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Volume 1 -- Issue 4 -- Growing Ranks Download Issue
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Growing Ranks
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Born with extraordinary powers, the emerging mutant race faces a great number of challenges. The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning was founded by Professor Charles Xavier to protect mutants and serve mankind for the greater good. With his loyal X-men at his side, they fight the good fight in a world that hates and fears them. Others, however, have taken a far lest peaceful approach.

Erik Magnus Lensherr was once Xavier’s friend. But after many years of drifting apart from one another, he has taken on a new identity as Magneto, leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants. With his two children, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, and the shape shifting mutant, Mystique, they stand for progress in the mutant world. Only their methods are far less peaceful. Just as Xavier has a deep respect for humanity, Magneto has an unmitigated scorn for homo sapiens. Having seen their cruelty throughout his years, he believes mutants should not seek peace. They should dominate as is their evolutionary right.

This radical and violent approach has put him at odds with Charles Xavier. He recently reached out to Magneto, trying to get him to think twice about his approach. But the master of magnetism will not compromise. He stands ready to make his next move for the mutant race. With a new identity and new drive, Magneto and the Brotherhood are looking to expand their ranks.


Princeton University – 30 Years Ago

“And so in conclusion, the emerging phenomenon of mutation promises an exciting new chapter in the development of civilization. We’ve discussed the potential of the recently discovered X-gene, the abilities that have already been documented, and the abilities that may be possible down the line. In the last fifty years, the mutant population has gone from isolated populations with limited abilities to an exponentially growing force. Mutant abilities have expanded to unprecedented levels and new discoveries are more than likely. They are virtually guaranteed. There are still many mysteries surrounding mutation and the X-gene. No one quite knows why the population has expended so quickly in the last century. Some say it is our growing population. Some say it is the result of environmental changes. We really don’t know. There is still a great deal of concern and speculation as to what this will do to society as a whole. But the promise for human progress is undeniable. As such, we should all be thankful to be part of this exciting moment in human history.”

With those inspirational words, Charles Xavier gathered his papers and stepped out from the podium from where he had been giving his lecture. His allotted time was just about up and his professor was looking to prepare for the next lesson.

“On that note, thank you all for listening,” said Charles Xavier, “Tomorrow I’ll be presenting a lecture on the latest study regarding mutant protein synthesis and their effects on quantum particles. I encourage you all to do some background reading as you’ll need to be up to par with your advanced physics to understand the major points.”

The aspiring young man promptly gathered his papers and started shuffling them into his briefcase. He watched as many of the students did the same, gathering their books and filing out of the busy lecture hall. He was a big disappointed that there weren’t many who showed up for this lecture. It was an unfortunate side-effect of being a grad student. Most people didn’t take him seriously yet so they didn’t bother showing up. Those that did show up seemed genuinely interested. His professor noted he had a talent for inspiring young minds. It was a good thing too because the topic of human mutation, which was his expertise, was a fascinating and very important issue.

Having gathered his materials, Charles made his way to the rear exit of the auditorium. Along the way he passed his professor, who seemed more than pleased with his performance.

“Good show, Charles. Keep it up and you may have my job some day,” he said to him.

“Thank you Dr. Kirby. Take comfort in the knowledge you have seniority over me and I’m still not taken very seriously,” replied Xavier.

“With all the exciting research you’ve been conducting, they’ll have to sooner or later. I see big things for you in the future. Stay on track and make yourself proud.”

“Don’t worry, sir. I will.”

Dr. Kirby smiled confidently. It was remarkable how someone of his age could gain such respect so soon. His research on mutants was making him somewhat of a celebrity on campus. If he kept making these amazing discoveries of his, Xavier’s aspirations might expand beyond the walls of this humble school.

With plenty of work ahead of him, Charles Xavier rushed towards the exit. Just as he stepped out the door and into the hall, he was met with an unexpected presence. Someone in a hat and trench coat had been waiting for him.

“A most interesting lecture, my boy,” the man said, “Were I a man of lesser observations, I would have mistook you for a tenured professor.”

“Thank you. I appreciate the support Mister…”

“Lensherr,” the man said, “Erik Lensherr.”

He then took off his hat, revealing a man of middle age with gray hair. He was fairly tall if not a little imposing. He had a somewhat ominous aura, but Charles didn’t sense anything threatening. He only sensed a man with a genuine curiosity.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lensherr,” said Xavier, extending his hand, “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“We haven’t. I’m here from Oxford for a biology summit. Yet all week I’ve been hearing about this up and coming grad student giving lectures on advanced research into mutants. I just had to drop by and listen in. Needless to say, I was quite impressed.”

“So I take it you have a keen interest in mutant research?”

“Oh yes… very much so,” grinned Erik.

Then in a gesture that Charles Xavier never would have expected, he waved his hand over his briefcase. Suddenly, the young grad student felt it yanked from his hand and levitated into mid air. It deeply startled him, yet shock quickly gave way to intrigue as he surmised what was going on.

“Metal bindings,” the older man stated, “Small, but magnetic last I checked.”

“You’re…a mutant?” said Xavier.

“Indeed I am,” he smiled, “Advanced electromagnetic generation and redistribution to be precise. It makes for good theatrics, but I hear you have a much more subtle gift.”

Xavier was once again startled, this time much more so than before. He went to great lengths to keep his mutant status hidden, yet somehow this man knew and it only intrigued him further.

“How did you know?”

“Let’s just say it was obvious when I read over some of your papers. The way you spoke about mutations was so personal. It was a clear giveaway from my perspective.”

“But that’s not the only way you figured it out, was it?” Xavier pointed out.

“Well maybe I also asked around a bit,” said Erik sheepishly, “I suppose it would be naïve of me to think I could get anything past a mind-reader.”

“It’s also naïve to assume I would need telepathy to read the subtext of your tone.”

The two men shared a good chuckle. For a man of his age, Charles was very sharp. Erik couldn’t help but admire that. Now he was even more intrigued and he could tell he had Xavier’s attention as well.

“You’re a smart man, Charles. Your research, lecture, and wit are all proof of that,” said Erik, “But it was your lecture I hoped to talk to you about. There were some parts of it I found intriguing, particularly at the end.”

“Oh? Are you referring to my theories as to why the mutant population has been growing?”

“I was more referring to the points you made about how mutants will affect society. You see in addition to having a keen interest in mutation, I also study history extensively. I’ve even done some research on the chaotic nature by which human societies change and how future conflicts might play out.”

“Conflicts you say? You mean those involving mutants?” asked Xavier.

