Murder World, Quadrant Two, a desert landscape:
X-23 stares into the desert, musing that the first thing her brain does when she steps into a new room is calculate the most efficient way to murder everyone there. It’s an involuntary response. Like squinting your eyes in the bright sun. Their first day here, while Arcade was demonstrating the rules of his game, her subconscious mind was picking people off. She had the field narrowed down to five serious threats before he released them. How much of Hazmat’s radiation would it take to kill Darkhawk? Can a broken magical staff be forced through the soft palate of a teenage Captain Britain?
It never stops. She walks downwards finding scattered remains of a Sentinel. Her brain doesn’t care that she’s vowed never again to be used as a weapon. Or that some of these people are her friends.
She walks towards the Sentinel head, figuring that based on the angle of the wreckage they dropped out of the sky here. Bounced twice and rolled that way. Maximum velocity. They hit so hard. The free fall did all this to a Sentinel. How could Juston have survived it? Even if he did, all alone in the desert, how many days? No food, no water, no healing factor like her. That’s why they didn’t come earlier. The real reason. They knew he was already—
Stop it! Laura orders herself. She had to come and know for sure. They are heroes in training at Avengers Academy. They don’t leave teammates behind. She sniffs. Something smells wrong. She follows the smell downward under part of the Sentinel head where there is a crater. She figures it smells like peanut butter. She calls Juston’s name and is blasted against the wall by part of the Sentinel. A wrench falls down and she catches it, shouting if he is down here.
Oh hey, Juston greets her, crouching in part of the Sentinel’s head. Sorry about the booby trap. He just set it to motion detection blast so he can work. She can heal, X-23 shrugs. She is surprised he is alive and okay. He agrees about being alive. Not so sure about the ‘okay’ part. His best friend got his body ripped apart making sure he fell in a way that saved Juston’s life. After which his flesh and blood friends forgot he existed and left him alone in the desert for almost a week. He’s still trapped here in this super hero death match even though his robot’s dead and he doesn’t have any other powers. Oh, and odds are he’s paralyzed from the waist down. Peanut butter energy bar? he offers.
Anachronism stares at the body of Kid Briton, whom he just killed. Angrily, Nara asks how they just let Katy and Death Locket run off. Cullen Bloodstone, who’s busy sewing up her back injury, reminds her that Aiden is catatonic after cutting off Brian’s head. Nara was preoccupied bleeding all over herself. And he, well, he didn’t care that much.
Nara winces and asks if he really knows what he is doing or is it just a cheap thrill poking at her cut? A Bloodstone who can’t field dress a wound isn’t likely to make it out of diapers, Cullen informs her. But he’d be more than happy to let her sew this scaly mess shut herself, if she can’t stop squirming.
Aidan speaks, announcing he didn’t mean to kill him. Didn’t even know he could. What will they do with him now? He’s already done the last thing that’ll ever need doing, Cullen reminds him. Aiden means they have to bury him or something. They can’t just leave him to rot in the sun. Nara interrupts his babbling. This wasn’t done in cold blood. He didn’t kill that git for sport. Kid Briton would have torn her to pieces if Aidan hadn’t stepped up. She opens her water helmet and tells Aidan he is a warrior. He finally embraced who he is and what this place is all about. A warrior never has to apologize for protecting what’s his. She kisses him. Cullen glares sullenly.
Some distance away, Runaways Chase and Nico and their new ally Cammi watch this scene. Weird, Cammi muses. They are standing over a headless corpse making out. And what’s even weirder is the little one is coming here.
Cammi aims her gun at Cullen (who is holding a bigger weapon). Cammi tells him to state his business. Cullen explains that one of them cut another’s head off over there. He’s sure they saw. Good guys won, and all that. But they did know the bloke. Doesn’t feel right leaving him out in the sun. Bit smelly, if nothing else. Loads of food in the cache they won. They’ll split it with them if they’ll help them put him in the ground.
