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Volume 2 -- Issue 41 -- Overlord Part 4

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Overlord Part 4
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Professor Charles Xavier dreams of a world where humans and mutants live in peace. With his special team of mutants, the X-men, he fights for that dream against those who seek war and intolerance. But that dream has turned into a nightmare in wake of the latest and most ambitious plot of his former friend turned nemesis, Magneto.

The X-men had already stopped Magneto once before when he staged a mutant uprising on the island nation of Genosha. But the master of magnetism had a backup plan he began implementing shortly after he was imprisoned. With help from the shape shifting Mystique, he freed a mutant named Forge from military custody and had him construct a powerful device that was used to redirect an large asteroid into a collision course with Earth. Using this doomsday plot as leverage, he got the President to free him. Now he is back on Genosha, preparing for the final stage of his plan that promises to end the human dominated age once and for all.

While Magneto furthers his ambitious goals, the X-men remain on the run from the authorities. Without Professor Xavier or the X-jet, they seek a way to get to Genosha and confront their nemesis. They believe their best chance lies with Angel’s father, Warren Worthington Jr. But when they confronted him, they found out he was playing an important part in a government plot to deal with Magneto. His ties to that plan go back a ways, linking to a woman once very close to Warren named Candy Southerner.

Southerner Pharmaceuticals – One Year Ago

When it came to pain, nothing compared with the agony of heartache. Candy Southerner knew that pain well. Ever since her relationship with Warren Worthington III ended so unpleasantly, she had been moving forward with a heavy heart. It was such a struggle because she truly loved Warren. She saw them having a wonderful future together. She had contemplated things like marriage and children. She believed they could be happy for many years go come.

Then their families dropped a bombshell. They supported their love, but they didn’t support Warren being a mutant. His mutation in a world with growing uncertainty regarding mutants posed a grave threat to the massive wealth their families had gained. They both ended up having to make a hard choice. Warren chose his powers. Candy chose her family. And that was the end of their love.

A lot had happened in wake of their breakup. Candy, now 19-years-old, drowned her sorrows in work. As the heiress to the Southerner family fortune, she was being groomed to take over one day. As an aspiring heiress, she found herself confronted with new responsibilities. They struck hard at the very reasons she lost Warren, but in this business there was no room for heart. She had to do what was best for her company.

“You’re doing the right thing, Candy,” said Warren Worthington Junior, the father of the man she once loved.

“I don’t know, Mr. Worthington. It sure doesn’t feel right,” said Candy distantly.

“That’s only because my son is still so fresh in your mind,” he said with a look of compassion, “I know it’s been hard. Believe me, I’ve felt it too. Warren hasn’t spoken to me since he started living at the Xavier Institute on a permanent basis.”

“It’s not just that. This program you’re asking me to endorse is just like the program that drove Warren away from me,” said Candy, “This so called cure for mutation that your people were developing failed miserably. I’ve seen the research. The words fatal and agonizing were used way too many times in the reports.”

“That’s only because we were unable to do more research. Since my son leaked details of it to the press, I’ve had to shut it down. But that doesn’t mean the work has to stop.”

“But why does it have to be my family’s company? There are at least five other companies that are way more equipped and they don’t have the personal baggage to deal with!”

“That personal baggage is the very reason why I want your company to do this,” said the older Worthington strongly.

Candy shifted anxiously as she walked with Warren Jr. through the highly secure labs of Southerner Pharmaceuticals. It was a ways away from their main headquarters. These were just one of the many labs they kept out of sight and out of the public eye so they could do research on radical, sometimes dangerous products. It was part of how her family’s company had done so well over the years. They were willing to do the hard research that would yield more powerful products later on, products that would save lives and ease the suffering of millions.

But she didn’t see that noble undertone in this project. This so called ‘cure’ for mutation sounded like something else entirely. It wasn’t out to cure a disease or deformity. It was out to stop human mutants altogether. It ran contrary to everything she heard from Warren while they were together. But as she looked over the arsenal of expensive machines, she started thinking differently. Mutation cost her the love of her life. If only there had been another way, maybe this heartache she felt would have been avoided.

“Candy, I know you’re still hurting,” said Warren Jr. empathically, “But I wouldn’t trust you with this if I didn’t think you could handle it responsibly. If we don’t develop a cure for mutation, someone else will. And they won’t have the personal connection to mutation that we do so they’ll have no qualms abusing it.”

“But it still feels like I’ll be betraying Warren,” said Candy, “I saw how angry he was at you for doing this sort of research.”

“This is different. You won’t be trying to force this on him like I did,” said the older Worthington remorsefully, “I admit I made a mistake in my initial approach, but you’ve seen how mutation can be a good thing. You’ve also seen how it can destroy one’s chance at happiness. Somebody has to find a way to control mutation before it gets out of hand.”

“After what I just went through with Warren, I say it’s already out of hand,” said Candy, hugging her shoulders, “But I see what you mean. If only we had a better way of dealing with his powers, maybe it wouldn’t have ended like it did.”

“Then use the resources at your disposal and find a better way,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder, “My company has already given you a head start. I can transfer all our work to your divisions by the end of the week. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”

“But it is a big deal! What if we succeed? What if one day we do find a way to stop mutation? What then?”

Warren Jr. looked at the young woman with a serious yet sincere glare. These were all concerns he struggled with as well. He already made mistakes in this endeavor. His son hated him and he hated himself for being so arrogant. But this was not something he could leave behind. He started this research on the mutant cure. For the sake of his son, he had to see it through. There were risks, but they were risks he was willing to take.

“Try not to think about the what ifs. Try and focus on the lives you’ll be helping with this research. Just know that I promise you with every fiber of my being, I will not let this mutant cure be used for anything other than the right reasons. I owe that much to my son. I just need you to trust my intentions as I once trusted you with my son.”

Candy still had reservations. But looking into the eyes of this man who was almost like family, her decision was clear. Warren may not like her for it, but it was all for the better.

“Okay Mr. Worthington,” she said distantly, “I’ll do it.”

Worthington Tower – Top Floor Executive Office

Warren Worthington III was stunned. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. It was surprising enough to see his old flame Candy Southerner walk in on a very grave situation for them. But after hearing the role she was playing in the government’s plan to attack Magneto, he was nothing short of furious.

Candy was now sitting in a chair across from his father’s desk, her head held low. She couldn’t even look at him after what she just told him. It was a good thing too because Warren couldn’t look at her either. She broke his heart before when she chose her family over him when they tried to get him to cut off his wings. Now she was just rubbing salt in the wound by continuing work on the cure his father started. Not content with just two egregious acts, she went for the home run by taking her work and adding it to the sentinels. It not only hurt on a very personal level, it added a new challenge to their already grave situation.

“How could you do it, Candy? After everything we went through, how could you go along with this?!” said Warren, his tone laced with anger and hurt, “This cure was part of what tore us apart! Now you tell me you’ve developed it?”

“Warren, I’m sorry, but I…”

“Don’t…don’t say it, Candy! It hurts enough when I hear it from my father! I don’t need to hear it from you!”

Warren had to turn away to gather himself. He was on the verge of going into one of Wolverine’s berserker rages. Scott and Jean tried to console him, but they along with the rest of the team couldn’t hide their outrage either. Worthington was crossing so many lines with this.