“Among other subjects,” said Erik with a slight subtext in his tone, “It’s quite an interesting notion and if you have time later today, I would love to discuss it with you.”

Erik let Charles have his briefcase back, which had been floating steadily. He did have some research he needed to get back to, but there was something about this man that intrigued him. Charles Xavier came across his share of characters in his studies. Having telepathy gave him a particular appreciation for those who thought differently. Perhaps this was someone worth getting to know a little better.

“As it just so happens, I was going to break for lunch,” said Xavier with a smile, “You’re welcome to join me if you want.”

“Never one to drag your feet, are you? I like that,” said Erik, smiling back, “Very well then, I suppose my next appointment can wait.”

“Now you say you’ve done work studying societal changes,” said Xavier as they started walking together, “I’m curious to know what sort of findings have you made regarding the mutant phenomenon?”

“Oh I’ve made plenty,” said Erik ominously, “One does not need to look closely to see that mutants will have a dramatic impact on civilization as we know it. Not to use an old cliché, but our kind will change the world.”

“For the better, I assume,” said Xavier.

“Yes…for the better.”


Brooklyn, New York – Present Time

“Help! That punk stole my purse!” yelled a middle aged woman.

“Sorry babe. You snooze you lose!” grinned a nimble figure as he ran off with his loot in hand.

The woman shouted in vain as she watched a cloaked figure make off with her valuables. For her it was shocking, but it was a daily ritual for Mortimer Toyenbe. He woke up, got dressed, and mugged someone for a couple of bucks to get him through the day. In a place as crowded as Brooklyn, there were never any shortages of victims. Some were pesky, insisting on chasing after him or calling the cops on him. But they couldn’t keep up. He had a natural edge.

Born in Queens, Mortimer had always been a deviant and an outsider. Society shunned him and he shunned them right back. He had no illusions as to why he was frowned upon. It was because of his appearance. He was born with discolored skin and a hunched disposition. As he got older, his appearance became more pronounced. His skin turned green, his leg posture changed, and his tongue changed into this elongated appendage that he could use to capture things. He later found out he could adhere to walls, much like a reptile or amphibian. That’s why he often went by the nickname, Toad.

It wasn’t all bad though. People feared him and he was just fine with that. It made them think twice about messing with him. His mother, God rest her soul, once told him if you can’t make people love you then make them fear you. Being a career thief herself, Toad believed her and it served him well over the years. It seemed fitting in some ways. In return for shunning him, he stole from society. It worked out just fine.

Slipping into an alley, Mortimer sifted through the purse he just grabbed. He didn’t find much, only 50 bucks and some loose change. People just didn’t carry as much cash anymore. It made life for a pickpocket miserable, but he would take it. After all, he could always mug someone else.

“Barely has enough for lunch,” cursed Mortimer as he pocketed the money, “Oh well, all in a days work.”

He was just about to make his way out the other end of the alley when suddenly he heard a familiar voice from where he just came.

“This way officer!” exclaimed the woman he just mugged, “He ran through there!”

“Stay back, ma’am. We’ll find him,” said one of the two officers.

Mortimer groaned. It was just his luck. He mugged a woman just as a couple of police officers were passing by. He looked back to see two oversized authority figures rushing his way.

“There he is!” yelled one of them.

“Whoa, what the hell is he?”

“Looks like one of those mutant freaks! Come on, let’s get him!”

“Oh hell,” groaned the young teen.

His thieving instincts kicked in and Toad leapt through the alley, hoping over dumpsters and around corners with his toad-like agility. The officers kept pace, chasing him down the swerving alleys. He knocked over a few dumpsters along the way, helping to slow them down.

“Back off, pigs! You ain’t takin’ me alive!” taunted Toad.

It looked like he was going to get away. But just as he made the final turn down another alley he ran into a dead end.

“Damn it! Of all the…”

“Freeze punk!” yelled the officer as he and his partner cut him off in the alley, “Nowhere else to run freak!”

It was a position Toad had been in many times before and he had no intention of spending the night in jail. If he couldn’t get away, he would fight his way through. Even though they had guns, he had the skills and he wasn’t afraid to use them.

“Hand where I can see them!” yelled the officer.

“Fuck you!” shot Toad.

“Fine,” said the other officer, “Let’s do this the hard way.”

The two officers were poised to move in and Toad was poised to fight his way out. Then suddenly, a figure emerged from behind them.

“The hard way…my favorite.”

“What the…”

But the two cops didn’t have time to react. Just as they turned around, a woman pulled off a skillful kick and knocked their weapons out of their hands. One of the officers tried to fight back, but then the woman did a sweep kick and sent him falling to the ground where she delivered the final knock-out punch. The other officer attempted to get his gun back, but then Toad came in and hawked a glob of slime from his mouth to keep it stuck to the ground. Groaning to himself, the officer tried to get up only to be met with the fist of the woman.

“Amateurs,” commented the woman.

Never one to pass up free help, Toad hopped over to meet this mysterious figure.

“Hey, thanks for the help babe. But I could’ve taken them.”

“I’m sure you could’ve, Mr. Toyenbe,” replied the woman.

“Whoa, how did you know my name?”

“My partner knows many things about people with our ‘talents,’” said the woman ominously, “And he’s most interested in yours.”

Then to Mortimers surprise the woman shape-shifted from a middle-aged brunette to a blue-skinned, red-haired woman in all black attire with a mini-skull on her wait. It officially intrigued him. It wasn’t every day he came across another mutant. And it didn’t hurt that she was making him an offer.

“You’re a mutant?” he said with a half-grin, “Okay, you have my attention.


Odessa, Texas – Rodeo

The stands were packed and the fans were in awe as they watched the star attraction of the rodeo pull off his signature stunt. Freddy “Blob” Dukes, an oversized man with inhuman bulk and great strength, stood center stage as he prepared to wow another crowd. To each side, two fully equipped big rigs faced away from him with chains attached to the rear. Taking the chains in hand, Fred wrapped them around his arms and gripped them intently as they prepared to engage in an extreme tug-of-war.

“Ladies and gentlemen, hold onto your hats! Here he is, Fred “The Blob” Dukes with his signature stunt!” said the announcer over the loud-speakers.

The engines of the trucks revved in preparation for the stunt. Freddy gripped the chains with intent with a look of intensity on his face. Then with the screech of the tires, the two trucks accelerated in the opposite direction. They each were attempting to pull the young man in two directions. Any normal-sized man would have been pulled in two, but not Fred Dukes.

