Born with extraordinary powers, Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men fight for peace in a world that hates and fears them. And lately, much of that fight has centered around the island nation of Genosha. Once ruled by a ruthless anti-mutant dictator, Cameron Hodge, their nemesis Magneto tried to use Genosha to stage an uprising that threatened to overthrow all of humanity. But they stopped him, leading Magneto to be captured and leaving the island in the hands of his children, Wanda and Pietro.
The aftermath on Genosha has been tenuous at best. Wanda has struggled to maintain order while Pietro remains bitter over her tactics. Despite help from Charles Xavier and the international community, Pietro isn’t satisfied with the course of mutant affairs. He stands opposed to his own sister and has kept his distance from Xavier and the X-men.
While this drama is unfolding on Genosha, the X-men welcomed a new recruit into their ranks. Kurt Wagner, a former mercenary of the mysterious Azazel, recently joined the team after he was saved from the clutches of Black Tom Cassidy. As the biological son of Mystique and foster brother of Rogue, he joins a team already reeling from personal issues including Rogue’s recent breakup with Scott. Despite these challenges, his arrival brings needed manpower to the team as new challenges unfold on Genosha.
“Is this the kind of life we want?!”
“NO!” said an angry crowd of mutants gathered on the shores of Genosha.
“Is this what Magneto promised us?”
“Then I ask you my mutant brothers, what are we waiting for? Let us take that which is rightfully ours!”
“YEAH! TAKE IT BACK! TAKE IT BACK! TAKE IT BACK!” chanted the crowd.
It was another volatile rally on the once pristine shores of the island nation of Genosha. Over a hundred mutants gathered around a lone figure that made no secret of his dissatisfaction with their situation. It was Pietro Maximoff, the son of Magneto and the one most embittered by how things had panned out. He stood on a rock, rallying those who thought like him. Most had been part of Magneto’s initial uprising. Some were former Genoshan prisoners, including Rusty and Rictor. But there was one figure who remained stoic and collected throughout the whole affair.
Pietro stepped down from the rock and let his fellow brethren know he was with them. They kept cheering and chanting, eager for another chance to finish what they started. Pietro may not have had the charisma or subtlety of his father, but he had his determination. And as he made his way through the crowd they all offered their support.
“We’re ready to fight again, Quicksilver!” said Rusty, “Just let us know when we make our move!”
“We’re with you, compadre!” said Rictor.
Pietro nodded in affirmation and firmly shook their hands in a sign of solidarity. He could tell they meant what they said. They were all ready to move forward. They just needed a plan.
But while Pietro was making his way towards the crowd, the one figure not swayed by his rhetoric approached. He was a tall muscular man with South American features and long hair. He was wearing what appeared to be some sort of paramilitary suit. Pietro couldn’t remember him from the uprising. He couldn’t even remember him from previous rallies he staged. But he seemed very interested.
“Nice speech, Maximoff. Too bad there wasn’t much substance behind it,” said the figure in a gritty tone.
“Who the hell are you?” asked Pietro over the noise of the crowd.
“Fabian Cortez,” said the man as he handed him a business card, “I represent a small mutant paramilitary group that’s taken a keen interest in your fight here.”
“I appreciate the support, but we don’t need the help of mercenaries,” said the speedster.
“Who said we were mercenaries?” grinned Cortez, “I like to think I’m more a consultant. Everybody else here may be swayed by your little speeches. But I can provide a little something extra…something I know you need.”
“And what’s that?” asked Pietro curiously.
“A plan,” said Cortez with an ominous grin.
The cheering continued and as Pietro looked around at his fervent supporters, he realized this man had a point. He could sway others to his cause, but he did not have his father’s tactical brilliance. If he was to give these people the hope they deserved, he needed something substantive and this Fabian Cortez may be able to provide it.
Xavier Institute – Library
Kurt Wagner was adjusting nicely to his new surroundings. It had been a couple of weeks since he joined and he had since learned his way about the X-men. He took part in training sessions, got to know his new teammates, and enrolled in a round of classes. Having been home schooled for much of his life, Kurt had some catching up to do. But he proved dedicated and bright. Between training and spending hours on the phone talking to Amanda, he spent much of his time studying. He was probably the only member of the team that spent more time in the library than he did in front of the TV.
In addition to his new responsibilities as an X-man and a student, Kurt took as much time as he could to catch up with his adopted sister. It was surreal in a ways because technically they just met, but they had known each other for much longer through the letters they exchanged. But no amount of letters could prepare them for something like this. They quickly discovered they had somewhat opposing natures. Kurt was focused and dedicated to his responsibilities. Rogue was more laid back, habitually late to everything, and spoke up more often. They had starkly different personalities, but they still made it work.
Over the past few weeks, Rogue needed her brother’s support. Her breakup with Scott hit hard even though she tried not to let it show. Kurt still picked up on it. He got the whole story about her relationship with Scott from Kitty. It was not the best time to build a relationship as siblings, but Kurt did his best to help her.
He tried to concentrate while Rogue lofted about on the couch, a book resting on her chest while she smoked a cigarette. Since her breakup she had been smoking a lot more lately and it didn’t seem to be helping.
“You know zhose are very bad for you,” commented Kurt as he tried to wave away some of the smoke.
“Neither is eating bacon and waffles drenched in butter, but that doesn’t seem to stop you,” Rogue pointed out with a humored grin.
“I can’t help it. I have a high metabolism,” shrugged Kurt, “Teleporting takes it out of you.”
“So do breakups,” sighed Rogue, “Ah know it stinks, but it takes the edge off.”
Kurt cast his sister a bemused look. One thing he didn’t get from his letters from Rogue was just how rebellious she was. Her nickname was well-deserved. He was still getting used to calling her that since he still thought of her as Marie.
“Look Kurt, Ah’m sorry ya gotta put up with meh at a time like this, Kurt,” said Rogue as she finished her cigarette, “Ah know Ah’m not making it easy for us.”
“Don’t be sorry, Rogue,” he said reassuringly, “I understand you’re going through a rough period. It’s hard enough dealing with Mystique and Black Tom. I can only imagine how much harder it is adding a breakup on top of it.”
“You don’t have to imagine anything. It sucks, end of story,” muttered Rogue as she sat up and sighed, “You’re lucky ya got someone like Amanda. Not that Scott wasn’t nice and all, but it just got to a point where it couldn’t work. Ah can’t help but think it was mah fault because Ah went so fast with him.”
“Ja, Kitty told me about zhat. She said you didn’t have zhe patience to go through zhe formalities,” said Kurt with a humored grin.
“Kitty said that? Remind meh to dump a gallon of bleach in her next load of laundry.”
“No need to get vindictive, mien sister. You’re still dealing vith it. So is Scott. You’ve seen how off he’s been lately.”
“He’s probably just contemplating how he’s gonna hook up with Jean now that Ah’ve cut him lose,” said Rogue dryly.
“Now you’re just being bitter,” said Kurt as he closed his book and sat down next to her, “Seriously, Rogue, you can’t let zhis get you down. You have to have faith zhat zhis is all for zhe better. You said it yourself. You and Scott couldn’t work anymore.”
“Ah know Ah did, but it’s hard, damn it!” groaned Rogue, “Ah wish Ah could have faith like you. Guess Ah’m just a bitter gal in general.”
“It’s not about being bitter. It’s about being strong,” said Kurt intently, “And I know you’re a strong person. You saved me, remember? Zhat’s all zhe proof I need.”
Rogue’s gaze remained distant for a moment. But she took comfort in his words. Once they sank in she turned to her adopted brother and smiled. Kurt hadn’t been here long, but he showed a talent for reaching people. It was just what she needed during this difficult time in her life and it made her all the more grateful she had him in her life.
