This began when someone I cared about died. And it began to end when someone else I cared about did, too. All I can think is how each step we take toward our end never gets us any closer. It always comes out of nowhere....
Two days ago:
Salem Center, New York, guards supervise member of the Mutant Liberation Front who are cuffed and collared, with masks over their faces as they are led into the back of transport vehicles. 'Samurai, Dragoness, Forearm and Strobe. Impressive work, Cyclops...' Captain America remarks as he watches from nearby. 'Why do I sense a “but”?' Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops asks. Cap turns to him and informs him that his intel said he had other prisoners – Dark Beast, Banshee and Hope. 'Your intel was wrong' Cyclops responds. 'You sure?' Captain America asks, frowning. 'You want to bring your soldiers inside to ransack our house?' Cyclops asks, bandages wrapped around his head, covering one missing eye. 'You know this only works if we trust each other, right, Scott?' Cap points out.
'I just turned my fellow mutants over to you with my trust that they won't end up experimented on by your government. Or worse. I'm complicit in anything untoward that happens to these mutants under your watch. So this trust you keep talking about? It feels an awful lot like a one-way street' Cyclops points out.
Cap pulls his mask down over his face and asks Scott if he doesn't think of this as his country anymore. 'I'm a mutant, Steve. Any country I ever had has been taken from me long ago' Scott responds. Cap tells Cyclops that he is sorry he sees it that way. 'I'm sorry you don't' Scott adds.
Cap hands a small folded piece of paper to Cyclops and tells him that he has always respected him. 'What you've been through – it's more than I think I could handle' Cap admits. 'What's this?' Scott asks as he takes the folded piece of paper. 'Me, driving down the other side of the road' Cap replies.
Cap gets into one of the trucks and looks out the window as he tells Cyclops that he believes in what he is doing, getting rid of problems that his people will be blamed for. 'This is a big one' Cap declares. 'Wow. Do you trust him?' Dani Moonstar asks as she, Logan Howlett a.k.a. Wolverine and Alex Summers a.k.a. Havok who had been standing nearby approach Cyclops. 'I don't trust anyone that isn't us' Cyclops replies as he looks at the small note. Cyclops turns to go back into the X-Men's home, Harry's Hideaway, as Alex goes up to him and puts a hand on his brother's shoulder, asking if they can talk. 'You just lied to Captain America. Are we all supposed to ignore that?' Alex asks. Scott responds by telling his brother that he isn't asking him to ignore anything. 'What was this for? To protect Hope? The girl who shot you in the face?' Alex asks, standing in front of his brother. 'She's Cable's daughter. I can't just turn her over to -' Scott begins, as Alex interrupts, asking 'And Dark Beast? Whose screwed-up kid is he?'
'Hey, kid. There's a lot of tough choices -' Wolverine begins, to which Alex quickly interrupts: 'Did I #%&*$!& ask you, Logan? I'm talking to my brother'. 'Alex, what Dark Beast can do – how he helped the New Mutants and I – we can't turn our backs on that' Dani points out. Alex stands his ground and tells the others that it is a dangerous decision and that Scott is taking bad counsel on this. 'Is that what this is about? That I've been listening to Logan over you?' Scott asks. 'You think this is about hurt feelings? #%&$ you, Scott' Alex mutters. 'You know why I go to him for advice?' Scott asks. 'No. please enlighten me' Alex tells Scott. Scott replies by saying 'You've always had my back, Alex. Since we were little kids. I knew I could count on you. But right now... I'm not so sure I'm right'. Scott declares that having Alex stand by his side no matter what means everything to him, but that it is dangerous, so he turns to Logan because they don't see eye to eye. 'Hell, he doesn't even like me. But I trust his opinion' Scott adds.
Scott puts a hand on Alex' shoulder and tells him that he is trying to do better, so he needs someone who will call him out when he is wrong. 'And who is there to tell him when he's wrong? Alex asks. 'I am. That's a leader's job' Scott points out. Alex rubs the back of his head and tells Scott that if he is worried he'll always support him no matter what, then not to worry. 'That was messed up. Everything you're having us do is messed up. You said it was all different now. Xavier's dream is gone. The school is gone. So why are we still following around the same leader after we were led to ruin?' Cyclops pauses, before admitting that Havok is right, that he should have listened to him more. 'It's time we all talked' Scott decides.
At the Connallion Air Force Base in Eastern Transia, two soldiers are in the watch tower under the dead of night, 'And the general says to this chick -' one of the soldiers begins, before the other interrupts him, asking if he hears something. 'You're freaking out, man' the first soldier declares. 'You don't hear that? It sounds like...get a light down there!' the second soldier exclaims as he looks into the forest surrounding the watch tower. 'Oh my God!' one of the shoulders shouts as they see a large figure stomping through the forest.
