Homo superior, or mutants as they are known, are the next stage in human evolution. Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men have dedicated their lives to using their extraordinary mutant powers to ensure this transition is peaceful. Others like Magneto, Senator Kelly, and the Friends of Humanity stand against them and with new resources at their disposal they are poised to fight back.
The X-men’s newest ally, Lilandra Neramani, has lent her support through Aerie Global, a powerful human rights organization. She already helped stem the anti-mutant fervor that Senator Robert Kelly was hoping to ride to the White House. Now they face a bigger challenge in a radical anti-mutant organization known as the Friends of Humanity. Led by Graydon Creed, they seek nothing short of direct confrontation with mutants and it was recently discovered they were staging a major incident in an area of New York City known as District X.
This area, which is dominated by a tight knit mutant population, has already been upset by the recent assault on a young mutant named Pixie. Their outrage has turned into a full blown riot, prompting the leaders of District X to reach out to the X-men for help. Thanks to secrets obtained by Angel from Worthington Industries, they know what the Friends of Humanity is planning. Now they must find a way to use this knowledge to stop them.
X-jet – Over District X
The X-men held on as the X-jet descended over the cloudy skies of New York City. Less than an hour ago, Hank summoned the team and filled them in on the situation. They quickly suited up and sprung into action. Scott, Bobby, Rogue, Remy, Kitty, and Kurt were present. Jean suited up as well, claiming her migraines had waned enough for her to manage. Hank stayed behind in his lab to coordinate with Professor Xavier and Lilandra while Warren continued to play his part at Worthington Industries. This left only Logan and Ororo absent. Having not reported when the call went out, it was cause for concern. For a full-blown riot that had serious PR ramifications, they needed to be at full strength.
“So let me see if I understand this mission. We’ve got the Friends of Humanity, that killer prototype Warren told us about, and God knows how many disgruntled mutants down there roaming the streets of a major city. And our job is to keep that from becoming a national spectacle?” summarized Bobby, “Not to be negative, but I think we’re a little undermanned.”
“I’m inclined to agree, unfortunately,” said Kurt, “It may have been wise to vait for Logan and Miss Munroe.”
“You think having two more X-man would make that much of a difference?” said Bobby skeptically, “We’re a team of costumed mutants that occasionally prevent the world from going to Hell. We’re not an army.”
“We’re better armed than you think, Bobby. If Storm and Wolverine don’t want to contribue to the team, it’s their own fault,” said Scott stoically as he piloted the jet, “They were told to remain on standby and they ignored it. I don’t want to speculate what they may be up to, but they should know better.”
“It don’t make no sense!” said Remy, who was more worried than the others, “It ain’t like Stormy to cut and run when she knows something bad be bound to happen.”
“I don’t know, Remy. I think it makes perfect sense,” quipped Kitty, “You’ve seen how much she’s been hanging around Logan lately.”
“What you saying, petite? That Stormy would rather be fooling around with Wolverine than stopping a mutant riot?” said the Cajun in a defensive tone.
“No, but you have to admit they’ve been getting pretty close lately. And Logan does have a tendency to run off at times for no reason. Who’s to say Miss Munroe sharing in the fun?”
“Depending on your definition of fun, Remy gonna try not to be too sickened by that thought,” he muttered.
The issue of Storm and Logan was a sore subject for Remy. As Storm’s friend and former lover, it always struck him when he saw her getting close to another man. But this wasn’t just anyone she was swooning over. This was Logan. He couldn’t see a woman as kind and graceful as Storm being soft with a brute like Logan. Sure, she had a wild side and she had a soft spot for hopeless degenerates like him. But she was hardly on Logan’s level. It left him worried that Ororo was caught up in something she could neither control nor understand.
“Relax, sugah. Storm’s a big girl. She can take care of herself,” assured Rogue.
“Maybe,” he muttered, “But with Logan you never know. Hell with Logan, you don’t wanna know.”
“I know what you mean,” said Jean, who shared his concern, “He’s has been especially grumpy lately...well, more so than usual. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he’s put up this shield of bitterness that an ex-girlfriend has no hope of penetrating.”
“Can’t you just read the guy’s mind?” asked Remy critically.
“Don’t give me that look, Remy. You know I don’t go into peoples’ minds without permission, especially people I care about.”
“Even if it meant ensuring we had one less distraction before throwing outselves into a hungry croc’s jaw?”
“Hey, why don’t you try sifting through thoughts with psychic migraines and tell me how easy it is?!” retorted Jean.
Remy clearly wasn’t satisfied with her excuses and Jean was getting annoyed by his attitude. But Scott cut them off before this argument could continue.
“Give it a rest, you two!” he said firmly, “Whatever their reasons, we’ll worry about Logan and Ororo’s private life later. Right now, we should be more interested in the mutant riot that may or may not be a target of the Friends of Humanity.”
“I still say Logan and Ororo’s private life is more interesting,” muttered Bobby.
“We’re almost on site,” said Scott, ignoring any further remarks, “Hank set us up to meet with some contact that can help with the situation.”
“How in the heck did he manage that?” asked Rogue, “Did these folks announce their plans on Facebook or something?”
“He didn’t give details. He just said look for fireworks and we’ll find the contact.”
“Fireworks? What the hell could he mean by that?” said Bobby.
Before anyone could speculate, they were greeted by an unexpected sight outside. From the cityscape down below, a series of firework-like bursts shot out into the sky from a lone rooftop down below. They were dazzling and bright, making them the perfect signal.
“That answer your question?” snickered Kitty.
“Do you have to rub it in?” groaned Bobby.
“At least he didn’t mince words,” said Scott as he took the X-jet down further, “Hold on, I’m going to land us on the roof.”
“Any idea on how exactly is this contact gonna help?” asked Rogue skeptically.
“I’m not sure, but we need all the help we can get at this point. We’re trying to be proactive this time. The key is stopping this mess before Senator Kelly has more fodder for his campaign.”
“Think of it as extra motivation to make him look foolish,” added Jean.
“If there’s any chance of making him look like a jerk, consider me motivated!” said Kitty.
As they descended over the building, the fireworks stopped. The area they in wasn’t the most developed part of the city. In fact, the building they were landing on looked pretty dilapidated. It looked like an old office building of sorts, but there was definitely some activity and hopefully it involved some much needed support.
District X – M Building Rooftop
Bishop, Jubilee, and Jamie watched as the X-jet landed. Jubilee, who was the source of the fireworks, signaled the others to join her. They had been waiting for the past half-hour. Tessa told them they were coming to help. She didn’t go into details, but she said they could trust them. Trust wasn’t usually so freely given out in District X, but if Tessa vouched for them that was good enough for them.
“I can’t believe we get to work with the X-men!” said Jubilee in excitement, “I so should have brought my autograph book!”
“Don’t get giddy on us, Jubilee. This is serious business,” warned Jamie.
“Oh come on, you can’t tell me you’re not excited about working with the same guys that took on Magneto twice!”
“Ain’t got time to be star struck, Jubes,” said Bishop strongly, “Tessa says they got the extra firepower we can use to fight the Friends of Humanity. Let’s hope these fools deliver because I’m not letting District X go down like this!”
The three mutants waited as the engines powered down. Once the jet was silent, the hatch door opened and the X-men filed out. Bishop, Jamie, and Jubilee recognized every one of them from TV. It was a little unusual to have these well-known mutants helping them here in District X. That may or may not be a good thing given how much they valued a low profile. But with a riot unfolding before them, their options were limited.
“Is one of you named Lucas Bishop?” asked Cyclops as he approached the three of them with the X-men following closely.
“That’s me,” said Bishop as he stepped forth, “I’m Lucas Bishop and these two are my homies, Jamie Madrox and Jubilation Lee.”
“But we have codenames too, just like you guys!” said Jubilee, unable to contain some of her excitement, “Bishop is just Bishop, but we call Jamie here Multiple. And I go by Jubilee.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Marvel Girl with a friendly gesture, “Sorry we have to meet under these unpleasant circumstances.”
“Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault we’ve got anti-mutant zealots messing up our turf,” said Jamie.
“Your turf?” said Gambit curiously, “What are you guys, some mutant gang?”
