An army of bloated Spineless Ones pushes forth against its enemies. Their Biped opponents fire back, refusing to succumb so easily. To them, it is not a game, but a matter of life and death.
From the ruling box, Lord Shatterstar of the Wildways observes, and finds the proceedings quite disturbing. I remember when it was the same for me and my kind, he thinks. Now, I watch. They watch. We all watch. The fighting. The winning. The killing. After lifetimes of performing, it is our turn to watch now.
On the battlefield, the Biped commander positions his forces. He knows what the Spineless Ones have planned, as he saw the same maneuver on TV last week. The Biped commander shouts for his squad, the Fang Troops, to open fire and ensure the sins of the past are never repeated. The Fang Troops are merciless with their attackers, and emerge victorious – and heavily stained with the blood of their victims.
The blood spills. The fires dim. The smoke clears. The noises of battle slowly abate. As for the outcome of the battle, the Freemen Armed Network Garrison wins again – as if there were ever a shadow of a doubt. They lift their arms in victory and soak up the adulation of their audience.
As the crowd roars, Lord Shatterstar anticipates their impending chant, a chant he deems “the sound of hypocritical victory.” They begin shouting “Cancellation!” in unison. Their cries for murder reverberate down to the arena floor, where the Freemen warriors stand over their fallen victims, holding them at blade-point. The leader acknowledges the will of the masses, but realizes, ultimately, the decision belongs to the Master Programmer, who sits high above the crowd. He asks the master what fate he desires for the losers: renewal, or cancellation?
The crowd turns anxiously toward the ruling box, where Shatterstar the Master Programmer sits, and awaits his decision. He stands. The wind catches his long red hair as he approaches the end of the balcony to issue his verdict. His name is Shatterstar. He has been the Master Programmer of the Wildways – the very place that used to be called Mojoworld – for over ten years. He has long since grown weary of this mantle, but resists letting down his people. They have directed his will for the duration of his life. He wonders if that makes it right, though.
Shatterstar lowers his sword. Satyrstar, the Freeman leader, lowers his as well. The heads of the Spineless Ones roll, and the crowd goes nuts. Sadly, this is the way of the arena games, Shatterstar thinks. It has been this way for a long time simply to entertain the masses and preserve the ancient customs. Only now, they are our ways, not those of the Spineless Ones, he thinks. Their past is our present. Their sins are our salvation. Their crimes are our laws. My laws. My people. My land. Shatterstar wonders if this is how things were meant to be. He wonders if this is all it was meant to be. Most importantly, he wonders if this is all he was meant to be.
Westchester, New York…
It’s snowing at the mansion formerly known as the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. Although the building has not gone by that name for many years, its purpose more or less remains the same, only instead of housing students, it now houses an army. A more appropriate name for it would be a fortress.
In the field right outside this fortress, a transdimensional portal opens, and three figures emerge. Arize, the upright, bearded inventor of the Mojoverse’s Biped slave race, leads his two spineless escorts Milton and Shecky out of the portal, both of whom ride in battle-ready tanks. Arize, sporting an intimidating assault rifle, tells his escorts to hang tight. It has been over a hundred years since he last set foot in this area, and needs a moment to get re-familiarized.
As they march toward the institute formerly known as Xavier’s, Arize ponders how much time has passed. He can hardly believe it has been a hundred years since he last walked on planet Earth. Slightly easier to believe, but still confounding, is that it’s been ten years since X-Force came to his world to overthrow Mojo V. If he had known back then what he knows now, things would have ended differently, he wonders. Would his genetically engineered Bipeds have overthrown the tyrannical rule of Mojo I, and Mojo II, and Mojo III, IV and V, for that matter, he asks? He thinks about the absurdity of his present situation. “Now I seek help in overthrowing the very rule I helped to install,” Arize says. “Is my life to be an endless cycle of mistakes?”
