Storm doesn't understand why the Consortium agents are behaving that way and makes her confusion very clear. She reminds them she serves the same agency they do. What do they mean they intend to kill her?!
The Brooklyn Bridge...
Gambit holds the preteen Ororo Monroe close to his chest, partly to shield her from the rain and partly because the two have not seen each other in a while. He tells L'il 'Ro to relax; the hard times are over. Now that she's with him, she's safe. Little do they know, someone else watches their joyous reunion through the scope of a sniper rifle.
Gambit pulls away for a second and instantly realizes they are not yet safe. Looks like he spoke too soon, he tells 'Ro. When she asks what he's talking about, Gambit points out the red laser point of a sniper rifle centered on her forehead. Somebody wants her dead! 'Ro assumes it's the men who held her hostage. Not waiting to find out, Gambit pushes her off the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge and toward the river, leaving just himself to evade the barrage of sniper rifle fire. 'Ro screams at him as she tumbles toward the water; she can't fly! Fortunately for her, Rogue arrives in time to catch her by the arms and fly her to safety. She tells the frightened kid to relax her body. They have a wild ride ahead, but if she can trust Rogue, she'll keep her safe. 'Ro seems less concerned about her own safety, however, than she seems exhilarated by the experience of flying.
Meanwhile, on a nearby rooftop, a quartet of Consortium agents stand in the rain, leveling their sniper rifles at the Brooklyn Bridge. They lost contact both with the target and her Cajun partner. Worse, their visibility deteriorates by the minute. One of the agents supposes the target could have fallen into the river. His more prudent colleague reminds him they must not assume anything: either they find her, or they find her body.
Suddenly, Nightcrawler appears in a cloud of purple smoke over the head of one of the agents. He says he has a far better option for them: surrender. He hurls the agent at another one of his Consortium colleagues. As Nightcrawler begins his attack on the other two soldiers, Gambit arrives and asks if he needs a hand. "Feel free to take them prisoner," Nightcrawler says, "...once I'm done."
The armored soldiers point their assault rifles at the helpless Storm. The Consortium considers her a liability and wants her eliminated. Deciding they've had enough talk, the squad leader gives his men the order to kill.
Just then, a high-powered optic blast strikes one of the Consortium agents in the back, thus heralding the arrival of the X-Men. Backed by Jean Grey, Shadowcat and Sabretooth, Cyclops apologizes and tells the agents it isn't Storm they need to worry about. He gives them one warning to lay down their weapons. The blindfolded Sabretooth suggests they stop talking and just kill the guys.
The Consortium squad leader tells his subordinate Barrassa to deal with Storm while the others deal with the X-Men. Before they can ready themselves, however, Sabretooth leaps into action. With his claws outstretched, he descends on one of the soldiers, begrudgingly remembering his orders not to kill anyone. Just this once, he'll listen to Cyclops, he says. However, that doesn't mean he won't make his victims scream. Jean, protected by a telekinetic shield, approaches another of the assault rifle-wielding agents. The man fires at her frantically, but her shield stops all the bullets. Did he really believe his weapon was a match for her TK—or his so-called armor any real defense against telepathy? Jean commands him to sleep, and while he sleeps, to tell her everything she wants to know. The X-Men surround the only Consortium agent left standing, who holds Storm hostage. Kitty urges him to call it quits. Cyclops agrees. He suggests the agent put his gun down before he gets hurt.
Storm watches the X-Men approach in humiliated frustration. The Consortium will pay for this, she tells herself. At that moment, she summons a lightning bolt from the heavens, which hits—and fries—her captor. The X-Men watch Barrassa's electrocution in horror. Once the lightning dies down, they behold the smoldering skeleton of the former soldier. She killed him, Kitty cries! Sabretooth asks if that surprises her. He leaps at Storm without hesitation. However, the weather witch repels him with a cyclone of wind. Admittedly, she respects his claws, but wonders what makes him think she would ever let him get close enough to use them. She then flies away on the wind current before the rest of the X-Men have time to react.
