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Volume 6 -- Issue 148 -- New Divide

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New Divide
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Professor Charles Xavier dreams of a world where humans and mutants live in peace. His X-men have helped him carry out that dream in a world that hates and fears them. Through many obstacles, they’ve kept the dream alive. Their ability to overcome those obstacles was due in large part to their team unity. Now it seems that unity is no longer enough.

In wake of the mass exodus from Genosha, a new era of uncertainty has gripped the world. The Brotherhood has gone silent and so have the hundreds of mutants that follow them. With no nation to call their own, mutants are vulnerable once more and humanity is ill-equipped to deal with them.

Seeking to take advantage of this vulnerability, Stryfe and Avalanche organized a daring attack on the Xavier Institute. It was an attack that promised to complete with the Mutant Liberation Front had begun. While they were thwarted in the end, the damage had been done. The institute was destroyed, leaving Professor Xavier’s dream in question.

This sobering defeat inspired Charles Xavier to rethink his approach. Now no longer limited to a wheelchair, he is prepared to take the X-men into a new era. He calls it the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It involves working closer with the authorities that have not always been reliable. Such an effort requires the X-men to cross certain lines. It has already triggered doubts that threaten to tear the team apart.

Church of Humanity

In the midst of so much chaos, few places offered sanctuary. If ever there was a time that Scott Summers needed a peaceful place for a quiet moment, this was it. He had been sitting in the quiet solitude of the Church of Humanity for over an hour. He blew off a critical meeting to discuss Professor Xavier’s Mutant Monitoring Initiative. As soon as he announced this plan, the wheels started turning. The world wasn’t going to wait for another Genosha or Mutant Liberation Front. All sides wanted action. It was because of these actions that Scott was consumed with doubt.

‘What am I doing here? I’m supposed to be helping my friends rebuild the X-men. I’m supposed to be patching things up with my girlfriend. I’ve never stepped back from a crisis before. Yet here I am. I still can’t bring myself to ask God for help. I’ll still settle for some guidance.’

Sitting at a pew with his head held low, the X-leader struggled with many issues. Everything seemed beyond his control. Professor Xavier had made his decision. He never questioned his mentor’s wisdom before, but this didn’t feel like wisdom. This felt like the first step towards abandoning the X-men’s core principles. Having dedicated his life to these ideals, it was a step he could not take.

“I take it you’re praying with a wounded spirit,” came a voice, “Do not be discouraged. The prayers of the wounded are often more genuine than the prayers of the content.”

Scott didn’t look up as Father Hansen approached. As a soft-spoken man of God, he was the only one involved in human/mutant affairs that still had faith. How he envied him.

“I haven’t resorted to praying yet, Father. I’m hoping God already gave me the strength I need right now,” said Scott in a low tone.

“God gives everyone more strength than they realize. Many just aren’t in a position to utilize it,” said the priest as he sat down next to the X-leader.

“I guess that would explain why I’m here and not with the X-men, preparing for our big move to Washington, DC.”

“Spoken like a soul who has gone astray, doubtful of his place in the world.”

“Does that make me the bad guy?” wondered Scott.

“Hardly,” said Father Hansen with a touch of humor, “Christ wouldn’t have become the savior had he not ventured from the flock that bore him. Sometimes it’s important to step aside and listen to our own hearts.”

Scott turned to this middle-aged holy man, amazed that he could smile at a time like this. He gazed up at the stain-glass window that dominated the front of his church. It was the window with an image of a crucified Christ imposed over a pair of DNA strands. He seemed to understand how bad it was for mutants. Yet he showed no reservations about his role in this struggle. It was a certainty that Scott couldn’t help but envy.

“You almost sound optimistic,” said Scott, “Or did you not see that graffiti on the front of your church calling all mutants the anti-Christ?”

“It’s nothing a new layer of paint can’t fix,” shrugged Father Hansen, still in good humor.

“Do you think there’s an easy fix for what’s happening with mutants right now? I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Professor Xavier is merging the X-men with the Mutant Security Agency. He’s ditching the whole teaching-confused-mutants-to-use-their-powers part of his dream and focusing entirely on policing mutants…although I doubt policing will be the only duty.”

“I’m well-aware of what Charles Xavier has announced. I had to cancel my sermon this morning because my congregation was so eager to discuss their uncertainties.”

“Wish I could have been around to listen. I’m sure a lot of people were angry about it.”

“Anger wouldn’t be the right word. Fear wouldn’t be appropriate either,” said Father Hansen, “I don’t think any one word describes the current state of affairs. This change in policy is more a source of confusion. I don’t think anyone knows what to make of it.”

Scott’s demeanor sank again. It seemed nobody had a firm grasp of what was going on. The X-men as they knew it was falling apart. The mutant conflict was changing in ways that nobody could keep up with. It put Scott in a very difficult position.

“That’s where I get stuck,” sighed Scott, “The problem is I do understand where Professor Xavier is coming from. The X-men have been fighting against all these threats. We never needed government authority. Just being heroes was enough.”

“Overcoming great obstacles is rarely that simple,” said Father Hansen.

“I didn’t buy into it because it was a quick fix. I understood there would be hardships. I was always willing to endure them because Professor Xavier taught me to never lose sight of our principles. At times, I did have concerns. But I never doubted the man. He always did the right thing even when it wasn’t easy or popular.”

“It sounds like what he’s doing now is quite difficult,” Father Hansen commented, “What makes you think it isn’t right?”

“Because he’s compromising his principles for the sake of politics!” said Scott, getting more worked up, “He’s giving the X-men over to the people who have been a big part of the problem!”

“You don’t think that working with the authorities will make them less a problem?”

“I think working with the authorities will negate much of what the X-men stand for,” the X-leader clarified, “This plan is arrogant, risky, and potentially dangerous…turning the dream into a wing of the government. I can take risky and dangerous, but arrogance? From Charles Xavier? I just can’t accept that!”

Scott was almost shouting at this point. The church was empty so his voice echoed through the pews. It reinforced the frustration and doubt that had consumed him. He was so worked up that he had to stand up and step away for a moment. Father Hansen remained seated, his compassionate gaze never leaving the X-leader.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” he said in a calmer tone, “I’ve tried talking to the Professor, but he’s already made up his mind. He’s going through with this Mutant Monitoring Initiative.”

“What about your fellow X-men? Do they feel the same way?” asked Father Hansen.

“They have their concerns, but they all seem to agree. The Professor has convinced them that this will work out. Even my girlfriend is starting to buy into it.”

“But you are not,” said the priest, “You know it to be wrong. Of this, you have no doubt?”

“I wish I did. It would be easier,” groaned the X-leader.

“It would be easier, yes. But it wouldn’t be right now, would it?” he reminded.

“Guess we can never know that,” grumbled Scott, “Not when everything is this complicated.”

“I disagree. I’ve never bought into the notion that circumstance changes what is right and what is wrong. That isn’t just because I’m a man of God. That’s because I’ve experienced enough circumstances to see that no matter how blurred certain lines become, they never completely disappear. They’re difficult to grasp for a reason. You can’t always use logic to identify them. It takes real heart to see what others cannot.”

Scott was still silent, gazing off into space while he mused over these problems. Father Hansen got up and approached him. His spirit was being pulled in so many different directions, yet it was still intact. That told Father Hansen everything he needed to know about Scott Summers.

“I know my opinion on this matter is not relevant,” he went on, “I have my place in this conflict. I already know the role my church will play. I can tell you don’t know your place yet, but perhaps that’s because you haven’t considered every option.”

“What do you mean? What other option could there be?” asked Scott.

“That’s something you’ll have to figure out. I’ll only add that the options we tend to overlook are the ones that require the most sacrifice. Jesus understood that. Abraham, Moses, Mohammed, and the Buddha all understood it as well. That’s what makes them holy. They know the true value of sacrifice. When you know what’s right in your heart, it’s the only option that has meaning.”

It was a powerful and distressing prospect. Scott had already sacrificed a lot. He sacrificed control of his abilities. He sacrificed his life for the woman he loved. He lived a life that constantly required sacrifice and now he was trapped in a dilemma for which there was no clear solution. He could either compromise everything he came to embrace or sacrifice his place in a world he had come to love.

Father Hansen left him to his thoughts, having nothing else to say. Scott soon found himself alone again. The church was dark and quiet, like the calm before a major storm. The X-leader looked up at special statue of the cross. The idea of sacrifice was starting to sink in. It opened the door to an option he once never dared contemplate.

‘Sacrifice...maybe that’s what I’m missing. I can’t be a holy man or call upon divine powers, but I can still lead when there’s a mission on the line. I can’t keep waiting for Professor Xavier to come to his senses. This is one mission I’ll have to take care of on my own. I know I said I wouldn’t resort to praying, but I’ll say it anyways. God help us all.’

White House – Oval Office

“I have to be honest with you, Xavier. I’m still waiting for something to blow up in my face here,” said a somewhat bemused President Kelly.

“I don’t think anyone would blame you for being cautious, Mr. President. There’s been so little good news as of late that such a prospect seems overwhelming,” said Professor Xavier with a light smile.

