Scotland is the last place Neal Shaara expected himself to wind up at, but where else is he to go? He stands at the pier on the lake, his hands giving off smoke and energy residue, dressed in black pants and shirt with a black and yellow jacket. The lake gives off cold, but he feels none of it. His entire body radiates with heat from his new mutant ability, which has changed his life. Whether it is a curse or a gift is for him to decide. All he knows is that there is no turning back. The future is before him.
Neal stands dumbfounded on the pier, but he hears a voice calling him from within his head. Neal is confused, but the voice, outside his head, directs him to her location. Neal looks over to see a motorboat pull up at the pier, with a beautiful redhead at helm. An older man with white hair sits in the back seasick. The woman, Jean Grey, once died but, like the Phoenix, she came back. Recently, her husband was presumed dead, which took part of her soul. She and her friends have spent the last few months as guests of Dr. Moira MacTaggart on Muir Island. Wounds heal over time, but hers are very slow to mend.
Jean tells Neal that he must be Mr. Shaara. Neal tells her that she is correct. Jean introduces herself and the man “skulking” behind her as Nathan. Moira MacTaggart has sent them to find him and bring him to Muir Island. Jean jokes and tells Neal that, unless he is afraid of some high-speed adventure, he should climb aboard. Neal smiles and tells Jean that, if he knew Moira kept such “delightful” company, he would have come sooner. Flattered, Jean tells Neal that he is a charmer. Nathan tells the two that he is going to be ill. Jean’s piloting is worse enough; he cannot take the witty banter and asks if they can return to the island, unless of course if she wants to see his lunch for a second time. Neal boards the boat and Jean takes off. She tells Cable that if she didn’t know better, she’d think that he was being overprotective. Cable tells her that she is right to assume that she does not know better and tells her to drive.
Neal asks Jean if she always drives at such high speeds. Jean jokes and tells him she does so only when she wants to stay earthbound. She then asks Neal his connection to Moira. Neal explains that her family is friends with his parents. Jean tells Neal that he is a long way from home to see a friend and asks him what he is running away from. Neal demands for Jean to tell him all she knows about him. Jean tells him that she has a knack for these kinds of things. Nathan tells Neal that Jean can read minds and then asks Jean to slow down, because he is not feeling well. Jean tells Neal not to pay attention to Nathan. He actually gets seasick. Neal tells Jean that it is a pity, because he loves speed. The faster you go the more you feel alive. Neal then asks Jean to show him how fast the boat can go. Jean is flattered by Neal’s attraction to her and tells Nathan to strap in. Nathan mumbles an “oh no” as Jean speeds away.
(Seven Months Ago)
Neal hails from the port city of Calcutta, India. It was founded by the British East India Company hundreds of years ago and has a population of over four million. Statistics mean nothing to Neal, as he speeds down a street on his motorcycle. They mean nothing when one is young, wealthy and alive. Pedestrians see Neal speed by and a group of girls comment on his good looks. Neal reaches his home, which is the Shaara Tea Plantation, one of the most prosperous in all of the state of Assam.
Neal enters his home just in time to see his distraught parents on the phone. His father tells the person on the other end to keep him informed if he hears even the slightest thing. Mrs. Shaara sees Neal and tells him that his brother, Sanjit, is missing.
Later that evening, Neal hacks into Sanjit’s computer, grateful that his brother is only a reporter and not a computer expert, because it was so easy to break into his electronic diary without a password. Neal then notices something interesting. He goes down to the foyé to meet his parents and tells them that Sanjit wrote a story about an investigation he was undertaking involving the disappearances among the poor in the city. Neal does not think that this is a coincidence. Sanjit had also written some names of people he spoke to. They should try to find them, for they may have answers and can be the best leads. Mr. Shaara tells Neal that he will pass the information onto the proper authorities.
Neal is angered by his father’s decision and asks his parents if they can really go on now knowing if their son is dead or alive. He has to try and find Sanjit, for his brother would do not less for him. Mr. Shaara forbids Neal to involve himself. They have to leave this to the trained professionals. He is the chief of police and he has faith that his colleagues will find Sanjit. The best things for them to do are to sit and to wait. Annoyed, Neal tells his parents that they can wait. He is going into the city. Neal’s father tells him to get back, but Neal leaves the plantation.
