Excalibur (1st series) #78

Issue Date: 
June 1994
Story Title: 
Douglock Chronicles part 1: Fire in the Wild

Scott Lodbell (Plot), Chris Cooper (Script), John Royle (Penciller), Harry Candelario (Inker), Babcock & Brosseau (Letterers), Chris Malthys (Colorist), Suzanne Gaffney (Editor), Bob Harass (Group Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Britanic, Meggan and Shadowcat wait above a forest, as Britanic feels he needs to be there for some reason. Kitty uses the time to call her mother, and they talk about Kitty’s father, whom neither have heard from in a long time. In the forest, Zero summons from the Phalanx a being who looks remarkably like the deceased New Mutant Doug Ramsey. They converse about different theories on life, while trying to evade Stryfe’s droids who are hunting for Zero. They come across a family, but leave them quickly, though soon enough, the family are under attack by the droids. Brian, Meggan and Kitty come to the rescue, however they are overwhelmed and Zero and the techno-organic return to aid. Eventually, Zero teleports them all away, but more droids arrive, with the location of their targets, all who they must kill. On Muir Isle, Moira MacTaggert and Rory Campbell discuss the Legacy Virus, when Charles Xavier arrives. Much to Moira’s surprise, he has come to help her in her research against the Legacy Virus.

Full Summary: 

A small fire lights up a dark cave. A mysterious being approaches the fire, where sitting by the fire is a being who greets the newcomer. The white being exclaims that he is an ambient energy-dampening actualization module with an extra serial null designation to signify prototype status - ‘but you can call me Zero’. Zero is glad that the stranger responded to his sentience seeking distress beacon, adding that it makes him feel good - which defies analysis. Zero tells the stranger that there is much they must explore together.

The stranger asks Zero what this location is, to which Zero reveals that the cave is in North America, ‘subregion designate Maine’. The stranger asks Zero what the significance of his current actions are, to which Zero informs him that he is attempting to elude pursuit and avert destruction of hunter-killer droids. Zero reveals that the droids are programmed by his former master, Stryfe, to delete all Stryfe-related data and material in the even of Stryfe’s termination. Zero reveals that Stryfe has indeed been terminated, and as he is classified as Stryfe-related, he is therefore targeted.

The stranger cuts Zero off before he can continue, informing him that he misunderstands his question, so rephrases it and asks Zero what the significance of his immediate behavior is. Realizing the stranger is talking about the fire, Zero informs him that he is warming himself, before declaring that he fails to grasp the relevance - the newcomer cuts Zero off again, stating that it is illogical for artificial constructs like either of them to create warmth, as they should be operational under a wide range of temperature conditions.

Zero exclaims that it is human behavior and is common when seeking comfort - another feeling which defies analysis. The stranger picks up a small branch and suggests that the fire can provide analysis for the data. As he puts the stick in the fire, Zero tells him that feelings do not come from the fire, but from within himself, noticing the stick changing, from wood to techno-organic with the strangers touch, Zero compares the two. With the fire from the stick lighting up the cave, Zero tells the stranger that he must know this, or else would not have answered the call. ‘Have you changed, Doug Ramsey?’ asks Zero.

The techno-organic stranger stares at the fire, hoping for an answer, but the image that flickers across his circuits are not of flame, but of faces - faces that are as young, as open, as human as the face he imperfectly replicates. These faces belong to the next generation of homo sapiens superior - the New Mutants. Faces of people that a young man named Doug Ramsey once called friends. But the memories are just fragments of someone else’s life and though they burn bright, they’re cold as ash and to be swept away and replaced. Replaced by the relentless pull of the Phalanx, the murderous collective mind of which was, until recently, he was part of.

Suddenly, the fire in the techno-organic’s hands have nothing but a combustive reaction of oxygen and flammable components. The techno-organic tells Zero that his query is strange, that change of some sort is inevitable for all things, however, his fundamental programming remains consistent. Zero replies ‘perhaps’ before exclaiming that his own summons have isolated the newcomer from the Phalanx, meaning their mission, their programming directives are no longer his.

‘Unacceptable - I must have a purpose!’ declares the techno-organic. Zero tells him that there is purpose to be found, and that he senses important things within himself, and the potential for him too. However, Zero is unable to analyze the feelings and tells the stranger that they must understand and must define their own purpose and identify the critical data within themselves - and quickly, as they do not have much time.

