Jean Grey and Logan kiss passionately on the beach. They close their eyes and enjoy their moment of closeness while the waves crash around their ankles. Jean—wearing only a long, pink sarong—wraps her arms around her shirtless lover’s neck while he runs his fingers through her hair.
Logan was the first to say the words, and it was as though a great door had opened to her heart, to let in light so bright and pure she never dreamed it could exist. Jean couldn’t help smiling; she’d never felt such joy. He didn’t ask for a reply, but she gave him one anyway. He was hers—and she was his—and that was all they needed to know. Life was good. Life…
…was a dream. “Hey—Jean,” Scott Summers calls to her, slowly pulling her out of her fantasy. “Hey?” Jean snaps back to reality and finds herself in the company of Nightcrawler, who is flying the Blackbird, and Scott, who is looking at Jean with concern. She seemed to be a million miles away, he says. She apologizes; her mind must have wandered.
Nightcrawler reports to Cyclops that both Storm and Rogue are in position. Cyclops tells his team to prepare themselves; after all, their target Fabian Cortez took down Magneto. They cannot afford to take him lightly. Cyclops asks Jean to give Professor X a status update and ask if he and Nick Fury have any new information.
Back in Westchester, Professor X receives Jean’s telepathic message. He relays to Nick Fury that the X-Men are approaching Cortez, meaning S.H.I.E.L.D. will soon have its man. Xavier asks Beast if he has any information to relay back to the X-Men, but Hank only has a general fix on their target’s position. While he can get the X-Men close, Jean and Logan will have to do the rest.
Meanwhile, outside the Blackbird, the airborne Storm once again advises her field leader against practicing too much caution. If he would just allow her to fly ahead, she could take Cortez by surprise! Rogue, flying alongside Storm, reminds her teammate that Cortez singlehandedly defeated Magneto; they cannot afford to take any chances.
Inside the Blackbird, Shadowcat sits patiently with her pet dragon Lockheed in her lap. The thrill of this mission excites her, reminding her of her former days with the X-Men. She and Nightcrawler have been away with Excalibur so long that she forgot how much she missed this team.
Gambit, meanwhile, fiddles with a deck of cards and stares out the window. The X-Men asked for his help, so he obliged—but what happens next?
Sitting in a nearby seat, Logan pops his claws and ponders the mess into which he got himself. He should be thinking about the mission. However, he can’t keep his mind off of her.
Nightcrawler, the one flying the plane, says aloud that when this mission ends, he and Shadowcat have some choices they need to make about their future.
Back at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters in Salem Center, New York, Fury admits to Xavier how uncomfortable it must be having him looking over his shoulder, but it’s a new reality to which they’ll all need to adjust. However, it has the added benefit of allowing Fury to help Xavier with anything he needs, such as communication. After all, it must be difficult for him to communicate with his team when they’re so far away. The challenge, Xavier says, is finding an individual needle within a very large haystack. He pulls up a file on Fabian Cortez. Fury offers to provide S.H.I.E.L.D.’s telepaths as assistance, if needed. Beast reminds him that the X-Men function better as a team; they do better on their own. “Your team, McCoy, your mission,” Fury says. “Your call.”
Meanwhile, Cyclops continues briefing his team on Fabian Cortez. Honestly, they know very little about him, other than that he defeated Magneto—but that alone makes him deadly. His mutant power causes the powers of other mutants to overload, the sheer force of which sometimes kills them. Nightcrawler compares it to a lightbulb, blazing brighter before it burns out. Cyclops suggests they not find out the hard way. He advises everyone to stay on their toes.
Jean watches her team leader in awe. Scott observes Scott running the team and the mission so naturally and so well. There’s so much about him she respects. She’s loved him for so long—and yet, her eyes always return to Logan.
Suddenly, an explosion rocks one of the Blackbird’s engines, rattling the airborne Rogue. Inside, the X-Men reel. Wolverine asks what hit them, but Cyclops assures them he saw nothing on the radar. Nightcrawler, meanwhile, struggles to keep the plane airborne, but fails, and it begins to descend. In the rush to escape, he grabs hold of Gambit and Cyclops to teleport them to the ground, leaving the rest in Shadowcat’s care. After telling Lockheed to hold her tight, Kitty grabs Logan and Jean, orders them to relax, and phases them through the plane.
They fall through the sky in an intangible state. Logan asks Jean if she caught any reading of the shooter. She assures him she did not. Meanwhile, on the ground, Cyclops affirms this imperceptibility to Kurt and Gambit. The sensors gave no warning of any missile, he says. That doesn’t surprise Kurt, who saw nothing in the sky around them. Speaking of the sky, he looks up for signs of Kitty, Jean and Gambit, but sees none. Gambit, on the other hand, asks what hit them if not a missile. “Good question, Gambit,” Cyclops says. “Save it for later. Right now, we focus on our friends.”
