Deep in the Andes Mountains, rain falls on two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents standing guard over a massive hole in the ground. This weather bites, one of the cloaked agents says. On the man's radio, his colleague Tommy Juniper reminds him they're S.H.I.E.L.D. agents; what would it look like if the post office can handle the weather better than them? After telling the men he has their boss, Nick Fury, on the line, Tommy asks for a sit-rep. First, they explain there is no sign of the tanks that called for help. Second, they explain that they see before them a really big hole—or a small lake, if interpreted that way. As he stares into the hole rapidly filling with rainwater, the agent swears it resembles a footprint.
Inside the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopter, Nick Fury further questions Agent Juniper via satellite. He's not sure how to say this to Fury, but the hole almost looks like a footprint. However, with its dimensions, it must come from some sort of giant, and with all the rain they're getting it may not remain for much longer.
His transmission travels all the way back to Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in Salem Center, New York, where Nick Fury monitors the situation in the Andes with the help of Professor X, the X-Men and a staff of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Agent Juniper tells Fury they're still looking for signs of other prints. Fury wonders why they're depending on three guys on the ground; S.H.I.E.L.D. has more hardware than Home Depot, after all. What is the hardware telling them? Not much, according to one of his colleagues. The weather and topography in that particular region make it hard to get effective intel both from the air and orbit. They're lucky to even have a radio signal; remote data streams are rough and virtually useless.
Because of the technological blind spot, Fury asks Professor X and Jean Grey if they can detect anything telepathically. "Goodness me, is the colonel actually asking us for help?" Beast asks. Jean tells him not to be mean. Beast claims he would perish at the thought. However, he believes it would have been wiser to send the X-Men to investigate. They have stronger psi-links in Jean and the Professor, after all, not to mention the fact they're better equipped to deal with any threats. Could the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at least send a decent picture of the supposed footprint?
Agent Juniper interrupts from the Andes and says he sees something approaching—something cloaked. That must be why they didn't detect it earlier, Juniper says. He suddenly grows very alarmed as the approaching object nears. It's huge! Fury urges him to get out of there right away, but Juniper insists on realigning his camera so Fury can see. The act proves fatal, as the approaching object incinerates the helicopter mere moments later.
The two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at the footprint site look up in horror as both their colleague and their ride explode. With few options, they turn their assault rifles skyward and fire at the impending threat. It makes short work of one of them. The other, Agent Wallace, fires his rifle desperately at the menace. In his last moments, Wallace reports back that the explosive-tipped rounds he's firing have no effect on the hostile, and the excessive rain make it hard to see what it is for sure. All he knows is that it's huge—and deadly.
A moment later, Agent Wallace is gone, dead like his teammates. A crumpled photo from the wreckage of the helicopter burns on the ground. The heavy rain continues to fall over the smoking wreckage of the helicopter and the lifeless bodies of the three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
Five minutes earlier, back in New York...
While Fury commands his men to get out of the area right away, Jean and Xavier merge together their telepathy in an attempt to penetrate the natural defenses surrounding the Andes Mountains. Successful, Xavier establishes a firm mental link with one of the young men. As he prepares to transfer the image to Jean's psyche, however, something catastrophic strikes his mind, causing him to shriek.
Fury, meanwhile, loses the feed. Not another Juniper, he thinks. Not again! He orders his men to create a full-spectrum ground surveillance for a hundred kliks around the location; he wants to know about everything that moves down there. The X-Men, he instructs to take care of their fallen teacher. If Xavier was in contact with Fury's people, then Fury needs to know what he saw.
Returning to the monitor, Fury asks his assistant Ruben why the screen remains blank. Ruben claims it’s the location; this stretch of the Andes has always been a surveillance dead zone. The storm is only making it worse.
Meanwhile, Jean asks Professor X if he’s okay. He felt the young man die, he tells her. In moments like these, he truly loathes his ability to reach into the minds of others and to see so bright a light suddenly extinguished. He couldn’t help or save the young man—he could only watch.
Fury tells Xavier he’s lost contact with his team. He asks if there’s any hope they’re still alive. Regrettably, Xavier informs him of what he knows: young Tommy Juniper is dead. As for the others, his instincts lead him to presume the worst. Fury grumbles; do they have any information? All his men know for sure is that the culprit is big and nasty.
