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Volume 2 -- Issue 39 -- Overlord Part 2

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Overlord Part 2
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Professor Charles Xavier struggles for peace and understanding between humans and mutants. Together with his X-men, they fight in a world that hates and fears them. The extraordinary powers of mutants, the next stage in human evolution, have given mankind plenty of reason to be wary. The X-men do their best to foster peace, but there are those who seek a more violent solution to the conflict.

One of their most tenacious foes also happens to be one of Professor Xavier’s closest friends. Erik Lensherr, better known as Magneto, is a holocaust survivor and a powerful mutant that holds a deep hatred for humanity. His hatred has grown so strong he now seeks to overthrow the human order and reassert mutants as the rightful dominant species. His initial plan to carry this out involved an uprising on the island nation of Genosha against an anti-mutant dictator named Cameron Hodge. Magneto came very close to starting an all out war between mutants and humanity, but the X-men thwarted him and he was imprisoned by international authorities at GuantanamoBay.

But Magneto has shown no desire to give up on his crusade. Despite being trapped in a plastic prison, his loyal followers in the Brotherhood have been continued to pursue his plans. It all started when Mystique freed the unstoppable Juggernaut to distract the X-men while she freed a mutant named Forge. Using his uncanny ability to build any machine, Forge constructed a device that sent a burst of energy into the sky and directed an iron asteroid of catastrophic proportions towards Earth.

With knowledge of the asteroid now known by the government, they are left with few options. But Magneto has granted them an ultimatum, one that the President has no choice but to follow.

Guantanamo Bay

“By stars and garners, what on Earth is going on here?” exclaimed Hank.

“I’m not sure, Hank,” said Professor Xavier grimly, “But I’m fairly certain Magneto is behind it.”

“Magneto? But how?”

“Does it matter? It can’t be anyone else!”

Professor Xavier and Hank McCoy were scrambling to avoid the growing chaos at Guantanamo Bay. They just landed in the X-jet a half-hour ago and were making their way through security when it happened. Out of nowhere, armed military personnel were scrambling to fortify their posts. Technicians, officers, and even a number of prisoners were being rushed out of the area with great urgency. Something big was happening. It was so big it could only involve someone like Magneto.

The strangest part was there was no alarm going off. None of the highly secure areas were being locked down. None of the measures Professor Xavier himself scrutinized were put into affect. It was as if they had all just been turned off. But that was impossible. Very few people outside the White House had that kind of authority. It had grave implications, some of which were too terrifying to contemplate.

“He’s out! Magneto is out of his cell! I don’t know how, but the dampener just shut down and he-ahhhhhh!”

The ominous cries of a guard over a communicator confirmed everybody’s worst fears. The prisoner who nearly went to war with the entire human race was loose.

“All units fall back and hold your positions!” exclaimed one of the military police, “Somebody call the General! Get him to seal off all levels!”

“We’ve been trying to, sir! But they aren’t responding!” replied one of his subordinates, “It’s as if they’re not even trying!”

“How is that possible? What the hell is going on here?!”

Hank wheeled Professor Xavier behind a cluster of military police. This was not a safe area for them, but neither one contemplated leaving.

“Sir, please allow me to help,” urged Professor Xavier, “I can get in touch with the President. He is one of the few with the authority to lock this area down!”

“Back off, Xavier! We’ve had enough help from you and your freaks! If Magneto is out, he’s not getting past this point! I don’t care how he got out, but he’s either leaving this prison in a body bag or he’s not leaving!”

“Wait! You don’t even know what…”

But that’s as far as Xavier got. What happened next caught every MP by surprise. First, the lights started flickering. It was indicative of a powerful magnetic field and there was little doubt where and who it was coming from. Then every weapon the wary soldiers were carrying were forcibly ripped from their hands by that same magnetic force. But they weren’t just pulled away. They were literally turned back on them so that every MP was staring down the barrel of his own weapon.

It was a lethal show of force, one that was only possible from a man like Magneto. The MP’s dared not move, less their weapons go right off in their face. While they all stood petrified by this stunning display, the master of magnetism emerged from the darkened halls leading towards the plastic cell. He was still in his prison uniform, but now he had his helmet as well. When he saw the dozens of MP’s frozen and at his mercy, he grinned and casually walked by.

“I understand you lap dogs are supposed to guard this prison. But I’m in a bit of a hurry so don’t try anything foolish. I’ve already taken out a few of your comrades who tried to play hero. Do yourself a favor and don’t make this a slaughter.”

To prove he was serious, he used his power to cock the guns. Now all the MPs were putting their hands up in a show of surrender. This was a man willing to overthrow the entire human race. He wouldn’t lose a second of sleep if he took them out. Some, however, didn’t get the message.

“You’re not getting away with this, Magneto! You’re only hurting your case! Keep this up and you won’t just get executed! You’ll be crucified!” said one of the MP captains.

In response, Magneto casually triggered the soldier’s weapon and shot him right in the face. He died instantly in a bloody mess, but his fellow MPs could do nothing but gasp in horror.

“Anyone else care to make pointless threats?” said the master of magnetism.

Nobody said a word. They valued their lives more than their disgust with this man. They didn’t move a muscle as Magneto casually walked by. The only one brave enough to come out and face him was the one person who didn’t have a weapon with him.

Professor Charles Xavier, bewildered by his old friend’s sudden release, wheeled out from behind the guards he was hiding behind. Hank came with him, looking equally worried. When he came face to face with his old friend, he scorned him while Magneto just smiled.

“Erik, stop this now!” Xavier demanded.

“Charles…what a pleasant surprise,” said the master of magnetism, “I don’t recall you being scheduled for a visit.”

“This isn’t a visit! This is a confrontation!” said the Professor strongly, “I know you and the Brotherhood have been plotting. I know about the attack on NORAD that freed Juggernaut. You’re up to something! And I won’t let you go through with it!”

“Ah Charles, you never cease to amaze me. I figured you would uncover my little ploy sooner or later. I just didn’t think you would be foolish enough to try and stop me.”

Before the Professor could say another word, Magneto used his powers to literally rip the metal panels from the floor and surround his old friend. He formed a perfectly circular disk underneath his wheelchair and levitated him into the air. Just to make sure he didn’t try anything, he ripped a couple shards of metal from the wall and formed shackles from them that he used to restrain his old friend.

At this point, Hank had seen enough. If the MP’s couldn’t stop him and Charles couldn’t attack him with his telepathy, it was up to him. He summoned his animalistic strength and charged the master of magnetism.

“Charles!” he exclaimed, “Fear not! I will end this now!”

“I thought this prison had a ‘no pets allowed’ policy,” scoffed Magneto.

Before Hank could even get halfway towards Magneto, he directed the gun he used to kill the guard earlier to his position. He accelerated it to high speeds and with the butt of the gun leading the way he struck Hank right on the back of the head.

“Hank!” yelled the Professor.

“He’ll be fine. A minor concussion won’t kill that animal,” said Magneto flatly, “I suppose it’s a good thing you chose to show up, Charles. This way I can make sure you can’t coordinate your X-men to stop me. In addition, you’ll have a front-row seat to the greatest moment in the history of homo superior.”

“I would rather perish than watch you make another vain attempt to slaughter millions of innocent lives,” said Xavier defiantly.

“Don’t tempt me, old friend. I may be inclined to grant such a wish. But time is short. There is much work to be done. The president has been kind enough to release me from this prison so I can carry out my plan.”