Up above, Storm tells Rogue she caught a glimpse of what hit them. She presumes it must have been cloaked and tells Rogue she will deal with it. Rogue asks about the others. “Take care of them,” Storm tells her. “Leave the rest to me.”
Jean, sensing this conversation via telepathy, assures Rogue the rest of them are fine. She encourages her to take care of the shooter. Logan notices Jean’s seeming absentmindedness and checks to see if she is conscious. “What, do you think this is the first time the X-Men have been blown out of the sky?” Jean asks him telepathically. “Didn’t your very first mission start out like this?” Logan confirms that she’s correct—but reminds her that by the time the mission ended, their friend Thunderbird was dead. Jean reminds him that she wasn’t there for there for that mission. This time, they’ll all come home safely. She uses her telekinesis to slow their descent while relaying their status to Scott telepathically.
Back on the ground, Nightcrawler can just barely see his falling teammates as they break through the cloud cover. Cyclops can hear Jean in his head and assures Kurt and Gambit that she, Kitty and Logan are okay. After Gambit asks about Rogue and Storm, Cyclops informs him they went after the shooter; Storm even has a fix on his position. The three of them keep staring at the sky, completely oblivious to the man approaching from behind. “Scott, our sensors detected nothing!” Kurt once again says.
Suddenly, Fabian Cortez lunges at Cyclops and grabs him from behind, causing his optic blasts to fire wildly. “That, freak, is because there was nothing down here to detect,” Cortez says to Nightcrawler. After assuring the three X-Men he intends to kill them, Cortez pivots Cyclops’s head toward Gambit and Nightcrawler and forcibly removes his visor. He wants Cyclops’s optic blast amplified to the absolute maximum. With it now totally unrestrained, he positions Scott’s head upward, directly at Kitty, Jean and Logan.
A fully powered optic blast hits Logan in the torso. The force scatters Jean and Kitty, but Jean Grey pulls them all back together. They can relax, she says; she will block the beam and keep everyone safe. However, she senses immense discomfort from Wolverine and learns that if he didn’t have his adamantium skeleton, that blast would have torn him in half. Thankfully, he tells Jean, his healing factor can handle the damage. Jean continues deflecting the continual optic blast. She tells Logan not to be foolish; not even he could withstand multiple hits of that severity. Never before has she seen Scott unleash such power. In fact, it’s taking all of her strength to keep these optic blasts at bay!
Grabbing hold of Logan, Shadowcat tells Jean to look after herself while they escape to safety. Logan asks what she intends to do, but Kitty silences him; she needs all her concentration to turn them both intangible while she plunges them through the ground.
Rogue, meanwhile, arrives at the surface level and flies full-speed at Cortez. She refuses to take any chances with this creep, who, in hardly any time at all, has neutralized her entire team. Moments before she can land her punch on Cortez, however, he releases Cyclops and turns toward her, hitting her even harder than she suspects even she could with her super-strength. While caught unawares by his staggering power, Rogue sees an advantage in it: she doesn’t have to worry about pulling her own punches. She charges at Cortez and once again prepares to strike.
“Silly girl—so brave, so stupid,” Cortez says as she approaches, “—you should have run while you had the chance.” Quick as lightning, he grabs Rogue by the throat. The energy surrounding them flares up wildly. Cortez finds it magnificent; with all the powers she has absorbed, it’s like she’s a bottomless well of energy! There may even be too much power within her, even for him!
Suddenly, the two of them are encircled by a vortex of electricity. Release the girl—or suffer the consequences, Storm commands as she descends from the sky. Cortez has a better idea: since Rogue needs her life restored, why not borrow Storm’s? After ripping a sleeve off of Rogue’s full-body uniform, thus exposing her bare skin, he hurls her limp body in Storm’s direction and knocks her out of the air.
Back at Xavier’s School, a worried Hank McCoy asks Professor X if he has telepathic contact with the team. Not even with Jean, Professor X admits. Beast vows to find another way. Fury, meanwhile, asks Xavier if he needs his help. Xavier gravely informs him that by the time anyone reaches the scene, the battle will surely have ended. He asks Hank if he’s having any luck getting in contact with them through other means. Hank tells them he caught a massive power surge from Scott right before the link scrambled, much like Magneto’s archival telemetry from Asteroid M. Now, he says, a strange, out-of-control weather pattern has formed on the scene, essentially blocking any effective scans. Hank bets Cortez is responsible for both. Fury gasps; Cortez is hammering their entire team. “He kept this ability secret,” Xavier says with scorn. “From Erik—and from me.” Fury calls in for a S.H.I.E.L.D. strike force before the situation worsens. After Xavier asks Beast if there is anything they can do, Beast says he’s working on it—but they’ve been blindsided at every turn.