Suddenly, Shecky picks up a figure on his scanner. He tells his fellow Spineless One Milton to hang back and protect Lord Arize while he investigates the signal. As he descends over the crest of the hill, he notices the signals approaching at a fantastic speed. Are they hostile, Milton wonders? The answer to that question comes in the form of Cannonball, who collides with the armored Spineless One at full force, tipping over his heavy vehicle. Shecky radios his team and asks for identification of the hostile units… as well as some horizontal assistance.
Frankie, the next member of Cannonball’s strike team, appears over the hillside. Cannonball relays to her the identity of the intruders. She thanks him, but makes the mistake of addressing him as Mr. Guthrie. He asks her to call him Sam; in return, she asks him to call her Powerpax when in battle. After apologizing, Cannonball orders her to eliminate the target. By reducing her mass and increasing her strength, the airborne Powerpax essentially becomes a human bullet and punches through Shecky’s machinery, obliterating it. She hands the battle over to her teammate Illyana.
Meanwhile, Arize and Milton scramble to figure out what happened to their accomplice. It suddenly hits Arize: the X-Men only ever knew the Spineless Ones as threats. Of course they are attacking! He orders his remaining escort to begin evacuation. However, before they can retreat, another menace appears seemingly out of nowhere. “Nice try, boys,” the blonde, sword-bearing woman says as she steps out of a teleportation disc. “Unfortunately, running away is hard to do, when you’re running away from someone who can move between here and there as easily as walking down the street!” Illyana strikes at Milton’s armored chair and short-circuits its electrical components. She turns to her team leader and reports her success. “Second one’s down, Uncle Sam! Soulsword didn’t bleed the metal, so that part of them is inorganic.”
“Good work, Darkchild. And don’t call me ‘uncle’,” Sam says. He turns his attention next to Siryn, whom he orders to fully deconstruct the remains of the enemy’s machinery. Riding on the waves of her sonic scream, Siryn tears through the battlefield, dismantling the armored chairs as she passes. Milton suddenly finds himself resting helplessly in the snow. He looks up at Siryn and supposes she must have been the X-Man known as Banshee.
However, another member of the strike team corrects his error. “Negative. Designate: Banshee. Deceased. 8/27/98,” the new arrival says didactically. This Techno-Organic humanoid, dressed in the classic X-Men outfit of black and yellow, stands over the helpless Milton and informs him that Siryn is actually a descendant of Banshee’s, with similar mutant abilities. Milton asks the humanoid to introduce himself. “Doublet lifeform designate: Cyberlock. Composition of unit: organic material: designate: Douglas Ramsey; Biomechanical material: designate: Warlock,” Cyberlock says. Milton stares at him in disbelief. This one never made it to his home-world’s broadcast, he says. This does not surprise Cyberlock, whose powers scramble all recording signals.
Suddenly, Arize fires his plasma cannon on Milton and Cyberlock, the latter of whom finds the action confusing. Such ferocity contradicts Cyberlock’s existing intelligence on the foreigner. Arize shouts that he has not come seeking a fight, but help. Sunspot knocks him to the ground and grabs the gun out of his hand. If he came for help, he certainly has a funny way of asking, Sunspot says. He crushes the gun in his hand and prepares to deliver Arize a devastating punch.
Moments before he can unleash his brutal strength, Cannonball, finally recognizing Arize, intervenes and asks his teammate to stop. Arize used to be their friend, he says. The helpless Arize looks Sunspot in the eyes and prays that, after all these years, they might still consider him an ally. Sunspot lowers his fist. The rest of the team arrives and gathers around their feeble visitor. Theresa finally recognizes his face; she couldn’t do so before because of the thick flurry of snow. Sam, speaking with consternation, greets Arize and recalls they have not seen each other for ten years. Why is he here now – and in the company of two Spineless Ones, no less?
Arize believes all these questions have the same answer. It all comes down to one man – a man whom Sam knew rather well. Sam and this man fought together, lived together, cried together, and even died together. He even helped usher this man into power on the Mojoworld over a decade earlier. He is a man for whom Arize considers himself responsible. Now, he needs help putting an end to the tyrannical end of this man – the one they know as Shatterstar. At the mention of this name, Cannonball, Siryn, and Cyberlock say nothing. However, their facial expressions speak volumes.
