Gaia came running into the Cerebro Chamber with a newspaper headline. It said that Dr. Rao was due to make a public address at a press conference this afternoon in Battery Park. While the article was light on details as to what would be announced, the promised theme was mutations. Obviously she was going to be presenting her cure. I had no doubt that Magneto would pick this moment to strike. The X-Men would be there.
"I'm coming with you, Charles," Magdalena said.
"This isn't your fight Maggie. Eric and I have a lengthy history. This moment has been a long time coming."
"Don't be silly. You and I are bonded now. What concerns you concerns me. Of course I'm going."
I gave Maggie a hard stare. She returned it in kind. Her nose crinkled up in the cutest way. It was pointless to fight. The other members of the team met us in the hanger. Gaia, potentially the strongest X-Men was there, along with Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Beast and of course Wolverine. Storm and Cyclops were staring at each other with a barely contained hatred.
"Who leads this mission, Xavier?" Storm demanded in her most imperious voice.
"I do Ororo. You will be my lieutenants. Everyone, on the X-Jet."
In almost no time at all, we were above Battery Park. I could see that the press had already gathered and Dr. Rao was making her way to the stage. Scott set the X-Jet to stealth hover mode and our team descended.
As we moved through the crowd towards the podium I sensed a presence I had not felt in a long time. I tried to pinpoint it, but was blocked out by a powerful telepath. Then Dr. Rao walked out onto the stage to address the crowd.
"The reason why I called this conference today was to inform the people of the Earth that we have developed a cure for the plague of mutations. Starting today we shall cure - "
The doctor was cut off by shocked gasps erupting from the crowd. All eyes were focused on the form rising behind Dr. Rao. It was the Phoenix. And her costume was red.
"Jean! Where have you been?" I communicated to her telepathically.
"It's over, Professor. There is no way I can allow this cow to do this!"
Several dozen police were working security for the event. They all drew their hand guns and pointed them at Jean. Suddenly their weapons jerked forward out of their hands and flew out into the water. Magneto walked out onto the stage.
"It is time for mankind to recognize it's place," he intoned in a deep, forbidding voice. "Mutants are not an aberration. We are not a disease. There is no cure for us. We are the future and you are the past. You are all doomed. Mankind is dead!"
"Eric! Don't do this!" I implored.
"Please Charles, even you and your bleeding heart can't possible condone this cure."
"But Eric, if they have developed some way to repress the X gene then it is up to the individual mutant whether they want to use it or not."
"Nonsense. A mutant is a mutant from the moment he is conceived. Being a mutant is a right that cannot be revoked."
"People have right to choose!" I insisted.
"No! They have a right to be a mutant and be proud of who and what they are. They cannot take a leap back on the evolutionary scale."
"This ain't goin' no where," Wolverine growled.
He had Colossus pick him up and do that thing they are always doing. Logan hurtled at break neck speed towards Magneto, but with a mere gesture, Eric waved him away. The rest of the X-Men leapt to action.
Nightcrawler teleported onto Magneto's back and started to bang on his helmet. The grumpy old man in the crumpled suit next to Eric suddenly turned into Mystique. With one high round kick she sent Kurt flying back off the podium.
Sabertooth slammed into Colossus from behind, sending him sprawling onto his face. Storm and Cyclops started to move in towards Magneto but they abruptly stopped in their tracks and turned on each other. As they began to fight, I realized that Master Mind was distorting their perceptions, making them think they were each other's enemy. That didn't really take a big stretch.
Mystique jumped towards me but Maggie spun into a flying kick and knocked her back. As the two locked in deadly combat, I moved towards Eric. Jean, wrapped in flames and emanating pure evil, flew between us. I could sense no remorse or pity in her. No compassion. She had become a cold blooded killing machine, and I could see that she had turned her sights on me.
Jean raised her hands and two glowing balls of energy started to develop. I tried to reach her mind, get her stop, but she had an impenetrable barrier that I could not breach. Just as the balls of Phoenix Force fired at me, Gaia created a warp in space, sending the energy blasts a few feet behind Jean. The blasts slammed hard into her back, knocking her flat. She quickly scrambled up and moved to engage Gaia.
I moved on Magneto.