“Hell no!” said Bishop as he took a more authoritative stance, “You fools are standing in the heart of District X, the biggest all-mutant community outside of Genosha. This little slice of the Big Apple is where mutants come to get a break from all the asshole mutant haters out there.”
“An all-mutant block in the heart of New York City?” said Kitty, “That makes way more sense than I expected.”
“We’re more than just a few collection of mutants. We’re our own self-contained community,” said Jamie, “This building your on right now is called the M Building. It’s sort of our town hall. This is where we govern ourselves and try to keep the peace. We’re what you might call the neighborhood watch.”
“Just the three of you look after this whole place?” said Rogue skeptically, “How in the heck do you manage that?”
“We have more manpower than you think,” quipped Jamie.
To illustrate what he meant, Jamie snapped his finger several times and made a few clones. It not only silenced Rogue, it showed they were serious about their duties.
“That answer your question?” joked Iceman, echoing her same quip from earlier
“Shut it, popsicle!” she muttered, “You had your moment earlier. Don’t push it!”
Iceman shrugged innocently, earning him a laugh from Jubilee. He couldn’t help but notice and blush a little. It was a look that Shadowcat scolded him for, but she chose not to chide him. They had far more pressing concerns.
“We’re a tight knit crew and we try to look after each other,” Bishop went on, “I don’t think I need to tell you guys how hard it is for mutants. We set it up so we can do things our own way so the city leaves us alone. At least, that’s how it was supposed to work. Recently, we’ve had some nasty suckas making trouble around here.”
“Yes, we heard about what those men did to that girl. It was awful,” said Marvel Girl, “Is she okay?”
“She’ll be fine...physically that is. But she ain’t the problem. We’ve did a little digging on these Friends of Humanity chumps. We know now they’re getting ready for a big throw down!”
“We’re aware of the Friends of Humanity and we’re already working to expose their plot,” said Cyclops, “I don’t know how much our friend, Beast, told you, but everybody in District X is in danger! The Friends of Humanity are preparing for another attack, only this one involves major firepower.”
“Define major firepower. Are we talking about bombs, bullets, and beatings?” asked Jubilee warily.
“Worse,” said Cyclops grimly, “You remember those sentinels we faced on Genosha?”
“Please don’t tell me we’re going to be dealing with giant robots here,” groaned Jamie.
“Not quite. This new weapon of theirs basically gives a human the killing power of a sentinel. We know someone who has seen it and trust me, a giant robot would be welcome!”
Bishop and Jamie exchanged concerned glances. This was even worse than they thought. They saw what those sentinels were capable of like the rest of the world. They even had a few Genosha veterans who told them about it. If something like that was on its way to District X, then they were in for a whole new level of trouble.
“Suddenly those bombs, bullets, and beatings I mentioned don’t sound so bad,” said Jubilee.
“The Friends of Humanity is pulling out all the stops,” Marvel Girl continued, “We think we have a way to stop them, but in order to do so we need you and whoever else runs District X to get every mutant off the streets!”
Bishop and Jamie both groaned. They were afraid they were going to have to do something like that.
“Uh…we may have a problem there,” said Jamie.
“Should ve be at all surprised?” groaned Nightcrawler.
“If you are, then you’re in the wrong neighborhood, fool,” said Bishop, “The attack on Pixie has really stirred the shit up! Lot of folks here in District X don’t like outsiders beating up teenage girls and now they’re pissed off. Probably plan on taking their frustrations out on the rest of the city. Can’t say I blame them either.”
“But you guys said you were the authority here! Isn’t there something you can do to calm them down?” asked Shadowcat desperately.
“Under normal circumstances, yes. But there’s one major obstacle this time,” said Jamie bitterly.
“And vhat might that be?” asked Nightcrawler, not sounding too optimistic.
“Not what…who,” said Bishop bitterly, “One of our own is probably out there pouring gas on the fire as we speak! The damn fool joined the Neighborhood Watch a year ago back and has been causing way more trouble than his ass is worth!”
“Kind of reminds me of Wolverine,” commented Cyclops.
“It’s probably our own damn fault,” said Jamie, “We should’ve known better when he insisted on the codename, Havok.”
Cyclops froze the second he heard that name. He quickly shifted from his calm, leader-like disposition to a state of pure outrage. It couldn’t be a coincidence. A sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach gave him all the confirmation he needed. It came rushing back to him in a memory he always avoided recalling.
“I think it’s a lousy nickname, Alex. I mean come on…Havok? Do you want people to think you’re a troublemaker?”
“We’re a couple of street kids trying to survive in this miserable city, Scott. The only way we’ll make it is if people either respect or fear us. The way I see it, Havok is just my way of dropping them a hint.”
Cyclops clenched his fist in a rage. Marvel Girl noticed his disgruntled state. She could sense the anger radiating from his thoughts. But before she could even try and console him, the X-leader lashed out.
“Havok…his real name wouldn’t happen to be Alex Summers, would it?” he said in a dark tone.
“Uh…yeah, it is,” said Jamie warily, “Why? Do you know him?”
“I suppose I should. He’s my brother.”
Now it was Jamie, Bishop, and Jubilee’s turn to be surprised.
“Brother? But Alex said he didn’t have a brother!” said Jubilee.
“Alex lies. He does that,” said Cyclops bitterly, “And you’re saying he’s leading these riots?!”
“Would you take it out on me if I said he was?” shrugged Jamie.
The X-leader let out a frustrated grunt. Even as he was reeling from the revelation about Gabriel, he had to contend with this old family headache again. And it had to happen the one time the X-men had a chance to stop a major incident from becoming a catastrophe. If nothing else, confronting his brother would give him even more motivation to succeed in this mission.
“Scott…” said Marvel Girl as she tried to give a comforting gesture.
“I’ve heard enough!” said Cyclops, abruptly pulling away and taking charge, “Where is Alex now?!”
“Best guess, wherever the front lines are,” said Bishop.
“Take us there!” ordered Cyclops, “The X-men will handle this riot! And I’ll handle my brother!”
The X-leader’s tone left no room for further discussion. Bishop and Jamie turned towards one another and nodded. If they were this determined, there was no point in holding them back. Their top concern was District X. They didn’t expect it to become a family affair, but it was clear they could not deal with Alex. Maybe his brother would be more persuasive.
“Follow me,” said Bishop.
Cyclops took lead as the X-men followed Bishop, Jamie, and Jubilee down the M Building and into the chaos below. They thought they were just going to have to contend with a deadly anti-mutant prototype from the Friends of Humanity. Now they also had a full blown riot and a confrontation with Cyclops’s estranged brother. It was turning into much more than they expected.
“Man, now we facing Cyclops’s brother? Just out of curiosity, how much do them two hate each other?” asked Gambit.
“If hate were ice, even I couldn’t make enough to do it justice,” muttered Iceman, “All you need to know is that Scott is very moody when it comes to his brother. And by moody, I mean we’re going to have a hell of fight on our hands even if we do stop this mess.”
District X – Southside
“NO JUSTICE NO PEACE! NO JUSTICE NO PEACE! NO JUSTICE NO PEACE!”
This was the mantra of the massive mutant riot that was consuming the city just outside the south end of District X. Dozens of mutant chanted these words as they lashed out against the world around them. Spurred by the attack on Pixie and led by Havok, they banded together and used their mutant powers to send a message.
Mutants of many different powers and appearances used their abilities to unleash destruction and strike fear upon petrified civilians. One mutant with electrical powers sent a surge into the light posts lining the city, shorting them out in a dazzling display. Another with big, muscular arms lifted a large pickup truck over his head and threw it into a nearby store. One female mutant with reptilian features punched into a nearby car and tore into the interior while a fellow mutant next to her used bluish flames from his fingertips to ignite the vehicle. When it exploded, it send a cheer throughout the streets and embolden the crowd.
“That’s right! Show them these are our streets too!” yelled Havok, “Show them they can’t hurt one of our own and not pay a price!”
The destruction spread and standing right in the path of the oncoming rioters were Wolverine and Storm. It was not a pleasant sight and one that wouldn’t go over well during an election year. But the greater social ramifications were lost on Wolverine as he drew his claws and stared down the leader of the riot.
