In Afghanistan, the team of X-Men gathered by Cyclops – Wolverine, Marvel Girl, X-23 and M - have found the bodies of their friends from X-Force – Domino, Rictor, Feral as well as Irene Merriwether – and given them a decent burial. What now? Rachel asks their leader, Wolverine. They’ll find who did this and kill ‘em. Any of the ladies got a problem with that? the veteran X-Man replies.
M and X-23 are clearly out for revenge for their departed colleagues and friends but Wolverine notices hesitation on Rachel’s part. She tells him she is with him but, after further prompting, admits that she doesn’t like it. He tells her that sometimes, especially in the life the X-Men have defined for themselves, there are only hard choices. That’s why she quit, Rachel states, looking away. She and Kitty wanted different. If she wants to bail… he needles her. Rising to the challenge, Rachel demands if he thinks she can’t cut it. Unsheathing his claws, he retorts that he knows exactly what she is capable of… and the consequences.
They both recall a moments years ago, when Wolverine was forced to stab a ruthless Rachel through the heart. Taking Wolverine’s hand, Ray admits that she was younger then and a lot more foolish. Wolverine relents and admits that he almost killed her back then. He never wants to face that choice again. Whatever reasons Scott had for including Rachel on this team, he knows better. Scott made the right call, Rachel insists with a weak smile. She’ll keep control. And they need her to find the trail.
X-23 butts in. She thought she and Wolverine were the trackers. Wolverine agrees that they got the scents. But those ended here. Rachel turns back and the Phoenix effect appears over her eye as she begins using her powers She muses that she always loved the adventure; the discovery. She grew up hunting mutants. This was her happy ending. She should have known her life would lead her right back to where she started. Energy bends around her. She coheres residual energy traces and the past replays before their eyes.
They witness the battle between Apocalypse, X-Force, Cable and Sinister’s agents and they see who brought Sinister’s people here – the teleporter Slipstream. The Master of the Hounds, Rachel states. As she once was? Wolverine asks. She was better, Rachel replies. No, she was the best and he isn’t the only one who is capable of manipulating primal quantum forces. She opens a gate way and they jump into it without hesitation.
Back at the camp, outside the ruins of the Xavier Institute, Scott Summers makes a call to some more parents to inform them that their children have perished during the attack. Afterwards, he pours himself a drink in quiet desperation. While the woman who appears to be Dust is sneaking around in the tent, he reminisces morosely, looking at the pictures on his desk. His brother Havok, whom he couldn’t save. He remembers his greatest screw-up, the one that truly haunts him. He looks at picture of his relationship to Madelyne Pryor, his first wife. The screw-up that was his fault. When he met her, he thought he had found a miracle. With Jean, their life as couple was defined by their lives as X-Men. But Madelyne knew him as Scott, just a guy. And when he revealed himself as a mutant, she accepted him. He asked her to marry him. And when Nathan was born, things were even better.
Why couldn’t he embrace the joy that was handed to him on a platter, he wonders. When she asked him to leave the X-Men, he should have listened. He should have given his family a decent chance. Instead… There’s no way to atone. What he felt for Maddy was real. He should have trusted that. He should have fought for them as he fights for the X-Men.
The woman who appears to be Dust listens attentively to every word, as Scott recalls that he left Maddie when she needed him, that he broke her heart. He knows now what that means. How much he hurt her. For that, for all time, he is so very, very sorry.
Suddenly, he is interrupted when Hank McCoy shouts for him to come at once. It is Emma. Scott runs outside, while “Dust” closely studies the snapshots Scott held moments ago.
Scott enters the medlab to see Emma struggling to fight Hank and Cecilia Reyes. She shouts that she needs to save her babies. Sinister has them. Hank tells Scott that she is too badly injured.
The Cuckoos interrupt telepathically, announcing that they have lost all contact with Wolverine’s strike-team. Scott orders them to tell Bishop and establish a live-link conference call with Xavier. Hank implores him not to walk away. His wife needs him. Scott tells him to look around, see the multitude of patients. Who doesn’t need him? He has to decide who needs him more. And he’ll live with the consequences.
