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Volume 7 -- Issue 170 -- High Evolution Part 2

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High Evolution Part 2
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The human race is evolving. More individuals are being born with extraordinary powers. Professor Charles Xavier has dedicated his life to using these powers for the betterment of mankind. He formed the X-men to fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. Now the conflict between humans and mutants is poised to change forever.

Despite the X-men’s best efforts, the world has become much more dangerous. Professor Xavier attempted to forge a partnership with the authorities under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. This not only split up his X-men, thus leading the creation of X-Force. It weakened their collective efforts, allowing an attack from White Cell to cripple global defenses. It created a perfect situation for Magneto to exploit.

While in hiding, he helped the mysterious Dr. Wyndham construct a vast space station known as Asteroid M. This new world promises to give a desperate few a fresh start. In addition to sheltering mutants, Magneto has opened Asteroid M to humans as well. They may join this new paradise provided they agree to become mutants.

This has led Professor Xavier, X-Force, and the authorities to suspect that something darker is at work. With help from Wanda Maximoff, they are poised to confront Magneto on Asteroid M. They prepare to leave while all over the world, many clamor for what little hope Asteroid M has to offer.

San Francisco – Golden Gate National Recreation Area

“Out of my way! I won’t be left behind!” yelled a desperate old man as he tried to shove his way through wall of unruly humanity.

“Can someone please let me through! I have a terminally ill child here!” exclaimed a woman doing her best to protect her pale son.

“Get in line, lady!” said a middle-aged man, “I just got outta jail, lost my job, and found out the bank took my house! You’re not the only one eager to get off this rock!”

It was official. The entire social order of the world had been disrupted. Magneto’s message reached millions of people and they responded intently. As soon as the information about Asteroid M was presented, lines were drawn. There were those who sought to be among the select few to start over in a new world. There were those who saw it as another blow to an already vulnerable world and barricaded themselves in their homes. Then there were those who attacked anyone that accepted Magneto’s offer.

As transport pods were sent all over the world, the cities around those pods shut down and thousands poured out into the streets. San Francisco was already in a state of emergency. The Golden Gate Bridge was clogged with people trying to get to the transport pod on the other side. Police had come in to set up barricades, but the White Cell attack left them with limited resources. They could do little to thwart the river of people. It left only the determined protesters to turn people away.

“You fucking traitors! You actually trust Magneto not to screw you over?” exclaimed a protester from behind a weak police barricade.

“You’re betraying your own species!” said another.

“You’re taking the easy way out! You fucking cowards!”

“If you’re giving up on us, then we’re giving up on you!”

Several protesters broke through the barricade and swarmed those trying to get to the pod. Along the way they picked up rocks, garbage, and anything else they could find and threw it into the crowds. Hundreds took cover, but they didn’t fight back. They kept pushing forward. They could see the transport pod atop a ridge and it was filling up fast. No one wanted to be left behind, but it seemed inevitable that some would.

Cairo, Egypt – Giza Plateau

“GET BACK! BY ORDER OF THE GOVERNMENT, NO ONE IS GETTING THROUGH!” barked an angry officer from the Egyptian military.

“You can’t keep us from choosing our own destiny!” yelled a young man.

“WATCH ME!” barked the officer.

Shots rang out as more beleaguered soldiers fired wildly into a crowd of desperate Egyptians. Some tried shooting into the air to scare people off. Others fired right into the protesters, wounding many and leaving some dead. However, even the prospect of death couldn’t ward off the desperate hoards.

Cairo had already been on lockdown since the White Cell attack. The government had been in disarray since its dictatorship collapsed years ago. The military was the only source of order and after White Cell, that order was completely undermined. Magneto’s announcement followed by the revelation of a transport pod on the Giza Plateau proved to be the final straw. Despite the military police surrounding the pod with tanks and sandbags, the people kept coming.

“My brother! Somebody help my brother! He’s been shot!” cried a young woman as she knelt over an unmoving body.

“Leave him! He’s in Allah’s hands now,” urged an older man.

“Don’t let these monsters use us for target practice. They’re weak. We’re strong. Let’s show them!”

Emboldened by the heartless actions of the authorities, the crowd pushed harder. Some picked up rocks and threw them at the soldiers. The officer who shot the young man was a major target. He kept trying to fire his weapon, but he soon ran out of bullets as the barricade weakened.

“We’re running out of ammo, sir!” yelled a nervous soldier, who was already falling back.

“Shoot what you can and reinforce the barrier,” urged the officer as he tried to reload his gun, “Don’t let anyone through no matter-AUGH!”

The officer was cut off as a large rock struck him in the head. It caused him to fall off the tank he had been standing on and into the crowds below. The angry masses showed him the same mercy he had shown the people he shot. They relentlessly beat him to a pulp and took his weapons.

Now armed, a couple of young men opened fire on those manning tear gas cannons. In short order, the soldiers abandoned their posts. With the hot desert sun beating down on them, they scaled the tanks and made a beeline for the pod.

“I can see it!” yelled the man who took the officer’s gun, “We’re almost there. Hurry before it leaves without us!”

Buenos Ares, Argentina – Punta Lara

“What is it, papa?” asked a young boy in a daze.

“I’m not sure, Paco,” said a middle-aged man in astonishment.

The nearby city of Buenos Ares had been in a panic since the White Cell attack. It caused some to leave the crowded streets and retreat to the countryside. Punta Lara was an undeveloped park reserve. A number of families had chosen to camp out in the area until the chaos blew over. Then about an hour ago, a new kind of chaos entered the area.

It happened just outside a major encampment. The middle-aged man had been foraging for food with his son when they saw what looked like a shooting star fall from the sky. It didn’t impact like a meteor, but it landed close enough for them to investigate. When they reached it, they encountered an amazing sight.

A large metal platform was now hovering just a few inches off the ground. It looked big enough to hold thousands of people. It appeared they were the first ones to see it and they weren’t sure what to make of it.

“Could it be that thing the man on the radio was talking about?” his son asked him.

“I don’t know. I hope not,” said the man, “We came here to escape this madness. I would rather it not find us here.”

The man and his son continued to observe the mysterious object. As they pondered what this could be, they heard noises emerge from the nearby forest. It looked as though this once tranquil area wasn’t going to be that tranquil anymore.

“Over here! I think I see it,” said an eager voice.

“This matches the coordinates my husband found on the internet,” said a female voice following close behind, “It has to be one of those pods.”

“It doesn’t look like the police have surrounded it yet. Let’s get inside before they do!”

These voices were soon followed by many more. It confirmed what the man and his son had feared. Without hesitation, they turned around and started running.

“Run Paco! We must get as far away from this place as possible.”

“Why papa?” wondered the boy as he was urged along.

“Because trouble always follows desperate people,” he told him, “Whenever danger approaches, those same people will either run by us or run over us!”

Shikine Island - Japan

“Row harder! We’re almost to the shore,” urged the breathless captain of a makeshift raft.

“Why don’t you row harder?” grunted an older woman who was equally exhausted, “You’re the one that ran our boat into a rock.”

“Hate me all you want. But if we all don’t peddle harder, we’ll be left behind.”

The seas around Japan were always congested. Everything from finishing boats to oil tankers traversed the busy waters. Now the seascape around Japan’s east coast was completely chaotic. One of Magneto’s pods had landed on Shikine Island, a small speck of land that wasn’t far from the Japanese mainland. That news prompted anyone with a boat to take to the waters.

All around the island, there were boats of all shapes and sizes trying to get to the pod. That led some boats to collide with one another and others to hit rocks within shallow waters. The weather didn’t help either. High winds and light rain made for choppy waters, causing some boats to capsize.

The Japanese authorities scrambled to try and secure the island while rescuing those in need of help. Their limited resources from the White Cell attack made that nearly impossible, which was encouraging to some as they neared the island.

“Tell me again, brother. Why are we leaving?” grunted the captain’s younger brother.

“You would rather take your chances back in Tokyo? Where our parents cut off our money while we can’t find work?” replied the captain.

“You think that makes you more deserving?” said a young woman with dyed hair, “I was wrongfully expelled from university. Then, I became indebted to a Yakuza gang. I don’t even have a home to go to!”

“Maybe you can get a mutant power that allows you to cope with your failure,” spat the Captain, “Our stories won’t matter once we’re on Asteroid M. Just keep rowing! It looks like we may be among the lucky.”

Lodz, Poland – Las Lagiewnicki

Freedom was a powerful motivator for those who had lost it. The promise of freedom could motivate the most demoralized people in very extreme ways. Magneto’s offer to free themselves from a decaying world inspired the kind of motivation that led some to cross lines that others would not. It left those that were more comfortable crossing such lines were at an advantage.

“Slow down, Josef! I think I broke a few bones in my foot back there,” grunted a young man in ragged prison garb.