The Freeman Armed Network Main Corporate Building…
Lord Shatterstar’s Scheduler updates his master on the latest developments in the Wildways. The spineless slaves continue to grow more rebellious. Worse, the renegade traitor Arize is still missing. Surely Shatterstar must recognize this as a bad sign, the servant says. Shatterstar doesn’t think so. Arize is only seeking what he has always sought – balance and equality, two qualities admittedly foreign to Shatterstar and his people.
“Is this what I fought for? Is this what I wanted?” Shatterstar asks. “A mere reversal of roles? Bipeds now free to abuse and ostracize the Spineless Ones?” His Scheduler, clearly missing Shatterstar’s larger moral crisis, implores his master to remain in control so as to prevent the possibility of the Spineless Ones returning to power. Shatterstar asks if the present state of things is at all different from when Mojo ruled. “Indeed it is,” the oblivious Scheduler says, “for we are the ones in charge now…”
The frustrated Shatterstar away, seeking the comfort of shadows and solitude.
Xavier’s Mansion. Earth…
After looking around the mansion’s interior, Arize notes that much has changed since his last visit. Cannonball chalks up the impressive hardware to the combination of having the Shi’ar technology Xavier incorporated and the stuff Cable left behind after he died. In fact, Cyberlock reports that Earth’s current technology will not reach the level of Xavier’s for another 260 years. While addressing Arize, Cyberlock reaches out and gently penetrates Arize’s face with an array of miniature Techno-Organic probes. The confused Arize kindly asks what he is doing. Cannonball tells him he can relax; Cyberlock is merely preparing to patch Arize into the control room’s holo-relays, which can project its subject’s thoughts in 3-D.
With the interface in place, Arize begins telling his story, which plays out in the center of the room in the form of picture-perfect holographic images. He recounts the tale of Longshot and the Mojoworld, beginning with Longshot’s trip to – and return from – Earth. His various rebellions against Mojo failed, however, and he returned to Earth with his mind nothing but a blank slate. It was then he joined up with the X-Men, during one of their more tumultuous periods.
Shortly after this – and after another of the Fallen Messiah’s attempts at rebellion – Arize embarked on his own mission to free the Mojoverse. He tried to fix the problem at the root by sending inspirational broadcasts from Earth back to his people, the Spineless Ones, in hopes of teaching them the ways of freedom and true joy. Instead, the broadcast became jumbled and twisted while traveling across the space-time void and ended up far in the past, where they drove the Spineless Ones insane. Arize then returned to the Mojoworld with his tenuous ally Spiral and sought to join forces with the X-Men to overthrow Mojo I and his sequel, Mojo II, once and for all.
Cannonball takes this opportunity to address a point of confusion caused by the distortions between dimensions. He reminds his team Shatterstar came to the X-Men from a hundred years in Longshot’s future, at which point a fifth Mojo was in charge. Powerpax asks if that was the timeline X-Force visited when they traveled to the Mojoverse ten years earlier. “Correct, Francinepower,” Cyberlock tells her. “X-Force unit consisting of Cable, Samuelguthrie, Theresacassidy, Jamesproudstar, Shatterstar and selfunit liberated Mojoworld from dictatorial control of designate: Mojo V.”
Is that when Shatterstar came into power, Sunspot asks? Indeed, Siryn says, adding that this mission occurred about a year before Roberto joined their team. The team didn’t like the mission one bit, but Cable pushed for it, and back then, Cable always got what he wanted. Continuing her thought, Sam adds that now, they need to make amends for Cable’s mistake, and admittedly, their mistake as well. Leaving one person in charge of everything, be they spineless or Biped, will always be wrong, Cannonball says.
Arize asks Cannonball what he proposes to do to solve this problem. In response, Sam asks why they should even bother to help Arize. What guarantee does he offer that the cycle of oppression in the Wildways will end? Surprisingly, it is one of the Spineless Ones who speaks up. He tells Cannonball that with their help, they can ensure equality by establishing a democracy and abolishing network rule. Intrigued, Cannonball asks him to elaborate.
