Having been born with extraordinary and often unpredictable powers, the world hates and fears the mutant race. Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men have worked tirelessly to show that their abilities could be used for the good of mankind. They participate in a fragile balancing act between hope and fear. After the mutant nation of Genosha collapsed and it’s population disappeared, fear has rapidly won out.
This growing fear was initiated and fueled by the Mutant Liberation Front. Their militant tactics sought to weaken and strike terror into the human world. Led by Stryfe and a secret alliance with the mysterious organizations, White Cell, they hijacked a nuclear submarine and attempted to launch a nuclear assault. Their efforts were thwarted, but the damage had been done. In a move that has destabilized the whole world, the Brotherhood of Mutants has scattered the entire population of Genosha via mass teleportation. Nobody knows what their plan is if they have one. The uncertainty has led to some disturbing contemplations, namely from Charles Xavier.
Over concern of the deteriorating state of human/mutant relations, Professor Xavier has suspended classes and focused the X-men’s efforts entirely on training. Not everyone is on board. Scott Summers is among those critical of this new approach. Xavier assures the measure is temporary while the dust settles. However, the conflict with the Mutant Liberation Front is not over yet. For those that remain, there is one last battle to fight.
Institute Hanger – Earlier
The Velocity returned to the Xavier Institute behind schedule. Logan and Ororo’s insistence on lingering in Dubai meant they would have to do some catching up. Professor Xavier had implemented a rigorous new course for the X-men. As instructors, they were expected to play a key role. With the threat of frightened authorities making irrational decisions on mutant policies, those roles were expected to grow.
“So what do you think this new training program entails?” asked Ororo as she and Logan exited the Velocity.
“I think I’d rather spent my afternoon’s catching up with Laura and drinking beer. Preferably in that order,” said Logan.
“Really? I would think this kind of rigor would appeal to you. It would give you more excuses to destroy the Danger Room,” teased Ororo.
“There’s gonna be plenty of shit to destroy if Grimshaw and President Kelly declare open season on mutants. I prefer to keep my claws clean until then,” he replied.
“Well hopefully it won’t come to that. At least this time we won’t fall behind.”
“I ain’t gonna take much comfort in that, Ro. In my experience, you never know you’re behind until your ass is sore from being kicked.”
Ororo laughed and rolled her eyes as she followed her former lover through the lower levels of the institute. The first round of training was probably underway. They had a rigorous new regiment amidst the backdrop of many changes. If nothing else, training would help distract them from the chaos they left behind on Genosha.
As soon as they left the hanger, a remnant of that chaos emerged from the Velocity. Stryfe had endured a bumpy, cramped, uncomfortable ride in the cargo bay. He boldly snuck aboard, avoiding detection from Logan’s keen senses and the institute’s resident psychics. Armed with a mind focused with rage and determination, no telepath could dare dissuade him. He was here to destroy the X-men as they had destroyed his dreams of liberation.
After carefully slipping out of the Velocity, Stryfe needed a moment to shake the soreness out of his limbs. Being crammed inside an aircraft for several hours did a number on his spine. He ignored the discomfort, taking out a communicator and sending an encrypted message to the only fellow liberator who managed to escape with him.
“Lance…I’m in,” said Stryfe, brimming with intent.
“It’s about time! I’ve been waiting in this boring ass town for the last three days. What took you so long?”
“The X-men took the scenic route. It’s a good thing White Cell was nice enough to provide us with an escape. There’s no way we would have this chance otherwise!”
“Nice nothing! You have any idea what I had to go through to get away from Genosha? Let alone slip back into the states without having the MSA shoot me on sight?”
“I understand your frustrations, my friend. I only ask that you take them out on the X-men. This time there is no greater goal. There is no rallying speech. We’re here to destroy the X-men and everything they hold dear. That’s it.”
“Oh don’t worry! I’ve got an epic quake reserved just for these punks! They’ve fucked my life up and every battle I’ve been a part of! It’s time someone bury them!”
“I couldn’t agree more,” said Stryfe with a sinister grin, “Get the first round of tremors ready. Once I make my move, the X-men won’t stand a chance!”
Avalanche understood the plan. Stryfe was ready to set everything into motion. He put the communicator away and focused on the overdue task before him. The X-men still had hope that they could salvage peace between humans and mutants. He was going to shatter that hope in an act of complete vengeance.
Danger Room – Present Time
“X-men! You must listen to me!” urged a desperate Charles Xavier.
“WE’RE THROUGH LISTENING! WE’RE NOT YOUR MINDLESS SOLDIERS, PROFESSOR!” yelled an enraged Colossus.
“YOU TREAT US LIKE CHILDREN! WORK US LIKE DOGS!” yelled an equally irrational Shadowcat.
“YOU GOT SOMETHING AGAINST DOGS, PRYDE?!” yelled an enraged Iceman.
“SILENCE! YOU UNGRATEFUL BRATS WILL KNOW COME TO APPRECIATE DISCIPLINE!” exclaimed a raging Storm.
Professor Charles Xavier found himself running from a mix of ice shards, lightning strikes, optic blasts, and assorted heavy objects. Stryfe’s influence had taken hold in his students. He caught everybody off guard so few were in a position to guard their minds. Only Phoenix and Psylocke were able to block out Stryfe’s attack. However, their resistance was tenuous as they were struggling to fight off attacks from their enraged teammates.
“DROP THE SHIELD AND FACE MEH, SUGAH!” yelled an angry Rogue as she attacked Phoenix.
“Argh! You mind telling me what’s going on, Professor?” grunted Phoenix, who was struggling to keep up a telekinetic barrier in wake of Rogue’s attack.
“I don’t care for the new training program either, but it wasn’t this terrible!” said Psylocke, who using her agility to evade more than counter.
“It’s Stryfe! He’s somehow infiltrated the Institute!” said Xavier as he narrowly avoid an ice blast.
“Stryfe?! How the hell did that bugger get the jump on us? And how he causing these tremors?!” exclaimed Psylocke.
“That would be Avalanche! He’s here too!” said the Professor.
“Great! Two pissed off mutants we really screwed over and now they want to get us back!” groaned Phoenix.
“I fear it’s worse than that!”
While Xavier was running for his life against his own students, Phoenix was caught trying to reach an irrationally enraged Cyclops. Psylocke was tasked with doing the same for Wolverine, who was in a full berserker rage. An angry Rogue and Gambit added to the problem. Phoenix was resisting the urge to attack her friends and her boyfriend. She put up a telekinetic shield to divert Cyclops’s optic blasts. She also tried to slow Wolverine and Gambit down while they pursued Psylocke. Once again, not having the Phoenix Force active hindered the extent of her powers.
“YOU’RE ALWAYS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF MY LOVE FOR YOU, JEAN! I’M SICK OF IT!” exclaimed Cyclops as he fired more powerful blasts, “YOU THINK EVERYTHING CAN BE SOLVED LOVE! THERE’S NO NEED FOR WORK! NO NEED FOR COMPROMISE! ONLY SACRIFICE!”
“I know you don’t mean to say this babe! Quit making this harder on both of us! Fight it for me!” cried Phoenix, her shields starting to falter.
“THERE YOU GO AGAIN! ACTING AS THOUGH I CAN’T FUNCTION WITHOUT YOUR APPROVAL!” yelled the X-leader in his irrational rage.
“AH CAN’T BELIEVED YA DUMPED MEH FOR HER! SHE AIN’T EVEN STRONGER THAN MEH! NOT AFTER LOSING THE PHOENIX FORCE!” taunted Rogue.
Their harsh words struck Phoenix on a personal level. She had a hard enough time resisting the physical blows, finding it increasingly difficult to resist Cyclops’s blasts and Rogue’s super-strength punches. She tried flying up higher to avoid the attack. It did her little good. Rogue just followed her into the air and Cyclops adjusted his visor to keep up the barrage. It soon got to a point where she started faltering in mid-air.
“Can’t…keep it…level!” groaned Phoenix.
“Then try harder, luv! Don’t assume I’ll be there to catch you!” said Psylocke.
