Born into this world with godlike powers, they are the despised and the hunted. They are the X-Men. Freshly escaped from the genetic purists of Operation: Zero Tolerance, they found sanctuary in the desert encampment of a blind man – or so they thought. Mustang informs his friends that the treatments they’ve been getting at the Prospero clinic are turning them all into mindless cyborgs. He tells them don’t take his word for it, ask the mutants. With that, he pulls the lid off of the X-Men’s hiding place.
Wolverine laments to Mustang that he doesn’t know what he just did. The proximity of mutant designates triggers a reaction in the nanotech metamorphic tissue of three Prospero clinic patients transforming them into cyborg hunter-killers known as Prime Sentinels. Without warning, they begin their assault on the mutants. One of the members of the camp wonders what’s happening to Felipe, Arvell, and Helmut. How can they be changing like that?
Cruelty has a human heart, and jealousy a human face; terror the human form divine, and secrecy the human dress – William Blake.
As the X-Men begin to emerge from their hiding place, Wolverine tells the others that the Sentinels programming has been activated. Cyclops informs the others that he will take the one in the middle and tells Storm to take the one on the left. Storm calls out that their opponents were humans… Cyclops unleashes his blast on his target and tells Storm that they have been made over into Prime Sentinels. There’s no telling how much of their original consciousnesses are left. Jean pipes in that she just psi-scanned the one Cyclops just blasted and his brain wave pattern is barely recognizable as human. She also cautions Scott to not do any permanent damage with his optic blast, they may still be able to save them.
Storm is distraught about Bastion horribly violating people to produce his cyborg mutant hunters. The lighting Ororo Munroe conjures up seems imbued with her indignant fury. In a blinding blue flash, the Sentinel she targeted lights up like the filament of an arc lamp. With one Sentinel left to go, Wolverine tells Sam, Cannonball, that they should give him the old one-two combo. Cannonball tells him no, he’ll get him with his blastin’ field. He reminds Wolverine that he has to watch it with those claws; they need to take them down easy.
After Cannonball nails the Sentinel, it picks itself up and utters that it *spak* must carry out prime directive. *Sput* must terminate mutant designates, must utilize any and all means to that end. As he shoots at Cannonball, he takes a woman hostage and uses her as a human shield. One of his friends runs up to him and asks the Sentinel, Helmut, what he is doing. That’s Debra… Helmut looks at him and tells the man, Morgan, that he is interfering with a sanctioned termination. He then blasts Morgan directly in the chest.
Upon hearing that, Mustang asks what is going on. One of his friends tells him that Helmut, or whatever that thing is that used to be Helmut, just shot Morgan. Debra tries to fight back against Helmut and elbows him in the stomach. Helmut responds by telling her that she is jeopardizing a termination procedure. He then shoots her with a temporary paralysis blast. Wolverine then shows up and slashes Helmut across the face. As he does, he tells him to consider himself terminated. Cyclops follows up with an optic blast and mentions that neutralizing the Sentinels without killing them is not going to be easy and they’ve got to find them medical help they can trust.
Surveying the damage, other members of the camp notice that even Debra and Morgan were more than half machine. They begin to wonder, all of them who were treated at the clinic, are they… What’s been done to them?? Cannonball mentions to Cyclops that all of that use of their mutant abilities must have been picked up by other Sentinels in the area, they’re only ten miles from their base. Cyclops tells him he doesn’t think so. They are probably scanning a narrow arc in front of them as they spread the search circle outwards. Since they are now inside the search circle, most Prime Sentinels’ sensor arrays will be pointing away from them. That should buy them a little time.
Wolverine says that the clinic is a factory for turnin’ unsuspectin’ people into Sentinels. People who got no other hope fer curin’ their ills thinkin’ they’re gettin’ some kinda experimental treatment. They just can’t walk away from it. Jean adds that not only is this “Dr. Prospero” preying on the afflicted for his raw materials, but the products of his handiwork are walking time bombs of sorts. When they are complete, they apparently morph into their killer Sentinel modes when their sensors detect a mutant in close proximity.
Storm wonders how many has Prospero already converted and sent out into the world. Ordinary people living ordinary lives until their nearness to a person born with the X-factor gene changes them into Sentinels or they receive a remote signal that does the same. Mustang tells them that the clinic has been in operation for quite a while. Who knows how many have already passed through it and have been dispersed across the country? One of his camp mates pipes up so what if they go a little robotic? He’ll get to walk again without a limp, maybe even play pro ball again. Mutants aren’t exactly common. He could go the rest o’ his life an’ not meet another.
