Sam Guthrie arrives at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky where he is greeted enthusiastically by his younger sister, Paige. She gives him a hug and he resists, looking a bit disgruntled by the attention. She tells him he looks good and that he’s lucky it’s just her picking him up. Sam is uncharacteristically quiet as Paige updates him on the latest mundane occurrences in their family. Their brother Lewis has joined the marching band, their younger sister Lizzie has scored very well on the SAT exam.
On the long drive home to Cumberland, Sam continues to be quiet and distant. As they pull into town, Paige points out what a mess downtown is and tells Sam that there are plans to tear down the Majestic and put in a fitness center and their mother is circulating a petition to stop it. As they pass Eddie’s Bar, Sam tells Paige to stop the car. “Ah feel like ah could use a drink, right now.” As he gets out of the truck Paige asks if he’s serious and he asks why he wouldn’t be. Paige begins to point out something particular about this bar but Sam cuts her off with a glaring look and tells her that he’s “just thirsty.”
As they enter the bar, Paige looks around with a hesitant look on her face. The bartender Carl seems surprised and a bit worried to see Sam there. Sam greets him cordially and orders a whiskey for him and a glass of water for Paige. One of the other patrons notices Sam and Paige and hurries out of the bar.
Carl tells Sam that his license is up for renewal and he can’t afford any trouble. Sam replies coolly that he didn’t bring any and the sooner they get served the sooner they can leave. As they sit down with their drinks, Paige tells Sam that the guy who snuck out was Matt Havers and she gives them another 30 seconds before there’s trouble. Before she can finish her sentence, the door swings open and a huge man walks in, followed by three others. He says “Either I just stepped in something ‘thout realizing it--- or else I can smell a Guthrie in here.”
Sam rises from his barstool and says that he doesn’t recollect the man’s name. He cuts Sam off and simply says “Cabot”. Sam replies that he meant his given name. The man says that his name is Dwayne and his cousins are Micah, Duke and Paul. Sam offers to buy them a cold one and points out that they look a little worse for the heat.
Dwayne snarls and says that he doesn’t “take kindnesses from a Guthrie.” Sam replies “No?” and Dwayne adds “’Less your sister wants to give me a big, sloppy---“. Sam cuts him off and says calmly “Stoppin’ you there” and sets down his glass. Dwayne asks if he’s good now, clearly preparing to punch Sam. Sam says he’s good and Dwayne asks if he’s ready to fight like a man. Sam replies that there won’t be any need for that since a “strong belch is all it takes to knock a Cabot down.” He taunts Dwayne further by adding “If he ever got up off his knees long enough to risk it.” This gets Dwayne riled up and he punches Sam square in the jaw.
Sam returns the favor, punching Dwayne so hard he knocks him off his feet. He says that Dwayne can’t punch “worth a sad, sweet damn either”. Seeing Dwayne go down, his three cousins charge at Sam. One of them declares that he’s going to start with Sam and then work his way through his entire family. Another tries to get Sam into a choke hold but Sam throws him across the room into his mouthier cousin.
As a bottle is thrown across the room, Paige hands her number to the bartender. She tells him that if he has any trouble with his license to give her a call and she and her mother will take care if it. He thanks her and she strides towards the door. She calls her mother and tells her that they’ll be home as soon as Sam has “stretched his legs”. Sam takes down the final Cabot cousin, throwing him so hard into the pool table that it cracks in half. He wipes his brow and meets Paige at the door and says “Let’s go.”
Paige crosses her arms and tells him they aren’t going anywhere until he explains what that was all about. He points out that she saw what happened and she says that doesn’t mean that she understood why it happened. Sam slumps against the truck and admits “Ah guess ah needed a Danger Room.” Paige asks what he means. He asks her how else they’re supposed to work through it. He reminds her that the X-Men are gone, the school is destroyed and how they should deal with that. Paige tries to be sympathetic. She knows they had a war but it’s over now. Sam asks her when she’s ever known it to be “over”. He’s convinced that it won’t be over until they’re dead. Paige asks if this is because he was beaten by Sinister and all the bad stuff that followed. He tells her it isn’t about him but about the way the world works. Those who hate and fear them will never stop coming at them until they’re dead. But not they’re nowhere and everything he’s fought for his whole adult life is gone. He tells her that that’s not his way; he doesn’t just fold and throw in because he has a bad hand.