“Suck it up! We’re almost there,” said his older associate, “We didn’t bust out of a Ukrainian prison, kill two people, and jump a train just to be denied.”

“You sound awfully eager to join Magneto. I thought you hated mutants.”

“There are other things I hate much more now,” said Josef as he hopped over a fence, “At the moment, my hatred of police and our old enemies in the Russian Mafia is far more pressing. And if you want to escape both, you’ll quit being a chicken shit and run faster.”

His associate endured the excruciating pain in his foot and hopped the fence as quickly as he could. He followed Josef closely. They were trying to get to a clearing where a pod had landed. They were already on the run for having escaped from prison. The authorities had been hot on their trail and they needed a means of escape.

A dense fog had fallen over the area. The roads that led to the pod had been cordoned off by Polish authorities. Rather than join the growing crowd that was attempting to push through the roadblocks, they took their chances in the heavily wooded areas surrounding the pods.

They knew they weren’t alone. They could hear the footsteps of others along with the motors of off-road vehicles traversing the rough terrain. No one was sure how much space was left on the pod so everyone assumed there were few.

“Hold on! I hear something,” said Josef, stopping his associate as he limped along.

“What is it now?” he asked breathlessly, “I thought we were almost there.”

“We are, but we need to get there sooner,” he said carefully, “And I know how.”

Josef grabbed his friend by the arm and shoved him behind a nearby tree. He then took cover in one of the bushes. Within moments, the noise he heard grew louder and closer. It sounded like a motorcycle. It might be just what they needed to ensure their spot in a pod.

With predatory intent, Josef waited until the motorcycle was in view. As he waited he drew a knife he had stolen. As soon as they were close enough, he stepped out into their path. The man on the motorcycle, who was riding with a woman sitting behind him, instinctively stopped to avoid hitting him.

“Whoa! Are you crazy?” said the man on the motorcycle, “We could have…”

“Get off the bike!” yelled Josef.

“Huh? What do you…”

“I SAID GET OFF!” he roared.

The desperate man didn’t give the couple a second warning. With homicidal rage, he lunged at the driver and jammed his knife right into his neck. He knew he hit an artery because blood started gushing out uncontrollably, causing the woman to scream in horror.

“NO! YOU MONSTER!” she cried as she stumbled off the bike.

“Shut up you stupid bitch!” yelled Josef.

In his rage, Josef grabbed the woman by the hair and slit her throat with his knife. It didn’t matter to him if it was necessary. It only mattered that there was one less person that could take his spot in the pod.

“Josef…what have you done?” his associate exclaimed.

“What does it look like? I just got us a bike and took down the competition,” he replied callously as he put his bloodied knife away.

“Don’t we have enough blood on our hands already?”

“You going to keep whining or are you going to hop on?” said Josef as he got on the motorcycle, which was still running.

There was no room for hesitation. They needed to get to that pod or all the bloodshed would be meaningless. Despite his disgust, the desperate escapee joined Josef on the motorcycle. Leaving behind two dead bodies, they resumed their desperate push towards freedom.

Pakistan – Hindu Kush Region

“Mama…I’m so tired,” cried a young girl as she walked barefoot over rugged terrain.

“Me too, mama. My feet hurt,” cried an older boy.

“I know everything hurts,” said the mother breathlessly, “It’ll be over soon. I promise.”

The desperate woman clung to her children in an effort to keep that promise. She and many others braved the unforgiving terrain of the Hindu Kush to reach one of Magneto’s pods. The government tried to instill a communication’s blackout shortly after Magneto’s announcement. It proved ineffective because word still got out that a pod was located atop a large ridge. Thousands rushed into the mountains in hopes of being within that pod before it left. The promise of a new life was too great for many to pass up.

For her, it wasn’t just about opportunity. It was about survival. She was among the lucky ones. The ridge wasn’t far from the small village where she lived with her children and husband. She was desperate to leave it all behind because her husband was abusive. Her parents forced her to marry this man and endure his wrath. On Asteroid M, she and her children hoped to escape that wrath. With little food and only the clothes on their back, they ascended a rocky and increasingly crowded hilltop.

“Look! I see helicopters,” yelled an old man as he pointed up into the sky.

“What are they doing? Are they ferrying people from the cities?” wondered a younger man, who saw it as well.

Others looked up and saw three large helicopters pass over the ridge. They swirled around and settled into a hover. Then to the horror of many, the helicopters opened fire.

“They’re shooting at us!” exclaimed a young woman.

“My son! He’s been shot!” cried a horrified father.

“Why? Why would they do this?” exclaimed the mother of the wounded child.

“They don’t want us to leave,” lamented an old man, “They would rather we die!”

Bullets continued flying. Many were wounded. For them, there was no hope. No one could help them. Those that stayed behind to help would only be left behind. The best hope remained at the top of the ridge.

“Allah…he who is the most merciful and compassionate,” prayed the mother as she embraced her children with each step, “Help us through this carnage. Give me the strength to save my children.”

Colorado Springs – Lake Moraine

Wanda Maximoff had a lot riding on her shoulders. She was leading both the X-men and X-Force into a trap on a planetary scale. Like many others, she heard the reports of the chaos her father’s announcement had caused. She didn’t have time to hear all the stories of determined people fighting for a spot on Asteroid M while equally determined people tried to thwart them. She assumed the chaos was part of a larger plan.

‘Once again, I’m caught in the middle of your madness, father. This time it may not even be your fault. I hope it isn’t because this is getting old. I can’t keep doing this for you. Something has to give this time. You must decide…your madness or your family.’

Wanda maintained her strength as she, the X-men, and X-Force were transported to the designated coordinates for the transport pod. They arrived in a series of Chinook helicopters. The ride aboard was tense.

A group of MSA operatives continued to surround Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Domino, and Nightcrawler. Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus remained close as well, but remained silent. The tension between the two teams was still apparent. Captain Freeman made it a point to sit between them so they didn’t worsen any lingering wounds. Everyone needed to prepare themselves for what they may face on Asteroid M.

Once the helicopters landed, they were greeted by a military convoy that had already surrounded the area. In a clearing near the lake, they could see the metal transport orb waiting for them. The MPs had already cleared out every civilian within a five-mile radius. Once X-Force and the X-men stepped out of the helicopters, the MSA operatives pulled back. That left General Grimshaw to lead them to their destination.

“Looks like everything’s in place,” announced General Grimshaw, “This is where we cut you loose and expect you to do your jobs.”

“You sound like you’re expecting us to blow you off, General. Do you really think we’re that dishonest?” said Cyclops.

“I hope that’s a rhetorical question, Summers,” said Captain Freeman under his breath.

“Once you’re up in Asteroid M, you’ll be a long way away from our jurisdiction,” said the General, “If I was in your position, I’m sure I would be tempted.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about, General. We consider ourselves honest deviants,” said Emma Frost.

“As if hanging out on a floating rock with Magneto is that appealing,” said Domino, “I don’t care how enticing he made it. So long as he’s running the show, it ain’t paradise.”

“Keep in mind we don’t know if he’s running anything,” added Professor Xavier, “That’s part of what we’re supposed to uncover.”

“Yet we have no idea on what that other part may be,” Psylocke stated, making it clear that this didn’t sit well with her.

“Guess we’ll have to play it by ear and cut up anything that gets in our way,” said Wolverine, “If there’s something or someone out there tough enough to pull Magneto’s strings, I’d love to meet him. So would my claws.”

“That makes two of us,” said Wanda strongly.

There were certainly plenty of issues to resolve on Asteroid M. Both teams were eager to uncover the turth as they stood ready to depart. General Grimshaw signaled the military personnel to clear out. The MSA operatives had already returned to the helicopters and the convoy that had arrived before them was starting to leave.

Upon reaching the pod, they encountered one large military jeep. As they approached, the doors opened and two familiar figures stepped out. One was Abigail Brand of SWORD, who had been in the driver’s seat. The other was James Proudstar, now back in his X-Force uniform and looking ready to join the battle.

“James!” exclaimed Storm as soon as she saw him.

“I see you got paroled, Warpath. You get off for good behavior?” teased Domino.

“They flew me here in a fancy jet and let me ride in the front seat. Guess I was good enough,” said Warpath with a grin as he was greeted by X-Force.

“It’s good to see you back in action, Warpath,” said Nightcrawler as he shook his teammate’s hand.

“Before we go any further, I think we owe you an apology,” said Cyclops.

“For what? Leaving me behind after I did something insanely reckless?” the Native American scoffed, “There’s nothing to be sorry for. You did what you had to do. I did what I had to do. And I’d do it again.”

Warpath turned towards Storm as he said this, shooting her a brief smile that made her blush. It looked as though prison hadn’t embittered Warpath. It didn’t make what he did any less reckless. Chances were, they might end up having to be reckless for again.