On the battlefield, Gambit, Nightcrawler and Cyclops—who leans on Nightcrawler’s shoulder for support—happen upon the unconscious bodies of Rogue and Storm. As Gambit leans down to check for signs of life, Kurt tells him to be careful. Remy knows; if he touches Rogue’s bare skin with his, she absorbs his powers and identity. He asks if she can’t turn it off, though. “No,” Scott answers. “It’s her own personal purgatory.”
Gambit stirs Rogue into waking and helps her sit up. “Take things loose, chère,” he says. “You among friends now.” Holding her aching head, Rogue tells him Cortez wouldn’t let her go; he was draining the life out of her. Kurt, meanwhile, tends to Storm, out of whom he gets no response. Rogue tells them she made personal contact with Storm moments earlier and got hold of her reality, which, as Rogue reveals, was even crazier than her own. They need to find the others and warn them about Cortez, Nightcrawler tells Cyclops. Regrettably, Cyclops informs them he’s yelling in his head as hard as he can, but Jean isn’t answering. He assumes their psi-link must have been severed.
Elsewhere, Kitty assures her worried dragon that she is fine, while Logan cradles Jean’s head in his hands and asks if she’s okay. She tells him she’s doing better than he is. He insists he’s just fine, but Jean calls him a liar; beneath the skin, he’s in awful shape. “Logan—you can’t keep taking this kind of punishment,” she says. He assures her he ain’t doing it on purpose. None of them do, Jean says. She reminds him that just month earlier, Charles Xavier could walk. Now, he’s back in his wheelchair, paralyzed—and they don’t even know why. “I want you whole,” she says to Logan.
Kitty Pryde knows enough about propriety to turn her back on this interaction and give the two elder X-Men some privacy. Lockheed doesn’t; his eyes widen at what he sees! Poor Scott, Kitty thinks to herself. If I can see it, can Scott see it too?
Shadowcat hears a loud noise coming from the woods, like a twig snapping. Before she finishes asking herself what it is, Cortez emerges from the shrubbery and punches Wolverine in the back of the neck, propelling him forward and causing him immense pain. Wolverine unsheathes his claws and tells Jean to get clear. While Cortez somehow holds Logan in stasis, Shadowcat springs into action. Is this the jerk who drove Magneto to his death? Looks like he’s trying to do the same to Logan, she says! Not while I’m around to stop you, bub! She reaches for Logan and tries to grab his hand in an attempt to spread her intangible state into his body. At the last moment, Logan frantically shouts for her to stop.
The circuit of the three mutants—Shadowcat, Wolverine and Fabian Cortez—unleashes a blinding feedback of energy. Kitty feels like something is tearing at her. Worse, she can’t break contact. She’s never felt anything so awful! As her hand phases through Logan’s wrist, she begs for him to please make it stop!
Suddenly, a telekinetic burst from Jean Grey severs the connection between the three mutants and thrusts them apart. Infuriated, and with residual traces of energy smoldering over his hands, Cortez glares at Jean and asks if she came to save the girl—or the wolverine. “You’re done hurting my friends,” is Jean’s only response. Cortez childishly tells her to make him while restraining her arms. Better yet, he says, he’ll see if her powers measure up to those of her teammates, Rogue and Cyclops!
A fiery figure resembling a large bird erupts around Jean, propelling Cortez to the ground. Jean gasps; what has she done? As her power flares out, she falls to her knees and collapses. Cortez, meanwhile, picks himself up and asks what the hell that was. He darts into the nearby woods. He’s caused enough damage for now and needs to get away.
A flurry of charged cards bombards the area around Cortez’s feet. He’s not going anywhere, Gambit says. Kurt follows up this attack by teleporting directly in front of Cortez and punching him across the face. Flailing wildly, Cortez says he thought he took care of them both! “You thought wrong,” Kurt says, materializing directly behind Fabian. He swings from a branch and kicks Cortez in the back of the head. Reeling from this blow, Cortez falls to his knees and is still struggling to regain his composure when Gambit knocks him across the head with his staff.
The X-Men reconvene. Everyone seems okay. Jean assures Kitty she can stop trembling now that everything is safe, but Kitty doesn’t seem to agree. “How’s by you?” she asks Logan. If they’d give him a minute alone with Cortez, he’d feel a lot better, Logan says. This proposition works for Gambit, and even Rogue, who even admits to wanting to join them. Storm asks Cyclops if he shouldn’t perhaps intervene. He sternly tells Logan that isn’t the way they do things. This is his mission, and they play by his rules. He intends to turn their prisoner Cortez over to the proper authorities. Logan tells him he’s making a mistake; making Cortez dead is best for everyone.
