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Volume 7 -- Issue 171 -- High Evolution Part 3

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High Evolution Part 3
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The evolution of mankind has caused immense conflict between humans and mutants. Professor Charles Xavier trained his X-men to fight for peace and understanding through the fear and hatred. For many years his old friend, Magneto, often opposed the X-men’s efforts. He sought to destroy humanity and create a world where mutants were dominant. After numerous clashes, the Master of Magnetism has taken that goal quite literally.

With help from Dr. Herbert Wyndham, the self-proclaimed High Evolutionary, Magneto created a massive space station out of an asteroid. He calls it Asteroid M, a self-contained world in which mutants can live free from humanity. However, this world isn’t just for mutants.

In a move that sent mixed reactions all over the world, he invited one million humans to join them provided they agree to become mutants as well. In a world already decimated by the attacks from White Cell and the ineptitude of the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, there was no shortage of willing participants.

This move triggered suspicions from Charles Xavier, the X-men, and even his own daughter Wanda Maximoff. At the behest of the world governments, both the X-men and X-Force reunited as a single team and ventured with Wanda into Asteroid M. They arrived just in time to see the High Evolutionary create a million new mutants with technology refined from MGH. This leaves the X-men both highly suspicious and highly outnumbered.

Asteroid M – Sirius Lake


That joyous declaration rang out over a pristine, lakeside area that had become the site of an unofficial beach party. In the wake of their arrival and transformation, the one million new mutants that the High Evolutionary created along with the mutants that arrived from mutant communities began to settle in their new home.

Asteroid M was a big place with many lands to explore. A large group of newly created mutants decided to settle around a lake that the High Evolutionary called Sirius Lake. In this scenic area many explored their new powers and embraced this new world.

“Hey! I think I can breathe underwater,” said a Nordic woman with light green skin and gill-like flaps on her neck.

“Really? Damn! Why couldn’t I have gotten that power?” said a younger Latino male.

“What are you talking about? You can fly and spit fire!” quipped an older Latina woman, who appeared to be the man’s sister.

“Did I say they bothered me?” he shrugged, “There are just so many powers to go around. I wish I could experience them all.”

“And to think I used to hate mutants,” laughed an Indian man with a long beard and bat-like wings.

Everyone seemed to be in a state of euphoria. These newly imbued mutants were embracing their new identity. The High Evolutionary made sure their powers were stable, controllable, and tailored to their genome. Men, women, and children from all walks of life back on Earth swam leisurely around in the lake while others relaxed on the shore. By all accounts, there were no drawbacks. For some, that was a red flag.

While he lingered with Magneto, Professor Xavier sent his X-men out to do some exploring of their own. They were tasked with surveying the area, interacting with the residents, and identify any potential threats. Storm, Warpath, Domino, Psylocke, and Colossus decided to explore the areas outside of City X. They also tried to learn more about the people that had chosen to leave everything behind and join Asteroid M.

“So where are you blokes from?” asked Psylocke to several new mutants as they lounged near the lake.

“Seoul, South Korea,” answered one with bluish-gray skin.

“Rome, Italy,” said a woman with glowing eyes.

“Johannesburg, South Africa,” said a young man no older than 13.

“New Jersey. If you don’t know the country, then how the fuck did you make it here?” said a stocky, middle-aged man wearing sunglasses.

Psylocke rolled her eyes. While many had undergone dramatic changes, some still hadn’t evolved out of their personality.

“And what made you want to come here?” she asked them.

“Life back home wasn’t getting any better,” said the South Korean solemnly, “I never fit in with my family or friends. I was always an outcast.”

“Same here. Plus, I had a criminal record that I could not escape,” said the Italian woman.

“I probably would have had one if I had stayed. That’s why my mother jumped at the first opportunity to get me here,” said the South African boy.

“So where’s your mom now? She get powers that make her invisible or something?” asked the guy from New Jersey.

“Actually…yes,” said the boy with a humored grin.

In a brief flash that caused the man to drop his beer, the boy’s mother appeared in front of him. She had been testing her new powers and returned to her son just in time to startle the immature man. It earned a round of laughs from the others. Even Psylocke found herself laughing.

They all had reasons for leaving Earth. Most of these reasons were perfectly valid. It seemed worth the price of becoming a mutant. So far, there had been no ill-effects of such a choice. That still didn’t mean it wasn’t a possibility and that’s what led Psylocke to probe deeper.

While Psylocke continued interacting with random people, the rest of the group surveyed the lake from afar. They saw few signs of distress. Everyone seemed perfectly happy with their new lives so far. If there was a threat, it wasn’t obvious just yet.

“How much longer is Psylocke going to keep mingling?” asked Domino, “Is this just her way of filling the void while her boyfriend is stuck on injured reserve?”

“You’re compassion for your fellow teammates is impeccable, Domino,” said Warpath dryly.

“It wasn’t an insult. I don’t get what she hopes to gain here. I’m starting to think we’re wasting our time.”

“It’s never a waste to make connections,” said Colossus.

“Sounds like a motto from the Russian mob,” quipped Domino.

“It is,” said the Russian, “These people did not conspire with Magneto from the beginning. They heard his call and they followed it. That makes them potential allies.”

“And enemies,” noted Warpath.

“That is true, but that only makes our efforts more important,” said Colossus, “If Kitty was here, she would point out that by making these people mutants, Magneto has effectively created a million-mutant army for himself.”

“And she would probably tell that right to everyone’s faces as well so maybe it’s a good thing she’s not here,” said Domino, which earned him a look from Colossus.

The team chemistry was still a work-in-progress. Joining X-Force with the X-men so abruptly made for a difficult transition. There was still tension between the two teams. It remained unspoken for the most part as they tried to stay focused on the mission. That was easier for some more than others.

“You’ve been pretty quiet, Storm. What’s your take? Are we wasting our time here or what?” asked Warpath.

“I wish I could offer some input, but I’ve been a bit distracted here,” said Storm, who kept shifting uncomfortably as she looked around.

“Is that because Warpath works up a sweat when he’s paranoid?” joked Domino, earning her yet another harsh scold.

“It’s because this artificial environment feels so…mechanical,” she said.

“Mechanical?” questioned Warpath.

“I wish Beast were here to offer a nine-syllable word to describe it. That’s all I can come up with because that’s how it feels to me,” she said as she gazed out over the lake, “My powers are closely connected to the forces of nature. However, there’s nothing natural about these forces. This lake, the sky, the air, the winds…they’re all so artificial.”

“How is it any different than the Danger Room?” asked Colossus.

“The Danger Room as a certain intricacy to it,” Storm went on, “That’s why it never bothers me. But everything here on Asteroid M feels like it’s guided. Every light breeze feels as though something or someone was placing it there.”

“Magneto always struck me as a control freak,” commented Warpath.

“Not like this,” she said, her voice sounding more distressed, “Magneto is the master of magnetism. Not the master of nature. I just don’t like how this feels. It’s like at any given moment, everything within this Asteroid could turn on us.”

Storm hugged her shoulders as more light breezes swept across the lake. Every other mutant seemed to enjoy it while it sent a shiver up the African woman’s spine. Warpath offered a comforting gesture, which tempted Domino to make another comment. A stern look from Colossus helped restrain her. If what Storm sensed was real, then it may offer some telling clues.

While they mused over Storm’s insights, Psylocke returned from her conversations with these new mutants. She looked just as unnerved as Storm. Apparently making connections hadn’t set her mind at ease.

“What’s wrong, Psylocke? Are the locals busting your chops that much?” asked Domino.

“Not really,” said Psylocke as she looked back at the five individuals she had just met, “In fact, everybody has been very polite. Even the ones who hated mutants before seem to have done an about face.”

“So then why do you look like they just threatened to drown you in this lake?” asked Warpath suspiciously.

“It’s their minds,” said Psylocke strongly, “They all sound like they’re completely in control of their faculties. However, I can’t pick up on any stray thoughts.”

“Could their minds be shielded?” asked Colossus.

“If they were, then I would have sensed it the moment we arrived,” Betsy reasoned, “They may have just gained amazing new powers, but they’re still ordinary blokes. There’s no way that every one of them could effectively guard their thoughts like this.”

“I take this means we may be dealing with a powerful psychic,” said Warpath.

“That’s where it gets even trickier,” she said cryptically, “Their minds may function normally, but the nuts and bolts don’t feel normal. If anything, they feel…”

“Artificial?” offered Storm.

Psylocke looked at Storm with a raised eyebrow. It sounded like she wasn’t the only one sensing this. It added to the mystery as well as the potential for danger.

“Since English is not my first language to begin with, I will assume that this is cause for concern,” said Colossus.

“It may run deeper than that, luv,” said Psylocke, “This whole world has the making of an elaborate circus act. Everything looks like a natural ecosystem. It may even function like one. But there’s definitely some other force at work here.”

“Then I suppose the important questions for us are how is it being controlled and who is doing the controlling?” said Storm.

“Why do we even need to ask who?” questioned Domino, “This is Magneto’s ploy last I checked.”

“That’s one assumption we probably shouldn’t make right now,” said Psylocke, “We know the kind of damage Magneto can is capable of. It’s the High Evolutionary that has me really worried.”