Two days ago:
Inside Harry's Hideaway, Havok aims a pool ball up and prepares to take a shot, while Rahne Sinclair a.k.a. Wolfsbane leans against the pool table. Dani sits at a table with Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man, while Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik and Xi'an Coy Manh a.k.a. Karma sit at another table. Wolverine stands in the middle of the room, while Jono Starsmore a.k.a. Chamber leans against a wall. 'Good. You're all here Cyclops remarks. 'This about Captain America's note?' Magik asks. Cyclops tells her that it isn't, but that it is nice to know the rumor mill never slows down. Scott informs everyone that he was having a chat with his brother a few minutes ago and he brought something to his attention – that not all of them are comfortable with the choices he is making for this group. Scott admits that this is especially troubling when he looks around the room. He names everyone except Wolfsbane and tells them that they have all been excellent leaders for the X-Men and that he has learned from them all. He explains that when he gathered all of them, he thought they could rebuild something, that they could remake what the X-Men were. 'But I was lying. To myself. To all of you. We can't rebuild the same X-Men. Not anymore' Scott points out, picking up the eight ball from the pool table, he then announces that, effective immediate, he is stepping down as the de facto leader of the X-Men. 'I'm not the person who should be deciding the future of all mutants' Scott exclaims.
Bullets bounce off the armored form of the mighty behemoth Cain Marko the Juggernaut as he lumbers across the snow towards the watch tower. 'Keep firing!' one of the soldiers exclaims. 'What the hell is that thing?' the other asks. Suddenly, the soldiers find that their guns are thrust from their hands. 'What the -' one of the soldiers gasps as they lose grip on the weapons. 'The mutant insurrection begins now! That thing is a portent of your destruction! He is the chiming of a bell. The end of the time of man is nigh...for the Brotherhood has come to make you pay for your actions against mutantkind!' booms Magneto, the Master of Magnetism as he hovers nearby, while on a platform floating alongside him, are Pyro, Avalanche, Random and Toad, who excaims 'Yer gonna die...'
Two days ago:
'If you're stepping down, who's in charge?' Dani asks. 'Not it' Madrox declares. Scott hangs his head and tells the X-Men that he doesn't see why he should choose, as he has made enough choices for them all. Dani stands up and asks if she can make a suggestion. She turns and faces the others, and points out that Scott is right, that this room is full of leaders, and she doesn't think they need another one – as none of them need people telling them what to do. Dani suggests that starting now, as a group, they vote on their courses of action. 'The future of the X-Men is all of us in this room. We should all have a say in what that is. All those in favor, a show of hands' Dani declares.
Wolverine, Cyclops and Havok don't raise their hands. 'Seven to three' Dani points out. 'You counted Madrox twice' Havok mutters, but Dani tells him that the ayes still have it. 'So that's it? No leader?' Magik asks. 'That's it' Dani tells her friend. Magik asks if anyone can just call a vote, to which Dani tells her 'Yup'. Magik smiles and announces that she would like to take a vote – if they are still doing this. 'We're all doing this. All past sins are forgiven. If you fight alongside the X-Men, the X-Men will fight alongside you' Magik exclaims.
Magneto and his Brotherhood cause destruction in Eastern Transia, as Magneto calls out to the soldiers, telling them that if they run they shall be spared, but that they must tell their masters what they saw here today. 'Let the armies of the world know that to raise a weapon against Homo Superior is to raise a weapon against the Brotherhood'. Magneto starts to tear up some metal railings, when suddenly, a surge of plasma energy slams him into a nearby wall. 'All right, X-Men. Let's get to work' Hope Summers declares as she and Sean Cassidy a.k.a. Banshee stand alongside Cyclops, Wolverine, Havok, Magik, Moonstar, Karma, Madrox and Chamber.
Two days ago:
Scott and Logan sit opposite each other and clink two glasses together, a bottle of alcohol on the table. 'You sure this is gonna work?' Wolverine asks. 'Everyone voted. If they want Hope on the team...' Scott begins. 'I meant you stepping down' Logan explains. '... no. But I am sure I'm not the only one who should decide what is and isn't a good idea anymore' Scott smiles.
Suddenly, Rahne approaches them. She apologizes for interrupting, and asks to speak with Scott. Scott begins to ask Logan to excuse himself, but Rahne tells him that Logan can stay. Hanging her head, Rahne reports that she doesn't think she can do this anymore. 'Do what?' Scott asks. 'All of it. The fighting. The suffering. Have ye ever just felt like ye've had enough?' Rahne asks. Scott admits that he has, but that is what they are fighting for – a world where they don't have to do this anymore.
