X-Men Mission: Fifth Column
|Dates run:||May 30 - June 1, 2009|
|Read the logs:||Fifth Column|
I have to get you two somewhere defensible and then get out there. This isn't over yet.
When a groundbreaking new university program for telepaths is threatened, the X-Men are drawn into a situation that is far more complex than they realize. Part seven of the Taygetos Arc.
Central European University in Budapest made a startling announcement that garnered instant media attention. After nearly two years of work in cooperation with the Hungarian Ministry of Education, it will be offering a one year MA in Psionic Studies, beginning in the fall semester. The goal is to train telepaths and empaths to apply their powers in certain very specific fields, including health and social services, teaching, humanitarian work, and emergency services (with the specific exception of police). The idea behind the new Center for Psionic Studies is that its graduates can go on to demonstrate just how socially valuable these mutations can be, which will hopefully be a small step towards reducing society's fear and suspicion of the psionic mutations.
The students had already arrived for an initial few weeks of orientation and seminars when the NBH (Hungarian intelligence) identified a major threat to the new Center. What appeared to be a Hungarian Preserver cell was planning to target it, to make a statement about how offensive they find the attempt to "make psis safe" in the eyes of society. Thanks to an informer, the NBH believed they'd identified most of the members of the cell, but their source claimed that all the Preservers involved were alpha-level mutants. With Hungary's own rapid-reaction mutant team not due to be operational until 2010, the Hungarian government asked the X-Men for assistance (based on their past dealings, plus the X-Men's previous experience with the Preservers).
Believing that this would be a largely straightforward operation, based on good intelligence (the NBH had done very well ferreting out mutant extremists for years, and the informer in question had worked with them for some time) and with support from the local authorities, a team of X-Men, including trainees, headed to Hungary to help take the Preservers into custody. The plan that was drawn up called for grabbing them all simultaneously, so that none of the terrorists could slip through the net. Consequently, the X-Men split up, each pair or small group supported by a team from Hungary's conventional anti-terrorism forces.
Unfortunately, the details of the planned attack were a lie; the trusted inside source had turned on them and was working with the Preservers - and with Zoltan Benedek, the state secretary from the Hungarian Ministry of Education who carried out much of the day-to-day work of setting up the Center. Benedek, a telepath himself, was outwardly devoted to his pet project and deeply concerned by the threat against it. Beneath the facade, however, his goal from the beginning was to set up a high-profile 'integration' project and then ensure it was destroyed by mutant militants, to make an entirely different kind of public statement. He was not a Preserver himself, but he and the terrorists shared a patron - Tara Trask, who was gearing up to take another crack at Hungary.
Since the Preservers were expecting the simultaneous raids, the X-Men found themselves faced with simultaneous ambushes. Ororo was taken out early, leaving Jean and Logan facing a Preserver counterattack; Angelo, Jennie, and Clarice managed to save the Hungarian officers accompanying them; Kurt and Monet faced the challenge of fighting side-by-side in a life-or-death situation; Amara lost control of her powers, and Zanne and Haller had to help her while responding to the ambush.
Back at the Center, the 'rear guard', composed of Nathan, Lil, and Forge, got the reports of the ambushes just as the actual attack on the Center happened. The telepathic contributed to confusing the attackers and buying themselves some time by working cooperatively with Nathan. Forge found himself facing Amber Hunt, and managed to trick her into charging up to near-maximum capacity, then physically connected her to a ground (myomer fiber from his arm) to drain her powers and incapacitate her for long enough to be taken into custody. But Trask was accompanying the attackers, and under her influence, the local security at the Center started to panic and overreact. She encountered Forge, exploiting his subconscious vulnerabilities, then did the same with Lil, goading her into attacking Nathan to buy herself time to escape. The attack on the Center was successfully repulsed, although not without casualties and significant damage to the building.
The X-Men regrouped, shaken. Although the quick thinking of the students at the Center and Ororo's decision to leave a rear guard behind prevented a total disaster, there were a number of casualties in the ambushes. While they were still taking stock of the day's events, Tanya Callery contacted her handler. Although she was kept out of the operation, she nevertheless managed to ferret out the information and join up with a very suspicious Trask in Budapest that morning (too late to give a warning about the ambushes). She discovered upon arrival that a second attack had been planned, taking advantage of the chaos caused by the first; the target is the parliament building. Although she knew that passing on the information, on top of showing up unexpectedly, would be the end of her cover, she made the decision that it was worth it.
The X-Men split into two teams - one on defense, one on offense. The defensive team backed up security at the parliament building, where they managed to catch Benedek sneaking in to 'scrub' his computer, and hand him over to the authorities. Meanwhile, the strike team caught the attackers about to leave the safehouse. In the subsequent fight, Callery was seriously injured when Trask fingered her as a traitor and the Preservers targeted her. Trask herself escaped thanks to Carly Alvarez's timely intervention, but Nathan hit his ex-comrade with the Trojan Horse and incapacitated her. Most of the Preservers and Trask's people were successfully taken into custody. The attack averted, the X-Men debriefed and then returned home with the thanks of the Hungarian government.
Trivia and Meta
Lil and Peter Lakatos flirted steadily both in the lead-up to the mission and while in Hungary. Though it never went anywhere, he sent her home with several bottles of palinka as a memento.
Ororo, in hospital while the second phase of the operation was taking place, was visited by T'Challa, who had indeed taken up the teaching offer he'd received shortly before the crisis in Wakanda.
The Hungarian police used inhibitors to control the powers of those who were taken into custody.