Using her telepathy, Jean asks Beast for his take on the situation. He does not know what to make of it yet. However, he has a really bad feeling, and wants to find some fast answers.
Moments later, Rogue, Cyclops, Gambit and Nightcrawler, having felt Xavier’s telepathic outcry, burst into the room ask what happened. Wasting no time, Beast asks Cyclops what he recalls about Larry Trask. Cyke immediately recalls Larry was the mutant son of Bolivar, who in turn created the Sentinels. As Hank surely remembers, those same Sentinels were immolated on the surface of the sun. He asks Hank why he mentioned them. Hank claims that, as a scientist, he dislikes loose ends. They can’t ignore the possibility they may be dealing with Sentinels.
Fury asks Beast if he’s considering getting involved. “If your guys were still alive, colonel, we wouldn’t even be asking,” Beast replies. “There are threats on this world that we X-Men know better than anyone. And we’re the best people to deal with them.” He turns to Cyclops, who has yet to say a word, and asks if he has anything to add. Cyke doesn’t see why he would; Hank is doing just fine.
Ignoring them, Fury turns back to the monitor and resumes issuing orders to S.H.I.E.L.D. He wants a strike team on standby, air-cap units over their last team’s position and clearances from all relevant governments—and he wants them immediately. Rogue interrupts. Fury tells her and the X-Men to stay out of it, but Rogue tells him that is just plain dumb. This is what they do, she says. They fight bad guys and save the world—and they’re quite good at it. Cyclops reminds Fury that his team obviously ran into something outside its capabilities; what makes him think sending in another unit will yield a different result? The X-Men are willing to take the necessary risk, and they can be on-site within the hour. Shadowcat adds that they’re not exactly new to this. Xavier concurs; being in the field might do them some good.
Cyclops begins issuing orders. He appoints Nightcrawler team leader, based on his term of leadership with Excalibur. Plus, his teleportation might prove essential for this job. Next, Scott assigns Jean Grey to serve as the team’s telepath, and to maintain constant contact with Xavier. Rogue, he assigns to the team to be its muscle. Lastly, he adds Shadowcat to the roster as the team sneak. Fury adds himself to the lineup; whatever killed his men, he wants to see for himself.
Smirking, Xavier tells Fury via telepathy that he told him the X-Men were good. Fury doesn’t disagree. However, Tommy Juniper was good too, but in the end it didn’t make much of a difference.
Gambit, meanwhile, speaks up and requests to sit this mission out so he can look after ‘Ro at the mansion. Cyclops was thinking the same thing. He, too, wants to stay behind, only to monitor Sabretooth, not ‘Ro. No matter what Sabes says, Scott doesn’t trust him. Beast, the only X-Man to not receive an assignment, asks what he is supposed to do. Although Cyke assumed he would remain behind to assist with intel and strategy, Hank informs him he assumed wrong. It’s a communications dead-zone at the attack site. What if something happens to Jean or Xavier? Without that psi-link, the team would have no means of communication. They need someone working with them as they go, processing the data and developing answers—not to mention someone who’s also good in a fight. Jokingly, Cyke asks who that might be, but puts Beast on the team nevertheless. That’s their team, Scott says. With that, Fury tells his men to get the show on the road.
Later, as they fly to South America, Rogue remarks that she liked their old Blackbird better. Then they probably shouldn’t have let it get blown up, Jean replies. “Fair point,” Rogue says. “I noticed you an’ Scott—I mean, I can see things have, y’know, changed—I mean, I’m really sorry ‘bout Logan. I still can’t believe it, that he’s really—y’know,” Rogue says, trailing off. Jean knows what she means; she can’t believe it either. She assumed Logan would live forever. However, they were all wrong.
Fury, overhearing their conversation, jumps in and adds that it’s hard losing a friend like that. Jean assumes he’s seen his fair share. However, she gets the feeling that Fury is taking this loss personally. While Fury acknowledges they’re all personal, Jean’s right, in a way; Tommy Juniper was special because his father’s uncle was Junior Juniper. He was the youngest member of the Howling Commandos back during World War 2. He was a great kid—and their first casualty.