“I don’t know who this punk thinks he is, but I’m pretty sure I hate his guts!” he growled.
“This is terrible! What is going on here?”
“Does it matter? We got us a hell of a fight on our hands! Couple hundred mutants against us…I like those odds!”
“I know this is a foolish question to ask, but shouldn’t we call the rest of the X-men before we act so brazenly?” said Storm.
Before they could even contemplate such a notion, the same hulking figure from earlier threw another heavy car. This time it was flung far ahead of the riot and into a populated building. It crashed between the second and third floor of a busy storefront, causing great destruction and sparking a fire. In addition, several terrified people were caught in the chaos and cried out for help.
“Somebody help us! Please!” begged a woman as she protectively hovered over two young children.
Upon seeing this, their predicament was clear. There was no time to understand this situation. They had to act.
“Better get that, darlin’! We don’t need to start a body count just yet!” said Wolverine.
“Agreed!” said the African woman, “But what will you do?”
“You gonna ask another foolish question or are you gonna fight?” he grunted as he ran towards the heart of the riot.
Storm grunted in frustration, but she had no time to debate his brash actions. Her eyes flashed white and she took to the air. She quickly formed some storm clouds overhead to put out the fires with rain. Then she kicked up a wind storm to get the women and children out. They cowered at first in her presence, but were grateful when they were flown to safety. As she set them down, more heavy debris flew out from the riot. It headed towards more civilians, but Storm was able to redirect it with her winds. The people were trying to get away, but they just weren’t fast enough.
While she was taking care of the civilians, Wolverine set his sights on Havok. He was running full speed, passing civilians along the way and dodging rocks and other debris. He figured if he was going to stop this mess, he had to hit at the source.
“That’s far enough, bub! Hrrraahhhh!” he roared.
Havok was caught by minor surprise when he saw the feral figure attack through the dust and smoke. He tried to react and counter the move, but Wolverine was too fast. He was quickly pinned to the pavement, his bullhorn shattering in the process.
“Augh! Who the hell do you think you are?!” exclaimed Havok.
“I’m a doctor! I give a special kind of therapy to punks like you!” snarled Wolverine, pointing his claws at Havok’s neck.
“You think you can stop this? The people of District X will never be stopped! Not until we make our stand!”
“I got your stand right here!” said the feral mutant, pushing his claws right up to his jugular, “Now are you gonna call this off or is this gonna have to get messy?”
“It already has!”
With a determined grunt, Havok repositioned himself and fired a concentrated energy blast with his hands right into Wolverine’s torso. This shot him up in the air a good twenty feet out before he hit the ground again. He landed right on his shoulder with a hard thud. But despite a stabbing pain that followed, Wolverine shot right back up. Only now he wasn’t just facing Havok. He was facing hundreds of other mutants behind him, each as determined as him to cause more destruction.
Havok brushed himself off and continued the march. The other rioters had caught up to him and many were now staring angrily at Wolverine. He clearly wasn’t part of some anti-mutant force like the Friends of Humanity, but he was in their way and that made him an enemy.
“He’s in our way! Run his ass over!” exclaimed a mutant with a worm-like body.
“He must be an agent of the Friends of Humanity! Let’s do to him what they did to Pixie!” yelled another mutant with blue skin.
“Don’t waste your time on him!” ordered Havok, “We’re going to march our way right into Manhattan and show the world what we stand for!”
They were angry and determined, but so was Wolverine. Not daunted by being outnumbered and overpowered, he held his claws out in preparation for a battle.
“You want to tear through a city? You gotta go through me!” roared Wolverine.
“Suit yourself!” said Havok.
He and a number of rioters were about to tear into Wolverine. But before they could get within ten feet of each other, a sharp gust of wind swept through the streets. Soon, a miniature tornado formed between the two opposing sides. Some tried to keep marching, but the winds were too strong and many were forced to stop or pull back. Only Havok didn’t back away an inch. He looked up with anger along with the rest of the rioters as Storm descended on a stream of wind.
“All of you, stop this now! You’re doing yourselves no favors with this meaningless destruction!” she commanded, her eyes flashing bright white in a threatening gaze.
“Ooh now you guys are in real trouble! You pissed off Mother Nature herself!” grinned Wolverine as he saw Storm’s powerful display.
But Havok and the rioters on the front line were not intimidated.
“This is our fight! You have no place in it!” yelled Havok, his hands glowing in a threatening manner.
“Please, we only wish to avert unnecessary bloodshed,” coaxed Storm, but still maintaining a strong poise, “I don’t know what you’re involved in, but you and your people are making a big mistake! The harder you push against the city, the harder it’ll push back!”
Her caring words fell on deaf ears. More angry chanting erupted as others threw rocks, glass, and various debris at her. Storm was able to deflect it with her winds, but it was still a disheartening sight.
“Get her out of the way!” yelled the blue skinned mutant as he threw an empty can at her.
“Save the peace talks for the monsters that attacked Pixie!” exclaimed a female mutant with rodent-like body hair.
Storm groaned while Wolverine snarled in disgust.
“I don’t think they heard you, darlin’,” said Wolverine.
“Oh we heard you! We’ve heard this shit many times before!” said Havok, whose hands were still glowing, “You guys really don’t get it, do you? Assholes like these don’t care about peace talks or compromise! They’re just looking for excuses to attack mutants! Well guess what? We’re not going to take it! They want to fight us? We’re going to fight back!”
“But you’ll only be inviting more violence!” exclaimed Storm.
“If fighting is how they want to settle this, then it’s fighting they’ll get!” spat Havok.
Havok turned around to face the hoard of mutants behind him. They had all stalled in wake of Storm’s winds, but they were still determined and were looking at him for guidance.
“Come on, District X! Let’s run these traitors over!” he yelled.
“YEAHHHHH!” they all cried out.
They started pushing again, braving the winds and throwing more debris at Storm and Wolverine. Some with energy powers tried shooting at her. Storm was forced to avoid them, but the barrage was overwhelming. Even with the elements of nature on her side, she could not stave off this onslaught.
”I can’t…keep this up!” the African woman grunted.
“Let ‘em through, Storm! I can take ‘em!” growled Wolverine.
“No! We have to contain this riot before it gets worse!”
“Ain’t gonna get much worse than this!”
Storm was stammering, grunting hard as she tried to keep the winds going without hurting anybody. But it was no use. She started showing signs of fatigue and the raging mutant riot was starting to break through. Wolverine stood ready to fight them all. But just as it seemed Storm was about to collapse, a new presence entered the conflict.
Out of nowhere, a shower of high energy beams rained down from the cloudy skies above. It caught many in the riot off guard, including Wolverine and Storm. They struck right at the heart of the mob, causing small craters in the streets and injuring a number of mutants in the process.
“Whoa! What the hell was that?!” exclaimed a mutant with a porcupine like appearance.
When Havok turned around and saw this destruction, he immediately looked towards Storm.
“It must be coming from her!” he yelled, getting ready to shoot her, “Is that how far you’re willing to go?! Attacking your own kind?!”
“No, it wasn’t from me! I don’t know where it came from!” exclaimed Storm.
“Listen to her, bub!” said Wolverine grimly as he looked up into the clouds, “Hope you’re ready to back up that angry bitching of yours because it looks like some else is itching for a fight!”
Havok and a number of other mutants turned around and looked up. They quickly saw what Wolverine was talking about. From the clouds, an ominous figure descended towards them. It had the shape and frame of a normal human, but was surrounded in a shell of metal and machine like that of a sentinel. It flew down towards them on a jet of rocket exhaust from its leg. As it drew near, it fired off more powerful beams from blasters on its wrist.
“Get back!” ordered Havok.
The hoard of mutants tried to scramble, but they couldn’t escape the sights of this mysterious attacker h. It eventually slowed down until it was hovering directly over the crowd. From this position, it fired more blasts. More destruction followed and more mutants were hurt. One young woman was hit in the leg and fell to the pavement in agony. Another was hit by debris, falling right into a parked car and getting knocked out cold. A few tried to retaliate against it, but it was too high in the sky. And those with energy powers quickly found out they couldn’t do much damage because it seemed to have super tough armor. As these menacing blasts rained down, the confident mob mentality was shaken.