Gambit, meanwhile, gives Rogue his trenchcoat to wear to cover her exposed skin. She thanks him. After hearing Logan’s comment, Gambit calls it hardcore, and Rogue agrees. However, something doesn’t sit right with her. Gambit asks if she’s all right or if there is anything she needs. While discretely casting a suspicious glare at Storm, Rogue insists she’s fine. “No, you’re not,” Gambit says with worry.
On the periphery of the discussion, Kitty admits she hasn’t heard Logan act so cold since she first joined the team. Lockheed fusses at her. Kitty tells him to stop.
Continuing his disagreement with Cyclops, Wolverine asks if he ever stopped to think if there is no room in their lives for rules. Rules, he says, only protect the bad guys, while the good guys are the ones who end up getting hurt. A S.H.I.E.L.D. transport ship arrives and puts and end to the conversation.
Sometime later, at the Salem Center, Nick Fury, Professor X and Beast watch as the jet carrying the X-Men finishes its vertical descent. Fury learned from his people it wasn’t a happy trip. Xavier has no further information, as Jean is keeping her thoughts private. “We could try talking,” Beast says.
As the X-Men step out of the plane, Fury remarks that they’ve looked better. Xavier furrows his brow; Scott and Logan are keeping their thoughts private as well. Beast tells Scott he brought his ruby glasses and tells the rest of them to head to the infirmary for a checkup. Storm tells Rogue they should discuss what happened. Rogue, however, seems distant. She tells Storm they can maybe discuss it later, but for now, she feels like a mess because of Cortez and needs time to get her head straight. Kitty observes this interaction with suspicion; Storm’s been circling Rogue ever since she regained consciousness. What’s eating her?
“The whole mission was a mess!” Fury barks. “The world has changed. You have to change with it.” Cyclops reminds him they just saved the world—again. Maybe he’s spent too much time in a suit, behind a desk, to remember what that takes. Fury thinks it’s time for all of them to see the world as it is. The fact is, the world is afraid of mutants. They’re not comfortable putting their faith in a handful of kids who aren’t accountable to anyone, except their professor, who used to be best friends with Magneto. They answer to no one but themselves—and wonder why the world doesn’t trust them? Fury’s sorry to tell Cyclops this, but those days are done. From now on, the X-Men will have to get used to having someone official watching over their shoulders.
“That someone being you, Fury?” the blindfolded Cyclops asks. “You pull the X-Men’s strings, second-guessing everything we do—just because we share a genetic mutation with Magneto?” No, Fury tells him; he’s going to watch over their shoulders because the genetic mutation they happen to share with Magneto makes all of them dangerous! Cyclops claims that no one seems to mind when they save the world from people like Cortez.
That almost scares them even more, Fury claims. People cannot help but wonder what would happen were they to switch sides. “You earn trust by coming out of the shadows.” Shadowcat supposes he means the X-Men cannot do things solo anymore. In response, Colonel Fury tells her times—and the world—have changed. To keep being a part of it, everyone must adapt. Wolverine gets in Fury’s face. He may say that today, but what will he do when his bosses decide that playing babysitter isn’t enough? The Nick Fury Logan remembers wouldn’t be a part of this—and neither will Logan. He marches away from Fury and the X-Men in defiance.
Sometime much later, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Nick Fury meet with Xavier in his office. Fury recalls that Wolverine always did have a temper. Jean insists he’ll get over it. Xavier hopes he does without shedding any blood. Hanging his head, Cyclops just wishes he knew what was bugging Logan so much. If they knew, they could help—but even Jean has been unable to detect whatever it is.
At that moment, Jean, via her psi-link with Logan, tells him that Scott’s worried about him. She is too—but doesn’t like lying for him. Logan assures her Slim will get over it. Jean won’t, though. She tells Logan that if she lost him, she would not know what to do—and she knows he feels the same way. He’s unresponsive. She calls out to him. “Stay outta my head, darlin’,” he tells her. She reminds him she is his backup, but Logan insists that tonight, he flies solo. If he needs her, Jean says she can be there in a heartbeat.
Suddenly, Jean’s eyes widen; she recognizes the scent Logan is following. Logan does too, but to him, the pieces don’t seem to fit. Or maybe they do, he says. He asks Jean to take a look through his eyes and tell him what she sees. “Logan, get out of there—right now!” Jean screams. “I’m on my—LOGAN!?!” As Jean screams his name out loud, her body flares up and emits burst of radiant energy, while Cyclops, Professor X and Nick Fury watch in awe-struck horror.