The trucks only made it about ten feet before they were stopped cold. Fred, showing off his strength, let out a hard grunt as he pulled each chain with his imposing muscles and slowly pulled them back towards him. The audience was watching in shock as this one man held two trucks back going full speed. It looked as though they were trying to accelerate, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the strength of the Blob.

Then he went in for the big finish.

“Hrrrrrrahhhhhhhhhhh!”

The howl of the oversized young man echoed as he gave each chain a powerful tug. A deafening band echoed through the rodeo as the backs of each truck was literally ripped off, causing the front parts to keel over. Then to further show his strength, the Blob held onto the chains and flung the two discarded scraps together and warped them beyond recognition. When it was all over the crowd was in awe while the crew was panicking to get the drivers out of the trucks.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Blob!”

The stands erupted in cheers as Freddy Dukes stood in triumph again. No matter how many times he did this, he loved showing off his strength to the puny weaklings that paid money to see this. It was always the most popular part of the show and the most destructive. And only he could pull off. But not everybody appreciated his knack for destruction.

“You oversized freak!” yelled one of the crewmen, “You weren’t supposed to slam them together! Now how are we going to repair them?”

“So get new ones for all I care,” scoffed Freddy, “I’ll be in my trailer.”

Still waving to the crowd, Freddy retreated through the tunnel entrance and made his way towards his trailer. He grabbed a towel along the way and wiped the sweat off his face. All that tugging was easy, but he always worked up quite an appetite doing it. He planned on hitting the buffet table before calling it a night.

But just as he neared the exit, the lights flickered. Then he heard a shutter and noticed that the doorknob was shaking.

“What the hell?” said the oversized mutant.

“That’s quite a show you put on,” said a deep voice, “Very impressive.”

Fred turned to see a dark figure with a cape and strange helmet casually standing in the corner. He didn’t look like he wanted an autograph or anything. And as he approached him, he noticed the lights flickering even more.

“Who are you?” said Freddy suspiciously, “And what do you want?”

“Call me, Magneto,” said the man as he stepped into the light, “And Blob, my boy, I have an offer for you.”

“Take it up with my promoter. I don’t do duets.”

“Oh please, I’m not here to compete. I’m here to offer you a chance at doing more than just putting on a show for mindless crowds. A man of your strength should be more than just a sideshow attraction. Don’t you think so?”

Freddy looked at this man with more intrigue. He definitely wasn’t the usual manager type. Looking around at the lights, he got the feeling this man was out for much more than another circus attraction. It seemed suspicious, but anything was a step up in Freddy’s mind. As much as he loved the spotlight, he knew he was just a freak to everybody. People were always trying to cheat him like some sideshow clown. It annoyed the hell out of him, but it was the only way to make a living. And if what this man offered was any different, it might be worth trying.

“I’m listening…”


Sydney, Australia

The sirens of fire trucks blared and panic consumed an entire city block. Thick columns of smoke filled the air as people fled the area, covering their mouths and coughing as they tried to get clear. Frantic cries echoed throughout the streets. It all happened so fast. One minute all was normal in downtown Sydney and the next multiple fires sprung up and spread rapidly to nearby buildings. It seemed so bizarre because these were modern buildings with modern fire-prevention systems. And yet somehow, the fire blazed hot enough to reduce them to rubble.

Yet through the chaos, one man was remarkably calm. John Allerdyce, a former factory worker living on minimum wage, watched with a mix of awe and admiration. It was so beautiful, the majesty of fire and its destructive power. He had always been fascinated, if not obsessed with it. Going back to his time as a child when he set bugs on fire with matches, he was deeply attuned to this powerful force of nature. And when he turned 14, he found out just how attuned he truly was.

“Another day another inferno,” he said casually, “Never gets old.”

Smiling to himself, he slipped away from the crowd and into a secluded area behind a building. There he took out his favorite lighter and sparked a flame. It was small at first, but then he waved his hand over it and suddenly the small flame turned into a perfectly formed ball of fire.

‘That’ll teach ‘em to fire me. Like everything else, their authority means nothing in the face of fire. They’ll never understand. They’re all fools and hypocrites, thinking they can hold me back!’

John continued to manipulate the fire, turning it into various shapes and forms. It would have been so much easier if he could actually create fire, but he was content with just being able to control it. He only needed a lighter and he had more firepower than a small country. It wasn’t the safest power in the world. In the years since he discovered it he suffered multiple burns and had to wear clothes that covered much of his body to hide the scars. But despite these injuries, his love affair with fire never waned.

“That’s quite a trick,” came a female voice, “Ever use it for more than just burning down buildings?”

John snapped out of his daze and looked up to see Pietro and Wanda approaching from the corner. Instinctively, he got defensive. But once he laid eyes on Wanda his poise relaxed a little.

“Wouldn’t you like to know, sweetheart,” he grinned, “What makes you think I did it anyways?”

Pietro scorned this strange man for giving his sister the eye. But he set it aside for the sake of their mission.

“We know because this is your fourth incident of arson in the last three years,” said the speedster, “Fifth if you count the brush fire you started.”

“For your information, I was officially only guilty of one. I got acquitted for all the others.”

“Doesn’t mean that you didn’t do it,” quipped Pietro, “You’re a menace to society and everybody knows it. You’ve already done what? Two years in prison?”

“Two and a half,” John corrected.

“Even so, what makes you so sure you’ll avoid jail again? Are you going to keep with this mindless cycle of working somewhere until you’re miserable and burning it down to spite them? Or are you going to put those talents of yours into more progressive causes?”

John eyed this man with a mix of suspicion and intrigue. He seemed to know a lot about him. He knew not only his criminal background, but his dead-end life as well. It was enough to make him feel threatened and he normally wouldn’t have hesitated to brush them off with the help of a little fire. But that last part about putting his talents to better use sparked his interest.

“Progressive huh?” he said with a half-grin, “I don’t know. But if you make it worth my while…”

John leaned in closer to Wanda, looking at her with lust in his eyes. Wanda’s expression contorted in discomfort. This guy just burned down a whole city block and he was hitting on her. He was definitely a little on the nutty side. Why Magneto would want him was beyond her, but every team needed someone like that. She just had to make sure this man knew how to keep his hands to himself.

“Don’t push it, Allerdyce,” said Wanda in a stern tone.

To further her point, she used her hexing powers to make the lighter in his hand explode.

“Whoa! What the…”

“We could just as easily turn you in and let you rot in jail,” she said, “But we’re in need of people like you who aren’t afraid to use their powers for destruction. You can either come with us or take your chances with the police.”

Still rubbing his hand, John weighed his options. It was either go back to jail or go with these two. It didn’t take much thought on his part. Besides, it would mean getting to know this feisty woman a bit better.

