They were hovering over the masses.

Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, was seeing the sea of...

... not humanity ...

... slowly filter into the holding area. Although she wasn't sure 'holding area' applied to an area the size of five football fields.

She looked towards Tony, about fifty yards away. "I think this should be handled different."

The brief change in modulation was the only hint of the multiple levels of encryption Stark was channeling their conversation through. "They didn't give us any choice."

"They didn't choose to be mutants. To loose their powers..."

"... and one day get them back. Plus every other mutant who should have had their powers kick in at puberty suddenly find themselves very different one morning."

"The majority don't want to use their powers as per the SHRA."

"Some of them did."

"Some, Tony."

"Did you see the reports of that guy in Sacramento? He was filleted."

"That guy beat and raped a depowered mutant girl along with four of his buddies. I'm not exactly convinced his death was a great loss."

"There's a thing called a criminal charge."

"There's a reality known as any investigation regarding a mutant victim is almost certainly stonewalled, delayed and ignored. And that's if the cop assigned to it actually gives a rat's ass." She'd learned a few unpleasant truths with the X-Men.

"Carol, I was instructed to make sure that the mutants either waved the flag as duly registered superhumans ... or make sure the problem goes away."

"Did they say that?"

"They always make sure they never say anything directly like that."

Carol looked down at the herded, frightened beings below. All different sizes and colours, the only common denominator being the inhibitor collars giving off a dull glow. Dotted around were loudspeakers blaring out the responsibilities and the benefits of registration.

Once mutants had been declared enemy combatants under the SHRA, the hotlines had run at full capacity of people informing on the names and locations of mutants. It didn't take long to run most of the frightened, untrained but still defiant mutants up.

Carol glanced at the detachment of SHIELD operatives keeping an eagle eye on the captives and a finger on the trigger. "There has to be a better way than herding a large percentage of a vastly discriminated minority into a camp."

"They've been fed on anti-registration propaganda since Xavier."

"It doesn't help when you prove the propaganda right."

Stark looked at Carol. "Can I count on you Danvers?"

"Wha ... I ..."

"Can I count on you?"

"Wh ... yes, you can, Tony, I just ..."

"Then shut up and do your job."

Stark turned away from her and shut off his link.

Carol looked down at the captives below. Tony could be a complete ...

... the mutants were slowing their progress.

Looking at her.

No, past her.

Carol turned...

... the garish red and purple, a deliberate testimony to blood and vivid injury. The flowing cape. The red helmet.

Carol hit the alarm on her communicator.

"ALERT! Red alert!"

"Scramble, scramble-"

"Magneto! Initiate -"

Stark was right next to her, far enough from Carol to force Magneto to divert visual attention between the two, yet close enough to back her up. "Erik Lensherr! You are under-"

Psychologists stated that gesturing while using powers, although the process not requiring arm movement was purely an affectation. A habit.

However, Magneto, not even looking at Tony, raising his hand and idly drawing his fingers inward to his palm, was using it more as a dramatic statement.

The Extremis 'Virus' rebuilt Tony Stark's body to store the inner control undersheath of his armour inside his body, as well as directly link it to his brain and nervous system.

By the time Magneto was performing his artistic motion, the superconducting and structural metals outside and within Stark's body were tearing away and through his flesh.

Carol could still hear the screaming as the twitching red-and-gold figure fell towards the ground.

Suddenly, the pre-recorded messages on the loudspeakers stopped. And a more strident voice replaced them.

"Brothers! Sisters!"

The SHIELD personnel suddenly found their weapons, armour, equipment stripped away, and none too gently. Carol could hear a bone breaking even from her altitude.

"Once again the humans have offered us their jealousy! Their hate! Their fear!"

Carol gathered strength, and pushed herself towards Magneto, gathering all her power in one supersonic blow-

"They demand you show your gifts! Obey their whims! March under their banners and their laws and their unwavering contempt!"

- and bounced off a sphere of pure force.

"When you demanded the dignity that you deserve, they herded you into the slaughterhouse like cattle!"

Carol slowed her wild veering, and turned around for another attack. Okay, this guy had deflected attacks by Thor. Think differently Danvers, try to absorb his energy...

"The humans struck at you when you were weakest, and when you defended yourselves, they gave you the back of their hand and their brands on our necks!"

The sound of thousands of inhibitor collars tearing apart sounded like gunshots.

"I offer you, without reserve, your freedom!"

Carol approached...

"However, I ask ... I beg of you, your help."

... and the hardest metal object in the area slammed into the side of her head.

More exactly, the comatose body of Stark.

The two of them slammed into the muddy ground, turned to a swamp by thousands of feet.

Carol looked up, at the sea of once downtrodden, now hopeful, worshipful faces.

"The humans will come for us. They have learned a new trick these days; the comfort of the collaborator. You will be offered safety, and a role to play in fighting and murdering the men, women and children ... all standing beside you."

They looked at each other, at their children, huddled, frightened.

"They will offer words of praise while whispering behind your back, spitting in your food. They will even provide a warm, comfortable kennel."

The downtrodden fear was replaced by a growing righteous anger.

Magneto had waited.

He had waited until a large number of mutants were herded into the one spot, then showed up like the cavalry and saved them all.

Now the Brotherhood of Mutants, once a small terrorist group with a little sideline in mercenary work, was now a full fledged and fanatically motivated army and it was all thanks to the Super Human Registration Act.

"Will you allow yourselves to be leashed? And scrabble for the scraps in your cage?"

Magneto's voice took on a low, vicious edge.

"Or will you run with the wolves?"

Carol struggled to get up, with Tony's limp body.

She almost made it.