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Volume 6 -- Issue 144 -- Proactive Regression Part 2

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Proactive Regression Part 2
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A conflict is brewing between mutants and the human race. The world hates and fears the extraordinary powers that mutants like Charles Xavier and his X-men wield. So the burden is on them to stop this conflict. The X-men have always followed Charles Xavier’s lead in this effort. Time and again he’s led them to victory. This time, however, his plan has put them in a very vulnerable position.

Facing a double threat between the Mutant Liberation Front and White Cell, the X-men split into two teams in an effort to confront the burgeoning conflict. It all ties into Genosha, which has since become more militant. Their boarders have been closed and the technology exports that once maintained a fragile peace are no longer available. This has led the nations of the world to tighten their naval blockade around Genosha. Charles Xavier led a team to the island in hopes of negotiating a peaceful resolution. He has been facing pressure from the likes of President Kelly and General Grimshaw, who seem to believe an attack is all but inevitable.

Far from the shores of Genosha, Wolverine and the rest of the X-men sought to uncover the hidden hand that seems to be guiding both Genosha and the Mutant Liberation Front. Their investigation resulted in a violent clash with Frenzy, a White Cell operative who may be key to stopping both sides from falling into White Cell’s trap.

Genosha – South Shore

The X-men’s arrival at Genosha was a tense affair to say the least. Unlike previous trips, they couldn’t sneak their way onto the island. This ambitious trip had to take place under the watchful eye of the MSA and every major government that wanted to blow Genosha back to the stone age. Aboard the X-jet, they had to stay in constant contact with General Grimshaw. He was their only link to President Kelly and the rest of the world. He was the one that got them clearance over the naval blockade. As they neared their landing area, Professor Xavier and his team realized just how grave this situation had grown.

“Talk about overkill,” said Kitty as the X-jet landed, “Exactly how many warships are pointing their guns at Genosha?”

“I lost count after 82,” said Jean, “That’s not counting the ships that can strike over a distance.”

“Or the submarines. Don’t forget the submarines,” said Bobby as he followed the others to the hatch.

“You don’t sound worried, Bobby,” commented Kitty.

“Are you kidding? I’m terrified,” he said only half-jokingly, “Everybody had their guns pointed at Genosha before it became a mutants-only country. Now they just have a better reason to start shooting.”

“That’s what we’re here to prevent, Bobby,” said Scott strongly, “President Kelly and General Grimshaw don’t believe there’s a diplomatic solution to this mess. They’re working under the assumption that we’re going to fail in this little outreach.”

“So then why are we doing this again? Why are we going for a camping trip at ground zero of the world’s most enticing target?”

“Because the war they fear is not inevitable. And we have a responsibility to stop it,” said Professor Xavier strongly, “We were the ones that inadvertently instigated this when the Starjammer showed up. It’s only appropriate that we be the ones to clean up this mess.”

“Do you think Alex Summers will believe us when we explain our story to him?” asked Piotr.

“We’d have a better chance of convincing him to be a Buddhist monk,” said Scott, “That doesn’t mean we can’t knock some sense into him. My brother may be stubborn, but he knows when to back down from a fight he can’t win.”

This was assuming a lot of Alex Summers. Even though Scott knew his brother better than anyone, he was making a major stand in front of the international community. It was hard to imagine that he would simply back down. Professor Xavier and the rest of the X-men were prepared for a tense confrontation.

Upon stepping out of the hatch to the X-jet, the team could feel the tension in the air. It was cloudy and dreary on this part of the island. Such conditions seemed appropriate. Professor Xavier and Scott led the way onto the designated coordinates Genosha specified for them. Jean, Kitty, Piotr, and Bobby followed closely. They were immediately met with a small welcoming party that included Alex, Wanda, Pietro, Blob, Pyro, and Quentin. They looked as though they were already in a wartime mentality.

“You guys have a lot of guts coming here,” commented Pietro, “Guts and stupidity.”

“So much that Xavier ditched the wheelchair,” added Blob, “He’s actually more than just a big bald brain for once.”

“Will that be a problem?” asked Xavier, maintaining a civil tone.

“That depends,” said Alex apprehensively, “You guys crashed on our turf, stole some of our Warlock tech, and left without so much as a fuck you. The only reason I agreed to let you guys in was because I expect a damn good explanation.”

“Is that all you want, Alex?” asked Scott skeptically, “While we were gone, you’ve been grandstanding in a way that’s unhealthy even by your standards. Is one incident worth provoking every major military on the planet?”

“You act as though he made this decision alone,” said Wanda, “I trusted you X-men! I bent over backwards to do things your way! Then, out of nowhere, you stole our technology for your own personal missions!”

“We didn’t steal anything, Wanda. That’s not how it happened!” retorted Scott.

“I know I was there. I wish I could remember it, but you left me behind with head trauma in an unstable building! My head finally stopped pounding a week ago!”

“Wait…you don’t remember Scott telling you about the Shi’ar or the Starjammer?” questioned Xavier.

“I’ve heard of the Shi’ar, but what the hell is a Starjammer?” asked Wanda incredulously.

Scott and the Professor exchanged glances. This was an unexpected revelation. They were under the impression that Alex convinced Wanda they took advantage of her trust. If she didn’t remember what happened, then she wouldn’t have to. She would have all the reason she needed to believe that X-men betrayed her.

This changed the stakes a great deal. While the others were processing this, Jean used her telepathy to scan Wanda’s mind. She sensed the Professor do the same. They were quickly met with a hostile psychic wall.

‘Is she telling the truth, Professor? I can’t read Wanda’s mind.’

‘I can’t either, Jean. Her mind is heavily blocked and not just by her own psychic defenses.’

‘Does that mean she’s blocking us out? Without the Phoenix Force, I can’t dig deeper.’

‘It’s probably best if we don’t. Alex seems to have implemented heavy psychic defenses. He doesn’t trust us to leave any mind vulnerable.’

Through their psychic conversation, they sensed an unexpected telepathic voice.

‘You don’t know the half of it, Xavier.’

Jean and Xavier were startled. From behind Alex and Wanda, Quentin Quire emerged with a smug grin. He could tell from their reactions what was going on.

“Trying to mind fuck us already? And I thought you X-men were supposed to be reasonable,” said Quentin, mocking them with his tone.

“You better tone down the attitude along with that goofy haircut,” retorted Kitty, “If we wanted to attack your minds, you would be dealing with way more than memory loss.”

“Take it easy, Katya. You’re not being very diplomatic,” said Piotr with a slight nudge.

“You guys talk as though we don’t take this shit seriously,” said Pietro.

“Seeing as how you’ve let every navy in the world blockade your island, I think we’re right to question your motivations,” retorted Jean.

The tension was escalating. Piotr had to hold his girlfriend back while Wanda had to stop Pietro from overreacting. This was a critical moment for both sides. They couldn’t let it devolve into a fist fight. Not yet anyways.

“We let them blockade us because that’s what we planned,” said Alex, “Contrary to what you may believe, we do think ahead. That’s why I’ve had Quentin place psychic blocks on our minds. You don’t have our trust so we’re not giving you any leverage.”

“Will you at least give us a chance to earn back your trust?” asked Xavier, “That’s why we’re here. We want to give you the explanation you seek. We also want to work out a better solution to this issue. I believe your current plan isn’t taking a few key factors into account.”

“Are you talking about those assholes from the Mutant Liberation Front?” scoffed Blob.

