Operation Zero Tolerance
In the wake of the conflict against Onslaught, who had launched an all-out attack on New York City and taken the lives of many of humanity’s beloved heroes, and after the death of presidential candidate Graydon Creed, there has never been a worse time to be a mutant. In this period of confusion and turmoil, baseline humans are searching for the answer to a desperate question: who can protect them from the escalating threat of Homo superior? The answer has now come and it shows no mercy. Having risen to power in relative short time, the mysterious man called Bastion is not just bringing with him a new change of thought and the political backing to do it. Having helped design a new breed of Sentinels, Bastion has also set in motion Operation: Zero Tolerance. His half-human half-robot Prime Sentinels will stop at nothing to eliminate the next step in human evolution. What do you do when humanity hates you, when the world’s political super-powers take aim at you, robotic killers who can pass as humans are hunting you, and when the X-Men cannot protect you? Yes indeed, it truly is a bad day to be a mutant.
- Cannonball, Cyclops, Iceman, Phoenix IV, Storm, Wolverine, Professor Charles Xavier (all X-Men)
- Cable, Caliban, Domino, Meltdown, Rictor, Shatterstar, Siryn, Sunspot (all X-Force)
- Chamber, Husk, Jubilee, M I, Skin, Synch (all Generation X)
- Cecilia Reyes
- Senator Robert Kelly
- Henry Peter Gyrich
- Daria, Commander Ekaterina Gryaznova, Harper (all Operation: Zero Tolerance)
- numerous Prime Sentinels
- various First Strike soldiers
- Banshee, Emma Frost, Penance I (all Generation X)
- Detective Charlotte Jones
- Timothy Jones
- G. W. Bridge
- J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson (both Daily Bugle)
- Rose Gilberti
- Dragoness, Forearm, Moonstar, Tempo, Wildside (all Mutant Liberation Front)
Cable (2nd series) #45-47, Generation X #29-31, Uncanny X-Men #346, Wolverine (2nd series) #115-118, X-Force (1st series) #67-69, X-Men (2nd series) #65-69
The various titles involved in this crossover each have their own storyline to them and, while continuity is tricky, the stories seem to have a relative placement with one another. The most important cross-references can be seen in the flow-chart diagram below, but the suggested read order is for some parts based on assumptions. It works, but surely some issues could be placed in another, also working order. Officially, the Operation: Zero Tolerance crossover started with the prelude in X-Men (2nd series) #65, in which Bastion launches his plans. However, the mystery of who or what Operation: Zero Tolerance and its founder, Bastion, were, had been developing over several months before, in various titles. The most important issues in that regard is Generation X #27, during which Bastion probed the memories of the captive Jubilee, thus learning the location of the X-Men's headquarters. It was contained the first big hint at Bastion's true identity. For that reason, it seems, the issue was included in the later released trade paperback edition of the crossover, despite technically not being part of it.
Lead In - Generation X #27
Prelude - X-Men (2nd series) #65
Part 1 - X-Force (1st series) #67
Part 2 - Cable (1st series) #45
Part 3 - X-Force (1st series) #68
Part 4 - Cable (1st series) #46
Part 5 - X-Force (1st series) #69
Part 6 - Cable (1st series) #47
Part 7 - Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #346
Part 8 - Generation X #29
Part 9 - X-Men (2nd series) #66
Part 10 - Wolverine (2nd series) #115
Part 11 - X-Men (2nd series) #67
Part 12 - Wolverine (2nd series) #116
Part 13 - Generation X #30
Part 14 - Generation X #31
Part 15 - X-Men (2nd series) #68
Part 16 - Wolverine (2nd series) #117
Part 17 - X-Men (2nd series) #69
Part 18 - Wolverine (2nd series) #118
- The X-Men learned about the existence of Operation: Zero Tolerance some months before the operation became public. Acting on information, Gambit and Phoenix at one point snuck into a O:ZT meeting being held at the Pentagon to learn more about the program and its leader, Bastion, but did not come out with much. Bastion showed that he was more than met the eye when he easily discovered the two X-Men hidden among representatives of various foreign intelligence agencies interested in supporting Operation: Zero Tolerance. [Uncanny X-Men #333]
