Journal entry: Day the last, Arize writes in his journal. I say that every day I place an entry — but this day, I am certain, will be my last one of freedom.
The landscape presents what can only be described as a massacre. A horde of grotesque, armored humanoid creatures slaughters a squad of what looks like human rebels. In his diary, Arize reports that Mojo’s forces have breached the last remaining rebellion stronghold. With the rebels under siege, they take Arize, their most important member, into the lower depths of their bunker. Arize finds this preferential treatment odd; after all, he believes himself to be the cause of all the war and fighting. Without him, there would not have been a rebellion, for there would not have been a slave race that needed to rebel.
All this blood, then, is on my hands, he writes. My name is Arize. I am a creator of life, yet I am responsible for the deaths of over thirteen million beings.
On the battlefield, Mojo’s soldiers storm the rocky battlefield in search of the rebel leader, Quark. Quark, a ram-headed, eye-patched soldier with a quick trigger finger, waits patiently behind an abutment. Upon hearing them approach, Quark steps out and mows them down with a spray of machine-gun fire. Before they can retaliate, however, he shifts into a gaseous state and soars away, amidst a hail of shooting and rockets. He realizes he might be doomed.
After hitting the ground, he runs through the craggy turns of the battlefield, before turning a corner and running right into a pair of Mojo’s soldiers and their hostage, a rebel ally of Quark’s. They tell him to surrender; if not, they intend to execute their prisoner. Quark thinks about it for only a moment before putting down his gun. The soldiers call him a fool and execute the woman anyway! Enraged, Quark leaps at the spineless curs, but they repel him with a hail of gunfire, sending him crashing into a stalagmite. They approach his wounded body and prepare to terminate him. “I die with dignity, traitorous Mojo-mice!” Quark declares. The soldiers tell Quark he deserves no such honor while they beat him mercilessly with their clubs.
“Delightful! Simply delightful,” Mojo says, monitoring the battle from the safety of his headquarters. The sheer volume of blood on the battlefield brings an impossibly wide smile to his face. His assistant, Major-Domo, asks if he would like to hear the final coverage of the battle. Of course, Mojo says. Major-Domo reports that the rebel forces have fallen, with thirty-three taken prisoner. Mojo’s troops, on the other hand, only suffered twelve casualties. Mojo does not care how many of his soldiers have died; he only wants the death toll for the other side. Most importantly, he demands to know the whereabouts of Arize!
One of Mojo’s pig-like soldiers reports the discovery of a hidden rebel bunker. Mojo orders them to invade. The troops ready their old-fashioned battering-ram and smash the bunker’s heavy, wooden door to smithereens. To their surprise, a stream of armed rebels pours out and attack. Mojo groans. By now, he has had enough of this repetitive fighting. He just wants the slave-maker. Lifting his hand, he fires an explosive blast at the rebels, whom he terms “bone-walkers”, and obliterates their defenses. One of the scattered rebels lands at his feet; Mojo is delighted to see it is none other than his prized target, Arize.
The bulbous media mogul lords over the injured biped. Never again shall Arize hide behind the fallen messiah, Mojo declares! Never again shall he broadcast his faulty claims of genetic equality over the airwaves! He is Mojo’s forever! Arize turns toward Mojo and refuses. His defiance, however, does not dampen Mojo’s resolve. Arize is still his slave, and now he wants him to create yet another race of slaves for Mojo. Never, Arize shouts! He refuses to relive his old mistakes again! After slinking out of Mojo’s grasp, Arize darts toward the compound’s computer terminal. He does not care whether he lives or dies; he only wishes to be free of Mojo forever. Arize presses a large red button and disappears in a blinding flash of electrified blue light.
“Grand! Absolutely thrilling!” Mojo says with glee while simultaneously shielding his eyes. Once the light dies out, he and Major-Domo see nothing but a pile of charred ashes where Arize once stood. Although Mojo applauds the dramatic gesture, he doubts Arize actually killed himself; he would have known such an act would surely bring Mojo pleasure. That does leave the question, however, of where exactly Arize went. Major-Domo supposes he could have fled to the world of humans. Nonsense, Mojo says. Arize would not dare make an interdimensional jaunt without the time-dancing magic of Spiral to guide him. If he did, he would get caught in the madness between worlds and surely lose his most valued possession: his mind.