“Even if you do, don’t expect to get this lucky again,” said Abigail Brand, who was carrying a large metal case, “Your buddies may have spared you months of legal rambling, but the fine print on your pardon says you still have to earn your freedom.”

“You really have a grudge against other peoples’ self-esteem, don’t you?” said Warpath dryly.

“In this line of work, we can’t afford to be all touchy feely,” said Agent Brand sternly, “When the world is turning to shit, we need to be a little harsh.”

“No wonder you’re so dang good at your job,” muttered Rogue.

“It also helps to be resourceful,” added General Grimshaw as he approached Agent Brand, “Did you bring it with you?”

“You think I would have left my office if I hadn’t?” she said as she held up the large case, “SWORD is already undermanned and overworked. I didn’t have anyone I trusted enough when I retrieved this little gem.”

“What is it this time? You expect us to carry a bomb with us?” said Phoenix dryly.

“Do not give them any ideas, Phoenix,” said Colossus.

“As if you’re the first to suggest that,” quipped Agent Brand, “Lucky for us, there are those with functioning brains. Those brains tell us that certain symbolic gestures leave more of an impact than any bomb.”

Without going into further detail, Agent Brand set the metal case down on the hood of the jeep and opened it. When the X-men saw what was inside, they could already feel the impact that Agent Brand had described.

“Is that…” began Beast.

“My father’s helmet!” exclaimed Wanda.

“I thought it was stolen from Genosha,” said Gambit.

“It was. I was there,” said Wanda as she took the helmet from the General, “Some masked man calling himself Renegade took it. My father tried to track him down, but he never found him.”

“Yes, I remember hearing about that,” said Professor Xavier, who had to hold his tongue since he already knew the details.

“How did you even…” began Nightcrawler.

“I can’t tell you and you don’t want to know,” said General Grimshaw, “How we obtained this helmet is irrelevant now. The important part is using it for your mission.”

General Grimshaw had to maintain a stoic demeanor. He expected this kind of reaction. Few knew the details about the operation that had Captain Freeman steal Magneto’s helmet. Professor Xavier was among the few. To his credit he kept his silence, but he still shot the General a stern glare. It was his way of reminding him that he still had that card to play if he forced it.

“How exactly is this thing going to be useful?” asked Domino skeptically.

“You think returning his helmet will make him trust us?” questioned Psylocke.

“We’re hoping it will help,” said General Grimshaw, “Consider it our way of letting Magneto know we’re serious. We don’t want this to turn into another potential extinction event. If you’re right about him and there are other forces at work, then maybe this will make a statement.”

“Or it could make him more suspicious. Who knows?” shrugged Agent Brand.

“You really love busting balls, don’t you?” scorned Wolverine, “Ain’t you trying to earn our trust?”

“Trust has very little to do with it. This is utter lack of options on our end, plain and simple,” she replied, “Now I can’t speak for the government or every other country in the world currently falling apart at the seams, but I can safely say they don’t like the position they’re in. It’s one thing to have a country of mutants that they can point to on a map. It’s quite another when a man with a history of destructive narcissism holds up in a massive space station that no one can monitor or attack.”

“I think what she’s trying to say is that she’s basically stuck with us. That doesn’t mean that she trusts us,” said Captain Freeman.

“That’s only part of it,” she went on, “You X-men and your buddies in X-Force made this way more difficult than it needed to be. You started bickering, you pissed each other off, and you took sides.”

“Are we really going to debate the Mutant Monitoring Initiative at a time like this?” said Emma dryly.

“We really don’t need a lecture on why we formed X-Force. We had our reasons,” said Cyclops strongly.

“I’m sure you did. They may have been valid for all I know, but you still ended up weakening yourself and the rest of the world by default. Hindsight being what it is, you both are responsible. That’s the price of being heroes and I hope this helps serve as a big fucking reminder.”

Abigail Brand was as harsh as she was condescending. She was also a keen observer that often saw things others had missed. The divide between the X-men and X-Force had driven so many conflicts since the Mutant Monitoring Initiative passed, but what had they gained from such conflicts?

Phoenix, Best, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, Colossus, and Professor Xavier stood on one side near the pod. Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Domino, Warpath, and Nightcrawler stood on the other. Even as they prepared to fight together, they were still divided. They put many lives at risk with this bitter schism. Against a threat like Magneto, it could be their undoing.

“I’m not going to pile on what Agent Brand said, but she makes a valid point,” the General stated as he stepped between the two teams, “You’re either going to get through this together or you’re going to fail one-by-one.”

“We’re not going to let that happen. We can’t,” said Wanda, who was standing next to Captain Freeman next to the jeep.

“That depends on how well we work together,” said Captain Freeman, “I tend to hold grudges, but even I’m smart enough to see when they become petty.”

“It’s easier for the Captain here because he has his orders. He’s a soldier by trade while the rest of you are heroes by choice,” General Grimshaw went on, “So before you go any further, I encourage you all to make another one. Put the past behind you. Agree to be one team again. The world needs the X-men. More importantly, they need the X-men to stand united.”

It sounded less like a command and more like a dare. The two teams exchanged glances, recalling the bitter circumstances that led them to this situation. Cyclops and Professor Xavier ended up stepping forward. They both symbolized the division that had led to this point. Xavier made his remorse apparent while Cyclops maintained his disciplined demeanor. Knowing that they might face overwhelming challenges on Asteroid M, they had to put this animosity.

“He’s right, Scott,” said Professor Xavier.

“I wasn’t going to argue that, sir,” said Cyclops.

“Then let me be the one to say this,” he said, “We’ve both lost control of this situation. There’s a long list of issues that we need to resolve. I can’t promise we’ll see eye-to-eye on all of them, but if you and X-Force give me a chance…I’d like you to be X-men again.”

“Is that a two-sided offer?” asked the X-Force leader, “If we give you a chance, does that mean you’ll give us a chance? Both during this mission and when it’s over?”

“I intend on reciprocating your gesture on every level,” assured Professor Xavier, “We’ll have to start rebuilding what we lost at some point. Why not start now?”

It was both honest and pragmatic. Professor Xavier sincerely wanted his X-men back. Phoenix, Storm, Beast, Rogue, Gambit, Colossus, and Psylocke seemed to share this sentiment. Cyclops turned back towards X-Force, who seemed to share it as well. Wolverine, Emma, Domino, Warpath, and Nightcrawler trusted him to make this call.

“At a time like this, I don’t think we can afford not to,” said Cyclops as he turned back to face the Professor, “I just wish it happened sooner.”

“Even powerful psychics can’t foresee certain complications,” said Professor Xavier.

“That’s okay. I won’t hold it against you,” he said with a slight grin.

“If I promise to exercise my foresight, will that help your decision?”

“I’ve already made it, Professor. X-Force seems to agree with me. We’ve outgrown these dark uniforms. We’re ready to be X-men again.”

In a symbolic gesture, Cyclops extended his hand to Professor Xavier. It brought a sense of relief to him and the two teams. With a warm smile, he reached out and shook it. The bitter divide that had caused so much turmoil could finally begin to heal. The relief helped ease the tension, allowing the two teams to stand together once more.

“Dang, and Gambit was just gettin’ used to being on a team without Wolverine,” teased Gambit.

“If you think I missed your Cajun charm, Gumbo, you’re wrong,” quipped Wolverine.

“Feels like old times already,” said Rogue, rolling her eyes.

“I see your cynicism hasn’t changed either, mein sister,” commented Nightcrawler.

“In some ways, it regressed if you can believe that,” commented Psylocke, which earned her a scold from Rogue.

“Yes, I think we can conclude that we have plenty of catching up to do,” said Beast.

“You’ll have to hug it out on Asteroid M because that’s where we need to be right now,” said Captain Freeman sternly, “I’m glad you all have agreed to disagree, but this is still a mission that you guys helped set up. So let’s finish it before someone else comes along to screw it up.”

Captain Freeman’s stern orders disrupted the moment, but in a necessary way. After sharing a few more friendly gestures, the reunited team followed the mutant soldier onto the transport pod where he and Wanda were waiting.

That’s the guy you’ve had as your field leader?” commented Domino.

“He’s not as bad as he seems,” shrugged Colossus.

“Although he tends to forget that there’s a fine line between following orders and being a hero,” commented Phoenix.

“That line means dick at this point, Jeannie,” said Wolverine, “We’re heading to Magneto’s domain. That means we’ll be playing by his rules.”

“Rules are meant to be broken, are they not?” quipped Emma Frost.

“Depending on who is actually writing those rules, they may have to be,” said Wanda.

