The Astral Plane, where the powerful villain Exodus, leader of the Acolytes, is taking on Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men. Images flash before Xavier:
Why did you lie to me? asks a stern-faced Cyclops.
Why did you ignore me? questions the living embodiment of the Danger Room.
Why did you abandon me? cries Xavier’s long-dead son, David “Legion” Haller.
Why did you kill us? scream Petra and Sway, two early candidates for the X-Men.
Those words, why did you kill us cause Xavier to go blank, while in reality Erik Lehnsherr, better known as Magneto, and Karima Shapandar the Omega Sentinel stand nearby, watching the two motionless men battle it out in their mindscapes. Using her Sentinel-tech, Karima detects that Xavier and Exodus’ heart rates are going through the roof, as well as brain activity and skin temperature. She asks Magneto what this means, to which Magneto explains that they are fighting each other telepathically. ‘I’ve been in enough such skirmishes to know’ he adds.
Magneto picks up a large metal beam and tells Karima that in the nature of these things, the window is likely to be a short one. Karima realizes what Magneto is going to do as he walks towards Exodus, carrying the metal beam, ‘Don’t -’ she begins to say, but is interrupted by Magneto ‘Don’t interfere?’ he asks. ‘I’m hardly a non-combatant here’ Magneto replies, adding that if Exodus defeats Xavier, then Exodus will kill him. ‘All things considered - I’d rather he didn’t get a second chance!’ Magneto exclaims as he raises the metal beam to Exodus’ head, only to be blasted back across the room by a powerful surge of energy courtesy of Exodus.
‘MAGNETO!’ shouts Karima, before rushing over and helping Magneto off the floor, pointing out that just because they are fighting on the Astral Plane doesn’t mean that Exodus isn’t aware of his surroundings. ‘You forget how powerful he is’ she adds. ‘Magneto mumbles that he just received a useful reminder, before remarking that it goes against the grain to let this play out, and that it is starting to hurt. Karima checks her sensors and replies that it is going to get worse, telling Magneto that psi-energies can be measured indirectly by the deformation of cyclical alpha and mu waves. ‘Theirs are off the scale. I wouldn’t call this a skirmish. I’d call it a war…and I don’t think they’ll both survive it!’.
(Inside Xavier’s Mind / Flashback / Illusion)
A press conference plays out, Sentinels tower behind the interviewer, Professor Xavier and Doctor Bolivar Trask. The interviewer thanks Xavier for his comments before turning to Trask and telling him to go ahead. Trask states, with all due respect to Xavier, that the Professor is blind to the terrible dangers around them. ‘Or perhaps it’s more than mere blindness. Perhaps the Professor has an ulterior motive for his defense of mutants?’ Trask suggests. Xavier knows what’s going on, ‘…this is beneath you, Exodus. Trying to disorient me with images from my past. Do you think I’m so feeble I can’t -’ Xavier is interrupted by Trask who remarks that, at any rate, he has created a defense for mankind. ‘Suppose, for illustration, that the Professor is a mutant‘ Trask remarks, before clicking a remote and giving a Sentinel a voice command to take the Professor into custody and to not permit him to use his power.
(Present, the Astral Plane)
Xavier is bombarded with intense energy from Exodus. ‘No!’ Charles exclaims defiantly, shaking off the power. ‘You’re not Bolivar Trask. Bolivar Trask was killed by his own machines. And these wounds are illusionary!’ Xavier exclaims. ‘True’ replies Exodus. ‘Poison in jest. No offense in the world’ he states, before asking ‘What about these wounds?’ With that, he conjures up images of the horrific Sentinel attack on Genosha where millions lost their lives.
Population 15,521,063. Falling.
Population 11,001,467. Falling.
Why did you kill us?…why did you kill us?…why did you kill us?…why did you kill us?…cry the voices of the dead as life after life is blown away.
800,000...why did you kill us?….763.
‘No! That’s not - please!’ begs Xavier, cowering, covering his head with his hands. ‘Please, God!’ he shouts. Exodus looms over him, telling Xavier that it was one of the pieces of his past that he had lost - the annihilation of Genosha. ‘I’m happy to give it back to you’ Exodus snarls, before declaring that he doesn’t think Xavier is weak, more that Xavier’s mind is the most powerful weapon he has ever met. ‘Your sin is that you won’t use it’. Exodus puts his hands on Xavier’s head as he asks him how hard it would have been to find Bolivar Trask’s living relatives, to kill them all painlessly with a telepathic command, there by averting sixteen million deaths.
