The world is on the brink. The human race hates and fears mutants. Their extraordinary powers have caused some to take extraordinary measures. Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men fight for peace and understanding. They’ve been able to overcome seemingly impossible odds before. Now they’ve crossed a line from which there’s no turning back.
It started with Genosha, which became more militant when the nations of the world tightened a naval blockade on their island. It was made progressively worse by the Mutant Liberation Front with the help of White Cell. Using their connections, the once decimated mutant terrorist group launched a new series of attacks that turned the world back against mutants.
Now even the Brotherhood on Genosha sees war as inevitable. They’ve gone so far as to creat massive bunkers for every mutant on the island. They’re prepared to endure the first shot of this war in hopes of uniting their race. The burden is on Charles Xavier to convince them that this is a mistake.
While the Professor tries desperately to salvage the situation on Genosha, Wolverine and the rest of the X-men sought to uncover the hidden hand guiding both Genosha and the Mutant Liberation Front. Their investigation resulted in a violent clash with Frenzy, a White Cell operative who has some profound insight on the organization. These insights are key to stopping both sides from destroying each other. They may not come soon enough as the Mutant Liberation Front has a nuclear submarine at their disposal. With it, the world stands on the brink of Armageddon.
Genosha – Capital City
Once again, Charles Xavier was crippled. This time it wasn’t his body that stood in his way. It was the powers that he often relied on to reach others in a way he couldn’t with words alone. Alongside Phoenix, Cyclops, Colossus, Shadowcat, and Iceman, his powers had been suppressed with an inhibitor collar. Then, either as a stunt or a taunt, the Brotherhood gave him a chance to address every mutant on Genosha. They were all crowded within special Warlock bunkers that were expected to protect them from an upcoming attack. He was tasked with convincing them that it need not be this way.
“I know many listening to this do not trust me. I, Charles Xavier, have not earned it with my words or deeds. I do not expect to earn it now in this late hour. However, I hope that most of you are still reasonable enough to think twice about what you’re doing. I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and lost…to feel the pain of despair in a way that wounds the spirit more than I could possibly wound the body. What you’re about to do isn’t strategic or cunning. It’s madness! You’re willing to start a war before it’s even necessary. War will never solve our problems and even in our darkest hour, we must fight to prevent it!”
The Professor was putting a lot of heart into his voice. Havok, Blob, Quicksilver, Pyro, the Scarlet Witch, and Quentin Quere weren’t impressed. Xavier wasn’t expecting to reach them. He was focused on the hundreds of anxious mutants seeking an end to this chaos. The X-men watched anxiously from behind a ring of fire from Pyro. With every word, they had more reason to worry.
“This isn’t working,” said Cyclops, shaking his head.
“Give him more time, Scott. This is a man who used to do presidential debates,” said Phoenix.
“This is different. This isn’t politics.”
“I don’t know. War, bombs, and innocent casualties are involved. Sounds a lot like politics to me,” said Iceman dryly.
“I share comrade Cyclops’ sentiment. It does not seem that anyone is swayed by the Professor’s words,” said Colossus.
“And I thought it would be easy convincing people to run when every navy on the planet is preparing to attack,” said Shadowcat.
“That’s just it. He’s not telling them to run. He’s not telling them to stay either. These people are looking for an alternative and he’s not giving it to them,” said Cyclops.
“Well if you know one, I’m sure he would be willing to listen,” said Phoenix.
The X-leader fumed silently. He had nothing to offer the X-men this time. He could barely watch, knowing his mentor was as desperate as he was sincere. There was little that he or the X-men could offer at this point and if the smug look on Havok’s face was any indication, the Brotherhood knew it.
“You believe everything has a simple cause and a simple solution. This is not the case. We’re being used! Genosha, the Mutant Liberation Front, and the authorities you so fear…you’re all caught up in a trap! In some ways, I am responsible. It was the incident at this island’s largest Warlock factory that set this into motion. I had no control over the predicament. It took six weeks to sort out and in that time, a lot has changed. As we speak, my X-men are uncovering a plot that has taken us to the brink. Others, such as the Mutant Liberation Front, have used that incident to reignite their reign of terror. Every nation in the world has played into it. That doesn’t mean that you have to as well. Genosha can take a stand! You can join me and my X-men! We don’t ask much. We only ask that you give us a chance. Help us confront the Mutant Liberation Front. Help us find the answers that will take us off the path to war. We cannot do it alone! Together, we can show humanity that mutants are to be embraced rather than feared!”
There was a pause in Xavier’s words. He was short of breath in the muggy air. He looked out towards the vast array of bunkers. He hoped his message was understood. He avoided using details such as aliens and the Shi’ar. If he started blaming aliens, then they would be more inclined to think he was mad. He hoped at least some would stand up and support him. From many of the nearby bunkers, an outcry rang out. However, it was not the response he hoped for.
“PISS OFF, XAVIER! YOU’RE FULL OF IT!”
“THEY’LL NEVER EMBRACE US! LOOK AT US!”
“YOU’RE NOT CRAZY! YOU’RE JUST STUPID! I’VE HEARD ENOUGH!”
The outrage was apparent. It quickly escalated as some mutants started throwing garbage out towards the stage. Professor Xavier did his best to hide his dismay. These poor souls had resided themselves to this conflict. It was a deeply disappointing moment. Peace and understanding just didn’t resonate anymore. His X-men looked up at him saddened, but not surprised. The Brotherhood were just bemused.
“I’d say we can skip the final vote,” taunted Quentin Quere.
“So who gets to say I told you so?” grinned Blob.
“I’m okay with taking turns,” said Quicksilver.
“Don’t rub it in, guys. The man did his best. It just wasn’t close to enough,” said the Scarlet Witch, “I wanted to believe this. Now I know it’s all a farce.”
“Or maybe that blow to the head knocked out your common sense!” said Shadowcat.
“Better watch it, shelia! You’re in the hot seat in case you forgot!” said Pyro.
The Australian mutant intensified his flames, making it so hot that the X-men had to huddle in to avoid it. Without their powers, they had no protection. While Pyro kept the X-men in line, Havok walked up on the stage and grabbed Xavier by the shoulder.
“That’s enough, Xavier. You had your chance. They’re not buying it,” he said flatly.
“They were never even given a chance!” retorted Xavier, “I trusted you to be reasonable, Alex. I don’t think you even tried. Losing Lorna has left you an empty shell.”
“Don’t you dare bring her into this! You don’t understand! You never did!”
“I understand better than you think. That’s how I know you’re making the wrong decision. Even without my telepathy, I can see that you’ve lost all hope and your people will suffer because it.”
The Professor’s words struck deep. Havok’s expression tensed as he hid the pain and anger dwelling within. He was a bit rough with Xavier as he shoved him down the stairs from the stage. He was even rougher when he reached the ring of fire that surrounded his X-men. He forced Xavier onto his knees and stood over him. The rest of the Brotherhood joined him as he stood in triumph over the X-men.
“It doesn’t matter what you think of us, X-men,” said Havok sternly, “We gave you a chance to state your case and you blew it.”
“Some chance,” scoffed Cyclops, “You were never going to listen. You probably rehearsed this scenario at least a hundred times.”
“Shut up, brother! You don’t get to pass judgment this time!” spat Havok.
“Face it, Professor Xavier. Your methods are obsolete. The world changed too much while you were gone,” said the Scarlet Witch, “Now the Brotherhood will be the one to make decisions for our kind. Not the X-men.”
“Lucky for you, we’re not without mercy,” said Havok, “Since you’ll be on our turf when the bombs start going off, we’ll give you shelter. You’ll stay with us under a Warlock bunker and witness the beginning of a new fight.”
“I’d rather be locked in a cell with Toad and no air freshener,” said Iceman.
“I don’t care what you’d rather do! This is bigger than the X-men or the Brotherhood. This is a turning point for every mutant on this planet. Since you can’t fight, you’re going to be witnesses. You and everyone else that thought they could fight our battles for us!”
There was burning intent in the tone of Alex Summers. He put the X-men in the same position he had been in all his life. He made it so they had no power to decide their fate. He and the Brotherhood were prepared to drag them into the bunkers if they had to. This time, they would see just how wrong they were.
Just as the Brotherhood seemed ready to serve Xavier his ultimate humiliation, a strange shadow passed over them from above. Before they could look up, a series of metal blades reigned down and struck in the area between Havok and the Professor.