“You drive a hard bargain, lady,” said John in his thick Australian accent, “I like it! You’ve officially got yourself a real pryo! So when do we start burning things?”

Wanda and Pietro exchanged glances. It was certainly going to be interesting with this guy on the team, but at least the Brotherhood of Mutants would have some firepower. It was just a matter of putting up with that personality of his.

Xavier Institute – Sub-basement

It was early evening and Jean had just finished another telepathic healing session with Logan and the professor. It had been productive as usual. Logan still had plenty of issues. His feral nature was hard to get around because it was part of his persona. They weren’t sure if it was because of what Weapon X did to him or if he had always been like that. His past was still obscured. Neither she nor Professor Xavier could recover any memories. But he was making progress. And while he wouldn’t say it, Jean sensed he was beginning to see the institute as a home.

It was still rough at times. Logan continued to clash with Scott during training and in more personal matters. He continued to undermine his authority, choosing to maintain his lone-wolf style while continually flirting with Jean. It was more than enough to make Scott anxious and it didn’t help that Jean flirted back. He remained vocal on this issue. And after the session, he caught up with her to talk about it.

“Will you give it a rest already, Scott?” said Jean in a frustrated tone, “This is what? The fourth time we’ve had this conversation?”

“Fifth by my count,” said Scott, “And I’ll bring it up as often as I have to because Logan still bothers me.”

“But why? I’ll admit he’s a bit rough around the edges, but he still has a heart. I’ve sensed it first hand.”

“I never said he didn’t,” argued Scott, “I just don’t know if he’s good for the team.”

“Even after all the skill he’s shown in the Danger Room?” quipped Jean.

“It’s not his skill I’m worried about. It’s how he uses it. X-men aren’t supposed to be killers. He’s shown on more than one occasion that he’s not afraid to kill.”

“That’s exactly what the Professor and I are helping him with. I’ve been in his mind. I know how messed up he is and with everything he’s been through I think he has a right to be. He’s got a lot of anger, but he’s got a lot of good in him as well.”

“I’m still skeptical that there’s enough good in him to make him a team player,” Scott went on, “How can we expect to rely on him in the field if he’s just going to lone wolf it every time?”

“He’s been on his own for so long, Scott. Every team he ever trusted ended up betraying him. You can’t expect him to be fully dedicated after being so jaded.”

“That’s not an excuse to be so damn callous about it. Being an X-man is a serious deal! So far he’s shown more interest in being around you than being part of the team. Can we agree on that?”

Jean diverted her gaze to hide her blush. It was no secret that Logan was attracted to her. There was rarely an instance where Logan didn’t make a comment or steal a gaze. But Jean didn’t mind because she was attracted to him as well. Having gotten through to him that day they found him really struck her. He was a complicated man, full of mystery and intrigue. Plus, he looked very good in his new X-men uniform. Never-the-less, she could see why that would bother Scott.

“Scott, I know what you’re doing,” she said in a more serious tone, “You’re worried about me. You don’t want me to get hurt.”

“That’s part of it,” said Scott in a more sincere tone, “I’ve seen how he looks at you, Jean. You don’t need telepathy to figure out why he’s so much nicer to you than everyone else.”

“So I happen to reach out to him a lot more. He also happens to be attracted to me. Is that so wrong?” shrugged Jean.

“Do I really need to answer that, Jean?” said Scott, his voice once again becoming more apprehensive, “It wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if you didn’t return the favor.”

“Now me being attracted to someone is the problem?” said Jean, her tone becoming apprehensive as well.

“It’s still a big mistake! For you and for the team! Even if there is good in him I just…”

But Jean didn’t let him finish. She knew where this was going and she was in no mood to go through it again.

“Enough, Scott!” she said in a frustrated tone, “You’re making way too big a deal about this!”

“It involves you, Jean! How can I not?” retorted Scott.

“You’re treating me as if I’m incapable of making my own decisions! As my best friend, I expect more from you! We’ve known each other for years and I trust you with my life. So why can’t you just trust me to make my own judgments?”

Scott fell silent. Jean left little room for argument. She was playing the trust card again and it never failed. They had fought together in the X-men for years and in that time they built a lot of trust. They saved each other more times than he could count and usually they trusted one another in every decision they made. But this was different. It was true that was worried, but it was a lot more complicated than that.

“Jean…” he began again.

“Don’t do this to me,” said Jean as she started to walk away from him, “You’re my friend. Stop trying to be my protector.”

Scott didn’t have a response for that. He just stood in silence as he watched Jean step into the elevator and ride it up to the second floor. He never liked fighting with Jean. She was an important person in his life, much more than a friend. He often wondered if there was something more between them. Bobby always teased him about it and perhaps there was some truth to it. But for now it seemed as though Jean had her eyes on someone else.

For a moment, Scott just stood there in a daze. He let out an exasperated groan as he racked his brain for answers. He was torn between his concerns as a leader and his concerns for his best friend. There seemed to be no way out.

‘Why do we have to do this, Jean? Maybe Bobby was right. I am jealous. Damn you, Logan.’

Xavier Institute – Hank’s Room

Hank was in the midst of an hour-long preparation for his date with Ororo. It was a big deal for him. He had been looking forward to it all week, but he was still plenty nervous. He hadn’t been on a date in years. He hadn’t even tried to hook up with a woman since his Beast transformation. But in the time he had gotten to know Ororo, he found someone he may be able to relate to. Besides, everyone else on the X-men agreed. He needed a social life outside the institute.

Standing in front of his bedroom mirror, Hank wrestled with his attire. He didn’t have much formalwear. It was hard finding some to fit his unique body shape. But with a few adjustments here and there, he had something that looked sensible enough for a first date. It consisted of khaki pants and a button-up shirt he adjusted himself. Now it was only a matter of fixing his hair and making sure his fur didn’t get in the way.

The whole time, Bobby and Warren helped him and provided friendly support. But at certain points, Bobby tried to help a little too much.

“Looking good, teach!” said Bobby, giving him a thumbs up, “You give new meaning to beastly good looks. Now you just have to think about how you’re going to kiss her.”

“I appreciate your support, Bobby,” said Hank in a humored tone, “But I’m not sure of your so-called advice. I honestly don’t get your reasoning behind the buying-only-mint-flavored-ice-cream theory.”

“Hey, you can’t tell me it doesn’t make sense,” shrugged the Iceman, “You kill two birds with one stone by getting her ice cream and making your breath minty fresh.”

“This coming from someone who has been on how many dates?” said Hank with a half-grin.

“Hey, I have a girlfriend!”