“Believe me, we’re ready to deal with them as well,” said Wanda strongly, “Now that Lance is with them, we have all the more reason to take them down!”

“Don’t presume you know everything,” warned Xavier, “There may be other forces involved that you don’t understand. As we speak, the rest of my X-men are looking into this.”

“And we’ll deal with them as well,” said Alex, “All while sending a message to every human on this planet.”

“You’re taking a big risk just to send a message,” said Scott, “Is that really your only goal?”

“Our goals aren’t much different from yours,” retorted Wanda, “We want what’s best for our people. We’ve tried to be a peaceful nation of mutants, but we’re still constantly victimized. The only way we can secure our future is by making a major change.”

“Then let us help you make that change while avoiding a potential catastrophe,” said Xavier, maintaining a reasonable tone, “You’re making a lot of enemies with your actions. You’ll still need allies to succeed in the utmost.”

Alex studied Xavier’s calm demeanor, ignoring Scott’s harsh gazes in the process. He didn’t allow the X-men here just to clash with them. They were going to get involved at some point. It might as well be under their terms. Suspicions aside, Charles Xavier was a reasonable man. He still had credibility outside Genosha. He might need that for what they had planned.

“You know, I’m actually glad you’re back in action, Professor Xavier. You’re a lot easier to work with than irate family members,” said Alex.

“I’m standing right here, Alex. You do know that, don’t you?” said Scott in an annoyed tone.

“If you’re going to keep being a dick, I’m going to keep ignoring you, Scott,” said Alex, not even looking in his brother’s direction.

Scott was tempted to lash out. He held himself back. Alex was really pushing him. Jean moved closer to keep him calm. Even with her presence, there was only so much of Alex’s arrogance that he could take.

“So you’ll give us a chance?” asked the Professor, ignoring Scott’s simmering demeanor.

“Yes, but with a few major conditions,” said Alex.

“How major?” questioned Jean.

Alex turned to Pyro, who was holding a black bag. With an ominous grin, he reached inside and pulled out a collection of black collar-like devices. Professor Xavier and the X-men quickly recognized them. They were the power-inhibiting collars that had been used by Weapon X. How the Brotherhood got their hands on them was a mystery they didn’t begin to contemplate. Before anyone could ask questions, Alex hit them with a new surprise.

“Put these on,” said Alex, “They’re exactly what you think they are.”

“Wait! You want us to willingly de-power ourselves while we’re on you’re home turf?” exclaimed Bobby.

“You must think we’re fools,” said Piotr sternly.

“We know you’re not fools. We also know you’re not trustworthy. I have the bruise on my head to prove it,” said Wanda.

“The way I see it, we need a little extra leverage,” said Pietro wryly, “The last time you showed up, we got screwed over big time. In order to protect ourselves and ensure you won’t do it again, you need to play by our rules.”

“Even if those rules are unfair?” questioned Jean.

Especially if they’re unfair,” said Alex, “You’ll just have to trust us as we once trusted you.”

The Brotherhood was playing a dangerous game. They were daring the X-men to make themselves vulnerable. Any hope of making these negotiations meaningful hinged on their willingness to trust one another. Professor Xavier sensed utter revulsion from his X-men. They were against this on every level. Someone was going to have to make the difficult decision. It might as well be him.

“Give me the collars,” said Professor Xavier.

“What?!” exclaimed Kitty, “This better be part of some ingenious plan, Professor!”

“The plan hasn’t changed,” he said as he took the collars from Pyro, “Alex is right. We must make a gesture of good faith.”

“But sir…” began Scott.

“This is not up for debate, X-men. We’re on Genosha. We’ll abide by their rules.”

To show he was serious, Professor Xavier put his collar on first. The moment he snapped it into place, a red light on the front came on to indicate that it was active. The move somewhat surprised the Brotherhood, but the X-men were more shocked. The Professor was really serious about this.

“This is a mistake,” said Jean.

“If Logan were here, he would be so outraged he would swim back to Westchester if he had to,” added Bobby.

“If that’s what you want, we ain’t stopping you,” laughed Blob, “But you heard your boss. Put ‘em on!”

“Otherwise, I’ll hex you back to your institute and I promise it’ll be much worse than swimming,” added Wanda.

Scott, Jean, Bobby, Kitty, and Piotr were still hesitant. They kept scolding Alex, Wanda, and the rest of the Brotherhood. The air grew tense. The moment was ripe for a major fight. Xavier kept urging them with an authoritative glare. As much as they hated the idea, they followed their mentor’s orders.

One-by-one, the X-men put the collars on. As soon as they were active, they could feel their powers subside. The ice shell surrounding Bobby quickly faded and Piotr’s metal skin reverted to regular flesh, leaving them vulnerable. Kitty and Jean did it quickly before they could have second thoughts. Scott was the last. He just held the collar for a moment, staring at Alex and then back at the Professor.

“This is a mistake,” he told his mentor.

“If so, then it is mine to make,” said the Professor, “We can’t turn back now, Scott. We need to make this work.”

Scott hesitated a bit longer. If he were still Operations Commander, he would find another way. This was not how the best way to carry out a mission. They were setting themselves up for failure. Never-the-less, this was Professor Xavier’s plan. So with lingering bitterness, he put the collar on.

“There. Now was that so hard?” said Quentin.

“Put one on yourself! We’ll see how tough you are then!” shot Kitty.

“Now that we’re the ones with the powers, you don’t get to be so high and mighty anymore,” said Pietro.

“Take it easy, Pietro. They did what we asked,” said Wanda, “Now we can move forward.”

“Does this mean we can start discussing the relevant matters at hand? I fear time is working against us,” said Xavier, not hiding his discomfort.

“It is. So follow us and we’ll get started,” said Alex assertively.

“Before we do, I have some materials in the X-jet I would like to retrieve. I think they’ll be most useful in…”

But before Professor Xavier could explain himself, Pyro used his flamethrowers to form a large ring of fire around him and the X-men. It was a hostile gesture at a moment when they were at their most vulnerable. It left them feeling anxious in many profound ways.

“I don’t think you understood me, Professor. That wasn’t a request,” said Alex in a more threatening tone, “Leave your jet here. We’re doing this our way. You’re no longer in a position to do anything about it.”

“Try anything funny and we’ll be having some exotic barbecue tonight!” added Pyro.

“And I skipped my second lunch so you better start walking,” grinned Blob.

Professor Xavier tensed under such a threat while his X-men grew even more uncomfortable. This no longer felt like a negotiation. It felt like they were prisoners and the Brotherhood was inclined to take full advantage of it. This did not bode well for averting the looming crisis.

“Regretting your decision yet, Professor?” asked Scott bitterly.

“I think that question has answered itself,” said Xavier as Pyro’s flames forced them to follow the Brotherhood, “Our choices are even more limited than before. We’ll have to make our next move count before other mistakes catch up with us.”

Pentagon – MSA Division

“We’re out of time, General! I’ve got every country with a standing army breathing down my neck! They want to launch a first strike on Genosha!” said an irate President Kelly over a secure line.

“Give Xavier more time, Mr. President. Tell them that diplomacy hasn’t failed just yet,” urged General Grimshaw, trying hard to maintain his demeanor.

“Charles Xavier’s credibility has fallen faster than my approval rating! Between Genosha and the Mutant Liberation Front, nobody has the stomach for more mutant attacks! It needs to end here!”

