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Volume 3 -- Issue 70 -- Kings and Tyrants Part 2

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Kings and Tyrants Part 2
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It is a pivotal moment for human/mutant relations. The presidential election has finally come and the fate of many depends on the outcome. Among them are Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men. Having sworn to fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them, they have already played a major role in the election. As the campaign draws to a close, that role is fast becoming more important than ever.

Recently, the X-men have been rejuvenated in wake of their struggle with the Phoenix Force. It was during this struggle that one of their former members, Emma Frost, appeared to betray them. While she has shown regret for her actions, she has already taken steps to make up for it. In a recent visit to the mansion, she provided them with a secret memo from the Inner Circle detailing plans involving Exodus, a mutant currently working for Magneto. As it just so happens, those plans have already gone into effect.

While making final preparations for the election, presidential hopeful and anti-mutant crusader Robert Kelly and his family was ambushed by Exodus. Word of the abduction has only begun to leak out and with Cerebro currently down, the X-men have only Emma’s intel to go on. Now with the election looming overhead, it’s up to them to make sure this historic event doesn’t turn into a day of reckoning for mutant kind.

Lower Levels – Hanger

The X-men were suited up and ready for action. Scott, Jean, Bobby, Hank, Logan, Ororo, Rogue, Kurt, Remy, and Kitty all gathered near the X-jet. Jean was in her new Phoenix uniform, ready to go by her new codename. Lilandra was also present along with Professor Xavier, who was out of the infirmary and back in his wheelchair. He still looked a little sickly, but was going to participate regardless of his condition.

“We must hurry, X-men!” he urged, “The news is already starting to break that the senator was abducted.”

“How bad is it?” asked Kitty warily.

“An American politician being abducted by a psychotic mutant vould be bad by any measure,” commented Kurt.

“Right you are, Kurt. But it’s still early. It isn’t as bad as it could potentially be if we do not act swiftly,” said the Professor, “Thankfully, we have a very strong lead on Exodus’s intentions as well as Magneto’s.”

“You’re referring to the info we got from Emma Frost, right?” said Rogue dryly, “The same Emma Frost who screwed us over.”

“Yes, we’re aware of her transgressions and we have taken them into account,” said Hank as he did a final check of the X-jet, “So far, everything has checked out.”

“And with Cerebro out of commission, this is all we have to go on,” said the Professor.

It didn’t sound too promising for the X-men. They weren’t used to going into a mission without support from Cerebro. All they had was information from someone they had many reasons not to trust. But the situation was too grave for them to brush it off. Senator Kelly had been abducted and if Magneto had his way with him, this election was going to be historic for all the wrong reasons.

“That’s good enough for me,” said Scott as the jet began to power up.

“Are you just saying that because she’s your ex and you’ve seen her naked?” joked Bobby.

“Among other reasons,” quipped the X-leader wryly.

“Look at it this way,” said Jean, “If she screws us over again, it gives us that many more reasons to kick her ass.”

“And oh what an ass it is,” grinned Remy, earning him a look from Rogue and Ororo.

Once the jet was fired up, the rear hatch opened and the X-men began to file in. As Logan checked in, some noticed that they had one notable absence.

“Where’s Warren?” asked Ororo as Logan followed her inside, “I thought everyone was supposed to be on hand for this mission.”

“He’s MIA for this one,” grunted Logan, “Wings figured now would be a good time to pay his old man a visit.”

“You sure it was Warren? He doesn’t just visit his father on a whim. Not with a clear mind anyways,” said Jean, stopping for a moment upon hearing this.

“I’m just as shocked as you, Jeannie,” replied the feral mutant, “He didn’t go into detail. He just left a note on his bed and was gone.”

“I hope it’s nothing serious,” said Ororo with a touch of worry.

“If it involves his father, it usually is,” said Jean with equal concern.

“If he wants to fight that battle, let him. We got our own problems to deal with,” said Logan as he rushed, passing by the two X-women, “By the way, the new uniform looks good on you, Jeannie. Although the moving that Phoenix tattoo to your lower back is a little excessive.”

“Way to dodge the issue, Logan,” said Jean in a bemused look, “And for your information, it’s not a tattoo. It’s the mark of the Phoenix and if I’m going to wield some of its power, I want it to be prominent.”

“Ain’t got nothing against you showing off. I just find it fucked up that you’re taking some mark from a cosmic freakin’ entity and turning it into a tramp stamp.”

That earned Logan a scowl from Jean. Ororo, while trying to be appalled, couldn’t help but laugh. That earned her a look from Jean as well. The novelty of her new was going to take some getting used to. Even the Phoenix itself took note. Being a force that wasn’t human, it was still learning the intricacies of human conduct.

“A tramp stamp? What’s a tramp stamp?”

‘I’ll…tell you later, Phoenix.’

Once the team was on the jet, they quickly strapped themselves in and prepared for takeoff. Ororo stayed back for a moment so she could close the hatch. Before she joined the others, she addressed the Professor one last time.

“Are you sure you don’t want one of us to accompany you, Charles? If the news spreads quickly, it may be dangerous for mutants very quickly,” she offered.

“I’ll be fine, Ororo. A fight against Magneto and the Brotherhood is going to require the whole team,” he said strongly, “Lilandra and I promise to do our part.”

“And I hope you understand that time is going to be a factor,” said Lilandra, “I’ve already started making calls. My media contacts should be able to buy some time. That way the public doesn’t overreact when it learns a mutant abducted Senator Kelly.”

“And what of the aftermath? What’s to stop Senator Kelly from using this to his advantage tomorrow?” asked Ororo.

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” said Xavier, “Our sole concern now is finding Magneto and saving Senator Kelly. Whatever he’s planning, we cannot allow him to succeed. These are fragile times. Let’s not have Magneto use them to his advantage.”

“Understood,” said Ororo with an affirmative nod, “We’ll take care of it.”

Ororo proceeded to close the hatch and join the rest of the team. The engines powered up and the X-jet moved into position for takeoff. Professor Xavier wheeled himself back and watched as the jet shot out through the hanger and into the sky. He suspected his team would have some sort of crisis on Election Day. With emboldened spirits, they couldn’t have been more prepared.

For Lilandra, it was remarkable to see the shift in the X-men. Not long ago, it seemed as though they were on the ropes. The stress of the media campaign and the Proteus incident had pushed them to the brink. Then the Phoenix came along. What should have been a death blow ended up strengthening their resolve. Even though Xavier was not at full strength, he was still more determined than ever.

“Come Lilandra. We had better get moving,” he said as he wheeled himself out of the hanger, “The private jet should be ready within the hour.”

“It’ll be waiting for us on the runway,” replied Lilandra, “But before we get too ahead of ourselves, I would be remiss if I didn’t urge you to slow down. I know this is a major crisis. It’s amazing enough your X-men are so confident after their recent struggles, but you have to remember you’re still recovering.”

“I can recover later,” he told her, “One way or another, tomorrow is going to be a historic day. No matter what my condition, I’ll see to it that it unfolds peacefully.”

“You know I find that will of yours so amazingly alluring, but between this, the Phoenix, and Proteus are you not the least bit concerned about your ;o,ots?”

“I may be weakened, but I am not beyond my limits, Lilandra. So long as I have the strength, I will do what I have to do. Emma has already helped me put together a plan. It’s my duty as well as my responsibility.”

Worthington Tower – Executive Suite

Warren Worthington III was used to making difficult decisions, but the decision he faced now was daunting on an entirely new level. For months, he had been obsessing over it. In that time he even did his own little experiments, trying to get a feel for what decision would be best for him and the X-men. The recent battle with the Phoenix only added to his sense of urgency. At long last, he was ready to make a decision.

Standing across from his father in the opulent executive suite at the Worthington Industries Corporate Headquarters, he remained conflicted. He didn’t discuss this visit with the others. He came here on his own volition, wanting to sort it out before he filled everybody in. It was proving to be more difficult than he ever imagined.

“I have to say I thought the next few days were going to be nothing but politics and headaches,” said Warren Jr. as he sat comfortably behind his executive desk, “Then you come to me out of the blue like this and say those words I’ve been waiting years to hear you say.”

“You mean other than I forgive you for being a selfish, controlling, arrogant jerk for most of my life?” quipped Warren dryly.

“That you’re ready to step up and take your rightful place in Worthington Industries,” he replied, undaunted by his son’s sarcasm, “Or more accurately, you’re ready to take my place as the visionary for this company.”

“Don’t make too big a deal about it, Dad. It’s not like I’m diving in head first,” said the winged mutant, “But these past few months have given me time to evaluate where I want to take my life. I still want to use my powers to do good in the world, just like Professor Xavier taught me. Only now, I want the family company to be part of that goal.”

“I’m sure you’ll find having a multi-national corporation at your fingertips will provide you more than enough resources.”

The winged mutant smiled somewhat. It was nice to hear that his father was so confident, which was more than he could say. He still had his share of doubts about this decision. But between the recent events with the Phoenix and the upcoming election, it seemed like the time to make this decision.

“I’ll do my best to not let the family down, but it’s going to be tough,” sighed the winged mutant as he shifted his gaze towards the window, “I know you’ve spent years distancing the company from me because of my mutation. If I’m going to play a more active role, that distance is going to shrink real fast.”

“Are you worried that you being a mutant is going to hurt your ability to run the company?” his father asked.

