Dallas, Texas, home of the techno-futurist called Forge. It was here that he came after severing his ties with the X-Men, determined to recapture the inner peace that had always been the center of his life. While his friends and fellow mutants, disappointed, perhaps, were willing to respect his need to distance himself, the Upstart called Trevor Fitzroy was not. Only moments ago, Fitzroy demolished Forge’s penthouse home high above the city streets, threatening to bury hundreds of innocent bystanders under tons of flaming steel and concrete.
Winds gust around as civilians clutch on to each other and whatever else the can for fear of being blown away, as the one person standing between them and certain death appears - a woman called Storm a.k.a. Ororo Munroe. And though the endangered citizens are currently in no position to appreciate the irony, it was the erosion of Forge’s relationship with Storm that originally drove Forge into their midst.
‘Bright lady, grant me the strength I need to protect these innocents!’ Storm tells herself, while recalling that her intent was to enlist Forge’s aid in the treatment of Illyana Rasputin’s condition, however she realizes that it is clear that more immediate concerns demand her attention. There are many reasons why Storm is leader of the X-Men’s Gold Team. Not the least of which is her mutant ability to control the elements. Wind gusts about, preventing the debris from harming the nearby civilians. And never, in all her experiences, whether conquering the challenges of the Danger Room, or battling any number of mutant detractors, has she had to wield her genetic attributes with such precision, in such close proximity to a crowd of frightened and panicked humans.
Storm tells herself that were it possible, they could have foreseen such a crisis, and she is sure Charles would have sent more than just her and Bishop. ‘Not blessed with Jean’s telekinesis, I am forced to deflect and disperse the remains of Forge’s home with only the wind and rain at my command’ Storm tells herself. Some debris nears a civilian, who suddenly yells ‘Freakin’ mutie! She’s trying to bring the entire city down on our heads. Somebody oughtta kill her before she kills us!’ In an ideal world, Storm would have had the opportunity to explain, to make the man called Richard Stockton realize that she, for this moment, is his only hope. But, Storm is unable to let her concentration slip for even a moment, she lets her actions, in the form of a not-too-subtle gust of wind, speak on her behalf, as she knocks him back from the approaching debris.
But, as if often the case in all things concerning humans and mutants, those actions are woefully misunderstood, and Richard smacks into a nearby car. He yells something, but his words are lost to a crack of thunder, however Storm is certain she has heard his words all too often before. She chooses to ignore the genetic slur, Ororo is momentarily distracted when an upward glance catches a glimpse of the devastated Eagle Plaza. There was a time, not too long ago, when Storm dared believe that the Aerie might someday be her home.
Despite the pounding rain that beats down, fire and smoke still billows around the Aerie. Ororo tells herself to calm down, that there is no evidence Forge and Mystique were here at the time of the explosion. Storm tells herself to focus her attention on these people and trust that Bishop has initiated a rescue.
Up above, the Blackbird is in hover mode as the enigmatic Bishop drops down on a wire, telling himself that even if Storm hadn’t lost her communication-set during the blast, there is little he could do on the ground to help her. Bishop tells himself that his mutant ability to store and channel energy was already strained as a result with the Acolyte Fabian Cortez, meaning blasting rubble out of the sky would drain his power in a matter of moments. Bishop tells himself that, realistically, he should wait for the rest of the Gold Team to arrive, as according to Archangel, Mystique posted a distress beacon only moments before the explosion.
‘Right. If I wanted to be realistic I would have stayed in my own century’ Bishop tells himself as he drops down into the flame and rubble. He begins blasting his energy to clear some rubble, telling himself that there is no way Forge and Mystique could have survived this devastation, and yet, he tells himself that paradoxically if they did not live, Forge would not become Genesis, create the XSE or come to power after the Summers Rebellion. ‘Which means, of course, I would not have travelled back in time to be on hand to pull his lifeless body out of this wreckage’ Bishop thinks, adding that his head will probably explode with the effort of trying to figure this all out, at which point, none of it will matter.
The rubble begins to clear, ‘Ahh, what’s this?’ Bishop asks himself, as he sees some sort of construct standing. He wonders how it was possible anything could have withstood a blast of this magnitude. ‘In all my years of experience in the XSE, the only time I witnessed destruction on this scale it was engineered by…Fitzroy!’
Approximately half a country away, just outside Salem Center in New York’s Westchester County, is Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. For years, this mansion has served as the X-Men secret base of operations - first as a school where mutants came to learn control over their abilities and, later as home to its graduates. Today, however, it serves the function of a hospice…as a helpless Charles Xavier holds vigil over one of his own - the de-aged Illyana Rasputin, formerly known as the New Mutant called Magik.