“You’re something else, ya know that?” commented Rogue.
“I do my best,” shrugged the young mutant, “Ve still have a lot to catch up on. Ve might as vell get zhe harder issues out of zhe way.”
“Guess it couldn’t hurt,” sighed Rogue, “The way things go around here, the fewer distractions ya have the better.”
“So I’ve heard. I hope I’m ready for vhen my first test as an X-man comes along.”
“If you fight half as well as you console foster sisters, Ah think you’ll do just fine.”
The two siblings shared a good laugh. It was comforting to have this kind of family support in a place like this. As nice as having friends were, there was something special about having a family bond to go along with it. They each had their share of issues and they didn’t just stop at Mystique or Rogue’s breakup. They helped each other as best they could. It may not be enough to stop Rogue from smoking, but it was more than enough to keep them strong in these turbulent times.
Xavier Institute – Backyard
Jean Grey had a lot of reasons to be distracted lately. Ever since Scott and Rogue broke up, she had been in an awkward position. She was still avoiding Rogue at every turn. Jean routinely picked up on her bitter thoughts. She placed a good deal of blame on her for breaking her and Scott up. To Jean’s surprise Rogue didn’t lash out at her, but that was probably only because Kitty and Kurt held her back. She wanted to reassure her that she did not intend to affect things between her and Scott, but it was probably going to be a while before she and Rogue could sit down and talk this through.
The breakup also affected Scott in a number of ways. It was just as hard for him as it was for Rogue. Jean did her best to be there for him just as he had done for her when she broke up with Logan. But it wasn’t as easy with Scott because of how introverted he was. He didn’t say it, but she sensed he felt guilty over how his relationship with Rogue ended. A part of him even believed Rogue was right. His friendship with her had affected their relationship. He didn’t cast any blame on Jean. He kept the burden on himself like he always did.
Jean could tell this issue still wore heavily on him. Sitting out near the pool, she was trying to read a book for a class. But her eyes kept diverting to Scott, who was sitting over on a bench overlooking the lake. He often came out here to be alone with his thoughts. Sometimes Jean joined him. Right now she decided to give him space. That still didn’t stop her from thinking about him.
She tried to keep her focus on her book, but it was no use. She was ready to give up and go back inside. Then Warren came flying in, returning from one of his daily flights.
“Hey Jean, doing a little light reading?” he asked as he landed next to her.
“Yeah…really light,” sighed Jean, her eyes drifting towards Scott again.
Warren picked up on where Jean was looking. He tried not to smirk and make a comment Bobby may make. He knew of Scott’s breakup with Rogue like everyone else. He had a feeling it would affect Jean like this.
“So how’s he holding up?” asked Warren.
“As well as any guy could in his position,” sighed Jean, “I think he’s coming around. Things are still a little awkward around him and Rogue, but she doesn’t seem to harbor any grudges.”
“Could’ve fooled me. I don’t remember Scott being this quiet after his last breakup.”
“Every relationship is different. Some take longer to get over than others. You ought to know. Remember how long it took you to get over your last girlfriend?”
“Don’t remind me,” muttered Warren, “But it’s been what? Two weeks?”
“Two weeks and four days, but who’s counting?” she answered distantly.
“Obviously someone is and I can only imagine why,” he said with a slight chuckle.
“Please don’t start, Warren,” groaned Jean, “I’ve heard enough of that crap from Bobby.”
“Duly noted. But if this keeps going on, I’m going to start worrying. I get the feeling Scott’s a little burned out from dating Rogue. I know the lure of a beautiful woman is hard, but I thought Scott of all people would be disciplined enough to take it easy.”
“We all have our weak moments. I know I’ve had mine,” sighed Jean as she thought back to her relationship with Logan, “We’ve been talking about it lately. It’s not easy for Scott. You know how dedicated he is to the people he cares about. He’ll go as far as he hast to in order to keep them from getting hurt, even if it means stressing on his relationships.”
“Funny, I thought that just extended to his powers,” commented Warren.
“Maybe on a deep Freudian level it does, but I still have to hand it to him. The man goes above and beyond for friends and lovers alike. I just wish he didn’t place so much of the burden on himself.”
Jean expression fell somewhat as she gazed towards Scott. She was saddened that she had to see him like this. Warren didn’t like it either, but he didn’t understand it on as deep a level as her. That didn’t mean he didn’t understand though.
“That’s Scott for you,” he sighed, “At least Rogue isn’t adding to it. Thankfully she’s not as bitter as her mother. Otherwise Scott might not be in one piece.”
“To be fair, she broke up with him,” Jean reminded.
“That’s never stopped some women. It’s a good thing Kurt’s here now to keep her in check. And Scott still has you so I’m sure you’ll get him through it.”
“Yeah…I hope so,” said Jean distantly.
Jean remained fixated on Scott. She couldn’t tell if he was just sulking or lost in thought. It may have been a little of both. She was somewhat tempted to read his thoughts, but she shared the Professor’s philosophy of not intruding on someone else’s mind. She probably wouldn’t even be able to since Scott guarded his mind so well. But she still couldn’t help but wonder.
Warren tried not to think too much of it. He had a painful history with breakups and was no good at helping others get past them. He empathized with Scott, but even he could see that his relationship with Rogue had its limits. It was just like Jean’s relationship with Logan. It didn’t have the long term intangibles. He wasn’t sure if they knew that or not. Whatever the case, it was something they both had to work on.
“I just hope it doesn’t impact the team,” added Warren, “At the rate we’re going, the X-men will be one big collection of ex’s. And that can’t be good for team chemistry.”
“Guess we’ll have to hope Ororo and Hank stay together then,” said Jean.
“You never know,” shrugged Warren, “I hear they’ve been having troubles lately as well. Oddly enough, Bobby seems to be the only one in a stable relationship.”
“I know. How sad is that?” said Jean with a bemused laugh.
“Pretty pathetic, not to mention ironic,” laughed Warren as he started making his way inside, “Maybe we should put a disclaimer in the front of the school. Date within the team at your own risk.”
“Yeah, but you never know. One of these days one of them may actually work out,” shrugged Jean.
“Maybe,” shrugged the winged mutant, “Guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
Jean didn’t notice Warren’s wry grin as he made his leave. She remained focused on Scott, still wondering what was going to come of this. There were still a number of issues he hadn’t worked out. Even she had some loose ends to tie up with her and Logan. But she was still hopeful. Who knows way may emerge after all was said and done?
Xavier Institute – Hank’s Room
Technology was an amazing thing. Hank McCoy had always harbored a deep appreciation of it. In some ways he was tied to it. Technology was behind what turned him into the ape-like mutant he was today. But for all the respect he had for technology, he never imagined it would affect him like this.
Once again he found himself secluded in his room. He sat hunched over his desk, his attention utterly locked on his laptop. He was fully engrossed in yet another internet conversation with Tessa, a woman he knew only through cyberspace. Yet even though he had never met her in person, he connected with her in a powerful way and it was getting to a point where it was taking on a life of its own.
“You’re insight into self-sufficient nature of the X-gene is intriguing, Hank. Perhaps the conditions for mutation were far more extreme than science has previously predicted. Maybe it has a more radical origin. Are you familiar with the theory of quantum systemic protein synthesis and their interaction with polypeptide chains?”
Hank smiled and jotted down a few notes before responding. It was a rarity to meet someone who could speak so elegantly about subjects such as quantum systemic. It was even rarer to meet a woman who shared such interests. But Tessa was no ordinary woman. She was different in more ways than one. Hank already knew she was a mutant with a computer-like mind. It was the way she applied her mind was nothing short of remarkable. She could rouse even his intellectual prowess. But that wasn’t all she roused.