It was almost too easy. Hovering above these mutant hoards, Captain Sebastian Gilberti attacked these rioting hoards with ease. Fully powered in his suit, he was no longer just a man. He was Bastion, protector of humanity and adversary to these renegade mutants. The feeling of using this prototype on a real mission was more of a rush than any previous test. For these mistakes of nature, they would face his full wrath.
“Attention mutants! I am Bastion, enforcer for the human race! And on behalf of the Friends of Humanity and all law-biding humans of this city, I am here to stop you’re reckless rampage! You will NOT harm another human being on my watch!”
His booming words were a mix of humanity and mechanized killing power. Wolverine and Storm quickly grasped the severity of this situation. Havok, still working off a burning anger, was not intimidated. He jumped on top of a nearby car and took aim at the prototype.
“Finally, a real fight!” he said, “If you were sent here by the Friends of Humanity, send them this message!”
Havok concentrated as he gathered as much energy as he could manage. Taking dead aim at the hovering Bastion, he let out a sharp grunt as he unleashed a powerful energy blast. Bastion saw it coming and didn’t flinch. Clenching his fist, Bastion began evasive maneuvers. Havok kept on shooting, but he only hit air. Bastion’s mobility far exceeded that of a normal sentinel. The clouds and dust didn’t help either. Through this attack, he flew effortlessly around the chaotic scene below and set his sights on the raging teenage mutant below. It was clear now that this deviant juvenile was leading this assault. If he took him out, the rest would be easy prey.
With this in mind, Bastion flew down in at a sharp angle and locked his sights on the raging mutant. He kept dodging blasts, coming close to taking a hit a few times but the armor was more than enough to absorb it. Once he was close enough, he took aim with his wrist blaster and fired off a shot. When Havok saw this coming, he instinctively jumped off the car. While he escaped being hit by the beam, it still struck the car and ignited the fuel. A powerful explosion followed, sending a fiery blast throughout the area that further disoriented the rioting mutants. Havok was blown clear across the street and into a couple of trash cans. The impact left him stunned and injured, but still conscious and eager to fight.
Wolverine and Storm quickly ran to his aid. Storm helped him up, but Havok quickly shook off her help.
“Augh! The hell is that thing?!” he groaned.
“Exactly the kind of thing we were warning you about!” said Storm.
“How…how did you know? Did you plan this?!”
“Why would we want to attack innocent mutants?” she said in a more sincere tone as she tried to help him despite his attitude, “Did you not hear what he said? The Friends of Humanity sent him!”
“The Friends of Humanity…they’re the ones that attacked Pixie!” seethed Havok, “If they’re responsible for this too then that means…”
He was still too dazed to surmise the full truth. First they attack Pixie and then they throw this anti-mutant superweapon at them. Something was clearly very wrong here and the implications were almost as serious as the danger.
“I’m going to tear that thing apart!” Havok grunted.
“That thing is packing sentinel heat!” growled Wolverine, “You think you and a bunch of rag-tag mutants are gonna stop it?”
“Why not? It’s not like you two are going to help!” he scoffed.
“Except we are going to help you arrogant prick! Why they hell do think we haven’t thrown your ass into the crossfire yet?!”
“And why would I want you’re help after you guys tried to stop us?!” spat Havok.
“Because we’re the X-men. And we’re you’re only hope,” said Storm.
Havok tensed with anger. He hated it when others tried to fight his battles for him. He spent his whole life trying to fight for himself. But looking up at this mechanical menace as it fired down on more mutants, he realized this was not a fight he could win with grit alone.
“You guys are still traitors!” said the defiant young mutant as he shook off their aid, “You better not get in my way!”
“Funny, I was just about to tell you the same thing!” grinned Wolverine as he and Storm set their sights on Bastion, “Now enough bitching! Let’s rip the Friends of Humanity’s latest toy to shreds!”
Xavier Institute – Hank’s Lab
Hank McCoy was pushing his multitasking skills to the limit. He had a link open with Charles Xavier and Lilandra on one computer screen, an interface with Worthington Industries on another, and a direct link to the team on the X-jet on another. It was enough to strain even his brilliant mind. Were he not covered in fur, his face would be dripping with sweat. It was his responsibility to make sure they didn’t miss out on this opportunity. He would not allow this affair to become another debacle for mutant kind.
“I’ve got the location, Charles. Cyclops and the others are almost on site. They should be able to contain the situation.”
“Let us hope so, Hank. Lilandra’s media contacts are getting anxious. If this District X riot becomes too volatile, we’ll have another public relations nightmare on our hands!”
“That will not happen, Charles. Not this time!” said Hank as he typed faster, “I’ve been able to get a few documents from the Friends of Humanity thanks to Warren’s connections. Lilandra’s people will have them soon.”
“While I’m confident the contents of those documents will turn a few heads, I doubt they’ll be enough to contain the inevitable public backlash.”
“I wasn’t planning to rely on them entirely. Everything is almost in place and I’m confident we can handle it this time.”
“And what of that prototype? Warren said it’s destructive potential was vast.”
“I’m working on that too. But please bear with me as I only have two hands and two versatile feet,” said Hank with growing anxiety as he kept typing, “Just trust in my ability to maintain the proper flow of data and we’ll have our hands will be clean in this messy affair for once!”
“I do trust you, Hank. I’ll leave you to work, but please be careful. We may not get another chance like this.”
“All the more reason to make this one count!” said Hank intently.
The video link between him and Charles closed. Hank kept typing feverishly. At the rate he was going his hands were likely to cramp up, but he had to push through the pain. So many were counting on him.
His attention was now focused on the link with Worthington Industries. Even though Warren was able to grant him full access to the systems, it was difficult navigating through so much clutter. Somewhere in this maze of data was a means of stopping that prototype. A group as paranoid as the Friends of Humanity had to have some kind of fail-safe. It was just a matter of finding it.
This is what Tessa was helping him with. By himself, it would take too long to sift through so much data. But Tessa had a talent for interfacing with a computer. It was part of her mutant ability. He kept a chat line open with her the whole time. They were talking each other through, exchanging data and hacking tips. They were making good progress, weaving their way through the Friends of Humanity’s tangled web. It was the kind of progress that had the potential to make for more than just a working partnership.
“Tessa, you are a miracle worker,” said Hank in admiration as he watched the data fly by his screen.
He continued navigating, watching as Tessa shut down more firewalls. They made quite a team. It reminded him of why he was so drawn to her in the first place. A message from her then appeared on his screen.
“This is perfect, Hank. It would have taken me hours to find out this prototype came from Worthington Industries. It would have taken me even longer to navigate their system. How did you manage to get access?”
Hank smiled and typed his reply.
“Sometimes who you know is far more valuable than what you know. We happen to have good friends in high places for once so let us make sure we take full advantage of it.”
Tessa responded back quickly.
“You don’t need to explain the value of connections to me Hank. I know better than most women of a certain intellect.”
“Do you now?”
“I sense you’re intrigued. You’ll have a chance to learn more once this is over. And we’re almost there. Give me five more minutes and we can deliver a crushing blow to the Friends of Humanity.”
Those last words provided extra motivation along with the flirtatious subtext of her words. Hank stepped up his focus, pushing his mind and skills to new limits. With Tessa by his proverbial side, he had a new level of confidence. The X-men were going to make a bold public statement this time and for once it would be positive.
District X – Southside
The battle against Bastion was not going well. Wolverine just took another devastating beam to the shoulder and was nearly pinned into the street from the force. His body already had its share of bruises, some of which were from the tumble he took from the bike chase with Storm. But he kept pushing through it. Even as many rioters ran for cover, Bastion kept up his assault.
“Your reign of terror ends here, mutants! Never again will you put humanity in harm’s way!” he proclaimed as he hovered over a major intersection.
“Spoken like a true Friends of Humanity dirtbag!” snarled Wolverine as he narrowly dodged another incoming beam.
“Careful Logan!” Storm called out, “Something about him that sounds off!”
“Augh!” he howled as another beam hit him in the arm, “You mean besides the freakin’ death machines he’s wearing?!”