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters...
The Westchester Institutes rustic exterior belies its militant purpose. Inside, the X-Men, a group of people gifted with special abilities who have chosen to defend the world, undergo the latest session of their rigorous training program. Beast and Psylocke of the X-Men’s Blue Team carefully sneak through a simulated urban decay in the Danger Room. Confounded by the room’s immense capabilities, Psylocke once again asks Beast if he knows where he is going. Each program differs, he says while scrutinizing the streets for clues. Each program represents a sinister combination of Xavier’s taste for tactical innovation and advanced Shi’ar technology. Psylocke asks Hank if that is not just a roundabout way of saying he has no idea where he is going. “Ah, you read my mind — no pun intended,” Beast replies his telepathic teammate.
He alerts Psylocke to some obstacles up ahead. The ninja-trained warrior approaches the mechanical constructs and deftly dismantles them. Beast watches in awe; he had forgotten about her martial arts background. It comes in handy, Psylocke responds as she destroys a robot’s neck with a flying kick. What tactics is Hank employing, she asks? “Just relying on my good looks and natural wit, thank you,” he answers. His quip begs the question, though, of what Gambit and Rogue are doing at that moment.
Elsewhere, Rogue finds herself crammed in a tight access-way along with her flirtatious Cajun teammate. She asks him to take his hand off of her. Gambit asks why she chose such a confined route for their approach if she didn’t want to engage in such intimate espionage. Ignoring his persistence, she clears a way out of the duct and into an industrial lab. They hit the floor and look around for enemies. The enemy, as it turns out, is the room itself. The cable-strewn floor reaches out and grabs Rogue. Gambit charges up a trio of playing cards, leaps through the air and hurls the kinetically potent projectiles at the cluster of coils ensnaring his teammate. The cards explode, destroying the mechanical menace, while leaving Rogue relatively uninjured, thanks in part to her invulnerability.
Suddenly, their exercise opponents Beast and Psylocke enter the room, stirring Gambit to hurry. Time to get a move on, he says to Rogue as he takes off running. Beast asks Psylocke if she is willing to defy gravity in order to beat Gambit. Sure, she says, and Beast, using his monstrous strength, hurls her across the room. She lands in front of the control panel – the exercise’s target – and apologizes to Gambit as she presses the button. She and Hank are the winners, Psylocke announces! Unfortunately, winning the exercise results not in a prize, but a surprise. Wolverine tears through the wall with his adamantium claws and grabs Psylocke by her hair. She was careless, and now she’s dead, he says.
With the exercise over, Gambit asks Cyclops, the team’s leader, why he chose to end it this way. Sometimes, reaching the destination does not always equate to accomplishing the mission, Cyclops says. He reminds his team to not get complacent three-quarters of the way through their missions.
Each member of the Blue Team receives the same telepathic message from Professor X at the same time. He tells them to proceed to the ready room immediately. Without hesitation, Gambit, Wolverine, Psylocke, Rogue, Beast and Cyclops head to the mission-ready room and meet with Professor X and Forge. Xavier reports that their Cerebro units detected a peculiar reading. He asks Forge to explain the details. Basically, Forge says, Cerebro detected an alien life that also registers as a mutant. Where, Cyclops asks? Afghanistan, Forge answers. “They never pop up over Tahiti, do they?” Rogue sighs. Forge gives the team wrist-ready tracking devices attuned to the alien’s genetic imprint. Xavier, meanwhile, advises they proceed cautiously, as this mission doubles as an international situation. The X-Men board the Blackbird and depart for the Middle East.
A bored Mojo tells Major-Domo he would like to make another program starring bipeds. The bipeds, whom he finds immensely entertaining, always run around, fight each other, and muck with good and evil, thus ensuring good ratings. He orders Major-Domo to bring him Arize so they can get started making some more. Unfortunately, Major-Domo has to remind his His Immensity that Arize is missing, and only Spiral, with her ability to cleave time and space, can locate him. Very well, Mojo says; summon Spiral immediately!