“The president released you?” said the Professor in shock, “Why on Earth would he do that?”

“To quote the famous Godfather saying, I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Why else would none of those precious safeguards be shut down?”

Now it made sense. The President did have the authority to shut down every area of Guantanamo’s security with a mere phone call. He didn’t even have to tell the guards. He could turn everything off and let Magneto do the rest. Whatever he threatened the President with it had to be serious for him to make such an extreme decision.

“This is madness, Erik! Whatever you have planned, it won’t work!” said the Professor strongly.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Charles,” said the master of magnetism ominously, “You see, I never leave anything to chance. I made sure that I had a backup plan should my attack on Genosha fail. It was put into motion the second you threw me into this prison. Now everything is in place. If your X-men are wise, they won’t try to stop me.”

“My X-men will never sit by while you stage another outrageous assault on humanity!”

“They won’t have a choice. You see, to make sure they will not be equipped to thwart my plans this time I took the liberty of informing the president you and your X-men are helping me with this little endeavor.”

“What?! That’s ridiculous! The President would never believe my X-men would help you after we stood against you on Genosha!”

“Oh come now, Charles, it is really so unreasonable? After the debacle at the trial and your repeated failure on Genosha, perhaps you and your team would get frustrated with the way humans are treating you…frustrated enough to change your tune.”

“That would never happen and you know it!”

“Of course I know it. But I doubt the President is aware.”

Xavier tensed at such a ruthless yet cunning tactic. Magneto was taking his X-men out of the picture by ensuring they would not have the trust or support of any authority. It would be impossible to coordinate, leaving Magneto free to further his plans. After the role they played in his downfall last time, he wasn’t taking any chances.

“My X-men will still try and stop you,” said Xavier firmly.

“Then they are fools,” scoffed Magneto, “It makes no difference whether they try or not. They are already too late. Humanity’s fate has been sealed. Yours has been sealed as well. You’ll see. The whole world shall soon see!”

Before Xavier could say another word, Magneto used a spare metal shard to knock him out. He didn’t him trying to reason with him while he made his escape. With his wheelchair-bound friend still struggling, he continued making his way out of the prison. He carried himself as if he was taking a casual stroll through the park. All the systems had been shut down. All the doors were open. Any guard that came near him faced the same dire predicament as the other MP’s, having their weapons turned against them. Lucky for them, none were foolish enough to try and stop him.

After going through several high security barriers, encountering only minimal resistance along the way, Magneto reached the elevator that would take him too the surface. He didn’t bother waiting for it. Instead, he just used his powers to blow open the heavy metal doors and ascend the shaft himself with Xavier and Hank following close behind. Many more guards were waiting for him at the ground level, but he didn’t give them a chance to get in his way. He shot out of the elevator like a bullet from a gun, blowing a hole in the roof and shaft in the process. Now riding a wave of magnetic energy, he ascended into the clear blue skies and quickly disappeared from the sights of the bewildered guards.

There was no stopping him now. His mind was already made up. His plan was already put into action. Charles and Beast were just coming along for the ride. Now that he was free, humanity was doomed.

Xavier Institute – Cerebro

“Something’s wrong with the Professor,” said Jean Grey in a grim tone, “He hasn’t checked in yet.”

“He always checks in when he visits, Magneto,” said Scott, sharing her grim tone as well, “Can you contact him telepathically?”

“I’m trying. He’s not responding.”

The X-leader cursed under his breath. He and Jean had been trying to track the Brotherhood since the Professor left. They were supposed to find them while he found Magneto. But for some reason, they had all been cut off. They couldn’t even get in touch with Wanda through the usual secure communication links. Now with the Professor not checking in, that sinking feeling that something very bad was about to happen set in.

Jean concentrated hard as she wore the Cerebro helmet, scanning through countless psychic clutter to locate the Professor. She wasn’t as proficient as the Professor when it came to using this machine. She could only use it at a fraction of the power levels that he could. But it should have still been possible for her to at least get a thought from the Professor or even the Brotherhood. But she found nothing.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” said Jean as she concentrated harder, “I’m focusing on Guantanamo Bay now. I don’t sense the Professor, but I sense a lot of commotion.”

“What kind of commotion?” asked Scott suspiciously.

“The kind you wouldn’t expect outside a European soccer riot. It’s centered right around Magneto’s prison.”

“That can’t be good,” said the X-leader, “Let’s see if we can…”

Suddenly, the holographic computer screen started blaring. Scott and Jean quickly identified it as one of the emergency warning programs. A new screen came up, one that depicted the layout of the area around Magneto’s prison. On it they could see red warning signs and life video feed of MP’s and soldiers scrambling chaotically. Something was definitely going very wrong.

“Oh no…” gasped Jean.

“Is that alarm what I think it is?” said Scott.

“Do you even have to ask? It’s the emergency program Hank installed to monitor Magneto’s prison cell! It’s giving me all sorts of failure warnings!”

“Damn it! He must be trying to escape!”

“No, it’s even worse! He’s being let out!”

Scott looked at his girlfriend strangely. Then they looked up at the holographic image. In a strange flash, an image of Magneto flying out through the ground level of his prison played out before them. Not only that, they could see in the faint image that he wasn’t alone. Professor Xavier and Hank were right there with him, no doubt tagging along against their will.

“The Professor sure picked a hell of a time to visit,” mused Scott, “Magneto’s dragging him and Beast along for the ride!”

“But…this doesn’t make sense!” said Jean as she struggled to interpret the incoming data from Cerebro, “Why would they just let Magneto out? And why would he take the Professor with him?”

“I’m as curious as you, Jean. But we’ll have to tackle that problem later! Can you track where they’re going?”

“I’m trying! But he’s already long gone! And he’s probably moving too fast for me to…”

But before she could finish, Kitty Pryde came barging in. She was in such a panic she didn’t bother opening the doors. She just phased through and ran right up to them.

“Guys! We need you upstairs! We’ve got a serious problem on our hands!” she exclaimed.

“A little busy with a serious problem of our own, Kitty!” groaned Jean as she kept trying to track Magneto’s escape.

“This one’s a bit more immediate! That Exodus guy is back! He’s standing right at the front door!”

Scott and Jean exchanged worried glances. This was even bigger than they thought and getting more mysterious by the second. Magneto breaking out of jail was bad news, but so was being in the presence of a guy foolish enough to barge in on a globally televised war crimes trial.

“Guess it’s going to be one of those days,” sighed Scott, “Jean, summon the others! I have a feeling we’ll all need to be present for this!”

“Already on it, babe!” said Jean as she took off the Cerebro helmet, “I hope the Professor will be okay in the meantime.”

“He will be. For a guy in a wheelchair, he’s as tough as they come,” said Scott confidently as he followed Kitty out of the chamber, “The best we can do for him now is follow the orders he gave before we left. He wanted us to be prepared for the worst and act accordingly. It’s a pretty safe bet that this is one of those situations!”

The ominous words of the X-leader were hardly comforting. But Jean and Kitty had little reason to doubt them. As X-men, they trained for these moments regularly. But in their experience no amount of training could prepare them for the unexpected. Whenever Magneto made a move, there was sure to be surprises. It was just a matter of reacting to them as they came.

White House

The president had faced his share of difficulties in his tenure as commander-in-chief. The Genosha incident was bad enough. He had to be the man in power while the world stood on the brink of a human/mutant war. Few leaders was prepared to deal with that kind of situation. Even fewer were equipped to handle a situation like this, one that held the fate of the entire human race in the balance.