“So let me see if I understand this mess,” said Logan, trying to contain his temper as well, “You assholes tried to develop a cure for mutation? And you tried to make bird boy here your first test subject?!”

“And Ah thought mah mama was bad,” commented Rogue.

“It wasn’t like that!” argued Warren Junior, who was now sitting behind his desk.

“It sounds fairly cut and dry to me,” said Ororo in a clam but stern tone, “You tried to force your own son to sacrifice who he is. Just because it would be easier?”

“And you, Candy…you actually went along with it?” said Jean, who remembered this affair well, “How can you do that to someone you love?”

“I know. You think I’m a monster,” said Candy bitterly, “But I had good reasons for taking over this project!”

“Don’t all evil corporations say that when they’re developing some new death weapon?” said Bobby.

“It wasn’t supposed to be a weapon of death! It was supposed to help mutants!”

“How does taking away their god-given abilities be helping them?” scoffed Remy.

“You’re all X-men! You’ve seen how some people struggle with it! Can any of you honestly say you wouldn’t consider a cure if your powers were a burden and not a gift?”

That silenced some of the team. It was a valid point. Scott and Rogue, whose abilities often felt like burdens, understood all too well. If there was such an option, it was easy to see how some would consider it a godsend. But the issue at hand wasn’t the intent.

“Let’s not debate the justification for your research. Go back to what you told us about how its being used in the sentinels,” said Scott, “You said they’re using some sort of gas they developed from your research, right?”

“Yes,” said Candy distantly, “It…it showed some promise early on inhibiting the X-gene. But during testing we discovered some side effects.”

“How bad vas it?” asked Kurt anxiously.

Lethally bad,” she said, “The gas didn’t just suppress the X-gene. It suppressed other genes vital to basic cellular function, but only in mutant cells. That’s why I tried to discard it. But some in my company believed it would be valuable in other ways.”

“You mean as a weapon against mutants,” said Logan with a snarl.

Candy was silent, not wanting to answer that question.

“And you didn’t stop it?!” exclaimed Kitty.

“I…I couldn’t.”

“Bullshit!” spat Warren, “You were the head of the department for crying out loud! Don’t tell me you didn’t have the power to stop something like this!”

“It was out of my hands!” she cried, “There were a lot of worried people wondering what would happen if a human/mutant war broke out. They wanted some kind of failsafe. So…”

“Damn it, Candy! I thought you were better than this!” exclaimed the winged mutant, “I expect this sort of thing from my father, but not from you!”

“I didn’t like it either, Warren. Believe me, I tried to fight it,” said his father, “But this is the government we’re talking about here. As soon as they found out we had something that could selectively kill mutants, they wanted it. Now they’re using it and there’s nothing I can do to stop them.”

Warren cast his father another scorn. There were any number of outrageous obscenities he should have yelled at him, but at this point he had exhausted them all. It seemed every time his father was confronted with a situation that could affect mutants like him, he found a way to make it worse.

While Warren fumed over his father, Scott and Ororo exchanged glances. Aside from the personal challenges this revelation presented, there were strategic matters to consider.

“So the government wants you to use this gas based cure that doesn’t actually cure on the sentinels,” Scott surmised, “They then want the sentinels to attack Genosha?”

“That’s their plan,” Warren Jr. affirmed, “Worthington Industries managed to back-engineer six sentinels from the wreckage. They lack their original refinement, but they can still fight on a limited basis.”

“How will you be fitting them with this gas?” asked Ororo.

“By putting canisters in the chest cannon,” he answered, “That’s the one weapon we haven’t been able to get working. The way they see it, since the sentinels weren’t powerful enough under Hodge’s guidance, they’ll throw in an extra trap. These sentinels are programmed to fight their way into mutant strongholds and then self destruct, thus spreading the gas over a wide area.”

It was deceptively simple. It would turn Magneto’s own anger against him. Having fought him many times over the years, the X-men knew the master of magnetism rarely thought things through when he was in a rage. He also gave humanity no credit, assuming they were too stupid and unevolved to come up with anything so devious. He wouldn’t see the error of this thinking until it was too late.

“Magneto would never see it coming,” mused Scott.

“Never thought I would say this about the government, but that’s pretty darn brilliant,” said Bobby.

“Brilliantly sick!” said Rogue, “That gas gets unleashed a heck of a lot of mutants are gonna die! What’s to stop anybody from turning that stuff on all mutants?”

“This isn’t meant to target mutants. The plan is to show Magneto they can hit him as hard as he can hit them. They’re hoping if his people are under threat, they’ll be able to negotiate with him.”

“And you believe them?” scoffed Logan, “Little advice, bub, don’t ever assume anything with the feds. I guarantee you they ain’t telling you the full story! With a weapon like that, ain’t no way they’ll negotiate! Someone’s gonna get trigger happy and jump the gun! Trust me, there’s nothing they would like more than to see Magneto dead!”

“And if zhat happens, you can be assured a human/mutant war vill ensue,” said Kurt, “Zhat’s if zhe asteroid doesn’t vipe us out.”

“You think we don’t know the risks?” said Candy, “None of this is easy for us! I never wanted my family’s company to take part in murdering people! Even people like Magneto! But we don’t have a choice! He’s going to destroy us all!”

“You’re wrong, Candy. There’s always a choice!” said Warren.

“But what’s the alternative? Just sit back and wait for Magneto to carry out his insane plan?!” she exclaimed in frustration.

“We already have a plan,” said Jean strongly, “We’re going to stop him.”

“How?! I know you guys are supposed to be heroes and all, but we’re talking about mass extinction!” exclaimed Candy, “How can you ever hope to stop this?”

“Leave that to us,” said Scott strongly, “We’ll find a way. But we can’t do anything to help anybody without your help.”

Candy still didn’t look convinced. She seemed too scared at the prospect of Magneto ending all life as they knew it to consider any other possibility. Warren Jr. seemed somewhat conflicted. Sitting behind his desk, staring down his son and his friends, he was confronted with yet another difficult dilemma. They were both bound by the whims of the President. Even if every argument from the X-men was sound, it meant going against too many principles.

Unable to make a decision, Warren gathered himself and approached his father and his former lover. They weren’t going to be swayed by the urgings of his friends. That would involve humbling themselves too much and taking a great risk. If they weren’t going to listen to reason, it was up to him.

“Dad…Candy…I know what you’re thinking,” said the winged mutant more seriously, “You may not like the government’s plan, but it’s the only option on the table. You’re afraid to go against them. You’re afraid of Magneto succeeding. You’re afraid of mutants everywhere taking over everything you hold dear. Just as you were afraid of me for being something you didn’t understand.”

“Fear has nothing to do with this, Warren,” said his father.

“Fear has everything to do with this!” said Warren, pounding his fist on his desk, “You fear what you don’t understand and you made dumb decisions when you’re afraid! You both made them with me and I’ve suffered because of it! So don’t try to deny it!”

That silenced Warren Jr. and Candy. He was striking a very personal and emotional nerve and didn’t let up.

“Now I’m asking you, not as a mutant but as a son and a friend, set your fear aside and help us do the right thing! You have the power. You just have to be brave enough to use it the way you should, not the way you’re told.”