“Hey Brotherhood! Ready for a little air mail?” said the angry voice of Angel.
“I’m assuming you sods did something to piss me off so we can skip the small talk!” said an equally angry Psylocke, who was riding with Angel in his arms.
The Brotherhood was caught completely off guard. Angel swooped down at them at high speeds, leading with his metal wings and using them to ram Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. This sent them tumbling through the dirt, rendering them stunned. Psylocke rolled off as well, landing right behind Pyro and using her psionic blades to sever the fuel lines in his flame thrower. This caused the flames encircling Professor Xavier and the X-men to fade.
“Crikey! Please tell me we prepared for this!” exclaimed Pyro as his flames sputtered out.
“The X-men pulling a few dirty tricks? Isn’t that given?” said Havok, his frustration boiling over.
“Trust me! You’ve never seen a trick like this!” grinned Angel.
Havok tried to fire off an energy burst to take down Angel before he flew around for another attack. His aim was dead on, but he did not expect Angel to counter it so effectively. Using his wings as a shield, he was able to fully deflect the incoming blast. He directed it right towards Quentin Quere, who was preparing for a telepathic attack.
“I swear your brain will-AUGH!” was all Quentin got out before he was hit.
“Ooh, that’ll give him a hell of headache!” grinned Shadowcat.
“Angel. you couldn’t have picked a better time to dust off the old uniform,” said a jubilant Iceman as he and the others emerged from the dying flames.
“I see you worked some metal into your new attire as well,” commented Colossus.
“What? You think you’re the only one who can use metal to kick ass?” he said with newfound confidence.
Angel flew in lower again, causing Havok to stumble back as he fired another round of energy blasts. This gave Psylocke the room she needed to move in use her psionic blades to skillfully slice off the power-inhibiting collars. She started with Professor Xavier, knowing that having the world’s most powerful psychic back at full strength would be a major advantage. Blob seemed to understand this as well and tried to attack.
“Oh no you don’t! You’re not weaseling out of this, X-men!” roared Blob as he charged the two psychics.
“Professor, do you mind?” said Psylocke dryly, “I can smell his breath from here.”
“Now that their psychic is down, this will be considerably easier,” said the Professor.
Without minimal effort, the Professor used his telepathy to attack the vulnerable mind of Blob. He was ten feet away when his mind gave way. In the middle of his charge his massive body simply went limp. Under Xavier’s psychic influence, he fell fast asleep before he hit the ground.
“Hnn…night mommy,” was all he got out.
“I never get tired of seeing that,” grinned Shadowcat.
“He’s lucky. He can sleep through this. We can’t. So how about freeing us as well?” said Phoenix as she and the others ran up to the Professor.
“Patience, luv. We’re never as screwed as we think we are,” said Psylocke as she went to work cutting off the collars for her teammates.
“That’s an unusually optimistic thing for you to say, Betsy. You feeling alright?” questioned Phoenix.
“Never better!” she replied with an unusually wide grin for the middle of a mission.
Phoenix, Colossus, Iceman, and Shadowcat looked at her strangely. Psylocke carried herself with unusual swagger. It implied that something of a personal, and potentially intimate, nature had transpired since they split up. It was a significant change and one they had little time to question.
While Angel kept Havok busy, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch emerged from their daze with renewed urgency. The X-men had their powers back, but they were still on an island of hostile mutants. This meant they still had the edge.
“Get up, Wanda! The X-men still think they have a chance!” said Quicksilver.
“As if my head hasn’t taken enough punishment,” she groaned, needing a moment longer to gather herself.
“You won’t have to do the heavy lifting this time. We’ve got plenty of volunteers to pick up the slack!” said the speedster.
Quicksilver turned around to face the cloest bunker to the stage. The commotion hadn’t gone unnoticed by the their pepole. Some had already emerged, ready to confront the X-men before they could further threaten their island.
“Attention citizens of Genosha! The X-men have rejected our mercy! So consider this an open decree! If you want a piece of these sorry excuses for mutants, have at it! But make sure they stay alive! They need to experience how wrong they are!”
“SWEET! I ALWAYS WANTED A SHOT AT THE X-MEN!” said one oversized mutant with gray skin.
“DIBS ON X-CHICKS! I KNOW I CAN HANDLE THEM!” said another mutant with scaley skin.
“I’M GOING AFTER XAVIER!” said a female mutant with a feline-like apperance, “I ONCE BOUGHT INTO HIS CRAP! HE NEEDS TO PAY FOR LYING TO HIS KIND!”
Several dozen mutants followed Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in a bold charge against the X-men. Cyclops moved to devend Professor Xavier. He led Phoenix, Shadowcat, Psylocke, Colossus, and Iceman into a devensive position where they prepared to fight back against this mutant onslaught.
“Stand your ground, X-men! Protect the Professor!” said the X-leader as he adjusted his visor.
“Us against an island of angry mutants…finally a fair fight!” grinned Iceman as he formed a fresh ice shell around his body.
“Do we have time for this?” questioned Colossus, now back in his metal form, “They said an attack from the outside is coming. How do we oppose that?”
“One angry army at a time, Petey,” said Shadowcat, who stood close to the Professor so she could protect him with her powers.
The X-men were prepared to fight off the whole island if they had to. The prospect of opposing both them and the naval blockade that was poised to strike was nearly lost on them. They were in survival mode now. As Xavier saw the approaching onslaught, his frustration boiled over. For once, he wasn’t going to be passive in the face of such destruction.
“STOP!” he yelled out, “Enough needless fighting!”
Along with these words, he unleashed a powerful telepathic attack that shot out in every direction. It was so powerful that even the X-men felt it, even though it wasn’t aimed at them. It inundated the minds of Quicksilver, Havok, the Scarlet Witch, and every Genohan citizen within a mile radius of where he was standing. As soon as it struck their minds, the angry mutant mob was paralyzed.
“Ungh! My head!” groaned Quicksilver.
“Damn you, Pietro!” said the scaley-skinned mutant, “Making us attack the world’s most powerful telepath!”
“Damn you Quentin for getting knocked out!” grunted an equally frustrated Scarlet Witch.
Within seconds, the attack had been completely stopped. Some were knocked out cold. Others were just frozen in place. Their brains were still working, but their bodies weren’t responding. It was a punishing, if not disturbing attack from the usually non-combative Charles Xavier.
“Professor, did you just…” said Phoenix, her words trailing off.
“It needed to be done,” he said solemnly.
“Wow…I didn’t know you had it in you,” said Iceman.
“Guess getting your legs back did wonders for your confidence,” said Psylocke.
“Confidence indeed,” said Cyclops, who wasn’t as thrilled by this act.
The Professor sensed their anxious sentiment, but offered no apologies or expansions. He had already crossed this line. Desperate times called for desperate measures and these times couldn’t be more desperate.
“I don’t do this lightly, X-men,” said Professor Xavier as he walked up to the paralyzed Quicksilver, “I simply cannot digest all this fighting. It will be the end of us all. If no one will listen to reason, then we must take greater chances. I can already sense just how bad it has gotten while we were busy with this needless debate.”
The X-men, and the Brotherhood for that matter, had never heard this sort of tone from Charles Xavier. He demonstrated the full force of the world’s most powerful telepath. He made it so Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and everyone else on Genosha couldn’t squander what little time they had left. Having wasted so much, he had to push his mind in order to catch up. There was a vast array of stray thoughts bombarding his mind from all direction. That was usually a sign that something big was about to happen.
With the rest of the Brotherhood subdued, Havok was now the vulnerable one. He was able to evade Xavier’s psychic attack. Like his brother, he had a discipline mind that was hard to attack. Unlike his brother, however, he did not have the tactical skills to take down someone like Angel.
“What the plan here? Beat us up and throw us into President Kelly’s lap?” said Havok as he fired rapid bursts of energy at the winged mutant.
“Do you really think we’re that cruel? We’re not agents of any government. We don’t do this for kicks either,” said Angel as he casually deflected the blasts with his wings.
“Then what are you? Do you even know anymore?” he questioned, “The world hates us! Thanks to the Mutant Liberation Front, they want to wipe us out! There’s nothing you can do about it! The only thing any of us can do is fight back!”