With her father’s helmet firmly in hand, Wanda stood next to Captain Freeman in the center of the transport pod. They were joined by Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Colossus, Psylocke, Domino, Emma Frost, and Warpath. Professor Xavier was the last one on board, stopping beside General Grimshaw and Abigail Brand one last time. No one really knew what they were going to discover in Asteroid M. Whatever they uncovered was sure to have global implications.

“Are you expecting us to wish you luck, Professor?” asked Agent Brand.

“I won’t patronize you, Miss Brand. I know with Magneto you expect us to make our own luck,” said Professor Xavier, “By that same token, I expect you to coordinate with President Kelly. I know there are still those who would prefer to launch their own attack. We can’t have that happen while we’re up there.”

“Those are some lofty expectations, Professor. You want us to juggle venomous snakes while we’re at it?” said Agent Brand.

“I think what Agent Brand is trying to say is that we’ll do what we can,” said General Grimshaw in a less harsh tone, “But if we don’t see progress from the ground, some nervous people with itchy trigger fingers are going to start making assumptions.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” said the Professor, “Right now, our most valuable asset is time. Make sure we have enough of it before you do anything excessive.”

“With Magneto, excessive is a moot point,” said the General, “You do what you have to do. We’ll do what we have to do. We’ll just have to leave it at that.”

It wasn’t as reassuring as Professor Xavier had hoped. Knowing he wasn’t going to get much else in terms of confidence, he simply nodded. He was putting himself and his X-men in grave danger. It was only fair that they give them a chance to be heroes.

Now that everyone was in place, the time had come for them to depart. Professor Xavier joined Wanda Maximoff, Captain Freeman, and his X-men within the transport pod. As soon as they were inside, Wanda prepared them for takeoff.

Her father made the pod specifically to respond to her powers. So with a simple hex bolt, the advanced machinery came to life. The metallic structure warped and reshaped in ways indicative of Magneto’s touch. It quickly formed a large, egg-shaped shell. Once they were safely encased, the pod levitated into the air and took off like a rocket into the sky.

General Grimshaw and Agent Brand stepped back and watched the orb ascend. Its path to Asteroid M would soon be joined by many transport pods like it. Between the X-men, the Brotherhood, the former mutant citizens of Genosha, and one million people eager to gain mutant powers there was plenty of danger ahead of them. There was no guarantee that they would be able to stop it. That didn’t make certain aspects of the mission any easier.

“You think they’ll come back alive?” asked Agent Brand in her usual crass tone.

“The X-men have survived some pretty extreme situations. I don’t see why they can’t survive this,” said General Grimshaw.

“I’m an ardent realist at heart so I’m tapering my expectations,” she said, “Even if they do survive, that raises a more profound question.”

“Don’t, Agent Brand,” said General Grimshaw firmly, “For once in your life, let the harsher truth remain unspoken.”

“Why not? We’re both pragmatists, General. Sometimes that means breaking a few unspoken rules. That leads me to believe that if the X-men live long enough to find out what we had planned from the get-go, they’ll never to trust us again.”

New York City – District X

The race was on to leave Earth and join Magneto on Asteroid M. The news from all over the world was the same. There were determined people seeking a place in one of the 50 transport pods and there were equally determined people trying to prevent them from reaching them. It made for some very tense situations all over the world and some had a front row seat, albeit an unwanted one.

“Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and even the Pacific Islands…it’s the same story everywhere,” said Sage, who was watching various news reports from her phone, “A lot of people are fighting tooth and nail to get to those transport pods. Just as many are trying to stop them. The rest are just hiding in hopes that this will all be over soon.”

“Tell us something that ain’t painfully obvious,” said Bishop as they each stood on the rooftop of the M-Building.

“Would you be less pissed off if I told you Hank sent me a text saying the X-men are working on a plan?” she replied.

“That ain’t much consolation. Whatever those suckas are doing, it’s too late to save District X,” he lamented.

“Look on the bright side, Lucas. At least we weren’t blown up,” said Jamie Madrox, who was standing next to Bishop, “That’s how I always envisioned this place ending.”

“That hardly qualifies as a bright side,” said Sage dryly.

“I almost prefer being blown up. It would be a lot easier than this shit,” muttered Bishop.

While much of the city was focused on the pod that landed in Central Park, District X was left eerily silent. Shortly after Magneto’s broadcast ended, a series of small metal transport orbs descended from the sky. They landed in mutant communities all over the world, including District X.

Pretty much every mutant chose to leave in them. There were too few reasons for them to stay. Even those who resented Magneto thought they would be better off on Asteroid M. After White Cell, no one could protect them anymore. The promise of safety was just too appealing.

Sage, Bishop, and Multiple weren’t sure if there was anyone left in their community. The society they worked so hard to build wasn’t destroyed. It was abandoned. The truth was painfully apparent now. District X was no more.

“It’s still not a bright side, but we’re not the only ones facing this dilemma,” said Sage as she continued going over reports on her phone, “Every other mutant community in the world has been deserted. Magneto appears to have cleared them out before sending the transport pods.”

“After the White Cell attack, I can’t blame them,” said Jamie, “Everybody felt more vulnerable. No sane mutant believes they’re safe anymore.”

“It’s still an irrational leap, jumping at the first chance to leave the planet,” said Sage.

“Since when are rational responses part of being a mutant?” quipped Jamie, “Magneto timed everything perfectly. He reemerged at just the right moment to offer the whole world a new hope.”

“You really think he planned this shit?” questioned Bishop.

“He’s always been opportunistic. It stands to reason that he’ll use Asteroid M to cripple this world in every way he can,” said Sage.

“Does reason also say that Magneto will pull a fast one on all the people buying into his shit?” said Bishop.

“Statistically speaking, the odds are better than I’m comfortable calculating,” said Sage.

Bishop’s gaze narrowed. In the distance he could see an elaborate array of lights streaming around Central Park. There were no signs that the transport pod had taken off yet. He imagined the authorities were doing everything they could to control the situation. It was doubtful they could maintain any sense of order. It was also doubtful that this crisis would end once the transport pod left.

“I’ve never shied away from numbers games so I’ll assume that Magneto will do something that will make these people regret their decision,” said Jamie, “The question remains…what can we do about it?”

“For the moment, only the X-men are in the best position to act,” said Sage.

“Given their track record lately, that’s not very comforting,” said Jamie.

“And nobody likes to be that uncomfortable,” said Bishop strongly, “We gotta do something! Ain’t no way we’re just gonna sit here with our thumbs up our asses waiting for Magneto to waste us.”

“At the risk of having to turn off my emotions, I’m compelled to point out the logistics of such an endeavor or lack thereof,” said Sage, “Even if we have the knowledge with which to make a difference, we lack both manpower and resources.”

“Don’t get too logical on us, Sage. We’re more equipped than you think,” came a voice.

Bishop, Sage, and Jamie turned around to see Jubilee standing at the rooftop entrance with Laurie, Gabriel, Teon, Idie, and Kenji behind her. They were all much more upbeat than they did when they left. Bishop sent them to scout around District X in search of anyone who decided to stay. They ended up finding more than they expected.

“Back so soon, Jubes?” said Bishop.

“Please tell me you found something,” said Jamie in an exasperated tone.

“Actually, it would be more accurate to say that they found us,” said Kenji.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Jamie.

“Look up and see for yourself,” said Laurie as she pointed to the sky above.

Bishop, Sage, and Jamie looked up to see a large, high-tech jet emerge from the clouds overhead. It looked like the X-men’s iconic X-jet, but slightly bigger. As it descended, they recognized a couple of figures in the cockpit. It was Moria MacTaggart, Sean Cassidy, Forge, and Rahne Sinclair. They waved down at Jubilee and the Lights, who eagerly waved back.

“So Muir Island wasn’t abandoned,” said Sage, “That’s a relief.”

“What island? Are these guys cool?” asked Bishop, who wasn’t as familiar with Muir Island as the others.

“Oh they’re very cool!” assured Gabriel, “I think that girl with the wolf fur likes me.”

“You say that about every girl,” said Laurie, rolling her eyes.

“They’re cool and more importantly, they have a plan,” added Jubilee, “One they’ll need plenty of help with.”

“What kind of plan?” asked Jamie curiously, “And why here of all places?”

“Well they would have been here sooner, but they had to make another pit stop along the way,” said Idie.

“Since District X is now a ghost town, we got a few more friends to pick up the slack,” said Jubilee.

As the jet hovered lower over the M-building, the hatch on the side opened up. Sage, Bishop, and Jamie watched as more familiar figures poured out. The first one they recognized was Bobby Drake. He came out forming an extra wide ice slide.

Behind him, Kitty Pryde followed and used the slide to descend towards the M-building. They were soon joined by Julian Keller, Roberto DaCosta, Sam Guthrie, Tabitha Smith, Noriko Ashida, Danielle Moonstar, Santo Vaccarro, Laura Howlett, and Amara Aquilla. They all bore their X-Factor uniforms and looked ready to lend a hand.