Warren Jr. and Candy exchanged glances. It was a hard pill to swallow. They truly were afraid. Not just of Magneto, but of everything surrounded this issue. It was a feeling that led them both to lose Warren. It was a feeling that led them both to a world of heartache. It was hard getting around, but the more they thought about it the more it made sense. This plan the President had them so deeply caught up in was wrong on so many levels. Any chance they had at making it right was a chance worth taking.

“What exactly are you asking us to do for you?” asked Candy.

“First off, provide us with transportation,” said Scott, “Warren mentioned earlier that Worthington Industries has a few private jets. We just need one fully fueled and a brief window to take off.”

“Yeah, we don’t need them feds scrambling fighter jets after us. They probably be looking for revenge after we outsmarted them back at the mansion,” said Remy.

“Second, we need you to stall this plan the government is implementing,” said Ororo, “If he sends those sentinels to Genosha, it’ll only make a bad situation even worse. We just need enough time to get in, fight Magneto, and stop the asteroid.”

“How are you going to manage all of that?” asked Candy skeptically.

“We’re the X-men,” said Bobby confidently, “Put us in a world-threatening situation and we’ll find a way to make a party out of it.”

It wasn’t the most detailed plan or the most reassuring. Candy still showed a touch of fear, unable to contemplate how even a team like the X-men could stop something like this. She turned to Warren Jr. who seemed lost in thought. His gaze never left that of his son, who was staring him down with a hallow look. It was as if he was silently urging him not to make another boneheaded decision that would drive them further apart. A lot was riding on their decision. It was not one to take lightly, but something had to be done.

The entire X-men were counting on them. Warren held his breath, waiting to see if his father or his ex-lover was ready to disappoint him again. These two had done so much to hurt him in the past. He was ready to stomach more if he had to. He just kept watching and waiting, hoping that somehow he managed to get through to him.

Without saying anything, Warren Jr. reached for his phone and made a call.

“I’m calling my contact at the private airfield just outside the city,” he said in a flat tone, “He’ll have a leer jet fully fueled and ready within two hours. I’ll get a helicopter to take you there.”

The X-men let out a sigh of relief. Many smiled, feeling for the first time in this crisis that something was going their way.

“Thank you, Mr. Worthington. We really appreciate it,” said Ororo with a warm smile.

“Vhat about takeoff? Ve got the entire justice department after us if memory serves me right,” said Kurt.

“I went to school with the current head of the FAA,” said the older Worthington, “I think I can call in a favor or two.”

It sounded feasible. It wasn’t the same as the stealth of the X-jet, but it was better than nothing.

“And the sentinels?” asked Kitty nervously.

Warren Junior’s head fell somewhat. As much as he wanted to do the right thing here, there were limits to his power.

“I may not be able to do much at this point. The President already has them set to launch from one of our facilities. Since this is a crisis, the military is in full control.”

That earned a round of groans from the team. Being able to get to Genosha was hard enough, but having to contend with the sentinels would make it even harder.

But this is where Candy decided to step in. Seeing the look in Warren’s eyes, she now understood what he was doing. It was hard to make out if there was any love for her left in those eyes, but she owed it to him to remind him she still cared.

“I may be able to help with that,” said Candy as she took out her cell phone, “Those sentinels won’t launch until the cure variant is loaded. Last I checked they were still en route to the facility. A quick detour should delay them.”

“For how long?” asked Jean.

“Long enough for you to get to Genosha before they do,” said Candy.

“That’s all the time I need to have a little chat with Mags,” snarled Logan intently.

“But say you do stop him and the asteroid,” mused Candy, “What then? Are you going to throw Magneto back in prison? After what happened last time I don’t see how that will go over well for either side.”

“We’ll worry about the aftermath later,” said Warren strongly, “Just leave everything to us. The X-men will take care of him.”

Candy took some comfort in Warren’s strong words. He still gave her a conflicted look, making it clear her cooperation didn’t completely absolve her for her role in this. She didn’t expect it to, but at the very least she hoped it was a start. Warren still held a special place in her heart. The last thing she wanted was for him to hate her for her mistakes.

They were hesitant, but strong allies. Warren’s father and Candy Southerner would give the X-men the opportunity they needed to stop Magneto. They would not only get them there, they would buy time. Only now their mission took on even greater importance. They weren’t just out to stop Magneto. They were out to stop a government plot to unleash a new weapon against mutants that could bring more death and destruction to their kind. They didn’t have the Professor to guide him, but he taught them to be strong in times of crisis. They weren’t going to let him down.

“You had best get to the roof,” said Warren Jr. intently, “The chopper will be here in a half hour.”

“We’ll be waiting,” said Scott as he turned towards his team, “Let’s go, X-men. And Warren, thank you for doing this. I think I speak for all of us when I say you really came through.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” said the winged mutant as he eyed Candy and his father, “Promises still have to be kept before we can start patting each other on the back.”

“You’ve done your part. Now have some faith in your family, mien friend,” said Kurt.

Warren only managed a slight nod as he followed his team to the elevator. As he left, his father started talking on the phone with his contact at the airport. But Candy’s eyes stayed on him the entire way. Before he left the office, he looked back at her with a less hostile glance. As angry as he was at her, a part of him still had strong feelings for her. Some of those feelings had been tested with this recent revelation. He could tell there was more she wanted to say to him, but that was going to have to wait. They had a world to save.

Magneto’s Citadel – Infirmary

Hours ticked by as Magneto and the Brotherhood worked without rest on the machine. The master of magnetism was demanding, urging all his followers to contribute to this glorious endeavor of his. The only one who had any sort of leeway was Lorna, who was dividing her time between helping her father and visiting her mother.

Her mother was currently being treated in a newly set up infirmary in the citadel. A mutant calling himself Elixir, who boasted advanced healing abilities through biological manipulation, was tasked with treating her mother. He was confident he would be able to treat if not cure her cancer. He urged patience though. He was a young man, only in his late teens, and was still getting a handle on his powers. Elixir never treated cancer at this stage before, but at this point it was her only hope. Lorna tried to be optimistic, but she had other issues on her mind as well.

She paced restlessly in front of the metal door, waiting for news on her mother and contemplating how she was going to handle this situation. She didn’t go along with her father just to watch him unleash the apocalypse. She agreed to this because she thought she could do something about it. Turns out playing hero wasn’t as easy as Bobby made it out to be. Lorna still wasn’t sure how she was going approach him. She didn’t want to fight him. She wanted to try and reach him. But where did she begin?

‘Think Lorna! Somebody has to stand up to Magneto. He’s not going to listen to just anybody. You’re his daughter for crying out loud! Not sure pleading with him will work, but there has to be some way to get through all that hatred of his!’

As Lorna pondered her thoughts, the door to the infirmary opened and the bronze-skinned Elixir stepped out with a conflicted look.

“What happened? Is the treatment working?” asked Lorna anxiously.

“Um…don’t freak out about this, Miss Lorna, but I never administered any treatment,” said the young man awkwardly.

“What?! Why not?” she exclaimed.

“Every time I try to do my thing, she wakes up and pushes me away,” he said, “I’ve been trying all week. I held back some of her symptoms, but when I go into treat the cancer itself she refuses.”

“Why would she refuse? The doctors back home said she has less than six weeks to live!”

“I don’t know. I was hoping you could talk to her because I honestly don’t know what to say to someone who doesn’t want to be healed.”