“That kind of impatience could end up leading to even more attacks. At that point we’ll all be sick to our stomach. Just hold off a bit longer. Xavier will come through.”

“He damn well better. I won’t make any promises, but at this point he and his X-men need more than a miracle. They wouldn’t be the only ones.”

President Kelly ended the call without so much as a time frame. It put General Grimshaw in an unenviable position. He was expecting a lot from Charles Xavier and for once he had serious doubts. The President was ready to attack Genosha. He and every other nation in the world were prepared to solve the Genosha problem once and for all. The Mutant Liberation Front wasn’t making it any easier. No one had the stomach for mutant threats anymore. They were ready for a more extreme solution. It left him in the shrinking minority still hoping for a peaceful resolution.

Deep within the Pentagon in the heart of the MSA command center, General Grimshaw had every major division on standby. As soon as the attack on Genosha began, the reaction from mutants all over the country was sure to be fast and get ugly even faster. On a series of computer screens, he had the main MSA station in every state marked. They were all waiting for instructions. He received confirmation from a navy cruiser that Charles Xavier made it to Genosha. Since then, he hadn’t heard a peep.

“Still no word from our favorite psychic?” asked the General to one of his communication officers.

“Not since they entered Genoshan airspace, sir,” said the female officer, “We’re monitoring every possible line.”

“Monitor even more if you can. If it gets dicey on Genosha, we need to make sure that Xavier can reach us. It may not even come from Genosha for all we know.”

“That reminds me, we’ve also been keeping our eye on an incident in Milan, Italy,” said another officer sitting near the front of the command center.

“What kind of incident? If it doesn’t involve Genosha, it’s probably a waste of time,” said the General.

“We’re not sure, but Italian authorities are saying that the X-men are involved. Well, a least the ones not with Xavier,” he clarified, “Near as we can tell, it was another Mutant Liberation Front attack. Beyond that, we’re not sure.”

“Keep an eye on it, but dedicate the bulk of your attention to Genosha. This is where the first shots are going to be fired. We must be ready to react.”

The tension throughout the command center continued to grow. The General could tell that they were just as skeptical as President Kelly. They didn’t believe that Charles Xavier would be able to avert this crisis. It was going to happen and the MSA were going to be on the front lines.

While General Grimshaw wrestled with the possibilities, the door to the main command center burst open. Captain Jack Freeman, who had been out of the loop for much of this affair, stormed in with a less than charming attitude.

“General! We need to have a chat!” he yelled.

“Captain Freeman, if you’re going to throw one of your infamous tantrums, can it wait for a less chaotic time?”

“No sir, it can’t!” said the Green Beret as he stormed over.

General Grimshaw suppressed a deep groan. He did not need this right now. In wake of the conflict on Genosha, he tried to insulate Captain Freeman from unwarranted scrutiny. He thought the best way to do this was to keep him busy with rough areas like District X. But as was often the case, the Green Beret didn’t appreciate his efforts. He wanted to be part of this conflict even when it wasn’t in his best interests.

“I’m sorry if I can’t be a more convenient soldier for you, General! But there’s only so much grunt work I can take!” said Captain Freeman, “Do you think you’re doing me a favor by keeping me out of the loop?”

“Actually, I know I’m doing you a favor,” retorted the General strongly, “In case you haven’t noticed, we have an obscene case of mutant related conflict. Namely the kind where the topic of mutant soldiers would suck the air out of the room.”

“Don’t give me excuses, General. You’re better than that.”

“It’s not an excuse. You think I wanted it to happen this way? I know you hate hearing this, but you’re a mutant first and a soldier last to people like President Kelly. The only way for me to maintain his trust is to work around his pet peeves. When the mutant terrorists start attacking crowded places, guys like you need to lie low.”

“You really think that earns you more trust?” questioned Captain Freeman.

“I don’t like it any more than you do. This is just how politics work. We need to hold onto whatever trust we can or we’ll just get muscled out.”

Captain Freeman scoffed at General Grimshaw’s response. He was hoping for a better explanation. It would have made what he discovered a lot less disturbing.

“You think you still have President Kelly’s trust?” he said, “I’m sorry, General. But you’re losing your touch.”

“What do you mean?” asked General Grimshaw suspiciously.

“I may not have your connections, but I know the smell of bullshit as well as anyone. I also know a few high ranking officers who hate my guts, but owe me favors. Since I can tell when you’re being hontest, I’m officially appalled that I have to give you this.”

The Green Beret reached into the inner coat pocket of his uniform and pulled out an unmarked file. He practically shoved it into General Grimshaw’s hand, urging him to look inside. When he opened it he found a series of copied documents. They all had secret clearances on them so there was no telling how many people the Green Beret pissed off by making them. They were all encrypted communications. They were pretty recent as well. When the General read over them, his face paled.

“My eyes better be slipping. This can’t be right,” said General Grimshaw.

“You’re not senile. Not yet anyways,” said Captain Freeman, “I can only read at a tenth grade level, but even I understand words like hijack and nuclear sub.”

“It’s not possible! Who could possibly take over a nuclear sub? They aren’t even supposed to surface outside of American waters!”

“Well one did and guess who was waiting for them? I’ll give you a hint. They win every Halloween party they go to and blow up the ones that diqualify them.”

The General read on in disbelief. This was terrifying on a whole new level. This report was saying that the US navy lost contact with a Virginia Class Nuclear Submarine a few hours ago. A final emergency transmission indicated that the Mutant Liberation Front were behind it. They weren’t biding their time turning humanity against them. They were making their move and it was more deadly than he could have imagined.

“President Kelly knows about this, doesn’t he?” he asked with little doubt.

“He’s known about it for the last three hours and he’s one of only a handful of officers. For once, you’re not among them,” said Captain Freeman, “They don’t know how the sub was forced to surface, but once the Mutant Liberation Front took it they were on the move.”

“Any idea where they’re heading?”

“They’re terrorists. They’re going to where the fight is,” said Captain Freeman.

“In other words they’re going to Genosha,” the General surmised.

As General Grimshaw processed this, he started piecing it together. He looked up at the screens depicting the naval blockade around Genosha. Then he remembered President Kelly’s last words to him. Even if the X-men could get Genosha to back down, it wouldn’t be enough. It wasn’t just pessimism talking. He knew something and he didn’t share it with the MSA.

With the file in hand, General Grimshaw stormed out of the command center. If President Kelly was decieving him, he wasn’t going to just accept it. He was playing a deadly game that he wasn’t equipped to win. Something had to be done.

“Where are you going, sir?” asked an anxious Colonel.

“I need to make some calls. Captain Freeman, come with me,” urged General Grimshaw.

“And all it took was the threat of a nuclear attack to bring me back into the fold,” said the mutant soldier.

“As for the rest of you, send an emergency order to every MSA officer on duty. Tell them to start a preliminary patrol. Send a message to every other law enforcement agency in the world. Tell them to stay on high alert. When they get the order, they need to be ready to shoot!”

Geneva, Switzerland – Worthington Industry European Office

“How much more data can you send, Wolverine? Tessa and I are still deciphering the layers of encryption,” said Beast over a secure line with Wolverine.

“Don’t bitch at me, bub. It’s not my fault the connection in Italy is terrible. This is the most I can send you. Frenzy didn’t exactly leave an instruction manual for this shit.”

“It’s quite alright, Logan. We’ve already uncovered a great deal. Much of it is extremely disturbing.”