The Scheduler thanks the Board of Directors for taking time out of their hectic schedules to give him audience. Moving on, he reports to them their latest ratings statements. Across the board, ratings have increased in share and ad revenue. Add in the ongoing retreat of the Spineless Ones, and the state of the Board’s corporate holdings appears quite sound. The Board thanks the Scheduler for his spin on current events, but asks for his take on the rumors of discontent arising throughout the chairman’s office. Is it true Lord Shatterstar has doubts about the achievements of the Freeman Armed Network, they asks? The Scheduler asks them not to worry; Shatterstar always delivers as needed. With a mischievous grin on his face, he ensures them Shatterstar will give the people what they want.
Sometime later, X-Force arrives in the stands of a packed Mojoworld battle arena. Over the deafening thunder of the audience – and the blaring sounds of the stadium announcer – they share their thoughts on the state of things. Cannonball notes how out of hand the situation has grown. Illyana presumes the Roman gladiator arenas must have looked the same way. Francine Power just stares at the funny-looking aliens in the audience. Cyberlock, meanwhile, performs a scan on the arena for Shatterstar, while Cannonball urges him to do it as discretely as possible. “Ah don’t like the thought of being the Christians thrown out to these lions,” Sam says.
Cyberlock gets a reading and directs his team’s attention upward, to the ruling box, where they see Shatterstar, lifting his sword and seemingly soaking in the applause. While most of the team stares in disbelief, Powerpax stares in romantic infatuation. Cannonball reminds his team to stay focused. It took them three weeks to get Arize, Milton and Shecky a slot in today’s arena battle; they cannot risk blowing this opportunity.
Arize, hiding his distinguishing features beneath a helmet, takes to the arena floor with his two spineless companions. While this trio puts up a valiant fight – much to the delight of the announcer – Cannonball and his team take their cue and head to the ruling box. They encounter a pair of guards in the corridor, whom they quickly dispatch.
Things heat up on the battlefield. Arize makes quick work of the opposition, causing the announcer to second-guess their decision to arm him and his companions so well.
X-Force, meanwhile, arrives at the ruling box’s locked door. Since they failed to obtain the entry codes from the guards they fought, they decide to forgo teleporting inside and instead wait for Arize to make his move.
In the arena, Milton and Shecky discretely position their battle-chairs under the ruling box, also in anticipation of Arize’s signal. Arize slays his last two opponents, turns to his companions and gives them the signal to activate the field. Suddenly, Milton and Shecky unleash a neuralytic field of energy from their chairs. It paralyzes both the remaining arena opponents as well as the soldiers guarding the ruling box. The announcer watches in shock. “But no one has seen a Biped paralyzer used since the Great Overthrow!” he says to the crowd. “All of the Spineless technology specifically attuned to disrupt Biped neural functioning was destroyed! Who could have recreated such deadly technology?”
Arize bares his blades and stands over the limp bodies of his enemies in the arena. The Scheduler, watching the apparent onset of a rebellion from the safety of the ruling box, orders the telecast to end. Lord Shatterstar dismisses this order; he wants the games to conclude. The Scheduler cannot believe it.
The crowd begins chanting their usual cry of cancellation. Arize lifts his sword and declares that, for the first time in Freeman Armed Network history, the rebels have emerged victorious. Arize listens to the cheers of the audience and directs his attention upward, to the ruling box. “They do so love to see an underdog triumph, don’t they, Lord Shatterstar?” the masked victor asks.
“They do, rebel,” Shatterstar answers. “Who are you, to remind me so much of my youth?” Arize removes his helmet, revealing his familiar face to the crowd. He tells Shatterstar it is he, the one who was there for the day of his birth. Shatterstar gasp; he never expected to see Arize again. The Scheduler, meanwhile, orders the rebel arrested.
At this point, Sunspot rips open the heavy, metal doors to the ruling box, and commands the guards to stop. They should listen to what Arize – the creator of their very race – has to say, Sunspot tells them. After all, as their parent, he has the right to steer his creations away from their current path of insanity.