One of the ladies asks him didn’t he see what Helmut did to Debra and Morgan? He would never have done that if his mind hadn’t been corrupted by the morphing process. Those Sentinels aren’t human anymore. Mustang adds that nobody wants to be fixed up more than he does. But being able to see and fly again just ain’t worth it if you have to give up your soul.
Cyclops then indicates to the X-Men to listen up. They can’t let this go on. They have to raid the clinic and shut it down. Whatever Bastion’s plan is, it’s obvious everything starts there. Wolverine heartily agrees and adds that when he finds this “Prospero” he’s gonna need his own replacement parts. He knows all about havin’ a bunch o’ Mengele types messin’ where they shouldn’t indulgin’ their own twisted curiosity.
Later that afternoon, Bastion is on his plane, flanked by a number of Prime Sentinels. He is informed that they received a report from Israel. The Mossad agent code-named Sabra has escaped her country and may be in the United States already. Bastion tells them to make certain she is found, and soon. She holds information that could… damage them. As he continues trying to contact Prospero to get him to activate more Prime Sentinels, no matter what stage of completion they’re in, he becomes more and more frustrated.
He calls out Prospero, Harper, whatever it is he’s calling himself today – why isn’t he answering? At the clinic in New Mexico Bastion informs Prospero/Harper that they need more prime units. Events are moving quickly and they must be prepared to save humanity from itself. He tells the doctor to initiate the final directive. Harper asks him if he’s sure. Bastion confirms that he is and may the gods forgive him. They have no other recourse. S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the verge of being activated against them. Harper replies that Bastion’s will will be done. Hanging up the phone, he peers upon a giant Sentinel head.
In the deep desert, Jubilee trudges through the sand muttering to herself that she is not a long-distance runner. She has had too many sugar bombs and not enough laps around the biosphere. At least she got this far. She tells herself that she can’t give up now. Not after Daria sacrificed herself so she could escape from Bastion. She can’t give up, ol’ Wolvie wouldn’t. The Wolvester would keep going no matter what. He would… Just then, Jubilee is shocked at how it got to be so dark all of a sudden. Before she can contemplate that further, she is approached by a large dark figure.
Outside the clinic, Cyclops, Storm, Jean, Cannonball, and Wolverine plan their attack strategy. Cyclops directs Storm and Cannonball to attack via the roof. There are probably no safeguards up there and entry should be easy, since the place isn’t built to be defended against people who can fly apparently, at least. They don’t have a lot of choice there. He’s going in through the front door with Wolverine. Jean will stay on the ridge in reserve and join the fight when and where she is most needed. They’re going to need her telepathic ability to deal with the people who’ve been tampered with.
Just then, Wolverine catches a scent coming from the desert when the wind shifted. Cyclops continues that they have to be careful about how much and how long they use their powers. Even if the sensors are pointed the other way, a big blast of expended energies will probably still show up. Cannonball mentions that Wolverine doesn’t have to worry about that. Looking around, Cyclops discovers that Logan has left. Wondering where he went to, he mentions that this is no time for his solo act.
In the desert, Jubilee freaks out by the form before her and yells that she’s not going back to the Hulkbuster base, they can’t make her, they can’t make… When she unleashes her fireworks power she discovers what is in front of her – a cactus. Relieved, she sits down and says that the heat is making her jumpy; that was a stupid mistake. At that moment, a voice behind her tells her that setting off her pyrotechnics in the dark was not only a stupid mistake, it was a fatal one. Jubilee turns to discover a Prime Sentinel towering over her.
The Sentinel tells her that he was returning to base to replace a defective power cell and he saw an unnatural flash in the desert. His sensors registered her bio-signature. Jubilee tells him defiantly that she’s not going back to the base. The Sentinel tells her that is true. Bastion has changed her status from “capture and detain” to “terminate.” As Jubilee readies herself to defend against the Sentinel’s attack, the Sentinel indicates to her not to resist. Her pyrotechnic powers are not sufficient to overcome him. Jubilee answers by asking him if he ever heard of David and Goliath. She then unleashes another blast of her fireworks power and nails the Sentinel with a direct shot to his eyes and mouth. She adds that it’s amazing what you can do with accurate placement.