“Online girlfriend,” corrected Warren.

“Same thing,” Bobby shrugged.

Warren shook his head. He agreed to help Beast, but he didn’t offer the kind of advice Bobby gave. He kept to himself like always, secretly envying Hank for having a date. Even though he could hide his wings when he went out in public, he lacked the social and conversational skills to get close to anybody. Scott, Bobby, and Jean often encouraged him to put himself out there. He was handsome, rich, and friendly. He should have had plenty of women, but it wasn’t easy when he had been alone all his life.

Upon finishing his hair, Hank took a deep breath and looked at his appearance in the mirror.

“Well, I suppose this is it,” said Hank, “I should probably see if Ororo is ready.”

“You’re not nervous, are you?” asked Warren.

“Of course I’m nervous. I never thought I’d get involved with a woman again after…well, I’d rather not dwell on that.”

“Dwell on what?” asked Bobby curiously.

“It’s not important,” said Hank, quickly regaining his train of thought, “Ororo has shown a unique willingness to look beyond the surface of my innate outward flaws. I want to return the favor. I may not get another chance at this.”

“I’m sure you’ve calculated the probabilities,” joked Bobby.

“Of course,” he said in good humor, “Don’t you?”

Bobby laughed, still amazed that Hank’s knack for numbers would extend even to dating. Hopefully Ororo wouldn’t mind. She seemed like a smart person and was just the kind of woman Hank needed at this point. Maybe if she kept him busy he wouldn’t give him so much extra work during tutoring sessions.

“Well, I’m off,” said Hank, “Wish me luck in…”

But before Hank could finish, the three X-men heard a familiar voice in their heads.

‘X-men, report to the War Room. We have an emergency mutant signature in Detroit. A young man named Lance Alvers is causing undue destruction. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to put your evening plans on hold.’

Hank let out a disappointed sigh. Just when it seemed as though he would finally have a night off with a beautiful woman, a mission had to come up. His new social life would have to wait.

“Oh man, so much for chatting with Lorna tonight,” sighed Bobby.

“Bummer,” said Warren indifferently, “That’s our luck for you.”

“I suppose,” said Beast, “I’ll meet you guys downstairs. I guess Ororo and I will just have to reschedule our date.”

Bobby and Warren cast him a look of condolence and left Hank to change into his X-uniform. He looked back in the mirror at his appearance and sighed. The laws of probability just weren’t on his side tonight. Hopefully they would make up for it, but it seemed the work of the X-men never done.


X-jet – Detroit

The X-jet descended from the clouds as they neared the mutant signature Professor Xavier detected. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, Angel, Storm, and Wolverine were all in full uniform and ready for action. So far the urgency hadn’t changed. The Professor was serious about containing the situation, which had already made the news. Images of panicked crowds and rampant destruction were already being broadcasted to TV screens all over the world. It was sure to have a negative impact on mutant public relations, making it all the more important that they get there fast and deal with this Lance Alvers.

“So what’s the word on this guy, Professor?” asked Marvel Girl over the com-link, “Is he dangerous?”

“It would appear so, Marvel Girl. This Lance Alvers has a very destructive mutant power. I’m not sure on the details, but he appears to be able to manipulate seismic waves and disrupt geological forces within a nearby area.”

“And in English that would mean?” said Iceman.

“Simply put, he can cause earthquakes,” explained Beast.

“Oh…I knew that.”

It sounded pretty volatile. But the X-men had faced worse. Only this time they were facing a threat with Wolverine on their team. It was his first official mission and he didn’t seem too concerned about it.

“So what do you want us to do, Chuck? Knock him out and take him back to the mansion?” said Wolverine as he casually leaned back in his seat.

“That’s not how we do things, Wolverine.”

“Why not? It worked for me.”

“Be serious, Logan!” shot Cyclops from the cockpit in an annoyed tone, “We need to stop this guy from causing anymore damage. That comes first. But we have to reason with him before resorting to violence.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” he scoffed.

“He’s right, Logan,” said Marvel Girl sternly, “That’s what you’re going to have to do in order to be in this team.”

That helped silence him. He was more inclined to listen to Jean than anybody else. Bobby couldn’t help but laugh. Even Cyclops cracked a smile, glad to see that there was some use to Wolverine being attracted to Jean.

“That shut him up,” said Iceman under his breath.

“Guess it helps when it comes from a pretty girl,” added Angel.

Wolverine shot him a stern look, which in turn shut Iceman and Angel up. He may have been a jokester, but he was not crazy enough to push the feral mutant too far.

“You have your mission, X-men. Lance is in an agitated state and he must be calmed if we’re to reason with him. I’ll be monitoring you from Cerebro. Be careful, mind the civilians, and try not to get in the way of the authorities. And Wolverine, please try and work with the team. Over and out.”

The link went dead as the jet descended towards the chaos below. Wolverine still wasn’t too enthused about this whole team thing. He had always done his best work as a solo act. But he promised himself he would at least give the X-men a try.

As the X-jet leveled off, the situation below came into view. And just as they expected, it was pretty chaotic. Half a city block was in ruin as thick columns of smoke rose up into the air. They could also make out quite a bit of cop cars trying to get civilians out of the way. But from the looks of it, they were clearly outgunned.

“Looks like we arrived a bit late,” said Storm as she took in the site.

“Better late then never. Hold on, I’m taking it into silent hover,” said Cyclops as he punched in the controls, “Angel, you and Storm take care of the civilians. Iceman, you and Beast help the police. Wolverine, help me and Marvel Girl with Lance. Let’s move, X-men!”

“Just another night on the town,” sighed Angel.

The X-jet stopped to hover over the area and the main door opened. Angel and Storm took flight and headed towards the smoke where they began helping civilians get to safety. Jean used her telekinesis to help lower herself and the others to the scene. They arrived in front of the police barricade on top of a pile of debris. Near as they could tell this place was some sort of club or stage. It was hard to tell due to the sheer level of destruction. And the source of it all centered on a very angry looking young man standing on what used to be a stage.

“ERRRRRRRRR! I’LL SHOW YOU TO BOO ME OFF STAGE!”

Rolling his eyes back, the young man summoned another tremor. The ground shook and the deafening sound of shattering concrete echoed through the area. It was heading right for the police barricade where officers scrambled to get out of the way.

“Whoa! I’m beginning to see why this is making the news,” said Iceman as he made an ice sheet over the crack.

“Let’s just hope the headline doesn’t have the words blood bath in it,” said Beast as he leapt over towards the scene and helped some officers get away.

“It won’t!” said Marvel Girl strongly, “That’s why we’re here!”