The confused guards look around and ask what to do. The Scheduler’s stomach drops at the combination of X-Force’s sudden entrance and Arize’s unmasking on the battlefield. If the masses see these two legends threatening to overthrow the current ruling party, all will surely be lost. He jumps on the speaker system and begins addressing the crowd. The people they see before them are imposters, he says, chalking it all up to the trickery of the Spineless Ones. Shatterstar refuses to let him continue with his lies. He proceeds to the balcony and announces that the architects of the Great Overthrow have returned to tell them they have lost their way. While raising his sword as a symbol of unity, Shatterstar asks the Scheduler to hand him his staff. Instead, the Scheduler smashes his Lord in the back and sends him plummeting over the edge. Shatterstar falls to the arena’s dirt floor.
X-Force, still fighting their way through the guards at the door, watches in shock as Shatterstar falls and resolves to fight harder. Using her gravity-manipulation powers, Powerpax eases the G-force surrounding a pair of guards, essentially turning them into human feathers. Cyberlock sends them both away with a pair of well-placed punches. Suddenly, reinforcements arrive and, somehow, in the midst of the fighting, the ruling box crumbles and gives way, sending everyone falling to the arena floor to be buried in rubble. Thanks to Cannonball’s blast field, the members of X-Force emerge unscathed. They meet up with Shatterstar, who also survived his tumble, and exchange long overdue greetings. “It would appear I have not done so good a job ruling my world?” Lord Shatterstar jokingly asks Cannonball.
“You had Cable as an example, what can you expect?” Sam replies. Siryn draws their attention to the oncoming wave of guards. Shatterstar greets their approach with delight; it has been far too long since he engaged in a decent fray. He leaps into the air with his double-bladed sword outstretched and declares to make it a fight that two worlds will remember.
Shatterstar, X-Force, Arize and even some newly arriving Spineless Ones join forces to overthrow the tyrannical Biped regime, all while on display for the people of the dimension formerly known as the Mojoverse. It pains Arize to battle his own creations. However, for the good of the planet, it must be done. The arena announcer continues to give the play-by-play to the audience, even as the Freeman Armed Network approaches what will certainly be its end.
The treacherous Scheduler refuses to give up easily. He sneaks up behind Arize, whom he perceives to be the figurehead of the rebellion, and strikes him in the back with his pointed staff. “Arize is downed!” he shouts. “As he brought us to life, let him leave this one – in the mud and mire!” Shatterstar rushes to his leader’s aid. He scolds the Scheduler for betraying him like this, especially since Arize fights for freedom, as the Bipeds did for countless seasons. The Scheduler asks Shatterstar what he could possibly know of their fight. “You were nothing more than a figurehead – a celebrity to spoonfeed the masses! When we sent you to the other world, we thought you were going to die! We made you a legend solely for the sake of giving the people something to believe in,” he confesses. “But your time on Earth has softened you to the hardships of this world, my Lord—”
Unexpectedly, Shatterstar strikes at his Scheduler and calls him a liar. He declares that his time on Earth did not make him soft, but taught him how to care, and how to love, and how to be human. He only forgot those things upon returning to the Mojoverse. While hacking away at the Scheduler, Shatterstar vows to never again forget the lessons he learned on Earth. Cable turned him not into a soulless machine, but a soldier for peace. “What will it be then, Scheduler,” he says while standing over the Scheduler’s bloody, battered body, “—my way or your way?” As usual, the crowd demands cancellation. Shatterstar lifts his blade and holds the point over the Scheduler’s head. “The people have spoken,” he says as he brings the blade down. “But I do not listen!” He slams the blade into the ground adjacent to the Scheduler’s face, shattering its tip. The Scheduler has been spared.
Shatterstar turns to the bloodthirsty people of his kingdom and announces the new world order. No longer will the people be told what they want, he shouts! No longer will the people tell their rulers what to do! It is time for a new way, in which outstretched arms of love replace the swords of war.