“I still won’t get a full night sleep until we make it official,” said General Nathan Grimshaw, “So why don’t we finish this so we can get to work?”

“Agreed, General,” said President Kelly, “This is one instance where I’m happy to embrace hope over suspicion.”

There was a touch of cynicism in the President’s tone, but it was overshadowed by a welcome sense of optimism. He, General Grimshaw, and Charles Xavier were all standing over a special stack of papers that would change the course of human/mutant relations. It was a change that few expected. It was risky, but bold. It was just what the world needed.

Standing around the three men were President Kelly’s entire cabinet. A group of photographers and reporters were present as well, documenting this momentous occasion for the whole world. Every major news outlet had been following this developing story since it began in the ruins of the Xavier Institute.

Most of the X-men were present as well. They stood in the back of the oval office, all wearing their official uniforms. Storm, Beast, Phoenix, Iceman, Rogue, Gambit, Shadowcat, and Colossus were present. Cyclops and Wolverine were not. Some shared in the optimism that this deal offered. Others had mixed feelings.

“Is anybody else’s head spinning?” wondered Iceman, “This is happening so fast. Even Quicksilver couldn’t keep up with this shit.”

“Hey! Ease up on the French, Bobby. You’re in the bloody White House for crying out loud,” said Psylocke.

“Hence, not being able to keep up,” added Iceman.

“As much as I’d love to bust your chops, I’m inclined to agree,” said Shadowcat as she watched with mixed emotions.

“That mean Ah should check for a fever? That doesn’t sound like something a healthy Kitty Pryde would say,” questioned Rogue, placing her hand over Shadowcat’s forehead.

“Well maybe we’re all a little sick after our home got blown up,” she pointed out, “Or maybe we’re just getting sick over the prospect of moving to DC.”

“It could be worse, petite. A lot worse,” Remy pointed out.

“So you agree with what the Professor is doing?” asked Iceman.

“Remy won’t say that. It definitely be the lesser of many evils. I still ain’t too thrilled about being a former thief and working for the feds, but Remy don’t see a better alternative. Although if anybody has an idea, I’m sure we would all love to hear it.”

Nobody had anything to offer. Everybody had been trying to surmise a different path than the one they were now on, but it was too late now. They watched as Professor Xavier went over each document with President Kelly and signed the necessary areas.

There were many uncertain feelings. It still wasn’t clear what this deal would mean for them and how it would change their role as X-men. What they had done before no longer worked. The world didn’t have the stomach for another Genosha or Mutant Liberation Front. The only way to keep the authorities from overreacting was to work with them.

This lesser of many evils as Remy stated seemed promising on the surface. The idea of working with the government rather than constantly clashing with them held plenty of appeal. Professor Xavier and President Kelly actually showed some hope after a seemingly endless torrent of crisis. It was very pragmatic on paper. In practice, however, it was still up in the air.

“I’m out of ideas, Remy. Besides, I think we’re beyond the point of no return,” sighed a restless Jean Grey, “This is happening whether we want it to or not.”

“You make it sound as though we’re surrendering our X-men uniforms for tacky suits,” said Psylocke, “I’ve worked for Interpol. It’s not that bad.”

“Did you do it because of or in spite of being a mutant?” retorted Phoenix.

“Does it matter?” she questioned.

“Yes. I think it does matter. It matters a lot.”

“Settle down, Jean. No need to get confrontational in the midst of the President,” coaxed Beast.

“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to make a scene,” said Phoenix in a calmer tone, “I believe in what the Professor’s doing. I want it to work. I just wish it wasn’t tearing the team apart like this.”

“It isn’t tearing the team apart, Jean. Not yet anyways,” said Psylocke.

“Then why aren’t Cyclops and Wolverine here? Why have they been treating this like another attack from the Mutant Liberation Front?”

“You know how Wolverine feels about military types. Even he understands that his attitude for these affairs would be a liability,” said Storm, trying to calm her down along with Beast.

“That and he kept setting off the metal detector,” added Psylocke.

“That too,” said Storm, chuckling somewhat at the memory, “He’s had nothing but bad experiences working with the government. It’ll take some time to convince him that this will work. I think we all should give this proposal a chance before we reject it outright.”

“I don’t see how we can convince him. We’ve both dated him. We know how stubborn he can be,” said Phoenix anxiously, “Even if we could, I’m not as worried about Wolverine as I am about Cyclops.”

“That surprised me too. Have you two kissed and made up yet?” asked Psylocke.

Phoenix shifted, looking away to hide her distress. Her relationship issues with Scott were hard to hide. Everyone just assumed that they would work it out like they always did. It was a bad sign when a love like theirs was under strain.

“I’d rather not get into that,” grumbled Phoenix.

“Ah know this may sound crazy, coming from Scott’s ex, but you two should get it over with,” said Rogue, “Hell, if you two can’t work it out, there ain’t much hope for the rest of us.”

“Aw come on, cherè. Remy’s standing right here,” Gambit pointed out.

“Then I’ll change the subject and save relationship issues for another argument,” said Psylocke, “Regardless of what’s going on with you two, I never thought Cyclops would miss something this important.”

“Like Wolverine, I’m sure he has his reasons,” said Beast, “Once we have this arrangement finalized, we can discuss the details with them. Charles told us all that it would be a difficult transition. Not everyone is going to like it, but the promise it offers is worth the sacrifice.”

“I’m all for promise and sacrifice. What worries is we’ll have to do it on our own and not as a team,” said Phoenix as she gazed distantly towards the Professor.

She sounded so restless and tense. Not having Cyclops around certainly didn’t help. She needed him, if for no other reason than assurance that the team would stay unified. The X-men needed everyone on board for something this ambitious. Professor Xavier was just about to make it official. The dream as they all knew it was about to change forever.

Professor Xavier sensed the weariness of his students through the entire process. He did his best to exude confidence in this initiative. He was not without his own reservations, but he wouldn’t have made this bold leap if he didn’t feel it was necessary. He made sure that President Kelly and General Grimshaw understood this when they crafted these documents. Now as the cameras flashed and the President’s aids scrutinized every detail, the final pieces came together.

“Just one more signature along with your fingerprint, Professor,” said the Attorney General, who acted as a legal witness.

“I’m ready,” said Charles Xavier with bated breath, “By signing these documents, I legally bind this partnership between the X-men and the Mutant Security Agency. As of this moment, we are partners in a new international coalition to police and aid mutants from every walk of life.”

“I don’t speak legalese so I’ll assume that’s what this thick stack of documents guarantees,” said General Grimshaw, “My people are already setting everything up. We even cut through the red tape to get construction going on your new Xavier Institute right here in DC.”

“Mine are also at work preparing the international community for the full implementation of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Interpol, NATO, and the UN are all clamoring for this,” said President Kelly, “I never thought I would say this in front of cameras, but you’re doing the right thing, Charles Xavier. You’re sharing with us all the knowledge you’ve gained through your many years of experience.”

“With checks and balances, I presume,” said Professor Xavier as he looked upon the final line of the document.

“Of course,” said President Kelly with a half-grin, “We’re all in this together. I don’t want to see Genosha or another Mutant Liberation Front upset my country. I know you don’t want to see mutants become bigger targets than they already are. So let’s stop stepping on each others’ toes and do something about it.”

There was a very insistent undertone to President Kelly’s voice. He, among many others, were desperate for something this extensive. Best of all, they didn’t have to come up with it on their own and debate endlessly. This was a swift, effective response to the mess left by Genosha and the Mutant Liberation Front. The world needed this and needed it badly.

Professor Xavier paused for a moment as he gazed at the final line. Within a week of presenting the Mutant Monitoring Initiative to the world, he was in position to take the first major step. It all happened so quickly, revealing just how desperate the world was for something different. With this act, the dream he dedicated his life to achieving would never be the same.

A part of him was still conflicted, but under the scrutiny of his X-men and the world as a whole he knew this was necessary. So with a confident poise, he signed the final line of this historic act.

“There…it’s done,” said Professor Xavier with a touch of relief.

“Mr. President, by the power vested within this office, I certify this document and all that it entails,” said the Attorney General as he stamped the top sheet.

“The Congress of the United States concurs as was determined by a majority vote at yesterday’s hearing,” said the female Speaker of the House, offering a stamp as well.

“Then allow me to top it off. That way we can all get to work and the world can catch its collective breath,” said President Kelly.

The President finalized the act, making the Mutant Monitoring Initiative law. Cameras flashed as applause broke out within the White House. The President’s staff along with the media all showed their approval. Most of the X-men clapped as well, supporting Professor Xavier during this historic moment. Both sides of the human/mutant conflict were finally coming together to do something about this issue. It offered the promise of hope and change.

“Thank you, Charles Xavier. I look forward to a productive partnership,” said President Kelly, extending his hand in a gesture of good will.

“As do I, Mr. President. I’m honored that you’re giving my X-men this opportunity,” said Professor Xavier, “Especially after I opposed you during your campaign.”