This did not go unnoticed by Lance. He was still fuming. He and his band came to play a gig here and not only did the promoter stiff them on the money he promised, but the crowd booed him off stage. It sent him into a rage. It all culminated when he got hit in the head with a beer bottle and he unleashed his mutant power, effectively cutting the concert short and making everybody pay for disrespecting him.

As if he didn’t have enough to be angry about. He could take being called orphan boy and street punk. He could take having a rap sheet longer than most guys his age. He could even take being called a freak for causing earthquakes whenever he got mad. But nothing made him angrier than being disrespected. He tried to gain it on the streets and he tried to gain it with music. But every time he tried, he was rejected and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.

“And I thought you had a temper, Wolverine,” commented Cyclops.

“Get back!” he yelled, “I’m warning you!”

“Bub, you need to calm down!” replied Wolverine, “You’re giving people like us a bad name!”

“I don’t care!” yelled Lance, “I’m sick of everybody disrespecting me! I tried to play by the rules and look where it’s got me!”

“Easy Lance,” said Marvel Girl calmly, “We want to help you. Don’t make things any worse.”

“I don’t need your help! I need you to back off!”

Lance rolled his eyes back again and fired a wave of concentrated tremors that surged through the ground right at the three X-men. They were all able to avoid it, but it was clear now that this man wasn’t going to cooperate.

“We gave you fair warning. Now we do things the hard way,” growled Wolverine.

Drawing his claws, Wolverine leapt atop a pile of debris and prepared to charge. This kid had to be taken down before he could try any more stunts like that. He had to be careful not to get too rough this time, but he was only one guy. It shouldn’t be that hard to neutralize him.

“Hrrrrahhhhhhhh!”

“Wolverine wait!” exclaimed Cyclops.

But it was too late. The Wolverine was already on his way, tearing through the debris and charging towards Lance. The young man focused his power and tried to fire another seismic surge at him, but Wolverine was too agile. Still determined, Lance began to back away. He tried causing another tremor, but Wolverine was able to keep his balance by digging his claws into the ground. And once he was in position, he was ready to pounce.

Leaping onto the stage, the former living weapon stumbled through the tremors and rolled up to the young man responsible for so much destruction. Lance tried to back away, but Wolverine was able to regain his balance and grab the young punk by the shirt collar. But even in the face of an angry Wolverine and three adamantium claws in his face, Lance was defiant.

“Errrr! Let me go, asshole! Let me go or I’ll…”

“Enough with the temper tantrum!” growled Wolverine in a threatening tone, “You and I are gonna calm down and have a nice little chat.”

“Over my dead body!”

“Don’t tempt me! Now shut up so we can…”

Suddenly, Wolverine let out a pained howl as an unseen force bent and warped his adamantium bones and flung him off the stage, releasing Lance in the process. The young man was dazed by what just happened. Then he noticed everything metal starting to shake. He didn’t know what this was, but Cyclops and Marvel Girl knew all too well.

“Oh no…” said Marvel Girl with dread, “Something’s not right here.”

“More like someone,” said Cyclops, sharing the same sentiment, “Magneto!”

They looked up to see the swirling metal gather around a lone figure. It was none other than the master of magnetism himself, Magneto. And to make matters worse he wasn’t alone. Descending to the ground with him on flat metal plates were Quicksilver, Mystique, Pyro, Toad, Blob, and the Scarlet Witch. All were poised for combat, but they approached Lance Alvers carefully. He was, after all, the victim here.

“Such brutish tactics,” said Magneto in his deep, commanding tone, “I would have expected better from you X-men.”

“What do you want, Magneto?” demanded Cyclops, “Shouldn’t you be off causing a mass riot somewhere?”

“Oh come now, Cyclops. You should know by now that I’m always out to help a fellow mutant.”

As if to prove his point, Magneto levitated a heavy steel beam from the stage and flung it at Cyclops. He tried to get out of the way, but ended up taking a hard hit and falling to the ground in a pained heap.

“Scott!” exclaimed Marvel Girl.

She was just about to run over and help him, but Quicksilver leapt off his post and charged the young woman at superhuman speeds. Leading with his shoulder, he rammed Marvel Girl hard and knocked her back against the pile of debris.

“Not this time, Marvel Girl,” taunted Pietro, “This is our mission!”

The young psychic could only groan as she struggled to pick herself up. Meanwhile, Wolverine had regained his composure despite the punishing blow that left him in a world of pain. He could take it, but he didn’t take kindly to being tossed around like a rag doll. Unlike the others, he had never fought against Magneto. He only heard of him. But being in his current state, he had no intention of playing it safe.

“Big mistake, buckethead!” grunted Wolverine and he prepared for another charge.

“By all means,” grinned Magneto.

Wolverine attempted another charge, but just like before he was stopped cold by Magneto’s power. This time he was more extreme in his punishment. He levitated the feral mutant right off the ground and pulled his limbs out in opposing directions. It was clearly painful, but it got the point across.

“Auuugggggghhhhhh!” howled  Wolverine.

“Pathetic,” scoffed Magneto, “Charles must be lowering his standards.”

“Let him go, Magneto!” came a voice from above.

Magneto looked up to see Angel flying down towards him with Storm following close behind. They had just gotten the last of the civilians to safety and came to check on their friends. Needless to say, they were surprised when they saw that Magneto had shown up and with help no doubt.

“Whoa, this stuff is getting biblical,” said Toad, “I like it!”

“Shut up and ground him, Toad,” said Blob.

“No problemo!”

Leaping up onto a warped girder, the amphibious mutant began spitting globs of slime at Angel as he flew in. The winged mutant began evasive maneuvering. There was no way he was going to let that stuff anywhere near his wings.

“Oh man, that is gross,” he said, his stomach lurching as some grazed his wing.

“Maybe you prefer a little fire, bird boy!” grinned Pyro, “Time to test out these new toys.”

Pyro stepped out onto the stage and activated Magneto’s little gift to him. It was perfect for his powers. Two lightweight tanks full of flammable liquid were hitched on his back that fed a couple of tubes leading to a torch near each wrist. Alone they could just create a small, but intense flame. But with his powers, he could turn them into towering infernos.

Angel was the first to find out just how intense this power could be. While still avoiding Toad’s slime balls, a large tornado of fire arose from the stage and began chasing him through the air. It was so hot it partially singed one of his wings and he started falling fast.

“Damn it! My wing!” he grunted in pain.

“Hang on, Angel. I’ll cover you,” said Storm.

