Mr. Negative’s operations have been spreading. With the elimination of the Pride, Los Angeles is prime for expansion, but San Francisco is critical. Here, he can gain influence with the Triads. And respect. Here he gains power and a foothold in China. But for the last two weeks, two superheroes have been systematically dismantling his operations! Making him look weak! He now comes to their organization, he addresses someone. He asks this as a simple request and shows them the pictures of the masked Rockslide and Anole. Kill them! Two charges with powers, four times the fee! the other speakers hisses and muses those two must be powerful indeed!
Said two heroes are currently in a training session. Rockslide is asleep during the lesson and shouted at by one of the instructors, Iceman. Is he kidding? He and Angel are two of the original X-Men and he sleeps during their training session? You can’t buy this kind of facetime with them! That’s how freaking cool they are!
Sorry, he was up late, Santo apologizes. Doing what? Angel asks. Nothing! Santo claims, he couldn’t sleep, he was scared of the vampires! He’s made of rock, Angel points out. He doesn’t have any blood. They are just really scary, okay? Santo insists.
Loa asks Anole what going on with him. He’s been tired all the time. Even though he’s been going to bed at like nine. He’s just been really tired, Victor claims lamely. He thinks maybe he’s got Mono. He’s the worst liar, Loa informs him. He knows, he apologizes.
They completely bought it! I am a genius. Like Tony Stark or Reed Richards. But if they were awesome! No one has any idea of the double life Anole and I are leading. Wait, that came out wrong. The truth is, Anole and me… we are pimps! Super hero pimps!
And so at night, the two continue their secret life of crime fighting.
Cyclops… if he knew, he’d shut us down. After everything that the New X-Men have been through… The deaths, the hell… No way he’d let us do this and, honestly, I need this! It’s been so dark for so long, I need this!
And so the two of them asked Magik if she could transport them from Utopia to San Francisco. Illyana suggested they ask Pixie to take them. Megan will talk, Victor pointed out, whereas Illyana doesn’t care. “Look, goat legs, you owe us!” Santo added for good measure.
I need this. I need to show everyone how awesome I can be. Sure, they know. But I need to really hammer it home. Damn, Illyana is hot! Honestly? I kind of liked the goat legs.
Apparently, Illyana agreed as Anole and Rockslide started to stop small-time crime, even making it to the news where to the confusion of the other X-Men it is reported that the Thing or possibly Jason Voorhees teamed up with a Skrull imposter of Moon Knight to foil the crimes.
Victor can’t believe he has Rockslide of all people to thank for this. Every now and then, it’s like he’s an actual human being.
Later, they sit atop a building. Santo gushes about the high speed chase last week. He just stood there… and boom! Victor points out he almost killed the guy. He doesn’t kill. It’s against his code, plus he should have been wearing his seatbelt. Plus, where are they?
Anole reminds him of the lady they saved from the gang with the swords. She works across the street. She’s an assistant district attorney. Is he stalking her? Santo asks. No, this is what Daredevil would do, Victor explains. He saw her picture in the newspaper and figured this wasn’t a simple mugging. Stalker! Santo accuses him. Victor explains he thinks maybe she was targeted.
Santo informs him that’s lame, and he’s lame for reading a newspaper. Print is dead, dude! Then he urges him to leave, so they can find someone to beat up. Victor is about to agree when they see an explosion in the building their target works in.
The two boys jump into action. They saw explosions worse than this during the Nimrod attack on the city. If that lady was in there, she might still be alive, they figure. Rockslide throws Anole over with a fastball special. He probably wanted to do that from the moment he met him, Anole figures. Instinct takes over. You don’t think about the fact that you’re only fifteen years old. Just that you’re someone’s only hope. Cyclops had the students run burning building scenarios in the Danger Room. He’s only got a few moments before the smoke incapacitates him. He finds her alive.
I’ve wanted to do that since the moment I met him Santo admits to himself, but then realizes Anole’s taking too long and he can’t get to him. He is afraid he killed him, but thankfully e sees Anole jumping out of the window with the lady. But Anole can’t fly and isn’t invulnerable. He’s going to die trying to save some total stranger. That’s dumb and awesome, he thinks and he understands he is counting on Rockslide to save him. Santo jumps down and catches him, figuring there’s no way he’s going to let him down. His best friend. His only friend.
