|Excalibur (1st series) # 24|| || |
Issue Date: Late July 1990
Story Title: Tempting Fates
Staff: Chris Claremont (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Paul Neary (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom deFalco (editor-in-chief)
Claremont & Davis (creators)
Excalibur has been transported by the Hub by Saturnyne, who intends to straighten out their cross-reality odyssey. Unfortunately, she also has plans for Phoenix. To prevent that, Nightcrawler has the dubious idea to have Rachel dress up as their missing teammate, Shadowcat. Nevertheless, the team runs into great trouble when trying to find and talk to Saturnyne, mostly due to some overeager members of the Captain Britain Corps. Saturnyne finally comes to them and fixes Widget. When “Kitty” asks how they are supposed to make Widget work without Phoenix acting as a power source, Saturnyne who clearly recognizes Phoenix, but doesn’t come out and say so, suggests they’ll find a way. Back home, the team finds they are already expected… by Galactus. In the meantime, Kitty faces the depressing prospect of celebrating her fifteenth birthday alone. Instead, though, Courtney plays fairy godmother to her, wining and dining the girl, taking her to Paris and finally granting her use of a jaguar, subtly challenging the girl to break rules.
Two Earths, two women, as unlike each other as the worlds they inhabit, yet in all ways that truly matter they are one and the same.
At the Omniversal Hub, a projection displays a very displeased Opal-Luna Saturnyne, Omniversal Mastrex, who haughtily informs Excalibur that she is not amused.
On Earth 616, her spitting image Courtney Ross (or is she?), senior vice-president of Fraser’s Bank, carries a cake as she wishes missing Excalibur member Kitty Pryde a happy birthday.
The Omniversal Hub:
In their train, the members of Excalibur listen attentively to Saturnyne’s words, as the holo-projection rhetorically asks whether they have the slightest notion of the disruption their madcap, seemingly never-ending crosstime cavalcade has caused the continuum. Angrily, Megan mutters that it wasn’t their fault. Captain Britain shushes her, as Saturnyne continues that she in her role as arbiter of causality had to intervene personally and transmit them to the Omniversal Hub, where hopefully they can be returned to where the properly belong… without making a bad mess even worse. As an afterthought, she adds that they can resolve that Phoenix imbroglio once and for all.
The apparition disappears. Meggan instantly insults Saturnyne - who does she think she is? she huffs. Absolute monarch of all she surveys, Brian simply points out. Which, he takes, is quite a lot, Nightcrawler assumes. Brian simply explains that her predecessor, Mandragon, obliterated an entire dimension, a whole universe with the flick of a switch. Given sufficient cause, so will she. Taking this in, Rachel begins to look very nervous.
On Earth 616, Kitty Pryde hides under her bed’s duvet. Courtney remarks that, while it was a long time ago, she doesn’t recall acting like that when she turned fifteen. Kitty retorts that Courtney probably had friends and family to celebrate with. Feeling sorry for herself? Courtney asks. Kitty remarks that isn’t fair as she finally shows her face. Courtney agrees. It isn’t. Kitty has suffered terribly. She sits down on the bed and suggests Kitty let this birthday slide and keep her fingers crossed that next year’s better.
Hasn’t she heard sarcasm is wasted on the young, Kitty retorts. And there she thought Kitty was older than she looked? Sure feels that way sometimes, Kitty admits. Seems like a whole lifetime ago she joined the X-Men. Even though it’s barely been a couple of years. The things she’s seen and done, even if she could tell any outsider, how could they understand? It’s like, once you become a superhero, they are the only ones you can really talk to anymore.
Courtney interjects that, while she doesn’t have powers, she does understand. This is the second time she has to face the possibility of losing Captain Britain and the hurt doesn’t get less with practice. So there’s no need for lies between them.
Kitty agrees but admits she has no clue what to do with today. Letting her try some of the cake’s glazing, Courtney tells her she has some ideas, if Kitty is willing. Kitty tells her to lead on. She is all hers. She is so glad, Courtney announces with a smile.
Back at the Hub where Excalibur’s train is now parked between other exotic vessels:
Kurt asks for some info about Saturnyne. Brian relates that she maintains order across dimensional planes, working in concert with the guardian Roma to keep the sidereal strings from fraying or getting knotted or perhaps breaking. Is she a telepath? Kurt inquires, or does she possess any powers at all? Not to his knowledge, Brian admits, not that she needs them. Meggan mutters some disparaging remarks about Saturnyne, while Brian muses that, even against the most fearsome foe, Saturnyne never seemed outmatched. Quite often the opposite.
Kurt decides that they might actually have a chance to pull this off. Alistaire chimes in, asking why they are all so concerned if Saturnyne has promised to send them home. Rachel reminds him that Saturnyne wants her as well. Excalibur first came together rescuing her from a band of bounty hunters – Gatecrasher’s Technet – which Saturnyne had sent after her. Phoenix evidently is what’s called a threat to reality, too dangerous to be allowed to run around loose. She can only have her if she finds Rachel, Kurt states ominously. It’s her world, Rachel reminds him. Where are they going to hide Rachel? In plain sight, he replies with a broad grin.
