At the Glory Day Ministry in Sedona, Arizona, two police officers inform Reverend William Connover that an altercation occurred in town involving his wife Hannah, the Brood, and the X-Men. They tell William that a group of large “beasties” attacked Hannah, and Hannah’s two companions transformed into beasties as well, but died defending her. The officers claim they themselves were saved by the sudden appearance of Cyclops and the X-Men, who escaped with Hannah. One of the officers asks William if he can tell them why they did that.
“No, I can’t,” William responds. “But I’m sure she’s in no danger from the X-Men, officer. I’ve met them before.” William then tells the officers about the time, a year or so earlier, when the X-Men saved his entire congregation from an attack by the Brood. “That’s what they stand for – protecting everyone’s lives. I can’t and won’t believe evil of them.”
“If you say so,” an officer responds “Have you noticed anything different about your wife lately?”
This question hits very close to home for William, who has felt nothing but pain and distance from his wife for some time now. “She’s…been a little distant,” William says. “She’s having nightmares but she won’t tell me what they are…”
William politely finishes his conversation with the policemen. He wanders over to one of the church tents, lost in his own thoughts. “Dear god, what is happening to you, Hannah?” he wonders. He continues over to a large, hanging cross in the tent, and kneels before it. “Lord, I don’t know if I’m being punished or tested or what. I ask only that you give me the strength and wisdom to see it through and accept whatever your will may be,” prays William.
“One other thing, if you don’t mind,” he adds. “Bring Hannah back to me, safe and sound.”
A few miles away, reasserts to the X-Men her belief that her death is the only solution to the Brood problem. She recounts the reasons why she must die. Suppressing the Brood within her is a constant struggle, and her death will serve as a sort of atonement for what she was done to her husband’s followers. She also warns that the Brood Empress will keep sending Firstborn assassins to kill Hannah until the job is complete. “I can’t hide. They can detect every move I make. How many of you will die trying to protect me? I can’t accept that,” Hannah says. “There is only one other choice – I have to die.”
“Sounds right to me,” Wolverine says while unsheathing his claws next to Hannah’s face. She doesn’t seem to be alarmed.
“No, Wolverine! The X-Men are about preserving life,” Cyclops says, restraining Wolverine.
Jean speaks up, agreeing with her husband. “Cyclops is right. She’s the only human we’ve met so far who has managed to resist the Brood influence. She’s holding on to her humanity.”
“For how long? By her own admission, it’s a losing battle,” Wolverine asks.
“Some of us have fought that ‘losing battle’…and won it, Logan,” Jean says.
Beast interjects into the argument, adding that they could learn from Hannah and eventually help others resist the Brood. Iceman points out that the team’s first encounter with the Firstborn was nearly fatal, and a second encounter would play out much the same way. This fuels Hannah’s argument that she needs to be killed. “I don’t want others dying for me!” she pleads.
Cannonball reaches out to Hannah and gently puts his hand on her shoulder. “Miz Connover, ah know you’re a godly woman,” he says to her. “What you’re suggesting is tantamount t’suicide and y’know what the good book says ‘bout that!”
Hannah remains unconvinced. “I also know what it says about laying down one’s life so others may live.”
One of Hannah’s Brood followers misinterprets Cannonball’s gentle gesture towards Hannah, and throws itself between the two. “Back off! Do not touch our Queen, human!” it says with disdain.
“Ah’m not lookin’ for a fight here…” Cannonball says while cautiously backing away.
“Maybe we are,” the creature retorts.
Hannah senses that this altercation may provide her with the diversion she needs to escape. She telepathically instructs her defenders to engage the X-Men in combat so she can escape. Jean also picks up the signal and tells Scott what is about to happen. As the Brood pounce on the X-Men, Hannah runs away, pleading for the X-Men to leave her alone as she escapes.
Before Cannonball can blast off, one of the Brood snares his neck with a tentacle and begins strangling him. Wolverine goes into a frenzy and tries to save Cannonball. His bloodlust does not go unnoticed by Jean, who telepathically restrains Wolverine instead of going after Hannah. “Logan, listen to me! Remember who you are!”
“Don’t hold me back, Jeanie! Brood is Brood, and they’re gonnakill Guthrie!”
“No! I can feel Hannah’s thoughts,” Jean reassures him. “Her Brood are under direct orders not to kill us, but merely to delay us until Hannah can get away. She’s sensed the firstborn nearby! The attack in town earlier was just a ruse to get Hannah and her Brood together so they could be killed at one time. She ran off to save us!”
