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Volume 4 -- Issue 95 -- Time Bomb Part 1

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Time Bomb Part 1
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Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men to fight for peace and understanding in a world that has descended into turmoil. There have been many times where they have had to use their extraordinary powers to contain such chaos. Yet that chaos still threatens to overtake them as the conflict between humans and mutants threatens to unravel.

In wake of the devastating attack by the Cambrian, hostilities are at an all-time high. Anti-mutant groups like the Friends of Humanity have re-emerged and the mutant nation of Genosha is in a vulnerable state as Magneto has become more mentally unstable. This leaves President Kelly and General Nathan Grimshaw in a bind. The public wants protection from the mutant menace and mutants want protection from human oppression. It seems any resolution for this conflict must come from Genosha.

So in a desperate bid, General Grimshaw sent Captain Jack Freeman to meet with Wanda Maximoff. Together, they are to forge a new peace treaty. What neither one of them knows is that Magneto is still mentally competent enough to hatch a plot of his own. In the ruins of his citadel, he kept a special box containing a program known as Warlock. With this program, he is prepared to follow wherever his twisted thoughts lead him.

Genosha – Capital Building

“We need to make this quick, Pietro. We’re scheduled to meet with General Grimshaw’s emissary in less than an hour,” said an impatient Alex Summers.

“I know it’s hard to have sympathy since your dad isn’t wacked out of his mind, but could you at least pretend to try?” said Pietro snidely, “I had to go to crazy lengths to have him meet with us and shower for that matter!”

“Well whatever you did, I hope it’s enough,” said a worried Lorna, “Talking with Father hasn’t been productive lately. I’m really starting to worry.”

“Magneto is not the kind of father you worry about, Lorna,” said Wanda, “He’s always been good at bouncing back. Sometimes he just needs a firm nudge in the right direction.”

“More like a kicks in the ass,” muttered Alex.

The dry musings of Alex Summers were ignored by the three children of Magneto. Pietro, Wanda, and Lorna didn’t need a reminder of how detached their father had been lately. They were reminded of it every day he was not leading Genosha. While there were many that still despised him for what he did with the Cambrian, there was no denying his charisma. This badly needed charisma would only go to waste so long as he remained in this frail mental state.

An intervention with his family was long overdue. The timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. They were in the middle of a volatile geopolitical crisis. If nothing was done to stem the tide, humans and mutants alike would carve out a new war path. Later today, Wanda and Alex were set to meet with someone from the Mutant Security Agency. Their negotiations would be a lot stronger if they were convinced that Magneto was recovering.

With mere hours before the negotiations, they made their way to the secure level of the capital building where Magneto’s quarters awaited them. The master of magnetism’s condition would only worsen the growing tensions between humans and mutants. Whether it was a real ailment or purely psychological, they needed a sane Magneto.

“I still think we should have brought Quentin Quire along,” said Alex, “A telepath might be useful in dealing with that twisted mind of his.”

“One step at a time, Alex,” retorted Wanda, “We’re not ready to resort to psychic probing just yet.”

“And if we do get to that point, Quentin Quire is the last psychic I would trust to do it,” added Pietro as they reached the door, “I know you’ve welcomed him into the Brotherhood with open arms, but he still creeps me out.”

“He’s an impressionable and arrogant teenage boy. I thought you of all people would get along with him,” Alex pointed out.

“What’s that supposed to me?!” said Pietro defensively.

The speedster angrily glared at Alex Summers. He may be the leader of the Brotherhood, but he still garnered little respect from Pietro. Yet another argument threatened to break out. Then Lorna made a strange discovery.

“Uh…guys? You think you could cut the bickering for a second?” she said warily, “I think we have a problem.”

“What is it now?” groaned Pietro as he reluctantly turned away from Alex, “Father didn’t barricade the door again, did he? I thought he was past that stage.”

“I suspect this an entirely different stage,” said Wanda, who shared in Lorna’s dread.

Pietro and Alex took a closer look at the door. It didn’t take long for them to see it as well. Some strange residue was seeping from the cracks of the door. It didn’t look like anything they had ever seen before and that said a lot in and of itself. From every crevice, a strange blackish/gold metal flowed from within the room. As the black parts of the metal seeped over the door, a series of gold colored streaks followed. They made perfect right angles, as if to mimic the appearance of computer circuits. It was hard to tell if this was something living or if it was some kind of machine.

“Pietro…when you said you did Father a favor, what exactly did you do?” said Wanda angrily.

“Nothing like this! I swear!” said the speedster defensively, “He just asked me to get some strange box, that’s all!”

“A box?” she said curiously, “Do you even know what was inside it?”

“Uh…it had no openings.”

“It’s ridiculous how little this surprises me,” groaned Alex, sensing they had another fight on their hands, “I’ve heard enough! Somebody break the door down!”

“Already on it!” said Lorna as she summoned her powers, “We’re coming in, Father! We’re here to save you!”

With a hard magnetic tug, Lorna ripped the heavy metal door of its hinges. A deafening metal clang reverberated through the halls. As soon as it was out of the way, Lorna rushed into the room with Wanda, Alex, and Pietro close behind. They expected to find their father in more self-imposed danger. What they saw, however, left them even more confused.

“Welcome, my children. You’re just in time,” grinned an eerily content Magneto.

“Okay, it’s official. I’m reconsidering the psychic probing,” said a dazed Wanda.

Magneto wasn’t in any danger. In fact, it looked as though he had cleaned himself up nicely since the last time they saw him. He was back in his dark red suit and cape, looking as poised as ever. But what had Wanda, Alex, Lorna, and Pietro really worried was the mysterious box he was holding.

From the top of the metal box, there was a wave-like stream of pulsating purplish light. From this light, this strange black metal with gold wire-like entrails flowed out freely and had since engulfed the whole room. Everything from the bed to the walls had been overtaken by this strange substance. Every square inch of the room now radiated with an ominous pulsating light. It was as if the room itself was now alive.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” said Magneto as he gripped the box intently, “Warlock managed to stay functional despite centuries of inactivity.”

“Not this again!” groaned Alex as he looked around at the strange metal, “Didn’t you learn anything from the Cambrian?”

“Oh I learned plenty. I learned just how feeble our lives have become in this corrupt world,” said Magneto in a voice that indicated his mental instability had gotten worse, “You see, when I lost the Cambrian, I lost the insight that led me to a higher understanding of nature. Now that I’m stuck within the limits of my own flesh and blood, I have struggled to wrap my head around that insight...until now.”

“Father…let’s not do this again!” cried Lorna, “You’re sick! You need help!”

“I have everything I need right here,” he said as he remained fixated on the box, “In addition to using the alien technology to locate the Cambrian, I also compiled every working scrap of hardware I could gather. As it just so happens, the ship contained a backup of its data in the form of a special AI called Warlock.”

“I’m not waiting for an explanation! You’re going to quit while you’re ahead whether you want to or not!” barked Alex.

“Havok don’t!” exclaimed Wanda.

The younger mutant ignored her warning and attempted to knock the box out of Magneto’s hands. He barely got halfway towards him when to his astonishment, the blackish/gold material came to life. In a bizarre display of mechanics and control, a giant hand formed from the material on the floor and literally took Alex in its grasp. He tried to blast it with his energy powers, but he couldn’t get a shot off. Within seconds he was covered from the neck down by this mysterious grip.

“Augh! What the hell is this?!” he grunted.

“Alex!” Lorna cried out, having to be held back by Wanda and Pietro.