Apex runs like crazy through the snow, followed by Death Locket, who demands an explanation. Go away! Katy shouts at her. Just leave her alone! What happened before? Death Locket shouts. Brian’s dead. Cullen and those others said Katy was controlling her Deathlok stuff. That she tried her to get to kill Nara. She doesn’t understand any of this. Of course not. No one understands! Apex cries as she lands face first in the snow.
When she doesn’t move anymore, Death Locket runs to her side asking what’s wrong. Katy gets up but in her place there is a young man who looks a lot like her. Nothing’s wrong, love, he tells her. But he’s not Katy. His name is Tim.
Elsewhere, X-23 helps Juston fix the Sentinel. He explains they are looking for the primary power coupling which is just behind the left eye. Let him know when she’s got his face off and he’ll walk her through it. Okay, she agrees and gets to work.
In the desert, the kids have buried Kid Briton, his sword marking the burial site. Were they close? Nico asks Nara who reminds her that he tried to kill her earlier. Nico points out she’s been over there for a while. Relationships can be pretty complicated. She had a guy once who—
Nara tells her to stop. They are not bonding over lost love. That down there is a coward who decided to mess with her and got what he deserved!
He doesn’t like sports? Chase asks Aiden. Never really cared for chasing after a ball, is the reply Chase can’t believe it. How is he not a football god? He’s Scottish for one, comes the reply. Their football has different rules. He walks after Nara.
Cullen glares sullenly. Okay, she has to ask. He’s got that loner stink on him, same as her, Cammi remarks. He is a survivor. Cold blooded. Why invite three more mouths to share the food? Like he said… Cullen shrugs. Needed the help. Cammi points out he didn’t care enough about the kid in the ground. Cullen tells her she has no idea what he cares about.
Who is it? Cammi asks. Axe Bro or Big Blue? When he is surprised she figures it’s Axe Bro - Good luck with that. She tells him to remember the only way out of here is all alone and straight through everyone else. The more attached you get—
What makes her think she can psychoanalyze a complete bloody stranger in all of12 seconds? Cullen demands. She spent three months running a high stakes con on a Badoon spice outpost. Once you’ve learned to read the inner eyelid twitches of homicidal lizard men, human facial expressions are about a subtle as jumbotron. She tells him not to worry. She won’t mention his other secret. The big ugly one he’s got cooped up behind his eyes. That’s just none of her business.
Stand back! Juston tells Laura as he gets the headless Sentinel to at least stand up and jump. He rides atop it. Laura joins him.
So she can’t go anywhere Reptile and Hazmat are right now? he asks. Not until the Trigger Scent wears off, she explains. She’d tear them apart. Her programming takes over. She makes the kill and wakes up covered in it.
Arcade really knows what he’s doing, Juston muses. He snatched her teammates away and switched her from tortured pacifist back into power player all in one fell swoop. He’s got everyone playing his game, just like he said.
Where are they going? she asks. He has one thing to do, he tells her. He isn’t the odds-on favorite like she. He’s got one thing keeps him going. He follows his scanner. After that whatever, the thing can run its course.
Ridiculously cold, Tim Bashir stammers as he and Death Locket enter a crater. Death Locket reminds him that he wandered off into the snow. He really didn’t, Tim retorts, Death Locket sees the Sentinel closing in, then it jumps. X-23 falls off.
Hearing the noise of the Sentinel’s weapons being fired alerts Nico, Chase, Cullen and Cammi. Tim and Death Locket run towards them. Death Locket screams for help. Too late, Juston shout and has the Sentinel fire at them again. Now it’s time to pay!
Nico manifests the Staff of One. On the Rocks! she orders and ice surrounds the Sentinel. Stay out of this, Juston orders and fires at her. Nico stumbles.
This causes an angry Chase to reveal that he is now Darkhawk, surprising Nico and Cammi as he flies upward to attack Juston.
Standing some distance away, X-23 muses she can see three different ways to kill everyone here. The fastest way would be pretty bloody and she might lose an arm. The cleanest way would mean waiting until they are all asleep. But at this point the easiest way to kill everyone would be to just keep out of their way.