Sam ignites his mutant power and flies away, telling her that if he doesn’t fight to keep his edge he might as well lie down and die now. She tries to stop him but he’s gone, muttering to himself that it was “Stupid to come here.” Paige looks after him, worried that Sam’s “edge” might just be what kills him. High above, Sam slips his trademark flight goggles into place as he soars upward and away from it all.
Nezhno is aboard a jet with Storm heading towards his native land Wakanda. He is in a reflective mood which is not uncommon for the serious young Wakandan mutant. He remembers how chaotic he found the Xavier Institute to be and how his fellow students were unfocussed and distracted him from his attempts to find the inner peace that he requires. He realizes that being part of the X-Men’s world nearly destroyed him. He went to the school to learn to deal with his mutation and keep it and the deadly physiological dangers it presented to him in check. But the constant dangers faced by the students at the Xavier Institute forced him to use his powers on several occasions.
Sensing Nezhno’s distress, Ororo asks if everything is alright. Gentle dutifully replies “Yes, my queen.” Ororo tells him that they fought together as X-Men and he should call her Ororo. When they arrive in Wakanda, Nezhno acknowledges to himself that he may indeed die soon but feels a sense of relief that he will die among his own people. But as he leaves the jet and is greeted by his king T’Challa and a throng of Wakandans bearing banners, he feels a sense of hesitation.
Nezhno graciously thanks his king for the transport home. The Black Panther greets him warmly and tells him that he is Wakandan and a ward of the court and therefore the nation is not whole with him gone. Despite T’Challa’s words, the other Wakandans look less than thrilled to see Nezhno. The Black Panther raises his staff and declares that they welcome home their queen and a son of Wakanda. Those gathered applaud politely. T’Challa sees this and tells Gentle that “old ways die hard” and that in the eyes of his king he is a true Wakandan. He then says that it is time that his doctor had a look at him.
Nezhno is examined by the doctor who reports that his condition has worsened in the time he was away. He asks Nezhno if he is still having spasms and Nezhno admits that he is. He then asks Nezhno if he still has no sense of touch and can feel nothing. Nezhno remembers a moment at the Institute when Mercury had touched his shoulder in greeting but replies that he has not felt anything since the condition began. The doctor asks what exactly the X-Men did do for him. Nezhno responds tersely that he learned mental techniques, meditation and control. The doctor is confused and asks how these lessons helped his condition or made him use his strength. Nezhno explains that there were incidents. The doctor declares “Your Russian father did you no favor passing to you this mutant gene. You will need more tattoos.
Nezhno returns to the Wakandan shamans for additional Vibranium tattoos. He reveals that the painting of liquid Vibranium tattoos is an ancient practice used to alleviate tremors and seizures and that it has neutralized some diseases completely. For most, the tattoos are only temporary, but his mutation has caused them to bond to his flesh and muscles. One shaman declared it a sign from the gods. As he walks home, he thinks to himself that they are the only thing keeping him alive and his strength in check. And now, they are failing.
Nezhno is left to himself. His fellow Wakandans avoid contact with him. A curious child approaches him at an outdoor café and asks why he’s painted and if he’s a prophet sent by the Panther God. The unknowing boy asks why no one will speak to him. Nezhno replies that the others fear him and asks the boy if he is afraid. The boy bravely says “no” and then changes his answer to “maybe”. At that moment, his mother calls out his name “N’Baku!” and demands angrily that he come to her now! The boy tells Nezhno he must go and darts blindly into the street.
Nezhno sees a truck barreling down the street and calls for the boy to watch out. The boy turns and sees the danger he’s in and calls out for his mother. Gentle grabs the boy, shielding him from harm with his own body as the truck rams forcefully into him. Despite his heroism, the boy’s mother rushes out and shouts “Do not touch my son!” Nezhno tries to explain that he meant no harm and then he sees the woman’s face. Recognition washes over him as he realizes that it is his mother! She tells him bitterly that he should not have come back. Nezhno begins to ask if this boy is truly his brother. She cradles N’Baku in her arms and replies “He is nothing to you, outsider. And neither am I.”
Nezhno returns to his hut and stares at a tattered photo of his parents. They are clearly in Wakanda. His father is a smiling Russian man with fair skin and light-colored hair, his arm draped over Nezhno’s mother’s shoulder. The picture is ripped and his mother’s face is mostly missing but his father’s smiling face is clear. Nezhno thinks to himself that if he were fully Wakandan he would be accepted despite his mutation. It is because his father was an outsider that he is shunned. Nezhno realizes that he will never be accepted by his people or his mother. He thinks about his fellow students at the Institute and how they accepted him and wanted him to be one of them, yet he pushed them away. He finds that he misses them and longs for their inane chatter and the way they annoyed him. He misses their friendship but accepts that the X-Men are no more and he is now back “home”, though his is clearly uncertain if he can truly call Wakanda that.