“That was then. This is now. We’ve both seen how damaging a human/mutant war can be. I’m willing to set aside our differences if it means keeping our world intact.”

President Kelly smiled as they continued to shake hands. They maintained a friendly demeanor so the cameras could document this important moment. The word would soon spread to every corner of the world. All eyes were on them. Under such scrutiny, they would have to show that the Mutant Monitoring Initiative could work.

While Professor Xavier and President Kelly posed for pictures, most of the staff stepped back to give them room. General Grimshaw backed away a bit further, slipping behind the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense. Waiting for him was Captain Jack Freeman. He had been silent for much of this affair. He had yet to voice an opinion on the merits of Professor Xavier’s proposal. He was still among those relieved to see any significant action from the government.

“So what’s the next mission, General?” asked Captain Freeman amidst the commotion.

“Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, Captain. The government is actually taking bold action to confront a crisis. Allow the world to enjoy this moment,” said the General.

“I’m not trying to be a party pooper. I’m just trying to get a feel for how the MSA is going to work with the X-men,” said the Green Beret, “Our missions haven’t always been the same. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded of that.”

“They’ll have to be in line now. Charles Xavier is making concessions to us. We’ll be making concessions to him as well.”

“And what if those concessions become a problem?” he asked.

“Don’t worry. We have plans in place,” said the General cryptically, “You had best keep up with the fine print. You’re going to play an integral role in this, Captain.”

“How integral?”

“That depends on how every other mutant in this world reacts to this initiative,” said Grimshaw as he looked back towards the X-men, “Some of them may not be on board with this program. We have to ensure that this won’t be a problem.”

District X – M-Building

Bishop, Sage, Jubilee, and Multiple weren’t easily overwhelmed. An entire mutant community relied on them for protection. Sometimes there were threats that were completely beyond their control. Professor Xavier’s very public announcement for the Mutant Monitoring Initiative may not qualify as a threat…yet. It was still enough to make every resident of District X gather at the M-building for an emergency town hall meeting.

“What is Professor Xavier thinking? Working with a government that once wanted to imprison us!” yelled an older mutant with dark skin and a wolf-like complexion.

“I read online that he’ll be able to track every mutant whenever they use their powers. Isn’t that illegal? Like the third amendment or something?” asked a young mutant girl with dark hair.

“That’s the fourth amendment you stupid hic!” barked mutant boy around the same age.

“Forget amendments! Does this mean the X-men can arrest us now? Does that even make them heroes anymore?” asked a middle-aged mutant woman, who was clinging to her mutant son.

These questions echoed from many concerned mutants. This had everyone struggling with mixed feelings. Many looked up to the X-men as heroes. They were an inspiration for all mutant-kind. The idea of them joining forces with the MSA didn’t sound very heroic. If the X-men started working for the authorities, then who was going to protect them?

“Please remain calm, everybody!” Sage called out, “My mind may be a computer, but it’s still prone to crashing. I called you here to offer an update on the situation. Not to give everyone a forum to vent their frustrations.”

“We get enough of that from human protesters. So let’s try to keep it civil so I don’t have to summon a second army,” added Multiple, who had clones standing around the perimeter of the room.

“You just told us that the X-men are becoming a wing of the MSA. The same MSA that goes out and arrests mutants to throw them in jail! I think it’s something to get frustrated about!” barked the wolf-like mutant.

“That’s an oversimplification. I’ve been conversing with both Beast and Charles Xavier. They’ve shared with me many details, some of which aren’t well-known just yet,” said Sage, maintaining a calm tone, “The X-men won’t stop being X-men. They’ll just be operating differently. The Xavier Institute will be rebuilt in Washington DC, complete with a new mutant tracking apparatus known as Cerebrum. From here, both Charles Xavier and the MSA will track the use of mutant powers. Nobody has to register. Nobody will be arrested if someone in a suit thinks they’re dangerous.”

“But they’ll still be watching us and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said a young mutant woman with blond hair and glowing yellow eyes.

“Yes you can. You can use your powers responsibly,” Sage pointed out, “The provisions in the Mutant Monitoring Initiative ensure that no one person decides when or how to act against a mutant. If you don’t use your powers for anything devious, you’ll be left alone. If you do, then both the MSA and the X-men have the authority to come after you. This is not much different than before. Only now the government is more equipped with the X-men on their side.”

“In the long run it may do us good,” Multiple pointed out, “One of the reasons humans fear us so much is because they don’t think anybody is equipped to take on unruly mutants like the Mutant Liberation Front. Well, the X-men have proven themselves. So now people have peace of mind that if a mutant acts up, they’ll be dealt with.”

“And by dealt with, he doesn’t mean like some mutant mafia. They’re just going after the mutants that break the law. It’s not like they’re hunting us or anything,” Jubilee pointed out.

“For now,” said the middle-aged woman with a son, “What if the MSA gets too reckless? Will the X-men be in a position to stop them?”

“Xavier’s no fool. He ain’t gonna let it go down like that,” said Bishop strongly.

“You don’t know that,” yelled another young mutant who couldn’t be older than 14.

“What if you’re wrong? Then we’re all screwed!” yelled an older mutant with green skin.

This triggered an angry outburst from the whole crowd. It was hard to make out any clear words, but they were all laced with the same dread. If the MSA became corrupt and the X-men were working with them, then who would be around to protect them?

Sage remained stoic, having turned off her emotions so her frustration wouldn’t show. Jubilee, Multiple, and Bishop had to shove back some overly rowdy citizens. Some were more than just concerned. They were outright hostile to the idea of the X-men and MSA being one in the same.

“We trust you guys to protect us. So why don’t you do something about it?” yelled an oversized mutant with pale skin.

“You best watch who you yell at, fool! You don’t wanna throw down against the wrong people!” said Bishop, who made his hands glow in a threatening gesture.

“Seriously! We’re on the same side, guys. Let’s not fight each other. Let’s give Xavier a chance. After all he’s done for us, hasn’t he earned it?” said Jubilee.

It was getting pretty rowdy. Multiple made more duplicates to try and hold everyone back. It didn’t seem to be working. The mutants of District X had too many questions that couldn’t be answered. If this was what they were in for as the Mutant Monitoring Initiative took effect, then they were in for an arduous transition.

Sage, Multiple, Jubilee, and Bishop were prepared to confront their angry citizens if necessary. As they prepared to push back, the doors to the M-building burst open and two new figures entered. At first, their presence wasn’t noticed. Then one of the figures held up something that looked like an air horn squeezed it. This caused a deafening tone to rip through the meeting area.

“Ow! My ears!” groaned Bishop, “Who the hell…”

“My apologies, good citizens of District X. But I would rather not wait for my turn to speak,” said an imposing yet sophisticated voice.

“Ever hear of a little something called patience?” said Jubilee, still rubbing her ears.

“Oh but I think you’ll all be interested in what I have to say,” said the man as he stepped forth, “In a world where you cannot rely on the X-men to save you, the mutants of this world need new heroes. As a mutant myself, I wouldn’t grant myself such a lofty title. However, I do have an alternative to those who are not convinced by this Mutant Monitoring Initiative.”

His tone was confident. His demeanor was just as impressive. He was well-dressed, much more so than anyone in District X. Standing next to him was a tall man with green skin who was equally well-dressed. As they walked forward, he helped clear a path. Once they reached the center of the room, they were in a position to address everyone at once. As he came into view, Sage recognized him. Even though her emotions were turned off, she was overwhelmed with dread.

“No…it can’t be!” she gasped.

“What is it, Tess?” asked Bishop.

She didn’t attempt to explain herself. She held back as the man stood up and spoke to eager mutant masses that were desperate for solutions.

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sebastian Shaw,” he said, “Some of you may know that name. It is the name behind Shaw Industries, a multi-billion-dollar corporation. I come to you with mixed emotions because for much of my professional live, I’ve avoided associating with large groups of mutants. I’ve had to hide what I am in order to protect my enterprise against bigoted shareholders.”

“Given that fancy suit you’re wearing, it doesn’t look like it was too hard on you,” scoffed Multiple, who sent a few of his clones to surround the mysterious man.

“My success is beside the point,” said Shaw confidently, “My company has worked around the same bigotry that District X faces every day. That hasn’t stopped me from employing mutants and putting their skills to good use, of which they are very well-compensated. I’ve gone over this Mutant Monitoring Initiative like the rest of you. I believe it’s a mistake. It doesn’t just threaten my business. It affects me as a mutant and others like my associate, Warhawk. I know he’s voiced his displeasure at the prospect that his line of work could be threatened by this initiative.”

“You think you can earn sympathy by talking about money?” scoffed Jubilee, “Maybe you haven’t realized it yet, but a lack of money is, like, the twentieth problem we have to deal with.”

“Damn it, Jubes! Shut up!” scolded Bishop, “Listen to what this sucka has to say. I think he’s onto something.”

Jubilee was disturbed that Bishop was taking him seriously. He wasn’t the only one either. Multiple and most of their citizens were all fixated on Sebastian Shaw, intrigued by what he had to offer.

