Excalibur (1st series) #88

Issue Date: 
August 1995
Story Title: 
Dream Nails - part 1

Warren Ellis (Writer), Larry Stroman, Darrick Gross, Ken Lashley & Jeff Moy (Pencilers), Cam Smith, Darrick Gross, Tom Wegargyn, Phil Moy, Don Hudson & Jimmy Palmiotti (Inkers), Joe Rosas & Digital Chameleon (Colorists), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Suzanne Gaffney (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Wisdom learns that one of his friends, Culley, is in trouble and after begging Britannic for the use of the Midnight Runner, Kitty agrees to accompany him to London. Once there they begin their search for Culley, and discover his safe hole, a mess, and learn from some associate of Wisdom that Culley is dead. At the Black Air morgue, they learn that a mysterious virus is responsible for the death and that Scicluna wants no further action taken on the case. As they leave the morgue however, Kitty and Pete are attacked by agents of Black Air. On Muir Island, Moira talks to Xavier and informs him that she believes the Legacy Virus data was leaked from Muir Island by a hacker, who managed to get into her system when it was connected to his one during the Phalanx debacle, the question is now, who hacked in. Moira then informs Nightcrawler, Meggan and Douglock everything she knows about the Legacy Virus so far. Elsewhere on Muir Island, Britannic has finished designing a interrogation cell, complete with hostility-sensing lasers, for Rory Campbell, who is going to use the cell on serial killer, Spoor.

Full Summary: 

Hidden away, deep within a laboratory, held in tanks, creatures are captive. They find it dark and cold. The air does not have enough oxygen in it, leaving them weak and sluggish. One of them has developed an infection around the metal valve sunk in its back from which fluids are siphoned from its body for inspection. This one in particular think that while he and his crew are in captivity, it is not too bad, they cannot help but laugh when they remember the look on a soldiers face when it bit through his containment suit.

Muir Island now, off Scotland, and yes, it is as cold as it looks. Pete Wisdom is not a morning person. And with just a towel wrapped around his waist he shuffles around the Research Center at such an ungodly hour out of necessity – because no one else is awake to tell him not to smoke. He sits at a computer console with a cup of coffee and tells himself to do something constructive this morning. He tells the computer to connect to the answering machine at his London flat. Pete swallows a mouthful of coffee and tells the computer to remind him never to drink MacTaggert’s rotten coffee again…not unless I'm looking for a suicide method anyway.

The computer has connected to Pete’s London phone line and he tells the computer to play back all messages, but to dump any from Scicluna, as he does not want to hear anything from her at this time in the morning. Wisdom, its Raquel. Where have you been all these weeks? You still owe me twenty quid – Pete, it’s Culley. I’ve really fallen for it this time and I need a favor. Medical attention. The private kind. So private that our mutual employer really doesn’t need to be told right? I’m at the usual place, help me. Pete drinks more of Moira’s dreaded coffee.

Soon, Wisdom has approached Brian “Britannic” Braddock while he is working on something and Britain’s premiere super hero asks Wisdom if he has this straight: he wants to borrow the Midnight Runner, go to London in it, but he doesn’t know when he will be able to return it. Tell me another, says Brian. Wisdom replies that he is serious, to which Brian remarks he was afraid of that, and suggests to Wisdom that he go and play in traffic. Wisdom tells Brian that if there were any traffic up here in the frozen North then it would be all right, he could hitch a lift, but there isn't so the Runner is the only quick way to London.

Brian asks Wisdom if he could actually fly the aircraft, to which Wisdom sheepishly remarks to Brian that he was hoping he could talk him in to taking him down. Motioning to the work he is doing, Brian tells him that there is no chance, as he has to get all of this together for Rory. Brian just finishes telling Wisdom that it looks like he is out of luck when someone says I’ll fly him down.

Entering the room, Kitty smiles after her comment and asks Brian as long as it is okay with him, for she knows how to fly the Midnight Runner, and she is not busy, and he seems pretty desperate. Brian agrees about the desperate part, and Wisdom informs them that a mate of his is in trouble. Brian agrees that Kitty can take him down, and Wisdom rushes from the room, thanking Brian as he tells Kitty to change out of her X-uniform, as he doesn’t want to walk around London with her looking like that.

Calling to Wisdom before he leaves the room, Brian asks him to pick up some coffee while they are in London as they have run out of Rory’s good stuff. With Wisdom gone, Brian turns to Kitty and asks her why she is flying Wisdom to London, especially as she cannot stand him. Kitty glances at Brian and tells him that Wisdom wants to help a friend, so they should not stand in his way, while thinking to herself that she still does not trust him and wants to keep an eye on him.

Meanwhile, Moira enters the Comm Room and coughs at all the cigarette smoke floating about. Moira exclaims that she will have to rig the sprinkler system so that it registers cigarette heat. The world famous scientist sits at a seat and tells the computer to give her a secure direct line to Charles Xavier at the Xavier Institute and to interface with the housekeeping mainframe to filter the air into the room.

An image of Professor Charles Xavier appears on the computer screen and he wishes Moira a good morning. Moira tells Charles that it is Midday in Scotland and she is still not awake, yet at 7am in Westchester he looks as fresh as a daisy. Ye make me sick, Charles Xavier. No, Moira. It’s your coffee that makes you sick, Charles replies. Moira just smiles and tells Charles that it is all a conspiracy.

Speaking of which, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Legacy Virus information that was leaked to the media out of my computers. Moira tells Charles that everyone has been running around with theories and suspects, but during the horrible business with the Phalanx, and when Charles destroyed his computer facilities…they forgot something. Charles asks Moira to continue, and Moira reminds Xavier that at the time, his computers at Westchester, and her computers on Muir were connected by a satellite link. Charles remembers, for they were pooling Legacy Virus data, but thinks that security was maintained at both ends.

