That was the word that best described that day. The day the Scarlet Witch said enough, the day she said, "No more mutants."
'M-Day', as it would come to be known, was one of the most infamous days in the history of mutantkind. Few knew the cause, that Wanda Maximoff of an alternate timeline had done this in grief, and those that did were unprepared for the result of Wanda's words. In an instant, the world's mutant population was reduced from millions to a mere few hundred, through a mass worldwide depowering. Some would rejoice at losing the deformities and burdens they had been cursed with. Others fell into depression from losing what they felt had made them special. And there were some that were less fortunate, and were unable to cope or even survive with what remained of their inhuman forms. But whatever the eventual sentiment, the initial reaction amongst all mutants was one of panic.
It was the Xavier Institue for Higher Learning, home of the X-Men and the near two hundred mutant students they taught that was truly hit hardest.
Chaos erupted immediately. Students cried out for their lost powers and compared who among them had and had not retained their mutations.
Headmistress Emma Frost was among the first to know of the depowering. As soon as the so-called 'House of M' timeline ceased and reality reverted back to its original state, Emma found herself standing on the institute's lawn, feeling somewhat disorientated. She was vaguely aware of her other life, but for now, it was like a dream, a dream from which she awoke into a nightmare.
Her disorientation quickly washed away as her mind was bombarded with the panicked thoughts for hundreds of young mutants, crying out for help.
"No," Emma uttered as she finally recalled the Scarlet Witch's words. But before she could properly conceive the true gravity of the situation, she heard a scream.
"HELP! SOMEONE HELP ME!"
"Please, God, no!" Emma sprinted back towards the school, praying that her hunch would not prove true. As she entered the school, she was horrified to find that it was. Students were running, screaming, terrified. But Emma was the headmistress and she needed to put the students at ease.
"Everyone, stay calm!" she commanded, but few students noticed she was even there in their blind panic. She would have to try a little louder. "Everything... uhhhhn... is going to be alright." Emma struggled to maintain her focus from the sheer volume of mental activity she was picking up. She struggled to push through the students' thoughts to make telepathic contact with her protégés, the Stepford Cuckoos.
"Too loud. Make it stop," the trio pleaded as one. Although incredibly talented telepaths in their own right, the girls were not nearly as well trained as Emma and had more trouble keeping the screams out, which Emma herself, though she loathed to admit it, was barely able to cope with herself.
Emma needed to reach Cerebra to see the full extent of what the Scarlet Witch had wrought, but it was no easy task. Emma put a student or two to sleep to keep them from harming themselves and others. By the time she made it into the institute's basement, the strain of the situation bore heavily on her psyche and Emma could feel a warm trail of blood trickling down from her nose. As she staggered down the hall, leaning against the wall for support, Emma could sense the thoughts of the students that realised they had lost their powers.
Dallas Gibson. Jessica Vale. Sarah Vale. Sofia Mantega. Melody Guthrie.
Emma could feel the whole spectrum of emotions, from fear to joy to anger to denial. She felt like she had never experienced so many thoughts at once on this scale. Thoughts were easy enough to process when they were calm, but this was overwhelming.
Danielle Moonstar. Mark Sheppard. Callie Betto. Andrea Margulies. Noah Crichton.
She did what she could to co-ordinate the X-Men to where they were most needed. Hank was able to prevent Melody from plummeting to her death trying to fly, but Logan was unable to save Noah from drowning in the school's swimming pool.
David Alleyne. Lazaro Kotikash. Aurelie Sabayon. Frida Rivera. Brian Cruz.
Emma struggled to keep it together as she reached the spherical chamber that housed Cerebra. she cried mentally. She was relieved to hear her response from behind almost immediately.
"Miss Frost?" the three girls said as one. "I'm dying. Make it stop."
Emma slammed her hand down on the door controls, prying the doors open herself as she found the automatic process to be much too slow, and found the interior of the chamber awash in a fiery red warning light. She quickly crossed the bridge of the spherical chamber to the console where Cerebra's interface helmet rested as a computerised voice gave her a concise explanation of what was happening.
[Mutant population anomaly. Re-estimating population. 91.4% decrease compared to prior data.]
"Damn you, Pietro," Emma cursed, recalling Quicksilver's role in the whole 'House of M' event. Fortunately, if the school was any indication, 'No more mutants' did not mean mutants would start dropping dead en masse; but rather, lose their powers and physical mutations. Regardless, the students' thoughts were too much for her, let alone the Cuckoos. "Help me, girls. All at once." With a quick mental explanation, the Three-in-One obeyed.
"SLEEP!" The four psychics broadcast a telepathic command that rendered the entire student body unconscious on the spot.