“What we’re facing is simple,” he went on, “Mutants everywhere will have an invisible spy-camera on them at all times that they can’t turn off. That is the power of Charles Xavier’s mind, now in the hands of corrupt politicians. I don’t feel that’s right. I’m sure most of you have nothing to hide. Some secrets should be kept private no matter what some deceitful party says.”

Sage tensed angrily upon hearing those words. They were clearly directed towards her. However, they resonated strongly with the others.

“So what do you suggest we do about it?” asked one of Multiple’s clones.

“Let me first say that I’m not a charity. I’m a businessman. Only so much good can come from needless sacrifice. If there’s profit involved, then the potential grows,” said Shaw, “I’m putting together a new venture with Shaw Industries…one that’s off the record and very private. It involves employing large numbers of mutants for various jobs. In addition to the usual monetary compensation, I can offer something else that’s just as valuable.”

“You talking about protection?” said Bishop, still somewhat skeptical.

“How about independence?” he replied, “Any skilled psychic can resist a telepathic scan. A rich man can make his own psi-shielding. But for the innocent masses, something else is required.”

Shaw casually reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a device as small as a peanut. He threw it up towards Bishop, who caught it in one hand. It didn’t look like much, but it had a very high tech feel to it. While he and Sage scrutinized it, Shaw explained.

“That little contraption is the latest toy from my R&D department. I call it a psionic disruptor. It won’t mask your mind or shield you from telepathic attacks. Not the ones led by Charles Xavier anyways.”

“So what does it do?” asked Bishop.

“It allows the wielder to use their powers without being detected,” revealed Shaw, “You could repopulate Genosha with a million mutants. So long as every citizen had one of these, Charles Xavier and all his high tech toys would see nothing but a boring bunch of humans. You could still live your lives free of unseen tyranny. Is that not the very purpose of District X?”

He made a compelling argument. It resonated with every mutant in the room. No one felt good about their every act as mutants being tracked by the authorities. With or without the X-men, the potential for danger was too great. Many District X residents had endured enough scrutiny for simply being mutants. If there was any way of working around further scrutiny, it was worth considering even if it meant trusting this mysterious man.

“So that’s how it is,” said Bishop as he clutched the device, “You want a crew of mutants to make money for your cronies and you’re offering us this nifty little gig in exchange.”

“How do we know that thing doesn’t have some kind of brain-melting failsafe?” questioned Jubilee.

“I gave you one for a reason. Allow your lovely Miss Tessa to take a look at it. I’m sure she’ll find it a perfect example of Shaw Industry’s resourcefulness,” he said, shooting a wry sneer towards Sage, “I won’t ask for a decision right now. Give yourselves time to decide what’s best for District X. My associate, Warhawk, will leave you contact information should you decide. Not to pressure you or anything, but I would decide soon. You know as well as anybody that Charles Xavier is a very difficult man to oppose.”

Shaw kept grinning smugly as he turned around and left the M-Building. Warhawk shoved a few of Multiple’s clones aside, making it clear who had the leverage in this affair. Before they left, Warhawk left some contact cards with some of the Multiples. He gave a few to some District X residents as well. Even if most did not trust him, that still left some willing to take a chance.

By the time he was gone, a new round of commotion emerged from the crowd. Sebastian Shaw made some compelling points despite being overly crass. Even Bishop, Multiple, and Jubilee had to admit that the offer could potentially change the way District X dealt with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.

“Well what do you think, Bishop? Is this guy worth trusting?” asked Multiple.

“In my experience, suckas in a fancy suit tend to lie twice as more than most folks,” said Bishop.

“I’ll say. That guy is creepy on ten different levels,” commented Jubilee.

“But the guy has a point. We’re not equipped to oppose this Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Them fools is gonna track us and there ain’t nothing we can do to stop them. Seems to me the next best thing is staying under the radar, making sure we got an out in case the shit hits the fan.”

“So you’re actually considering this,” said Jubilee dryly.

“We would be foolish not to,” said Multiple, “What say you, Tessa? What do you think of this Mr. Shaw?”

Sage stayed silent, her demeanor as still as a statue. Her brilliant mind could not process what just happened. She thought she left Sebastian Shaw behind. She went to great lengths to ensure that she would never deal with that monster again. Now he was back and intruding in her life. She could tell without reading his mind that he was up to something. There was no way that he told District X the full truth. Shaw was poised to do something horrible and her people were inclined to go along with it.

Jubilee, Bishop, and Multiple grew concerned. They couldn’t read the machine-like expression on Sage’s face. They could tell she had turned her emotions off and was making sure they stayed off.

“Tess? You still with us. girl?” asked Bishop.

“I’m fine,” she said in a flat tone, “Excuse me. I need a moment to think about this. I’ll start analyzing Shaw’s device and get back to you later tonight.”

Before they could ask questions, she grabbed the device from Bishop and stormed off. She didn’t make eye contact with anybody. She shut out all the discussions going on about Sebastian Shaw and the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. She had other concerns now that would require more than a genius level IQ to resolve.

As she walked past the door leading to the elevators, she didn’t notice two figures standing nearby watching. One was Isaac, who chose to distance himself from the mutant-led discussions. It wasn’t his place to debate that which he could not relate to. Standing next to him was Domino, who was wearing a cloak. While the discussions surrounding Sebastian Shaw’s offer intrigued him, Sage’s reaction drew more attention.

“Well this day sure has gone to Hell,” commented Domino, “First the X-men join the MSA. Then this Shaw guy shows up. I get the feeling that I’ll have to shoot someone very soon.”

“That is usually a sign that danger is ahead of us,” said Isaac, “Let’s not first assume we’re on the path to damnation until we smell the brimstone.”

“Which do you think is worse? Shaw or the new X-men and their buddies at the MSA?” she asked.

“I feel they’re both connected. That the sins from one side will affect the other,” said Isaac distantly, “In that case, we’ll have to foster righteousness in a different way.”

“Good thing I already got the ball rolling on that,” grinned Domino.

“Indeed. Which is exactly why I called you here,” said Isaac as he led Domino out of the building, “We must be prepared to confront the corruption that shall soon consume us. By God’s grace, we will overcome it either because of the X-men or in spite of them.”

Willard Hotel – Presidential Suite

‘Nothing good ever lasts. You would think a pathetic degenerate like me would’ve realized that by now. Can’t believe I’m this fucking stupid! Did I really expect the X-men to stay the same? If it weren’t for this damned healing factor, I’d kill off more brain cells. Why even keep ‘em if I ain’t using ‘em?’

Logan sulked in a chair surrounded by empty bottles of hard liquor. He must have cleaned out the hotel’s entire stock. It was only enough to get him partially drunk. His healing factor was being especially stubborn. That or he was just too pissed to be drunk.

Using his claws, Logan sliced open the top of a bottle of tequila. Without hesitation, he started gulping it down. The sharp burning in the back of his throat did little to dissuade him. Nothing could burn as badly as feeling the life he had come to love crumble.

He couldn’t bring himself to be with the team when Professor Xavier made it official. He couldn’t even stand to be close to the White House, the Pentagon, or any of the other places that housed the people that the X-men would be working with. The Mutant Monitoring Initiative left a bad taste in his mouth. It was worse than any alcohol could ever match.

“Ugh…damn room service. Keep giving me the watered down shit,” he grumbled as he threw the bottle across the room.

The bottle broke as it struck next to the door. Had he thrown it a few seconds later, he would have struck more than the wall. The door opened with traces of alcohol dripping down it. Charles Xavier cautiously stepped inside, sensing some very upset thoughts.

“Logan…exactly how many bottles have you broken?” he asked as he approached the sulking figure.

“Don’t know. Lost count after the sixth,” groaned Logan as he reached for a fresh bottle of whiskey.

“Could you please attempt to be reasonable, Logan? I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” said Xavier, grabbing the bottle from the feral mutant in the process.

“Why not send Jeannie or Ro to coax me into your little stunt here? I tend to listen more to women I’ve slept with.”

“I don’t want them to speak on my behalf. I want discuss this with you man-to-man. It’s important for us both. We’re both conflicted men. That’s why I’m hoping we can come to an understanding.”

Logan grumbled some incoherent words. He kept his eye on the bottle of whiskey that the Professor was holding. Rather than fight him for it, the feral mutant got up from the chair and stammered to the other side of the room. He avoided eye-contact with Professor Xavier, yet he still felt his critical gaze. He wasn’t leaving this room until he set the record straight.

“I know you have many reasons to be skeptical about the Initiative. There’s no question that certain government institutions have hurt you in horrendous way. I’m hoping you understand that the people we’re dealing with aren’t the same people from Weapon X.”

“It ain’t just the people, Chuck. It’s the whole damn system! Now you’re trying to become a part of it? How the hell am I supposed to feel about that?”

“It’s for that very reason that the X-men should get involved. I agree with you. There are corrupt people with corrupt agendas. With the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, we can be in a position to stop them before they torment more mutants like you.”

“You’re assuming you ain’t gonna become another tool for these dirt-bags in uniform,” quipped Logan, “You can’t change shit like this. It can only change you.”