The African woman’s eyes turned white as she summoned a burst of wind to combat Pyro’s fire tornado. It helped give Angel the space he needed to get clear and out of the range of Toad’s slime balls. In order to quench the fires, Storm stepped up her assault with a rain storm. It diminished the fire to the point where it was miniscule, rendering Pyro’s power useless.

“No fair!” said Pyro in a fit of frustration.

“Calm down, pal. I’ve got your back,” said Toad as he leapt across to another girder.

The wind was still strong, but it left little room for mobility. Storm didn’t have wings so she had to rely on the winds to fly. But that was just fine with Toad. It just made for less agile target.

Snorting up some slime, Toad took aim and hocked a large glob of slime right at Storm. She was still trying to keep her wind storm up so she didn’t realize until it was too late. She turned around just in time for it to land right in her face.

“Pucker up, babe!” grinned the young teen.

“Ahhhh!” she cried out.

The thick glob covered her face, overpowering her with a thick membrane of putrid stench. She tried to get it off, but it was too thick. Having lost her concentration, the winds ceased and she began to fall. Luckily, Hank entered the fight just in time to see her in peril.

“Hold on, Storm!” he called out.

“Go get her, Beast! I’ll cover you,” said Iceman.

Beast leapt with his ape-like agility over the debris and positioned himself to catch the falling woman. He made a diving catch to keep her from hitting hard ground, but she seemed less concerned about the fall and more concerned about getting the slime off her face.

“Easy, my dear,” said Beast, trying to calm her down, “Let me help you.”

“Just get it off!” she exclaimed.

While Beast helped Storm, Iceman rode an ice slide up to the stage where Magneto, Blob, Mystique, and the Scarlet Witch still stood. Naturally he was surprised they showed up, but not enthused that they were dropping in like this. Magneto always had a way of making a bad situation worse.

“Time to put you guys on ice!” he proclaimed.

“I don’t think so, puny!” roared Blob as he leapt off the stage and started charging.

Iceman unleashed a blast of cold, trying to put up a thick wall between him and the Brotherhood so that the others could pull themselves together. But no matter how big he made it, Blob just charged through like it was nothing.  As he got close, he tried to freeze the oversized man in place with a blast of cold air. But Blob’s overpowering size and strength broke it and he managed to grab Iceman where he stood.

“Oh man, now I know how a bull fighter feels,” groaned Iceman.

“I’ll sh-sh-show you to-to-to freeze the Blob!” he yelled through his shivering.

“Drop him!” yelled Cyclops as he sprang into action.

Having recovered from Magneto’s initial blow, Cyclops adjusted his visor and fired a concentrated shot to cause Blob to lose his grip.

“Ow! You little…”

“You want me? Come and get me!” taunted Cyclops.

The X-leader turned up the power on his visor and unloaded a powerful burst on the oversized mutant. It barely registered with Blob. He was still fighting off the cold and his imposing size allowed him to fend off the burst. He absorbed with his gut and slowly started inching his way towards Cyclops. It wouldn’t stop Blob, but it did distract him long enough for Marvel Girl to move in and help Iceman up.

“You okay, Iceman?” said Marvel Girl.

“I’ve been better,” groaned Iceman, “Where’s Angel?”

“Right here,” said Angel as he limped over towards them, “Who are these guys anyways? Since when did Magneto start recruiting?”

“I don’t know, but we better stop him before he brings Lance under his wing.”

“Something tells me it’s too late for that,” dreaded Angel.

Back on the stage, Lance was taken by the spectacle he just witnessed. It wasn’t enough that one group of costumed mutants showed up to harass him. He had to have two fighting over him. If he had known he was that important he wouldn’t be playing small time gigs in dives like this. But from what he saw, the one with the man calling himself Magneto seemed more promising. They were really dishing it out against these other guys, who looked overwhelmed and uncoordinated at best. It was enough to spark his curiosity.

“Who are you people?” he asked.

“We’re just like you,” said Mystique, “Different, but living in a world that neither respects nor cares for us.”

“Call us, the Brotherhood,” said Magneto, “And we’re here to offer you a place with us.”

“A place with you guys?” said Lance skeptically, “What’s your angle?”

Magneto liked this kid’s attitude. He was tough, no doubt about it. It was the just what he was looking for in a new recruit.

“You see those other mutants out there?” he said, directing Lance’s attention to the X-men, “They’re fighting for the same people who mocked you. And that, I feel, is wrong. A young man of your great power should not be forced to live a life in the ghetto. Nobody, especially not those with the power to literally change the face of the Earth, should ever be treated like animals when we have the abilities of gods.”

It sounded pretty out there. Lance wasn’t sure if this guy had a messiah complex or something, but in many ways it made sense. With everything he had been through, anything was better than the life he was living now.

“Join us,” said Mystique, “And fight for the respect you deserve.”

“Respect huh?” said Lance with a look of intrigue, “Sounds like my kind of fight!”

“Then welcome to the Brotherhood of Mutants, Mr. Alvers,” said Magneto.

“Call me by my band’s name, Avalanche,” he grinned.

It sounded like a clear victory for the Brotherhood. Lance, or Avalanche as he preferred, had made his choice. The X-men were too late and coming apart fast.

Back with the fight, Cyclops was still trying to fend off Blob. He kept turning up the power on his visor, but there was no moving someone with Blob’s overwhelming mass.

“I could use some help here!” Cyclops exclaimed.

“Hold on, Cyclops! His body may be big, but I’ll bet his mind isn’t!” said Jean as she levitated into the air and unleashed a psychic assault.

Immediately, Blob felt a pounding headache.

“Hey! Get out of my head, bitch!”

“Watch your language, fat boy!” grunted Wolverine, “A real man doesn’t insult a lady.”

Wolverine, having blocked out the pain from Magneto’s earlier assault, began charging Blob with his claws drawn. He didn’t know how much mass this guy was packing, but he planned on taking it down to size.

However, Magneto had seen enough. They got what they came here for. Lance agreed to come with them and there was no reason to keep fighting. As much as he would have liked to take Xavier’s team down permanently, they were still mutant brethren. Besides, his team would need their strength for what he had planned.

“Time to end this,” proclaimed Magneto, “Wanda, you know what to do.”

“Yes father,” said the Scarlet Witch obediently.

The eyes of the young woman flashed as she summoned her hexing powers for one final assault. She started with Cyclops, who was still firing at near full power at Blob. A little tweak in his visor and suddenly the ruby quartz shattered. And with nothing to hold the beams back, the whole area erupted in a burst of ruby red light.

“Ahhhh! Everybody get out of the way! I can’t control it!” he yelled.

“You can’t, but I can!” proclaimed the Scarlet Witch.