“Sorry we’re late, guys. Being on a crammed jet with Dr. Nemesis and Forge slowed us down,” said Bobby.

“I suppose being late isn’t the worst thing an ex-boyfriend can do to me,” said Jubilee with a humored grin.

“Speak for yourself,” added Kitty, “Besides, it’s not like we had much reason to stay in Boston. The whole school was pretty much abandoned.”

“I can see y’all have the same problem here in District X,” commented Sam as he looked out over the deserted neighborhood.

“Among others,” said Bishop as he approached the young mutants, “I think we’ve all had enough problems. Jubilee says you guys may have a solution or two.”

“Let’s just say we’ve been in touch with a few well-connected friends,” said Kitty coyly.

“Leave the godfather tone to the real Italians, Pryde,” said Santo, “They don’t need to know where it came from. They just need to know it’s here.”

“I hope you’re not too insulted that we’re skeptical,” said Jamie, “You guys are students last I checked. This isn’t an extra credit assignment. This is freakin’ Magneto!”

“We’re more experienced than you think,” said Laura firmly.

“We also have good teachers,” added Amara, “Speaking of which…”

The team of young mutants turned back towards the jet, which was still hovering with Bobby’s ice slide just outside the open hatch. While they had been introducing themselves, their associates were already hard at work.

Dr. Nemesis, Shiro Yoshida, Forge, and the Stepford Cuckoos emerged from inside the plane. They carried with them a series of metallic containers. They didn’t look like much at first, but then Sage recognized the materials. Suddenly, they didn’t feel nearly as undermanned.

“Is that what I think it is?” asked Sage as Dr. Nemesis slid down Bobby’s ice slide first.

“That and so much more, especially with the tweaks I’ve made,” grinned Forge.

“We’ve got a few other things we need to offload,” added Shiro, “We’ll need plenty of help putting it together.”

“And plenty of psychic cover, which we’re ready to provide,” said Mindee, Pheobee, and Celeste simultaneously.

“For what?” questioned Bishop, “This something that’s going to make us a target?”

“Only in a good way,” said Tabitha.

“By that, she means if you’re serious about stopping Magneto, you’ll take this seriously,” said Dr. Nemesis, “With that in mind, we’re going to need to borrow your building here.”

Bishop and Jamie looked at him strangely. Jubilee and the Lights were already working with X-Factor to help unload these packages. Sage seemed to share their urgency. From the looks of it, this was much bigger than they suspected.

“What exactly do you mean by borrow?” questioned Jamie.

“It probably means exactly what you think it means,” said Jubilee, who already began helping them out.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” muttered Bishop.

“Before you voice any outrage, allow me to point out that we’re on a bit of a schedule here,” said Dr. Nemesis, tapping on his watch, “The wheels of this elaborate plot are already in motion. If we don’t want to fall behind, we had best get to work.”

“If it’s any consolation, take comfort in the knowledge that we won’t be in the most danger,” said Shiro, “Someone else has volunteered to do it for us.”

New York City – Central Park

‘Oh yea as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I shall fear no evil. The Lord is my shepherd and I offer my life and my soul unto thee. Guide me through the temptation as I deliver the misguided into the light of thine grace.’

Isaac’s desperate prayers were among many being sent by those eagerly awaiting their new life in Asteroid M. Central Park had become a battleground. Thousands poured out into the streets and surrounded the park as word got out that a transport pod had landed. For those who had been at the Church of Humanity that morning, they had an inside track. They arrived before Magneto’s announcement so they were able to board the pod before the chaos erupted. Isaac was among them, but his reasons for being there were very different. He did his best to filter out the surrounding chaos.

“Attention all New York residents. This is the NYPD,” blared a helicopter overhead through a booming loudspeaker, “For your protection, please vacate the area return to your homes. By order of the governor, all of Central Park must be cleared.”

“To hell with your orders! This is our choice!” shouted an African American man, who was among the 20,000 that made it to the pod.

“You tell the governor it’s his own damn fault that we’re jumping ship!” yelled an older woman.

Those within the pod cheered, yelling and shouting obscenities at every effort to force them out. They had chosen to leave this world and they weren’t going to let the same authorities that had been ravaged by White Cell deny them. By now the transport pod was full. Exactly 20,000 men, women, and children stood anxiously within the pod. All they could do was hope that they would leave this madness soon.

Those lucky 20,000 were surrounded by thousands more that had filled the streets of New York and much of the area around Central Park. Some protested angrily towards those who had chosen to join Magneto. Others tried to fight for a spot in the pod. It became so tense that the NYPD created a large rectangular barricade around the field where the transport pod had landed.

That barrier included concrete dividers, makeshift fences, and parked police cruisers. Riot police stood on one side. A massive sea of people stood on the other. They fired off tear gas and rubber bullets out into the crowds to disperse them. It did little good as thousands kept pushing.


“Don’t let those gene traitors leave!” shouted others, “Shoot them! Not us!”

So many conflicting sentiments only added to the tension. Several officers drove their cruisers against the barriers to reinforce them. Others stood behind and watched anxiously as the scene unfolded before them.

“Is this all the backup we can expect? It’s like the whole damn city has taken to the streets,” said one beleaguered officer.

“We were undermanned and underpaid before this shit went down. You think the governor can just magically conjure some extra muscle?” quipped his partner as he fired more tear gas into the crowds.

“I sure wish he could. Either that pod takes off or these people run us over, whichever comes first.”

The NYPD became increasingly desperate. More people were trying to scale the fences and break through the barrier. The officers responded by firing more rubber bullets. That caused some injuries that weren’t going to look good on the local news, but it bought them some badly needed time.

Deeper within the barricade, a line of SWAT vans surrounded the pod. Within these vans were several platoons of SWAT officers. They were armed and equipped with the best anti-riot gear that the department could scrap together. While the main officers handled the crowds, SWAT was supposed to handle the people in the pod. Their orders were to carry out what the helicopter commanded.

“Looks like they won’t go quietly,” said the Captain of one of the units, “I just got off the phone with the governor. He’s authorized us to use any means necessary to get these people off the pod.”

“Do those means include lethal means?” asked one of the officers.

“Like I said…any means,” said the Captain cryptically.

Many of the SWAT officers tensed at the notion of firing deadly weapons into a crowd of people. These weren’t dangerous mutants or criminals. These were ordinary people that wanted to leave this world. Then again, they were trusting Magneto to guide them. For some it was an act of betrayal. No one wanted to embolden a man that once came close to destroying the whole world. They had to do what was necessary to stop him.

“Time is running out, people. Let’s get this over with,” said the Captain.

Swallowing their reservations, the nervous officers filed out of the SWAT vans. They were joined by several other squads as they surrounded the transport pod. They raised their assault weapons into a fire-ready position. Now the 20,000 humans that once considered themselves lucky were in the line of fire.

“They’re not going to shoot at us? Are they, daddy?” asked a scared little girl as she clung to her father and mother.

“No sweetie. They won’t,” said the man while bracing himself for the worst.

“How can you be so sure?” asked another young woman as she gazed out nervously.

Everyone in the transport pod held their collective breath. No one was willing to leave. They had fought too hard to throw this chance away. As they watched on, one of the SWAT captains approached with a bullhorn.

“This is your final warning. By order of the governor, the mayor, and everyone else above my pay grade you must vacate the pod. Failure to do so will incur a forceful response. Please don’t let it come to that. Is Magneto really worth it?”

No one within the pod budged. They continued to tremble in anticipation of what would come next. Within these nervous crowds, Vargas was the only one who remained unafraid. As the lone mutant within the pod, he scoffed at the warning.

“Do not listen to them!” he said to them, “They can’t carry out such an empty threat.”

“I don’t know, Vargas. They look pretty damn serious,” said a man standing next to him.

“It doesn’t matter if they are. Nothing they do matters,” said Vargas with a grin.

The anxious masses were unable to share his confidence. The SWAT captain shook his head and signaled the squads. They appeared ready to shoot. But before any of them could pull the trigger, an unseen force stopped the attack before it started. In an instant every SWAT officer felt their weapons ripped out of their hands and turned back on them, thus completely reversing their roles.

“Hey! My gun!” exclaimed one of the officers.

“What the hell?” exclaimed the other.

“Not what…who,” said Vargas, “And if his presence surprises you, then clearly you were expecting far too little.”

As those in the transport pod and the SWAT officers looked on in confusion, a series of brilliant lighting flashes erupted from the clouds above. The rioting and the chanting stopped as everyone looked up. A collective gasp echoed through the city as Magneto descended towards the pod.

“I thought I made clear that my tolerance for violence was extremely thin. Haven’t you people lost your appetite for carnage yet?” he said in a voice that reverberated throughout Central Park.