“Disturbing enough to be useful? Let me know now so I can dig my claws into the next asshole that can give us more!”

“I’ll tell you when we find out, my friend. From what I’ve seen, it may take more than your claws to aid us,” said Beast anxiously.

Upon closing the link with Wolverine, Beast worked with increasing desperation. It was distressing enough that they hadn’t heard from Professor Xavier on Genosha. It was equally distressing to hear from hacked military channels that the naval blockade on Genosha was preparing to strike.

It still paled in comparison to the data they received from the team in Milan. The device they retrieved from Frenzy was the clue they needed. It was their key to uncovering how White Cell fit into all this. When the answers started coming, the implications were truly terrifying.

“It’s even worse than your brooding implies, Hank,” said Sage in her flat, mechanical voice, “Why didn’t you tell him?”

“If I did, Wolverine would have unleashed a torrent of outrage every bit as vulgar as ten Mutant Liberation Fronts,” sighed Beast, “I’d rather he focus on tending to the wounded in Milan.”

“I’m turning off some of my emotions because I share much of his outrage,” she said as she looked at her computer screen, “This device that Frenzy was carrying is something that would make every government official soil their overpriced suits. How someone managed to construct it is beyond me.”

“White Cell’s reach is greater than we thought,” said Beast, who didn’t have the luxury of turning off emotions, “If I’m reading this data correctly, the device is a transceiver that bounces signals off a private satellite. Those signals, in turn, intercept highly encrypted communications, namely those America uses to send nuclear launch codes. I assumed the government spent billions ensuring those lines were secure.”

“I suppose those billions weren’t well-spent because this device appears to be part of a much greater network,” said Sage as she opened up a map of Europe and the Middle East, “White Cell used these lines to keep track of all NATO military activity. According to the last transmission from this device, Frenzy was relaying a signal from Milan to a nuclear submarine in the Persian Gulf.”

“What kind of signal was it?” pondered Beast.

“Perhaps a more accurate question would be what kind of interest would they have in a nuclear submarine at the same time they’re working with the Mutant Liberation Front? One that happens to be equipped with enough nuclear missiles to obliterate continents?”

Beast trembled at these grim possibilities. White Cell was even more brazen than expected. They were more than just a shadowy organization. They thought on a much bigger scale. It was doubtful that they were interested in nuclear submarines as a hobby. From what Wolverine told them, Frenzy went to great lengths to protect this device. They were using it to plan something big and they might have already succeeded.

While Beast and Sage worked to uncover more of White Cell’s deceit, the door to their secure computer room burst open and Warren Worthington III stormed in. He didn’t come in wearing business attire either. He was now wearing his old Angel uniform, but with a few modifications on the back for his new techno-organic wings.

“I think we’ve waited long enough, guys. It’s time we act!” he said in a tone that hadn’t been heard in ages.

“Warren? You…kept your uniform, I see,” said Beast, startled by the winged mutant’s sudden entrance.

“You didn’t think I threw it away after I left, did you?” he scoffed, “As soon as I heard the words nuclear submarine and Mutant Liberation Front in the same sentence, I thought it was time to dust it off!”

Beast needed a moment to digest this. Warren walked away from the X-men and now he was ready to enter a new battle. It was a startling change and if the look on his face was any indication, his decision was final.

“This isn’t a problem I can throw money at. I’m going to Genosha! I’m going to catch up with Professor Xavier and the rest of the X-men!”

“Do you expect to fly through a naval blockade over an island of hostile mutants without getting noticed?” questioned Sage, “Because that may not be the best course of action.”

“There is no best course of action with something like this! If White Cell is making their move, we need to catch up with the Professor! He’ll know what to do!” he said strongly.

“I’m not sure that will do much good,” added Sage, “We lost contact with Charles Xavier nearly an hour ago. For all we know, he’s not in a position to do anything about this.”

“All the more reason to find him,” retorted Warren, “Besides, who said I was going alone?”

Warren stepped aside to reveal Psylocke entering the area. It looked like she struggled to catch up with him. She also looked disheveled in a very particular way. Her hair was messy, her uniform was wrinkled, and her demeanor had an unmistakable stride. This caused Sage to turn on some of her emotions while Beast looked at her oddly.

“I see,” said Beast curiously, “You’re looking a bit flustered, Betsy.”

“Warren and I had some heated discussions,” she said with little ambiguity in her tone, “I’d love to go into all the juicy details, but I think we should get going. We’ve got some nasty sods to hunt down and I’m looking forward to ruining their day!”

“Me too, but we don’t have time,” said Warren as he led Betsy towards a special elevator to the roof, “You two keep working on that data. If you uncover anything else, you know how to reach us.”

“Just be sure to warn us if something is about to blow up,” added Betsy, “I’ve been razzled enough for one day.”

Betsy and Warren didn’t stick around for further details. As soon as the elevator door opened, they went in and ascended to the roof of the building. Before the doors closed, Hank and Sage couldn’t help but notice they were holding hands. This, in addition to Betsy’s unusual disposition, was a dead give-away that something happened between them.

“Flustered, you say?” questioned Sage, “There are at least six other words I would use to describe what we just saw.”

“I’ll retrieve my thesaurus later. They’re plan is still sound. We need more boots on the ground at this late stage of this unholy drama,” said Beast, “Let us focus our efforts on the nuclear submarine that Frenzy contacted with her device. I have a feeling that whatever role it plays in this unseemly endeavor, it is something we’ll want to stop at all costs.”

Underwater – Fifty Miles Off Genosha South Coast

It was remarkable how so much firepower could be contained in something so small. A nuclear submarine was big in its own right. But compared to the destructive power it contained, it was poor reflection of it’s true potential. Having something like this at their disposal was outlandish at the very lease. With help from White Cell, Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation had the full capacity of an Ohio class nuclear sub at thier fingertips.

White Cell did everything they promised they would. They got the sub to surface. Stryfe, Avalanche, Caliban, Callisto, Vertigo, Arclight, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead were able to subdue the crew and lock them in the cargo bay. With a little telepathic assiatnce, they leanred how to control the massive vessel. They were also able to shut off all communications so that no one could detect them. With unmatched stealth, they made their way towards Genosha where they were prepared to launch their greatest attack.

“This is cool on a rediculous level!” said Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the main scope, “I feel like that Captain Nemo guy from Moby Dick.”

“That was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ellie. And please make an effort to avoid distractions,” said Stryfe, who steered the submarine from the main controls, “I need you to keep sending telepathic information from the crew.”

“Loosen your panties, Stryfe. I made sure those navy dorks were out cold,” she said confidently, “They had no psychic defenses. We have everything we need to move this overgrown monument to male genitalia and launch those missiles!”

“You sure about that?” questioned Avalanche, who was operating the weapons systems, “I never graduated high school and even I know that we can’t launch without the President giving some kind of order.”

“You make the humans sound competent,” scoffed Stryfe.

“Then why haven’t you told us how we’re going to do this without getting a sunk?” he asked, “I think we’re entitled to some details at this stage.”

Stryfe entered in some new commands for the controls. They were almost in position so he slowed them down. He also tilted the submersible upward so they could rise towards the surface. He could sense some anxiety among his team. He could hardly blame them. This was a big moment for their struggle.

“Do you know why White Cell came to me and not Toad?” asked Stryfe, “There’s no reason they couldn’t have done this under his leadership. He had more manpower and supporters. He could’ve easily done what we’re about to do. In its current form, the Mutant Liberation Front is a shadow of its former self.”