Unfortunately, Major-Domo has to remind His Plentitude that Spiral still remains on Earth, awaiting further instructions from Mojo. Why is she there, Mojo asks? Major-Domo reminds him that she ventured to Earth to retrieve Mojoworld's messiah. Mojo throws up his arms in frustration; the messiah was in the Mojoverse all along! Nevertheless, he orders Major-Domo to contact Spiral and have her prepare for a retrieval team. Unfortunately, Major-Domo has to remind His Plentitude that only Mojo can contact Spiral. Fine, Mojo shouts! He orders Major-Domo to interrupt their regularly scheduled programming so he can make a live announcement. Retrieving the traitorous Arize from the bipeds in front of a live audience will provide endless entertainment.
The Blackbird flies low over the Hindu Kush. Wolverine, monitoring his wrist-tracker, relays the target’s proximity to the rest of the team. Unfortunately, said target has taken refuge in the heart of a Muhajedin camp. Cyclops asks the resident brain Hank McCoy if they should expect any hostility from the Afghan rebels. Normally Hank would say no, but the stinger missile heading toward their jet is influencing his judgment. Take evasive action, Cyclops shouts! Hank is one step ahead of him; he veers the jet upward.
Next, Cyclops orders Rogue to get airborne and neutralize the rebel with the rocket launcher. She disengages from the jet and flies toward the rocket-launching rebel at top speed. However, he manages to reload and fire again in the time it takes her to reach him, forcing her to absorb the blast of the second missile. “Now that wasn't very polite of you, was it, sugah?” she asks as she lands in front of the militants. They fire at her with their machine guns, but the bullets harmlessly ricochet off her body. More annoyed than anything, Rogue approaches them and hoists the boulder under their feet into the air, sending them crashing to the ground.
Meanwhile, the Blackbird finally lands and the rest of the X-Men disembark. Psylocke reminds her teammates to be gentle with the rebels. Wolverine concurs; the Afghans only want to protect what they have, no different than anyone else. As he slugs one of the militants in the gut, he notes how ironic it is that they have to fight at all. Gambit asks him to elaborate on the irony. Psylocke answers instead. “The Mujahedin rebels fought off the Soviet-backed dictatorship,” she says while chopping one man to the neck, “but are now left with internal civil strife between several of the rebel tribes. A contextual analogy could be made with regards to the mutant situation on this planet as well.” Gambit candidly asks Logan if that was at all what he meant.
Cyclops and Beast finally exit the jet. Beast, speaking the rebels’ language, tells them they came not to fight, but to seek an alien visitor who arrived in their camp, whom they will send back home if they can find him. The fighting suddenly stops. One of the rebels tells Hank that the stranger he mentions is injured. They will lead the X-Men to his location, but if they discover they have lied about their intentions, they will kill them. As the X-Men follow the rebel into the camp, Wolverine tells Beast he had no idea he spoke Pushti. “You never asked,” Beast replies.
They arrive at the stranger’s tent. Cyclops orders Gambit and Rogue to guard the entrance while the rest investigate. Psylocke, he wants inside the tent along with Hank and himself. He needs her to provide a psi-link between him and Hank in order to understand what the Afghanis are saying. They step inside the tent; their jaws drop at the sight of the alien Arize lying in his bed. According to the rebels, the stranger has been incoherent ever since they found him. They do not even know his name, or his place of origin. Psylocke, on the other hand, believes she does.
Several miles away...
A crackle of energy splits the night sky over the Hindu Kush, announcing the arrival of the team Mojo sent to retrieve Arize. The team's announcer goes over the lineup for the viewing audience's pleasure: the beastly father and son tracking-team, Gog and Gog N’Magog; the reprogrammed rebel-leader, Quark; two prime warriors from the arena, both unnamed; and finally, the announcer himself. A floating, mobile camera follows the team as it begins traversing the harsh landscape of the Afghani desert. They only take a few steps before their target shows up on the tracking radar. Gog points the way, and the squad rushes toward Arize’s location, kicking up a cloud of dust as it proceeds.