Jean arrives back at the Muir Island dock, where Peter Rasputin and Rahne Sinclair wait to greet them. The three get off the boat and Neal asks if there is something in the water, because beautiful women are appearing everywhere. Peter jokes and asks if Neal is always in Romeo mode and Jean notices that Rahne is blushing. Rahne tells Neal that her mother has prepared a room for him in the guesthouse. With all the guests, they are running out of space, but when Peter leaves Neal can move into his room.
Neal asks Peter if he is leaving so soon and wonders what could possibly tear the Russian man from such a beautiful setting. Peter, who carries one of Neal’s suitcases, tells the man that Rahne speaks the truth. He will be leaving for Cape Canaveral in Florida as part of a construction crew for the new Starcore orbital platform. Neal is impressed and tells Peter that he has never met an astronaut before. Peter tells Neal that it was actually his brother, Mikhail, who was the astronaut. He only works in space from time to time. Neal excuses himself, but tells Peter that he referred to his brother in the past tense and asks if Mikhail is all right. Peter tells Neal that something happened and Mikhail is no longer with them. Neal tells Peter that he is sorry but, of all present, he may understand him the most.
(Seven Months Ago)
Neal walks through the streets of Calcutta at night. The city has two hundred thousand people living in poverty and in the streets. Sanjit Shaara went missing here, while investigating, and it is where Neal starts his own investigation. As Neal walks by an alley, he is surrounded by a group of four and forced into the alley. One of the men tells him that it is not often that someone of Neal’s stature comes around here. When they do, says another man, they often regret it. Not intimidated, Neal asks the men if that is a fact. Neal tells the men that he would assume the son of a police chief would be properly trained in self defense. He then punches one of the men in the face, but is whacked in the back of the head by another man. Two men hold Neal, while another man pulls out a knife and wonders how Neal will like having his flesh cut from his face.
Suddenly, a woman descends from the roofs and wraps her arm around the knife-wielder and disarms him. She kicks one of Neal’s captors in the face and then proceeds to punch the other in the face. Neal elbows the fourth man in the face, as the woman gives one last punch to the group’s leader. Neal would later find out that her name was Karima Shapander, a detective in the National Police. His father had requested that she shadow him in case his arrogant self bit off more than he could chew. His father was always overprotective of his children and, right at that moment, Neal was grateful.
At the guesthouse in Muir Island, Neal tells the others that he knows why he is here, but wonders what brings them to Muir Island. Peter tells Neal that, at one time, Muir Island was a home to many of them and still is to Rahne. This is a vacation for them, except for Jean, who is here for medical tests. Worried, Neal asks Jean if she is ill. “No,” says Jean, “merely cautious.”
Suddenly, Nathan interrupts and asks if it is getting hot in the room. Suddenly, the sleeve to his left arm rips apart to reveal his techno organic arm, which is once again trying to take over his body. Neal is shocked to see that Nathan’s arm is alive. As Nathan fights it, he calls himself dumb for losing his concentration and letting the virus seize a chance. A psychic Phoenix raptor envelops Jean, as she tries to help Nathan.
Rahne shifts into her wolf form and tells the others that she will get Moira. Shocked at Rahne’s power, he asks his new friends what kind of beings are they. Jean tells Neal that he has nothing to fear and that she will explain everything later but, right now, Nathan is having a very bad attack and she needs to concentrate solely on him. Neal must trust her. Neal repeats the word “trust” and asks who they are. Rahne runs past Hank McCoy, who has entered the room, carrying books. Rahne causes Hank to drop many books and he tells Neal that they are the X-Men.
Peter enters the room in his armored form and tells Neal to calm and that all can be explained. Scared, Neal tells Peter that he will be free and unleashes his power on the other man. Neal erupts in flames and hits Peter full force. Peter’s clothes burn off and he is sent through the air and out the house and into the forest, enveloped in flames.
(Seven Months Ago)
With Karima’s presence revealed, the two started to work together to find Sanjit. They were able to locate some people that he had spoken to before his disappearance, but few were willing to speak to them. Neal did not know if it was out of fear of strangers or a fear of something else. All the two were able to figure out was that something serious and perverse was occurring in the slums and neither knew what to do about it. However, there was something else that caught them unprepared, which was a growing emotional connection between the two of them.