“I’m worried that me being a mutant is going to spur some unpleasant backlash and I’m not just talking about the company’s image,” said Warren, “The public is afraid of mutants, Dad. A mutant in a position of power and wealth is probably going to make them even more afraid.”

“Then I suppose it’s a good thing you spent your formative years with Charles Xavier,” his father said with a smile, “You’ve become very adept at handling such conflict. Few CEO’s, future or otherwise, can make such a claim.”

Warren chuckled somewhat, feeling somewhat reassured. There was still so much going through his mind at the moment. By closing the gap between him and his family, he would be widening the gap between him and his friends. It was a high price to pay and one that weighed heavily on his mind.

Sensing his son’s distress, Warren Worthington Jr. got up from his desk and walked over to address his son directly.

“I know my words may still be hallow in your mind, but I believe in you, son,” he said, “I only wish your mother was alive to see this.”

“She would be cheering at the top of her lungs, I’m sure,” said Warren with a half grin.

“I would too, but I know that gap you mentioned is still too wide in some respects,” he said with a sheepish grin.

“Just don’t expect everything to come together instantly. I’m still an X-man. Even with my new responsibilities here, I will go out of my way to help the team if they need it.”

“I would expect nothing less,” his father said, “I only ask that you be careful. You’ve had time to be a hero in one way. At your family company, you have a chance to be a hero on an entirely new level.”

“Since when is being a greedy businessman heroic?”

“It may not be the kind of life they make comic books out of, but you can still make a positive difference. Just think of yourself as Bruce Wayne from Batman. A wealthy businessman by trade, but a hero by nature.”

“So now I’m a comic book character?” said Warren with a light laugh.

“Whatever helps you maintain perspective,” said the older Worthington, “You’ve got a lot going for you with your powers and your family legacy. Now is your chance to put them to even greater use.”

It all sounded so appealing. Warren Worthington III would have the riches of the Worthington Empire to help the mutant cause. However, Warren had too many bad experiences with the misuse of his family resources to just plunge ahead with complete confidence. Regardless of the past, however, this felt right.

His father smiled as he gave his son a fatherly hug. At last his son was where he belonged, sitting at the forefront of the company their family built. With his arm still around his shoulder, he led the company’s heir apparent behind his desk.

“Come on, why don’t you have a seat?” he offered, “Get a feel for where you’ll be working from one day.”

“You’re too giddy about this, Dad,” said Warren with a half grin.

“I can’t help myself sometimes,” he said, smiling back, “Go ahead and try it. I want to see what the next Worthington CEO will look like.”

Still grinning, Warren shook his head and decided to humor his father. The old man was still getting ahead of himself, but it couldn’t hurt to get a feel for his new environment. He was about to sit down in his father’s chair, a place he never thought he would ever sit. But before he and his father could take in this moment, his cell phone started beeping. Someone just sent him a text message. Since it rang with the distinct Wolfmother themed ring tone, he knew it was from Bobby.

“Hold that thought, Dad,” said the winged mutant as he took out his phone.

“You can answer it later,” his father urged, “We have so much to go over before we make this official.”

Warren was tempted to do just that, but a message from one of his teammates couldn’t be ignored. Even if it was from Bobby, who had a habit of sending useless texts, he had to answer it. As soon as he read the contents he realized this was a message of the serious kind.

“No…I don’t think this can wait until later,” said Warren grimly.

“Why? What’s going on?”

Moving out from his father’s desk, the winged mutant stormed across the office and towards the door. Of all the times for Magneto to rear his ugly head again, he just had to do it now. So long as this deal with his father wasn’t finalized, he was still a full-time X-man.

“Looks like we’ll be putting those Worthington family resources to good use sooner instead of later,” said the winged mutant as he rushed out of the office, “Follow me, Dad. I’ll explain on the way. You might want to get some of your best contacts on the line. It looks like we’re going to need them.”

Former Brotherhood Lair

Erik Lensherr’s goals had evolved a great deal over the years. At one point he sought to wage war on humanity. At another point he sought to annihilate them. While his vision for mutant kind had constantly changed, the goal remained the same. Mutants were destined to dominate humanity. One way or another, he was going to see to it that evolution ran its course.

“Hnn…” groaned a bound Senator Kelly as he emerged from consciousness.

Standing over the presidential hopeful, Magneto held back his hatred and disgust. This man represented everything he despised about humanity. He used the fear of mutants to gain political power. And with that power, he sought to keep mutants chained in submission. It was the same excuse the Nazis used to send the Jews off to concentration camps. This man needed a lesson in humility, especially if he was to become president.

Here to witness this profound moment were the Brotherhood. Avalanche, Toad, Pyro, Blob, Quicksilver, Havok, Polaris, and the Scarlet Witch stood behind him. Exodus was also there, but showed far less interest in this plan. They had the senator, his wife, and their children strapped to a metal gurney in their old lair. Having successfully used this facility during the asteroid incident, Magneto made sure it remained on standby in case he needed it again. It was the perfect place to set up the necessary equipment for what he was about to do.

“He’s awaking, my lord,” said Exodus, “How much longer until it’s finished?”

“Cool your jets, loony toons. He’ll be done when he’s done,” said Quicksilver.

“Guess that damaged brain of his lacks the hardware for things like patience,” chuckled Toad under his breath.

“Or a sense of humor for that matter,” added Blob.

A few of the other Brotherhood members chuckled as well. Exodus was often the butt of a lot of jokes because of his mental instability. They would be glad to get rid of him once this was all over with.

“I only ask because I don’t feel I need to be here,” he said anxiously, “I did as you requested and I merely want you to make good on your word.”

“And I shall, Exodus,” assured Magneto, “But only after this important little partnership is solidified.”

“Partnership…right,” scoffed Pyro, “And my uncle is a kangaroo.”

“That actually wouldn’t surprise me,” said the Scarlet Witch.

“You really think the good Senator will change his tune after this, boss?” asked Blob.

“If he’s smart, he damn well better,” answered the master of magnetism.

“Well he is a politician. That’s never an encouraging sign,” said Havok.

“Let’s not hold that against him, shall we?”

The sound of their voices stirred Senator Kelly from his unconscious state. He let out another pained groan as he slowly opened his eyes. The first thing he saw were the bright fluorescent lights that illuminated the cave-based complex. Magneto made sure the next figure he laid eyes on was him.

“Ungh…where am I?” he groaned.

“Somewhere you need to be before you’re big day, Senator,” said Magneto.

The cold, stoic voice of Magneto quickly roused the aspiring politician. He would know that voice anywhere and hearing it so close to him was enough to send chills down his spine. Instinctively, he tried to get up, but he was dismayed to discover that he was bound by his wrists and ankles on a gurney. Fear was his first reaction, but fear quickly turned to outrage as he remembered what happened.

“Magneto!” he spat angrily, “I should have known you were behind this!”

“Yes, you should have,” said the master of magnetism casually, “Did you really expect me to just sit by while you and your mutant-hating cronies made a bid for power?”

“I expected you to do something stupid, but this is madness!” he exclaimed as he struggled with the shackles, “What do you think you’re going to accomplish by abducting me? If you think holding me hostage is going to stop my election, you’re dead wrong!”

“Oh I have no intent on holding you prisoner, Senator. I’ve long since accepted that you’ve swayed enough of the ignorant masses. In all likelihood, they will make you their president regardless of what I do.”

“Then I take it you’re going to kill me!” Senator Kelly surmised, “That would be even more foolish! You’ll make me a martyr! You and every freak like you will be monsters and nothing will stop humanity from rising up to oppose you!”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Senator. You’re hardly in a position to intimidate me.”

“I’m on the verge of becoming the leader of the free world! You damn well ought to be afraid!”

“And so should you,” said Magneto with an ominous grin, “Because when I’m done with you, you’ll have plenty of reasons to fear your new prestige.”

Senator Kelly looked at the master of magnetism strangely. Now this was getting weird. He could understand Magneto abducting him, but something about this was different.

“You see, I’m not going to kill you. I’m not going to torture you. I’m not even going to hold you here indefinitely,” he explained, “In fact, as soon as we’re done here you’ll be free to leave. I’ll even provide you with transport back to your hotel.”

“Now I know you’re crazy! All that time locked up in Guantanamo must have fried your brain!” spat Senator Kelly.

“Oh there’s nothing crazy about what I’m going to do,” said Magneto, “I’ve since learned that waging war on a global scale is messy and chaotic. If humans and mutants are to continue down their respective path, it makes much more sense to merely level the playing field. That’s exactly what you and I are going to do.”

“You’re dreaming! I’ll never help you!”

“I never said you had a choice in the matter.”

Magneto casually waved his hand, summoning his powers and levitating Senator Kelly up with his gurney. With another gesture, he opened a metal slot on the floor just off to the side and raised three more gurneys up from below. Like the senator’s, they all had an unlucky victim strapped to them.

“My family!” he exclaimed as he struggled with the restraints again, “What did you do to them?!”

“Settle down, Senator Kelly,” said the Scarlet Witch as she and Lorna made their way over to the three other gurney’s, “Your family is fine. They’re just unconscious.”

“We’re not going to hurt them either. Just as we’re not going to hurt you,” said Polaris.

“You’re lying! If you monsters so much as breathe on my wife or my children, I’ll spend every waking hour of my life making sure you suffer!”

“Boy, this guy is more stubborn than I thought,” commented Avalanche.

“He’s officially lost my vote,” said Pyro.

“You’re Australian, John. You can’t vote to begin with,” Havok pointed out.