“I don’t care how he sounds! Just take him out already!” spat Havok.
Having recovered from the blast he took earlier, Havok got into position to fire another blast. He was still at the head of the crowd, staring down Bastion without fear. His hands glowed brightly and he fired more blasts towards the hovering Bastion. Again, he took evasive maneuvers, but this time Havok’s aim was sharper and he was able to land a few hits. The heavy duty suit was just as resilient as a real sentinel. It didn’t slow him down, but he did feel it.
“Is that the best you can do, mutants?!” grunted Bastion, “Allow me to demonstrate the power of human ingenuity!”
Bastion flew in lower and concentrated his firepower right into the heart of the riot. He avoided more blasts from Havok and Storm, allowing him to get in just high enough to stay out of the reach of the crowd but low enough to get a clear shot. With a series of heavy blasts, he blew up cars, lamp posts, and trash cans while confused mutants tried to flee or keep marching. The blast was intense, creating explosions that hurt many and further disoriented the riot.
It was becoming clear. They could not keep up the momentum they had earlier. The mob mentality was giving way to panic as many watched Bastion unleash his wrath upon them. Some tried to fight back, but they were easy targets. Some endured serious blows. Others were near lethal. It further enraged Havok, who was now running back towards the crowd he had been leading.
“This isn’t working! We have to retreat!” yelled a female mutant with lizard features.
“No! Don’t stop!” urged Havok, “Don’t give up the fight! We can take him down!”
He jumped on top of a pile of debris and took aim again. But this time Bastion was ready for him. His brash actions were just what he wanted to see. Grinning to himself, he clenched his fists and charged up another shot. Havok was the first to fire, but again he missed. Bastion ignited his boosters and flew off to the side. As he did, he fired a shot of his own. This time he was accurate. He struck Alex right in the shoulder, burning his flesh and knocking him backwards off the pile.
“Augh!” he cried out in pain.
He hit the pavement hard, moving slowly as he tried to reorient himself. Bastion grinned to himself. He fell for that way too easily. Bastion figured this rebellious young mutant was the leader of this monstrosity. If he could take him out, this whole operation would get a lot easier. Preparing his blasters again, he flew over towards the debris where Havok was still reeling.
“I see now just how right Graydon Creed was. You mutants aren’t just a menace! You’re a scourge!” Bastion seethed, “And this prototype is the cure!”
“Hnn…” groaned Havok.
Bastion was about to fire. For once, Havok would not be able to grit his way through this one. The fight was about to end. All he could do was brace himself.
But just as Bastion was about to fire, another energy blast that looked similar to Havok’s shot out from above and hit Bastion on the side. The sheer force sent him flying into a nearby lamp post, which warped upon impact.
“Argh! What the hell?!” exclaimed Bastion.
He quickly reoriented himself and looked up to see the source of the blast. To his surprise and dismay, it was the X-men. They had arrived to join the fight.
Havok was just as surprised as Bastion. Finally gathering himself, he looked up to see someone he hadn’t seen in years. His brother, Scott, was descending towards them on a telekinetic bubble from Marvel Girl. With them were Iceman, Shadowcat, Rogue, Gambit, and Nightcrawler. He recognized them all, but only one recognized him.
“Back off, pal! Nobody wails on my brother except me!” spat Cyclops.
“Scott? How did you…” began Havok as he got up, but old attitudes quickly recovered, “What the hell are you doing here?! This is my fight! Not yours!”
“Your welcome, bro,” said Cyclops bitterly, “Try and contain that killer instinct of yours because we’re not out of this yet!”
Havok was even angrier. The last time he spoke with his brother had been a fight even bigger than this. A lot was said. It almost got confrontational. It ended with them not wanting to see each other again. Even after years apart, it didn’t feel long enough.
Over with Wolverine and Storm, the X-men’s sudden arrival was much welcomed. The scene around them was getting pretty chaotic. They had hurt mutants, terrified pedestrians, and a half-human half-sentinel killing machine. But the revelation about Havok was just as surprising.
“Damn…that punk is Cyke’s brother?!” exclaimed Wolverine, “No wonder I hated him the moment I saw him!”
“That’s a matter I would rather not get into. Let’s just be glad we finally have some support,” said Storm as she flew over to join the others.
As the team landed on the street via Marvel Girl’s telekinesis, they were just as surprised to see Storm and Wolverine in the mix.
“Stormy! How did you two beat us here?” said Gambit.
“It wasn’t intentional, I assure you,” said Storm.
“Vhy did you run off? Everyone vas supposed to be on standby,” said Nightcrawler.
“It’s a long story,” said Storm as she turned towards Wolverine.
“Yeah…really long,” muttered the feral mutant.
Marvel Girl scrutinized Wolverine briefly. As his ex-girlfriend, she was pretty good at reading his subtleties. Something was definitely going on with him and it wasn’t just his usual personality quirks.
“I’m sure you’ll fill me in on the details later,” she said in a critical tone, “But right now, all you need to know is that we’re trying to stay ahead of this situation. We’re not going to let it blow up into another mutant disaster.”
“A little late for that, Jeannie,” muttered Wolverine as he looked around at the destruction.
“Oh don’t be so negative, Wolverine! We’ve got an ace up our sleeves!” grinned Shadowcat.
“Leave the card puns to Gambit, petite,” said Gambit as he took out a few cards, “Remy is better at ‘em and makes them look sexier.”
“Much as I would like to debate that, I’m interested in any plan that could prevent this from getting worse,” said Ororo.
“Ve don’t have tiem to gov over to give him the full plan,” said Nightcrawler, “Just following our lead and it vill work out!”
“That’s a bold promise even by X-men standards,” said Storm anxiously.
Turning back towards Bastion, they saw the powerful figure take to the air again and fly higher. Now he was even more enraged. The blasters on his wrists were glowing and his eyes were brimming with a look that looked almost inhuman with rage. There were still a lot of mutants present and plenty of targets to choose from. After the previous hit, there was no more focus. There was only a maddened rage.
“DISGUSTING MUTANTS! I’LL KILL YOU ALL!”
Without aiming or focusing, Bastion began firing wildly down towards the street. His blasts were so uncoordinated some of them strayed and hit areas nearby that still had regular humans trying to flee from the destruction. The potential for innocent casualties didn’t even cross his mind. The once determined soldier was losing himself in the power.
Down below, it was like a rain of deadly energy. Marvel Girl quickly put up some telekinetic shields so it wouldn’t hit the crowd. But Bastion was firing so wildly it was hard to divert them all. And he was flying too high for most mutants with energy powers to hit him. It was a dangerous situation that was getting more out of hand than they wanted. Something had to be done.
“Whoa! Has this guy lost it?!” exclaimed Iceman.
“I knew something was off,” said Storm as she looked up at Bastion anxiously, “Every time he talks he sounds less human and more sentinel! Whatever that armor is it’s affecting him greatly!”
“You don’t know the half of it, Storm!” said Marvel Girl as she clutched her temples, “I’m trying to get through, but his mind is falling apart! I can’t get any coherent thoughts anymore!”
“Give me a whack at him! Ah’ll knock some sense into him!” said Rogue as she took to the air.
“Not without backup!” said Cyclops, who was hovering protectively over his brother, “X-men, we have to bring him down! Storm, Gambit, and Iceman cover Rogue. Shadowcat and Nightcrawler, help get the mutants and civilians out of here! Marvel Girl, keep us shielded!”
“Forgetting someone, one-eye?” snarled Wolverine.
“Does it matter what order I give?” quipped Cyclops, “Just help us slow him down! Beast and Angel will take care of the rest!”
The team quickly put their plan into action. Marvel Girl expanded her shield to cover her friends while they ran into the middle of the intersection to get a better shot at Bastion. More energy blasts rained down from above. He showed no signs of letting up or realizing how his mental state was deteriorating. Rogue braved the blasts, flying up through the telekinetic barrier and into the shower of blasts. As she did, the others drew Bastion’s fire. Cyclops, Iceman, Gambit, and Storm all coordinated their powers, firing up at Bastion with a wave of optic blasts, ice blasts, charged cards, and lightning. Since he was so high up it was difficult to hit him, but even when the shots landed it was like he didn’t even feel it.