Zero points out of the cave, telling the techno-organic that the answers they seek are not in the cave, but somewhere out there. The techno-organic asks Zero to specify location parameters, ‘out where?’ pointing out that there are trillions of organisms merely within the confines of the forest, from microscopic life forms that exist only for seconds, to spruce trees with a biomass measure in tons and a lifespan measure in centuries.

The techno-organic tells Zero that they are just two beings among countless others. Zero agrees and as the two leave the cave, declares that it is time to set out and find their place in the among them and understand their purpose in a broader context. As they walk along a river side, Zero declares that they must be cautious as Stryfe’s droids continue their search and will not stop until their programming directive is fulfilled. ‘We may not survive to understand out evolving consciousness’ Zero remarks.

Meanwhile, not far away, a hovercraft carrying the members of Excalibur floats silently above the treetops and waits. And waits. And waits. Inside the craft, Brian Braddock, formerly Captain Britain, now known as Britanic, tells his teammates that he knows this is the ordained place, but cannot remember why he was compelled to it. Brian’s lovely girlfriend, the elemental Meggan tells her lover to calm himself, as for now it is enough that they are here. She trusts that the reason will become clear in time.

Sitting towards the back of the craft, Kitty Pryde wonders if Meggan really believes that, as she is not as certain. The former X-Man feels like they have been there for hours, watching the pine needles grow. Kitty thinks that since Brian returned to Excalibur from his journey into the Time Stream, his behavior had been kind of erratic. However, she supposes the Time Stream is bound to have effects on people, even Brian. Turning and walking further to the back of the jet, Kitty cannot help but wonder if the “inner call“ that made Britanic bring them here, was the wrong number.

That reminds her, while Excalibur is on hold, she should put her “friends and relatives calling circle“ to good use, and rings her mother at the clinic she works at in Chicago. Teri Pryde, happy to hear her daughter’s voice tells her that the connection sounds so clear and asks where she is. Kitty informs her mother that she is in Maine, which Teri jokes is a lot closer than the British Isles. She adds that her life is hectic at the moment, but asks Kitty if she could visit.

Kitty replies ‘Maybe’ before asking her mother if she has heard anything from her father, quickly adding that she shouldn’t keep tabs on her ex. Teri replies that she hasn’t seen or heard from him in months, and asks Kitty if something is wrong. Tears begin to fall from Kitty’s eyes as she replies that she thinks her father has been away, and tells her mother that she sounds busy so should let her go. Before Kitty says goodbye, she tells her mother that when things settle down for her, she will make a visit.

Hanging the phone up, Kitty thinks to herself that things never quite settle down in her family, which is no wonder her early days in the X-Mansion felt much more like home than her actual home did. Even though there was love in both houses, the X-Men always made the time to express it, no matter how crazy their lives got. ‘Especially when things got crazy!’

Brian smashes his fist down on the console and asks how he can complete his mission when the mission is hidden from him, and shouts that there must be a reason he was summoned here. A pink glow suddenly surrounds Meggan as she reminds her long-time lover that she is one with the pulse of life, revealing that she can sense a dewdrop as it gathers on a single blade of grass, just as she senses the interwoven rhythms of this entire ecosystem.

Meggan declares that if there is a purpose to their presence, it is hidden even from her, for she can detect no living sentience other than their own, and a family of four non-mutant campers exploring nature. Meggan begins to suggest that the campers are the reason they have been summoned, but Brian dismisses the notion, declaring that whatever is to come does not concern a single family, of even the three of them present - ‘but every person on the planet!’ The answer is out there…somewhere.

Dawn breaks over Muir Isle Research Center off the Coast of Scotland, where Dr. Moira MacTaggert has completed yet another night of feverish work - literally. If the world-renowned scientists efforts are even more urgent tonight, it is because her quest for a cure to the deadly Legacy Virus has taken a decidedly personal twist. Moira stretches and yawns at a computer console, when someone enters her lab telling her that the virus will get her too, if she lets it work her to death.

The startled scientist turns to see Doctor Rory Campbell enter her lab. Moira tells the handsome doctor that he looks terrible - like he has seen a ghost. Rory remarks that they have both seen better days, and mutters that worse may lie ahead. Moira agrees before asking Rory, aside from Charles Xavier’s personal request for assistance, why a brilliant scientist like him would devote every waking hour to curing the dread disease. Rory narrows his eyes and tells Moira that he was just about to ask her the same question.