Lorna barged past Elixir, nearly knocking him over in the process. She entered the confined room, which had a hospital bed and some makeshift medical equipment monitoring her condition. She still looked weak and sickly. Only now she was also agitated, if not angry.

“Mom? Mom, what’s wrong?” asked Lorna.

“Sweetie…” she said weakly, “Where have you been? What’s going on?”

“I…I’ve been busy,” she said, choosing not to tell her about Magneto’s plan, “I can’t tell you much, but all you need to know is you’re in a place where you can get better treatment.”

“I don’t want any treatment until you tell me what’s going on!”

“I…I can’t right now, mom. You just have to trust me. The doctors back home said you don’t have much time! And I’m not losing you!”

She watched her mother’s face shift from worry to sorrow. It was as if she was disappointed in her. Lorna was confused at first. Then her mother turned away and sobbed.

“No…not this again,” she choked, “You did it, didn’t you? You made a deal with your father!”

“Calm down, mom, you’re in no condition to…”

“To hell with my condition! Cancer or no cancer, I can’t believe you would do this again!”

Lorna was in shock. She remembered how upset her mother was the first time she learned she made a deal with Magneto, offering to help with the uprising in exchange for care. This time it was even worse. She wasn’t just upset, she was outraged.

“Mom, you don’t understand. It’s different this time,” she said softly.

“How is it different? You’re going along with your father when you should be trying to stop him!”

“I am trying! That’s why I agreed to this a second time!” exclaimed Lorna, “But I can’t just leave you behind!”

“You should have,” she replied, still looking away, “I would rather die than be part of this.”

“Don’t say that, mom! Please…I can’t make it through this without you!”

Hearing sobs in her voice, her mother turned around to face her distraught daughter. She was clearly trying to be strong. But she wasn’t willing to let go either.

“Lorna…honey, I’m dying. I’ve been dying for a while now. You have to be ready to go on without me.”

“I…I can’t. I’m not ready,” cried Lorna, tears streaming down her face.

“Yes you are. I know you are,” she said, reaching up to caress her face, “You can’t keep using me to compromise. You have to do what’s right.”


“No buts, Lorna. I know there’s a part of you that wants to work everything out no matter what the cost. I suppose that’s a trait imparted from your father, but I know I raised you better than that. If you truly want to do the right thing, you have to be willing to let go. I…I know it’s so hard after everything we’ve been through. But it’s the hardest decisions that are often the right ones.”

Lorna tried hard to keep herself from breaking down completely in her mother’s arms. Her own mother was basically telling her she was willing to die. After everything she had done and all the sacrifices she had made, she was ready to let it end for her. Lorna found that exceedingly difficult to accept. But she trusted her words more than she trusted her own. She knew she was going to have to be strong for this, but what she was asking was pushing her to the brink.

“Mom…I’m so sorry,” choked Lorna.

“There’s no time to be sorry, Lorna,” replied the sickly woman as she embraced her daughter, “Now I need you to sit down and tell me everything that’s happening.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. You’re not going to like it one bit.”

“With your father, I would expect nothing less,” she said sadly, “But whatever we’re up against, I need you to promise me something.”

“Of…of course,” said Lorna, trying to sound strong through her sobs.

“Promise me that no matter where this leads us, you won’t sacrifice doing what’s right to save me. If stopping your father means moving on without me, you have to be willing to go through with it. Can you do that for me?”

It was by far the hardest promise Lorna ever faced. It tore at her heart just contemplating such a notion. But her mother was right. She did raise her to be better. Looking into her weakened gaze, she swallowed all the sorrow, anguish, and pain and gathered her strength. She was going to need it.

“I promise,” said Lorna with renewed strength.

“That’s my girl,” said her mother proudly, “Now tell me…what is your father planning? And more importantly, how are you going to stop him?”

“I haven’t exactly figured out a way to stop him yet. But I’ll tell you what I know. It’s like this…”

Magneto’s Citadel – Throne Room

“Blob, be careful with those! Those superconductive amplifiers are very sensitive!” barked Forge as he worked feverishly on the finishing his machine.

“Ah relax, gear-head! You say that about every part,” groaned a lumbering Fred Dukes, who was in serious need of a lunch break.

“With those, I mean it! Those amplifiers are key!” he emphasized, “They’re the main apparatus through with the mutagenic bio-rhythms will synch up to…”

“Blah blah blah, does it look like I know or care what you’re talking about? Just tell me where to set ‘em down already.”

“Just leave them behind me and I’ll take care of it,” groaned Forge.

The Native American mutant seemed to get more demanding the closer he got to finishing. He was almost as impatient as Magneto, who took care of the amplifiers once Blob set them down. They were nearing completion. The machine was taking it’s final form. Unlike the setup they had back at the Brotherhood lair, this one would be more refined. It would have several additional components in place of the generators. This would allow the machine to be driven not by traditional electricity, but by Magneto’s own mutant powers. It was the final step in this grand plan. And it was almost upon them.

Most of the Brotherhood was beat. Blob joined up with Toad, Pyro, Avalanche, and Quicksilver. They were all out of breath and short on energy, having been working nonstop for days now. The only one who seemed to still be going strong besides Magneto and Forge was Exodus. But that guy was a basket case anyways.

“I can’t wait for this to be over,” groaned Lance.

“Me too, mate,” said John, “As soon as Magneto juices up in that thing, we can start kicking back and enjoying the fruits of mutant dominance.”

“You think Mags will give us our own country or something?” wondered Toad.

“Fat chance,” laughed Pietro, “My father’s not one to divvy up power. But he swore when this was over, everybody who has been loyal to him will never want or need for anything as long as they live.”

“That’s gonna mean a lot of gourmet snacks in a day!” grinned Blob.

“That’s also going to me a lot of attractive ladies to keep me company in the new mutant age,” grinned John, “Speaking of attractive ladies, where’s Wanda? I haven’t seen her and Mystique since they ran off the check the prisons.”

“I don’t know. She’s been giving me the silent treatment ever since I told her about father’s plan,” muttered Pietro, “I get the feeling she’s still pissed at me for not keeping her in the loop.”

“I’m surprised I’m actually saying this, but that’s her problem, not yours,” said Lance, “With the way she’s been working with Xavier, I doubt she would have gone along with it from the beginning. Some people need to be put on the spot to make the right decision. It’s for their own good.”

“That’s so Yoda of you, Lance, but try telling Wanda that without getting hexed to the next time zone. You’ll have my blessings and my condolences.”

“Thanks but no thanks,” laughed Lance, “I’d rather wait for her to come around. Once this is over, she’ll pretty much have to.”

Pietro sighed, hoping Lance was right. Wanda had always been a difficult person to deal with. Even when they were on the same side, it took her a while to come around. That’s why he was so unnerved when he found out she was working with Xavier after the uprising. In addition to being stubborn, she was also impressionable. The last thing he wanted was for Xavier to pollute her with his ideas. But now that their father was back, they could talk some sense into her. This new mutant order was going to need her. Their father made it clear that they were going to get through this as a family.