After Jean says this, the Brood flee, indicating that they received another signal from Hannah. Wolverine takes off, following Hannah’s scent. Jean hurries after him. “I’m not sure whether or not he intends to kill Hannah when he finds her,” she says. “Neither is he.”
The rest of the X-Men split into pairs so they can find Hannah before nightfall. Storm instructs Beast to go with Iceman, Bishop to go with Cyclops, and tells Cannonball to come with her. “We will find Hannah Connover and her Brood, and then deal with the Firstborn,” Storm says.
“Or die trying,” Cyclops adds.
With that, Bishop comments that he will get his bigger gun. As Storm and Cannonball take to the skies, Cyclops asks Bishop whether or not he truly thinks the Brood are capable of changing. “Did you still have problems with the Brood in the future?” Cyclops asks.
“The past is a better guide to the present than the future, Cyclops,” Bishop responds. He does add, however, that there are legends about the Brood in the future, and says that Hannah may be the origin of those legends.
Meanwhile, Jean and Wolverine argue as they follow Hannah’s trail. Wolverine continues to assert that they should just let the Brood kill each other out in the Arizona desert, and then deal with the victors of the battle afterwards. Jean responds that the X-Men have a duty to help save Hannah’s humanity.
Iceman and Beast, who are also pursuing Hannah, have a similar conversation between themselves. After commenting that Wolverine’s feral, unbathed scent is much stronger than Hannah’s, Beast continues to discuss how much they could learn from Hannah. Iceman questions the logistics of saving Hannah from the Firstborn, and asks how much they will have to sacrifice in order to save her.
Storm and Cannonball also argue over whether Hannah is worth saving. Storm, however, reaches a point where she has had enough debate over the issue. “The X-Men have sworn to protect human life and she is, at least in part, still human. I am more disturbed by this debate between us. Do we start establishing parameters? That this life is worth saving but that one is not? In doing that, I fear we will lose what we are,” Storm says. “That ideal – the very essence of the X-Men – is worth fighting for, as much as the life of Hannah Connover.”
The sun begins to set behind the canyon walls as Hannah breathlessly runs away from her pursuers. She trips over a rock and crashes to the ground.
“Dear lord, what have I done that you forsake me this way?” Hannah asks as she lies on the ground. Suddenly, a figure appears before her.
“Best get up, miz Connover,” the figure says. It is a man from William’s church, and he is with a small group of followers. “Ya can’t lie there.” The man reaches down and helps Hannah off the ground. He offers to help her back to the tent. Hannah refuses, telling them that her death will bring them peace. The followers are stubborn, though, and remind Hannah that they owe their lives to her miracle hands.
“It would’ve been better for you all if you had died,” Hannah tells them. “Better to die clean that what I’ve made you.”
Suddenly, the three remaining Firstborn assassins appear and attack Hannah and her crew. Hannah’s friends change into their Brood forms, and defy the Firstborn, despite Hannah’s protests. They switch into their primal, instinctive modes, and attack the Firstborn without reservation. A part of them remembers what Hannah gave them, and they willingly lay down their lives in order to grant her an extension of hers. Hannah uses the opportunity to run, but she feels the deaths of each of her followers as she flees. “Randy, Edwina, Thomas, Maryanne, Felipe – all of you, all gone, all my fault, all my sin!” Hannah thinks to herself as she escapes. The Firstborn make quick work of Hannah’s Brood, and descend on her as she says her last prayer. She prays that her life ends at this moment, and her husband receives protection from the Firstborn. “Oh, William…I wish I could see you one more time…to tell you how much I love you,” Hannah thinks to herself as the Firstborn surround her.
The Firstborn tell Hannah to prepare herself for death. Hannah remains defiant. “I trust in the Lord and it is His will that will be done today – not yours or your Empress’s! I reject her, I deny her, and I will never give in to her!” she shouts. “So you best kill me now!”
As if an answer to her prayer, Wolverine springs forth just in time and begins slashing at the Firstborn. Jean gives him permission to take their lives, so Wolverine gives into his feral nature and fights the Firstborn with reckless abandon. He takes pleasure in the freedom of such a battle, while simultaneously feeling revolted at his own ferocity. However, his claws, lacking adamantium, fail to penetrate the armor of the assassins.
Jean, meanwhile defends herself and Hannah telekinetically. Their defense is aided by the battered remains of Hannah’s Brood. Jean telepathically contacts the rest of the team, who gather as quick as they possibly can. Cannonball arrives first, blasting through the Firstborn. Iceman and Beast arrive next, followed by Storm. Storm approaches Wolverine upon her arrival, but one of the Firstborn catch her unawares and opens its mouth as if to kill her. Just then, Bishop and Cyclops arrive, and Bishop shoots the Firstborn before it can take Storm.