Meanwhile, the survivors of the battle help Arize off the ground. They ask if he is alright; he tells them he would never dream of dying at a time like this, when all the people of the world are uniting as one. He reveals that all the Spineless Ones who participated in the rebellion received implants which block the transmissions that cause their species’ insanity. He will find the others and heal them. However, the insanity that befell the Bipeds was not driven by biology, but by sociology. It must end, Arize says. He asks everyone present if they can overcome this hatred, prejudice, and violence. If they can, then term “Freeman” will have an entirely new meaning.
The people of the arena pump their fists in triumph. “Free men! Free men! Free men!” they shout in jubilation at their new world order. A mysterious, cloaked figure watches from the shadow of a peripheral corridor, and smiles. “Free men, indeed,” he says. “After so very long, free men in word and deed, in body and soul.” He pulls down his hood, revealing a flowing, blond mullet, and a left eye that glows radiantly. “Gotcha!” he says.
Nearby, Sam Guthrie senses something unusual. Theresa notices the shift in his countenance and asks what is wrong. Nothing, he tells her. He simply caught a glimpse of a familiar feeling: hope. Not just hope for the people of the Mojoverse, he says, but for all of them; hope that no matter how many times they fight the same fight over and over again, freedom is always worth fighting for.
A not-so long time ago – in a galaxy not-so far away…
Leech swings blindly at the Lego-constructed TIE-fighters swirling around his head, but fails to hit any of them using his makeshift light saber. The miniature spaceships retaliate by pelting him with Lego bricks. Taki laughs at his misfortune. “What’s the matter Leech? Too tricky for you?” the wheelchair-bound mutant genius asks. Leech reminds his friend he has not seen the Star Wars movies nearly as many times as Taki has. Taki writes off these excuses and continues ordering his ships to attack Leech.
Suddenly, Artie Maddicks, the mutant standing guard at the door, projects a warning image to his friends. Their teacher Mrs. Huntington is coming down the hallway! The current occupants of the playroom at St. Simons Boarding Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire quickly hide the evidence of their mischief. With a press of a button on his high-tech wheelchair, Taki disassembles the Lego TIE-fighters into their component pieces. Mrs. Huntington, however, is not fooled. She enters in time to see the pieces falling to the floor and reminds Taki that there are specific allotted times during which the mutant students can practice their powers. Now is not one of them.
Taki, looking uncharacteristically shamefaced, apologizes. Mrs. Huntington asks him not to look so wounded. She asks the boys to clean up the play room and wash up for dinner. However, she suspends their Lego privileges for a few days, and asks Taki to bring the toys to her office once they collect them all. Taki swoons. “I think I’m in love,” he says after she leaves.
Not long after, Taki brings the bucket of Legos to Mrs. Huntington’s office. She asks him to place them on the shelf while she finishes with some filing work. She tells Taki that because he is the oldest student at St. Simons, she expects more from him. Taki notices her powdering her nose and asks if she is going somewhere. She mentions she has a date, and continues her lecture. Taki must be a positive role model for the other kids, especially Artie and Leech, she says. Taki’s mind is obviously on other things. He asks if her date is with Patrick again. “Mr. Conrad to you,” she answers, “—you’re not listening, Taki! All I’m asking you to be is a little more responsible in the use of your mutant abilities – O.K.?”
Patrick Conrad knocks on the door and enters. He apologizes for interrupting, and then asks Mrs. Huntington, whom he calls “pumpkin”, if she is ready. She tells Mr. Conrad, whom she calls “lambchop,” that yes, her discussion with Taki has ended. She gets up out of her seat and gives Patrick a peck on the lips. Taki winces. Artie and Leech arrive and tell their disgusted schoolmate to come get dinner with them. As they wheel him out of the room, Taki shoots a final, suspicious glance in Patrick Conrad and Lynne Huntington’s direction. He’s not sure he likes Patrick.
Later that night, Takashi patrols the darkened hallways of the St. Simons in his technoformed wheelchair. He notes the time; it’s almost midnight, and Mrs. Huntington still hasn’t returned. He can only wonder what happened. He supposes that creep Conrad took her out dancing, and then after a few of his lame jokes, they probably shared dinner at some fancy restaurant. After that, he imagines Conrad took her to his place, where they snuggled, and probably even kissed. I wish it was me, Taki thinks. He picks up the picture of Conrad on Mrs. Huntington’s desk. “What does she see in him?” he asks.