As Storm flies away, she realizes Shadowcat cut her deeper than she previously thought. Essentially, she's running on adrenaline at the moment; she cannot afford to face all the X-Men at once. Deciding to leave the X-Men with some ominous parting words, she tells them they will face each other again, and when that time comes, it will be their bones that smolder—none among them more than her beloved Kitten.
Kitty hears this threat and knows Storm means it. Jean swears they'll protect her. They would have said the same thing about Logan, Kitty retorts. Sabretooth, meanwhile, reports that the wind scrambled Storm's scent trail. He doubts even he could track her. Woman's good—he'll give her that much. To their surprise, Cyclops decides to put Storm on hold for the moment. What concerns him more are her associates, the Consortium.
Meanwhile, the other X-Men—Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler and 'Ro—watch as a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents escorts the defeated Consortium agents onto its transport ship. They sure didn't waste any time taking these prisoners into custody, Rogue observes. Gambit bemoans the fact they didn't even get a chance to question them. S.H.I.E.L.D. has its own methods, Nightcrawler says in its defense. Gambit supposes they just want all the secrets for themselves; he doesn't trust them. "Well, likely they don't trust us either," Kurt replies. "As Fury says, we X-Men have lived perhaps too long in the shadows."
A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent walks over to the X-Men and tells them Colonel Fury requests them back at the mansion. The X-Men object to being given orders by S.H.I.E.L.D., especially when their friends are still missing. They've already been taken care of, the officer says. 'Ro doesn't like the sound of the orders; she asks Remy if they have to comply. They will for now, Gambit says; before they make any bold decisions, he wants to ensure 'Ro's health and safety.
Meanwhile, the other team of X-Men stands by while Jean probes the minds of their captives for information. What she retrieves is of minimal use. Someone thoroughly scrubbed their memories; they know their mission, but little else. They have virtually zero long-term recall.
While Jean searches the captives, Sabretooth, picking up residual scents all over the place, follows his nose through the warehouse. Cyclops asks what he intends to find. The Consortium has been coming through these tunnels for quite some time, Sabretooth tells him. Cyclops doubts it. The building doesn't look like much; it's just a warehouse. As he slaps away a stack of wooden crates, revealing a hidden doorway, Sabretooth tells Cyclops his problem is that he only uses his eyes. Sabretooth, on the other hand, can feel the vibrations of an energy shield behind the metal door. Since Kitty has the adamantium claw, he tells her to cut the lock.
Sabretooth, Shadowcat, Cyclops and Jean walk through the door and into a secret docking area between two piers. Cyclops remarks that they're far enough over on the west side of Manhattan that this slip probably gives the Consortium a clean tunnel straight out to the Hudson River. How convenient, Sabretooth says; no one checks their cargo entering or exiting the city. Kitty wonders what they keep inside all the crates. "Feelin' curious, kid?" Sabretooth asks. "Be worth a look."
"Stop calling me 'kid'," Shadowcat responds. Cyclops admits their accomplice has a point. Jean throws out the possibility the crates are booby-trapped. Considering what they learned about Storm that evening, can they afford to take anything for granted?
Jean senses they have company mere moments before a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrives in the slip. They order the X-Men to stand down and declare the area under jurisdiction. Cyclops reminds them the X-Men were attacked, but the agents insist they will deal with it. The X-Men no longer have authority. Suddenly, Cyclops gets an incoming transmission from Hank McCoy, who asks him to return to the mansion right away. He doesn't waste time answering questions; he assures Cyclops it is serious.
The School for Gifted Youngsters—Salem Center, New York...
As he marches across the lawn of the Xavier Institute amidst a frenzy of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Nick Fury instructs his men to keep a low profile. His assistant Roy asks about the sudden flurry of activity; who are these people he’s summoning? Fury insists they’re people he recruited—people he trusts. Roy asks if he’s missing something. At the moment, Fury has nothing to tell him, but reminds him he has his orders.