Asteroid M – Lower Levels

Professor Xavier always struggled had mixed feelings around Magneto. Despite all the damage he had done, he still considered him a friend. Along with that friendship was the ability to read one another in a personal, non-psychic way. Magneto had always been good about guarding his thoughts. Xavier rarely needed to because Magneto often wore his emotions on his sleeve. It was for that reason he found their current situation so distressing. For the first time in years, he could not read this man.

Magneto’s domineering personality had been unusually flat since their arrival. After the X-men witnessed the creation of one million new mutants, they were given a more comprehensive overview of Asteroid M. While some of the X-men broke off to do their own exploring, others stuck around for a more guided tour.

Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Captain Freeman, Nightcrawler, and Wanda were among those who stayed with the Professor as Magneto used his powers to fly them around this elaborate world. The more they saw, the more they came to appreciate the scale of this world.

The tour had included an overview of areas that included forests, jungles, grasslands, swamps, and deserts. Magneto also described the animals and plants that the High Evolutionary created and how they fit into this complex ecosystem. They were unlike anything back on Earth, but had plenty of familiar traits.

There were bird and bat-like creatures, fish and sea life of various shapes and functions, reptiles and lizards that bore a wide range of adaptive traits, and plenty of mammal-like creatures. They all seemed perfectly designed for a new world.

“I know the others are reluctant to say this, so I’ll say it for them. I’m impressed,” said Beast, who had been admiring every specimen within close range.

“I hoped that would go without saying, Beast. But I appreciate the sentiment,” said Magneto as he guided the X-men along atop a hovering metal platform.

“You’ve never shied away from great feats on a grand scale, Erik. I think it’s safe to say you’ve outdone yourself here,” said Professor Xavier.

“Try not to let it go to your head,” added Captain Freeman, “I enjoy being impressed as much as the next guy, but a little substance would go along with the style would help.”

“As if that’s going to make General Grimshaw or President Kelly feel any better about this place,” muttered Phoenix under her breath.

“Oh I assure you, there is more than enough substance to ease your concerns. Although I don’t expect the leaders of a broken world to understand,” said Magneto, “This is exactly why I’m showing you the lower levels and no one else.”

“Vhy is zhat? Do you have something to hide down here?” asked Nightcrawler in a serious tone.

“There’s nothing to hide. Our residents won’t need to venture down here for the same reasons that passengers on a cruise ship don’t venture into the engine room. The difference being Asteroid M has more than just engines.”

By now, Magneto had guided their platform into a large shaft that was built into the Citadel. From this shaft, they descended several thousand feet into the vast sub-levels of the space station. The sub-levels were arranged in a vast, cave-like layout. There were multiple levels, each containing different arrays of machinery and equipment. Many were lit with similar artificial lighting as shown on the surface. They seemed to have their function and worked together in perfect harmony.

“Within these levels reside all the mechanisms that allow Asteroid M to be completely self-sufficient,” Magneto explained, “Several levels are dedicated to agriculture, utilizing advanced hydroponic technology to grow a wide variety of food in industrial quantities. Other levels use advanced tissue farming to create a similar variety of artificial meat products. I’ve eaten them myself. They’re completely indistinguishable from farmed animals back on Earth.”

“I’m sure it’s relieving for those addicted to McDonald’s Big Macs,” commented Phoenix, “I know you wouldn’t last a week without one, Kurt.”

“Not as big a relief as you zhink, Jean,” said Nightcrawler, “So long as zhere is some form of bacon, zhen I’m set.”

“We have that and more than enough to sustain the residents of Asteroid M and their descendants,” Magneto went on as they descended further, “The same goes for water. The High Evolutionary and I gathered large quantities of water from other asteroids and created a fully functional water cycle. It’s not unlike the cycle on Earth, except this one is tightly regulated by a series of tanks, pumps, and filters.”

“You seem to place quite an emphasis on self-sustaining systems,” commented Wanda, “It makes you sound eager to remain separate Asteroid M from Earth.”

“I fail to see how that’s a bad thing, Wanda,” Magneto retorted.

“I’m not saying it is, but when you told me about this you said Asteroid M would be less its own world and more its own domain,” she argued, “I thought the goal was to cut mutants off from human oppression. Not cut them off from humans entirely.”

“That was indeed the goal. However, much has changed since then. With the way human affairs have degraded, it is in our best interests to keep our distance. The rest of the Brotherhood understands and agrees with this. I expect the same from you, Wanda.”

Wanda shifted under her father’s tone. She was trying hard to set aside her doubts. She kept trying to prove herself wrong, hoping that the X-men wouldn’t have to stop her father’s madness for once. She still couldn’t shake the nervous feeling that had plagued her since their arrival. She looked over towards Kurt, who tried to keep his composure but did a very poor job of it.

“These self-sustaining systems must require substantial maintenance,” commented Beast, “Are you and the Brotherhood equipped to run this whole world?”

“Not forgetting that the Brotherhood probably couldn’t run a toaster,” said Phoenix, under her breath.

“I’d rather not debate the competence of the Brotherhood,” said Magneto, “Luckily for them and the rest of Asteroid M, these life processes are fully automated by advanced AIs. As such, there is little need for maintenance. Only a select few have access to major systems.”

“Thus allowing those select few (which I’m assuming you’re part of) full authority over all the essentials of life,” said Captain Freeman cynically, “What exactly prevents you or someone else from abusing it?”

“I don’t have as much authority as you think,” said Magneto as they passed by a few more levels containing what looked like computer equipment, “The Warlock computers you see before you are the source of that AI. The High Evolutionary designed it to be so robust that even I would have a hard time stopping it.”

“But you could if you really wanted to,” said Cyclops.

“Why would I ever want to?” quipped Magneto, “I’m an old man who exerted enough effort to construct this world. I don’t have the energy to micromanage. And as you can see, I would have an awful lot to manage.”

Magneto’s point was made painfully clear as they descended through the sub-levels below the water systems. Within those levels, there were large server farms of Warlock components. They were so large that it was hard to see where they ended. Each server bore the distinct blackish hue with yellowish circuits. Each circuit flashed steadily, indicating that they were working full capacity.

“That’s quite an exorbitant amount of computing power, even for Warlock technology,” commented Beast.

“Hope that means you still have a decent tech support,” said Phoenix as she looked over the vast array of Warlock computers.

“It must have been difficult to assemble,” said Professor Xavier, “Might I ask where you obtained it?”

“You said you were working on this before the Brotherhood returned with all their tech from Genosha,” said Cyclops, “Tech like this is pretty hard to come by. We spent a good deal of time cleaning up the messes it caused.”

“The source of this hardware is not important. The High Evolutionary worked on these systems for decades. It doesn’t matter where it came from. All that matters is they work for our residents and the future generations that follow.”

“That’s all well and good, but with all due respect I think it does matter,” argued Beast, “We have first-hand experience with this technology. We understand better than most the kind of trouble it causes and the lengths many go to in order to obtain it.”

“On top of that, we haven’t met the High Evolutionary as you call him,” said Professor Xavier, “You seem to be placing more trust than usual with this man. And I know you don’t give out such trust readily, Erik.”

“You’re right. I don’t,” he affirmed, “But the High Evolutionary has done more than enough to earn it. If you have concerns about the technology Asteroid M utilizes, then you’re more than welcome to ask him.”

The metal disk they picked up speed as Magneto guided them to the lowest region of the Asteroid. The setting quickly changed from a cave-like layout to full-fledged labyrinth. The shaft leading to the surface finally ended at a large, dome-shaped area that contained the biggest, most elaborate machinery they had seen yet. It wasn’t just one machine either.

There was a large array of massive machines that stood as large as mid-sized buildings. There was an array of domes around the perimeter, each linked by massive lines of heavy cables. Those domes were in turn linked with another array of antenna-like structures that fed right up into the roof of the dome and most likely to the surface. Most bore the distinct traces of Warlock technology. Some had a more metallic texture. The one thing they all had in common was the sheer power they radiated.

At the center of it all was a massive metallic structure shaped like an upside-down pyramid. The machine fed into the surface and out into the vacuum of space. Unlike the other machines, this one appeared to be only partially operational. Along the base of the structure, the X-men saw the Brotherhood hard at work making it fully operational.

Quicksilver, Havok, Polaris, Pyro, Blob, Kid Omega, Mellencamp, Unus, and Frenzy were all working under the direction of the High Evolutionary, who was conducting some sort of experiment on a platform several levels above the surface. Once again, the X-men were taken by the sheer size of Asteroid M. It made sense that something so big would require such elaborate components. As they reached the platform, this powerful scale was matched with the High Evolutionary’s equally powerful presence.

“Ah, my esteemed guests,” greeted the High Evolutionary as he looked up from his experiment, “I see you returned from your tour. I trust it was successful.”

“In a manner of speaking, I’d say so,” said Magneto.

“I’m not sure vhat manner you’re referring to, but if you vanted us to appreciate zhe scale of zhis world zhen it vas certainly a success,” said Nightcrawler.

“I’ll say. Makes me wonder if you’re compensating for something,” commented Captain Freeman.

“Well, when you’re creating a new world, size does matter,” said the High Evolutionary with an ominous grin.

“Like any man has ever said that with a straight face,” said Phoenix under his breath.

The High Evolutionary seemed unaffected. He casually finished his experiment, which involved testing some of the circuits on the central machine. Using a wrist-mounted holographic computer, he verified that everything was functioning properly before he turned around to confront the X-men.