“Change is inevitable with everything, Logan. That includes the system you so rightly despise,” Xavier retorted, “I’ve spoken to General Grimshaw. He understands your sentiment.”

“What’s he gonna do? Send me a fucking fruit basket saying ‘Hey, sorry we cut you up and shot adamantium into your bones. Let’s be buddies!’ Face it, Chuck. There ain’t nothing anyone can do.”

“That’s only because you won’t give them a chance,” said Xavier, now subtly urging Logan to rethink his outlook, “You think I’m taking this lightly? I struggle with the same concerns. I don’t want my X-men to become pawns of some government agenda anymore than you.”

“Getting in bed with them is a fucked up way of avoiding it.”

“It’s risky, I know. That’s why I’ve proceeded carefully. I’ve arranged everything in the Mutant Monitoring Initiative to function carefully and cautiously. I won’t allow my vision to be derailed by this chaos. That’s why this is necessary. That’s also why I need you with us. Our methods will change, but our vision will not.”

Professor Xavier sounded so sincere. He didn’t come off as a man sacrificing his principles for convenience. Logan still couldn’t look him in the eye. If it weren’t for Charles Xavier, he would still be an angry brute too bitter at the world to make something of himself. Now this same man was telling him that everything was different. Even for a man as old as he was, this was too much change for him to bear.

“I’m sorry, Chuck. I think this vision of yours has gotten cloudy. Coming from a drunk, that’s saying a lot,” he said in a low tone.

“Then let me prove to you that I can make this work,” urged Xavier.

“Damn it, Chuck! How can you be so damn smart and still not get it?” exclaimed the feral mutant, “You know why I’ve stuck with the X-men this long? It ain’t just because of the fancy jets, the nice house, or the girls I end up humping. It’s because the X-men were the exact opposite of Weapon X. You didn’t try to make us better. You didn’t try to shape the world to your own end. You just taught us how to use our powers and do something good with them. It sounds so damn simple, but it meant a lot to me, damn it! It was something worth fighting for. Hell, it was something worth dying for.”

“It still is,” said Xavier in a calm tone.

“No…not anymore” said Logan, turning around and snatching the whiskey bottle he was holding, “You sold out the X-men for a ploy. You think we can work with the system. You ain’t realized that no matter how hard you try, the system always works you over. And if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not be there when it happens.”

The drunken slurs in his tone were laced with sorrow. t was something that struck Charles Xavier, even as he watched the feral mutant open up the bottle of whiskey and start drinking. In his already soused state, he fell back against the wall and sank to the floor in a stupor. The message was clear. He was would not buy into the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Logan,” said Professor Xavier solemnly, “Later today I’ll be addressing the team. I’ll be laying out the next steps in this process. I’d like you to be there, but if you feel it would be better…”

“Don’t bother, Chuck. You’ve made up your mind. I’ve made up mine,” he grumbled as he opened the bottle of whiskey.

“Well if you ever change it, my door is always open,” Xavier assured, “I still believe that this is right. I want all my students to be part of it. If and when the time comes, I’ll be there and so will the X-men.”

Logan grumbled more slurred words. He had nothing left to say and proceeded to drink his sorrows away. Professor Xavier lingered for a bit longer, holding out with a faint sliver of hope that Logan would one day understand. It just wasn’t going to be today.

Xavier offered Logan one last solemn gaze before leaving him to his stupor. The feral mutant didn’t even look up. Only his bottle of liquor could comfort him at this point. As far as he was concerned, when Charles Xavier walked out of this room he was taking the legacy of the X-men with him. It left Logan alone again, a bitter old man in a world that was about to become much more hostile.

“You’re wrong, Chuck,” he said upon finishing the whiskey, “The X-men are no more.”

Later – Pentagon

It had been a long, eventful day for the X-men. The wheels of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative were starting to turn. This new era of human/mutant relations was ready to begin. Only the finer details remained and that was what the team was waiting for.

General Grimshaw organized a special meeting in a conference room within the Pentagon. Every member of the X-men was expected to be there. Jean, Bobby, Hank, Ororo, Rogue, Kitty, Remy, Betsy, and Piotr were all present. Scott later showed up, much to everyone’s surprise since he missed the ceremony at the White House. Only Logan was absent. Upon hearing about his drunken stupor, nobody was surprised.

This meeting promised to reshape the X-men in a big way. There were plenty of reasons to be nervous. There were also plenty of reasons to be hopeful. It depended entirely on what Professor Xavier and General Grimshaw decided.

“I’m glad you decided to join us, Scott. It’s important that we’re all here for this,” said Ororo as they all sat at a conference table, waiting for the Professor.

“Minus Logan, of course,” said Rogue, rolling her eyes.

“I’m sure the Pentagon has a no drunks policy. So we shouldn’t be too surprised,” commented Kitty.

“Even so, it’s important that the team stay unified,” Ororo went on.

“Unified…right,” said Scott distantly.

“I hope that’s not sarcasm, especially from you of all people. We need to take this seriously,” said Jean, who was sitting next to him.

“I am taking this seriously. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” he said.

“Then why were you not at the ceremony?” asked Piotr, “You’re not considering taking Logan’s approach and confronting this issue with alcohol, are you?”

“I don’t solve my problems with alcohol. I prefer a more practical approach,” said Scott strongly, “I want to know what we’re in for. Then we’ll know just how unified we can be.”

There was a touch of cynicism behind his pragmatism. He had serious doubts about the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It wasn’t like they all were without reservations. This was a big change for the X-men. That’s why Ororo’s remarks on unity were so important. They needed to remain a team.

While they waited, Jean kept pressing her lover. His mind was still shut off. He hadn’t divulged to her where he was during the ceremony or what he had been up to for most of the day. They usually didn’t keep those kinds of secrets from one another and that worried Jean more than anything Professor Xavier was up to.

‘Scott, please talk to me. Don’t shut me out like this.’

‘I’m sorry, Jean. But this is not the time for psychic scolding.’

‘I’m not scolding. I’m worried in ways I’ve never had to worry before.’

‘That makes two of us.’

Jean kept trying to reassure herself while Scott remained completely stoic. He wasn’t revealing to anyone what was on his mind. He maintained this guarded demeanor even as Professor Xavier and General Grimshaw entered the conference room. Captain Jack Freeman entered as well. Their presence left the whole team anxious as they waited to learn the next step in this ambitious plan.

“Good afternoon, my X-men,” greeted Professor Xavier, “I’m glad you’re all here. This is a critical moment in the history of the X-men.”

“Seeing as how Logan is not with you, can we assume he won’t be joining us?” asked Hank.

“Logan has his share of issues regarding this endeavor,” said Xavier tactfully.

“In addition to his many other issues in general?” commented Bobby.

“He has his reasons as do the rest of us,” he clarified, “The primary reason for this meeting is to confront some of those issues for the rest of you. I don’t think I need to tell you how ambitious this program is. The risks are high, but so are the rewards.”

“And we’ll need those rewards,” added General Grimshaw, “We don’t have the luxury of taking incremental steps in mutant affairs. I’m sure you’re all sick of taking on guys like Magneto by yourself. Just as every other law-abiding nation is sick of being powerless when it comes to dealing with these issues. I believe Professor Xavier is making the correct, logical choice here. On our own, we keep struggling against the Genoshas and the Mutant Liberation Fronts of the world. Together, we might just stand a chance.”

Might being the operative word,” added Professor Xavier, “Our success depends on how we’re organized. This is what General Grimshaw and I have been discussing since before the ceremony. Neither the X-men nor the MSA can operate in the same capacity it once did. So in order to solidify this partnership, we’ve had to make compromises.”

“What sort of compromises, Professor?” asked Betsy curiously.

“The kind that will make the X-men less a private militia and more a vital public service that the people can’t imagine living without,” answered General Grimshaw.

The General turned to Captain Freeman and nodded. The Green Beret proceeded to pass out small packets of paper that bore the new emblem of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It was the symbols of the MSA with a large X representing the X-men imposed over it. There wasn’t much, but the message was fairly clear. It symbolized the new authoritative nature of the X-men.

“As a new arm of the public, you will all have the full rights and responsibilities of Uncle Sam’s humble civil servants,” the General explained.

“Humble…right,” chuckled Remy, this being an unusual proposition for a former thief.

“It’s nothing to scoff at, Mr. Lebeau. I understand you’ve got quite a rap sheet. I also understand that Mr. Rasputin here has a history with the Russian Mafia to say nothing of his citizenship status. We can’t even track down Miss Darkholme’s biological parents.”

“Is that a threat? Or some sort of American blackmail?” questioned Piotr.

“Because Ah don’t appreciate subtle threats any more than a regular punch in the face,” added Rogue.

“Take it easy, my X-men. He did not imply anything nefarious,” assured Professor Xavier.

“Quite the opposite, in fact,” said General Grimshaw, “By working with us, we’re prepared to clean up your records. We’re even prepared to clear up or expunge any lingering paper trail that may hinder your ability to move forward with this initiative. You’ll get the same benefits, compensation, and recognition as any civil servant that puts their life on the line.”

