Mike Carey (ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR) and Chris Bachalo (UNCANNY X-MEN) take over the X-Men, or at least what’s left of them! As old threats are still having their effects, new, more deadly threats emerge from the unlikeliest of places. Threats that spell doom for the X-Men. Plus, what could possibly strike terror into the heart of...Sabretooth!? And who are The Children? This is the book you’ve been waiting for! A perfect starting point for any new reader!
Nogales, Mexico, twenty-four hours ago. Victor Creed, better known as Sabretooth, covered in various cloaks and wearing a wide-brimmed hat rushes past a beggar woman and a little girl. Creed looks at the woman and tells her not to bug him, as he is having a bad enough day already, before rushing past her and telling her to ‘Get that rug rat out of my face’. Entering a tavern, Creed goes over to the bar and sits alongside a man in a stripped jacket. Turning to the bar tender, Creed asks for a drink, before turning to the man in the stripped jacket and exclaiming ‘Some time around now would be good for me. Good for you, too’. The man in the stripped jacket doesn’t look up from his drink, just says ‘Must be a cold day in hell, Creed’, before motioning to all the marks on Creed’s face, and asking what the other guy looks like.
‘Flap that mouth at me again, Tomas, and you’ll find out!’ Sabretooth replies, before asking Tomas if he has his route. Tomas passes across to Creed some paper, and tells him to the Dragoons, West of Chiricahua, where he can cross into the United States at Setter’s Point. As Creed gulps back his drink, Tomas informs him that there is a twin-engined Cessna on a private strip there, and that it is booked in with ATC as a tourist flight. Creed asks if his stuff is in the bag, to which Tomas replies ‘Sure, everything you left me with’ and assures Creed that he didn’t touch a thing.
Sabretooth leans into Tomas and snarls ‘Better now have. Or I’ll be back to kiss your kid goodnight!’ Sabretooth grabs his bag and rushes off. Tomas, sweating, asks the bar tender for another drink, and one for himself. The bar tender thanks Tomas, and asks if this is a special occasion. ‘Special? I suppose so. I just saw fear in the eyes of the most dangerous man I ever met! Whatever it is he’s running from - may it fly over our heads and meet someone else!’
Elsewhere, at the Fordyce Clinic, three of the mutant super hero team known as the X-Men, are thrown through a window, and land with a pile of rubble several feet below on the ground. The invulnerable Rogue sits up, and using her radio communicator tells Beast that this is not exactly going according to plan. Beast radios back and asks what Rogue means, also wanting to know why she is coming in on voice, is Emma out of range? Rogue looks at her teammates, Emma “The White Queen” Frost and Scott “Cyclops” Summers, and tells Beast that they are both down.
Rogue remarks that it may say “hospital” over the door, but the guys inside are psi-shielded and armed for bear. Rogue then asks Beast if he is sure that there is a mutant in here. Dr. Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast replies that Cerebra was sure, but that the trace was very faint. He then asks after Iceman and Cannonball. Rogue replies that last she saw, Bobby and Sam are still inside holding their own. Looking up to where a Sentinel is standing, Rogue exclaims ‘Don’t suppose you wanna take a position on any of this, mister huge tin solider?…Didn’t think so!’ Rogue mutters that it is down to her now, and Hank asks her what she has in mind. Taking off one of her gloves, Rogue briefly touches Scott and Emma on the face, as the Beast tells Rogue not to do anything rash.
‘Perish the thought! I’m a good girl now!’ Rogue exclaims, before re-entering the Fordyce Clinic, blasting at the soldiers inside with her temporary optic blasts which she borrowed from Cyclops. A doctor exclaims ‘One of them’s still standing!’ and calling to the soldiers Chiba and Vincent, he tells them to give her another burst, as Pan said to delay them as long as they could. One of the soldiers begins blasting Rogue, ‘We’ve got your number, mutie. We’ve had dozens like you come through here!’ he exclaims. Another of the soldiers adds ‘Yeah, and they all look tough until you get them laid out on a lab table!’