“You’re timing is impeccable. I just finished calibrating the most important component of Asteroid M’s infrastructure,” said the High Evolutionary.

“What’s this one do? Store all the internet porn that your new residents will require?” said Captain Freeman.

“Slightly more vital if you can believe that,” said the High Evolutionary, “This level contains the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters and the cosmic fusion generators that power it.”

“And that’s supposed to be more vital than internet porn?” questioned Captain Freeman.

“I think you’re overdoing the good-cop/bad-cop, Captain,” scolded Cyclops.

“Not to come off as the good cop, but I presume that means this gargantuan gizmo is what controls Asteroid M’s orbit,” said Beast as he assessed the structure.

“Ah, so there are those who appreciate the breadth of Warlock technology,” said the High Evolutionary with a grin, “I was beginning to worry that Magneto and I were alone.”

“Yes…about this Warlock technology,” said Professor Xavier as he looked did his own assessment, “I was hoping we could talk about it in greater detail. It would go a long way towards reassuring some very worried leaders back on Earth.”

“I’m sure zhey won’t feel any better vhen we tell zhem the Brotherhood is vorking on it,” said Nightcrawler.

“What are they doing down there anyways?” asked Cyclops, “Last I checked, my brother wasn’t equipped to handle alien technology.”

“Don’t worry about them. They’re merely lending a hand,” assured the High Evolutionary, “While I can’t go into every detail about my experiments, I can assure you that this device is as necessary as it is harmless. If you’ll recall, Magneto retrieved a rather vital component from Genosha recently.”

“Is it the same component that set off a panic with every government on the planet?” questioned Xavier.

“And nearly made Black Tom a billion times richer in zhe process?” added Nightcrawler.

“That was an unfortunate turn of events,” said Magneto, “Originally, I wanted you to be the one that retrieved it, Charles. That’s why I sent you that message.”

“Maybe next time you should try email,” said Phoenix.

“But why me?” asked the Professor.

“Aside from trusting that you would know how to handle it, I wanted you to see Asteroid M first,” Magneto answered, “I hoped we could work together in building this new world. It didn’t appear that your Mutant Monitoring Initiative was working. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that you weren’t open to an alternative?”

The Professor held his head somewhat lower. Under any other circumstance, he wouldn’t have considered working with Magneto. The recent events surrounding the Mutant Monitoring Initiative made it much harder to ignore. He still didn’t see himself joining his former friend in an endeavor this excessive. What disturbed him was how viable it sounded given the situation back on Earth.

“Let’s just say I’m sickened by how much I’ve had to compromise lately,” said the Professor in a low tone.

“It’s a good thing you kept that from General Grimshaw. He’d have been even sicker,” said Captain Freeman.

“All the more reason to make up for it now that you’re here,” said the High Evolutionary, “In case anyone back on Earth is curious, the device you encountered was a rare electromagnetic resonance core. It’s not something you can conjure up with normal Warlock technology. In fact, it was taken directly from the alien ship that once resided under Genosha.”

“How the hell do you know about that?” asked Captain Freeman with ever greater suspicion.

“With cosmic awareness like mine, I see many things that others can’t,” he replied, his eyes flashing in the process, “That resonance core is vital to the security of Asteroid M. I didn’t go through the trouble of creating such a majestic world without conjuring a means of defending it. This device, once the Brotherhood puts the rest of it together, will create a powerful shield the likes of which could block out the energy of every bomb humanity has ever detonated tenfold.”

“Why would you need to shield a place like this?” questioned Wanda, “You’re already on an orbiting asteroid that’s out of range from every Earth-based weapon.”

“Think of it as an alternative to another arms race,” said Magneto, “We’re under no illusions here. We know that there’s little you can tell your friends back on Earth that would dissuade them from planning an attack on Asteroid M. We’re just making sure they have nothing to threaten us with.”

The master of magnetism waved his hand, triggering new activity within the massive device. Several parts of it lit up. Energy from the nearby generators started flowing into it, causing the conduits to glow and the wires to spark. It triggered some extra down where the Brotherhood was working as well.

“Hey! I told you we needed another twenty minutes,” yelled Quicksilver.

“Quit rushing us. We’ll get it done,” added Havok.

The High Evolutionary grinned as he gazed over the device. The X-men were still anxious about what they were seeing. Whenever Magneto constructed an elaborate machine, it often meant trouble. The concept of a shield around Asteroid M sounded benign. However, there were still plenty of lingering questions.

“I would certainly like to learn more about this assortment of advanced technology,” said Beast, “It seems you have left little to chance in making this new world of yours functional.”

“I’ve spent nearly a half-century developing it. How could I not?” said the High Evolutionary.

“I would also like to establish a line of communication with President Kelly,” added Professor Xavier, “We need to report what we’ve seen. It will go a long way towards easing the tension back on Earth.”

“Is that really necessary, Charles?” questioned Magneto, “Have you seen anything that would discredit the detailed broadcast I made earlier?”

“I think you’re overestimating your credibility, Magneto,” said Captain Freeman with folded arms, “Painting a pretty picture to a world you’ve tried to destroy more than once just won’t cut it.”

“Are you actively trying to make this mission more dangerous?” said Phoenix as she scolded the mutant soldier.

“I begrudgingly admit he has a point,” said Magneto, “It couldn’t hurt to send a message back to Earth. Humans tend to act irrationally in the light of ignorance.”

“Agreed,” sighed the High Evolutionary, “I suppose I can give you a more detailed insight into Asteroid M. If you follow me to my lab, I’ll be happy to…”

The imposing figure was unexpectedly cut off when his wrist computer started beeping. The timing couldn’t have been more inappropriate. Professor Xavier and his X-men were already deeply suspicious of his activities. This certainly would not help.

“Oh dear, this is most unfortunate,” said the High Evolutionary as he brought up his holographic computer.

“Is something wrong?” asked Professor Xavier.

“It’s a minor problem,” he replied in a disgruntled tone, “Apparently, only 999,999 doses of my mutant genome were administered. One has found away to escape it and is running around in City X.”

“Perhaps someone had a change of heart,” said Phoenix.

“I doubt it’s that simple. Not with the systems I have in place,” said the High Evolutionary in a more serious tone, “It appears we’ll have to hold off on a more detailed tour. This is something that must be addressed.”

“Then let us tag along,” said Cyclops, “Maybe we can help.”

“Now you’re trying to earn our trust?” questioned Magneto, “Perhaps you’re overestimating your credibility as well.”

“Let’s not be unreasonable, old friend. If they want to help, who are we to deny them?” said the High Evolutionary as he brought up a new tracking program on his computer, “Even if it is just a feeble excuse to keep an eye on us.”

“I need to work on my poker face,” sighed Captain Freeman.

“Consider it an act of trust,” said Professor Xavier, “Let us see how you handle conflict within your new world. That will allow us to send a more positive report to the anxious leaders back on Earth.”

The suspicion in their tone was still apparent. Seeing all this high-tech hardware and the systems it ran didn’t set anyone’s mind at ease. They needed assurance of another kind. Magneto remained hesitant, but the High Evolutionary expressed no concerns. The X-men wanted to occupy themselves with these issues. That would only work further to their advantage.

“Very well,” said Magneto, “I’ll take us back to the citadel.”

“No need to rush. We’ve got plenty of time,” said the High Evolutionary.

“Never thought a guy in a purple suit could sound so eccentric and so laid back,” said Captain Freeman under his breath.

“Or maybe his poker face is zhat much better than yours,” commented Nightcrawler.

Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Nightcrawler, Wanda, Captain Freeman, and Professor Xavier held on once more as Magneto summoned his powers once more. He retrieved the magnetic platform that had taken them all over Asteroid M.

They stepped on with the High Evolutionary, who continued assessing the situation using his wrist-mounted computer. So far there had been no signs that anything was amiss, but Wanda wasn’t ready to set it aside just yet and neither were the X-men. It was only a matter of time before the truth became painfully clear.

Asteroid M – City X

“Be honest, X-men. Are you not truly impressed by this marvelous world?” asked an enthused Vargas.

“I’m impressed with guys who can fight off sentinels when he’s hung over,” said Wolverine, “You gotta do more than boast if you want us to take this act of yours seriously, bub.”

“So that’s what Remy’s been doing wrong all this time,” joked Gambit.

“Well if you fellas won’t say it, Ah will,” said Rogue, “This is a dang nice city! Ah don’t think any mutant would mind living here.”

It was a partial show of approval, but it was the best Vargas could hope for at this point. He had led Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, and Emma Frost on a tour of City X. By now numerous mutants including those that had been transformed and those from mutant communities were starting to carve a new home for themselves in this vast world.

Some settled in the central parts of the city where special commercial sectors had been arranged. Throughout the area, the new residents could set up businesses, schools, and entertainment centers. Further out from the center were residential buildings. Some were large apartment complexes while others were simple houses. There was a wide range of styles and designs, ensuring everyone could find a fitting place to live and work.

By and large, the new residents of Asteroid M seemed happy. Throughout the tour, the X-men passed various mutants that were very excited about starting new lives. Those who had come from poor countries or a difficult background were in awe of how high-tech and clean everything was. They even recognized a few of the mutants as former residents of Genosha like Senyaka and students of the Academy of Tomorrow like Mercury.