“You never cease to amaze me, Tessa,” he said to himself, “I’ll see if I can work this into my next experiment.”
After Hank finished jotting down his notes, he typed up a response. Whenever he chatted with her he kept a picture of her she sent him pasted at the top of his screen. Tessa was a beautiful woman. She was a shapely woman about his age with well-groomed black hair, dark eyes, and a fair complexion. At first he thought it was a doctored photo, but after analyzing in every way imaginable he concluded it was legitimate. He returned the favor by sending a picture of himself. Like her, he didn’t make any changes and she still accepted him. That said a lot to him and further fueled his intrigue for this woman.
Hank became so engrossed in his conversation with Tessa he didn’t realize his bedroom door being opened. He just kept typing, pouring every ounce of his intellect into this profound conversation. Then a gruff voice broke him from his daze.
“Does Ro know you’re screwing around with some other chick on the net? Or do you have one of those open relationship deals?” said Logan.
Hank nearly leapt out of his fur as he shot around and saw Logan standing over him in full uniform.
“Logan! I…please be so kind to knock in the future!” he said anxiously.
“Don’t change the subject. I know you’re talking to that Tessa chick again,” said the feral mutant, “She’s the only one who can distract you so much that you forget we’re flyin’ out to Genosha in twenty minutes.”
Hank was taken aback by the revelation. He was also surprised to find out he was right. The Professor scheduled him and the team to fly out to Genosha to check in with Wanda and help with the UN. Usually it was his responsibility to show up in the hanger early and get the jet ready, but this time it completely slipped his mind.
It was very disconcerting. It was further proof that he was losing control of his relationship with Tessa. To make matters worse, Logan of all people picked up on it.
“So what are ya waiting for? Finish with the cyber-sex and help me with the jet already,” said Logan, “I’ll be in the hanger.”
But before he could run off, Hank stopped him. As vital as his responsibilities were, he couldn’t just push this aside.
“Logan wait!” he said, “You…you know about Tessa?”
“Of course I know,” scoffed Logan, “I may not be able to do calculus in my head, but I know the sings. You’ve been spending more time on that laptop of yours than you have with Ororo, the Danger Room, and the others combined. Either you’ve discovered some secret porn hub on the internet or you’re involved with a girl. I figure it was a girl.”
Hank shifted uncomfortably at Logan’s analysis, but he still wasn’t convinced.
“Plus, you left your laptop open in your lab one night. Ya really gotta make sure you log off before you leave it lying around.”
That made a lot more sense. Hank cursed his carelessness. If Logan could pick up on his clandestine discourse with Tessa then it wasn’t too great a stretch for Ororo to find out. That would certainly not bode well for their relationship.
“I suppose I’ll have to start locking my computer now,” muttered Hank, “You didn’t tell Ororo, did you?”
“Hell no! There’s no way I’m getting caught up in this. I had enough of that when I broke up with Jeannie.”
“Thank you…I think,” said Hank with a sigh of relief.
“And for the record, you’re playing a dangerous game, Hank. Ororo’s a great girl and all, but she’s no bimbo. She’s gonna find out sooner or later and I can’t imagine she’ll be too happy when she does.”
“I know. But I assure you I will not let this affect our relationship. I’m going to work this out with her when the time is more suitable.”
“Sure you will,” said Logan skeptically, “Name one woman in history who’s ever been able to look past her guy getting involved with some other girl behind his back.”
“Tessa and I are certainly not involved,” said Hank defensively.
“Don’t bullshit yourself, Hank. You’re too smart for it,” quipped the feral mutant, “It’s gonna blow up in your face. Trust me.”
Hank tried to find a way to rationally dispute Logan’s crass assessment. But nothing came to mind. Every line of reasoning was in his favor. Ororo, as sweet a woman she was, would certainly not take well to his discussions with Tessa. Looking back at his laptop and at a picture of her he kept on his desk, he felt at somewhat defeated. For once his brilliant mind was at a loss and he wasn’t sure what to do.
For Logan, it was not an issue he wanted to push. There were other more pressing matters at the moment. There would be plenty of time for relationship drama later.
“Now are you gonna keep brooding or are you gonna come down and help? You’ll have plenty of time to work your girlfriend over when we get back,” said Logan.
“I’ll be right down,” sighed Hank as he shut down his laptop.
“Make it quick. You know how easily things go to hell on Genosha.”
Genosha – Capital Palace
Wanda Maximoff took deep, calming breaths as she prepared herself for another meeting with Xavier. She had been pacing restlessly in the main palace where Cameron Hodge once dwelled. As much as she appreciated Xavier’s help, she never liked these visits. They were always a source of tension on Genosha. There were mutants who praised the X-men for helping to liberate them and there were others who loathed them for handing Magneto over to the UN. They only thing they all agreed on was how vital they were to the fragile peace on the island.
Having spent the last half hour making herself presentable, Wanda anxiously watched the skies for the X-jet. She wore her old Brotherhood uniform, but made a few alterations to make it more formal and appropriate. She had to at least appear as a competent leader even if she didn’t carry her father’s poise. She had been holding her own so far, but there was no guarantee that would last.
“They’re late,” said a familiar voice from behind.
Wanda turned around to see her brother, Pietro, standing before her. He looked as grumpy as always if not a little more so.
“Pietro…I thought you would have run off by now,” she said, “Usually when the X-men pay a visit, you’re on the other side of the island.”
“And every time afterwards you spend at least an hour yelling at me for it. I figured I’d save myself the trouble this time,” he said bitterly.
“Funny, you’ve never tried to avoid them before. Does this mean I’ve finally found a way to keep you in line?” said Wanda jokingly.
“Don’t get too cocky, Wanda. Just because my patience has limits doesn’t mean I’ll always go along. I still hate that you’re cooperating with this man. He’s the reason our father is behind bars in case you’ve forgotten.”
“He’s also the reason why you’re still alive, which of course you’ve obviously forgotten,” said Wanda in a harsh tone.
Pietro scowled at such a grim reminder. He was still bitter about owing his life to the X-men. He still hated them with a passion, but it was hard to hate them with the same fervor when he owed his life to them. He didn’t blame Wanda for wanting to save him. He would have done the same for her. That still didn’t make it any easier.
“I made a deal with the X-men that saved your life,” said Wanda strongly, “I’m just trying to keep my end of it.”
“Are you? Because sometimes I get the feeling you’re being swayed by Xavier’s hippie rhetoric.”
“It’s worked for us so far, hasn’t it? I know it’s not what father wanted, but it’s the best we could have hoped for under the circumstances. Now are you going to be a dick about this or are you going to try to be civil?”
Pietro’s gaze narrowed. Then he let out a defeated sigh. He didn’t give Wanda the satisfaction of a response, but the mere fact he shut up was enough for her.
“Good,” she said, “Now let’s get to the courtyard. They should be here any minute.”
Swallowing his pride, Pietro followed his sister out of the palace. This was going to be a test of will-power for him. The second he saw Xavier, he was going to be tempted to beat him to a pulp. The man may have saved his life, but he also ruined their uprising and threw his father into a plastic prison. But he had to restrain himself. Xavier would get what he deserved. That Fabian Cortez just better keep up his end of the bargain.
Capital Palace – Courtyard
The X-jet landed in a large clearing on the courtyard amidst heavy security. Both UN peacekeepers and a few handpicked mutant enforcers kept a close eye on the situation. There was always tension whenever the X-men visited. It would take just one extreme act from a single disgruntled Genoshan to ignite conflict and both sides were determined to avoid that.