Using her hexing powers, she redirected part of the blast and hit Wolverine as he was charging Blob. The force of the blast knocked him back again, this time slamming him against Beast and Storm, who were still trying to get the slime off. Then she turned to Marvel Girl and hit her with part of the blast while she was still in the midst of a psychic attack. She tried putting up a telekinetic shield, but she wasn’t fast enough. She was hit hard and fell back.

“I got you, Jean!” said Angel as he scrambled to catch her.

He was just in time, but the damage had been done. The X-men were officially on the ropes and it didn’t look good for them. And now that Marvel Girl’s assault had stopped, Blob was free to attack again.

“Ow, my head!” he groaned, “You little punks are gonna…”

“Enough Blob,” ordered Magneto, “They are defeated. It’s time for us to make our leave.”

“But…”

“There will be plenty of other chances, I assure you. But for now, we must go. I have big plans for this team.”

Blob let out a frustrated grunt. He would have liked nothing more than to crush the bones of both the visor guy and the redhead, but he wasn’t about to argue with his new boss. He had just found a place he actually belonged and he wasn’t about to compromise that.

“I’ll deal with you pukes later,” said Blob.

The oversized mutant joined the rest of his team on the stage. Once he, Toad, and Pietro were back in place they stepped onto the metal platforms that they came in on. Magneto made a new one out of scrap for Lance so he could leave with them, but before they were gone he had one last message for the X-men.

“Farewell, X-men. Give my regards to Xavier. And when you get a chance, give him this message…I warned you.”

“Go to Hell, Mags,” groaned Iceman.

Iceman’s insult was little consolation as he and the others watched Magneto ascend into the sky with his new recruit in hand. It was pretty demoralizing. They came to contain the situation, but they only ended up losing another mutant to Magneto. It sure didn’t build their confidence and it didn’t help that they were in a world of hurt.

Cyclops had to keep his eyes closed while he retrieved his spare glasses from his pocket and Angel helped Marvel Girl get back on her feet after enduring a punishing blow from Cyclops’s beams. It wasn’t the first time she had been nicked by such a blast, but it didn’t make it any less painful. Over with Beast and Storm, they had finally gotten the slime off. But Storm was still gagging from the odious smell.

“Ugh, it’ll take me forever to wash this gunk off,” she groaned.

“At least it’s off,” said Hank who was trying to wipe some of the slime off his hands as well.

Next to them was Wolverine, who was flung clear across the floor again and forced Beast and Storm to hit the ground. He was lucky he could heal, but it was times like this it was more painful than beneficial. He didn’t just get his bones warped by Magneto, he also endured the blunt end of a stray blast from Cyclops. It may not leave any scars, but it left him in a world of hurt.

“You okay, Wolverine?” said Iceman as he helped him up.

“I’ve survived worse,” he grunted, “So much for my first mission.”

“Hey, how were we supposed to know Magneto would drop in with a new team?” said Iceman.

“You’re right, Iceman. It could have been much worse,” said Hank.

“Keep telling yourself that,” said Wolverine, “Doesn’t make it any easier.”

While Wolverine was rubbing his head, Cyclops stormed over in a rage. This was the first mission with Wolverine as an X-man and just as he feared, it was a disaster. He berated his authority, scoffed at his warnings, and put the team in danger. That was all the reason he needed to call him out.

“You’ve got some serious nerve, Wolverine!” yelled the young leader, “I told you to stay back! I warned you not to go rogue on us! But you just had to go it alone!”

“Hey, don’t go yelling at me, One-eye!” shot Wolverine definitely, “I was doing my part! Where the hell where you?!”

“Sticking with the team!” retorted Cyclops, “Maybe if you had done the same we wouldn’t have been a mess when Magneto showed up!”

“Why you…”

Cyclops and Wolverine were right up in each others’ faces now. Having already endured one fight, Marvel Girl stepped in between them to keep another from breaking out.

“Both of you stop it!” she said strongly, “It’s bad enough we fought Magneto. Let’s not start fighting each other.”

Cyclops and Wolverine continued to stare each other down. Wolverine didn’t like being pushed around by anybody and Cyclops didn’t like having a renegade in the team. But for the sake of not making things any worse, they stayed quiet.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re all a little at fault here…some more than others.”

Marvel Girl shot a look towards Wolverine, hinting that she did agree with Scott to some extent. That caused Wolverine to back off and was definitely satisfying for Cyclops. But he wasn’t immune from scorn either as Marvel Girl turned back to him.

“But yelling at each other isn’t going to help,” she said.

“Nor will it clean up this destructive affair,” lamented Beast, “Our bumbling seems to have made a bad situation even worse.”

“So much for playing hero,” groaned Angel, still trying to pick the gunk from his wings.

“So what do we do?” said Iceman in a demoralized tone, “Tuck our tails between our legs and go home with our heads hung low?”

Suddenly, an astral image of Xavier appeared in front of them and answered the question at hand. It was a powerful means to reach out to the team and one he used rarely, but after an incident like this he needed to address them.

‘No, Iceman. Marvel Girl is right. Now is not the time to fight each other or start doubting our mission.  Now is the time to regroup and learn from this mishap.’

“Some mishap,” said Angel in a morose tone, “Could it have gone any worse?”

“It most certainly could have,” said Storm, “We did manage to get most of the civilians to safety.”

“What are the odds they’ll show any gratitude?” retorted Iceman.

“Since when do we do this for gratitude?” said Cyclops, “That’s not part of our mission, Bobby, and you know it.”

“Point taken, but I still wouldn’t call it much of a consolation. I’d be more inclined to call it an all out defeat.”

‘A defeat is only a defeat if you don’t learn from it. We may have lost this battle, but we cannot allow it to lead to more. Mark my words, we will learn from it. We just have to be careful now that Magneto is stepping up his efforts.’

“Any ideas on how to deal with him and his new Brotherhood, Professor?” asked Storm.

“Yeah, because those jerk-offs don’t look above kicking their enemies when they’re down!” snarled Wolverine.

Xavier was silent for a moment. This was certainly not the progress he had hoped for at this point. His team was demoralized and they now had competition in winning the hearts and minds of new mutants from Magneto. The stakes had just been raised and they couldn’t afford to back down now. It was only a matter of moving beyond such a tough loss.

‘I don’t know, Storm. But I know Erik enough to know that he won’t stop here. That is why we have to recover from this quickly. He’s moving forward with his mission so we have to move forward with ours regardless of these setbacks. And above all, we must be ready for further escalations. It will most likely get worse before it gets better.’


Next Issue: Schoolyard Drama

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