“Oh uh…Miss Frost,” said Mercury nervously as they walked by, “I didn’t think you would join Asteroid M.”

“Spare me the formality, Miss Kincaid. We’re not at the academy anymore. It’s not like I can give you detention,” said Emma, rolling her eyes, “And for your information, we’re not joining anything.”

“Then why are you here?” asked Senyaka suspiciously, “I can’t imagine Magneto or the High Evolutionary being comfortable with X-men.”

“Ah could ask you the same,” said Rogue with folded arms, “Ain’t you the one that the Brotherhood imprisoned when you tried to support the Mutant Liberation Front?”

“That’s in the past. As is everything else that took place in the old world,” he retorted.

“Keep telling yourself that, bub. It won’t make you any less of an ass,” said Wolverine.

“Cut us some slack. It got really bad back on Earth and the X-men couldn’t fix it,” said Mercury.

“No one is arguing that. No one is even arguing that you had valid reasons to leave it all behind,” said Emma, “You’re not the first one of my former student’s that I’ve seen. You and many others were forced into my Academy just as others were forced to take sides.”

“Then why do you still glare at us like we’re the bad guys?” asked Senyaka.

“You mean aside from following Magneto?” quipped Gambit.

“That’s part of it,” explained Emma, “You and everyone else seem all too eager to embrace the spectacle of this world. No one seems to question the price they’ll have to pay. It’s a simple rule that any successful businesswoman understands. It it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

Senyaka and Mercury didn’t care for Emma’s harsh tone, but found it difficult to scold her logic. Everything they had experienced since arriving on Asteroid M had been amazing. It had food, shelter, infrastructure, open space, and above all protection from human oppression. It really felt too good to be true and that didn’t sit well now that Emma had pointed it out. Before they could dwell on it further, Vargas stepped in.

“You’ll have to debate the costs of paradise some other time,” he told them, “We still have much to see before we meet up with Magneto and the High Evolutionary.”

“You seem awfully eager to shut us up,” said Wolverine defensively, “Ain’t that the first sign of authoritarian bullshit?”

“If that’s the first, then secrecy would be the second,” added Emma, “I notice you’ve been guarding your thoughts quite ardently. Any psychic will tell you that a guarded mind is red flag for disturbing thoughts.”

“I’ve hid nothing from you and neither has Magneto,” said Vargas strongly, “How can I when I haven’t even shown you all of City X?”

“Ah’m all for sight-seeing, but you still ain’t giving us enough reasons to trust you,” said Rogue, “If memory serves meh right, you admitted you were the fella in Boston that was hooked on MGH. You caused us more than a few problems and you ain’t answered for any of them.”

“That was another time and another life,” he retorted, “It was also necessary for the High Evolutionary’s research. MGH is a key component to the process that gave us one million more mutant residents.”

“That didn’t make all the trouble that gunk caused any less annoying,” said Rogue.

“Oh come now. It wasn’t a total loss,” argued Vargas, “We had Sebastian Shaw and White Cell do all the grunt work. In the end it led to their downfall, which if I recall you X-men played a major role.”

“I’m all for screwing over Sebastian Shaw, but one of my own students got involved with that drug and it ruined him in ways I’d rather not recall,” said Emma Frost, “I’m lucky he was stopped before he met up with the Brotherhood. That would give me more than enough reasons to discipline you in a very unpleasant manner.”

“I apologize if my misguided actions inconvenienced you. However, they did serve a purpose. They allowed the High Evolutionary to perfect his procedure. It turned me from a feeble man into the powerful mutant you see before you.”

“We can accept your apology, homme. But only if you be willing to make up for it,” said Gambit.

“And how would you propose I do that?” scoffed Vargas.

“By pausing this tour of yours and submitting yourself to a telepathic scan,” said Emma.

“That’s not going to happen,” he said sternly.

“It ain’t as bad as it sounds,” said Wolverine, “I’ve had psychics probe my mind before. So long as you ain’t got any nasty secrets, you’ll come out intact.”

“If it makes you feel better, you can look down my uniform the whole time,” offered Emma.

The X-men were starting to get insistent. Showing them the wonders of Asteroid M just wasn’t enough. They wanted to see inside his mind and there were a great many reasons why they shouldn’t. Wolverine, Emma, Gambit, and Rogue surrounded him as if he was a criminal of sort. It made Vargas both uncomfortable and angry.

His reluctance further heightened the X-men’s suspicions. Vargas had already proven to be a trouble-maker in the past. He was the reason Sebastian Shaw and White Cell got their hands on MGH. Him becoming a mutant didn’t change that. If anything, it made Vargas more likely to have some insight. The rest of the X-men hadn’t reported any major developments from their end. Vargas was in a position to either confirm or dissuade their concerns.

“I don’t like where this is going, X-men,” said Vargas, “You’ve been treated with the utmost hospitality since your arrival. I urge you not to abuse it.”

“That a treat, bub?” snarled Wolverine.

“It’s a warning. Neither Magneto nor the High Evolutionary will tolerate such hostility on Asteroid M.”

“Maybe it’s a good time to warn you that we ain’t gonna stick our heads in the sand just because you’re nice to us,” said Rogue.

“You’re making a mistake by not accepting such charity,” Vargas went on, “This is exactly why the world you left is in decay. Magneto and the High Evolutionary saw it. Everyone who chose to come here saw it and no one has shown any regret. Is that not proof enough that this world is as sincere as it is spectacular?”

The X-men were prepared to push harder with this man. It ended up being unnecessary because an unexpected commotion erupted from a nearby housing complex. Someone wearing a brown cloak had just come running out with a couple of angry mutants following close behind.

“Stop him! Don’t let him get away!” yelled a former Genosha citizen.

“He’s a traitor! We must turn him over to the High Evolutionary!” exclaimed a former female human with gray skin as she followed close behind.

“I’m neither!” yelled the figure in the cloak, “I’m trying to help you! You’re all being led by a false prophet!”

“Will somebody shut him up already?” said another mutant that had joined the chase.

The commotion quickly escalated. Several mutants with abilities that included firepower tried to attack him. They shot at him with energy bolts, electric sparks, fire, and telekinesis. The hooded figure managed to avoid them by ducking behind a parked transport orb. It was the first sign of trouble since anyone had arrived in Asteroid M and it came at a very inopportune time for Vargas.

“You were saying?” said Emma smugly.

“A bad apple in a lush orchard,” Vargas replied flatly, “If you’ll excuse me, I’m sure Magneto and the High Evolutionary expect me to take care of this.”

“Allow us to lend a hand,” said Gambit as he drew a fresh deck of cards.

“Besides, it’ll distract meh from disturbing thoughts of mah brother undressing Wanda Maximoff with his eyes,” said Rogue as she took to the air.

“Very well,” said Vargas begrudgingly, “But don’t forget that Earth laws don’t apply here on Asteroid M. We’re bound strictly by the laws of evolution.”

Vargas ran straight towards the transport orb where the cloaked figure had cowered behind. A number of mutants continued firing at him, trying to flush him out. He proved determined if not foolish, remaining cloaked and hidden.

As soon as the X-men reached him, Wolverine and Rogue flew out in front of the parked transport orb. Using their durable forms, they absorbed the incoming blasts from the unruly mutants. They were clearly protective of their new home and reacted swiftly to any perceived threat.

“Get out of the way! Why are you protecting an intruder?” exclaimed one of the mutants that was shooting blue fire at the orb.

“We’re on a floating space rock. What kind of intruding is that?” questioned Rogue as she absorbed the blasts.

“He has rejected this wonderful gift! He must be here to destroy us!” said a pale-skinned mutant that tried to run after the intruder.

Wolverine stepped directly into the path of the incoming mutant. He discovered the hard way that this man’s powers involved making his arms and legs bigger and using them to deliver punishing hits. Wolverine was slammed into the transport orb by the first blow, but he quickly shook it off and countered. The mutant who was obviously new to his powers tried to strike again. This time Wolverine avoided it and ran up his oversized arms as if they were bridges and landed a rough kick to the chest.

“Take it from me, bub. Paranoia ain’t healthy,” snarled Wolverine, “It leads to shit like this.”

The feral mutant drew his claws to further make his point. That seemed to dissuade the pale-skinned mutant and the others that were shooting at the orb. It allowed Gambit, Emma Frost, and Vargas to reach the cloak figure as he remained pinned against the orb.

“I hope you got a dang good reason for makin’ a scene, homme,” said Gambit as he drew his bow staff in preparation.

“Cooperate and my superiors might show mercy,” said Vargas.

“You think I fear pain or wrath? You’ve nothing to threaten me with!” said the cloaked figure defiantly.

“That holier-than-thou tone sounds familiar,” commented Emma.

“I don’t care who you are. You’re defying the bylaws of Asteroid M,” said Vargas, “You chose to come here. As such, you must become a mutant.”

“Those who offer to bless others through deception are nothing more than false prophets. And I don’t follow false prophets. It is my God-given duty to thwart them!”

As the figure rose up, he removed his cloak to reveal his identity. Gambit and Emma recognized him immediately. It was Isaac from the Church of Humanity. His seemingly unflappable faith had gotten him into trouble once more.

“Dang! You right about him sounding familiar, Frost,” said Gambit.

