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Volume 7 -- Issue 173 -- High Evolution Part 5

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High Evolution Part 5
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A new generation bearing extraordinary powers is emerging. Hated and feared by a world that doesn’t understand them, Professor Charles Xavier trains his X-men to fight for peace and understanding. This message often conflicts with larger struggles to control the destiny of mankind’s evolution. The obsession for such control leads Magneto and his associate, the High Evolutionary, to construct a new world called Asteroid M to house new generations of mutants.

The potential threat posed by Asteroid M prompted the governments of the world to send Professor Xavier and his X-men up to Asteroid M alongside Magneto’s daughter, Wanda Maximoff. While there, they watched the High Evolutionary turn nearly a million normal humans into mutants with technology derived from MGH. But it didn’t stop there.

Magneto and the High Evolutionary were intent on destroying any threat Earth could pose to their new world. As such, they prepared to use Warlock technology to strip away Earth’s magnetic field, exposing it to solar winds and killing all life. Once this plan was exposed, the X-men tried to stop it.

However, Magneto and the High Evolutionary turned all of Asteroid M against them. It seemed they were in complete control. Then, they found out that Cyclops, Angel, Isaac, and the rest of X-Force deceived them with help from Illyana Rasputin’s magic and Mystique’s shape-shifting. After having neutralized the Brotherhood, the X-men prepare to deliver the final blow with plenty of help from friends back on Earth.


New York City – District X

“Hurry up, guys!” shouted an impatient Iceman, “Moira and I just got the signal from Cyclops. They’re ready on their end!”

“And we’re just about ready on ours so ye can skip the part where you have a panic attack,” said Jubilee, who was working alongside her Lights and the rest of X-Factor.

“I’m not having a panic attack,” Iceman complained.

“You had a panic attack on our first two dates, Bobby. There’s no shame in having one when the fate of the world is on the line,” said Magma as she teased her boyfriend.

“Seeing as how we get to stay on Earth for our part, I’d say we have much less to complain about,” said Hellion.

“As if that ever stopped Iceman before,” joked Shadowcat.

It was the most elaborate collective effort by mutants in recent memory. District X was officially the last occupied mutant settlement in a world that had been vacated. Bishop, Sage, and Multiple had watched their people leave for Asteroid M. Knowing little good could come from trusting Magneto, they opened their doors to this ambitious endeavor that they understood to be part of a much larger plan.

The race was on to finish the elaborate construction effort in the middle of the former mutant community. Jubilee, Transonic, Zero, Primal, Velocidad, and Oya helped unload the materials that had been shipped in from Muir Island. Iceman and Shadowcat then led Hellion, Sunspot, Cannonball, Meltdown, Surge, Moonstar, Rockslide, X-23, and Magma in clearing out the necessary space for the main structure.

Once the foundation was laid, Multiple and his army of duplicates led X-Factor and the Lights in the primary construction of the major components. Sunfire and Dr. Nemesis worked with Moira MacTaggart and Forge to make sure the inner workings of the device were properly configured. Banshee led Rahne, Bishop, and Sage in an effort to hook the machine up to the New York City power grid. The process was kept secret by the psychic efforts of the Stepford Cuckoos, which wasn’t too difficult since the city was reeling from riots around Central Park.

The combined manpower of Muir Island, the Lights, X-Factor, and District X created a vast device that stood over twelve stories tall and took up several blocks. It was shaped like a large tuning fork with two metallic towers connected to a much wider base. Within the base was an elaborate array of electronics and amplifiers. Some of it was fueled by Warlock technology, which helped provide the materials that would help the device overcome certain laws of known physics that were necessary for this operation. Once complete, this device would ensure that Magneto’s elaborate new world would be rendered impotent.

They were just about finished when they received a message from Cyclops moments ago. His ploy on Asteroid M had succeeded. That menacing hunk of space rock was vulnerable. X-Factor and the Lights were nearly finished assembling the base. Moira, Forge, Sunfire, and Dr. Nemesis were almost done configuring the central towers. Banshee and Rahne met up with them to let them know the big moment was upon them.

“We just finished hooking up the generators to the utility lines. We’re ready on our end,” reported Banshee.

“If by hooking up ye mean low-jacking our way into the power grid, I agree,” teased Rahne.

“You make it sound as though we’re stealing it, Miss Sinclair,” said Dr. Nemesis as he went over some configurations on a tablet computer.

“Aren’t we?” questioned Forge, “This thing is going to suck up enough juice to black out half the east coast for a half-hour.”

“They’ll get over it,” said Dr. Nemesis indifferently, “If what we heard from Cyclops is accurate, they’ll accept the inconvenience if it means not being fried by solar winds.”

“Are ye always this casual with bending the rules?” asked Rahne.

“I work at a school run by Emma Frost. Bending the rules is practically our motto,” sighed Sunfire.

Rahne and Banshee rolled their eyes as they helped Forge make the final tweaks on one of the central array. As they closed various control panels and finalized the configurations, Sage met up with them along with Bishop and Multiple.

“X-Factor and the Lights just hooked up the last amplifier. They’re ready to get this show on the road,” said Bishop.

“I’ve also hacked every major power sub-station within a five-hundred-mile radius. I’m ready to redirect all power to the device and I’d like to do it now,” said Sage in a more urgent tone.

“You sound almost as paranoid as Iceman,” commented Multiple, “Hope you’re not panicking on us too, Sage.”

“I’m trying no to. I just have this sinking feeling that things are getting very bad up there,” said Sage as she used her computer-like mind to program the main generator, “You heard what Cyclops and Angel reported. Magneto and the High Evolutionary have turned all of Asteroid M against the X-men! They’re all in grave danger.”

“Then it’s a good thing X-Force put together this elaborate plan of deception and physics-defying hardware,” said Moria MacTaggart, “I wish it weren’t necessary, but we all knew Charles wasn’t in a position to do more with it.”

“That’s what happens when you work with the government. Trust me, he was screwed before this even started,” said Forge as he closed up the last panel.

“Then let’s finish our part already so we can get them off that rock,” said Sage in a more forceful tone.

“I take it that means you’re not open to a few final test?” said Dr. Nemesis coyly.

“You want to risk the wrath of an angry telepath, go ahead. I’m ready to flip the switch and enjoy the show,” said Forge as he packed up his tools.

“As am I,” said Moira, “Let’s get clear of the fireworks. This is going to be quite the light show.”

“One we probably won’t be able to disguise, for the record,” said the Stepford Cuckoos, who had been lingering close by.

“Given the situation on Asteroid M, we don’t need to be hidden anymore,” said Moira, “We want the world to see this.”

“Always one for spectacle, are ye lass?” teased Banshee.

“Even in the face of global extinction, it never hurts to show off,” said Dr. Nemesis.

Moira signaled X-Factor and the Lights. She led Bishop, Multiple, Sage, Forge, Banshee, Rahne, Dr. Nemesis, Sunfire, and the Stepford Cuckoos away from the central towers. They quickly met up with X-Factor and the Lights, who were just as eager to move back and fire up this weapon.

They made their way back to the M-Building where Rockslide and Hellion set up a safety barrier. Along the way Multiple had his duplicates check the heavy cables that fed into major utility lines before recalling them. Once everybody was behind the barrier, Forge and Sage took over.

“Fight now? Fight now?” said Teon eagerly.

“Yes Teon. Now we fight,” said Forge distantly.

“How bad do you think it is up in Asteroid M?” wondered Sunspot.

“It’s probably best not to speculate,” said X-23 flatly, “If this contraption does what you say it’ll do, it should help them.”

“Always a bit of an if though,” said Shadowcat.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys. But this is one project where I’ve left no room for error,” said Forge confidently as he linked a couple of wires into the computer in his arm, “Sage, start pumping in the juice!”

“You sure we shouldn’t step back a bit further?” questioned Cannonball.

“Now where’s the fun in that?” Meltdown.

The brisk air grew tense with anticipation as Sage and Forge issued the final commands. Couples such as Hellion and X-23, Magma and Iceman, and Moria and Banshee held each other a bit closer while everyone else watched with bated breath as the elaborate machine that their friends on Asteroid M were depending on. Through a few commands from Bishop’s laptop, the process began.

Within seconds a loud humming sound started reverberating throughout District X. The vast array of circuits that lined the base of the device started glowing. The Warlock materials took on their distinct gold-on-black texture. As everything lit up, the two towers that now soared over District X erupted in burst of sparks. As these sparks intensified, the lights from around the city started to flicker. The energy was building up and intensifying with each passing moment.

“Here we go,” said Sage, her emotions turned off so that she wouldn’t worry about Beast.

“I’m already praying for them,” said Oya.

“For Isaac?” asked Laurie.

“For everybody,” she said.

“I ain’t ever been the praying time, but I’ll make an exception for this,” said Bishop, “After this, it’s all on the X-men.”

“Is that supposed to worry us?” questioned Sunfire.

“If it didn’t, then we wouldn’t need to pray in the first place,” said Bishop with a grin.

The activity with Forge’s machine intensified. Sage used her laptop and her hacking skills to direct all the necessary power from the surrounding grid. The flickers throughout the city soon turned into rolling blackouts.