Back at the rebel camp, Psylocke gently rest her hands on Arize's temples as she probes his mind. Her butterfly-shaped energy signature wafts around her head as she delves into his alien psyche. He is from Mojoworld, she reports back to her anxious team. In her mind’s eye, she clearly sees Mojo fighting an endless fight battle against a race of artificially created humanoids, whom he bred purely for entertainment. These entertainment slaves rebelled, and lost, time and time again, as if their lives and their war were nothing but a syndicated television series. She gets the impression that the show has a main star, viewed by his followers as a messiah of sorts. Psylocke looks more closely at this leader’s face. She sees a beautiful man with flowing blond hair, a winning smile, and a glowing left eye. Before she can determine his identity, however, she feels a pang of psychic backlash and loses the connection with Arize.
Cyclops asks what happened. Elisabeth reports a hostile interference, one that is fast on its way to retrieve Arize, and has less than noble intentions. Immediately, Cyclops orders Gambit and Rogue to scour the area for intelligence.
Rogue, grabbing Gambit under his arms, takes off flying over the craggy wasteland. She tells Gambit that if his armpits sweat, she might have to drop him. They quickly reach the vague destination Psylocke gave them. Rogue lets Gambit down, then returns to the sky to run airborne recon. From up in the air, however, Rogue can see no potentially hostile targets. She asks Gambit for a ground-floor report. After sliding down a rocky embankment, he overlooks a group of strange looking creatures — six of them, to be exact — marching through a crevice. He reports their position back to Rogue, via Psylocke's telepathic linkage.
Doubling back to Gambit's position, Rogue comes face-to-face with Mojoworld’s airborne camera. “We have uncovered our first Terran opposition,” the announcer reports to his audience. “And what a wonder to behold — it appears, from the markings on its body, to be a member of the infamous X-Men team!” Rogue sighs; she doesn't even want to ask. The announcer nearly faints as Rogue speaks to the camera. He and his audience have the pleasure of hearing one of the legendary X-Men speaking firsthand! “I am overcome!! This is the broadcasting opportunity of a lifetime — and you are witnessing it live! Praise Mojo!” he says.
Below, the grey-bearded Gog scoffs at the foolishness of the announcer at a time of battle. He orders the arena warriors to strike at Rogue. They meet her in the sky but, before attacking, apologize for what they must do. They have no say over their own actions, as Mojo owns them, body and soul. Rogue knows all about Mojo’s nasty ways of keeping his servants in line. However, she also knows how to identify servants too cowardly to defy orders. She slugs the arena warrior in the face. The other warrior approaches from behind, however, and knocks her out of the sky with a powerful punch. “Oh, a psychological blow well-met by a physical one!” the announcer says. "The Terran biped is down! Round one to the retrieval team!"
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ridge, Gambit ambushes the ground-level portion of the slave-recovery team. They didn’t really think the X-Men would send just one person to attack, did they, he asks? He introduces himself as Gambit, an X-Man by default rather than choice, and gives them a brief overview of his energy-charging powers, for courtesy’s sake. “Now then, before some friends of mine decide t’join the party,” he says, “allow the first dance of the night t'be mine!” With an arcing motion, he hurls a trio of playing cards at the retrieval team, inciting a massive explosion.
With them down, Gambit turns his attention to the airborne television camera, and its obnoxious passenger, the announcer. He uses his Bo staff to pole vault himself into the air and toward the flying passenger vehicle. Gambit calculates his trajectory perfectly; his steel boot connects with the announcer and displaces him from his seat. The announcer refuses to go down so easily, however. He rebounds and places a chokehold around Gambit's neck, refusing to abandon his post. Why, Gambit asks? His integrity as a journalist? No, the announcer says; if he fails at his job, his wife and children will be killed. “Tough union,” Gambit jokes.
He offers a compromise to his sparring partner; maybe they can find a way to stop fighting and also save the announcer’s family. Ignoring his offer, the announcer admits how long he has dreamed of seeing the X-Men in battle. He only regrets he had to become a participant in it. Why, Gambit asks? His objectivity as a journalist? No, the announcer answers; he doesn’t want to get punched in the face.
An unexpected optic blast from Cyclops knocks the announcer off of Gambit’s back, thus sparing him a difficult dilemma between civility and survival. Meanwhile, the rest of the retrieval team sizes up its newly arrived opponents, the X-Men, and hesitates, awestruck. Psylocke senses their trepidation and is surprised. She cannot believe they stand in such awe of the X-Men! It’s about time, Wolverine says. Their stupor should make them much easier to handle. Quark, meanwhile, stares at the approaching team and stutters. “The X… the X…” he says, unable to complete his sentence.