Once the jet landed, the hatch opened and the X-men stepped out with Charles Xavier leading. He always came with the full force of his team. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler were all present in uniform. They kept one eye on their mentor and the other on everybody else. Even though Wanda had done much to uphold her end of the deal, they still didn’t trust her. Seeing Pietro with her this time only heightened their suspicions.
“Quicksilver showed up? Oh this is going to be fun,” said Angel dryly.
“Is he really zhat bad?” asked Nightcrawler under his breath.
“He’s Magneto’s son,” said the winged mutant, “He’s that bad and then some.”
Quicksilver’s harsh gaze never left the X-men even as Xavier approached. He shook the hands of a couple of UN officials and then he approached Wanda, who welcomed him with her usual greeting.
“Welcome back to Genosha, Professor,” she said, “It’s good to see you.”
“Likewise, Wanda,” said Xavier in a civil tone as he shook her hand.
He then turned towards Pietro, who stood protectively besides his sister.
“It’s a pleasure to see you as well, Pietro. I’m glad you decided to join us this time.”
“Don’t let it go to your head, Xavier. I’m just here to keep an eye on my sister,” said the speedster bitterly, “Now let’s get this over with so you and your pack of traitors can be on their way.”
Pietro clearly hadn’t changed much since their last encounter. These past few months had done little to ease his bitterness. But Xavier was willing to look past it. So long as he was getting involved, that was considered progress.
“Remind me again why we saved his life,” muttered Shadowcat.
“We’re the X-men. We’re gluttons for punishment,” said Rogue dryly.
“Too true,” sighed Iceman, “I can’t believe I gave up a night with Lorna for this.”
Despite their reservations, the X-men followed their mentor and the Maximoff twins into the heart of the Genoshan capital. The scars of Magneto’s uprising were still visible and they could already hear the commotion from within the city in the distance. They could sense the tension in the echoes. There was no telling where or when the next source of chaos would come from. But it wasn’t going to happen so long as the X-men were here.
Genoshan Capital City – Former Research Facility
The first two hours of the visit went without incident. Wanda and Pietro led Professor Xavier and the X-men through the city, discussing numerous affairs along the way. Over the past few months, the city Cameron Hodge built under his repressive regime had been torn down. Homes, businesses, farms, and factories were all broken down for parts and much of the area consisted of mountains of rubble. It was the same in every community throughout the island and much of it was moved along by Genosha’s large mutant workforce. There were still some humans who hadn’t left, but their presence was tenuous at best. Only the protections from UN peacekeepers and the X-men kept things civil.
With so much unrest and uncertainty, not much had been rebuilt. Most of the inhabitants were living in large tent cities littered throughout the island. There were also some makeshift military bases for the UN forces, but they were heavily guarded and many mutants resented their presence. The only semblance of order came from Wanda and the support Xavier salvaged from the international community. It was too fragile to start building again, but a great deal of Genoshan citizens were growing restless.
One area that was particularly tenuous were the abandoned research facilities once used by Hodge. They were among the few buildings not demolished. This was because there was so much interest from international authorities about how a regime like Hodge could acquire such advanced technology. It was a mystery that even Xavier found interesting.
The Maximoff twins led them into one of the facilities where a large team of NATO troops were still combing through the ruins for answers. It was an ominous place to be and not everyone was eager to uncover the mystery.
“I hate these places,” grunted Wolverine, “How much longer until they blow them all to hell like the rest of Hodge’s little playgrounds?”
“I wish I knew,” said Wanda, “Believe me I would have no problem watching these buildings crumble, but the UN insists they keep searching. I don’t know what they’re looking for, but they won’t stop until they find it.”
“Doesn’t look like there’s much in this place to find,” commented Marvel Girl, “How Hodge maintained a high tech army of robots here I’ll never understand.”
“That’s part of the problem,” said Pietro, “These government stooges are more concerned with salvaging technology than helping our people.”
“Yes, I’ve spoken to the several NATO officers about that,” said the Professor as they explored the ground floor, “They are mainly concerned about such technology falling into the wrong hands. But from what I’ve gathered they don’t expect to find anything.”
“Sounds like they’re blowing smoke in your face and you’re inhaling it,” scoffed Pietro, “I bet they’ve been itching to search this island for decades. Now that they have their chance I doubt they’ll leave until they rip this island apart.”
“So why don’t you just help them?” asked Nightcrawler, “Zhe sooner zhey get vhat zhey vant zhe sooner zhey can leave.”
Pietro scoffed at Kurt’s suggestion. He was obviously new and didn’t know the first thing about dealing with humans.
“You really don’t know the history of Genosha do you? You must not do much teaching at that school.”
“Pietro don’t…” scowled Wanda.
“No please. Keep going. I dare you!” growled Wolverine, drawing his claws.
The former living weapon cast the speedster a threatening glare, but Pietro wasn’t intimidated. They looked ready to start brawling.
“Easy Logan. This is a diplomatic mission, remember?” said Cyclops.
“Yes, let’s try and be civil,” said Wanda, casting some extra scorn on her brother.
Pietro fell silent and so did Wolverine. But the tension was still strong, especially as more heavily armed soldiers passed by.
“I apologize for my brother’s lack of maturity,” she said, “But he does bring up a relevant issue. Genosha’s history is a major issue.”
“What kind of history are we talking about?” asked Shadowcat.
“The kind that caught even my father’s attention,” sighed Wanda, “He never revealed it to the rest of the Brotherhood, but Genosha’s history is its greatest resource. I’m sure you all know the basics from the news. It’s not a stable part of the world to say the least.”
“That’s putting it mildly. The island has endured eight tyrannical dictators in this century alone,” said Hank, “And I don’t even wish to even contemplate how many wars were fought here during the colonial period.”
“Why? What’s so special about this dump?” asked Rogue.
“This dump has for some reason always had an unusually high mutant birth rate,” said Wanda, “Even though people like Hodge try their hardest to stem it, more mutants keep emerging here.”
“Sounds like quite a mystery,” commented Storm, “Something like that can’t possibly just be chance.”
“It isn’t. Believe me, I would know. But that isn’t what gets people up in arms about this place. It’s the exotic technology Genosha always seems to export. Nobody knows where it comes from or how people find it. But you saw the sentinels. That should give you a clue about what we’re dealing with.”
“Maybe aliens landed here or something,” joked Iceman, “Or maybe it has one of those Bermuda Triangle curses.”
“That makes sense only if you follow the logic of the Sci-Fi channel, Bobby,” commented Shadowcat wryly.
“Whatever the case, the secrets of this technology are still highly coveted,” said Wanda, “Some even say it was technology exported from Genosha that led to the development of modern computers, electronics, and stealth technology.”
“But that’s largely conjecture,” said the Professor, “I don’t see too many international bodies taking it seriously.”
“They don’t have to,” said Pietro, “They could just as easily use it as an excuse to stay here for as long as they want. And our mutant population will not tolerate that.”
“Yes, I understand that, Pietro. But you must be patient. Every major leader I’ve spoken to is very wary about leaving Genosha at this point. If these matters are to be resolved peacefully, you and your followers must be willing to work with us more openly.”
Pietro held back another snide remark. The idea of being open with these humans, who he was certain had their own agenda, was not only improbable. It was impossible. He could never see these people that his father inspired so strongly to just bend over and work with their oppressors. Such foolish notions would be the end of them. Hopefully in Xavier’s case, that end would come soon enough.
But while Pietro scoffed, Wanda tried to remain reasonable. The idea of the Genoshan populace working more openly with human forces seemed improbable to her as well. There was still a great deal of bitterness on all sides.
“We’re doing our best, Professor. But our people are growing impatient,” she warned, “If they don’t start seeing progress soon, I don’t know if I’ll be able to control the chaos.”
