Grozny Railyard, Chechen Republic
It’s evening, and there’s a group of men standing near some long railcars, the cargo concealed by huge, white sheets. The man in charge, an arms dealer named Dmitri, is getting impatient. Finally, their guests arrive. Dmitri tells the major he’s late. The aforementioned major, along with his entourage of armed guards, tells Dmitri he knew he wouldn’t mind as he’s always been so polite for an arms dealer.
Turning his head toward the cargo on the flatbed, Dmitri explains they had a hard time getting them across Georgia as they’re not exactly inconspicuous. On cue, one of Dmitri’s men pulls back on a rope attached to the sheet and reveals the large, purple, gleaming hand of a Sentinel. The Chechen major is impressed and can’t wait to see the Russian bastards try anything now.
A briefcase full of money is handed over and a happy Dmitri says to call him anytime, though preferably with something less exotic like cruise missiles or small arms. The major shakes his hand, but warns him not to sell the same weapons to the other side. Dmitri says that won’t be a problem as long as the Chechen money is better.
Not far away, Domino is crouched on a rooftop taking pictures of the black market transaction. One of her last photos catches Dmitri taking a bullet to the head. Domino momentarily puts down the camera realizing things are about to get ugly.
Armed thugs, complete with high-tech masks, storm the closed off area. They open fire on everybody there. Domino resumes taking pictures, but is spotted by one of the new gunman. He orders a few of his buddies to takes her out and they let loose with a terrible volley of gunfire.
Ever the acrobat, Domino leaps off the rooftop and on top of a nearby train car passing through the station. Two of the armed thugs race through the railyard and hop onboard. When they appear in front of her, she whips out her pistols and blasts them off.
However, there’s a third, and this one is sneaking up from behind. His gun jams when he tries to blow her head off. Domino returns the favor by kicking him in the gut and knocking him off the train too. With her assailants taken care of Domino take a seat at the back of the train and takes in the carnage as it shrinks to a pinpoint.
The pictures Domino had taken are now being displayed over several computer monitors in a room, the room’s sole occupants, Storm and Cyclops. Scott tells ‘Ro they’ve been tracking the Sentinel cargo since they got intel they were being smuggled aboard a container ship on the Black Sea.
Storm can’t believe what she’s seeing and chalks it up to fallout from the arms conference incident. She asks Scott if he wants her to put a team together. Naturally, Scott replies, but first he wants to show her the unexpected guests that crashed this particular Sentinel party.
Scott clicks a button on his remote and the image of one of the unknown attackers takes the main screen. He tells Storm they have complete dossiers on the arms dealers and a full rundown on the Chechen combat units. Seeing where he’s going with this, Ororo guesses they have nothing on these new guys. “Exactly,” Scott replies, and adds that somebody they don’t know is running around with fully armed and functional Sentinels.
The X-Jet is fast on its way toward the area of the Sentinel fiasco. Storm and her team, comprised of Psylocke, Jubilee, Colossus and Warpath, are onboard. Ororo, who’s in the front next to Warpath, pulls up a holographic map display and warns James they may need to do some course adjustments after receiving Domino’s next communication. With a little bit of sarcasm Warpath says he can manage a turn.
In the back, Jubilee does some quick geography in her head and says their destination puts them in the neighborhood of Symkaria and Latveria. These are not the types of folks they’d want having Sentinels, she adds. Colossus turns toward her and puts her vampire friends to the west to her list. “You’re hilarious,” she mutters back.
Everything seems to be going rather smoothly, that is, until, the X-Men receive an uninvited guest. It’s War Machine, who zips right in front of their jet and politely asks them for a quick word.
The back hatch is lowered on the jet and the Security Team’s resident flyer, Storm, exits and flies over for a conference. Once there, Storm is basically told that she and her team need to stop what they’re doing and head back home. Of course, Storm does not like what War Machine is telling her.
Arms crossed, Rhodey isn’t budging. He says he doesn’t care what they’re doing out there, but NATO is about ten seconds away from declaring a no-fly zone in this highly volatile area. He explains it’s all over a disputed region of Puternicstan, which discovered a cache of uranium near its borders.
Then just like that, Storm gives in. She tells War Machine they don’t want to complicate an international situation and will be leaving. It’s almost too good to be true, and War Machine is a bit skeptical, but Storm assures him they’ll do as asked.
When Storm returns to the X-Jet Psylocke asks if they’re really leaving. The duplicitous Ororo says they’re going to broadcast a landing request in Budapest on their open comms channel, but then hit the radar jammers and take a slow turn to the northeast.
Puternicstan, contested land near the Symkaria and Latveria borders
General Nobakov enters the office of Governor Strelonivich and approaches her long, ornate desk. With great anticipation she asks if the mission was a success. Nobakov is happy to say it was. “Show me,” Strelonivich tells him without hesitation.
