Utopia, inside the medical ward, currently under quarantine. Namor the Sub-Mariner suddenly sits up in the bed, ‘Have you the slightest comprehension of whom is addressing you?’ he shouts at the unimpressed Dr Kavita Rao. ‘My desires are not requests or girlish fancies. My desires are laws!’ he declares, boasting that he is master of three quarters of the watery globe and any who would face him in anger are soon wisps of red chum for sharks. ‘Do you think a virus can lay me low? Let me go, woman!’ Namor shouts, pulling at the wires he is hooked up to. ‘Let me -’ he begins, before falling into a coughing fit. ‘So, no, Namor’s not taking it well. And I may have made it worse by suggesting it was man-flu’ Kavita points out.
Cyclops a.k.a. Scott Summers explains to Namor that they are under quarantine, that they don’t know if HX-N1 can infect Atlanteans or not, so they would not want him to endanger his people. ‘Summers. I cannot be contained here, my kingdom…without me…Krang and his piranha Selach have designs. In my weakness…’ Namor begins. ‘That’s the worst of it - your weakness. You go? They see you like this, with a ghost of your power? You know what they’d think of you’ Scott points out. ‘I know what I think of me’ Namor mutters, hanging his head, before collapsing back into the bed, and announcing that he will remain.
Scott and Kavita make their way down a corridor to another part of the med-lab, ‘Why am I not surprised that Namor’s the worst patient?’ Scott asks. Kavita replies that he isn’t, unfortunately. ‘Neither in sickness nor temperament’ she remarks, telling Cyclops that the HX-N1 symptoms are heightening, and that the breathing difficulties that full-body physiognomies were suffering earlier would not be better described as plain asphyxiation. Inside the other part of the med-lab, Hope Summers is accompanied by Idie Okonkwo and approaches Laurie Tromette, asking her how she is holding up. With a breathing mask over her face, the blue-skinned mutant replies that she knows being a mutant is not a disease, that she has memorized all those leaflets Emma Frost gave them, but so far her experience of the X-Men can best be characterized as “phlegmy”.
Idie tells Laurie to be brave, and remarks ‘When the sickness was upon my sister, she didn’t complain nearly so much. She was far sicker than you’. ’But she was okay?’ Laurie asks. ‘No, she passed. But that is not the point’ Idie replies. Kavita explains to Scott that what is worse is that the virus is development is accelerating from infection to symptoms is scarily fast. ‘The blue girl wasn’t displaying anything until two hours ago’ Kavita adds. Scott asks if this is why he feels like he is twelve hours into a 24-hour flu. ‘Exactly. Forget “natural” it’s the sort of scary fast that doesn’t even seem biological’ Kavita points out.
‘Please give this pill a sugar coating, Rao’ Scott remarks, to which Kavita points out that it has not crossed from homo superior to homo sapiens, so she is fine, except for being arm-deep in mucus. ‘Great. Anything else you’ve got to show me?’ Scott asks as they enter another room. ‘Sure. The worst patient’ Rao replies as they observe Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, lying motionless in a bed, hooked up to all sorts of monitors. Rao explains that Logan has been hit twice over, that the asphyxiation, all the body physiognomy-mutants are experience, plus blood poisoning. ‘Blood poisoning?’ Scott asks. ‘Adamantium was never meant to be put inside people. No healing factor…’ Kavita begins. ‘…no Wolverine’ Scott realizes, before asking Kavita if there is anything she can do.
Kavita replies that they are doing all the kinds of anything they could thing up, adding that Magneto swept the blood clean a few times, but now he too is showing virus symptoms and his fine control has gone. She adds that Madison Jeffries merged a dialysis machine with - ‘And I quote - “a big dirty electromagnet” which does a similar job’. Kavita explains that it will buy Logan more time, as long as he stays connected, but the problem is, he is Wolverine. Kavita and Scott rush towards Logan as he convulses and sits upwards in bed, tearing his wires from him. ‘Logan! Stand down!’ Scott calls out, but Wolverine tells Scott that he can’t stay, that he needs to get to Chinatown, as they need him.