In his outrage Havok unleashed bigger and more concentrated blasts. These blasts were harder to deflect so casually and Angel had to take to the air again. Like a Summers, he was as stubborn as he was determined. No matter how outnumbered he was, he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Havok’s outburst drew Cyclops’s attention. Professor Xavier was still busy sifting through the influx of new telepathic data so he left Colossus, Psylocke, Shadowcat, and Iceman behind to protect him and ran towards his brother. Without Polaris, only his family could help him.
“Scott, don’t! The more you fight your brother, the more he fights back!” urged Phoenix who ran after him.
“I know. That’s why I’m going to try something different,” said the X-leader, “I think you already know what it is.”
Phoenix quickly pieced it together as she caught up with her lover. She didn’t voice any approval or disapproval. She just let him take his chances. At this point, no options were off the table.
Havok grew more aggressive in the battle against Angel. Even while flying through the air at high speeds, the winged mutant found it difficult to avoid the energy blasts. Several hit him in his techno-organic wings, causing him to tumble through the air. He was getting frustrated. Angel was prepared to use less gentle attacks. He flew in lower and formed a series of techno-organic blades at the tips of his wings.
“I was going to do this quick and easy since you’re my friend’s brother. I think he’ll understand me being a bit less careful!” said Angel as he prepared to attack.
“Stand down, Angel! That’s an order!” yelled Cyclops as he reached his brother.
“Don’t listen to him, Angel! It never does you any good!” retorted Havok as he prepared to shoot again, only to be deflected by an optic blast from his brother.
“Damn it, Alex! Enough with the temper tantrum!” said Cyclops, “You’ve made your point. You’re pissed off at the world and want to make everyone respect how much you’ve suffered.”
“Quit trying to feel sorry for me, Scott! This fight is all I have left! You can never understand!”
“I’ve given up trying to understand you, Alex. Just as I’ve given up trying to reason with you,” he said in a calmer tone, “I can’t undo what tore us apart, but I can say you have more than this fight to consider…and it doesn’t involve Lorna either.”
Havok turned his attention away from Angel and prepared to attack his brother. Cyclops didn’t prepare to confront him this time. He just stood calmly, watching as Havok angrily approached.
“What the hell is he thinking? Is he even thinking?” wondered Angel as he landed next to Phoenix.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing,” assured Phoenix, “And so do I.”
Angel remained confused as he watched Havok charge towards Cyclops. His hands glowed brightly as he prepared to strike. Then Cyclops attacked in a way he didn’t expect.
“Dad is alive,” he said.
Havok froze in mid-stride, completely taken aback by what his brother just said. It struck him in a way that he could not ignore.
“What? This…this is not the time to fuck with me, Scott!” yelled Havok.
“I’m dead serious,” said the X-leader, “This isn’t a trick. It’s the truth. Our dad is alive.”
“No! That’s…that’s impossible! I’m not falling for it!”
“I know you won’t take my word for it. I sure wouldn’t if I was in your position. That’s why you need to experience it for yourself.”
Havok remained defensive, but didn’t fight back when Cyclops boldly approached him with Phoenix following closely behind. Everything in his expression implied that this wasn’t some ploy.
“Let me into your mind, Alex. I’ll show you everything,” said Phoenix as she placed her hands on his head.
Havok was unprepared for what happened next. In his shock, his mental defenses faltered and Phoenix was allowed to project a string of vivid memories into his mind. They were memories of the X-men’s adventure with the Shi’ar.
Included in this affair was a grizzled pilot named Corsair. Within those memories, he learned the truth. Corsair was Major Christopher Summers. He experienced Cyclops’s memory as he confronted their father. He heard in his father’s voice how he survived the plane crash, was abducted by the Shi’ar, and spent the next fifteen years in space seeking revenge on the alien tyrant that killed her. He thought his sons were dead just as they thought he was dead. The memory that stood out most was the dog tag that Cyclops uncovered. It confirmed what he didn’t believe at the time. Their father really was alive.
It was a lot of information for Havok to process. He didn’t just learn that his father was alive. He found out why the X-men had disappeared for six weeks and why Genosha’s biggest Warlock factory had been destroyed. Everything he thought he understood came crashing down around him. Overwhelmed with so much new information, Havok fell to his knees.
“No…dad,” he said breathlessly, “How can any of this be real?”
“It’s taken directly from my mind and Scott’s. You know it’s real,” said Phoenix.
“So…he’s really out there? He knows we’re alive?”
“And now you know too,” said Cyclops, “I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, Alex. I’m not afraid to admit that. The question is…can you admit it too? You keep saying I don’t understand. Well in this case…maybe neither of us does.”
Havok’s expression fell in mix of shock and sorrow. For so many years, he fought every one of his battles under a flawed assumption. He thought he knew where he stood in this world. Now nothing he believed fit anymore. His father was alive. The conflict that tore his family apart was much bigger than he ever imagined. It left him so dazed he nearly forgot about the crisis that was still unfolding around him.
By now, Professor Xavier had pieced together their grim predicament. It turned out to be more dangerous than they expected. Both Genosha and the naval blockade surrounding the island were in the middle of an elaborate trap. While everyone had been needlessly speculating, the Mutant Liberation Front put themselves in a terrifyingly position.
“My God! It’s even worse than I suspected. White Cell has used us all!” exclaimed the Professor.
“How can it possibly be worse? Did someone throw a zombie attack into the mix?” groaned Iceman.
“No, not zombies. Nuclear missiles!” said Xavier, “The Mutant Liberation Front is about to launch a nuclear strike on the naval blockade!”
“Wait…isn’t that a good thing?” said Quicksilver, who was still paralyzed.
“In what universe is a nuclear strike ever a good thing?” exclaimed Shadowcat.
“Have you forgotten the very plan that you explained to us?” said Colossus, “You wanted humanity to strike first. If the Mutant Liberation Front does it for you, then it won’t matter what bunker you hide under. You will still be the aggressors. We all will!”
“That’s not even touching on the countless lives that could be lost,” added Xavier.
Now even the Brotherhood was starting to worry. Charles Xavier wasn’t one to put on elaborate ruses. He and the rest of the X-men were dead serious. The Mutant Liberation Front was about to render their entirely plan a bust.
“Damn, now I really want to kill Lance,” groaned Quicksilver.
“Are you sure of this, Xavier?” asked the Scarlet Witch, who was taking this more seriously.
“I just received confirmation,” he replied, “It arrived moments ago and has been looking all over the island for us.”
“Wait…who are you talking about?” asked Iceman in confusion.
The Professor didn’t need to answer. It literally appeared right next to him. From it, Nightcrawler emerged from a puff of smoke. He just received a telepathic message. He understood the urgency of this crisis just as much as the others.
“Kurt! You’re a bit late, but I’m still glad to see you,” said Shadowcat.
“Likewise, mein friends,” he said, “I apologize for not coming sooner. I had a hard time finding you on zhis island fortress.”
“It’s good you arrived when you did. If your distress call was accurate, the Mutant Liberation Front are set to launch their attack from a nuclear submarine,” said Professor Xavier.
“How in the bloody hell did they get a hold of hardware like that?” asked Psylocke.
“It’s a long story, but let’s just say ve found some vell-connected people in Milan.”
“Let’s live in a crazy universe for a second and assume we believe you. How long until they launch?” asked Quicksilver intently.
The speedster was once again humbled when the weak echo of a sonic boom reverberated in the distance. The X-men, the Brotherhood, and every Genosha citizen not paralyzed by Xavier’s attack noticed it. They turned towards the sea to the south where they saw the distinct plumes of exhaust rising from the horizon. In front of these plumes were the distinct flares of rocket exhaust. The Mutant Liberation Front had launched the attack and the missles were arcing towards the naval blockade. Since they were so close to the island, they were probably going to get caught in the blast zone.
“Still haven’t learned when to keep your mouth shut. Eh Quicksilver?” groaned Iceman.
“Shut up!” said the speedster, “Xavier, release us this instant! We need to get inside the bunkers and seal them!”
“I got a better idea. Why don’t we just stop the damn things?” said Psylocke.
“Are you X-men really that deluded? Since when did stopping nuclear missiles become easy?”
“No, she’s right! We can stop them,” said Xavier as he looked out at the missiles.
“They’re miles away, going super fast, and I can’t fly. So what in that bald head of yours thinks it’s physically possible?”
