X-23: Page 2 of 11

Publication Date: 30th Jan 2020
Image Work: Gremlin.


Rice's thirst for vengeance grew even greater and he hatched a plan to eliminate X-23 once and for all. He accompanied her on a mission that pitted her against the forces of AIM. X-23 performed her assigned task with her normal precision and was about to rendezvous with the extraction team when Rice killed most of the team and ordered the remaining agent to leave without X-23. Rice sneered down at X-23 and dropped his father's Weapon X dog tags down to her as he left her surrounded by a squad of heavily armed AIM agents. He watched as they opened fire on the girl and believed that his revenge on Weapon X was finally complete. When Rice returned to The Facility, he reported that X-23 had failed to make it back by the extraction deadline and they had been forced to leave when the enemy opened fire on them. He told everyone that he had seen her die. This news barely had time to sink in before X-23 made her way back to her masters. Her healing factor had saved her from death at the hands of AIM and she had escaped. Though she knew that Rice had abandoned her to her fate, X-23 did not disclose this to anyone, not even Dr. Kinney. This incident clearly had a profound effect on the girl, as it was around this time that she began cutting herself regularly. [X-23 (1st series) #3-4]

Sarah Kinney was suspicious and knew that something was not right with X-23. Naturally, she suspected Zander Rice but had no real proof of his wrongdoing. She began to resent the way The Facility simply used X-23 like a common weapon but she soon had a reason of her own to put X-23's unique skills to use. Dr. Kinney received a frantic call from her sister Debbie, with whom she had recently renewed contact after a long period of estrangement. Debbie's daughter Megan had been kidnapped and she was desperate for Sarah's help and support during this crisis. Sarah decided to "borrow" X-23 to assist her in finding her niece. Kinney took X-23 to San Francisco, where she was easily able to track Megan's scent to the nearby apartment where the kidnapper had taken her. X-23 killed the man and rescued Megan. For the first time, her prowess had been focused on saving others and not simply taking lives for a hefty price. [X-23 (1st series) #4]

Upon returning to The Facility, Sarah Kinney had to face the consequences of her little expedition with X-23. At the same time, Zander Rice was plotting to seize control of The Facility. He ordered X-23 to kill The Facility's director, Martin Sutter, his wife and their son and to make it appear to be an accident. X-23 raided Sutter's home and, though she killed him and his wife, she could not bring herself to murder their young son, Henry. She took Henry to the woods outside their home and set it on fire as planned. This marked yet another important step in X-23's defiance of her programming and her reclamation of her humanity. When she returned, Dr. Kinney discovered that X-23 was cutting herself and realized that, with Rice now in charge, neither of them were safe. X-23 refused to talk about what had happened to her, but she opened her mouth and inside was the photo of her most recent targets: Martin Sutter and his family. [X-23 (1st series) #5]

Dr. Kinney realized that Zander had ordered X-23 to kill them and make it look like an accident. Sarah knew that she had to get herself and X-23 out of there somehow. She told X-23 that everyone there, including herself, had simply been using her and that they were all monsters. She told her "daughter" that she was going to get her out of there, which X-23 interpreted as a new mission. Rice chose this moment to reveal to Sarah that he had been working on a new project without her knowledge. He had commissioned another batch of clones based on X-23, dozens of them. Sarah was horrified at the prospect of Rice in command of a full squadron of assassins based on her work. She completed her personal journal which detailed for X-23 her complete history and Sarah's own culpability in her creation. She then created a packet with the parameters for X-23's final mission. Inside were the schematics for Rice's cloning operation and a photo of Rice. X-23 was to destroy these clones, kill Rice and destroy his lab. She performed her mission with her usual precision. But in killing Rice, she took obvious pleasure as she cut down the man who had tormented her her entire life. Just before she killed him, she dropped his father's dogtags back down on him and called him "Animal" just as he had called her so many times. [X-23 (1st series) #6]

Sarah Kinney fled The Facility and waited anxiously outside, praying that X-23 would make it out alive. She watched as X-23 emerged just as the building began exploding. X-23 approached Dr. Kinney, both of them overwhelmed by the chance to start again. However, as X-23 drew closer, her eyes turned red as she caught a whiff of the trigger scent. Sarah Kinney realized what had happened a moment too late. In her last meeting with Zander Rice, he had casually stroked her hair. At the time, she thought it merely a creepy gesture but it had a deeper significance. He had tagged her with the trigger scent. His last words to her "You're out. Tonight. Go see your pet one last time" suddenly made sense. X-23 tore into Dr. Kinney, gutting her on the snowy field outside The Facility. She came to her senses just as her "mother" breathed her last. She told X-23 that her name was Laura and that she loved her. Scattered across the snow were the pages of Sarah Kinney's journal and remnants of her life at The Facility - pages from Pinocchio she had read to Laura, notes regarding her work and information regarding the original Weapon X - Wolverine.

