Rachel Grey turned her back on what was now left of the smoking Sentinel facility. She stayed behind the rest of the small group, her eyes now firmly planted on Omega Sentinel again. Karima hovered nervously ahead of them, while Rictor and Siryn supported each other as they staggered forward. Rachel glanced suspiciously at Thunderbird, who walked alone, consciously separate like Rachel herself, his own eyes never leaving Karima.

Karima was not human. Karima was not mutant. Karima was a Sentinel. But Charles Xavier had saved her. And then she was possessed by Malice.

So who was Karima Shapandar now?

It would be so easy for Rachel to reach forward and read their minds as they struggled up this grassy hill, away from yet another brush with death. So easy to discover if this was all an act, another ruse out to trick her. Only Karima had a defense strong enough to keep Rachel from her thoughts. Trust didn’t come easy to Rachel, but trust didn’t come easy to anyone.

“Listen,” Rachel said, her breath catching as she raised herself into the air. Her power wasn’t back to full strength yet, but she was managing. “If you all need a place to stay, I have somewhere, but I just want to say that we all know what this is about.”

Rachel paused as the other four took in her words, Karima alighting on the ground next to Neal.

“This isn’t just about the fact that there are more Sentinels out there,” Rachel continued, gesturing to the facility they had just destroyed. “This is about what we are. What we always will be. Mutants. Hunted. Hounded. Hated. Feared. People…” Again, Rachel’s eyes fell on the apprehensive Omega Sentinel. “Think we’re monsters.”

“We don’t need a spiel, Rachel,” Rictor retorted, spitting a bit of blood out of his mouth onto the grass. “We’ve heard it all before. Your parents were the ones that trained me, remember?”

“Then I think you need to hear it again, Rictor,” Rachel cut in. “Powers or no, people think we’re evil, twisted to the core. Looking at the X-Men right now, could any of us honestly disagree? Run by Emma Frost? My father missing? Filled to the brim with bad guys like Avalanche and Juggernaut? We need someone out there to help our people, not the X-Men’s version of the Thunderbolts who are only in this for themselves!”

“And why should any of you be trusted?” Thunderbird said angrily. “You were going to kill Karima!”

“No, that was you, Neal,” Rachel snapped back. “I’m the only reason she’s even still alive, right?”

Karima’s expression was lost in the gloom. Thunderbird looked away, seething as an uncomfortable silence fell over the five of them, the shiver of the night beginning to take hold as they stood still, until Theresa lifted the arm she’d had draped over Rictor’s shoulder as she stepped forward.

“Rachel…” Theresa began, glancing back at Rictor again. “It’s not that easy. Rictor and I, there’s something else we have to do.”

“Terry, tell me who else is going to do something here?” Rachel asked. “Everyone’s gone. We’ve all been through the mill, Terry, believe me, I get that. But I didn’t see the X-Men flying to our rescue. I didn’t see your friends in X-Factor fighting tooth and nail to get you out. We need to stick together. We need to do this. Because if we don’t?”

Rachel let her question hang.

“Then I know where it ends,” she said finally. “It ends like Cooperstown. It ends like Muir Island. It ends like the X-Men.”

Rachel let the fires of her Phoenix echo form the wings of a raptor once more as she outstretched her hands.

“We show them we’re not devils… or we’re all dead anyway…

Next Issue: The Fallen Angels pay a visit to the Xavier Institute. A dead woman rises from the grave. But is this familiar face a welcome friend or a deadly foe? And can the Angels survive long enough find out?