A little later, a grim-faced Rachel stands before them in Kitty Pryde’s costume, asking if Kurt is kidding. Kurt hands her a wig and asks if she would rather give up. As there are forceful knocks on the door, Meggan suggests they make up their minds fast.
Nightcrawler opens the door and greets the sour-faced monstrous immigration officers with a smile. As Nightcrawler introduces the team to them, Lockheed, believing to see Kitty, flies to join them. Seeing Rachel instead, he is confused and starts tearing at the wig, until Rachel chides him, muttering that they are doomed.
In London, Courtney has taken Kitty to a fancy boutique, asking the shop assistant to make Kitty look her very best. Kitty sourly remarks that she understands if the job is impossible. Not even close, he replies happily before dragging her off. She is doomed, Kitty mutters under her breath.
Early that evening, Courtney takes Kitty, who is now dressed up in a gown similar to Courtney’s to the Thames Terrace, one of the best restaurants in London. Kitty hesitates, claiming that she can’t do this. Can’t they go to a pizza joint instead, something more her style? If that’s what she wants, Courtney replies. Kitty is calling the shots. Kitty admits that she feels like Eliza Doolittle at the embassy ball in “Pygmalion.” She’s afraid that, as soon as she walks in, someone will laugh at the kid playing grown-up. Using Kitty’s own analogy, Courtney points out that Eliza wasn’t unmasked at the ball, but in fact went on to score an absolute triumph. But it is Kitty’s choice. With a smile, Kitty decides to give it a try.
Back at the Hub, the immigration officer checks the new arrivals, comparing them with his records, asking why Captain Britain is wearing the uniform of Captain Marshall of Earth-1193. Because they gave it to him, replies Cap. What about Meggan’s new attire, the man demands. She liked it better than the old, Meggan replies shyly. Is that a crime? The man mutters about some people never being satisfied, before turning to Shadowcat. Rachel gives him attitude, defensively pointing out that her costume is the same. The man points out that she is taller, has a deeper voice and her physiognomic configuration is different. Impatiently, Rachel explains that she’s grown. It happens, ok?
The man rings a bell, pointing out to the artistarchivist that there is a discrepancy between the recorded image of Shadowcat variant of Earth–616 and the reality. The artist begins attacking him, screaming that he was supposed to have a simple job, just record the appearance of every superbeing in their files. Does he know how may that is? And they are always changing! While the scuffle continues, Cap suggests to Nightcrawler that, as he knows Saturnyne, maybe he can change her mind about Phoenix. Failing that, the others must find the route to get them home. With that, they go separate ways.
Back at the restaurant, the waiter asks Kitty to make a selection from the wine list. She’s utterly mortified at the idea of showing her ignorance, until Courtney subtly points at the champagne flute. Getting the clue, Kitty orders Champagne. When he asks what she would prefer, Kitty once again find herself in a bind. Courtney plays with her earring, a diamond pendant. Kitty gets it and orders Crystal. The waiter compliments her on her choice. As Courtney toasts her, she promises the best is yet to come.
Back at the Hub, Captain Britain is fighting and trying to convince the Avant Guard – Saturnyne’s private guards - that he is an old friend and is being expected. That may well be, is the response, but nobody gets in without an appointment. Suddenly, he finds himself attacked from behind by two other members of the Captain Britain Corps. Lady London and Centurion Britannicus, who remind him that the rules apply to him as they do to them all.
Back at the restaurant, Courtney asks Kitty where would she like to go, provided it could be reached by dawn. A little later Courtney and an overwhelmed Kitty sit in a private plane en route to Paris, France.
Back at the Hub, Nightcrawler has to test all his swashbuckling skills against another Captain, this one called Chevalier Bretagne. Kurt finds his foe is too good in a duel, fortunately he has an ace in the hole, namely his teleportation talent. Unfortunately, he miscalculates his jumps. Before he is skewered, another combatant enters the fray. Meggan, also armed with swords, challenges the Chevalier. Reluctant to fight a lady, he nevertheless accepts.
On Earth 616, Kitty and Courtney are strolling the left bank of the Seine and enter a jazz club.
Back at the Hub, Cap manages to avoid Centurion Britannicus’ blows, meaning the other man hits his comrade Lady London. Cap hits him in the gut, but the other man shrugs it off as a lovetap, remarking that his wife does better when she isn’t even angry.
Not too far away, a reporter is reminding the viewers that this isn’t the first time Captain Britain of Earth 616 has found himself matched against his fellow comrades in arms. Watching the news, Alistaire Stuart sighs that it may well be the last though. That’s a two-men-war! Why isn’t Saturnyne intervening? She’s a busy lady, Rachel replies.
Hearing the strain in her voice, Alistaire asks if she is all right. She explains that here are too many telepaths there. It is the standard mode of communication. It’s like trying to think straight with the whole of London shrieking in one’s ears. Nightcrawler’s brilliant plan isn’t working, she mutters. Truer words were never spoken, somebody ominously remarks, as she is hit and enveloped by a gluelike substance, courtesy of another (bighaired) Captain, Captain Cymru. She explains to Alistaire that the substance is merely supposed to keep the girl from using her phasing power. That moment, Rachel uses her telekinesis to blow up the plastic cocoon and knock the woman out. Too bad she doesn’t have one, she quips.
