|Dates run:||October 3-November 13, 2006|
|Read the logs:||The Gates|
It's been six hours. This isn't the army running amuck out of fear anymore. The militants came too far out into the open, fighting back like that. It's not a challenge the government can just let lie.
Tensions between mutants and baseline humans are high in the wake of San Diego. In Prague, they boil over, and the Czech government sets into motion a series of events that lead to yet another tragedy.
After a stopover in the Czech Republic towards the end of August, Domino alerted Nathan to a high level of violence going on in Prague, particularly in and around a neighborhood called Smichov, which had over the past few years become a strongly pro-mutant community and the place many Czech mutants had chosen to call home. Violent anti-mutant groups were launching attacks inside Smichov, while militants from within the neighborhood carried out their own acts of violence elsewhere in the city. All of it appeared to be a reaction to the events in San Diego the previous month. Nathan, unsettled by the news, decided to keep an eye on the situation, setting up the Elpis newsfeeds to alert him of any breaking news from Prague.
Over the next few weeks, the violence continued, attacks bringing retaliation in a vicious cycle, the civilians of Smichov suffering the most as they found themselves being used as human shields. The Czech government finally decided to take steps, and ordered the construction of a security barrier around Smichov, to protect the inhabitants from outside attack and the rest of Prague from acts of violence launched from inside Smichov.
The decision immediately provoked concern at the UN and among the NGO community. Rollins used his connections to get Elpis invited to participate in the UN working group on the subject. Meanwhile, Medusa, who had become friendly with Nathan since her arrival at the mansion, was disturbed by the events in Prague and volunteered her assistance.
It soon became clear that Smichov was turning into the latter-day equivalent of an internment camp, and the international reaction intensified. At one meeting at the UN, where Nathan and Rahne discovered that the Red Cross was not being permitted to enter Smichov, a demonstration turned violent and the UN building itself was damaged. At another meeting he attended with Medusa, Nathan re-met Istvan Barath, Minister of Mutant Affairs from Hungary (and an old friend of Charles), who informed him that none of the civilians of Smichov had yet received security clearance to leave their neighborhood. He also informed Nathan and Medusa of rumors that shipments of food and medical supplies were not being permitted in. Soon thereafter, the Czech minister Syrovy, the man responsible for the construction of the security barrier, was assassinated while on a visit inside Smichov, and the situation only worsened.
Miraculously, however, Syrovy's successor recognized the intensity of the international reaction and agreed to permit four observer teams inside the wall to assess humanitarian needs within Smichov. The organizations chosen to participate in this assessment were the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International - and Elpis.
Nathan and his colleagues started to make preparations for their departure for Prague. Medusa approached Nathan about accompanying them; Nathan agreed, but arranged for her to travel under a different name, as the Czech Republic had been displaying a certain amount of hostility towards mutant-friendly nations like Attilan and Hungary. They departed on Halloween, on a charter flight to Prague arranged by Barath.
Inside Smichov, they found that the situation was as grim as expected. Nightly fighting between militants and the Czech military was ongoing, and the lack of supplies had led to often-violent looting. Rahne and Medusa visited the local medical clinic and met a doctor struggling to do his job despite critical shortages of supplies and drugs. Nathan, Angelo and Medusa visited the city councilor for Smichov, who told them about the looting and power outages and the increasingly repressive attitude of the military. They were shocked when soldiers showed up to arrest him in his apartment, with no explanation given.
Elpis continued their efforts to assess the situation, but when Nathan, Rahne and Angelo came across a spontaneous demonstration in a local park, Nathan was shocked to discover that among the attendees was Mystique. Immediately suspicious, he spent much of that night tracking her down, only to discover her at a militant meeting advocating non-violent resistance. He confronted her afterwards, but she stuck to that story, and they both had to quickly depart the area when a patrol passed by.
Upon returning to the hotel, Nathan (after defending his unannounced absence to an irritated and worried Angelo) immediately called the mansion, alerting Ororo to Mystique's presence inside the ghetto. The Professor immediately began reaching out to his contacts, even enlisting the help of the President in an effort to gain permission for the X-Men to go into Smichov and take Mystique into custody. Meanwhile, Medusa and Angelo visited a primary school and spoke to a teacher who tells them about a big unity rally being planned for two days hence, and Nathan and Rahne spoke to other Smichov residents about their experiences inside the wall.
Unfortunately, the Czech government eventually turned down the offer of 'specialized' assistance to remove Mystique from Smichov. Nathan insisted upon attending the rally - but by himself, leaving Angelo, Rahne, Medusa, and Juliette back at the hotel. For a time it appeared that the story of Smichov was going to have a happy ending, as the soldiers at one checkpoint stood aside and allowed civilians to exit freely. Unfortunately, someone higher up in the Czech military took umbrage, sending tanks to the checkpoint. A young mutant's accident with his powers led to those tanks opening fire, an act that received a swift response from mutants still inside Smichov. A pitched battle erupted, with television cameras looking on.
Inside Smichov, Nathan's group moved quickly to the medical clinic to offer their assistance. Soldiers arrived at the clinic looking for mutants, and when they identified Medusa as one, Nathan was forced to use his telepathy to alter their memories and send them on their way. When the fighting continued, Nathan and the others made the decision to head back out into the streets and do what they could with their powers. They evacuated civilians and offered medical assistance. Medusa found new and inventive applications for her hair, while Rahne made use of her enhanced senses while in wolf-form to locate people trapped inside a half-collapsed building. Angelo and Nathan had another confrontation with Mystique, but then had to turn their attention to evacuating a burning building. Angelo found himself in a difficult situation and had to force himself to overcome his fear of fire to rescue an injured boy, leaving Nathan, who was suffering a flashback, to find his own way out of the building.
Back at the mansion, the coverage of the events in Smichov drew a strong reaction from many staff and students, with many believing that the X-Men should have gone in despite the decision of the Czech government. (Mystique's involvement remained unknown except to the X-Men.) Many turned to volunteer work with the Red Cross to do what they could. Forge, in particular, was inspired to begin re-organizing HeliX.
In Smichov, Nathan and the others finally made the decision to make their way to the US embassy and leave Prague. They were retrieved by Moira's jet and spent one night on Muir before returning to the school. While escaping Smichov, they managed to bring the memory cards from their cameras and the cassettes from the camcorders. What was supposed to be part of the NGO assessment has now turned into evidence.
Trivia and Meta
As a result of their participation in the UN working group and their contributions in Prague, Elpis earned a certain amount of respect from others in the NGO community who had previously regarded the brand-new organization with some suspicion.
The idea for 'The Gates' came originally from one of the OOC song-title memes. The plot as it was run was the second version of the plot; in the first, the X-Men were given permission to enter Smichov. For various reasons that became too difficult to plot, so an alternate ending emerged.