Agent Dugan, an attractive woman with short red hair, approaches Fury with some bad news: they lost contact with the transport carrying Fabian Cortez. Fury asks how they possibly lost contact, a question to which doesn’t have a suitable answer. They were flying transatlantic westbound through a storm when, after a few scrambled radio bursts, they disappeared. The transport won’t respond to any means of communication—not even from the guaranteed auto-mayday systems. It’s like the ship simply vanished, she says. Fury asks if she has any theories. Other than believing a 20-ton aerial transport doesn’t just disappear, she has nothing. Fury scowls and orders her to find the plane.
Somewhere in Northern Africa…
The missing S.H.I.E.L.D. transport ship lands on a rocky plain under the night sky of Africa and opens up its loading bay. Out walks Fabian Cortez in shackles, who asks his captors what they’re doing and why they’re releasing him. The S.H.I.E.L.D. double-agent just tells him to keep walking; he’ll find his answers soon enough. The transport ship closes its door and departs, kicking up a thick cloud of dust as it begins its vertical ascent.
Cortez screams at is as it leaves, but before long, three Consortium agents emerge from the dust and tell Cortez not to worry. After introducing themselves as agents of the Consortium, they inform Cortez he now belongs to them.
Xavier’s Mansion. Beast’s lab…
“I’ve spent all night trolling the archives,” Beast says to the gathered X-Men. “In terms of Storm, she’s been with the X-Men for years.” He explains to Rogue, Gambit, Shadowcat, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Professor X, ‘Ro and even Sabretooth that the Storm they just fought was definitely the one recruited by Charles. She and Jean were even best friends. That Storm also interacted with some of the most powerful telepaths they know—yet apparently, she managed to fool them all. Adding to the mystery is the fact there also exists a barely adolescent iteration of her in young ‘Ro—an iteration they thought they cured. The obvious first question: is one of them a fake? If so, which?
He brings up Storm’s profile on the lab’s computer monitor. Storm is a perfect match for the data they have on file, Hank says. According to every record they possess, every physical and genetic scan they can make, she was the real deal. The problem is—so is ‘Ro. The X-Men, including ‘Ro, are surprised to hear this.
Cyclops points out that this analysis may cover their bodies. What about their minds? Remy reminds him Storm fooled their telepaths at lease once. Scott doesn’t think that matters; over the years, Storm’s control over the weather has created an impenetrable shield of static around her brain. She can hear a psychic yell, but they could not get inside her thoughts. Professor X points out a similar effect surrounds young ‘Ro’s mind as well. Therefore, for the time being, they need to take things at face value—and keep their fingers crossed.
Beast wishes that were their only concern. Cyclops asks what else he discovered, while Jean tells Hank she’s never sensed such angry emotions coming from him. She has no idea, Hank says. He explains that while he was searching, he happened to find his way into Xavier’s original data cache, which contained notes dating back to before he first became paralyzed. Have any of them ever wondered why there are so few mutants much older than they are? While non-mutant variants come in all ages, but mutants always seems to be younger. Nightcrawler, growing anxious, asks what point he’s driving at. Hank continues; he’s been crunching the numbers. Most of the known active mutants are in their twenties or younger, while many are barely in their teens. Only a comparative handful of mutants are what one might call ‘mature’. In all their records, in the whole world, Hank can’t find any over the age of 60. He now posits the X-gene comes with a price: it kills them young. Worse, he believes Charles Xavier has always known this.
Cyclops turns to his leader and asks if this is true. Is that what happened to Magneto near the end? Was he literally burning out? Xavier insists that was the fault of Fabian Cortez. Cyclops disagrees; the deterioration began much earlier, when he was with Rogue in the Savage Land. In fact, Cyclops remembers that all along, Magneto seemed to be regressing without even realizing what was happening. Cortez merely expedited the process. Jean questions Xavier as well. Six weeks ago, he could walk, but now, he’s back in his wheelchair. Is something similar happening to him?