“I was under the impression that Cordilia Frost didn’t mind boning you as much as Toad, but go on,” joked Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

“They understood why I seek to spark a larger conflict,” he went on, ignoring the young teenager’s comments, “You see, all my life I’ve been triggering battles on a small scale. I could get my parents to fight. I could get my friends and enemies to fight. It was just one fight after another. Then one day I made a startling discovery.”

“That the ability to make people beat the shit out of each other was a pretty limited power?’ said Avalanche in a half-serious tone.

“In a sense, yes. It is limited. That doesn’t mean it can’t have a profound impact. I remember vividly the day I got two rival gangs to fight each other as part of a plan to protect a mutant community. It was as violent and bloody as you would expect. It was so brutal that I nearly lost my appetite. When it was finally over, those that survived had an epiphiny of sorts. When they looked around at all the carnage they caused, they were broken. These hardened punks were so deeply traumatized that they lost all taste for conflict. Shortly before I carried out my attack on Inauguration Day, I caught up with them. They haven’t been in a fight sense. So that made me wonder. If it worked for them, why not scale it up?”

Avalanche and Negasonic Teenage Warhead could see where he was going with this. Stryfe rarely talked about his past or where he came from. He often came off as just another eccentric. However, there was genuine merit behind his ambitions. It wasn’t completley irrational either.

“So that’s why you never agreed with Toad,” said Negasonic Teenage Warhead, “His plan wouldn’t have made the humans any less sick of fighting.”

“Which is why White Cell’s offer was so intriguing,” Stryfe continued, “Like me, they see a world where humans are too eager to fight and mutants are too overmatched to fight back.”

“That sounds way too noble for some shadowy private military,” said Avalanche.

“Nobility has never been their company policy. For them, it’s bad business for humanity to be on this warpath with mutants. The way they see it, if humanity is crippled, then they become less eager to launch an all out war. The liberation of our kind means we’re on equal footing and humanity will be more inclined to pay companies like them to deal with their problems. If we take away their ability to destory us, then we are truly free!”

Stryfe walked over to where Avalanche was sitting and entered a new set of commands using the knowledge that Negasonic Teenage Warhead had given him. He didn’t wait for them to understand or voice their approval. They were already part of this. There was no turning back.

“That’s a fun little story, Stryfe. But it doesn’t answer my original question,” said Avalanche, “What are you doing and why are we rising to the surface?”

“I was just getting to that,” said Stryfe as he rose up from the panel, “This vessel is equipped to launch it’s missles from thousands of feet below the surface. Unfortunately, we cannot do this because the President is not going to send us the launch codes. Lucky for us, White Cell is resourceful enough to obtain those codes.”

“How the hell did they manage that?” said Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

“They got us on this sub, Ellie. I guess it’s only logical they would know how to unlock the hardware,” surmised Avalanche.

“Which is why we must surface. We can then receive the codes using the device Frenzy gave us,” said Stryfe, “Once we have those codes, we can begin our attack on the Genosha naval blockade. We cripple this vast collection of human military might and they’ll think twice about attacking our kind.”

“Is that all we’re attacking?” said Avalanche skeptically.

“That remains to be seen,” said Stryfe with an ominous grin.

With the submarine steadily rising, Stryfe walked up to the main control panel and picked up a communicator that fed right into the vessel’s main line. From here, he sent a message to the rest of his fellow liberators in the main weapons bay.

“I know you can hear me, Callisto. Pick up and check in,” he said into the communicator.

“And hello to you too, Stryfe. I’m doing fine in these crammed weapons compartments, thanks for asking.”

“Spare me the sarcasm. Were you, Caliban, Arclight, and Vertigo able to prep the tactical missiles?” he asked sternly.

“It was a real pain in the ass even with the know-how Ellie fed us. They still need the launch codes, but they’re ready. We were doing a final check before you interrupted.”

“Just make sure they’re ready by the time we reach the surface. Frenzy should have sent the launch codes by now. Use the device she gave you to retrieve them.”

“I still think we’re placing a lot of faith in that woman. If she was really serious about helping us, then she would be here on this floating nuclear death trap with us.”

“Frenzy has her role to play. She has just as much to lose as we do.”

“Somehow I doubt that. She won’t be the one the human start shooting at if we’re detected before the launch.”

“Even if we are, it’ll be too late,” said Stryfe confidently, “Finish the final check and return to the main deck with the others. You’re going to want to be here for the big moment!”

Stryfe never stopped grinning as he set aside the communicator. With bated breath, he reached into his pocket and retrieved the two launch keys that they stole from the crew. Their liberation was literally in his hands. There would be no need to fight a bloody battle with the X-men or the humans. Once these missles started flying, it would be over in a single blow.

Geosha – Capital City

The X-men weren’t used to being powerless. They weren’t used to being prisoners that were paraded around like circus animals either. Their diplomatic trip to Genosha quickly turned into a nightmare. They trusted Havok, the Scarlet Witch, and the Brotherhood to be reasonable. They willingly de-powered themselves with inhibitor collars. As they were marched into the capital city, Professor Xavier quickly realized that he made a mistake.

The city was very different from when they left it. The buildings and streets were already in ruin after the civil unrest that was spurned from the first round of attacks by the Mutant Liberation Front. Now it had been fully remodeled.

It looked as though the Brotherhood assembled every Warlock component they could spare. With it, they constructed a series of bunkers. They were shaped like large, flat domes. They weren’t too tall from the surface, but the bulk of the structure was underground. Pretty much every citizen on the island had gathered within the Warlock bunker. Many looked frightened as they hunkered down in the crowded shelters. Others stood outside, anxious to fight back. They were all expecting a war.

“So this is what you did while we were gone? You turned the whole island into a fallout shelter?” asked Iceman.

“You think we want our country to look like a bunch of ugly huts?” said Quicksilver, “This is a direct result of your bullshit!”

“That doesn’t sound like us. We usually don’t tell people to abandon all hope hide like cowards. Even if we did, I’m pretty sure you would ignore us,” said Shadowcat.

“We’re not hiding. We’re protecting our people. Something you don’t seem to understand anymore,” said the Scarlet Witch.

“We have never forgotten. We don’t wish to see any harm come to your people. That’s why we’ve gone to such great lengths to aid you,” said Colossus, “Whatever happened to the rebuilding process that we helped begin?”

“It fell apart as soon as you guys decided to take a vacation,” muttered Quicksilver, “After that fireworks display at our Warlock Factory, every country in the world thought we were working on some crazy weapon!”

“Were you? Because it wouldn’t be the first time,” said Iceman.

“Of course not! Don’t you think we tried explaining ourselves?” said the Scarlet Witch.

“Well you must not have done a very good job of it,” muttered Phoenix.

“Doubt it would have mattered,” said Pyro indifferently, intensifying his flames in response to that remark, “You weren’t here. Nobody vouched for us!”

“You could have reached out to others. You didn’t have to start preparing for a war that you have the power to avoid,” said Professor Xavier.

“Hate to break it to you, but reaching out to people when they think we’re a bunch of terrorists tends to backfire,” said Blob, who was walking behind them and forcing them along, “For once, we’re gonna take care of ourselves.”

The oversized mutant made sure they kept moving forward. Cyclops, Iceman, Shadowcat, Colossus, Phoenix, and Professor Xavier marched along with Pyro’s ring of fire surrounding them. This ensured they wouldn’t run away or try something sneaky. They were here on the Brotherhood’s terms.