‘That logic - is obscene!’ Xavier retorts. ‘Murder is either right or it’s wrong!’ he exclaims, before Exodus tosses him aside, ‘Exactly, and which it is depends on the victim. I must recall you to your mission, Charles Xavier. Your sacred trust’. Exodus exclaims that these are holy fires, but that they only burn lies.
Elsewhere, Emma Frost a.k.a. the White Queen groans and knocks her glass of red wine over. Scott “Cyclops” Summers, her lover rushes to her side while others at the fancy party they are attending look on. ‘God! Scott!’ Emma cries. Cyclops takes Emma’s arm and assures her that he has her. Wide-eyed, Emma tells Scott that there are telepaths, fighting each other all-out. ‘Close?’ Scott asks. Emma replies that they are thousands of miles away, but that one of them is Charles. ‘He’s - he’s alive, somewhere. And putting out enough power to fry any organic mind within a hundred yards!’.
Back at the Acolyte’s headquarters, Karima and Magneto are tossed to the ground by the force of the psychic battle.
On the Astral Plane meanwhile, Xavier is once again confronted by scenes from the past, and again with Dr. Moira MacTaggert, who asks ‘How can you do this? How can you put these children at risk?’ she demands to know. Xavier replies that they will not be children for long and need to be prepared. He states that these children - all mutant children - are the future and that if can help mold them into good people, good examples for the ones who come after them - Moira interrupts, ‘What if they don’t want to be examples?’ she asks watching the young X-Men train. ‘What if they just want to live normal lives? To be ordinary?’ Moira asks. Charles replies that they do not have that luxury and tells Moira that living in denial will not help them.
Another series of images flash into Xavier’s mind, this time, of a quartet of X-Men on the mutant-island Krakoa. ‘So you can feel us now, monster?’ Vulcan asks. ‘Well, tonight, you’re gonna have to go for the vegetarian option!’ Suddenly though, Krakoa slaughters Sway, before attacking the others.
Flash forward to some years later, where Jean “Phoenix” Grey tells Cyclops that she loves him, and that a part of her will always be with him. ‘Jean, No! Don’t -’ Cyclops replies, but it’s too late, Jean commits suicide, screaming ‘SCOTT!’ as she dies.
Further into the future, a dying Illyana Rasputin is read a story by Jubilee. ‘Taking the little girl in her arms, she flew up with her in - in brightness and in joy, so high -’.
Even further, Colossus kills himself to end the deadly Legacy Virus, the virus that claimed the life of his sister, Illyana. ‘I’m coming home’ he whispers.
A montage of deceased heroes flash before Xavier - all asking the same question…Why did you kill us? Thunderbird, who died on his second mission. Banshee, who died a hero. Cypher, whose life was taking away tragically too soon. The Stepford Cuckoo, Sophie, carried by her mentor, the White Queen. Icarus. Dozens of students murdered in a bus explosion.
‘No. No!’ exclaims Xavier, cowering while Exodus hovers over him, asking Xavier if he yields to him. ‘Or must I go on?’ Xavier glares at Exodus, and declares that this stops - now. With that, Charles uses his powers to force Exodus out of the Astral Plane, returning them to reality.
Exodus slumps onto the floor, where not too far away lies the motionless Joanna “Frenzy” Cargill. Karima smiles at the Professor, who assures her that he is fine and asks her to tend to Magneto, as he thinks he may have suffered some internal bleeding. Exodus calls out to Xavier, but Charles tells him that this is enough and warns him that if he attacks him again he will shut down his powers permanently with post-hypnotic inhibitions.
‘You misunderstand me. I didn’t bring you here in order to fight you. Hear me out. You owe me that, at least, after I retrieved your body and rebuilt your brain’. Exodus then reveals that he did all of those things because he wants Xavier to lead the Acolytes. Xavier goes wide-eyed. ‘Are you mad?’ Xavier replies. ‘You put me through Hell and then you -’ Exodus interrupts, ‘I showed you what you needed to see’ he exclaims. Exodus points out that mutant kind lies in ruins, and Xavier’s own X-Men are scattered to the winds.
‘Lead us! Together we can find the Messiah Child and tutor her in her future duties. Bring her into her heritage!’ Exodus exclaims. Xavier turns away from Exodus, calling him a fool. ‘I am an honest man. And a warrior. A crusader for what is right and just!’ Exodus replies. ‘All those things. And still, a fool’ Xavier retorts, remarking that he saw what became of the people who fell to his care in the past. ‘You saw their suffering, and their deaths. And still you’d ask this of me?’.
‘My answer is no’. Xavier exclaims, turning away from Exodus, he begins to leave the chamber, accompanied by Karima and Magneto. ‘But -’ Exodus protests. ‘We’re leaving now. Take my advice, and don’t try to stop us’. Xavier suggests.
