Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #6

Issue Date: 
December 2004
Story Title: 
untitled (Gifted - part 6)

Joss Whedon (writer), John Cassaday (artist), Laura Martin (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Stephanie Moore & Sean Ryan (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Surrounded by armed SHIELD troops, the X-Men choose to reason with Fury, explaining that they have discovered that Fury’s ally, Ord of the Breakworld, was experimenting on the resurrected Piotr Rasputin in order to create the “cure.” Questioned by Fury, Special Agent Brand, director of SHIELD’s extra-terrestrial directive-driven counterpart, SWORD, confirms. Ord is from a planet called the Breakworld, which possesses technology to see glimpses of the future. In one glimpse, they saw that an Earth mutant – possibly an X-Man - destroys their planet in their lifetime. SWORD entered into an agreement with Ord and the Breakworld to create a cure for mutation – in lieu of an alien invasion. SWORD and Ord had enlisted the aid of Dr. Kavita Rao, using DNA from the Breakworld resuscitated Colossus to create it. As Brand continues her explanation, rioting mutants, incensed by a possibility of a cure, break into Benetech, scattering the SHIELD agents. In the confusion, Ord sneaks away to his spacecraft. As he rockets away, with the cure formula, Colossus manages to launch Wolverine to the ship via a Fastball Special, and Wolverine manages to makes Ord land. The situation diffused, Fury suggests they walk away and act like the incident never happened. Having no way to object, the X-Men comply. Back at the Institute, the X-Men take stock of their situation. The Beast is still torn by the cure, of which he possesses the last sample, though he will not take it – for now. Taking a little private time, Kitty and Piotr ponder the meaning of finding each other again. Meanwhile, Emma and an unseen cohort ponder how, if at all, Colossus’ return changes their plan.

Full Summary: 


She stands before the table, staring down at the papers strewn across it, illuminated by the single lamp hanging from above. As she examines the treasure trove of information before her, Dr. Kavita Rao hears the hulking, armored figure standing in the darkness tell her to consider it a gift.

Still enthralled in what her mind is still attempting to comprehend, Rao replies that it is… incredible. If she had these just a few weeks ago, she states… She might have been the one to end the Legacy virus, Ord of the Breakworld finishes. She was very close, he tells her. The work was brilliant. Now raising her eyes to the alien, Rao retorts that she still failed. Henry McCoy, she tells him, is the man he should be talking to. Leaning forward, his massive hands coming to rest on the table’s edge, Ord rejoins that he doesn’t believe Dr. McCoy would be objective about his… objective. Given his condition.

Hearing this, Rao’s eyes become cold and harsh. In voice to match her gaze, she tells Ord to understand this: no one is to be hurt. Whatever his feelings about mutants, she will not be a party to murder. Smiling devilishly, Ord informs Rao that he has just this night done the opposite. He has resuscitated a mutant her Earth-based science thought deceased.

Now standing before her, Ord gazes down at the comparatively diminutive Rao. He tells her that he understands her mistrust. In fact, he respects it. But there are millions of lives at stake, and his only interest is in saving them. He doesn’t believe she can turn her back on that opportunity. This said, Ord calls out to Agent Brand. Not even bothering to look in her direction, he asks her if she has the file on Tildie Soames.


Seething in rage, Wolverine inquisitively repeats Nick Fury’s words - diplomatic immunity, making sure to inject a host of profanity between both words. Unaffected by the torrent of curses or Wolverine’s demeanor or body language, Fury is still in control of the situation. While one of his men attends to the fallen Ord, the rest of Fury’s troops have the X-Men covered. Standing next to Fury, is the green-haired agent who assisted Ord so long ago – Agent Brand.

Speaking directly to Wolverine’s question, Fury replies that he heard him, “Tiny.” And, having heard that, he’s to walk away. Urged on by Emma that that’s not bloody likely, Wolverine asks Fury to play him straight – is that dink a diplomat? Answering in Fury’s stead, Agent Brand informs Wolverine that he doesn’t need that information. And she doesn’t need both her arms, he says, calling her “Hydra-hair.”

Ignoring Brand, Fury tells Wolverine that it seems like he’s got a few answers of his own that should be coming. Chief among them: wasn’t that guy dead? Seeing Fury point to the nearly naked Piotr Rasputin by her side, Kitty retorts angrily that he had been there, being tortured – tested by Ord like an animal so he could design his cure. Stone-faced at the accusation, Fury replies that he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Interjecting, Emma asks Fury if he doesn’t. He’s clearly been in bed with this alien berk, yet he’s no clue what he’s been up to. Doesn’t sound like him. Great big covert muckity and all that.