“We will forge ahead. I promise,” said Xavier with a reassuring gesture, “I’ve made some significant strides with the president and several UN officials. They seem very much open to the idea of Genosha becoming a legitimate nation for mutants. It took some significant debate, but it seems fitting, don’t you think? A once oppressive country could become a haven for an oppressed people.”
“A haven, huh?” said Wanda with greater intrigue, “I wouldn’t mind that. I think a lot of mutants here wouldn’t mind it either, having our own little nation to call home.”
“But won’t that just isolate mutants?” Cyclops pointed out, “If mutants start secluding themselves from the rest of the world, that’ll only give people more reason to fear us.”
“You may be right, Cyclops. But it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Xavier with a touch of optimism, “Many leaders agree that if such a nation could remain open and peaceful, it would do much for public perceptions towards mutants. And if it could contribute to the global community at large, mutants would gain more legitimacy.”
“Or it could be a way to get us all in one place and annihilate us,” quipped Pietro.
“Shut up, Pietro! Just because you can’t think of anything better doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea!” spat Wanda, who took this proposal more seriously.
It was somewhat surprising. Wanda actually looked excited about the idea of a mutant nation with legitimate authority in the international community. It seemed a lot less chaotic than the war her father pushed. It would free the mutants of this world that had been oppressed and that was her main concern. Looking around at this old facility, she was already picturing elaborate buildings and bustling squares where mutants could just live in peace.
Even the X-men weren’t adverse to it. It meant they wouldn’t have to keep coming here to clean up messes left by people like Hodge and Magneto. In a ways it would be an extension of the isntitute’s goal to give mutants an environment where they could thrive. With the mutant population growing, a full fledged nation sounded appropriate.
“It might actually work,” said Wanda as she started walking about the dilapidated area, ignoring the UN officials as they passed by, “We could turn this into a real homeland. Mutants would finally have a place to pursue their hopes and dreams without fear of persecution.”
“Plus, think of the tourism dollars,” grinned Angel, “I’m sure a nation of mutants will get everybody’s attention.”
“Hopefully for the better of course,” said Storm.
“Of course it’ll be better,” said Wanda, now smiling for the first time, “It could be more than just a mutant haven. It could be a sanctuary! Even father wouldn’t be completely opposed to such an idea.”
“Oh how would you know? Father’s in jail thanks to these meddling jerk offs,” scoffed Pietro.
That earned the speedster a look from all the X-men. He had a way of killing any sense of optimism and Wolverine wasn’t amused. He drew his claws again and pointed them right at Pietro’s neck. This time Cyclops didn’t hold him back.
“Bub! You’re seriously testing my patience and that ain’t smart!” growled the feral mutant.
“Logan no…” groaned Beast as he tried to step between them.
But Cyclops and Marvel Girl got in his way.
“Let it go, Beast,” said Cyclops in a serious tone.
“Yeah, Quicksilver needs the bejesus scared out of him,” snickered Marvel Girl.
Beast didn’t approve of such tactics, but none of the other X-men opposed Wolverine’s actions. They were just as sick of Pietro’s comments and if anyone could get him to fall in line besides his sister, it was Wolverine. But for some reason, Pietro remained defiant.
“What are you going to do? Stab me? Amputate my limbs?” scoffed Pietro, “That’s not very peaceful for an X-man.”
“Don’t insult me, speedy. There’s more than one way to beat some sense into a pig-headed punk like you!” growled Wolverine, his face just inches from Pietro.
It was the kind of threatening leer that made even Pietro hold back a bit. This was the same man who jumped a sentinel and took down his father. He wasn’t going to push him any further than he had to. His well-being may depend on it.
Sensing he got the message, Xavier gave Wolverine a look and the feral mutant withdrew his claws.
“Do us all a favor and keep your dumbass opinions to yourself! You don’t want to be part of the solution, you might as well get the hell…”
But Wolverine stopped in mid sentence. Just as he was putting Pietro in his place, his keen senses picked up on something strange. He started sniffing the air. Something didn’t smell right. Out of nowhere it smelled like something was burning. Within seconds the smell got progressively stronger. Soon, his instincts were giving him all kinds of bad vibes.
“Is something wrong, Wolverine?” asked the Professor suspiciously.
“Say, is it getting hot in here or am I just excited?” asked Iceman.
“Please tell me that’s a dirty joke,” said Rogue, who started to feel it as well.
“No, I’m serious,” he said, his ice form starting to melt, “It’s really getting…”
Then Wolverine picked up on something new. Something in the air wasn’t right. Now it wasn’t just burning. It was on the verge of exploding. This couldn’t be natural. It was as if someone or something was lighting a match and igniting the air around them. It all seemed to focus on a single area around Xavier. As soon as Wolverine traced it he acted on a whim.
In a split second, Wolverine lunged forth and literally tackled the Professor out of his wheel chair. Just as he did, a reddish halo engulfed the area. It built up quickly over the span of a mere second and before the team could process what was going on, the air literally exploded in a fireball.
A deafening blast sent a shockwave throughout the area, knocking the X-men off their feet. Pietro managed to catch Wanda, who took the brunt end of the shockwave and momentarily stunned. This sudden blast caught everyone in the building off guard. The bewildered UN workers immediately got down, thinking this was some sort of attack.
“Mien Gott! Vhat vas zhat?” exclaimed Kurt.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s the last of it!” said Cyclops, quickly getting into his leadership mode.
While the team recovered, another fiery glow built up around a hanger door and in another deafening bang, a fire blast erupted, leaving a gaping hole in the building. It knocked several workers into unconsciousness and seriously wounded a one of them. Before the dust even settled an intimidating presence entered the facility. It was Russell “Rusty” Collins. And his fire powers seemed to be in overdrive.
“DEATH TO ALL MUTANT TRAITORS!” he yelled, his voice laced with madness.
His whole body was glowing with white hot flames. Everywhere within a two foot radius of his body was boiling hot. Random flames erupted all around him, some with blinding intensity. But what stood out most was the strange green glow in his eyes. It was as if he was in some sort of daze. His angry focus was on Xavier and the X-men. With his sights now locked on them he raised his hands and focused his power.
“X-men! Fan out!” ordered Cyclops.
“That won’t help you!” exclaimed Rusty with an ominous grin.
Clenching his fists, the fiery mutant triggered more explosions in the air. He didn’t have to shoot anything or even be near it. He just had to focus his power, heat up the air in a certain area, and watch it explode. He could even focus it on multiple areas. As the X-men spread out with Wolverine and Storm protecting Xavier, he triggered several large air bursts. It destroyed walls, windows, and lighting in addition to setting piles of rubble ablaze.
“Whoa! Where did he pick up a trick like that?!” exclaimed Marvel Girl.
“Maybe he had some bad Mexican food,” commented Angel.
And the X-men weren’t the only ones to take note. Wanda, who was dazed from the initial blast, was being rushed towards the nearest exit by Pietro. While he tried to get her out of the line of fire, a number of UN and NATO guards gathered themselves and rose up to respond to this new threat.
“All units engage emergency protocols!” yelled a field captain into his radio, “Take down the freak! Lethal force is authorized! I repeat, lethal force is authorized!”
Dozens of troops and security personnel heeded those commands. Any soldier or officer with a gun or rifle rose up and took aim at the raging mutant. Soon the sound of automatic weapons filled the area. But even hundreds of bullets came flying his way, Rusty didn’t even move from his position. He just stood still and laughed, watching as the intense heat surrounding him liquefied the bullets and deflected them harmlessly. It was a terrifying sight, but the soldiers kept firing. All it did was annoy the raging mutant.
“Lethal force? Ha! I’ll show you lethal force!” taunted Rusty.