“Isaac?” exclaimed Rogue, who was still flying overhead, “What in the hell are you doing here?”

“You know this human?” asked Vargas suspiciously as he confronted the holy man.

“In a manner of speaking,” said Emma dryly, “He’s a one-man crusader who has no sense of subtlety.”

“I don’t care who he is. He’s threatens the sanctity of Asteroid M. As such, he must be punished!” said Vargas.

Isaac tried to run away again. This time Vargas didn’t let him get far. He grabbed him by his cloak and pulled him into a choke hold. His mutant strength ensured that no amount of faith could protect him. With a firm hold on his neck, he pinned the holy man against the transport sphere.

“Ack! The devil…has made you strong,” gasped Isaac.

“Neither the devil nor your god have any authority here,” said Vargas strongly as he tightened his grip.

“You wanna ease up on the guy? It ain’t like he spat in your gumbo,” said Gambit as he and Emma tried to pull him back.

“He’s a human in a world that embraces evolution. In this world, that is the highest of crimes!” said Vargas.

“I take it this means you no longer care about earning our trust,” said Emma Frost as Vargas shoved her off.

“If you continue to interfere, then you’ll be guilty of similar crimes,” threatened Vargas.

He looked ready to snap Isaac’s neck. There was no due process on Asteroid M. The High Evolutionary made that clear to him. If there was a threat of any kind to his world, it must be dealt with swiftly. The X-men didn’t seem to understand this dedication and that made them just as deserving as this pitiful human.

“Let him go!” yelled Rogue as she flew in from above.

“Don’t be foolish X-men!” warned Vargas, “By protecting this human, you’ll only-UNGH!”

Rogue ignored his warnings before she even heard them. Flying in at high speeds, she struck him with a punishing blow to the chest that knocked Vargas on his back and caused him to release Isaac in the process. Now free from Vargas’s death grip, the holy man gasped to catch his breath.

“You picked a hell of a time for a sermon, Isaac,” said Rogue with a mix of relief and scorn, “What the hell are you doing here?”

“It’s nice to see you too, Rogue,” he replied breathlessly, “Please forgive me. I was trying to remain unseen until the time was right.”

“Right for what?” questioned Gambit, “You done trapped yourself in a floating rock full of mutants. What was your plan? Preach the danger away?”

“That can’t be it. Even you ain’t that dedicated, Isaac,” said Rogue in a more serious tone, “Talk to meh, sugah. What’s going on?”

Isaac hesitated to answer. He considered Rogue a close friend with a good soul. It would have been beyond sinful to just lie to her. Without having fully caught his breath, he escaped from her gaze and limped off.

“I’m sorry, Rogue. But I cannot say,” he said sadly, “The Lord as my witness, it’ll make sense soon enough. I promise!”

“Dang it, Isaac! Wait!” urged Rogue.

“Arrogant fool! You will not escape!” seethed Vargas.

Despite the lingering sting from Rogue’s blow, Vargas rose up and started chasing after Isaac. He caught up quickly thanks to his advanced agility. Once again, he was thwarted before he could reach him. This time he was tackled from behind by Wolverine. Having scared off the mutant residents, he caught up just in time to make sure Vargas didn’t exact Asteroid M style justice.

“I ain’t sure if you’re overreacting or if you’re just a natural dirt bag. I’m plenty sure I don’t give a damn either way,” said Wolverine as he pointed his claws at Vargas’s head.

“Errrr! Is this part of your plan? To obstruct mutant kind’s one chance at peace?” grunted Vargas.

“Your act smells worse than your breath!” grunted the former living weapon, “Why does one human make you throw a damn hissy fit? Are you that insecure or is there something else that bugs you?”

Vargas kept grunting and struggling under Wolverine’s grip. His reluctance to respond only heightened Wolverine’s curiosity. He was even more certain than before. This man was hiding something and Isaac’s presence threatened it.

While Wolverine kept Vargas pinned, Isaac struggled to run with shortened breath. He put his cloak back on to cover his head and to slip behind another series of parked transport orbs. Once again, he ran into an unexpected obstacle in the form of Mercury and Senyaka. As former acolytes from Genosha, they didn’t run from danger as quickly as everyone else.

“You’re a long way from home, little man,” said Senyaka as he cracked his knuckles.

“Do us all a favor. Quit making a scene before you mess up this freshly minted world,” said Mercury as she formed liquid-metal blades with her arms.

“Forgive me, but I’m not in a position to grant favors,” he said as he stumbled back, “I’m on a crusade and the Lord won’t allow me to fail.”

“Keep pushing your luck and you’ll get to tell him first-hand why you screwed up,” said Senyaka.

Isaac had already turned around and started running in the other direction. Senyaka ran after him, forming an energy whip in the process. Before Isaac could get out of range, the Sri Lankan mutant twirled his whip around and directed it towards the holy man. Sensing it was coming, Isaac managed to jump ahead and avoid a direct strike. He still felt it hit him on her lower calf, causing a sharp sting as it absorbed a touch of his energy.

“Ungh!” grunted Isaac as he nearly fell flat on his face.

“Go easy on him, Senyaka. He’s still human, remember?” said Mercury.

“It’s his own damn fault,” said Senyaka as he kept twirling his whip, “My powers have a very simple premise. One touch of my special whip and feel more ravaged than a Pakistani slum. I can try and be gentle, but I can’t make any promises.”

Senyaka prepared another strike. Isaac still felt a powerful sting in his leg. It was like someone drove a nail straight through his knee. He kept crawling forward, inching his way back towards where the X-men and Vargas were standing. Before Senyaka struck, he prayed for the strength he needed.

“Lord…your mercy is sorely needed,” he said.

Senyaka took aim and unleashed his attack. Once again, Isaac managed to avoid it by rolling to his side. However, in doing so he left Vargas and Wolverine right in the line of fire. Only Wolverine saw it coming. As the swirling energy whip drew closer, he instinctively jumped to the side to avoid it. This left only Vargas to take the brunt end of the attack.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” he cried out as the energy whip drained him of his essence.

“Ooh…my aim must be rusty,” said Senyaka sheepishly.

“You think?!” grunted Wolverine who barely avoided it.

Wolverine and Isaac watched as Vargas contorted under Senyaka’s essence-draining abilities. Rogue, Gambit, and Emma Frost caught up as well. Rogue and Gambit met up with the wounded Isaac, who struggled to get up.

“You really be making our jobs tough by being such a wild card,” said Gambit as he helped the holy man up.

“I didn’t mean for it to happen like this. God has not made this crusade easy for me,” lamented Isaac.

“Well you better hope that God has a plan because ours is officially messed up!” said Rogue.

Isaac held his head low as he stood gingerly on his injured legs. At the same time, Senyaka had retrieved his energy whip. Vargas was still lying face down on the ground, his body smoldering somewhat from the impact. Wolverine rose to his feet and kept a cautious eye on the volatile man. Emma rushed to his side as well, but abruptly stopped short. As she neared Vargas’s injured form, she clutched her head and groaned.

“Gonna have a hell of a time explaining this shit to Magneto,” groaned Wolverine before turning to Emma, “What’s the matter, Frost? Afraid this guy’s stench will clash with your overpriced perfume?”

“Shut up, Logan! I think our S&M enthusiast’s poor aim did us a favor,” said Emma strongly.

“Hey! Who do you think you are, lady?” said Senyaka angrily.

“I’m the high-level telepath that just sensed Vargas’s mind open up after he went down for a nap,” she explained, “He was definitely hiding something. His shields were imposed by an outside force to cover up a certain slot of memories. I think I can piece them together with a little…”

The powerful psychic froze in mid-sentence and gasped. Her focus quickly turned to dread as a stream of thoughts coursed through her mind. They revealed more than just closely guarded secrets. They revealed a threat that was bigger than anyone could have imagined.

“My God…that crazy son-of-a-bitch,” seethed Emma, “I knew something was off about him from the moment he gave his fancy speech!”

“Skip the outrage Emma. Give us dirty details! As if you ain’t good at it!” said Wolverine as the others listened intently.

“Looks like we were only half-right,” she said as she continued probing with her telepathy, “This isn’t just about creating a new world. It’s about purging the old world and controlling everything that’s left.”

“So it’s another mass extinction plot? And here Ah was thinking Magneto was more original than that,” said Rogue dryly.

“That’s the part we’re half-wrong about. It isn’t Magneto,” said Emma sternly, “He’s not the one behind this. That means Wanda was right!”

“So if Magneto ain’t the one playing the global cataclysm card, then who is?” asked Gambit.

“Who else? It’s the High Evolutionary!” said Emma, “Don’t tell me that man didn’t make your skin crawl the moment you saw him.”

Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, and Isaac tensed at the revelation even if it didn’t come as much of a surprise. The High Evolutionary was the great unknown and Wanda expressed concerns about him from the beginning. He revealed through Vargas that he was the one behind MGH. His fingerprints were on so many conflicts, but this was the biggest yet.

“Um…do we need to stick around for this?” asked Mercury, who was still lingering with Senyaka.

“We can keep secrets if you need us to,” said Senyaka as he put his energy whip away.

“Don’t even think about running away,” snarled Wolverine, drawing his claws to reinforce his point.

“Aw come on! We came here to get away from this sort of crap. Why do we have to get caught up in it now?” Mercury complained.