While the Brotherhood was catching their breath, Magneto was still going strong. Just he, Forge, and Exodus were working on the machine now. The master of magnetism was stoic, but there was still anticipation brimming from his demeanor. Every second they drew closer to completing this machine, it was a second closer to the new age he promised his mutant brethren. Being imprisoned and humiliated by humanity left him angry and resolute. He was willing to show mercy last time with the uprising, restricting his targets only to the corrupt human governments. Now all of humanity was going to pay for their crimes against homo superior.

This anger may have been silent, but Professor Charles Xavier sensed it even without his telepathy. Still bound with Hank near the back of the throne room, he watched anxiously as his old friend slipped further into madness. Over the years he saw Erik lose himself in his hatred many times before. This was by far the worst. His feelings towards humanity were strong, but he refused to believe the man behind those emotions would go so far.

“You can’t keep ignoring me, Erik. I will not stay silent while I watch you do this,” said Charles.

”Don’t waste your breath, old friend. There’s nothing left to say,” said Magneto stoically as he used his powers to set the amplifiers in place.

“I refuse to believe that. You’re still the same man who once believed in giving people a chance. Don’t act as if you’ve forgotten because I know you haven’t,” said Xavier strongly, “For years we were a team, using our powers for good to save innocent lives.”

“Innocent?” scoffed Magneto, “Mankind has no innocence. It took me years to realize that. You and your X-men are still deluded into thinking otherwise.”

“That’s anger and bitterness talking. I refuse to believe the man behind those emotions would believe in such madness. Have you forgotten the good you’ve seen in humanity? Have you forgotten those like your wife, Magda, who…”

But as soon as Xavier said that name, Magneto turned to his old friend in a rage and used his powers to choke him mercilessly with the metal shackles.

“Don’t you EVER utter that name, Charles!” he yelled, “Or so help me I will end you!”

“Charles!” exclaimed Hank, “Magneto, stop this!”

“No!” spat the master of magnetism, “Nobody is to ever mention my wife! Ever! I will not let you use her to try and distract me!”

“I’m not…using her!” coughed Xavier, “You need…to remember!”

Seeing blood dropping from his face, Magneto loosened his grip. He was still seething. Few subjects could evoke such an emotional response from such a stoic man. Xavier hadn’t brought her up in years. Nobody had, not even Wanda and Pietro. It was enough to divert his focus, but not enough to dissuade him.

“I remember, Charles,” he said in a low tone, “I remember everything I had with Magda. I remember everything I lost. She was a victim of her own humanity, just as my parents were.”

“She was the victim of an attack, not of humanity. You’re letting your anger cloud your thinking. To punish all humanity for the acts of a few isn’t just unreasonable, it’s barbaric.”

“So says the man defending the barbarians,” quipped Magneto, “We’ve had this argument before, Charles. You still insist on having faith in humanity. That is a faith I cannot share, not after seeing the atrocities they’ve committed. That says nothing of the atrocities committed throughout history. It has always been in the nature of man and it always will be. The only solution is for them to evolve. And so they have…into us.”

“Yet you’re prepared to commit the greatest atrocity in history,” said Xavier with a powerful scorn, “How is that progress?”

“I am only saving them the misfortune of having to go through the bloodshed of natural selection. It is an act of mercy, not atrocity.”

“You say that, but I still don’t believe you accept it. That’s not the Erik I know. If for only a moment you could set aside your anger and look closely at what you’re doing, you would see how wrong this is! Just as those heartless men killed your parents and your wife, you are compelled to do the same. Please Erik…you must remember.”

Magneto’s gaze hardened as he stared down at his old friend. It was remarkable how Charles could still believe in such foolishness after all these years. He was probably the only man on this planet who never gave up on him. If he wasn’t so determined to see this plan of his through, he might have been touched by such dedication.

Beyond his friendship, he brought back many painful memories. It was surreal to contemplate at a time like this. At one point he did share Charles’s faith. It showed in the love he had for Magda. It showed in the work they did. But that was another life. Having lost so much, there was nothing else left but his hatred.

“I’m sorry, Charles. But it is too late for me,” said the master of magnetism, a touch of sadness creeping into his tone, “This is all that is left. I can never forget my anger nor my sorrow for what humanity has done.”

“It’s never too late, Erik. There is still time to make this right.”

“That time has long since past, old friend. There’s no turning back.”

Magneto turned away, once again shutting out Charles. He went back to finishing his machine, having no time to hesitate. Anger continued to drive him. He would not rest until that anger was vindicated and humanity faced their ultimate fate. His parents, Magda, and the many other losses he suffered could never be forgotten. His only solace was the future he had to look forward to for his people.

Xavier’s expression fell, having once again failed to reach his old friend. Even with their history, he could not get through all that hatred. He could only manage brief glimpses of the man he once knew whenever he reminded him of what he once had. But that wasn’t enough. Time was running out. If Erik went through with this, all would be lost. Nothing would save him or humanity.

Hank, who was shackled next to Xavier, admired his dedication to his former friend, but saw little hope. Charles was a good friend, but he had his limits and Magneto wasn’t heeding his pleas.

“I’m sorry you must endure this Charles, but it appears Magneto cannot be dissuaded,” said Hank, “Your faith in him is admirable. But I don’t think he’s going to change his mind about this horrific plan of his.”

“I’m not giving up on him, Hank,” said Xavier strongly, “Call it futile if you want, but there’s still a man to be reached beneath all that rage. That man is the key to ending this once and for all.”

Thinking from a strictly reasonable mindset, Hank saw that as very unlikely. But he gave Charles the benefit of the doubt. The man had a history of going against the odds. It had paid off before. Hopefully it would pay off again. It would have to because the potential losses involved were too great to contemplate. His hope remained with the X-men, including Ororo. They could be the ones that tip the odds in their favor.

Magneto finished placing the last of the amplifiers around the device. Much of the tools and spare parts had been cleared by now, allowing the finished version of the machine to take shape. It was almost a work of art, a perfect assembly of metal and machine that was clean, symmetrical, and elegant. It was much more refined than when they first put it together in the Brotherhood lair. And this version would do so much more.

“It’s almost ready,” mused Magneto, “The time is almost upon us.”

As he gazed over his machine, Exodus walked up to him.

“It’s beautiful,” he said admiringly, “And once humanity is dealt with, will you help me with my memories? There are many questions I wish to have answered.”

“I understand, Exodus. Rest assured, all those who have shown loyalty to my cause will be rewarded,” said Magneto, “Although I wish you would provide me with more details as to your unique situation.”

“I would if I knew them sir,” said Exodus humbly, “Hopefully that is something we can uncover after this is over. Just tell me what the next step is and I’ll do my part.”

“I appreciate your dedication. But at this point, I will take it from here,” said Magneto.

Upon locking in the amplifiers, he turned his attention to Forge.

“The amplifiers are in place, Forge. How much longer?” he asked.

“I just have to wire them in and we’ll be good to go,” he said, “That should just take an hour, maybe two.”

“Good, then we’re right on schedule,” said Magneto, “As soon as it’s ready, we can move onto the next step. I have a little surprise planned for our human adversaries before we push this machine to it’s full potential.”

“Ooh, what kind of surprise?” asked Exodus curiously.

Magneto grinned ominously. The next part of his plan was the point of no return. It was a part he was looking forward to. It would show once and for all the innate flaws of humanity. Those flaws would lead them to their doom.

“You’ll see,” he said with a mysterious undertone, “The whole world will see.”