“LIKE YOU DONE NEVER CAUGHT REMY WHEN WE WAS TOGETHER? THE HELL DO YOU GET OFF, CHERÈ?” barked Gambit, who used his bow staff to counter her psionic blades, “MAYBE IF REMY HAD WINGS, YOU WOULDN’T BE SUCH A BITCH!”
“I HATE WINGS! HRRRRRAAAAAAHHHHHH!” roared Wolverine.
Psylocke grunted in frustration as she narrowly avoided another swipe from Wolverine. His mindset was so irrational. There was no way to argue with them. Even if this was all Stryfe’s influence, she was getting very frustrated with her friends.
Remy mentioning Warrens struck her personally just as Cyclops’s harsh words had struck Phoenix. It was difficult hearing this come from the people she cared about. It allowed Gambit and Wolverine to drive her back until she reached the wall. Along the way she kept evading and countering. She tried using her telepathy to break Stryfe’s hold on them. It was no use. She couldn’t concentrate and a fresh round of tremors from Avalanche weren’t helping.
“The tremor are getting worse, Professor! I think Avalanche is trying to bury us in our own home!” said Psylocke as did a backflip to avoid three charged cards from Gabmit.
“If that were the plan, he would have done so already!” said the Professor, having to literally run through Shadowcat to avoid her attack, “He’s got something else planned! I’m sure of it!”
“FORGET ABOUT HIM! DEAL WITH US, PROFESSOR!” exclaimed Shadowcat.
“DO IT WITHOUT RESORTING TO PILLS THIS TIME!” added Storm.
“I HATE DRUGS! JUST AS I HATE EXCUSES, COMRADE XAVIER!” yelled Colossus.
Professor Xavier nearly fell flat on his face as Avalanche’s tremors intensified. He could no longer full speed from his attacks. It seemed less a hindrance to his students while they were in such an enraged state. Even when Shadowcat and Colossus slipped, they got right back up as if nothing happened. The impact of their words was just as harsh. Even for a powerful psychic, they were difficult to filter out.
‘So much rage. Not all of it is irrational either. Stryfe is tapping into their deepest insecurities. I can’t afford to worry how true they may be! I must break Stryfe’s hold on them!’
The Professor kept trying to project his telepathy, but found it difficult to concentrate. He was still stumbling forward when Colossus tried to mash him with both fists. He narrowly rolled to his left to avoid it. That’s when Shadowcat shot up through the floor and tried to grab him. He swiftly shot up and backed away from her grasp. This only led him into Iceman’s line of fire. With Storm following close behind, he fired an ice beam. Xavier tried to jump out of the way. Another sharp tremor caused him to stumble, allowing the blast to freeze over half his right leg.
“Argh!” groaned Xavier as he fell to the floor.
“I GOT HIM! HIT HIM BEFORE HE GIVES US DETENTION, STORM!” said Iceman.
“DETENTION WILL BE THE LEAST OF YOUR WORRIES IF YOU ORDER ME LIKE THAT ONE MORE TIME!” exclaimed Storm, her eyes flashing bright white.
The Professor braced himself for Storm’s wrath. She was preparing a powerful wind storm around him, making it even harder to concentrate. He looked towards Phoenix and Psylocke for help. They weren’t in any position to provide it. Like him, their reluctance to attack their friends rendered this fight utterly one-sided.
Phoenix could not get through to Cyclops or Rogue. They kept hitting her telekinetic shield with optic blasts and punishing hits. She was steadily tumbling back towards the ground, unable to keep herself airborne as her mind kept struggling.
“Ungh! Cosmic power…wouldn’t be handy…right now!” she groaned.
“AH’LL SHOW YOU COSMIC POWER, BITCH!” yelled Rogue.
Clenching both fists, Rogue slammed down upon the telekinetic barrier with the full force of her enhanced strength. This proved to be too much for Phoenix. Her mind gave way and she fell hard to the ground.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” she cried out before landing with a hard thud.
Phoenix was now defenseless against her enraged friends. Psylocke saw this and was compelled to rush to her aid. However, Gambit and Wolverine had her pinned against the wall, leaving her little room to maneuver.
“Bloody hell, Phoenix! I told you I can’t help with these blokes blocking me!” she said.
“BLOKES! IS THAT WHAT WE BE?!” exclaimed Gambit, “JUST FOR THAT, REMY’S GONNA GET IN A SHOT BEFORE WOLVERINE TEARS YOU TO BITS!”
“Spoken like a true ex!” Psylocke groaned.
Wolverine went in for a stab. Psylocke narrowly spun away, causing the feral mutant to dig his claws right into the wall. This gave her a window to slip away. She made it past the first critical step. Then Gambit jammed his bow staff in front of her, effectively clotheslining her so she fell flat on her back. Before she could get up, Gambit placed his foot on his chest and jammed his bow staff into her neck.
“Ack!” she choked.
“AIN’T NO GETTIN’ AWAY, CHERÈ! GAMBIT BE MAD AS HELL AND HE’S TAKIN’ IT OUT ON YOU!” roared the Cajun.
Psylocke was at her former lover’s mercy. Wolverine managed to yank his claw out from the wall as well. His sights now set on Psylocke, nothing could stop him in his berserker rage. She was just as helpless as Phoenix. She kept trying to reach the warped minds of her friends, but it was no use. Stryfe had shut her out.
Psylocke and Phoenix’s grim predicament left Professor Xavier with little hope of getting through to his students. He was now stuck in Storm’s swirling winds, unable to evade the pending wrath of his X-men. Iceman, Colossus, and Shadowcat surrounded him. The rage in their eyes was still burning. There was no heart or personality anymore. Stryfe had taken hold of their most irrational passions. As they moved in for the final blow, an ominous voice rang out over the Danger Room speaker system.
“Enjoying this quality time with your students, Professor?”
“Stryfe!” Xavier exclaimed, recognizing his voice instantly, “Where are you?! Show yourself!”
“I’m right where I need to be for the best show in town! The observation deck offers the perfect view with which to watch your demise!” replied Stryfe in a snide tone, “I couldn’t think of a more perfect premise. You, the famous Charles Xavier, destroyed by your own trusted students! This time I’m leaving nothing to chance! Once your X-men are done tearing each other apart, Avalanche will make this mansion your tomb!”
“This is what you’ve been reduced to? Taking your frustrations out on my X-men?” questioned Xavier, “It won’t make your past endeavors any less futile!”
“This isn’t about the past, Xavier! I’ve always been forward thinking in my goals. Unlike you, I don’t run from the inevitable! The war between humans and mutants is inevitable. Time and again, I’ve tried to confront it with our side having the upper hand!”
“As if unleashing needless terror is a rational way to confront conflict!” retorted Xavier.
“You’re wrong! It’s more rational than you’ll ever understand! You and the X-men failed to see it! Only through confrontation can our people be liberated! If you’re going to keep standing in the way of the inevitable, then you leave me no choice! For mutants to prosper, the X-men must die!”
There was no cunning to Stryfe’s plan this time. It was cold-blooded murder. His hatred for the X-men was almost as irrational as the hatred he inspired in those he influenced. Xavier looked up towards the observation deck and saw his faint outline. He was clearly taking a perverse pleasure in this.
“If you’re just going to stand there and watch then you’re a coward, Stryfe!” yelled Xavier, “You’re an insult to your own ideals!”
“Who said I was just going to watch?” said Stryfe ominously through the speakers, “I’m just going to make sure you and your students are sufficiently distracted! I know this high tech playground of yours has some sort of psychic amplification device! Cerebrum, I believe it was called!”
“How…how do you know about that?!” gasped Xavier.
“A friend of a friend told me. He also said that anyone with psionic powers could potentially wield it. That means my knack for bringing out everybody’s inner asshole can be expanded to a global scale! Forget terrorism! Forget political stunts! With one mind, I will cleanse this world in chaos! Only then will we be truly liberated!”
The Professor paled at the very notion. Looking into the enraged eyes of his X-men as they approached, he imagined the whole world being overcome by this rage. It would effectively render his efforts meaningless. The world was already consumed with fear and uncertainty. A thrust of rage would send humans and mutants over the edge.