Chevalier Bretagne shows up, carrying an unconscious Nightcrawler and asking what is going on. Rachel is in the mood for blood, which proves to be unnecessary as the chevalier is really Meggan and Kurt was playing possum. Meggan actually managed to disarm the man in their duel. The look on his face was priceless, Kurt recalls. Rachel points to the screen and remarks that if they don’t hurry to the rescue their Captain won’t have a face.
In a club in Paris, Kitty is having the time of her life with other young people, discussing, music, physics, mutants and baseball. With Courtney following at a discreet distance, they take a walk at the Seine and finally continue dancing on a boat.
Back at the Hub, Rachel, disguised as Kitty and doing her best to look innocent, informs the Centurion that what he is doing isn’t very nice and he had better stop it. Or else. The Centurion isn’t impressed, so Rachel steps on his foot (using all her telekinetic strength at that moment). The man hops away in agony.
The next moment, she is grabbed by another monstrous Captain, with stretching limbs. Rachel ponders what to do, as she daren’t use her psi-powers in the open. It’s Lockheed to the rescue, as he scorches a sensitive part of the Captain’s anatomy.
The Centurion is back for more but before Rachel has to blow her cover, Meggan bulks up and slugs him straight through the roof. While she is still marvelling at the amount of energy this world has for her to draw on, Rachel senses Widget screaming for help. Something is happening back at the train, but she has no idea what.
They return to the train where everything seems peaceful. Inside, awaiting them is Saturnyne. Ruler of the Omniverse and she has to come to them? she asks. Nightcrawler retorts that they have been trying to comply with her invitation. Is it their fault if her subordinates had other ideas?
She tosses Widget at him and informs them that she has reoriented his navigational circuitry to take them where they wish to go. Hopefully, there they’ll remain. They’ll be an age smoothing the knots Excalibur tied into the sidereal strings.
Looking approvingly at Captain Britain she remarks that he looks well - domesticity becomes him. While Meggan possessively holds his arms he tactfully replies that in her jealousy not half as well as majesty. Rachel, still pretending to be Kitty, asks where they are supposed to get the power to get Widget moving. Saturnyne recalls that it was Phoenix who had that role. If she were there, they’d have to arrest her. Giving Rachel a knowing smile, she announces that she has faith. She’s sure they’ll think of something.
Morning in Paris. Kitty returns from the boat, a sheepish smile on her face. Courtney welcomes her, asking if she had the night of her life. Kitty enthusiastically thanks her, telling her she danced until dawn. She’s going to hate to see it end. It isn’t quite over yet, Courtney announces and points at the Jaguar she has been leaning against, the numberplate of which spells out PRYDE. Courtney explains that she has more cars than she needs. All this means is that this one is Kitty’s to use whenever she wishes.
It’s going to be torture waiting to grow old enough to drive it, Kitty sighs. This from the girl who’s piloted aircrafts at Mach 5? Courtney asks incredulously. Just because she knows how doesn’t make it legal, Kitty points out. So she shouldn’t get caught, Courtney replies and hands her the keys.
As Kitty gets in on the driver’s side, she points out that this is breaking the rules. Courtney hands her a pair of sunglasses identical to her own and explains that some are born to play by the rules. Others, though, they are born to make them. Kitty begins to drive and for a moment both women look eerily alike.
Elsewhere, Excalibur’s train appears in a cavern and the team still marvels at why Saturnyne let Rachel go. Meggan flies up to check the outside. Alistaire wonders what they are going to do with the dragon in the train. That moment, Meggan returns and enthusiastically informs them that they are beneath their lighthouse. They are home. They are safe!
She might have to rethink the last part, as outside and above the lighthouse floats Galactus, the world-devourer, waiting for them.
Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)
Alistaire Stuart (chief scientist of WHO)
on the Hub
Opal Luna Saturnyne
Captain Cymru, Centurion Britannicus, Chevalier Bretagne, Lady London and other members of the Captain Britain Corps
On Earth 616 :
Sat-yr-9 (posing as Courtney Ross)
Hair stylist, waiter
Luc and other young French people
Saturnyne had Phoenix chased by the Special Executive for reasons known only to her in Excalibur. Special Edition #1: the Sword is Drawn. The reason for her interest in Phoenix – and for why she let Rachel go - become apparent in the storyline starting in issue #42.
Mandragon destroyed a universe in the Daredevils #6.
Kitty and the X-Men visited Paris before at the trial of Magneto in Uncanny X-Men #200.
Captain Britain fought other members of the Captain Britain Corps on the Hub before at the trial of Saturnyne in the Daredevils #7 & 8.
Galactus had promised to come for Phoenix in Excalibur (1st series) #14.
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Excalibur Classic Vol. 4: Cross-Time Caper Book 2 (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Ruth