“This is just one of the remarkable feats that Warlock is capable of,” answered Magneto, “You see, the aliens who landed on this island were more advanced than any mere human can comprehend. Their technology is so powerful that most of their machines are actually sentient. They have a mind to guide them.”

“Ungh! Then tell this mind that yours is in need of repair!” spat Alex.

“Hardly,” scoffed the master of magnetism, “You think I’ve been cooped up in here slipping deeper into madness? All this time I’ve been contemplating how to tap this most vital resource! Within it lies the key to escaping the clutches of human oppression! Now that the Cambrian is gone, we can no longer evolve above them. Our only remaining option is to dominate them in another way.”

“Seeing as how your last option involved a giant ball of pond scum, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know what this alien toy of yours involves?!” said Pietro snidely.

“It’s no toy, I assure you. Warlock is a culmination of the full potential of this alien technology. It perfectly blends the majesty of biology with the efficiency of machines, giving it the best of both worlds in order to fulfill its purpose.”

“I don’t even want to think about the kind of purpose you’re referring to!” said Wanda.

“You’re in luck, my children. Because I’m not going to simply tell you,” said the master of magnetism ominously, “I’m going to show you!”

The purplish light from the box continued pulsing, eventually filling the room with an eerie glow. The light became so bright that Wanda, Pietro, Alex, and Lorna had to shield their eyes. They were powerless to stop their father as he casually levitated from the floor and turned around towards the wall behind him. Then in another strange display, the blackish metal from this Warlock program parted as if it were a door. It forged a perfect hole from which Magneto could escape into the skies of Genosha.

As Magneto slipped out of the room, the mysterious hand that had been grasping Alex loosened its grip and allowed him to break free. Lorna quickly rushed to his aid along with Pietro and Wanda. This intervention they had planned was turning into yet another nightmare.

“Are you okay, Alex?” asked Lorna as she helped him up.

“Peachy,” he groaned, “I feel like I just got a hug from a trash compactor!”

“You’ll live,” said Pietro snidely, “We’re on a whole new level of weird even for Magneto!”

“Weird doesn’t even begin to describe how screwed we are if he shows us what this thing is capable of!” said Wanda as she rushed past Alex and her siblings.

“I almost can’t bear to watch,” groaned Pietro as he reluctantly caught up with Wanda.

“You’ll have to. It’s sure to be a factor in our negotiations.”

“Somehow I doubt negotiations will do us much good at this point,” dreaded Alex.

Standing on the edge of the opening, they could see out into the capital city. It was early in the morning and most of the island’s population and peacekeeping troops were just beginning their day. As they watched Magneto fly through the clear skies, they had a feeling this was going to be another day they would rather forget.

Genosha Capital City – Downtown

‘This mission sucks already.’

Captain Jack Freeman’s outlook was anything but optimistic as the navy transport chopper landed in the downtown area of the capital city. Everybody was urging him along, acting as though they could go to war at any minute. The peacekeeping soldiers kept looking over their shoulders while clutching their guns as if they were the Holy Grail. The mutants were even more hostile, looking at every soldier as if they were in the process dumping toxic waste on their front yard.

It didn’t bode well for his mission. He was usually good staying calm in the face of impossible missions. This was the first time he had real reservations. For any Green Beret, such doubt was usually unthinkable. He scorned himself for having so little faith in the General’s plan. Even though he trusted Grimshaw with his life, he didn’t always trust his foresight.

Once the helicopter was safely on the ground, a team of marines surrounded the front hatch and opened it. Captain Freeman took a deep breath and stepped out into the early morning sun. Dressed in his Green Beret uniform, he looked more professional than he had at any previous point in his life. He was almost overwhelmed with how the peacekeepers responded to his presence.

“Captain Freeman, sir! Welcome to Genosha,” greeted a marine lieutenant with a respectful salute.

“At ease, soldier. I’m as much an officer as I am a French Chef,” replied Captain Freeman.

“Be that as it may, you’re officially a diplomat now. That means we’re responsible for escorting you to the Capital Building. Wanda Maximoff and her associates are already waiting for you.”

“Wonderful,” said Captain Freeman dryly, “Then let’s skip the sight-seeing tour and get this over with.”

The marine lieutenant saluted and signaled the rest of his squad to escort him from the landing pad. Captain Freeman still wasn’t used to being treated with this much respect. He remembered how he got on everybody’s bad side while he went through his training. Even when he showed bravery and skill, he rubbed his officers and squad mates in many wrong ways. It was a side-effect of being fresh off the streets and too arrogant to understand the value of teamwork. He was still a pariah in the military and if any of these soldiers knew who he was, they would look for the first chance to screw with him.

Even if they were resentful, they seemed too tense to worry about it. Security was pretty tight as they approached a motorcade at the edge of the landing pad. It wasn’t that elaborate, consisting of three Humvees with 50 caliber machine guns mounted on the roof and four motorcycles on each end. It seemed redundant since the capital building was only a few blocks down the street, but this was what paranoia did to people. He got a brief taste of it when he noticed a few mutants hanging out near the perimeter of the gate.

“Aren’t there enough of you pricks on this island?!” yelled an older male mutant.

“Yeah! Leave us alone already!” yelled a younger mutant, who looked to be his son.

Captain Freeman shot them a disgruntled look. It was hard to be too resentful. He was part of an occupying army. In his experience there were few locals who liked seeing troops on their homeland. Sooner or later, these people wouldn’t stand for it anymore. That was why this treaty was so important. Without it, Genosha was destined to be another powder keg in the human/mutant conflict.

He was about to enter the Humvee when a couple of marines froze where they stood and looked up in a daze. Seeing as how there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, there shouldn’t have been much to look at.

“Come on, lieutenant! Let’s get this thing moving already,” said Captain Freeman impatiently, “I want to be off this island by sundown.”

“Uh…Captain Freeman, sir?” said the lieutenant warily, “I think you should see this.”

“What is it now? I thought I said to skip the sight-seeing!” he groaned.

Those were words he never enjoyed hearing. He was almost hesitant to see for himself, but he didn’t have the luxury of ignorance. As soon as he looked up, he saw what had these hardened marines so anxious.

It was by far the last sight anyone on this island, mutant or human, wanted to see. Magneto was at it again, hovering ominously over the ruins of his once prized citadel. That alone would have been disturbing enough. Adding several layers of distress to the scene was the mysterious lightshow that was following him. He appeared to be holding something in his hand. It was hard to make out, but whatever it was it packed some exotic form of energy. It would have been beautiful if Magneto wasn’t the one wielding it.

‘It’s official now. This mission sucks on an entirely new level.’

Captain Freeman watched as Magneto settled into steady hover about fifty feet over the ruins of his citadel. By now mutant onlookers as well as other peacekeepers were also watching. After seeing what Magneto had done with the Cambrian, nobody was looking forward to what he had in store.

There was no mutant supremacy speech this time. Magneto actually seemed to be enjoying the anxiety he was causing. He continued hovering silently while nervous onlookers watched on. Then he held up the mysterious object he was holding and unleashed a new round of activity.

From the purple light, a strange black metal-like substance poured down towards the surface. As soon as it touched the ground, the mysterious substance began assembling itself around the rubble. There were no words to adequately describe it, but whatever it was doing it appeared to be under Magneto’s whim. That alone was cause for concern.

“What the hell is he doing?!” exclaimed one of the marines.

“Same thing he always does, Pointdexter,” said Captain Freeman dryly, “Causing a metric fuck-ton of trouble!”

Abandoning his diplomat role, the angry Green Beret stormed past the squad of marines and shoved one of the MPs off a motorcycle. The engine was already running and he quickly set his sights on a new mission.

