It was years ago that Bobby Drake was the youngest member of the X-Men, a group of mutants determined to save the world despite itself. As the self-proclaimed “least mature” member of the team, he was allowed to joke and quip and heckle the others in the midst of the most life-threatening situations. He was Iceman, “frostbite,” “snowball.” But that was before Operation: Zero Tolerance and their international reign of terror against all things mutant. That was then.
Somewhere along the Connecticut coastline…
Iceman, Cecilia Reyes and Marrow are traveling via Bobby’s trademark “ice-tramp,” which he generates incessantly a few inches above the water, directing it towards the shores of Connecticut. Addressing Iceman, Cecilia admits she is not an expert on the “mutants on the run” stuff – considering that three hours ago she had a real life as a surgical resident – but if they’re going to bring this all to a head, wouldn’t they be better off with backup? Marrow retorts that the “healer” should be thankful she ever let these two join her. “Cecilia retorts it’s “Dr. Reyes” rather than “healer” and clarifies she wasn’t talking to her. Marrow warns her that if she continues to use that tone with her, she soon won’t be talking to anyone.
Bobby intervenes and reminds them they have enough problems with an army of technologically-enhanced Sentinel-human hybrids after them; he doesn’t need to keep the new kids from pulling each other’s hair out. Cecilia insists that all she’s saying is… Bobby interrupts her: he reminds her they’re on the clock and have to get where they’re going before Bastion does. Cecilia should grab an icicle, hang on and shut up! He thinks that sounded confident, which is pretty amazing, considering he’s putting all their lives in the hands of Sabra – the Israeli woman flying above them at the moment, guiding them to their destination – a woman he never met before an hour ago. Not that they have any reason to distrust her. The truth of the matter is, she saved their lives. They had just managed to break out of the police station that the Prime Sentinels had commandeered only to find they’d walked straight into ambush.
Several Prime Sentinels, together with troops of Operation: Zero Tolerance, have just ambushed Bobby, Marrow and Cecilia on the street. One of the Sentinels remarks that after the damage these mutants have inflicted upon the officers in the precinct house, there will be little outcry when the public learns they were “accidentally” terminated during an escape attempt. Cecilia tells Bobby there are dozens of them: can they do it? “Ummm… yes… probably” Iceman replies. Or they die fighting, Marrow exclaims!
Suddenly, the building behind them collapses! Marrow remarks that no one lives forever. Iceman hastily erects an ice-shield to protect them but they are now trapped in the debris. Cecilia wonders what the plan is: they die slowly now instead of being crushed instantly? A woman’s voice is heard, informing Cecilia that there’s a third alternative. The woman explains she didn’t travel all the way from her home in Israel to watch them die at the hands of the Prime Sentinels. She assures them she has come to offer aid to her fellow mutants. Indeed, she uses her superhuman strength to remove all the debris blocking the three mutants’ exit to freedom. Iceman wonders how she offers this aid: by dropping a building on them? “By covering your escape,” Sabra explains. Cecilia advises her next time to try, “Hey, look over there!” Marrow agrees with the healer and asks the woman who she is and why she is here.
The woman explains that in her homeland she is known as Sabra. She can only say she’s a mutant member of the Israeli Super Soldier program and that she has been trained by the Mossad. Bobby is less than enthusiastic to hear the name of the world’s deadliest intelligence agency. He asks Sabra if this means she has to kill all of them now that she’s said that. Sabra doesn’t appreciate his joke and clarifies she’s not renowned for her sense of humor. She explains she’s in possession of information which indicates that the madman called Bastion has something of an Achilles’ heel. However, they must act quickly for she has reason to suspect he knows this secret has been compromised.
Cecilia mumbles that if she puts it that way, they can just go charging off into the lion’s den. Iceman believes the doctor’s right. With Operation: Zero Tolerance supplanting people with mutant-hunting Prime Sentinels everywhere, how do they know they can trust her? Sabra’s response is: “Because I said so.” Remaining silent for a moment, Bobby replies he can accept that.
Iceman thinks that he has managed to gather quite the team: Iceman, class clown as de facto class president; Marrow, a juvenile delinquent with a mad-on against everything; Dr Cecilia Reyes, who would rather be pulling a double in the emergency room; and now a female Clint Eastwood called Sabra. They’ve running so fast since this began, he hasn’t had time to worry about Scott and Ororo and the others. He thinks that he may be looking at the future of the X-Men here.