One-by-one, every grid went dark as the energy was channeled into the two towers. As it charged up, the sparks between them intensified. Within those sparks, a large ball of yellowish energy formed. It soon grew so large that it looked like a miniature sun. Jubilee, Transonic, Zero, Primal, Velocidad, Oya, Sage, Bishop, Multiple, Iceman, Shadowcat, Hellion, Sunspot, Cannonball, Meltdown, Surge, Moonstar, Rockslide, X-23, Magma, Sunfire, Dr. Nemesis, Rahne, Banshee, Moria, and the Stepford Cuckoos all shielded their eyes and said their prayers. Then Forge delivered the final command.

“God help us all,” he said distantly, “But right now, the X-men need help even more.”

From between the two towers, the yellowish ball of energy erupted into a massive column of light that shot up into the sky and through the atmosphere. It illuminated the evening sky as if it was the middle of the day. It signaled to District X, X-Factor, Muir Island, and the Lights that they had done their part. Now it was up to the X-men to finish the rest.


Asteroid M – Citadel

The entire foundation of Asteroid M was dependent on controlling chaos. Magneto and the High Evolutionary went to great lengths to make sure everything worked in a way that would allow them complete control. When the X-men uncovered their secrets, that control was their best weapon. Now it appeared they had been utterly disarmed.

“NO! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING! THIS WORLD OF MINE! ALL THIS HARD WORK!” exclaimed the High Evolutionary.

“Has officially gone to shit,” grinned Mystique.

That harsh truth stung. Shortly after the revelation that Mystique had been posing as Cyclops, the High Evolutionary used his monitor to check on the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters. He tuned in just in time to see that Cyclops, Angel, and Illyana had subdued the Brotherhood and made some adjustments to his device. Using Illyana’s portal, they brought in some Warlock technology of their own. With it, they attached what looked like beacons to the flickering core that had been retrieved from Genosha. Once it was in place, the chaos truly took hold.

Warnings blared. Sirens went off. A mysterious blast shot up from the surface of the Earth. It was like a massive lightning bolt, arcing its way through the depths of space. It arced towards Asteroid M where it connected with the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters. From that connection, the core from Genosha shorted out. It also sent a deep tremor that rocked the entire asteroid. Such chaos left the High Evolutionary enraged to the point of madness.

Phoenix, still surrounded by cosmic flames, rushed to Mystique and Dark Beast. They were both wounded so she instinctively made sure they were protected. As the images of Cyclops leading the attack against the Brotherhood played out over the High Evolutionary’s monitor, Phoenix felt a surge of emotions.

“Scott Summers, you brilliant and frustrating man,” she mused as she hovered over Mystique and Dark Beast, “How can I be so pissed yet so hot for you at the same time?”

“He told me to tell you that he would explain everything when this is over,” said Mystique, “I would tell you to go easy on him, but given how he’s been acting lately…well, let’s just say he needs to be humbled.”

“We both do,” she said distantly while smiling at the monitor.

“In the meantime, we need to make sure your friend here doesn’t wake up cranky.”

Phoenix agreed and used her telepathy to keep Dark Beast unconscious. It was a welcome sight for Nightcrawler, Wanda, Captain Freeman, and Professor Xavier even though they were still trapped in Magneto’s metal confines. There were a lot of questions to be answered, but for once things were going their way.

“You knew about this, didn’t you?” said Professor Xavier.

“To a large extent, yes,” said Wanda, focused on her still unconscious father.

“It vasn’t just X-Force, Professor,” said Nightcrawler, “Ve received help from everybody ve could reach. Zhat included District X, X-Factor, Jubilee’s Lights, and our friends on Muir Island.”

“And all in utter secrecy,” said Xavier, sounding both impressed and somewhat disturbed, “How did you put it all together like this?”

“Not forgetting that some of us have a huge problem with you going behind our backs,” said Captain Freeman with a cold.

“Ve had to because you couldn’t, Professor,” said Nightcrawler, “Ve didn’t need soldiers or authorities for a threat like zhis. Ve needed heroes.”

The relief Xavier felt was now coupled with a sense of sorrow. It resonated in a way that was even more powerful than the outrage that the High Evolutionary was experiencing. He knew from the beginning that Mutant Monitoring Initiative was a risk. He worked so hard to make it succeed. Now he had proof that those efforts weren’t enough. On top of that, he lost sight of what his X-men stood for and it nearly cost him dearly.

While Xavier processed that painful realization, Captain Freeman set aside his emotions and re-focused on the mission. The sudden turning of the tide meant they might be able to salvage some objectives.

While everyone was still reeling from the shock, he adapted his body more fervently. He adjusted his bones and limbs so that they were more malleable. He also changed the bulk of his arms so that he had greater strength. Meanwhile, the High Evolutionary scrambled to salvage any sense of control.

“I can still rebuild!” he said frantically, “You think disabling it will prevent me from destroying your world? You’re wrong! I’ve plenty of other options at my disposal!”

“And I have just as many options to dispose of you!” grunted the Green Beret.

In another startling loss of control for the High Evolutionary, Captain Freeman broke out from his metal confines. Once free, he went right for the High Evolutionary. The imposing figure turned around just in time to receive a devastating punch to the head.

“Augh!” he groaned as he keeled over his console.

“Consider yourself lucky,” said Captain Freeman, “Beating you to a pulp was only a secondary mission objective.”

“You couldn’t have done that a little sooner?” groaned Wanda, who was still stuck.

“Blame your old man! He kept doing too many metal tricks for me to adapt,” said Captain Freeman, “That’s why my primary mission objective is more important.”

“What do you mean by primary objective?” asked Professor Xavier suspiciously.

“I know you’re naïve, Xavier. But you can’t be that deluded,” said the Green Beret, “X-Force isn’t the only one who can play the deception game. Sometimes we need to lie to both our allies and our enemies.”

Leaving the High Evolutionary hunched over his computer array, Captain Freeman turned his attention towards Magneto. He was groaning lightly, hinting that he wasn’t completely knocked out and could still be a threat.

Ignoring every other detail for the mission, he walked up to Magneto’s unmoving form and pulled out a small handgun he had stashed in his uniform. It didn’t look like an ordinary handgun either. It was gray with a plastic texture. With little, hesitation, he pointed the gun right at Magneto’s head.

“What the hell are you doing?” exclaimed Wanda.

“It’s exactly what it looks like,” said Captain Freeman as he cocked the gun, “The High Evolutionary was the brains of this operation. Now I’m taking out the muscle.”

“Put the gun down, Captain! This wasn’t part of the mission!” yelled Professor Xavier.

“Wrong again, Xavier. This was always part of the mission,” said Captain Freeman stoically, “Don’t hate me for it. I’m just following orders.”


Colorado Springs – Earlier

“What exactly am I looking at here, General?” asked a confused Captain Freeman, “And please explain it quickly because I’ve got a ride to catch for Asteroid M.”

“You don’t need to know the nuts and bolts of it, Captain. You just need to use it,” said General Grimshaw.

“Think of it as an overpriced gift from our friends at DARPA. They’ve been working on it since the Genosha uprising,” said President Kelly, “We had a feeling this day would come eventually. I’m just surprised it didn’t come sooner.”

The strength of every soldier was measured by more than their strength in battle. The ability to follow orders was on par with the ability to wield a gun. Captain Freeman had done a lot of both throughout his career as a Green Beret. He rarely had mixed feelings about taking down an enemy, but the current situation was more complicated.

Before meeting up with X-Force and the X-men, General Grimshaw and President Kelly took him aside. They locked themselves in a psychic-proof meeting room. Once they were secure, the President opened an unmarked briefcase that contained a strange-looking handgun.

It looked like a toy of sorts, made mostly of plastics and ceramics. When General Grimshaw presented it to him, he included some orders that they hadn’t discussed with Professor Xavier or Wanda Maximoff.

“Our tech boys call it the Magneto Magnum,” said General Grimshaw, “It’s the only gun in the world made without any conductive materials. Everything from the bullets to the gunpowder were made with Magneto in mind.”

“So he won’t be able to pull that old turn-guns-back-on-their-users trick?” said Captain Freeman.

“Like everything else from DARPA, it’s more complicated than that,” said President Kelly, “Along with the non-conductive materials are some newly minted smart materials. This means that if you were to shoot Magneto with this, it wouldn’t just mortally wound him. It would wound the very forces from which he draws his powers.”

“And are you telling me to wound him with it? After we agreed with Wanda and Xavier that we wouldn’t kill Magneto?” questioned Captain Freeman.

General Grimshaw and President Kelly exchanged glances. They both understood the gravity of what they were doing. They were once again working behind Charles Xavier’s back. It undermined their efforts during the White Cell conflict. However, they couldn’t overlook an opportunity to take down Magneto once and for all. Every other world leader they spoke to agreed. Magneto had to die.

“Perhaps Wanda is right about her father. Perhaps he is a victim here. But he’s still a cog in the same machine,” said President Kelly, “So long as he’s alive, he’ll be a danger to this world. That’s why you have to take him out regardless of what you uncover on Asteroid M.”

“Even if everything is all peace and love, you expect me to shoot him in the head?” surmised Captain Freeman.

“We’re working under the assumption that Magneto will never change,” said General Grimshaw, “I’m not too big on outright assassination either, but we’ve discussed this beyond many closed doors.”

“So when am I supposed to do it? Moreover, how am I supposed to handle how pissed the X-men are going to be when they find out we’re screwing them over again?”