- Onslaught, a creature accidentally created when Charles Xavier mind-wiped Magneto, led a devastating assault on New York City. Though he was ultimately defeated, it required the sacrifice of the Fantastic Four, many Avengers, and several other famous and respected heroes. In the aftermath, humans blamed the X-Men and mutants in general for the loss. Ultimately, Charles Xavier turned himself over to the federal government to repent and eventually fell into custody of Bastion and his Operation: Zero Tolerance program. It was during the Onslaught crisis that the X-Men learned the existence of the Xavier Protocols, a listing of various ways to kill the X-Men should any of them go out of control. [Onslaught crossover]
- Graydon Creed, an outspoken anti-mutant activist and candidate for president of the United States, was assassinated while giving a speech to his supporters. Though his murderer was never discovered by the public, the belief that a mutant was behind the assassination spurned for hatred towards mutants. [X-Factor (1st series) #130]
- The Morlock called Marrow led a terrorist group known as Gene Nation until she was severely wounded by Storm. After recovering, Marrow rejoined her mentor Callisto, though Marrow was quite still bitter at the X-Men and the surface world. [Uncanny X-Men #325, Storm (1st series) #4]
- Caliban was having strange seizures, making it too risky for him to accompany X-Force on any more missions. Due to this, he was bed-ridden at the Xavier Institute. [X-Force (1st series) #66]
- Most of Generation X were kidnapped by Black Tom. In the confusion during Tom’s attack, Jubilee was captured by Bastion and taken to the Operation: Zero Tolerance base in New Mexico. In the end, Black Tom was defeated, but the location of Generation X was unknown, leaving Banshee, Emma Frost and Penance to go searching for them. [Generation X #25-26, 28]
Opening Salvo: The Dogs of War Are Unleashed
At the former Hulkbuster base in New Mexico, Bastion holds Jubilee as a prisoner with the intent of extracting as much knowledge about the X-Men from her as possible, including the location and the defenses of their home. Jubilee proves to be quite resistive, but is unaware that the machinery she is connected to is designed to extract her memories; memories brought up every time Bastion makes her think about the X-Men. As Bastion tries to trick Jubilee into believing the worst of her fears, his assistant, Daria, monitors the memories that the machines pick up. However, Daria quickly becomes sympathetic to the plight of Jubilee, as Daria sees a young child, not a crazed mutant. Extracting all the memories they need, Bastion leaves Daria to process the information and also orders her to mobilize troops to intercept a group of X-Men on their back from Hong Kong. Operation: Zero Tolerance is ready to go public.
Soon, the first offensive of Zero Tolerance is launched, as troops and Prime Sentinels attack the X-Men over Colorado on their flight back home. Storm, Cyclops, Cannonball, Wolverine and Phoenix put up a fight, but one by one they all fall against the new Sentinels. Even as the air battle occurred, Bastion begins the public relations offensive, leaking footage of the event to news networks. In addition, Special Agent Peter Henry Gyrich provides to the public their first sanctioned announcement of the existence of Operation: Zero Tolerance, describing it as a task force composed of representatives of several countries to contain the mutant menace, once and for all. With the five X-Men captured and sent to New Mexico, Bastion uses this victory to taunt another one of his prisoners – Charles Xavier. Bastion is convinced that the dream of co-existence between man and mutant is dead, and that humanity will no longer have to fear mutant kind
Meanwhile, in Missouri, acting on intelligence that the facility is creating an anti-mutant weapon, the Mutant Liberation Front attacks a research center and holds the employees hostage. In truth, the facility is actually the cancer research station it claims to be, but the information which drew them was a trap, laid by Operation: Zero Tolerance. As O:ZT troops arrive on the scene under the command of Ekatarina Gryaznova, arguments flare among the MLF. While watching media coverage of their attack, Moonstar recognizes members of X-Force hiding among the news reporters and convinces her teammates of the MLF to let some media in so they can share with the world their viewpoints. As a result, Domino, Sunspot and Siryn, who are disguised as reporters, enter the research center. However, Commander Gryaznova is also aware of the presence of X-Force and, after the three fake reporters go in, she sends her forces to capture Meltdown, Shatterstar and Rictor, who are camped out nearby.