“Send a red alert to central command! Magneto is at it again!” said Captain Freeman.

“What about the negotiations?” asked the lieutenant.

“Far as I’m concerned, Magneto just made his offer and I’m rejecting it! Now tell your men to fall back! If possible, try not to make a scene! I’m going to handle this myself…quickly and quietly.”

“Do I even want to know what that entails, Captain?”

“The less questions you ask, the less likely you’ll be in as much trouble as I’m gonna be in! Now issue the alert! I’ve got a meeting to get to!”

Captain Freeman left the marines to carry out the rest of their duties while he took off on the motorcycle, weaving around the motorcade and over cracked roads as he set his sights on the Citadel. Magneto clearly hadn’t learned his lesson from the Cambrian. For Captain Jack Freeman, that left only one course of action. General Grimshaw trusted him to do the right thing when the mission went to hell and that’s what he was going to do.

Skies Over Atlantic – Velocity

Several time zones away from Genosha, the X-men were on route to the island nation. Classes and training had ended for the day. But instead of settling in for a nice quiet evening, they were confronted with a mission. It was nothing catastrophic just yet. It involved making a trip to Genosha, which was always cause for concern.

“Man, I am going to be so glad when the new X-jet comes in,” groaned Bobby as he shifted in his seat, “Not to knock the Velocity, but I’m used to our jets being a more spacious.”

“We’re on a trip to Genosha and you’re complaining about the flight?” said Betsy dryly.

“You would rather I drone on about all the fun we have on that God-forsaken island? There’s nothing I can say that we all haven’t complained about already. So why bother?”

“Thank you for being so considerate, Bobby. That’s uncharacteristically mature of you,” said Beast, who was in the cockpit with Scott.

“I have my moments,” he shrugged.

Comfort aside, Bobby settled in along with Scott, Jean, Hank, Ororo, Kitty, Remy, Piotr, and Betsy. For a mission like this, Xavier wanted the whole team to be involved. The only one who hadn’t joined them was Logan, who had taken off earlier in the day. His departure was sudden, but not unexpected. Word traveled fast regarding his breakup with Ororo. Some were surprised Ororo was joining them for this mission.

In the seats behind the cockpit, Ororo sat quietly with a distant expression on her face. She hadn’t said much since they left. She had long since wiped her face clean of tears, but it was painfully apparent that she had done her share of crying.

“Are you sure you’re up to this, Miss Munroe? This is a political mission. You didn’t have to come along,” said Jean Grey, who was sitting next to her.

“I just broke up with my boyfriend, Jean. I wasn’t in an accident or horribly crippled,” said Ororo flatly, “I can still hold it together.”

“That rain cloud that’s been hovering over the mansion and only the mansion says otherwise,” Jean pointed out.

“So long as it isn’t a category four hurricane, it’s nothing you need concern yourself with. I’ve been through breakups before. Granted, this one hurts a lot more than others, but I’ll manage. I don’t need to be babied.”

“Nobody would dare baby you. You’ve proven many times that you can take care of yourself juggle twisters while you’re at it,” said Jean with a reassuring smile, “But you really should take some time to let it sink in. I can tell it still hasn’t.”

It was hard to argue with a telepath. It was even harder to argue with a fellow ex-lover of Wolverine. Ororo closed her eyes and sank into her seat as she gazed out the window. Maybe it was a bit too soon. Many mixed emotions lingered. These were emotions that always lingered in wake of a breakup, but with Logan it was a lot harder. He was a man she connected with in many special ways.

“Maybe I’m still a bit torn up,” conceded Ororo, “I think I have a right to be. I honestly wasn’t ready to give up on our relationship. I know there comes a point when you know you’re right for someone, but I don’t think we were at that point yet. Logan threw it all away before we could even try.”

“Funny, Logan gives up on so few things, but when it comes to relationships he’s actually squeamish,” said Scott from the cockpit.

“Quiet Summers,” scorned Jean, “I know chastising Logan is your favorite hobby, but now is not the time.”

Scott re-focused his attention on flying the Velocity, choosing not to test the patience of his lover. If he ever wanted to sleep in the same bed with his her again, he would stay silent while Jean offered her support to Miss Munroe.

“Logan is a complicated man. Dating him isn’t just a challenge. It’s a real test of character,” Jean said to her fellow X-man, “You definitely passed that test more than I did. You were with Logan longer than me and you connected with him on a much deeper level than I did. Anyone could see how much you cared for one another. On some nights we could even hear it too.”

“Guess that means our beds will be a lot quieter now,” Ororo sighed.

“I’m sure your bed frame will thank you. But beyond that, part of the risk that comes with dating Logan is that he’s going to make bone-headed decisions. They won’t always make sense, but he always sees them through. The worst thing you can possibly do is try to convince him to go back on a decision. That’s a losing battle from start to finish.”

“So what are you saying? That I should accept the fact that Logan ended our relationship before he should have?”

“I’m saying you shouldn’t waste time and energy second guessing him, even if he was dead wrong and pig headed,” Jean clarified, “All breakups have a personal rebuilding phase. Maybe this mission can help get you in the right mindset. If not through distraction, the joys of mutant politics may just bore you to the point where you forget those unpleasant feelings.”

“We can only hope,” sighed Ororo, managing a lighthearted smile.

Jean smiled back. Having been in Ororo’s position, her insight was comforting. It was still somewhat strange having a student give her teacher relationship advice, but this was the X-men. It was far from the weirdest thing they had to endure.

“I suppose I’ll have to take it one step at a time,” said Ororo, “I doubt these lingering issues will be resolved with a single mission.”

“It will still put you in a much better position than Logan,” said Jean, “He had the poor sense to run off as soon as he broke up with you.”

“Yes, about that…” said Hank from the cockpit, “Should we be worried? Logan’s impulsive decision-making could be cause for concern.”

“That’s how he copes unfortunately,” said Jean, rolling her eyes, “He did the same thing when he broke up with me. He eventually came back in a slightly better state of mind.”

“Just slightly?” said Scott.

“Like I said, that’s how he copes. I didn’t say it was effective.”

That still left room for concern, even from Ororo. She remembered how he tried to leave the team at one point. She ended up having to chase after him to get him to return. If he was enduring as much inner turmoil as she was, then Hank may be right to worry.

“But what if he tries to run off again?” said Ororo.

“If it comes to that, you and I will look for him after this mission. Even if we have to hogtie him, we’ll make sure he finds his way home.”

“You’re willing to resort to rodeo tactics?” commented Hank, “I’m certainly glad it didn’t come to that after we broke up.”

“That’s because you have no drinking problem and better coping skills, Hank,” said Ororo, maintaining a light smile, “I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that with Logan . Even if he does return, I’m worried about his mindset.”

“Aren’t we all?” made Scott, “At least we won’t have to deal with his attitude during these negotiations.”

“You’re compassion for your fellow X-man is astounding, Scott,” said Jean dryly, “I’ll be sure to remember than when I consider whether or not you’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight.”

Scott groaned to himself. He probably should have stayed silent. He wasn’t being fair to Miss Munroe, who still clearly cared about Logan. Of all the times for him to spring this on the team, this had to be the worst.

While Ororo was musing over her relationship issues, Professor Xavier was near the back of the Velocity going over emails from General Grimshaw on his cell phone. His request for assistance was hardly surprising. He knew how bad things were on Genosha, but he was a bit surprised at how reluctant Grimshaw was to allow him greater involvement in the process. He suspected it was because of his recent lack of activity due to his cancer. The General didn’t know what he and his X-men had been struggling with. Xavier suspected this was the source of his suspicion. It left them in a weakened position because without General Grimshaw’s trust, there was little they could to do aid one another in this process.