Bastion was in his own world as he saw the X-men attack. A charged card and a bolt of lightning hit him, but he didn’t even feel it this time. It was as if he was a machine now, no longer confined by sensations such as pain, anxiety, or fear. The only human emotions he could feel now were rage and disgust. It was all directed towards the mutants. Even as his suit took damage, he refused to halt his assault.
”Is that the best you can do?!” he seethed, “I can’t be stopped! I won’t be stopped!”
“Famous last words before every infamous outcome, sugah!” said Rogue as she closed in fast.
Bastion saw her coming and tried to shoot her, but an ice blast from Iceman momentarily obstructed his vision. Without flinching, he adjusted his tactics. Instead of shooting her with his wrists blasters, he activated the prototype’s more lethal weapon. The chest panels on his armor opened up, revealing a deadly array similar to the one used by the original sentinels. Driven by the rage, he charged it up until a powerful green ball of energy was emulating from his chest. Then just as Rogue was about to strike him, he unleashed the blast.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” she cried out.
Rogue didn’t expect it to be so intense. As soon as that blast hit her, her whole body was paralyzed and she couldn’t stay airborne. Now only half-conscious, she fell to the ground. As soon as Gambit saw this, he rushed to her aid.
“Cherè!” he exclaimed.
Running out from the safety of the telekinetic barrier, Gambit jumped over a flaming car and a pile of debris until he was right under the falling Rogue. He had to shove through some pedestrians and injured mutants as well, but he was able to reach her just in time and catch her in his arms. The impact sent him tumbling to the ground, but the pain was worth it.
“Hnn…mah hero,” she said, still able to move.
“Remy’s got you, cherè! You gonna be alright?” he told her.
That earned him a smile, but it was clear that she was out of this fight. That blow she took was too much and Bastion seemed poised to unleash more.
With his new weapon at full power, Bastion unleashed another energy burst towards the X-men. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, and Storm braced themselves behind Marvel Girl’s shield.
“Get back guys! I’m not sure if I can…” Marvel Girl began.
She was cut off right at impact. The powerful blast was diverted by her telekinetic shield, but the effect utterly strained her already vulnerable mind.
“Ahhhhh my head!” she cried out.
“Jean!” exclaimed Cyclops, who was still guarding Havok.
“I got you, Jeannie!” yelled Wolverine as he caught her as she fell.
“There goes our protection!” groaned Iceman.
“We have to fall back!” yelled Storm.
Bastion was really stepping it up now. That kind of firepower couldn’t be blocked. It could only be avoided. With Marvel Girl no longer able to provide protection, the X-men had to scramble.
But it wasn’t just the X-men he aimed for. Bastion kept charging the weapon and firing randomly, not discriminating between human and mutant anymore. He continued to unleash his fury onto the scene below. By now many mutants from the riot had taken cover, but a number who had been injured earlier were unable to get away fast enough. Some had injuries and some were stuck under piles of debris. They were helpless to avoid Bastion’s wrath and cried out for help amidst the chaos.
“Help! Somebody?! My leg is broken!” exclaimed a teenage mutant with green skin and a mohawk.
Nobody was listening. Everyone those who could still stand was running for their lives. Looking up, Bastion was aiming right towards his area. The young mutant braced himself for what could very well be his final moments.
But just as Bastion was about to fire, Nightcrawler appeared next to him and grabbed his shoulder.
“Stay calm, mien friend. You’ve broken enough bones for today!” he assured.
Bastion fired the blast just as Nightcrawler teleported him out of the way. The impact was less than a few feet away from where they had been, narrowly avoiding the blast.
But it wasn’t just mutants who were in trouble. Across the street, a few humans were caught in the crossfire. A stray blast caused a large crater in the street just as a van was driving by. The van crashed and was now tilting upwards from the rear. The driver and the passenger were able to get out, but there were others in the back who were stuck.
“Somebody help! My babies are trapped!” the woman cried out.
“The door’s jammed! I can’t…” the man next to her began.
But to both their surprise, their cries for help were answered in an unexpected way. While the man was trying to open the side door, Shadowcat phased right through from the other end. In her arms were an infant boy and a terrified toddler. They were dazed at having been phased out of a car, but they were relieved to get out.
“Don’t be scared,” she assured them, “The X-men have it all under control.”
As soon as the woman saw her kids, she ran towards them.
“Mommy!” exclaimed the toddler.
“Oh thank heavens!” she cried as she took the child into her arms.
While the mother cradled the toddler, Shadowcat gave the infant to the man. He looked just as dazed as the others, but he seemed very relieved to see his child safe.
“Get across the street into the nearest building,” she told him, “Take cover under whatever you can and come out as soon as you stop hearing explosions.”
“And when will that be?!” exclaimed the man.
“It won’t be long. Trust me,” assured Shadowcat.
The bewildered family did as they were told, not having time to question the young mutant’s instructions. As soon as they ran off, Shadowcat caught up with Nightcralwer just as he was watching over the injured mutant from earlier up in an alley.
“We got too many injured people in the streets!” said Shadowcat, “We need to work faster!”
“Nien, ve need more manpower,” said Nightcrawler, “And I zhink some just arrived.”
Nightcrawler pointed towards the other end of the street. There, an army of Jamie Madrox clones swarmed the streets. Amidst this army of clones were Jubilee and Bishop. They made their way towards the X-men while Multiple started gathering the injured and getting them off the streets. With Bastion’s attention focused on the X-men, they were able to slip in and do what they had to.
“You guys mind backing me up?” said Multiple.
“You mean all of you?” said Shadowcat as she watched a dozen Multiples run by her.
“God I’m so sick of that joke,” he replied, rolling his eyes, “Bishop says we clear the streets! Give Bastion fewer targets! Hopefully he’ll use that chance to go even crazier!”
“Zhat shouldn’t be too hard,” said Nightcrawler as he looked up at the raging Bastion.
Even as targets were fleeing, Bastion was not letting up. If anything, he was stepping up his attack. It wasn’t just about stopping the riot now. It was about causing destruction. There was no greater tactics behind it. Captain Gilberti was losing himself as Bastion.
While Shadowcat and Nightcrawler went to work helping Multiple, Bishop and Jubilee caught up with the rest of the X-men. They were staying covered in an alley. Havok, Rogue, and Marvel Girl were still reeling. Marvel Girl tried to put up more shields, but her migraines were back and making it too difficult to focus. Even without shielding, they had to give Multiple, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat room to work. There were a lot of injured people in the streets and to limit the growing body count they had to act.
“Jubilee! Get his attention!” ordered Bishop.
“You got it! But I hope this pans out just like the X-men said!” she said as she lowered her sunglasses, “This guy is making a hell of a mess!”
Cracking her knuckles, Jubilee unleashed a barrage of fireworks up into the sky. She made sure these were especially large and bright, making them too hard for Bastion to ignore. Her blasts were never very accurate, but they got the job done.
Around Bastion, his view of the scene below was momentarily blinded as the fireworks erupted around him. The blasts and bursts were so bright he had to shield his eyes. He kept on firing though, one blast not even hitting the ground. This only further frustrated him. Without thinking or reasoning the situation, he turned towards the source down below and flew down in another daring arc. More fireworks kept coming his way, but he was not about to let up his assault.
“DIE MUTANT MONSTROSITIES!” he yelled.
“Here he comes!” said Jubilee as she backed away towards the X-men.
“I got this sucka!” grunted Bishop.
As Bastion was flying in, he fired another high energy blast from his chest. This one was heading right towards the alley were the X-men had taken refuge. But Bishop ran out to confront it, bracing himself as the blast struck him. As soon as it did, he used his mutant powers to absorb it. The greenish energy surrounding the blast shifted to a dark red. Bishops eyes began glowing and in a powerful brist, he redirected the blast up towards Bastion.
“Suck on this, fool!” he yelled as he unleashed the energy.
Bastion flinched briefly. The energy shot up in a wide-arcing burst, engulfing him as he continued his downward arc. He managed to redirect the thrust so he could take it into hover again. He only had a fraction of a second to brace himself. But it was all the time he needed.