The team once again realizes that their attacks are useless against the Firstborn. Bishop, no longer wanting to use his gun, tells Cyclops to initiate Plan B. “And what’s that?” Cyclops asks.
“Hit me with your most intense beam, Cyclops! NOW!” Bishop commands. Cyclops obeys, blasting Bishop with a full-powered optic blast. Bishop absorbs the charge, and charges towards one of the Firstborn. The creature turns to face him at the last second, mouth agape. Bishop throws a punch into its mouth. The release of kinetic energy is so intense that it blows the Firstborn’s jaw apart. However, it still lives.
“It’s still alive?!” Bishop remarks, also noting that he has no energy left. Wolverine springs to his aid, diverting the assassin while Storm hits it with a thunderbolt. Cannonball also charges in, but is slapped aside by another one of the Firstborn.
Even though this battle takes place miles from the Glory Day Ministry, William Connover and his followers see the exchange of energy taking place in the desert. One of the church-goers comments that it looks like the end of the world. “More like a sign from God,” William thinks to himself as he readies his jeep. He heads out to the battle suspecting Hannah must be there as well.
Meanwhile, back at the battle, another of Hannah’s Broodlings emerges and attacks on of the Firstborn. It is quickly defeated, and falls to the ground, dying. Iceman approaches him in his dying moments, and tries to lower the dying man’s body temperature in order to preserve his life. However, the man quickly passes away.
“We have to spirit Hannah away somewhere,” Jean says. “It should cause the Firstborn to withdraw…give us time to figure out what to do.” With that, she pushes the Firstborn away with a telekinetic burst, and then lifts Hannah out of the battle. Cannonball catches his subtle cue, grabs Hannah, and blasts off. The Firstborn watch for a moment, perplexed, but then disappear in the blink of an eye. The X-Men take this brief respite to gather themselves. While Wolverine’s body heals, Iceman berates himself for letting the man die.
“I couldn’t save him, Hank. He just died right there, practically in my hands,” Iceman says. Beast assures him that he gave it his best shot.
Jean observes this conversation and comes up with an idea. “Hank, what would happen if we froze Hannah – deliberately placed her in cryogenic stasis?” she asks. Beast ponders then, noting that while it might kill Hannah, it would definitely shut down all of her brain activity, making her undetectable to the collective consciousness of the Brood. While the team discusses the logistics of this plan, Wolverine grows infuriated.
“It doesn’t work that way! You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise,” he shouts. “Hannah Connover as you might have known her is dead. The best thing you can do for her is bury the body!” Beast and Storm remain optimistic despite Wolverine’s outburst, noting that a success with Hannah could be immensely valuable in future conflict with the Brood.
“We’ve never taken the easy path before,” Cyclops interjects, echoing Reverend William’s speech from earlier. “We have always been governed by what’s right.” Wolverine finally concedes to spare Hannah’s life, but adds the condition that he gets to kill the Firstborn ‘super-sleazoids’ without objections from the X-Men. They agree and set out to find Hannah.
William Connover continues on his journey to the site of the battle, but is ambushed by the Firstborn. They capture him, noting that he can be used to lure Hannah into surrender.
Meanwhile, Hannah and Cannonball watch the sun go down from a cliff side. Hannah senses her husband’s capture and is stricken by grief. Cannonball opens his mind to Jean, who begins tracking them down. However, because he ignores Hannah, Cannonball doesn’t notice her grief, or her sudden transformation into her Brood form. She knocks him unconscious, then deliberates infecting. Her scream fills that valley as she cries for her captive husband.
Jean loses her mental contact with Cannonball, and senses Hannah’s transformation into Brood. The team quickly realizes what has happened, and Wolverine comments that since Hannah is now Brood, he may get his way after all. The team heads out, noting that they may be attacked along the way.
William wakes up in a dark cave, surrounded by the remaining Firstborn. “What manner of creatures are you?” he asks. They reply that they are the Firstborn of the Brood Empress, and that they seek the death of William’s mate, Hannah. When William says he doesn’t understand, they assure him that he doesn’t need to understand.
“You are only the bait to draw her in,” they tell him.
Just then, Hannah appears in the entryway of the cave, in her fully armored Brood form. “I am here!” she announces. “Let my husband go free and I will surrender myself to you.” William witnessing the full extent of his wife’s infection for the first time, is horrified, and can barely utter her name. A tear forms in Hannah’s inhuman eyeball.
“Do you see what I’ve become, William? What a Devil I am? Do you understand now why I couldn’t tell you?” she asks.