Up in the observation deck, Stryfe grinned as he watched the X-men destroy themselves. Rogue and Cyclops stood over the defeated Phoenix. Gambit and Wolverine were ready to deliver their final blow as well. Colossus, Iceman, Shadowcat, and Storm surrounded Professor Xavier on all sides. They had no chance of stopping him. It was only a pity they would not be around to witness the coming destruction.
“Have fun with your students, Xavier! When all is said and done, you’re legacy will be sealed! You simply do too little when you have the chance to do so much!”
“Stryfe!” yelled Xavier in a fit of outrage.
It was no use. Stryfe had already turned off the speaker and slipped out of the observation deck. He was now on his way towards Cerebrum and the X-men weren’t in a position to stop them. Instead, they were poised to destroy one another in their blind rage.
“I GET FIRST DIBS!” yelled Iceman as he got in position for a shot.
“YOU WILL DO NO SUCH THING! IT IS I WHO SHALL STRIKE HIM!” said Colossus.
“I’M YOUR TEACHER! I HAVE THE RIGHT TO HIT FIRST!” argued Storm.
“TO HELL WITH YOUR RIGHTS! HE’S MINE!” exclaimed Shadowcat.
Professor Charles Xavier watched his enraged X-men approach while he sensed Stryfe running off. His frustration was quickly turning into desperation. He refused to let this be how his X-men ended. Stryfe took a big chance attacking the X-men in their own home. It was bold and desperate. If Xavier was going to stop him, he had to be equally determined. That meant crossing lines he once never dared to cross.
“No! Not like this!” he seethed, “My X-men…forgive me.”
As his students closed in, he closed his eyes and channeled the full force of his telepathy. He shut out the swirling winds from Storm and the lingering tremors from Avalanche, tapping the vast reserves of psionic energy that made him the world’s most powerful telepath. From these reserves, he unleashed a telepathic onslaught the likes of which he had never unleashed before. It was aggressive, forceful, and overwhelming. As soon as it struck the minds of his students, Stryfe’s influence was forcibly and painfully broken.
“ARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!” they all cried out.
Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Shadowcat, Gambit, and Colossus each clutched their heads in agony. Rather than try to reach them, Professor Xavier actually attacked their minds. It rendered them unconscious within seconds. Their bodies went limp and fell to the floor. It was such a powerful attack that Xavier needed to catch his breath. It also allowed a dazed Phoenix and Psylocke to recover as well.
“Professor…what did you just do?” gasped Phoenix.
“I had no choice,” he said solemnly as he rose to his feet, “In order to break Stryfe’s hold, I had to strike it head on.”
“Next time, could you aim more carefully? I felt that too and my head is pounding like a jackhammer!” groaned Psylocke.
“I wish I could explain why this was necessary, but we don’t have the luxury of time!” said Xavier in an urgent tone, “I have to go after Stryfe! I must stop him from using Cerebrum!”
“That wanker’s gone mad! He can’t use it! Don’t we have security protocols?” said Psylocke.
“He was resourceful enough to enter the institute without us detecting him. We must assume he’s resourceful enough to work around Cerebrum’s safeguards! That’s why I must stop him!”
The Professor started running for the emergency exit to the Danger Room. At the same time a new series of tremors rocked the Xavier Institute. This time they were so severe that the lights flickered. Phoenix and Psylocke looked around anxiously while tending to their unconscious teammates. It was one thing to be this vulnerable in the field. It was quite another for it to happen in their own home.
“Avalanche is getting bolder,” said Psylocke, “One of us should go topside and make him wish he drowned in that submarine!”
“Don’t worry about, Avalanche! For now, get the others to hanger and out through the emergency escape!” urged Xavier as he reached the exit.
“And leave you behind to face Stryfe alone?” said Psylocke.
“In a mansion that may crumble at any moment?” added Phoenix.
“I’m not crippled anymore! I can handle this!” he assured them. “Now hurry! Do not give Stryfe the satisfaction of further vulnerability!”
Professor Xavier didn’t linger for Phoenix and Psylocke to question his orders. He was already on his way to confront Stryfe. For once, his X-men wouldn’t be the ones to carry out his vision. This time, Charles Xavier was taking matters into his own hands.
Meanwhile – Outside Xavier Institute
“This is by far the best mission I’ve ever had!” said Lance Alvers with a sadistic grin, “I should’ve done this long ago!”
The ground around Avalanche was shaking and cracking with each tremor. This was not his usual, focused attack. He was aiming upping the ante, channeling all the seismic energy he could muster and directed it into the cursed landscape ahead of him.
He had been standing outside the gate since before Stryfe even arrived. Avalanche had to go through so much hassle just to be in this position. He was a wanted fugitive, unwelcome even by his old friends in the Brotherhood. He had nothing left. Like Stryfe, he blamed the X-men. They were responsible for his current predicament. They made it so he was a wanted fugitive, a rogue associate of the Brotherhood and the Mutant Liberation Front. They made it so he could never have a home outside a jail cell. So it was only fitting that he destroy the X-men’s home with them inside.
‘It never changes. This fucking world is too unfair to continue. At every possible turn, I never get a break! I didn’t get to choose the lame parents I was born with. I didn’t get to choose these powers and all the headaches they bring. Whenever I try to make my life better, something comes along to fuck it up! More often than not, it’s these damn X-men! They think that by doing good the world is more just? Bullshit! I deserve justice for once! I’ll split this world in half if I have to!’
Avalanche’s eyes rolled into the back of his head as he unleashed more tremors over the institute ground. They caused the fountain in the front yard to rupture and the windows throughout the mansion to shatter. Cracks were forming on every sidewalk. This hinted at the deeper tremors he was causing underground. Stryfe told him that the bulk of the X-men’s hardware was hidden. If he was going to bury them, he couldn’t settle for surface damage. He had to hit this place deep.
While the ground around the Xavier Institute shook, the communicator in his pocket started buzzing. Avalanche didn’t lose focus. He kept his hateful gaze locked onto the Xavier Institute.
“Avalanche! I’m almost at the chamber! Ease up on the deeper tremors until I complete my mission!” said Stryfe through the communicator.
“Make it fast, Stryfe! I’ll bury you inside this dump if I have to!” replied Avalanche.
“You better not if you want me to spare your mind from the rage I’ll unleash! If you can’t hold your wad, you can settle for destroying the house! Reduce it to rubble if you want! Just leave the lower levels intact for a bit longer!”
“Fine! But don’t take that as a promise!”
Some heavy static followed. Avalanche could hear Stryfe cursing him out, but he barely heard it. He was too focused on making this tremor his best yet. His sights set on the pristine mansion in the distance, Avalanche’s eyes twitched with determined hatred.
Clenching his fists, Avalanche directed his power right into the upper foundations of the mansion. The cracks along the ground widened as the whole area shook more violently. The sound of shattering windows was replaced by the sound of concrete and brick breaking under the strain. Through the shaking, the building started to collapse on itself. Dust and debris shot out as the Xavier Institute crumbled in an inglorious display.
“I hope you’re feeling this, X-men!” yelled the angry mutant, “I’ve lost my home one too many times! Now you’ve lost yours!”
Xavier Institute – Cerebrum Chamber
Stryfe stumbled the rest of the way towards Cerebrum. The tremors from Avalanche had become quite violent. He could hear the unstable Earth above the chamber writhing from seismic strain. He cursed Avalanche for getting to ahead of himself. Stryfe made it clear that the key to their salvation was through Cerebrum. Upon reaching the chamber, he worked quickly to finish this very important task. He had come close to a such a moment before. He wouldn’t be denied this time.
‘Damn you, Alvers! You better pray that Xavier built this thing with earthquakes in mind. If I get buried alive before I complete this task, I’ll dig to the surface with my bear hands! I’ll use those same hands to dig your grave if I have to! But not before the X-men are in theirs!’
The tremors seemed to abate as he entered Cerebrum’s inner sanctum. He overrode the door with a special program that was given to him by White Cell. Xavier had quite a security system in his institute. White Cell’s was just as good. Getting in was the easy part. Interfacing with this device would be the real challenge.
“Warning. Unauthorized entrance detected. Locking all systems and shutting down psionic interface,” came a robotic voice from the main console.
