Xavier’s school for Gifted Youngsters; now a condemned property. In front of the gates, people have left flowers, card and candles. A graffiti on the wall reads “X-Men Forever.”
Manoli Wetherell reports that, six weeks ago, something happened at Xavier’s School. Under circumstances that federal authorities have yet to make public, the school was destroyed by a tremendous explosion. The blast not only vaporized the school itself but also devastated much of the surrounding grounds. Apparently, there were no survivors.
Manoli gives important facts about Xavier’s biography and how he founded the school. First, there were five students. As the years passed, the school expanded in staff and students, however reports suggest that only a minimal staff was on-site at the time of the incident. A satellite image of the actual explosion is shown.
In the aftermath of the incident, federal authorities immediately invoked the Homeland Security Act and declared the grounds of the Xavier estate off-limits. Initial radiation levels made the grounds lethal to unprotected personnel and the decision was made to employ a new generation of military spec robots to both search and safeguard the site. Images provided by SHIELD show a cadre of these “Sentinel” patrolling the site with a team of agents wearing radiation suits, even though radiation levels have returned to normal. A Sentinel is shown scanning for any evidence that might provide an explanation of what happened. Unfortunately, their search has provided few answers and less hope for survivors.
Manoli confesses that there are unconfirmed reports that SHIELD director Nicholas Fury was on-site at the time of the explosion, together with a team of agents. Again citing reasons of national security, government sources refuse to comment on this information. However, this week the Senate has begun hearings on the nomination of an interim director for that security organization.
The picture switches to a senate committee and an applicant, Sigrid Trask, heir to the Trask fortune and creator of the latest iteration of Sentinels. A senator points out Ziggy’s youth. She is no younger than the Marquis de Lafayette when he joined George Washington to help America fight for its freedom, Ziggy replies smoothly. The senator asks about her family’s relation to Tony Stark. She replies she never got a chance to talk more about that with her cousin. The Starks have done this country proud, he replies, as he is sure she will. After due deliberation, the committee votes unanimously that her name be submitted to the full Senate for their approval. Ziggy smiles…
Manoli’s report continues that through this incident one large question relates to the involvement of the Avengers.
At Avengers Mansion, the team discusses the situation. Hawkeye protests that listening to the news, one gets the idea they are the bad guys here. They could be right, Captain America ponders. For what happened, they have to bear a measure of responsibility. No way! Hakweye protests. They acted according to the evidence and played by the rules!
Is there any chance the X-Men survived? Spider-Woman asks. They found nothing, the Vision replies. The X-Men have bested death before, Thor reminds everybody. Thor speaks of hope, the Vision replies while he is a creature of logic. For him the two are incompatible. Perhaps, the Scarlet Witch points out, but the X-Men like to cheat the odds. She thinks to herself that the moment the X-Men “died” she sensed something, but is unsure what.
Manoli’s report discusses Charles Xavier as an educator and advocate of human rights, especially relating to mutants. Indeed, of his first five students, two subsequently revealed themselves as super-powered beings; one, Hank McCoy, was a member of the Avengers. At his funeral recently, the eulogy was delivered by the president.
Manoli asks if the deaths of McCoy and Tony Stark are connected to reports of the Avengers being on-site at Xavier’s school just prior to the catastrophic explosion.
At the royal palace in Wakanda, the evil “Perfect Storm” is throwing a tantrum when hearing of her former teammates’ deaths. Her servants believe her overcome by grief for her dead friends. What they do not guess is that Storm feels cheated of the vengeance she wanted to take on the X-Men, especially on Kitty for scarring her face.
Manoli continues that there are many stories about the Xavier school, its founder and students. She and her colleagues know from firsthand experience that they are true. What they know sadly cannot be said thanks to the same national “gag order” that covers any of the details of this incident. But the imposition of such global restriction cannot help but leave them with questions.
At the Worthington Colorado estate, Archangel and Iceman have gathered the X-Men’s allies among X-Factor and X-Force. Warren begins that the hard times are going to become worse. The confirmation of Ziggy Trask as head of SHIELD makes sure of that. And she’s the least of their worries…. He’ll use his fortune to keep the “wolves” at bay. That means protecting all of them, and working to find a cure for Burnout. He suggests they raise their glasses in salute to those of them who have gone before them. For them, they sacrificed everything! They cannot give the authorities any excuse to move against them. They have a plan. They may not like it, but for the sake of the future they have to give it a chance.
In the Daily Bugle office, publisher J. Jonah Jameson switches off the TV with Manoli’s report. He observes that they were walking a fine line with that report. The feds were sitting on the corporation, the corporation on the broadcast. One wrong word, the bosses would have pulled the plug.
Awful lot of security for a story about a school, editor-in-chief “Robbie” Roberson remarks. Jameson agrees. The site’s sealed. Officially, this is being considered an act of terrorism. But he doesn’t buy it? freelance photographer Peter Parker asks. Not… completely Jameson admits.