“I swear after this I’m done with politics forever,” said Toad.

“You and me both!” said Blob in agreement.

Despite the senator’s outburst, Magneto placed his gurney next to his wife’s. Polaris and the Scarlet Witch then used their respective powers to retrieve some equipment from across the complex. When the senator saw what was coming his way, his face paled.

It looked like something right out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. It was a sleek, metallic array of high tech components shaped like an oversized stereo system that stood about fifteen feet in height and seven feet in width. It had four cylindrical-shaped pods arranged symmetrically around an egg shaped core. From the tips of each pod a series of tubes ran into the core, drawing what appeared to be a strange kind of energy as well as a mysterious greenish liquid. Senator Kelly was no expert in exotic technology, but even he sensed a bad omen from this device.

“What in God’s name is that?!” exclaimed the senator.

“Something that will grant you some much needed perspective,” said the master of magnetism stoically, “If it looks out of this world, then congratulations. You have a working brain. What it is and where it came from isn’t important. It’s what it does that truly matters.”

“And what does it do? Cripple people? Torture them? Turn them into a mindless meat puppet for you to control?” scolded the senator.

“My dear senator, you make it sound like I’ve no sense of subtlety,” scoffed Magneto, “No, this device will not harm you or your family. Quite the opposite, in fact. You’ll all look and feel better than ever.”

“What do you mean?!”

“He means, Senator, that it will turn you into a mutant,” answered Havok.

Senator Kelly cringed at such a notion. He would almost prefer the torture or mind control over something like this. Now he knew these monsters were insane.

“A mutant?!” he gasped, “You’re insane!”

“Can it, Mr. President!” spat Blob, “I would choose my words differently if I were you!”

“Yeah, for all you know your mutation will make you look uglier than me!” grinned Toad.

“Bet that’s going to ruin your portrait in the White House!” joked Pyro.

Panic quickly set in. He didn’t doubt for a second that Magneto and his goons would go through with this. So many possibilities ran through his mind. If he became a mutant, what would would that do to his policies? How would the public react? But what worried him most was how this was going to affect his family.

The terrified senator watched as Polaris coordinated with the Scarlet Witch to set the device down just behind the senator and his family. Once it was set down, the Scarlet Witch flipped a couple of switches to activate it. The mysterious green light in the core quickly grew brighter and several smaller tubes shot out from the pods. From here, Quicksilver and Avalanche came over to assist. They each took a tube and carefully stuck it into the forearm of the four bound humans like an IV drip.

“Just relax, Senator. It’ll all be over soon,” assured the Scarlet Witch, almost sounding as though she was trying to comfort him.

“Don’t you dare lay your hands on me!” he spat.

“Hey! Watch the tone, pal!” scolded Quicksilver, “That’s my sister you’re talking to!”

“If anything, you should be thanking us,” grinned Avalanche, “You and your family are about to gain superpowers! That’ll be a first for a politician.”

“And we’ve made sure they won’t be too destructive,” said Polaris, “Right Father?”

“Of course not, my dear,” said Magneto, “A man such as our soon-to-be president should be more than capable of managing.”

“Are you trying to console me, Magneto? As if forcing this on me and my family is a gift?!”

“By forcing it on you, I’m only making sure you’ll feel the effects of your own bigotry!” retorted Magneto, “Even though the mutation you’ll receive is minor compared to mine, it will still be very much apparent. Both you and your loved ones will know that you are mutants as will your constituents. Then you’ll have an idea of what it is like to live in a world that hates and fears you!”

As his terrifying words filled the senator with dread, the Scarlet Witch returned to the main control console of the device. Polaris, Avalanche, and Quicksilver rejoined the rest of the Brotherhood behind Magneto. Once clear, the master of magnetism used his powers to activate several other components. From the walls, the floor, and the ceiling he brought in an array of wires and cables. Showing off his mastery of magnetism, he hooked them into the machine and into the gurneys. Soon, the whole lair was humming with power. This growing noise eventually roused the Senator’s family.

“Robert…Robert, what’s going on?! What happened to the children?!” she cried.

“They’re okay, honey! Everything’s okay!” the Senator said desperately.

“Okay?! How is this okay?!” she exclaimed.

These frantic cries roused the children as well. When they opened their eyes, they were just as terrified as their mother.

“Mommy…Daddy?” said their young son, who was petrified with fear.

“Hnn…I can’t move! Let me go!” their daughter cried.

“I’m here, kids!” the senator said to his children, “Just stay calm! Daddy won’t let anything happen to you!”

It was a painful moment for Senator Kelly and his wife. They and their children were at the mercy of this madman. Their desperate cries did little to affect Magneto. Some like Polaris and the Scarlet Witch were forced to turn away, not enjoying the pain they were in but understanding why this had to be done.

“Could he please just get it over with?” said Polaris, finding herself leaning in towards Havok.

“Don’t let it get to you, Lorna,” said Havok, slipping his arms around her, “We’re not the bad guys here. We’re just giving the dear senator here a taste of empathy.”

“That doesn’t mean we have to enjoy this, Havok,” said the Scarlet Witch, “It shouldn’t be pleasant for us either.”

“And yet here we are,” said Avalanche with a grin.

Polaris was still getting used to her father’s methods, but she was not opposing this plan. He convinced her that this was a humane way to further their goals. They weren’t going to hurt or humiliate him. They were just going to make him understand.

With the senator and his family now hooked up to the machine, Magneto casually waved his hands to step up the power. The Scarlet Witch took it from there, working the controls and beginning the process.

“Go ahead, Senator. Tell your children everything will be alright,” said Magneto as he loomed over the bound politician, “I remember my own father saying those exact same words as we rode on a prison train to a Nazi concentration camp. He kept holding me and my mother, believing that these people weren’t capable of such cruelty. But he was wrong…dead wrong. I watched as these same people heartlessly slit my father’s throat! I later watched as they did the same to my mother! At no point did these men show any remorse! There was no compassion…no understanding…no humanity.”

There was a hint of pain in his tone as he gazed towards the senator, using his powers to tighten his hold on the terrified man.

“I am not like those Nazi soldiers. But make no mistake, Senator. I will not let you use the power of the presidency to oppress innocent mutants! I understand that killing you won’t stem the tide. But one way or another, you will be accountable!”

“And you think doing this to me and my family will accomplish that?” grunted the senator.

“Think of it as part of the checks and balances that you Americans so highly admire. As a mutant, you will not make a decision on mutants without affecting you and your family! The people may be disgusted with you and they may resent you. It is the price we mutants pay for progress. Now it is time that you pay that same price…Mr. President!”

Aboard X-jet

The X-men were highly focused as Scott took the X-jet in lower, breaking through the thick cloud cover and over the seascape below. Thanks to the information Emma Frost provided, they were able to track Senator Kelly’s whereabouts through Exodus.

“How are we looking, Beast?” asked Scott from the pilot’s seat.

“The signal is coming in loud and clear, Cyclops,” said Hank, who was working on the onboard computer, “It turns out Emma was right yet again. That surgically implanted tracking device is broadcasting loud and clear from within Exodus.”

“Guess that’s one way of keeping a guy like him on a short leash,” commented Jean, who was sitting behind the pilot seat, “Surgically implanting a tracking device in his body would definitely help the Inner Circle keep tabs on him.”

“And Emma was nice enough to get us access to the tracking program,” said Hank, “I can’t help but wonder how she managed to obtain such vital information.”

“You’re probably better off not knowing,” said Scott cryptically, “Emma can be very persuasive. I almost feel sorry for what those Inner Circle goons had to endure.”

“Almost…” said Jean, still holding a major grudge with them.

Hank made a few adjustments on the scope to zero in on the signal. The beacon used in Exodus was fairly high tech. Given the resources of the Inner Circle, it should have come as no surprise. Even if they weren’t a factor anymore, it still left questions about Exodus.

“Regardless of how it was obtained, Tessa has fully decoded the encryption,” said Hank, “In doing so she’s uncovered some additional anomalies. This beacon inside Exodus appears to be broadcasting more than just a tracking signal. It appears it is also sending information about his vital signs as well. Near as I can tell, they’re quite unstable.”

“A guy as messed up as him, that’s a given,” said Logan, “No wonder Magneto ain’t been throwing him onto the front lines.”

“It may be more complicated than that,” said Hank cryptically, “Some of these vitals are linked to Exodus’s mental readings. I’m not expert on the interface, but there’s definitely something strange about his cognitive makeup. It’s almost as if it is scrambled.”

“Someone you know, Logan?” asked Scott.

“Shut up, one-eye,” grumbled Logan, “If someone really fucked up his brain, that can only help. In my experience the crazier someone is, the easier they are to disembowel.”

“Only Exodus happens to have advanced physical and mental powers,” Jean pointed out, “Whatever his state, he’s not someone we should underestimate. He’s also got the whole Brotherhood at his side. We’ll definitely have our hands full.”

“When do we not?” scoffed Logan.

“And don’t forget about Senator Kelly,” said Scott assertively, “It may not be enough to just save him. Bear in mind this guy could be president by tomorrow. He’s spent the last eight or so months bad-mouthing us. Let’s use this as an opportunity to show him that mutants can be a force for good.”

“You’re placing an awful lot of faith in this guy showing gratitude, Cyke,” said Logan.

“Well we won’t know unless we try now will we?” said the X-leader with a half-grin.

“I can only be so optimistic, I’m afraid. That’s why I have more faith in Charles,” said Hank, “He and Lilandra are working on a contingency plan as we speak. Whatever the senator’s many prejudices, we must stay true to our goal.”