“I did my best to reinforce your message, sir. Some just refuse to listen,” said Vargas as Magneto was now hovering a few feet above the pod.

“No need to apologize, Vargas. I’m no longer surprised by the denigration of this world.”

Magneto waved his hand, causing the guns of the SWAT officers to cock in preparation. Some were already backing away. Others were running full speed. However, their weapons simply followed them. Magneto would not let them escape his message.

“It’s Magneto! Somebody shoot him with something!” barked a SWAT captain.

“With what? A slingshot?” exclaimed an officer as he stared nervously down the barrel of his own gun.

“Do yourselves a favor. Resist those barbaric impulses for a fraction of a moment,” said the master of magnetism in a threatening voice, “These people have made their choice. I’m here to make sure you honor it.”

Magneto rose up higher in the air and summoned more power. As the SWAT officers backed away, the metal gates and various police vehicles were levitated by a wave of magnetic force. He took one nearby SWAT vehicle and launched it towards the police helicopter that had been hovering overhead. He struck it right in the tail, causing it to swirl out of control and descend towards the south barrier where NYPD officers had been trying to keep protesters out.

“Aw hell!” groaned one of the officers.

“Magneto’s attacking! RUN!” yelled one of the protesters.

The helicopter impacted and skidded along the field. The pilots had to bail out in the process, landing in some nearby trees before watching the aircraft crumble before their eyes. But Magneto wasn’t done yet.

In an ominous display, he warped the metal into hundreds of small shards. With these shards, he created a deadly magnetic whirlwind that forced the NYPD and the protesters back. It helped clear the nearby streets in ways that riot gear and government orders could not.

“No! Don’t leave us behind!” cried a man who was restrained from trying to brave the metal storm.

“Don’t be stupid! That’s Magneto up there! He’ll kill us all!” cried a woman.

Urgent cries soon filled the streets as people sought to avoid the metal storm. Magneto could have used it to slaughter hundreds, but he didn’t. He demonstrated to the 20,000 humans below that he was not the monster so many deemed him to be. However, he was willing to show as much force as necessary to make his point.

“Should we be relieved or terrified?” said a young Hispanic man as he looked up at Magneto from the pod.

“A little of both seems justified,” said a young African American woman.

“Don’t let the theatrics concern you. Magneto is here to help us,” assured Vargas, “That includes protecting us from those that would deny us.”

Having made his point abundantly clear, the master of magnetism descended into the pod. The nervous humans that had chosen to be part of this ploy of his watched with mixed emotions. Isaac, who remained as hidden within the crowds as possible, swallowed the last of his fears. There was no turning back now.

“Congratulations. You are among the select few that will get to experience a more evolved future,” said Magneto in a calm tone, “Say goodbye to world that failed you. A new beginning and a new home awaits us!”

No one said a word as Magneto raised his hand and clenched his fist. In an instant, the transport pod came to life. A series of large metal panels emerged from the base and folded over to form a diamond-shaped shell over the pod. The 20,000 humans inside huddled in closer, watching as they were encased in a cocoon of metal.

As soon as they were sealed in, they felt the pod levitate. With a mix of nervousness and excitement, they held on as the pod took off into the sky at high speeds. They imagined that the 49 other pods like this all over the world were going through the same process. It was cleansing in a sense, leaving behind a world that seemed to be falling apart. Now an entirely new world of possibilities awaited them on Asteroid M.

In the midst of the excitement, Isaac continued praying. Everything was going smoothly thus far. He expected it to get much more difficult from here on out. Before the pod went too far, he sent out a message through a small ear-piece that was linked to Father Hansen.

“I have begun the ascension, Father. Pray for me the rest of the way,” said Isaac under his breath.

“I already am, my friend. I have just confirmed our status with our friends in District X. Everything else is in the hands of the divine now. May the Lord be with you.”

“And also with you,” said Isaac solemnly.

Once the link went dead Isaac removed the ear-piece and crushed it in his hand. It may end up being the last words he ever uttered to Father Hansen. With a heavy heart and a determined soul, the holy man prepared for a struggle of biblical proportions.

Asteroid M – Citadel

‘So this is what it feels like to come back from the dead. All I can say so far is it doesn’t feel nearly as fantastic as everyone makes it out to be. Maybe it still hasn’t sunk in yet. I just wish my head would stop spinning.’

Lorna had missed a lot since she had been gone. The world was plenty chaotic before the Mutant Liberation Front abducted her. Now she found out that it had become so dangerous that it was safer to leave Earth entirely. She didn’t bother trying to understand all the complications caused by the Genosha exodus or the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It was hard enough processing the idea that she had been officially dead.

After her emotional reunion with the Brotherhood, Frenzy took her to the dormitories where she could rest. She was too tired to sleep so she ended up taking a shower and eating a good meal. Now in a bathrobe, she found herself staring out her window.

The landscape of City X was a lot like the Genosha, but more refined. In some ways, it was the kind of city they tried to make on Genosha. It was beautiful, organized, and clean. She could already see some of the former citizens of Genosha running through the streets, exploring their new home. She planned on doing some exploring as well, but that was dependent on her ability to catch up.

She arrived in the middle of something big. Her father was back and he was in the midst of an ambitious plan. Pietro and the Brotherhood gave her a brief overview. She was somewhat relieved to discover that the plan didn’t involve starting another war. However, it still felt off in some ways. She had a hard time believing that her father would get behind a plan that involved giving humans mutant powers. It was one of the many issues coursing through her mind.

“It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?” came the familiar voice of Alex Summers, “A whole new world…full of new possibilities.”

“How long have you been standing there?” asked Lorna without turning around.

“As long as it took for the silence to get awkward,” he replied, “Should I stand a bit longer?”

“That’s okay. I think I’ve had enough time to myself as it is. I need to start acting more normal at some point.”

“Normal being a relative term when you’re on an asteroid/space station,” quipped Alex.

Lorna managed a slight smile, the first since she returned to the world of the living. She continued gazing out the window as Alex walked over to her. As soon as she felt his warm presence, she leaned into his embrace. He held her closely, letting her know just how much he had missed her. The emotions between them seemed much deeper after having been torn apart.

“How are you holding up?” asked Alex, “Or is it too early to ask that question?”

“I can’t avoid it forever,” she sighed, “I guess I’m doing okay. There are no time-tested strategies for returning from the dead.”

“You don’t sound like you’ve lost your mind so I guess that’s a positive sign.”

“Give me more time to dwell on it. I’m sure I’ll start showing symptoms at some point.”

“Even if you do, I’m sure they’ll pass. You’re too strong to go that crazy,” said Alex with a snicker.

“I hope you’re right. We saw what happened to my father when he became unstable,” said Lorna in a more serious tone, “I’m still not sure that he’s back to his old self…not that he didn’t have room for improvement.”

“Well, he seemed okay when we arrived,” said Alex, “Dr. Wyndham gave him the therapy he needed.”

“That’s another issue altogether. I’m not sure I trust this Dr. Wyndham,” she said, now sounding a bit awkward.

“Even though he helped bring you back to life?” he reminded her.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to be alive again, but the moment I laid eyes on that man something felt…off,” said Lorna distantly, “It makes me sick to my stomach every time I think about it. I’ve got enough on my mind as it is so I’m trying not to think about it too much.”

“It should be low on your list of priorities right now. Creepiness aside, Dr. Wyndham has put together a hell of a world here. He’s setting us up so we don’t have to fight for survival. With Asteroid M, we can finally thrive. Since the rest of the world went to shit, it’s a good time to get a leg up.”

“I guess so. Maybe it’s just the haze of death still lingering, but I can’t fight this sinking feeling. Does that make me overly emo or something?”

“Hardly,” Alex scoffed, “If anything, it just makes you human.”

Lorna smiled again as he snaked his arm around her waist. She turned away from the window and looked into his eyes. Her warm gaze was enough to make even the most hardened fighter feel weak in the knees. Her absence had affected him in a profound. So many changes had left him and many others overwhelmed. Having her in his arms like this seemed to settle everything down.

“I never believed for a moment you were dead, Lorna,” said Alex in a more emotional tone, “I’m not saying I still felt your presence on some psychic level or anything. I just knew in my gut you were still out there.”

“Did the others ridicule you for that?” she asked as she trailed her hand down his face.

“They would have ridiculed me no matter what I felt,” he told her, “Not having you around put everybody in a bad place. You’re the kind of person who walks into an impossible situation and settle everything down with sheer heart. I sure as hell needed that. I made some pretty questionable decisions that you would have busted my balls over.”

“I know. Pietro already told me about some of them,” she said in a low tone, “I probably would have done more than that.”