“Worry about your mission, Captain. We’ll worry about Charles Xavier,” said President Kelly, “The man has demonstrated time and again that he can’t get his head out of the clouds. He may save us from Magneto a million times, but it only takes one failure for everyone to suffer. I know I haven’t shown much fondness for having a mutant in the American military, but you’ve shown me that you’re damn good soldier. That’s why I trust you’ll do your duty.”

Captain Freeman was in a difficult position to which even he couldn’t adapt. He was essentially being ordered to betray the X-men and Wanda Maximoff. It flew in the face of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.

The President and the General were willing to sacrifice it all to destroy Magneto. Looking down at the gun and back up at his superiors, Jack Freeman had few options. As a mutant, he had reservations about deceiving the X-men. As a soldier, it was his duty to follow orders and he was a soldier before he was a mutant.

“I know we’re asking a lot of you, son,” said General Grimshaw.

“No more than usual, General,” he said as he stashed the gun in his uniform.

“We’re counting on you, Captain. Do your country and your world proud,” said President Kelly.

“Spare me the pep talk, Mr. President. I’ll take care of it.”


Citadel – Present

Professor Xavier was overcome with a new kind of outrage. It was one thing to be deceived by Cyclops in an elaborate plan to trick their enemies. It was quite another when President Kelly, General Grimshaw, and every world leader in the world proved that they didn’t care about the ideals of his Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It was just another symbolic gesture with rules that were to be bent, not honored.

“Don’t do this, Captain!” urged Professor Xavier, “This is one order you shouldn’t follow and you know it!”

“I’m not a very smart guy, Professor. How many good reasons are there to let this madman live?” questioned Captain Freeman.

“Here’s one…he’s my father!” yelled Wanda.

Captain Freeman was about to pull the trigger. Flushed with newfound anger, Wanda used her hexing powers to shatter her metal restraints. Her eyes glowed with hexing energy, reflecting her focused anger. As soon as she was free, she fired a hex bolt at Captain Freeman. The Green Beret saw it coming and ducked out of the way before it hit him. Despite the miss, she charged at him in a rage.

“You can’t kill my father if I kill you first!” she roared.

“No Vanda! Don’t!” urged Nightcrawler, who remained trapped with Professor Xavier.

Wanda unleashed a fury of hex bolts in all direction, causing the Green Beret to stumble back. He couldn’t get a shot off with his gun so prepared to adapt to another punishing attack. The whole lab shook as she unleashed her first wave of hex bolts. However, they never reached Captain Freeman. Phoenix used her telekinesis and to divert it.

“Ungh! This is hard even with cosmic power,” grunted Phoenix.

“Can you settle her down already?” exclaimed Captain Freeman.

“You’re trying to kill her father! What did you expect?” said Mystique.

Phoenix’s telekinesis clashed with Wanda’s hex bolts, creating a volatile swirl of cosmic flames and hex energy. Wanda kept trying to get to Captain Freeman. She wasn’t going to let this man carry out this mission of his.

While the struggle was unfolding, Nightcrawler and Professor Xavier remained trapped. Since Phoenix was preoccupied, they had no means of escape. There was so much commotion that they didn’t notice that a new presence had entered the lab and was sneaking up behind them. Xavier sensed that it was Rogue and while everyone was distracted, she slipped in and freed them.

“Rogue!” exclaimed Nightcrawler.

“Heya little brother,” she greeted as she broke his restraints, “Looks like Ah’m a little late to the party.”

“Your timing is more impeccable than you think,” said Professor Xavier, not taking his eyes off Wanda, “I take it you’re also caught up in this elaborate plan?”

“That’s one way of putting it,” said Rogue as she broke the Professor’s restraints.

“How did you find us?” asked Nightcrawler, who helped her with the Professor.

“That’s a bit trickier to explain and this ain’t the time to get into it. Ah didn’t get all the details of this here plan, but Ah’m guessing that Wanda’s tantrum ain’t part of it.”

“It isn’t,” said Xavier grimly, “I’ll settle her down.”

“Be careful vith her, Professor,” said Nightcrawler anxiously.

“She’s in a hex rage and you’re still worried about her?” groaned Rogue.

Nightcrawler ignored Rogue’s remark. The issue of his attraction to Wanda was still a point of contention, but one she would have to belabor another time. Now free and able to focus, Professor Xavier boldly entered the chaos.

Wanda’s hex bolts were growing larger as she tried to fight through Phoenix’s telekinesis. In her burning rage towards Captain Freeman, she started gaining ground. The Green Beret still had the special gun in hand. He tried to aim at Magneto through the hex bolts, but Wanda wouldn’t let him. She would kill him before he got his chance. However, it never came to that. As the hex bolts were within inches of Captain Freeman, Professor Xavier struck her mind with a telepathic probe.

‘That’s enough, Wanda! I believe you’ve made your point.’

“Get out of my head, Xavier!” yelled Wanda, “This man betrayed you too! Why protect him?”

‘Because your father got into the habit of pusruing brutal cycles of vengeance. I’d rather not walk that path and neither should you.’

Wanda kept resisting his probe, but her mind was no match for the world’s most powerful telepath. The probe forced her to calm down. She let out a light groan as her hex attack slowed and eventually ceased. As she fell to her knees short of breath, Nightcrawler and Rogue rushed to her side and caught her.

“Don’t fight us, Vanda. Ve don’t need to be enemies anymore. Zhere are those of us zhat care about you a great deal,” said Nightcrawler as he cradled her.

“Hnn…Kurt,” was all Wanda got out in response.

“There goes mah lunch for the next two weeks,” groaned Rogue.

Wanda quickly settled, now drowsy and dazed. This removed the barrier of hex bolts that had kept Captain Freeman from taking a shot at Magneto. Now with nothing in his way, he raised his special gun and aimed it at Magneto.

“I appreciate the save, Professor. But I won’t say thanks by abandoning my mission,” he said as he prepared to fire.

“I didn’t expect you to,” said Professor Xavier flatly, “Nor should you expect me to abandon mine.”

Captain Freeman was about to pull the trigger when an unseen force ripped the gun from his hand. It wasn’t the result of magnetism, which the gun had been designed to resist. It was Phoenix, who used her telekinesis to retrieve the weapon before crushing it with her new cosmic power.

“No!” he exclaimed as he watched the weapon crumble, “Damn it, Phoenix! Do you have any idea what you just did?”

“You mean other than prove that this fancy weapon can’t resist telekinesis nearly as well as magnetism?” said Phoenix wryly.

“You may have just thrown away our only chance to neutralize Magneto! Did you not listen to one word of his crazy ramblings? Or did trapping us in metal not send a clear enough message?”

“We heard everything you heard, Captain. But I sensed something very wrong from the moment he showed up and so did Wanda,” said Professor Xavier as he turned his attention to the still dazed Magneto.

“You sure that’s not just blind loyalty to an old friend talking?” scoffed Captain Freeman.

“If you’re not convinced, there is a way to prove it,” said Professor Xavier.

The Professor turned his attention towards Magneto’s discarded helmet. Wanda had been carrying it since they arrived and she dropped it after Magneto encased them in metal. Under Captain Freeman’s harsh gaze, he picked it up and approached his old friend.

Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Phoenix remained vigilant just in case. They watched as Xavier knelt down and placed the helmet atop Magneto’s head. Within seconds, the master of magnetism’s face contorted and his eyes shot open. For a moment, they flashed a familiar purplish glow that was similar to that of the High Evolutionary. Then it faded, leaving little doubt as to who had been in control.

“Charles!” he said in a low yet forceful tone.

“Hello Erik,” said Professor Xavier, “I sense you’re thinking clearly now.”

“Where is he? Where is Dr. Wyndham?” he roared as he shot up in a rage.

His voice was no longer flat and indifferent. It was full of the focused intensity that so defined Magneto. Only this time his anger wasn’t focused at the X-men or even at Captain Freeman. It was focused completely on the High Evolutionary, who was still hunched over his console.

“Father?” said Wanda as she rose up with Nightcrawler and Rogue, “You look…”

“Sane? Competent? Enraged?” he offered, “Why shouldn’t I be? I was aware the whole time! Before you even set foot on Asteroid M, he used me! He made me his puppet so he could create this twisted world of us!”

“By he, you mean…” said Captain Freeman, who was a bit slow at putting the pieces together.

“Who else could it be, Captain?” said Xavier, “Who else is that obsessed with controlling everything around him?”

Everyone followed Magneto’s gaze to the High Evolutionary, who was laughing despite his dazed state. The truth had come out. Asteroid M had been his vision and his alone. Neither the X-men nor Magneto could appreciate such ambition. Even in the face of Magneto’s wrath, he clung to his vision and whatever control over it he had left.

“Erik, my old friend, you could never see past that temper of yours,” the High Evolutionary taunted, “I gave you back your daughter. I created a haven for mutants. Are you outraged that I controlled you or that I succeeded where you failed?”

“It’s a little of both so I’ll be sure to double your torment,” seethed Magneto as he approached his old friend.

“If you were truly aware the whole time, then you already know you’ll fail,” said the High Evolutionary with a humored grin.

The master of magnetism clenched his fists and summoned his powers. Using the metal fixtures of the citadel, he created a series of sharp spear-like barbs. He guided them so that they surrounded the High Evolutionary. He was prepared to impale him from every angle.

Then the High Evolutionary casually pressed a button on his wrist computer. This caused the purple armor on his suit to flicker ominously. As it did, Magneto felt a similar magnetic force oppose his powers. He couldn’t force the metal barbs he created any closer to his former friend.

