Born with extraordinary powers, the X-men fight for peace in a world that hates and fears them. They are led by Professor Charles Xavier and together they face many daunting battles in the pursuit of their cause. But few have been as trying as the one they find themselves in now.
It all started with their arch nemesis Magneto and his band of militant mutants, the Brotherhood. After recruiting the likes of Avalanche, Pyro, Blob, and Toad to go along with his son Quicksilver, his daughter the Scarlet Witch, and his trusted associate Mystique, he pursued an ambitious plan to rise up against humanity. He tried to stoke fear in humans by orchestrating an attack at a concert featuring a mutant singer named Dazzler. When the X-men thwarted him he moved his efforts to the underground, sending Mystique into the lair of the Morlocks to spread the word of his uprising. While the X-men were able to stem some of his influence, it hasn’t stopped other mutants from joining the battle.
Their target is Genosha, a small but mysterious island ruled by a ruthless dictator named Cameron Hodge. Hodge boasted to the world that he had a weapon that could contain all mutants. Now that weapon is nearing completion with the help of a scientist named Bolivar Trask and upon activation, there will be no stopping the emerging conflict. Cameron Hodge and Magneto now stand on a collision course towards all out war and the only ones standing in their way are the X-men.
Xavier Institute – Outside Hanger Bay
Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men spent many years trying to mitigate conflict between humans and mutants. Time and again, they stopped small affairs from becoming big affairs and big affairs from becoming catastrophic. They had their share of victories and defeats. But they had never faced a challenge like this before. This wasn’t just a matter of stopping someone from doing great harm. This was a matter of preventing two powerful forces from colliding and setting the world ablaze with war.
Professor Xavier had given his orders. The team suited up and gathered in the hanger. Scott was already preparing the jet for takeoff while the others piled inside. In a rare change of tactics, Charles Xavier himself was coming along with them. He rarely joined them on such missions due to his handicap, but he insisted on being part of this. It was dangerous for him and potentially hazardous for the team, but nobody tried to stop him. He deserved to be a part of this along with the rest of them. Wheelchair or no wheelchair, he was going to tap every ounce of his limited strength to prevent this war.
The X-men were almost ready. The battle between Magneto and Cameron Hodge awaited them. But a few lingered behind as the plane was getting ready for takeoff. One of them was Hank McCoy, who was doing some last second work on his laptop. He set it up just outside the hanger. Using a secure line, he accessed a very important message from an important ally.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Tessa,” he said under his breath.
“Come on, Beast! Let’s go!” urged Warren as he entered the plane.
“Yeah, Magneto ain’t gonna give us any leeway!” barked Logan.
“I’m on my way!” Hank called out.
Before he closed the program, he downloaded an attachment from his latest message and copied it to a flash drive. He then shut down his laptop and made sure the drive was secure before putting it in his pocket. As he turned towards the jet he saw Ororo already seated near a window. She wasn’t looking at him, but when he saw her he couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.
Lately, there had been some strain between them. The more time he spent on his laptop, the less time he spent with her. She didn’t know he was talking to a woman named Tessa and he wasn’t ready for her to know. He kept reassuring her that all was well and he was just looking into something on his own time. While there was some truth to that, lately it had been turning into something else. He wasn’t ready to put it into any sort of context. Ororo was still his focus. She was his girlfriend, not Tessa. He just had to keep reminding himself of that.
As he made his way towards the jet, he passed Bobby. Like his teacher, he had his own personal issues to deal with. The young mutant was pacing anxiously near the base of the jet, his eyes fixated on his cell phone. Hank figured he was trying to get in touch with Lorna. He could hardly blame him given the grim circumstances. From the looks of it, though, he wasn’t getting through.
“Come on, Lorna! Pick up!” he groaned as he called her again, “Where are you?”
“Bobby, we have to go,” coaxed Hank.
“Not without talking to, Lorna!” he said strongly, “I have to hear her voice again before we throw ourselves into the crossfire of an all out war.”
“I sympathize with your situation, but I’m sure she’s just as shaken by these events as the rest of the world.”
“Not Lorna. She doesn’t get shaken. There’s something else going on. I know there is! I need to talk to her about it! I’ve been calling and texting her all day and I still haven’t heard a word!”
“I’m sure she has her reasons,” Hank rationalized.
“Rhetorically speaking, Mr. McCoy, what are the chances they’re actually good reasons?” Bobby questioned.
He probably could have calculated the odds in his head. It didn’t take a genius to figure out they weren’t very good. Rather than run the numbers down for him, Hank put a comforting hand on his student’s wary shoulder. He clearly cared deeply for this girl, but they had a job to do.
“You’ll have plenty of time to work it out with her when this is over. For now, we need to focus on mitigating this conflict,” he told him.
“I know. I know,” sighed Bobby, “Heroics trump relationships. It’s part of the fine print in this whole X-men deal.”
“Without our heroics, relationships wouldn’t even be a secondary concern,” Hank pointed out, “There is much at stake. We aren’t just fighting to save those we care about. We’re fighting to save everyone, human and mutant alike.”
Bobby kept looking at his phone, hoping that it would start ringing or a text would come in. But nothing came. Lorna was still silent. He didn’t like the idea of going into a battle like this without at least talking to her. If for no other reason, he wanted to tell her he loved her. But he didn’t have a choice. It just gave him all the more incentive to see this through so he could be with her again.
Sighing to himself, he turned off his phone and put it away. He then followed Hank into the X-jet, which was already primed for launch. Nobody said a word as they strapped themselves in and prepared for takeoff. Scott and Logan quickly went through every procedure, making sure the jet was ready for the dangerous flight ahead. Jean and the Professor were sitting in the seats behind them. Rogue, Kitty, Ororo, and Warren were in the passenger area. Bobby joined them in one of the window seats while Hank entered the cockpit so he could monitor the scanners.
“Are we ready, Cyclops?” asked Hank as he strapped himself in.
“We’ve been ready, McCoy!” replied Logan, “Next time, check your email after we stop the world from blowing up in our faces!”
“I do apologize, but it was important,” he said.
“I’ll take your word for it, Hank,” said the Professor in the seat behind him, “You can fill me in along the way. Right now, we need to get airborne!”
“Way ahead of you, Professor! Hold on, X-men!” said Cyclops as he hit the afterburner, “Next stop, Genosha!”
The engines roared as the X-jet shot out through the secret opening at the cliff at high speeds. The X-men held on, knowing a major battle lay just ahead. But this was not a time to muse on the grave nature of their situation. This was a time to get into the right mindset. They were about to confront two powerful forces in Magneto and Cameron Hodge. If left unchecked they could cause untold damage. This could be the very war Magneto himself had been espousing for years. There was no certainty that they would be able to stop him or Hodge for that matter, but they had to try. It was their duty and their responsibility as X-men.
Lorna’s Room – Earlier
Lorna sat anxiously on her bed, hugging her knees in state of anguish. She had been tossing and turning all night. Just when it seemed she was finally nodding off, it happened again. That anxious feeling that had been consuming her since she encountered Wanda and Pietro filled her with dread and she shot up in a cold sweat. She was still dead tired. She should have been used to getting just four hours of sleep every night. Between work, school, her mother, and Bobby she didn’t have the time or strength to take care of everything. She tried to keep it together, but something had to give. Unfortunately, that something was Bobby.