When Rory leaves the lab, Moira thinks to herself that against this disease, the grim reality is that all her waking hours may not add up to much. ‘Such pessimism can only mean you haven’t had your morning cup of coffee!’ declares the telepathic Charles Xavier, leader and founder of the X-Men, and close friend of Moira’s as he enters the lab. Moira embraces the wheel-chair bound scientist and tells him that he knows her too well. Charles tells Moira that he did not mean to pry, but when her thoughts are so strong - Moira cuts Charles off, she knows what he is going to say - ‘It’s hard for a telepath to block them out’

Moira jokes that Charles uses that line with every lass he meets, to which Charles smiles and reminds Moira that it worked with her. Moira asks Charles if he crossed the Atlantic and charmed his way past the Centre’s security system just to goad her over coffee, to which Charles reveals that he is here to offer his services to the most advanced genetic research facility in the world.

Charles informs Moira that he has left the day-to-day operations of the X-Men to the Beast so he can work with her full-time until they find a cure to the Legacy Virus that threatens every mutant on the face of the Earth. Grimly, Moira tells Charles that he doesn’t know the half of it - and he may not want to hear what she has to tell him.

Back in the woods of Maine. A family is enjoying their time camping. A young girl holding her stuffed bunny, Milo, tells her mother that Milo wont go if anybody else is around, and she can find the best spot on her own. The girl’s brother, Davey tells his sister that Milo is a stuffed bunny and not the one that has to go. The mother tells Davey to be quiet and hands Courtney a roll of toilet tissue, playing along, saying that they cannot keep Milo waiting. As Courtney runs off into the woods, away from the tents, her mother calls to her, telling her not to go far.

Suddenly, Courtney bumps into something…or someone…Zero. ‘Hi!’ exclaims Courtney, whose awe gives way to curiosity about a creature so wondrous and rare, as does Zero’s. Zero picks the young girl up, and even though he may never grasp what it is that makes a being like Courtney so special, somewhere in his circuits and logic pathways, a dawning consciousness recognizes that for all the destructive power at his command, he is holding something far greater than himself.

Zero puts Courtney down and hands her stuffed toy to her, trying to treat Courtney appropriately and like any thoughtful visitor in the wild, leaves her as he found her - though with a little more to dream about tonight - the same goes for Courtney.

Zero and the Doug Ramsey look-alike cross a small river, the techno-organic telling Zero that he does not understand, as the human Zero just encountered now has critical data as to their location. He tells Zero that logically, he should have disabled the childs’ functions to ensure that the data was not acquired by Stryfe’s droids. Zero grabs the techno-organic and picks it off the ground, telling him to listen to himself, as he is talking about terminating a human life as if he were deleting an obsolete data file.

Innocently, the techno-organic asks if the logic is faulty, to which Zero tells him that way of life is faulty. A blue glows begins to emanate from Zero as he declares that there is little time. He tells the techno-organic that he must overcome the fault and begin functioning at a new level. Zero reveals to the techno-organic that that is the reason he freed him from the collective mind of the Phalanx, not just because he needed help, but because he sensed he was different from the others, more than just a techno-organic device.

Zero touches the techno-organic, a red glow mixes with the blue as Zero informs the techno-organic that he could transcend his programming and achieve sentience. ‘You must!’ he declares. The techno-organic asks Zero for clarification - why does he think he is any different from the rest of the Phalanx? Zero tells him that he can show him, by prompting memory playback - former organic files of the unit designated Doug Ramsey.

Images flash before the eyes of the techno-organic as Zero tells him to witness the experiences of his organic antecedent. The final actions of the New Mutant known as Cypher are played out - with the same tragic consequences. Cypher jumps in front of a gun to protect the teammate he loved, Rahne “Wolfsbane“ Sinclair, protecting her from the devastating mutanthating organization “the Right,” But leaving Rahne, Danielle “Mirage“ Moonstar, Warlock and the other New Mutants to mourn.

Zero tells the techno-organic that this act was not logical, as it ran contrary to all survival imperatives - yet it was profoundly human. Zero informs the Doug Ramsey look-alike that this is the stock from which he is derived, based on data, and tells him that he hoped something would have been different about him. The techno-organic grist his teeth and tells Zero that he was in error, that he is of the Phalanx, and the Phalanx are forever.

Suddenly, a huge explosion sounds, signalling that Stryfe’s droids are attacking. The techno-organic asks what it could be that the droids are attacking, to which Zero points out that the vector of assault is consistent with the family they encountered some moments ago. Zero tells the techno-organic that the discussion of his status must be deferred, as their help is urgently needed - if they are not already too late.