Although her head still felt like it was being beaten to a pulp by the Juggernaut, Emma felt a great weight being lifted as the students' thoughts ceased to invade her mind. Finally, Emma could clear her mind enough to think. And even without looking into their minds, Emma could tell that the Cuckoos felt the same.
"Thank you, my girls," Emma panted.
"Not... your girls. Never... yours," the trio replied, though seemingly lacking the energy with inject much venom into their words. "Wh-What's happening?"
"We've become an endangered species," Emma replied grimly. "Please return upstairs and help co-ordinate the staff while I... try and figure this all out."
Wordlessly, Celeste, Irma and Phoebe did as they were asked, leaving Emma alone in the chamber.
Once the three teens had left, Emma placed a hand on Cerebra's console for support as she wiped the blood from her nose with her other, turning her attention to allies outside of the institute, in particular, her former students. Those she hadn't failed to protect anyway. As the faces of those she cared for flashed through her mind, one face in particular brought her train of thought to a screeching halt.
"Jonothon. My God."
Jonothon Starsmore was a young British mutant that had been under Emma's tutelage as part of the team Generation X, operating under the codename Chamber. Jono was the poster child for mutations being harmful to the mutants afflicted with them; his body naturally produced and stored a vast amount of psionic energy. When his powers had first manifested at age eighteen, the energy had been far too much for his body to handle, and had exploded from within, completely destroying his chest, internal organs and lower jaw in the process. The energy itself was able to sustain Jono's life, eliminating the need to eat to survive, but he had to cover the blazing furnace in his abdomen at all times, doing nothing for his self-confidence. If he lost the ability to produce that energy...
Snatching up Cerebra's headgear and forcing it down around her head, Emma began her mental search of the globe for her student. She had lost so many students in the past; the Hellions, Everett, Angelo, Sophie and Esme, and now Noah. Even Sean, her partner at the Massachusetts Academy was gone. She couldn't bear to lose any more students. Any more family.
Despite the thousands upon thousands of frantic and panicked thoughts she sifted through, the world had never seemed so quiet. There were so few mutants left in the world, no more than a few hundred. She knew Jono's psionic energy signature very well, having spent such a long time under the same roof back in Massachusetts, which made it considerably easier to track him down.
Eventually, she found him under the Brooklyn Bridge, where he had been on a mission, operating undercover within the Weapon X program. She could see him in her mind's eye and what she saw made her blood run cold. Jono was lying spread-eagle on the scorched earth around him, gaping hole where his chest should be, and none of that familiar fiery energy remaining.
"Jono... Oh, God, Jono..." Warm tears rolled down Emma's petrified cheeks as she saw yet another of her students dead. Dead because she couldn't save him. Half of Generation X was gone now and it was only a matter of time before another one joined them. Who would she fail to save next? Jubilee? Monet? Paige?
Emma's eyes shot open as she heard Jono's voice in her mind. He was alive, but just barely. He had no hope of survival if not tended to immediately. A quick scan of the upstairs showed that the faculty had mostly gathered together, a few taking a quick headcount of the sleeping students. The panic had mostly calmed down, meaning they could risk sending someone.
"Scott? Scott, I need you right now."
Even in his head, Scott could hear the frantic hurry in Emma's voice. "Emma? What is it?"
"It's Jonothon. He's alive, but he won't be for long if we don't help him immediately."
"I understand your concern, Emma-" Before he could even finish that thought, Emma knew what he was going to say; that they needed everyone at the mansion to keep the students safe and find out the scope of what was happening.
"No you do not understand how I feel, Scott. Jonothon is dying; I can feel his life slipping away and you sent him on that mission to infiltrate Weapon X and you're going to go and bring him home."
"NOW!" Scott reeled from Emma's psychic scream and struggled to regain his composure.
"What is it, Scott?" Hank asked concernedly.
After taking a moment to fully recover, Scott answered. "Emma's found Chamber, Hank. He's been depowered too."
Hank's eyes widened as he realised the implication. "Prep the blackbird. I'll get some equipment ready."
As Hank rushed off to his lab, Scott began issuing orders to the rest of the team. He left Kitty Pryde in charge to maintain calm and explain what they knew to the students, while Logan would join him in rescuing Jono. He asked Emma to work with the Cuckoos to keep the students calm as they awoke, which she did, but her mind kept drifting back to Jono. She could feel that Jono knew he was dying and she had to be there for him in case... in case Scott and Logan couldn't make it in time.
She created a projection of herself in his mind, appearing beside him for comfort. She took his hand in hers and told him it would be okay. For a brief moment, he thought she was an angel. She couldn't help but smile at that.