Inside the facility, the MLF recognize the members of X-Force and battle them, but Moonstar switches sides and reveals that she was a spy in the MLF ranks. Several hostages end up being Prime Sentinels and engage both teams in battle. Domino and most of the MLF are subdued, but Siryn, Sunspot, Moonstar and Forearm escape, though Forearm quickly abandons them. Domino is separated from the MLF and secretly taken to another base by Gryaznova, who lies to Bastion about Domino’s capture. Gryaznova has a grudge against Domino as some time in the past Domino destroyed a robot while on a mission – a robot to which Gryaznova had been cybernetically attached. The comatose Gryaznova was later turned into a Prime Sentinel, and has been on the hunt for Domino since.
Simultaneous to this, Bastion personally leads the group that takes control of the nearly empty Xavier mansion and begins to decrypt the X-Men’s computer systems. As Bastion works, Cable learns about the fate of the X-Men from television reports, and is contacted by his friend, G.W. Bridge of S.H.I.E.L.D. With Bastion having so much political backing, S.H.I.E.L.D. is unable to investigate further, but Bridge informs Cable that the X-Men have been locked up and that there is heavy O:ZT movement at the Xavier Institute. Though thankful for the information, Cable remains mute to Bridge on any possible connection between the X-Men and the Xavier Institute, as not even S.H.I.E.L.D. knows that the school is the secret home of the X-Men. Cable then heads to the school in order to prevent the Xavier Protocols and Mutant Underground Files from falling into the hands of Bastion. He sneaks into the mansion and is able to free the detained Caliban first, but Bastion soon detects his presence and his men attack. Cable and Caliban are able to avoid capture long enough for Cable to get Caliban out through the Morlock Tunnels.
Meanwhile, Moonstar contacts G.W. Bridge to locate the missing members of X-Force for her, and he is able to track them down to a caravan. Moonstar, Sunspot and Siryn attack the convoy as it makes an unscheduled stop and they are able to free Meltdown, Rictor and Shatterstar before O:ZT scientists can conduct a series of painful experiments on them. However, X-Force finds that neither Domino nor the captured MLF members are inside the caravan. Commander Gryaznova briefly engages the mutants in a fight, but X-Force is able to defeat her and hastily escape. Not much later, the missing Domino reappears in Oklahoma. She is not in good shape, as obviously O:ZT has operated on her head; her hair has been shaved off and she has a scar on the back of her neck. Domino attempts to contact Cable, but to no avail, as he and Caliban are on the run from Operation: Zero Tolerance forces as well.
In Westchester, Cable returns back to the school’s lower levels to download the Xavier Protocols and Mutant Underground Files. After the download, he destroys the computer system, but is then discovered and cornered by Bastion. O:ZT's leader reveals that he has already accessed Cerebro’s files and knows the names and locations of many mutants out there, as well as some potential mutants and their families. He dares Cable not to kill him, because if anything happens to Bastion now, then his troops have orders to hunt down all those people. Bastion still wants to get the encrypted Xavier Protocols and Underground Files, but as soon as his troops try to sneak up on Cable, another fight to break out. Eventually, Cable gains the upper hand and uses his telepathy to force everyone to leave the school and wipes the location from their minds. However, for some reason this doesn’t work on Bastion. Before Cable can discern what Bastion really is, he falls unconscious from the strain of using his telepathy to control so many people. Cable wakes up sometime later and finds that he is alone and that the entire school has been stripped bare.
War Rages: On the Run, With Few Friends in Sight
Across the country, the public fight between Operation: Zero Tolerance and the X-Men makes the news, and Operation: Zero Tolerance-mania sweeps the nation. Iceman learns about the capture of his teammates and realizes that he has to take a stand. He then heads out to do what he can to combat Zero Tolerance. Meanwhile, Henry Peter Gyrich, a public supporter of Zero Tolerance, finds himself the target of some more radical mutants. In New York City, his limousine is attacked by Marrow and Callisto, fancying themselves as the official mutant response to Operation: Zero Tolerance. Much to his surprise, Gyrich’s bodyguards end up being Prime Sentinels – and avoiding collateral damage is the last thing on their priority list. Spider-Man arrives on the scene in order to diffuse the situation, but Callisto ends up taking a serious blast in order to protect Marrow. The Prime Sentinels are shot down by Gyrich, who realizes that the two Sentinels are out of control and just as dangerous as his would-be assassins. Spider-Man urges Marrow to take Callisto to get help instead of continuing the battle, to which Marrow complies, though swears to return for revenge.