She cared about him deeply. She wasn’t afraid to admit she loved him. But there were just some things she couldn’t talk to him about. They involved matters he just couldn’t understand. She tried to make it so it didn’t affect their relationship. For the most part it hadn’t, but that was changing. She recently got some news that would make it very difficult for them to avoid these issues. She wanted to talk to him about it, but she wasn’t sure where to begin.
Sitting up in her bed, she found herself looking at all the messages Bobby had been leaving her. It would have been so simple to just call him up and come clean. But she didn’t feel she was ready. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him. Once she told him what was going on, it was going to change things between them drastically. She just wasn’t sure she was ready for it.
“Oh Bobby…you make it harder every time you say you love me,” she said as she read over the latest message.
Suddenly, she was jolted from her daze by a knock on her window. The knock was surprising enough, but considering her apartment was on the sixth floor it was even more shocking. When she turned around to see who it was she was met with a presence she had long dreaded.
“Hello Lorna,” said Wanda Maximoff as she used her powers to unlock and open the window.
“You!” she spat angrily, “What are you doing here?!”
“It’s time,” Wanda replied cryptically.
“Time for what? What do you want?!” said Lorna anxiously as she got off her bed and took a defensive stance.
“You know why I’m here. You knew this day was coming,” she told her, “Pietro and I once told you that you were going to have to make a decision. You’ve had plenty of time to think it over. You’ve also had plenty of time to receive that unpleasant news I warned you about.”
Lorna was silent. Memories of her first date with Bobby came rushing back to her. She remembered how Wanda and Pietro confronted her, delivering a message that was sure to affect her greatly. She didn’t want to believe them at the time, but the message had been prophetic and Wanda reminded her that she knew more than she did.
“I’m sure you’ve already spoken to your mother,” said the Scarlet Witch, “You know her situation and she knows yours. But after the events of today, everything is going to become much more complicated.”
“Why? What’s going to happen today?” asked Lorna nervously.
“Whether I tell you or not depends on your decision. So choose now. Regardless of what you decide, your fate is still tied to us.”
“Don’t talk to me about fate! I don’t care what you have on me and my mom, I’m not falling in line with you and whatever madness you’re apart of!”
“That sounds like something Iceman would say,” scoffed Wanda, “Are you really going to believe him when he’s powerless to help you?”
“He’s told me about you and Magneto! He’s also a decent human being so he has way more credibility than you ever will!”
“Regardless of who is credible, you still have to make a decision. I’ve already said it before. We aren’t going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. But you have the option to be a part of this and you have a chance to help yourself and your mother.”
“How?! How do you think you’re going to help her?” demanded Lorna.
“With more resources than you’ll ever manage in this dump,” said Wanda gesturing towards her impoverished surroundings, “Forget for a moment everything that Iceman had told you about us. Think only about your own life and that of your mother’s. You can either make it easier on yourself or you can reject our help and make everything much worse.”
It was a difficult decision. Lorna knew the kind of hardship Wanda was describing. Looking around her disheveled and cramped room, she knew her situation was not good. Especially after the news she got from her mother. At any rate she was going to endure some major hardships with her. It was a hardship she didn’t feel she was strong enough to endure. She could handle so much with school, work, and life in general as a mutant. But she couldn’t handle this.
Looking over at her dresser, her eyes fell upon a picture of her and Bobby they had taken on one of their dates. It was a comforting memory and she knew that by making this decision, she may end up hurting him. She didn’t take this lightly. No matter what she decided, there were going to be consequences. It was only a matter of what she was strong enough to endure. But her strength only went so far. With so many burdens bearing down on her, the young woman made a fateful decision.
“I…I’ll go with you,” said Lorna in a low tone.
Wanda approached the younger woman and smiled.
“I hoped you would. You’ll see in due time that you’re making the right decision.”
“But…my mother,” said Lorna in a shaky tone.
“Don’t worry about her. Father has already made arrangements,” assured Wanda.
She then led her to the window. There Lorna’s eyes widened when she saw what was outside. It was a spherical metallic transport orb, one that looked big enough to carry two people. She quickly surmised where this was going. She was going to be taken away from this life and into a world she hoped to avoid.
“Get dressed and climb aboard,” said the Scarlet Witch, “Time is short and Father’s plans will soon be taking shape.”
“Can I at least speak to my, mother?” asked Lorna.
“You’ll have plenty of time later. We’ve already sent someone to pick her up and take her to a safe place. Until this is over, you cannot speak to anybody outside. You are in a privileged position and if too many people know, then we all may be in danger.”
“Please Lorna,” urged Wanda, trying to maintain a calm tone, “We don’t have time for this. I promise it’ll all work out for the better. You’ll just have to trust me.”
Lorna’s demeanor shifted. Wanda could tell she was still full of uncertainty. She blamed Iceman for making her so untrusting of them. At least she still made the right decision. That showed she still had some competence. While she still wasn’t thrilled about her father bringing her into this, she understood his reasoning.
“Okay…let’s get this over with,” said Lorna distantly.
After a quick change of clothes, Lorna joined Wanda in the transport orb. Within seconds they were off into the clear morning sky.
Over The Indian Ocean – Present
The flight to Genosha aboard Magneto’s makeshift floating disk was a tense but exciting affair. Many crowded around the center where members of the Brotherhood, namely Wanda and Pietro, went over details for those uncertain of their roles. Many wanted to fight, but most weren’t combat trained. But that didn’t matter. So long as they had a breath in their bodies and a desire for mutant justice, they were going to participate. They were united for a common cause. Mutants from all over the world held on waited with anticipation as the floating metal disk followed Magneto, who continued to lead the way.
However, not everybody in the crowd was as enthusiastic about the coming battle. Among them was Lorna, who stood outside the crowd wearing a makeshift Brotherhood uniform given to her by Pietro. It was green, similar to the color of her hair, and had a number of magnetic embroiders on it to symbolize her magnetic powers. But as nice at it looked, she wasn’t too keen on the mission at hand. Her lack of enthusiasm drew some attention.
“That the girl?” asked Pyro as he stood outside the crowd with Avalanche and Blob.
“Yep, that’s Lorna. Magneto’s other pride and joy,” said Blob dryly.
“What’s the story with that?” wondered Avalanche.
“Hell if I know. Based on what Pietro told me, it ain’t pretty,” said Blob.
“I don’t think any of us want to know,” said Toad, “Girl looks like damaged goods to me. Don’t know why the big man wants her on the front lines.”
“Eh, who cares?” shrugged Pyro, “She may be a bit young and timid, but she’s still quite a looker! I’m liking that exotic green hair! You think the carpet matches the drapes?”
That earned some snickers from the others, but before anyone could make another comment Pietro ran by at high speeds and hit the Australian mutant upside the head.
“Ow! Damn it, Quicksilver!” groaned Pyro.
“Don’t even attempt to finish that thought, John!” said the speedster firmly, “Lorna’s a special case! Nobody’s is allowed to approach her unless I or my father says so! Got it?!”
“So are you saying they don’t match?” Pyro replied as he rubbed his head.
“I mean it, Pyro!” roared Pietro.
“I get it! Jeez, I was just making a little observation!” said Pyro innocently, “It’s not like I’m crazy enough to go for jailbait.”