Cyclops asks what the situation in Chinatown is, to which Kavita explains that Logan received a call earlier and has been acting like this ever since. ‘Mood swings and psychosis are symptomatic of adamantium poisoning’ Kavita explains. Scott throws his hands into the air and reminds Logan that he is infectious and asks him if he wants to risk someone dying because of him being there. Logan has trouble unsheathing his powerful claws as he tells Cyclops that some slug is tearing up Chinatown, which is his responsibility, but he cannot do a damned thing. ‘Can’t deal with feeling…feeling this powerless’ he admits. Scott declares that they need Logan alive, and tells him to stay in bed, that he will deal with the situation in Chinatown.
Soon, Scott looks out over the bay from his office, and is in communication with Angel, asking him for an update on the x-impostors. ‘They stopped a robbery and…’ Scott begins. Over on the mainland San Francisco, Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel stands on the overturned vehicle used in the robbery which was foiled by the x-impostors, and replies ‘They’re not exactly danger room precise, but they’ve got the disappearing into the shadows routine nailed down’. Ororo Iqadi T’Challa a.k.a. Storm hovers nearby, while Megan “Pixie” Gwynn stands in front of some reporters and camera crew, while a clean-up crew is around the back. Angel tells Scott that they got here as fast as they could. ‘Ahem’ Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier mutters as he and Alison “Dazzler” Blair stand nearby. ‘But they were already gone’ Warren concludes.
Angel tells Cyclops that they know the x-impostors are powerful. ‘As powerful as we are. Or were. But they don’t seem dangerous. At least, not deliberately‘. Dazzler remarks that it is like a skeezy tribute band who just know the riffs and just about how the song goes, but are playing at bars for a reason. Warren smiles as he tells Scott that worst of all they have no leads. ‘I hate to say it, but I’d be prepared to put up with a little of her characteristic charm in exchange for a world-class telepath to help out’, before asking if Emma is not trapped in quarantine so can she get out to San Francisco. Scott replies that Emma was off the island and is now off the grid with Kitty and Fantomex. ‘Worried?’ Angel asks.
Scott replies that he is worried about anything and everything, but tells Warren that it would help for him to know that they have got things steady out in San Francisco. ‘I’ve got it under control, Scott’ Warren assures his friend, while a frustrated Pixie shouts ‘I repeat! They have nothing to do with us!’ Cyclops remarks that they don’t get to stop being the X-Men, and informing Warren that something has come up. ‘How do you feel about some nice old-fashioned super-heroing?’ he asks. Dazzler tells the cameras ‘Hey, not old-fashioned. Not retro. This is classic X-Men’.
Meanwhile, at the Sublime Corporation’s secret offices, the enigmatic Lobe, CEO of Sublime Corporation, raises a glass of champagne into the air, and congratulates his “X-Men”. ‘The monarchistic era of genetic privilege draws to a close. A toast to the first democratic mutants!’ he exclaims. The “X-Men” are all smiles and very happy, as “Cyclops” exclaims ‘That was…’, while “Marvel Girl” declares ‘Mister Lobe, you wouldn’t believe it. That was…’, but Lobe smiles and replies ‘Oh, I would. I know we’re redefining the concept of getting “high on X”. That sweaty sheen on yours is the future. No one fears mutants. Everyone fears not being a mutant. And we’re solving that forever!’ he exclaims.
Lobe boasts that they are making addiction awesome. ‘We need to keep this going!’ “Beast” exclaims. ‘Told you. Thankfully, you still have a platinum-stats credit-line with the Sublime Corporation. That means you’re good for your doses. So…get out there and do good’ Lobe remarks. The youngsters leave, and Lobe contacts Bouncing Betty, telling her that as soon as the bank robbery footage is cut into shape, she needs to release it. ‘We need to be all over the social networks. If we’re launching tomorrow, we need our virals out there’ Lobe declares.