Shortly after his conversation with Magneto, the President was rushed down into a highly secure bunker built into the sub-levels of the White House. His entire military staff and diplomatic leaders joined them and were filled in on the situation. Their reactions were as grim as he expected. There weren’t many ways to remain strong upon hearing there was a killer asteroid heading towards the planet that threatened to wipe them out. But there was no time to cower in fear. Something had to be done.

Now sitting at a conference table surrounded by his most trusted advisors the President weight his very limited options. Among them was Senator Robert Kelly, who had been meeting with some diplomats at the time. Since he had more knowledge of the mutant issue than anybody in government, he figured he would be a good advisor. So far he wasn’t proving to be as beneficial as he hoped.

“With all due respect Mr. President, have you lost your mind?!” exclaimed the senator.

“Try and manage a little more respect, Senator,” scorned the President, “I let you in on this to help, not to insult me.”

“Excuse me, sir! But I’m not the one who foolishly trusted Xavier and his X-men to handle this situation only to watch them turn on us! And I’m not the one who just agreed to let Magneto just waltz out of Guantanamo Bay!”

“You think that was an easy decision? He didn’t give me a choice! He said explicitly that he had the power to send that asteroid our way and he has the power to deflect it! If I kept him in that cell, I would have doomed us all!”

“You could have at least tried to call his bluff!” spat the senator, “You had leverage too. If you kept him in his cell he would have been doomed as well!”

“You’re talking about a man announced to the world he’s ready to die for his cause! Face it, Senator, he was holding all the cards! The best I could do was buy us time to figure out what the hell we’re going to do about this! Now are you going to be a part of that or am I going to have to kick you out?”

Senator Kelly stared bitterly at his commander-in-chief. The American people didn’t deserve such a weak-willed president. Even if he was nearing the end of his term, that was no excuse to respond to poorly to a global crisis. There were any number of ways he could condemn his judgment, but he decided to stay silent.

Rubbing his sore temples, the President turned to his advisors. He could tell some of them were siding with the senator. His decision to release Magneto went against a core policy of not negotiating with terrorists. But this was a special case with very special circumstances. Even if he had made the wrong decision, it was already behind them. They had to focus on the present now.

“Give me some options here, people!” said the President in frustration, “Magneto has the best possible leverage over us! He holds in his hands our own extinction! Is there any way at all we can possibly take that away from him?”

“None at the moment, sir,” said the President’s chief science advisor, “I’ve been on the phone with NASA. Even our worst-case scenario plans have never dealt with something like this. There’s no way we can possibly stop that asteroid.”

“Can’t we just send some nukes up to destroy it?” said the President, “I’ve seen the movies. I’ve got 30,000 warheads at my disposal and you’re telling me they’re all worthless?!”

“Sir, this isn’t like the movies,” said the science advisor, “We can’t do what they did in Armageddon and send a bunch of astronauts into space to plant some nukes. Real life doesn’t work like that. For one, we don’t have a rocket or spacecraft that can even get outside the orbit of the Earth. Add to that, even 100,000 nukes wouldn’t be powerful enough to stop this thing. It’s made up almost entirely of iron and traveling so fast it would blow right through them without so much as a stutter!”

“Yet Magneto claims he can stop it,” said one of the Joint Chiefs bitterly.

“If he has the power to bring it here, he has the power to send it away. Don’t ask me how, but if that energy burst NORAD detected was any indication he must have some exotic technology that allows him to do so.”

“Well where the hell did he get that?” asked the Secretary of Defense.

“We don’t know. That’s something we’re looking into. If what the President told us about Charles Xavier is true, it’s entirely possible that he and the X-men helped construct some sort of device.”

“But how sure are we that’s the case?” said the Secretary of State, “I’ve spoken to Charles Xavier many times and I never got the impression he would turn his back on everything we agreed upon.”

“Everything we agreed upon has been falling apart lately. How unreasonable is it to assume he hasn’t had second thoughts?” said the main Intelligence Chief, “I’ve had the CIA keep an eye on the X-men for a while. They all seem to be low on morale lately.”

“Did you ever detect anything that would lead you to believe they were secretly helping Magneto on the side?” asked the President.

“The X-men are a crafty group, sir. We have no direct evidence, but we have nothing that proves otherwise either. If Magneto was telling the truth about the asteroid, it’s likely he’s telling the truth about Xavier as well. Now the two of them are working together and doing everything to cover their tracks.”

The President grimaced at his advisor’s assessment. The rest of his staff was equally disappointed. Not only were they at Magneto’s mercy, they were betrayed by the very man who promised to contain him. Many people in the room had met Charles Xavier. The President spoke to him numerous times as well. He always seemed like such a reasonable, peaceful man. Hearing he had turned to Magneto’s ways seemed so outrageous, but they had no reason not to believe it.

Whatever the case, Magneto  wasn’t giving them a lot of options. Even the most powerful nation on the world with all the largest military and the best technology had nothing to counter this man with.

“Let’s forget about the X-men then. What about Genosha?” asked the Secretary of State, “Is it possible to contact Wanda Maximoff and see if she can help?”

“That’s a long shot at best. Wanda hasn’t returned many of our calls since the incident at the trial,” said the Attorney General.

“Plus, if given a choice between America and her father, it’s hard to imagine her going against Magneto. She always did strike me as a bit of a Daddy’s girl,” said the Secretary of Defense, “That’s why I’ve had our forces in Genosha step up their patrols lately. Things on the island have been pretty volatile.”

“With Magneto on the loose it’s probably going to get worse,” muttered the President, “So let’s take Genosha off the table and focus on the more immediate matters. First off, do we have a way to track him? A guy with the power to move an asteroid in deep space should leave some kind of trail.”

“NORAD is working on that as we speak, sir,” said the Secretary of Defense, “We’ve been trying to calibrate our satellites to track magnetic anomalies, but its going to take time.”

“What about direct communication?” asked the Secretary of State, “Is there any way we can actually talk to him and try to understand what he’s up to?”

“Doubtful,” said the President, “The last thing he said to me before he hung up was he’ll answer all my questions. He also said he’ll make sure the whole world hears them.”

“That’s outrageous!” exclaimed one of the Joint Chiefs, “If word gets out Magneto is loose and a killer asteroid is on its way, it’ll be chaos! Society as we know it would completely break down!”

“It’s the end of the world, damn it! Would you expect anything less?” said the Secretary of Defense.

“I expect us to have a plan! We can’t just sit here with our thumbs up our asses waiting for this psycho to destroy us all!”

Frustration was setting in. The President could sense it in his advisors. He was frustrated as well. If ever there was a time to get worked up, this was it. But it was doing them no good. They needed a plan.

“So basically, we’re left with the same two options,” said the President, “Either go along with Magneto and hope he’ll agree to destroy that asteroid or start organizing our forces to maintain order once word gets out.”

“Those are hardly options,” scoffed Senator Kelly.

“If you got something better in mind I’d love to hear it, Senator,” said one of the Joint Chiefs.

“I can think of a few right off the top of my head! How about instead of using those nukes on the asteroid, threaten to use them on Genosha. If Magneto sees we’re willing to attack his people, he may not be so willing to let that asteroid hit!”

“You actually want to threaten to blow up another country, which mind you has our own troops in it, as a means of gaining leverage?!” exclaimed the Secretary of Defense, “That’s crazy!”

“It’ll show Magneto we won’t be bullied! You know he values the lives of his fellow mutants!”