The two government officials walk down the hall side by side. The governor tells Nobakov it’s a historic day, as after two centuries of being passed back and forth between aggressor nations they have now taken their biggest step toward independence. The general then lets her in on the bad news, one of the Sentinels works perfectly, while the other two need some work.
They come out to where the working Sentinel is being held. Continuing their conversation Nobakov says the scientists believe they can trade parts from the two inoperable Sentinels and make another functioning one. He also tells her three of his men were killed from the acquisition team. The governor doesn’t seem to value his losses, appearing more interested in the Sentinels, but she says their names will be added to the list of glorious, dead heroes who fought for their freedom. She then asks where the other two Sentinels are.
A small group of scientists are working on the two damaged Sentinels. Tests are being run on one of the Sentinel’s programming. The man in charge of it all, Dr. Kamarofski, stands behind the head of that Sentinel, a panel on its dome opened in front of him. He has some sort of tablet PC attached to some wires in the Sentinel’s brain.
The good doctor is approached by one of his workers and told that General Nobakov called to say the governor has taken a personal interest in the Sentinels. Kamarofski believes she will be pleased with his modifications. A readout appears on his tablet of the Sentinel’s status. It seems the mechanics are good; just the programming needs work. He tells his fellow scientist to let the governor know they’ll have a second operational Sentinel very soon.
His co-worker asks if he can bring it online. Dr. Kamarofski believes a simple replacement part from the other Sentinel will spring its complex brain back to life. When “said” part is replaced with a KLIK the Sentinel sits immediately upright eliciting a “whoa!” from Kamarofski. Then what comes next is even more of a shocker as the Sentinel cries out, “MUTANT DETECTED!”
The mutant in question is Domino, who was spying on the workshop from a high rafter. She makes her way quickly to the rooftop where two soldiers are having a morning coffee and smoke. Her presence does not go undetected, but before they can react Domino whips a knife at one of the men. It sinks into his forearm with a THUK before he can grab his rifle.
Next out is the bolo whip, which Domino employs to snatch his gun away. She then leaps toward the soldier and kicks him in the face, causing some blood spittle to fly out of his mouth. Her next move is an elbow to the face, which finally takes him out of the fight.
With his buddy now on the ground and out of the way the other soldier opens fire. The bullets all miss as Domino heads for cover. She curses the noise, which will bring more attention her way and then pulls out her own handguns and fires back.
Domino gets on the radio and asks Storm if she brought a telepath with her as its getting loud where she is. Storm radios back in the affirmative. Switching over to her thoughts, Domino lets Storm know she’s found the Sentinels. Ororo asks if she’s undercover, but the answer is “no” for after dispatching the second soldier a Sentinels rises into the sky in front of her, its right arm outstretched and glowing, ready to blast her to bits.
Elsewhere, the X-Men have already landed the X-Jet and are on the ground in the general area. When Storm tries to continue her conversation with Domino she gets no response. Psylocke says she can’t read her thoughts anymore. With a sense of dread Storm says they need to get in there right away. She tells Warpath, Psylocke and Jubilee to retrieve Domino. When James asks about her and Colossus, Colossus assumes they’ll provide the distraction.
The trio breaks off, Jubilee excited about taking on a Sentinel. James says if he didn’t know her pre-vampire he’d blame Dracula for her insanity. However, the moment of levity is short-lived as an explosion rocks the three to the ground. The source of the explosion lands in between them, War Machine. He tells Storm he doesn’t mind being lied to by pretty women, but he expected better from royalty.
Storm urges the three of them to get going while she explains things to War Machine. He, on the other hand, orders them to stop as he represents both the U.S. government and NATO. A reassuring hand on the shoulder from Colossus is not taken kindly. War Machine quickly turns and clocks Colossus across the jaw.
Brought to one knee Colossus decides to return the favor. He quickly charges War Machine and punches him, sending him flying into the air. Piotr’s not done, and stalks toward his opponent, the ruby-colored helmet of Cytorrak coalescing around his head. Seeing no need to escalate this further Storm urges him not to use the Juggernaut.
This serves as a calming effect on Colossus and he thanks Ororo for keeping him in check. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop War Machine from flying in at ground level and slamming Colossus through a series of trees before smashing him into an outcrop of rock.
It’s not just Colossus Rhodey needs to worry about, though. A surge of lightning hits him while in the sky and he plummets like a small meteorite into the ground. He’s slow to his feet, but tells Storm they don’t need an international incident. He then deploys his guns from his suit and says he will follow his orders to secure the area and tells Storm to be prepared to be carried out if she doesn’t leave willingly.
“I’ve got a teammate in trouble, so I’m not going anywhere. And if you’re really concerned about securing this zone… you’ve got far bigger worries than X-Men,” Storm threatens.
As to Domino’s situation, she lies bruised and battered lying on the smoky ruins of the building on which she was standing. The Sentinel now hovers with its arm outstretched, smoke emanating from its just-fired hand.