Worthington Private Jet – Skies Near Genosha

The mood was tense aboard the opulent Worthington Leer jet. It had been an arduous day getting to this point, finally being able to confront Magneto. Warren’s father came through though. He managed to get them to a private airport and onto a fully fueled private jet. He also managed to keep the feds off their back, getting clearance from the FAA by making it appear they were just a normal business jet heading on a normal business retreat. It took hours of painful waiting, but once they were in the air the focus was all on Magneto. Now that they were so close, the anticipation was growing.

Scott and Logan were in the cockpit with Scott doing most of the flying. Jean and Warren were sitting behind them while Bobby, Kitty, Ororo, Rogue, Remy, and Kurt sat in the passenger area. Warren was helping Scott get a feel for the controls of this jet. It was pretty high end, but it was certainly no XR-77 Blackbird. It didn’t have the same stealth or speed, but it had what they needed to get to Genosha.

“Gotta hand it to your old man, bub. This jet ain’t half bad,” said Logan, who was helping himself to a drink from the mini-bar, “Even came with some free booze.”

“I agree. He really came through for us,” said Scott, “It’s amazing he got us clearance from the FAA without the feds finding out.”

“Don’t start praising my father just yet. He’s still an asshole who was way overdue for something like this,” muttered Warren.

“Not to make light of your personal history with your father, but cut him some slack. At least he’s trying,” said Scott.

“We’ll see, but let’s stick to one near-impossible challenge at a time.”

Scott shook his head, choosing not to belabor the point. He was well-aware of the complicated history between Warren and his father. He couldn’t even begin to understand what it must be like, having to deal with a parent that caused him so much anguish. It was a subject Warren was usually very private about and one nobody brought up. But for what he had done for them during a time like this, he earned some respect. Hopefully Warren would take some time to recognize that when this was over.

Scott turned his attention back to the controls, maintaining level flight as they drew closer to the island. It was already coming up on the navigation controls. It wouldn’t be long now before they were in Magneto’s domain. It was sure to be a difficult fight, having had a week to prepare himself against any possible attack. Their only advantage was his overconfidence. He probably didn’t expect them to be a factor while they were on the run from the government. When they arrived, they should have the element of surprise.

But it wasn’t just Magneto they had to worry about. They also had to remember that Magneto had Hank and the Professor as prisoners. They had to save them as well and hopefully they would provide them with some insight into Magneto’s plan. As they neared the island, Jean tried contacting the Professor with her telepathy. So far, she was having little luck.

“Come on, Professor…where are you?” she said as she concentrated with her telepathy.

“Still no response, Jean?” said Scott.

“No, but we should be close enough for me to reach him,” said Jean anxiously.

“Knowing Magneto, he ain’t gonna take any chances,” said Logan as he finished his drink, “He’ll probably knock him out or outright kill him.”

“I believe he would knock him out, but I doubt he would go so far as to kill him, Logan,” said Jean, shuttering at the idea, “Magneto is a jerk, but he still has a lot of respect for Charles Xavier. He’s not going to just leave their friendship behind.”

“Sounds like he already has,” muttered Logan, “Friends can become bitter enemies. Believe me I know.”

“Maybe so, but not with these two,” said Scott confidently, “Knowing the Professor, he’s using their history to try and stop Magneto. Given how stubborn he is, I doubt he’ll budge. We have to be ready to take him out.”

“Oh I’m more than ready,” snarled Logan, “When I get my hands on Magneto, he’s gonna need a friend!”

“I know this is asking a lot from you, Logan, but try to be careful,” said Jean, who continued her telepathic search, “Remember, we still have that asteroid coming our way. We need Magneto in one piece if we’re going to stop it.”

Logan muttered a curse under his breath. He hated it whenever others made excuses on his methods. Only this time, it was perfectly valid. They may very well need Magneto alive if they were to save the world. As much as he would savor putting that madman in his place, the world had to take precedence.

“Fine, I’ll be gentle,” he said dryly, “Hope that isn’t the only plan you got so far.”

“I’m still working on that, Logan,” said Scott, “It’ll come to me when the time is right. For now, we’ll have to take things as they come.”

It wasn’t as elaborate as Scott’s plans usually were, but it was all they had to go on. It would have to suffice for now. They still didn’t know just what they were up against and they didn’t have the resources they usually had at their disposal. If they were to succeed against Magneto, they were going to have to adapt to the situation as it unfolded.

Back in the passenger area of the jet, the rest of the team waited anxiously. They knew they were getting close. The distance between New York and Genosha was vast, but it was going by so quickly. Concerns about the asteroid, the Professor, and the traps Magneto most certainly had for them loomed over them. It was a challenge just to stay calm through the growing anticipation. Sleep was next to impossible, so they tried a few card games courtesy of Remy. Others tried to enjoy the amenities of the opulent jet.

“Jeez, I knew Warren came from a rich family, but this is ridiculous. Seriously, a jet with satellite TV on HD screens?” said Kitty as she flipped through the channels.

“That’s probably not the fanciest thing on this jet. You should see the bedroom in back,” said Bobby.

“Must be nice to be a billionaire. Too bad it turns some people into jerks,” said Kitty as she settled on a show, “I still can’t believe Warren’s father. He and Candy really are a piece of work, doing anti-mutant research after all the pain it’s caused them.”

“Some people are just natural jerks. Others are just painfully stubborn,” he muttered.

Kitty turned away from the TV to see Bobby still trying to use a phone built right into the arm of the seat. He had been struggling with it off and on since they took off. He wouldn’t talk about it, but everybody knew he was trying to call Lorna. Not hearing from her all week was definitely hard. Kitty had never seen Bobby so stressed. He was in a fancy plane with TV and food to spare and he looked so upset.

“Still not luck with Lorna?” she asked.

“Nope,” he sighed, “I’m surprised you care. I seem to recall you pointing out how unhealthy my relationship with her was.”

“Oh no, don’t try and drag me into that old debate! I’ll just assume that’s the frustration talking.”

“Maybe it is,” admitted Bobby, “But I have a right to be frustrated! I haven’t heard a peep from Lorna since all this began. I can’t help but worry that Magneto got to her or something.”

“Come on, you don’t think she would fall for that trick twice, do you?” said Kitty, trying to sound supportive, “Lorna’s smarter than that.”

“I know she is. That’s why I’m so worried,” said Bobby as he finally hung up the phone, “I’m beginning to think you may have had a point about us. It doesn’t matter how much I love her, there are just certain issues we can’t get around. It hurts, you know? It makes you feel so powerless!”

His words were as anxious as they were morose. Kitty didn’t respond, not wanting to risk saying the wrong thing. She gave him a comforting gesture. She couldn’t begin to understand what he was going through. It made this mission that much harder for him.

“Not to do a 180 here, but try not to heed too much of my advice,” she said with a touch of humor, “Remember, it’s coming from someone who has never been in a relationship. For all the stuff I say about you and Lorna, I can tell how much you love her. She’s very lucky in that respect. I’ll even say I’m jealous if it’ll make you feel better.”

“If only it did,” said Bobby, managing a half-hearted, “But I appreciate you humbling yourself, Kitty. I’ll be sure to remember that if you make some other lame comment once Lorna and I work this out.”