Is he okay? Rockslide asks. Anole thanks him. Whatever, Santo replies. He did it for the chick. She looks hot. Anole asks if she is okay. He tells her they are kind of scary looking. SFFD and the police should be here soon or they can take her to a hospital or something. She states that they saved her life again. Crying, she tells them her daughter is at home. She’s only two years old. She’ all she has. Without them she’d be an orphan. She hugs Anole.
Later, with the lady brought to safety, the two wait at the pick-up place, realizing they missed the pickup time. There’s no way Magik’s coming back for them. That was pretty cool, though, they have to admit. Does he think the lady will rename her daughter after them? Santo muses aloud.
Well done, heroes! King Cobra hisses. They made finding them so very easy. Nothing personal, but they have to die now! If this is any consolation though, the Serpent Society will make their deaths quickly. They have a reputation to maintain after all…
“Holy crap!” the two boys answer.
The three Stepford Cuckoos, Phoebe, Celeste and Irma (sometimes called Mindee) are sitting in a park, making fun of the people and their thoughts. One of them notices a nervous man. They read his mind and find out he and his friends are planning to rob a bank. Why don’t they do some good? one of the girls suggests, and the others agree.
The man meets his friends outside the bank and they put on their masks and start the bank robbery. Not the sharpest tacks in the drawer, the Cuckoos criticize.
Somewhere nearby swinging, Spider-Man’s spider-sense tingles and he hears a gunshot. He tries to find the source of the danger.
In the bank, one of the Cuckoos tells the others not to let them shoot. They focus to control all the bank robbers. Against their will, the men begin to shoot into the air. One of them is forced to call the cops to report a robbery. But it will take a couple of minutes until the cops arrive.
One of the girls that has been listening to a mp3 player has an idea of what to do until then.
Spider-Man enters the bank, ready to fight, to be greeted by the sight of the bank robbers dancing against their will. The girls wave at Spidey and explain they have the situation under control. Police are on their way.
The robbers beg him to do something. He tells the girls making them dance is just inhumane. He knocks the man out, if only to spare himself the sight.
The Cuckoos are taken aback as the robbers beg to be knocked unconscious. This is just disrespectful, the Cuckoos decide. He doesn’t have to go around making a mess. Instead, they influence Spider-Man to fight them along the music.
What the hell was that all about? a teller asks him afterwards. Don’t ask, he begs. Swinging away, he vows the X-Men are totally off his Chriskwannakuh card list. He just doesn’t know how to talk to girls, the Cuckoos decide. Regardless, this was fun. Helping people. They should do it more often…
Flathead Valley, Montana:
Colossus jumps out of a Blackbird without a parachute, turning to his armored form as he falls. He recalls his first meeting with Wolverine, the day he joined the X-Men. He looked Peter up and down with sheer contempt and snarled: “What’s your mutant power, famboy? Shuckin’ corn?” He thought Peter nothing more than an ignorant hick. And Peter knew instantly what Wolverine was: a bully, a savage, a man with no heart. Then they worked together, fought side by side and realized they had both been wrong. Since that day, he has always tried to see beyond a person’s surface. To what truly is inside. Today however, he fears he may be back to square one.
“Oh great!” Iron Man sighs when he sees who the X-Men sent him. No offence but, if he needed muscle, he’d have sent for the Hulk! Colossus corrects him that he didn’t send for him. Steve Rogers did through the X-Men. Iron Man apologizes. It’s been a rough day: first Titanium Man, then more corporate crap from the Hammer family. And to top it all off, the Lamborghini wouldn’t start this morning! He can see how that would be vexing, Peter replies wryly, stepping past a skeleton. But perhaps they should deal with the problem at hand…
Iron Man explains the meteor or whatever it was crashed to Earth at five AM and immediately started emitting lethal radiation. He points towards the skeletons and warns Colossus to be careful when he steps over them. The goo on the ground used to be their flesh. Only heavy metallic alloys seem to shield the rays, so he shouldn’t change back to human form any time soon.