Northstar is running at high speeds when he receives a call from Cyclops on his phone. Dust kicks up behind him as he answers and tells Cyclops that he’s already on his way.
Anole is in his clubhouse near his family’s home thinking about all the hopes he had regarding the Xavier Institute. He considers the words they used when showing his parents the school’s brochure “talented”, “special”, “extraordinary”. Victor realizes that most parents of mutants are confused and scared and that the beautiful grounds and hopeful words put them at ease. Not to mention the fact that the school is completely free. Once you’re there, they make you feel like you matter and that you’ll be an X-Man someday, helping to make the world a better place for mutants.
Victor now thinks they should have used words like “liability”, “dangerous” and “expendable” given all that’s happened. Half his fellow students killed and the rest hunted by predators and religious zealots. Then suddenly it’s all over and there are no more X-Men. Anole is clearly bitter that Cyclops was so self-involved he decided to throw in the towel, assuming that it would be easy for everyone to just go home.
As Northstar arrives at Anole’s home, he looks up at the tree house and says “Nice club house.” Victor is sitting in a tree nearby and flatly asks Northstar what he wants. He suggests that maybe Jean-Paul is there to “mentor” him so more like he did the last time they met, perhaps he wants to see how easy his ribs break this time. Northstar rises into the air and asks if he’s really still mad about that. He points out that he was “evil” then and had just come back from the dead. He teasingly adds “You try coming back from the dead and see if your head’s on straight.”
Victor blows this off with a casual “Whatever” and asks what he’s doing there, as there’s clearly nothing going on in Fairbury, Illinois worth the attentions of Canada’s finest. Northstar agrees with that sentiment and says that he’s come to check on Victor as no one has heard from him in three months. He adds that people were getting worried. Anole looks away and says “I bet they were.” Jean-Paul says that they are seriously worried and that Pixie mentioned something about Rockslide and what did he do to him. Jean-Paul snidely adds “I didn’t think you’d go for the rocky types.” Victor just glares at him.
He then grabs Northstar with his enhanced arm and pulls him close. He says bluntly “Tell Santo…tell everyone, to leave me alone.” He adds that they shouldn’t come looking for him there as he’ll be gone. Jean-Paul gets a good look at Victor’s new arm and says that while he had heard about it, he didn’t believe it. He says that it’s hideous and asks Victor how he’s ever going to get a date with an arm like that.
It then registers with Northstar that Victor said he wouldn’t be at home any longer. He asks where else a sixteen-year-old would be. Anole replies that he doesn’t know, he just knows he can’t stay. Northstar breaks into counselor mode and tells Victor that he knows it’s tough being a mutant and that guys like them have other hurdles to deal with as well. Anole cuts him off and tells him to shut up. He tells Jean-Paul that it isn’t about not being accepted. His parents and his community do accept him, they practically threw him a parade. But the problem isn’t with them, it’s with him.
Northstar tries to tell him that it can’t be that bad but again, Victor interrupts and tells him that the X-Men just don’t get it. He explains that when he got back to his old high school, he expected to be leaps and bounds ahead of the other students thanks to his time studying at the Institute. He was quickly humbled to find that he was way behind. He points out that the Institute spent more time being rebuilt than actually teaching him anything.
His time away always changed how he interacted with his parents. They quickly adjusted to having Victor home, but he didn’t. When his dad accidentally dropped a coffee mug, the crash set Victor off. He leaped at his father and pinned him to the wall. Both his parents were shocked. Victor explains that he’s changed. Before he was a mutant, but now he’s different. He tells him that this is what the X-Men just don’t get. They’re kids! They should be playing video games, learning and going on dates… not fighting for their lives against the devil! The X-Men robbed them of all that and should have known better! They all worshipped the X-Men and wanted to be just like them. The X-Men molded them into what they needed them to be but when they decided they were done with being X-Men, they just cast the younger mutants aside and told them to go home. Victor has realized that because of all he’s gone through, he doesn’t belong there anymore.