“Because you can’t dodge shit like this! Nobody can!” said the feral mutant.

“Do you really want to close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears while someone destroys a whole freakin’ planet?” asked Rogue.

“Bearing in mind that inaction will only prove your cowardice,” said Isaac, “Do you really think your souls could bear such a burden?”

Mercury and Senyaka shifted uncomfortably. The temptation to run away was great. But they were former acolytes of Magneto. They didn’t get that title by being cowards. Without stating their decision overtly, the two mutants lingered. Emma, who was still processing the information from Vargas’s mind, opened up new psychic links. They had found the truth. Now it was time to share it.

“We need to get back to the Citadel. Chuck, Jeannie, and the others are still hanging around that purple-headed dirt bag!” said Wolverine strongly.

“I’m already in touch with Psylocke. I’m about to link up with Charles,” said Emma, “I hope he had a light lunch. He’s going to be sick to his stomach when he hears this.”

Asteroid M – Citadel

The High Evolutionary arrived at the middle levels of the citadel with Magneto and the X-men. It was where his secondary labs were set up. They were nowhere near as big as the labs in the lower levels. It was arranged more like Beast’s lab back at the Xavier Institute, containing tables of equipment and various machines.

As he led them through the lab the High Evolutionary showed little urgency while still taking this situation seriously. One rebellious human wasn’t enough to bring down this world. However, it still undermined his evolutionary plan and he could not have that.

“I appreciate your patience, X-men. I assure you this won’t take long,” said the High Evolutionary as he entered a secondary lab.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what do you intend to do with this human?” asked Professor Xavier.

“Surely, one unruly individual won’t cause too great a stir in a place like Asteroid M,” said Beast.

“It’s not about causing a stir. It’s about leaving nothing to chance,” said the High Evolutionary, “This world wasn’t built to accommodate humans. Humans are a vestigial organ that’s doomed to whither under the pressures of evolution.”

“Now there’s a philosophy that won’t win you many friends,” commented Captain Freeman, “You almost sound threatened by them.”

“Hardly,” scoffed the High Evolutionary, “My cosmic awareness places me above any threat humanity may pose. My only concern is ensuring that Asteroid M is free from such imperfections.”

“And I zhought you vere a control freak, Scott,” said Nightcrawler.

“I have my limits,” said Cyclops, “Controlling an entire world is a pretty tall order. It usually involves crossing too many lines.”

The High Evolutionary rolled his eyes. He could see with his cosmic awareness that they were scrutinizing his every move. It wasn’t like he didn’t give them reasons to be concerned. As he led the X-men to the area that dealt with his mutant biology, they came across some familiar equipment.

It resembled what they White Cell and Sebastian Shaw utilized for their MGH research. It essentially reaffirmed that he had been the visionary behind MGH. He was indirectly responsible for what happened with Sebastian Shaw and White Cell. To the X-men’s credit, they didn’t make a big a deal about it. That didn’t mean it wasn’t on their minds.

He brushed off such scrutiny and went to work. With a few simple hand gestures, he activated a series of bio-synthesis machines. That began an elaborate process that would synthesis another dose of evolution for the unruly individual. He also activated a monitor so that he could monitor this process. It was a process in which Professor Xavier, Beast, Cyclops, Phoenix, Wanda, and Captain Freeman were keenly interested.

“I’ve heard that criticism before. I find it as insipid as it is annoying,” sighed the High Evolutionary, “I would repeat some of the remarks the Brotherhood has made behind my back, but that would be impolite to my honored guests.”

“It would be even more impolite if we ended up agreeing with them,” said Phoenix.

“I still hope that you of all people can understand why I insist on such control,” the High Evolutionary went on, “I’m aware of many of the conflicts you’ve faced. More often than not, they stem from a breakdown in natural order.”

“It’s not the only cause. Not by a long shot,” said Wanda, “And believe me, I know all about random chaos.”

“We need not be reminded about the dangers of chaos,” said Professor Xavier, “In my most recent experience, trying to impose order on such chaos often has unintended consequences.”

“Is that a knock on the Mutant Monitoring Initiative?” asked Captain Freeman, “Because that’ll put me in a very awkward position the next time I speak to the General.”

“It’s a fair comparison,” said the High Evolutionary, “All functional worlds require a certain level of control, be it natural or artificial. Asteroid M is largely artificial, which naturally requires the tolerance for random inconsistences be very low.”

“I assume that means you’ll be the one maintaining that control,” said Wanda dryly.

“From one control freak to another, I can tell you that’s a dangerous setup,” said Cyclops.

“For you, perhaps,” scoffed the High Evolutionary, “But when you have cosmic awareness like mine, you’re more than capable.”

“And in my experience, his awareness has served this world well,” said Magneto, “You’ve seen what we’ve put together here. You’ve shown you how well it works. What more can you ask of us?”

“We still have questions that need answering,” said Professor Xavier.

“And I plan on answering what I can after I take care of this pesky human holdout,” said the High Evolutionary, not taking his cosmic gaze off the monitor, “I can’t promise you answers to every question, but I can promise that by the time you and your X-men leave Asteroid M, you’ll be able to assure everyone on Earth that we’re not a threat.”

“In the end we’re just inhabitants of a bold new world hoping to live in peace,” added Magneto, “Is that so difficult to accept, Charles?”

They both sounded sincere. It was getting increasingly difficult to scrutinize Magneto and the High Evolutionary. They had yet to show any hostility and they went out of their way to demonstrate that Asteroid M was a viable world. Nothing they saw seemed to indicate that it was a threat to Earth.

Professor Xavier looked back towards his X-men and sensed they were growing increasingly conflicted. Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Nightcrawler, and Captain Freeman were running out of ways to question this endeavor. Even Wanda was starting to come around. It would be much easier if he could tell President Kelly and the leaders of the world that Asteroid M was as appealing as Magneto had claimed. Yet as he turned back towards his oldest friend, he still felt as though something was amiss.

Then he felt it. In an unexpected surge of psionic energy, his mind was bombarded by an overwhelming telepathic signal. It was so strong that Phoenix picked up on it too.

“Argh!” grunted the two psychics as they clutched their heads.

“Charles!” gasped Beast as he caught his mentor.

“Jean!” exclaimed Cyclops as he caught her as well.

“Damn. I know zhat look,” dreaded Nightcrawler, “Something’s wrong, isn’t it?”

“Nonsense,” scoffed Magneto stoically, “What could possibly be wrong on Asteroid M?”

As Professor Xavier processed this stream of telepathic thoughts, his expression changed from dread to outrage. While being supported by Beast and Cyclops, he looked up at Magneto and the High Evolutionary. Both remained completely unconcerned and for a very sick reason.

“I…I believe I can answer your question now, Erik,” said Xavier angrily, “Once again, you lied!”

“Why am I not surprised?” grunted Captain Freeman.

“I think that brilliant mind of yours is overstressed, Charles. You sound like a madman,” said Magneto with increasingly disturbing callousness.

“Takes one to know one,” grunted Cyclops.

“I…I can sense it too,” said Phoenix, who was still catching her breath, “It’s from Emma! Looks like she managed to rip into someone’s mind without belittling them first!”

“How bad is it, Charles? How much should we worry?” asked Beast anxiously.

“Open your minds and see for yourself,” said Xavier strongly.

Cyclops, Wanda, Beast, Nightcrawler, and Captain Freeman did as he requested. Now armed with this new knowledge, Professor Xavier broadcasted a stream of images that revealed true madness of this world.

Asteroid M Lower Levels – Earlier

“So you’re really going to do it. You’re going to destroy the whole world,” said Vargas distantly.

“What’s wrong, Mr. Vargas? Having second thoughts?” said Magneto as he and Dr. Wyndham configured the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters.

“No, I…just don’t see why it’s necessary,” said Vargas, “If Asteroid M is going to be self-sustaining, then it doesn’t make much sense to destroy Earth.”

“That’s only if you think simplistically,” scoffed Magneto as he snapped a few large components into place, “We’re not destroying Earth. We’re merely sterilizing it.”

“The planet isn’t the problem. It’s the life on it that is cause for concern,” said the Dr. Wyndham, “Earth’s ecosystem is already in decay. Human activity along with unhealthy evolution has rendered it beyond saving. It is taking up valuable resource that could be better used by a new generation. Asteroid M was never meant to be completely self-contained. It is merely the incubator that will nourish a new ecosystem.”

Vargas was no evolution visionary. Destroying life on an entire planet in order to make way for a new form of life was a difficult notion to wrap his head around. He didn’t voice any outrage or objections. Since becoming a mutant, he cared little for the affairs of Earth. It seemed as though it was on the brink every other day. A fresh start seemed logical even if it was overwhelming.

While Vargas tried to wrap his head around such a bold endeavor, Magneto used his powers to adjust the massive metal extensions that protruded from the bottom of Asteroid M. The extensions were pointed directly at Earth. There were a total of three and they each fed into a larger metallic array around the base.

The array extended up into the lower levels where Dr. Wyndham was directing a series of Warlock drones. They were assembling the outer structure of the massive machine while he conducted tests to make sure the physics were in working order.

“The destruction will be swift, but far less dramatic than an asteroid impact,” said Magneto, “The transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters are capable of much more than producing a defensive shield. In order to sufficiently protect Asteroid M, it must draw from a source of great magnetic power. And what is greater than Earth’s own magnetic field?”