Ignoring Emma, Fury asks the rest of the team how they know their Colossus is the genuine article in the first place. Emma replies that she read his mind, while Beast states that he matched his DNA. Wolverine’s states that he smelled him, which Beast states that he also did. Speaking up again, Kitty tells Fury that this is Peter Nikolaievitch Rasputin – and he owes him the goddamn truth.

Pausing for a moment to consider, Fury calls out to Agent Brand. Rather that jumping at the order, Brand replies to Fury that he doesn’t have the authorization to make her divulge classified… Her statement is interrupted by Fury, who replies that what he has is the urge to disappear and leave this “dink” at the mercy of these very unreasonable super-powered types. Following this with a direct order, he tells her to tell them the truth. It ain’t like they’re going to like it, he then adds.

Without further ado, Brand introduces herself to the X-Men as Special Agent Brand, head of the Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department. They work with S.H.I.E.L.D. and handle matters extraterrestrial. Hearing this, Beast mocks the government and their acronyms, stating that it’s, honestly, adorable. Responding to the jibe, Special Agent Brand replies that she didn’t pick the name. The fact is, she continues, S.H.I.E.L.D. has its hands full truing to keep this world together. And somebody has to keep track of the others.

So, begins Cyclops, finally having regained his composure, funding terrorists isn’t just for Earthlings anymore? They sell arms to the Skrulls, too? What they’re doing, mister, Special Agent Brand replies, is trying to prevent a war. As the conversation continues, the eyes of Ord of the Breakworld opens, as consciousness returns.

Without warning, the wall explodes as a muscle-bound mutant enters the room. His body lacks a head, instead possessing a face in the abdomen. Accompanying him are two other mutants, a gaseous youth and another with elongated arms and legs. Fast approaching from behind are hordes of other mutants. Heralding their intentions, the headless mutant calls out, asking where it is. Where is the cure?

Acting before his troops do, Fury orders everyone to hold fire; these are civilians! Moving toward to Beast, the gaseous youth pleads incoherently, stating that he needs a body… a whole body. Need be human… Seeing a reflection of his own soul in the eyes of the desperate youth, Dr. McCoy can say nothing.

Hearing a report over his earpiece radio that they’ve had a perimeter breach on the southwest corner, Fury sarcastically replies that that’s good to know. He then suggests that the call in the sandmen – put ‘em to sleep. As an afterthought, he instructs the reporting officer to demote himself to crossing guard, calling him a moron.

Nearby, Special Agent Brand comes to her senses, realizing that something is amiss. Something is missing. Calling out, she asks where Ord is. She begins to run out of the room, ordering by her radio that they need agents in the research room, now! Before she can go far, however, a spectral hand rises from the solid matter of the floor, grabbing her ankle and causing her to fall.

In her pink room, young Tildie Soames sits at a tea table, joined by three stuffed animals. Speaking for the rabbit sitting in the chair next to her, Tildie reenacts the tea part from Alice in Wonderland. The tea party, however, comes to an immediate and resounding end, when Ord of the Breakworld crashes through the one-way mirror, hell-bent on his mission.

When Special Agent Brand, still lying on the floor, informs the X-Men that they are in a world of trouble, Cyclops replies coldly that, well, that’s the world they’re from. Uninterested in any more pleasantries, he tells her to finish her story. Without objection, Special Agent Brand does so. “Genocide,” she begins. “And they all died suddenly ever after.” The end. Do they like it?

Changing her tone to one less sarcastic, Brand explains that the Breakworld’s technologies include something that translates roughly as “timeshadows.” They can see a partial version of the future. Not visit. Not change. Just see. They saw a world in chaos. Ashes. The Breakworld, gone in their lifetimes. Destroyed utterly. By a mutant. Most probably an X-Man.

Moving to the special agent and picking her up by her uniform, Wolverine fills in the rest: so, she got together and decided to take care of the muties once and for all? Hardly afraid, Special Agent Brand calls Wolverine “Bumblebee,” mocking his costume, and tells him to deal with the facts. Their own precog stats confirmed their findings. A mutant will almost certainly destroy the Breakworld in the next three years. That’s a whole world, she punctuates. Gone. Because of mutants. Not even stopping there, she rhetorically tells the group that that wouldn’t be the first time, would it?

Lowering his head in the thought, Cyclops speaks the name of the mutant in question: Jean. Quickly spitting back the fact, Emma informs Special Agent Brand that Jean is dead. Yeah, Brand scoffs – that’ll last.