“But it could just enrage him further,” argued the Secretary of State, “He’s crazy enough just to let the Asteroid hit just to spite us!”

“How would you even let him know anyways?” asked one of the Joint Chiefs, “You heard the President. Magneto didn’t exactly leave his cell phone number!”

“We’ll find a way to make sure he knows!” said the senator. “One way or another, we cannot give into the whims of this madman! We have to fight back! If he really is willing to bring an end to this world, then we must be willing as well!”

“That’s madness!” exclaimed the Secretary of State.

“That’s Magneto! We have to face facts! He and his mutant brethren will be the end of us all! It’s either annihilation, subjugation, or extinction! I don’t know about you, but I would rather fight back than just accept the fate Magneto has for us!”

Senator Kelly’s words were strong if not inspirational. He watched as the President and his advisors gazed at him with a mix of shock and intrigue. He was the only one here who seemed serious about fighting back. He was just as daunted by the idea of an asteroid impact as the rest of them. But he wasn’t willing to take it in despair. He was prepared to take extreme measures.

The President sensed it too. His advisors, as horrified as they were at the senator’s idea, took Senator Kelly seriously. Even he had to admit it had merit. They couldn’t let Magneto operate with impunity. He had to know the nations of the world would not be held hostage. It meant taking a gamble, but it was better than just sitting around waiting for more horrors to unfold.

“You’re walking a fine line between bold action and outright crazy, Senator,” said the President.

“With the threat of mass extinction looming over us, I say a little crazy is necessary,” said Senator Kelly.

“Tragic, but true,” he sighed, “I’ll get on the phone with a few of our allies and fill them in on the situation. If we’re to make this happen, we’ll need their support. But instead of using nukes as leverage, I have something more fitting in mind.”

“What do you mean?” asked Senator Kelly suspiciously.

“Mr. President, sir, are you implying what I think you are?” asked the Secretary of Defense.

“Can you think of a better weapon for this situation?” said the Commander-in-Chief ominously, “Get in touch with Worthington Industries. Tell them prepare the X-class sentinels for deployment. Make sure they’re properly equipped as well. If we end up having to launch them, we better make sure they can get the job done.”

“I’ll get right on it, sir. But it’s still early. It’ll take a few days to get them all going at full power,” said one of the Joint Chiefs.

“Then we’ll keep buying time. If all else fails, we can still use our nukes.”

It wasn’t the most reassuring plan to fall back on, but it was better than nothing. The Joint Chiefs understood why he was going with the sentinels this time. If what they were developing did as they hoped, then it would be a lot more efficient than anything else they could throw at Magneto.

“And what of the X-men, sir?” asked his Intelligence Chief, “If they’re helping Magneto, they’re bound to be a problem.”

“Then we’ll take care of them now,” said the President strongly, “Have your men seal off the Xavier Institute and arrest any X-men you can find. If Magneto’s going down, I’m gonna make sure they go with him.”

Xavier Institute – Foyer

Scott and Jean arrived at the ground floor with Kitty within minutes of hearing the news that Exodus was waiting at the door for them. The rest of the X-men had already gathered. Warren, Bobby, Logan, Ororo, Remy, Kurt, and Rogue were there waiting for them in full uniform, ready to fight if need be. Their last encounter with Exodus was still fresh in their mind and stood prepared to face him again.

For Scott, however, this situation was less a confrontation and more a development in an unfolding affair. This was all happening too quickly. First, the Professor find out the truth behind the Juggernaut attack. Then he flies off the meet with Magneto only to get ambushed. Now Exodus was showing up at their front door. It was a clear sign some sort of plan was unfolding. If the X-men were to respond effectively, he had to assess and counter whatever Magneto threw at him.

“There you are! What the hell took you two? You hump in the elevator first?” growled Logan, already in full attack mode.

“Save the snide comments for Exodus, Logan,” said Scott assertively, taking on his leaderly poise, “Has he attacked yet?”

“Nah, he just be standing there,” said Remy, “He ain’t even rang the bell.”

“He did knock down the gate though,” said Ororo, “He even did a way with the security sensors. So he’s not here on a peace mission.”

“Then what’s he here for? Selling Brotherhood brand cookies?” said Bobby.

“Let’s find out,” said the X-leader as he stormed to the front door.

The entire X-men stood beside him as he prepared to face Exodus. Nobody had a good feeling about this. Especially with the new knowledge that Magneto had taken Beast and the Professor. If Exodus was here to make demands, he was in for a rude awakening.

Rather than open the door, Jean forcefully opened it with her telekinesis from afar. This way Exodus couldn’t get the jump on them. Once opened, they were confronted by a much cleaner looking figure than they remembered. Last time he attacked he was a dirty, unshaven, bum with clothes so old they had to be from the last decade. He was still unshaven, but his hair was neater now and he bore a new uniform. It was full a full bodied leather suit with yellow pads and a red cape. It looked custom made, bearing various symbols with biblical references that went along with his biblical name.

Yet even with the doors forced open, Exodus didn’t attack. He stood silent and stern, staring down the X-men without fear or concern. Even as Scott put his hand on his visor, he stood unafraid of their presence.

“You have five seconds to explain yourself, Exodus. What are you doing here?” said the X-leader firmly.

“But take all the time you need, bub,” growled Logan as he drew his claws, “I can be as patient as I have to!”

“It’s nice to see you too, X-men,” said Exodus in his imposing tone, “You don’t look too surprised to see me. Did you assume I would escape?”

“Fellas like you just can’t be contained,” said Rogue, “Guess that means we’ll just have to stick you in a deeper hole this time!”

“And unless my watch is slow, your five seconds is up,” said Warren, “So are you going to start talking or can we just get around to beating you to a pulp again?”

Exodus’s gaze hardened. These pestilent mutant punks clearly had no respect for a messenger of salvation. His hatred for them was still strong. They were the ones that stopped him from taking a stand at Magneto’s trial. Nothing would have made him happier than to take them all out with his bear hands, but that was not his mission. Magneto sent him here for a purpose and it was his duty to carry out his wishes.

“Against my personal grudges, I come here bearing good news,” said Exodus, “Magneto has set into motion a plan that will overthrow the human order. It is a plan that has already succeeded. On this glorious day, the Brotherhood activated a machine designed by Magneto himself that has lured an iron-rich asteroid from deep space into a collision course with Earth. The asteroid is capable of delivering mass extinction and will surely end human civilization.”

“An asteroid?! Mass extinction?!” exclaimed Kitty Pryde, “That’s crazy! How wacked out can you be to call that good news?!”

“There’s nothing crazy about it, I assure you. Magneto planned for this to happen himself. But don’t blame him. You were the ones that set it into motion the second you thwarted his uprising.”

The X-men needed a moment to take this in. Magneto had done some crazy things in the past, but this was on a whole new level. He had taken the world to the brink of a human/mutant war before, but he never pushed for something as extreme as mass extinction. It showed a disturbing level of madness they had never seen before.

“That crazy son-of-a-bitch!” exclaimed Bobby, “Has Magneto totally lost it?!”

“You’re giving me way too many reasons to gut you where you stand, bub!” snarled Logan.

“Don’t mock me with threats. You X-men should know the consequences of Xavier’s foolish endeavor by now. If you keep pressing against the forces of mutant supremacy they will eventually push back. Now it’s finally caught up with you. Your side has lost.”

“You came all this way just to tell us that?!” exclaimed Warren.

“That can’t be it,” surmised Scott, “There’s more, isn’t there?”