He hears noises in the hallway and realizes Lynne and Patrick have returned. With no time to flee the room, Taki crouches down behind Mrs. Huntington’s desk. Patrick enters, supposedly to use the office phone to dial the auto club. However, Taki spies him opening the student record filing cabinet, and thumbing through the confidential material. Patrick pulls out two files – those of Artie Maddicks and Leech, whom he dubs “filthy mutant scum” – and makes a phone call to his boss. “That’s right, phase one is complete,” Mr. Conrad says. “It was simple to deceive that bubble-headed teacher. I’ll be giving her the brush-off in a few days.” Incensed, Taki watches, but remains silent. He refuses to let Mr. Conrad get away with his deception.
Conrad’s car gets repaired shortly thereafter, and he departs, leaving the enamored Lynne Huntington to watch as his car pulls away. Taki observes from a distance. When I expose that racist pig, she’ll be crushed, he thinks. Nevertheless, he knows what he must do. Using his mutant technoforming ability, an ability he sharpened while battling demons during the recent demonic invasion of New York City, Takashi Matsuya transforms his chair into a pair of enhanced prosthetic legs and marches up the stairs to find Artie and Leech. He wakes them up and relays to them all that transpired. Leech suggests they just tell Mrs. Huntington, but Taki insists they obtain evidence first. Otherwise, Mrs. Huntington would never believe them.
Reluctantly, Artie and Leech accompany their hot-headed schoolmate Wiz Kid in yet another of his technoformed creations. Unfortunately, Mrs. Huntington notices their departure in Taki’s makeshift helicopter. She shouts – to no avail – for them to wait. Refusing to let them go out on their own, Lynne hops into the school’s van and follows them into town. She vows to stop Taki from getting into trouble. Unlike his friends Artie and Leech, Takashi has never quite adjusted to life at St. Simons, and remains as distant and angry as ever. Lynne refuses to let him jeopardize his chances at the school.
Artie, Leech and Wiz Kid follow Conrad to an exclusive building downtown and land on the roof. They discretely peer in through the skylight window at the secret processions below, but Taki can barely make out what Conrad and his associates are saying. However, he picks up enough to hear Conrad’s boss explain how they can use these stolen mutant files to not only track down mutant family members of the subjects, but possibly even apply the data toward ridding the country of mutantkind. Taki growls; he refuses to sit idly while these men plan some mutant mass-extermination!
After technoforming his chair into a flying, fisted bobsled, Taki and his friends crash through the glass skylight and bring the fight to the mutant-haters. One of Conrad’s associates draws his gun and levels it toward the three mutant children. Before the assailant can fire the shot, Artie telepathically mind-locks him but, because of the rampant hatred he feels within the man’s mind, he struggles to maintain control. The constrained man slowly overpowers Artie’s influence and lifts his gun. He fires his shot.
To deflect the bullet, Taki tips their aircraft sideways. However, Leech loses his balance and falls out and hits the mantle of the lounge’s fireplace. Before he can recover, another one of the mutant-haters hurls a chair at him, but Leech dives out of the way. The chair hits the fireplace and splinters into burning fragments. Leech leaps back into the aircraft just as Taki summons the police and fire departments on his technoformed radio. Once the firemen extinguish the fire, surely the police will uncover what went down in the building, Taki says as he flies his friends to safety.
Shortly thereafter, the police and fire departments arrive – as does Lynne Huntington. She pulls up to the building right as the cops lead away her lover, Patrick Conrad. Where are they taking him, she asks? Patrick sneers at her. “You could never figure out what was obvious to everyone else,” he says. “Go back to your pathetic students, you mutant loving fool.” Lynne stands in shock. She honestly thought Patrick loved her.
The next day at St. Simons, while the students work on their lesson plans, Mrs. Huntington stares longingly out the window. Taki notices her inattentiveness and asks if everything is alright. She tells him will be fine, and asks him to please finish his reading. Taki playfully tugs at her shoulder. “I know I may not be the greatest catch,” he says, “but if you’re willing to wait a few years, I know a really cute guy who could make a great date.” To Taki’s surprise, his joke manages to sneak a smile out of his heartbroken teacher.