Emma had always felt that there was a line drawn between herself and her students, despite her best efforts. It wasn't necessarily her past with the Hellfire Club. It was perhaps her attitude in teaching them. Emma had always been harsh, but only because she wanted to be sure her students would be ready, unlike her first team, the Hellions. But despite her best efforts, she had still had students die under her protection. She was still a failure as a guardian.
"It's not... your fault..." Jono assured her weakly as he grasped her hand tighter. It seemed she had left her mind completely open for a moment, allowing Jono a glimpse into her safely-guarded neuroses even without his own telepathy. "Ev and Angelo... don't blame..." Jono fell silent.
"Jonothon? Jonothon!? Jonothon, stay with me!" Emma pleaded as she felt her student's life dwindling down to nothing. "Jonothon, I order you, as your teacher, to keep fighting just a little while longer. Help us to save you. Please."
There was no response for what felt like an eternity, before Emma heard the word "okay" from Jono's mind. Emma smiled gratefully, trying to hide the fact that she was crying.
There was a loud rumbling as the ground shook and a fierce wind blew through the area as the x-jet hovered overhead before touching down. The cargo ramp lowered and Logan hurriedly pushed a large pod-like device down towards the boy. Scott soon joined him and the two carefully lifted Jono up and placed him inside the pod, which sealed up after him.
According to Hank, the device would place Jono into a state of cryogenic stasis and keep him stable until they could get him proper medical attention, which in light of recent events, could take some time. Regardless, Emma let out a sigh of relief, knowing that she wasn't about to lose another student.
With Jono frozen, Emma latched onto Scott's mind to keep up-to-date on the situation. "It's okay now, Emma," Scott reassured her after sensing her in his mind. "Jono's safe. Logan's putting in a call to Midtown Hospital. He'll stay there until he's fit to be moved, then we'll see about transferring him somewhere better-equipped to handle him. In England maybe."
"England? Scott, I'd be much more comfortable if he was-"
"At the institute?" Scott interrupted. "Emma, we can barely cope with the students we have now. And with mutant numbers dwindling, we're going to become a target now that we're so vulnerable. The institute is the last place he needs to be right now."
Emma took a moment to take in Scott's words. She sighed in exasperation, knowing he was right. "I'm sorry, Scott. I wasn't thinking straight."
"It's okay, Emma. I know how difficult this all is. But right now, I need you focused on the students back home. They need your guidance."
"You're right. I'll... I'll do that. And Scott, Logan? Thank you."
"Of course, Emma."
"Don't mention it."
Emma removed Cerebra's helmet and let out one last deep sigh, releasing her stress and anguish as she did so. She turned and left the chamber, finding that the Cuckoos were waiting for her, most likely having sensed her little breakdown. While she would have preferred to keep that just between herself and Jono, Emma found some solace from knowing that the girls did still care about their 'mother'.
"Come along, girls. This is still a school and we have a certain level of calm and order to maintain. And with everything that's happening, we need those things now more than ever."
It's funny how you can plan a simple short story and then come up with ideas for how to extend it. In this case, the idea was for a single chapter, but I have ideas involving the rest of the surviving Generation X cast, so I'll be coming back to this in the future.
I love Generation X. I tend to find that the X-books about the teen mutants tend to be my favourite comics (see also New X-Men, whose 20th issue the first half of this chapter draws directly from). Chamber was always my favourite member of the team and I hate to see how much potential they waste with him, like that whole Apocalypse body phase.
The idea for this story came to me as I realised something with the story following M-Day. Chamber obviously needs swift medical attention from the X-Men to not die from the gaping hole in his chest. The two X-Men that go to save him are Cyclops and wolverine, the two most notable members of the mutant community aside from arguably Charles Xavier and Magneto. So why would those two go so quickly when there are hundreds of students at the mansion that need looking after? Because Cyclops' girlfriend is Emma Frost.
Since Emma's first team, the Hellions were killed, a major part of her characterisation has been her intense protectiveness with regards to her students. It occurred to me that it made perfect sense that right away, she would think of Jono and dread the possibility of him losing his powers too, prompting her to demand that Scott leave to save Jono immediately.
I started writing this story back in early July, but had to hold off on it while I waited for a few trades to arrive so I could keep everything consistent (yeah, I'm really obsessed with consistency). Those trades were:
*New X-Men: Childhood's End, which details Emma and the institute's reactions to M-Day.
*Generation M, whose first issue details the state Jono is found in after losing his powers.
*New Excalibur Vol. 2, whose 9th issue details what Jono was up to before and after M-Day.
But now it's done and I can move on to the second chapter after I take a break. And going back to my first comment, even something as simple as a description can quickly grow out of hand like this.