Unshaven, Xavier busies himself at a console near Illyana’s bed, telling himself that he refuses to believe there is no way to rectify this situation, as there is no scientific explanation for Illyana’s rapidly deteriorating condition. He reminds himself that what began as a simple “flu” has progressed to the point of total deterioration of Illyana’s genetic structure, and wonders if it is a result of constant manipulation and premature acceleration of her mutant abilities, or if his fears that Stryfes “legacy” is responsibly justified.
Suddenly, Illyana coughs and reaches up to Xavier - ‘Piotr?’ she calls out. Xavier realizes that he dispatched Colossus with the others to retrieve Forge. ‘Her final hope?’ Charles wonders, before, in Russian, remarking ‘Snowflake…your brother…is right here…’ as Xavier uses psychic manipulation to make Illyana think her brother is present. Illyana asks her brother not to leave her alone, to which “Colossus” replies ‘Never, my sister. Never’.
Back in Dallas, Storm realizes that she has placed herself in a double-bind, as the more she uses her power to shepherd the falling wreckage away from the populated area, the more the storm effects the damaged building, creating more debris. It takes something short of an instant - something less than a meter wide - to penetrate the tenuous wall of wind and rain which acts as her only means of defense. But it is enough, as someone throws debris at Storm, knocking her on the head. ‘Goddess, no!’ Storm exclaims as she falls to the ground.
‘Look, she’s down!’ someone calls out. ‘Get her! Before she drowns us all!’ another declares. ‘Someone stop her!’ ‘Gene-freak!’ come the taunts, before someone approaches Storm. ‘You do not under-’ Storm begins, before the person kicks her in the face. Storm falls to the ground again, and the rain continues to beat down. The man that kicked her stands over her, and exclaims ‘I understand you and your kind are a danger, lady - to me and my family…to the whole world!’
Storm declares that she is trying to help, when suddenly, a gun is fired above the crowd. ‘Must be a friend of hers!’ someone exclaims ‘Another mutant?’ someone else asks. ‘Nope’ an officer declares as the crowd parts around him. ‘Y’all recognize me, don’t’cha? Law, order, etc, etc, etc…’ he exclaims, while one of the crowd tells the officer to leave the mutant to them. ‘We’ll take care of this on our own!’ someone exclaims. But the officer helps Storm to her feet, ‘Yeah, you’ll take care of making sure we’re crushed t’death’ the officer remarks, declaring that anyone with half a brain, which, to be fair, lets most of them off the hook, can see that the lady is trying to help.
‘What say everyone without a gun and as bade just take one giant step backwards’ the officer suggests. One of the angry crowd tells the officer that he has no right to be protecting a mutant over a human. ‘Yer paid to serve the people of this state’ he exclaims. The officer aims his weapon at the mob, and replies that from where he strands, under this glass and steel, he is doing just that. Storm takes to the air, telling the officer that his trust in her is admirable. Storm admits that it is sometimes difficult to keep in mind that there are humans who do not automatically feel threatened by mutants. The officer tells Storm that he is a cop, and that the X-Men are not the only people sworn to help a world that hates and fears them.
Inside the towering skyscraper, Bishop approaches the construct he noticed and realizes that the dome appears to be made of glass, and somehow it remains intact without so much as a scratch from the destruction around it. He taps his gun on it - only to be knocked backwards. But to someone without a lifetime of training, the magnesium flare would present an obstacle. It might provide an opponent with an unfair advantage. But that is not the case here, as Bishop gabs the person inside the dome who fired the flare: ‘Cease and desist, friend…or be terminated! Choice is yours’ Bishop tells them.
But to his surprise, it is Forge whom he pulls from the dome. ‘You’re alive!’ Bishop exclaims. ‘If that’s an example of the keen observational skills they’re teaching at Xavier’s, Bishop…I’m glad I left when I did’ Forge replies, adding that he is glad Bishop is here, even though he is trespassing on private property. Referring to the motionless body of Mystique at his feet, Forge explains that she was wounded by one of the Upstarts. ‘Fitzroy?’ Bishop asks. ‘Whoever! I’ve cauterized the wound, but she needs medical attention, now!’ Forge replies, before Bishop asks about Mystique’s attacker. Forge explains that the dome covered them the instant before the attack, and that it should be about a month before their attacker can claw his way out of the rubble. But at that moment, a hand stick up through some rubble elsewhere in the complex.