“Men, Force, Factor... it all does get so confusing,” Beast says. With the introductions out of the way, Cyclops orders his team to finish the battle quickly so they can sort out the participants. Beast scoffs at his impatient leader and leaps into battle, in the meantime finishing his monologue on the various X-teams. “Factor does it with a modicum of humor. Force with an overabundance of testosterone. We, the Men (and Ladies) of X, do it with a style and panache the others always try, but fail, to emulate!”
Rogue, fighting with the mace-wielding arena warrior, tells Beast to stuff it. She doubts their enemies care much for his expiation. Wolverine, meanwhile, lunges at his target, and actually expresses relief. For a while, he and his team worried they might have had to protect Arize from a significant threat. If these goons are their only opposition, however, he supposes he and his team can stop worrying. Take this back to Mojo, he commands as he stabs his opponent in the gut.
The other arena warrior comes to his teammate’s aid, trying to explain they have no choice in the matter. Psylocke intercepts the attack with a high-kick. As long as free will exists, there is always a choice, she says. She draws out her psi-knife; maybe its psyche-scrambling effect will cut deeply enough to allow the warrior to reevaluate his position. She plunges it into his skull. Without his mind to control his jetpack, he barrels out of control, and crashes into the ground a short distance away.
Beast, meanwhile, juggles the incapacitated Quark, along with the announcer, using only his feet. He passes them over to Wolverine, who returns the favor in kind. Now is the time to pull the curtain on these boys, Logan says. Gog and Magog hear his words and realize they are outmatched. They decide to withdraw, especially since they lost their camera crews and, with them, all chance of a successful broadcast. They gather up Quark and the announcer and open their portal back home. Magog curses at the X-Men for both their past harboring of Longshot, and now, for their coddling of Arize. He then leaps through the portal.
Longshot’s name resonates in both Wolverine and Rogue’s ears. Having not seen their former teammate for quite some time and wanting to get answers from Magog, they dart toward the portal, intending to follow the retrieval team back to the Mojoverse. Cyclops destroys it before they can enter. Why the heck did he do that, Wolverine asks?! Cyclops says he did not want to lose two members of his team on some trans-dimensional suicide stunt. Who cares, Rogue shouts! Those creatures mentioned Longshot! “The kid was our teammate — our friend — not yours, Summers,” Wolverine sneers. “You had no right stoppin' us!” Scott disagrees. His team accomplished its mission — safely finding Arize. With that complete, they need to return home. He reminds them of the lesson learned in the Danger Room that day. The end of the fight does not always mean the end of the mission.
The frail-bodied Arize, his face obscured by a thick beard and head of hair, silently sidles up to the X-Men with the support of his walking stick. Beast points at him and asks pertinent question: who is this guy, and why is he called both a giver and a taker of life?
“What? What? WHAT?” Mojo shouts upon hearing the news. Major-Domo apologizes; he was not aware Mojo had a hearing problem. Mojo tells his insolent assistant he heard him loud and clear; he just cannot believe it. How could his most embarrassing failure have become his highest-rated show ever?
Gog asserts the mission was not a complete failure. Sure, they failed in their task, but they earned Mojo the love of the masses! Major-Domo disapproves of this pitiful attempt at rationalization; Gog makes as good a demographic analyzer as he does a bounty hunter. He reports that, although the broadcast's ratings were astronomical, the audience was laughing at Mojo, and not with him. Enraged, Mojo grabs Gog by the collar and hoists him into the air. Did he hear that, he shouts?!
Major-Domo now asks if His Exorbitance One wants to prep a second extraction team. No, Mojo says. He refuses to be made a fool of on live television again. Major-Domo agrees, and promises to continue editing out Mojo’s embarrassing bloopers. Mojo decides he does not need Arize anyway. He can create life, and slaves, without him.
Elsewhere, an unknown voyeur watches Mojo’s rant over a video monitor. He wonders how long Mojo’s network will withstand the stupidity of its programming, and how long it will be before he finally slits Mojo’s bulbous throat and steals control of the network, and the world, out from under his dancing metal feet. Perhaps it won’t be very long at all...