“Not to be rude, Herr Pietro. But you’re talking to someone who recently had his teleportation powers upgraded,” said Nightcrawler, “If I can get here from Italy, I can get us to zhose missiles. I even have Frenzy’s little toy to track zhem vith!”
Nightcrawler held up the handheld device in a show of confidence. He was ready to make his move and none of the X-men bothered to argue. There was no time for debate. The missiles were flying. They had to be stopped. Even the Brotherhood agreed with this. It led the Scarlet Witch to make a fateful choice.
“Do you X-men really think you can stop this?” she questioned.
“You’ve seen us defy the odds before, Wanda. Is this really that different?” said Iceman.
“So long as Nightcrawler can get there, we have a chance!” said Xavier, showing his confidence in the German mutant.
“Then take me with you!” said the Scarlet Witch strongly, “I can improve the odds. With my powers, I can turn every missile into duds.”
This request surprised the X-men and Quicksilver for that matter. Even though he was still paralyzed, the speedster was able to express his disapproval.
“Wanda…I know you usually belittle me for bone-headed decisions, but this is downright hypocrisy!” he said to her.
“I thought the X-men betrayed us, Pietro. Now I know we’ve betrayed ourselves,” she said solemnly, “Guilt by association is every bit as bad as guilt. We’ll only hurt our kind by hiding and accepting our fate.”
“Then it’s settled,” said Xavier, not needing any further reasons, “If Wanda feels compelled to help, then by all means.”
“We’re accepting help from the Brotherhood again?” sighed Iceman, “For once, I have no jokes for that.”
None of the X-men opposed Professor Xavier’s decision as he released his telepathic hold on Wanda Maximoff. Upon being released from her paralysis, she shook off the stiffness and approached Nightcrawler in preparation for departure. They had a perilous task ahead of them. They had to thwart a nuclear nightmare that would do serious damage to humans and mutants alike.
“Exactly how many missiles must you stop?” asked Colossus.
“According to zhe data Beast just sent, eight,” said Nightcrawler, “Zhe Mutant Liberation Front probably has more at zheir disposal.”
“Then once we stop them, we need to find them,” said the Scarlet Witch, “I’d love to have word with them…one that will hurt!”
“I’ll be more zhan happy to share some vords of my own,” said Nightcrawler as he firmly grasped her arms.
“Try to capture them if possible. If not, do what needs to be done,” said Professor Xavier, “Good luck.”
“Danke, Herr Professor,” said Nightcrawler confidently, “Start catching your breath. Zhis vill be over soon enough.”
He had all the determination that the son of Mystique and Azazel could muster. Even though he hadn’t been part of the X-men for a while, he carried himself with the same poise. Shadowcat, Psylocke, Iceman, Colossus, and Professor Xavier watched as he and the Scarlet Witch disappeared in a sharp puff of smoke. The end of this conflict was near and already the daunting aftermath loomed heavily.
Professor Xavier kept Quicksilver, the Brotherhood, and a hanful of aggressive Genoshans at bay with his powers. All they could do now was watch. This dramatic turn of events was witnessed by Havok as well. Cyclops, Phoenix, and Angel lingered near him. He was still reeling from the revelation about his father. Between this and the complete dissolution of his original plan, Alex Summers faced many unpleasant truths. He also faced a decision that he hoped he wouldn't have to make.
“Even if they succeed, it’s over,” mused Havok, still on his knees, “The Mutant Liberation Front has gone too far. There’s no going back.”
“You’re not the psychic here, Alex. Don’t start predicting the future when you’ve just been gut-punched by the past,” said Phoenix.
“Listen to my better half, Alex,” urged Cyclops, “The X-men can work with Genosha again. You heard what Kurt said. We have information that proves there was a conspiracy at work! We can use that to salvage some sanity from this nonsense!”
“No Scott. We cannot,” said Havok flatly, “Humanity has had enough of this and so have I. This is a fight neither of us can win. Our only hope is to change the rules. Humanity won’t do it so I will.”
Off The Coast of Genosha
The Mutant Liberation Front was already cheering victoriously. Everything went according to plan. Their earlier attacks got humanity riled up again. White Cell got them on board a nuclear submarine. They then made their way to Genosha, picking up the launch codes from their secret allies along the way.
Now they had launched their first and most important round of attacks. Eight tactical nuclear missiles had been launched, each armed with a ten megaton warhead. They were strategically aimed to strike at the nearby naval blockade. When they went off, a ring of mushroom clouds would rise up around Genosha. It would usher in a new era of liberation for all mutant-kind.
To celebrate this moment, the Mutant Liberation Front had assembled on the deck of the nuclear submarine. Stryfe, Avalanche, Vertigo, Arclight, Callisto, Caliban, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead all watched as the missiles ascended into the skies above along a trail of rocket thrust. They had to surface in order to launch the missiles. It was the only way they could receive the launch codes from White Cell. It really didn’t matter if they were detected at this point. Once those missiles went off, no one would be able to stop them.
“Take in the moment, my fellow liberators.” proclaimed Stryfe, “Enjoy some fireworks while you’re at it!”
“You sure we’re a safe distance from the blast?” asked Vertigo, “Never thought I’d say this about humans, but eighty megatons of explosion seems like overkill.”
“Oh stop being such a bitch for just one minute and enjoy the moment!” said Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
“I’ve learned to never celebrate prematurely,” said Vertigo, “Until those bombs go off, I won’t call this a success.”
“Even if they don’t, we still have plenty more at our disposal,” said Avalanche.
“That’s almost the right attitude, Avalanche,” said Stryfe, still fixated on the missiles, “Personally, I would rather we not have to. The humans probably know of our presence by now. Launching three eight nuclear missiles is kind of hard to hide.”
“Is there a chance they could hit us back?” asked Callisto.
“It’s a remote chance at best. It’ll be impossible once our nuclear gifts are delivered. This is meant to be a knock-out blow. Even if the world knows our exact location after this, it won’t matter! We will still have won!”
The wait was agonizing as the Mutant Liberation Front watched the calm waters in the distance. The humans had to know by now that they were in trouble. Soon they would know that their time of dominance and oppression had passed. A liberated mutant race was poised to take over.
Stryfe’s assumption about their presence proved correct. Hundreds of modern warships were anchored off the coast of Genosha. They came from dozens of countries from nearly every continent. They were all capable of detecting a missile launch from afar. As soon as the eight nuclear warheads rose up from the sea, every major ship went on high alert.
“Attention all ship personnel! We have a code five! I repeat, we have a code five! Incoming enemy missiles have been detected! T-minus five minutes to impact!” blared an intercom over a United States Aircraft Carrier.
“We have incoming! Two missiles are heading for our coordinates! Man every missile defense we have!” exclaimed the commander of a German destroyer over an intercom.
“A rogue vessel has appeared fifty miles from shore! It has launched an attack and it’s coming right towards us!” said a high-ranking officer aboard a Chinese battleship.
“All readings indicate this is a nuclear submarine! Could those missiles have nuclear warheads?” pondered an admiral aboard a Russian cruiser.
“If this attack is nuclear, we cannot flee! Get this ship moving and tell everyone to brace for impact!” ordered the commander of an Indian gunship.
Sirens were going out everywhere. Every navy was implementing the emergency protocols they hoped to never use. There was widespread confusion. Where had this ship come from? Why was it firing at the blockade and not Genosha? There was little time for answers so everyone assumed the worst. If this attack was as ominous as it seemed, there was no outrunning it.
By now, the cluster of eight missiles had broken off and followed their designated coordinates. They all branched out in groups of two. Each group soared towards a specific side of the island. When they hit, they would strike the north, south, east, and west areas simultaneously. Together, they would create a massive nuclear blast that would ensure no ship could possibly survive.
The missiles had just arched over and started descending towards their target. Gravity would guide them the rest of the way. It was at this point where Nightcrawler and the Scarlet Witch appeared over the chaotic scene. Nightcrawler had them emerge a few hundred feet over the highest point in the missile trajectory. As soon as the smoke cleared, they started falling. Nightcrawler clung to the device they got from Frenzy while the Scarlet Witch clung to him.
“Are you ready for zhis, Vanda?” yelled Nightcrawler over the howling winds.
“I’m here. Does it matter at this point?” she said as they fell towards the missile.