As Sabra approaches Bobby’s ice-tramp, Cecilia demands to know exactly what her involvement is in all of this. Iceman might be the trusting sort but she finds it hard to believe the Israeli government would assign one of its super-agents to operate openly within the borders of its greatest ally. Surprisingly, Marrow agrees and tells Sabra this is not her fight. Sabra, however, shoves Marrow aside with her foot and violently grabs Cecilia’s wrist, warning both of them not to irritate her. She’s not accustomed to having her motives questioned by two frightening and blustering children. She’s here to help. Trying to breathe, Marrow mumbles that she feels real helped.
Sabra grabs the photo Detective Jones gave to Cecilia and informs her that this is why she’s involved in this conflict. Sabra exclaims that a war is a war. Soldiers live and die every day in war but Bastion has embroiled innocent people in this; children. Sabra lost her own son to conflict. She will not see it happen to another. Cecilia admits that’s understandable. However, does she expect them to believe she knew about Timothy Jones being taken hostage before she left Israel? Sabra explains that, unlike so many others around the world, her people do not throw their allegiance behind a megalomaniac like Bastion and his “final solution.” Rather than embrace Bastion, they investigated him. Knowledge is power and in a country surrounded by enemies of all sides…
Suddenly, without warning, Marrow dives into the sea, to which Bobby remarks that was less than comforting. Sabra wonders why she did that, though Cecilia’s casually believes the girl has some serious issues. Immediately, though, Marrow springs up, now holding a motionless Prime Sentinel. Sarah remarks that, while they were preaching, she was hunting – hunting the hunter. This Sentinel would have done better to know she was once the greatest hunter in the dark domain where she was raised with her fellow Morlocks! Iceman thinks she’s a person who takes pride in her work; they have to give her that!
At that moment, just outside the floor of the Senate, U.S. Senator Robert Kelly paces, as he awaits a response from his impassioned plea to the governing body of the United States. Henry Peter Gyrich praises Kelly for giving a great speech. Kelly asks him if he thinks so. He’d expect a cynical National Security Council agent like him would’ve thought what he just did was naïve. Gyrich believes it might’ve been more than that: a political suicide. For years, Kelly has been America’s loudest proponent of containing the mutant menace. Finally someone’s come up with a solution and…
Kelly interrupts him, retorting that genocide isn’t solution – it would destroy both races! Bastion and his roving band of mutant-hunting altered humans are not a solution. Pain and suffering and death are never the solution. They’re Americans –they’re supposed to know better. More than that… they’re people. Gyrich asks him if he’s saying that people make mistakes. He admits that maybe Kelly’s right. Or maybe fear and loathing is just an inextricable part of human nature – he’s about to find out. Gyrich came out here to tell him the Executive Council reached a decision about Zero Tolerance. No matter what happens to the mutants… to his career… to America… he made the only sensible choice here today. “Did I?” Kelly wonders. Or did he just make amends for a lot of past mistakes?
Meanwhile, Iceman and the gang have finally reached the coast. Marrow – holding the hand of the Sentinel she just discarded – asks if this is the place they call “Connecticut.” Iceman explains this is where Charlotte Jones’ son is supposedly being kept. Sabra insists there is no supposing involved. Among its many other functions, the Mossad is the preeminent intelligence gathering system in the world. The fact they were able to locate Timothy Jones was only a by-product of their successful search for what may be Bastion’s only weakness. Bobby reminds her that this “by-product” is a frightened ten-year-old boy. Didn’t her super-secret organization teach her compassion? Sabra reminds him that she’s learned compassion the hard way.
They all look at the mansion built on a hill, next to the shore. Bobby remarks the place certainly looks quiet – in a bad way. He asks the three women to stay here. “Yeah,” “Right,” “Acknowledged,” are their responses. As Bobby starts ascending the stairs leading to the house, with the three women following him, he mentally notes he should ask Scott the trick of getting people to listen to him.