“Auuuggggh!” he grunted as he used his arms to guard his face.
Bishop unleashed all the energy he could, not bothering conserving any. It was taxing on his body, but he endured. When every last bit was gone, he fell to his knees and looked up. To his dismay and the dismay of the rest of the X-men, Bastion was still hovering. His prototype armor was singed and so was his hair. The boosters in his feet were faltering as well, but not enough to keep him from giving in. He was still raging strong. In fact, taking such a blast seemed to add to his fury.
“Oh you gotta be shittin’ me,” groaned Bishop.
“Ungh…nice try!” he grunted, “But this suit is a stark improvement over the original sentinels! You freaks haven’t got a chance!”
Bastion gathered himself and prepared to fire his main weapon again. The X-men got into position, preparing themselves for another attack. They were still waiting on Beast. It was taking him longer than they expected. But they had to keep holding Bastion off.
Having been out of the fight long enough, Wolverine snarled and stepped forth. It was abundantly clear now that energy blasts just weren’t going to cut it. To stop this nut, they needed the direct approach. Looking down at Jeannie, he saw she was in no condition to help. She was groaning again with more migraines. So he passed the injured redhead off to Cyclops and turned to Storm.
“Take her,” he told the X-leader, “I’ll cut this dirtbag down to size!”
“And how do you think you’re going to do that?” asked Cyclops skeptically.
“Same way I always take care of regular sentinels,” he said as he turned to Storm, “Tell me, darlin’, how good are you at aiming those winds of yours?”
“Good enough for what I’m sure you have in mind,” she said strongly.
“You ain’t gonna try and talk me out of it?”
“Would it do any good?” she quipped indifferently, “But before I do this, promise me you’ll think more about your decision.”
“Now is really not the time to be putting me on the spot, Ro!”
“Yes or no?” she said strongly.
Wolverine snarled. This woman was tough to bargain with. Even in the heat of a mission, she didn’t forget about her personal concerns. It showed she was a different kind of woman, one he couldn’t keep pushing aside like this. Because of that, his decision was clear.
“Fine,” he grunted, “Just get on with it before that nut shoots us again!”
“As you wish,” said Storm calmly.
The African mutant kicked up a quick wind storm to get Wolverine airborne. The rest of the team stood back, letting Wolverine do what he did best. But their exchange did not go unnoticed.
“What was that about?” asked Iceman.
“Don’t know,” said Gambit more seriously as he continued to cradle Rogue, “Hope it ain’t something they worked on in the bedroom.”
The team watched as Wolverine soared into the night sky, riding a wave of wind up towards Bastion. The reeling figure was still trying to orient himself. The blow he took from Bishop had disoriented him, but he was still very capable of doing damage. As Wolverine got closer, he saw the burning rage in Bastion’s eyes. It was a look he knew all too well. It was a look of a man losing touch with his own humanity.
“Errrrrrrrrrr! I must…not stop!” grunted Bastion.
“This is as far as you go, bub!” roared Wolverine as he drew closer, “Hrrraahhhhhh!”
With his claws drawn, Wolverine soared right into the hovering Bastion. The disoriented figure tried to block him, but he was unable to avoid the attack. Wolverine landed right on his back. As he did, he drove his claws right through the torso. It was just like piercing a real sentinel, only this time there was blood at the end of his claws when they came out on the other end.
“Ack!” Bastion choked.
“You’re sanity can thank me later…what’s left of it anyways,” grunted Wolverine.
The pain was excruciating. Bastion’s already disoriented mind slipped further into chaos as the prototype’s systems started failing. With Wolverine’s claws still lodged in him, he fell hard to the ground below. Just as he was about to impact the street, Wolverine pulled his claws out and tumbled off to the side. He took a pretty nasty hit, but his durable form could take it. Bastion, however, wasn’t so lucky.
When he hit, a spark erupted from the prototype. It created a brief burst that caused a sizable crater right in the middle of the street. It seemed like the kind of impact that would have taken out anybody, even a sentinel. Within seconds the streets finally fell quiet and Bastion’s rampage, it seemed, was over.
The team stepped out from their cover and approached the crater. Storm ran up to Wolverine, who hit the street just outside of the crater. He was dazed, but no worse for wear. As she helped him up, she gave him a concerned look. He groaned and muttered curses like he always did, but when he looked her in the eye she could tell that he was going to keep his promise. He was going to think harder about his decision.
“Thank you, Logan,” she told him softly.
“The way I’ve roughed myself up for you to day...I’d say you owe me one,” he retorted.
“I’ll be happy to make it up to you if you let me of course.”
The subtext in her words was clear. She was encouraging him to make another personal decision and the more he looked at her the more unavoidable (and appealing) it seemed.
Once Wolverine was on his feet again, the team gazed into the smoking crater to look at Bastion. By now Multiple, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler had cleared most of the streets so there weren’t many around the area to take this in this messy scene.
“That fool looks smoked,” said Bishop.
“Huh…guess we didn’t need Beast to override it after all,” said Iceman.
Suddenly, a figure shot out from the smoke and dust. The X-men along with Bishop and Jubilee were taken aback, surprised that anyone could still be going after an attack like that.
“You were saying, Iceman?” groaned Cyclops.
“From now on, why don’t we just assume all my remarks are sarcastic?!” exclaimed Iceman.
With blood now trailing down his face and oozing from his gut, Bastion clawed at the edge of the crater. The prototype was sparking and sections of the armor were pierced, but it was still operational. Bastion’s gaze seemed truly maddened now. Beyond all human limits, he kept on fighting.
“This isn’t over!” he yelled out, “This suit will keep me going even as my body fails me! Don’t you see?! This is humanity’s ultimate weapon! There’s no stopping it! You mutants are all dead! Dead as…”
But before Bastion could finish his rant, the prototype betrayed him and it wasn’t because of the holes left by Wolverine. Suddenly, he could no longer move his limbs or activate the weapon system. More sparks flew, this time they consumed the entire armor. Everything was shutting down, shorting out, or just outright failing. For Bastion, the destruction of the machine was as painful as the destruction of his own body.
“NO! THE PROTOTYPE! IT…AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
Energy built up in the chest where the main weapon was. More sparks flew and more systems failed as Bastion thrashed wildly, falling back into the crater. His eyes bulged and the skin on his face became discolored, almost as if he was being burned from the inside out. The sparks soon found their way to his brain. The connection between man and machine led to a failure that was agonizing for both. It all finally went completely offline in a blinding flash that utterly wiped out the systems and whatever was left of Sebastian Gilberti as well.
The X-men all shielded their eyes as their adversary gave out. Within a matter of seconds, it was all over. Bastion fell silent and the once menacing prototype he wielded was now inactive. As an eerie calm fell over the area, they gathered around the crater cautiously just in case Bastion had any fight left in him. Bishop, Jubilee, and Havok stayed close as well. But when they saw his defeated state, there was little doubt this fight was over.
Bastion was clearly unconscious, but not in a normal way. His eyes were still wide open and his irises were now totally black. His skin was also burned, now giving off a light reddish color as if he had been sunburned. It seemed to affect his hair as well, which was now completely white. Whatever this prototype did to him, it left some very permanent scars.
“Whoa…that thing was a prototype? Could’ve fooled me,” said Iceman.
“Guess it still had some bugs in it,” said Jubilee.
“Poor guy,” said Marvel Girl, “Whatever this contraption was meant to be, it failed and took him with it.”
“And drove him crazy in the process,” added Multiple.
“Fool was crazy to begin with,” said Bishop, “He shacked up with the Friends of Humanity and hit us on our home turf. We sure as hell made it easy for him by starting a damn riot!”
Bishop turned towards Havok, who was still injured but standing now. His expression hardened as he took in the angry looks of Bishop, Jubilee, and Multiple. He played right into the Friends of Humanity’s hands and some of their own were seriously hurt because of it. But true to the attitude of Alex Summers, he remained defiant.
“He was looking for a fight. We gave it to him,” said Havok strongly, “Don’t look at me like it’s my fault.”
“But did you have to run head first right into his trap?” groaned Multiple.