With burning white flames exploding around him, Rusty confidently walked through the hail of gunfire until he was standing in the middle of the area. Then with a forceful gesture, he triggered a fury of air bursts all throughout the structure. He made sure one exploded near everyone that was shooting at him. Within seconds powerful blasts ripped through the area, knocking out and seriously injuring many of the UN troops in the process.
It was an ominous display of power. With every burst Rusty grew more maddened by this feeling. More fires spread throughout the area and soon much of the facility was engulfed in flame. The heat was scorching and Rusty was firing wildly, ready to bring it all down if he had to. But his focus returned to his primary targets. Even in his maddened stat,e he remembered he was on a mission.
“Good heavens! He’s out of control!” gasped Storm.
“No kidding,” grunted Wolverine, who was a bit burned from the initial blast, “We have to take him out!”
“Wait! We have to get the troops out as well!” said the Professor, “This structure won’t hold up under this heat!”
“Leave that to us, Professor!” said Cyclops, who emerged from behind some rubble, “Iceman, you and Storm try to put out the fires! Angel, help Shadowcat and Nightcrawler get the people out of here! Everybody else, do whatever it takes to bring this guy down!”
“Right, and all without getting deep fried in the process! Great plan, Cyclops!” said Rogue dryly.
“Let’s just hope he burns himself out!” said Marvel Girl.
The X-men took charge, braving more air bursts from Rusty as they tried to get in closer. Cyclops, Rogue, Marvel Girl, Beast, and Wolverine drew his fire. While he was focused on them, the others rushed to rescue the troops. Storm and Iceman did their best to stem the fires. Iceman hit the burning piles of rubble with his ice blasts while Storm kicked up a quick rain storm. The structure was in disrepair so the fires spread quickly. They couldn’t put it out, but they could slow it down. It gave Angel, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler the window they needed to work.
Many of the UN troops were still dazed. Some were even seriously hurt. Angel gathered the significantly wounded in his arms and flew them out through broken windows near the ceiling. Shadowcat ran through walls and debris to attend to large crowds that had gathered in areas where the flames hadn’t gotten to. Some were able to slip out, but others got themselves trapped. Using her powers, she made entire groups intangible and led them out through the walls.
“Help us! Get us out of here!
“I know this is going to sound lame, but everybody hold hands and hold on tight!” she ordered, “I’ll lead you all out!”
None argued with the young mutant’s orders. They did as she asked and followed her out to safety. Those trapped in harder to reach areas were handled by Kurt. He made quick trips, teleporting in and out of the structure and carrying three to four people at once. Many were too panicked to worry about his appearance. But in between trips, he noticed Rusty stepping up his assault. He kept causing more air bursts, destroying everything around him and keeping the others from getting closer.
But even as Rusty’s attacks raged, the X-men tried to counter. Cyclops tried to hit him with optic blasts, but the fiery mutant deflected the incoming energy with blast shockwaves. While he was focused on Cyclops, Marvel Girl gathered large clumps of debris and tried to bury him under it. For a moment it looked like it was working, but Rusty just responded by burning even hotter. Every scrap of debris was soon burnt to a crisp and Rusty’s confidence was growing.
“Hahahaha! Is that the best you can do?” he taunted, “To think I used to look up to you, X-men!”
“Ah think this guy burned his brain out too,” said Rogue, grunting as another heat wave hit her, “How the heck is he doin’ this anyways?”
“Worry about that later, Rogue!” said Marvel Girl as she tried to shield them from the blasts, “We have to find a way to stop him!”
“Better find it fast! It doesn’t look like this guy’s gonna burn himself out!”
Rogue didn’t bother trying to get close enough to drain him. She could barely get within ten feet of the guy before the heat became unbearable. She tried to think fast while Rusty was occupied with Cyclops and Marvel Girl. She then noticed an old fire extinguisher on the wall. She couldn’t tell if it was too old to work, but it was better than nothing. Acting swiftly, she broke the glass and grabbed the canister. Then with all her strength she heaved it right at the burning mutant.
“Heads up hot head!” she called out.
Rusty was still occupied with Cyclops and Marvel Girl. He barely turned his head to see the canister coming. He tried to react with another air blast, but he wasn’t fast enough. The heavy canister came within two feet of his head. Under the intense heat, it exploded in a deafening blast. Rusty then found himself inundated with fire retardant foam. It briefly stopped the raging flames and stunned him.
“Now Rogue! Drain him!” ordered Cyclops.
“Time for a nice nap, fella!” said Rogue as she rushed towards him.
“N-N-NO!” grunted Rusty.
Before Rogue could even get her gloves off, Rusty let out an angry groan and his body exploded in a new round of flames. The burst was so intense the shockwave knocked Rogue back. Thankfully, Wolverine was there to catch her.
“Nice try, Stripes,” he grunted, “But I don’t think you wanna absorb a guy like that. He’s lost it. I know the signs.”
“Good advice,” groaned Rogue, “But how else are we gonna stop him?”
“Give me a minute. I got an idea!” grunted Wolverine as he protected Rogue from another heat blast.
Rusty continued his assault, triggering more bursts of flames around the X-men. Soon Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Wolverine, Rogue, and Beast were forced on the defensive. Beast was forced to protect Xavier, who was trying to get back into his wheelchair. He was also trying to reach Rusty’s mind, but it wasn’t easy. Something was wrong.
“Are you having any luck, Charles?” asked Hank as he helped him into his chair.
“Hm…this is strange,” said Xavier, trying to ignore the burning heat, “His mind is in disarray. Something has amplified his powers and the process has affected his thoughts.”
“Can you still get through?”
“I think so, but I need time!” said the Professor strongly.
Beast tried to wheel him to a safe place. Iceman and Storm came in, trying to cool down a small area so their mentor could work. But Rusty was still going strong. He never lost sight of Xavier and kept attacking with wave after wave of heat blasts.
“Xavier! You’re gonna burn for your treachery to homo superior!” he said in a rage.
The X-men continued fought on, trying to hold them back. While this battle was raging, Pietro was trying to rush a dazed Wanda out of the building. She was disoriented, but had regained her composure and gazed angrily at the fiery mutant. She worked too long and hard to have it all come crashing down because of some renegade mutant.
“Wanda, we have to go!” urged Pietro, trying to pull her towards an exit.
“No! I’m not leaving! I’m taking this punk down!” she said in a determined tone.
“Leave him to the X-men! Let them take the heat!”
But Wanda didn’t listen to his callous words. Even as he tried to grab her arm and pull her away, she wouldn’t leave. Pietro was getting frustrated. If she wouldn’t do what was best for her, he would have to take charge.
“Fine!” he said in frustration, “I hate to have to do this, but…”
Pietro was just about to grab Wanda and run off, but before he could Rusty saw the two of them out of the corner of his eye. He still had the X-men on the ropes, but he remembered that they weren’t his only targets. Grunting with determination, he turned his focus to the Maximoff twins.
“Oh no you don’t!” he proclaimed as he triggered an air blast right between them.
“Augh!” they both exclaimed as they were blown back by the blast.
Wanda was nearly knocked out cold. Pietro was dazed, but still conscious. Soon bewilderment took over. This wasn’t part of the plan Cortez told him about.
“Hnn…Rusty?! What the hell are you doing?!” exclaimed Pietro.
“Exactly what I said I would do!” he said ominously, “I’m taking out the obstructions to our cause!”
Rusty then triggered another air blast near a dazed Wanda. When Pietro saw this, his eyes widened with horror.
“NO!” he cried out.
But just as the air blast was about to explode around her, Nightcrawler appeared near her and teleported her out of harms way. The ensuing blast knocked Pietro back again, who tried to come to his sister’s aid. He took a more punishing blow this time, getting burned on his chest and arm. But he didn’t lose focus. He watched as Wanda now appeared next to Xavier, still in the path of Rusty’s onslaught. Everything was completely falling apart. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.