Rogue uses the power she absorbed from the White Queen to transform into diamond, and tells the soldiers that perhaps they could help her with a question. ‘What happens when you refract two force beams like the Devil’s own headlights - through solid diamond?’ Rogue does just that, blasting through her diamond hand, the two optic beams become many and splash all around the room, cutting through everyone and everything, even a fish tank. One of the soldiers remains standing, but grips his wounded arm. ‘Now we know.’ Rogue exclaims.
Elsewhere inside the Fordyce Clinic, Sam Guthrie a.k.a. Cannonball blasts his way through walls, followed quickly by founding member of the X-Men Bobby “Iceman “Drake. ‘You think someone’s gonna bill us for all this property damage?’ Iceman asks. ‘Right now, Bobby, I don’t give a spit!’ Cannonball replies, ‘Not when I see what was being done here!’ he exclaims, motioning to all the tanks and beds around the lab. Bobby picks up some reports and asks what the deal is here. ‘I’m guessing this isn’t exactly a tanning clinic?’ Tapping into a computer, Sam replies ‘Not hardly’ and explains that these guys were splicing mutant DNA into viruses and then infecting baseline human subjects, trying to find out whether you can catch mutation like a disease.
A soldier sneaks up behind Cannonball, only to get a blast of solid ice in the face, courtesy of Iceman. ‘Well, I’ve thought about donating my body to science. But probably not until after the weekend!’ Iceman jokes, while Cannonball goes over to a table where a young woman is lying, tubes attached all over her body, Sam remarks that he reckons this is who Cerebra picked up - Regan Wyngarde a.k.a. Lady Mastermind! Sam supposes that Cerebra’s trace was faint because Lady Mastermind is in a coma. Bobby motions to where another being is strung up to the wall, and remarks that it looks like they’ve got another live one too. ‘I mean, maybe. Partly. It’s hard to tell!’
Entering the lab, Emma exclaims ‘Why did I wake up with a hangover, Rogue? Care to tell?’ Rogue explains to Emma that she took some liberties with her prostrate body, and assures her that ‘didn’t make me any happier than it makes you!’ Cyclops turns to Cannonball and asks them what they have here. ‘One comatose mutant. One something else. And a lot of spare parts’. Emma remarks that it is a pity the building was so badly damaged in the fire-fight, to which Sam puts on his goggles and exclaims that it will probably stay in one piece until they can get all these people out. ‘After that - I wouldn’t give it a New York minute’
Back in Nogales, two beings walk like ghosts through the town, and the woman remarks that hormonal gradients rise here. ‘Definitely him, but adrenaline drops and acetylcholine rises by 18%’. Passing the young girl, they enter the tavern, and the grey-skinned male remarks that it means he was here, and that he lingered. The woman tells them man that he was right, that Creed is trying to slip across the border into the United States. The grey-skinned man asks if he spoke to anyone, and addressing her companion as Sangre, the woman replies that it isn’t easy to say, but that he say at the bar long enough to shift his weight several times.
Motioning to the sleeping Tomas, the woman points out that Creed touched him on the shoulder. Sangre declares that is all they need to know, and beckons his companion to come, adding that he will sterilize the area, and drops a spherical object on the ground. The woman is surprised, and Sangre exclaims that it is a singularity generator, and that two-pico seconds ought to give them a wide enough radius. The woman agrees, but remarks that it is a shame though. Sangre asks how, to which the woman replies ‘Because - I suppose - I remember…’ her voice trails off. ‘What?’ Sangre asks. ‘Nothing’ she replies, before crouching down beside the young girl.
The black-clad woman touches the girl on the head, and the girl, though she cannot see the mysterious woman, seems to feel something. Sangre realizes that his companion lent the girl a shield, and asks if it was a sentiment. ‘Of course not. It was misdirection’ the woman replies, remarking that the primitives will look for an explanation as to what happened here. ‘Now they will look somewhere else’. With that, a black cloud embraces the area behind the young girl.
