scott and Jean that this is not the end. It can’t be, Kitty agrees, as she gets inside the other car. Jean argues that life’s about change; that’s all she can say.
“And you never know, maybe in a day or so…” Cyclops is about to say. However, just then Piotr intervenes and tells him that, before they go their separate ways, he’d like to ask him one thing: does he truly plan to ‘retire’ from this life? Scott admits it’s not so much a plan, more like a dream. His own dream: to find a life of his own, with Jean, and raising kids. Nothing more than a normal, real life. As the guys take off, however, Scott admits to himself that some dreams die of neglect… and some die before they’re even born.
Elsewhere, Bishop wakes up in what appears to be a desert. “Where… more importantly… how?” he wonders as he gets up. This is not the site where that witch finally chose to ambush him, before he could turn on her. He notices that the terrain is similar enough but the starscape is decidedly different; downright familiar, even. And the very atmosphere itself is somehow richer… fresher… Suddenly, flabbergasted, he pauses before a sign which reads “Las Vegas, Nevada, 42 miles.”
Meanwhile, Nina concentrates, struggling to break through the wall in Xavier’s mind. “Please,” she incessantly repeats. Charlie had promised her he’d look out for her, always; he swore! She begs him to let her in. She’s so scared. All of them otherkin is so, so scared – same as him! As her astral form ventures an entrance into his mind, which is protected by sharp, unfriendly blades, she hopes that Charlie won’t hurt her… He’d never hurt… Couldn’t… Suddenly, she slips right into a turbine.
Back at the mansion, a berserk Wolverine argues that Xavier is nuts, more nuts than a fruitcake! Logan offered his help and Xavier basically told him to take a flying trip! Scott reminds him that, whatever’s wrong with the Professor, he seems to trust Storm and for now, at least, they’ll have to trust her to watch out for him…
Suddenly, Nina’s psi-form emerges from right within Jean’s mind, telling them that she needs Charlie; the Mannites need their help now! “Who… who are you, child? What are you so afraid of?” an astounded Jean asks her. Nina recognizes her: she’s one of Charlie’s X-Men, the really, really bright Phoenix. She asks her where Charlie is. Jean replies that Charles is… unavailable; recuperating, for now. “And I’m sorry, but the X-Men are…” she’s about to complete her phrase when Cyclops finishes it for her: “Here”. Wolverine seconds that: “Right here.” “We are the X-Men!” Scott snaps.