“With you, Pyro, who can tell?” remarked Avalanche.
Pyro shot him a look and sent a small flame at his face to spite him. Avalanche backed away and was tempted to fight back, but Quicksilver got between them and stood firm. This was neither the place nor time for such disagreements.
“So is she even gonna be part of the big brawl?” asked Blob.
“That’s up to Magneto,” said Quicksilver, “Her situation is…complicated.”
“Complicated how? She a long lost sister or something?” asked Toad.
“That’s not for me to say. All you need to know is she’s not your concern. The only thing you guys should be focusing on is kicking Hodge’s ass. Is that clear?”
Avalanche and Blob just nodded while Pyro groaned. He didn’t mind taking orders from Magneto, but when Quicksilver got into the act it was nothing short of annoying.
“Whatever mate,” said Pyro, “You know just because you have your father’s hair doesn’t mean you have his authority. You got as much subtlety as a dingoes punch.”
“Make one more remark and I’ll show you subtlety!” threatened Quicksilver, now eyeing the Australian with a threatening gaze, “Just stay out of my way until we get to Genosha! Otherwise Hodge won’t be my only target!”
Pyro still didn’t look all that threatened. But Quicksilver didn’t stick around to continue this argument. He stormed off and met up with Wanda, who had just finished addressing a few groups of mutants. There was a growing commotion amongst their mutant. He could sense they were psyching themselves up for what they were about to face. They were like a bunch of caged animals ready to turn on their captors. He wished he could share their mentality, but he had other concerns.
When Wanda saw her brother’s disgruntled state she caught up with him as well. Lorna also caught her eye. She wouldn’t make eye-contact with her or Pietro for that matter, but she could sense her discomfort with this situation.
“I really hope the battle starts soon. I need to start venting after all this bullshit from Pyro,” grumbled Pietro.
“Hang in there. Save that temper of yours for Hodge,” remarked Wanda, “You should have other concerns, namely Lorna.”
“Why should I? She hasn’t said a word since we left,” commented Pietro, “I tried talking to her earlier, but she won’t even look at me.”
“And you’re supposed to be so good with women,” said Wanda dryly.
“This is serious, Wanda! I don’t like her being involved like this! Father could just as easily have waited until this was over to retrieve her.”
“Well he decided otherwise and it’s too late now. You know her situation. She has more than enough incentive to help us.”
“Incentive isn’t my concern. It’s her motivation that worries me,” said Pietro as he looked over at her suspiciously, “She’s been dating an X-man for crying out loud! That makes her loyalty a liability!”
“That may be true. But it doesn’t change her status with us,” said Wanda firmly, “I’m not keen on the idea either, but we have to trust Father’s word in this matter. He’s the one who insisted upon this.”
“I know. But I question whether or not it has anything to do with the mission at hand.”
“So do I. But so long as we stick to the plan, it shouldn’t matter in the long run.”
The speedster still didn’t like it. When he first found out about her he wasn’t sure what to make of her. But the more he got to know her, the more uncertain he became. It wasn’t just her youth that bothered him. It was her mindset. She didn’t carry herself as someone of their lineage. There was a weakness to her that just didn’t sit well. Maybe that was just the influence of Bobby Drake, but he had a feeling it stemmed much deeper.
“Has Father even talked to her?”
“No…not yet,” said Wanda distantly, “We have other concerns at the moment. Just try to set it aside for now. I’m sure Father will deal with this when our endeavor is complete.”
The speedster responded with a scoff, but Wanda didn’t push the issue any further. She knew it was a sore subject and it was useless to argue with someone like Pietro. She went back to her duties, but Pietro kept a close eye on Lorna. She was still keeping her distance, but at one point she did look back at him. There was no bitterness or resentment in her eyes, just uncertainty. He made it clear to her that her presence with them was tenuous. But she kept to herself, leaving Pietro along with his suspicions.
Genosha Research Facility – Arena
Genosha had a long history with mutants. Nobody knew why, but the mutant birthrate on this tiny island in the Indian Ocean was greater than any other place in the world. Even as the island was conquered and re-conquered throughout history, a mutant population always persisted. There was an old legend that this island was cursed. The story went that when it was first conquered in prehistoric times, the last native placed a curse that would cause the offspring of future generations to be deformed. Other stories told of radioactive materials being responsible for the mutants. Some even believed it was the work of aliens. But whatever the reason, Genosha had always dealt with a mutant population. Then Cameron Hodge came along and everything took a turn for the worse.
This was his motto through his ascent to power. It was as bloody as any military takeover. He murdered everyone associated with the previous regime. Then he began this elaborate agenda that labeled mutants as the cause of all problems. Nobody knew his reasons, but whatever the case, they got caught up in his agenda and as the mutant issue grew more tenuous all over the world it evolved into greater horrors, the latest of which led them here.
As part of Cameron Hodge’s aggressive containment policy, he rounded up every mutant on the island and imprisoned them in one of his high tech research facilities. This roundup was messy and bloody. Nobody knew how many died as a result, but in the end every last mutant ended up imprisoned. Anybody that resisted was brutalized. Families were even killed for trying to fight back. It was a traumatic experience for anybody who experienced it, but it was only the beginning of something far worse.
The facility itself was a huge glass and metal dome that was surrounded by imposing buildings filled with Hodge’s armed guards. Inside the dome there were camps and makeshift shacks to house the mutants. Food, water, and sanitation were minimal at best and non-existent at worst. Most of the time they were forced to work, doing heavy lifting and helping Hodge work on his various projects. To keep them from using their powers, they were given these inhibitor collars that held back their powers. But even if they didn’t, there were armed guards everywhere. One wrong move and they would shoot them with paralyzing energy guns and punish them by putting them in isolation chambers. It was a truly miserable existence. Death was almost welcome, but Hodge made it clear that nobody would die until he carried out his agenda.
“Power, strength, and progress my ass,” said the disgruntled voice of a young mutant.
One of the unlucky prisoners was a young man named Russell “Rusty” Collins. He was not actually born on this island, but he spent most his life here. His father was a tough-nosed military man who spent most of his life in the navy. But when he was little, his father got into trouble for killing a civilian and fled to Genosha where there was no extradition. It was not a pleasant place. Genosha at the time was in between dictators and civil order was at a premium. But he and his father held their own, even as his father drank himself to death. It was only when his mutant powers manifested that things got really bad.
At first he thought they were a godsend. He had the ability to generate fire, which came in handy when dealing with bandits looking for a fight. But when Cameron Hodge came to power, his military thugs rounded him up like they did every other mutant. Ever since, he lived a bitter existence in this oversized prison camp. On a number of occasions he tried to fight back, but without his powers he was just a target for Hodge’s thugs. He along with the nearly 400 other mutants that called this place home were nothing more than pawns in a madman’s game.
“Fucking Cameron Hodge,” muttered Rusty as he toiled away lifting creates with his fellow prisoners.
“Shut up, Rusty! You’re going to get us in trouble again!” said Rictor, a Mexican mutant he often worked with.
“So what? As if it can get any worse?” said the fiery mutant bitterly, “Look around! We’re prisoners! Eventually Hodge will just get annoyed with us and kill us all.”
“Don’t give him any ideas, amigo! Some of us want to live!”
“Quiet over there!” barked a guard, “One more word out of you and you’ll spend the rest of the week in isolation!”