“Once the thrusters are fully functional, it will siphon off the magnetic field in the span of a day,” added Dr. Wyndham, “Earth will be rendered completely defenseless against the sun’s deadly solar winds. They’ll literally cook the whole planet, destroying all life and cleansing the planet.”

“I dropped out of school after I left Spain as a teenager so I’ll take your word for it,” said Vargas, “Does that mean Earth will just be a dead hunk of rock from here on out?”

“Hardly,” scoffed Magneto, “This cleansing effect will be temporary. Once we’re assured that all life on Earth has been destroyed, we’ll reverse the thrusters and reinstate the magnetic field.”

“Then the true transformation can begin!” said the Dr. Wyndham, his voice brimming with excitement, “Using the life we’ve nurtured here on Asteroid M, we’ll repopulate the Earth. Between a clean planet and Asteroid M, this new genesis will thrive for generations to come. I look forward to sharing it with a new ecosystem.”

“And I look forward to sharing it with my children,” said Magneto.

“You think they’ll approve of this?” asked Vargas.

“They don’t have to know,” said the master of magnetism, “No one has to know.”

“And how do you plan on concealing that?” asked Vargas.

“The destruction of Earth’s magnetic field will be disguised as the aftermath of a gamma ray burst,” Dr. Wyndham explained, “It’ll come from the depth of space, untraceable and unverifiable. Everyone will believe it to be a cosmic accident. In the long run it’ll ensure the preservation of our future.”

It was as ambitious as it was deadly. All life on Earth would be wiped out and no one on Asteroid M would know. Vargas could only imagine the sorrows and horrors that would result. He didn’t allow himself to contemplate it. It was what Magneto and the Dr. Wyndham deemed necessary. They made him a mutant. They proved to him that they knew what was best so who was he to argue?

“Can I ask one more question?” said Vargas anxiously.

“Of course, Vargas. You are after all my first new mutant,” said Dr. Wyndham.

“Why are you telling me this?” he asked, “Why give me a secret like this to keep?”

“Because you have the trust of the Brotherhood you’ll have the trust of many new mutants once they arrive,” Magneto explained, “Once Charles Xavier shows up, we’ll need to keep a close eye on him. That’s why the Brotherhood will be tasked with completing this machine. I imagine they won’t approve of its function, which is why you’ll need to assure them it’s a shield generator.”

“Not to sound critical, but wouldn’t it be easier if we left Charles Xavier out of the picture?” asked Vargas.

“If only it were that simple,” sighed Magneto, “Unfortunately, Charles has access to my daughter and I refuse to usher in this new world without her.”

“He also has access to the governments of the world,” said Dr. Wyndham, “No doubt, they’ll be in an uproar after we open our doors to a million new residents. We need to put on an elaborate show and make him believe that Asteroid M isn’t a danger to anyone. That everyone on Earth will let their guard down just long enough for the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters to do their job.”

Vargas did his best not to look timid under such heavy demands. These two were placing a lot of trust in him. This secret could potentially undermine the whole operation. He had to not only keep it a secret, but have others contribute without knowing. Magneto and Dr. Wyndham had covered every detail. Now he shared in the responsibility of seeing this vision through.

“While I still don’t understand the physics, I understand the implications,” said Vargas.

“Does this mean you have no further questions?” asked Magneto.

“Unless you think there’s anything else I need to know, I’m ready to play my part in this new world,” said Vargas.

“Good,” said Dr. Wyndham as he finally stepped back from his machine, “Now come with me. I believe you have a church sermon to attend.”

Citadel – Present Time

“You crazy son-of-a-bitch!” seethed Cyclops.

That’s being generous!” yelled Captain Freeman, “Crazy doesn’t even begin to cover it!”

“I thought you had moved beyond this, Erik. It pains me to find out how wrong I was,” said Professor Xavier solemnly.

As the truth sank in, unparalleled outrage quickly followed. Magneto’s façade had been exposed and he didn’t look the least bit upset. If anything, he looked mildly annoyed. While the Professor regained his composure, the X-men prepared to attack. Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Nightcrawler, and Captain Freeman had seen enough of Asteroid M. They had more than enough reason to take Magneto and the High Evolutionary down.

However, the attack was delayed by one minor obstacle. Despite having seen the psychic images as clearly as everyone else, Wanda Maximoff wouldn’t allow the X-men to attack her father just yet. Not at least until she voiced her own special outrage.

“Seriously, Father? Again, you walk this path?” exclaimed Wanda.

“If you’re that pissed, then step aside, Wanda!” urged Phoenix.

“Don’t be a daddy’s girl. Is blood suddenly thicker than mass extinction?” questioned Captain Freeman.

The angry Green Beret tried to lunge for Magneto, but Nightcrawler teleported in front of him and stopped him mid-way.

“Slow down, mein friend! Give her a chance!” urged the German mutant.

“You don’t give chances to mass murderers! Especially if this isn’t their first attempt!” yelled Captain Freeman as he tried to shove Nightcrawler aside.

“That’s assuming the alternative is more effective,” said Beast as he came in to hold him back as well, “Let her speak. Maybe she’ll have even more reason to help us.”

Captain Freeman kept trying to get through the two X-men. Professor Xavier lingered back with Cyclops and Phoenix. They all watched as Wanda confronted her father, her eyes glowing with hex energy.

“Please spare me that look, Wanda. It’s beneath you,” said Magneto in a flat tone.

“Destroying entire worlds is beneath you too. Or did you not learn that the first time?” she retorted.

“The circumstances have changed, as have I,” he told her.

“Bullshit! I know my father. He’s the one who taught me that people don’t change. Only their influences change. I don’t know what’s influencing you now, but the father I know is strong enough to overcome it!”

“Is that what you think is happening here?” scoffed the master of magnetism, “Oh Wanda. This is exactly why I concealed the truth from you and your brother. When you’ve lived as long as I’ve lived and seen the things I’ve seen, you understand why certain sacrifices must be made.”

Before Wanda could scold him any further, Magneto summoned his powers. With a simple hand gesture, the metal structure of the citadel then sprang to life and becoming viscous. Like a slithering liquid with a life of its own, the metal from the floor and ceiling shot out like tentacles. The metal tentacles wrapped themselves around Wanda and restrained in a grip so hard that it was difficult to focus her hexing powers.

“Errrrrrr! No father!” Wanda cried out.

“Vanda!” Nightcrawler exclaimed.

“Now are you ready to let me through?” grunted Captain Freeman.

“By all means,” said Magneto callously, “Join my daughter in her discomfort.”

More metal tentacles sprang out from the ceiling and floor. They quickly engulfed Nightcrawler, Beast, and Captain Freeman. Nightcrawler and Beast tried to use their agility to avoid it while the Green Beret attempted to fight through it. They were each successful. They quickly found themselves wrapped up in a liquid metal vice and suspended several feet off the floor.

Cyclops and Phoenix instinctively rushed to their aid. Cyclops reached for his visor, but a metal tentacle stopped him before he could reach it. He soon found himself surrounded and suspended a few feet off the floor along with Phoenix. She tried protecting herself and the Professor with her telekinesis, but once again her psychic strength was limited without the Phoenix Force.

“Ungh! Phoenix, use your telekinesis! Get us out of this!” the X-leader commanded.

“Hnn…trying,” she grunted, “Not strong enough! Need Phoenix Force!”

“Erik, stop this madness! Don’t make me stop it for you!” yelled Professor Xavier.

“You can’t, Charles. And you won’t,” said Magneto coldly, “Even without my helmet, you can’t break my mental shields. Not while you’re unable to focus, that is.”

Magneto clenched his fist, which tightened the metal grip on the Professor. It was so tight it was suffocating, putting him in too much discomfort to manage any psychic attack. It rendered him unable to reach his old friend or aid his ailing X-men.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!” the Professor yelled out.

“That’s enough, Magneto!” yelled Beast, “Even you wouldn’t-AHHHHHH!”

Magneto silenced Beast by tightening the grip on his metal restraints as well. That further dissuaded anyone else from lashing out. Magneto made it clear that he had no tolerance for obstructions. He had been ruthless before, but he always held back when dealing with his daughter or Charles. This time he made it clear that he was willing to put them in a world of pain in order to see his vision through.

While Magneto’s methods surprised and paralyzed the X-men, the High Evolutionary remained stoic. He didn’t even turn away from his monitor while they expressed their outrage. When he finally addressed the bound X-men, he shook his head in disappointment.

“I was hoping to avoid this. Unfortunately, having cosmic awareness means I’m rarely surprised,” sighed the High Evolutionary.

“I suppose it is my fault. I didn’t think they would be lucky enough to stumble upon the truth,” said Magneto as he ignored the pained cries of his daughter and his friend.

“Don’t blame yourself, old friend. If it makes you feel better, blame Vargas when this is over. For now, just keep them restrained. We’ll have to step up our time tables with the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters. I’ll tell Frenzy to push the Brotherhood a bit harder to finish the assembly.”

“Ve von’t let you succeed! Zhe rest of zhe X-men are still out zhere and zhy know your secret as vell!” grunted Nightcrawler as he struggled with his metal restraints.