“You whine an awful lot for an overpriced toy,” he said with a snide grin.
With little concern for Cerebrum’s countermeasures, Stryfe walked up to the main console and took out special handheld device. It was shaped like a small brick and covered in a series of circuits that fed into a special outlet. Using this outlet, he hooked the device into the special helmet that rested in the center of the console. Once attacked, the device lit up and entered a new series of commands into the console.
“Manual override accepted. System shutdown aborted.”
“That worked better than I thought. I’ll have to ask White Cell how they know Xavier’s network defenses so well.”
Stryfe cracked his knuckles and prepared the interface. He entered a series of commands to bring up the holographic image of the whole planet. It worked just as White Cell explained to him. Within moments it was ready for his input.
With this device, he could induce his psionic rage to every mind on the planet. Every man, woman, and child would be at each others’ throat. No one would be able to escape the chaos. Millions would perish if not billions. It wouldn’t be through a plague or a bomb. It would be mankind’s own irrational hands. It was more ambitious if not more poetic than Toad’s plan. As he put on the helmet, Stryfe prepared to face his destiny.
“Get ready all you feeble minds!” proclaimed Stryfe as he readied his mind for this feat, “Abandon all reason and accept your fate! Humanity is it’s own worst enemy! On this day, I offer the final proof!”
“You’ll prove nothing, Stryfe! Nothing but your own madness!” came a voice.
Stryfe rolled his eyes in frustration and turned around to see Charles Xavier standing in the chamber doorway. He looked short of breath and somewhat ragged. He was in no position to thwart him this time.
“I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m still plenty pissed!” groaned Stryfe, “For a Professor, you’re stupidity is astounding!”
“You call confronting a madman who has other people fight his battles for him stupid? Then what, pray tell, would you consider smart?” quipped Xavier as he stammered towards the emboldened mutant.
“How about accepting that you’ve failed yourself and your kind? I thought Magneto was just incompetent! I assumed his inability to deal with you was out of undeserved respect! I was wrong! You really are that naïve!”
“At least Magneto was never afraid to make his battles personal. You always fight from afar, Stryfe. By distancing yourself from every struggle, you’ll always be misguided!”
“I don’t need an army of weak minds to fight this battle! With your own favorite toy, I can make your own brain destroy itself!”
Armed with the amplifying power of Cerebrum, Stryfe unleashed a barrage of psionic energy towards Professor Xavier. His eyes glowed bright red as he unleashed his power at levels he had never experienced before. This energy was intent on filling his mind with unparalleled rage. It was so intense that even a strong mind would simply burn out from so much power. However, Charles Xavier’s mind was more than strong. He was not going to make it this easy for Stryfe to spread his madness.
Tapping the same reservoir of psychic energy from earlier, Professor Xavier formed mental barrier of titanic proportions. It was more than just a shield. It was like a jagged ball of mace that could cut through the attack as well as divert it. This way, Xavier didn’t just resist Stryfe’s influence. He was able to stagger forward with determined strides.
“Errrr! You’re putting up a fight! Good for you!” said Stryfe through snide grunts.
“I’m not as passive as you think! I don’t seek violence, but won’t hesitate to confront it!” replied Xavier as he inched his way forward.
“Without your precious X-men? Ha! You’ll wish you let them tear you apart!”
“Not as much as you’ll wish you stayed in jail!” seethed Xavier.
Stryfe turned up the power levels on Cerebrum. He strained his mind as he channeled an attack meant for an entire planet towards the mind of this one man. Even if he was the world’s most powerful psychic, Charles Xavier couldn’t keep those shields up for long. Stryfe could already sense them waning under the sheer force of his psionic might. As these defenses crumbled, Xavier kept inching closer. He was getting so close that Stryfe found himself backing up. It wasn’t until his back was against the control panel that he started to panic.
“Warning. Psionic energy levels critical,” announced a computer voice.
“Just a bit longer!” seethed Stryfe as he stared down Xavier, “Your shields are failing, Xavier! Face it! You cannot match my mind at this level!”
“I…don’t…have to!” said the Professor with a slight grin.
Stryfe kept pushing hard, but it was no use. Xavier would not go down. He kept getting closer and closer. Finally, when he was close enough, Charles Xavier did something that was uncharacteristic of his usual methods. Rather than use his brilliant mind to keep attacking Stryfe, he clenched his fist and punched him across the face with a powerful right cross. This attack surprised the overpowered psychic even if it didn’t subdue him.
“Argh! Really, Xavier?” grunted Stryfe, rubbing his face, “For such a powerful mind, you hit like a…”
Xavier didn’t wait for him to finish. He hit Stryfe again, this time with more force. He leaned into another punch, connecting with Stryfe’s jaw and disorienting him even more. He didn’t stop there. As Stryfe keeled over, Xavier grabbed him by the head and jammed his knee up into his gut. It wasn’t a very skilled attack, but it put Stryfe in a world of pain. There was no reason or debating. Xavier was not out to pacify his enemy. He was out to beat him using methods he once frowned upon.
“Do you really think you’re making the world better, Stryfe?” yelled Xavier as he struck him again across the face, “Are you even trying to make the world better? Or is this just your own selfish madness?”
“Ack! There’s nothing…mad about it!” groaned Stryfe as he spit out a couple teeth that got knocked out.
“I don’t doubt you think you’re doing the right thing! What I doubt is the logic you use to justify it!”
“I’m looking at it…right now,” grunted the pained mutant.
Xavier stopped his assault for a moment. He held Stryfe by the neck, looking into his glowing eyes that were now flickering. His face had two nasty bruises on it and blood was gushing from his nose. He was trying to refocus his power, but the pain in his body limited his mind. Despite this pain, he never lost the clarity that led him to this moment.
“It’s people like you who make people like me necessary. If you were only just a little bit different, we could have been allies,” said Stryfe through his seething anger.
“The X-men could never work with men like you! Not in any life!” spat Xavier.
“Therein lies the problem,” Stryfe went on, “You talk about saving mutants. You talk about protecting humanity. Yet when it comes to actions, you might as well be back in your wheelchair. You limit yourself in a world where people are always pushing you. It isn’t until others around you cross those lines that you dare contemplate following suit. By then it’s always too late. As a result you’re always behind. Nothing gets done. Nothing ever changes.”
“My willingness to have limits does not preclude your justification for this needless carnage!” he argued.
“We’re only reacting to the world you’ve created. Men like me are left with two choices. We either follow the inefficacy of the X-men or the militancy of Magneto. Anyone who doesn’t pick a side just gets caught in the crossfire. I know you’re a better man than Magneto, Charles Xavier. You’re a better man than many in this pathetic world. You have the capacity to meet us halfway, but you don’t. You keep holding back, letting the world fall deeper into this chasm of chaos. You lash out at me for instigating it. Yet it is you who make it necessary!”
Xavier stared down Stryfe with a harsh scold. He hated this man for breaking into his home and hurting the students he cared so deeply for. Yet he couldn’t find a significant flaw in his logic. There were thousands of mutants in the world. They were part of the human/mutant struggle whether they liked it or not. In that struggle, they had limited choices. His X-men were on the opposite end of those such as the Brotherhood or the Mutant Liberation Front with little in between. It left the majority of mutants with few choices, leaving the Professor to wonder if he had really done enough.
While Xavier contemplated this harsh reality, Stryfe tried to attack Xavier with another psionic assault. He hoped to catch him off guard. The Professor was only stunned for a moment before delivering a heavy kick right into Stryfe’s gut. The force of this blow caused him to keel over.
“Augh!” cried Stryfe as he coughed up more blood.
“Justified or not, I will not let you succeed on this day,” said Xavier firmly, “The world isn’t beyond saving. Not by a long shot.”
“Hnn…not as long as you think,” grinned Stryfe, looking up at the Professor with a bloody face.
“I intend to prove you wrong. I’ll only say you’re right about one thing. There are lines I’ve yet to cross…lines that I need to cross for the good of all mutant-kind.”
“Would that involve killing me? Finally getting your hands dirty for once?”