With Havok and the Scarlet Witch leading, the X-men were escorted to an area between the Citadel and the largest bunker. It looked as though they had completely abandoned the Citadel. They clearly set aside their plans to clean up after the riots. Just outside the bunker were a series of tents and a hastily constructed stage akin something from a rock concert.

On this stage there was an array of loudspeakers and stereos. It looked like an area where they could address their citizens. Wires ran out from the stage to more speakers that were scattered throughout the city. If they really were willing to negotiate, they weren’t going to be private about it.

Cyclops doubted there would be any negotiations. That wasn’t Havok’s style. He was the kind of guy who only pretended to be reasonable so he could catch his enemies off guard. It was deceptive tactic. It worked plenty of times when they were surviving on the streets. For him to be using it at a time like this was beyond dangerous. He couldn’t possibly be thinking straight.

“What’s your endgame, Alex? What do you hope to accomplish here?” asked Cyclops as they neared the stage.

“This wasn’t exactly planned, Scott. This is a reaction,” said Havok, “You may find this hard to believe, but I was content to just rebuild our island after rioters tore it up.”

“You’re right. That is hard to believe,” he retorted.

“It’s the truth. After Losing Lorna, I didn’t have the stomach for more fighting. But the moment I let my guard down, the fight came to us. Now I don’t know what the hell you guys brought to the Warlock Factory that day. And honestly, I don’t care. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Genosha was waving its dick in their collective faces. There was no chance that we could salvage any sanity from this chaos.”

“That didn’t mean you shouldn’t try!” retorted Phoenix.

“Even if we did, the Mutant Liberation Front have already made it worthless. As soon as they reared their heads again, the fight was on! Humanity is just too scared. There’s no working around that kind of fear. They’ve made all mutants a target. So we’re making our stand.”

“What kind of stand is this?” questioned Cyclops, “The way I heard it, you guys were threatening to cut off the Warlock generator you’ve been using to broadcast power.”

“You heard right. What you didn’t hear is that we only threatened that after President Kelly tightened the naval blockade. You see, when we lost our main factory, we lost a great deal of our Warlock capacity. We had to cut the supply to the rest of the world so we could fix things here. That’s what constructed the new cityscape you see before you.”

“So that isn’t just terrible architecture,” said Phoenix, “You took every last Warlock component and used it to make these bunkers.”

“They’re not just bunkers,” said Havok, “We could have dug a hole ten miles into the ground and that naval force would still be able to hit us with bombs, missiles, and whatever crazy weapon some rogue nation wants to throw at us. These bunker designs were in one of Magneto’s old handbooks. They constructed with some built-in alien machinery that I couldn’t pronounce if my life depended on it.”

“My father originally planned to use it in the citadel,” added the Scarlet Witch, “When activated, the shelter creates an advanced shield that protects anyone inside from pretty much anything. Every country could launch every nuclear weapon they had during an asteroid impact and it still wouldn’t get through.”

“We scaled up the plans,” Havok went on, “We made a bunker for every single mutant on this island. We’re not going to wait for humanity to sneak up on us. We’re going to hold our ground here and if they’re as foolish as we suspect, they’ll make the first move.”

“So you’re just going to let them attack? What kind of strategy is that?” questioned Phoenix.

“The kind that makes them the aggressors and us the target,” answered Havok, “If humanity wants to wage war on us, we need to be united as a people and a species. We’ve tried Magnetos proactive methods more than once. Not every mutant is on board with being the bully. So if we’re the victims…”

“Then you have something to rally every mutant around. They would have to join you or be targets,” Cyclops concluded.

“You almost sound impressed.”

“I am…to a point. You’re right. It would set you apart from the Mutant Liberation Front. Humanity would be the tyrant. There’s just one problem with it.”

“Oh yeah? What?” said Havok skeptically.

“It’s assuming you know all the facts,” said the X-leader, “You’re still playing into someone else’s hands and don’t even know it.”

“If that’s your bluff, then don’t take up a career in poker,” scoffed Quicksilver, “That’s so stupid I don’t even know where to begin!”

“That would be a first,” muttered Blob.

“It’s the truth!” said Professor Xavier strongly, “Havok, you and the Brotherhood are making a grave mistake. We have reason to believe that both you and President Kelly are being set up. There’s an organization called White Cell and playing into their hands will not benefit either side.”

“Playing the conspiracy card, are we? That’s just crazy and coming from a bloke like me, that’s saying something,” laughed Pyro.

It sounded hopeless. The Brotherhood wasn’t going to listen. Why would they? It did sound outlandish, the idea that there was an organization cunning enough to manipulate both Genosha and the naval blockade. They didn’t know about the Shi’ar either, nor did they seem intent on learning all the facts. They made their decision. They were putting themselves in just the right position for a war.

Professor Xavier looked back at his anxious X-men. They were at a loss. There was no point in arguing with the Brotherhood. Cyclops was espeically aggrivated. He had been against the Professor’s decision to trust their captors. He seemed increasingly vindicated and Havok wasn’t finished it seemed. Rather than argue any further, he grabbed Xavier and led him up onto the stage.

“Alex, whatever you’re about to do, don’t do it!” urged Cyclops, “This is not the time to make another one of your pig-headed moves!”

“I know you’re not going to cooperate, Scott. That’s why I’m taking Professor Xavier up here instead. I know he’s a reasonable man…even if his judgment is lousy,” said Havok.

“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment so I’ll assume it isn’t,” said Xavier flatly.

“Don’t get cynical on us, Professor. I didn’t throw those collars on you just to humilate you,” said Havok.

“Could’ve foold me,” muttered Shadowcat under her breat.

“I set up this stage because I knew you were coming,” Havok went on, “It’s wired to every bunker. You’ll be able to address the entire population of Genosha.”

“You want me to speak to your people? Why?” asked Xavier in confusion.

“Because I want every one of our citizens to hear from mutant-kind’s most famous visionary,” said Havok, “You can tell them the truth or you can just plead for all I care. I also want you to hear just how far you have to go. Maybe when you realize that, you’ll know which fight you should be part of.”

Havok turned to Quicksilver and nodded. He grinned and with his enhanced speed, he ran throughout the island and activated all the speakers. It took him mere seconds, his silvery streaks running all throughout the city. Once he was finished, he returned to the stage and grabbed the microphone.

“Attention all citizens of Genosha! This is Pietro Maximoff of the Brotherhood. We don’t have much tome so, like everything else I do, I’ll make this quick. We have a very special guest on Genosha. Charles Xavier and some of his X-men are brazen enough to visit so we’re giving them a chance to make small talk. Some of you respect this guy. Others think he’s a joke. Whatever the case, he’s here and before the humans start their war he’s going to make his peace!”

A great commotion erupted from the bunkers. All throughout the city, the anxoius citizens of Genosha gathered around the speakers. Even without his telepathy, the Professor could sense their anxiety. He was facing a tough and battle-hardened crowd. No matter what he said, he was going to have a hard time winning anyone over.

“Jeez, talk a skewed bias. Since when did Genosha become Fox News?” asked Iceman.

“Professor, are you really going to play along with this?” asked Colossus.

“They’re giving us a chance. We might as well use it,” said Xavier as he approached the microphone.

“We could just be making it worse!” warned Cyclops.