That shut both mutants up. It wasn’t so much the fear of death that kept them in line. It was Hodge’s willingness to keep them all alive for this miserable life that truly defined his cruelty. At least other dictators had the decency to just kill their prisoners when they got annoying. Hodge, however, took a different and more mysterious approach.
Rusty continued to toil along with the other mutants. Their daily drudgery would continue from sunrise to sunset. That’s how it was every day and from the looks of it that’s how it was always going to be so long as Hodge was in power. There wasn’t a mutant on the island that didn’t want a shot at that madman. But with the way things were going, they would never have their chance.
Suddenly, their drudgery was interrupted by a deafening tone that echoed from the various speakers stationed throughout the facility. The mutant prisoners groaned while the guards instinctively stood at attention, their weapons in a combat ready position in case any mutant decided to try something. Then on the glassy dome above, a large holographic image of Cameron Hodge appeared for all to see.
“Attention all mutants. This is your master and overlord, Cameron Hodge. Due to recent tensions caused by your mutant brethren around the world, Genosha’s official policy towards mutants has changed. As of now, all mutants present will be subject to a new level of containment. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Genoshan scientists, a new system has been developed to better deal with the mutant population. And you, my ‘privileged’ citizens, will be the first to take part in it.”
There were no cheers for joy or sense of relief. The mutants of Genosha knew Hodge well enough to understand the subtext to his words. There was nothing privileged about their position. They all knew that once again they were about to bear the brunt end of Cameron Hodge’s madness.
“All guards are to clear out of the dome and seal all entrances and exits. All mutants are to drop what they are doing and gather in the central area. Disobey me at your own peril. That is all.”
The hologram disappeared and Hodge’s guards quickly complied with his orders. In the span of three minutes every guard cleared out of the dome, leaving only the mutants in this prison. They kept their guns pointed at them the whole time, making sure they wouldn’t try anything to escape or impede their orders. Once every last guard was out, the doors were sealed and the mutants of Genosha were left to an uncertain fate.
At first nobody knew what to do. Some complied with Hodge’s orders while others just wandered about, not wanting to give that man the satisfaction. Rusty and Rictor were among them. But even those who didn’t comply were still struck with fear and dread. Every time Hodge unveiled a new mutant policy, their lives only got worse.
“What do you think this is about?” wondered Rictor, hiding his uncertainty.
“Does it matter?” scoffed Rusty as he stayed put, “We all know it’s going to be bad. The least we can do is not make it easy for him!”
Main Research Facility – Prison Observation Deck
Bolivar Trask spent much of his adult life developing weapons. Over his many years of research his inventive mind came up with some amazing if not radical concepts. But what he accomplished here on Genosha was beyond anything he ever expected. Cameron Hodge was the first man to ever give him free reign. With his money and resources, he developed what promised to be the ultimate mutant containment system. It would not only ensure humanity’s security for many years to come, it signified a quantum leap in the course of modern weaponry.
On the observation deck looking over the dome prison, Trask stood with Hodge at one of the control consoles. Surrounding him were a platoon of the ruler’s elite guard and a team of his own trusted associates. Tensions in the room ran high, but the excitement couldn’t be greater. This was something both he and Hodge had been working for ever since he came to power. Everything was in place. It was just a matter of setting it into motion.
“My men have cleared out of the dome, Bolivar,” said Hodge, “You may begin the demonstration.”
“It’s almost ready, Cameron,” said Trask as he looked over the status bar, “The primary AI is nearly configured. Now you’re sure this dome will keep these mutants inside?”
“Why must you doubt me, old friend?” said Cameron, rolling his eyes, “You know it’s secure and the prisoners are in no condition to leave.”
“Sorry, but I’m just making sure. In my experience, mutants can be very tricky. That’s why this demonstration is so important. It will prime the sentinels to seek out and contain only mutants while ensuring that humans are protected.”
“I’m sure they’ll be every bit as proficient as you designed them to be. They are, after all, your creations,” said Hodge with a wry grin.
Trask kept working feverishly, checking and re-checking every possible configuration. Hodge and his henchmen kept a close eye on him, watching as the status screens delivered real-time streaming data. Hodge’s grin seemed to get wider with each passing moment. But Trask remained focused. For him, this was the moment of truth.
Once the final protocols were loaded, there was only one last command to issue. A large blinking button on the console would push them past the point of no return.
“We’re ready,” he said as he took a deep breath, “Project Sentinel is officially activated.”
With brimming anticipation, Trask pushed the button. The lights actually flickered once the fateful command was given. Everyone could feel the massive amounts of power being directed to every facility on the island. It was an ominous yet exciting feeling. The ground actually began to shake as everything Hodge and Trask had been working for was about to take shape.
Prison Dome – Central Arena
Panic quickly set in as the despondent mutants of Genosha felt the ground around them shake. But these were no ordinary tremors. It was as if something below the ground they were standing on was actually moving. It was not a pleasant feeling. They had all experienced the kind of madness Hodge was capable of. If this was his doing, then they had every reason to dread the outcome.
The shaking was most violent along the perimeter of the dome. Mutants like Rusty and Rictor who defiantly stayed put when Hodge ordered them to move quickly regretted their decision.
“What the hell is going on?!” exclaimed Rusty.
“I don’t know, but that order to get to the central area suddenly doesn’t seem so bad anymore!” said Rictor.
The two mutants set aside their defiant attitude and stumbled towards the central area where the shaking was less. By the time they arrived nearly every mutant in the dome had already gathered. Despite exhaustion and despair, they huddled together and braced themselves for whatever they were about the face. The stronger and more resilient mutants tried to protect those who were younger and more vulnerable, but even they couldn’t hide their fear as they saw the ground around them literally bulge around them.
Soon there were large bulging piles of earth around the whole perimeter of the dome. They couldn’t make out how many there were, but there had to be at least a dozen. The shaking got more violent as the rocky ground cracked. Then in a deafening burst of power, something shot out from the bulge like a rocket. Whatever was behind this power, it was big. Once the dust and debris cleared, the hapless prisoners took in what they were up against. For many, it left them in total shock.
They were tall, ominous looking robot humanoids. They stood at least several stories tall and were covered in an elaborate display of purple and dark red armor plates. They had the stature of a well-built human, complete with bulky arms and legs that undoubtedly contained any number of lethal firepower. Their frame was just as imposing, containing a mysterious glowing circle that emulated a bright bluish light. But the most menacing feature of all was their heads. They had faces, but not of the human variety. They were stoic and cold, glowing with an ominous red glare. When the group of shocked mutants came into it’s sights, it actually turned it’s head and looked at them.
“Sentinel program alpha, initiated. Primary protocol engage.”
“Holy mother of god,” gasped Rictor.
“You said it, Rictor,” said Rusty in a daze, “If this island weren’t already a nightmare, I would say we’re officially in Hell.”
Skies Over Genosha
The X-jet had been flying at full throttle since they took off. It was a race against time for the X-men. They had to get to Genosha before Magneto. They had to stop this war before it erupted into an uncontrollable conflict that would engulf the world. There was no clear cut plan on how to do this. They didn’t know much about Cameron Hodge and his island nation had always been a bit of a mystery. All they knew for sure was that he was a man of grand ambitions and he was using mutants to fulfill these ambitions.