With Operation: Zero Tolerance forces monitoring their school and Emma’s other assets, Emma Frost, Banshee and Penance find themselves on a slow crawl to locate the missing members of Generation X. Unbeknownst to them, the missing Synch, M, Skin, Chamber and Husk have arrived in Venice, California. Since the team is unable to contact Banshee or Emma, Skin locates his cousin Gil, who allows the team to rest up at his home. Skin contacts an old associate of his, Tores, for help, but Tores turns on Generation X due to a grudge against Skin. She alerts the forces of Operation: Zero Tolerance, who had previously contacted her and convinced her to contact them in the event Skin resurfaces in town. Unfortunately for Tores, she is also a mutant and the Prime Sentinels betray her and attack her as well. Generation X and Tores team up to survive and are forced to retreat into the sewers, with a battalion of Prime Sentinels in pursuit.
Having returned to the Operation: Zero Tolerance base in New Mexico, Bastion presents to Jubilee holograms of the captured X-Men being locked up elsewhere in the facility. Jubilee at first is hesitant to believe that Bastion is being truthful, but soon discovers that he really has captured the X-Men. To make things worse, she learns that he now has the Xavier Protocols and Mutant Underground files and is in the process of decrypting them, which will allow him to destroy every X-Man and associate. Elsewhere in the base, thinking that Wolverine is dead, a few guards attempt to throw his body in an incinerator, but still-living Wolverine wakes up and escapes. He frees his fellow X-Men and, using Jean’s telepathy, they are able to make their way to the top floor of the facility unnoticed. However, Bastion eventually catches wind of their escape and has the Prime Sentinels waiting for the team at the exit doors.
The bound Jubilee is forced to watch the scene by the gloating Bastion. However, Jubilee turns the tables by bashing her helmet-clad head onto a control panel that releases the blast doors. With the exit now open, the X-Men escape from the complex, unaware that Jubilee was their benefactor, and disappear into the desert. Jubilee is taken back to her cell, where she continues her practice of refusing food. This worries Daria, who begins to apologize to Jubilee for everything that is happening. Jubilee takes advantage of the situation and attacks Daria with her powers, but discovers that Daria is a Prime Sentinel. The nano-tech in Daria’s system instinctively responds to the attack and robotic bugs leap out of her to attack Jubilee. Daria’s powers go out of control, but Jubilee is able to calm Daria down and help her regain her form and composure. However, Daria is deeply disturbed and realizes that she is just as much of a freak as Operation: Zero Tolerance claims Jubilee is.
In New York City, Iceman comes to the rescue of Dr. Cecilia Reyes, a mutant who is attacked by Prime Sentinels at her hospital. Iceman is able to get Cecilia away from the Sentinels, but she isn’t happy to see him and reveals that Professor Xavier approached her once before about joining the X-Men, and she had refused. Now, she blames the X-Men for her getting “outed” and ruining her life. Iceman calms Cecilia down, explaining that Zero Tolerance and Bastion go beyond Xavier and that they need to stick together in order to survive. Realizing that her career as a doctor is over, Cecilia decides to go with Iceman. The two escape into the streets of New York and make their way to Soho, where they break into the apartment of Psylocke and Archangel, only to find it empty. However, the two in truth are not alone and are attacked by a Prime Sentinel pretending to be Archangel’s house-sitter. The two mutants are almost killed when suddenly Detective Charlotte Jones arrives on the scene and shoots down the Sentinel.
Iceman immediately trusts Detective Jones as she is an old friend, though Cecilia is distrustful because of how Jones randomly showed up at Archangel’s apartment. Nonetheless, they follow Jones to her precinct and wait in an interrogation room. However, none of them are aware that they have caught the attention of Marrow, who follows them to the police department. When Marrow breaks in through the basement and shorts out the electricity, Iceman begins to suspect that something is wrong. Cecilia’s distrust is then proven correct when a group of Prime Sentinel police officers break through and start attacking the pair. Marrow joins the battle against the Prime Sentinels, but the battle does not go without casualties, as Detective Jones takes a blast aimed at the trio. Cecilia tends to Jones, who reveals she was forced by Operation: Zero Tolerance to betray Iceman and Cecilia, because they have her son, Timothy, hostage. Iceman is enraged by the lengths that Bastion would go towards eradicating mutants and, after Cecilia treats Jones, the three mutants head out to save Timothy. However, down in the streets, they are confronted by a whole city block full of Zero Tolerance troops and Prime Sentinels.