Rahne begins to cry as she tells Scott that they aren't – that he said it himself – the dream is over. 'They're not going ta accept us for who we are. We aren't even trying to make them anymore' Rahne points out. Scott reminds Rahne that he isn't the leader of the X-Men anymore, so he couldn't keep her here even if he was. Rahne turns to leave and Scott asks her what else she could go do. 'Something Ah dinnae know how ta do. Ah'm gonna try an' live a normal life for a while' Rahne replies. Scott gets up to try and stop her, but Logan tells him to let her go, that she is following the rule they all should. 'If your heart's not in it, you shouldn't be here'.
'You with me here, Scott?' Alex asks, turning to his brother. 'Sorry, my mind wandered... but I'm here. Watch and learn' Scott replies, as he calls out to Magneto, telling him that they don't want to fight. But Magneto isn't interested in listening. 'No more will you stand in my way!' he shouts as he manipulates scrap metal into bonds, trapping Cyclops and Havok. 'Man, that was inspiring. Good job, Scott' Alex mutters, while Scott starts to fire optic blasts at the scrap metal. Nearby, Wolverine roars as he leaps onto Juggernaut's back, while Madrox and two dupes chase after Toad. 'Do you even have super-powers, Toad?' one of them calls out. 'If you touch me with that tongue, I swear to God...' another of them calls out. 'This feels wrong' the third muttes, as they swing baseball bats towards Toad.
As Avalanche raises the ground under Magik, knocking her over, Hope runs from Random, who fires blasts of energy at her. 'Wasn't Random on our side not too long ago?' Hope asks Dani, who has taken cover behind a jeep and fires a psionic arrow across the battlefield as she tells Hope that these sides aren't as far apart as they seem. Karma announces that Avalanche has some sort of shielding, so she can't get a hold of his mind. 'I'll handle him' Magik tells her, while Avalanche looms over them and declares that it is a shame all the good X-Men died already, so he has to deal with the little girls. Magik looks up, as a cascade of dirt and rocks tumbles towards her. 'Magik!' Karma exclaims when suddenly, Magik appears through a stepping disc portal behind Avalanche. 'Call me a little girl again' she snarls at him as she shoves her Soulsword through his chest.
'Get the hell off me, runt!' Juggernaut exclaims as he struggles to reach around and yank Wolverine off of his back, while up above, Banshee hovers and blasts his sonic scream towards the ground under Juggernaut, beginning to tear some of it up. 'Make Random keep his head down!' Dani calls out to Hope. 'If I get a shot, I'll take it off' Hope replies. 'Hope!' Dani exclaims. 'He can grow it back... I think' Hope responds, as she lines up her gun, aiming it at Random, who has positioned himself behind some rubble. Pyro confronts Chamber, 'allo. Heard you X-Men were all dead, mate' he calls out. 'Heard wrong, Pyro' Chamber replies, while Random cries out as Dani strikes him with a psychic arrow, knocking him backwards. 'That's an easy fix' Pyro tells Chamber as he blasts him with a powerful surge of flame.
'We're not making a dent here!' Cyclops calls out as he fires several optic blasts at metal scraps Magneto is tossing through the air. 'I noticed' Havok replies as he unleashes a plasma blasts against the force field that Magneto has created in front of him. 'Got ya!' Juggernaut declares as he suddenly grabs Wolverine by his leg and hurls him upwards, where he crashes into Banshee – but Juggernaut threw Wolverine so hard that Wolverine and Banshee fall into Magneto, who is exposed, no force field behind him. 'Oh! Sorry, boss!' Juggernaut calls out as Magneto's helmet falls off his head. 'His mind is unshielded! Karma, now!' Cyclops calls out as he, Karma and Dani rush towards Magneto, who reaches out for his helmet, but suddenly, Karma looks shocked: 'His mind...something's wrong...that's not Magneto!' she announces. 'I did not want them to learn that yet' the man wearing Magneto's costume sighs as he gets to his feet and frowns. Moonstar calls out to the X-Men, telling them to focus on Magneto – or whatever he is. 'Jamie! That means get off Toad!' Dani adds as Madrox hits Toad with a baseball bat.
Suddenly, the X-Men find themselves trapped in metal cables and scrap metal that “Magneto” wraps around them. 'I was hoping that when we met face-to-face we could talk. You'd let me explain myself' he remarks, while holds Wolverine suspended in the air with a magnetic field, and comments that the X-Men always have to come in fists first. With the metal scrap covering his eyes, Cyclops addresses “Magneto” as Joseph, and asks him what choice he gave them. 'It is Joseph, isn't it? Magneto's misbegotten clone?' Cyclops asks. Joseph approaches Cyclops and tells him 'Good for you for deducing that. So you disagree with my reasoning – is that it?' he asks, adding that he thinks he liked Cyclops better before he died – that he understood the world more clearly. 'Let me explain it to you' Joseph offers.