Roberson points out that there were always lots of rumors about Xavier’s school. Peter Parker thinks to himself that the truth, that this is the X-Men’s home, would shock Robbie. He knows the X-Men. He can’t imagine them doing anything wrong. He offers to check it out. Robbie and Jameson agree though Jameson orders him to come back with a page one story.
Washington DC, the Senator Philip A. Hart office building:
An elderly gentleman, Senator Holloway, asks a SHIELD agent about further information regarding the disaster site. His understanding was that the underground facilities were quite extensive. Agent Capelli informs the senator that SHIELD and the Avengers both checked the entire site. Everything they have is in the folder the senator holds. The blast took out the entire complex. The senator remarks that Xavier’s estate covers over three miles, so he finds that somewhat hard to believe. Agent Capelli explains that’s why they are using Sentinels to confirm their findings. And to secure the site, just in case any surviving muties pay a visit. How admirably thorough, the senator replies. He’s glad to see Director Trask already leaving her mark. Keep him posted. He walks away.
The agent enters a room to see Senator Holloway sitting there. But then who has he been talking to? He checks the hallway, not seeing the other senator anymore, though if he paid attention he’d notice that the folder is now in the hands of a woman…
Peter Parker takes a taxis and exits outside Xavier’s school. Weird to see SHIELD guards outside. He remembers Nick Fury’s SHIELD being a secret outfit. Ziggy Trask’s looks a lot more public. He shows his press pass but is told by the guards that the site is off-limits. When he presses, they become rude in telling him to leave.
Peter ducks out of sight, wondering what is more creepy: SHIELD agents acting like local law enforcement or the idea of the Trask and Stark families being related. He uses his Spider-strength to jump over the wall and lands inside the Xavier estate. With his Spider-sense quiet, he figures the cost is clear.
As he turns around, he sees how wrong he was, as a Sentinel has discovered him. It warns him to stand still or deadly force will be employed. It begins scanning him. Discovering he is non-mutant is enough for it and it walks on, ignoring him, much to Peter’s relief.
He finds the emptiness creepy. All the other times he came here as Spider-Man, there was always this incredible sense of life. Now it feels so empty. He can’t believe that this time the X-Men died. But when he looks down at the crater, where he mansion used to stand, he admits to himself that he can’t deny the truth any longer. Nobody could have survived a blast that strong.
Suddenly, his spider-sense tingles. He turns around and hears a familiar noise coming from the shrubbery, a “bamf.” Nightcrawler’s teleportation sound, he realizes. Peter follows the noises at Spider-speed as his quarry teleports in small jumps. And no reaction at all from the Sentinels, he notes. They would have noticed something. Was he imagining things then, hoping against hope for a miracle? He isn’t aware of the slim shape watching him from the trees.
Elsewhere in the state orphanage of Omaha, Nebraska where Dr Robyn Hanover, director of the orphanage is discussing matters with her boss - a very peculiar boy. Robyn muses that she finds it hard to believe that the X-Men, Xavier himself, are gone. Without them the world seems somehow… empty. Nathan sarcastically tells her to indulge herself, but he has other things to ponder. Burnout for one. Robyn points out that he has lived far longer than any other mutant she has ever heard of, even Wolverine. Surely that means something. It means he’s likely living on borrowed time that may run out at any moment! He replies forcefully. Which means he has no time to waste.
He shows her a file. An updated dossier on the Summers family, he explains. This is his namesake, the progeny of Scott and Madelyne. Robyn muses the boy looks older than she recalls. With a smirk Nathan agrees. One of many reasons he thinks it best that the boy be brought under the direct care of Mr. Sinister…
Night time in Manhattan:
Spider-Man swings over the rooftops, musing about matters. He shot lots of pictures, but not good enough for Jonah though Robbie took some Sentinel shots for the archive. A story he thought interesting, just not enough to print. Sometimes he really hates the life of a freelancer. Which is his cue to go swinging about the city in search of evildoers to bring to justice…
Suddenly, his spider-sense tingles. It’s the same sensation he felt at Xavier’s. He follows it. Looking down to an alley way, he sees a dark silhouette watching a mugging. The silhouette looks familiar to him. How many guys are there with a tail, after all?
The muggers are suddenly attacked by what looks like a female Nightcrawler. She quickly takes the three out, then disappears.
The victim runs outside the alley, calling for help. Spider-Man swings down to him, assuring him everything is all right. The man is hysterical, though, shouting out “a monster!” and runs away. He swears sometimes his life feels like an improved episode of “Tune Town” he sighs. Thing is, the man sounded really scared. Never known Nightcrawler to have that intense an effect on people.
He turns into the alley to find the three muggers unconscious. Not his friend’s style at all! Not his friend’s face either! he blurts out as he comes face to face with the changed Rogue.