While the speedster was trying to make sense of all this, one of the doors behind him was kicked in and Fabian Cortez entered the area. He was in full paramilitary uniform complete with fire-resistant layers, similar to that of a firefighter. He seemed pleased with the sight of Rusty holding his own against the X-men, but it wasn’t over yet. He grabbed Pietro and tried to drag him to the door.
“I just knew you would need me to get you out of here,” said Cortez.
But despite his injuries, Pietro shook off his assistance.
“Cortez! What the hell is going on?! That power amplifying ability of yours is making that kid go crazy!”
“Oh he’s not crazy, I assure you. He’s doing just as I asked him. He’s taking out those that stand in our way.”
“That wasn’t supposed to include Wanda!” exclaimed Pietro.
“Face the facts, Pietro. Your sister is a liability. You’ll never finish what your father started so long as she’s involved. It’s a necessary sacrifice.”
Pietro couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He should never have trusted this man. He was just using him and his hatred for Xavier to serve his own ends. He couldn’t let that stand. Wanda deserved better.
“No! I won’t!” he yelled out.
Then through the pain and wounds, Pietro lunged towards Cortez and slugged him across the face. Even for the combat trained mercenary, it caught him off guard and he fell back. He tried to counter, but Pietro used his super speed to hit him several more times until he was completely knocked out. It drained him even more, leaving him too tired to escape. He collapsed next to Cortez’s unconscious body, but he refused to leave without his sister.
Quicksilver’s deeds didn’t go unnoticed by the X-men. They saw the fight and overheard Pietro’s conversation with Cortez. It answered a number of lingering questions, but it didn’t provide them with what they really needed and that was a way to stop Rusty. He was still blasting them relentlessly with fire bursts. The only thing keeping them from getting incinerated was Marvel Girl’s telekinetic shields.
“Ah should’ve known Quicksilver was up to this!” groaned Rogue as she tried to fight off heat exhaustion, “This is low even for him!”
“We’ll chew him out for it later!” grunted Cyclops as he shot Rusty with more optic blasts, “We have to stop Rusty first!”
“Pietro said something about his powers being amplified! Any chance that will wear off?” wondered Beast.
“I’m trying to determine that!” said Xavier as he kept concentrating through the heat, trying to probe the young mutant’s mind, “But I still can’t get through! His mind is too focused!”
“Then we’ll just have to break it!” growled Wolverine, “And I think I know how!”
The feral mutant then turned to Beast, who was hovering over Wanda with Kurt checking for wounds.
“Hank, how far up do you think you can throw me?” he asked.
“Why on Earth would that be relevant?” asked Beast, not liking where he was going with this.
“Do ya want me to draw you a freakin’ diagram or do you wanna take this guy out? I just need to get up over Jeannie’s shield! Gravity will do the rest!”
“Are you crazy? You’ll get burned to a crisp!” exclaimed Kurt.
“I can take the heat!” said Wolverine confidently, “Now are ya gonna keep stallin’ or are we gonna do this?”
Beast could think of at least 25 reasons why this was a bad idea, but that never stopped Wolverine before. He thought first and dealt with the consequences later, trusting his healing factor and his inhuman tolerance for pain. With Rusty showing no signs of settling down, they didn’t have many options. With the building coming down around them, they had to end this.
“Very well,” said Beast as he left Wanda to Kurt’s care, “But for the record, this is outrageously reckless!”
“Don’t tell me you’re shocked,” grinned Wolverine, “Now shut up and launch me!”
Beast got out in front of Wolverine so he was standing right behind Marvel Girl, who was keeping the shields up. Once in position, the former living weapon ran at him at full speed. When he reached Beast, he leapt so his foot landed right in the middle of his large gorilla-like hands. With pin-point timing, Hank launched him up with all his strength.
“Damn it, Wolverine! He’s doing it again!” groaned Marvel Girl as she tried to keep the shield up.
“Hey, if it works it works!” said Iceman, trying to sound optimistic.
Wolverine shot up nearly thirty feet into the air, arcing over Marvel Girl’s shield and over Rusty’s fire blasts. At the top of his leap, he shifted his body so that his adamantium claws were leading the way. Once gravity took over, he was diving head first towards Rusty. The fiery mutant took notice when he saw Wolverine coming towards him, but he didn’t even move. He just grinned confidently and prepared to burn him to a crisp.
“Finally, someone with some balls!” said Rusty intently, “I’m gonna enjoy this!”
“So am I, bub!” growled Wolverine.
Rusty fired a searing flare up at Wolverine as he descended towards him. It torched much of his uniform and burned half his body. Searing pain filled his body, but Wolverine tuned it out and roared with determination as he plunged towards him. Rusty didn’t expect him to be able to bear it and started stepping back. But it was too late. Wolverine plunged through the fire, nearly burning all the flesh off his body as he got closer. With gravity as his guide, his claws plunged right into the chest of the raging mutant.
Rusty’s expression turned from determination to shock. Even in his fiery state, his body was still vulnerable. Through the heat, a cold feeling came over him. It was pain, more than he ever expected. He fell back under the weight of Wolverine’s charred body, the fiery fury around him quickly dying off now that he wasn’t fueling it. While it was hard to see through the fire, blood seeped out from his wounds. As shock took over, his mind became vulnerable. Professor Xavier took it from there.
“I’ve reached his mind,” he said in a focused tone, “This ordeal ends now.”
With a quick telepathic surge, Rusty fell into a state of unconsciousness. The Professor made sure it was painless for him. Given the wounds Wolverine left, it was for the best. Once he was out, the fiery flames around him disappeared. All that remained was a weakened, naked body.
With the threat neutralized, Marvel Girl let out a tired groan and fell back. But Cyclops was there to catch her.
“Easy Jean,” he told her, “You can rest now.”
Even with Rusty’s assault halted, the fires had spread throughout the building. They were too big to put out and had weakened the structure too much. There had no choice but to evacuate.
“This whole place is gonna come down!” exclaimed Rogue, “We gotta get the heck outta here!”
“Leave that to me!” said Iceman boldly.
As parts of the roof started collapsing, Iceman used his powers to create a sturdy ice tunnel from their position to the opening Rusty made when he entered. It would provide them protection and some much needed relief from the heat as they made their way out. Along the way they picked up Wolverine and Rusty. Wolverine was still conscious, but his body was so charred he couldn’t move fast enough. Shadowcat broke off from the group to grab them and phase them into the tunnel. She was a bit hesitant though since Wolverine was so charred.
“Ugh! Are you going to be okay, Logan?” she asked anxiously.
“I’ll heal! I’ve had worse!” grunted Wolverine, “Let’s just get the hell outta here!”
Swallowing her nausea, Shadowcat grabbed his shoulder and that of the unconscious Rusty. Then with Wolverine’s help, she phased them out of harm’s way just as debris was falling around them.
While Shadowcat was taking care of Wolverine and Rusty, Nightcrawler rescued Pietro and Cortez. After handing Wanda off to Beast, he teleported next to them. Cortez was still out cold and Pietro was wounded. His expression remained bitter as Nightcrawler grabbed hold of both of them. He already owed his life to the X-men once. It looked as though he was going to owe them again.
“For the record, I still hate you X-men,” he said.
“Your welcome, Quicksilver,” smirked Nightcrawler.
After teleporting them out, the rest of the building started coming down. The walls buckled, the steel beams shattered, and windows blew out as the support structure failed all around. The west half collapsed first, literally falling in on itself as the flames continued to rage. The other half followed suit, collapsing in a cloud of dust and smoke. The commotion drew the attention of many mutants and UN workers. As ghastly as scene it was, it could have been a whole lot worse.