Shortly, the trio arrive in another part of the complex, where the rest of the Acolytes are gathered - Amelia Voght, Carmella Unuscione, Random and Tempo. ’Charles’ exclaims Amelia, going over to him and touching his face, telling him that it is good to see that he has recovered. Xavier stares blankly at Amelia and states that he remembers her name, but that it has no resonance, that if anything ever passed between them, he doesn’t remember it. Xavier tells Amelia that at least she isn’t in the tally of people he hurt and that he hopes that means he made her happy. Amelia closes her eyes bitterly, knowing too well how much Xavier has hurt her.
Exiting the Acolytes base, Xavier, Magneto and Karima find themselves in some sort of woodland, where Magneto asks Charles ‘And now?’. Xavier replies that he isn’t sure, and that he doesn’t think he is fully equipped to decide in his future, until he has recovered a little more of his past. Xavier exclaims that there are still more holes in his memories than there is substance. ‘Perhaps - with those holes filled in, my life will make better sense to me’. Xavier announces that he thinks he will visit the people who knew him, try to bridge the gaps with their memories as far as he can.
Xavier and Magneto shake hands, with Magneto remarking that Xavier is likely to find a lot of contradictions that way, as he has been both loved and hated. ‘Isn’t everybody?’ Charles replies, before bidding Magneto goodbye and thanking him for his help. Xavier calls out to Karima, thanking her also, but telling her that she cannot accompany him as he has to do this alone. ‘If you say so’ Karima replies, before asking the Professor to answer at least one question for her: ‘Exodus had you beaten. You were losing. Almost dying. Your heart was hammering and the blood vessels in your brain were about to burst. Then - you scrapped up some strength from somewhere. A secret weapon. What was it? What happened back there?’.
Xavier replies that it was nothing profound. ‘Nothing redemptive’ he assures Karima, explaining that Exodus simply missed. Karima asks the Professor what he means by “Missed”. Xavier explains that Exodus’ strategy was to show him his own folly. ‘My own weakness. He made me relive every mistake that Charles Xavier had ever made. Every scrap of guilt that could be laid at his door’. Xavier turns and begins to walk away from his companions, stating that the man who made those mistakes is dead. ‘His failings and his failures died with him. I have the chance - the possibility - to be someone better’.
Meanwhile, in Kooroowi, Eastern Australia, inside a gas station, two men notice a female bike rider pull up. ‘Well, lookie out there, Tucker’, one of them remarks. ‘You’re engaged to be married, John’, Tucker replies. John retorts that he is also not a pervy bludger and tells him to mind the till as he heads outside, ‘Can I help you with that, Miss?’ he asks the woman. ‘No thanks, just topping her up’ the woman replies. John asks her if she is going into Scotchman, to which the woman replies that she is going the other way.
John tells the woman that he means no offence, before asking if she perhaps missed her turn-off, as there is nothing out that way except for six hundred miles of desert, and her tank is only good for two hundred or two hundred and fifty miles. ‘I wouldn’t want to see you run into trouble’ he remarks. The woman raises the visor on her helmet. ‘Ah got a way of doin that, sugah. Probably too late to change’ she remarks, before Rogue drives off into the lonely outback.
Elsewhere, in Manhattan, at the exclusive Hellfire Club. Somebody remarks that appearance of virtue may be better than virtue itself. Ms Cabot declares that it is certainly easier to maintain, to which Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta points out can be usually bought more cheaply. ‘The market price for real virtue is ruinous’. One of the staff, Baxter approaches DaCosta, apologizing for interrupting, but wanting to know if he may speak to Sebastian Shaw. Bobby tells Shaw to do it outside so they rest of them can continue their dinner party. ‘Of course, Roberto. It would be my pleasure’ Shaw snarls, before leaving the others and following Baxter into the hall.
‘I take it this is important?’ Shaw asks. Baxter replies that the apparatus in room seventeen has activated. ‘You asked to be notified’ Baxter reminds him. ‘The apparatus in -?’ Shaw asks, a little confused, before remarking ‘Oh. Yes. Did some of the dials move, then?’ he asks. Opening the door to room seventeen, Baxter replies that they did, and flashed in sequence. Entering the room, Baxter declares ‘And then this happened. I await your further instructions’. Shaw looks around the room, small fires in amongst a huge mess, the room has been destroyed. A large glass dome is mostly broken, and there are horror-stricken bodies littered across the floor. Shaw tells Baxter to remove the bodies, seal the room and bring him the manila file from his desk drawer. ‘The one marked “Coronus”!’.