Back on Utopia, Cyclops, Kavita Rao and Doctor Nemesis are speaking with the X-Men’s PR manager, Kate Kildare, via a communications monitor. ‘Speaking as a specialist in positive spin, the best I can say is that those suggesting bombing Utopia unto the sea are being dismissed as fringe extremists’. Kate points out that a more realistic analysis of the situation would note that the fact that they’re even reporting those opinions doesn’t exactly bode well. ‘The quarantine’s a good gesture. But it’s just a gesture and they need more than that to put their minds at rest’ Kate explains, adding that they should know of the panic over a normal flu. This is mutant flu. How do you think they feel about that?’
Cyclops declares that this is insane, that there have been no cases of transmissions to humans. ‘So far’ Kavita mutters. Doctor Nemesis points out that there is always that troublesome “so far”. ‘Oh to put a bullet directly in the middle of “so far’s” brow and blow its goodish brains out’ he mutters. Scott turns to the X-Club and tells them that they need to calm people down before someone with the power to do so decides to reposition Utopia as an outhouse to Atlantis. ‘Give me something I can use. And somebody, pass me a tissue’.
Shortly, in a lab, Kavita is busying herself with test tubes. ‘HX-N1 notes appendum. Meeting with Summers went as well as could be expected’ she begins. ‘Still - breakthrough. They’re nano-machines designed to mimic a virus structure. Very clever. Would admire it, if I had the time’. Kavita tells herself that Madison has managed to synthesize the virus, so they can make it, but not cure it, and as it is non-metallic, the Magneto option is off the table, which she finds very annoying. Kavita concentrates and tells herself that normal infection tests are either too slow, or not sure enough. ‘A distinct lack of homo sapien test subjects on Utopia doesn’t help’ she adds. Kavita tells herself that they have prepared an enormous dose of the synthesized virus along with a cocktail of immune-suppressors, so if the virus is as toxic as table salt I would be fatal. Looking at the syringe full of the virus, Kavita holds it up and tells herself that if she doesn’t get the plague with this level of exposure, then a human cannot. She bites her lip as she pushes the needle into her neck. ‘We’ll know one way or another soon enough’.
In Chinatown, The Collective Man walks down the street, approaching a shop, he informs the shopkeeper inside that they owe money. ‘You’ve made your feelings upon paying that clear. You bruise my feelings as you bruised my emissaries. So now we’ve come to collect, plus interest. Plus vigorous and constitutional violence’. Standing in the doorway, a muscular man with a baseball bat steps out, ‘I don’t think you understand. The drunken trucker school only pays out in fives. Five fingers, one first’ he exclaims. ‘Or in bottles’ someone else calls out. ‘and in case you didn’t notice, there’s ten of us and only give of you’ another adds. ‘No. There’s one of me. With the strength of five’ The Collective Man declares as he absorbs his other selves into him, and as the rain begins to pour down, walks over to the doorway - ‘And that’s one too many!’ he exclaims as he punches one of the men over.
Standing on a building across the road, Dazzler remarks ‘Looks like our man. Men. Man. Whatever’, while Pixie shouts ‘Hey! Quit with the fighting!’ When she gets no response, she frowns. ‘Not listening. So rude!’ she exclaims, while Dazzler asks ‘Can I get his attention?’ Storm frowns and replies ‘No. I shall. We cannot abide rudeness’, and an instant later, a lightning bolt strikes the Collective Man. Storm, Dazzler, Pixie, Angel and Northstar fly or leap down to the ground.
Nearby, the “X-Men” are watching the display, and when the lightning crackles, “Cyclops” remarks that nothing that awesome could be that natural. “Angel” suggests that it is Thor as she flies towards the battle, while “Marvel Girl” telekinetically lifts herself and “Beast”, exclaiming that she hopes it is Storm. “Iceman” slides along on an ice-sled, declaring that he bets it is Electro, while “Beast” bounds along the rooftops, declaring that it is not Electro as Electro can’t do weather. ‘It’s Storm! OMG Super-OMG! Do you think she’ll have time to give me an autograph?’ “Marvel Girl” exclaims. ‘And Angel’s here too. Awesome! He’s my favourite!’ “Angel” exclaims. ‘Really?’ “Beast” asks. ‘Yes, really!’ the blonde girl replies. “Cyclops” tells his team that they will have time to chat afterward, as first they need to team-up, as the X-Men need their help. ‘They do?’ “Iceman” asks. ‘Well, no. But they’re going to get it’ “Cyclops” smiles.