Karima and Neal sit in an outdoor café. Neal tells Karima that he knows Sanjit is alive. He would have felt if his brother was dead if he were. However, it is frustrating, since no one claims to have seen him or know him. It is as if Sanjit disappeared off the face of the Earth, something Neal refuses to accept. Karima tells Neal not to despair. She will search for Sanjit with him, until they find the answers they need. People are afraid of something. If they can find out what that something is, half the mystery will be over.
Karima tells Neal that, in the meantime, they should deserve at least one night to themselves. The two hold hands and Neal agrees. They walk across town together and stop on a small bridge over a river. The two stop and Neal tells Karima that he has never met someone like her before. Karima is going to say something, but Neal tells her not to say anything as the two lean towards one another to kiss. Suddenly, a bright light flashes on them. Karima goes for her gun and tells Neal to get out of here, but before either can do anything they are shot off the bridge by an energy weapon. The being known as Bastion walks to the edge of the bridge and tells his two Prime Sentinel companions to fetch the two before they drown. He wants them alive for what he has planned for them.
Neal Shaara walks in the middle of the night, naked, through the woods of Muir Island. Worried, he asks himself what he was thinking, cutting lose with his powers. What if he killed Peter? Considering he is on a water-locked piece of land with no clothes and room full of “somethings” after him, escape is probably not an option. Suddenly, Phoenix arrives telekinetically behind Neal and tells him that he does not need to run. They are not his enemy and can help him. Wolfsbane arrives behind Phoenix and Neal is amazed that Jean can fly. Wolfsbane tells Jean that she has brought a spare uniform, as requested, but does not understand why it is needed. She stops herself when she realizes that Neal is naked.
Jokingly, Jean tells Wolfsbane that they cannot have a naked man run through the countryside. “What would the neighbors say?” asks Jean. Wolfsbane reminds Jean that they don’t have any neighbors, but Jean tells Rahne just to go along with her. Neal holds up the blue and gold X-Men training uniform. Jean explains that one size fits all and it won’t incinerate with the use of his power. She won’t bore him with the why’s and where fore’s. Neal tells her that the uniform is unstable on a molecular level, allowing it to withstand on both extreme temperatures and to serve as an insulation unit. He read about Reed Richard’s work while at Oxford.
(Seven Months Ago)
Neal wakes up and finds himself strapped down. He calls out Karima’s name and looks to the side to see the unconscious women strapped to the table beside her; both tables are propped up vertically. A man tells Neal that Karima is not harmed. Neal is horrified to discover that the man is Sanjit. Neal asks his brother why they are bound and demands that they be released. Bastion comes up from behind Sanjit and tells Neal that it would be impossible.
Bastion introduces himself and tells Neal that Sanjit works for him now. He has transcended humanity and has now become a Prime Sentinel, whose sole objective is to preserve the integrity of humanity from the infestation of mutants. The role of Operation: Zero Tolerance is to eradicate all mutants and to stand as humanities last bastion against all forces that threaten to destroy humans. However, he cannot do it alone. That is why Neal and Karima will soon be constituents to the cause. Protests are useless.
Bastion continues and tells Neal that the pain they will feel will pale in comparison to the good they will do on behalf of the human race. Bastion then tells Sanjit to begin the procedure of converting the two into Prime Sentinels. “With pleasure,” says Sanjit, as he presses a button. Energy cascades through Karima and Neal. Karima wakes up and screams out loud. The conversion ends for her and Bastion notes that she is displaying the attributes of a prime unit and that her strength will be much valued to their cause. He then notices that Neal is emitting a strange glow and realizes that someone has tampered with the bioscan results. Neal is a mutant and the process is catalyzing his powers. Neal screams out loud as he unleashes a blast of fire, destroying the entire complex.
Neal, in the X-Men uniform, stands outside the guesthouse on Muir Island. worried. His family and Moira’s family have known each other for decades, but he still worries about the tests that need to be run. However, he knows that he knows little of his powers and he is a risk to others and himself. Unfortunately, the memories of Calcutta are still too fresh.
Neal returns to the cottage and finds Peter, who is armored up. Peter tells Neal that he wears the uniform as if he is born to do so. Neal is surprised to see Peter and tells him that he was afraid that the man was hurt. Peter tells his new friend not to worry, for he has withstood far worse and lived to tell the tale. Moira hugs Neal and takes a good look at him, for she has not seen him in such a long time. Neal sits with everyone around the fireplace and tells them that they have been too kind to him. They also seem to have a history and bond together that he envies. Unfortunately, he is an outsider, looking in. He would not have come to Muir Island and intruded, but he has nowhere else to go. He has lost all he has ever known and he has never felt so alone and indecisive.