While on route to the island, Hank and Xavier accessed every network they could using an uplink to the institute’s computers. If they were going into Genosha they had to at least know what kind of a place this was. There wasn’t much, but there was enough for them to get an idea on what they were going to do.
“We’re nearing Genoshan airspace,” said Cyclops, who had been flying the jet the whole trip, “Hank, is the stealth generator online?”
“It’s been on since we passed over Africa,” reported Beast, “But being detected isn’t our biggest problem. Initiating this attack is the real challenge.”
“And how are we gonna do that?” asked Rogue, “Just land and start probing for information?”
“That would be the most logical tactic, Rogue. But with so little time we may have to skip that step,” said the Professor.
“Fine with me,” shrugged Wolverine, “Just means we can get straight to the action!”
“It’s not that simple, Wolverine. It never is,” said Xavier, “Based on reports from the Pentagon, Genosha has a total population of around five million. But most of those people are subject to Hodge’s authoritarian regime. They’re basically wage earners toiling away on farms and in factories.”
“Sounds like your typical tyrannical state,” said Angel, “So I guess that means we’re going straight for Hodge himself?”
“Not quite,” said Beast, “Hodge may be a tyrant, but he’s no fool. His location is never easy to pinpoint. So we won’t focus on him or his citizens.”
“Then what will we be focusing on? We do have something close to an objective, don’t we?” said Iceman, “Because we’ll look pretty foolish if we just land and start blowing stuff up.”
“Don’t worry, Iceman. We do have a target,” said Xavier as he brought up an image on the screen that was large enough for everyone to see, “Based on satellite readings, Cameron Hodge’s island is dominated by several large facilities spaced equally throughout the island. These facilities were once military bases run by the previous regime, but Hodge has turned them into something more.”
“What exactly is he doing in these facilities?” asked Storm.
“Nobody knows for sure, but supposedly this is where he’s been conducting his research on mutant containment. They’re highly secure and highly secretive so there’s no telling what he’s developed.”
“Oh please tell me we’re blowing these things up,” said Wolverine, who had a particular aversion to any ambiguous building labeled a research facility.
“That may very well be necessary, but there is another reason why we’re focusing on these facilities.”
Xavier and Hank brought up another image. This time the focus was on the largest facility located in the center of the island. This one had the most defining feature, which was the huge dome structure in the center. It looked pretty ominous and if the buildings surrounding it were any indication, it was important.
“Before we left the mansion, I did a focused scan with Cerebro. Hodge has heavily shielded his island from psychic probing, but I was able to pick up on a great number of mutant signatures. They all seem to be centered on this particular facility.”
“Do you know the kind of state these mutants are in?” asked Marvel Girl warily.
“No,” said Xavier solemnly, “I only know they’re all concentrated within the central dome structure.”
“We suspect it’s some sort of prison camp,” said Beast, “Nearly every intelligence report has come to the same conclusion.”
“A prison camp?!” exclaimed Kitty, who was understandably shaken by such a notion, “Then we have to free them!”
“We will, Kitty,” said Xavier strongly, “But we must be careful with our next course of action. We do not know the extent of these systems Hodge has developed. Our primary focus is to stop Hodge.”
“But what about Magneto?” asked Angel, “If we stop Hodge then what’s to stop Magneto from finishing what he started?”
“We’ll deal with him when we know more about the situation with Hodge,” said Xavier, “For now, we must focus our efforts on infiltrating the central facility, disrupting whatever weapons systems Hodge is deploying, and reveal his atrocities to the world. Our best chance is for me to get close with Hodge and read his mind. If there’s anyone with information that can stop this war, it’s him.”
“Why can’t you just let me do it?” suggested Marvel Girl, “You don’t have to put yourself in harm’s way like this, Professor.”
“I would if that were an option, my dear. But Hodge has already shown an uncanny ability to shield his entire population from psychic intrusion. It will likely take a far greater effort to extract any secrets from him.”
Jean still didn’t like the idea. But the Professor had a point. He was a far more skilled telepath than she was. If Hodge had the kind of defenses they suspected, it would take her too much time to get anything out of him.
“Moreover, I need you with the others,” added Xavier, “You along with the rest of the X-men must pave the way.”
“With a guy that ruthless, that’s going to be a challenge Professor,” said Cyclops.
“I know, but we have to try,” said Xavier strongly, “If possible, I want to reason with him. I have a strong feeling there’s more to this than meets the eye.”
“Trust me, Chuck. Guys like Hodge ain’t that deep,” said Wolverine, “They’re just wacked out nut-jobs who ain’t satisfied until the whole world is licking the mud off his feet.”
“For our sake, let’s hope that is not the case,” said Xavier as he shut down the computer, “Hodge is still a man. If we can reach him we may be able to stop this madness.”
The plan seemed set as Cyclops flew the get in lower. There was still a fair amount of uncertainty. The idea of the Professor thrusting himself into this battle still didn’t sit well. They worried enough about their mentor being handicapped and a cancer survivor. Watching him dive head-first into a mission like this was plenty of cause for concern. But he had a good point. If anyone could extract the secrets from a man like Cameron Hodge, it was him.
The island nation was near. Through the front windows, the island nation came into view. The air grew tense with the knowledge that they were that much closer to Hodge’s brutal regime. Just as the shores of Genosha came into view, the X-men were greeted with a very unpleasant sight.
“Uh…Professor?” said Angel, “I think this mission just got a whole lot harder.”
“And crazier! Look down there!” added Rogue, who pointed out the window.
Down below on the shores, two dozen sentinels stood side-by-side in a defensive posture. The sight of these huge, robot humanoids came as quite a surprise, even if it wasn’t the most outrageous thing the X-men had encountered. They looked quite menacing and as they got closer, their ominous eyes started flashing.
“Whoa…” said Kitty in a state of shock.
“Giant metal robots?” said Iceman in bewilderment, “This is Hodge’s secret weapon? You’d think he wouldn’t be so clichéd.”
“Don’t start making jokes yet, Bobby! We don’t know what these things are capable of!” said Cyclops as he immediately pulled up on the controls.
“Stay calm, Cyclops,” said Beast, “Whatever they’re capabilities, our stealth system should keep us safe until we reach the facility.”
But much to Beast’s dismay, the sentinels below seemed to pick up on their presence. And as the X-jet flew over them at high speeds, their defense protocols began running.
“Mutant intrusion detected. Objective: neutralize.”
The massive robot humanoids then turned around and with a fiery blast, rocket engines that were built into their feet ignited. Within seconds the sentinels were air-born and they set their sights on the X-jet.
“Some stealth system, Hank! Why didn’t ya just put a freakin’ banner on the end of this tin can?!” exclaimed Wolverine.
“I don’t think it’s the jet they’re sensing, Wolverine!” said Beast as alarms throughout the jet blared, “They seem to be homing in on our mutant signatures!”
“Great! Mutant-seeking killer robots!” groaned Rogue, “Any way to jam it?”
Before Beast could even start formulating a way to counter this, the sentinels began firing at them using laser cannons that were built right into their hands.
“No time! Everybody hold on!” said Cyclops as he kicked the jet into high gear.