Outside, One of the civilians approaches the officer: ‘We’ve been thinking, officer…there’s about a hundred of us, and only two of you’ he declares. ‘Math is an important skill to have’ the officer mocks, before asking ‘What of it?’ ‘We think you’re a lot of tough talk!’ another civilian exclaims, approaching the officer. ‘What the man is saying is, we don’t believe you could stop us if you wanted to’ the first civilian boasts. ‘So here’s what we’re going to…’ he begins, but before he can explain what they are going to do, he slips over on a patch of ice, falling onto the ground, he exclaims ‘A patch of ice? But this is Texas - at the end of spring!’
‘Take it from someone who knows, dude…temperature is a state of mind’ declares Bobby “Iceman” Drake as he emerges from the ice, clasping the civilian in a very large ice-fist. ‘Don’t kill me, please!’ the civilian begs. ‘“Kill you”? For being a barely brain-celled, morally challenged, ethnically intolerant, poorly-dressed, backwards thinker? You people don’t get a lot of super heroes down this way, do you?’ Iceman exclaims. ‘Ummmm, Captain America. Once. About three years ago’ the civilian replies. ‘Apparently you don’t get a lot of rhetorical questions, either’ Bobby mutters, before Storm orders him to canvas the immediate area in ice, declaring that, if they must, they will defend these people despite themselves.
Ice spreads from Bobby in the form of a massive web. He tells Storm to forgive him for not going down “giant block of ice” route, as it is so retro. ‘Webs are nice too. I love webs’ the civilian, still clamped in Iceman’s large ice-hand’, mutters.
Meanwhile, the injured Forge hops along on one leg, aided by a crutch as he follows Bishop, who carries Mystique. Forge tells Bishop if this Fitzroy is the same person who brought him back in time, he is confused as to what possible vendetta he could have against him. ‘I don’t even know the man’ Forge adds. Bishop explains that Fitzroy is the son of one of the most powerful members of the hierarchy, he was a psychopath, never one given to motivation, he only does what he does because he can.
‘Not this time…and not if Raven has to pay the price’ Forge declares. ‘Gray…’ a weary Mystique utters, while Bishop announces that, based on the amount of blood she has lost, Mystique should be dead, informing Forge that she is conscious, but hallucinating. He supposes that it must be a side effect of the same mutant physiology that allows her to shape-shift. Suddenly, ‘Talk. Talk. Talk. Have you been bamfing with the softcores for so long, Bishop - that you’ve forgotten how to dance with the adults?’ Fitzroy asks as he leaps up before them.
‘You’ve made it clear that I’m the one you want! You’re welcome to take your best shot - for whatever your reasons - just let Bishop get Mystique to safety’ Forge exclaims. But Bishop tells Forge that Fitzroy does not understand the concept of compassion, and explains that, encased in the crystal exo-skeleton, he is completely impervious to a physical attack. Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Well, then - let’s see what we can do about removing it!’ and without any trouble, the exo-skeleton is destroyed - by Jean Grey!
Jean telekinetically hovers overhead, with Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin at her side, and Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel behind them. ‘Jean - and the rest of the X-Men!’ Forge exclaims. ‘I wouldn’t think that was possible’ Bishop remarks. ‘That’s our Jean - impossibility is what she excels at’ Archangel declares, while Bishop stands over Fitzroy, announcing that he is wounded, and still a threat. ‘Here is where that changes…’ he boasts, energy charged - until Forge pulls Bishop back. ‘What are you doing?’ Bishop demands.
Forge exclaims that it does not matter what Fitzroy has done - here or in the future, as the man has rights and is entitled to them. ‘I wasn’t going to kill him…I was going to subdue him’ Bishop explains, adding that Forge has not dealt with Fitzroy before. ‘His capacity for deceit is unlimited!’ he declares. Forge notices that Fitzroy has vanished, before Fitzroy replies ‘I prefer the term “cloaked”!’ as he appears behind the two men and grabs them by their necks.
‘As in “he cloaked himself long enough to ambush his opponents”!’ Fitzroy jokes, before announcing for the record so that his motivation is not misunderstood, he is using his life-absorbing powers to kill Forge, only because Forge has been designated as the Upstart prize currently worth the most points. ‘You, Bishop - quite literally on the other hand - are going to die for the hardship you put me through in the future!’ Fitzroy adds, while Mystique’s motionless body lies before them.