Peter tells Neal that he can relate to him the most. He was just a simple farmer before joining the X-Men. Since then, he has seen things he would never have imagined before. However, his sister, Illyana, and brother, Mikhail, became intertwined with the X-Men and paid the ultimate price. He has known loss, but also knows that his work with the X-Men has value. There is true evil in the world. Someone has to fight for it and be the light against the darkness. He is proud to one of those people.
Moira tells Neal that they all paid a price to be where they are today. That is the way of things and there is no shame in standing aside. It is not the proper life for everyone. Their role is to help people like Neal learn the use of their powers for their own sake, as well as the people around them. What happens next is up to him.
(Seven Months Ago)
Neal gets up from the rubble and finds himself wondering what happened, as Bastion and three Prime Sentinels surround him. Bastion explains to Neal that he has destroyed the building, as well as the industrial district adjacent to it. His latent mutant power has manifesting with disastrous results. Bastion thanks him. As a mutant, he will be condemned and Bastion’s cause will have increased credence. Operation: Zero Tolerance will once again regain support from the human community.
Neal mutters the word mutant and, in rage, he unleashes a blast of fire at Bastion, which passes right through him. Bastion asks Neal how foolish he thinks he is to think that he would allow anything other than a hologram near such an unknown like himself. However, the Prime Sentinels are real. One of the sentinels scans Neal and deduces that his powers are temporarily depleted.
Before the Prime Sentinels can attack, Sanjit attacks them and tells them that the mutant is his brother. Sanjit deals with the rest of the Prime Sentinels and tells them that mutants are a form of life and should not be cleansed. Neal is his brother and is family. The units retaliate and take down Sanjit, who is unable to fight. Neal holds up his dying brother just as Karima rises from the wreckage. Karima tells the Sentinels to die as she unleashes a wave of energy from her body, thanks to her transformation into a Prime Sentinel.
Karima grabs Neal and Sanjit and tells them that the main power core has been compromised and they must get away before it reaches critical mass. She flies them away, just as the entire site explodes. The three land nearby and Neal tends to his brother, while Karima watches the wreckage. Neal tells his brother to conserve his energy, for he has just found him and won’t lose him again. Sanjit tells Neal that it is too late for him. With sorrow in his voice, Neal tells Sanjit not to say that. Soon, they will be reunited with their family and everything will be back to normal. Before dying, Sanjit tells Neal to live his life and to never let anyone take that away.
Sanjit passes away, as Karima tells Neal to run. With confusion, Neal questions Karima again, who tells him once again to run. Neal tells her that his brother is dead and asks if she is meaning that she wants him to leave his dead body when there is no clear and present danger. Karima tells Neal that she is an Omega Prime and soon she will have reached her full combat mode with her programming set to destroy mutants such as him. It is getting more difficult for her to even consider him as a human. His only chance is to leave India and her. Neal tells her that he loves her and Karima says the same, but that love is the only thing that has been helping her resist the full transformation. Their only hope of a semblance of happiness is for him to go. Karima tells Neal one last time to run and he does this time.
Neal sits alone by a fire and recalls the events in India. He curses his new powers and wonders if he really wants to know any more about them. Suddenly, his powers flare out of control and Neal realizes that he cannot control himself. He calls for the X-Men and, suddenly, his powers stop acting out. Jean comes from behind and tells him to let her help. Neal wonders what just happened and Jean explains that she used her telepathy to help him out.
Jean then explains that mutant powers must be mastered like everything else in life. With proper guidance, he will be fine. She asks Neal if he wants to go back in now, because Moira is anxious to run tests on him. Neal, however, is unsure if he can go through with this. His life used to be perfect, but now his brother is dead and he can barely remember what his parents look like. He then asks Jean if this is what she envisioned her life to be like. Jean tells Neal that she lost her sister, her husband, and her own life once before. She spent twelve years, two millennia in the future, fighting a war that probably will never happen and she has found herself in the bottom of the Earth to the far ends of the galaxy. She is not telling Neal that there won’t be heartbreak. She is just telling him that he will not be alone.
Jean extends her hand to Neal and explains that the X-Men are a family and are always there for each other. All Neal has to do is want it in return. She then asks him if he does. Neal takes Jean’s hand and tells her that he wants it and thanks her.