Meanwhile, 10,000 feet up aboard the stealth system UFO symbiote EVA, over Xinjiang, China. Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde exclaims that they keep going around on this, and asks Emma what she is going to do. ‘Because I’m not going to let you kill him’ Kitty declares. The White Queen .a.k.a Emma Frost replies that she wants Kitty to understand that in Shaw’s way, he was a teacher, a good teacher, just not a teacher of good. Fantomex sits reading a book, while Kitty exclaims ‘Oh, please. Save the poor little rich girl routine. I know you. In my secret origin? You’re the bad guy’.‘Yet in mine…’ Emma begins. ‘You need to know him. Understand him. Understand me’. ‘Do we really?’ Kitty asks.
‘Yes, you do my petulant conscience. Now, Shaw…wake up’ Emma exclaims as she uses her telepathy to awaken Sebastian Shaw, who looks up: ‘Hello, Emma. Hello, Katherine. Hello…ridiculously attired be-masked fop’. Fantomex looks up from his book: ‘Says the man with the world’s tiniest ponytail. Who, I feel, is a little too calm’ Fantomex replies. Shaw asks what there is to worry about, pointing out that the once-young lady is trying to find the gumption to make an end of him. Emma holds herself and tells Shaw that she wants them to know about him - about the two of them. ‘We have time for all of that?’ Shaw asks. ‘Tell them about Rebecca. Tell them about Anne’ Emma asks. Shaw laughs: ‘Hah. Rebecca and Anne. Oh my. I’d almost forgot’. Shaw turns and looks at Kitty, and declares that little Miss Frost started as a dancer at his Hellfire Club, and ended as his Queen - but there was an in-between….
New York, inside the Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw smiles as Emma, Rebecca and Anne dance about, while someone in a full leather suit lies before them. Shaw had his favourites, who he was grooming for the great things he saw before them - power and pleasure - so tightly bound you couldn’t say where one ended and the other began. Shaw taught Anne, Rebecca and Emma how to play.
‘You were close, weren’t you?’ Shaw asks Emma, who replies that Anne shared her terribly good taste, while Rebecca shared her taste for a few bad things that Emma had never tried before. ‘We were dear friends and the sweetest of rivals’ Emma adds. Shaw smiles and replies ‘So you were’ and points out that eventually he made his choice. ‘So one fateful dinner, after the last of the entrees were swept away, I leaned over to Emma and whispered…’
‘Do you want to be a queen?’
Shaw reveals that Emma smiled in her quiet triumph and said something like “I wouldn’t find that too disagreeable”, or some other damnable Frostian flourish. ‘Then I told her the price. A choice. Sophie’s choice, I believe’.
‘Anne and Rebecca. Who lives? Who dies?’ Shaw asks Emma, while the other girls smile nearby.
Emma looks down as she remarks that she, Anne and Rebecca shared makeup, shared fears and dares, while Anne and Rebecca were incandescent and funny and charming. ‘They were as I liked to think of myself. They were dear friends…but they were rivals. It was a test. I knew the answer’ Emma explains.
Emma smiles and tells Shaw that, frankly, she cannot bring herself to care one way or another. And Emma watched as Shaw killed the women - his fists made those wet noises, and she remembered being surprised that Shaw had chosen such an inferior Bordeaux for such a special evening - that was Emma.
Emma explains that it is not what Shaw did to her, it is not what he made her do - it is what he made her want to do. ‘And after everything the idea of the chance of him dragging me back…’ Emma remarks, when suddenly, EVA opens up, and Shaw drops to the ground below. ‘Oops’ Fantomex mutters, shrugging his shoulders. ‘You have no idea what you’ve done!’ Emma shouts as she turns to Fantomex, who tells Emma not to look so shocked. ‘I’ve saved us another six hours of woe-is-me’s. You can’t tell me that wasn’t a great idea’ Fantomex adds. ‘Capital’ Shaw remarks as he lands on the ground below.