“Good, but don’t push it,” she said wryly, “Once the heat of the battle is behind us, we’ll find other ways annoy each other.”

“More adaptation,” he said dryly, “It’s what we do.”

Kitty smiled, but Bobby remained distant. Lorna was sure to weigh heavily on his mind throughout this mission. If he was right and Magneto had gotten to her, then it was up to him to save her. She was his lover and she turned to him for support. One way or another, it provided all the more motivation to defeat Magneto.

Across from Kitty and Bobby at a small table, Remy was leading a card game with him, Rogue, Ororo, and Kurt. With the TV playing in the background and the mission looming over them, nobody was in a very competitive mood. Even he couldn’t get too excited, which led to some pretty dull games. It didn’t help he was sitting next to Rogue, who he still wasn’t making eye contact with. They never did get a chance to talk since this happened. He had no desire to either, not with so much going on. It was all for the better. They had enough to worry about already.

“I still can’t believe zhere is nothing about zhe asteroid on zhe news,” said Kurt as he looked at the TV Kitty and Bobby were watching, “It’s been a veek and zhe media already seems to be losing interest in zhe Magneto story.”

“Probably because the government is keeping such a tight lid on it,” said Ororo, “Without any facts to go on, there’s nothing to report.”

“It’s gonna get out sooner or later,” said Remy as he randomly shuffled cards, “Voodoo that big can’t stay secret no matter how much some folk want it to.”

“Hopefully, word will not get out until this is over,” said Ororo, “If the world knew just how close it was to facing destruction, the consequences would be too horrific to contemplate.”

“Even if we save everybody, they’ll still freak out,” muttered Rogue, “There doesn’t seem to be a way around it.”

“I vould still rather zhey freak out and survive zhen freak out and perish,” said Kurt, “At least if zhe world survives, zhere vill be time to get over it.”

“That’s putting a lot of faith in folks that panic at the drop of a hat,” said Remy, “Bet if ol’ Hank were here, he would give some messed up odds.”

“I vould say my faith is my strength, but in times like zhis I’m content just being an optimist,” said Kurt with a grin.

That earned a bit of a laugh from the others. Only Ororo didn’t take too much humor in it. It wasn’t that she had completely forgotten her sense of humor. The mention of Hank reminded her that he was still in great danger. She couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for avoiding him since their breakup. She planned on laying such issues to rest after this was over, but like Remy said that was assuming a lot.

“You okay there, Miss Munroe?” asked Rogue.

“I’m fine,” she said, “Just anxious to get through this.”

“Believe me, Stormy. We all do,” said Remy, “I be looking forward to a time when Remy can sleep without thinking some big ol’ rock from space was gonna crash into us.”

“Ja, but ve have to go zhrough Magneto first,” said Kurt.

“Ah’m ready for him,” said Rogue as she intently cracked her knuckles, “Ah can’t wait to go one-on-one with the old coot and show off mah new powers. Ah swear the second Ah see that ugly mug of his, Logan’s gonna have to wait his turn to maul him!”

“Easy mien sister,” said Kurt in a humored tone, “Ve’ll get zhat chance soon enough.”

Rogue scoffed, feeling as though they had waited too long already. Everybody was eager to get this over with. Magneto made a real mess of everything with his uprising last time. He was making an even bigger mess with this latest stunt. The sooner they stopped him, the sooner they could stop things from degenerating even more.

Rogue prepared for mindless card game with Remy, Ororo, and Kurt while they counted down the minutes to their clash with Magneto. But as Remy was shuffling the cards, something strange happened with the TV. Bobby and Kitty had been flipping through the channels, trying to pass the time just like they were. Then all of the sudden all the channels went dark. At first they thought it was the signal, but they quickly realized it was something far more ominous.

“Okay, this is strange,” said Bobby, “And coming from someone who has watched as much TV as me, that’s saying something.”

Then suddenly, a new image appeared on the screen. It was an image that appeared to dominate every channel now. At first there was a bit of static, but it quickly cleared up. And when Bobby and Kitty made out what it was, they gasped. Their mission, it seemed, had just gotten more urgent.

“Uh guys?” said Kitty anxiously, “You might want to see this! It looks like we’ll be facing Magneto’s ugly mug a bit sooner than we hoped!”

Washington DC – Pentagon War Room

Activity in the Pentagon reached fevered levels as the countdown to the attack drew near. The President, Senator Kelly, and his advisers all watched anxiously as dozens of top level military officials rushed back and forth through the secure, underground War Room. Every possible monitor and console was being manned by no fewer than three uniformed officers. The manpower of the entire department was being concentrated on this one endeavor, which was meant to stop Magneto and save this planet.

None were more nervous than the President. This plan was riding on his shoulders. He may not have come up with it entirely on his own, but it was his decision that put it into motion. He had his reservations, but they had no other options at this point. This was the only way to strike back at Magneto. The risks were high, but the risks of doing nothing were even higher.

Everything was riding on the sentinels and the ability of Worthington Industries and Southern Pharmaceuticals to provide the necessary materials. They were rushing a lot of protocol here. The logistics of this plan only existed on paper before this event. But there was no time to do a test run. It had to go now. It just wasn’t going as efficiently as they would have liked.

“Damn it, Colonel, what the hell is taking so long?! Those sentinels should have been ready for launch hours ago!” exclaimed the wary president.

“I’m sorry, sir. But Worthington Industries is reporting some delays and glitches on their end,” said an anxious young Colonel, “They’re not sure where it’s coming from, but it’s slowing things down.”

“Well fix them!” ordered the President, “Aren’t there supposed to safeguards for this sort of thing?”

“There are, but I…I don’t know what went wrong! Something’s really screwy about this!”

“First those chemicals from Southerner were delayed and now this?” mused Senator Kelly, “Perhaps there are other forces working against us.”

“Senator, don’t even hint at that!” shot the President, “The last thing I need are internal threats to this operation!”

Senator Kelly held back from making other comments. The President was very unstable. His uncertainties and fears were getting to him. He couldn’t handle the idea that something else was going wrong. But the senator, as anxious as he was, didn’t brush it off so readily. Looking at the many monitors overlooking the sentinel facility at Worthington Industries, he had a sneaking suspicion someone was trying to stop them. It could have been Magneto, but his instincts led him to believe it was more complicated than that. All these delays were just too convenient. Someone had to be plotting against them. He just didn’t know who.

While the Senator watched anxiously with the President and his advisors, several fully uniformed officers approached carrying briefcases and files. They were part of the President’s intelligence team, responsible for being his eyes and ears during a military operation. They quickly drew the President’s attention.

“Mr. President, sir, we have the final battle plan drawn up for you,” said one of the chief officers, “Our intelligence is still sketchy, but we have what we feel will be our best plan of attack on Magneto.”

“Sketchy is better than clueless,” said the President, “What are we looking at here?”

The lead officer turned to one of his aids, who handed him an unmarked briefcase. After unlocking the sides, he opened it to reveal a small computer screen with a detailed map on it.

“Bear with me sir, this image is the best we have at the moment. It was taken by one of our satellites just before Magneto got out. It depicts the island as it was before this incident. Now taking into account the nature of his previous uprising, we suspect he will operate out of the capital city. Our last troop report indicated that was where most of the mutants congregated. Hence, that will be the focus of our attack.”