Has he tried scanning the object? Peter asks. No, he’s floating here trying to play Halo with it, Iron Man snaps. Of course he has been scanning it! He’s identified the radiation, a mixture of gamma and highly charged X-rays. But he can’t figure out why the object is doing this or how to stop it. Its surface is extremely dense.
Colossus lifts the green round object up, suggesting a closer look. The shell is too tough for Iron Man’s scans to penetrate. They see tentacles coming out of the object like roots trying to extend to the ground. And from the radiation Iron Man’s getting, they’ll soon be charged with the same deadly radiation they see here.
Is it trying to reproduce? Peter asks. Maybe it’s an instinctive reaction, Iron Man muses. He doesn’t know. Either way, they could be looking at a disaster of magnitude larger than they are already facing.
He tries to sever the roots with his blasts but both of them are punched back by the feedback. Colossus suggests perhaps they should focus less on the threat the object appears to pose and more on what lies inside it. He points to Iron Man’s hologram. Inside is probably the source of the meteor’s power. Trying to open the shell, Iron Man admits Colossus is not just the muscle. Peter forces open the meteor and a small green lifeform flies upwards.
Iron Man recognizes it from Reed Richards’ database. It’s a Biorg. Wandering space creatures, aware but harmless. The Biorg became trapped inside the meteor and, panicked, inadvertently ionizing some rare elements within the meteor. Now that it’s gone, the radiation is dying down and the roots shouldn’t be any problem.
The two shake hands. Iron Man announces he will send up an Avengers clean-up team. Does Peter have a ride home? He thanks him for bringing him down to Earth. He’s spent too much of his life building shells, he doesn’t always think to look inside them. He supposes that is his mutant power, Peter smiles, that and shucking corn.
A diner at nighttime. Outside several rather ridiculous figures have masked themselves and call through a megaphone that they know she is in there. Seems she cut up a couple of their holy brothers down the road and they ain’t about to let no inhuman abomanayshun walk away from that! She’ll get her butt outside or, by God, they’ll burn the place down! The Brotherhood of the Pure Propellers commands it!
Nervously, the waiter asks her not to go out. X-23 thanks her politely for the pie and asks her to stay inside. Then she steps outside.
Nervously, the brothers exclaim that is one ugly critter. Some sort of demon? another wonders. Taken aback by that reaction Laura turns around and sees they were talking about the Ghost Rider, who has arrived behind her. Someone mention “burning?” he asks. “Sic’ em boys!” the leader announces. Halleluja! And the battle is on.
The Ghost Rider nails one of them with his hellfire stare. The hell she starin’ at? he demands. And wasn’t she a hairy little Canuck feller last time they met? X-23 asks how the thing with his eyes works. Party trick, he chuckles. Dredges up all the pain and suffering a soul inflicted on the world and turns it back inside. Could he do it for her? she asks. She is a clone. She doesn’t even know if she has a soul. And she has done terrible things. People have said it’s not her fault She was made this way. But she can think for herself. She can make decisions. She would like to know how guilty she is and be punished accordingly.
The Ghost Rider protests that the penance stare is a power from hell, not therapy. One lone fanatic tries to shoot him in the back. When he begins to react automatically, X-23 intervenes, pointing out that his attacker is a child. She takes off his mask. Too young to know any better. The Ghost Rider orders the boy away and the child runs.
Reluctantly, he admits she stopped him from making a mistake. She probably figures he owes her now. Yes, she agrees. The Ghost Rider prepares to use his Penance stare on her when suddenly she asks him to wait. She saved that child, didn’t she? So she made a judgment. She knows right and wrong. She is accountable. She is guilty.
He asks her to make her mind up. She decides pain is too easy. Real penance should take more effort. Well, color him impressed, he mocks, but don’t hesitate to look him up if she ever changes her mind. He turns back to Johnny Blaze as he goes to his bike. Even vengeance understands diminished responsibility. And it ain’t down to him to say if she’s got a soul or not. Only she gets to decide that.