“You seem restless, Professor. Are you concerned about this diplomatic mission, as you call it?” asked Piotr, who was sitting across the aisle next to him.

“We’re on our way to Genosha, homme. Concern ain’t just natural. It’s an understatement,” commented Remy.

“My concern goes beyond Genosha,” said Xavier as he looked over his phone, “I get the sense that General Grimshaw did not call for our assistance out of confidence. Summoning us to the island was an act of desperation.”

“Why would Grimshaw be desperate?” asked Kitty, “He always struck me as a guy who was cool under pressure.”

“He’s a military man. Blokes like that either have to be that way or know how to fake it,” shrugged Betsy.

“I doubt he’s faking this,” dreaded Xavier, “These provisions he’s been sending me give the impression that our trust isn’t what it once was. I suspect he thinks I’m keeping more secrets than I said I would.”

“Don’t we all?” quipped Remy.

“That goes without saying, Remy. Lilandra’s sudden departure has him and many others quite suspicious. Then there was that signal from the Shi’ar ship that hasn’t been explained. The General once hinted that elements in the government knew of alien technology. And if someone is keeping from them, that is certainly cause for concern.”

“Wait…back up,” said Bobby with sudden intrigue, “You mean to say the X-Files was right? The government does knows that we are not alone?”

“We’re losing the trust of our most important ally and that’s what grabs your attention?” said Kitty.

“Come on! You can’t tell me you’re not a little intrigued as well!”

“Why would aliens be a factor anyways? Do we not have enough to deal with regarding humans and mutants?” made Piotr.

“That doesn’t mean they won’t influence the process,” said Professor Xavier, “General Grimshaw knows that time and the public is not on his side. Even President Kelly is beginning to lose faith in his initiative.”

“No wonder he’s getting desperate,” said Betsy.

“If it’s that bad, then why isn’t he trusting us more?” asked Bobby.

“It may be as simple an issue of legitimacy,” surmised the Professor, “Much of his hopes rest on this treaty. He believes, and I agree with his sentiment, that the only way mutant relations can attain some form of stability is for there to be a legitimate deal between the two sides. He may not want us directly involved in the process, but he wants us to make it remains a viable option.”

“The way you say it, there does not seem to be much viability to begin with,” said Piotr.

“That is exactly why we must contribute in whatever way we can. Now that I have my health back, I intend to give all my strength to this process. We’re at another critical junction in mutant affairs and it is vital that we set both sides on a peaceful course.”

“Here’s to hopin’ your health will be enough, Professor,” said Remy.

The Professor smiled confidently when confidence was at a premium. It was a sign that he could tackle this with the same vigor as the rest of his X-men now that his cancer was cured. They would need that strength for the tough negotiations that lay ahead of them.

Xavier continued going over updates from the General on his phone. Then images on the phone flickered unexpectedly and some strange images of blackish gold symbols flashed on the screen. At first it seemed like a standard glitch of sorts. Then a blaring message showed in between the flickers and the Professor grew more concerned.

“Oh dear…this is odd,” he said with dread in his tone.

“Odd?” said Betsy, “Professor, the X-men have an unusual way of defining odd. Is something about to go horribly wrong?”

Xavier didn’t even have to answer that question. While his attention was on the phone, the lights on the Velocity started to flicker and they felt an unusual jolt of turbulence.

“Whoa! That’s pretty odd too!” said Kitty.

“Odd indeed,” said Hank from the cockpit, “We’re getting some strange interference on our electronics. Some mysterious signal is overwhelming all our sensors.”

“Can you determine where this signal is coming from?” asked the Professor with growing intrigue.

“That’s where it gets even odder, I’m afraid,” Hank replied, “It appears to be coming from all directions.”

An uneasy feeling settled over the team. Even if it was small, something this unusual often hinted at a far more sinister conflict. Xavier continued trying to get some answers from the General’s cell phone. It appeared he was getting the same interference on his end. As the screen on the phone flickered more violently, he managed to make out a single message.

“Xavier…Magneto loose…up to something…get to Genosha…fast! General G.”

It was only part of a message, but it got the point across. The words Magneto and loose were all the Professor needed to understand.

“Oh no…” the Professor dreaded, “Cyclops, can you still ignite the afterburner?”

“I think so,” the X-leader replied, “Why? What’s going on?”

“Our trip has just become more urgent. We need to get to Genosha as quickly as possible!”

“The Velocity isn’t as fast as the X-jet, but if we kick it into overdrive we should be there shortly,” said Scott as he was already working the scrambled controls.

“Do whatever you have to do!”

They were urgent words from someone who had experienced some pretty urgent things recently. It appeared that the promise of a boring political mission was no longer in play. Something much more exciting and dangerous was unfolding before them.

“Ooh boy, what is it this time?” wondered Jean.

“Let me guess…it has something to do with Magneto, doesn’t it?” said Piotr bitterly.

“That ain’t really a guess, homme. That be common sense!” said Remy as he and the rest of the team strapped themselves in.

“I’m afraid I cannot offer any details, my X-men. The General’s cell phone just went dead,” said Xavier grimly, “All I know is another incident is brewing and Magneto is at the center of it! If we don’t put a stop to it quickly and quietly, then any kind of peace deal may no longer be possible!”

Everybody knew it was only a matter of time before they had to confront Magneto again. So long as he was still alive, he was intent on making trouble. And his timing couldn’t possibly be worse. It seemed as though he may finish what he started with the Cambrian.

“Damn…another clash with Magneto,” sighed Bobby, “Wherever Wolverine is, I’ll bet he’s in a much better position to avoid this kind of bullshit.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Bobby,” said Ororo distantly, “Logan is the best he is at what he does and one of his most defining skills is making himself miserable.”

New York City – Downtown

‘Fuck this world and everything in it!’

The slurred, morose were in overdrive for the former living weapon. As night settled over New York City, Logan was already working on a steady supply of self-punishment. He just stumbled out of a liquor store with an oversized bottle of tequila and an equally oversized bottle of vodka. He was finishing the last of the tequila and it was showing. His demeanor was that of someone clearly soused by the effects of alcohol. He couldn’t walk straight, his breath was a bio-hazard, and his mind was well on its way to being irrevocably drunk for the rest of the night.

As soon as Logan left the institute, he went to work punishing himself for what he just did to Ororo. He just stood in front of her, ended their relationship, and watched her cry. Her sobs still echoed in his mind. She wasn’t ready to give up on him even after so many things had gone wrong. In some ways he wasn’t ready either. He still loved her enough to want to overcome the long list of complications that was his messed up life. But she deserved better and he deserved far worse.

‘I’m sorry, Ro. I’m sorry, Jeannie. Damn it, how the fuck do I apologize for shit like this?! I’m the asshole here! I’m the reason why everyone around me suffers! There’s gotta be a better way for me to kick myself in the ass!’

Logan stumbled into a nearby ally, avoiding some curious pedestrians along the way. He was in a rougher part of town. This was an area where many drunks and deadbeats came to drown their sorrows in despair and booze. Yet even the tougher looking drunks weren’t out to test him. He was that pathetic.

Now leaning against a wall for support, he used his claw to open the bottle of vodka and started chugging away. Because of his healing factor, it took a lot to get him drunk. He had already been guzzling an unhealthy amount of beer. As soon as he arrived in the city, he hit the bar and ran up a hell of a tab. That only got him a little tipsy. Since then he upgraded to the hardest liquor he could get his hands on. If ever there was a time for a man to get wasted in such an unhealthy way, this was it.

