The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, Salem Center, New York…
For the X-Men, it is the best and worst of times. Yet again, they’ve prevailed over a threat to the entire world from their oldest, most formidable foe. But while they emerged safely from the conflict, their foe, Magneto, did not. The X-Men watched as Asteroid M fell from space, to be consumed by the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, they’ve gathered to bid him farewell. Some cheer their victory—but Charles Xavier mourns a deep and primal loss.
In his office, Professor X observes a holographic projection of his late friend and mortal enemy, Erik Lehnsherr. Charles doubts they will ever see him again. “No offense, Charles,” says Xavier’s guest Nick Fury, “—but my response to that is, thank God.” Xavier scowls; Fury did not know Magneto like he did. Fury believes he knew the man well enough. He also knows that Xavier gave him the chance to be something better—and look what happened. Erik Lehnsherr may be dead, Fury says, but the consequences of his actions will be felt by Charles Xavier and his students. Xavier reminds Fury the X-Men were the ones who stopped Magneto. Unfortunately, no one will be crediting the X-Men for that, Fury says. He asks Xavier to consider the implications: what will happen next time? What if the X-Men change sides for real? The fact is that, thanks to Magneto, the world is scared of mutants. The X-Men’s days of independence, Fury says, are over; they’re too great of a threat. The powers that be will not let them continue unsupervised any longer.
Xavier asks Fury if that is why he came: to strip away the X-Men’s freedom. This is the day Erik always warned him about, Xavier says. Was Magneto right all along? Have all of the efforts of the X-Men—all of their sacrifices—been for nothing?
Outside the mansion, Warren Worthington III soars over the rest of the casually dressed members of the X-Men and its offshoot teams. It’s hard to believe that this all began, not so many years ago, with just five students. Five heroes. Five X-Men. Since then, both Charles Xavier’s school and the clandestine team with it have grown—and changed—considerably. Mutants have come here from across this world that all have sworn to protect, and embrace their teacher’s dream of a future where they can feel themselves a welcome part of human society. With Magneto’s death, a primal chapter in the team’s life is closed. Their greatest adversary is no more. Some of them wonder if this means they can start to live more normal lives, to face their future not as super heroes but as children.
Kurt Wagner, whose most human soul is framed by a body that appears to be anything but, chats with Tabitha Smith and Theresa Rourke Cassidy. Nearby, Rogue chats with Wolverine and Gambit. Rogue, real-name Anna Marie Raven, started her career as one of the team’s deadliest enemies before choosing to follow a brighter path. Remy Picard, a.k.a. Gambit, the school’s newest arrival, has lately been feeling less and less sure he wants to stay. Nearby, Kitty Pryde, the X-Men’s youngest member ever, pets the small dragon around her neck while chatting with Bobby Drake and Peter Rasputin. Also in this conversation is Jean Grey. The formidable telepath who bears the title of Xavier’s first pupil, Jean is present in the conversation, but her mind is engaged elsewhere
Unfortunately for Jean, when she’s upset, the psychic walls that shield her from surrounding thoughts become distressingly porous. She picks up stray thoughts from Remy Picard, who feels he no longer knows the Storm he met in Cairo, Illinios and wants to go home. She hears someone else watching Remy and noticing how edgy he feels around Storm. She hears Nick Fury asking Charles to consider all the dangerous powers mutants wield. She hears someone expressing envy over Warren’s wings—and someone else asking why he feels the need to hide his true appearance behind an image-inducer when he is among friends. She even hears someone lamenting how sad it is that it took Magneto’s death to bring them all back together. Finally, she hears Logan. Jean? I love you, Red, he thinks. His voice tempts her, but she resists.
Jean suddenly snaps back to reality and sees the smiling face of Scott Summers. He asks if she is okay; in an emotional crowd like this, he knows it can get rough for her. After he asks if he can do anything to help, Jean throws her arms around his neck and says he can hold her. Cyclops pulls her in for a hug. He promises to help her deal with whatever is bother her together. If only things were that simple, Jean thinks.
Nearby, out of the corner of his eye, Logan watches Jean throw herself into Scott’s arms. “You keep looking at Jean that way, old man,” Kitty says, “…you could find yourself in real trouble.” Grumbling, Logan asks whom she is calling an old man. Kitty folds her arms; it’s a statement of fact. Continue, he tells her. “You go back a long way,” she reminds him. Logan doesn’t see her point. “You haven’t aged.” He has a healing factor, Logan explains. As far as his body cares, age is just another wound to heal. Kitty asks if he plans on living forever. Possibly, Logan says. Finally, Kitty asks him what it wrong. He tries to convince her nothing is wrong, but she persists. Whatever is eating at him must be far more serious than his feelings for Jean, she says. Lockheed flies off her shoulder and circles the two curiously. Logan turns, looks Kitty right in the eyes, and tells her when he needs her, she will know. “I better,” Kitty says. “I don’t want to lose you.” Logan assures her that will never happen; he even gives his word.
Storm, meanwhile, approaches Nightcrawler and rubs his shoulders. It is good to see him again, she says. He and Kitty have been away with Excalibur for far too long. Kurt supposes it might be time for them to return. As Storm takes off in the sky, Logan tells Kurt to be careful about wishing for things like that; they might not always turn out the way he hopes.
Just above the Tropic of Capricorn, the mountains of Peru give way to the west-central highlands that frame the inland nations of Paraguay and Miaralos. This is wild country, photographed from space but never charted, so rugged that there’s not even the slightest evidence of human presence—or so it’s always been believed. Resting in one of the forest’s scenic rivers is the disembodied head of the Master Mold, surrounded by several dormant Sentinel units. Suddenly, the Master Mold whirrs to life, its systems active.
Some time later…
Wolverine enters a darkened hotel room. He has been following this trail since long before that last, fateful confrontation with Magneto. It stared with an instinct that refused to be ignored: something about his teammate—his friend—didn’t seem quite right. The trail has led him here, to a west side penthouse overlooking Central Park. He knows there’s a risk, but he assumes whatever comes—no matter how badly he’s hurt—his healing factor will bring him through. Just like always.
While lurking around the room, Logan—noticeably missing the central adamantium claw on his right arm—hears the telepathic voice of Jean Grey in his head. He tells her to stay out of his mind. She’s his backup, Jean reminds him. Logan tells her tonight, he flies solo. She can be there in a heartbeat if he needs her, she says, adding that he definitely knows the scent he’s tracking. Maybe, Logan tells her, but the pieces don’t seem to fit—or maybe they do. He asks Jean to look through his eyes and tell him what she sees.
Logan, get out of there—right now! Jean suddenly screams. I’m on my—
It’s too late. Wolverine is hit by a bolt of electricity of frightening power. It sends him soaring out the window of the high-rise apartment. A hooded figure approaches the hole in the glass and looks downward, its eyes glowing menacingly. He should have left well enough alone, the hooded person says. However, he just had to play the hero—one last time.
Down below, the charred corpse of Wolverine lies in the street, its adamantium skeleton still smoking from the shock, and its skull locked in a final expression of shock.