The quartet enters the house; absolute darkness prevails. A shady figure – Bastion – welcomes Iceman. Bobby wonders why he doesn’t like the sound of that. Bastion explains that this is because those are a few of the last words he will ever hear. Nonetheless, he welcomes them to his home. The lights are on and Iceman, Marrow, Cecilia and Sabra find themselves surrounded by Bastion and various Prime Sentinels.
Bobby admits he’s totally new to a super-villain with a home in the country! Marrow tells Bastion that home is a perfect place to die. Bastion sardonically “implores” her to show little decorum – if not for the master of the house, then in front of this child. Indeed, Timothy Jones is also present, sitting in a chair by the fireplace, in the arms of an elderly woman.
Bastion raises a glass of wine. He says this is for tenacity. He was certain that by cutting off the head of the X-Men – separating them from their founder, Professor Xavier, as well as their field leaders, Cyclops and Storm – the “body” would cease to function. But it seems that for every one mutant he incarcerates or eliminates there is always another to take its place. They’re a lot like vermin in that way.
Iceman urges Bastion to listen. It’s fine if he wants it to end here and now; Bobby and the others are more than ready to die fighting if they have to. However, he pleads Bastion to let the boy and the old woman to go. “Again with the die fighting?” an annoyed Cecilia mumbles. Bastion assures them he’s not some heartless monster, in spite of what they may think of him. Detective Jones’ son has served his usefulness and is free to go. As for the “old woman” he’s referring to, she is the closest thing he has to a mother. As he approaches the woman in question, she instinctively covers her face with her hands. Timothy tells him to back off as he’s scaring her.
“Nice son you have there, ‘Ms. Bastion,” Cecilia ironically notes. It’s not every mother who gets to raise her own Hitler wannabe. Bastion angrily points his hand towards her and turns Cecilia’s force field against her, causing her pain: he won’t be mocked by these filthy creatures! He explains that there when he was not unlike them; when he was something less than human. As much as he tried to serve and protect the sanctity of humanity, the very essence of that humanity eluded him. But then came that day when he was cast before a judgmental god who deemed him worthy of his most fervent desire. She spoke and her word transformed him into a man… and sent him to defend his fellow man against mutants.
However, being a living, breathing organism was not enough. He had to “learn” what it meant to be human. He had to learn to overcome such unseen pitfalls as emotions, regrets, second guesses. Fortunately, he had a teacher of sorts. This woman – Rose Gilberti – took him in when he had no more of a mind than that of a newborn child. “And this, Bastion…?” Rose suddenly asks him. This is what he’s learned… how to become a monster? Aghast, Bastion asks her what she’s saying.
Marrow exclaims that if this woman is the only thing Bastion cares about, then she’ll be happy to see her suffer as Callisto suffered before her! As she moves menacingly against Rose, Bobby asks her to back off. Marrow insists she didn’t start this battle but she will end it. Bobby insists that she won’t and instantly encases Sarah, as well as everyone else, in blocks of ice. He tells Sabra and everyone else to take no offence but this is an X-Men thing. It began with Cyclops and Wolverine and the others ambushed by Zero Tolerance as Bastion put all his faith behind the misguided notion that an entire nation would turn a blind eye to mutants being hunted down and killed or imprisoned. But there’s one thing Bastion didn’t count: any nation is made up of individuals. Those individuals have rights and responsibilities and lives that are willing to fight and die for. Unfortunately for Bastion, some of them are mutants!
Iceman freezes the entire floor underneath Bastion. As the floor gives way and Bobby sends Bastion flying over to the beach, he asks him if he sees the irony of all this… that it’s come down to the two of them. If it weren’t for another zealot, Graydon Creed – probably a friend of Bastion – he would have been taken with the rest of the X-Men. But before Bastion started Operation: Zero Tolerance, Bobby was home taking care of his father, a man who was nearly beaten to death by Creed’s goons because he dared to stand up for his family. That’s the part of this Bastion and every other hate monster never got. Cyclops, Beast, Dr. Reyes, Bobby himself are not X-Men because they want to be but because someone has to stand up to people like Bastion and Magneto and Apocalypse and anyone else who thinks terrorizing or eliminating mutants or humans is the right thing to do.
