Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #27

Issue Date: 
October 2008
Story Title: 

Warren Ellis (writer), Simone Bianchi (pencils), Simone Bianchi and Andrea Silvestri (ink washes), Simone Peruzzi (colorist),Joe Caramagna (letterer), Will Panzo & Daniel Ketchum (assistant editors), Axel Alonso (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

With the help of SWORD’s Agent Brand, the X-Men learn the cube is a Ghost Box, technology from a parallel world. With that knowledge, they also realize that Subject X and his victim were mutants from other universes. Cyclops and Agent Brand argue about the responsibility for this case and Brand finally relents. Wolverine points out that some coordinates in the murder victim’s journal – a place called Tian - relate to a mysterious area in China that be scanned. The X-Men fly there and find Tian, an impossibly beautiful but destroyed place full of corpses – the Chinese X-Men’s home – until M-day…

Full Summary: 

Back at the X-base, Beast looks puzzled at the cube Cyclops’ team has brought back from Chaparanga. It’s nice they brought him a gift, he finally states, but he has no idea how to unwrap it. They’re just going to have to spoil the surprise and tell him what it is.

The idea was that’he’d tell them, Scott Summers points out. Please, Hank retorts, he may be a genius-level biochemist, but in the fields of physics and technology he’s merely a dazzling amateur. Something’s moving in there.

Wolverine remarks that the guy, Subject X, was trying to power it up off a spacecraft’s reactors. ‘Roro took out the ship’s electrics before he could get the juice into the box.

And what, pray tell, is this? Henry asks, looking at the syringe in Logan’s hand. Sample from Subject X, comes the reply. He found a sterile syringe in the medikit. Dare he ask how Subject X came to donate his blood, Hank asks, suspicious. He killed himself, Scott retorts. Logan didn’t help? he asks. Not this time, Scott remarks. Subject X wanted to make sure the X-Men didn’t learn anything from him. He’s not surprised, Hank remarks while looking at the blood. He didn’t want to expose his friends. He’s been processing the rest of the notebook they found. Subject X has comrades. They are definitely looking at what they used to call a “secret war” here.

Oh God, how dismally dull, Emma Frost sighs dramatically. If she ends up with superheroes traipsing all over the grounds, looking for someone to hit, she shall quite simply be sick! Instead of saying anything about that, Storm diplomatically asks for the way to bathroom and Hisako leads her there.

Sitting in front of a computer, Beast remarks that he thought Emma would make herself available for young men wrestling in tight clothing in front of her… Anyway, not much of a chance of that, he’s glad to say. They are talking about people hunting each other under the blanket of great secrecy.

Had not their victim gotten sloppy and had not Subject X gotten disturbed at his work, they would never have learned of it. The notebook is an artifact of one faction chasing the other. Their last stop was this place “Tian,” although the provided coordinates don’t… he hesitates, then seems to find something in the blood sample.

He reminds them that their dead man had three-stranded DNA with the X-gene on the artificial strand. Subject X has plain old double helix with an X-gene. So he’s a mutant they couldn’t see? Cyclops asks. Oh they absolutely couldn’t see him, Hank explains, because his X-gene is on chromosome 13, completely the wrong place.

Could it have been inserted there? Scott asks. Conceivable, Hank muses. So they could be looking at two factions of artificially created mutants, Scott continues. Conceivable, Hank agrees.

That’s insane, Emma announces disgusted. Hank admits something is still missing. But they clearly have the source of the conflict. Two groups of pseudo-mutants, one stalking the other, and violence wherever they meet. And this, of course, Hank points at the box. He would like to call Abigail in, if that’s all right with Cyclops.

Scott in fact isn’t all right with it. He doesn’t particularly want the Sentient World Observation and Response Department all over this one. She knows better, Hank promises. Not in his experience, Scott retorts and finally relents. As long as he doesn’t have to see any of their “medical experiments” on each other. In any case, they should check out the previous location in that journal, this “Tian.” He said something about the coordinates?

Hank explains they point to a region of China where nothing has happened in the last five hundred years. There’s nothing there? Scott asks. Well, he imagines there’s a great deal of ferns and guano, comes the reply. Nothing he’d really start a secret war over.

Logan asks to let him see the notebook. After a moment of reading, he suggests Hank get his ladyfriend here sooner rather than later. What has he got? Scott asks. Something from the bad old days, maybe, Logan replies. This is them, Scott sighs. The “bad old days” could be as recent as three weeks ago.