“Not if I make it count. At this stage, any risk is worth taking.”

Cyclops, Phoenix, Iceman, Colossus, and Shadowcat watched nervously as Professor Xavier approached the microphone. The rest of the Brotherhood looked completely uninterested. They shared the prevailing sentiment on Genosha. The war was coming. They needed a breakthrough and they weren’t in a position to make one. Their only hope was with the others. If they didn’t find something on their end, then any message Professor Xavier delivered wouldn’t matter.

White House – Underground Bunker

‘Please just let this shit be over aleady! God, I know you don’t look kindly upon politicians, but if you’re open to making an exception now’s the time.’

President Robert Kelly was fighting a powerful migrain in addition to two major crises. He had another war on Genosha brewing. Dozens of countries were ready to launch a coordinated attack on the mutant nation and nobody on Genosha was saying anything to stop it. He was being pressured to fire the first shots. He was the President that campaigned on the mutant issue and it was up to him to lead it. Under different circumstances, he would be a lot more comfident. That was before one of his Joint Chiefs from the navy told him an Ohio class nuclear submarine had been hijacked.

“Talk to me, admiral. Where is the sub now?” barked the Secretary of Defense into a line that linked directly to the naval blockade around Genosha.

“We’re still working on it, sir. This is an Ohio class vessel. It was specifically designed NOT to be detectable.”

“That’s bullshit on an unspeakable level!” said one of the Joint Chiefs of the army, “Don’t you design these billion-dollar beheamoths with failsafes?”

“Don’t pantroizing my people!” retorted the Joint Chief of the navy, “Every nuclear sub is strictly forbidden to surface while not in American waters. Near as we can tell, every safeguard we implimented failed.”

“Or was sabatoged,” said the Secretary of State.

“Don’t even joke about that! There’s no way anyone could possibly sabatoge hardware like this!”

“Do me a favor and ditch the arrogance,” said President Kelly, still rubbing his sore head, “Obviously, someone got around all our failsafes. Someone well-connected who seems to think that helping the Mutant Liberation Front is a good idea.”

“Who in their right mind would want to put those terrorist thugs in control of a weapon powerful enough to obliterate continents?” said the Secretary of State.

“If we knew that, I would have ordered a nuclear missile strike on their ass over an hour ago!” the President exclaimed, “All we know is that they have the sub, they’re within spitting distance of Genosha, and they have a full compliment of tactical nuclear missiles at their disposal. Because of them, we can’t launch our attack on Genosha. I’ve already explained to several trigger-happy countries that the Mutant Liberation Front has nuclear weapons. They still want to hit first and I’m finding fewer and fewer reasons to say no.”

President Kelly’s assessment was enough to give migrains to everyone else in the room. The line with the naval blockade was still open. They had nothing to offer. It was a nightmare scenario.

If they attacked Genosha, then the Mutant Liberation Front could use that as an excuse to launch nuclear missiles all over the world. If they didn’t, then Genosha would be emboldened. They would have undue leverage over the rest of the world with the alien technology they had on their island. It would be a terribly unsafe world for every human on the planet.

While everyone struggled with their respective migrains, there was a commotion outside the Situation Room. President Kelly rose up and two Secret Service agents surrounded him protectively. The rest of his staff went on alert as well. They started hearing gunshots and it led them to fear the worst.

“What the hell is that? If it’s some sort of mutant assassin, then consider this my resignation!” said the Secretary of State.

“In a bunker this deep? That’s not possible!” said the Secretary of Defense.

“So was hijacking one of our subs, but here we are,” said President Kelly.

The President and his staff backed away from the door while several more Secret Service agents got in position.

“Somebody barricade those doors!” ordered one of the agents, “Someobody move the tables before…”

However, the order did not come fast enough. The reinforced door was kicked open, revealing two familiar figures. One was Captain Jack Freeman, who was likely the main source of the commottion. The other was General Nathan Grimshaw, who looked more pissed off than anyone had seen him.

“Mr. President, I think you’ve officially lost it,” announced General Grimshaw as he stormed into the room, “When I have to get shot at in order to reach you, then someone has messed up in way too many ways.”

“Damn it, General! This is no time for another one of your stunts!” spat one of the Joint Chiefs.

“I should court marshall you just for bringing that mutant you have parading around as a soldier!” yelled the Secreatry of Defense.

“Then who else would you guys use as target practice?” quipped Captain Freeman as he picked a few bullet-holes out of his uniform.

“Reprimand me later. I’m here to stop you from making a historically bad decision,” said General Grimshaw.

“I’ve heard that by at least twenty different people in the past thirty-six hours, General. I don’t need to hear it again!” said President Kelly, who remained behind his body guards.

“I disagree, sir. I think you do need to hear it again because I doubt anyone here is offering viable advice.”

“If you have something we don’t, we’re all ears, General! Maybe you haven’t heard, but terrorists have a nuclear sub at their disposal! The suggestion box is wide open!” said the President, “The only reason you were kept out of the loop is because we needed you to coordinate the MSA once the bombs start flying!”

“Oh I’m sure that’s the only reasons,” said Captain Freeman with the most sarcasm he could muster.

“You better check your attitude, punk!” said one of the Joint Chiefs of the army, “Even if we can’t shoot you, we can still hurt you in many different ways!”

Several military peronnel and six Secret Service agents moved to attack Captain Freeman. The Green Beret prepared to defend himself, but General Grimshaw got in front of him. This stopped the attack and kept a tense situation from getting bloody.

“Enough with the threats! We have enough to deal with as it is,” said General Grimshaw sternly as he walked up to the President, “Mr. President, I’m not just busting your chops. I truly believe we don’t understand enough about this to make a rational decision.”

“I don’t doubt that, General,” said the President in a calmer tone, “If you know something I would love for you to share it.”

“It’s not what I know. It’s how we’re going to find out,” he clarified, “There’s something else at work here. No one can hijack a nuclear submarine without help. Moreover, no one should be able to launch any missiles without an order from the President.”

“We know all this, General. We’re assuming someone found a way and we don’t have time to speculate on the details! We need to act!” said President Kelly.

“Therein lies the problem, Mr. President. Those details may be the key,” the General added, “We may not be in a position to uncover them, but we do have people in the field who are. Namely Charles Xavier and the X-men.”

“You mean the same X-men that disappeared six weeks ago along with that alien anomoly?” scoffed the Secretary of Defense, “I think they’ve lost their credibility.”

“So let’s give them a chance to earn it back,” reasoned the General, “They’re putting themselves in the line of fire. They’ve come through before. This is a nuclear threat we’re dealing with here. Isn’t it worth taking a chance?”

Nobody too keen on giving the X-men a chance, especially President Kelly. There were too many suspicions surrounding Charles Xavier. First he was detoxing for a pain killer addiction. Then someho whe was magically cured of paralysis. He was a difficult man to trust. Even if they were back in full form, the idea of relying on them didn’t sit well.

While President Kelly stared down General Grimshaw, the open line to the naval blockade became active again. They still had the admiral of the fleet online and the static indicated that something major was happening.

“Mr. President, sir. We just detected something on the scopes!”

“Go ahead, Admiral. Tell us what you’ve got,” said President Kelly, not diverting his harsh gaze from General Grimshaw.

“It’s the sub! It’s heading towards the surface! We’re not in rage for a strike, but the Mutant Liberation Front is definitely making a move of sorts!”