“In a few short seconds they’ll wish they hadn’t,” said the High Evolutionary with an ominous grin, “You see, while you were yelling at Magneto I sent out a special signal to every one of my creations including the 999,999 newly minted mutants.”

“I take it that means you lied to them too!” grunted Cyclops.

“Only as much as is necessary,” he said smugly, “If you’ll recall, I’m a bit of a control freak. That means everything in my world is connected. Your friends are about to find out the hard way just how deep those connections are…if they survive long enough.”

Asteroid M – Sirius Lake



The area around Sirius Lake had quickly turned from a scenic paradise to a living nightmare. It changed very quickly for Storm, Warpath, Psylocke, Colossus, and Domino. Within moments of receiving a telepathic message from Emma Frost that exposed Magneto’s true plans, the once friendly former humans turned on them as if a switch had been flipped.

Now they were in a very difficult position. Every man, woman, and child that showed so much enthusiasm for becoming a mutant surrounded them around the shore of the lake. Their eyes had all turned purple, radiating with a similar glow to that of the High Evolutionary. It indicated clearly who was in charge. It also indicated that these people weren’t in control of themselves. That made fighting them problematic.

“Well, I guess this explains those peculiarities I was sensing,” groaned Psylocke as she watched every mutant around the lake surround them.

“Did you suspect it would cause these people to turn against us?” questioned Colossus.

“No, but in the future I’ll assume that any such anomalies mean some bloke has mind-controlled civilians in his back pocket!” grunted the psychic.

Pyslocke drew a pair of psionic blades while Domino drew her guns. There were hundreds of mutants at this lake, each with newly imbued powers. Fighting through them in a world already filled with a million new mutants wasn’t going to be easy.

“So much for those connections you mentioned, Colossus,” said Domino as she pointed her guns at the approaching mutants.

“Wait! Don’t shoot, Domino!” urged Storm as she forced her to lower her arms.

“And what? Wait for them to shoot first?” said Domino.

“They’re still civilians! They’re not in control!” she reminded them.

“She’s right!” said Psylocke, who was still doing telepathic scans, “They’re getting some remote psychic signal that’s controlling them.”

“Guess they didn’t read the fine print on their new powers,” muttered Domino, “So what do we do? Try to hide in a world that now has a million hostile mutants?”

“It might be even worse than that, Dom. Look!” said Warpath grimly as he pointed to the woods in the distance.

Storm, Psylocke, Domino, and Colossus quickly saw what he was referring to. From the trees, hoards of the alien animals that populated Asteroid M were emerging as well. They all bore the same ominous purple eyes as the mutants. It meant they would have to fight through more than just mutants to escape the danger.

“Ooh boy, I should have packed more bullets,” groaned Domino.

“So we have a world of mind-controlled mutants and animals ready to attack us,” Colossus summarized, “I don’t think there would be anything wrong with running in this instance.”

“Where do you propose we run?” questioned Warpath as everyone and everything closed in on them, “This isn’t our domain. This isn’t even our world. Even if we met up with the others, I’m pretty sure we’d be just as screwed!”

City X

“What the fuck is wrong with this place? Did something short-circuit?” exclaimed a former resident of Genosha.

“Why the hell are they turning on us?” exclaimed a former resident of District X as he tried to escape from a group of suddenly hostile former human.

“It’s not just them! Even the animals hate us now!” said another older mutant as he took cover inside a residence building.

“Ahhhh! Get ‘em away! Get ‘em away!” yelled a mutant woman as bird-like creatures with purple eyes relentlessly pecked at her head.

The city that held so much promise had turned into a war zone. It happened without warning. Every former human erupted in a homicidal rage, their eyes turning purple in the process. All the animals within the city from birds to bugs turned on them as well. Only the mutants who hadn’t been turned were unaffected. However, they were still vastly outnumbered and under siege in a city where they hoped to escape such conflict.

Only Isaac and the X-men understood the source of the conflict. Rogue, Gambit, Emma, and Wolverine ran for cover along with Isaac, Senyaka, and Mercury. They ended up behind one of the residence buildings near what looked like a trash collector. From there, they saw dozens of former humans randomly attack other mutants. They also saw large hoards of bird-like animals flying overhead and swooping through the city to attack anything that didn’t have glowing purples eyes.

“It’s official! I want off this rock. I was better off in school,” groaned Mercury.

“Now is a bad time to realize the value of a good education,” said Emma dryly.

“Whatever you X-men did, undo it right now!” ordered Senyaka.

“We ain’t doing shit!” barked Wolverine, “Someone else is pulling the strings here and those glowing purple eyes give a damn good clue as to who it is.”

“I knew that High Evolutionary fella was a total creep!” groaned Rogue.

“And looks like he be raising his bets. He’s throwing a whole dang world at us!” said Gambit as he saw more animals flying in.

This dire scene continued to unfold. Discovering the truth about Asteroid M had incurred the wrath of an entire world. The X-men were preparing to attack while Senyaka and Mercury were regretting having ever been caught up with this mess. It left Isaac the most vulnerable in many ways. He was the only normal human left on Asteroid M. He stood little chance of confronting this danger directly.

“Looks like we’ll have to claw our way back to Magneto and that purple-loving buddy of his!” snarled Wolverine, “I doubt Chuck and the others will be able to handle him on their own!”

“Us against the world was never supposed to be this literal, Wolverine,” said Emma dryly.

“Even Gambit ain’t big on stakes this high,” said Gambit.

“If you guys got a better idea, I’d love to hear it,” snarled the former living weapon.

“Actually, we’re already in the middle of one,” said Isaac, remaining calm despite the unfolding chaos.

Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, Emma, Senyaka, and Mercury all turned towards the charismatic holy man. He looked dead serious for a man in such a hostile domain and it wasn’t just because of his faith.

“I knew you had to have more of a plan than this, sugah,” said Rogue.

“Are you sure this human isn’t delusional?” grumbled Senyaka.

“No more than any holy man,” shrugged Emma.

“Delusion is the devil’s domain. I deal with much better company,” said Isaac, “I didn’t come here without support back on Earth. If you’re willing to listen, I can tell you what that support entails.”

“You don’t need to preach to convince us, bub. Whatever you’ve got, tell us now! We’re neck deep in Magneto’s shit and it’s only gonna stink more,” said Wolverine as he saw more angry purple-eyed creatures descending from the sky.

The X-men held off attacking, slipping further behind the residence building while the attacks outside intensified. Senyaka and Mercury stuck around, having few alternatives and no where else to hide. It was a dangerous situation and they would need more than God’s grace to get through it.

Asteroid M – Citadel

The High Evolutionary grinned as video images from all over his world streamed through his observation monitor. The wildlife outside the city was zeroing in on Storm’s team near Lake Sirius. Thousands of former humans were turning on Wolverine’s team within City X.

They were all overwhelmed and trapped, ensuring they wouldn’t interfere even if they managed to survive. Magneto remained indifferent while he kept the X-men and Wanda restrained within their metal confines. He made sure they also saw what was happening on the monitor so they understood just how unlikely a rescue would be.

“It appears your friends will be preoccupied for a good while,” said the High Evolutionary, “Certainly long enough for the transverse electromagnetic modulation thrusters to activate.”

“I wouldn’t assume that,” said Magneto sternly, “I’ve made the mistake of underestimating the X-men before. I’m not about to make it again.”

“Father, are you even listening to yourself? This is way beyond your usual arrogance!” yelled Wanda.

“Listen…to your daughter, Erik!” urged Xavier, who could barely breathe in his metal confines, “You need…to stop this…now! Don’t risk…losing your-UMF!”

Xavier was cut off as Magneto covered his mouth with metal. That dissuaded Wanda, Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Nightcrawler, and Captain Freeman from voicing any further dissent. Magneto made it clear that he was not going to listen. He was going through with this plan no matter what they thought.

“Thank you, Erik. My cosmic awareness doesn’t make me any less prone to annoying sounds,” said the High Evolutionary.

“We need to deal with this quickly,” said Magneto, “You know our deal. I’m not prepared to kill my friend and my daughter.”

“Nor would I ask you to,” assured the High Evolutionary, “But you are correct. We must deal with this. We’re forging a new world here and in order for it to prosper, we must maintain a proper level of control.”

“Does this mean you’ll do what I think?” asked Magneto.

“I’m usually a patient man. When a half-century of hard work is about to culminate, I’m compelled to make an exception.”

The High Evolutionary activated the computer on his wrist once more. This triggered a new round of activity from the machines next to the monitor. The commands he gave them earlier were overridden by more pressing orders. Within seconds, a metal panel on the side opened to reveal several vials of familiar-looking red liquid. It didn’t take long for Wanda, Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Nightcrawler, Captain Freeman, and Professor Xavier to figure out what he had in mind.

“I didn’t expect you to go along with my plan for the old world, but seeing as how you’re here you might as well contribute to this new world,” said the High Evolutionary, “And before you curse me, let me point out that you don’t have a choice in the matter.”

The X-men had to hold back their revulsions. There was nothing they could say. He and Magneto made it painfully clear. They were not taking any chances when they were on the brink of making a new world.

“Asteroid M is a monument to evolution,” the High Evolutionary went on, “That means the roles we play are simple. Either we adapt to the system or we perish. Since I’m in such a merciful mood, I’ll do the adapting for you.”

Up next: High Evolution Part 4

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