The rain is pouring with a vengeance. Forked lightning strikes the ground, highlighting the feral-looking Wolverine, who perches on the balcony railing. He is with Professor Xavier, and trying to impart some of his age-old wisdom on the man who means more to him than pretty much anyone.
Charles is brooding. He looks over the ruins of the mansion, and feels like he’s failed everyone around him. He feels enormous guilt over the acts of Onslaught. Logan reminds him that the only reason all this happened was because Charles was trying to save his life. When Magneto yanked his adamantium skeleton through his skin, Charles did what he had to do to stop him. Charles replies that there’s an expression for that. “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Charles feels it’s ironic that, in a single profound moment, he did more to destroy all that they’ve worked for than the legion of adversaries they’ve faced since their trials began. “So what?” Logan replies. Is Charles going to squeeze his entire life into one mistake? He reminds Charles of all the times he’s changed the world - changed people’s lives for the better. Now, suddenly, none of that is supposed to matter? Logan tells Charles that nobody knows better than he what it means to struggle with your inner demons.
Charles replies that Logan shouldn’t try to equate his pain to his own. He says that Logan wrestles a beast within but, in the larger scheme of things, it’s no more than many people do every day of their lives. He, meanwhile, possessed the power to read minds, to wipe them clean if he chose. He could command them to do whatever he wished. He tells Logan not to trivialize his experience by comparing it with his own. Logan smiles. He knows Charles is trying to bait him, but he’s having none of it. He thought he was the king of pushing people away. He says that even without his mental powers, Charles is good at head games.
Bastion looks over the crater that hosted the final battle between Onslaught and the Earth’s champions. He sees himself as the last line of defense in humanity’s ever-escalating cold war with mutants. The international taskforce, Operation: Zero Tolerance, agrees with him. Soon, he and his operatives will tip the tenuous balance of genetic power in their favor. Mutants will at last be held accountable for their crimes.
Looking into the crater, he can see at least one man already making political gain from the actions of Onslaught. Graydon Creed stands in the pouring rain, his arms held out, embracing his television audience like an evangelist preacher. “When? When? When is enough going to be enough? When is it going to stop?” He bows his head, and talks quietly to the microphones being held before him. “They’ve taken our heroes. How much more can we give?”
Amongst the photographers is Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man. He lost a lot of friends when the heroes were taken, and all he sees now is an opportunist turning a tragedy into a sound bite. Graydon Creed tells the viewers that his candidacy isn’t all about questions. It’s about answers. He says it stops today. “All I need is one vote; your vote.”
(The Daily Bugle)
Watching this item on television are J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson. “How can you not love this guy?” remarks Jonah. Robbie says he can’t be serious, but Jonah tells him that this guy sells newspapers. Robbie reminds Jonah that he’s a politician, and will say anything to get elected. He’s saying it to the lowest common denominator; to people’s fear and paranoia of anything that’s different. Jonah chews on a cigar, and stares at the screen. There’s something different about Creed; something in his eyes. Jonah reckons that the anger there is real. It’s not just about getting the headlines. He’s doing it for a reason.
Jonah turns and ponders. Does Graydon have more personal reasons for continuing with his agenda? Before he can even ask for everything on Creed, Robbie replies that he’s on it. With the phone in his hand, he asks for Urich, Stan and Bandaverous to get in his office - five minutes ago. Jonah feels that this may be the biggest story of the year.
Scott Summers is woken at 7:03 am by the alarm, which he proceeds to pulverize with a frustrated optic blast. He sits up, thinking that maybe that wasn’t the most mature thing he’s ever done. There he is, the leader of the X-Men, and all he can do is to use his optic blasts as a snooze button. He scrapes the ashes into his hand, hoping that Jean won’t notice. He thinks again. Jean’s the second most powerful telepath in the world, and he’s trying to keep a secret. He stands and heads to the bathroom. He’s barely awake, and his mind is concentrating on how some things around him are constantly changing, yet other things never seem to change at all.
He opens the cabinet and finds his ruby glasses floating in a sterile solution. Closing his eyes, he removes the goggles he sleeps in, which are more secure than the glasses. He thinks about how the X-Men have been betrayed by the very man who brought them together. He thinks about how he’s still hobbled by his mutant power, yet he has a wife who loves him, and who makes it all worthwhile. But still, the world still wants to kill them because they’re different.
As he puts on the glasses, his thoughts are disturbed by an image in the mirror, which catches him off guard. It’s Hank McCoy, and he’s dangling upside down behind him, reading the Bugle. Scott reacts without thinking, sending a warning blast at the image. It hits the mirror, shattering it, but also rebounding towards Hank. It catches him in the stomach and he falls with a bomp. With the shower curtain wrapped around him, and stuck in the bath, Hank thinks it’s inconceivable. For weeks, his deviant doppelganger delighted in deceiving them, and they never laid a hand upon him.