And so a little later Agent Brand has left SWORD’s orbiting station and lands at the X-Men’s base. Before she leaves her jet, Hank warns Scott to be nice. Convince her to give him two of those ships and he might even smile, Scott retorts.

The greenhaired commander of SWORD exists and greets Hank, remarking she thought they were waiting until the weekend to play “alien science pervert?” Um, not completely alone here, he remarks embarrassed. Scott welcomes her more formally and adds this is a business call, he’s afraid.

A little later, Agent Brand informs them the cube is a Ghost Box. They haven’t put any power into this, have they? Hank says no, but doesn’t understand. They’ve never seen a Ghost Box? she asks incredulous. What the hell have they been doing all those years that they’ve never seen a Ghost Box?

She explains that a Ghost Box opens gates between parallel Earths. They figure maybe twenty alternate worlds developed Ghost Box technology;they all look pretty much the same. It’s not the only way to travel parallels. There’re Einstein-Rosen bridges, Quantum Mirrors, but they’ve seen more than a few Ghost Boxes over the years.

Well, that changes everything, doesn’t it? Hank realizes. Subject X’s X-gene is on the wrong chromosome because he isn’t from around here. He’s a mutant from an alternate universe where the X-gene happened to sit on a different chromosome.

So where the hell did they get this? Agent Brand interrupts. They took it off a guy at Chaparanga beach, comes the reply. And where’s the guy? she asks. Killed himself, Cyclops replies curtly. A live Ghost Box is more her field than theirs, she points out. No, stop right there! Scott warns her. What? she asks. This isn’t going to turn into SWORD business, he announces. Clenching her fists as does he, Brand announces that if she says it is SWORD business, then that’s exactly what it is.

Cyke replies he swears to her he will cut her head off and hide the ****ing body, if that’s what it takes to keep SWORD out of mutant affairs, because he is done with this—

Did he just say ****ing to her, Brand asks, irritated and surprised. Scott just said ****ing to his …um, Hank breaks off not sure how to describe their relationship. Actually what is she? he asks. “Girlfriend” doesn’t sound quite…

“Xenophiliac Experimentation partner,” Brand suggests. He settles on “Scott, you just said ****king to my girlfriend instead.”

He wouldn’t say anything like this, Scott replies. Logan comes in, remarking he heard Scott from down the hall. Don’t do it ever again. It’s like catching a rerun of “Happy Days” and seeing Ron Howard picking up hookers. Did Worthington’s crew get that map room up and running? he asks Hank who reacts only after a second question.

Logan tells Brand he needs her. Brand turns back to Cyclops, insisting that a working Ghost Box is serious business. They’re talking about covert incursion from a parallel universe. Scott telepathically calls Emma to tell her, apparently he said ****ing to Abigail Brand. Does that sound like him? Well done, Emma commends him That snot-haired cow had it coming. She’s very proud. God, he loves her, he says aloud.

He says anything like that again, he’s gonna puke right in his visor, Wolverine warns him. Seriously, what’s with him? Scott replies he’s had enough. Really, he’s tried being polite, he’s tried being reasonable, he’s tried compromise and every other thing. If it comes down to just yelling like a maniac to make people stay the hell out of their business? Then he’ll do that.

They enter the map room. This sucks, Brand sulks. Her map room is much better, Yeah, yeah, Logan replies disinterested. They’ve got a location to check out. And the coordinates remind him of something she’d know about. He ain’t got the clearance. Brand doesn’t follow. Something he heard about back in the old days, when people in intel still talked to him.

He points at a continent. That’s China, Brand remarks. Yeah, now there’s a spot in the southwestern forests. Oh, he’s talking about the dead five miles, she realizes. Logan replies the coordinates of this “Tian,” they found in the book. They correspond to five square miles of Chinese forest that’s totally reflective to any kind of scanning ever invented. And the word was, back then, even the Chinese didn’t know what was in there. Whatever Tian is, Brand just confirmed that it’s smack in the middle of the greatest secret in the history of intelligence.

Oh God, Scott moans. In the old days, everything seemed much closer, he complains. The Mimic? At the coffee shop in town. Cobalt Man? The creepy farm down the road. Now? A cloaked five-mile chunk of China! He continues that they’ve still got the old Shi’ar cloak hooked up in the new plane, right? If they open her right up… that’s five hours in the air, fifteen hours time difference…

Logan continues. If they take off at noon tomorrow, that puts them in the dead five miles… eight a.m. local? Sounds like a plan, Scott agrees.