As soon as he finished chugging the vodka, he let out an angry snarl and threw the bottle against the wall. He kept on growling, his frustrating burning even as the alcohol befuddled his senses.

‘You were right, Yurkio. I am a monster. I can never love anyone. I deserve to be fucking miserable. Hell, I don’t even deserve to know the truth anymore. Far as I’m concerned, my past can just keep torturing me.’

It was a thought that had never crossed his mind before. He was so miserable that it no longer made sense for him to seek the answers of his past. After what he had done to Mariko, Jeannie, Rose, and now Ororo he deserved the torment that came with not knowing. So much of his life was centered around learning the truth. Now the truth seemed like a luxury he couldn’t and shouldn’t afford.

Wiping his mouth clean from the liquor, Logan stammered out of the ally and back onto the sidewalk. He was going to need more booze. He still wasn’t drunk enough and the hangover he was sure to get tomorrow morning wasn’t going to be nearly as painful as he deserved.

He stumbled along in search of another bar or liquor store. In New York City there were plenty to go around. He wasn’t far from District X. Even though tensions were high in that part of town, Logan figured it was a safe bet that the bars were still going strong. Along the way he passed by some more rough parts of town. In addition to drunks, this was where a lot of prostitutes hung out. He already passed a couple on his way to the liquor store. He passed even more as he walked by an old strip club.

“Hey there wild man! You looking for someone to keep you warm tonight?” said a trashy looking woman with rail thin arms.

“I bet I can get you off before the hangover sets in!” said another in a mini-skirt with puffy dark hair.

Logan barely gave them a second look. He stumbled right past them, bumping into the first woman along the way.

“Out of my way!” he grumbled, “Need more booze.”

“Fucking low life!” the two hookers scoffed.

Coming from New York City prostitutes, that was quite a statement. Logan didn’t put it past them. He was a low life. Tonight, he was the lowest of the low. He just blew off a woman he loved dearly and who loved him back despite his long list of faults. As far as he was concerned, the rats were on higher moral ground than he was.

Logan stumbled by more prostitutes on his quest for booze. This time they didn’t make him any lurid offers. The way he was carrying himself, even the least self-respecting street walker wouldn’t bother. He didn’t deserve a woman anyways. Not after what he did to Ororo.

He had just reached the end of the block on his way towards District X. A few bars were in sight. His desire for complete drunkenness was within his grasp. That’s when he picked up a strange scent.

“The hell?” he muttered as he sniffed the air.

It was coming back from where the prostitutes were hanging out. The scent was mixed with the vast array foul scents from this part of town, but it was unmistakable. It was a scent he knew better than any because it was his scent. What made it so strange was the scent wasn’t coming from him.

‘I must really be drunk now because I could swear I’m smelling my own scent. That ain’t supposed to happen. Unless…’

He started stumbling back towards the prostitutes. Many had already left in search of more business, but the scent still lingered. Whether it was because of the alcohol or just general curiosity, Logan went after it.

‘Where are you? WHAT are you? This can’t just be the booze!’

With renewed urgency, Logan ran back down the street. His balance was still off, but he was coordinated enough to make it back to where those two hookers from earlier had been standing. Upon returning, he realized the scent was moving. It slipped away from the main street and into an ally. Abandoning all reason or care, Logan snarled and followed it.

In a mix of predatory hunting and drunken buffoonery, he stammered through garbage ridden walkways in search of the scent. He knocked over several trashcans and even ran into a dumpster due to his intoxication, prompting him to cut right through it with his claws so he could keep going.

“I know you’re here!” he called out in a slurred tone, “Spare yourself a bullshit chase and show yourself!”

Logan kept stumbling along, running right into a brick wall in the process. He was too drunk to care so it did little to slow him down. He had to lean on the wall for support as he made his way towards the end of the ally. When he reached the final turn, he followed the scent to an unused loading dock for pickup trucks. That’s where he found the source of the scent.

“You’ve gotta be shitting me,” grumbled Logan in a drunken daze.

Standing in front of him was a girl dressed in a black mini-skirt, matching heeled boots, and pumps. It was the unmistakable style of a street walking prostitute. If that wasn’t a bad enough sign, this girl couldn’t have been older than 16. She had dark hair, fair skin, and eyes that bore an all too familiar rage. If Logan didn’t know any better and wasn’t befuddled by liquor, he could swear that the girl looked just like him…as if she was a blood relative.

You!” she seethed with a familiar feral rage, “I knew you would come after me! You were never going to leave me alone, were you?!”

“Okay…I must be really drunk,” grumbled Logan in a daze.

“It took you long enough!” the girl snarled, “Now I can make you pay for everything you did to me!”

She spoke with an anger and pain few besides himself had experienced. It was so eerily similar to his berserker rage that there was no way it could be a coincidence. Logan couldn’t begin to contemplate what this meant. He was too drunk to even get into his usual defensive poise. Yet he was still coherent enough to understand that this was something important.

“Kid, I hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t even know you!” Logan shouted.

“You lie!” she roared.

“News flash, princess! My memory is shit!” said the feral mutant in a slurred tone, “I’m guessin’ that dress of yours means you’re a hooker or something. If you think I’m an old client or something, you should know I ain’t into underage girls!”

“Shut up! You know what you did! If you need a reminder…how about this?!”

The teenage girl snarled angrily and clenched her fists. In doing so, two metal claws shot out from her knuckles. As soon as Logan saw this, his drunkenness nearly wore off on the spot. There wasn’t enough alcohol in the world to shield him from the shock that followed. This girl sounded like him, smelled like him, and even looked like him. Now she had his metal claws. Something was very wrong with this picture.

The teenage girl cared little for his drunken state. A lifetime of pain and anguish flashed before her eyes. Countless memories of torture, killing, and death coursed through her mind. This sent her into a state of total rage. Fueled by this rage, she attacked Logan with murderous intent.


Genosha – Citadel Ruins

By the time Captain Jack Freeman arrived at the ruins of the citadel, it wasn’t in ruin anymore. In a mere fifteen minutes, the charred rubble had been rapidly rebuilt by this mysterious black metal substance. Where there was once large piles of debris, there now stood the same majestic citadel that once dominated the landscape. It looked almost identical to the one that was destroyed, but this new one was still covered in the exotic black substance. It indicated that something was going on inside.

‘Seriously, what the hell is with this guy?! He screwed himself up the last time he messed with some strange goop! Now he’s doing it again! Is Magneto unoriginal or just plain stupid?!”

As soon as Captain Freeman parked his motorcycle, he rushed towards the front entrance of the citadel. As he got closer, he noticed the black substance become more agitated. It wasn’t behaving like the Cambrian. It almost looked like a living computer graphic and the citadel was its central core or something.

Whatever it was, Captain Freeman knew Magneto was behind it. If he was still dancing to the tune of a mentally unstable psychopath, then they were going to have some serious words that had nothing to do with a peace treaty.

“Damn it, Magneto! Why do you have to make me do this citadel run again?” muttered the Green Beret, “At least I’m back to my kind of mission!”

Captain Freeman was about to barge into the citadel. Then an urgent voice from across the street rang out and stopped him.

“You there! Stay where you are!” yelled the authoritative voice of Wanda Maximoff.

“Don’t do anything stupid, GI Joe! You don’t know what you’re getting into!” said the equally authoritative Alex Summers.