“Of course there is. Magneto never would have sent me to you if he didn’t have something to offer,” grinned Exodus, “As much a thorn as you X-men have been to his crusade, he not without mercy. His plan for homo superior includes all our mutant brethren, even those such as yourselves who stood in the way last time. As such Magneto sees fit to grant you a second chance. That is why he sent me here. I am here not to fight with you, but to offer you the same thing he offers to all mutants.”

“And what might zhat be?” scoffed Kurt.

“Salvation,” said Exodus, his tone seething with intent, “The asteroid will reach Earth in two weeks. Whether or not it wipes out humanity is up to the humans. But whatever they choose, the human order will be no more and mutants shall finally reign supreme! You can either be a part of that or resist. Either way, our fate is sealed.”

It had to be the most outrageous stunt Magneto ever pulled. It wasn’t enough he tried many times to wipe them out. It wasn’t even enough he had made this offer before, most recently after the Weapon X affair. He was practically spitting in their face, boasting he had already won and there was nothing they could do. It was as if he wanted them to despair and turn their back on everything the Professor ever taught them. It wasn’t just ridiculous, it was insulting. Even if their fate was sealed, the X-men didn’t go quietly.

“That’s some offer,” said Rogue dryly, “Take all the offence to this you want, pal, but you’re a lousy salesman!”

“Yeah, you’re new to Magneto’s crew so let me clear something up for you,” said Jean in a forceful tone, “The X-men are completely opposed to mass murder and genocide. Call us crazy, but Magneto’s approach just isn’t for us.”

“Is that a no to Magneto’s offer?”

“As leader of the X-men, I think I speak for everybody when I answer with this…” said Scott strongly.

In a show of defiance and resistance, Scott adjusted his visor to a higher setting and unleashed a wide-arced optic blast that hit Exodus right in the chest. It struck with such force it sent him flying halfway across the front yard of the institute. The mysterious mutant expected a harsh response, but not one like that. He was only slightly daze when he impacted the concrete path, quickly returning to his feet.

But the X-men weren’t letting Exodus off so easily. He came to their home, told them the world was doomed, and had the audacity to ask them to join in mass murder. If ever there was someone who deserved a good beating, it was this guy. The only downside they couldn’t extend that same frustration to Magneto.

“Nice shot, Scott! But leave some for the rest of us!” said Warren as he took to the air and soared towards Exodus.

“Yeah, Ah took this bozo down last time! Ah’m just itchin’ to do it again!” said Rogue who flew closely behind the winged mutant.

“So am I!” snarled Logan who had already charged out in front, “Give me five more minutes and I’ll beat Magneto’s location out of him!”

“Take all the time you need, Logan,” said Scott as he led the rest of the team outside, “We can’t let him escape! He might have information on the Professor as well!”

With the entire X-men now charging him, Exodus brushed himself off and stared down his adversaries. It was such a pity that such skilled and resourceful mutants wouldn’t accept Magneto’s salvation. But it didn’t matter. The new mutant order would go on without them. He had no reason to stay any longer and had no intention of fighting the X-men. The only thing left to do was continue with the next part of Magneto’s plan.

“Magneto will be disappointed in your answer,” said Exodus as he clenched his fists, “But if this is your decision, don’t expect me to grant you any mercy!”

Seething with stoic intent, the imposing mutant responded with his own show of force. He let out a forceful grunt and unleashed a telekinetic wave that was so concentrated it tore the ground up around him. It reached Rogue, Warren, and Logan first. They tried to dodge it, but the breadth of the attack was too wide. They were hit hard and sent flying back, forcing the rest of the X-men to stop and brace themselves.

“I got them!” said Jean as she instinctively countered with her own telekinesis.

With the wave still coming, Jean caught her fellow teammates and softened their impact. Kitty and Kurt caught Rogue while Remy and Ororo caught Logan and Warren. The young psychic then sent a counter blast towards the psychic wave, deflecting it away from them. The rest of the team still felt it and had to stake a step back, but quickly regained their composure and focused back on Exodus.

But the mysterious mutant didn’t prepare himself for a counterattack. With the team momentarily stunned, he took to the air and began making his escape. The X-men had chosen their path. Now the burden was on their shoulders to deal with the consequences.

“He’s getting away!” exclaimed Scott.

“I’ll catch him!” said Ororo.

“And I’ll freeze him this time!” said Bobby.

“Save your energy, X-men. You’re going to need it,” Exodus called out, “Since you foolishly rejected Magneto’s offer, he will lend no assistance for when the authorities come to arrest you.”

“Arrest us?! Vhat are you talking about?” exclaimed Kurt.

“Oh yes, I forgot to mention. When Magneto informed the President of the asteroid, he also added it was Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men who helped. Seeing as how you were so frustrated after the trial, I say it’s entirely believable.”

“That’s crazy!” yelled Kitty, “The President would never…”

“Hold on, Kitty! It might not be as crazy as you think,” said Jean as she put her hands on her temples, “I’m sensing a lot of new minds in the nearby area.”

“SWAT teams and FBI?” said Scott grimly.

“That and enough MP’s to occupy a small city. I don’t think they’re coming for a casual get-together.”

“This day just be getting better and better,” groaned Remy, his experience with the authorities being a particular sore subject.

A new sense of dread came over the team. A few seconds later, they started hearing sirens in the distance. The sound of heavy convoys rolling through the normally quiet back roads started echoing through the trees. Soon helicopters came into view as well, all of which were heavily armed and ready to take them on. Even though they couldn’t see them yet, the whole team shared the same ominous feeling of being surrounded and trapped. In terms of strategy, Magneto was outplaying them so far.

Exodus couldn’t help but grin snidely at the X-men’s predicament. They reacted with such anger to Magneto’s message. They were utterly bewildered and now they were blindsided by this new predicament. It was almost laughable. The X-men spent so much time and energy defending humanity, now they were about to be subdued by them. It was a deserving fate for their traitorous ways.

“Enjoy trying to reason with your human friends, X-men! I’ll let your Professor know you won’t be present when mankind faces ultimate judgment!” Exodus taunted as he started flying away.

“You know where the Professor is?!” shouted Warren.

“Bub, you’re just begging me to carve you up!” roared Logan.

“Oh I know more than that. But fear not, all the answers will soon be revealed! Magneto’s revolution is finally at hand! The whole world will soon have a front row seat to a new age of mutant dominance!”

“Dominate this!” spat Bobby.

The young mutant tried to shoot Exodus with an ice blast. But Exodus was too far out. He easily avoided it and quickly accelerated to full speed, flying off into the sky and leaving the X-men behind to deal with a grim new challenge.

Not long after Exodus was out of sight, several tanks and armored cars came into view. In the distance, a squad of Apache helicopters descended onto the area and set their sights on the reeling X-men. Soon they could hear the commotion of troops and the screech of car tires as every road and possible escape route through the woods was closed off. They were boxing them in, making sure they wouldn’t get away. Then from the transport parked just behind the front gate, one of the field leaders spoke into a bullhorn.

“Attention X-men! By the authority of the United States government, you are all under arrest! Surrender peacefully or we will storm the premise. Use of force has been authorized!”

The X-men remained silent, taking a defensive stance as they watched more troops, helicopters, and vehicles surround them.

“Ooh, this be bringing back memories,” groaned Remy.

“What do we do now? Turn ourselves in?” asked Kitty.

“Not in this lifetime,” scoffed Logan, his claws still drawn, “If Magneto thinks he can stop us like this he’s got another thing coming! We’ll just have to fight our way out and then fight our way to him!”