Northstar asks what the story with the tree house is. Victor explains that this is where his parents will look when they realize he’s gone. As a kid, he used to pretend to be an X-Man and this was his X-Mansion. He adds bitterly that it’s funny how things are never really the way you see them when you’re just a kid. Victor begins to walk away but stops and says “Oh, and Northstar?” Jean-Paul replies casually, “Yeah?” just before Anole elbows him in the face with his super-strong arm. Northstar’s nose appears to break and he slumps down on his knees. As Victor walks away, he tells Northstar to make sure everyone else knows to stay away from him, even Santo. “I’m done with you all” he says as he leaves. Sitting beneath his tree house is a stuffed animal… a spiky lizard. Pinned to it is a note that reads “Mom and Dad, I’m sorry and I love you. Victor”
Julian Keller sits across from a shadowed figure at a café in New York City explaining that the X-Men have disbanded. He tells the unseen man that after the birth of the first mutant baby since M-Day “everything went to hell”. He and his fellow students went after the Purifiers. They tried to say it was to save the child but they all knew they really wanted revenge for what the Purifiers had done to their friends following M-Day. The Purifiers new allies the Reavers and their leader Lady Deathstrike proved to be more than the kids could handle. They weren’t ready to handle the X-Men’s foes and Hellion paid the price for their overconfidence when Deathstrike skewered and nearly killed him.
A few weeks earlier, Julian awoke from his coma, screaming. Miss Frost entered the room and snidely told him to compose himself. She tells him they have some things to discuss and he missed some things while he was “napping”. Julian is angry and shocked to hear that the school has been closed and the X-Men are no more. He asks where his friends and teammates are. Emma assures him that they are all being taken care of just as he is. Julian gets more enraged and ignites his telekinetic power. He accuses Emma of taking away everything that he had again and demands to know where they are. Emma casually shuts off his conscious mind and tells him to sleep.
Julian woke an hour later to find Emma gone. He tried to connect with his parents only to discover they sold their home in California and moved away. He assumed this meant they’d rather give up everything they had than take him back. He found out that all his expenses were being paid for by Warren Worthington but wondered why the X-Men bothered after taking his entire life away. Frustrated, he soared into the sky and called out to Miss Frost, knowing that she must be listening. He begged her not to leave him there. He got no answer. He took this as a sign that the X-Men had abandoned him. “So to hell with them” he declares to the unseen man.
After leaving California, Hellion returned to New York to start looking for the man that he is now conversing with. He looked in Mutant Town and demanded information from the Morlocks. He tells the man that they all knew he was out there watching and that he’d resurface someday. So he decided to find him first. He tells the man that the X-Men made a big mistake and that he’s now one of the most powerful mutants on the planet. He tells the man “You need that power. You need me.”
The man sitting across from Julian is none other than Magneto! He simply replies “I think not, Mr. Keller.” Julian is shocked and slams his fists on the table. He demands to know why. Magneto rises and tells Julian that he reminds him of his son, Pietro… arrogant but desperate to please. He asks Julian if he truly believes that it was he who found Magneto and not the other way around. He tells Julian that he is not his father and he is certainly not a teacher anymore. He bids Hellion farewell.
Julian stands and ignites his power. His telekinetic flare smashes windows and lifts a nearby car off the ground. He yells at Magneto “Don’t you dare walk away from me!” He tells Magneto that he thinks he’s just a scared old man who has lost his power. Magneto coolly replies “Is that what you think?” and proceeds to tell him what he thinks of Julian. He says that Julian has lost everything that he thought he was and that he clung so tightly to being an X-Man because it was all he had left. His teachers abandoned him, his heart was broken, his friends died and the X-Men failed him. So how does he react to all this? He seeks out the X-Men’s greatest enemy so that he can get back at the X-Men for letting him down. Magneto tells Hellion that he won’t use him and he won’t kill him either. He tells Julian that he doesn’t realize that Cyclops has given him the gift of time and that he should enjoy it before the war against mutants comes again and he is swept into it and consumed once more. He leaves Julian there, amidst the wreckage he has created.
In a roadside diner in a nowhere town, the Marauder called Scalphunter AKA John Greycrow works as a short order cook. He thinks to himself that this town is what his father would have called a “cigarette town” because you could enter and leave it in the short time it would take to smoke a cigarette. He figures his father saw a lot of towns like this in his day since he died of lung cancer. His mother used to make “migas”, a dish made up of all the leftover ingredients from breakfast and dressed up with spices. His mother said that a cook would make migas from whatever remained of what he or she had cooked for their boss. The recipe is simple enough: fry eggs in leftover bacon fat, add onions, chilies, tomatoes and cheese, fresh pico, strips of tortillas (better if they’re stale) and some spices. Scramble it all up and you have migas, “the crap nobody else wants to eat.”