Hard to realize that if Junior had survived the war, he’d be in his 80’s by now, Fury thinks. I don’t like going there, because then I have to think about my own age—but sometimes memory makes its own rules. Try as I might to turn away from the past, I find myself back in the Big One, aboard a C-47, snakin’ our way eastbound over Nazi territory. That was night, an’ the mission where Logan an’ I first met.
In the hull of a cramped C-47 military transport craft, Sgt. Fury tells his Howling Commandoes the sparse details he has about their current mission. “Somethin’ secret, somethin’ serious, fate o’ the world, yadda-yadda blah-blah—you guys know the drill,” Nick says. Dugan, Fury’s mustachioed corporal, asks why they’re bringing Limeys with them. Fury tells Dugan to behave; they’re on the same side. Maybe Ike just figured they could use the help. Who is he to argue with a four-star general? Dugan concedes, adding that he tries not to argue even with Fury. “Smart man,” Fury says. “Must be why you made corporal.”
Fury relays to his men that finding out about their target was supposedly a fluke. Chances are their enemies don’t even know they’re coming. Their orders are total destruction—no prisoners. Dugan doesn’t think that’s very nice, but Fury reminds him that it’s war, and nice has nothing to do with it. He orders his men to check their gear while he checks in on their British allies.
Moving to the back of the plane, Sgt. Fury asks which of the Brits is top dog. “I guess that’d be me,” one of the men says. “And I’m Canadian.” Fury asks if there’s a difference; the hirsute Canadian asks if he wants to find out the hard way. Grinning, Fury introduces himself to the man and says he can call him ‘Nick’. “Logan,” the grizzled Canadian says. “These guys mainly call me ‘Captain’.” Fury pauses noticeably, but Logan advises him not to worry. He knows his orders, and on this mission, Fury is boss. Nick asks if he knows anything about their target. Just that it’s one of Hitler’s special projects, Logan answers. He adds that they tested it against the Russians not much earlier, at which point Stalin called Churchill and FDR personally, screaming for help. Fury supposes they’re that help.
The target—and thus, their drop zone—approaches. Fury orders his men to ready themselves. The cabin shakes violently as both teams take their positions. The C-47, dubbed the Dakota, flies straight and level as the paratroopers it carries dive out of the door. It manages to avoid the Nazi anti-aircraft artillery that tries to bring it out of the sky.
Perhaps because of the fabled luck of the Howlers, all of the soldiers on the plane land safely. However, the battle begins once they hit the ground and it quickly turns bloody. Their objective: an old industrial complex of impressive size. Fury supposes Hitler wanted to make a statement about Germany beating out the Depression. Its size, however, makes it difficult for the Nazis to defend it. Perhaps with the demands of the war, the Nazis gambled they could leave the plant with minimal defense, as it is so far from the front lines. Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos prove them wrong.
As the Allied soldiers approach the base, Logan tells the mustached American to lob a grenade into the opposing machinegun nest. Dugan does so, but only after reminding Logan of his name. The grenade, meanwhile, detonates in the nest, removing the primary obstacle barring the progress of the Americans and Brits. Fury instructs the Brits to secure the perimeter and grab them a set of wheels while they’re at it; they’re going to need some transport home once they finish. He and the Howlers will secure the interior. Logan, however, asks if he can come with the Howlers and enter the facility first. He has a knack for things like this, he says.
Inside the facility, an SS officer, his pistol aloft, commands his men to establish a defensive perimeter at all costs. The scientists, he says, must be protected.
An explosion from his rear side knocks him off his feet. After the smoke clears, Logan enters, machine gun blazing, and eliminates all the remaining officers. It is not long before he runs out of ammunition. “Mags are empty,” he says as he examines the vast interior of the lab. “Looks like Raven’s intel was right on the money. One crazy factory,” he says, “—complete with mad scientist. Time to put you out of business, bub.”
Across the room, the man in the white lab coat cowers in fear.