Brand remarks she is not happy about this, a parallel world still counts as off-world, and that puts the caper in her jurisdiction. He didn’t sign any treaties with her, Scott remarks. Okay, he calls it mutant business, she decides, she’ll cut him some slack, but the minute this starts to go tough on them…

He’ll call her, Cyclops promises. They take off at noon tomorrow. That gives her tonight to commit crimes against nature with Henry. Cool. Brand replies.

The next day, they take off. That rather dusty old cloaking box is running a little hot, darling, Emma observes to Scott. They are about to cross the line into Logan’s dead five miles, so they’ll stay unseen, Cyclops replies. Also, his codename is not Darling. Then they should change it as soon as possible, Emma replies, unimpressed.

Scott’s retort is lost as he takes a look at what’s in front of them. Did none of them pause to look up what “Tian” means? Hank asks as they watch the almost fantastical majestic floating buildings harmonically integrated into the paradisical landscape. “Heaven.”

Incredible, Cyclops admits, while Hank notes that there is nothing on the motion detectors. All quiet. Emma, Cyclops states and she focuses, before informing them she doesn’t read anybody. The entire site is empty. Empty of life maybe, Scott muses and decides to put them down on the top one. He asks Storm to take Emma along and check over the rock further down.

The jet lands. She wouldn’t take this opportunity to just drop her, would she? Emma asks Storm. Of course not, the other woman assures her. Well, not far.

Armor up, Armor, Scott tells Hisako. See, that’s why her codename sucks, she replies. He wouldn’t say Wolverine up, Wolverine, would he? Maybe she should just be X-Girl. Armor up, X-Girl. That’s better. Beat up Wolverine, X-Girl.

Wow, she utters a moment later as she, Cyclops, Beast and Wolverine enter the beautifully constructed and decorated building. Anything defensive they need to know about? Scott asks Hank. Not as such, comes the reply. Getting a lot of weak magnetic energy pings. Nothing to worry about, but… good grief… it’s spintronic activity, he announces. He knows what this is. He looks around. These floors, these walls, they’re slabs of spintronic computing material. Spintronics use the spin of electrons to store information, he lectures the others. They open the way for quantum-based calculation. This entire building is a spintronic supercomputer. All of it.

Can they taste the difference in the air? he asks. The slight ozone tang? Even the air molecules in here might be computational substrate…
Air? Armor asks. Wow. In the X-Men, even her phone sucks.

They enter what looks to be a central command. They are not alone in here, Wolverine warns them. Scents are jumbled, but there’s definitely someone else around. Is that his someone else? Scott asks and points at a corpse on the ground. Wolverine is not sure. He warns them that they are awfully exposed in here. He’s not liking this a bit. So noted, comes the reply.

Hank examines the body. So would they like the bad news, or the really bad news? This is not a fresh corpse, but something in here seems to generate preservative qualities. Impossible to say how long he’s been dead. But that’s not what’s bothering him. That is a post-M-Day mutant. He was a mutant, and Wanda shut off his X-gene.

Cyclops telepathically asks Emma for a sit-rep. She quickly reports that she and Storm have a wrecked building and three dead bodies so far. All wearing a charming costume of red and white. The corpses are quite putrid. Ororo thinks they’ve been down there for several months.

He’s developing a disturbing theory, Beast announces. He hopes his Chinese is up to operating their systems and proving it. Apparently it is, as he gets the computes to work. Cyclops tells the others what Emma told him. There’s corpses in the fallen building and they could have been there since M-day. He doesn’t doubt it, Hank agrees, and then exclaims: “Oh no!”

The computer shows them three-dimensional holograms. Hank tells them this is the home of the Chinese X-Men. That’s impossible! Scott exclaims. Logan reminds him these are the dead five miles. Not even Cerebro or Cerebra could get in. This was Tian, Hank continues. The hidden home to a team of Chinese mutant who remained undercover and undisturbed to go about heir work. The screen they created, the dead five miles, allowed them to do nothing but think, research, understand themselves and dream. Until M-Day.

Characters Involved: 

Armor, Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Agent Abigail Brand

Story Notes: 

The Einstein-Rosen bridge is a geometrical property of a black hole that manifests itself in that on the other side of the black hole another set of dimensions has been attached to the one from our universe. This makes passage through this bridge and hence into another universe a mathematical possibility.

A Quantum Mirror allows for the interaction between two separated half spaces mimicking the tunnel effect.

M-day is the name for the day when most mutants lost their powers courtesy of the Scarlet Witch (as seen in the “House of M” Limited series).

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