The X-men held onto their seats as the jet did a barrel roll and banked hard to the right in order to avoid the sentinel attack. But the imposing robot humanoids proved tenacious. With their hands facing forward like a spearhead the sentinels kept firing, filling the skies with streams of deadly red lasers. Some came so close the team could see them pass right by the windows. It was not a comforting feeling even as Cyclops did a daring arc maneuver that put some more distance between them and the sentinels. But these exotic new foes continued their pursuit.
Cyclops pushed the limits of the X-jet, flying over the ocean and along the ridged cliffs near the shore of the island. He then skimmed the surface, passing over a few farms and towns, pulling several sonic booms in the process. But the sentinels kept coming and more kept joining the fight. Whenever he passed over certain areas, new sentinels emerged from the ground and started attacking. Even for a jet as advanced as the X-jet, it was overmatched.
“There’s too many of them!” exclaimed Cyclops, “We may have to pull back!”
“No wait! I have an idea!” said the Professor, “Head towards the dome in the central facility! Try and draw their fire!”
“What are we going to do? Crash through it?!” exclaimed Angel.
“Not exactly,” said Xavier as he held onto his seat as more turbulence hit, “Kitty, remember those exercises I taught you? The ones about getting objects you come into contact with to become intangible as well?”
“Are you suggesting what I think you are, Professor?” groaned Kitty, already dizzy from the turbulence.
“You can do it!” he encouraged her, “I’ll help you every step of the way. But we need you to push yourself if we’re to get away from these monstrosities!”
It was putting a lot on the shoulders of a girl who just joined the team. Kitty hadn’t even taken part in a mission yet and here she was being trusted to save them all from a fleet of mutant-hunting robots. It was trial by fire of the worst kind. But refusing wasn’t an option for her. She had to try. The team was depending on her.
“I’ll do it!” she said with renewed determination, “Cyclops, do you think you can steady this thing?”
“No promises,” Cyclops replied, “I’m going to fly up and arc down into the dome. Once we’re in we’re going to need to put on the breaks pretty fast!”
“Let me take care of that!” said Marvel Girl, “Just get us through, Kitty!”
“Okay, but if I do this! You give me a codename!” she said.
More laser blasts filled the sky as Cyclops pulled off the daring maneuver. Along the way they felt several jolts. A couple of the blasts grazed the plane. Even though it was well-armored, it definitely affected it. But it held together as Cyclops arced it over at a moderate altitude and sped towards the dome, which was now in sight. The sentinels were all following closely, firing relentlessly in the process. He continued to do a few barrel roles to keep them from scoring a direct hit, but the dome was coming up fast and if Kitty couldn’t pull this off, they would all be done for.
Despite the turbulence and pressure, Kitty gripped her seat firmly and took a deep breath. She had never pushed her powers this much before. She was able to make heavy weights and even some of her teammates intangible during Danger Room sessions. But she never did anything like this, trying to make an entire jet intangible. But there was no time for doubt. She wanted a chance to prove herself to the team and this was it.
“Get ready Kitty!” said Cyclops as he gripped the controls, “We’re almost there!”
It was now or never. Kitty saw the dome coming up fast and prepared herself for the split second she would have to act. The next five seconds went by in slow motion for her. The jet finally leveled off and they were heading straight for it. But just as the nose of the plane was about to touch the surface of the dome, Kitty made her move. Pushing her powers to new limits, she made herself and the entire jet intangible for a mere second. But it was just long enough to allow them to pass through.
Once they were in, Kitty gasped in a fit of exhaustion. She felt as though she had just run a marathon. But there was no time for fatigue. They weren’t out of danger yet. The jet was still speeding in an enclosed area. They had to stop or they would come out at the other end in pieces. So once they were though Cyclops hit the breaks and Marvel Girl used her telekinesis to catch them. What happened next was a test in G-force tolerance.
“Ugh! Cyclops…the breaks!” groaned Marvel Girl as she pushed her powers to slow the jet down.
“I got it!” assured the X-leader.
The reverse thrusters were engaged and just before they made contact with the other end of the dome, they came to a full stop. From there, the hover mechanisms took over. It ended a very turbulent ride, but they were not in the clear yet.
“It’s official. I’ll never ride another roller coaster,” groaned Iceman, struggling to keep his lunch down.
“Did we lose them?” asked Storm.
“I highly doubt it,” said Hank, who had since gathered himself and turned back to the scanners, “See for yourself.”
The X-men turned their attention to the end of the dome where they just came in. Even after having phased into the structure, the sentinels kept coming. They could see through the transparent sections that they were still pursuing them. And when they got to the surface they didn’t even slow down. They just went right through it, plowing through the glass and steel and into the spacious opening. And because there were so many, multiple sections of the dome were pierced. Their sights stayed on them, but they weren’t alone.
On the ground below, they could see the scene unfolding with the prisoners. Several other sentinels were boxing in the prisoners. They were surrounded, powerless, and had nowhere to escape. And with more sentinels now joining the fight, it was looking even worse for them. The X-men clearly had their work cut out for them.
“These things are persistent,” commented Marvel Girl, “But it looks like we’re not the only targets.”
“I can see that. Those must be the prisoners,” said Xavier as he looked at the grim scene.
“What they hell are they doing?” said Rogue warily.
“What does it look like? This place is a slaughterhouse and mutants are the cattle!” growled Wolverine, knowing the signs all too well, “That must be Hodge’s solution. Round ‘em up in one place and have his giant robot army kill them all!”
“That sick bastard!” grunted Kitty, still reeling from her earlier exertion, “We have to help them!”
“We will,” said Cyclops in a determined tone, “Let’s move, X-men!”
“About time!” growled Wolverine, “I’m gonna pry these things apart like a can a tuna!”
The X-leader put the jet into hover and popped open the hatch. The team then followed his lead as they all jumped outside and into the conflict. Even Kitty, who was still catching her breath, followed suit. She grew up hearing stories from her parents about heroic soldiers rescuing holocaust victims from prison camps. Now it was her chance to take part in that heroism. She just had to get through an army of giant robots.
Professor Xavier was also among them, leaving his wheelchair behind and leaning on Beast for support. This was going to be a difficult fight for him due to his limited mobility, but he did have a plan for getting around that.
Guided by Storm’s winds and Marvel Girl’s telekinesis, the team descended into the center area where the mutant prisoners were facing down the lethal sights of the sentinels. They could see the weakened mutants bracing themselves for their end.
“Mutants targeted. Objective: destroy.”
Each sentinel raised their hands and pointed their weapons into the frightened crowd of mutants. They didn’t even notice parts of the dome being shattered when the new round of sentinels entered. All they could focus on were the menacing figures that towered over them. But before the first shot could be fired, Cyclops and Iceman fired a round of optic blasts and ice beams that struck the sentinels head on. Those that did fire were deflected by Marvel Girl’s telekinesis.
This sudden change in luck surprised many of the mutants. When they looked up at the incoming X-men their outlook on this affair quickly shifted.
“Huh? We’re…we’re still alive?” said Rictor.
“Hang on, everybody! The X-men are here!” proclaimed Iceman, “Just sit tight and enjoy the show while we work our magic!”
“Don’t get too cocky, Iceman!” ordered Cyclops, “Just back me up and start taking these things down! Marvel Girl, defend the prisoners! Rogue and Kitty, get the inhibitor collars off! We’re going to need all the help we can get!”