The Sentinel reports that it has major sensory input systems damage. It’s communications suite and visual receptors are off-line. It switches to infrared imaging and realizes that its targeting system id damaged. It continues its assault on Jubilee while she attempts to run away. Chasing her, the Sentinel tells her that escape is not possible. His infrared tracking and manual weapons targeting are quite sufficient to complete her termination. As Jubilee attempts to run away, she trips over a prairie dog hole and lands on the ground. She doesn’t waste precious time on self-recrimination. Instead, she prepares to give back as hard as she is about to receive. It is not needed as a clawed avenger appears out of the surrounding blackness.
Wolverine leaps on the back of the Prime Sentinel and proceeds to kill him. The snarling, panting berserker before her has run five miles across the desert, following the faintest scent of her borne on the wind. The blood rage still runs hot within him, the hairs on his back bristling, a low growl rumbles deep in his throat. He is a sight to raise primal fear in most people, but not Jubilee. She goes over to him and tells him to not say anything, just hold her tight.
Later, at the clinic, Cyclops, Storm, Jean and Cannonball sit outside the smoldering building. Cyclops says he doesn’t understand it, why would Logan desert them when they need him the most? Jean tells him that he wouldn’t. There must have been some overriding reason. Just then, Cannonball notices that somebody’s walking out of the desert towards them. Wolverine, with Jubilee on his back, arrives and mentions that he sees they started the brouhaha without him.
As Jubilee hugs Storm and Jean, Cyclops asks Wolverine what happened and how Jubilee got out there. Is that why he ran off? Wolverine informs him that Bastion had her locked up in the Hulkbuster base, the same joint they escaped from. Apparently, it extends hundreds of feet beneath the desert floor. There’s no tellin’ what else the government’s got goin’ on in there. He then tells him that Jubilee has had a rough time and to not bug her about it just yet. He then asks Cyclops that he really didn’t need him there, did he? Cannonball tells him that they had a little help. Wolverine says he knows, he heard the bus comin’ right as he caught a whiff o’ Jubilee.
To this, Cannonball adds that before they could stop ‘em, the ol’ boys from the trailer park plowed right through the front door. Once inside, all they found was the destruction around them. Cyclops adds that there was no sign of life and the place was trashed. It appears someone left hastily, and tried to cover their tracks. Those are the acts of a desperate man, a man who knew everything was about to fall apart around him. Wolverine replies that makes him more dangerous, and then inquires as to what their next move is. Cyclops tells him they search the building and quickly. There may very well be explosives concealed but they need to find any information they can about the Sentinel transformation process.
Chiming in, Mustang yells to everybody that he thinks they should torch the place, burn it all! Cyclops tells him to take it easy. Their first priority is to find safe transportation out of the area so they can get him and his friends to people who can help. They need to be examined, learn what’s been done to them and how it can be reversed. Mustang says doesn’t he mean “if” it can be reversed? It’s easy for him to be so cold and clinical he’s not the one who’s had his humanity stolen from him. As it was, there’re a lot of folks who’d look at him, a blind man with prostheses as less human. What is he now?
Wolverine tells him that each of them there knows a little bit about what he’s goin’ through. Maybe him, most of all. But no matter what happens, whatever it turns out they did to him, the question of whether or not you’re a man is answered by his actions. As they continue to search the compound, Cyclops discovers Prospero’s office. Looking in he thinks he knows where he went.
In Bastion’s plane, one of his workers tells him that the clinic has been breached. Bastion laments that it can only be the X-Men. They must be inside the search circle. He has seriously underestimated their resourceful needs – he only prays the human race does not pay for it. He then says that they need more Sentinels with advanced search capabilities on the ground. His worker tells him that there is a sleeper Prime Sentinel that is possible to activate by remote. It is the special hunter/killer with the third generation mutant tracking suites and the enhanced weapon package. It was waiting for the vision systems upgrade, but there’s no reason not to activate it. Bastion tells him to do it!
At the clinic, Mustang staggers, ripping the bandages from his eyes. He is then able to see with electric clarity. His transmutating body ripples with cybernetic energies as one by one, the brain cells that defined his personality are invaded and are infused with a cold sentience dominated by a single, monstrous mantra. Now, Mustang the Prime Sentinel, points to the X-Men and declares terminate mutant designates!
The human dress is forged iron; the human form, a fiery forge; the human face, a furnace sealed; the human heart, its hungry gorge. – William Blake