“And I would have deserved it,” Alex went on, “But more than anything else, losing you made me realize just how precious you are to me. I…don’t think I ever expressed that enough to you.”

“You didn’t have to, Alex. I already knew.”

Alex became more choked up as he held Lorna tightly in his arms. Her conflicted gaze grew more focused with the kind of emotion that drew them together in the first place. As they shared in each other’s warmth, they came together in a deep kiss. It was a feeling they had both missed. Feeling it again after having nearly lost one another only made it more meaningful.

“I love you, Lorna,” said Alex as the kiss parted.

“I love you too, Alex,” said Lorna in a deep tone.

“If you feel up to it, I can help you in making up for lost time,” he said in a suggestive tone.

“Yeah…we both have a lot of making up to do,” she said with a grin.

“And a whole new world in which to do it.”

The two lovers met in another passionate kiss. This time it was more heated than before. Imbued with new energy, their hands started roaming and gasps of desire soon filled the room. They were ready to make their way to the bed and unleash all the pent-up emotions that had been building. Unfortunately, the moment was interrupted by a new presence in Lorna’s doorway, which Alex forgot to close.

“I hope you’re not celebrating already,” said the deep voice of Dr. Wyndham, “We’re still a way away from triumph.”

“Dr. Wyndham!” gasped Lorna, now blushing profusely.

“We uh…whoa,” said Alex upon turning around and seeing Dr. Wyndham in his new attire, “Is that a new uniform or something?”

“I guess you could say that,” said Dr. Wyndham as he showed off his new high-tech exoskeleton, “But I’m not interested in what we’re wearing or not wearing. I’m here because I’ve just given the Brotherhood an important new task. We’re about to receive an influx of new residents and we need to make sure our defenses are at full power.”

“Understood,” said Alex as he regained his composure and turned back towards his girlfriend, “I guess this means we’ll have to catch up another time.”

“I can wait if I have to,” said Lorna with a sigh.

“Good,” said Dr. Wyndham with a grin, “Frenzy already has already led the Brotherhood down to the lowermost levels. I’ve given her and Pietro instructions on how to configure our defense shield. Once everyone is on board and secure, we’ll activate it and ensure that nothing from the broken world below can harm us.”

“Sounds like a plan, Dr. Wyndham. What will you be doing in the meantime?” asked Alex.

“Don’t worry. I have plenty to keep me busy,” he assured, “The first generation of this new world deserves a warm welcome. Magneto and I will take care of the logistics. You and the Brotherhood need only worry about basics.”

Dr. Wyndham’s demeanor and tone still didn’t sit well with Lorna. She tried to hide her lingering uncertainties even after he left. Alex seemed less worried. He was prepared to see this through and so was the rest of the Brotherhood. For now, she had little choice other than to go along with it. However, she didn’t set her suspicions completely aside.

“Oh and one more thing…” said Dr. Wyndham before he was too far out the door, “From now on…call me the High Evolutionary.”

Asteroid M – Outside City X

The ride to Asteroid M aboard the transport orbs was painfully long for some and uncomfortably short for others. Dozens of them had left Earth at nearly the same time. Some of them contained part of the one million anxious humans looking to start anew on Asteroid M. Others contained most of the world’s mutant population. The Mutant Monitoring Initiative and the attack by White Cell had led many to become disillusioned with the current state of affairs. Asteroid M was the great hope for many.

For the X-men, there was more dread than hope. The inside their specialized transport pod was eerily silent as they made their way towards Asteroid M. They couldn’t see outside the sphere, but they could hear the air pass over the pod while it was taking off. They knew they were in space when the silence took hold. An artificial gravity system within the sphere then took over, which left them disoriented for a moment. It also signaled that they had reached the point of no return.

The silence was only shattered when the pod started shaking as it re-entered an atmosphere of sorts. They could feel the pod slowing down. At one point it felt as though they were in a steady hover. There was no sense of where they were or when the pod would open. It left Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Psylocke, Domino, Warpath, and Emma Frost feeling uncomfortably vulnerable. Professor Xavier and Captain Freeman turned to Wanda Maximoff, in whom they were placing a great deal of trust.

“How much longer are we going to have to act like sardines here?” asked Psylocke.

“As long as we have to,” said Wanda as she looked around inside the pod, “I think the systems have completed their job. It feels like something else is guiding us now.”

“Any idea on what or who?” asked Phoenix, “As if the list of things it could be was all that long to begin with?”

“I sense we’ll find out soon enough,” said Professor Xavier as he did a few psychic scans.

“Hope it be sooner than that. We trained to be X-men. Not astronauts,” said Gambit, “Remy already feels safe in saying that space travel is overrated.”

“This from a guy who went up against an alien civilization,” commented Colossus.

“Alien civilization? I hope that’s a code word for something else,” said Domino.

“It’s a long-ass story and we ain’t got the energy to tell it,” said Wolverine.

“Or the authority for that matter,” said Captain Freeman, shooting the X-men a stern glare for discussion classified issues, “Try not to get too anxious, X-men. We need to stay focused. We’re in Magneto’s domain. That means he has every meaningful advantage.”

“Sounds like a dang good excuse to get anxious,” commented Rogue.

“All the more reason shut it out,” the mutant soldier retorted, “Magneto’s going to try and overwhelm us. We can’t let that happen. We need to be ready to respond to whatever surprises he throws at us.”

Almost immediately after Captain Freeman uttered these words, their transport pod was hit with a hard jolt. It felt like their pod had landed on hard ground. Everyone was on high alert as they looked around anxiously. They watched as the metallic walls of pod opened, revealing their exotic new surroundings and an unexpected scene.

“By stars and…” began Beast.

“Don’t say it, Hank. We get it,” grumbled Wolverine as he looked around.

“Still think we can avoid being overwhelmed, Captain?” asked Cyclops.

“I think that may be redundant at this point,” said the mutant soldier.

The X-men had seen many amazing sights before. This set a new standard. Asteroid M was every bit as amazing as Magneto boasted, if not more so.

Their pod had landed at a near perfect observation point atop a large ridge that overlooked City X. From this ridge they could see a vast grassy plain just outside the city limits. On the ridge, dozens of transport pods had landed. The 50 that carried the humans that made it landed in a specific area. The pods carrying the mutants landed in an adjacent area. Between them was a long stretch of metal rails. It looked like everyone had stepped out from their pods. They all seemed equally amazed.

Asteroid M really had the feel of a new world. As they looked around, they could hear the screeches and cries of exotic animals. It didn’t feel alien, but it didn’t feel like anything on Earth either. While the X-men looked around in amazement, Professor Xavier turned towards Wanda Maximoff. She seemed to be the only one not completely surprised by the majesty of this world.

“I’d say Erik has outdone himself once again,” the Professor commented.

“I think that’s beyond dispute, Professor,” said Wanda as she looked around.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he’s showing off by landing us here,” said Storm.

“I doubt that’s the only reason,” said Xavier, “You know more about this than the rest of us, Wanda. Where do we go from here?”

“I’m afraid this is where my knowledge ends,” she said distantly, “He made Asteroid M. He brought nearly the entire mutant population aboard along with a million humans. I honestly don’t know what the next step in his plan entails.”

“Why does it have to entail anything?” came a deep voice from above, “Why can’t this be the end of a new beginning?”

The X-men recognized that voice before they even looked up. They all took defensive stances as they saw the master of magnetism himself descend from above. He looked a lot more vibrant than he did the last time they encountered him. It was as if overcoming his mental instability had reinvigorated him. While it was plenty of cause for concern, Professor Xavier waved down his X-men. Only Captain Freeman remained alert.

“Five seconds and he’s not trying to kill someone,” said Captain Freeman apprehensively, “That’s gotta be a record.”

“You really need to learn how to make a better first impression, darling,” said Emma, rolling her eyes.

“Pay no attention to him. He’s new and his mutant power doesn’t involve keeping his mouth shut,” said Psylocke.

“It’s quite alright, X-men. I’m too excited to be hostile,” said Magneto as he landed, “I’m also relieved to see that my daughter got my message. She even came bearing gifts.”

Wanda swallowed nervously as her father approached. She looked down at his helmet, which she still had in her hands. Xavier and Nightcrawler stood beside her, offering their support as she maintained her poise.

“Ve understand it vas stolen,” said Nightcrawler, “Ve figured you would vant it back.”

“Consider it a peace offering,” said Professor Xavier.

“I appreciate the gesture, but I have no need for that helmet anymore. I only wore it because I was living on a world that seemed intent on attacking me physically and mentally. This isn’t that world. This is Asteroid M.”

“And what a world it is,” said Beast as he observed some the nearby plants, “You’ve been quite busy since our last encounter.”

“Ah’m all for a guy having a hobby, but this comes off as a bit extreme,” said Rogue.

“Maybe he should’ve stuck to collecting stamps,” said Warpath.