Changing the subject, Kitty approaches Brand, asking her if she knew what Ord was doing to Peter. All this time, did she know? Replying simply, Brand says, “yes.” Fury didn’t, she then adds. Not his department. When asked by the Beast about Kavita, Brand replies that Ord came there with a declaration of war. The cure was diplomatic tap dancing till they could get a bead on which mutants was… Interrupting the special agent, the Beast asks her to answer the question. Was doctor Rao aware that she was… A new interruption stops the conversation, this time by the subject in question. Wide-eyed in desperation, Dr. Kavita Rao enters the room, asking for help; He’s got Tildie….

Explaining her meaning, Rao informs the group that Ord’s taken everything; the samples, the research… He’s gone below and she… if Tildie’s hurt… she trails. Trying to sort out the doctor’s meaning, Cyclops asks why below? In answer, Kitty states that there’s a subcomplex. His lab.

Without hesitation, Special Agent Brand raises her hand to her headset at her left ear, radioing Fury. Raising him, she orders a total evac, now. Five hundred yard min. Hearing the sternness of her speech, Cyclops asks the special agent what’s going on. What’s he going to do? Turning to the X-Man, Special Agent Brand is as pithy as ever. He’s going to leave.

Minutes later, the X-Men, all carrying those who cannot run, make haste from the Benetech facility, even as it erupts in flame and smoke. From the fiery ruins of its launch, the star craft of Ord of the Breakworld erupts into the sky. Its sleek, black shape is reminiscent of a hellish starfish, given flight by the fury of propulsion. Watching this monstrosity climb ever higher into the dawn sky, SHIELD Director Fury turns to Special Agent Brand and tells her that she was going to brief him on this, he’s sure.

Ignoring the accusation, Brand asks Fury if he can bring it down. Not a chance, is his reply. Standing but a few feet away, Emma suggests that they hit him with the jet. To this, Kitty reminds her that there’s a girl in there with him, whereupon Emma retorts that she’s not seeing the big picture too well any more. Nearby, the Beast analyzes the craft’s trajectory, noting that he’s building to vertical thrust. Ten seconds and he’s gone.

No, replies Colossus. He doesn’t get away. His eyes still focused on Ord’s ship, Wolverine asks “Petey” if he’s feeling rested up. Already understanding the implication of his teammate’s words, Piotr replies that he is strong. With a smile, Wolverine turns to Colossus and says that he’s got just two words for him.

To the astonished expressions of the SHIELD agents, Colossus moves as he had done so many times in the past, so long ago. Using the nearly incalculable strength born of muscles made of organic steel, Colossus launches Wolverine into the air with a velocity of a rocket, bridging the gap between terra firma and the space-bound craft. Even death and years in captivity cannot dull teamwork of the Fastball Special.

Watching Wolverine grow smaller and smaller as he ascends, the impressed Emma Frost affirms to Colossus that he really has kept in shape. Wolverine ascent comes to an abrupt halt as he impacts on the slower moving Breakworld spacecraft. His subsequent descent is halted by his already bared claws, which plunge into the craft’s hide, anchoring the X-Man to it.

Inside, the pilot of the craft, Ord himself, addresses the frightened Tildie Soames, who is huddled in the corner. He asks her if the doctor told her there would be no more nightmares. Did she always know she was lying? There will be nightmares, he states. He will make the Earth an endless, shrieking blackness. First the mutants. He has his “cure” now. And as long as he has her, they’ll wait just long enough for him to…

The material composing the cockpit explodes in fury, under the impact of Wolverine’s fist. Rather than having attempted solely in punching through the cockpit, Wolverine had aimed for a target beyond: Ord himself. Having punched through, Wolverine’s fist comes to rest within the Ord mouth. Before the startled alien can even thing to bite down, Wolverine tells him how it is: “You bite, I’ll heal. I pop, you won’t.” There is nothing else that needs to be said, except the order: “land.”

As Ord of the Breakworld’s inert body is taken away by over half a dozen SHIELD agents, Fury announces to the X-Men what they’re all gonna do: not a solitary thing. They all walk away from this, like nothing happened – which, after SHIELD gets done there, will be more or less the truth. Clearly unhappy with Fury’s suggestion, the Beast replies that he is, of course, joking. Of course, Fury retorts. It is one of those jokes he’s so famous and beloved for.

Stepping in, Cyclops says to Fury that what Agent Brand has done is inhumane, illegal and appalling. Yeah, she’s a pip, Fury agrees. As Cyclops begins to respond, Fury then adds that he’s not going to speak for his counterpart – and neither as she, he states, as she begins to – but the fact is that she blew it on many levels and that will not go unmarked. But, she’s dealing with a much bigger picture than any of them. She’s trying to stop a war that just got that much closer to inevitable.