“I’m going to appear over each of zhem one-by-one,” he explained, “You’ll have to hex fast because I’m not used to zhis kind of teleporting!”
“Don’t bother being careful. I’m perfectly comfortable taking big risks!”
Assuming Nightcrawler would be as reckless as she needed him to, the Scarlet Witch summoned the full force of her hexing abilities. She directed it at the nearby missile, focusing on the nose where the warheads were located. Her eyes flashed purple as she tried to concentrate over the high winds and blistering cold. They fell within a few hundred feet of the missile when her hexing caused the nose to break off and fall away.
“That’s one down!” she said as they fell past it.
“Are you sure zhe warhead vill not detonate?” asked Nightcrawler.
“Trust me! The odds are in our favor! Now get me to the others!”
The German mutant had to place a lot of trust in the Scarlet Witch. He hadn’t forgotten that she was part of the Brotherhood. However, she had to trust him as well. He was the only one that could get her to each missile in time. So with this mutual trust in place, they proceeded with this bold, but risky move.
In rapid succession Nightcrawler teleported the Scarlet Witch to the next four missiles. In each case, she succeeded in disabling them. Her hex bolts caused the nose to break off, sometimes violently. This seemed to disable the warheads, but at one point the nose nearly hit them. The danger went up as the missiles gained speed. They were more than halfway to their targets and could still do plenty of damage.
“Zhis is vhere it gets dangerous!” said Nightcrawler as he watched the missiles pick up speed, “I’m going to have to teleport us into zhe path of zhe missile. You’ll have to hex it a lot faster!”
“I can handle it!” she assured him, “I used to play chicken with my brother with freight trains!”
“Did you win often?”
“He had speed. I had luck. Let’s just say we always kept up!”
It sounded like Nightcrawler would have to keep up as well. He was going to have to place himself in the line of fire until the last possible second. Taking a deep breath, he looked at the device to get the position of each missile. Then he teleported again, ready to push his nerves to their limit.
They appeared in front of the first missile just as one of the boosters broke off. This allowed the warhead to accelerate to even greater speeds. Nightcrawler made sure they were falling directly in line with the missile. His ability to judge distances and speeds was critical.
For a moment it looked like the warhead would blow right past them. Then the Scarlet Witch hit it with a hex bolt, causing the warhead to sputter out of control. They repeated this maneuver for the next missile. This one was going even faster and Nightcrawler had to cut it pretty closely. Once again, the Scarlet Witch demonstrated remarkable aim with her powers. The warheads veered off course, letting out a trail of smoke as it sputtered towards the waters below.
“Keep going! Just one more left!” urged the Scarlet Witch.
“Zhis one vill cut it very close!” seethed Nightcrawler.
Using his powers, Nightcrawler teleported them again. By now they had been falling for so long it was a bit disorienting. They managed to maintain their focus. With the last missile nearing its target, they appeared right in its path. It was going so fast that the aircraft carrier it was targeting was in plain sight. Just as before, Nightcrawler timed their descent perfectly. This was going to be the closet one yet.
“Hold out just a bit longer, Nightcrawler! I’ve got this!” said the Scarlet Witch as she watched the approaching warhead.
“I hope so. Otherwise ve’ll do nothing but stain zhe paint!” said Nightcrawler.
“Don’t hope! Just trust me! Do not teleport me away until I finish this!”
“Is zhat an order or a request?”
“Neither! I’m assuming you have faith in me!” she said.
Nightcrawler was used to have his faith tested, but not like this. Staring down the incoming warhead, he swallowed every last reservation and braced himself. She clung to him even harder as she prepared her last attack. Her nails dug into his shoulders as her eyes glowed brighter with purple hexing energy. The German mutant fought his instinct to teleport away. This warhead could go off at any second. Even the personnel on the aircraft carrier could see it coming and were running for cover.
“It’s going to hit! Everybody run for cover!” blared an announcement.
They were nearing the point of no return. Nightcrawler was tempted to close his eyes, but stayed focus despite his every inclination to get away from the danger. The Scarlet Witch was still aiming, knowing she had to make this shot count. It was going so fast that it was hard to make out from the trail of rocket exhaust. It would only be in range for a fraction of a second. The timing couldn’t be off by any degree.
“Wait for it,” said the Scarlet Witch, trying to focus through the howling winds, “Don’t teleport until I say!”
“I’m all ears, Vanda!” said Nightcrawler.
They cold air kept falling around them. Just when it looked like the warhead was about to fly past them, she fired her hex bolt. As soon as it struck, the warheads tumbled through the air and the components inside sparked erratically.
“NOW!” exclaimed the Scarlet Witch.
Nightcrawler did so without hesitation. They disappeared in a puff of smoke just as the warheads flew by where they would have been. Seconds later, the now disabled warheads flew right over the deck of the aircraft carrier and crashed into the ocean. Some on the ship were still expecting a detonation, but it never came. It took a moment to sink in. Every ship in the naval blockade was expecting to be annihilated within seconds. Now it seemed the threat had passed.
“Um…isn’t this the part where our eyes melt and our skin burns off?” wondered one sailor still on the flight deck.
“I think it was a dud,” said another.
“All eight of them?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care!” said one of the captains, “Get in touch with high command! Let’s see if we still have a shot at the assholes who launched the damn things!”
While the various crews aboard the ships scrambled for answers, Nightcrawler and the Scarlet Witch appeared several thousand feet in the sky just over the south end of the island. Seeing no nuclear explosions, they assumed they had succeeded. They could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The worst of this crisis appeared to be over.
“Ve did it, Vanda! Zhe missiles are all disabled!” proclaimed Nightcrawler.
“That’s great! Now can we please stop falling? My face is getting numb!” said the Scarlet Witch.
“Certainly, but ve’re not done yet! Ve have one last target!”
“What do you mean? Didn’t you say there were only eight missiles?” she asked.
“Zhere vere!” he said, “However, zhis device did more zhan just track zhem. It triangulated zhe source as well. I zhink you know vhat that means!”
Despite the howling winds, the Scarlet Witch felt a new determination. Her people had been put in great danger. She and the rest of the Brotherhood had been tricked. That gave her more than enough reasons to go after those responsible. If this led her directly to the Mutant Liberation Front, then it was even more personal. These were the same monsters that took her half-sister from her. They had to pay for all the pain they caused.
Nightcrawler didn’t wait for the Scarlet Witch to give her approval. He could already tell that she was determined to finish this mission. While still falling at high speeds, he looked over the device and brought up the coordinates for the nuclear submarine that launched those missiles.
“Get ready for a splash landing. Zhen get ready to attack!” he told her, “By now zhe Mutant Liberation Front has figured out zhat something vent wrong. Zhey’ll try to run or launch another attack.”
“They won’t do either. I’ll see to that!” said the Scarlet Witch intently.
Meanwhile – Capital City
As the two mutants disappeared in a puff of smoke, the Mutant Liberation Front watched as the fireworks they were promised never transpired. It was hard to see from the distance, but after a few minutes passed and there was no mushroom cloud they began to panic. This was supposed to be their moment of triumph. Now it was becoming increasingly uncertain.
“I’m not a nuclear expert by any stretch, but shouldn’t those bombs have gone off by now?” asked Callisto.
“Perhaps the launch codes were incorrect?” suggested Caliban.
“No! The codes were right. The missiles wouldn’t have even launched if they were wrong,” said Stryfe grimly.
“So let’s just launch a few more,” shrugged Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
“Do we even have time?” said Vertigo anxiously.
“I doubt it!” said Avalanche, “Everybody probably knows we’re here by now. We may be able to evade them if we run!”
“And go where?” questioned Arclight, “This is supposed to be our last stand!”
“We still have a sub and a bunch of nuclear weapons. We should hold onto what we have or we’ll run the risk of losing everything.”
Panic was setting in. Stryfe sensed the discontent and for once, it wasn’t a result of his powers. Avalanche was right. By having to surface in order to fire the missiles, they exposed their position. That meant the naval blockade and the rest of Genosha was probably aware of their presence. If they stuck around to launch another missile, they may not get it off in time.
It was a frustrating development. He planned so meticulously for this. Something unforeseen had occurred. If today wasn’t going to be their day of triumph, then their best bet was to save their efforts for tomorrow.