While Stryfe scoffed at the notion, a new round of tremors shook the lower levels. This time they were more severe than before. Avalanche had finished his attack on the surface. Now he was going for the final blow. Avalanche wasn’t going to wait for him to finish on Cerebrum. The violent shaking caused cracks to form in the structure. Emergency sirens started going off everywhere. The whole area was in danger of collapse.
“Warning. Structural integrity of sub-levels compromised. Initiating emergency protocol omega. Please vacate the sub-levels immediately.”
Stryfe finally showed some nervousness. Once again, he was on the verge of failing his kind. He had literally had every mind in the world at his mercy and now it looked as though another opportunity would slip through his fingers.
“No Stryfe. I don’t need to kill you,” said Xavier flatly, “Your own associates will do that for me.”
“You forget I still wield Cerebrum!” he yelled as he tried to pull himself up, “I can still fill millions of minds with my rage!”
“You forget that I built Cerebrum. Do you think I don’t have safeguards for the safeguards?”
Stryfe’s expression paled as more rumbling shook the chamber. The systems were faltering and the holographic image of the world flickered erratically. Remaining calm and collected, Professor Xavier looked up towards the screen an issued a final command.
“Cerebrum, initiate self-destruct protocol 1016,” he said, “Lock and secure all auxiliary files. Command code EELNATS.”
“Code accepted. Initiating protocol.”
Stryfe could already sense the system responding. Screens on the control panel began shutting down. The power that once filled his mind was being sucked away. It hurt more than any of the other injuries Xavier had inflicted. In his frustrated rage Stryfe tried to attack him in a final stand.
“More cowardice, Xavier?!” he yelled, “I won’t allow it! For the good of all mutants I…”
At that moment the last stage of the protocol was implemented. Through the many wires going into the Cerebrum interface, a paralyzing surge was sent right into Stryfe’s mind. This powerful shock struck the very core of his brain, paralyzing both his body and mind in an unbridled surge of pain.
Stryfe’s cries of agony echoed over the growing tremors that filled the chamber. More cracks formed along the roof. The entire area was about to crumble. Professor Xavier did not stick around to mourn the destruction of Cerebrum. With Stryfe now lying on the floor, drooling in a half-conscious state he swiftly made his leave and left his adversary to be buried in his own madness.
“The good of all mutants is still my top concern, Stryfe,” Xavier called out as he left the chamber, “I’ve always been limited physically. You’ve just proven those limits are obsolete. I’ll be sure to remember from now on. For that, I thank you.”
Stryfe was not in a state of mind to hear these words. Not long after Xavier left, the Cerebrum chamber went dark. The walls cracked and the supports ripped, allowing tons of earth to crush the structure. The Xavier Institute was crumbling and in a twist of irony, Stryfe was the only one that would crumble with it.
Outside Xavier Institute
“YOU’RE DEAD AND BURIED X-MEN! REST IN PEACE! NOT!” exclaimed Avalanche as he made the final push with his attack.
Avalanche was enjoying every moment of this. The Xavier Institute had crumbled. The sub-levels were caving in. The whole landscape in front of him was actually sinking as the seismic onslaught destroyed the foundations of the structure. The pristine grounds that the X-men once called home were in complete ruin. Even if Stryfe failed at accessing Cerebrum, it was a solid defeat for the X-men.
As the rumbling started to wane, Lance Alvers finally ceased his attack. He steadily caught his breath as he took in the extent of his destruction. He took supreme satisfaction in what he just accomplished. The X-men had defeated and humiliated him on so many occasions. This time he had the last laugh.
“Sorry you have to share a grave with the X-men, Stryfe. If you’re smart, you’ll stay buried with them,” he said with a grin, “Maybe now I can get a lucky break for once!”
Brimming with confidence, Avalanche turned around in hopes of never laying eyes on an X-man again. He was met with a distressing surprise when he bumped into an imposing figure. Startled, Avalanche backed up to see that a very angry Beast standing before him.
“No fucking way!” he exclaimed.
“What were you saying about a lucky break, Mr. Alvers?” said Beast with an angry growl.
Avalanche tried to run away from imposing mutant. He didn’t even turn around completely before Beast grabbed him by the neck and held him up with his powerful gorilla-like grip. It signaled to Avalanche that his lucky break was already over.
“Ack!” he choked.
“I return from a tenuous meeting in District X only to find my home destroyed?” snarled Beast, “You’re lucky my friends were not inside when it collapsed! Otherwise this would be a much less rational conversation!”
“Ugh! No way!” grunted Avalanche, “They were all inside! They were crushed?”
“Are you certain of that?”
Avalanche didn’t care to argue with Beast, even if he was right. If the X-men were alive, he wasn’t about to stick around. He prepared to unleash another tremor. If he couldn’t bury all the X-men, he would settle for burying one. However, he would never get the chance. Before he could focus his powers, his mind was struck by a telepathic strike.
“Hnn…fucking, X-men,” were the last words he could get out.
“Sorry I couldn’t knock him out sooner, Beast,” said Psylocke, “I’m even more sorry I didn’t hit him with a harder probe.”
“That’s quite alright, Psylocke. I’m sure he’ll wish you had when he sees his new prison cell with the MSA,” said Beast flatly.
“He deserves far worse! He destroyed the whole bloody mansion!” she exclaimed.
“It is a tragic loss. At least he didn’t destroy that which made it special.”
As Beast dropped Avalanche’s unconscious body to the ground, he looked out towards the backyard of the institute. In what was once the picnic area, Phoenix and Psylocke emerged with their teammates. Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Shadowcat, Gambit, and Colossus were still unconscious. Phoenix used her telekinesis to carefully lay them out on the ground so they wouldn’t wake up with too much discomfort. They would need to be comfortable when they learned that their home was destroyed.
From this morbid landscape, Charles Xavier emerged as well. His face and clothes were dirty. He had to escape through one of the many auxiliary hatches. It had been a rough climb to the surface. Seeing his mansion in ruin was a difficult sight, but seeing his students safe and accounted for helped soften the blow.
“Professor…our home. It’s gone!” said Phoenix with tears in her eyes.
“I know,” said the Professor in a stoic tone.
“Please tell me you tore Stryfe’s mind to shreds! Tell me choked on chunks of his own brain!” she added in her anguish.
“He was buried by his own madness, literally and figuratively. Try not to mourn more than is necessary. The Xavier Institute may be gone, but the X-men are still safe. That is all that matters.”
Phoenix fought off more sobs as she sat solemnly next to the unconscious bodies of her friends. The world had already been thrown into chaos. Now the only stable patch of land the X-men knew was destroyed. It struck Phoenix on a personal level in which every X-man could relate. Now the aftermath of the Genosha Exodus seemed even more daunting.
Professor Xavier walked up to the distraught Jean Grey and placed his hand on her shoulder. He looked out over the destruction of his institute and then back at the unconscious figures of his students. His X-men had fought so hard. They stood by him, carrying out his dream in a way his old physical limitations kept him from doing. They needed him now and not just as a visionary. They needed him to rebuild their lives.
With or without the Xavier Institute, their responsibilities to the mutant race did not changed. In this daunting moment, Professor Xavier thought back to Stryfe’s angry musings. For a moment such as this, he would have to completely rethink his approach.
“What do we do now, Professor?” asked Phoenix in a desperate tone, “Hell, where do we even start?!”
“I’m already working on that, Phoenix,” he assured her, “Sometimes a tragedy of this magnitude is necessary. It allows us to see our problems in a new perspective. It also allows us to consider answers we wouldn’t have surmised.”
“I don’t care if it’s necessary. It still sucks!” she grumbled.
“I’m not saying it doesn’t. Take comfort in the knowledge that it could have been much worse. Stryfe and Avalanche didn’t destroy anything that couldn’t be replaced. That said, it’s not possible to go back to the way things were. More than anything, this proves that the X-men cannot keep operating as it once did. For this dangerous new world, we need something difficult.”
“How different?” asked Phoenix warily.
“That’s something we can discuss when they others wake up,” said Xavier as he turned away, “In the meantime, I need to make a few calls. Despite this loss, the X-men must continue forward. We cannot and will not fall behind once more.”