Logan still showed some skepticism. They had already saved Senator Kelly once before from Random back in Philadelphia. He didn’t show much gratitude then. Chances were this would be no different. At the very least, it gave him and the others a chance to beat the hell out of Magneto.

While Logan was discussing the plan with the others up front, Ororo sat further back with the rest of the team coordinating on her phone with Warren. She had been talking to him since they took off. The others could only speculate what it entailed given how flakey Warren had been lately. But their main concern was Magneto. Looking out the window, they could see their destination appearing through the dreary skies.

“This place again? Man, you would think a guy as resourceful as Magneto would choose a different hideout every now and then,” commented Bobby.

“Must be a common theme among power-hungry psychopaths,” sighed Rogue, “Ah’ll have to ask mah mama about it the next time Ah see her.”

“You zhink ve’ll cross paths with her on zhis?” asked Kurt.

“With Mystique, anything’s possible. But mah gut tells me she’s still off doing her own thing. Since that mess with the Inner Circle, she’s been keeping a low profile.”

“Probably for the better,” said Kitty, “Between Scott’s brother being the new leader and Lorna being Bobby’s ex, we don’t need any more personal stakes in this fight.”

“Gee, thanks for reminding me of that,” said Bobby dryly, “It almost completely slipped my mind that the girl I used to love will probably attack the moment she sees me.”

“Welcome to the world of ex-girlfriends, homme,” grinned Remy, “You’ll find that some of them hold serious grudges.”

It wasn’t lost on Bobby that Lorna was still with the Brotherhood. Even though he long since moved on, the thought of fighting her didn’t sit well. A part of him still didn’t want to believe that Lorna had fully embraced her father’s ideals. He couldn’t imagine her being okay with abducting someone and their family. Whatever her thinking, he was going to have to deal with her just as Scott was going to have to deal with his brother.

While Bobby and the others contemplated personal battles, Ororo was finishing her extensive conversation with Warren over the phone. It was still surprising that the winged mutant had abruptly left the mansion to visit his father. He still hadn’t gone into detail over why he did it. Ororo figured it would be something they would discuss later once this mission was resolved.

“Okay, I understand…don’t worry, we’ll take care of it…No problem. Thanks again, Warren. You’ve really come through. Hopefully Senator Kelly will be just as gracious…I know, but it never hurts to try. We’ll see you soon.”

With those final words, Ororo hung up her phone. This mission just got a much needed boost. Going up against Magneto and the Brotherhood was always a challenge. Warren’s little ploy was sure to help tip the balance in our favor.

“So vhat’s zhe vord, Miss Munroe?” asked Kurt, “Is Angel going to be joining zhe fight?”

“Oh he’ll be there,” assured Ororo, “But in a slightly different capacity.”

“Better than nothing I suppose,” sighed Remy, “Makes me wonder if the rich fella is losing his appetite for good old fashioned combat.”

“He’s still a fighter, Remy,” Ororo pointed out, “He’s just choosing to fight in different ways. And as it just so happens, his family resources could very well be the deciding factor in this battle.”

“With the money he’s got, why can’t he just pay Magneto to give up?” scoffed Rogue.

“He’s finding other ways to use his wealth, Rogue. And I think it’s admirable. Between his family and the Professor’s plan, we may have a chance to turn this conflict into something positive.”

“As if rescuing a mutant-hating politician can ever be a positive,” said Kitty dryly.

“Hey, when life gives you lemons…” shrugged Bobby.

“Oh hell no, you did not just make a joke that lame at a time like this!” groaned Rogue.

“Ve need to stay in good spirits, mien sister,” said Kurt, “If ve can take on a cosmic entity, ve can handle Magneto and a stubborn politician.”

“Right,” she said dryly, “Magneto and politics all in one fight? Hell, Ah would actually prefer the Phoenix.”

“You and me both, cherè,” sighed Remy.

Taking on Magneto was tough enough, but throwing politics into the mix made it endlessly complicated. It wouldn’t be enough to just rescue Senator Kelly. They had to do it in a way that would somehow make him not despise mutants even more. Given his anti-mutant rhetoric through the whole campaign, that seemed more daunting than taking on the whole Brotherhood.

But the X-men had a plan. Professor Xavier was doing his part as was Warren. Under normal circumstances they would be lamenting all the dreadful possibilities, but in wake of the Phoenix the team was emboldened and unified. Election Day by any measure was going to be historic. Making sure it didn’t spell doom for mutants was going to be a challenge, but it was a challenge they were ready to confront.

“We’re coming in hot, X-men! Get ready to move in!” said Scott from the cockpit as he brought the jet into a steady hover, “Magneto won’t make this easy for us and neither will Senator Kelly! Stay together and stick to the plan!”

“I know my part! Soon as I see Magneto, I’m taking him down!” grunted Logan as he got up from his seat.

“Try and save some for the rest of us, Logan,” said Hank as he sent one last message to Tessa, “If we’re to make Election Day a triumph rather than a tragedy, we must take full advantage of it.”

“Oh believe me, Hank…I will!”

Inside Brotherhood Lair

Senator Robert Kelly always knew politics was a dangerous field to get involved in, but he never imagined it being this dangerous. Magneto and the Brotherhood were about to turn him and his family into monsters. He would not only ruin his career, he would ruin his country as well. The senator struggled valiantly against the restraints as he listened to the terrified cries of his wife and children. There appeared to be no escape. Magneto and his Brotherhood were about to throw the proverbial switch.

“It’s ready, Father,” said the Scarlet Witch, who was still working the controls, “The mutagens are at the levels you specified. Shall we begin?”

“Proceed, Wanda,” said Magneto stoically, “Begin with some sedatives. We wouldn’t want our dear guests to feel any discomfort now would we?”

It was a strange act of contrition on the part of the master of magnetism. For someone like Senator Kelly, Magneto was much more inclined to make him suffer like so many other mutants had suffered. But that was not part of his plan anymore.

“Never thought Magneto would show that kind of compassion to an enemy,” commented Avalanche.

“You call this compassion?” snickered Blob.

“Compared to his old tricks, he’s practically a candidate for sainthood,” said Pyro, “Kind of a drag really. I liked hid old homicidal persona! Personally, I blame Lorna.”

“You’re welcome,” muttered Polaris, shooting him a disgruntled look as she stayed close to Havok for the final procedure.

The Scarlet Witch entered a number of commands, causing the machine to light up even more. A series of red lights appeared on the four pods. Several ominous beeps followed by the sound of a small pump filled the chamber. The senator and his family watched as a clear liquid started flowing into the IV tubes attached to their arms. As soon as it entered their bodies, they started to feel drowsy.

“Hnn…mommy, I’m sleepy,” groaned the senator’s daughter.

“Don’t fight it, sweetie,” said an equally tired Sharon Kelly, “Just…close your eyes. Pretend it’s a bad dream.”

“Yes…go ahead and pretend,” said Magneto, “Pretend you’ll be immune to all the hardships we mutants face. You’ll be lying to yourself and your children. Eventually, you’ll have to face the truth.”

With one last stern gaze, the master of magnetism turned to his daughter and nodded.

“Begin the procedure, Wanda.”

“I’m starting the mutagen interface right now,” said the Scarlet Witch, “Primary injection will commence in 5…4…3…2…”

But before she could finish the countdown, the lights started flickering ominously and a sharp, tornado-like wind blew through the whole complex. Having felt these winds before, the Brotherhood quickly surmised what was going on.

“Whoa! What the hell?!” exclaimed the Scarlet Witch.

“Ooh boy, who didn’t see that coming a mile away?” groaned Toad.

“Guess you owe me another twenty bucks, Pyro,” said Avalanche.

“Ah cricky,” the Australian sighed.

The flickering power halted the machine and the sharp gust of wind blew the Scarlet Witch away from the console. Magneto, Exodus, Havok, Polaris, Toad, Avalanche, Blob, Pyro and Quicksilver were all momentarily stunned. From the tunnels that led to the southwest entranc, the gust of wind settled as Storm entered the area with Wolverine, Shadowcat, Gambit, and Nightcrawler by her side. At the same time, there was a deafening burst in the walls above. A powerful optic blast coupled with telekinesis blew a hole straight through the hard rock, creating an opening through which Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Iceman, and Rogue could enter.

“Sorry we didn’t knock! Doorbell’s busted!” taunted Shadowcat as the X-men rushed towards the center of the lair.

“X-men! Again?!” grunted Quicksilver.

“Don’t tell me you’re surprised, bub!” snarled Wolverine, “Somebody’s gotta show up to kick your ass when you pull a stunt like this!”

“You’re making a mistake, X-men!” proclaimed Magneto as he prepared to defend himself, “You’ll only be…”

“Making it harder on ourselves?” finished Iceman as he rode down on an ice slide with Beast and Cyclops, “Seriously, do you ever get tired of making that excuse?”

“It’s never stopped us before! We X-men strive for consistency!” said Phoenix as she flew in with the Phoenix flames surrounding her body.

With the winds still blowing, the Scarlet Witch got up and attempted to activate the machine with her powers. Cyclops saw this and blasted her with a well-aimed optic blast. It hit her dead on, sending her crashing back against one of the gurneys. As soon as she was out of the way, Phoenix landed with Beast, Cyclops, and Iceman next to the machine. Rogue flew in as well, quickly swooping in and using her powers to drain the Scarlet Witch before she could recover.