“You think your trickery will save you?” yelled Magneto.

“It already has,” he said smugly, “My old associate, Romulus, perfected the process of artificially imposing mutant powers on a specimen. I just took it a step further and built it into my suit. That means any power you throw at me can be thrown right back at you.”

“Even cosmic fire?” said Phoenix as the cosmic flames around her body flared up.

She tested the High Evolutionary’s claims by unleashing a wave of telekinesis mixed with flames from the Phoenix Force. The test failed in the same way Magneto’s attack failed. The High Evolutionary simply pressed another button, which triggered a mutant power that allowed him to make a glowing barrier that could not be pierced.

“I trust I’ve made my point,” said the High Evolutionary.

“Is this your backup plan?” scoffed Mystique, “Are you going to hide behind these power so you can escape?”

“Zhe X-men just rendered Asteroid M powerless. You’ve nowhere to run!” said Nightcrawler.

“It’s a two-way street, X-men,” the High Evolutionary quipped, “While I may no longer control the fate of your old world, I still have control over this one. There are still nearly a million new mutants on Asteroid M and millions more animals that I can control. That gives me millions of ways with which to destroy you!”

The High Evolutionary further demonstrated his control by summoning new powers from his suit. With a simple gesture, he unleashed a powerful blast wave that shredded Magneto’s metal barbs and sent the X-men flying back. Phoenix had to catch Mystique and the unconscious Dark Beast with her telekinesis. Magneto used his powers to cushion the impact for Xavier, Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Wanda. Captain Freeman used his own powers to adapt some extra durability, but the attack didn’t stop there.

Even as Magneto the X-men endured the attack, the High Evolutionary unleashed more waves of power. Along with the purplish hue around him, ominous sparks shot out towards the X-men, accompanied by flame-like surges and force resembling telekinesis. It caused the whole lab to shake and the walls to warp, further reinforcing the power the High Evolutionary had over this world.

“Damn! Was he just waiting to pull that trick?” grunted Captain Freeman.

“He’s making a point, Captain. We’re still on his world!” said Professor Xavier, who had to hide behind Magneto for protection.

“Well, point taken!” grunted Phoenix as she used her telekinesis to defend against the attack, “Do we have any tricks of our own?”

“You just destroyed the only trick I had so don’t look at me!” yelled Captain Freeman.

“We don’t need any tricks,” seethed Magneto, who used his powers to fight off the onslaught, “Throw whatever power you want, Wyndham. You won’t escape my wrath!”

“Don’t dare him, Magneto,” groaned Nightcrawler as he protected Wanda while Rogue used her durable form to guard them.

“It’s a little late for theatrics,” taunted the High Evolutionary, “Hate me all you want. I’m still in control. Asteroid M is my world. And if you insist on being in my way, then this world shall be your grave.”

The High Evolutionary added more force to his attacks. The sparks grew larger and the flame-like surges grew stronger. Even the combined efforts of Phoenix and Magneto couldn’t hold it off. They were driven back further, unable to oppose him despite their outrage. The High Evolutionary didn’t even look like he was breaking a sweat. It looked like he was savoring this moment, knowing ahead of time that he was going to watch them fail. So long as he was in control, there could be no other outcome.

As the High Evolutionary watched Magneto and the X-men endure his wrath, he didn’t notice another presence emerging behind him. Even his cosmic awareness didn’t alert him to it. He didn’t realize it was there until he felt a figure grab him from behind and offer an ominous message.

“Only one can be truly in control,” said Isaac in a low tone, “And may He have mercy on your soul.”

The High Evolutionary’s purplish eyes widened. Then, before he could redirect any of his wrath, Isaac jammed a knife-like object right into his shoulder. It bore the same gold-on-black texture that was indicative of Warlock material. As soon as it was stuck inside the High Evolutionary’s armor, he felt a powerful surge that struck at the very control he so deeply treasured.

“MY SUIT! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” exclaimed the High Evolutionary.

“I have saved this world and its people from a false profit!” yelled Isaac.

“NO! I CAN’T…ERRRRRRRAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”

The attack that kept Magneto and the X-men on their heels was stopped and reversed. Now the force of all this power was being redirected back into the High Evolutionary’s purple armor. The lab continued to rumble as every machine within the lab started to malfunction with similar sparks. It was like everything in Asteroid M had been connected to the High Evolutionary and Isaac just pulled the plug.

“Isaac? How did he…” began Phoenix.

“Of course!” said Xavier as he pieced it together, “He must be the one human that didn’t turn into a mutant.”

“And for good reason,” said Captain Freeman, “It kept him from becoming another meat puppet. But how the hell did he sneak up on us? How the hell did he even know where to find us?”

“The same way I managed to deceive him,” said Mystique, “As for how he found us, that required magic of a different kind.”

“I see what you mean,” said Magneto as he watched the High Evolutionary suffer with smug satisfaction.

Professor Xavier saw it as well. He and Magneto kept their distance as they watched the High Evolutionary writhe in agony. His exotic purple armor started warping in ways that bore a striking similarity to Warlock materials. Having worked with that technology before, they saw what was happening. It was rapidly shutting down and the key seemed to be the shard that Isaac had used. It was like a wound being infected, rendering the once imposing figure to a shadow of his former self.

As this wound festered, the High Evolutionary fell to his knees. He kept trying to shove Isaac off, but the determined holy man maintained a firm grip on the shard. He kept driving it in deeper, making sure it did what it was designed to do. The High Evolutionary could feel every piece of Warlock hardware on Asteroid M shutting down. His control and his vision was literally fading before his cosmic eyes.

“My friends knew you kept a close eye on them. They also knew there had to be a source for this elaborate deception!” seethed Isaac as he twisted the shard.

“AHHHHHHHHHH!” the High Evolutionary cried out.

“Those same friends are just as smart as you. They created the Warlock Neutralizer. Once it integrates with a piece of Warlock material, it shuts it down and everything ever connected with it. You foolishly sought to control everything in this world so you linked it to your suit. It’s a good thing the neutralizer also contains a source tracker. By making it part of your own flesh, you’ve doomed yourself and your vision!”

It was a cruel twist of fate, his grand plan for evolution being thwarted by a pestilent yet resourceful human. He could feel the end approaching. All the Warlock technology that he spent a lifetime mastering was shutting down. Isaac wasn’t going to stop until it was all gone. However, he still had enough strength for one final act of control.

“ERRRRRRR! IF I AM DOOMED…THEN I’M TAKING YOU WITH ME! ALL OF YOU!” roared the High Evolutionary.

As the sparks from his suit became blinding, the High Evolutionary managed to activate his wrist computer. That fateful command sent another round of tremors through the citadel. Then, in one last blinding flash, his armor self-destructed and was literally blown off his body.

“ISAAC!” Rogue cried out.

“The hell did he do that for?” exclaimed Captain Freeman, “Did he just give up?”

“No…he’s done something far more cowardly,” said Magneto.

Magneto, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Wanda, Captain Freeman, and Professor Xavier rushed towards the High Evolutionary. Phoenix joined them while Mystique kept an eye on the unconscious Dark Beast.

When they arrived they were met with two ghastly sights. One was the High Evolutionary. His armor now gone, his old and frail body lay singed and blackened from the blast. Lying next to him was Isaac, who caught a significant amount of shrapnel from when the High Evolutionary’s suit detonated. They looked like the kind of wounds that no ordinary human could heal from.

“My God…” gasped Phoenix, “These are serious, Rogue. It looks like some shards punctured his heart!”

“Then use that cosmic bird of yours to fix it, damn it!” Rogue exclaimed with tears forming in her eyes.

“I don’t know if it’s possible at this point, but I’ll try,” said Phoenix as she summoned more cosmic power.

“No…don’t,” said Isaac in a raspy voice.

“Come on, Isaac! Have a little faith here!” she said desperately.

“My faith…has never been stronger,” he said, his voice now choked with blood, “I…I want this. I…need this. To fight alongside the blessed…to fight alongside my friends…is a gift from Heaven.”

“Please Isaac…it doesn’t have to end here. It can’t!” said Rogue as more tears streamed down her face.

“That’s not…for us to decide,” he said, his voice getting weaker, “God called upon me…to serve him. If this…is how my service must end…so be it.”

Rogue let out a wave of sobs as she clutched the hand of the dying holy man. Phoenix tried to comfort her in this moment of sorrow. This man had strengthened their collective spirits when their faith was weak. Now it was time to say goodbye.

“Ah’ll pray for you,” said Rogue sadly.

“Pray…live…love…cherish…and hope,” said Isaac as his breath grew short, “By God’s grace…we are all truly blessed.”

Rogue could no longer hold back her sobs. She held onto Isaac’s hand until he drew his last breath. He didn’t fight his fate. If anything, he embraced it. That didn’t make it any less difficult.

As Rogue sobbed, Nightcrawler joined Phoenix in consoling his sister. They held their heads low in sorrow. They had lost good friend and strong soul. His crusade was over, but theirs kept moving forward.

While the others mourned Isaac, the High Evolutionary wasn’t finished. He was now surrounded by Magneto, Professor Xavier, and Captain Freeman. Now wounded and powerless, he was at their mercy. Yet he never stopped smiling. The purplish glow in his eyes continued to pulsate brightly.

“That was a dick move even for you!” scolded Captain Freeman, “Are you trying to give us more reasons to kill you?”