Meanwhile, in the New Mexican desert, Cyclops and his team stumble upon a blind man named Mustang, who lives in a trailer park with several other residents. The X-Men learn that the residents are patients of a Doctor Prospero, who treats them for various physical ailments at a free clinic. The X-Men stay the night at the park, but a distrustful Wolverine heads off to Prospero’s lab and discovers that the doctor is actually running a center to transform people into Prime Sentinels. The X-Men realize that Prospero must have been treating many people across the nation, each of whom unknowingly are now sleeper Prime Sentinels. After Wolverine and the X-Men reveal this information to Mustang via Phoenix’s telepathy, Mustang is shocked and tries to convince the other residents of the trailer park that it is true, though they remain skeptical.
The Final Push: Do or Die Time
Elsewhere, Senator Kelly, who originally supported Operation: Zero Tolerance, has gone through an extreme amount of soul searching. After visiting his wife’s grave, he realizes the error in supporting the program and quickly heads to Washington D.C. to convince the administration to put an end to the program. There at the White House, Henry Gyrich reminds Kelly that Bastion will not be pleased, to which Kelly tells Gyrich to get S.H.I.E.L.D. involved.
In her cell, Jubilee is approached by Daria, who has come to the conclusion that there is little difference between the two of them and has decided to aid Jubilee and help her escape. Daria and Jubilee break out of the Operation: Zero Tolerance compound, but their escape does not go unnoticed. Bastion sends several Prime Sentinels after the duo, but Daria flies Jubilee into a canyon, after which she gives the young mutant precise instructions on how to avoid the Sentinels and make it to the nearest town. Daria then flies away acting as a decoy, self-destructing some miles out to fake Jubilee’s death.
In California, Jubilee's teammates from Generation X make their way to the car-park of Gil’s uncle, but it is a momentary relief as the Prime Sentinels locate them and gather outside the building. The Sentinels crash into the building and engage Generation X in battle. For a while, it seems the mutant teenagers can keep their enemies at bay, but one by one the team falls. Skin devises a plan to take down the Sentinels and, going down below with Gil, the two pour gasoline all over the cars in the chamber and then stick a soaked rag into the gas tank of one of the cars. When the Sentinels break through to the lower levels, Gil lights the rag and speeds out of the building on a scooter. Generation X and the Prime Sentinels are all caught up in the explosion that rocks the building. Whereas all of the Prime Sentinels are destroyed, Generation X fortunately survives. However, the explosion causes M to undergo an odd transformation as she is split into two young twin girls.
Bastion, on his way to the New York, orders the activation of the remaining Prime Sentinels to locate the renegade X-Men. Already in the presence of their quarry, the now-transformed trailer park residents attack the X-Men, but are quickly defeated. In the aftermath, the team quickly realizes that the only way to stop Bastion’s army is to destroy Dr. Prospero’s clinic. As they depart, Wolverine picks up a scent and heads off into the desert, where he finds Jubilee wandering. He takes her back to Prospero’s lab, where the X-Men and trailer park residents have finished destroying the installation. When Bastion learns of the facility’s destruction, he activates the Sentinel protocol in Mustang, who transforms into a Prime Sentinel.
In New York, Iceman, Marrow and Cecilia Reyes are saved from the hopeless battle by the arrival of the Israeli mutant and Mossad agent known as Sabra, who knocks down half a building to cover their escape. As they flee, she explains to them that she has come to aid the X-Men against Bastion. With the intelligence Sabra collected on Bastion, which includes where Detective Jones’ son is being held, the four mutants travel to a house on the Connecticut shoreline, where they are met by another army of Prime Sentinels. Inside the house, they find Timothy and a woman named Rose Gilberti, as well as Bastion. Hopelessly outnumbered, the four mutants don't even put up a fight as the O:ZT leader taunts Iceman over his victory, explaining how he once was less than human, but the woman he met, Rose, taught him to be human. Horrified, Rose tells Bastion that nothing she taught him justifies what he is doing now, a statement that catches Bastion off guard and demoralizes him.