Emma shouts that he is running out on her just like he did to Madelyne, but he walks away anyway. Emma still struggles to get up while Cecilia holds her back with her forcefield. Hank finally sedates Emma. The doctors wonder why Emma suddenly begins to smile. They are not aware of the fact that Emma sees them as cute little manga chibi figures now.
the astral plane
“Chibi” Rogue joins them, or more to the point joins Emma. You can take the White Queen out of the Hellfire Club, but you’ll never take the Hellfire out of the White Queen, she mocks. For Emma sits before her on a throne and is wearing a White Queen costume. At her knees sits a chained Jean Grey. Emma haughtily announces that she already has a fool, referring to Jean. She doesn‘t need a “river rat” to take her place. Rogue laughs off the insult. She is proud of who she is and where she comes from. She changes back to her normal form and alters the surrounding to the Mississippi area and a picnic. Emma is forcing their mindlink between them, but they’ll do it on Rogue’s psychic turf.
They sit down on the blanket. Emma dislikes not being in control. Rogue shrugs it off. Must be tough dealing with folks as equals. Oh, she forgot Emma doesn’t have any. Emma tells her not to make fun. This isn’t about arrogance; it is about fear. She can’t help her children injured as she is. She needs a hero. She asks Rogue to be it. Rogue warns her that her power isn’t selective. She will borrow Emma’s abilities and her psyche. Her memories and secrets. Would she do any less for her children? Emma asks. They kiss.
Moments later, a telepathic image of Rogue wearing a White Queen outfit appears to Hank and Cecilia, announcing that she is going to hunt.
At the XSE HQ in Washington, their current leader, Iceman, as well as the renegade Sage, learn about what happened. Sage is multitasking, at the same time examining the Malice choker she recently acquired. She explains to Iceman that Malice is Sinister’s chief operative. If she can tap into her, she can tap into him! Iceman warns her of the risk and Sage stresses that, despite being disavowed for years, she is still an X-Man. She muses that the worst is yet to come.
In Chicago, nayoral candidate Kitty Pryde is holding a speech and is afterwards talking with people in the crowd over Marie D’Ancanto’s warning that there are Purity protesters in the crowd. Kitty refuses to leave. Her supporters deserve some quality time with their candidate.
They are telepathically interrupted by Cyclops (via the Stepford Cuckoos). Ought to be a law against telepaths, Kitty jokes somewhat annoyed. There was. She helped get it repealed, Cyke reminds her. He explains that they have lost contact with Rachel’s team. Kitty is sure she is not dead, as she’d have sensed it through their psi-link.
That moment, she is hit in the head by a thrown brick. Dazed, she falls right through Marie’s hands. Pandemonium breaks out. Marie wants to take Kitty to a hospital but Kitty refuses. She addresses the crowd, telling them the people of Chicago are not about this. The Founding Fathers gave them the means to effect peaceful change in their government: the ballot box. That’s where they are supposed to take action, not by throwing a brick. That’s not the American way.
She asks why people have a problem with her being a mutant. In what way is she different apart from the fact that she doesn’t have to open the door when she forgets her keys? She stresses that she wants the same things they want for her hometown. These are the dreams they all share. The only thing that separates them is an accident of birth. She wants to embrace what makes them all the same, what makes them human. She urges them to all vote next Tuesday. And ends that they will keep bricks for building houses.
Elsewhere, the LeBeau and Summers children, still prisoners of Mr. Sinister, squabble. Meggan Summers accusingly tells Olivier LeBeau that this is his father’s fault and that Gambit is a liar and a traitor. Olivier’s younger sister, Bekka Raven, protests that her father saved them. Meg doesn’t buy it. Olivier shushes her and reminds her that the Shapeshifters – the War Skrulls – weren’t taking prisoners. If Gambit hadn’t intervened… At least they are alive! Does he wonder why? Maggan asks sarcastically and suggests that Sinister is using them as bait to capture the X-Men. Olivier tries to comfort her by pointing out that Sinister now has to deal with them.