The Adirondack Mountains, once home of the mutant-hunting Sentinels…
Times change. This base once belonged to those who fought to eliminate mutants forever, but now, it is home to a team that fights for the very survival of the mutant species. They are called X-Force, and their leader, Cable, still has a lot to learn about his soldiers. He calls for them to fall-in, and X-Force arrives without question. Today, he intends to test the limits of their allegiance.
Cable orders the control room’s computer to begin displaying X-Force’s ten prime threats. After the program conjures up an image of Masque, Cable orders Feral to identify the target and state the best course of attack. “That’s Masque, my old captor and leader of the Morlocks,” Feral says. “I’d claw and rip into his ugly face.” Cable finds this answer unsuitable. Masque, after all, manipulates flesh with his touch. A close-range attack would be unacceptable.
Moving on, he asks Cannonball to identify the next image, this one of a grey-skinned martial artist in a red vest. “His name’s Kane. He’s the current Weapon X,” Sam says. Since Kane’s hands detach in combat, Sam supposes the best method of attack would be first letting him fire off both of his hands, then moving in and attacking his body.
“That’s one way of disarming him!” Boom Boom quips. Next, Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut appear on the screen. Shatterstar easily identifies the former and makes sure to note his staff has long-range attack capabilities. Warpath finishes the analysis by identifying the virtually invulnerable Juggernaut, whose only weakness is losing his helmet. Warpath considers this foe among the most powerful of their enemies.
Next, Cable asks Boom Boom to state what she knows about G.W. Bridge, the next enemy in line. “Ur uh… he’s that S.H.I.E.L.D.-guy, right?” Tabitha asks. “Umm… his head’s exposed?” Cable asks her to see him after class.
Domino’s turn comes next. “That’s Deadpool. Best killing machine money can buy,” she says upon seeing the image of the merc with the mouth. “Best defense would be offering him a better price.”
The computer then displays a picture of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Cable asks James Proudstar to identify all three of them. Warpath correctly lists them off as Sauron, Blob, Pyro, Phantazia and Toad.
Cable then has the computer summon an image of Gideon and his young accomplice, Roberto DaCosta, the former New Mutant Sunspot. Surprisingly, Cable asks Sam to state the best course of attack. “Hold it right there, sir!” Cannonball shouts. “Bobby’s my best friend in the whole world, he was one o’ us, you can’t ask me to—”
Warpath restrains his irate teammate and asks him to ease up. Moving on, Cable assigns the next image to Shatterstar. “Za’s vid!” Shatterstar says upon seeing the picture of a green, glowing, energy-based life-form. “That’s Proteus. A mutant with the ability to alter reality itself. He has but one weakness – metal.”
Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation Front appear on the screen next. As per Cable’s request, Domino identifies them, and then declares an all-out assault as the best means of attack.
Cable, satisfied with his team’s performance, decides to identify and analyze their final enemies by himself. He calls these enemies the most powerful mutant strike force in operation, and states that because of their differing ideologies, a clash with them is inevitable. They are the X-Men.
Enraged, Cannonball and Boom Boom head toward the door. “Figures! Every time ah get close t’trustin’ the man, he pulls something like this!” Sam says. Tabitha, meanwhile, advises Cable not to force them to choose between his team and the X-Men; he might not like the results.
Domino finally snaps and orders everyone out of the room, except for Cable. After the rest of the grumbling troops shuffle toward the exit, Cable turns to Domino and tells her not to undermine his authority. She tells him not to worry; he is doing a good enough job of that on his own. “What kind of lame stunt was that supposed to be?” she asks. Cable tells her he must ensure the members of X-Force are firmly on his side and that they’re in it for the long haul. “Can’t they follow your lead and Xavier’s dream at the same time?” she asks.
“NO!” Cable shouts. Through clenched teeth, he tells Domino there is a world of difference between dreaming a dream – and winning a war.