Five men stand atop their tank, as a township burns in the background. ‘So, you think that these boys have what it takes, Corporal Adrian?’ a general asks as he and Corporal Adrian stand before the men. ‘Yes, Sir’ Corporal Adrian replies, explaining that these guys have been in every bad place on Earth, and fought everything on two legs. ‘humph. And how exactly did you trick them into signing up for the procedure?’ the general asks. ‘Trick them? They requested it’ Corporal Adrian announces.
‘Six months post-op and not one of them has rejected the implants’ Corporal Adrian announces as he and the general enter a large warehouse, where the five men from Afghanistan are training. ‘Okay, you were right. Now stop gloating and tell me just exactly what it is the American citizens have spent their hard-earned taxes on’ the general declares. Corporal Adrian motions to a handsome blond man called Martin Helling, whose call sign is “Haste”. He is on a treadmill, and a monitor reveals that he is running at a speed of 220 miles per hour. Gone are his legs though, replaced by cybernetic lower limbs. ‘He can crack 200 MPH without breaking a sweat’ Corporal Adrian reveals.
A large man in a singlet is introduced as James Cole, a.k.a. Brawl, as the corporal explains that sub-dermal force fields make him invulnerable. ‘The fact that he knows seventeen different hand-to-hand combat styles makes him scary’ the corporal adds. Turning to a small skinny man, the general declares ‘That one doesn’t look like much’, while the corporal introduces him as “Mass”, and points out that looks can be deceiving, as Mass drops from a platform onto a car - smashing it as he lands on it. The corporal adds that density control enables him to increase his weight a hundred-fold, and makes him practically bullet-proof. ‘Huh. Nice’ the general replies.
Next up is a robot, who the corporal introduces as the one-man-army called the Crimson Commando. ‘I’m told there is at least part of a man in there, but I can’t say how much for certain’. The new Crimson Commando fires weapons at several targets, while the general reports that they are impressive, before pointing out that he thought there were five. ‘I’m pretty sure I paid for five’ he adds. ‘Ah, yes…that’s very astute of you, Sir’ the general replies, as suddenly, his form begins to change, into a man with dark skin, wearing a black and red costume. ‘You may call me Shift. And you can probably guess what I do’.
‘Freedom Force, eh? Look a bit different from the last blokes by that name’ Chamber a.k.a. Jonothan Starsmore thinks to himself, deciding that their sudden appearance is likely to complicate this little rescue mission. Chamber is with several of his teammates in the X-Men - Ororo “Storm” Munro, Bobby “Iceman” Drake, Megan “Pixie” Gwynn and Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel. Storm readies some lightning, while telling the new Freedom Force to hang on, ‘We are here to help this young man. There is no need for violence. He needs medical attention’ she points out. Shift steps forward and replies ‘Why don’t you let us decide what the boy needs’ and announces that, as of this minute, the boy is under arrest, and to be remanded to their custody by order of the United States Government.
Pixie holds onto the boy in question - Owen Backes, who recently discovered he is a mutant. Chamber tells himself that things look as if they are about to go pear-shaped, and informs Freedom Force that the kid was attacked, and that he was only trying to protect himself. Shift transforms into Cyclops, ‘Yeah, sure kid. Just like this guy, right?’ he jokes, while Owen starts to wake up. ‘What’s going on?’ he asks. Shift smiles and transforms into Professor Xavier, asking the X-Men if they will find it easier to take orders from someone looking like this. ‘Either way, you have until the count of three’ he tells the X-Men. ‘Ah, c’mon, we all know where this is headed’ Chamber replies as his powers flare up. Storm is unimpressed, and tells the X-Men to pick an opponent and engage, and to form a wedge around the boy.
The X-Men do as instructed, with Chamber moving towards Brawl, Iceman approaches the new Crimson Commando, Storm confronts Haste, Angel flies towards Shift, still posing as Xavier, leaving Pixie with Mass, while Owen lies on the ground behind them. The police officers nearby observe the action, and one of them asks his chief if they should do something. ‘Are you kidding, Thompson? I think we might be out of our element here’ the chief replies. At that moment, Crimson Commando raises an arm that has shifted into a large weapon, ‘Initiating combat sequence. Target acquired’ he calls out as he aims the weapon at Iceman. ‘Seriously? That’s the beast you can do? The old Crimson Commando was a lot scarier. And he was, like, a thousand years old!’ Iceman jokes as he raises an ice-shield to deflect the bullets fired at him. The new Crimson Commando realizes that his target is comprised of organic ice, and switches to a linac coherent light source array. ‘Warming up…’ he begins as the weapon hums.