“Ungh!” she cried out.

“Take out the power-blocking hexing bitch…check!” grinned Rogue.

“Prepare for step two!” ordered Cyclops as he got into position.

With them now guarding the machine, the others attacked the Brotherhood. Wolverine and Storm led the charge with Gambit, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat following close behind. Storm kept the winds going strong and Gambit threw some firepower into the mix by charging a couple dozen cards and sending them towards the Brotherhood. It was enough to put them on their guard, but it didn’t take long for them to counter.

Magneto was livid. It was one thing to attack him during this critical moment, but these X-men were doing so with such a casual demeanor. It was as if they didn’t take what he was doing seriously when he was on the cusp of finally adding balance to the human/mutant struggle.

“You insolent punks! Are you really this brazen at a critical time like this!” spat Magneto as he took to the air with his magnetic powers.

“It’s called psychological warfare, Magneto,” Shadowcat, “And not to push my luck, but you’re proving just how well it works!”

“Care to test that theory?” scolded the master of magnetism, “Brotherhood, attack! Get them away from the machine by any means necessary!”

“Any means necessary…my three favorite words!” grinned Pyro, “Except for maybe extremely flammable!”

The Brotherhood quickly gathered themselves and prepared to face the X-men in yet another battle. Exodus, however, made the first to attack.

“I’ll end this quickly, Lord Magneto!” proclaimed Exodus as he shot up into the air, “But I expect to be compensated even more once this is over!”

Making good on his word, Exodus flew towards the hovering Storm and unleashed a punishing telekinetic blast. The wave of force literally tore through her winds and knocked her to the ground, effectively freeing the rest of the Brotherhood to attack. He quickly flew in for the killing blow, but was deflected by another telekinetic force from a different source. It was Phoenix and she quickly zeroed in on the unstable Exodus.

“I’ll take care of this guy!” she called out, “Psychics are the best weapon against psychics!”

“He’s all yours, Jeannie!” said Wolverine as he helped Storm up, “We’ll handle the rest!”

While Phoenix took on Exodus in an airborne telekinetic onslaught, the rest of the Brotherhood used the opportunity to strike back. Quicksilver acted first, running full speed to hit Storm again before she could kick up another wind storm. This especially enraged Wolverine, who was never polite when it came to people who hit his girlfriend.

“You just made the last mistake you’ll ever make, bub!” he roared.

“Speak for yourself, pipsqueak!” said Blob, who quickly emerged to back Quicksilver up.

Just as Wolverine was looking to pounce the speedster, Blob body slammed the feral mutant with his vast gut and sent him flying back against the wall. From there, the oversized mutant decided to test his durable form even further and charged towards Wolverine to crush him through the force of his own weight. He was able to slip out from the indent he firmed and avoid what would have been a devastating blow, but Blob lunged for him again in an effort to overpower him.

Now that Quicksilver was in the clear, he turned his attention Gambit. With a few charged cards in hand and his bow staff ready, he stood poised to attack.

“You really think those toys of yours will overcome raw speed?” scoffed Quicksilver.

He swiftly moved in to take him out, but Gambit was able to time it just right and stick his bow staff right in his way to trip him over. As a result of his momentum, Quicksilver was sent tumbling wildly across the cave.

“That answer your question, homme?” grinned Gambit.

“Hahaha! That was clever, mate!” grinned Pyro as he moved into attack, “Let’s see you pull that stunt against this!”

“Ooh boy,” groaned the Cajun.

Grabbing the still woozy Storm, Gambit rushed to get out of the way as Pyro unleashed a torrent of fire from his flamethrowers. The whole cave was quickly illuminated with the fiery glow and with his powers he directed it towards the two fleeing X-men.

“Ha! And here I was thinking this mission would be boring!” he laughed.

While Pyro kept Storm and Gambit on the run, Toad tried to take on Shadowcat. Being without any real destructive powers, he figured it was a safe bet. Feeling confident, he skillfully leapt around the young X-woman in an effort to intimidate her.

“Come on! Come on! What are you gonna do? Phase me to death?” he laughed.

“Well I was going to see if I could phase that tongue of yours right out of your mouth, but with your breath I don’t even want to go near it,” she quipped, showing no signs of panic.

“Now that just hurts, missy! Time to teach you some manners!”

With a disgusting snort, Toad drew as much slime into his mouth as possible before shooting his tongue right out at Shadowcat. In his overconfidence towards this young X-man, he seemed to forget she could also fight.

Despite the putrid smell, Shadowcat was able to phase through the tongue and the slime. She swiftly stepped off to the side, trying hard not to gag. Then before Toad could retract his tongue, she stomped on it as hard as she could with her heel.

“Ack!” grunted Toad as pain shot up through his mouth.

While he was stunned, Shadowcat lunged forth and delivered a swift roundhouse kick to the face. She landed it dead on with force that would make her uncle proud. Toad then fell to the rocky ground, his tongue still hanging out.

“Still think phasing is an overrated power?” taunted Shadowcat.

She was about to go and help the others, but then she looked down at her boot and saw the residue Toad left behind for her.

“Ugh! That’s a new kind of gross!” she groaned, having to hold her nose.

Not far from Shadowcat was Avalanche, who looked to come to Toad’s aid. Clenching his fists, he prepared unleash a tremor. But just as he was getting the ground to start shaking, Nightcrawler appeared in a puff of sulfurous smoke and drop kicked him.

“In a lair surrounded by jagged rock?” he questioned, “Is zhat really a wise place for such powers, mien friend?”

“You think this is a game, Furbie?!” exclaimed the enraged young man, “This has to be done! A guy like Kelly wouldn’t lose a second of sleep by throwing you wannabes in the nearest cage!”

“Zhat doesn’t make it right!” said Nightcrawler as he narrowly avoided being grabbed by the determined Avalanche.

“We’re not trying to make it right! We’re trying to make it fair! If he’s one of us he won’t have a choice!”

“You don’t get to make zhat choice!”

Avalanche attempted to grab Nightcrawler again. This time, he teleported out of the way and appeared right behind him. Smelling the sulfurous smoke from behind, Avalanche tried to turn around and swipe at him. The German mutant ducked out of the way and proceeded to skillfully leap over the determined young mutant’s head, pulling off a mid-air summersault in the process. As he came down, he grabbed Avalanches helmet and yanked it right off his head. Briefly stunned, Avalanche turned around and get it back. But Nightcrawler was ready for him. As soon as Avalanche was facing him, he gripped the helmet and hit him upside the head with it. This not only knocked him out, it severely dented the helmet as well.

“Like my father once said, your head is only as strong as zhe lengths you go to in order to protect it,” said Nightcrawler as he tossed the helmet to his side, “Speaking of helmets…”

With Avalanche out of the fight Nightcrawler turned to Magneto, who was still very much enraged by the X-men’s interference. Hovering just over the four gurneys where the Senator and his family lay bound, he was fighting to get Cyclops, Rogue, Iceman, and Beast away from his machine. From the looks of it, the fight was getting out of hand.

Magneto started by gathering stray metal shards from throughout the complex and directing it towards them in a barrage of metal. Rogue instinctively flew out in front, using her invulnerable form to deflect it away from her friends. She managed to fight her way closer to the master of magnetism, guarding herself with her arms and gritting her teeth as she fought through the force. Armed with the Scarlet Witch’s hexing abilities, she hit him with a purple bolt that effectively held back his powers so he could not unleash his full wrath. It didn’t stop him completely, but it did push him back.

“I don’t know what happened to make you X-men so brazen! But I’ll see to it you’re put back in your rightful place!” said the master of magnetism as he fell back.

“We’re already in our rightful place! It’s makin’ your life a living Hell!” taunted Rogue.

While she kept Magneto distracted, Havok and Polaris rushed forth to take on Cyclops and Iceman. Havok immediately went for his brother, charging up and shooting him with a barrage of concentrated blasts. It did little damage given their similar heritage, but it stunned him just enough to move in close and slug him across the face.

“You’re on the wrong side of this fight, Scott!” exclaimed Havok, “This isn’t another war or some doomsday plot!”

“Ugh! Yeah, abducting Senator Kelly is completely benign!” said Cyclops as he was forced to block another incoming punch from his brother.

“If he’s going to be president, something has to keep him in check! By making him one of us, he’s on our side whether he likes it or not!”

“And that justifies forcing this on him and his family? Come on, Alex! Mom and Dad taught you better than that!”

Grunting in frustration, Havok tried to knee his brother in the gut. Cyclops was able to slip away from it and pull of a quick spin move, skillfully striking his younger brother in the shins. As he keeled over from the pain, the X-leader hit him with an uppercut.

“They also taught me to fight better as well,” Cyclops pointed out.

“Augh!” groaned Havok as he stumbled back, “You’re…you’re not the hero this time, Scott! You’re just making it worse for all of us!”

“Keep telling yourself that if it’ll save you the guilt! But it doesn’t make you any less an asshole!”

Cyclops didn’t let up, charging his brother again and driving him back away from Beast and the machine. Despite the lingering pain from the blow he took, Havok kept fighting. The two Summers brothers continued brawling, almost forgetting about the battle that was raging around them. Both sides seemed to believe they were doing the right thing and no one was backing down.

The only ones who seemed to hesitate were Iceman and Polaris. Even though Polaris was tasked with getting the X-men away from the machine, she was reluctant to strike her former lover. But

“Get out of the way, Bobby! I really don’t want to fight you!” she said, almost sounding desperate in her words.