Suddenly, ‘You want to speak of hardship, tovarisch? Then let’s talk about the pain and suffering endured by my sister - while we are forced to battle yet another threat to our lives, for no other reason that we are mutants!’ Colossus booms as he lunges at Fitzroy, pulling him away from Bishop and Forge. Colossus asks Fitzroy why it is difficult for him, and for others like him, to understand that the rest of mutantkind were not put on this Earth for their amusement. ‘Peter!’ Jean gasps, while Warren tells Jean to relax, as Colossus can take care of things - but just then, Colossus and Fitzroy fall through the floor at the force of Colossus’s attack.
Jean tells Archangel that he doesn’t understand, and explains that Colossus’ thoughts are so strong, breaking through her psychic defenses. ‘Peter’s angry, hurt…concerned about Illyana. I’ve never seen him - felt him - this upset. I’m afraid in his current state of mind - he could kill Fitzroy’ Jean declares. Battling Fitzroy as they tumble downwards, Colossus declares that since the day he joined the X-Men, he has been subjected to one would-be mutant warlord after another - everyone from Krakoa, to Proteus, to Mr Sinister - and even Professor Xavier in his own fashion, has sought to dictate how the rest of mutantkind should live their lives.
Furious, Colossus exclaims that from this day forward, as he swears on the graves of his parents, that they will be free to live their own lives. Colossus brings a powerful fist back, ready to pound Fitzroy - ‘Today. Now - and FOREVER!’ Colossus booms - but before he can strike, Archangel grabs his fist - ‘Whoa, big guy! I thought I was the resident hot head of the team. You’ve made your point, Colossus. Keep it up, you’re going to do this guy permanent damage’ Warren exclaims.
‘Haven’t you listened to a word I said, Warren? I have seen enough of my own life devastated over the past several months - that I refuse to stand by and watch as the rest of the world is destroyed around me!’ Colossus exclaims. ‘any more so - then I’ll allow anyone to stop me!’ he booms as he knocks Archangel aside with ease, sending him careening through a window. Jean, Iceman and Bishop find Colossus, and Bobby and Bishop hold him back. Bishop tells Colossus that Fitzroy is not worth the effort, while Bobby tells him to calm down.
‘That’s enough, Peter’ Jean orders. ‘We start killing - start deciding who lives and who dies - then we’re not better than the people who killed your parents!’ she tells him. Jean stands beside Fitzroy’s motionless body and asks Colossus if this is the face of the world in which he wants to raise his sister - a world where every act of violence is met by another. ‘Where life and death is decided by who is stronger - who is more morally bankrupt - than the other?’ Jean asks, before telling Colossus to look at Fitzroy, to look at what he has done. ‘Look at the face of the future…and then say a prayer for all of us’.
But Colossus does not respond to Jean. He turns to Bishop: ‘You understand’ he exclaims. ‘When you first arrived here, you killed dozens of mutants. You saw them for the outlaws they were, and had the strength and conviction to punish them accordingly’ he exclaims. But Bishop explains that he executed escaped convicts - tried and sentenced in his era, fulfilling his obligation as a member of the XSE. ‘More than my right - it was my responsibility!’ Bishop declares, explaining that the point is, he was within his jurisdiction obeying the rules as dictated by the society in which he lived. ‘Jean is merely suggesting you do the same’ Bishop explains. The four X-Men stand over Fitzroy, as Colossus replies that he is merely suggesting that somewhere along the way, someone changed the rules.
Back at the Mansion, late, but not so late that Jubilation Lee, better known as Jubilee, is not up studying for tomorrows exam in remedial algebra. Lying on the couch, she blows a bubble with her gum, and exclaims ‘Am I, like, the only chowder-head on the block or what? According to the files, every mutant to wander through this school - with the possible exception of Warlock - was B+ or above. Me? The only chance I have of ever “finding Y” is on my report card’ Jubilee adds ‘I should get extra points for being able to study while Illyana’s hacking up in the next -’ her bubble explodes over her mouth as the door bell rings.
The bell rings again, and Jubilee gets up, ‘Hold your water, already! You’re making enough noise to wake - to wake - a really sick friend!’ Jubilee shouts as she wipes the gum from her face and runs to the door. ‘So help me, if the pimple wakes up on account of some pizza dude or meter reader…’ Jubilee thinks to herself, before opening the door: ‘Alright, pal - this had better be - good?’ Jubilee gasps at the young woman standing before her: Shadowcat! Bags in hand, Shadowcat introduces herself ‘Hello, Jubilee - I’m Kitty Pryde. We met, not long ago, in England? Peter called me… about Illyana. I came as soon as I heard…’.