“For the record, I don’t run from battles,” said Stryfe, “However, we’re literally standing atop a nuclear arsenal. We still have plenty of tools with which to liberator our people.”
“Does this mean we can get back inside and get this overgrown turd moving?” said Avalanche, who was already making his way towards the hatch.
Some of the others were already following his lead. They saw plenty of reason to retreat as well. They were just starting to move with urgency when a puff of smoke appeared right in front of the main hatch. From it, a dripping wet Nightcrawler and Scarlet Witch emerged. Having landed in the water nearby, they were not about to let the Mutant Liberation Front slip by again.
“You’re not going anywhere, Lance! You can never run from betrayal!” yelled the Scarlet Witch, her eyes already glowing with purplish hex energy.
“Oh fuck…” groaned Avalanche, paling at the sight of an angry Wanda Maximoff.
“Take them down! Do it quickly!” yelled Stryfe.
“On it!” said Vertigo.
The Scarlet Witch didn’t bother coordinating with Nightcrawler. She ran right after Avalanche. He was largely responsible for what happened to Lorna. He had to suffer for his betrayal. She was so intent on striking him that she didn’t even try to avoid Vertigo’s disorienting vertigo rays. Nightcrawler teleported away before it struck. The Scarlet Witch ran right into him and was overcome with neausea. However, her focused rage towards Avalanche allowed her to fight it. While she couldn’t concentrate enough to fire her hex bolts, she could still move forward.
“It’s not working, Vertigo! Make it stronger!” urged Avalanche as he stammered back.
“I can’t help it…if she hates you that much. Can’t say…I blame her,” grunted Vertigo as she stepped up the intensity of her attack.
The Scarlet Witch was hit with more disorienting waves. She remained on her feet and determined. They were not escaping her vengeance.
An angry Scarlet Witch was a daunting obstacle. Stryfe, Arclight, Calliso, Caliban, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead were content to move around her. The only one standing in their way now was Nightcrawler. He appeared in front of them, ready to take them on despite being overpowered and outnumbered.
“I strongly advise you stick around a bit longer,” said Nightcrawler in a menacing tone.
“I take it you’re the one who stopped those missiles?” questioned Caliban.
“It vas a coordinated effort,” he boated, “Between zhe X-men and your less-than-professional allies.”
“So White Cell screwed us over. I wish I could say I’m surprised,” muttered Callisto.
“Spare me the second guessing!” barked Stryfe, “However he thwarted our attack, we can still make him wish he hadn’t!”
“That means you had best get out of the way, X-man! You can’t take us all on!” said Arclight, who had already charged her fist with energy.
The Mutant Liberation Front prepared to attack the German mutant. Nightcrawler had already determined how he was going to respond. With a sneaky grin that would have made his father proud, he teleported again. This time he appeared right behind Negasonic Teenage Warhead. The young psychic was caught off guard, which was quite a feat for her. With his agility, he pulled her into a choke hold.
“Ack! Get off me!” grunted Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
“You’ve been trying to probe my mind. My father taught me better zhan zhat,” he told her, “He also taught me zhis!”
Nightcrawler teleported again before Stryfe, Callisto, Caliban, or Arclight could respond. He appeared about eight feet over Vertigo and Avalance. He quickly released his grip on her and teleported away, allowing the young psychic to fall right into the path of Vertigo’s neasuea wave. It affected her immediately, causing her to vomit within seconds. This disgusted Avalanche while throwing off Vertigo.
“Ugh! Huuuaaahhhhhhh!” heaved the young psychic, spewing reddish chunks all over the deck.
“Ooh, that’s nasty!” exclaimed Avalanche.
“Zhat’s also your psychic,” reminded Nightcrawler as he appeared right behind him and Vertigo, “You’re running out of vays to protect yourself.”
“And I’ve got a stronger stomach! That means you’re out of time…and out of luck!” grunted the Scarlet Witch, now coherent enough to launch a hex attack.
Stryfe’s gaze narrowed on the two determined mutants. With every passing moment, the Mutant Liberation Front became more vulnerable. They couldn’t afford to draw this fight out. They needed to escape with their hopes of liberation intact.
“Arclight! Callisto! Somebody get these annoying pests out of our way!” yelled Stryfe.
“You always gotta get others to fight your battles, don’t you?” scoffed Callisto.
“Bust his balls later! If the Mutant Liberation Front is going down, I’m not going along for the ride!” said Arclight, her hand now glowing brighter.
The Scarlet Witch was about to unleash her hex attack at Avalanche, who at this point had stumbled back towards Stryfe. With Vertigo helping Negasonic Teenage Warhead, it was up to Arclight to throw some much needed firepower at their enemies. She charged in form behind Stryfe, leading with her glowing hand. The Scarlet Witch didn’t even try to avoid her. She had built up a ball of purplish hex energy between her hands and was prepared to unleash it. The only one who seemed to notice the danger was Nightcrawler.
“Vanda don’t!” he yelled out.
She still didn’t listen. She unleashed her hex attack just as Arclight slammed her fist into the deck of the submarine. When the two powerful energies mixed, the result were explosive. A wave of shock ripped through the submarine, causing its hard metal skin to warp and rupture. It was so violent that the whole vessel buckled, effectively crippling it and allowing water to gush inside.
“ARCLIGHT YOU FOOL!” exclaimed Stryfe angrily.
“SHUT UP AND ABANDON SHIP, YOU ARROGANT JACKASS!” yelled Callisto.
Stryfe tumbled into the rough waters along with Callisto and Caliban. Vertigo and Negasonic Teenage Warhead soon followed, slipping off as the deck became unstable. Even as the vessel twisted and rocked, the Scarlet Witch tried to strike back at Avalanche. He and Arclight had been knocked back by the blast and were barely conscious on the far end of the submarine.
“You have nowhere left to run, Avalanche! This is for my sister!” she proclaimed as she prepared another hex bolt.
However, she never got the chance to launch it. A series of violent explosions shot up through the submarine. Gas lines were ripped as more parts of the submarine tore open. This violent rumble threw the Scarlet Witch off the deck. It threw her so violently that she spalshed down in the water a good twenty feet away from the vessel.
“Vanda!” exclaimed Nightcrawler.
The German mutant struggled to keep his balance. He had to teleport back to a more stable part of the submarine. At this point, the vessel was caving in on itself. Both the bow and the stern were elevated at an angle. More parts of the submarine ruptured with each passing second. Nightcrawler watched anxiously as the Scarlet Witch splashed down in the choppy waters. Then he turned back towards the Mutant Liberation Front where he was left with a difficult decision.
On the other side of the ship, Avalanche pulled himself togther despite a nasty wound on his head. Vertigo was coming to as well. He saw what happened to the Scarlet Witch as well. He could see Nightcrawler hesitating. This was where being a hero had its flaws.
“We know how this works, Nightcrawler!” Avalanche yelled out, “What are you going to do? Come after us or save Magneto’s daughter? When I put it like that I’m sure it sounds harder. But that’s the point, isn’t it?”
Nightcrawler’s gaze narrowed on Avalanche. He knew the decision he was going to make. It wasn’t as hard as his adversary made it out to be.
“By saving her, I’ll only make it worse for you,” replied Nightcrawler, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a win for both of us!”
The German mutant disappeared in a puff of smoke before he could see Avalanche pale at such a thought. Even if he somehow got away, he would still have to content with an angry Scarlet Witch at some point. It was not a pleasant thought. There were few viable alternatives. Survival was his only viable option. Sooner or later, he wouldn’t be able to avoid what the Mutant Liberation Front created.
Avalanche and the rest of the Mutant Liberation Front quickly distanced themselves from the crumbling nuclear submarine. Nightcrawler didn’t look back as he appeared about twenty feet away from the wrecked submarine. He landed in the choppy waters with a splash, avoiding some debris in the process. He saw the Scarlet Witch floating up ahead, looking dazed and partially conscious. Nightcrawler swam over to her as quickly as he could. When he reached her. He turned her over so she wasn’t face down in the water. He then swam her to a floating piece of debris and used it to support her.
The Scarlet Witch coughed up seawater as she fought to regain her sense of awareness. Her ears were still ringing from the blast her right arm was killing her. She landed in the water awkwardly, partially dislocating her shoulder in the process. She was still able to make out Nightcrawler’s presence as he held her up.