“Come on, Lorna! You’re better than this!” urged Iceman, “Since when are you okay with abducting people and their families!”

“Haven’t you been listening to this man’s speeches?!” she exclaimed, “He would have it so mutants everywhere would be labeled as monster! You may think he can be reasoned with, but my father has been spying on him! You have no idea how far he’s willing to go!”

“That doesn’t justify something like this! There are better ways!”

She continued to hesitate, showing a clear struggle between adhering to her father’s wishes and fighting against an old lover.

“Come on, Lorna! Do it already!” urged Havok, who was still caught in a fist-fight with his brother, “You can take him!”

Much to Iceman’s dismay, Havok’s encouragement push her over the edge.

“I’m sorry, Bobby.”

Clenching her firsts, Lorna gathered a swarm of metal shards from across the lair and flung them towards Iceman. He could tell by the look on her face that Magneto had really gotten to her. She may not have taken any joy in having to do this, but she showed the stubborn dedication to his principles. Even though she already broke his heart once, he could feel it breaking again.

Iceman could do nothing except use his powers to form two circular shields over his arms. With these shields he deflected the incoming metal, but he did not counter.

“Please Lorna…don’t do this! I don’t want to fight you! I can’t!” he said.

But Polaris didn’t stop. If anything, she stepped up the intensity of her attacks. Iceman’s shields were started to fail. Then he got some unexpected help.

“Maybe he can’t! But I sure can!” came the voice of Shadowcat.

Polaris heard this voice from behind her and turned just in time to see Shadowcat coming her way. She instinctively tried to redirect some of the metal debris towards her, but Shadowcat was able to phase right through it. As a result, nothing stopped her from coming in and slugging Polaris with a devastating right hook.

“Ungh!” Lorna grunted as she fell to the ground.

“Lorna…” said Iceman distantly as he let his shields down.

“Sorry Iceman. Someone had to do it,” she shrugged.

“But did you have to enjoy it so much?”

“As if you didn’t on some levels?” she chided.

It was a rather perverse way of confronting his ex. Looking down at the defeated Polaris, the normally upbeat Iceman couldn’t help but feel a little conflicted. Shadowcat made sure he didn’t feel that way for too long.

“You can apologize to her later! Now come on!” urged Shadowcat as she grabbed Iceman by the arm, “Remember the plan! Let’s free the senator!”

“Right…fight my ex-girlfriend and free a mutant-hating Senator,” he groaned, “Magneto sure knows how to play dirty.”

This dirty fighting raged on as the Brotherhood battled the X-men. Exodus and Phoenix were still clashing above, Pyro still had Gambit and Storm on the run, Wolverine had his hands full with Blob, and Cyclops and Havok weren’t going to stop fighting anytime soon. As for Magneto himself, Rogue was keeping him distracted by fighting off his metal onslaught and pushing him back towards the other side of the lair. This gave Beast the opportunity to use his mechanical expertise to deactivate Magneto’s machine.

So far, it was going slower than he would have liked. This machine was more complicated than he imagined. Magneto definitely constructed this using the alien technology from that cave. As such, the interface was a jumbled maze of complex code.

While he was working, Senator Kelly and his family were conscious but drowsy from the sedatives. They stopped the machine from injecting them with mutagen, but not from leaving them vulnerable.

“What are you waiting for? Get us out of here already!” groaned Senator Kelly.

“Please be patient, Senator. This is not as easy as it looks,” said Beast anxiously, “One wrong move and you may end up being injected with toxic levels of mutagen!”

Senator Kelly gazed anxiously over at his family, all of whom were nearly out cold from the sedative. Their well-being remained his chief concern, but with the way this fight was raging they wouldn’t be out of danger until they were freed.

With Beast making little progress, Shadowcat and Iceman came over to help out. They weren’t sure what this thing may do if they hit it the wrong way, but it couldn’t do much damage if it wasn’t attached to anyone.

“Take five, Beast! I’ll get them out!” said Shadowcat.

“Okay, but do be careful!” he urged as he continued working the control, “This machine is quite complex! There’s no telling what surprises it may be hiding!”

“All the more reason to get us the hell out of here!” urged Senator Kelly.

“You know, I’m sure being a politician makes this hard. But would it kill you to say please?” said Iceman.

Senator Kelly shot Iceman a disgruntled look.

“I know how you feel Senator,” snickered Shadowcat, “I used to date this guy.”

“Just get me out…please,” he grumbled.

Shadowcat went to work, grabbing Senator Kelly by the arm and phasing him out of his shackles. As soon as he was free, Iceman helped him off the gurney. He was still a little woozy from the sedatives, but he shook it off as he quickly turned his attention to his family. Working swiftly, Shadowcat freed Sharon Kelly next and then moved onto their daughter. But while she was freeing the senator’s family, she didn’t notice Magneto taking a keen interest in their efforts.

He was still wrestling with Rogue, unable to gain the upper hand because of her strength along with the powers of the Scarlet Witch. She was holding his magnetic abilities back, barely allowing him to stay airborne. But when he saw the two X-men on the verge of freeing the senator, he summoned all his strength and fought back.

“No…not like this!” exclaimed the master of magnetism, “The senator…must know…our struggle!”

With a determined grunt, Magneto used his powers to lift up one of the empty gurneys and send it flying back towards Rogue. When it hit her it barely left a mark on her invulnerable form, but it hit hard enough to leave her momentarily stunned. For a split second, the hex bolts she was using to keep Magneto’s powers in check faltered. It turned out to be all the time he needed.

With one concentrated magnetic burst, Magneto triggered one of the power cables leading into the machine to become active. As soon as it did, the machine came to life and the final procedure began.

“Oh no! It’s beginning the infusion and I can’t stop it!” exclaimed Beast, “Shadowcat, get the boy out quick before…”

But it was too late. Shadowcat had still been helping Senator Kelly’s barely conscious daughter off the gurney when the process started. Just as she and Iceman turned around, a swift stream of glowing green liquid shot through the IV tube and into the young boy’s arm. In his dazed state he let out a brief groan, his body contorting in discomfort. When Senator Kelly and his wife saw this, they gasped in horror.

“NO!” Senator Kelly exclaimed.

“Shadowcat, get him out now!” yelled Iceman.

“On it!” she affirmed.

Shadowcat moved as fast as she could. She lunged towards the gurney and grabbed the tube going into his arm. With a quick phase, she pulled it out and then moved to get the boy out. But when she grabbed his arm, something unexpected happened. His flesh didn’t feel like flesh. It felt like grabbing a wet sponge. Her immediate reaction was to pull back. Then she and the others took a closer look and saw what was happening.

“Hnn…Daddy?” the boy groaned, “I feel sick.”

“My God…” gasped Senator Kelly.

“What happened to my baby boy?” gasped Sharon Kelly.

Shadowcat held back her reaction and helped the boy out by phasing him through the shackles. His skin still felt like a wet sponge. When she tried to help him stand, his legs were flimsy. It was as if his bones had turned to mush. Not only that, his skin was starting to change. He was growing paler by the second, his complexion becoming comparable to that of a fish or amphibian.

“Daddy…what’s happening to me?” the boy cried in terror.

“No…that son-of-a-bitch really did it!” gasped Senator Kelly.

“What? What did he do?!” cried his daughter.

“Exactly what he planned to do,” said Hank, “He turned your son into a mutant.”

Senator Kelly grimaced as he heard those words. He always prided himself at taking hard news in stride, but this was too much. Looking into the eyes of his now mutated son, he reached forth and touched his spongy flesh. As he looked up at him, he looked so scared. He tired to hug him, but his spongy form made that messy and uncoordinated at best.

While Senator Kelly and his family struggled to process this, Beast turned back to the computer screen for answers. Eventually, everything it all became clear.

“It appears the mutagen has already taken full effect,” he explained, “Your son is officially a beta class mutant. He now has the ability to mold and contort his body like that of a jellyfish or cephalopod. He also appears to have some unique water absorption powers. I’m not entirely sure, but his body may be able to take water and mix it with various biochemical proteins to…”

“That’s enough, Beast. I think they get the picture,” said Iceman, sensing the family was under enough stress.

“I don’t think they care for the details either,” said Shadowcat.

Senator Kelly barely heard the explanation. All he heard was that his son was a mutant. He and his wife were utterly speechless as they tried to embrace their son. He looked so scared and saddened. He knew something strange had happened to him. He was too young to understand, but he knew it was bad. Even with the fight between the Brotherhood and the X-men raging, nothing else mattered.

A whole range of emotions filled the senator. He kept looking into the eyes of his mutated son. It was hard for him to get around. He spent so much time fighting against the treat of mutants. Now his son was one of them. On one hand this boy was something the world hated and feared. On the other he was still his little boy.

“Daddy…” the little boy cried desperately.

“It’ll be okay, son,” said the Senator distantly, “I promise you, it’ll be okay.”

Senator Kelly closely embraced his son, not caring about his appearance of the strange feel to it. His wife and daughter soon joined, not knowing what else to do. While this moment was going on, they didn’t notice the fight between Exodus and Phoenix taking a turn for the worse.

Since the moment the battle began, it had been a stalemate. Exodus used his strength and durability to absorb some of Phoenix’s most punishing blows. She may have had more psychic power on him, but he had more endurance. With each of her blows, he countered with a telekinetic strike of his own. Phoenix was able to deflect them, using her fiery halo as protection. But even she felt it and was driven back towards the ground below.