Scott apologizes and tries to pull his out of the bath. He’s been on edge all this past week, and Hank startled him. He thinks someone should have noticed that he’d been replaced, but Hank accepts that he’s been spending so much time in the lab of late; he’s not really surprised. They finally manage to get Hank out of the bath, and he tells Scott it’s good to be home. Scott suggests grabbing some breakfast, as Jean is cooking. Unfortunately, before they can move, Scott slips on a patch of ice and crashes backwards into Hank, placing them both back inside the bath. Bobby roars with laughter, but a well-aimed optic blast shows Bobby who’s boss.
Jean is wearing a slinky pink dressing gown and frying some eggs for breakfast. Sat in the kitchen, brooding, is Pietro Maximoff, also known as Quicksilver whose life has all but fallen apart recently. Jean can hear the sounds emanating from the bathroom and smiles. If she didn’t know any better, she’d swear things were back to what passes for normal. A week ago, she didn’t think any of them would hear the sound of laughter again. Pietro says that Crystal always told him he needed to laugh more. Jean apologizes. Being around the X-Men after losing his wife and sister must be agony for him. Pietro replies that he’s got to go on, if only for his daughter’s sake. She needn’t apologize. Staying with her and Cyclops has been comforting. Jean wraps her arms around his shoulders and gives him a hug.
As the door handle turns, Pietro immediately gets up and whizzes around the kitchen, placing all the plates and cutlery on the table before Psylocke even enters. Psylocke is in her outfit, what there is of it, and Jean bids her good morning, asking if it isn’t a little early to be in uniform. No, she replies, taking a jug of juice from Jean’s hands. Quite coldly, she informs Jean that Warren won’t be joining them. He is not feeling well. Pietro turns to Jean, as Betsy walks off, and says he thought he had trouble connecting emotionally with people. Jean says that he does, but Betsy’s been going through some… changes lately. Pietro feels it’s safe to say that they’ve all been confronted by change.
(Operation: Zero Tolerance)
Bastion arrives by plane and makes his way through the rain, shielded from the storm by a personal forcefield. He knows exactly when these changes began. He remembers staring into the eyes of his creator and, knowing fully to the depths of his soul, his reason for being. In that way, he is both blessed and cursed. He knows he must win the genetic war which looms on the horizon, by any means necessary.
Arriving at what appears to be a solid wall of rock, Bastion walks straight through what is just a hologram. Once inside, he switches off his forcefield, and strides into the complex. Several giant Sentinel heads are being worked on by personnel, dressed in a similar fashion to Bastion. They are the remains for the Sentinels that were recalibrated to serve Onslaught.
His assistant, Harper, approaches from behind and calls to him. Harper, a shape shifter, has taken on an appearance not dissimilar to Bastion himself. Bastion asks if he has news to report regarding the technology used for these mutant-hunting devices. Harper informs him that they’re as antiquated as they assumed they were. When it comes time for them to build a better mousetrap, the mutants won’t know what hit them.
Bastion slaps him hard across the face. He isn’t amused by his appearance, and asks Harper if this is all one big joke to him. Getting up off the ground, Harper stutters an apology. Bastion walks off, adding that if they don’t accomplish this task, they will all be very sorry.
Continuing their conversation in the rain, Charles tells Wolverine that almost from the moment that someone else’s stray thought passed through his mind unbidden, since the moment he knew he was different, he understood he had a responsibility to those around him; specifically those with mutant abilities. Logan asks how what happened with Onslaught affects that. Charles replies that nearly thirty people sacrificed their lives trying to stop him, not to mention the terror faced by innocents across the world. Or, he adds, that New York City was essentially crippled. In many ways, he is responsible for all of that.
Logan suggests they do something about it. “Let us in; let us help.” He tells Charles that he’s looking at the world’s original loner. He never thought he’d need nobody for nothing. He thought he could take on the entire world all by his lonesome. He was wrong. He informs Charles that, when he first asked him to join the X-Men, he said yes, because he thought it was his way out of Department H. “There’s a reason I stayed. One reason… you.” As Logan scampers away into the early morning darkness, he adds that a lot of other people feel the same way too. They’d hate to think he just pulled one over on them. Charles remains where he is, lost in thought.
Inside the mansion, Gambit arrives, thinking it’s about time his trench coat actually came in useful for a change. Seated around the breakfast table are the X-Men and Quicksilver. He asks where everybody is, as in, everybody who isn’t there. Hank tells him he can say it out loud. Remy does, and asks where Sam is, and Rogue… and Magneto. Jean replies that ‘Joseph’ doesn’t quite feel comfortable around everyone just yet. Remy takes a plate of pancakes from Jean, who adds that Rogue took Joseph into Salem Center for breakfast.
Bishop tells him that Sam passed because he assumed Magneto would be there. Remy smiles at Bishop’s use of the name. “So, why’s everybody calling him ‘Joseph?’ What is dat all about?” asks Remy rhetorically. The X-Men get down to breakfast in chaotic fashion. As they chat and play, Jean and Scott enter into a private telepathic communication. Jean feels that Charles isn’t going to join them, and Scott agrees. But, he tells her, the Professor knows they’re here. For now, that’ll have to be enough.
Suddenly, the door creaks open, and they are surprised to see Wolverine enter, shirtless. He informs them that Chuck isn’t up to company right now. “Hey, I tried,” he adds. He joins them at the table, and for now at least, things look like they may be returning slowly to normal.