“Go on. Do your worst,” taunted the High Evolutionary, “In twenty minutes, it won’t matter…for any of us.”

“What is he talking about, Erik?” asked Professor Xavier intently.

“Oh he knows,” said the High Evolutionary smugly, “Sometimes the next best thing to winning…is making sure everyone loses. I’m the one…who taught him that. He’s also the one…who built the failsafe I just activated.”

“Failsafe? I’m almost afraid to ask,” groaned Wanda.

“It’s not so much a failsafe as it is tying up a loose end,” said Magneto, “You just activated the electro-gravitational reversal, didn’t you?”

“What does that mean to those of us who never read a physics book?” asked Captain Freeman.

“Look at the monitor…and see for yourself,” said the High Evolutionary.

Magneto, Wanda, Captain Freeman, and Professor Xavier turned around to see a new video feed that showed the lower level areas where Cyclops, Angel, and Illyana had disabled the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters. The once dormant machine was now active again, but in a very different way. It shook violently, causing more tremors to surge through Asteroid M. It was so violent that certain parts of the lower levels looked like they were collapsing.

“Oh no…Scott,” gasped Phoenix as she noticed this as well.

“Vhat’s happening down zhere?” asked Nightcrawler, who saw it as well.

“The designs for the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters were based on the same technology that allowed me to draw this asteroid on a collision course with Earth,” Magneto explained, “Built right into it is a self-sustaining gravity drive, complete with an independent power source. That source just reversed it so that this asteroid is now on a collision course with Earth.”

“Again?!” groaned Captain Freeman.

“Yes Captain…again,” said Professor Xavier grimly, “I can already sense the confusion throughout the Asteroid. All the former humans are now free of the High Evolutionary’s control, but they can feel this whole space station trembling out of orbit.”

“So how do we stop it? There is a way to stop it, isn’t there?” said Mystique, who was still keeping an eye on Dark Beast.

“There isn’t,” grinned the High Evolutionary, “You and everyone else on Asteroid M…will have a front row seat to ultimate extinction event. When the asteroid strikes Earth, both worlds will die…in a blaze of evolutionary glory.”

“You have a very fucked up view of glory! If we weren’t going to die, I’d fuck it up even more!” said Captain Freeman.

Magneto, Captain Freeman, and the X-men had any number of reasons to further torment the High Evolutionary. It wouldn’t do them much good in the end. The High Evolutionary looked as wounded as Isaac. The life was draining from him quickly, a smug grin never leaving his face. He was content to take every other life with him as his vision literally fell apart.

More rumbles shook the citadel, stemming from the very core of Asteroid M. It sent a wave of dread through the X-men and presumably everyone else on this world. Panic and despair quickly set in. Charles Xavier and the X-men thought hard and fast, contemplating any possible way to stop this. For Magneto, his thoughts drifted elsewhere.

In the midst of this impending doom, the master of magnetism set aside his anger for the High Evolutionary and turned towards Wanda. She had since recovered from the telepathic attack from Charles Xavier. Now she was as scared as everyone else.

As he looked at her, his thoughts drifted to Pietro and Lorna as well. He had failed them so many times. In his effort to empower their kind, he hurt those closest to him. Yet for all the damage he had done, Wanda hadn’t lost faith in him. She saw through the High Evolutionary’s deceit and so had Charles. He didn’t deserve such faith, yet that didn’t mean he couldn’t earn it.

“You’re wrong. Neither world will die today,” said the master of magnetism sternly.

“What are you talking about, father?” asked Wanda intently.

“Are we really so desperate that we’re going to trust anything Magneto says?” commented Captain Freeman.

“Since you tried to kill him, I think you owe him at least that much,” commented Mystique.

All eyes turned to Magneto while he gazed at the monitor, watching the lower levels of Asteroid M devolve into chaos.

“The device drawing Asteroid M towards Earth is based on electromagnetic conversions. That means I should be able to manipulate it,” he explained, “It’s too close to divert completely from Earth, but it should be possible to slow the descent. If I could unreverse the reversal, the conversation flux should counteract the gravitational array.”

“And that’s a good thing?” said Captain Freeman in confusion.

“Learn some physics, Captain. It means we can avoid a catastrophic impact,” said Phoenix.

“But by counteracting the gravitational array, the forces between Asteroid M and Earth would act like the opposing poles of two magnets,” Professor Xavier surmised, “To maintain that kind of power would require a magnetic feat the likes of which you’ve never attempted, Erik.”

“You need not mince words, Charles. The energy levels alone are likely to kill me,” said Magneto, “But before both Asteroid M and Earth are safe.”

It sounded like a foolish plan. It was also uncannily altruistic for Magneto. The rest of the X-men looked at him in amazement for even suggesting such a plan. For Wanda, it wasn’t a plan. It was more madness from her father who she had done so much to save. She found herself shaking her head in disbelief at this grim plan.

“No! you can’t do this to me, father! After everything you’ve put me through, you’re an asshole for even suggesting it!” cried Wanda.

“It’s the only way, Wanda,” he said solemnly.

“Bullshit! We can find another way,” she said, now having to be held back by Xavier and Nightcrawler.

“There isn’t enough time.”

“What about Pietro and Lorna? What about everything you left behind on Genosha?!” Wanda exclaimed.

“I would rather die to preserve a world for my children than have us all perish,” said Magneto, “I know it’s hypocritical on my part, but unlike my old friend I’m not willing to die a monster. I could care less about the people or the worlds that house them, but for my children and the future generations of our kind…I am prepared to give me life.”

“When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound as heroic,” muttered Captain Freeman.

“Yet heroic, none-the-less,” said Professor Xavier as he approached his old friend.

Wanda kept shaking her head as tears streamed down her face. Nightcrawler continued supporting her. Magneto was dead serious. He was willing to die in order to save them. It left Phoenix, Mystique, Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Captain Freeman speechless. While Wanda was still horrified by the idea, she made no effort to stop him. As her father turned back to face her, she wiped the tears from her eyes and looked up at him.

“Wanda…my beautiful daughter,” said Magneto in a loving tone she hadn’t heard in so long, “You always embodied my greatest strengths while fending off my greatest weaknesses. I believed that one day you would succeed me. Well, that day has come and I couldn’t be more proud of you.”

Then in a ceremonial gesture, Magneto removed his helmet and his cape. He proudly placed the helmet atop Wanda’s head and wrapped the cape around her neck. He could tell that she was reluctant to accept this responsibility, but she didn’t refuse it.

“Father,” she said in a solemn tone.

“Take care of your brother and half-sister,” he told her, “Take what you’ve learned from me and your time with the X-men to lead our kind forward. I won’t make you promise anything. I trust that you’ll know what to do.”

Magneto wiped away what was left of her tears. Wanda continued to sob, but she maintained a strong poise through those sobs. He saw in her the kind of strength that mutant kind would need moving forward. Confident that the world would be in good hands, he smiled and embraced his daughter for the last time.

The embrace didn’t last long. The deep tremors throughout Asteroid M escalated. As soon as they parted, Magneto turned to Professor Xavier. He had been fighting back emotions of his own. Through their bitter rivalry, he still looked upon him as a friend.

“It’s a good thing one of us never lost faith, Charles,” he told him.

“It’s better that neither of us lost each other’s respect,” said Xavier.

“I’m not going to say you were right all along, but I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong on many levels.”

“So was I,” said Xavier.

The two men shared a friendly smiled. Xavier extended his hand to the master of magnetism in a gesture of mutual respect. Magneto reached out and shook it, honoring that respect once and for all. Since it was likely the last time they would speak, it was important that they leave behind the burdens of the past.

“Take your X-men and the ill-mannered Captain outside, Charles,” said Magneto.

“Asshole,” muttered Captain Freeman.

“The Brotherhood are still down there. I may need some assistance in making sure they escape.”

“I can help with that,” said Phoenix, showing her cosmic flames to prove her point, “Besides, Scott and I need to have a little chat after this plan of his.”

“You’ll still end up in bed with him,” said Mystique, rolling her eyes.

“Very well,” said Xavier with a nod, “Then I guess there’s nothing left to say other than Godspeed, old friend.”

“You too, Charles,” he said, “Know your limits from here on out. We’re only human.”

His ironic message evoked a bittersweet smile. The emotions of the moment were great, but the dangers posed by Asteroid M’s descent were greater. Having said goodbye to his daughter and friend, Magneto levitated and flew off with Phoenix following close behind. His fate as well as that of every living creature within two worlds was now in his hands.

The rest of the X-men didn’t linger as well. Still fighting off sobs, Rogue picked up Isaac’s body and met up with Mystique. Wanda, Nightcrawler, Captain Freeman, and Professor Xavier quickly joined her. They all stood over the unconscious body of Dark Beast where Nightcrawler prepared to teleport them. Before they left the still mortally wounded High Evolutionary taunted them.

“YOU UNEVOLVED PILES OF POND SCUM! DON’T YOU SEE? MAGNETO WILL FAIL! YOU’LL ALL FAIL! WE’RE ALL AT THE MERCY OF EVOLUTION! YOU CAN’T FIGHT IT!”

“If zhat’s how you feel, then consider yourself extinct,” said Nightcrawler.

The X-men had endured enough of the High Evolutionary’s ramblings. Using his powers Nightcrawler teleported the X-men out of the citadel in a puff of sulfurous smoke. It left the High Evolutionary alone where he could succumb to his wounds in peace. As the rumbling intensified and his citadel collapsed, the purple light in his eyes finally went out.