Outside, Fury’s men talk about Logan’s prowess in battle. He really knows his business, they say as they observe the entire company of slaughtered SS. One soldier admits outright that Logan scares him. Another soldier is more preoccupied with the eerie machinery on the grounds to give Logan much bother. He scratches his head as he examines a saucer-shaped aircraft with a swastika painted on its side. Fury, however, neither knows nor cares about this stuff. Their orders are to destroy everything, he reminds his men. He instructs them to spread the charges while he finds Logan.
It doesn’t take Fury long to fulfill his end of the task, however, as Logan soon approaches, hauling the lifeless body of the mad scientist with him. “You have your orders, Sergeant,” Logan says. “I have mine.” He drops the dead scientist to the ground. Fury cranes his neck and looks around the laboratory. What is all this stuff? Logan tells him he has no idea, but he does know building all these gadgets cost a lot of lives. It’s the kind of stuff one sees in “Buck Rogers”, only it’s real. Hitler’s goons, he explains, have been scouring the world for years for stuff like this. They strip-mine the components of gizmos for working pieces, then reassemble them to make something better—something that could kills millions. Logan doesn’t think that’s something any person or government should have. However, thanks to him, the Nazis no longer have an inventor, and once they blow the factory, they’ll have no hardware, either.
Junior Juniper reports he set the charges. However, he asks if they’re doing the right thing. What if the Allies could use this stuff? Fury reminds him it’s a war. He may argue with Logan’s style, but he has no problem whatsoever with his results. They turn and leave the room, leaving behind the lifeless body of the mad scientist—Dietrich Trask.
“I’m sorry, Johnny,” Nick Fury says as he comes across the dead body of Tommy Juniper. This is the second time Fury has had to write a letter of condolence to the Juniper family. Twice they trusted him, and twice he let them down.
Jean, meanwhile, reports that she senses nothing in the vicinity except for the X-Men. She doesn’t even sense any animals. Beast notices something else odd: all of equipment from the slaughtered S.H.I.E.L.D. brigade is gone. Their bodies and weapons remain, but their helicopter, computers and communicators have vanished. It’s like the area has been selectively strip-mined, he conjectures. Nightcrawler looks around for the fabled footprint, but can’t find that either. Rogue asks if she should scout from the air, but Kurt doesn’t want her to worry about that yet. For now, he wants her to stay with the rest of the team, in case they need her muscle.
Jumping on his communicator, Nick Fury calls for a dust-off to come collect his people. He tells them to wait until they secure the area, though. After swearing to make whoever did this to Tommy pay, Fury orders the X-Men to spread out and search for their target’s trail. If it was as big as his men said, it couldn’t have just vanished.
The X-Men begin their search. Opting to take point because of his speed and stealth, Nightcrawler teleports ahead. Beast, meanwhile, ponders the larger questions of the situation. After the attacker destroyed the helicopter, it apparently took it and all of its electronic components. Why? If it’s so huge, how did it cover its tracks and leave no evidence of its passage through the jungle? Those actions suggest both significant purpose and intelligence. He finds it troubling. He advises Rogue and Shadowcat to stay frosty; their aircraft may prove tempting for their target. That works for Rogue—as she’ll enjoy taking the menace apart.
Up ahead, Nightcrawler searches for a trail in vain. He finds nothing—but then again, the trees in the jungle are so tall and verdant that it might not be that hard for the culprit to hide. He suddenly sees something up ahead, lets out a horrified scream and teleports back to the rest of the X-Men. He immediately urges them to take cover—right away. Beast asks what he saw, but before Kurt can answer, a high-powered energy beam impacts the ground near their feet and propels them through the air.
Beast hits the ground and turns over to face their attacker. He should have known; he should have said something. All the pieces were right in front of him, yet he kept hoping and praying he was wrong. Now, it’s too late. Looming overhead is one of the X-Men’s oldest foes, a Sentinel of gargantuan proportions. “MULTIPLE CONTACTS, PROBABILITY HOSTILE,” the Sentinel Master Mold declares as it locks its sights on the X-Men. “X-GENE DETECTED IN 5 OF 6 ORGANICS—6TH CONTACT HUMAN BUT ANOMALOUS. PRIMARY SENTINEL DIRECTIVE APPLIES: TERMINATE ALL MUTANTS.”