Jubilee hops into the Danger Room’s control seat and commands it to bring up a list of the X-Men’s top ten villains. “This’ll show ‘em I’m ready for the team!” she says. Before the simulation can begin, however, Wolverine appears behind the X-Men’s protégé and lifts her out of the seat by the collar. What is she playing at, he asks? Does she really think she is ready for the big leagues? Wolverine decides to give her a taste of what she wants. After ordering the computer to initiate its strictest safety locks, he punches up the list Jubilee so desperately wants to see.
“Gross! Who’s the slug, Wolvie?” she asks upon seeing villain number ten, Mojo and his fellow Mojoworld cohorts. That, he explains, is Mojo, the most psychotic slug in existence. He lords over an enslaved world known as the Wildways.
Villain team number nine appears next. “Hey, I know those losers: they’re the Reavers!” Jubilee says. Wolverine reminds her that those losers – Donald Pierce, Lady Deathstrike, Skullbuster, Pretty Boy, Bonebreaker, and their associates – almost killed both of them. Cyborgs do not come much tougher than this bunch, Wolverine says. Incidentally, most of the team was killed a few months earlier, except for Lady Deathstrike.
Wolverine takes Jubilee into the Danger Room on foot to witness threat number eight firsthand. They walk through a simulated, futuristic ghetto. Logan tells Jubilee that in this future, she is probably dead. She asks how far in the future it is. Not far enough, he answers. Suddenly, three towering robots appear overhead and flash-fry a group of nearby people. Wolverine introduces Jubilee to the Sentinels, whose sole function is to eradicate mutants. In this timeline, they succeed. This is the future the X-Men fight to prevent.
Next, Logan introduces young Jubilation to a horde of aliens known as the Brood. “Sheesh! Where’s Sigourney Weaver when you need her?” Jubilee quips. These creatures seem bent on intergalactic conquest, Wolverine explains. They have tried their best to kill the X-Men, time and time again.
“And here are some new jokers, the Upstarts, inheritors of the Hellfire Club legacy,” Logan says, presenting villain team number six. Jubilee looks and sees a group of young, overpowered, over-armed urbanites standing idly in their headquarters. Logan admits they do not know much about this group. In the X-Men’s line of work, that kind of intelligence failure can prove costly.
Number five is Omega Red, the Russian super-soldier who possesses a death-touch. Jubilee, suddenly quite nervous, asks for reassurance that it’s only a simulation. Wolverine tells her sometimes a simulation is just as deadly.
Moving on, Wolverine has the Danger Room bring up Apocalypse. Apocalypse fancies himself Earth’s genetic savior, and strives to create a world comprised only of the genetically strong. A regular Hitler, that one, Wolverine says.
Threat number three is Mr. Sinister and his Marauders. “They don’t come much colder than this,” Logan says when he presents the villains responsible for the Mutant Massacre to Jubilee. Jubilee, terrified of the vicious looking team, thanks Logan once more for activating the safety measures in advance.
Their second to last stop before examining the X-Men’s number-one threat is to a simulated Asteroid M, where Wolverine presents Jubilee with Magneto and his Acolytes. Magneto blurs the line between ally and foe a bit; the X-Men can never really tell where he stands. “Hold the phone! Since when does Magneto come in at two?” an incredulous Jubilee asks.
Nevertheless, the young mutant thinks she has the final enemy pegged. Danger Room, bring up the Dark Phoenix, she says. “An omniversal force of destruction, mega-death to the max! She’s numero uno, right?” Nope, Wolverine answers, much to Jubilee’s surprise. The Dark Phoenix scenario has played itself as far as it will go.
With that out of the way, Wolverine punches up enemy number one, the single biggest threat to the X-Men in existence. Jubilee sees a group of angry people with hateful, anti-mutant slogans written on signs, picketing outside the White House. To Jubilee, the people look completely bloodthirsty. She guesses mind-control; the Shadow King must be the depicted enemy. Wolverine sighs; Jubilee apparently doesn’t get it. “It’s pure and natural hatred. Fear of mutant-kind. Ignorance of other races’ equality. You can’t punch it, zap it, claw it, or kick it,” he says. “Look on it and learn.”
Jubilee learns, alright. She learns the world is a much more dangerous place than she realized.