“Maybe if we were more on top of things we could have avoided it!” he retorted.
“Maybe if you were a little more patient, it could have all worked out better,” said Cyclops, now entering the conversation, “Then again patience and reason has never been one of your strengths, Alex. And it’s cost you before. It’s cost us both.”
Havok tensed again under his brother’s harsh scorn. He had it hard enough enduring the looks of Bishop and Multiple. His older brother’s scrutiny was the last thing he needed.
“Don’t start with me, Scott! You don’t want to get into that at a time like this! You know how it ended last time!”
Cyclops stared down his brother, clenching his fists as he gazed angrily into his eyes. Many old feelings of frustration and bitterness began to surface. There were a lot of old conflicts they hadn’t resolved. Multiple pulled Havok aside while Marvel Girl coaxed Cyclops away.
“Dang, and Remy thought he had issues with siblings,” commented Gambit.
“Thank God I’m an only child,” said Shadowcat.
“Don’t rub it in, Kitty. Not at a time like this,” groaned Bobby.
As Cyclops and Havok were separated, Bishop once again stepped in. Family issues aside, he was deeply concerned about the affects this would have on District X.
“I’ll be dealing with you later, Havok,” he said strongly, “Right now, we got a much bigger problem on our hands! District X is in a world of shit! It won’t be long before this smackdown hits the evening news and it’s open season on all our people!”
“Take it easy, Herr Bishop. Professor Xavier has contacts. He von’t let zhat happen,” assured Nightcrawler.
“Yeah, he’ll work his magic. He always does!” said Iceman.
“He’ll need a hell of a trick to pull this one out,” said Jubilee with equal pessimism.
Just then, the whole team heard a telepathic voice in their minds.
‘Funny you should say that, Jubilee. Because it appears he already has.’
The X-men looked around suspiciously, having not heard this voice before. But Bishop, Multiple, and Jubilee recognized it.
“Who the hell is that?” asked Gambit.
“It’s Tessa,” said Multiple with a touch of relief, “Sounds like she found something.”
“Tessa?!” gasped Storm, “Could she be...”
“I know what you’re thinking, Miss Munroe. Given our situation, I think you should put those thoughts on hold,” said Marvel Girl, who picked up on it as well.
Storm bit her lip to prevent herself from saying anything else. She was positive that the name, Tessa, was the name of the woman that had her little cyber affair with Beast when they were still dating. Her presence here raised many questions, but those questions would have to wait.
“Tessa? What you getting at, girl?” asked Bishop aloud.
‘That’s a little complicated to explain without resorting to computer jargon. But let’s just say I’ve stumbled upon some interesting memos while I was helping Beast triggering the remote shut-down for the prototype. They’ll paint quite a different picture once word gets out.’
“You mean this might not be a disaster for human/mutant relations?” said Shadowcat.
‘Far from it. Charles Xavier already has the data in his possession and he’s putting it to good use. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the news tomorrow morning.’
Worthington Industries – Wide Awake Initiative
Graydon Creed knew he was in trouble. The prototype testing had been a disaster. Captain Sebastian Gilberti had failed them. Not only was he unable to subdue the mutants of District X, he caused a great deal of collateral damage to humans as well. His close advisers warned that the interface of the prototype may have some psychological affects. That concern turned out to be a grave understatement.
The Friends of Humanity had a volatile situation on their hands. If the media discovered the finer details concerning Bastion and the prototype, they would not see it as a plot by mutants. This would be damaging not just to the Friends of Humanity, but to Senator Kelly’s presidential bid as well. That was why Graydon Creed was going to turn this around. There was no way he was going to let the mutants benefit from this.
In his personal office, he was promptly gathering his things and preparing to head out. He was on the phone with Reverend William Stryker while he was frantically stuffing classified documents into his briefcase.
“This is a disaster, Graydon! That prototype of yours has made a major mess of things!”
“No need to remind me, Reverend. I fully understand the seriousness of this situation,” said Creed in frustration.
“Do you?! This little event of yours was supposed to turn things around for Senator Kelly! Now he’ll face even more scrutiny!”
“No he won’t!” said Creed sternly, “I’ve already been in talks with our media contacts. We’re purging our database of all connections to the prototype. I always keep a contingency plan handy. By the time my people are done spinning this, the public will blame mutants for the incident.”
“How in God’s name are you going to do that? Have you ever dealt with the mainstream media? If they find one hint of our involvement and they’ll run with it!”
“Trust me, Reverend. I can handle it!” said Creed as he closed his briefcase, “Just reassure Senator Kelly that everything will be okay. The Friends of Humanity won’t let this hurt him.”
“That’s going to be a hard sell.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to tap into that priestly spirit of yours and have a little faith! Mark my word, the mutants will take the fall for us! I’ll see to it personally!”
Not waiting for Stryker’s response, Graydon Creed turned off his cell phone and stuffed it in his pocket. He didn’t have a moment to spare. He had to get away from the Wide Awake Initiative and put his people to work. They were going to have to stretch their resources to put the right spin on this. He made sure from the beginning that the Friends of Humanity had the right media tools to stay a step ahead of the mutants. So long as humans still feared mutants, it didn’t matter that the prototype failed. It just mattered that the public was still on their side.
With his briefcase in hand, Creed rushed out of his office. At this late hour there were few lingering throughout the lab. That punk Worthington was probably out enjoying the night life of a spoiled rich kid. If reports of his recent behavior were accurate, he would be too soused to bother him at this point. Moving fast, Creed barged past a number of scientists and a few co-workers. He even knocked over a security guard at one of the checkpoints. Within five minutes, he was standing at the entrance to the parking garage. When he saw nobody behind him, he fixed his tie and grinned smugly.
‘Win some, lose some. Too bad though. Captain Gilberti would have made a nice ally. But no matter. By the time I’m done with this story, the Friends of Humanity will have plenty of allies to spare.’
Taking a deep breath, Graydon Creed stepped out into the parking lot. As soon as he opened the door, he was bombarded with an unexpected sight.
“Mr. Creed! Mr. Creed! Is it true the Friends of Humanity were behind the attack in New York?”
“Mr. Creed, care to comment on reports from Senator Kelly that his campaign has cut all ties with the Friends of Humanity?”
“Mr. Creed, the mayor of New York is talking about pressing charges. Would you like to make a statement?”
It caught Graydon Creed completely off guard. Standing in front of him was an army of reporters. He must have had representatives from every major news source in the western hemisphere in front of him and they were shooting a barrage of questions at him that they shouldn’t have been able to ask.
“What…what is the meaning of this?!” he demanded as he fought off a few microphones.
“Isn’t it obvious, Graydon? You’re antics have become breaking news!”
Graydon turned to his right to see Warren Worthington III casually standing beside the doorway, his arms folded with a smug grin. Graydon quickly realized what was going on.
“You…you’re responsible for this!” he bellowed through the questions.
“Now how would I manage that?” grinned Warren smugly, “I’m just the heir to the Worthington fortune and head of the Wide Awake Initiative program. What could I have possibly done to turn your little stunt into a fiasco for the Friends of Humanity?”
Graydon Creed tensed with anger. That punk was responsible. He had to be. How else would so many know the details of his plan? Someone managed to get a step ahead of him. He was intent on taking his frustrations out on Warren, but he would not get the chance. More reporters swarmed him, barraging him with more questions about the Friends of Humanity, District X, and an attack orchestrated by his people. They were all questions he was going to have to address. But no matter how he answered, his cause was sure to take a hit.
For Warren Worthington III, it was a deeply satisfying sight. For once, the other side of the human/mutant conflict would be scrutinized. The Friends of Humanity and Senator Kelly would be painted as the bigots they were. What made it even more satisfying was that he had been a part of it. Because of his status at Worthington Industries, this elaborate endeavor worked and it left the young mutant with a number of mixed feelings.
‘Amazing…the mutant-hating crowd is finally getting some heat. Professor Xavier and Lilandra really pulled through. And amazingly enough, so did my father. Me being here really made a difference. Maybe it’s a sign that things really are starting to turn around. It might just be possible for me to do more as Warren Worthington III than I can as Angel.’
Next Issue: District X Part 3
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