At that point, Marrow initiates another battle against Bastion, which quickly leads to a one-on-one fight between Bastion and Iceman. Realizing that Bastion clings dearly to his belief that he has humanity, Iceman challenges this thought and tells Bastion that Operation: Zero Tolerance takes him closer away from being human. Bastion is unaffected by Iceman’s words and is about to order his Sentinels to kill the mutants, when suddenly S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives and orders Bastion to stand down, as Operation: Zero Tolerance’s authorization to act on United States soil has been revoked. With no more support from the government, Bastion has no other choice but to order his Prime Sentinels to stand down and surrender.
Wolverine battles Mustang, while the other X-Men find more Prime Sentinels waiting outside. During the battle, Cyclops is injured. Suddenly, G.W. Bridge arrives, leading the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D., who are under presidential orders to end Operation: Zero Tolerance after Senator Kelly’s push to end it. As they aid the X-Men, a medic realizes that Cyclops seems to have had a surgery recently. When S.H.I.E.L.D. troops head out to begin the long country-wide process of shutting down Operation: Zero Tolerance, the X-Men commandeer an abandoned O:ZT ship in order to get Cyclops back to the mansion for treatment. En route, Cyclops comes to the realization that Bastion has planted a bomb within him as a failsafe in case the X-Men escaped.
- Upon returning home, the various X-Men groups discovered that the entire mansion had been stripped down to the core – not even a speck of paint is left on the wall. The X-Men then began a new era living without any advanced technology in the empty mansion and trying to rebuild. Their new lack of advanced security measures left them susceptible to various attacks by their enemies.
- Despite the lack of medical equipment, Cyclops’ life was saved from the bomb implanted in him by Bastion thanks largely to Cecilia Reyes’s medical skills. Afterwards, Cyclops and Phoenix took a leave from the X-Men so that Cyclops could recover. Cecilia, who was devastated and angry at first for having followed Iceman to an empty mansion, reluctantly accepted the idea that she was now with the X-Men. [X-Men (2nd series) #70-71, Uncanny X-Men #351]
- Marrow also stayed at the mansion and joined the X-Men, much to the ire of Storm. The two continued their feud, though Marrow also showed romantic feelings towards Cannonball. Later, Marrow encountered two police officers that she attacked while saving Iceman and Cecilia from the police precinct. Apparently, the two officers were scarred for life after encountering Marrow. [X-Men (2nd series) #70, 72, 79]
- Moonstar joined X-Force following Operation: Zero Tolerance. However, when Cable arrived to give his charges fake identities, wanting to force them into hiding in order to avoid the coming dark days for mutant kind, the team refused and broke ties with him and the X-Men. Instead, they opted to hit the road and take care of themselves. [X-Force (1st series) #70]
- Domino soon discovered that Gryaznova and her rogue Zero Tolerance scientists implanted a chip in her head to emit neurological static. Eventually, Domino located Gryaznova and learned that she was found by Bastion after X-Force defeated her. Realizing she betrayed him, he reprogrammed her Prime Sentinel programming to mutate her. In the end, the chip in Domino’s head was disabled and the team defeated Gryaznova a second time. [X-Force (1st series) #71, 82]
- The fate of the captured members of the Mutant Liberation Front was never explicitly revealed. It’s assumed that when Operation: Zero Tolerance was shut down they were either released or able to break free, as the various members eventually reappeared in other storylines over time.
- The mystery of M continued, as Generation X learned that the twin girls M reverted into are her sisters, Nicole and Claudette St. Croix. The whole truth behind the mystery of the St. Croix family was fully revealed soon thereafter. [Generation X #34-40]
- Bastion spent some time in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody being studied before eventually breaking free. Upon witnessing Rose Gilberti’s death, Bastion traveled back to New Mexico to the Prospero Clinic, also under S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. There he encountered Cable and Machine Man and revealed his origins, before apparently being destroyed when the facility self-destructed. [Cable & Machine Man Annual 1998, Machine Man & Bastion Annual 1998]