The Uncanny X-Men #438
- Blink, Strong Guy, and Cannonball stood by the country road while Forge looked at the car they had left behind there the previous day. (1)
"I thought you said you'd modified it," Sam said, arms crossed, "didn't help us any against that zombie Sentinel's gun "
"I did," Forge said, wiping at his forehead and smearing oil across it, "but I added a learning matrix that would allow the old Rolls to change itself based on whatever it experienced. It hasn't actually seen any action since I modified it, so it's still at its basic configuration."
"Can it turn into a giant robot now?" Guido asked.
"No," Forge said, then paused. "Well maybe. If it decided that that was the best option in the situation based on previous data collected. It's based on an old algorithm I tinkered with years ago for a government project. I discarded it when I saw `Terminator.'"
"That's reassuring," Blink said.
"Anyway, there's no serious structural damage," Forge declared, "and it's already begun healing itself. If you see any pieces of it somewhere, we'll want to give it back to it can use it."
"It's like those other new Sentinels we fought," Cannonball said, "the ones who took any material they could find to rebuild themselves "
"Not quite, no," Forge said, "although I was meaning to see what it would do if I fed it some vibranium ore, maybe I should talk to King T'Challa about that "
"Later," Sam said. "What about the Sentinel? Any sign of that?"
"No," Forge said, "I've been studying the two being held by SHIELD, and I'm not sure yet what would be the best option. From what Xavier tells me, it seems their minds are pretty well cleaned out, they're just host bodies for the Sentinels like Artifact did. It may be best to put them out of their misery and be done with it."
"No," Blink said, "We'll find a way to save them. We're the X-Men, that's what we do."
"I'm with her," Guido agreed.
Forge sighed. "Well, help me get the car unstuck from this tree, Guido, and we should be able to drive it back to the mansion."
"What? But the tire"
"The Sentinel shot out the tire, yes. And now that the tire has been repaired, it should be immune to being shot out. At least by anything like the Sentinel's gun."
"So if we can avoid dying in a few more car wrecks," Guido said, "We'll have an invincible car. Neat."
Children of the Atom. Mutants. Born with a gift or a curse of superhuman powers. This is the story of such mutants. This is the story of the Uncanny X-Men!
Uncanny X-Men #438
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
Aboard the SHIELD Helicarrier.
Professor Xavier squinted shut his eyes as he focused his powers on entering the mind of the man sitting directly facing him. The man stared at him, emotionlessly, his arms and legs straining to be free of their bonds so that he could kill the mutant before him.
This was his training; his mind was replaced by the Sleeper Sentinel program. His wrist-mounted gun had been removed, and various scans found that he had cybernetic implants throughout his bodily systems, though none of the others were believed to be dangerous in nature.
La Nuit, who had just returned from an eventful vacation in Paris, (2) and Storm stood back, giving the professor the space he needed to work in. The Mimic and the other SHIELD Super-Soldiers had other duties to perform today, but the three X-Men were sure to be enough were either of the Sleeper Sentinels to break free of their bonds somehow.
"Monstrous," La Nuit whispered to Storm, "inhuman."
"Black Bolt is an Inhuman," Storm said, "this is just grotesque. That someone would actually develop such a virus, destroying the human consciousness to replace it with a hateful automaton "
"And you say that another is loose?"
"Yes, and it has powers," Storm said, meeting La Nuit's eyes, "or at least, a power: it can fly. We don't know for certain, but they found the Hunter. They had been transporting him to the Vault, and they found his body "
"Shot up by a Sentinel?"
"Forge found that the rounds matched, yes," Storm said. "Given that the Hunter could fly, he believes it somehow acquired his mutant power."
"Which means that everyone that monster kills will add another power to his repertoire," La Nuit said.
"Cannonball was right," Storm said, watching as the professor strained to no success, "we should have let him defeat the Sentinel then and there. We didn't want him going into battle unprepared "
"It is alright," La Nuit said, "we know now. That is what matters."
"How many mutants might already have been murdered because of our inaction, Antoine?" Storm asked. "We must find him and put an end to this."
Omission was returning with groceries. He hadn't had any money, so he used his mutant power to make everyone forget about him as soon as he was out of sight. He felt slightly bad about it, but times were tough.
"Fugue, I'm back," Omission called as he swung open the door with his leg, his arms filled with the paper bags full of produce.
"Mutant target acquired," said a man standing behind him, dressed in a mover's outfit. Omission turned to face him and noticed immediately the plastic Halloween mask over the man's face.
It was a mask of a Sentinel.
"What are" Omission began. He was cut off in mid-sentence as the man in the plastic Halloween mask raised his right hand and revealed a muzzle sticking out of his wrist. A fast series of pops sounded as the muzzle flashed repeatedly.