Colorado Springs – NORAD

“No! No fucking way! No way God’s sense of humor is that sick!” exclaimed an overwhelmed communications officer.

“Hold off on the heart attack, soldier. Tell us what’s happening,” said General Grimshaw.

“It’s Asteroid M! It’s…breaking off its orbit!”

“By breaking off, you mean…” said a wary President Kelly.

“It’s exactly what you think! That damn rock is on a collision course with Earth again!”

The mood throughout NORAD was already tense. Shortly after the X-men left with Wanda, a painful waiting game set in. President Kelly and General Grimshaw worked feverishly to ensure that other world leaders didn’t lose their mind while they waited for results. They also worked with the European, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian space agency to track Asteroid M. They detected little activity until moments ago. As a digital image of Asteroid M appeared on the main screen, the worst was confirmed.

“Oh hell,” groaned President Kelly.

“Mr. President, sir!” said a Colonel from another computer terminal, “I just received word from Russia and France. They’re seeing exactly what we’re seeing.”

“And let me guess. They want to know if it’s okay to start firing off nukes?” groaned President Kelly.

“It probably wouldn’t make a difference if they did,” said a Major that had been in touch with missile command, “Given how big this thing is along with how close it is, there’s no stopping it this time.”

“So it’s going to hit no matter what we do?” surmised President Kelly.

“That appears to be the case, sir,” said the Major, his voice hiding a great deal of strain.

Dread and despair quickly spread throughout the control room. Some were already trying to get in contact with their families, ignoring their duties in the face of destruction. President Kelly remained dazed as he looked up at the digital screen, watching as the image of Asteroid M drew closer to the surface.

“Was this his plan all along, General? Was Magneto just waiting for the right opportunity to end us all?” said President Kelly distantly.

“Somehow I doubt that, Mr. President,” said General Grimshaw, who was the only who maintained his poise, “This is all pretty sudden. We haven’t gotten any word from the X-men.”

“That should be a sign that they’ve either failed their mission or they’re dead.”

“I don’t believe that. Not for a second,” he said confidently.

“Well if you’re that optimistic, then what do you propose we do?!”

“There’s nothing we can do, sir,” said the General stoically, “You can try praying, but I doubt it will help. I’d much rather trust that the X-men know what they’re doing because we clearly don’t.”


Asteroid M – Lower Levels

“Hurry everybody! Into Illyana’s portal!” yelled Cyclops as he rushed the Brotherhood along, “It doesn’t look like this place is going to hold up much longer!”

“It would be a lot easier if you hadn’t fucking paralyzed us,” grunted Frenzy, who was still frozen in place along with Blob and Unus.

“Hate me for it later! Keep in mind I could have easily left you guys here!” he reminded them.

The Brotherhood didn’t have time to despise the X-leader. The entire lower level of Asteroid M had become unstable. After Cyclops, Angel, and Illyana signaled that mysterious energy bolt from Earth it looked as though the tranverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters were disabled.

For a moment, everything was silent. Frenzy, Blob, and Unus remained paralyzed while Kid Omega, Polaris, and Pyro were still injured from the hit they took earlier. Angel kept holding Quicksilver by the foot in mid-air while Cyclops tried to explain to his brother what he was doing. Naturally, none of them believed that Magneto and the High Evolutionary had them working on some doomsday device. Then when Asteroid M started plunging to Earth, they took the X-leader’s claim seriously.

Now the time for debate was over. Asteroid M was plummeting towards Earth and they were in the worst possible position for the impact. Despite their lingering animosity, the Brotherhood heeded their warning. Illyana formed a portal that would transport them to the surface of Asteroid M. Kid Omega used his powers to levitate and guide Frenzy, Blob, and Unus through. Pyro soon joined them, shaking off his injuries from earlier.

“So you know for sure that Cyclops and his buddies ain’t bullshitting us?” questioned Pyro as Kid Omega led them through the portal.

“Telepathy doesn’t lie,” said the powerful psychic, “What makes more sense? That someone would trust us to put together a shield generator? Or that someone would trick us into slapping together an extinction machine?”

“Is that a rhetorical question, mate?” questioned Pyro.

“Shut up and get in the portal!” barked Kid Omega.

The Australian shrugged and followed Blob, Frenzy, and Unus through the portal. Kid Omega followed closely behind. By now Angel had finally set Quicksilver down. He was still combative, but Polaris managed to keep him from making a bad situation worse.

“Yeah, you better fly away!” yelled Quicksilver.

“You’re welcome, Pietro,” said Angel, rolling his eyes as he flew towards the portal.

“Give it a rest already!” urged Polaris, “You heard what Quentin said. We were tricked! The X-men stopped us from making a horrible mistake.”

“That doesn’t mean I nave to stop hating their guts any less,” grumbled the speedster.

“They’re not asking you to. They’re just help you escape before we become the cosmic equivalent of bugs on a windshield.”

Polaris’s harsh words got Quicksilver to move along. He still scorned Angel even after he escaped through the portal. It never felt good when the X-men bested them, even when it meant saving their lives. He wouldn’t thank the X-men for exposing the truth about the High Evolutionary as he led Polaris through the portal. He just wouldn’t belittle them further, which was just as meaningful.

The tremors in the lower levels grew more intense. Chunks of the ceiling were crumbling as generators and heavy machines shorted out. As Asteroid M descended towards Earth, the whole structure of the Asteroid was compromised. Havok seemed oblivious to all this destruction around him. He was still a bit woozy after taking a beating from his brother, but Cyclops still helped him along.

“First you kick my ass and then you save my life? What kind of brother does that make you?” teased Havok as he leaned on his older brother for support.

“One who has to use very messed up methods to show he cares,” responded the X-leader.

“Can’t be too messed up,” he said, “You did stop us from making a big mistake…again. That’s still assumes what Kid Omega sensed from the surface was right.”

“Are you doubting me now?”

“Sorry bro, but old habits die hard.”

“Are you actually going to apologize for your piss poor judgment this time?” asked Cyclops.

“You know I don’t apologize for being lied to. Just as you won’t apologize for being an arrogant prick,” quipped Havok, “But if you’re willing to work on it, then so am I.”

Cyclops stopped just before they entered the portal. He and his brother exchanged glances. There was a lot to say and not nearly enough time to say it. The tension between them had taken many forms, but after surviving the High Evolutionary’s plot, there might still be a family relationship to salvage after all.

“You can work your petty sibling rivalry out later!” said Illyana, who was still standing by the portal, “Now can we leave already? The Earth is getting very big outside.”

“Stay calm, Illyana,” said Cyclops, “The X-men won’t let this thing hit. I’m sure the Professor has already…”

A powerful tremor shot through Asteroid M, cutting Cyclops off before he could finish. The floors cracked and entire chunks broke off. One of them was right under where Cyclops and Havok stood. As two sides broke off, Cyclops instinctively shoved Havok towards the portal with Illyana as he fell back.

“SCOTT!” exclaimed Havok.

“Get him through, Illayan! I’ll be okay!” yelled the X-leader as he narrowly avoided by crushed by falling chunks of the roof.

“We’re not leaving you behind!” said Illyana.

“No…we’re not,” came a new voice.

As Cyclops was about to be buried under a pile of rubble, an unseen force diverted the falling chunks and stabilized the crumbling room. The X-leader’s heart skipped a beat upon recognizing both the force and the voice.

Looking up, he saw Phoenix and Magneto descending through the crumbling structure. He noticed that Phoenix had her cosmic flare back. He also noticed her powerful gaze as she descended towards him. He hadn’t felt that gaze in a long time and even through the destruction it triggered many emotions.

“Jean!” he said in amazement.

“Don’t look so shocked,” grinned Phoenix, “You deceived me and put yourself in the most dangerous position possible. Did you really expect me to not come after you?”

“Would you hold it against me if I had doubts?” said the X-leader as he felt the warmth of her cosmic flames around him.

“Only if you don’t give me a chance to relieve those doubts,” she replied.

Mixed emotions continued to swirl between them even as Phoenix used her telekinesis to protect herself and Cyclops. Now surrounded in cosmic flames, they levitated through the falling debris and prepared to make their escape. Along the way they passed over Havok and Illyana, who were relieved to see that backup had arrived.

“Thanks for making my brother look foolish again, Phoenix,” said Havok.

“Shut up and go through the portal, Alex!” said Cyclops, “We’ll see you on the surface!”

“Is that part of a plan to stop this thing?” he asked.

“That’s why I’m here, Havok,” said Magneto as he descended, “Now do as your brother says. Tell Polaris and Quicksilver that this will all be over soon. And if you have time…tell them I’m sorry.”

Havok was confused by the subtext behind Magneto’s tone. However, he had little time to scrutinize it. The lower level was crumbling at an alarming rate. Cyclops and Phoenix were already on their way out. Trusting that Magneto knew what he was doing, Havok nodded and followed Illyana into the portal.

“We’re trusting Magneto again?” questioned Illyana.

“When he says he’s sorry, that’s usually a sign,” said Havok, “Now let’s go!”

Havok followed Illyana through the portal, which soon closed behind her. Cyclops and Phoenix were already clear from most of the debris. They remained in a bubble of protective telekinesis as they prepared to ascend through the access shaft. But before they left, Phoenix used her cosmic power to aid the master of magnetism.