Pentagon – Mutant Security Agency Hub
General Nathan Grimshaw and Captain Jack Freeman were already having a hell of a day. President Kelly was still pushing them for a plan in this post-Genosha world. Nobody within the MSA or any other nation for that matter had anything to offer. With growing frustration, the President excused his staff while he took time to contemplate these complex issues.
Upon returning to the Pentagon, General Grimshaw began preparations for some meetings of his own. Whatever plan emerged, it was a given that the MSA would be heavily involved. Rumors were already swirling. Nobody knew what role the agency would play or what changes would be made. The only thing everyone agreed on was that changes had to be made.
“I swear if I have to sit in on any more group therapy sessions at the White House, I’ll check into the nearest insane asylum,” said Captain Freeman dryly, “I’d rather spend the summer in Iran than listen to all this bullshit!”
“I appreciate your frustrations, Captain. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate retirement on more than one occasion,” said General Grimshaw.
“I take that means you’re still short on ideas.”
“It’s not a lack of ideas that’s the problem. It’s a lack of options,” the General explained as they passed through the security wing that led to the main MSA hub, “Ignorance is the equivalent of cobra poison to every idea. The President could easily pass a resolution making all mutants illegal. He could just as easily say that he’ll do nothing and just wait for the next shoe to drop. The same problem persists. We don’t know what we don’t know. We’ve got hundreds of mutants unaccounted for and millions of humans scared to death of where this will lead.”
“How is that any different to life before Genosha came along? I seem to remember the world getting along just fine,” Captain Freeman pointed out.
“That’s the other big problem. We can’t go back. We can’t undo the effects Genosha has had. Genosha showed the world what happened when mutants were left to their own devices and I think it’s safe to say that nobody liked what they saw.”
“I thought the MSA was supposed to help with that,” the Green Beret pointed out.
“So did I,” said General Grimshaw as they neared the final door, “I honestly hoped that by simply having a standard and holding mutants to it, we could avoid blood bath. I’ve admitted on record that I was wrong.”
“As a mutant myself, I’m disturbed and concerned.”
“You and everyone else, Captain. We need to face facts here. Mutants are different. We cannot hold them to the same standard that we hold a normal human. A normal human can’t take control of a nuclear submarine and make it look easy. A normal human can’t disable six nuclear missiles in mid-flight. We have to approach this differently. Above all, we have to do it with a level head. Because if we don’t, someone else will.”
“Like President Kelly?” said Captain Freeman begrudgingly.
“Among others,” said the General.
Having reached the main door to the MSA hub, General Grimshaw waved his security card to open it. He was about to step in when he was met by an unexpected presence. It was Abigail Brand of the SWORD division and she was looking as unfriendly as always.
“Agent Brand,” said a surprised General Grimshaw, “What are you doing outside the windowless confines of SWORD?”
“Answering your phones apparently. As if my bra size is the only qualification I have to be your secretary,” she said dryly, “While you were brown-nosing the President, a very public figure decided to make a not-so-private call.”
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls, Agent Brand. Not all of them sane,” quipped General Grimshaw, “Care to be more specific?”
“It’s Charles Xavier. The only reason I handled this is because I just happen to have a new interest in him.”
“Xavier? Why would he call me at this line? He has other ways of reaching me,” said the General curiously.
“He says he wants to discuss something and doesn’t want to be secretive about it. I can’t remember the last time I dealt with anybody who was okay with being this inviting.”
“SWORD must have the worst holiday parties ever,” commented Captain Freeman.
“I’m all for Charles Xavier being open with us. I’ll call him as soon as I brief our state divisions on our latest meetings,” said the General.
“Don’t bother. I have him here on hold,” said Agent Brand, revealing that she had been holding a cell phone, “He’s pretty adamant about talking to you. When you find out what just happened to his institute, you’ll know why.”
Now General Grimshaw was curious. He expected Professor Xavier to play a role in this process from the beginning. That didn’t mean he wasn’t wary of his involvement. Xavier still had shaky credibility after his pain-killer addiction and the incident with the alien anomaly. If he wanted to earn some of that credibility back, he needed to come up with something impressive.
“Fine, the briefings can wait,” said Grimshaw as he reached for the phone.
“I’m also going to listen in,” said Agent Brand, pulling the phone back before he could grab it.
“Miss Brand, I think you’re thrusting SWORD’s business where it doesn’t belong,” said Captain Freeman in a non-so-polite tone.
“Charles Xavier became SWORD business before Genosha pulled a David Copperfield on us. Deal with it and we’ll all be a bit less miserable,” she said sternly.
Captain Freeman scowled at Agent Brand while General Grimshaw remained indifferent. Agent Brand was notoriously hard to read. General Grimshaw didn’t bother arguing with her. He offered a simple nod, which was enough to make her hand over the phone. He dissuaded Captain Freeman from making further comments. Charles Xavier wouldn’t have called if he didn’t have something vital to discuss.
“This is Grimshaw,” he said upon retrieving the phone, “I would normally ask you to explain yourself, Professor Xavier. I’ll settle for some halfway good news.”
“I wouldn’t say the news I bring is good. Mixed may be a better word.”
“I’ll take it anyways. Just so you know, we’ve got an audience listening in. Is there a reason this doesn’t bother you?” said the General as he entered the main hub with Captain Freeman and Agent Brand following close behind.
“I’d rather not keep secrets anymore, General. When you hear what I have to say, you’ll understand why.”
Life on the run was a constant test of strength. Every act had to be scrutinized. Survival was the only battle to be fought. In a ways it was liberating. Everything was so much simpler when all the complications of modern life were thrust aside. It was a lot easier when there was a network of support. This was how the former nation of Genosha functioned. They were in the shadows without being cut off from what unified them.
Alex Summers had to constantly remind his fellow mutants of this. He didn’t exactly ask their permission or even warn them before he teleported them off Genosha. This resulted in a great deal of confusion and mistrust. The mutants that once made up a nation were now fragmented, bound only by the special Warlock bunkers that sheltered them.
‘I’m still getting a lot of dirty looks. I’ll probably be getting them for quite a while. I learned long ago that being a leader often means making unpopular decisions. It’s one of the few lessons from my dad that I still remember.’
Alex shifted at the recollection of his father. That was another revelation that was still sinking in. When Scott told him their father was alive, his whole outlook changed. The shock had worn off, but the effect was still sinking in. Just knowing that his father was still out there was enough to make him reconsider his goals.
‘Boy I could sure use more lessons from my old man. I don’t know how unpopular this whole exodus plot still is. It’s not like we can go back. We’re not one nation within a simple boarder anymore. We’re a nation spread out. Every Warlock bunker is life-boat now. Anyone who thinks they can survive outside it has already left. Those who want to keep fighting will find a way to survive and be content. As a people, we can still be strong. It’s just going to be in a different capacity now.’
Alex continued pacing outside the outer gate of the Warlock bunker. He wasn’t sure where his particular bunker had been transported. Near as he could tell it was some sort of dense jungle with some pretty exotic wildlife. They hadn’t done much exploring, but some of the stories he heard were pretty strange. He still suspected that Pyro was hallucinating when he said he saw real dinosaurs roaming around.
Whatever their locale, it was free from any and all prying eyes. The Brotherhood along with several dozen mutants were now living out of the Warlock bunker. This alien Warlock technology provided them with both shelter and the basic essentials. They could use the assemblers to make anything from beds to clothes to medical gear. It was also networked with the other bunkers so they could still coordinate with the rest of Genosha’s citizens. For over a week, they had been sharing information about how the rest of the world was reacting to their disappearance. From what he heard, the possibilities for future plans were wide open.
“You gonna keep avoiding us, Summers? Or are you gonna take your chances in the jungle?” said a hulking voice behind him.
Alex turned around to see Blob standing behind him. He was among those who didn’t hold too big a grudge against him. That didn’t mean he approved.
“I’m not avoiding anyone, Blob. Tell anyone who says otherwise that I just need time to think,” said Alex.
“Tell them yourself. I’m not your damn mouth-piece. You’re lucky some of us are still talking to you. Pietro is still ranting about how he wants to run you into the nearest tar pits.”
