District X #9

Issue Date: 
March 2005
Story Title: 
Underground - part 3

David Hine (writer), Lan Medina (penciler), Alejandro ‘Boy’ Sicat (inks), Digital Rainbow (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt (letters), Tom Raney (cover), Sean Ryan & Stephanie Moore (assistant editors), Mike Marts (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

In the aftermath of the night’s blackout, caused by ‘Those who live in darkness,’ Izzy Ortega returns home and make good with his wife. He is called to the precinct and meets Bishop there. A letter has been received by the culprits, and he’s gotten a three-day reprieve to discover who they are, before a SWAT team is called in. A mutant witness identifies Winston Hobbes as the possible murderer of the St. Jerome’s security guard and, as Nemesio Pietri painted the exact same person, they need to speak with him. Bishop and Izzy, along with Izzy’s sister, visit Pietri’s apartment, but it is empty. All that appears to be missing is a Bible, some photos, and a painting that has been removed from its frame. At the apartment, they also find a large painting, showing Winston standing over Bishop’s body, as Izzy stands behind them, smiling enigmatically. Yet another painting shows Winston Hobbes about to attack a lone female. That evening, the transit cops raid the homeless living in the tunnels, and Melek the telepath tells his followers that, as those above ground didn’t seem to hear their message, next time they’ll shout louder. Bishop and Izzy follow more leads regarding Winston, but, before they head out, Mitya Smerdyakov informs Izzy that her brother, Gregor, has gone missing. A second blackout means more trouble, and Winston Hobbes murders his former caseworker, Millicent Ferrall. Bishop and Izzy investigate the crime scene, and Izzy discovers she worked at St. Jerome’s. They visit the hospital manager, and he informs them of Winston’s history. He feels Winston may be trying to find his parents; so Izzy and Bishop decide to pay them a visit. Underground, Winston cries as he looks at a photograph of his estranged parents.

Full Summary: 

(on television)

Mutant Town is a mess. Following a blackout caused by the Tunnel Rats, this section of New York City is in chaos. Looters have done their worst, and vehicles are strewn across the street, abandoned by their drivers who are oblivious to the Tunnel Rats’ concerns.

A Channel 4 news reporter, Marie, provides details on at least one brutal slaying that took place during the blackout. She is outside St. Jerome’s Children’s Hospital, in the heart of District X. A security guard was murdered, and the reporter is standing with Chief Randolph Esposito, 11th Precinct’s chief police officer.

Marie asks about the possibility that underground explosions caused the blackout, and if it could have been an act of terrorism, targeting the mutant population. Chief Esposito replies that any talk of terrorism is pure speculation. At this point, all they know is that the power outage can be traced to failures of supply lines in the immediate vicinity.

(The Ortega house)

Armena Ortega is having a drink and watching her husband’s boss on television. Izzy returns home and he looks depressed. She asks him where he’s been, and Izzy replies that he’s been walking. Armena shows concern, telling him she’s been trying to call him on his cell phone. Izzy apologizes, and Armena hugs him, pleased to have him home. However, she warns him that if he ever lays a finger on her again, they’re finished. Izzy promises that it won’t happen again. They hug properly, and their two children, Chamayra and Esteban appear. Chamy gives her father a big hug, but before Esteban can do likewise, Izzy’s phone rings. It’s Bishop, and he wants to see Izzy - in plainclothes.

(11th Precinct Station House)

Izzy arrives and says hi to Nancy who partnered him whilst Bishop was otherwise engaged. She offers a wide smile upon seeing him, and informs him that Bishop is waiting for him. She asks him not to worry about her, though. She has a rookie to take under her wing. Izzy wants to be her partner again when things are back to normal. Nancy strokes his chin with her index finger and teases him about being a detective. They seem very close.

Izzy finds Bishop in his office, standing over a map of District X. Despite what happened the other night, they’re cool, and Bishop immediately launches into his findings. Pinpointing locations on the map, he explains that there were three explosions that went off simultaneously underground. They took out the power lines at key junctions. It was a well-planned attack, calculated to cause maximum disruption. Izzy asks if he they know who’s behind it. Bishop offers him a fax which was delivered to City Hall that morning.