Laura remained at her mother's side until the sound of helicopters jarred her. She quickly gathered Sarah's notes and fled into the nearby woods. She deftly took out the troops sent after her but was intercepted by Kimura, who haughtily assured her that she was not going to escape. Laura realized she couldn't hurt Kimura but she could slow her down. She triggered a small avalanche of snow that buried them both and made her escape. She was thirteen years old. [X-23 (1st series) #6, X-23: Target X #1]

Over the course of the next year, Laura made her way to San Francisco. For the first time in her young life, she did not have direction or mission parameters to guide her. So she sought out the only "family" she had. She observed Debbie and Megan Kinney for weeks before revealing herself to them. Since she rescued Megan from the kidnapper, her "cousin" had grown into a rebellious and troubled teenager. She and Laura quickly bonded. X-23 knew the truth about Megan's abduction, which the girl had been told was just a nightmare she used to have and not something that actually happened to her. Laura told Megan about her own nature and history, based on what she had learned from her mother's journals. Laura attended high school with Megan but her training at The Facility did not exactly prepare her for a mainstream high school experience. Though this new life was far from normal, it was the first time Laura had experienced a life without violence and a sense of what it meant to be part of a family. Her happiness would be short-lived, however.

Despite her efforts to disappear completely and protect her new family, Laura was tracked by The Facility. A year earlier, they had planted an agent in Debbie Kinney's life. No one even suspected that Debbie's new boyfriend Desmond was working for The Facility. He was provided with a sample of the trigger scent with orders to orchestrate the deaths of Debbie and Megan Kinney. His plan went awry when the tea he had laced with the scent spilled all over him and Megan just as she was returning home with Laura. Fortunately, Laura had told Megan all about the trigger scent and how it affected her and Megan realized quickly what had happened. The quick-thinking girl ran and was able to wash the spilled tea off of herself and her mother just as X-23 was about to attack them.

Laura immediately realized that The Facility had found her and that they needed to get out immediately. But it was too late, the house was attacked by armored Facility agents under the command of Kimura. Though Laura was easily able to dispatch the soldiers, she was no match for Kimura. Kimura took her down with almost no effort at all. She used Adamantium handcuffs to chain X-23 to a pipe in the basement where she had hidden Debbie and Megan with the intention of forcing Laura to watch as she killed them both. As Kimura began to torture Megan, X-23 begged her to leave them alone and went as far as promising to return to The Facility without a fight. Kimura refused and so X-23 cut her own hand off to free herself from the handcuffs. She then slapped them on Kimura, trapping the indestructible woman. X-23 ordered Megan and Debbie to get their things and get outside. She then blew up the house with Kimura inside. The three escaped together and hit the road immediately to put some distance between them and Kimura. Laura knew that Kimura and the Facility would never stop trying to reclaim her and that her life with Debbie and Megan was over. She got them safely to Canada and told them the best way to disappear but refused to join them. [X-23: Target X #4-5]

With no where else to go and no mission to pursue, X-23 decided to track down the man she held responsible for her existence: Wolverine. She observed him at the Xavier Institute for some time undetected. Eventually, Logan caught X-23's scent and left the Institute, knowing that she would follow. She attacked Logan, who initially refused to fight back. Unbeknownst to X-23, her mother had sent Logan a copy of the letter she wrote for her in the event that she did not make it out of The Facility alive. Wolverine was fully aware of X-23's creation and history, as well as her mother's hope that she could start a new life. Laura was determined to kill Wolverine and herself so that neither of them could ever be used as a weapon again. Knowing her story, Logan let her vent her anger and then helped her to see that she could be more than a weapon if she so chose. He got her to open up a bit and gave her the copy of her mother's letter. He started to ask her to come to the Institute when the two were found by SHIELD. The team, led by Captain America, arrested X-23 for her crimes. [X-23: Target X #6]