“You’re strong, girl! But I will not let you stand in my way! I need answers!” roared Exodus.

“What you need is some anger management and a healthy dose of anti-psychotics!” grunted Phoenix as she tried to hit back with a concentrated psychic blast.

“You think I’m psychotic?! I’ll show you psychotic!”

“Ooh boy…”

With an expression nothing short of stark raving mad, Exodus shot up a good fifty feet or so into the lair at high speeds. Then just as he was about to hit the ceiling, he arced back downwards and plunged towards Phoenix at speeds that would be foolhardy even for someone with a healing factor. Phoenix stayed hovering in her position, promptly putting up a telekinetic shield. But even she knew this was not going to be easy to absorb.

“Jean! He’s coming too fast!”

‘I know that! I just have to try and…’

But before she could even complete her thought, Exodus’s blow hit. His telekinetic force clashed with that of the Phoenix and the shockwave that ensued shook the whole complex. In a sharp, fiery burst Phoenix was driven towards the ground with Exodus relentlessly pushing her with all his psychic might. From these bursts, parts of the cave were cracked and fragmented. Many jagged outcroppings were shattered like glass and came tumbling to the ground below. Some found their way into the ongoing battles.

For Wolverine, these falling rocks got his attention more than Blob’s. He had been trying to attack Blob’s head, holding onto his oversized shoulders. The blast from Phoenix and Exodus knocked him off. Now utterly ignoring the shaking complex, Blob used the opportunity to go for the finishing blow.

“Enough appetizers! Time for the main course, Wolverine!” he roared.

“I got your main course right here, bub!” said the feral mutant, beckoning with his claws.

Ignoring the tremors, Blob charged towards Wolverine at ramming speed. He saw the former living weapon struggling to keep his balance due to the shaking. That gave his oversized form the advantage, or so he thought.

Timing his counter perfectly, Wolverine got into position just as Blob was about to hit. He could already smell the air of his hot breath when he made his move. In a swift counter, he ducked to the ground and got directly in the path of Blob’s bulging legs. Digging his claws into the ground, he made sure he wouldn’t be able to move so that when the oversized mutant ran into him there was no where to go but up. Just as planned, the charging Blob tumbled right over him and flew head first into the rocky walls. He had been moving so fast he literally impaled himself in the rock. This did take him out of the fight, but it had the additional side effect of causing more tremors.

This time, they were even worse. They were enough to throw Pyro off, who had been keeping Storm and Gambit at bay. With the first tremor, he fell to his knees and had to stop his fire conjuring.

“Augh! Damn it, Blob! I was on a roll!” the Australian mutant yelled, “Now I gotta start all over again!”

“Oh no you don’t, homme!” grunted Gambit.

Staying low to the floor, Gambit took out a lucky queen of hearts and charged it. With one well-timed throw, he flung it right towards Pyro. He was just about to ignite another firestorm, but the card hit right on the main conduit that led from his flamethrowers to his fuel back. When Pyro saw this, he knew he was in trouble.

“Ooh that can’t be good,” he said.

“It gets worse,” said the Cajun.

The card exploded, blowing out his igniters and his fuel back. His suit protected him from the embers, but the blast was sharp and forceful. He was knocked across the lair and landed in a near-unconscious state next to Avalanche.

Pyro was officially out of the fight, but the danger hadn’t passed yet. The cave was still shaking violently from both Blob’s stunt and Exodus’s attack. Linking up with Wolverine, Storm and Gambit turned their attention towards Senator Kelly and his family.

“We have to get them out of here!” urged Storm, “This whole place may be coming down!”

“Leave it to Jeannie flexing her new muscle to cause this much trouble,” muttered Wolverine.

They struggled to coordinate through the tremors. Then they heard another devastating burst from a rocky outcropping above. It was the largest chunk of the cave to fall yet. To make matters worse, it was falling straight towards the Senator and his family.

“Aw hell!” groaned Gambit.

“LOOK OUT!” exclaimed Storm.

Not far from them were Cyclops and Havok were still fighting, the X-leader saw this too.

“NO!” he exclaimed, unable to act because of Havok’s hold on him.

Over with the Senator and his family, he didn’t notice the falling hunk of rock coming straight towards them. But the X-men saw it. Beast was the first to notice and instinctively dove to get Bobby and the still unconscious Scarlet Witch out of the way.

“Iceman, get back!” he roared, using his animal agility to push them out of the way.

“What the-whoa!” was all Iceman could get out.

While Beast, Iceman, and the Scarlet Witch were out of harm’s way, the same could not be said for Senator Kelly and his family. Paralyzed by fear and having no mutant agility to get them out of the way, Senator Robert Kelly could only brace himself as he clung his wife and two children. The rock was going to hit. They could all feel it coming.

“Daddy!” his daughter cried.

“I’m here,” he said, closing his eyes and waiting for the impact.

But the crushing blow never came. The rock crashed down on top of them, but they didn’t feel a thing. There was a deafening bang as it crashing onto the hard, rocky ground, yet no harm came to them. The rock passed right through them as if it were made of air. It came as a shock to the system at first. Then they realized what was going on.

Shadowcat let out a sigh of relief. Acting on pure instinct, she grabbed the Senator and phased him and his family as fast as she could. A half-second later and they would all be a stain on Magneto’s floor. While the shock kept them paralyzed, she quickly pulled them out of the rocky debris. Once free, the Senator and his family were all dazed.

“Wha…what just happened?” said Sharon Kelly.

“The X-men…that’s what happened,” said Shadowcat proudly, “You guys okay?”

“I…I think so,” said Senator Kelly.

But while the senator and his wife were trying to process what was going on, their son and daughter’s reaction was more pronounced.

“That was…awesome!” the young girl exclaimed.

“You…you saved us!” the little boy said.

Shadowcat couldn’t help but smile. Leave it to the children of a mutant hating senator to be impressed with their heroics. It was a positive sign now that the tremors had died down. Now all that was left was to finish this.

Upon seeing that Senator Kelly and his family were okay, the rest of the X-men made the final push to end this fight. Over with Cyclops and Havok, the X-leader saw his opportunity and took it. Havok still had him pinned to the ground, trying to subdue him so he couldn’t help the others. But as was often the case with his brother, he didn’t take into account the strategy of his opponent.

“So you and the Brotherhood like fighting dirty?” grunted Cyclops, “Bet you’ll appreciate this!”

With his free hand, he gathered some of the rocky dust under him and threw it right into his brother’s eyes. The younger Summers brother didn’t have time to turn away. He got a face full of dust and it not only obstructed his vision, it left him vulnerable.

“Augh!” he cried as he clutched his eyes.

Seeing his window, Cyclops kicked his younger brother off him and laid him out with a punishing haymaker to the face. While he took little joy in striking his rebellious little brother, it did end the fight.

As Cyclops was taking out Havok, Phoenix was preparing to finish off Exodus as well. After his daring dive bomb stunt, Exodus was a little winded. Phoenix barely managed to shield herself, having been driven all the way back down to the ground. She was hovering only a few inches off the ground while Exodus was still lingering a few feet over her, still trying to keep up his telekinetic onslaught. But his mind seemed dazed now. All that psychotic rage seemed to take a toll on him.

“Hnn…what happened? Where am I? Who…who am I?” he muttered.

“Strange…his thoughts are fragmented. I cannot sense any singular sentience. It is as if this mortal is completely dissociated with his true self.”

“Might as well use that to my advantage!” grinned Phoenix.

Not giving Exodus a chance to recover, the powerful psychic took a deep breath and formed a glowing fiery ball of energy in her hands. She channeled as much telekinetic force into it as possible, building it up into a concentrated beam. With glowing eyes and the seething determination of a cosmic force, she unleashed the energy in a narrow yet powerful beam that hit Exodus right in the chest. In his dazed state, he was unable to put up a telekinetic shield. So as soon at it hit him, he went flying as if he had been launched by a rocket. He soared so high and fast he blew right through the ceiling, ascending high into the skies above and quickly disappearing from sight.

“Whoa…” said Phoenix, surprised by her own strength.

“He’ll be okay…at least physically.”

“Somehow I don’t think he’ll care.”

Taking the cosmic entity’s word for it, Phoenix turned to rejoin her teammates. The last of the Brotherhood’s heavy hitters had been taken out. That left only one more adversary.

Magneto watched as his Brotherhood was unceremoniously taken out by the X-men. They were confident, emboldened, and efficient. His team didn’t stand a chance. He had been unable to help, having been locked in combat with Rogue. As soon as he got that one shot off to activate the machine, Rogue stepped up her assault with the Scarlet Witch’s powers and pushed him back against a wall.

“You just can’t stop makin’ trouble, can’t you?” grunted Rogue as she held him by the neck in her iron grip, “As if it ain’t bad enough for mutants everywhere, you gotta go and make it worse!”

“You poor, naïve X-men. You really think I’m not doing our kind a favor?” said Magneto as he gasped for air.

“You ain’t doing squat for anybody! Face it, pal! You failed!”

“On the contrary…I’ve won!”

Grinning ominously, Magneto showed some trickery and head-butted Rogue with the front part of his helmet. This surprised the powerful woman, causing her to loosen her grip briefly. Using her momentarily lapse to his full advantage, Magneto kicked her back and reasserted his control of the situation. This time, he did not hold back.