Captain Freeman turned around to see the Brotherhood of Mutants coming his way. They included Havok, Quicksilver, Polaris, Blob, Pyro, Avalanche, Kid Omega, and the Scarlet Witch. For a moment, the Green Beret tensed. He wondered if they would recognize him as the man that broke into the citadel a while back and stole Magneto’s helmet. Since they didn’t start attacking him immediately, he figured they didn’t recognize him in his military uniform.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Were you just barge in there and start shooting?” said Quicksilver as he ran up to the Green Beret.

“Back off, speedy! I have my orders!” said Freeman.

“I don’t see any officers around so I think your orders have no weight,” said the Scarlet Witch, who quickly got in his way along with Havok and Polaris.

“Don’t make this any worse, Miss Maximoff! I was supposed to be a negotiator, but I’m also the contingency plan. General Grimshaw’s words were crystal clear. If things went to hell, it was my duty to kick the devil in the balls! Based on what I just saw, I’d say we’re at least at the sixth circle!”

This soldier had an attitude. If what he said was true, then they were in trouble before this mess even began.

“Wait…you’re the guy who was supposed to negotiate the treaty?” laughed Blob.

“Gotta say, mate. You don’t strike me as the diplomatic type,” laughed Pyro.

“You’re also lacking in the cavalry department,” Havok pointed out, “Don’t tell me every other soldier on this island is running scared.”

“They’re holding back because my name is Captain Jack Freeman and that’s what I ordered!” spat the Green Beret, “You all saw what happened last time Magneto played with some black sludge! We’re not about to let that happen again!”

“Well excuse me, Captain Freeman, but you don’t even know what you’re up against. What makes you think you can stop it?” scoffed Quicksilver.

“I’m assuming Magneto is behind this so the plan is simple. I go in, take him out, and that should be enough to settle things down!”

“Take him out?!” exclaimed Polaris, “That is my father you’re talking about!”

“Sorry kid, but your father fell out of the crazy tree and hit every branch on the way down! Now get out of my way or I’m calling in an airstrike!”

Captain Freeman tried to barge past the Brotherhood, but he was grabbed by Blob and shoved back with a dose of telekinesis from Kid Omega. The force was more than he anticipated and sent him stumbling back.

“Now you’re just being stupid,” said Quentin dryly.

“Story of my life,” quipped Captain Freeman.

Without dusting off his uniform, Captain Freeman fought back. He utilized years of training and experience as a Green Beret to counter Kid Omega’s telekinesis. They didn’t take him seriously. They probably thought he was just another human soldier. But when he beat back Kid Omega’s telekinesis with his bare hands, the entire Brotherhood was pretty shocked. The teenage boy’s eyes widened just in time for the Green Beret grab him by the collar and throw him across the street.

“How did-whoa!” he exclaimed.

Not content with upstaging Kid Omega, the determined soldier showed some agility and struck Blob as well. The oversized mutant was surprised to find out that this seemingly average soldier hit with some pretty impressive strength. It was impressive enough to knock him flat on his back, causing a hard thud on the street that left some sizable cracks.

“Damn…” said a baffled Quicksilver.

“I admit I was not expecting that,” said Avalanche, now taking a more defensive stance.

The rest of the Brotherhood followed suit. Anyone who showed that kind of strength against Blob and a powerful psychic like Kid Omega was someone that deserved to be taken seriously. It also posed some interesting questions.

“You’re not a regular soldier, are you?” said Havok.

“What was your first clue, pretty boy?” said the Captain, still clenching his fists.

“I didn’t think the military allowed mutants anymore. At the same time I can see why General Grimshaw would send you to these negotiations,” said the Scarlet Witch.

“Does that mean you’ll get out of my way and let me carry out my mission?”

“Hold on! Your mission doesn’t have to involve killing Magneto!” said Polaris strongly, “You said it yourself! He’s not all there mentally.”

“I question whether he was all there to begin with,” retorted Captain Freeman.

“Spare me the insults! The man is still my father! So if you really want to do your job, then you’ll work with us and not against us!”

“You mean you want to team up?” scoffed the Green Beret, “Hate to break it to you, but I’m a pretty lousy team player. Just ask my old drill sergeants.”

“Tough! You’re in our country! You’ll either help us or get in our way!” said the Scarlet Witch, flashing some hex bolts to reinforce her point, “Now you’ve already gotten the peacekeepers to back off. Say I get the Brotherhood to hold off the civilians. Would that earn us an inkling of your trust?”

Captain Freeman stopped for a moment to ponder the mission. Looking up at the citadel, he realized he had a lot of ground to cover. He also realized he didn’t understand what he was up against. These were Magneto’s most trusted associates, including his own children. The General always told him that going into a mission blind was like going into a toxic waste dump naked. Nothing good can come of it. This was one of those moments when he had to make the right decision and follow the mission to the letter.

“Fine…if you’re that willing to help, I’m willing to be gentle,” said Captain Freeman.

“We’ll need more than gentle, but I’ll take it,” said the Scarlet Witch.

“But go overboard for a second and I won’t hesitate to fuck you up!” said Havok.

“Enough with the thug talk, kid. You don’t intimidate a Green Beret with nothing to lose.”

“It’s not intimidation. It’s a warning.”

Some angry looks were exchanged. There was plenty of inclination to fight rather than cooperate, but the luxury of having a choice was nullified as the activity in the citadel took a bizarre turn.

The strange black metal began forming new shapes along the outline of the building. Exotic machines were crafted seemingly out of nothing. The black metal would literally mold itself into a shape and when it peeled back, a fully functioning machine would emerge. Some looked pretty benign and could have been statues for all they knew. Some looked like weapons and not the non-lethal type. That was all the motivation the two sides needed to take action.

“Way to make a statement, father,” said Wanda bitterly as she turned to the Brotherhood, “Avalanche, I need you Blob, Pyro, and Kid Omega to set up a six block perimeter around the citadel! Don’t let any civilians in!”

“What about the soldiers?” asked Avalanche.

“Keep them out too! Hopefully, the Captain’s orders carry weight,” she replied.

“They’ll listen. At least until General Grimshaw says otherwise,” said Captain Freeman.

“You’re not giving us a lot of confidence here!” said Quicksilver.

“We’ll manage,” said the Scarlet Witch sternly, “If necessary, have Kid Omega use his telepathy to subdue the crowds psychically! Make them believe they’re watching fireworks or something! Just keep everybody out of our way while Polaris, Havok, Quicksilver, and I go after Magneto!”

“Gonna try and talk some sense into him, babe?” said Pyro.

“Among other things,” she replied.

Avalanche nodded in affirmation and led Pyro across the street where Kid Omega was still rubbing his head from the blow he took earlier. He also gave Blob a kick in the side to move him along.

“Get up, bug fella! We’re on crowd control!” said Avalanche, “You can rebuild your ego later!”

“Ungh…I really hate that guy!” groaned Blob as he pulled himself upright.

“Join the club. You’ll make plenty of friends,” said Captain Freeman dryly.

While Blob caught up with Avalanche and Pyro, Captain Freeman followed the rest of the Brotherhood towards the front entrance to the citadel. The large metal doors looked identical to the ones from the old building, but they were still lined with shards of the mysterious black and gold metal. The experienced Green Beret was ready to storm in and find Magneto. However, Polaris and the Scarlet Witch were somewhat hesitant.

“What are you waiting for? Use some of that mutant magic of yours to get us in!” said Captain Freeman.

“This is my father we’re dealing with,” said Polaris distantly, “It helps to be cautious.”

“He said something about this Warlock goop being biological and mechanical,” said the Scarlet Witch, “For all we know, this stuff is alive.”