“He’s still upset about leaving Wanda behind. Once we find out where she is, he’ll cool off,” said Alex confidently.
“I’d still watch your back if I were you. Last I heard, a dozen more citizens went AWOL in other bunkers. I don’t know what the total is now. I lost count after thirty.”
“Let them go. They want to take their chances out there, we won’t force them to stay.”
“It’s not like we got anywhere to go in this fucked up world,” scoffed Blob, “Even the ones that stuck around are getting pretty anxious. I don’t know if you thought this shit through when you decided to teleport us all to some crazy jungle, but I suggest you come up with a plan pretty damn soon! Otherwise we’ll follow the cockroaches before we follow you again.”
Alex turned around to face Blob’s harsh scold. He was clearly skeptical. Alex didn’t put it past him. He also saw beyond the stains of uncooked animal meet on his face that Blob was still willing to be proven wrong. Alex suspected many were also willing. Their choices were limited. They understood that on their own, they wouldn’t last long. But together as a nation, they could still accomplish so much.
“I’ll remember that while I’m putting together our next plan,” said Alex.
“See that you do. Because we sure as hell ain’t getting any good ideas from Pietro!” said Blob.
“I’ll talk to him. If he’s becoming too much of a pain, I won’t hesitate to shoot his legs out.”
“If you let me break them you’ll earn a few extra points in my book.”
Blob was about to head back into the bunker. Before he left Alex to his thoughts, he reached into his large pockets behind a melted candy bar and pulled out a wad of paper. He didn’t just come out here to belittle Alex Summers. There were enough people doing that for them. Unlike the other whiney mutants caught up in this mess, he was still interested in making something of this crazy predicament.
“While you’re going over the ways to shut up Pietro, you should probably see this,” said Blob as he handed Alex the paper, “One of our bunkers in Northern Canada picked up some major news.”
“What kind of news? Is it supposed to involve a melted snickers bar?” asked Alex as he wiped aside some of the melted chocolate.
“It involves the X-men. Looks like Alvers did us one last favor before he screwed himself over. It’s pretty fucked up. Not that I cared about those punks anyhow.”
Alex’s intrigue was peaked. Wiping aside the chocolate stains, he opened up the paper to read the report. It was a copy of a Canadian news outlet reporting that the Xavier Institute had been destroyed. It also stated that the X-men survived. The only one that perished was Stryfe. Beyond the story, it got Alex thinking. Not only had the citizens of Genosha lost their home. The X-men had lost their home as well. They were now officially in the same boat. That brought with it some profound implications.
“Hmm…this changes things,” Alex mused, “This changes everything.”
It was a surreal feeling for the X-men, waking up to find that their home was destroyed. It felt like a nightmare. It was too horrible to be true. One moment they were training. The next thing they knew they were looking over the ruins of the Xavier Institute.
The hours that followed were a blur. Emergency crews along with the New York chapter of the MSA descended upon the scene. They brought with them news cameras and reporters from every major outlet. The destruction of the Xavier Institute was a big deal. Much of the team tried to avoid it so they could sift through the rubble of their former home. With help from firefighters and police offers, they located whatever valuable possessions they could salvage.
“This is fucked up on way too many levels,” mused Logan as he held up a broken bottle of whiskey from his now tattered liquor collection, “I never knew how much this dump meant to me before some lousy prick destroyed it.”
“If you want to go wrestle Lance Alvers away from the MSA, I doubt anyone will stop you,” said Bobby solemnly, “Hell, hit him extra for destroying my X-box!
“He’s lucky I woke up after he was arrested,” said Piotr firmly, “This was the first real home I’ve had since my parents died.”
“Speak for yourself, Pete. This is the only place that felt like home for meh,” said Rogue, having to wipe away a tear.
“Maybe when they dig up Stryfe’s body, we could take turns cutting it up and burning it!” grunted Logan as he threw what was left of his bottle against a rock.
“You ain’t helping, homme!” said Remy as he consoled Rogue.
“I know it ain’t makin’ a difference! Hell, it feels like nothing we do makes a difference anymore! Stryfe and Alvers just reminded us!”
Logan didn’t bother looking for anything else. He stepped over several broken bottles before storming off to vent. His anger was symbolic in a ways. It expressed the frustration that had followed them since their return from space. The destruction of the mansion was the final straw in a sense. It made everyone question whether anything they did to this point really mattered.
Beyond the personal losses, there was a long list of logistical issues. So much of their lives had been contained within the Xavier Institute. Losing it wasn’t just a symbolic blow. It cast into doubt their very role as X-men. For Betsy, it meant calling up Warren and her brother to explain this grim situation. For Kitty Pryde, that meant calling up her parents and letting them know she was okay. Even though they were relieved, they certainly didn’t make it easy on her.
“I know, dad! I heard you…no, I can still hear mom crying in the background. So I know you’re lying! Just give me a chance to…I understand…don’t even joke about that! Nobody needs to sue anybody! I chose to…fine! Just give yourselves time to cool off or something! You have a daughter who can phase through any danger. It may help to remember that sometimes.”
Upon hanging up, Kitty let out a sigh of frustration. Her parents had called her with concerns before, but never like this. They supported her desire use her powers for the greater good. They didn’t support her living in mansions that were attacked like this.
“Good God, I should list the ways parents are infuriating!” exclaimed Kitty, “It’s sucks when they actually have a reason to be so overbearing.”
“If you’re interested in swapping your parents for my brother, I’m all for it,” said Betsy as she put her phone away, “Between him and Warren, I got tired of answering the same questions.”
“At least they won’t threatening to sue the Professor,” groaned Kitty, “I’ll bet your brother doesn’t have legal authority over you either.”
“I’m sure he wishes he did,” she sighed, “The news of this bloody mess has already gone global. Warren says he’s got people who can sift through the rumors before they get too rampant. Some tabloids are even saying we’re dead.”
“Those the same tabloids that say the president is an alien?” grumbled Kitty.
“Doesn’t matter where it comes from or who says what. We’re on pure damage control. This at a time when everyone is looking to the X-men for a plan of sorts.”
“Stryfe’s timing sure does suck, that’s for sure. I think he rendered the Professor’s new training program meaningless.”
Kitty’s brutally honest sentiment couldn’t have been more appropriate. Everything they had been working for was over before they had a chance to begin. This was not something they could recover from with rest or training. Losing the mansion struck to the very heart of how the X-men conducted themselves.
Beyond the destruction, this bold attack struck the already strained emotions of some. Jean Grey had been enduring plenty of distress before her home was destroyed. Having the Phoenix Force go dormant on her created a ripple effect of sorts. Her powers were weaker, her relationship with Scott was strained, and her very sense of identity was fragmented. With the mansion destroyed, there were few stabilizing forces in her life anymore. While the others fumed and mourned, she sought to recover what few treasured possessions she could.
“Are these all you were looking for?” asked one of the firefighters upon pulling out a charred box from a pile of rubble.
“Yes,” Jean affirmed, “These are all I need.”
“You sure this is it?” another firefighter questioned.
“There’s nothing else that Professor Xavier’s overpriced insurance can’t recoup.”
Jean used her telekinesis to float away from the mangled piles of rubble, leaving the firefighters to sift through the rest of the carnage. She returned to the front yard where Scott was waiting. He hadn’t said much since he woke up. He barely showed a reaction to the mansion being destroyed. Jean could tell through their link that he was hit hard by it. She could also tell that losing his home wasn’t the most pressing matter on his mind.
Jean purposefully avoided more heated subjects. For now, she was content to focus on the smaller issues. When she landed she opened the box to reveal a dirty, yet intact collection of pictures. They included various moments with each other, friends, and former lovers. They were now relics of a time that literally collapsed around them.
“Is this the last of them?” asked Scott in a flat tone.
“I think so,” said Jean solemnly as she retrieved some pictures, “If there’s anything else, it’s probably long gone.”
“It’s more than enough,” said the X-leader as he retrieved one of the pictures.
“I like to think it is.”