“We’re used to people hating us, General. We didn’t get into the X-men to be praised,” said Scott.

“I understand that, but I think you’ll find that being respected makes your mission a lot easier. In addition, the X-men now have the authority to arrest, detain, and process those deemed a threat to the United States and her allies,” the General went on, “You’ll have the full support of the MSA, the United States Armed Forces, and law enforcement on every level.”

“Sounds like a pretty sweet deal,” commented Kitty, “So what’s the catch? And please don’t sugar-coat it. We’ve got three psychics in the room.”

“That is where the responsibility aspect comes in,” said Professor Xavier, choosing to deliver this news instead of General Grimshaw, “As associates of the United States government, there are regulations to which we must abide. Among them are guidelines for those not yet of age to serve at this level.”

“Not of age? Since when was age an issue?” asked Bobby, anxious since he was among the youngest in the team.

“Since your parents, as well as Kitty’s parents, voiced their concerns about your role with the team,” answered Professor Xavier, “I know you’ve been tactful in describing our activities, but when the Xavier Institute blows up in a very public way, they are far less inclined to support your position in the X-men.”

“But that shouldn’t matter, right?” said Kitty anxiously, “I know I’m not old enough to drink yet, but can’t I still make decisions as a legal adult?”

“According to the provisions in this initiative, your parents still have a legal stake in your participation. As such, they’ve made it clear that they’re not comfortable with you serving full time.”

“In other words our parents are kicking us out of the X-men,” said Bobby angrily.

“Get me on the phone with my dad! I’ll get him to change his mind!” said Kitty, shooting up from her seat.

“Take it easy, Katya. After what happened to the mansion, I think they are right to be concerned,” said Piotr, coaxing his girlfriend back into his seat.

“It’s times like this Ah’m glad mah mama ain’t in a position to decide for meh. Ain’t like she doesn’t risk her neck more than the rest of us,” said Rogue.

“Don’t rub it in, Rogue,” groaned Bobby.

Kitty and Bobby were getting worked up and rightfully so. This was somewhat of a downgrade for them. Professor Xavier was quick to point out the bigger picture.

“It’s not as extreme as you think,” he assured them, “While you cannot serve full time, you will still be listed as reserve X-men in case additional manpower is necessary. Then once you’re legally qualified, you can rejoin the team.”

“When exactly does that happen?” asked Kitty, still fuming in a way that required Piotr to hold her back.

“Upon finishing the coursework you started at the institute,” he answered, “As such, you’ll continue your work at Emma Frost’s Academy of Tomorrow. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with the other students at her school. In the long run, we hope to train a new generation of X-men. I’m confident you two will set an example.”

“All while dealing with Emma Frost again? How could you not?” commented Hank.

It still didn’t sit well with Bobby or Kitty. The idea of not being part of the X-men was distressing in a great many ways. It wasn’t just what they did. It was part of who they were. Being a reserve wasn’t the same thing.

“So I guess this means the team is downsizing,” surmised Betsy.

“And we’re voted off the island. That definitively sucks,” said Bobby.

“Look on the bright side, homme. Now you in a better position to flirt with that Amara femme,” said Remy, offering his friend a reassuring gesture.

“For once, even the company of a pretty girl doesn’t bring me much comfort,” he said.

“I may go crazy if my life reverts back to homework and exams,” complained Kitty.

“It won’t be a permanent arrangement, Kitty,” said Ororo, “It might even be good for you to focus on classes for a while.”

“No offence, Miss Munroe. But if you were in my position, wouldn’t there be a typhoon over us right now?” she argued.

Her tone was harsh with bitterness. She wasn’t wrong either. Being an X-man was important to everyone on the team. The idea of being kicked out, even if it was temporary, was upsetting to say the least. It didn’t appear to be open for argument either. This decision had already been made. There was nothing they could do to change it.

Despite this new arrangement, it wasn’t set in stone. Bobby and Kitty could return eventually. The addition of the resources that General Grimshaw mentioned should definitely help compensate for any depleted manpower. On the surface it seemed the X-men would still be in a strong position to carry out their mission.

“So we have to send some of our teammates back to school for a while. Fair enough,” said Jean as she looked over the packet with some of the others, “That can’t be the only catch.”

“If I’m reading this correctly, our missions and research shall now be monitored by the MSA,” said Hank, “We’ll be responsible for adhering to any objectives laid out by General Grimshaw, the President, or any other high-level official with sufficient clearance.”

“Subject to my approval,” added Xavier, “We still retain much of our independence.”

“I hope that was implied,” said Hank, “What are the specifics of these objectives? I do plan on continuing my research. I hope to aid all parties in confronting and containing unruly mutants in a more prudent manner. How much of it will be guided by the MSA and how will it be utilized?”

“We’ve yet to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but we expect mutual cooperation on both ends,” said General Grimshaw.

“Is that in writing?” asked Betsy, speaking as the X-men’s resident legal expert.

“It’s there for every one of you to decide,” said Professor Xavier, “You’ve listened to all my speeches about the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. I’ve presented you with every detail. Before we proceed, I need your approval. There can be no X-men if we don’t agree where we stand with this critical moment in our struggle.”

The onus was now on the X-men. Professor Xavier expressed confidence in the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. He remained open with them throughout this complicated process. He believed in what he was doing. He genuinely felt that this was the best way for the X-men to move forward.

Every X-man took a moment to look over the packet detailing their service to the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. There were benefits and drawbacks. It was far from perfect, but then again their previous arrangement wasn’t either. It couldn’t have been if it ended up with their house getting blown up. There were only so many ways they could move forward. So with all the possibilities in mind, the X-men made their decision.

“Okay…I’ll be the first to say it. I’m in,” said Betsy, “I worked in law enforcement before. I don’t mind doing it again.”

“I’m in as well,” said Ororo, setting her packet aside, “I want the X-men to do better. I think this could go a long way towards building public trust.”

“Ah’ll take that as a bonus,” said Rogue as she did the same, “It’ll be a heck of a lot easier if we don’t have to worry about folks trying to arrest us.”

“Even though Remy ain’t got a high opinion of law folk, I’ll give this here gig a shot,” said Remy, “Philosophically speaking, if we be wanting to work around the gates then we ought to be friends with the gatekeeper.”

“It’s a logical progression of our mission, even without the lesser details in place. And I usually err on the side of logic,” said Hank.

“I don’t get what’s so logical about me having to go back to school,” muttered Bobby, “But as long as I means I can come back and the X-men remain intact, I’ll go with it. Someone has to be around to lighten the mood.”

“I’m sure the team can get along without it,” said Kitty, rolling her eyes, “I don’t side with ex-boyfriends on much, but in this case I agree. If this makes the X-men stronger, then I’m willing to endure more mind-numbing school-work.”

“Da, I have experienced far worse working conditions. I’ve lived the life of a criminal long enough. I am quite willing to side with the law for a change,” affirmed Piotr.

“So am I,” said Jean as she read over the last few pages, “This could really work. This could do a lot of good. More good than the X-men could do on their own. You’ve always made the right call when it mattered, Professor. I’ll stick with the X-men until proven otherwise.”

The sentiment was consistent. Professor Xavier had made his case and the team bought into it. Even if they didn’t agree with every aspect of the proposal, they were willing to give it a try.

That still left Scott Summers, whose expression hadn’t changed since he entered the room. He had been the most vocal opponent of the Professor even before the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. He was also the leader of the X-men. He was among the most loyal students that Charles Xavier ever taught. It seemed outrageous that he would not at least try this proposal. With every second of silence, his brooding demeanor grew more ominous.

“Scott…will you offer us your input?” asked Hank.

“Or are you just gonna make us wait while you impersonate a statue,” said Rogue.

The X-leader looked up from the packet and stared at his mentor. He saw in his eyes a subtle urging. The Professor wanted him to be part of this. This time, it wouldn’t be as easy to trust this man’s vision.

“Before I decide, I have one important question for you, sir,” he said in a deceptively calm tone.

“Of course, Scott. Feel free to ask me anything,” said the Professor.

“Do you really think the X-men can work within the government like this and not become corrupted?”

“I’ve already gone over the many provisions we have in place. I’ve made it clear to the General here as well as President Kelly. We are still in control of our destiny.”

“Then what happens when you lose control? How do you plan on dealing with it so that everything we’ve built doesn’t crumble?” Scott went on, adding more force to his tone.

“That won’t happen. I won’t allow it,” said Professor Xavier strongly.

“So you believe you have the power and the foresight to avoid this? Never mind all the other ways that this could go wrong. You have no doubt that you can control this extensive no matter what comes along?”

“Yes. I believe it. I will work to make sure of it,” said Xavier, reinforcing every word.

What should have been reassurance only hardened the X-leader’s disposition. He hid an ocean of emotion behind his face. Both Professor Xavier and Jean Grey could sense it radiating from his mind. Even the others could see it. He was wrestling with something and from the looks of it, he wasn’t winning.