Izzy reads the fax. It’s from the tunnel dwellers, and basically explains that if those above ground continue to harass them, they have been shown just what ‘those who live in darkness’ are capable of. Bishop informs Izzy that the mayor’s preferred option is to go in with SWAT teams; clear out the tunnels and round up everyone who’s living down there. “No way!” Izzy replies. He’s heard that the tunnel people have serious weaponry stashed down there. If SWAT teams go in, there’s going to be a lot of bodies. Bishop agrees. He’s gotten a three-day reprieve to find whoever’s behind the attacks and bring them in.

Izzy suddenly notices the image of Winston Hobbes on a computer screen. A mutant witness has pointed him out as being the St. Jerome murderer. He is now their number one suspect. Bishop asks to see the crime scene photo’s, and tells Izzy that they need to speak to Nemesio Pietri. The artist painted the exact same person committing the exact same murder, and they need answers. Izzy says he’ll call his sister, Laline. She’ll know where he is.

(later, Nemesio’s apartment)

Bishop, Izzy and his sister, Laline, arrive at Nemesio’s, but find that he isn’t in. Laline produces a set of keys, which surprises Izzy. Laline asks him not to start. They enter, and find the place is a mess. Izzy comes across another painting, only this time it is of him, with blood on his hands. This symbolism doesn’t get past Izzy. He turns to Bishop and points to the painting. “Does he think I’m going to kill someone? Is that it?” Bishop asks him to check out another painting.

On a much larger canvas is a painting of Bishop, lying unconscious as the hulking figure of Winston Hobbes, also known as The Worm, stands over him. Behind Winston stands Izzy in the same trench coat he’s wearing now. Strangely, he has an enigmatic smile, as he sees blood dripping from Winston’s mouth.

Bishop tells Izzy that the future isn’t fixed. Izzy turns and says, “Isn’t fixed! You think I could…” He stops in his tracks, as he notices once again his wry smile in the painting. Laline appears, and informs them that Nemesio is gone, but he hasn’t taken much. However, there are a couple of things missing; some photos he always kept with him, and his Bible. Izzy wonders if Pietri could be responsible for all this. He challenged them at the gallery, and he wonders if this is all some kind of messed-up game he’s playing. Laline tells her brother that this isn’t a game to Nemesio. His visions are very real, and have come close to driving him insane.

As Bishop reaches for another painting, Izzy asks Laline just how insane he gets. Insanely violent? Laline replies that he only gets violent to himself, and he’s not going to blame this on Nemesio.

Bishop lifts the painting, which is another depiction of Winston Hobbes; this time standing over a frightened woman in silhouette. He knows they need to find Nemesio, but right now, this is the painting they should be concerned with. A crime soon to come? Izzy finds a frame nearby, though the painting that was in it has been removed. He wonders what it was. Laline doesn’t know as she never saw it. Bishop figures it must be important if he took it with him.

(the tunnels)

Nemesio is amongst the tunnel rats. It is another cold night, and many of them huddle around burning braziers to keep warm. Into the tunnel comes someone running fast, warning them to move it. The cops are coming. Dzemal grabs Nemesio’s arm and tells him he can’t stay there. The cops will beat him if they catch up to him. As they hurry away into the darkness, the cops are in hot pursuit.

“Hey, Chuds! Come back here! We just want to play,” cries one of the cops, waving his baton. Nemesio asks why they call them Chuds. One green-skinned mutant replies that it means ‘cannibalistic human underground dwellers.’ Didn’t Nemesio see the movie? He explains that they make up stories about them. They say they eat dogs and rats, and when they get really hungry, they eat each other. He assures Nemesio that it ain’t true. He ain’t never ate a dawg yet. He smiles at Nemesio; bearing two rows of ferocious-looking teeth.

The cops continue to smash everything in sight; food and drink, personal things and even children’s toys.


The mutant who spoke to Nemesio kneels before Melek the telepath. He explains that he’s seen the cops bust up his house, after he spent two weeks building it. They busted it into matchsticks. Melek replies that apparently they didn’t hear their message. This time, they’ll have to shout louder.