‘What the hell?’ Owen asks as he tries to sit up. Pixie stands over him, while Mass suddenly leaps into the air. ‘Where are you going?’ Pixie calls out as she flies after him. Suddenly, Mass grabs her, ‘What the -’ Pixie begins, while Mass smiles and explains that he is altering his density a bit, and ask Pixie if she can fly carrying ten tons? Pixie cannot, and begins to fall - slamming into the ground, creating a large crater, thanks to the weight of Mass. Owen gets to his feet now, and sees Chamber approach Brawl. ‘All right, mate. Let’s see what you can do’ Chamber calls out, while wondering why he wound up with the guy built like a trick. Chamber releases a blast of bio-nuclear energy, controlled through the large “X” on his chest, and the energy pours onto Brawl, while Jono reminds himself to take it easy after what he did to Sabretooth in the Danger Room.
Brawl grins once the energy vanishes, ‘I really hope you can do more than that, or I ain’t even gonna break a sweat’ he declares. ‘Whoa’ Owen gasps. Chamber closes his eyes and pinches the top of his nose, ‘So, it’s gonna be one of those days then, innit’ he mutters. ‘You wish to take the boy?’ Angel asks Switch, who is still posing as Professor X. ‘Wish has got nothing to do with it, son. We have orders’ Switch replies. ‘And taking the form of our dead friend, is this also an “order”?’ Angel enquires. Switch transforms into Angel’s former appearance, Archangel, and asks if this is better. Blankly, Angel replies that he is sure that would be very upsetting to him if he had an recollection of his past, but it is just a face and doesn’t mean anything to him. Switch returns to his default form and replies ‘Oh well, let’s just go with psionic, then’ and Angel falls to his knees, clutching his head and screaming in agony as Switch attacks him mentally.
Storm hovers before Haste, wind blowing around her and lightning crackling, while Haste supposes that there is no point in asking her to stand down and call off her team, to which Storm tells him ‘There is not’. Haste sighs and declares that they had better get this over with then, and speeds towards Storm, ‘But don’t say I didn’t try this the easy way’ Haste remarks as he punches Storm repeatedly, and at high-speed, until she falls to the ground., Haste squats down near Storm and announces that there is no honor in hitting a woman.
Suddenly, the new Crimson Commando fires his weapon, which blasts right through Iceman, cutting his body in two. ‘Okay, the gloves are off, then’ Bobby calls out as he quickly re-forms his body, ‘Let’s see if we can’t do something about that armor’ he decides, as the Crimson Commando finds himself frozen in a block of solid ice. At the same time, Mass looks up from within the crater. Police cars are scattered on the edge of the crater, ‘Where did she -’ he calls out, before Pixie appears overhead, ‘Hooray for teleportation!’ Pixie exclaims. ‘Here, try this!’ she tells Mass as she blows some pixie dust over him. He coughs as it comes into contact with him, and then he screams in fright as he has visions of prehistoric predators looming towards him.
‘You’re out of your weight class here, Chamber’ Brawl declares as he lumbers towards Chamber, who replies ‘I’m an X-Man. I’m never outclassed’. He tells himself that he has to make sure he doesn’t overdo this and melt Brawl. Brawl grabs Chamber and announces that he was hoping Wolverine was with them. ‘You and me both, mate’ Chamber thinks to himself, as Brawn slams him to the ground. Owen looks around, car parts fly around him, and he thinks that this is all happening too fast. ‘How am I even doing this? I can feel my body rebuilding itself’. He decides that he just needs a minute, some time to figure out what I going on. Brawl forcers Chamber to the ground, ‘Think here. Quickly before this bloke chokes us out’ Jono tells himself, while Bobby slides nearby on an ice-sled. Chamber knows that he has to do this just right, and as he releases another surge of energy, shouts ‘Bobby! Now!’ and Bobby catches Brawl in a wave of ice, trapping him. ‘You got no leverage now, son’ Chamber exclaims, hoping that will hold him.
