The Andes, South America:
A Consortium plane lands in front of a cave. The men inform their superior, Dr. Amelia Trask, there is no sign of any hostiles. She replies her daughter’s instructions were specific. This is the time and the place for their rendezvous.
Suddenly, the men are taken down by energy charges coming from the cave. Sigrid Trask, covered in Sentinel armor, apologizes to her mother. There have been some changes. Does she like her friends? She refers to the Sentinels. Together they are going to give her the world…
At the X-Mansion:
Fabian Cortez died during the night. Nick Fury announces he doesn’t believe what Cortez said. He was lying to the end. He’s known Tony Stark for years! Cyclops is less convinced. Fury insists Stark isn’t that kind of man. He helped found the Avengers. All true, Jean Grey agrees, but everything Cortez said is also true. He didn’t know telepaths could mind-read the dead. Jean replies he is talking to someone who tends to commute from one realm to the other. She found residual memory images of Stark among the Consortium hierarchy, who interrogated Cortez. Apparently, the man behind Earth’s greatest defenders also seems to be among the X-Men’s deadliest foes. So what do they do about it?
Make sure this is true first, Cyclops announces. He orders Kitty, ‘Ro and Kurt to look though the archives, see if they can find some information to prove or refute what Cortez told them. Beast announces both Stark and Iron Man have been his friends for years. What they are saying makes no sense, even for Stark at his worst. But he’s known Jean for longer and he trusts her, which means he’ll keep an open mind. Moira and he can perform a post-mortem on Cortez to see if they can find anything useful.
Is this for real? Daisy Dugan asks Fury and Cyclops. Fury muses it’s plausible. They are on their own. They know something’s not right within SHIELD and it’s beginning to look like the rot is dangerously extensive. That means events are being orchestrated by someone with power. As far as the outside world is concerned, they behave like they know nothing. And then what? Daisy asks. Cyclops has some ideas but wants to talk to Charles first. Fury asks for Jean to scan the agents on-site.
Daisy decides to look in on the injured Sabretooth, despite Fury’s warnings.
Alone, Fury makes a phone call to someone, asking for a favor…
At Sabretooth’s bedside, Daisy muses Fury is worried about her. That’s sweet but she isn‘t a sweet little girl. She’s a stone killer. She touches Sabretooth’s stump, musing he lost his hand because of her. She takes his other hand, admitting she’s never felt like this before. The responsible part knows she is making a mistake. Definitely not sure it will lead to any kind of happy ending. But she bets the trip is worth the ride…
In the medical bay, Beast, while looking through a microscope, muses aloud if Magneto is waiting for Cortez in the afterlife. Bet that’ll be an interesting conversation. He’s got a lot to answer for. He’s never understood people like Cortez. To be blessed with such fantastic abilities and the only thing he can do with them is harm. And it looks like this is just the beginning.
Xavier and Cyclops join him and Xavier notes Hank’s agitated thoughts. Can they help? Charles asks. Got any miracles handy? Hank replies bitterly. The Consortium wants mutants gone. And his and Moira’s research is leading him to conclude they may have found a way to succeed. Cortez’s power worked on a micro-molecular level, using skin to skin contact to infect his victims with a biological catalyst. These bond with the neural system very much like a disease, they then amplify the neural transmitters to the max, superseding the body’s natural safeguards and inhibitors.
Cyclops points out Cortez grabbed him and he didn’t burn out. Nor did Magneto at first, Xavier warns, but over the process of time the drain grew greater, the consequences more severe.
Hank suggests Rogue as an example. Her interaction with Cortez decimated the powers and mentalities she’d absorbed over the years, stripping her pretty much dry. For all they know, that may have set up what consequently happened between her and Nightcrawler. The key element is Cortez’s genetic structure. If the Consortium can replicate his power, they can burn them all dry. Presto: no more mutants! They have to assume the worst and proceed accordingly.
In the library, Kitty, ’Ro and Kurt are doing computer and book research. Kurt announces the Stark family fortune goes back generations. They have always been global captains of industry. But Tony was the first to actively evince a social conscience. ‘Ro points out the best lies should always be grounded in some truth. For all they know, that “social conscience” is telling him mutants need extermination.
So the next time they are called upon to save the world, do they take a pass? Kitty wonders. Works for her, ‘Ro replies. She finds something on April 13th 1956. It’s an article about Howard Stark’s holdings in South America and his meeting Bolivar Trask, later creator of the Sentinels, his friend…
Kurt realizes this explains how social scientist Trask was able to translate his vision into reality. The Sentinels came from his alliance with Stark International. He has to inform Scott!
In the Consortium base, Tony Stark discusses baseball with one of the employees until a guard informs him they have a problem: they have lost all contact with Dr. Trask’s transport. No voice, telemetry. The signals from the vehicle have gone silent. Shall he inform— He has told him, Tony interrupts. That will do for now. He asks to be kept posted on the status of the relief mission.
Tony muses Trask went looking for her wayward daughter and ran into trouble. Perhaps the time has come to move and take control…
In the X-Mansion, Kitty, Kurt and ‘Ro explain their findings to Scott. Howard Stark was strip-mining the Nazi intellectual elite. Stark was part of the secret team in WWII that sent the Howling Commandos and Logan after Trask’s father. He was instrumental in getting the Trask family to South America. As the son came of age, he bankrolled Bolivar’s research. Scott agrees but doesn’t believe that automatically implicates Tony Stark. Hank and Iron Man were teammates in the Avengers. He and Tony are friends. You can like one man and still despise the species, Kitty points pout. Fury joins them, announcing they have to talk. Scott asks Kitty to keep digging. He’ll have Jean establish a psi-link between the two groups.
Fury explains that he has a source at Stark’s. He has learned nothing about the Sentinel connection but there is a whole lot of buzz lately about something called Plague X. Shadow-ops project that was backburner for years until suddenly a few weeks ago it went into overdrive. As though they’d just found the key that all the components fit together. His spy passed along some information.
Beast examines the data. That’s not good, he finally announces. In effect, they are looking at an amplifier. The Consortium’s apparent goal is the elimination of mutants. Two problems: How to identify them and then how to efficiently do it. The “Eichmann” equation. How to apply industrial efficiency and cost effectiveness to the job of mass species extermination. But what’s good a gun, no matter how big its beam shoots in a straight line, it’s hoodwinked by the curvature of the globe?
He finds some of those components seem familiar. The last space shuttle missions carried a supply of private contract cargo in addition to the NASA payload. Supposedly, supplemental modification of the space station. He suggests the Consortium has an orbital platform. From a Lagrange point, the beam will cover the terrestrial hemisphere. All they have to do is pull the trigger and let Earth’s rotation do the rest. Give the weapon sufficient power, they’ll be able to punch through any shielding on the surface. That beam will affect every mutant on the globe – active and latent – just the same as if Cortez touched them directly. The energy that sustains their abilities will overload; given the power levels of some of them they’ll probably go up like organic supernovas and the collateral damage will be horrendous. But when the day is over the Consortium will have their heart’s desire. Every mutant who lives on this world will be no more.
In orbit on the station, a pensive Tony Stark stares at Earth, to be surprised by the return of Amelia Trask. Surprised she is still alive? she asks. How she did get up here? They tracked no approaching shuttles and the teleport grid has been silent as well. She has her ways, she smiles. She comes bearing good news. They can implement Plague X.
Tony protest they decided the risk was too great, even striking from up here in orbit. The X-Men have proven too formidable adversaries. Amelia agrees but has a solution. Let the X-Men come fight them. They will still die. She introduces her new chief of security, her daughter Sigrid and her associates – the Neo-Sentinels…