Scalphunter serves the plate of hot migas to a priest who proclaims that there is God in this food. Greycrow thinks to himself that it’s been three weeks and nine days since the X-Men ended and since he began a life on the run. He believes that people are hunting him down due to the fact that he’s a “stone-cold killer”. The thought of being hunted himself scares him. The priest smells the migas and tells Greycrow he has a gift and asks where the art is in this dish. Scalphunter thinks to himself that once upon a time he’d have killed this guy without a second thought.
The priest yammers on about the migas. He points out that it’s wonderful but exactly the same every day that he orders it. He wonders aloud how and why that is. He asks if the cook is aware of the writings of Walter Benjamin who wrote “Das Kunstwerk Im Zeitaltier Seiner Technischen Reproduzierbarkeit” – “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. The book deals with the effect on art of mass reproduction and how it might affect the natural “aura” or artistic impact of the original work. Is viewing a photo of the Mona Lisa the same experience as seeing it in the Louvre, for example. Does the act of copying reduce the value of art?
He compares the migas to the artwork and Scalphunter finds his prattle annoying and thinks that he’s normally kill this “artsy-fartsy jerk”. But then the priest makes a specific comment that jars Greycrow. He asks if the migas would be any more or less a work of art if it was made in a five-star restaurant or by a single mother on an Indian reservation after the second world war. This causes Scalphunter to turn and face the priest menacingly. He snarls a bit and says “No hablo ingles” --- “I don’t speak English”. The priest smiles and replies “Of course not.”
Later that night in the tiny trailer that Scalphunter calls home, he decides to take extra precautions for security. The priest’s comment rattled him and his paranoia drives him to bar the door and keep his gun close. He knows that the X-Men are still out there and thinks they are all looking for him. His suspicions prove to be true. Outside, the silhouette of the X-Man Nightcrawler can be seen as he watches the trailer.
The next morning, the priest returns to the diner and continues to espouse Walter Benjamin’s philosophy on art duplication as he eats his migas. He tells Greycrow that he has figured out the answer to Benjamin’s question while sitting there eating migas. He looks for the God in things, he examines them for traces of divinity. Despite the uncanny sameness of the migas from day-to-day, the priest says that he can recognize the divinity within. He says that you can sense the art if you seek it “through the Lord”. Greycrow doesn’t look at the priest and repeats “No hablo ingles”. The priest replies “Mi espanol no es malo” --- “My Spanish is not bad”. Greycrow realizes that he has to get out of town that night.
After work, Greycrow packs his meager belongings. It doesn’t take long because he lives like a castaway, always ready to be packed and gone at a moment’s notice. As he hurriedly packs, Nightcrawler teleports into the trailer and kicks him through the window. He asks Scalphunter “Usted ahora habla ingles, monstruo? --- “You speak English now, monster?” Scalphunter scrambles for his gun and shoots at Nightcrawler who manages to teleport away from the blast. He jumps onto Greycrow’s head and then launches himself into a series of back flips.
He tells the Marauder that he is not there to kill him, though that was his original plan. Since arriving, he has changed his mind. Scalphunter is confused and Nightcrawler asks him “Are you right with God?” Kurt explains that he doesn’t think that he is. He thinks that despite all violence and murders, the times he’s tried to hurt others, “There’s no you in there.” He tells Scalphunter that he is merely a copy of a copy of a copy. He suggests that there’s no “art” left in him as he’s simply a reproduction, a godless thing no more artful than a paper plate.
Nightcrawler grabs Scalphunter’s face and looks into his eyes. He asks what good killing him would do, when another Scalphunter would be made to take his place. Each new Scalphunter would be just as warped by the nothingness where his “art”, his soul and God should be.
Scalphunter tries to look away as Nightcrawler says “For all of your sins, I forgive you. I forgive you so that you might know grace.” As Kurt turns and walks away, he tells Scalphunter that the writer Walter Benjamin was a Jew who was hunted by the Nazis and killed himself while fleeing them in Spain. He tells Greycrow that one day mutants will no longer be hunted or despised and there will be millions of them. His guess is that there will also be millions of copies of Scalphunter there trying to kill them. He tells him that he will forgive each and every one of them for their sins as well.
Scalphunter returns to the diner the next day, now wearing a gold cross around his neck. He knows that the X-Man could have killed him had he wanted to and he’s not sure why he didn’t. He thinks about the diner in the middle of this desolate place and that not even a dog would come there to die or the devil to kill. “Just liked my cooking, I guess” he concludes. The diner now bears a large cross painted across one end with the words “Get right with God” written in red across it.