Clenching his fists in a rage, he used his magnetic powers to kick up the rocky debris that had fallen throughout the cave. In addition, he took control of the many wires lining the complex and used them as tentacle like-weapons to attack the X-men. Rogue was the first target. With several large rocks in his control, he literally sandwiched her between them. Then using the various wires and cables nearby, he tied her up and restrained her from head to toe.

“Rogue!” exclaimed Nightcrawler upon seeing this, “Hold on, mien sister! I vill help you!”

“Get his helmet off, Nightcrawler!” urged Phoenix, “That way I can take him down!”

“Not this time, X-men!” proclaimed the master of magnetism.

“Oh crap,” groaned Iceman, “I know that look.”

Before Nightcrawler could teleport up to Magneto, he was caught by the legs by several heavy duty wires. They held him hard so he could not teleport away and was quickly pulled to the ground. The rest of the X-men tried to come to his aid, but Magneto didn’t give them the chance. All at once, he used the swirling rocks to keep them in their place. Then with the various wires running throughout the complex, he guided them all around them so that they were bound from head to toe.

Within seconds, every X-man was caught in Magneto’s tight grip. Shadowcat, who was still trying to protect Senator Kelly and his family, tried to phase through, but the master of magnetism didn’t give her the chance. Using a few cables from the machine, she grabbed her by the arms and pulled her up high into the air so that if she phased through she would have a very unpleasant drop.

“He couldn’t have done this a little sooner?” groaned Quicksilver as he and the others began picking themselves up.

“Better late than never,” said an equally pained Havok as he went to help Polaris.

“Tell that to my head,” said Blob.

With the last of the X-men trapped, Magneto pulled them all in towards the center of the lair where the Senator and his family were still standing. The rest of the Brotherhood soon joined them, all looking equally frustrated with their adversaries.

“Can’t…break…free!” grunted Wolverine as he tried to slash his way out.

“Phoenix, can you put some of that cosmic power to good use already!” said Rogue.

“I’m…trying!” she said, “Guess I drained myself too much after that last shot!”

“So much for a cosmic assist,” groaned Gambit.

It was no use. They were at Magneto’s mercy now. With burning anger, he stormed past the bound X-men and approached the terrified Senator and his family.

“None of you will be escaping!” he asserted, “Not until I’m finished with our friend, the Senator here!”

“Please…you already turned my son into a freak! What more do you want from me?!” yelled Senator Kelly.

“For you to share in his plight!” spat Magneto, “For the future of our kind and yours, you and your family must pay bear this burden with us!”

The master of magnetism hovered towards the Senator and his family. They braced themselves for whatever Magneto would do next. The X-men tried to fight their way out so they could help him, but it was no use.

“So what par of the plan is this, Cyclops?” grunted Gambit.

“The hardest part…the one where we have to wait,” said Cyclops with equal struggle.

“Waiting…my least favorite tactic,” muttered Wolverine.

“Hang in there, Wolverine. I’m sure the Professor won’t have us wait long,” said Storm.

Her ominous words reassured some, but were lost on Magneto and his Brotherhood. Their focus was once again on completing the task they set before them. They already had the Senator’s son turned into a mutant. Now they just had to finish the job. But just as the Senator and his family were at Magneto’s mercy, the whole complex began to shake again. This time it was for a very different reason.

“Please tell me this is you, Lance!” groaned Blob, who just pulled himself out of the wall.

“I wish,” said Avalanche, “What the hell is it?”

“I think we’re about to find out,” said the Scarlet Witch, who just recovered from Rogue’s energy drain.

The whole Brotherhood grew concerned. Even Magneto couldn’t ignore it. Through the same hole the X-men used to enter earlier, another powerful blast rocked the complex. This time it was much more forceful, blowing nearly half the wall out and creating a gaping hole big enough to fly a plane through. The interior of his complex now exposed, Magneto and the Brotherhood had a clear view of the dreary conditions outside. What they saw more or less froze them where they stood.

A massive armada of helicopters, fighter plans, and hover crafts loomed over the island complex. They were all heavily armed, bearing missiles, machine guns, and various armaments. Some bore the emblems of the US military. Most bore the logo of a different entity. It didn’t take long for Magneto to surmise who was responsible for this. From the lead hovercraft, the side door opened and a number of familiar figures were revealed.

“Charles…” said Magneto in a seething tone.

“Nice to see you too, old friend. But this has gone on long enough!” the Professor called out over a loudspeaker, “Let the senator and his family go! Otherwise you risk breaking the pact between the UN and Genosha”

“Or don’t. I dare you!” said Angel casually, who was standing right next to him with Thunderbird, “Just know you’ll have to go up against a full contingent of the US military and the fine soldiers of White Cell!”

“Courtesy of Worthington Industry’s generous connections,” added Thunderbird.

It was not a pleasant sight for Magneto and the Brotherhood. Facing the X-men was challenging enough. Facing them along with an entire military unit equipped with some obviously high-tech gear was a task that would push them all to their limits. Magneto had little doubt he could take them, but looking at the senator he remembered his initial task.

“We can take them!” said Havok strongly.

“I know we can, Havok. But we won’t,” said Magneto coldly, “We did not come here to start a war. We came here to add some needed balance to our cause. And we succeeded.”

The master of magnetism’s gaze shifted back towards the senator’s son. His transformation appeared complete. He was a mutant now. Senator Kelly would not escape this unscathed. It may not have been everything he wanted, but seeing the way he was looking at his son this would suffice.

Lowering his hand, Magneto freed the X-men from their confines. Some like Wolverine and Havok still looked eager to fight, but Storm and Polaris held them back. They stood down as various marines and White Cell operatives swarmed the area. As they moved in the X-men stood protectively near Senator Kelly and his family, making sure Magneto wouldn’t try anything else.

“It’s refreshing to see you X-men in such top form, even if you insist on being so obtrusive,” said Magneto, “But know this…the election tomorrow will change everything. Sooner or later, your luck will run out.”

“So will yours, Magneto,” said Cyclops strongly, “You’re not going to wear us down or crush our spirits.”

“We’ll fight you as long as we have to. So get used to it!” said Shadowcat.

“I would expect nothing less,” said Magneto coldly.

Clenching his fists, he summoned a series of transport orbs for him and his Brotherhood. There was plenty of bad blood between the two teams. Havok shot his brother some angry glances and Polaris cast Iceman and distant gaze. Both men retrained their strength, showing that they had moved on and were ready to face them again when the time came.

Too tired to taunt their adversaries, the Brotherhood gathered in the transport orbs. Magneto lingered for a moment, still gazing bitterly at the X-men. Then his eyes shifted to Senator Kelly, who was still looming close to his newly mutated son.

“As for you, Mr. President. I expect you to exercise the same caution now. You may have escaped this burden, but know that your son will now be affected by whatever actions you take towards mutants. Whatever decision you make from here on out, make it wisely. Or you may end up paying a very high price.”

With those ominous words, Magneto closed the transport orbs and took off with his Brotherhood. His voice echoed with Senator Kelly as the X-men gathered around him and his family. They were soon joined by a swarm of marines and White Cell soldiers, already working to secure the area. Coming down with them was Professor Charles Xavier, who was being flown down by Angel. Thunderbird joined up as well, being the one in charge of the units.

“Glad you could join us, Angel,” said Cyclops.

“Yeah, sorry about the delay,” he said awkwardly, “Some stuff came up…serious stuff we’ll have to talk about later.”

“Well you got the cavalry here so I guess it worked out,” said Shadowcat.

“Yeah, but apparently it wasn’t fast enough,” said the winged mutant as he looked towards Senator Kelly and his family.

Despite the chaos around them, Senator Kelly and his wife seemed oblivious to it all. He was glad the ordeal was over, but the damage had been done. His son was a mutant now. Looking at him with his wife and daughter, a lot of conflicting feelings consumed him. He truly wasn’t sure what to make of it, but his son’s desperate eyes longed for answers.

“What’s going to happen, Daddy? What will they do to me?” he asked timidly.

Senator Kelly exchanged looks with his wife. She looked just as conflicted as he was.

“I…I don’t know, son,” said Senator Kelly, “I…I really don’t know.”

“Perhaps I can help,” said Charles Xavier as he and his X-men hovered near him, “I’m sorry for your plight, Senator. But understand that this will change things. This is something you’ll have to deal with, regardless of how the election turns out.”

“Spare me your sympathy, Xavier! That old friend of yours just ruined my family!”

“Robert please…” his wife urged, “Charles and his X-men just saved our lives!”

The senator was forced to calm down in his grief. He noticed the hurt look in his son’s eyes when he said their family was ruined. It struck him in a way he didn’t expect. His old views towards mutants were still present, but now they faced a new challenge.

“I won’t lie to you. This will be a difficult transition,” said Xavier, offering another gesture, “It is for all mutants. If you want, my X-men will be here to assist you and your family. We can teach your son to manage his new powers.”

“But what about my candidacy?” he wondered, “How can I keep the promises I made to the American people now that my own son is a mutant?!”

“That’s something you’ll have to figure out on your own, Senator. But you must ask yourself a very important question. What’s more important? The promises you made to gain favor? Or the promises you made to your son? It is a difficult choice, I know. But it is a choice you do not have to make alone.”

It was hard to believe a man he despised so much was lending him all this help. It spoke volumes to the man he was. Senator Kelly had a lot of things to ponder now. Looking at his family and the X-men to which he now owed his lives to, he was going to have to reevaluate some of his positions. How that would affect him and his career as president remained to be seen.

Next Issue: Election Day

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