With an exceedingly callous demeanor, he closed the packet and tossed it back across the table. Then he looked up at his mentor and gave his response.

“In that case, my decision is clear. I quit.”

Everyone blinked in disbelief.

“What?! Did Ah just hear Scott Summers say the word quit?” exclaimed Rogue.

“I don’t believe it either. I must be sick or something,” said Bobby, rubbing his head.

“You all heard right. I quit,” said Scott as he rose up, “Consider this my resignation from the X-men.”

The shock reverberated throughout the team. Without another word, he rose up from his seat. He then reached into his pocket, retrieved his X-men communicator, and tossed it onto the table atop the packet. He seemed dead serious about this. Jean already had tears in her eyes, but nobody was more struck than Charles Xavier.

“Scott…I understand your reservations, but I urge you not to do anything brash,” said the Professor.

“There’s nothing brash about it, sir. You say you understand. You say you can control this. Well guess what? You don’t understand. How can you possibly control what you don’t understand?”

“Explain to me what I don’t understand,” he asked intently, “Let’s work together to resolve it!”

“We’re already beyond that point. You that taught me how being certain of our abilities was the first step towards losing control of them. Only the arrogant assume they can handle something like this and deal with all the consequences, intended or otherwise. Magneto was that arrogant. So was Sinister. I never thought you would stoop to that level. That arrogance is going to destroy the X-men and I’d rather not be a part of that.”

Professor Xavier was taken aback by this accusation, so much so that he had no words with which to respond. He stood in stunned silence along with his students while Scott Summers turned around and stormed out of the room. He didn’t look back. He didn’t say goodbye. He just left the friends and loved ones he once fought so vehemently to protect.

The team was reeling. The idea of going through this without Scott Summers leading them would not sink in. The only one not affected on a personal level was General Nathan Grimshaw. For him, this was an issue of pure pragmatics. With or without this man, the X-men and the Mutant Monitoring Initiative would continue.

“Looks like we’ll have to make some adjustments,” said General Grimshaw amidst the strong silence.

“Excuse me, General Insensitive Prick! But our friend just up and quit on us!” exclaimed Kitty.

“Kitty please! Let’s not overact more than we have to,” said Hank, still finding this difficult to rationalize.

“Well isn’t anyone going after him?” said Piotr.

“I’m surprised you haven’t started running, Jean,” commented Rogue.

“I’m going, damn it!” said Jean, swallowing the lump and putting on a strong face as she got up from her seat, “I’ll try to talk some sense into him.”

“I’m not sure that’s possible, Jean,” said Professor Xavier distantly, “I sensed more conviction in his thoughts than I’ve ever sensed before.”

“I’m still going to try. If he won’t listen to the woman he loves, then he won’t listen.”

Jean stormed out of the room with a ferocity that even Juggernaut would find intimidating. The rest of the team stayed behind, doing their best to process this new development. Logan skipping out on them wasn’t too surprising, but Scott Summers? That was a telling sign. It left them wondering how certain they were this plan.

While the team chattered amongst themselves over this shocking development, General Grimshaw let out a frustrated sigh. Charles Xavier was still reeling. It didn’t matter how close knit the X-men were. The Mutant Monitoring Initiative was already official.

“I don’t mean to make light of your student’s outburst, but we can’t force him to go along with this,” said General Grimshaw, “That means we’ll have to make adjustments.”

“Yes…we will,” said Professor Xavier solemnly.

“I don’t mean to sound insensitive either, but what if Scott Summers is right?” asked Captain Freeman, who had been silent, “What if we can’t control what we’ve created?”

“We don’t deal in what ifs, Captain. We can’t when the stakes are this high,” said General Grimshaw strongly, “But for all our sake, we better prove him wrong.”

Outside The Pentagon

Scott couldn’t get out of the Pentagon fast enough. He barged past the security check-points, going so far as to shove past a few MPs. He didn’t care if they yelled at him. He didn’t intend on returning to this place anytime soon. His harsh stride hid a heavy heart. This was something he never thought he would do. Scott Summers was walking away from the X-men. The worst part was the X-men were gone before he even left.

He had just stormed out from the front door of the Pentagon. He was on his way towards the street below where he could get a cab. The X-leader didn’t dare look back. There were too few reasons to do so. One of those reasons still caught up with him.

“Scott!” shouted Jean as she ran out from the building, “Just stop! Be a mature human being and talk to me!”

Scott froze while still not looking back. He waited until Jean caught up. She practically sprinted towards him, the strain of her emotions apparent in every stride. Once she reached him, she practically yanked him by the arm so that he turned around to face her.

“Were you really going to leave like that?” said Jean with a harsh scold, “Just run off without even saying goodbye to your friends?”

“I didn’t expect the others to understand. There was nothing left to say,” he replied.

“What about me? Were you going to leave without even talking to your girlfriend?” she added, an unmistakable pain seeping through her voice.

“I knew you would come after me, Jean. That’s why I didn’t try to escape. Now that we’re here, we can get this over with.”

Jean’s anger gave way to sorrow. There was a sad yet cold sense of acceptance in his tone. He made it clear with his thoughts that his mind was made up. There was no turning back.

“I’m sorry, Jean. I wished it didn’t happen like this. But Professor Xavier just vindicated every one of my fears. As far as I’m concerned, there are no more X-men. There’s just a ticking time bomb that’s going to blow up in everyone’s face.”

“I get that that’s what you believe. I agree on some level, but isn’t it a chance worth taking?” she said. “Isn’t that all the more reason to stay and help us?”

“This isn’t about taking a chance, Jean. This is about compromising too much and getting too little,” said Scott strongly, “This Mutant Monitoring Initiative sounds too good on paper. That’s often a bad sign because there are always unintended consequences when you try to do too much.”

“You really think the X-men can’t handle that?” Jean questioned.

“The X-men and the Charles Xavier I knew wouldn’t assume they could. They would have enough humility to realize that sooner or later, this massive stunt will collapse on itself. I don’t see how it can be argued otherwise.”

“Then I won’t try and convince you. That doesn’t mean you should leave like this! If you stay then maybe you can do something about it!” said Jean, her tone getting desperate with emotion.

“I would if I thought it was possible, but I’ve been thinking about this day and night. I’ve been looking at this from every possible angle. This isn’t a mission I can lead,” he said, “I hope I’m wrong. I would love for the Professor to say ‘I told you so’ one day. Until it happens, I’ve made my decision. I’m not going to be part of this so-called initiative.”

A sinking feeling settled in for both of them. Jean opened her mouth to respond, but nothing came out. There was nothing for her to say at this point. The expression on Scott’s face hardened, his stern discipline hiding many painful emotions. In a solemn gesture, Scott reached up and gently caressed the side of his lover’s face.

“Try not to worry. You know me. I always have a backup plan,” he told her in a deep tone.

“I don’t doubt that you do,” said Jean, her voice more strained with every word, “But what about the people who care about you?”

“They’ve made their own decision. I respect it. That’s all I can do.”

“But what about…us?” she said desperately.

“Jean…I still love you. Nothing could ever stop me from loving you,” said Scott, getting choked up as well, “But being in love and being together are two different things. Sometimes both are possible. Other times…only one can work. This is one of those times.”

“So…we’re over? Is this really it?” she said, tears now streaming down her face.

“I won’t say it is. I honestly don’t know what will come of us, the X-men, or anything for that matter. All I know is we both have our own missions now. We need to see them through…alone.”

That word, alone, sounded so painful. It was like a hot needle in her heart. Jean couldn’t stop the tears anymore. She started sobbing uncontrollably, even as Scott embraced her. He held her in his arms for nearly a full minute, knowing this may be his last chance for a while. When the time finally came to part, he gave her a soft kiss on the forehead.

“Be safe, Jean Grey,” said Scott softly, “No matter what dangers we face alone or together, remember what the Phoenix Force told us. Our love is our greatest strength.”

In what had to be the most difficult escape of his life, Scott Summers let go of Jean Grey and turned away. She clung to him as long as she could, reaching out even as he started walking away. This time she didn’t run after him. If she had, she would have seen streaks of tears seeping down from his visor. It perfectly symbolized just how difficult this was for them. Doing the right thing wasn’t supposed to be easy. That didn’t make it any less agonizing.

As Jean watched her lover walk away, a cold feeling set in. She was so choked up with sobs that she couldn’t even call out to him and tell him how much she loved him one last time. Her knees buckled and she fell to ground. Through these unending waves of sorrow, the harsh reality set in.

The X-men had changed. The team was no longer unified. Professor Xavier’s Mutant Monitoring Initiative was bold, so much so that it had already strained the strongest of bonds. It threatened to strain the team to it’s very core. But the pieces were already in place. There was no going back. This new team of X-men was poised to take hold in a very complicated and very volatile world.

Later That Week – Liberty Tavern

‘Thanks for the good times, Chuck. Guess I should also say fuck you since you’re the one that ended it. You and the others keep acting like this Mutant Monitoring bullshit ain’t a bad idea. I would need a lot more booze to even think I could go along with it.’