Trying to wrap up the situation, Fury then states that, since the only things that got wrecked in that landing were Dr. Rao’s work and the illustrious ambassador… and it’s interesting how that worked out… he’d count his blessings and go.


Their blessings, the Beast mocks, as he and Cyclops walk the halls of the Xavier Institute. Wolverine destroyed a lot of Rao’s work, Hank continues, but that’s a setback of months at most. The cure will be out there, and in the hands of government agencies they can’t possibly trust. Meanwhile, they have mutant riots brewing in every major city over this cure. A student of theirs has been neutered by it and, oh!, yes!, one of them is predestined to destroy a planet and start an intergalactic way. He’ll be blessed.

Walking by a window, Cyclops looks out into the grounds, seeing two figures standing on the hill. Remarking about one of them, Cyclops reminds Hank that they have Pete. Hell of a thing, the Best concedes. Boy’s named Rasputin – they should have known he wouldn’t be that easy to kill.

Returning the subject to that of the cure, Scott asks Hank if he’s going to use it. Receiving only silence in reply, Scott reminds Hank that his sample’s still cooling in… Cutting off Scott, Hank replies that he knows… and he doesn’t know. Continuing, he states that, when he heard about the cure, it was like this great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He never felt that weight till he felt it gone. If Ord had tapped him instead of that poor kid… maybe this would all be simple. But it’s not. He’s seen so much self-loathing. These desperate people…

Logan was right, Hank continues, – and he’s counting on Scott never telling him he said that – an X-Man doesn’t quit. Not with the world watching. As the two enter the lab, Hank clarifies his meaning: He’s not saying never. Didn’t ask him to, Scott replies. The subject ended, Scott brings up another one. So, Scott says again. Pete. Hell of a thing, Hank agrees.

The sky is blue, accompanied by a few wisps of small, white clouds. Both Piotr Rasputin and Kitty Pryde take in the scenery, the breeze blowing past them. Finally speaking, Piotr explains that he left the world in terrible turmoil. He comes back, same turmoil. Nothing at all different. Well, he clarifies, outfits are a little different.

Turning to Kitty, Piotr tells Kitty that it’s funny it was she who found him, doesn’t she think? No, she replies. She doesn’t think it’s funny. Kitty turns from Piotr’s side, now facing him, her eyes downcast. She thinks maybe it’s important. She thinks it’s… somehow… Lifting up her head to look into the eyes of her towering friend, Kitty says that she thinks it’s why she’s there.

Watching the two from her bedroom window above, Emma hears her companion state that he’s a good-looking boy, isn’t he? Regarding the young Piotr, Emma replies that she supposes he’s all right, if you like the tall, muscular, square-jawed, unbelievably gorgeous type. To this, the companion tells Emma that it changes the equation. No, she counters. She is still the issue. Well, not to worry, the companion replies. When it starts… they deal with her first.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Colossus, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Shadowcat, Wolverine (all X-Men)


Unnamed Xavier Institute students

Director Nick Fury

Special Agent Brand

S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers

Dr. Kavita Rao

Benetech security

Tildie Soames

Hundreds of mutants at Benetech

Ord, of Breakworld

Emma’s unseen cohort


Dr. Kavita Rao

Special Agent Brand

Ord of the Breakworld

Story Notes: 

Colossus died in Uncanny X-Men #390, in his successful attempt to cure the Legacy Virus, which killed his sister, Illyana. His body was subsequently cremated and his ashes were scattered by Kitty in X-Men (2nd series) #110.

First mention of SWORD (Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department) and Special Agent Brand by name.

The U.S. government’s “fascination” with acronyms originated during FDR’s ‘New Deal,” whereupon a host of new agencies were formed, including the NSA, CIA, FCC, TVA and others.

It was Phoenix II, not really Jean Grey, who destroyed the D’Bari homeworld. [X-Men (1st series) #135]

The two words Wolverine means are, of course, the “Fastball Special.” First used during their early days as X-Men, it is a classic, tried and true maneuver.

The Beast’s statement regarding Colossus being hard to kill because of his name, Rasputin, refers to the Russian “mad monk,” Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin. A self-purported psychic and healer, he played a pivotal role in the fall of the Romanov dynasty, giving eventual rise to the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union. Seeing his affect on the royalty, loyalists poisoned him, shot him and beat him – yet he lived. He eventually was killed when he was rolled up in a sheet and drowned in the river, Neva.

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