“Hnn…why did you save me? You…you should have gone after Avalanche,” she groaned through the pain.
“And let you drown? I’m sorry you don’t value your life as much as I do, Vanda,” said Nightcrawler.
“That’s rich. An X-man valuing the life of me…Magneto’s daughther,” she scoffed.
“You trusted me to get you to those missiles. I trusted you to take zhem out. I don’t take zhat sort of trust lightly. I hope you don’t either.”
The Scarlet Witch was surprised that someone like him could trust her so much. She reminded herself in her dazed state the two of them accomplished something amazing with their combined efforts. None of it would have been possible if they hadn’t come through for one another. He didn’t just see her as Magneto’s daughter. In that sense she couldn’t be too upset with him for not going after the Mutant Liberation Front. They still succeeded in the ways that mattered.
“Hold on,” he told her, “I’ll teleport you back to zhe island. You’ll need some medical attention and ve’ll need to tell zhe others…”
Before Nightcrawler could finish, he and the Scarlet Witch were interrupted by an unexpected sight. This time it came from Genosha. In the distance they could still see the island. They could also see a mysterious column of yellow light rising up from the shores. It was so bright that it pierced right through the clouds in the sky. It didn’t have the destructive appearance of a nuclear attack, but something big was unfolding.
The Scarlet Witch recognized it immediately. Even in her wounded state, she gasped at this ominous sight. It signaled to her and to every other mutant on Genosha that an era had ended.
“Mein Gott! Vanda, vhat is happening?” asked Nightcrawler anxiously.
“Alex…you actually did it,” she said distantly, “You’ve sent our kind back to square one.”
White House – Situation Room
“Someone talk to me! I need answers people and not the kind that involve mushroom clouds!” yelled an agitated President Kelly.
“We’re trying to figure it out, Mr. President,” said his Joint Chief of the Navy, “I’m getting mixed reports from our ships in the blockade.”
“I’m getting the same babble from our contacts in every other country,” said the Secretary of State, “They’re as clueless as we are!=. They don’t know whether to be relieved, pissed off, or both.”
“But we know those missiles launched. NORAD confirmed it!” said the Secretary of Defense.
“Apparently something changed,” said General Grimshaw, “Since we’ve seen no signs of a nuclear explosion, I think we should take that as a good sign and calm down.”
The very concept of being calm seemed alien to them. The crisis with Genosha and the Mutant Liberation Front was changing by the second. President Kelly, his advisors, the Joint Chiefs, General Grimshaw, and every major officer were scrambling for answers. For a moment it looked like the worst of all possibilities had occurred. Eight nuclear missiles were heading towards the naval blockade. Then seemingly out of nowhere, the attack failed.
The President was still hunched over the conference table with his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. His aid with the so-called nuclear football was with him. They opened it up the moment they got confirmation that missiles had been launched. While they mulled over their next move, General Grimshaw and Captain Freeman coordinated with the Joint Chiefs over several conference phones.
They were linked up to the Pentagon and all their major defense networks. They had NORAD on one line, their commanders form the naval blockade on the other, and a NATO line linked in with the international portion of the blockade. New information was pouring in and they were struggling to make sense of it. The threat of a nuclear holocaust seemed to passed, but other daunting threats still loomed.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” groaned President Kelly, “So they go through the trouble of stealing a nuclear submarine and launch a nuclear missile attack only to have it fail?”
“I doubt the missiles failed, sir,” said the Secretary of Defense, “We spend a lot of money making sure triadant missiles don’t fail after they’re launched.”
“So what stopped them?” asked the Secretary of State, “Was it someone on Genosha?”
“Not likely,” scoffed President Kelly, “They have way too much to gain from the naval blockade being blown to hell.”
“That doesn’t mean they weren’t cooperating with the Mutant Liberation Front,” said the Secretary of Defense, “We confirmed that they were the ones that hijacked the submarine. They were the ones that orchastrated it.”
“Although how they were able to do so and obtain the launch codes is still unclear,” said the Secretary of State.
“I’m willing to chalk it up dumb luck. I’m more interested in what’s going on right now,” said President Kelly, “I’ve got a six-inch stack of potential responses. I need the right information if I’m going to make a semi-rational decision!”
The President was getting restless. With each moment that ticked by, the threat of additional attacks grew. However the first attack was thwarted, no one was assuming they would be that lucky again. They needed to make some kind of response and it needed to happen five minutes ago.
General Grimshaw kept working with the Joint Chiefs, demonstrating his calmness under pressure despite his earlier outrage. It was his way of showing that they made a mistake by keeping him out of the loop earlier. He was constantly on the phone with various officials, taking in the intel as it flowed in. He was on the line with one of his contacts at the MSA when a startling message came in from Genosha.
“Put whoever you’re talking to on hold, people. I just got confirmation that the nuclear submarine was destroyed,” announced General Grimshaw, “One of our cruisers and a French destroyer just passed by the wreckage. They confirmed that no further missiles were launched.”
“I was getting a similar report from the Japanese,” said the Joint Chief of the Navy, “They’re coordinating with the British to surround the area.”
“So no more nuclear threats. I can finally have a heart attack in peace,” sighed President Kelly, “Any idea why a multi-billion dollar sub ended up destroyed?”
“For the same reason that the missiles never went off,” said the General, “The X-men.”
“Hold on, General! We can’t confirm it was them,” said the Joint Chief of the Air Force.
“You don’t need to,” scoffed Captain Freeman, “Honestly, who else could pull off something that impossible?”
It was a begruding notion, but it made sense. Professor Xavier and the X-men were understood to be on Genosha. While their negotiations seemed to be fruitless, they were likely responsible for stopping those missiles. After being so untrusting of them for being MIA for six weeks, it was now clear that they hadn’t lost their heroic touch.
“I’m getting some more reports from the NATO,” said the Joint Chief of the Navy, “Our ships have picked up some operatives from the Mutant Liberation Front.”
“How many?” asked President Kelly.
“Four…no wait, five!” he replied, “We got Callisto, Caliban, Vertigo, Arclight, and this Negasonic mutant that they had a tough time knocking out.”
“Is that all of them?” asked the Secretary of Defense.
“No, they’re still missing their ring-leader, Stryfe,” said General Grimshaw, “We’ll need to coordinate a wider search in order to…”
The General’s words quickly trailed off. He still had his phone to his ear, listening in on reports from the MSA. A new round of information was coming in and this was even more startling. It was also disturbing in an entirely new way. He looked over to the Joint Chiefs. They appeared to be getting the news as well because their faces went pale. They were just as perplexed and distressed.
“What is it now?” groaned President Kelly, “I know that look. Something just went horribly wrong, didn’t it?”
“I uh…don’t know if that’s how I would classify it, Mr. President,” said the Joint Chief of the Army who was also on the phone.
“We’re getting some strange calls from our carrier group closest to Genosha,” said the Joint Chief of the Navy, “They’re reporting a strange anomoly that they can’t quite describe with words.”
“Well try to ad lib it! What’s happening?” exclaimed the President.
“It’s Genosha, sir,” said General Grimshaw flatly, “The MSA is picking up some bizarre energy readings. They’re scattered all over the island. Or at least they were.”
“Is it hostile? Is Maximoff or that Summers kid making a move?”
“Well if my people at the Pentagon are coherent and sober, the entire population of Genosha just…disappeared.”
“Disappeared? What the hell does that mean?” exclaimed the Secretary of Defense.
“It means exactly what you think it means,” said Grimshaw, his expression wrought with a new anxiety, “They definitely made a move alright. I think it’s the kind of move that will start a whole new crisis.”
Genosha – Earlier
All eyes were on Alex Summers. Many watched as the missiles from the nuclear submarine rose up from the horizon. They braced themselves for the worst, but it never came. There was no nuclear explosion. The Mutant Liberation Front had been thwarted and Genosha had been saved.
However, Havok didn’t see it this way. As he looked out at the elaborate bunkers and the anxious mutants hiding within them, he came to a painful conclusion.
“It’ll never end,” he mused, “Mutants can’t have their own nation. It just creates an endless cycle of paranoia and conflict. By standing united, we scare humanity more than we already do.”
“I’m inclined to share some of that fear. Where the hell is this coming from, Alex? I know you’ve got something up your sleeve!” said Quicksilver, still paralyzed from Professor Xavier’s psychic attack.