“Wait…biological and mechanical?” said Captain Freeman, “I failed both subjects in school so I’m not seeing why we can’t just bust in.”

“And you guys say I’m impatient,” scoffed Quicksilver.

“Think of it in terms of cause and effect, Captain Freeman,” said the Scarlet Witch as she carefully approached the doors, “When something is alive and you poke it, what usually happens?”

“You mean besides wasting valuable time?”

“It pokes back,” she answered, “Which is why we have to be careful in applying force.”

With this in mind, the Scarlet Witch carefully reached out to touch the doors. She covered her hand in a hex bolt just in case while Havok, Polaris, and Quicksilver stood ready to act in case something went wrong. Captain Freeman was still inclined to just blow past her and barge in, but gave the Brotherhood’s method a chance and stayed back for good measure.

The Scarlet Witch was about to touch the metal surface when the black and gold substance reacted. From this alien manifestation, a series of cube-shaped structures shot out and formed a collection of complex shapes. It surprised her and the rest of the Brotherhood, causing them to stumble back.

“Looks like it’s poking back already!” said Quicksilver.

“But I didn’t even touch it!” exclaimed the Scarlet Witch.

“Maybe it wants to do the poking,” said Havok, his hands already glowing in preparation for an attack.

In another bizarre display, the black and gold cubes assembled in a dark puddle just in front of the door. From this puddle the substance formed larger shapes that soon turned into humanoid figures, complete with legs and a human-like head with gold entrails to resemble facial features. There were five of them in all, one for each of them it seemed. As soon as they were fully formed, a black cable-like tendril shot out from their chest and tried to wrap itself around Captain Freeman and the Brotherhood.

“Augh! It got me!” Polaris cried out as she grasped the strange tendril.

“Me too!” joked Quicksilver, “Can’t…run!”

“So shoot it!” grunted Havok.

Both he and the Scarlet Witch tried to obliterate these black tubes with hex bolts and energy blasts. They successfully destroyed some, but only briefly. In response their respective humanoid figures shot out several more, all of which latched onto them with greater force.

“Ugh! These things…are durable!” grunted the Scarlet Witch.

“Must be Magneto’s new henchmen! Guess that means we’ve been replaced!” said Havok as his hands were bound to keep him from aiming his blasts.

Within seconds Havok, Polaris, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch were on the ground. The only one who managed to avoid this attack was Captain Freeman. Having kept his distance from the door, he was better able to react. He used his adaptation powers to enhance his reflexes, giving him the agility he needed to avoid the attacks.

“That’s it! I take back what I said about being gentle!” grunted the Green Beret.

“You want to complain? Or do you want to help us?!” exclaimed Quicksilver.

“Tough choice,” quipped Captain Freeman.

More black tendrils shot out from the figure. Captain Freeman continued to avoid them by backing away while ducking and dodging the attacks. He tried fighting back by swatting them away. It felt like he was punching tin foil mixed with clay. The more he fought it, the more tubes the figure formed. Growing frustrated, the experienced soldier got into position to attack.

“You want hide like a coward, Magneto?! I’m game!” roared Captain Freeman, “Hide behind your fancy toys all you want! You’re going to answer for your crimes!”

“Ungh…this guy is almost as annoying as Wolverine,” groaned Havok, who was now completely restrained from the neck down.

“Almost,” Quicksilver reiterated.

In a brazen move, Captain Freeman tried to directly attack the black and gold figures. He led with his shoulder, using his whole body as a ram. Doing a quick adaptation again, the Green Beret increased his density so he had more force behind him. He dug his feet into the ground and pushed with all his might. The black tendrils were thrust out of the way like blades of grass at first. With this force, Captain Freeman made it to within ten feet of the target. That’s when the black figures did some adaptation of their own.

While Jack was pushing back the onslaught, he didn’t realize a black puddle on the ground expanding. As soon as he set foot in the puddle, a powerful burst of blackish matter erupted around him and consumed his body from the ground up. It encased him in a hard black shell that was so ridged that he couldn’t adapt enough to break free. The determined soldier kept struggling, managing two more steps before he was frozen in place like the others.

“Argh! You think this can hold me?!” grunted Captain Freeman.

“Dunno, looks to be doing a decent job,” commented Quicksilver.

“Shut up! You guys are mutants too! Use your damn powers already!” he ordered.

“What do you think we’ve been doing? Counting sheep?” exclaimed the Scarlet Witch, who was also covered from the neck down, “I can’t hex out! Can’t even concentrate! Too tight!”

“Me neither!” gasped Polaris, “Can hardly breathe!”

“Keep fighting anyways!” urged Havok, “Magneto wants to take us out? Don’t make it easy for him!”

As Captain Freeman and the Brotherhood struggled, they were greeted with a strange yet familiar voice from the five black figures.

“Take you out? My boy, why on Earth would I want to do that?”

“They can talk?!” said Captain Freeman.

“I don’t think so,” said Polaris, who was no longer struggling, “They sound like…”

“Father!” yelled the Scarlet Witch, who pieced it together as well, “I know that’s you in there! What have you done to yourself this time?!”

“Nothing as extreme as you think, I assure you. I haven’t merged with another 500 million year old entity. I am merely directing traffic so to speak from my throne room.”

“Is that what we are to you? Traffic?!” exclaimed Quicksilver, “Guess everyone else was right! You really are crazy!”

“Do not judge my sanity just yet, my son. This is not an attack. It is merely a demonstration of the point I was trying to make earlier.”

“What point could that be? That you’re willing to fight your own children to get what you want?!” spat the Scarlet Witch.

“Not in the slightest. While you may think me crazy, my goal has never changed. I am and always have worked with your best interests at heart.”

That seemed hard to believe. The Brotherhood resumed their struggling, sensing they could no longer be reasonable with this man. While they tried to fight back, the black metal on the door shifted again and a screen-like display formed. On this screen, an image of Magneto emerged. It looked like he had been telling the truth. He was still in his throne room and in one piece physically.

“This technology is amazing, isn’t it? The alien creatures behind it were so advanced that they were able to blend biology and technology into a perfect hybrid. The Warlock interface is capable of taking ordinary matter and rearranging it into this unique black proto-matter you feel around you. From this matter, nearly any mechanical device or apparatus can be created. Were a lesser man to witness it, he would think it pure magic.”

“Let me go and I’ll show you a real trick!” grunted Captain Freeman.

“Oh it goes beyond mere tricks. You see, hundreds of years ago when technologically advanced civilizations met up with more primitive cultures, their feats of engineering seemed nothing short of divine. To an ordinary Aztec, a cannon seemed like a manifestation of the supernatural. Because of this, those with the technology were able to dominate.”

“Every time you talk domination, it rarely ends well, father,” said Polaris anxiously, “Why do you insist on doing this again?!”

“Because the same rules apply today and it’s time we start abiding by those rules. He who has the most advanced technology rules the day. For decades such technology has kept pace with the rest of humanity so that little seems magical anymore. That’s where the alien ship comes in.”

“Alien ship? What the hell is he talking about?!” scoffed Captain Freeman.

“That part actually isn’t crazy,” groaned Havok.

“Yeah, the ship he’s talking about is real,” said the Scarlet Witch.

“Tell me that’s another one of your lousy jokes.”

“It’s a long story,” sighed Quicksilver, “And one that’s kind of meaningless at this point.”

Captain Freeman grew even more outraged. Either they were all screwing with him or they were telling the truth. Both possibilities left him equally pissed off. At this point he was the only one still trying to escape as Magneto kept talking.