Having rescued everyone they had to, the X-men could finally breathe a sigh of relief as they settled outside in a clearing with the rest of the UN workers. Professor Xavier needed a minute to collect his thoughts, but he looked around to make sure everyone was okay. Cyclops was still helping Marvel Girl after her strenuous mental exertion. Iceman and Storm were putting out some of the remaining fires. Beast, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler were tending to Wanda, Pietro, and Rusty. Angel and Rogue kept a close eye on Cortez, making sure he didn’t try anything. They didn’t know who he was, but if he was behind this mess they weren’t going to take any chances.
“What do you think his story is?” asked Angel.
“Ah don’t know and Ah’m not in a hurry to find out,” groaned Rogue.
In addition to Cortez and the Maximoff twins, some of the medical officials on hand tried to tend to Wolverine. His body was still blackened with charred flesh, but his healing factor was already kicking in. The burns hurt like hell, but it was nothing he couldn’t endure. He shook off any attempts at treatment.
“Back off,” he groaned, “Just get me some pants and some booze and I’ll be fine.”
“Can we make it through one fight without you pushing the limits of guts and insanity?” groaned Marvel Girl, who was still leaning on Cyclops for support.
“Until it stops working so damn well, it’ll have to do.”
Marvel Girl rolled her eyes while Cyclops suppressed his laughter. As much as he still resented Wolverine for his attitude and brash nature, he knew how to get the job done. Once again it saved the day, even if it was still a messy outcome at best.
As various UN workers and mutant onlookers swarmed over the area, Professor Xavier wheeled himself up to Wanda and Pietro. Wanda was still out of it, but Pietro remained conscious. His expression was distant as he looked over towards the unconscious Fabian Cortez. He could feel the Professor’s critical eye on him. He figured he already knew he was behind this affair.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” he said distantly, “He was only supposed to take you out. Wanda wasn’t part of the deal.”
“That’s what happens when you deal with unsavory people, Pietro. You tend to get unsavory results,” said Beast as he cleaned up some of his wounds.
“I just wanted to finish what my father started!” he said, wincing in pain, “This isn’t how Genosha was supposed to be!”
“Calm down, Pietro. I understand your frustration.”
“You don’t understand anything!”
“But I do,” said the Professor empathically, “This isn’t what I wanted either. I never wanted to see human/mutant affairs get this tenuous. Believe me, if I could go back and redo this whole endeavor, I would do so without hesitation. But that is not possible.”
Pietro was skeptical of Xavier’s words, but there was a powerful sincerity in his eyes. It was a sincerity he could not easily brush off no matter how much he resented him.
“This is the reality of our situation,” he went on, “Our best course of action is to look to the future, not dwell on the past. If you continue to push your cause, more people will get caught in the crossfire and that includes Wanda. You may not care what happens to me or my team, but I know how much you love your sister. At least for her sake, let us help so we can move forward.”
Pietro looked over at his unconscious sister and then back at Xavier. As much as he hated the X-men, his love for his sister was stronger. The thought of losing to something like this was too much to bear. Even he couldn’t run from the truth. What’s done is done and this is what they had to deal with. Pietro Maximoff was rarely one to swallow his pride and accept defeat, but for Wanda’s sake and their mutant brethren he would do what he had to do.
The speedster didn’t say anything else to the Professor. He continued to wince as Beast treated his wounds. But a solemn look from the speedster said enough for the Professor. Even though there was still plenty of bitterness on his part, the Professor cast an understanding smile. Pietro was a complicated young man, much like his father. He could be very arrogant, but he still had a heart. He made quite a mess of things with this latest stunt, but if it helped them gain a new understanding then it was worth it.
Professor Xavier and the X-men continued to help the UN and local mutant population recover from this latest incident. He, Hank, and Ororo talked to some major officials to sooth things over, making sure it didn’t get blown out of proportion and turned into an international incident. The rest of the team helped tend to the wounded, clean up the debris, and maintain order. There was still some serious discontent, largely from Pietro’s supporters. But they were an ongoing challenge and would be dealt with in due time.
As for Rusty, he was rushed to a medical tent where the claw wounds from Logan were treated. They were pretty serious and required some emergency treatment, but Logan made sure he missed the vital organs. The doctors were confident he would make a full recovery. He would still face punishment for causing so much commotion, but his was sure to be less severe than Fabian Cortez. For his role in planning this elaborate endeavor, the UN took him into custody and put him in a temporary holding cell on one of the military bases. Since Genosha had no laws or courts, it was going to be difficult charging him with a crime. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t pay for his transgression. Wanda would see to that.
Despite lingering soreness, Wanda didn’t stay out for long. Despite orders from doctors to rest, she took charge in re-establishing order. She sent a clear message to those like Rusty that she would not tolerate these kinds of obstructions. If anybody tried something like this again, they would have to deal with her and that was a good enough threat to dissuade even the most ardent rebel.
As she reasserted herself on Genosha, Pietro stayed close. He didn’t have much of a choice since Wanda wanted to keep an eye on him. But he made it clear to her he regretted his decision to trust Cortez. She was still plenty mad at him, but seeing him so humbled was helped ease those feelings. By the time the X-men were getting ready to leave, he got a moment alone with her so they could discuss what had happened.
“I’m sorry, Wanda. I really didn’t mean for you to get caught up in this,” he told her.
“I would say you should’ve known better, Pietro, but then again when have you ever?” muttered Wanda, still not looking at him as she hid her disgust.
“If you’re going to keep chewing me out, at least accept my apology first.”
“I do accept it!” said Wanda angrily, “You’re my brother, Pietro. I’ve come to expect this sort of bone-headedness from you. But I don’t have time to deal with it at this point! I know you want what father wanted, but this is what we have to work with, okay? I’m going to keep working with Charles Xavier. We’re going to try and do it his way and make Genosha a real nation for mutants.”
“You still believe that will make things any better for our kind?” said Pietro skeptically.
“It doesn’t matter what I believe. This is what I’m doing,” she said sternly, “And I need to know right now that you’re going to work with me and not against me. It may mean setting that overblown ego of yours aside, but if you don’t want to be part of this feel free to leave this island altogether and never come back.”
She wasn’t giving him much of a choice. Either way it required the speedster to do something he didn’t want to do. He watched as Wanda turned towards him, looking him in the eye with a mix of anger and longing. She really did want this and she didn’t want to have to shut him out. But it all depended on what he decided.
“So what’s it going to be, Pietro? Are you going to stay or not? And please for once stop and think for more than one second before you decide. This is not a decision you can make on impulse.”
Pietro was silent for a moment, but he already knew what he wanted to do. Rising up, he let out a distant sigh and gazed at his twin sister with as honest a look as he could muster.
“I’ll stay,” he told her.
“Glad to hear,” said Wanda with a touch of relief, “I’ll yell at you more later, but I’ve got work to do.”
“I’m sure,” he said dryly, “But that don’t expect me to get all friendly with the X-men.”
“Believe me, I’m not expecting anything from you, Pietro,” said Wanda as she started walking off, “All I want from you is to be someone I can trust. Give me that, and we’ll get through this.”
It wasn’t the most unreasonable thing Wanda could have asked for. It was probably the best Pietro could have asked for under these circumstances. He watched as his sister went on with her duties, working with Xavier to turn Genosha into a new haven for mutants. There was a lot about this plan he didn’t like. In the long run he didn’t see how this would do justice to the mutant cause. So long as this was the plan his sister was following, he would go along with it.
And who knows? Perhaps this would actually do more to further their father’s ultimate plan down the line.
Next Issue: The Ties That Terrorize
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