(11th Precinct Station House)

Bishop and Izzy are with another detective. Bishop asks what Winston Hobbes was doing at the hospital. Izzy replies that the only reason he can think of is drugs; but this was the records department. The detective asks if anything was missing. Izzy says there’s a lot of material down there, and so they don’t know yet.

Izzy asks Bishop if he thinks this incident was related to the blackout. Bishop feels it’s a bit over the top; blacking out half of Manhattan to cover up a burglary. Izzy points out that, whatever the reason, Nemesio Pietri saw this coming, and if he’s right, there’ll be another attack. Nancy pops her head around the door and informs ‘Detective’ Izzy that there’s someone to see him. It’s Mitya Smerdyakov. As he steps out with her, Izzy asks her to knock off the detective thing. Nancy says that sure she’ll cut it out - the next time she sees him in uniform with puke down his pants, hauling a semi-conscious 250-pound wino into the drunk tank at three in the morning… detective.

Izzy meets with Mitya, who informs him that her brother, Gregor, has gone missing. She explains that, last night, Nemesio came to their house, acting crazy. Gregor went out with him and never came back. He has been friends with Nemesio for a long time. She doesn’t know where they went, and is concerned that her brother didn’t take his medicine. Izzy knows what happens when he doesn’t’ take it. He has someone take down the details, and is then called back by Izzy to the chief’s office.

Bishop, Izzy and Chief Esposito sit around the television, watching a news broadcast. The presenter explains that another communiqué has been delivered by those calling themselves ‘Those who live in darkness.’ It promises a second attack on the city, after transit police raided a group of homeless people living in the tunnels. Izzy tells the chief that he thought they had a three-day amnesty. Bishop replies that there must have been a communications breakdown. The chief looks at the picture of Winston Hobbes and figures they can expect another blackout, and that means the possibility of another attack by this psycho.


The tunnel rats are gathered around Melek, who has his hand placed on the head of a blue mutant named Ahmed. A female mutant is concerned for Melek, as this process will cause him much pain, and he is old. Melek continues regardless. Dzemal asks the green-skinned mutant he was with earlier what Melek is doing. He replies that they can’t get to the power lines. They run close to the surface and there are too many police watching out for attacks. Ahmed is a telekinetic. He and Melek are combining their powers to sabotage the city from long-distance.

As they begin to concentrate, Melek is clearly in anguish as their power extends to the surface in one concentrated effort. Their plan is successful and, above ground, circuits are blown, plunging Mutant Town once again into darkness.

(11th Precinct Station House)

The lights go out, and Bishop immediately calls for the cops to switch to their laptops, and to keep the monitors dimmed to save the batteries.

(the apartment of Millicent Ferrall)

Millicent is frustrated that the power has gone, just as the Ricki Lake show was about to start. A noise outside her apartment worries her, and she lights a candle. She looks through the peep-hole, but cannot see anything as everything’s so dark. A thump against the door worries her sufficiently, to make her call 911. To her annoyance, it is engaged. She tries to remain calm, remembering her training at work, and grabs some pepper spray and a panic alarm. She now wishes she’d bought the Saturday Night Special from Brenda. Walking back to the door, she states loudly that she’s been trained in self-defense. Her warning has little effect.

Suddenly, the door comes crashing towards her. As she rocks backwards, she remembers the important techniques she has learnt - eyes-groin-kick. Her training has never prepared her for this. Winston Hobbes comes flying at her, and she drops her panic alarm as she instantly recognizes him.

(later, 11th Precinct Station House)

A call is received about a disturbance at Millicent’s. Neighbors saw some kind of monster leaving the scene. It sounds like their boy. Izzy asks the detective taking the call if anyone was hurt. He replies that there is one female victim. The attack happened at least one hour ago. It’s chaos out there.


Bishop and Izzy are at Millicent’s apartment, where concerned neighbors are awaiting news. Bishop uses a small portion of his power to create enough energy to light up the room. Izzy informs Bishop that they have a link. The victim was a child welfare worker at St. Jerome’s.