Omission jerked around in the doorway, letting the groceries fall to the ground, milk leaking out through various holes before it had even hit the ground. Omission closed his eyes and grit his teeth, waiting for the pain to go away. He knew he couldn't last long now.
The man walked up to him as Omission dropped, his body littered with bullets, his clothing and flesh torn to shreds. Out of the man's left wrist came a long, thin probe, which he stabbed into Omission's spine.
A woman inside the building screamed, and the Sentinel identified her as a mutant, as well. "Mutant target identified. Pursuit engaged."
The Sentinel withdrew his power-probe, having taken an adequate sample of genetic sequences to assimilate it into its own host's DNA. He entered the modest slum building as his computer brain processed the streaming information that simultaneously altered his very being.
"Youyouyoukiller!" Fugue shouted, crimson energy swirling about the room, distorting the angles, making everything appear non-Euclidean in its geometry.
"Mutant target acquired," the Sentinel announced, raising its rapid-fire muzzle towards her. Before he could fire, a wave of energy pulsated through him, and the most amazingly random thing happened.
As his hybrid brain finally assimilated Omission's power, it backfired and the Sentinel forgot that the two mutants were there. He scanned and noted several other mutants hidden nearby, and turned his back to Fugue, who was fighting mad and entirely unsure what to do.
The Sentinel flew off, and Fugue went down to help Omission up. She held him in her arms and cried over him, her protector these last few months, as he lay dying in a pool of his own blood.
She wept, unable to see the magic oozing out of her, unconscious to the sympathetic magic at work. Without understanding, she was handing over the tiniest spark of her own life-force to Omission, healing his wounds enough for him to make it.
Ambulance sirens sounded as did the police sirens, as an active audience arrived to see what the gunshots were about.
The Dark Rider sat on his horse, Eugenesis, and looked down on the city below. The horse could fly, teleport, and read minds. The Rider himself, sadly, had no powers, beyond his link to the mutant horse.
"I need information," came a female voice, and the Dark Rider spun in his seat, guns out and ready to fire at the least provocation. "Oh, please. Like your bullets could hurt me."
Andrea Margulies, the Changeling, stood on the corner of the rooftop. She wore her X-uniform, even the jacket.
"How'd you find me?" Dark Rider asked, raising his guns though not holstering them.
"I could find you any time I wanted to," Changeling said, walking over to him, "your horse likes me."
Dark Rider glared at Eugenesis, who looked away at the skyline. "Okay, okay, I take it that if you're willing to come to me, it must be something pretty serious?"
"Pretty serious, yeah, that sums it up," Changeling agreed. "You're still a stupid idiot, but at least you've managed to stay alive in this business this long without any powers, don't ask me how. So you may have some contacts.
"I need to know whatever you can find out about these new human Sentinels."
"What? The Prime Sentinels? They"
Changeling shook her index finger, waving it around elongated in exaggeration. "No, not the guards at Capone's Vault. (3) New Sentinels, a bio-virus, nanites infecting people, turning them into mutant-hunters. We don't know enough about them yet and it scares us all.
"Your job, if you ever want to talk to me again, is to find out something about them. Who developed them, why, how we can defeat them, something valuable like that. Got it?"
The Dark Rider nodded, tipping his hat to her. "Sure thing, ma'am."
Changeling rolled her eyes and threw herself off the edge of the building. "Hey, wait" The Dark Rider began to say, running to the ledge. He looked over and couldn't see her anywhere down below.
He patted Eugenesis's mane as he stared into the horizon, the sun setting on the city he loved. The X-Men's Blackbird jet was flying off towards Westchester County.
"Any ideas, old partner?" Dark Rider asked.
Professor Xavier found that this had become a sort of daily ritual for him now; he did not expect to find either of his missing X-Men, but he had to keep an eye out for them. It had located Storm and Blink when they returned, after all. That had been several weeks ago, however, and the more time passed, the less faith he found he had in himself and the mutant-finding machine.
"Maybe I should see if I can ask Caliban" Jean Grey started to say, as she was exiting the chamber. Professor Xavier sat down in the chair and set the headset down over his bald dome, allowing the dull buzz of electrical activity to drown out his own thoughts.
For the first few seconds, floating in the ether of semi-consciousness, his mind expanding all over the world, touching the tips of minds everywhere from Atlantis to India to Antarctica, he felt the bitter disappointment he had grown all too used to in recent months.
Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, he felt something that at first he assumed was a momentary lapse in sanity. A phantom blip on the radar, as it were.
A few seconds more of scrutiny, and he knew it was no fluke. The blip held steady; it was real, it had substance, in the astral sense.
"Summon the X-Men," Professor Xavier whispered in a roar, "Dice and Wanda are in New York!"
[To be continued ]
1. Last issue.
2. See the La Nuit LS.
3. See Operation: Zero Tolerance.
NEXT TIME: THE SCARLET WITCH