Joseph stands in front of Cyclops and tells him that it seems in the absence of their leaders, humanity has grown fearless, their fear kept them in a relative state of peace, so he assumed the mantle of Magneto to remind them that there are still things worth fearing, and he hopes the X-Men would agree. 'How do you think this ends? They attacked us when we were millions, when they had a reason to fear what we could do. Now we're barely a danger, but you're giving them a reason to hate' Cyclops replies. Joseph smiles and hangs his head as remarks that idealism is hard to kill, it seems, and asks when has humanity ever needed a reason to hate. Cyclops points out that Joseph is forcing the humans' hand, that he is making all of mutant kind into the things humans fear so they have no choice. 'You're starting a war you can't win, and you'll drag every mutant on the planet with you' he exclaims, asking Joseph if he ever thinks about those of them who just want to settle down and live normal lives?
'A funny criticism coming from the leader of the world's most feared child soldier army' Joseph responds. 'The children don't create the wars they are forced to fight in. They are victims of them. It's men like you who drag them into these things. And for some of them...of us...we never get to leave!' Karma snaps. Joseph glances back at Karma and tells the X-Men that he hopes they can all remember, as the humans tighten the nooses around their necks, that it was their inaction that tied those knots. 'We'd rather die fighting for a better world than live tearing one apart' Karma exclaims. 'Ah, the old Xavier idea. Masquerade your cowardice as principles' Joseph replies, to which Karma tells him that this has nothing to do with the Professor, that he is gone, along with so much of what they all cared about – that this is about stepping out from under his shadow, from under anyone's shadow, and trying to make a better world. 'This is about giving ourselves a new chance to be better, to be leaders, to earn our place in the world' Karma explains.
Joseph angrily glares at Karma and leans into her. 'A lovely speech, Xi'an. But I'm afraid I'm a little beyond the reach of your junior high debate skills' Joseph snarls. 'I know. But I was never talking to you' Karma replies. 'What -' Joseph begins, confused, while the Juggernaut appears behind him. 'Nobody tricks the Juggernaut!' Cain Marko shouts as he brings his fists down towards Josepg, who quickly throws a force field up between him and the Juggernaut's fists. 'Cain! Stop it! Magneto commands you!' Joseph calls out as he suddenly loses control over the metal bonds trapping the X-Men. 'You aren't Magneto!' Juggernaut replies. 'Ya bloody traitor! I'll roast ya!' Pyro shouts as he engulfs the Juggernaut in flames, before Cyclops comes up behind him and punches Pyro in the face, knocking him to the ground. 'What now, big guy?' Wolverine asks, looking over at the Juggernaut, as the other X-Men gather around. 'You tell me?' the Juggernaut responds. 'You just helped us out. But that doesn't mean we can't still finish this the hard way' Wolverine responds.
Juggernaut tells the X-Men that he is with them, that he is trying to help mutants, but that this isn't the way, and he wants to be an X-Man again. 'You know you're not a mutant, right? Pretty bad time to claim it' Madrox points out. 'What's that saying? “First they came for the mutants and I didn't speak up”?' Juggernaut replies. 'I think they have to come for a lot of people before they get to “guys with magic crystals”' Madrox mutters, before suggesting to Juggernaut that he put the Magneto imprsonator down so they can chat. The Juggernaut releases his hold on Joseph, and Moonstar tells Joseph that it is over. 'I hope you're proud of yourselves. All you've done here is hasten your demise at the hands of humanity who -' Joseph starts to reply, when suddenly, there is a faint swishing sound, and Joseph goes wide-eyed, before his severed head suddenly drops to the ground, and a woman resembling Betsy Braddock, wearing a very similar costume, with a mask across her face and hood over her head, holding a sword, and a psi-blade glowing around her fist reveals herself under the light of the moon.
'Holy $#%&! Betsy, what the -' someone calls out, but Wolverine pops his claws and reports that this is not Betsy. 'I am trying to remember you, X-Men. I am... nothing' the woman responds in Japanese. 'I didn't know you were gonna kill him' Juggernaut, while Magik and Madrox stand in front of him preventing him from moving forward. 'We didn't do that. She's not with us!' Havok frowns. Cyclops asks Wolverine what is going on, to which Logan reports that it is Kwannon. 'She says her name is...it's hard to translate, but it means “nothing”' Logan explains, to which Cyclops asks why she killed Joseph. Kwannon declares in her native Japanese that Joseph was a weapon, that he would be used to erase mutants from the Earth if he was not stopped. 'She's babbling about him killing mutants' Logan informs Cyclops, when suddenly, Dani cries out in pain.
Cyclops and Havok turn to Dani, who is clutching her forehead. 'What's going on?' Cyclops asks. 'Tell fake Betsy here to let Dani go or she's gonna lose her head next' Havok exclaims, but Dani explains that it's not Kwannon. 'It's Rahne...' Dani reveals, before wrapping her arms around her waist and collapsing to the ground, Dani screams 'WOLFSBANE IS DEAD!'