Jean’s expression remained awash with sorrow while Scott kept up his unflinching demeanor. He stood in silence as he looked at the picture he took. It was one taken of him and Jean shortly after they got together. It was one of their happiest moments. At this darkest of hours, it seemed so long ago.
“Scott…when you were under Stryfe’s influence,” Jean began.
“My memory was fuzzy the whole time,” he replied quickly, “I’m aware of what I said. I’m also aware of how much it hurt you.”
“And I accepted your apology when you gave it,” she told him, “I don’t want to add this on top of everything else that has come between us.”
“But that may not be possible,” said the X-leader, still looking at the picture.
“Could you please stop finishing my sentences?” she groaned, “I get it. We know each other pretty thoroughly. We share a psychic link. So can we just get it out in the open already? When you said I took advantage of our love, how much of that was rage and how much of it was honest?”
Scott looked away from the picture and into the tear-stained eyes of his lover. He saw in her someone who was so lost. The Phoenix Force going silent affected her in ways he could not easily console. He couldn’t just take her in his arms and soothe it all away. This was something different.
“Jean…I love you. I’m not saying that to soften the blow or anything. I’m saying it because that’s a basic, honest truth,” said Scott in a more serious tone, “We’ve gone through every conceivable challenge together. I’ve gone beyond my limits for you. I’ve actually died for you. And therein lies the problem.”
“So it’s true. You really think I do take advantage of our love!” she said in a hurt tone.
“Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I’m saying,” he said, remaining calm and collected, “In any important relationship, you give everything you can possibly give. You take your licks along the way and learn to deal with them. I had to do it with Alex. I had to do it with my father. In every case, you helped me through it.”
“And that’s a problem?”
“No, the problem is on your end, Jean. You’re an amazing woman who will go out of her way to reach others. I try to do the same for you, but…it just isn’t enough. You would rather help others than help yourself. How am I supposed to deal with that? Especially at a time like this when there are so many forces tearing us apart?”
He was hiding a desperate outrage behind his disciplined demeanor. Jean could feel it radiating through their link. It was something that had been building since the Phoenix Force went silent. The destruction of the mansion seemed to bring everything to the surface. More tears formed in her eyes. Scott, hiding plenty of hurt as well, reached over to console her. Once again, something came between them. This time it was Storm. She arrived on a trail of wind with a strong sense of urgency.
“I deeply apologize for intruding, but I think you’ll want to gather near the gate,” said Storm strongly, “The Professor is about to confront the media. He wants everybody to be there!”
“You don’t sound too upbeat about this, Storm. Where is this coming from?” asked Scott, having to shift his concern away from his lover.
“Let’s just say I’m not used to seeing Charles with this kind of swagger,” she said, “Hurry up and you’ll see what I mean!”
Scott looked back towards Jean, who was now wiping the tears off her face. She was trying to push this aside and not in an entirely healthy way. Scott was tempted to make another comment. It looked like it would have to wait. Given the kinds of decisions Professor Xavier had been making lately, something like this was sure to be major.
Scott and Jean followed Ororo, setting their pictures aside in the process. They met up with the others along the way. Bobby, Kitty, Piotr, and Betsy were almost at the gate. Rogue and Remy lagged behind because they had to drag Logan away from his foul mood. He clearly wasn’t doing much better. With the impact of losing the mansion still sinking in, the idea of taking any further blows did not sit well.
“Quit dragging me, Stripes! Don’t make me take my anger out on you!” barked Logan, who was being pushed along by Rogue.
“Says a guy who occasionally sleeps with mah mama. Don’t make meh sick her on you!” quipped Rogue, clearly not in the mood for Logan’s attitude.
“If only we could all take solace in being so pissed like Logan,” muttered Jean.
“To hell with being pissed!” scoffed Bobby, who was running faster than the others, “I’ll overlook losing my home, my video games, and my playboy stash if Professor Xavier has a plan for getting the X-men back on their feet!”
“I don’t know. Having our home blown up kind of hurts our credibility,” said Kitty cautiously.
“I will settle for ending this terrible day on a high note,” said Piotr.
No one was in a position to stand around and sulk. Mansion or no mansion, they were still the X-men. Scott, Jean, Bobby, Ororo, Logan, Rogue, Kitty, Remy, Betsy, and Piotr reached Professor Xavier at the gate just as a fresh batch of news vans were arriving. They turned their attention away from the destruction of the mansion and towards Charles Xavier, who was standing in front of the now tattered plaque that read Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Cameras were flashing. A large number of reporters were on the phone. New information was streaming in with each moment.
With his team now behind him, the swarm of reporters turned their attention towards Charles Xavier. Having avoided the media to this point, he made sure he was ready to make this announcement. The public was certainly ready for him. Cameras flashed and microphones were shoved towards Xavier’s face.
“Professor Xavier! CNN is still waiting for your statement!” said one reporter.
“Can you confirm the Fox News report that this was a retaliation strike from Genosha?” asked another.
“What’s going to happen to the X-men now? Will you rebuild your institute?”
Professor Xavier took a moment to get into position. He made sure his X-men were standing behind so they could hear and be part of this. Hank was standing next to him, who had to shove them off a bit in order to maintain some trace of order.
“Are you sure this is the proper way to disseminate this announcement of yours?” questioned Hank as he shoved back two oversized microphones, “Wouldn’t it be more prudent to consult with General Grimshaw or President Kelly beforehand?”
“They’re already watching, Hank. I might as well address them all at once,” said Xavier strongly as he stood up on a pile of tattered bricks, “I’ve hidden behind politicians and men in uniforms for too long. This message must go out to everybody!”
Once he was in position, the jungle of microphones settled. Hanks stepped back, but stayed close just in case. The entire media world was converging around Charles Xavier. He had their attention and he was prepared to seize it.
“I appreciate everybody coming out on this most solemn of days,” he began, “This has been another tragedy amongst many in recent times. I won’t read a prepared speech or choose my words too carefully. This is the plain, honest truth. It’s true. Two mutants, the ones the public knows as Avalanche and Stryfe, attacked my institute. We subdued Avalanche. Stryfe perished when the mansion collapsed. This destruction did not just hinder the X-men’s base of operations. This was our home. This was where we trained ourselves to make a greater impact on this world. Today, we learned the hard way that everything we did simply wasn’t enough.”
There was a much bolder undertone to Charles Xavier’s voice when he spoke. The media was used to hearing him speak as this enlightened, sage-like intellectual. Now he had a genuine fire in his eyes. No longer bound by a wheelchair, he stood with a strong poise. The destruction of the Xavier Institute clearly had a profound effect on him.
“I know the world has become a very frightening place. Genosha is gone. There are dangerous mutants out there that are unaccounted for and uncontrolled. I once believed that my X-men could inspire mutants to use their powers for good. I now realize that there are those out there who simply will not be satisfied with simply doing good. My X-men aren’t equipped to handle them in a way that satisfies the public. The governments of the world aren’t equipped either. On our own, we have tried. On our own, we have not succeeded. I know President Kelly and many other world leaders are watching. That is why I’m announcing today a new initiative for the X-men. On our own accord, we will join forces with the MSA and mutant enforcement agencies all over the world. I will share with them my knowledge and my advanced technology on locating, tracking, and dealing with mutants. For those who seek to use their powers responsibly, we will help. For those who seek to do harm, we will subdue. I call it the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. With it, I believe we can save this world from destruction!”
Commotion erupted from every reporter. More cameras flashed as reporters pushed and shoved, trying to get an exclusive statement. They all realized this was a historic moment. It was the beginning of something bold and new.
Behind Professor Xavier, the X-men exchanged glances. What were they supposed to make of this? Suddenly, the X-men were no longer just a close knit team that tried to use their powers for the greater good. They had worked with the authorities before, but not like this. It wasn’t clear if they would be working with them or for them. It wasn’t extreme as it was desperate. Having just lost their home, it was difficult to look beyond their mentor’s logic.
For some, however, little effort was required. Losing a home was difficult enough. The idea of losing a key essence of the X-men was too much to bear.
“I don’t like how this smells,” snarled Logan.
“I agree with you, Logan,” said Scott distantly, “That fact alone is proof enough that something about this plan very wrong.”
Up next: New Divide
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