“I confirmed that the Brotherhood is now safely on the surface. I’ve also reinforced the supports and cleared the area around the thrusters. You should have plenty of room to work,” said Phoenix.

“Then you’ve done your part, Phoenix. Take Cyclops and leave,” he said stoically.

“Is there any other message you want me to relay?” she asked, knowing she might be the last person he speaks to.

“Yes. Tell everyone to hold on. This is going to be a turbulent descent,” said Magneto.

It was a clear enough message. With the walls from the lower levels still crumbling, Phoenix gave the master of magnetism one last vote of confidence before leaving with Cyclops. They took off in a telekinetic bubble, ascending through crumbling ceilings and supports that were rapidly deteriorating. Shortly after they left, the access shaft became clogged with debris. There was no escape now, but that didn’t bother Magneto. He had no intent of escaping.

Taking a deep breath, the master of magnetism braved the shaking and the crumbling lower levels. He used his powers to shield himself as he entered the inactive transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters.

He literally ripped it off its foundation and used the gaping hole to descend lower towards the heavy antenna-like components that extended below Asteroid M. The air grew thin and stale. Through the crumbling foundation of the Asteroid, he saw the glowing gravity array. It was still fully powered and self-sustaining. He could feel the vast levels of electromagnetic energy radiating from the array.

With determined grit, the master of magnetism carved through the thick layers of rapidly fragmenting rock. The gravity from the approaching Earth was already tearing Asteroid M apart. His time was short so without hesitation, Magneto placed his hands on the glowing array and channeled every bit of his powers into the large glowing structure. His old body ached, but the master of magnetism kept pushing.

‘I’ve lived my life as a victim, a father, a friend, a revolutionary, a criminal, and a monster. While my intentions may not be heroic, I have no qualms with dying as a hero.’

The entire asteroid erupted in a new round of deafening bursts. The cracks from the base were finding their way to the surface. The Earth was getting so close that it dominated much of the sky behind him. However, Magneto never looked back. He just kept pushing.

Using his powers in ways he had never attempted, the master of magnetism captured the vast waves of energy that the gravity array was radiating and turned it right back on the vast structure. It was small at first, but that force grew at an exponential rate.

As it grew, the glowing energy engulfed his body. It was almost as if it was overtaking his body. Within minutes, the glow of the gravity array shifted from yellow to blue. In the process Magneto’s eyes started glowing as well. All the power within the array now flowed through him. With it, he delivered a magnetic wave on a planetary scale.

‘So this is what it feels like. So much power…so many lives…all depending on me. Charles, you brilliant fool. I understand now. I understand completely.’


Asteroid M – City X

It was difficult to comprehend the scale of certain forces. Those who had been so amazed by Asteroid M’s size and majesty were now starting to get a sense for the breadth of a world that was about to collide with another. There was no hiding from it. The control imposed by the High Evolutionary had lifted. The technology he demonstrated had shut down. Asteroid M and every man, woman, child, and animal within it were just passengers aboard of flying chunk of rock.

It was difficult enough for 999,999 former humans to emerge from their controlled state. It was even harder to find out that this beautiful new world was crumbling around them. Violent tremors reverberated all throughout Asteroid M. The once lush landscape was now fragmented with large fissures.

Lakes and rivers were diverted while animals let out panicked cries throughout the landscape. Within City X, the once beautifully organized cityscape was crumbling under the strain of these tremors. All the mutants that hid inside to escape the High Evolutionary’s attack got out as quickly as possible. Soon the streets of the city and the fields around Asteroid M were filled with petrified mutants holding on for dear life.

“What the hell is going on?”

“One minute something’s controlling my body! Now this whole world is falling apart?”

“Where’s my mommy? Where’s my big brother? Somebody help me!”

“Does anyone have mutant powers that can stop this shit?”

“It can’t be stopped! We’re all going to die here!”

The cries of thousands of mutants and former humans echoed throughout the crumbling world. Some were lamenting that this was the end. Others prayed for a miracle. The X-men and the Brotherhood did a little of both as they met up in the central plaza outside the rapidly crumbling citadel.

Professor Xavier sent a telepathic signal to Wolverine, Storm, Gambit, Domino, Warpath, Emma Frost, Colossus, and Psylocke as soon as they were out of the citadel. They were still catching their breath from the battle against the High Evolutionary’s mind-controlled forces. They had to catch it later as they rushed to meet up with Rogue, Nightcrawler, Mystique, Captain Freeman, and Wanda.

They had teleported into the plaza along with the unconscious Dark Beast. They were then joined by Havok, Polaris, Quicksilver, Blob, Frenzy, Unus, Kid Omega, and Pyro as they emerged through Illyana’s portal. Now huddled near a large fountain, the two teams braced themselves.

“Whatever stunt you guys pulled in there, you really overdid it,” barked Wolverine.

“That’s for sure. What the hell happened to Beast?” asked Emma Frost, “Did the High Evolutionary give him a makeover?”

“What about Isaac? Is he okay?” asked Domino anxiously as she saw Rogue carrying his unmoving body in her arms.

“Does he look okay?” she replied sadly, which confirmed her worse fears.

“Illyana!” exclaimed Colossus upon seeing his sister emerge with the Brotherhood, “How did you get caught up on all this?”

“I could say the same for you too, Warren,” said Psylocke, who was equally shocked to see Angel emerge.

“You honestly thought I was going to stay in a hospital bed for this?” replied Angel as he embraced Psylocke through the shaking.

“Everybody was involved,” added Illyana as she met up with Colossus, “And by everybody I mean it.”

“Who gives a shit who’s involved?! This whole fucking world is falling apart around us and you guys are just standing here?” exclaimed Blob.

“I don’t know the full story, but I’m pretty sure the X-men are at fault,” said Unus.

“No more than you, homme!” said Gambit.

“If we all weren’t about to die, I’d beat the living shit out of every one of you for getting me caught up in this,” groaned Frenzy.

There was plenty of apprehension. Not everyone knew the full story of what was going on. They just knew that Asteroid M was crumbling before their eyes and they were at ground zero. It didn’t make sense to fight each other. Between the tremors and the cries of thousands of mutants, outrage took a backseat to dread.

At this point the starlight that once illuminated Asteroid M had faded and was replaced by a large dome of rock and glass. In addition, the citadel was rapidly crumbling. Large chunks of the top and mid-sections buckled under the strain. The same destruction played out in many other large buildings throughout City X. Between buildings crumbling and the cries of frightened mutants, louder tremors erupted from deep inside Asteroid M. It was like the whole asteroid was about to break apart. It could happen at any moment. The only one who wasn’t petrified by this prospect was Charles Xavier.

“I assume you’re not panicking because there’s a plan, Xavier,” said Warpath, who stayed close to Storm.

“There’s always a plan, Warpath. But this one is out of our hands,” said Xavier.

“Is there anything we can do to help this plan along?” asked Storm anxiously, “What about Cyclops and Phoenix? How come they haven’t joined us?”

“We’ve already done our part. Cyclops and Phoenix are finishing theirs as we speak. All we can do now is brace ourselves and reassure everyone that there is still hope,” said Professor Xavier.

“Sounds like a fancy way of saying we’re shit outta luck,” said Wolverine.

“As if we had much to begin with,” said Captain Freeman.

Few took comfort in Professor Xavier’s confidence. It looked like he was using his telepathy for something. While the X-men and the Brotherhood processed this growing destruction, a large burst erupted from the crumbling citadel. It was Cyclops and Phoenix. They shot out through the base surrounded in a protective halo of cosmic flames. They met up with everyone in the plaza, looking equally breathless yet somewhat less fearful.

“Damn! You picked a hell of a time to wake the Phoenix Force up, Jeannie,” said Wolverine.

“She’s not awake, but her fires still burn,” said Phoenix, “They came in real handy on our way up. I was able reinforce the main supports within the citadel and the lower levels.”

“It got pretty messy down there, but I they should hold long enough or Magneto to finish the rest,” said Cyclops.

“And just what the hell is Magneto finishing?” asked Quicksilver, whose attention peaked at the mention of his father.

“He’s following close behind, isn’t it?” asked Polaris anxiously.

Professor Xavier was silent. So were Cyclops and Phoenix. Polaris and Quicksilver weren’t present when Magneto made his choice. They didn’t have to say a word to know what that choice entailed. Despite the ongoing chaos, Wanda stepped forward. Now earing Magneto’s helmet and cape, she delivered the fateful message with which he left her.

“He’s doing what he needs to do. He’s also trusting that we’ll do the same,” said Wanda.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” cried Polaris.

“I think it means your father is going to save us, Lorna,” said Havok as he tried to calm his lover.

“Bullshit! Magneto wouldn’t…he couldn’t! Not to us! Not like this!” exclaimed Quicksilver.

“Your father made a choice that needed to be made, Pietro,” said Xavier, “He’s choosing the next generation over his own. As his friends and family, we must honor that choice.”

Quicksilver kept shaking his head in disbelief. He refused to believe what he was hearing. If the world wasn’t crumbling around him, he would have lashed out at Xavier and the X-men.

Havok and Polaris managed to hold him back. They met up with the rest of the Brotherhood, who were preparing for whatever fateful moment awaited them. The rest of the X-men prepared as well. By now chunks from the dome covering Asteroid M were falling off. The glass the separated them from the vacuum of space was also cracking. It looked like the end was near. Yet through the destruction and terror, Professor Xavier sent out a reassuring telepathic message.