The tension in the bunker shifted. This may be the moment they had all dreaded. There was little time for infighting. They had to respond and despite their reservations, the X-men were probably going to be part of the conversation.

“Guess you’ll have to stick around, General,” said President Kelly, “For all our sake you better be right about the X-men. If they don’t pull a miracle or two, then I’m launching every last bit of hardware against Genosha and the Mutant Liberation Front!”

Milan, Italy – Hosptial

The scene in Milan had settled somewhat. Frenzy’s attack shut down a whole block while emergency crews put out the fire and tended to the injured. Among those injured were Gambit and Storm. They were escorted to the hospital along with Wolverine, Warpath, Rogue, Mystique, and Nightcrawler. Storm’s injuries were minor, but Gambit had a few broken bones and some nasty wounds.

It was a messy ordeal. Frenzy and White Cell proved formidable. Yet they were able to get the best of her. Thanks to Mystique’s skilled deceit, they were able to obtain an exotic communication device that may gain them the edge they so sorely needed.

“Why do you gotta get yourself nicked up like this, Remy? Especially here in a place like Milan,” said Rogue, who hovered protectively over Gambit’s hospital bed.

“What can I say? Remy likes to leave his mark (and his blood stains) in fancy locales,” he teased, clearly dazed from pain killers.

“Guess it’s too much for meh to hope that we could finish one mission and still have time for a date,” she groaned.

“Aw come now, chere. You know Remy will make it up to you,” said the Cajun, grasping her hand, “Once we be done with this, we make a pit stop in Monte Carlo.”

“That’s assuming we got enough from Frenzy to stop the dang world from falling apart.”

“Remy be an optimist,” he shrugged, “That or these here pain killers be pretty damn potent.”

Rogue laughed and shook her head, still holding onto her lover’s hand. Remy was probably in the best position between the two of them. He was too dazed to worry about what was happening with White Cell or the rest of the X-men. This mission was far from over, but there was only so much they could do at this point.

From across the room, Mystique watched her daughter with mixed emotions. It still didn’t sit well, seeing her coddle with a Cajun thief. She had been content to overlook the personal lives of her children while they were distant. Now that she was actually working with them, it was a bit harder to ignore.

“Don’t bother giving her those dirty looks. Rogue’s so damn soft on the Cajun she’ll be treating him like a puppy for the rest of the week,” said Wolverine, who noticed Mystique’s disposition.

“I know,” she muttered, “That doesn’t make it any easier to stomach. I’m still way behind on the personal affairs of my children.”

“You might want to focus your efforts on less impossible tasks, Mystique,” said Warpath, “Namely how we’re going to use Frenzy’s fancy gizmo.”

“We’ve already uplinked it to Beast and Tessa. What more can we do?” wondered Storm.

“The hell if I know. Data or not, we should at least find a way to use the damn thing,” said the Native American in lingering frustration.

“One of us should’ve gone after Frenzy. If we tracked her down, we could’ve made her tell us how to use this thing!” grunted Wolverine.

“We had to stay behind, Logan. A lot of people were in danger from that fire she started,” reasoned Storm.

“Even if it’s a valid excuse, it’s still an excuse! If there were any chance this piece of shit could make a difference, Frenzy would have thrown everything at us to get it back!”

“Ve don’t know zhat. Ve probably can’t know zhat,” said Nightcrawler, who was actually holding the device, “Maybe if ve stopped arguing, I could tap my vast video game experience vith Iceman and try to unlock zhis zhing.”

The room remained tense. Nightcrawler was hanging upside-down, working feverishly on the device. It was hooked up to a laptop, which they had used to transfer the data to Beast and Tessa. It proved to be a tough nut to crack. While they were wondering what else it could do, the clock was ticking. There was no telling how bad it was getting on Genosha. Professor Xavier was relying on him and they were letting him down.

“I hope the others have made progress on their end,” said Storm, “Beast says he hasn’t heard from them in over an hour.”

“That usually means it’s gone horribly wrong or there hasn’t been any progress,” said Mystique.

“Do you have even the slightest sense of optimism, lady?” said Warpath.

“That’s one of the many issues I’m still working on. It’s on my list just after resisting the urge to beat you over the head with a piece of heavy mining equipment.”

“At least try to remain cordial with us, Mystique. Many share your feelings towards James’s coarse personality,” said Storm, throwing a slight scold towards the Native American.

“Do you really have to make me feel like more of an ass already?” he groaned.

“I dated her, bub. This is the shit you get used to,” said Wolverine with a slight smirk.

“Annoyances aside, we need to stay focused,” she said in a more serious tone, “We already know from Beast that the device was communicating with some private satellite. Frenzy must have been here to relay a message of sorts.”

“She probably already sent it,” surmised Mystique, “She wouldn’t have risked attacking us if it was important.”

“We also know it involves a nuclear submarine, which in and of itself is deeply disturbing. I don’t know much about military machinery, but I know anything with nuclear in the title is cause for concern. Add the Mutant Liberation Front into the mix and it’s a volatile mix on top of an already volatile situation on Genosha.”

“So I suppose the big question is what’s their endgame?” said Warpath.

“You mean aside from causing nuclear armageddon?” said Mystique dryly.

“Nah, White Cell wouldn’t help them if that was it. How the hell would launching nuclear missiles benefit anybody?” scoffed Wolverine.

Just as Wolverine brushed off this idea, Nightcrawler leaped down from his perch and landed right between him and his mother. The screen on the device had just changed in a way that would fill even the most cynical with dread.

“Um…you might vant to revise your position, Logan. A new signal vas just relayed through zhe device!” he said anxiously.

“Ah hell, what kind of signal?” groaned Wolverine.

“Zhe kind zhat include nuclear launch codes! I vas trying to trace zhe destination of zhe last signal vhen somehow it just relayed a new message!”

“How do you know they were launch codes?” asked Warpath suspiciously.

“Because zhey vere sent right to zhat nuclear sub it contacted earlier. Except now it isn’t in zhe Persian Gulf.”

“So where the hell is it now and how pissed should we be?” asked Wolverine.

“It’s vithin striking distance of Genosha,” said Nightcrawler with dread, “I zhink ve should definitely be upset.”

This revelation sent a new wave of dread through the X-men. Not only was there now a rogue nuclear arsenal off the coast of Genosha, but there were launch codes to go along with it. Professor Xavier and the rest of the team were still on the island. They were caught in the crossfire along with countless others.

“It’s official! The next time I see Frenzy, I’m cutting off her limbs and choking her with them!” snarled Wolverine.

“What do we do now? If they have the codes, then they can launch every damn missile they’ve got!” said Warpath.

“Zhere’s only one zhing ve can do,” said Nightcrawler as he looked down at the device, “If ve cannot stop zhem vith zhis device, zhen ve’ll have to stop them vith the direct approach.”

Mystique quickly surmised what he meant by this. She tried to grab him before he could go any further.

“Kurt wait!” she urged.

But it was too late. In a puff of smoke, Nightcrawler disappeared and there was little doubt as to where he was going. His friends were in danger and so was the world. Armed with his new teleportation powers, he was going to do everything he could to stop it even if it meant frustrating his mother.

“You really think you could’ve stopped him, mama?” said Rogue from across the room, who heard the commotion.

“No, but I’m still going to yell at him!” groaned the shape-shifter, “If he keeps putting me through headaches like this, then a nuclear attack will be the least of his worries!”

Up next: Proactive Regression Part 3

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