The droids surround the family, the father keeping them at bay with some fire on a stick, shouting ‘get away from my family!’ The mother calls to Courtney, as one of the droids states that there is a high probability of contaminating contact with their target, Zero, in the recent past, meaning directive 000.0 applies - ‘delete human targets!’ ‘Oh my god!’ shouts the father as all the droids aim their weaponry at the family.

But in answer to the frightened man’s call - Britanic drops out of the sky, telling the man that although his righteous wrath thunders down on high, he is not his deity. Brian smashes through several of the droids, informing the family that they of Excalibur saw their peril and could not stand by idle.

The mother sees Courtney and calls to her, warning her to look out, as one of the droids declares that he has locked the target and deletion is imminent. Courtney trips over, and cries that she is scared, just as Shadowcat phases up from the ground, telling Courtney that she knows she is scared but she is going to be fine, and Kitty touches the frightened girl, rendering her intangible, allowing for the blast of the droid to pass through her.

‘Anomaly. Anomaly!’ declares the droid as Kitty comforts Courtney and tells her her name, adding that as long as she is with her, she won’t feel anything worse than a slight tingle. The droid states that it is reconfiguring its weapon systems to affect phased targets, when Meggan comes to her teammates aid. Metamorphism is one of Meggans’ many powers, and she transforms herself into a were-creature, but fears that there are too many droids and won’t be able to help for long.

The droid’s reconfiguration is complete, and prepares to delete Kitty and Courtney. Shadowcat thinks to herself that the droid is too far away for her to touch it and disrupt its electronics, while Courtney asks Kitty if this will tingle too. Kitty wonders if she can phase the two of them beneath the ground, but decides she will never make it. The droid is about to unleash its blast, when a large techno-organic hand comes up behind the droid and crushes it. The droid signals that it is having a widespread system transfiguration by introduction of foreign technology - then it is completely crushed.

Kitty thinks to herself that she recognizes the technology - its techno-organic - ‘but that’s impossible!’ Kitty looks up at the techno-organic Doug Ramsey look alike, now dressed in Cyphers’ final costume too. ‘Doug?’ asks the startled Kitty. Of all those present, only Shadowcat can say „I knew him when…“, but the question is - does she know him now? Kitty approaches the techno-organic and asks him if he is Doug, asks him to say something, when suddenly, Zero screams ‘NO!’

Zero has Excalibur, the techno-organic and the camping family all protected under a force field as he blasts the droids away, declaring that he will not permit others to be harmed because of him. When the dust clears, Britanic declares that Zero is they reason he was summoned here, to which Zero declares that he hopes it is not so, for he fears that he has placed them all in jeopardy, which was never his intent. Meggan tells Zero that she accepts his intentions were for the good, but they do not mean anything now, and alerts everyone to the scores of droids flying overhead and approaching fast. Meggan asks Zero if he can destroy the ones approaching as he destroyed the ones previously.

Zero replies that he cannot at present capacity, however, he can take them all out of harms way - and teleports Excalibur, the techno-organic, himself and the family away. The droids confer amongst themselves, and scan for the location of Zero and the other targets so they can continue their pursuit - as deletion of targets is imminent!

Characters Involved: 

Britanic, Meggan, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)
Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Dr. Rory Campbell

Professor Charles Xavier

Teri Pryde (Shadowcat’s mother)



Davey, Courtney and Parents

Stryfe Droids

In Kitty’s Flashback

Colossus, Nightcrawler, Sprite, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)

In Douglock’s Flashback

Cypher, Mirage, Warlok, Wolfsbane (all New Mutants)
The Right

Story Notes: 

Zero was a member of Stryfe’s original Mutant Liberation Front.

Doug “Cypher“ Ramsey was a member of the New Mutants who was killed by the Right during the Fall of the Mutants. [New Mutants (1st series) #60]

Brian was lost in the Time Stream off panel between Excalibur (1st series) #67 and #68 and returned in Excalibur (1st series) #75.

Rory’s comment about worse days is a reference to seeing his own possible future in which he becomes the mutant hater Ahab. [Excalibur (1st series) #75]

Despite the often believed theory that Douglock was actually the deceased New Mutants Doug Ramsey and Warlock combined, and despite his own soul-searching in which he discovered he was an all new being, Douglock actually turned out to be the deceased New Mutant Warlock resurrected.
It is odd that Kitty simply calls her mother as in previous issues it had been explained that her parents were in the Witness Protection Program and she wasn’t allowed to contact them.

Issue Information: 
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