“No Logan! We cannot fight the authorities. That’ll just make our predicament worse,” said Ororo, grabbing his shoulder and stopping him from attacking.

“You think of a way it can get any worse I’d love to hear it! But we can’t let the feds stop us from beating Magneto to a pulp!”

“You’re right, Logan. We can’t let them stop us,” said Scott, “But Storm’s right too. We fight the government we’ll only confirm what Magneto told them.”

“So what’s the alternative?” groaned Rogue, “We’re surrounded in case you haven’t noticed!”

Scott scanned the area, quickly assessing the situation. The government was closing in. A line of armored convoys had completely sealed off the street, making escape by car or the X-van impossible. He saw helicopters hovering over the forests near the east and west walls of the mansion, closing off any escape routes through the woods. Chances are they had police and troops there too backing them up. They were attacking them as if they were attacking a real terrorist hold out, making sure there was no means of escape.

Having not gotten an answer, the field captain at the gate put down his bullhorn and turned towards his subordinates in the convoy. He waved his hands to signal the other tanks and troop transports.

“We gave them fair warning! Guess we’re doing this the hard way! All units move in!”

The attack was one. The closest tank pointed its gun right at the front of the gate and fired a single powerful round. The resulting blast literally blew the gate open, allowing the first main troop transports to come pouring in. While they sped up the driveway, SWAT team and military police scaled the walls and entered the inner grounds of the Xavier Institute.

Scott’s gaze narrowed. It was obvious this wasn’t a situation they could negotiate their way out of. The Professor wasn’t here to call the President or their lawyer to get them out of this. That left only one option. He quickly formulated a plan and took charge.

“Fall back, X-men! Get in the mansion and prepare for lockdown!” he ordered.

“God I hate plans that include retreat,” muttered Logan as he withdrew his claws.

“If you want to stay and get arrested, be my guest! But if you want to fight Magneto, stick with the team!” said the X-leader.

Setting aside his frustrations, Logan followed Scott and the others as they ran back into the mansion. SWAT teams started firing canisters of tear gas towards their position. One landed right next to Logan, but Jean used her telekinesis to deflect it away. He was the next to last person to make it back inside. The only one who lingered was Ororo, who watched with anxious frustration as the massive wave of government force closed in.

“I’ll try and slow them down!” she said, her eyes now glowing white.

“Make it fast, Storm! We’re about to lock the mansion down!” said Scott.

The African mutant kicked up a quick downpour, gesturing towards the sky as a thick layer of dark clouds formed over the institute grounds. In addition, she formed a thick layer of fog over the front yard. With low visibility, heavy rain, and sharp wind gusts now in their way the incoming troop teams would have to slow down. That should give the others just enough time to regroup.

With the weather now on their side, Storm rushed back into the mansion and closed the doors. She didn’t bother locking them. That wouldn’t be necessary with the systems they had in place. Now that the team was inside, Scott ran up to a small security panel on the adjacent wall and Warren ran up to one next to the door.

“Ready to initiate full lockdown!” said Warren as he punched in the codes.

“On my mark!” said Scott, “3…2…1…activate!”

The two X-men each issued their respective commands. As soon as they were entered, every light throughout the mansion was turned off and a loud alarm sounded.

“Emergency protocol 1015 activated. Full lockdown initiated.”

All around the mansion every door, window, and opening was locked and closed. Large heavy metal panels descended on every possible entrance and exit, creating a fortress-like structure built to keep would-be intruders out. It was one of Professor Xavier’s most extreme emergency protocols, built solely to protect his students and staff should the situation arise. This would definitely qualify as an emergency on an extreme level. It was sure to keep the authorities out for a while, but not permanently.

“How long do you think it’ll take them to get through?” wondered Warren.

“Even with these new titanium reinforced panels, not long,” said Scott, “Those tanks will blast their way in eventually.”

“Remy assumes we ain’t gonna stick around for that,” said Remy.

“Hell no! If the metal panels hadn’t tipped you off, Professor Xavier always prepares for the worst,” said Bobby, “I can’t say at this point if this is the worst we’ve faced, but it’s definitely up there!”

“Did he happen to prepare specifically for being surrounded on all sides by an army?” asked Kurt.

“Not specifically, but he did have something in place that works just as well,” said Scott confidently, “Follow me and you’ll see what I mean!”

“Oh this should be good,” muttered Rogue.

The X-leader stormed ahead, running into the hallways just behind the staircase. Jean, Warren, Bobby, Ororo, Logan, Rogue, Kitty, Kurt, and Remy all followed closely. Many of the older members like Jean and Warren knew what Scott was referring to. The others hadn’t kept up with some of the protocols the Professor had in place. He trained Scott and some of the others personally to be ready to carry them out in case of an emergency. It was training that was finally about to pay off.

While the X-men held up inside the mansion, the assembly of government forces outside struggled through the dreary weather conditions and reached the front door. Most of the soldiers and SWAT officers on foot were slowed by the rain and fog. Those in troop transports and tanks plowed ahead. The sheering winds disoriented the helicopters as well, but they kept their sights on the mansion. Only now that it was surrounded by metal panels, it looked a lot more difficult to enter.

“These X-men are just full of surprises,” said the field captain.

“How should we proceed, sir?” asked a nearby lieutenant.

“Since they won’t go quietly, we’ll have to step it up a notch!” he said sternly as he turned towards the tanks, “All SWAT units, use torches and grenades to get through the windows! Bravo tank one, get us through the front door!”

Through a short-wave radio transmitter, every unit responded.

“Yes sir!”

The well-armed teams of soldiers and SWAT officers moved fast. FBI and state police agents were already firing on the manor with their assault rifles. To their dismay, their bullets did little damage to the reinforced titanium panels. They didn’t even penetrate that deep into the stone and brick, indicating the mansion was more reinforced than it appeared.

“That place is built tough! Figures a turncoat like Xavier would make a fortress out this ‘school’ of his!” said one of the FBI agents.

“Your not helping by wasting ammo!” yelled one of the SWAT leaders, “Hold your fire until we breach the walls!”

The SWAT teams split off into groups of three. Each group took a window and began their efforts to open them. Using small but powerful blowtorches, they tried to cut the seal or at least a hole big enough to plant charges. Because of the rain, it was going slowly. Sparks few while other armed SWAT and FBI officers waited impatiently with their weapons drawn. Knowing the X-men, they could come bursting out at any moment.

While the window teams weren’t making much progress, the field leader at the front door took a more direct approach. With a column of full-uniformed military units behind him, he directed the tank to take aim at the door. If a blowtorch won’t get through, a tank round was sure to do the trick.

“Get ready, men! There’s no telling what kind of surprises these mutants have in store for us!” said the field leader.

In sharp burst that echoed throughout the institute grounds, the tank fired a round into the metal panel guarding the door. A brief fireball erupted from the impact, creating a mini-shockwave that forced some of the soldiers to look away briefly. But the smoke quickly cleared, revealing a gaping hole and a couple of mangled metal panels. The whole area around the door was now charred black, but they had their entrance.

“All units move!” ordered the field commander, “You are authorized to shoot on sight! But try to take them alive at all costs! That order comes from the President himself!”