Meanwhile, at the Xavier Institute, Westchester, New York. ‘Just when I think I have some understanding of how far sadism and hatred can go - something like thishappens!’ exclaims Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin as Lady Mastermind and the unknown being are wheeled past him on infirmary beds. Cyclops assures Colossus that they all feel the same way, before telling Iceman and Cannonball to get them down to the lab before any of the children see them. ‘Shouldn’t they be in a hospital?’ someone asks. ‘We rescued them from a hospital!’ Emma exclaims.
Scott turns to Rogue and asks if she has any ideas on who was behind this. Rogue informs him that one of the guys she floored mentioned someone named Pan, or perhaps Pam, but it is not a whole lot to go on. Scott mentions that they brought back some intact hard-drives, and hopes that they can give them a lead, before thanking Rogue, and telling her that she did good. ‘Although personally, I could have done without the laying on of hands!’ Emma snaps.
Suddenly, Charles Xavier walks up behind his former students, asking Cyclops if he could have a word. Scott is surprised that the Professor is still here, to which Xavier replies ‘For the moment, yes’. Charles asks Scott if he is really going to overlook Rogue’s reckless use of her power and the injuries she caused to non-combatants. ‘Overlook it? I already commended her! It was a good call in a very tight corner!’ Scott exclaims. Professor X tells Scott that in all honesty, the ethos of this school doesn’t allow - ‘Honesty, Professor?’ Cyclops asks, interrupting his former mentor. ‘Now that would be an interesting experiment!’ With that, Scott continues to follow his lover Emma, as Xavier calls to Emma, asking her to make Scott see - ‘What? Your good intentions? He’s what you made him, Charles. They’re all what you made them!’ Emma tells Xavier that he doesn’t get to change his mind when he sees what he has made. ‘Only God has the prerogative’.
Elsewhere…at the Dragoon Mountains on the U.S. - Mexican Border. Sabretooth is huddled by a small fire, and sniffs when he detects the arrival of two people. ‘You’re an animal, aren’t you, Creed? A trapped animal, looking for a way out the snare!’ a being with a body seemingly made of fire exclaims. ‘Don’t bother. There isn’t one!’ exclaims a young girl with fabulous blonde hair, before unleashing some sort of blast on Sabretooth, who leaps from the ledge he was huddled on, and lands with a crunch on the ground. Creed asks the girl what she did to him and why he cannot heal. The fire-being explains that their weapons propagate in ways that he will not be able to imagine, and tells Creed that he is only delaying the inevitable.
Holding a small device in his hand, Sabretooth smiles, and exclaims ’Stay away from me, freaks! Swear to God, I’ll take us all down!’ Indeed, Creed stays good to his word and presses the button on the device, causing a massive explosion. The blonde girl puts herself and the man she addresses as Fuego in a shield, telling her associate that he messed it up, she asks if Creed is dead. Fuego replies that he isn’t reading heat from anything as big as a man, but that there is enough rock around here to shield him. The girl suggests that Sabretooth might have hit the river alive, and Fuego points out that it will carry him out of range quite quickly, so that is a good place to start, adding that if they lose him, they will try a different tack. With that, the girl carries herself and Fuego off the ledge in a bubble, unaware that Sabretooth is clinging to the underside of the ledge. ‘Death is no less certain - for being postponed a little while!’
Back at the Institute, Cyclops and Rogue watch and listen as the Beast examines the mysterious being they rescued. The Beast reveals that her name is Karima Shapandar and that she was one of Bastion’s Omega Sentinels. ‘Reassembling her is quite the educational experience!’ Hank exclaims, to which Scott asks him if he thinks it is safe to have her here. Beast assures his dear friend that Karima broke her programming, despite her appearances, she is as human as either of them. Rogue remarks that it still leaves her a lot of wiggle room, before Scott asks her if she has given any thought to his suggestion. ‘A rapid response unit, with you leading it, no teaching commitments, no duties here. Just deal with situations like this’ he exclaims.