There were only so many problems that alcohol could solve. That never stopped Logan from trying to solve others before. He hadn’t stopped drinking since he arrived in Washington DC. No matter how much he soused his mind, it didn’t change the ugly truth. He was expected to show up eventually and let the team know his intentions. Keeping himself drunk was his way of avoiding what he had since accepted. The X-men that arrived were not the same X-men that would leave.

It was just past two in the morning. Most of the bars were closing in the DC area. Logan had been running up a hefty tab for the past four hours. He didn’t pick any fights, talk to any of the women that hit on him, or make small-talk with the bartender. He just sat in his stupor, downing drink after drink. He was the only one in the bar at this point. Even the problem drunks had left or been thrown out.

No matter how much he ingested, he couldn’t get himself sufficiently drunk. Every now and then his phone would buzz. They were always messages from the team. Some were from Jean. Others were from Ororo, Rogue, or Bobby. They all urged him to come out from his rock and confront them, even if it was just to tell them off. Nothing they said could pull him from his stupor.

While he gazed down at a nearly empty bottle of Jack Daniels, the TV over the bar was still on. It was playing over a CNN recording of major news stories from earlier in the day. Like every other outlet in the world, it reported on the X-men.

“To recap our top story, Professor Charles Xavier finalized his Mutant Monitoring Initiative. This new program is a bold and unprecedented collaboration between mutants and the government. The X-men took center stage at a press conference earlier today. General Nathan Grimshaw of the MSA detailed their first set of missions. At the top of the list is the now defunct nation of Genosha. He expects the X-men to help international authorities locate and if necessary detain individuals of interest. The X-men will also work closely with major law enforcement. With Charles Xavier by his side, he delivered a strong message to the public.”

The report brought up a clip of the conference. When Logan saw the X-men standing behind the MSA like mindless cronies, he grew sick to his stomach.

“We’ve all endured enough fear and uncertainty. The time has come for us to do something about it. That is why I’m very excited to work directly with Charles Xavier and his X-men. At this time the team is as follows: Jean “Phoenix” Grey, Henry “Beast” McCoy, Ororo “Storm” Munroe, Marie “Rogue” Darkholme, Remy “Gambit” Lebeau, Peter “Colossus” Rasputin, and Elizabeth “Psylocke” Braddock. There are others who are set to join at a later time. There are also others that have decided not to. I understand there are others that have not decided to join. I hope they change their mind. Under the directive of the President and the vision of Professor Charles Xavier, we will begin implementation of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Construction will begin on a new Xavier Institute. Missions will commence with international support immediately. It’s an exciting time for all parties. Let it be known that mutants and humans alike cannot and will not evade justice. Under this new initiative, we welcome a new era of security and cooperation.”

Logan nearly threw up upon hearing that last statement. The idea that the X-men would cooperate in the same system that turned him into a meat puppet tore at him in ways that he could not heal from. Having gulped down the last of his drink, he grumbled angrily and tossed the bottle across the bar.

“I’m gonna need some much stronger shit,” said the feral mutant.

“You’ve already had more than any sane man can handle,” said the barkeeper as he caught the bottle before it fell, “I should’ve cut you off after the tenth bottle of whiskey.”

“Hey, I gave you an extra hundred bucks to not ask questions!” barked Logan.

“Quit busting my balls, already. It’s closing time and I don’t have the energy to baby any more drunks…especially mutants. It sounds like your kind has enough problems from the looks of it.”

Logan snarled at the unruly bartender. He clenched his fist, ready to pop his claws and coax this man into giving him more booze. Then to both their surprise, a red beam of energy shot out from the other side of the bar and struck the TV that was still broadcasting the story. Both Logan and the now outraged bartender turned to see Scott standing in the front door, his hand still on his visor.

“Sir, problems don’t even begin to describe what we’re going through,” said the former X-leader.

“You fucking, dirty freak! What the hell? I ought to call that MSA on your ass and make you their first case!” yelled the bartender.

“Calm down, sir. Trust me when I say my drunken friend here would have done much worse,” he said.

Logan sneered at Scott’s comments. He maintained that sneer even as Scott walked over towards him. Along the way, he pulled out a wad of bills and placed it on the counter. It was pretty thick, so much so that it helped ease the bartender’s outrage.

“Use that to get a new TV,” he told him, “I’ll even take Mr. Sunshine here off your hands for you.”

“That’ll still cost extra!” barked the bartender.

“It’s in there,” Scott assured, “It should be enough to save us from trouble that neither of us needs right now.”

The bartender still scolded him for destroying one of his TVs. After a quick count of the money, he seemed somewhat satisfied. He was content to pocket the bills and turn away, leaving Scott to deal with a moody Logan.

“The hell did you get that money?” asked Logan suspiciously.

“If you’re really interested, you’ll set aside the booze and follow me,” said Scott.

“Now why the hell would I wanna do that?”

“I don’t know if you were too drunk to notice, but I wasn’t at that conference earlier. I’m not with the X-men anymore. I quit.”

“So I heard,” said the feral mutant, “Jeannie called me. It sounded like she had been sobbing her eyes out.”

“Are you going to yell at me for that too? You want me to detail how hard it was to leave the team?” asked former X-leader.

“And give myself more reasons to kick your ass? I’ll pass,” quipped Logan, “I’ll settle for an explanation. I know you would never come looking for my drunken ass if something wasn’t up.”

“I think that goes without saying,” said Scott, “Are you sober enough to walk and talk?”

“Fuck you,” he snarled.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Scott led the embittered Logan out through the rear exit of the bar. The feral mutant was in a hell of a mood and it wasn’t just because of the booze. He was every bit as upset about the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. He had more than enough reasons given his history with government sponsored weapons programs. That put Logan in a unique position that amazingly enough was in line with what Scott was planning. As they neared the door, he explained their predicament.

“I’ll skip the small talk, Logan,” he began, “I know you don’t like me. I don’t like you all that much either, especially when you’re drunk. But you and I seem to agree on one critical issue. The Professor is making a mistake with this Mutant Monitoring Initiative.”

“Hell, it qualifies as a big ass mistake if it has us agreeing on something,” commented Logan.

“Then maybe we can also agree that the X-men as we know it is pretty much defunct. Working alongside the MSA creates more problems than it solves. They can’t be the heroes they once were. That’s bad news for a lot of mutants out there. Who are they going to turn to if and when the X-men become corrupted by this new initiative?”

“Ain’t no if, Summers. It’s gonna happen!” said Logan, “I’ve been down this road before. No mutant power can stop greedy men in suits with cushy government jobs.”

“Thus leaving a significant void…one that needs to be filled for when that time comes,” said Scott as they stopped at the door.

“Let me guess. You think you can fill it?” said Logan skeptically.

“Contrary to what you may think, some voids can’t be filled with alcohol,” he quipped, “I believe we can also agree that the world still needs the X-men. So if Charles Xavier is no longer up to the task, then we’ll have to take matters into our own hands.”

Despite the feral mutant’s cynical gaze, Scott opened the back door to the bar to reveal that some friends had been waiting for him. When Logan stepped out his cynicism turned to intrigue. Standing in the alley were five familiar figures. They included Warpath, Domino, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Emma Frost. They were each wearing strange new uniforms. They looked like X-men uniforms, except they were black and lacked the distinctive X-emblem. At this point Scott removed his coat to reveal that he was wearing a similar uniform, which sent a clear message.

While Logan processed the sight before him, Scott rejoined the team. Even though he wasn’t officially with the X-men anymore, he still carried himself as Cyclops. He still believed in the principles Xavier taught him. Now he was just doing it his way.

“Wow. You’re both here intact. Guess I owe you twenty bucks, Domino,” said Warpath.

“If I knew he would be this drunk, I would have wagered more,” grinned Domino.

“He’s not as drunk as you think. Although I do have reservations about bringing someone of his proclivities onto this team,” said Emma Frost, still crass despite her new role.

“For what we’re going to be doing on my dollar, I’d say he’s a perfect fit,” grinned Angel.

“I vouldn’t vant anyone else leading zhe charge,” added Nightcrawler.

The realization quickly sunk in, despite Logan’s blood-alcohol level. Scott Summers was serious in a way that didn’t make him such a prick. This man that he so often clashed with had a real plan. It looked like a plan that he could really sink his claws into.

“Is this what I think it is, Summers?” said Logan, a smile forming on his face.

“It’s exactly what it looks like,” affirmed Cyclops, “We’re not the only ones that believe the Mutant Monitoring Initiative will fall apart in ways only Beast could articulate. As you can see I’ve made some calls. I’ve also made some arrangements.”

“Of which I’m paying for,” said Angel, “That means we can’t be as mainstream as we’re used to.”

“That also means our version of the X-men is essentially underground,” said Warpath, “We’ll doing the jobs that Charles Xavier is no longer in a position to do.”

“That’s because we’re not X-men,” said Scott firmly, “The X-men are no longer viable under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. The world still hates and fears us. Someone has to step up. That someone is us…X-Force.”

End of Volume 6

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