Armed soldiers poured into Charles Xavier’s school. They were immediately confronted with thick darkness and an ominous silence. The units quickly spread out, keeping their weapons drawn as they looked for any signs of the X-men. They used flashlights and nightvision to see as they scoured the nearby rooms, including the kitchen, the living room, and the dining room. A couple squads made their way down the halls and up the stairs as well. Everybody was ready to fight, no matter what these mutants threw at them. But much to the chagrin of the field leaders, they found nothing but silence.

The units moved swiftly, but thoroughly. If the X-men weren’t there to face them head on, that could mean one of two things. Either they were hiding in some secure safe room they had set up or they were escaping through some hidden means. Given Charles Xavier’s reputation for cunning, neither would surprise them. But their orders were to leave no area unchecked. They were to tear down every wall and scour every corner. The X-men were not to get away.

While the units roamed the vast halls of the institute, the field leaders grew frustrated. Something didn’t feel right. They had the entire building surrounded and were closely monitoring all activity within a five mile radius. If the X-men were trying to escape, there were no openings for them. So if they weren’t fighting back, what could they be up to?

“Status report! All units check in!”

“Nothing upstairs sir.”

“Nothing downstairs either.”

“No luck in the garage. Place is as quiet as cemetery.”

“Something’s wrong. We saw them go inside! Where could they be hiding?” he wondered.

Suddenly, the field leader’s communicator started beeping. It was a signal from their forces that were still outside.

“Captain! This is Apache alpha! We have a problem!”

“What is it? Do you see the targets!”

“Unfortunately we do! They just came out from the cliffs in back on some sort of speedboat! I don’t know how they got there or where it came from, but it’s moving fast and they’ve already passed our units on the lake!”

The field leader cursed. He should have seen it coming. In all their efforts to keep them from escaping on foot, they didn’t stop to consider they would use the lake as a means. It was assumed the cliffs were too treacherous. But with these mutants, nothing was too treacherous.

“Damn it! Pursue and take them out! Don’t let them get away!”

“Yes sir!”

Every Apache helicopter in the area redirected their attention to the lake. It was still cloudy and foggy, making it difficult to see or get a clear reading on radar. But those helicopters that had been hovering around the backyard saw it unfold before them. Out from the base of the cliff down at the lake, a large but nimble speedboat shot out and roared across the lake. They had only minimal sentries on the lake, consisting only of a couple of police boats. They were quickly left behind in their wake as the X-men sped away, leaving the bewildered authorities behind.

As the Apache helicopters sped towards them, the X-men hung on as Scott kicked the boat into overdrive. The team made a daring escape that was going well so far. They had followed Scott into the elevator leading to the lower levels and into another elevator they rarely used. This one led down past the hanger to a secret dock build into the cliff near the lake. Waiting for them was a black speedboat with a large X on the bow. It was a surprising find for those who didn’t know about this area, but it was a welcome sight.

“Nice boat you got here, homme!” said Remy over the noise of the motor, “Where in the hell did Xavier get this?”

“We got an X-jet, an X-mansion, and an X-van. Shouldn’t it be a given that we have an X-boat too?” snickered Bobby.

“We just haven’t had to use it that much,” Jean added, “The jet has always been pretty good at getting us out of a jam. But when it isn’t available, we make sure we have a backup!”

“I vould still prefer a jet at zhis point,” said Kurt.

“Don’t tell me you get seasick, elf,” said Logan.

“Nien, but jets are faster than missile wielding helicopters and ve have a couple bearing down on us!!” said Kurt.

Scott looked up to see what Kurt was referring to. As fast as this boat was, those helicopters were still in rage. They had guns and missiles pointed right at them. As they flew in lower, they heard the ominous rumble of a Browning 50-caliber machine gun being unleashed upon them. Jean instinctively threw up a telekinetic shield to deflect them, but they couldn’t escape as long as those helicopters were trailing them.

Logan snarled as he looked up at the helicopters as well. Having been attacked by his share during the dark days of Weapon X, he knew what to expect from them.

“They’re about to fire their missiles!” he snarled, “Quit hitting them with drizzles, Storm! Throw a freakin’ tornado at them!”

“I’ll try, but it may make this ride even bumpier!” said the African woman, her eyes still glowing white.

“I’ll risk seasickness over missiles any day!” said Warren.

Ororo summoned the forces of nature to aid them once more. Using the winds and the surrounding waters, she formed three small but powerful tornados that kicked up a thick column of wind and water. It also kicked up the wake around the boat, but the team endured while she directed the tornados towards the helicopters.

For the pilots inside, it was an ominous sight. Seeing three tornados formed before their eyes was shocking. Seeing them come right towards them was downright horrifying. Only one helicopter managed to fire a missile and it wildly missed. In a panic, each helicopter halted their pursuit.

“God in heaven! Now those freaks are throwing tornados at us?!”

“I can’t get around it! I’m turning around and heading back!”

“What about the targets?”

“You want to go after them, be my guest! But I’ll take a reprimand by the captain over being ripped apart by a tornado any day!”

It wasn’t much of a debate. Even with their high tech weaponry, they were no match for the forces of nature. Each helicopter did a sharp turn and headed back to shore. But the one that ended up firing the missile wasn’t fast enough. It got caught in the sharp winds of one of the tornado and the tail rotor was literally ripped off, causing the aircraft so spin out of control.

“Mayday Mayday! I’ve taken damage! I’m going down! I repeat, I’m going down!”

The helicopter swirled downward to the choppy waters below. It was sure to be a rough impact and survival was hardly guaranteed. Upon seeing this, the X-men took action. Their reputation was bad enough because of Magneto. They didn’t need the deaths of a couple of soldiers making matters words.

“No! I didn’t mean to give it that much power!” exclaimed Ororo.

“Better too much than too little,” commented Logan.

“That’s not helping, Logan!” said Scott as he turned back to his teammates, “Rogue, Angel, get up there and save the pilots!”

“They shoot a dang missile at us and we have to save them? How messed up is that?” groaned Rogue as she took to the air.

“No more than usual,” said Warren, shaking his head as he followed suit, “What are the chances they’ll show any gratitude?”

“Since Mr. McCoy ain’t here to calculate, Ah’m just gonna say slim. Let’s just get this over with!”

Rogue and Warren ignored the odds and did what X-men were trained to do. Rogue caught the falling helicopter just before it hit the water and held it up with her strength. Then Warren flew up into the openings and grabbed the two bewildered pilots. They looked shocked and confused by their actions. It wasn’t every day accused terrorists saved their lives. Hopefully, they would tell their friends so they weren’t completely demonized by the authorities.

With two pilots in his arms, Rogue carefully set the helicopter down on the water. She then reached into the back area and pulled out an orange, self-inflating raft. As one would expect in any modern-day helicopter, there were safety measures in case of a water landing. With a quick punch of the valve, the raft was inflated and the pilots had something to float on until help arrived.

“Sorry I can’t fly you guys back to shore, but we’re kind of in a hurry,” said the winged as he set them down, “I know this might be asking much, but when you get back to shore would you mind putting in a good word for us? There’s been sort of a huge misunderstanding.”

“Save it, Warren. Let’s just get the heck outta here!” said Rogue as she flew back towards the boat.

“Never hurts to try,” he shrugged.

Rogue and Warren flew away from the bewildered pilots, who only exchanged confused glances as they watched them disappear into the fog. This attack had been full of enough surprises. But this was by far the strangest. They would have quite a story to tell once they got back to shore.

After a quick flight back to the boat, Rogue and Warren rejoined the rest of the team. By now, they were far enough from shore to be out of range from the authorities. They saw no helicopters or boats and thanks to Ororo’s cloud cover, they were shrouded from any other aircraft they may have overhead. The team could finally let out a sigh of relief. Their escape was a success. Now they had a much more daunting challenge before them.