“On it, Cyclops!” said Marvel Girl as she and Rogue went to work while the others did their parts, “Storm, we’ll need some cover!”
“You’ll have plenty, I assure you!” said the African woman.
The team sprung into action, landing in the center just outside the huddled mutants. They quickly began drawing the fire of the sentinels. Storm struck first, giving them cover by forming a column of clouds around the circle of the giant robot humanoids. Then with her eyes glowing bright white, she flew up high on a trail of wind and summoned a powerful lightning assault that attacked the heads of the robotic behemoths. The fierce strikes did plenty of damage. One sentinel’s head even exploded, but it only disrupted the sentinel’s attack. It did not stop them.
“New mutant threat identified. Re-assessing situation.”
“Re-assess this!” roared Wolverine as he pounced onto the first sentinel he saw.
Using his claws, Wolverine quickly scaled the robot humanoid. It detected his presence and tried to pick him off like a bug, but he was too nimble. Once he got up to the neck area, he started slashing away, cutting as many cables as he could. This further disoriented the sentinel as it tried to reach back and pry him off. But it missed again. And for the killing blow the feral mutant leapt down the back of the figure, dragging his claws down along the way and opening a gaping wound. More sparks flew and the sentinel fell back, rendering it useless.
“Some master plan!” scoffed Wolverine, “Who’s next?”
“Pick one already, Wolverine! There’s plenty to go around!” yelled Cyclops as he and Iceman continued blasting away.
Wolverine growled with predatory ferocity as he attacked another sentinel. The others backed him up, focusing their efforts on protecting the prisoners. Angel and Storm stayed air-born, drawing the sentinels fire. Storm continued hitting them with lightning and hail. They were heavily armored, but not to the point where they could resist the fury of nature. Angel had to be more creative with defeating these monstrosities. He quickly found out that their aim wasn’t exactly perfect. He was able to draw their fire enough to lure them into shooting other sentinels. With his nimble flight skills he was able to get one sentinel to take out one and disable another by literally blowing off its arm.
“These things really aren’t that bright,” commented Angel as he grinned with satisfaction, “Must be the beta version.”
With Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Angel, and Wolverine drawing so much fire, it allowed Marvel Girl and Rogue to focus on protecting the prisoners. Marvel Girl kept her telekinetic shield up to deflect incoming shots from sentinels the others had missed. She even managed to counter with some attacks of her own, unleashing a telekinetic wave that knocked one sentinel completely on its back. While under her protective shell, Kitty and Rogue went to work getting the inhibitor collars off the prisoners. Beast, who was keeping the Professor close, helped out as well.
They quickly found out that these collars weren’t like the ones used by Weapon X. They were a bit more advanced and had a lethal shocking mechanism that would activate if the wearer tried to pry it off. Kitty and Rogue quickly discovered they were able to get them off by having Kitty phase through them to short circuit the electronics while Rogue removed them. But given there were hundreds of prisoners, it was a slow and tedious process.
“Please! Get mine off next!” begged a young mutant.
“Hold on! We’ll get to everybody! Just sit tight!” urged Kitty as she phased through several other collars.
“This is takin’ too dang long!” said Rogue, “Professor, tell me there’s a better way!”
Rogue was right. This was going too slow. More sentinels were already flying in through the holes in the dome. They would need more manpower if they were to resist this onslaught. Xavier did a quick psychic scan of the prisoners, looking for anyone that may have powers that could help. Then he found someone.
“I have an idea,” said Xavier, who was still holding onto Beast, “Kitty, please release this gentleman here.”
Xavier directed Kitty over to an imposing looking man with gray skin, white eyes, and a stone-like complexion. He looked intimidating, but Kitty shook that off and did as the Professor requested, phasing through the collar and shorting it out. As soon as it was off, the figure grunted and in a strange show of power caused the whole collar to shatter like glass. Once he was freed, Xavier used his telepathy to address the figure.
‘Excuse me, my boy. Mr…Shatter? Is that what you call yourself?’
He didn’t say anything in response, but he looked over at the Professor and acknowledged his message.
‘I need your help. We need your powers to free the rest of the prisoners. If you would give me your permission, please let me into your mind and I’ll help you expand your powers to a point where you can free everyone.’
The figure known as Shatter stayed silent. But then he smiled, which granted Xavier the permission he wanted. He opened his mind, allowing the powerful telepath in so he could help him push his powers. It wasn’t too difficult. Shatter cooperated every step of the way, summoning within him a new strength unlocked within his mind. Then with Xavier’s guidance he focused it on every collar.
Within a few seconds, every prisoner that still had a collar on felt it shatter as if it were as frail as glass. It was a welcome feeling for the mutants who had their powers suppressed ever since they were imprisoned. Among them were Rusty and Rictor. With their powers, now they could join in the fight.
“Alright! That’s what I’m talking about!” grinned Rusty as he formed some fireballs.
“Guess we’ll get our payback after all,” said Rictor as he cracked his knuckles intently.
“You all will!” said Rogue, “Just pick anything that looks like a robot and attack!”
The thirst for vengeance took over as the mob of former prisoners joined the X-men in the attack on the sentinels. Even mutants without any offensive power capabilities threw themselves at the merciless machines. They had been held back and oppressed for too long under Cameron Hodge. Now they had a chance to pay him back for all the suffering he inflicted. More sentinels joined the attack, but the mutants now had numbers on their side and fought back with a valiant fervor.
“Now this is what I call backup!” grinned Iceman as he and Cyclops rode around on an ice slide, blasting every sentinel they came across.
“Just don’t hog em all!” said Wolverine with a wolfish grin, “These scrap heaps are too much fun to rip apart!”
“You’re enjoying this way too much,” commented Marvel Girl with a wry grin.
“It’s what I do best!” growled Wolverine as he plunged his claws into another sentinel.
The battle escalated as more mutants followed the X-men’s lead. Together they pushed back the sentinels, disrupting them so they couldn’t get organized and focus their efforts. It became messy and uncoordinated as many of these prisoners were working off pent up anger for Cameron Hodge. It led to a number of them getting hurt, but this didn’t deter anybody.
For those that didn’t fight such as young children, their mothers, and the elderly they stayed under the protective cover of Marvel Girl and Kitty Pryde. Marvel Girl deflected incoming attacks from stray sentinels and Kitty phased those in the line of fire through the danger. Some were weak and needed medical attention and they did what they could to help. Hank and the Professor stuck close by as well with Hank mostly avoiding incoming attacks with his nimble animal reflexes. But even as the fight seemed to tip in their favor, Professor Xavier saw reason to be wary.
“It would seem we’re gaining the upper hand, Charles,” said Beast as he narrowly avoided a swipe from a stray sentinel.
“I highly doubt Hodge will take this lightly,” said the Professor, “Hodge must have other plans in the works.”
“So what do we do? Stay with the prisoners?”
“No, I have to get into the main facility. I’ve been doing psychic scans since we landed and I detected Hodge’s presence in this very area. I have to get inside!”
“I would list the many dangers of such a plan, considering it means we’ll be leaving the safety of the team. But I can tell you’ve already made your decision.”
“Does that mean you’ll accompany me, old friend?” said Xavier.
“How can I not? But do you really think you can get through to a man like Hodge?” said Beast skeptically.
“At the very least, I must know the full story,” said the Professor with a look of determination.