The children don’t know that the scene is watched by Gambit and Sinister, who comments that they are utterly delightful and that Remy raised his children well. Remy announces that he doesn’t care. They are square now that is all that matters. Isn’t he even curious why? Sinister demands. Gambit replies that Sinister will tell him anyway. He loves to talk. Shame on himself for being as predictable as Gambit then, Sinister mocks, before adding that he is sure Gambit’s Anna will take him back if he charms her enough. After all, women are such fundamentally weak vessels. Prisoners of their passions. In a way, he reveals that is the genesis of what’s happening. A woman’s passion for the man who almost destroyed her. Curious despite himself Gambit inquires who Sinister is talking about: Lilandra and Charley? In a manner of speaking, he supposes, Sinister replies with a smile.
Suddenly a hologram of Shaitan (still in his Storm form) appears, announcing Sinister has more guests. Sinister leaves to check, all the while still explaining to Gambit that they are at war. Two great cosmic forces are at each other’s throat and no matter who wins Earth and humanity and mutants will suffer for it. One means to enslave them, the other annihilate.
Sinister checks on his people: Shaitain, the Counter Earth villains, a newly cloned Scalphunter (after the last one was killed by Domino) and the Technarx-infected X-Forcers, Proudstar and Shatterstar. Kneeling on the ground and clearly in agony is Cable. Gambit asks what the matter with him is and receives the explanation that Cable has been infected with Technarx nannites but is fighting them. Sinister coldly states this will change nothing, just make the process longer and allow Nathan to feel more pain.
He and Gambit continue to walk. He reveals that as he knows his enemies intimately he figured whom Cyclops would send and prepared the appropriate reception. In a chamber are the two ladies Mastermind, combining their powers to create an illusion that even the new prisoner Wolverine, Marvel Girl, X-23 and M cannot escape from. He adds that Rogue should be among them. As her children are his prisoners, she should have come, whether Cyclops had sent her or not. Here he could have saved her. Now she will likely be lost as the others.
A hologram of the director of Neverland appears, asking for authorization for sanction. Danielle Moonstar is out of control ever since the death of her soulmate, Rahne Sinclair. She is chanting a mixture of Cheyenne and ancient Norse. Despite inhibitors and drugs she is starting to manifest visual phenomena as well. In Dani’s cell, runes are appearing and Dani utters the name Hela every now and then.
Sinister explains the meaning to the director. While a member of the New Mutants, she was induced into the Valkyries. How sad for her that the gods she is calling no longer exist. He authorizes sanction and orders for Dani to be terminated immediately. Any objections? Sinister asks Gambit. The thief coolly replies that she is a friend, but it isn’t his place to speak and he has other priorities.
Paris, capital of the European Union. Following Emma’s idea, Rogue has rifled through the office of its first President Courtney Ross and found that “Courtney” has files on almost everybody including Sinister. Rogue rifles through Sinister’s file when she chances upon a picture of Sinister before his transformation, when he was young. She is surprised by what or who exactly she sees.
In Neverland, Dani is terminated in he sleep. Her heartline goes flat. Suddenly, she opens her eyes again and voices the name “Hela.”
Elsewhere, Sinister still explains things to Gambit. They are witnessing a clash of titans on a possibly apocalyptic scale. That’s what Apocalypse considered himself: a titan. Forgetting that those first gods were overthrown by their children. They have no allies to aid them. Nobody out there much likes this planet. To other races, this is payback, but Sinister has ambitions of his own with too many years invested in his own dreams to see them sacrificed to another’s cause. Regardless of the outcome, the X-Men are doomed. Sinister seeks only to save whom he can. To complete his work on a better day.
He reaches for his brow and takes off his red diamond. Gambit looks at him in surprise, as Sinister transforms into a now human-looking version of himself. Sinister continues that he wants Remy by his side, because where else should a son stand but with his father?