“He does,” affirmed an equally suspicious Cyclops, “You never go into a fight without an escape plan. Usually those plans are pretty elaborate so I don’t like where this is going.”
“Neither do I,” said Alex solemnly, “But we’ve made this fight too political. We’ve crossed too many lines. We stared down humanity to a point where they’ll never trust us as a nation, let alone a species. This island has become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with mutants. The only way to set things right is to take it out of the equation.”
“Since I’m the one with the big mouth, I’ll say it. How do you plan to do that?” questioned Iceman, dreading the response.
Professor Xavier watched vigilantly while Colossus, Shadowcat, Iceman, and Psylocke stood by him defensively. His mind was still focused on keeping Quicksilver and the unruly Genosha mob at bay. Blob, Pyro, and Quentin were still unconscious with Quentin starting to stir. Cyclops, Phoenix, and Angel stayed close to Havok. There was no telling what he may do or how destructive it may be. If the look on his face was any indication, it was bound to be extreme.
Despite all the harsh gazes, Havok remained calm. He showed no fear or anxiety as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, black device that had the distinct yellow-on-black pattern of a Warlock device. When Quicksilver saw it, he recognized it and was flushed with shock.
“Damn it, Alex! That better not be what I think it is!” yelled the speedster.
“You aren’t the only one who read over Magneto’s old notes. He was smart enough to understand that Warlock was too dangerous to not have a failsafe,” he stated as he gripped the device, “I called up an old friend of mine and he did a little tweaking. It will ensure that mutants everywhere will still have a fighting chance.”
“You’ve blocked off your mind, Alex. I implore you to reconsider what you’re about to do!” urged Professor Xavier.
“We already avoided a barrage of nuclear blasts! Do we really need another?” groaned Shadowcat.
“This isn’t a nuclear blast or even a blast for that matter,” said Havok, “It was described to me as some mass quantum physics jargon that I can’t begin to understand.”
“That sounds just as bad as a bomb,” dreaded Angel.
“I don’t think you fully understand what you’re doing, Alex!” said Cyclops.
“I understand the part that matters, Scott. This will take the target off our people. Where we go from there is something we’ll all have to figure out. It’ll be dangerous and difficult. But as dad once said, hardest moves to make are often most necessary.”
At this point, Cyclops had heard enough. He was convinced that his brother was about to make a mistake. So he lunged towards his wayward brother with every intent of wrestling that device out of his hand. Phoenix was in position to use her telekinesis as well. Even Angel stood ready to act. None of them would get the chance. Havok held up the device and pushed the button, sending everybody down a path from which they could not return.
“Alex don’t!” yelled Cyclops.
“I already have, brother. Believe me this time when I say…I’m sorry,” he said flatly.
“Here we go again,” groaned Iceman.
What happened next spanned every corner of the island. It began on the dozens of Warlock bunkers that now housed nearly every mutant on the island. The techno-organic material shifted from black to a yellow along the roof of each bunker. During this shift, a massive column of light shot up into the sky. It was so bright that it parted the clouds that had been lingering over the island for the last two days. It was also bright enough to momentarily blind the X-men.
“Cover your eyes, X-men!” ordered Professor Xavier.
“Argh! It’s too bright!” yelled Colossus.
While the X-men were distracted, Havok made an unexpected move. He shielded his eyes just in time and used the narrow window that followed to shove Cyclops, Angel, and Phoenix out of his way. Once he got by, he fired a carefully aimed shot towards Charles Xavier. It was light and of non-lethal force. It struck him in the upper back, causing him to fall to the ground and release his telepathic hold on the Brotherhood.
“Ungh!” he exclaimed.
“Professor? What’s happening?” cried Phoenix, “I know it isn’t good!”
“DO IT NOW, QUICKSILVER!” yelled Havok through the light.
“What about Wanda?” exclaimed Quicksilver.
“She’ll catch up! Now use that speed of yours and finish this!”
The speedster grunted bitterly. There were so many ways he wanted to curse Havok for doing this, but even he wasn’t fast enough to go over all of them. So with burning frustration, he went to work. He did so at speeds so fast that the X-men never had a chance to stop him. He started by rushing Quentin, Pyro, and Havok under the nearest bunker. Once they were secure, he ran back and roughtly slapped Blob across the face to wake him up.
“Rise and shine, Freddy! Move that gigantic ass of yours or you’ll be stuck with the X-men!” he shouted.
“Hnn…slap me again and I’ll eat you alive!” groaned Blob.
The oversized mutant rose up and followed Quicksilver back to the bunker. By now, the X-men had recovered from the shock. While shielding their eyes, they could see throught the blinding column of light. The structure of the bunkers was changing. The dome-shaped metal shell was shifting. The techno-organic skin took on a distinctly silvery form. It was as if energy itself was becoming liquid. Professor Xavier tried to use his telepathy to subdue Quicksilver and Blob. Phoenix also attempted to use her telekinesis. They soon discovered that it was too late.
“What are you waiting for, Phoenix? Pin them down! Trip them up! Stop them already!” urged Angel.
“I’d love to see you concentrate through this,” grunted Phoenix, once again limited by not having the Phoenix Force at her disposal.
“I can’t reach any minds either,” said Professor Xavier in a daze, “There’s some strange interference.”
“That’s just our way of saying goodbye, X-men!” shouted Quicksilver from inside the bunker, “If you’re smart, you’ll realize everything has changed. Your ways won’t work anymore. Then again…”
Quicksilver’s words trailed off. It was unclear if it was intentionally or if it was due to the bunker. Once every mutant citizen of Genosha was inside, it closed. The panels from the roof clamped down to form an inpeneratrable, ensuring the X-men could not follow them. This process was repeated with every dome on the island. Soon the whole island was littered with blinding columns of light that shot up ino the heavens.
This brilliant display of energy continued for only a few seconds. Then the coloumn of light faded, leaving only the bunker. The techno-organic material that made up the shell was still glowing. The silverly light beamed with a different kind of radiance, one that was less blinding and more envoloping. It washed over the island like a mist.
Professor Xavier and the X-men could feel the air grow hotter around them. They kept watching as the silvery light unleashed one more powerful burst. It flashed out like a light-bulb shorting out. When the flash faded, the entire dome faded as well. Within a fraction of a second, every bunker on Genosha was gone and so were the mutants inside it. For the first time in a very long while, Genosha was quiet.
The energy lingered in the air after the bunkers disappeared. Professor Xavier and his X-men carefully approached the area where bunkers had been. There was nothing left aside from some smoldering remains. It was an ominous sight. In an instant, Genosha and the mutants that once made this the most volatile nation on the planet were gone.
“Um…anybody want to guess what just happened?” said a confused Shadowcat.
“They’re gone,” said Psylocke distantly as she looked around.
“Yeah, that much is obvious. But where the hell did they go?” wondered Iceman.
“I don’t think they had a destination in mind, Iceman,” said the Professor and he used his telepathy to scan the area, “I can still sense traces of their psionic signature. They’re like a handful of dust being scattered to the winds.”
“I can sense it to…I think,” said Phoenix, who struggled to make sense of it.
“So…they just ran?” surmised Colosuss, “For what reason would they do such a thing?”
“I call that being a coward. They knew they screwed up so they chose to run!” said Angel in frustration.
“No Angel. They didn’t run,” said Cyclops, having since pieced together his brother’s decision, “There’s a big difference between running and a tactical retreat. My brother said they had to change the rules of the game. I’d say he succeeded.”
“By retreating?” questioned Phoenix.
“No…by spreading out. If there’s no Genosha, then there’s no one target that humanity can aim at. There’s no more mutant homeland. That means no one can wipe them out in a single strike.”
“In other words, mutants have gone back to being viral,” said Iceman.
“It may be worse than that, Iceman. Much worse,” mused Professor Xavier, “There can be no retreat from the damage that has been done. The world can only digest so much conflict before it can no longer deal with it rationally. This may be a case where the sheer breadth of it all is just too much.”
The X-men were left with mixed emotions and an uncertain future. Havok and the Brotherhood had completely turned the tables. The world of human/mutant affairs would never be the same. Genosha was the driving force behind so many conflicts. The changes it incurred could not be undone. It left a world full of uncertainty, one where the role of the X-men was now painfully unclear.
Up next: Unanswered and Unaccounted
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