“Well this day has sure went to hell,” said Warren as he landed.

“More like the entire week at this point,” groaned Bobby, “Magneto just had to fight dirty! He could have just as easily sent a bunch of mutant goons to rough us up like a good psycho, but no! He had to trick the feds into attacking us!”

“You gotta give it up to him though. He’s working smarter and harder,” said Jean, “That all happened too fast. Exodus was probably right. Whatever is going on has been in place for a while now.”

“And we were too damn slow to figure it out in time!” grunted Logan.

The team was defeated and demoralized. Magneto had truly outsmarted them this time. Fighting back with the authorities believing they were on his side was going to make their job many times more difficult.

“So what now?” asked Kitty anxiously, “Magneto’s labeled us as fugitives and he’s threatening to destroy the world with a killer asteroid! Professor Xavier didn’t happen to have a backup plan for that as well, did he?”

“Even the world’s greatest psychic doesn’t have that kind of foresight, Kitty,” said Scott distantly, “But we don’t have time to be shell shocked. We can’t let Magneto get away with this! We’re going to find a way to stop him!”

“And hopefully be clearing our names in the process,” added Remy, “We got a hard enough time without being branded terrorists.”

“Yeah, that sure adds some extra motivation,” said Rogue, “But where do we even start? Magneto’s definitely holding all the cards. We ain’t got nothing to match him.”

“You been hangin’ around Gumbo too much,” muttered Logan, “Leave the card puns to the Cajun.”

That earned Logan a look from Rogue and a grin from Remy. Even under these grim circumstances, the drama still followed them. But nobody had the energy to address it at this point. They had much bigger concerns.

Scott contemplated this daunting challenge as he gazed out into the cloudy distance. The wavy waters rapidly passed by as they sped along in the boat. Magneto was carrying out his most ambitious attack on humanity to date. He was holding the world hostage both figuratively and literally. He was willing to go to truly extreme lengths to carry out his agenda. Having thwarted him last time, there was little doubt he was going to make it even harder for them this time. He already had with this stunt of his involving the authorities. But it was something they were going to have to overcome. The world needed the X-men to stop Magneto. It was going to take careful planning some extreme measures of their own.

“There’s a safe house in the city,” said the X-leader assertively, “As soon as we dock this boat, we’ll hold up there for a while and start planning our next move. Don’t ask me what it will be because I really don’t know. We have two weeks to make a move. Let’s use it wisely. But we’re going to strike back! If Magneto wants to enslave the world, he’s going to have to go through us!”

Genosha – Capital City

Chaos had consumed nearly all of Genosha. In every population center, the mutant inhabitants were rising up against the vast international military presence. Word had just gotten out that the President of the United States and various other world leaders were ordering troops to withdrawal from the island. The order came suddenly and without explanation. But Wanda Maximoff knew the reason. And she wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Standing on a rooftop of the capital building, she watched as smoke from fires erupted in the distance. Down below she could hear the frantic yells of mutant assaulting troops and troops assaulting mutants. It was getting pretty ugly.

“That’s right! Get out of here! This is our country now and you’re not welcome!”

“Back off, freak! I don’t see a judge around here so I got no beef shooting you where you stand!”

“Try it! I dare you! We got mutants here who can take those bullets and spit them right back out into your head!”

Wanda tried to shut out the commotion. This was exactly what she vowed to stop when she agreed to take charge of affairs on this island. But she was ceding that authority now. She was stepping back and letting the plan Pietro laid out take effect. It was a decision she had mixed emotions about. On one hand she was glad to hear her father was not going to rot in a prison cell anymore. But on the other, the bold nature of his plan was a little disturbing. Sending an asteroid towards Earth and threatening to destroy it was an extreme measure and these were extreme times. All she could do is have faith that her father would do what was best.

As Wanda hugged her shoulders and took in the scene below, Pietro stood beside her and watched with less uncertainty. If anything, he welcomed the sight of mutants fighting against human forces. This is what their mission had been from the beginning. It had been complicated along the way, thanks in large part to the X-men, but they were no longer a factor. Everything was going to go their way now. As soon as father’s plan was complete, this fighting could finally stop.

“This isn’t how I hoped it would be,” said Wanda distantly, “When is father going to be here? You said he was going to prevent this!”

“Relax, my dear sister. He’s on his way,” assured Pietro confidently, “Once he sets up shop on Genosha, it’s all downhill! That killer asteroid is our official trump card. With that thing heading towards Earth and us having the only machine to stop it, we’ve basically got the world in our back pocket.”

“As long as he doesn’t let it actually hit us, I’m okay with that. But I’m more worried about our mutant brethren. Once word gets out, it’s going to get ugly for mutants across the world. How does he expect to help them?”

“The best help he can give any mutant is to free them from their human oppressors. You know it can’t always be clean. All great triumphs sometimes come at a price. And for what this little stunt of his could bring, it’s more than worth it.”

“I hope you’re right,” sighed Wanda, “I’ll feel much better once father reassures me.”

“Trust me, you won’t have to wait long for that,” grinned the speedster.

The conflict below continued to rage. Wanda and Pietro watched as a group of mutants, which included Rusty and Rictor, stormed a now vacant military outpost and utterly trashed it. Their burning frustration seemed to symbolize everything that was going on throughout the island. More smoke emerged from the horizon, hinting at other fires started by other groups. It was chaotic and disturbing, making the Maximoff twins all the more impatient for their father’s arrival.

They didn’t have to wait long. Over this growing chaos, a mysterious structure emerged in the cloudy skies above. It large, about the size of a football field, and it was glowing brightly in a ways that rivaled the sun. As he descended over the capital city, every mutant and remaining soldier momentarily ceased their chaotic confrontations and looked up to see what was gong on. At first nobody knew what it was, but Wanda and Pietro knew.

From the glowing aura, they could make out the distinct figure of their father standing atop the structure. That structure happened to be the machine he told them about, the one that he had Forge build him. He was standing proudly on the antenna while Mystique, Forge, and Exodus stood on the platform below with the unconscious Charles Xavier and Hank McCoy with him. When the first mutants saw this as well, they let out cries of jubilation.

“It’s him! It’s Magneto! He’s returned!”

“I knew he couldn’t be contained by the human oppressors!”

Riotous yelling turned to ecstatic cheers. Echoes of praise and euphoria erupted from the streets below as mutants everywhere looked to the sky with newfound hope and determination. All the soldiers could do was look up with dread and horror. It was true. Magneto had broken free from his prison at Guantanamo Bay and returned to the country where his uprising began.

Standing atop the structure, guiding it with his magnetic powers, Magneto tapped the machine to send an electromagnetic signal all throughout the island. This way his voice would be heard on every electronic device in range. Every mutant, including the soldiers who had been occupying the country, deserved to hear this. It was the message he had been waiting to give for a long time.

“My mutant brethren! I have returned. I am a prisoner to the human race no more. As I speak, the stage is set to finish what we started. The human race has been thriving on borrowed time. Now more than ever it is apparent that the future does not belong to these unevolved primates! It is us, homo superior, who are destined to dominate. I have made my demands to the human order clear and they would be wise to listen. Their time is up. Our time is now. So join me, brothers and sister! Join me as we free ourselves from the slavery of mankind and take our rightful place as overlords of this world!”

Next Issue: Overlord Part 3

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