(St. Jerome’s Children’s Hospital)

Millicent Ferrall’s boss is woken, and seats himself behind a large desk as Izzy and Bishop arrive to interview him. He asks if it’s about last night’s break-in, and wonders if that could have waited. Izzy informs him of Millicent’s death. He can’t believe it, and wonders who could do such a thing. Bishop hands him the picture of Winston Hobbes. He recognizes him immediately, and says that God forgive him, but he hoped Winston would be dead. Izzy asks if Ms. Ferrall dealt with Winston. He replies that she was his case worker. Izzy asks him to tell them all about Hobbes.

Millicent’s boss explains that St. Jerome’s take in children who are abandoned by their parents, or by those parents who feel they are unable to properly care for them. They make no judgments, and try to treat all their children with the same care and compassion. That isn’t always easy. He continues to point out that they deal with some of the most serious examples of physical mutation imaginable. Winston Hobbes was the most extreme distortion of humanity he’s ever encountered.


A four-year old Winston Hobbes is brought to St. Jerome’s by his parents; themselves mutants with physical appearances that would have marked them for discrimination. They were homeless, and lived in the subway tunnels under Manhattan. Winston’s eyes were bandaged when they brought him. He was born underground and couldn’t stand the light. His parents left him there, and departed.

During his first night there, Winston escaped from the ward. He was found digging a burrow. He was actually eating the dirt; swallowing it. After that, people called him The Worm, though not to his face. No one was ever wantonly cruel to him. As he grew older, Winston became increasingly unstable. There was one incident when he was eight years old, when he left several staff members seriously injured. He is immensely strong, and his poisonous bite is potentially lethal.

Winston had to be kept sedated. He was transferred to a more secure room in the basement. Millicent Ferrall taught him to read and write, but his vocal cords were malformed, and he was incapable of human speech. When he was sixteen, he escaped again. He must have been tunnelling for years. There was a whole network of tunnels under the hospital. Security staff followed them until they emerged in the subway.


The manager concludes his history lesson by adding that they guessed he was trying to find his parents. He kept a picture of them in his room. It was the only thing he took with him. Izzy asks if he thinks he found them. Unlikely, comes the reply. His parents left the tunnels years ago, found employment and set up home, having another child. “But they didn’t come back for Winston?” asks Bishop. The manager replies that they were advised against it. Bishop asks who by. The manager says there would have been a consensus, but Millicent, as primary caseworker, would have made the final recommendation.

Bishop asks if this is all on file. The manager sees what he’s getting at. Maybe Winston blames Millicent for being abandoned by his parents. Bishop assumes that Millicent would have kept Winston’s parents address in her personal files. The manager confirms this. Izzy reckons they should pay mom and pop Hobbes a visit.


Winston has returned to his home. He looks at a photograph of his parents and, like a lost child, he cries.

Characters Involved: 


Armena and Izzy Ortega

Chamayra and Esteban Ortega

Residents of Mutant Town

NYPD officers including Nancy


Laline Ortega

Nemesio Pietri


Transit Cops

Tunnel Rats

Melek the telepath


Mitya Smerdyakov

Millicent Ferrall and her boss


Winston Hobbes

Mr. and Mrs. Hobbes

St. Jerome’s staff including Millicent Ferrall

(on television)

Chief Randolph Esposito

News reporters including Marie

Police Officer

News anchorman

(on monitor)

Winston Hobbes

(in photograph)

St. Jerome’s security guard

Mr. and Mrs. Hobbes

(in paintings)


Izzy Ortega

Winston Hobbes

Millicent Ferrall

Story Notes: 

SWAT stands for Specials Weapons and Tactics.

Mitya surname here is Smerdykoff. Writer David Hine jokingly described this as a pronunciation error by Nancy. It should be Smerdyakov.

The movie, C.H.U.D (Cannibalistic Human underground Dwellers), came out in 1984 and starred excellent character actor, John Heard, and Daniel Stern, more famous for their later roles in Home Alone.

The Ricki Lake Show has been running for many years, discussing a variety of subjects such as drugs, teen pregnancies and gang wars.

Saturday Night Special is a common name for any assault weapon, such as a small pistol, that can be bought cheaply for self-defense.

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