He then turned to Storm, who was still keeping up a shroud of clouds and lightning to attack incoming sentinels.
‘Storm, we require your assistance. Please fly me and Beast out of the dome and into the facility. Leave the prisoners in Cyclops’s capable hands.’
‘Yes, Professor. I’m on my way!’
Storm finished striking one more sentinel with a barrage of lightning before flying down and picking up Xavier and Beast on a trail of wind. Xavier was forced to hold on tightly to his friend’s fur while they were lifted up into the air. It may have been easier to use Marvel Girl, but she was needed to defend the prisoners.
Once air born, Storm flew them away from the chaos of the sentinel battle and up towards one of the holes made in the dome by the sentinels. Along the way a few tried to fire at them, but Storm was able to outmaneuver them enough to stay out of their way. As they flew out one of the holes Xavier looked back down at the chaotic seen below, watching as his X-men and the former Genoshan prisoners fought valiantly against the sentinels. These monstrosities were resilient even as they fell prey to the mutant onslaught. But Xavier couldn’t help but feel that this was just a prelude. Hodge was sure to have more menacing plans in the works. He wouldn’t know how deep those plans ran until he got the answers from Hodge himself.
Main Genosha Research Facility – Observation Deck
Cameron Hodge’s grand plan was hitting an unpleasant snag. Just as the sentinels were about to eliminate Genosha’s mutant problem for good, the X-men entered the picture. It started when the island’s perimeter sentinels detected their incoming mutant signatures. They had early warning radar stations, but the jet they were flying in had uncanny stealth capabilities. And while the sentinels were able to harass them, they didn’t stop them from entering the battle.
Now they had not only freed the mutant prisoners, they were efficiently taking out sentinels. The X-men proved to be very well organized. They didn’t just throw their powers around randomly. They used strategy, coordinating their attacks so they isolated individual sentinels. This way they could take them out one-by-one. Even though they were making a mess of things, Hodge couldn’t help but admire their skill.
But even as the fight in the dome became more chaotic, Hodge remained calm and poised. Trask was the only one who seemed truly panicked. Upon seeing his sentinels fall, he scrambled to re-organize the attack. He ran from console to console, trying to modify the AI and activate secondary weaponry. But it was quickly getting out of hand.
“Damn those X-men!” exclaimed Trask, “Two more just went down!”
“It would seem your ultimate mutant fighting machines aren’t as efficient as I was led to believe,” said Hodge.
“How can you be so calm, Cameron?! You told me Magneto would be the target, not the X-men! The AI wasn’t set up for this!”
“Then the system will just have to adapt. Lucky for you, I planned for this. As it just so happens I had some of my scientists work in a backup plan,” said Hodge ominously.
“What are you talking about?” demanded Trask.
Hodge didn’t respond with words. He just smirked and snapped his fingers. Immediately, a couple of his elite guards grabbed Trask and pulled him away from the consoles. It caught the obsessive scientist completely off guard.
“Get your hands off me!” he yelled towards the guards, “Cameron, what the hell are you doing?! What is the meaning of this?!”
“You’re a brilliant man, Bolivar. But you don’t know dick about power and how to use it properly. The first and most important rule of thumb is to turn every new challenge into an opportunity. The second, of course, is to neutralize the weakest link. And I’m sorry to say, that means you.”
Trask was fuming. He trusted this man with his life’s work and now he was taking it from him. He should have seen it coming, but he was too focused on making his sentinels work. Now they were going to be controlled by this tyrant.
“Take him to a holding cell,” ordered Hodge, “We have no further use for him.”
The guards roughly hauled Trask off, but the disgraced scientist continued to struggle every step of the way.
“NO! Hodge, you fool! This is my life’s work! My dream! Don’t take it away from me! You don’t know what you’re doing! The mutants will destroy you! They’ll destroy us all! You have to…”
His words were cut off as a guard forcibly dragged him out of the observation deck, leaving Hodge with his elite guard and a bewildered staff of scientists and technicians. After seeing what he did to Trask, someone he claimed to be close friends with, nobody dared to speak out. Hodge made it clear that he was in control.
“Now that we got that out of the way, shall we continue?” said Hodge in a tone remarkably calm for someone who just saw his prisoners escape.
The Genoshan ruler then snapped his fingers again, signaling a team of new scientists to enter the observation deck. They quickly took over the consoles Trask had been monitoring. They even pushed aside others who had been helping Trask. And with relentless focus, they went to work. For Cameron Hodge, it was a powerful moment. He couldn’t wait to see the look on the face of every mutant when they found out the surprise he had in store for them.
“Begin secondary protocol 6116,” he ordered, unable to stop himself from smiling as he gave the order, “With the mutants running rampant and Magneto bound to arrive at any moment, we had best make them feel welcome. Bear in mind the whole world is watching. Let’s give them a show they’ll never forget!”
The sentinel army of Genosha was in a bit of disarray. The arrival of the X-men forced several major contingents to break off from their posts and follow their primary programming to take out any mutant intruders. This left certain areas of the island less defended than originally planned. The sentinels were forced to adjust their programming, doing fewer patrols along the coastline and spreading their firepower over a greater area.
Every unit was still on high alert. The sentinels were the spearheads of the Genoshan defense while every man, woman, and child had been forcibly evacuated from their homes and placed in defense garrisons located throughout the island. This conscript army was expected to fight alongside the sentinels against any mutant attack. It was not a pleasant task for five million impoverished citizens, but no one dared defied their leader.
But even while on high alert, the coastline along the island was remarkably calm. The whole island was calm with the exception of the ongoing battle inside the central dome. The usual daily toil of the farmers in the fields or the workers in the city was halted for this national crisis that Hodge himself had propagated. Nobody knew how it would pan out except Hodge himself. The people and the sentinels were just along for the ride.
But the eerie silence surrounding the island was soon shattered when an ominous shape formed in the distance. It quickly drew the attention of the sentinels and a nearby garrison overlooking the sea.
“Unknown intrusion detected. Assessing threat level.”
But as the sentinels were processing the data, the object sped up. Soon an ominous shadow engulfed the cost, prompting nearby sentinels to take notice. They all looked up to see a huge metallic disk descend over the island.
On it were countless hoards of cheering mutants, letting out battle cries as they glared down at the island with distain and hate. They were the mutants of Magneto’s uprising. They had all gathered near the edge of the disk to get a glimpse of the Genoshan coastline. When they saw the strange sight of giant robot humanoids guarding the coast, they erupted in a frenzy. Magneto promised them a battle unlike any other and it appeared he would deliver.
To the frightened citizens barricaded in the garrisons it was a horrifying sight. To the sentinels it was a dangerous threat.
“Assessment complete. Threat level: severe.”
One of the sentinels sent out an emergency distress signal to all units on the island. But before it could even start to attack, a metal shard shot out from the disk and impaled the robot humanoid right through the head. It was a deadly statement courtesy of the master of magnetism himself, who was now standing at the helm of the disk with hundreds of mutants standing behind him. The battle for Genosha was set to begin.
“This is it!” proclaimed Magneto, “The time has come! Our destiny awaits us! The world is watching! Let us show them what we can do when we stand united against these pathetic oppressors! Now my mutant brethren! ATTACK!”
Next Issue: Uprising Part 3
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