Bobby descends with his ice-tramp over the spot where Bastion landed to the beach. Suddenly, Bastion grabs him by the throat and tells him not to dare compare him with such aberrations as Magneto and Apocalypse. This human form Bastion wears was forged from the heart of his compassion for his fellow man. As Bastion fiercely punches Bobby, hurling him to some rocks nearby, he explains that, if there was any way that mutants and humans could live together, he would fight with all the formidable power at his disposal to ensure to see the dawn rise upon that day. But that can never be: mutations are about change. Standing above Bobby’s seemingly lifeless body, Bastion states that for something new to be created, something old must be destroyed. If Homo sapiens superior are one day to walk the Earth, it could only be by treading upon the grave of Homo sapiens! The very existence of mutants necessitates their destruction if the human race is to be preserved.
Bastion notices that Iceman’s not moving, when suddenly the true Iceman strikes him from behind, informing him that this was just an ice replica of himself – which only helps to prove his point… it’s only a matter of perspective! As Bobby ensnares him in ice and is about to strike him with a gigantic ice fist, he tells Bastion of an example to let him know what he means. When Bobby’s father was nearly killed, Bobby hated Bastion and Graydon Creed and everything their kind stood for. There were days, when Bobby’s father was learning to stand again, to feed himself, when all Bobby could think of was him getting better so he’d have the freedom to track them down and kill every last one of them. He wanted zealots to suffer for what they believed in; the same way they made one defenseless old man suffer for acting on his beliefs.
However, every day Bobby spent with his dad – every day he saw him struggle with even the simplest things – it became more obvious to him that his fight to regain control over his life is the same fight each and everyone of them fights every day of their lives. Bobby started to realize how much more important life is – love is – than the hate he had almost allowed to consume him. He realized he had to let that hate go before he let it destroy him as violently as any Sentinel was programmed to.
Bobby recalls what Bastion has often claimed: that he loves humanity and he’ll do anything to preserve it. But Bastion can look at everything he’s done in the name of that humanity, the lives he’s threatened and ruined and then tell them again how much his sacred humanity means to them. Bobby doesn’t know what Bastion was before he became the person he is now. He only knows that he’s become everything he claims to hate. Bastion can kill him if he has to – if he believes that’s what it takes to achieve his goals. But he should know that every mutant he kills takes him one step farther away from the same humanity he’s so desperate and determined to defend.
As Bobby finishes his speech, he reverts back to his human self, now surrounded by the countless Sentinels that have freed themselves from his columns of ice. Cecilia, Marrow and Sabra also stand next to him, prepared to suffer the same fate meant for him. Bastion remains silent for a moment. He finally addresses one of the Sentinels: “Prime Unit: Sentinel battalions?” “Awaiting orders,” the Sentinel replies. “On my command…” Bastion begins.
Suddenly, dozens of armed S.H.I.E.L.D. troops are disembarked on the beach from an aircraft carrier. One of them orders Bastion to belay that command! Another of the troops announces that, by executive order of the United States government, S.H.I.E.LD. hereby revokes all of Operation: Zero Tolerance’s rights and privileges on American soil. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been authorized to use any and all force deemed prudent and necessary in the discharge of these orders. “What do you know… the cavalry,” Bobby remarks. He tells Bastion they were prepared to die fighting; is he? Bastion addresses his Prime Unit again. “On my command… stand down.”
A short eternity later…
Cecilia tends to Rose. The elderly woman believes that after everything they’ve been through, they shouldn’t worry about an old… Cecilia urges her to shush. Next to them, Sabra tells Timothy to rest easy; he will be home soon. Nearby, Iceman asks Marrow if she’d believe this was the big finish he planned all along. “Was it?” Marrow asks. “Yeah, sure” Bobby replies. “Really?” Sarah asks again. “Sure,” Bobby jests. He goes on to mention that, according to S.H.I.E.L.D., the rest of the X-Men managed to escape their lockup and even Jubilee, who he didn’t even realize was missing, is free.
As he approaches Bastion, Bobby guesses that that this means it’s over. Bastion agrees that for today… yes. But it won’t truly be “over” for a very long time to come. As they watch Bastion taken into custody in handcuffs, Marrow asks Bobby why he doesn’t want her to kill Bastion now. Bobby believes this is because that may be all that separates people like him from people like them.