“I admit I lost control of my own ambition,” conceded Magneto, “I came painfully close to letting it destroy me and everything I love. I’ve learned since then. I’ve come to some painful yet necessary realizations.”

“Were those realizations supposed to the rest of the world at ease?” questioned Captain Freeman, “Because if that broadcast of yours was your best effort, I’d say it failed.”

“I no longer care what those on Earth think. I’ve had it with them. They’ve proven to me once and for all that their world is a dead end. If they want to continue wallowing in their own misery, then that’s their problem.”

“That certainly sounds like something a sane Magneto would say,” commented Colossus.

“That still ain’t saying much, Ruskie,” muttered Wolverine.

“I’m an old man. I no longer have the strength or the time to continue such needless toil,” Magneto went on, ignoring their comments, “I understand now that I can’t avenge the generations of mutants that humanity has oppressed. However, I can leave something behind for a new generation…one that I know will be in good hands when I’m gone.”

Magneto gently cupped Wanda’s chin. She looked up at him with many mixed emotions. He could tell she was still uncertain about his intentions. It showed in the way she clutched his helmet. He couldn’t blame her for feeling so reluctant to trust him again. As a father and a leader, he had done much to undermine that trust. Asteroid M gave him an opportunity to earn it back.

“Father, you know I don’t like it when you dwell on your age,” said Wanda distantly.

“I know, Wanda. But contrary to what my actions may indicate, I’m not a god and I don’t see myself as one,” said Magneto.

“Could’ve fooled me,” said Psylocke under her breath.

“I was fooled for quite some time,” added Phoenix.

“Now that you and the X-men are here, I intend to show you that I have something in Asteroid M that will leave a lasting legacy,” he said, “That brings me to why I brought you here to this scenic ridge.”

“Why can’t it ever just be for the view?” sighed Emma.

“You see, I was sincere in my message,” Magneto explained, “I don’t believe that all humanity should be left behind. I also believe that the mutants of the world take their status as the future of their species for granted. By bringing them together on Asteroid M, we can finally forge peace and understanding through all the hatred and fear we’ve struggled against.”

“I can appreciate the premise and even the principles. It’s the methods that have me and many others so worried,” said Professor Xavier.

“Then watch and see for yourself the majesty this world has to offer,” said Magneto as he gestured towards the crowded field in the distance, “My friend and mentor, the High Evolutionary, is just about ready to complete this new world.”

Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Psylocke, Domino, Warpath, Emma Frost, Professor Xavier, and Captain Freeman looked out to see a new surge of activity. By now every mutant and human had left their pods. They were still admiring their new surroundings when the long metal rails that divided them lit up in a brilliant display of bluish light.

From that light, a large hologram formed. It was the face of the High Evolutionary. However, it was a face very different from the one Wanda Maximoff remembered.

“Father, is that Dr. Wyndham?!” she exclaimed.

“Indeed it is,” said Magneto proudly.

“Did he always look so…” began Nightcrawler.

“Purple?” said Rogue when he couldn’t find the words.

“Not at all,” said Wanda, now with heightened suspicions.

“Dr. Wyndham has undergone through many changes,” said Magneto, “Trust me when I say that it was necessary if not overdue. And please…call him the High Evolutionary.”

The idea of trusting Magneto’s word still didn’t sit well. With cautious curiosity, the X-men watched on along with Wanda.

The High Evolutionary’s appearance quickly drew the attention of both the humans and the mutants. Some were startled while others were intrigued. As his image came into focus, a swarm of small robotic orbs flew out from City X and swirled around the hologram. These robots projected his voice as he made an imposing first impression.

“Greetings and welcome to your new home. I am the High Evolutionary. I’ll be your guide through this exciting new world. I understand that some of you are scared. I hope your excitement and your spirit overshadows that fear because this truly is a new life for everybody. The lives you had on Earth are officially over. It’s time to start anew.”

This announcement triggered some cheers from both the human side and the mutant side. The mutants seemed less afraid and more relieved that they were no longer under the thumb of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. They had experienced enough human/mutant conflict to want to escape it for good.

“Do these new lives include better food and indoor plumbing?” asked one mutant.

“Will we be forced to attend classes or something?” asked another mutant girl, “I heard the same new beginnings speech when I was forced into the Academy of Tomorrow.”

“Please save your questions for later. Rest assured, you’ll find that the amenities of Asteroid M are more than comfortable,” said the High Evolutionary’s image, “Now I understand that the mutant population of your former world has undergone tremendous strain. First, you tried to carve out your own nation on Genosha. Then you tried to work with human authorities under the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. These were all noble efforts, but their failure only proves what I’ve concluded over many years of research. The best way for mutants to evolve is to escape the limits imposed by humanity. Asteroid M is a world where mutants need not fear conflict with humanity, nor will they be inclined to seek it.”

More cheers from the mutants erupted as many saw great appeal in simply leaving the human race behind. That still left one million nervous humans on the other side of the rails. They weren’t so certain of their future away from Earth because they were still human. They kept watching as the High Evolutionary turned to address them.

“By that same token, it would be callous to simply abandon humanity. The human race has provided many contributions. While mutants have grown over the past century, their numbers are still too low to ensure a proper level of biodiversity for a new world. That is why we have reached out to humans who also feel their world has failed them. The mere fact you fought so hard to come here shows that you have the strength and spirit to become something greater. As such, it is a great honor to bestow unto you the new lives you seek.”

The holographic image of the High Evolutionary flickered ominously. From along the rails that projected his image, the floating robotic orbs rose up and swarmed around the humans. The orbs were soon joined by more orbs from within City X. They swirled around until they formed a large ball of precisely one million spheres.

Then, as they settled into a steady hover, every sphere shot out in a different direction and sought a different target. Within a minute or so, each orb was hovering right in front of a designated human.

The strange spectacle caused some to stumble back, but the orbs never left them. As they stared into the orbs anxiously, a red light flashed in the center and each orb opened up. Within each orb was a syringe filled with a glowing red fluid.

“Amazing,” said an old man as he reached out to touch the orb.

“Is this a bad time to reveal that I hate needles?” said a middle-aged woman.

“It’s worth it. Trust me!” said Vargas, who was still among the crowd of humans.

“Do not be frightened,” said the High Evolutionary’s image, “In each orb is a biological cocktail that I’ve spent years refining. It will take the power of the X-gene and imbue it into your genome safely and effectively. I’ve made sure that the effects of each gene represent the optimum manifestations of the user. As residents of Asteroid M, you must be reborn to be part of this new ecosystem. You’ve left your world behind. Now it’s time to leave behind your species.”

No one had a chance to argue or second-guess their decision. By the High Evolutionary’s orders, the orbs extended a small robotic arm with the syringe. There was no way to escape it. In a nearly simultaneous moment, the orb robots injected the biological cocktail into the necks of every human. Some embraced it. For others, it caught them off guard. Whatever their reaction, the effects were nearly universal.

In mere seconds, the transformation began. Every human let out a fury of grunts and groans, tensing as the drug coursed through their system. It soon became an even greater spectacle than Asteroid M itself.

One by one every man, woman, and child underwent a drastic biological change. Imbued with a new mutant genome, they manifested a variety of new effects. Some had their skin and eye-color change. Some had their hair change color. Others developed new statures ranging from large and muscular to thin and wiry. Some even started manifesting powers such as wings, fire, and light projection. Anyone with a wound felt it heal nearly instantly. Anyone with a physical weakness felt it become a strength. It was truly a complete rebirth.

“WOW!” exclaimed one young boy, “I feel…awesome!”

“Does this mean my cancer is gone?” said an older man as he looked at his new form.

“I’m pretty sure cancer is no longer a concern for anybody,” said the man’s wife.

The groans and grunts soon turned to cheers. Even some of the mutants started clapping, seeing these humans become one of them. Once a species that had always been under threat, mutants were now one million individuals stronger. They were no longer outcasts. They were truly their own species and their own world.

From afar, the X-men watched this unfold in complete astonishment. Magneto and the High Evolutionary had delivered exactly what they promised. They didn’t just create a new world. They created an entirely new ecosystem.

“Well Charles? What say you?” asked Magneto proudly.

Professor Xavier looked back towards his X-men and towards Wanda. Now all these new mutants shared a home and were indebted to both Magneto and this High Evolutionary. This along with many other lingering uncertainties didn’t sit well.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say I’m impressed, Erik,” he said.

“More than a little, that’s for sure,” said Captain Freeman.

“You still sound…skeptical,” commented Magneto, “Do you not trust me, Charles?”

“Let’s just say I’d like to see more of this new world of yours before I give you my trust. You’ve created something amazing yet potentially dangerous, Erik. I would like to see what you plan on doing with it.”

Up next: High Evolution Part 3

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