“I discovered early in my excavations that Warlock was a backup program from the alien ship. It contained all the knowledge and specs regarding Shi’ar technology. You see, in addition to being able to craft specified devices it also acts as a computer. It can store countless bits of information. This information, which allows for all the magnificent technological manifestations you see around you, is the ultimate power. With it, we have the means to advance our society so far ahead of humanity that they’ll never pose a threat to us again.”

“Is that what you’re going to do with this thing? Use it to create weapons? Did you learn nothing from my mom’s death?!” said Polaris, her voice full of sorrow at how her father was behaving.

“Heavens no, my child. That would be too messy. Instead, I’m going to use Warlock to create what the Shi’ar called a T-bomb. Think of it as a massive nuclear blast that affects only machines. Imagine for a moment that all of humanity was plunged back into the Stone Age. Thousands of years of technology will be wiped out, reverting civilization back to the status of mere cave men. All the while, our people on Genosha will have access to all the comforts and amenities that alien technology can provide. If the humans wish to share such amenities, they must remain subservient. It is only then that they will no longer threaten us.”

It was a plan that could only come from an unstable mind, yet it was brilliant in its own right. Rather than attack humanity, Magneto was going to render them impotent. Even if it was supposedly to protect mutant kind, it was still a devious plan that would incur immeasurable suffering.

“Subservient? More like slaves!” spat Captain Freeman, “You take out technology and you just give yourself leverage over everyone else! It’s the kind of leverage men like you always find ways to exploit!”

“That doesn’t even take into account all the lives you’ll destroy!” exclaimed Polaris, “Without technology planes will crash, people will starve, and disease will kill millions! You can’t possibly be okay with this, Father! How can you lose your humanity again after we’ve worked so hard to rebuild it!”

“Think harder about what you’re doing, father! There may even be time to salvage our efforts!” said the Scarlet Witch, “If you stop right now we can work out a treaty! We can even use this technology as a bargaining chip! We don’t have to resort to this kind of destruction!”

“You’re wrong, Wanda. This is the only way we can be safe. Since I lost the Cambrian, I lost my chance to unify mutant kind. So long as we remain fragmented, the humans will conspire against us. They’ll always seek to destroy us. I simply cannot allow that to happen. I no longer wish to wipe them all out. So I’ll settle for rendering them weak.”

“More like vulnerable!” spat Captain Freeman, “This bullshit plan of yours just proves you’ve lost it! Whatever the Cambrian did to you, I’m glad it…”

But Captain Freeman wasn’t allowed to finish. The black metal of Warlock expanded to cover his mouth, preventing him from finishing his insult.

“Guess Father is still capable of some good,” commented Quicksilver, relieved to see the Green Beret silenced.

“Such criticisms are duly noted, but I have made up my mind. The T-bomb is already under construction. As I speak it is sending out a powerful signal that will disrupt all global communication. This way the humans will not be able to coordinate a response. As soon as bomb is primed, I will detonate it from the top of the citadel and every bit of technology in every part of the world will fail within minutes. For this, I want you to join me. You deserve to bear witness to this momentous event.”

“I’m not going to watch you slip into madness again, Father! You can count me out!” cried Polaris.

“We’ll fight you if we have to, Magneto! Don’t think that we won’t!” spat Havok.

“Perhaps my words were not clear. My desire for your presence was NOT  a request.”

The image screen on the doors soon faded and the black metal began swirling again. Magneto made his intentions painfully clear. He was going to go through with this whether they opposed him or not.

The black metal tightened its grip around Captain Freeman and the Brotherhood. Once they were completely secure, the five figures faded into the puddle of black proto-matter. From this puddle, they were drawn into the citadel as if they were on a conveyor belt. Polaris, Havok, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Captain Jack Freeman could only hold on as the door opened so Warlock could pull them in. They were relegated to helpless spectators at this point. If Magneto succeeded, then the world as they knew it would descend into chaos.

Pentagon – Earlier

“It’s getting worse! We’ve got static on all channels! All satellite uplinks are going dark!”

“Servers 10 through 18 are all shutting down! Switching to auxiliary bandwidth!”

“That’s failing too! Everything is failing!”

“Ahhhh! Damn it, I’m hearing nothing but that annoying interference! We can’t get through to anybody! Not even the damn parking garage!”

The Pentagon was in turmoil. Systems everywhere were failing. Nearly every computer screen in the room was flickering erratically. The analysts monitoring communication uplinks had to remove their headphones. Nothing but gibberish and static was coming through. Many officers were scrambling to re-establish communication with various MSA forces. Nothing appeared to be working. Some were resorting to using their cell phones, but even those were failing. For every second they were cut off, the panic escalated.

General Grimshaw tried to keep it together as he went from hub to hub, looking for causes of this disturbance. While he was looking, he stayed on the special cell phone that linked him with Charles Xavier. This was his last lifeline and it was failing too. He had been trying to get some vital messages to him and he wasn’t sure if any of them would get through.

“Damn it, this better be a local glitch!” he said as he struck his phone in a show of frustration, “Somebody give me an update or something!”

“It’s not local, sir! For all we know, this is worldwide!” said a nearby analyst, “This disruption is coming from everywhere! All radio, microwave, and ground line communications are down or unusable! We can’t even get any Morse code out!”

“Someone is trying to mute the whole world!” added a technician who was frantically unplugging failing machines, “It’s coming through this one bizarre signal and somehow it’s affecting every part of the spectrum!”

“Where did the signal originate? Did you have time to trace it?” asked the General, remaining stern and assertive.

“We couldn’t get a fix, but the first wave seemed to come from Genosha!” said another female analyst.

General Grimshaw’s demeanor grimaced. That was the only clue he needed to figure out what was behind this, or more accurately who. It could be no one else. And suddenly, the likelihood of a treaty seemed all but impossible.

“Magneto…it can only be him,” he said.

“If that’s the case, how do we respond, sir?” asked a nearby Colonel.

“We can’t radio our forces on Genosha. We can’t organize an attack from the naval task force. We can’t call other countries for assistance. Hell, I can’t even send a text message to my daughter!”

“Have you tried Twitter?” said a lieutenant dryly.

“That’s down too! Everything’s down!”

Every analyst and officer worked frantically to find a way to get the data stream flowing again. Nobody seemed to have any answers. General Grimshaw had a feeling that nobody was going to find any. Magneto had successfully blinded them. He didn’t want a coordinate response like there was with the Cambrian. He wasn’t just rendering the world helpless. He was ensuring that they remained completely unaware of what he was about to do.

For all he knew, the public thought this was a typical outage. President Kelly was probably in the dark as well and there was no way to get the word out to him. Whatever move Magneto was about to make, nobody was going to know about it until it was too late. Tactically, it was as brilliant as it was horrifying. With what little bandwidth he had left, General Grimshaw tried to send his last message to Charles Xavier. The second it went out, the phone went completely dead.

“Sir…we need to respond!” said the Colonel anxiously.

“We already are, Colonel,” said Grimshaw stoically, “We may not have communications, but we have the X-men on route and they’ve probably figured out more than we have already. We also have Captain Freeman on the ground. Knowing him, he’s probably on a whole new level of pissed.”

“The X-men and Captain Freeman?! You’re not seriously pinning all our hopes on them, are you?” lamented the officer.

“Does it look like we have a choice?” the General retorted, “Have a little faith in our allies. They’ll do whatever it takes. And when all this is over, I’ll see to it personally that Magneto never sees the light of day again.”

Next Issue: Time Bomb Part 2

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