Mass cowers under the side-effects of Pixie’s dust, while Haste speeds away from Storm, who follows, firing lightning bolts at him. Owen stands nearby, when suddenly, a voice calls out to him - he turns, and sees his girlfriend, Maddie. ‘Owen, we need to get you some help’ she tells him. ‘Help? I don’t understand. I thought you were…’ Owen’s voice trails off, as the X-Men gather around him, while Maddie declares that the X-Men are terrorists. ‘You saw what their leader Cyclops did’ she reminds him. ‘What the hell are you doing, you psycho?’ Chamber calls out. ‘Someone tell me what is going on!’ Owen exclaims. Storm informs Owen that this is not his girlfriend, as she is dead. Owen once again asks someone to explain what is going on here, to which Maddie tells him that he smashed up a bunch od cop cars and these mutants are trying to get him to run off with them.
‘I didn’t mean to…I just don’t know what I did’ Owen replies as Pixie hovers overhead, and Haste approaches the group. But, looking at Maddie, he shouts ‘I’ll do it again if you don’t drop the disguise, mister. Maddie’s dead. I know that much’. Switch reverts to his default form, ‘Okay. Fair enough. Sorry, kid. It was a dirty trick’ he admits. Chamber tells Owen that, government or not, these guys are bad news, but Storm tells Chamber that Owen must make his own choice, as they aren’t here to kidnap him. ‘Fine’ Chamber mutters. Looking at his body, Owen tells everyone that he isn’t going to lie - he is really freaked out right now.
Owen turns to Switch, ‘Trying to make me think you were my dead girlfriend? That’s sick’ he declares. Switch tells him that he is sorry, explaining that he needed to get his attention, and that his abilities mimic images based on the thoughts of others. ‘Oh, come on’ Chamber mutters, while Switch reveals that Freedom Force was sent here by the United States government to get him home safe, and to help him develop his abilities. ‘We could use a man like you’ he explains. He adds that they don’t want to do that by forcing him, but tells Owen not to make any mistake - they will if they have to. Storm tells Owen to follow his heart here. ‘We are merely a school, not an army’ she points out.
Owen turns to the destruction that he has caused, seeing cars piled together and on fire. ‘What a mess. Somebody better tell coach I’m not gonna be able to play this week’ he mutters, before announcing that he is not ready to run off and ignore what he just did here. ‘And I’d like to serve my country if I can’ he adds. ‘Smart play, Owen’ Switch tells him, while Storm announces that they respect his decision and wishes him the best. Switch tells Owen that they will get him someplace safe so he can call his folks. ‘good luck, Owen. When you’re ready, come and see us’ Chamber calls out. Owen turns back to the X-Men, and tells them that maybe he will, but that right now, he wants to go home. Storm gives him some words of advice, telling Owen to be careful, as there will always by those who would have him use his gift unwisely.
Switch contacts General Kameron via communicator, and announces that they have the boy. ‘Good’ the general replies from his desk, ‘I’ve got some folks back here that are very eager to meet him’ the general announces, while a tall man in a suit, with a red and white mask stands silently against the wall, and Kade Kilgore, the new Black King of the Hellfire Club, reclines in a chair, hands behind his head, he smiles.
‘Well, that sucked’ Pixie calls out as she hovers over the other X-Men as they return to the jet. The Crimson Commando is still encased in ice, while the rest of Freedom Force make their way to their own vessel, with Owen. ‘Yeah, what the hell, Ororo?’ Chamber asks. Calmly, Storm points out that Owen made his choice, and adds that they were never going to force him to come with them, as that is not what the X-Men are about. ‘If the goddess wills it, we will see him again’ she adds. Chamber tells Storm that he wished he had her faith, while Iceman declares that Storm is right, they have to let the kids made up their own minds. ‘It is the dawning of a new era. Owen is just one of many’ Angel points out. ‘Next time, then’ Chamber suggests, while Storm announces: ‘Here’s to new beginnings. For everyone’