‘Attention to all conscious minds of Asteroid M. Whether you arrived as a human or mutant, there’s something you should know. The promises made by the High Evolutionary were false. The new world he offered came at an unspoken price. His vision was a misguided one. However, it’s destruction will not be our own. As we speak, Magneto is in the process of saving this world and Earth. So please get out from any enclosed area and take shelter in the most open space you can find. This will all be over soon.’


Colorado Springs – NORAD

“I…I don’t believe it. Either we’re already dead or I’m going crazy,” said the same dazed communications officer that first reported Asteroid M’s collision course.

“You better not be joking. If so, it’s not funny!” yelled the Major, who was trying to maintain control over this operation.

“I’m not laughing, sir. According to our tracking data, it’s really happening. Asteroid M is slowing down!”

Everything inside NORAD had devolved into a fear-fueled mayhem. In some ways it was safer outside because most of the world didn’t know what was happening. The situation with Asteroid M had unfolded so fast and every country in the world was still trying to restore order from the escape pod incident. It was so bad that some soldiers left their posts to contact their families while others simply stared at the oversized in a daze. Now there appeared to be another unexpected turn of events.

President Kelly and General Grimshaw were among those gazing up at the main monitor. It depicted Asteroid M’s descent towards Earth. It looked poised to strike within minutes. Now the readings were changing at a rate so fast that their systems couldn’t make sense of the data. It seemed to defy the laws of physics.

“Pull your jaws up off the floor, people. We’re not extinct yet!” barked President Kelly, “Someone tell me in plain English what the hell is going on here!”

“Uh…we’re working on that, Mr. President,” said one of the Colonels as he and his subordinates emerged from their daze, “We’re getting signals from Russia and Japan as well. They confirm that Asteroid M is slowing down.”

“We’re trying to triangulate the trajectory as we speak,” said a female corporal who was working at one of the terminals, “If these current numbers hold, the impact site will be somewhere in the South Pacific. Most likely somewhere northeast of French Polynesia.”

“Can you give me an estimate as to how bad the impact will be? Are we talking once-in-a-millennium sized tsunamis here?” asked President Kelly anxiously.

“That’s where logic breaks down, sir,” said the corporal, “It doesn’t look like Asteroid M is even going to impact at all.”

“What are you saying?” asked the President.

“I’m saying…it’s landing.”

President Kelly, General Grimshaw, and everyone else within the control room kept watching the main monitor with bated breath. It seemed impossible, but it was happening before their eyes. Asteroid M had just entered Earth’s atmosphere. However, it was decelerating at a rate akin to the space shuttle.

They watched the tracker as it flew over Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, and South America. It was sure to be a spectacle to millions of observers, which also meant that there would be no hiding this from the world. As it settled over the Pacific Ocean, it slowed to such a point that it was practically hovering over a large area of open water.

Then in what was supposed to be the moment of impact became a moment of confusion. There were no readings indicating that wide-spread destruction had been unleashed.

“Is it safe to catch our breath now, sir?” asked the Major.

“I honestly have no idea,” said President Kelly as he looked up at the screen in a daze.

“I think I may have a clue,” said General Grimshaw.

“Does it begin with the letter X?” asked the President.

“Can you think of any other explanation?”

“No, but I sure as hell would like a better clue than this!”

The world was intact. They had avoided doomsday yet again. Every officer and subordinate tried to regain their composure and provide the answers their Commander-in-Chief sought. Before they could even begin their search, the same communication officer that first detected the catastrophe received yet another ominous message.

“Ooh boy…so much for being able to change my underwear,” he groaned.

“What is it this time?” groaned President Kelly.

“It’s a transmission,” he replied, “Someone hacked our network and patched themselves in. According to the tracker software, it’s coming from New York City.”

“I thought the whole East Coast was blacked out,” said the Major.

“Apparently not,” said General Grimshaw, “Put it on speaker. I think we all need to hear this.”

The beleaguered communications officer did as he was told, allowing the transmission to link through their encrypted terminal. As it came through, a new image appeared on the main screen. It was Iceman. He was standing on what looked like a rooftop and behind him was a large contingent of familiar mutants that included X-Factor, the District X security team, Jubilee and the Lights, and Muir Island. They looked like they knew what had just happened. It also looked like they had numerous reasons to scold them.

“Hello, Mr. President. My name is Bobby Drake and I’m speaking on behalf of the X-men. By now you’re probably wondering what happened with Asteroid M. My friends and I are prepared to tell you, but I promise you won’t like certain details. I also doubt you’ll like what this means for the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.”


Pacific Ocean – Asteroid M

Asteroid M’s descent towards Earth proved to be an arduous wait for every man, woman, child, and animal within the massive space station. Upon receiving Professor Xavier’s telepathic message, everyone who could walk or fly ran for open areas. Those that had been injured were carried to areas outside City X or within the open plazas. Everything else fell upon Magneto’s shoulders.

As Asteroid M entered Earth’s atmosphere, the dome covering Asteroid M blew off. Many of the glass and rock fell up and away from the main structure. Those that were bold enough to look up saw familiar blue skies once more, but they were mixed with the ominous flames of an asteroid entering the Earth.

As they entered they could feel the massive structure being guided by a powerful electromagnetic force. That same force created a massive bubble around the structure, which helped to absorb the planetary scale shocks and keep Asteroid M intact. The descent created many disorienting G-forces that caused many to lose their balance and stumble about. Some lost their lunch and vomited.

As the skies grew bluer and the air became less stale, everyone could feel the asteroid slow. At one point it felt as though it was gliding through the air like a plane coming in for a rough landing. When it finally stopped, the protective bubble disappeared and the massive structure settled in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The silence that followed the landing was truly deafening. Everyone on Asteroid M could feel a sharp jolt as it hit the waters. The brisk air of ocean winds soon swept through the vast landscape. It created a surreal feeling for everyone on the asteroid. The tremors had stopped. The landscape was now riddled with cracks and fissures, but it remained intact. Many refused to believe that the danger had passed.

As the powerful moment set in, some rose up and looked into the sky. They were overwhelmed to see a sunny sky with few clouds and crisp air. Even the animals that endured the descent seemed taken by this feeling. They had survived.

“We made it!”

“We’re alive!”

“We’re back on Earth!”

“Is that a good thing?”

“It beats being burned into oblivion!”

Cheers erupted all over Asteroid M. From City X to the vast fields surrounding it, jubilation and relief replaced dread and despair. They left this world with heavy hearts. Now they had returned and it was a welcome if not bittersweet feeling.

As cheers reverberated throughout the former space station, the damage within City X became more apparent. The vast city wasn’t completely destroyed, but was still badly damaged. Only half of the citadel remained intact. In the midst of this destruction, the Brotherhood and the X-men found it difficult to share in such relief. While they had survived this crisis, it came at a price.

“Did he do it? Did Magneto really save us all?” asked Polaris in a weak tone.

“We’re still alive. So I guess he did,” said Quicksilver distantly.

“Do you think there’s a chance he survived?” she asked.

“He had to go beyond his limits to pull this off,” said Wanda solemnly, “He wouldn’t have said goodbye if he expected to live through it.”

That harsh realization triggered a wave of anguish for Polaris and her half-siblings. She collapsed in a wave of sobs. Quicksilver was there to catch her while Havok lingered to offer support. Wanda received similar support from Nightcrawler, but she tried to remain strong before the rest of the Brotherhood. Blob, Pyro, Kid Omega, Frenzy, and Unus were also at a loss. However, this loss didn’t mean the Brotherhood was no more.

“So is this it? Is this the end of the Brotherhood?” asked Blob.

“No…it isn’t,” said Wanda strongly.

Her strong tone offered some much needed confidence. Since Magneto passed his cape and helmet onto her, it was now Wanda’s responsibility to carry them forward. From the looks of it, she would take to her new role with pride.

Charles Xavier was in a similar position. The look on his face confirmed what Wanda, Quicksilver, and Polaris already knew. Magneto was gone. Now that the dust was settling over this arduous affair, it left a surreal feeling for the X-men.

Cyclops, Phoenix, Angel, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus gathered around their mentor. Illyana rejoined her brother along with Warpath, Domino, Mystique, and Emma Frost despite not having been X-men when this began. Rogue was still carrying the body of Isaac while Phoenix kept an eye on the unconscious Dark Beast. Only Captain Freeman kept his distance, having betrayed their trust earlier. They had been divided by the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Now they had fought together as one team. They had proved to themselves and each other that the world didn’t just need the X-men. They needed a united X-men.

“Now can we say it?” said Emma Frost in an exasperated tone.

“Say what, Miss Frost?” asked Colossus.

“That it’s finally over,” she clarified, “That we can finally go back to when the X-men were completely apolitical.”

“There’s never any going back, Emma,” said Professor Xavier as he addressed his exhausted team of X-men, “We’re standing on a new world that is now nestled within the chaos of the old one. Nothing will ever be the same again.”

“Does that apply to the Mutant Monitoring Initiative as well, Professor?” asked Cyclops.

“You just had to bring that up. Didn’t you, Cyke?” said Wolverine dryly.

“When I say nothing I mean it, my X-men,” Xavier went on, “Magneto always understood that his time was short. He fought for both the present and the future. I’ve only been fighting for the present lately. Well I understand now that I must change. Everything must change.”

Up next: Disillusion

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