“I—don’t know,” Professor X sighs. He recalls how he would listen to Magnus speak of mutant ascendancy and how it sounded so fantastic. He used to imagine the human race filled with people who could do the most wondrous things, actually accomplishing with the power of their minds and bodies what they can barely attempt to do now through technology. After a while, though, Xavier began to wonder why it hadn’t happened yet. At that point, he began searching for answers. This quest led to his first encounter with the Shadow King and then the incident that crippled him in the Himalayas. His search led him to found the X-Men. “What I discovered broke my heart,” Xavier tells his X-Men. “Magneto’s dream was just that—a dream.”
Continuing, Xavier reveals that mutants are not the next glorious advancement in evolution. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. He fears they may very well be doomed by the same powers that make them unique. “Our bodies are finite vessels, you see. The more power we use, the less is left to sustain our very lives,” Xavier says. While young and in their prime, the output is less noticeable, but as they age and mature, everything becomes noticeably finite. Eventually, they all reach their limit: the well of power comes to its end, and with it, their very lives. Xavier admits he has searched for a solution for years. It was not simply for love that he stayed across the universe with Lilandra. While there, he hoped to find mutant salvation between the knowledge of the Shi’ar, the Kree and the Skrulls. However, he failed.
Although the X-Men react in various ways, they all feel some degree of shock. It is Cyclops who speaks first. Xavier never thought to tell them? The professor admits he decided not to. “Because if you couldn’t find the answer, how could we?” Cyclops presumes. That’s not how it is, Xavier tells him. He assures Cyclops he understands his anger. Scott tells him he isn’t even close.
Rogue suddenly realizes this explains so much about Genosha. That’s their secret, isn’t it? The Genoshans know the truth. She deduces they got away with making mutant slaves because they knew the harder they used them, the faster they would die. Xavier confirms her deduction. Gambit now wonders what they’re even doing there. “Why for Logan, he throw away his life, huh? For nothin’?” Gambit asks. “These folks, they tell me ‘X-Man’ stands for somethin’. Seems to me, hom, that all that be a lie.” Charles Xavier cannot bring himself to respond to this. He merely shuts his eyes and lowers his head.
Nick Fury unexpectedly marches into the lab and tells the X-Men to get used to the real world. Sometimes, he says, even the most honorable of men have to make a truly awful choice for the common good. They hate what Xavier did, and Fury empathizes with them—but he also understands why Xavier made that choice. He asks them to consider all the X-Men have accomplished because of their leader. They’ve even saved the universe—twice! Were Xavier’s actions shameful? Yes—and he will have to live with that. However, that was his decision. Theirs comes next. If they want to walk away, Fury will not stop them. The reality, though, is that the X-Men are needed, plain and simple. If they condemn Xavier, they’ll also have to condemn Logan, who also knew the truth but chose not to walk out the door. “The man who had the dream is flawed,” Fury concludes. “The dream itself—of a future full of hope for all of humanity—that’s still good.”
Atop the onshore peak, midway along the Xavier estate, overlooking the mansion and Breakstone Lake, the X-Men build a memorial to their fallen comrade, Wolverine. They lay his samurai sword, his cowboy hat, a framed photograph, some roses and their letters inside a circle of candles. ‘Ro kneels before this monument and expresses regret for not ever knowing the man. Nightcrawler assures her she Logan would have liked her, and vice-versa. He lowers a six-pack of beer cans onto the memorial. “Here you are, mein freund—a little something to tide you over,” Kurt says, “…until we meet again.”
Nearby, Scott asks Jean if what she said earlier about her love for Logan was true. With her back turned to him, Jean admits it is. “You love him,” Scott states.
“Yes. The joke’s on me. I live, he dies,” Jean says, her back still turned. She walks away. “All our hearts are broken. I’m sorry.” As she leaves, Scott tells himself one thing will never change: he will always be there for Jean is she ever needs a friend.
Kurt asks Scott what they do next. As much as he hates to admit it, Scott says Fury was right. Charles blazed a path for them. They may hate the choices he made, but this isn’t about him. The X-Men are no longer fighting for equality, or even understanding; they’re fighting for survival now. Cyclops has made his choice, and he asks the others to join him. The time has come for them to pick up the torch—and set things right.