Rogue agrees that she isn’t denying the need for a team like that, and asks why her. ‘Because you take risks. Because you’re hard to predict’ Scott replies, adding that because unlike the Professor, he can see the difference between recklessness and inspired improvisations. Rogue asks if she would be able to pick her own team, to which Scott replies that of course she can, and that he knows losing Remy has hit her hard, so he will understand if she says no. ‘Didn’t lose him, Scott. We’re just - he just made a wrong choice, is all’ Rogue replies, before assuring Scott that she is going to be here when Gambit comes back, so she will take him up on his offer.
Rogue informs Cyclops that she will take Iceman and Cannonball, and Mystique too. This surprises Scott, and reminds Rogue that she herself was against Mystique staying here, and that when Raven took the X-Men up on their offer of sanctuary, it was she who warned them that she could never be trusted. Beast smirks, and exclaims ‘If you wanted to take this conversation out into the hallway, Scott, I’d miss you, but I’d cope’. Rogue tells Cyclops that is the reason she has to be the one to watch Mystique, for sooner or later, she is going to try to stick the knife in someone, ‘And I’ll be there to break her arm and make her swallow it!’ Scott begins to tell Rogue that he doesn’t think that is a good basis for her making her mother a teammate, when suddenly there is a very loud sound that comes from outside. ‘Wonderful! I might as well operate out of a rail way concourse!’ the Beast exclaims.
‘You are trespassing on secure premises. Raise your hands where I can see them! Or you will restrained by force!’ one of the Sentinel Squad exclaims as the large Sentinel stands before Sabretooth, who has taken one of the members of The 198 who also stand near the Sentinel as a hostage. ‘By force? Don’t you people recognize a hostage when you see one?’ Creed asks, before asking the Sentinel Squad operative if they really want to blow this innocent bystander into dog-meat. ‘SABRETTOTH!’ exclaims one of the X-Men as Rogue, Iceman, Cannonball and Cyclops arrive on scene. Cannonball tells Sabretooth that he must be insane to think he could just walk in here and kill them in their sleep.
Calling Cannonball “Cornpoke”, Sabretooth declares that what he thinks is that they better call off their government-issue dogs - ‘Unless this kid has the mutant power of growing back her face!’ Cannonball turns to the Sentinel and exclaims ‘You heard him, better back off!’ ‘I don’t take orders from you, mutant!’ the operator of the Sentinel calls back. ‘I said, back off!’ Sam exclaims angrily. Rogue reminds Sam that with Sentinel armor, he will just hit it and bounce. Sam thanks Rogue for reminding him, ‘you seen me on a pool table, right?’ he asks as he begins blasting towards Sabretooth.
At the same time, Iceman creates an ice-sled and slides down to rescue the girl, telling her not to worry and joking that she just needs to check the safety instructions in her seat pocket. Cannonball stands over Sabretooth who lies crumpled on the ground, and Rogue, reading her flame powers, tells Sabretooth that if he makes one more move, she will burn the flesh off his bones. ‘Easy, sister! I didn’t come here to start a fight!’ Sabretooth claims. ‘No? What did you want? A cup of sugar?’ Rogue replies.
Sabretooth sits up and tells the X-Men that he heard about some kind of offer that they had on the table. ‘A safe haven for all the poor mutants still out there in the big bad world. Sanctuary. No questions asked. So I thought I’d get me a piece of that!’
Meanwhile, in Nogales, Now. Rescue workers all go about their duties in the wake of the recent destruction. A reporter explains that this scene of wide-spread devastation is made even worse by the uncertainty about what actually happened here. ‘Was this a terrorist attack? A natural disaster? Experts and authorities are at a loss’. The reporter remarks that only one fact is clear - an entire city block was demolished within a second, and the only survivor is this little girl, found wandering at the edge of the crater. A rescue worker sits with the little girl, who speaks in her native language, which translates to ‘They threw a ball, and then everything was gone’.
The reporter asks the young girl if she saw who did this, to which the girl replies what is translated to ‘No, but an angel whispered in my ear’. The little girl says something else - something with “X-Men” in it, and a concerned reporter turns back to the camera and announces ‘She said the X-Men did it….’.