“I don’t understand how this happened to you, Hannah – but didn’t you know I would stand by you, no matter what?” William responds. “We took vows to love and cherish each other, in sickness and in health! Do you think I made them lightly? Do you have no faith in me?”
The Firstborn interrupt this exchange and attempt to kill William. Hannah jumps between them and sinks her teeth into one of the Firstborn’s necks. It violently throws her off, and she lands in a heap. William runs over and embraces his wife. “Too late for me. Far too late. Oh, William, how deep was my sin that God punishes me so?” Hannah asks. For the first time, she explains to her husband how she came to be in this state. “I thought the woman was going to give me something for my arthritis. Instead, she made me one of them! And, God forgive me, I infected others!”
William responds to something deeper in her figure-of-speech. “God does forgive you, Hannah! You know you’re forgiven if you ask to be! Now you must forgive yourself.” Hannah, however, believes herself to be beyond redemption. William refuses to accept this. “You are not to blame for what has happened. The sin of Judas was not the betrayal, but the despair, the suicide! He set his justice above God’s,” he says. “Don’t you do that, Hannah!”
Hannah remarks that she has brought them both to their dooms. William assures her that he would never want to live without his wife, and then reminds her that they are never beyond the protection of God, who could send a legion of angels to save them. Once again, as if an answer to their prayers, the X-Men arrive and save the Connovers from the Firstborn.
Bishop and Cyclops provide cover fire while Jean dashes towards the Connovers. She psionically informs William of the X-Men’s plan to put Hannah in a cryogenic stasis. However, the plan she cannot let Hannah know of their plan, as the Brood share all of her knowledge.
One of the Firstborn interrupts Jean and William’s conversation and threatens to kill them. Beast springs forward and grabs the assassin by the neck, tilting its head upward. Iceman then impales the creature on a large ice dagger. “Finally nailed one,” he comments. He then readies himself to freeze Hannah’s body. William agrees to the plan and gives his consent for it to proceed. She establishes a mind-link between Iceman and Beast, so Beast can relay the medical instructions to Iceman. The remaining members of the team protect the operation, while Jean numbs Hannah’s senses in preparation. William consoles his wife as her consciousness fades.
“This is the end, isn’t it?” Hannah asks, believing that she is about to die.
“I’m here with you, honey,” William says. “Don’t be afraid. Be strong, Hannah. I will always, always love you.”
Hannah’s consciousness slips away while she recites some verses from the Bible. Iceman informs William that Hannah has fully entered cryogenic stasis. William begins a prayer.
“ ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…’ ”
The Firstborn sense the passing of Hannah.
“ ‘Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…’ ”
They announce their mission is nearly complete.
“ ‘Thou annointest my head with oil…’ ”
An uneasy expression remains on Hannah’s face, visible beneath a thick layer of ice.
“ ‘…my cup runneth over.”
“Glory to the Empress!” the Firstborn shout, while ripping each other to shreds.
“They’ve killed each other!” Cyclops points out.
“ ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
William cries over the frozen body of his wife. The X-Men, exhausted from battle, observe this scene silently.
Later, the X-Men load the frozen body of Hannah into the Blackbird while Cyclops and Jean assure William that they will take care of her. They promise they will find a way to cure Hannah.
“I trust you all,” William assures her. As the Blackbird departs, William challenges himself to accept God’s will, whatever it may be. “God speed, X-Men.”
Back at the mansion, the X-Men discuss the mission with Xavier. Hannah’s body has been transferred to a stasis chamber. Xavier congratulates the X-Men for accomplishing a very difficult mission. Hank proposes sending Hannah to Moira MacTaggart on Muir Island. Xavier supports the idea, commenting that Hannah is the literal embodiment of hope for understanding the Brood better. “In that, she represents part of my dream – part of the very reason I formed you, my X-Men.”
Back in Arizona, the morning service begins at the Glory Day Ministry. Reverend William Connover reminds his congregation that when people ask God for help, he answers their calls. “Faith may be tested, but it is always rewarded. I know this because my faith was tested recently – and I received a sign,” William says. “We are, all of us, God’s children – and I don’t care if you’re black or white, male or female, young or old, mutant or human, you are a child of God!
“Since we are all God’s children, it is necessary, as the apostle John told us, that we love one another! In that love, however tested, is our hope for today and for tomorrow! However tempted, we must not lose faith – we must not deny love – we must not lose hope.”
As William concludes his sermon, beautiful, bright lights flood the stage and illuminate the crucifix above William. The faint outline of a crucified man appears on the cross.
“Let us pray…”