“How certain are you that Magneto is still on that island?” asked the President.

“Fully sir,” said the officer confidently, “NORAD tracked his magnetic trail with our satellites after he left Guantanamo. It led straight to the island and we detected no trails afterwards. If he left, we would have seen one.”

“Then we’ll have to make this shot count. How do you plan on doing that with these sentinels?”

“By focusing the attack over the capital city within specific altitudes,” replied the officer, “Based on wind patterns and current conditions, if those sentinels unleash the Southerner gas at anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 feet off the ground the gas will be spread all throughout the island. If it works as well as the reports indicate, every mutant on that island would be incapacitated within fifteen minutes. If our troops are still there, which we think they are, they’ll be completely unaffected.”

It sounded pretty lethal with minimal collateral damage. That was important, especially if they were going to use that as leverage over Magneto. The key to the attack was mutually assured destruction. Magneto had to understand that his forces would be destroyed just as their would should that asteroid hit.

“The plan is twofold,” the officer went on, “First we establish visual on Magneto’s operation. If any mutant tries to attack, we fight them off and use limited quantities of the gas. Then using a transmitter built into the head of the sentinels, we broadcast to Magneto we have a weapon that will kill all mutants. If he tries to attack the sentinels, we’ve rigged them to go off automatically so he’ll think twice before attacking.”

“How can we confirm that he’s destroyed the asteroid?” asked the President.

“We have NASA, NORAD, and several mainland telescopes keeping an eye on it. If something happens to it, we’ll know about it. They’ll also help us make sure that Magneto complies with our demands. He won’t have a chance at bluffing.”

It sounded like a solid plan given the circumstances. It put just the right pressure on Magneto and gave them just the right leverage. There was still so much about it that was risky. There was never any telling what could happen with someone like Magneto. That was uncertainty they were going to have to deal with. The President refused to be the leader who gave into a madman. He had to stand and fight, no matter what the risk.

“What if he does decide to pull back?” asked Senator Kelly, “What then? Because if you plan on bringing him in again, you’ll be in for quite a fight.”

“Let’s worry about that after we know the planet it safe, Senator,” said the President, “Survival is paramount for now. The sooner we get those sentinels into the air, the better.”

“We’re still working on that sir,” said the Colonel from one of the consoles, “We’re getting some more interference from the Worthington end, but we should be ready soon.”

“Better make it sooner,” said the President impatiently, “I want this operation complete before sunrise tomorrow. So long as this all goes down without the public knowing, we can all come out of this as right as rain. It doesn’t have to be some big, chaotic global affair. It can end quietly and we can all go home to our families safe and sound.”

It sounded so enticing, being able to get through this without stirring any chaos than it already had. Senator Kelly and the rest of the rest of his anxious staff looked forward to such an outcome, even if it was not guaranteed by any measure. The President tried to present it with some level of confidence. Watching the screens with the sentinels, which held in them much of their hopes, it seemed so tantalizingly close. It was just a matter of carrying it out before Magneto could make his move.

Work on the monitors continued while the President’s intelligence officers gave him some files to look over. It all seemed to be coming together when out of nowhere, every monitor in the room started shorting out. Computer screens that had once been broadcasting images of the sentinels and news feed from the media turned to black static. Confusion quickly set in, quickly drawing the attention of the President.

“What’s going on? What happened to the screens?” he demanded.

A number of officers scrambled for an answer. They soon got one in the form of a new image on the monitors. In addition a number of technicians discovered something in their electronics equipment. It was something that made them all pale with dread.

“Uh…sir?” said a female communication officers, “Something’s overwhelming our system. This strange signal just came out of nowhere and overrode every frequency in the network!”

“What signal? Where did it come frome?”

“Um…everywhere,” she answered cryptically, “It’s overriding every radio station, TV network, and internet server.”

“You mean in the country?!”

“No sir…the world,” she replied.

Everyone in the room was quickly filled with dread. But before they could begin to process what was happening, the image on the monitors clarified and an ominous figure now dominated every medium. It was none other than the master of magnetism, Magneto. And he was now speaking to a global audience.

“Attention all homo sapiens. This is Magneto. I am currently speaking to you from Genosha, using a machine so sophisticated it has augmented my powers so that I may control the entire electromagnetic spectrum. I’ve also made sure my message is translated into every language for every country. As I’m sure you’re governments have been deceiving you, I am here to speak the truth to the world and everyone in it.”

“Dear God no,” gasped the President.

The goal the President had just laid out, to complete this mission before the world found out, was officially out the window. Magneto was revealing his insane plot to the world.

“One week ago, I was released from GuantanamoBay. Your corrupt governments threw me in a cell for merely trying to rise my people above human oppression. Their pathetic attempts to contain me have not surprised me. But their atrocities have only steepened the price all must pay. For I originally planned only to attack the governments of the world, leaving you the people alone to live on under a new mutant rule. But because of their crimes, all humanity must pay! As we speak, an asteroid is speeding towards Earth. This asteroid, which I used to negotiate my release, is going to strike your planet. It is large enough to wipe out your pathetic civilization. But on Genosha where mutants reign, we shall survive thanks to the powers nature has bestowed upon us. As I speak now, I am sending transports to every corner of the world to pick up our brethren and take them to their new home where they will be safe and protected. The rest of you shall perish at the hands of your own evolutionary fate.”

The raw hatred and anger in his tone was powerful. It sent shivers down the spine of everyone in the Pentagon and most likely throughout the world. But the master of magnetism wasn’t done yet.

“But as a more evolved being, I am not without mercy. I hold in my hands the power to destroy this asteroid, but I will only do so if every leader in every nation surrenders to their new mutant overlords and stands trail for crimes against homo superior. For too long, the tyrants have imposed their injustice on the world and it has only led to war, famine, genocide, and ecological ruin. Today, that order ends! The future belongs to a new breed of overlords. One way or another, homo superior shall dominate. It is up to your leaders whether or not it happens in the fiery wake of an impact or through the swift hand of justice. The choice is yours, humanity. Either way, your fate has been sealed.”

With those last ominous words, the room fell completely silent. It was probably the most silent it had ever been in the Pentagon. Nobody, including the President, knew what to say. They had just heard a speech from a raging madman. He not only condemned all of humanity, he let every man, woman, and child on this planet know they were facing mass extinction. Society itself had just been delivered a death blow. It truly felt like the end.

The President could only stand in shock. Now his job had just become that much more important. The success of his plan wasn’t just to save the world, it was to save the very foundation of human civilization. It was a hard burden to bear, one that overwhelmed him in so many ways. All eyes were on him now, both literally and figuratively. He saw in his people a fear and dread unlike any he had ever seen before. They were looking to him now for leadership.

The only one who remained stern was Senator Kelly. He scorned the image of Magneto, feeling not fear but anger. This man had the audacity to condemn humanity as if he were some overlord. It was an act of madness they couldn’t allow. He turned towards the president, casting him a harsh scorn to break him from his daze.

“Mr. President,” he said strongly, “Stop hesitating! Do it already!”

Still frozen in place, the President swallowed his fear and turned towards his beleaguered colleagues. It was time for him to step up. All of humanity was counting on them.

“Launch the sentinels,” ordered the President, “Get them in the air right now! This madman’s reign stops now!”

Next Issue: Overlord Part 5

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