Moira agrees, until Charles wipes his own database to prevent the Phalanx getting to it, which would also have taken out his security suites, and hackers could have tapped into the up-link after that and straight into Moira’s computers. Ah, is all Charles can say. Ah yourself, replies Moira before telling Charles that their computers were wide open after that, long enough for at least for someone to get in and set up a link with them.

So it could be anyone, remarks Charles before asking Moira about this Wisdom character. Moira informs Charles that Wisdom would not have been able to manage it as he was not on the Station long enough, however his employers, the British Intelligence group Black Air, Moira does not trust Wisdom, nor Black Air. She informs Charles that Black Air has replaced the Weird Happenings Organization set up to observe paranormal events, but she thinks they have their own agendas.

Onboard the Midnight Runner, Wisdom asks Kitty if she has Heathrow airport on the radio yet. Kitty hands Wisdom a headset and tells him that they are within range so he can talk to them himself as she wants to concentrate on the flying, especially as the Runner has pulled to the right since it took the hit in Genosha. Wisdom connects to Heathrow and with a reference “Pizza Connection” asks them to respond by the book. The operator replies that they are booked and tells Wisdom to proceed to hangar 254 via runway 4A.

Kitty tells Wisdom that he was very professional and Wisdom informs her that Black Air maintains a couple of secret hangars at Heathrow under the cover of “Pizza Connection”. Tossing the headset aside, Wisdom tells her that it is the single perk of the intelligence community – free parking. As Kitty takes the aircraft down for landing, she asks him what his friend does and how he knows him. Wisdom replies that Culley is also from Black Air, and is one of the few people that he actually likes. He adds that he and Culley have been out of touch for a time so he doesn’t know where he is working now, but gets the impression that he has fallen afoul of the employer.

Sometime later, Pryde and Wisdom are in a taxi as the driver weaves through the London traffic. In the back seat, Wisdom tells Kitty that she does not have to come along, to which Kitty asks why she should have to wait at the Runner while he gets to run around London. Wisdom tells Kitty that this is none of her business and that she will either get bored or in the way. I might be able to help you know, Kitty snaps back. Wisdom tells her that he doubts that, and Kitty smiles, telling Wisdom that they will find out, because she is not letting him out of her sight. Wisdom starts to take out a cigarette when the taxi driver tells him that he cannot smoke in here. Marvelous, Wisdom mutters.

Walking through a less-than-prestigious part of town, Kitty sarcastically remarks that it is a charming place. Wisdom tells her that if she does not like it then she should go shopping. No, no, Soho is just so elegant, Kitty replies before asking Wisdom if his friend lives here when they come to an apartment building. Wisdom informs her that it is actually Culley’s bolt hole and that he is the only other person who knows about it. Entering the building, Wisdom tells Kitty that it is like Culley’s mother, he runs back to it whenever something has gone wrong.

Kitty coughs and remarks that it smells like something has died in here. Don’t say that, replies Wisdom. He comes to Culley’s door, except it is locked. Wisdom uses his “hot knives” without thinking, and manages to get the door open. He remembers that he never actually told Culley he was a mutant, and calls to him as they enter the room. Kitty tells Wisdom that she could have phased through instead of causing all this damage to the door, but as they walk further into the room she stops talking and just says oh. The room has files scattered all over the floor, they spend some time searching for Culley. Scrawled across a wall is “I’m losing my body” and Wisdom curses himself for arriving to late.

Back on Muir Island, Brian informs Rory Campbell that he is finished, and asks him what he thinks. Admiring the room, Rory replies that it is phenomenal and just what he needed. Brain hands Rory the control unit, informing him that he just presses the button once to seal the doors and twice for the laser web. Brian remarks that it is the weirdest psychiatric tool he has ever seen, but that it is close enough to what Rory asked for.

Rory activates the laser web, and all around them pink laser beams spill through the room. Brian tells Rory that the lasers are hidden behind holographic sections of the wall and are computer guided. The lasers are on low power now, but if the computers detect a hostile action in the room, the lasers will home in on the hostile and power up. Rory smiles and tells Brian that it is perfect. Brian, somewhat hesitantly, tells Rory that he knows Muir Island used to be used to rehabilitate “bad” mutants, but that he does not see how this will help anybody.

Rory informs Brian that there is a mutant in the holding cells that is a serial murderer. He declares that serial murderers are control freaks and when he is locked up it makes him think he is controlling all of them because they are scared enough to lock him up – but in this room, this pen, he has no control. Rory smiles as he says that it is a start towards a cure for the serial murderer. Brian is somewhat unconvinced when Douglock arrives at the door, bringing in Rory’s new patient. Douglock introduces the unkempt mutant as Spoor and asks What is a butt and why does Spoor keep offering to kill mine?

Back in Soho, Wisdom lights a cigarette for a woman who informs him, with a very heavy accent, that she saw Culley come in looking horrible, all sweaty and coughing and she thought he was going to pop his clogs outside the club, all the bleedin’ publicity we need, know what I mean?Wisdom gets back into the car where Kitty is and she asks him if he would like to translate what the woman said for the American broad. Wisdom tells Kitty that there is a rule of thumb – if there is a missing consonant at the start of a word, add an H, if it is at the end, add a G, and if you are going to “pop your clogs” it means you are going to die.

Kitty examines the papers that Culley had littered through his apartment and tells Wisdom that she doesn’t know what to make of them all, but the designs remind her of crop circles and the writing seems almost religious. Wisdom reveals that Culley was an atheist and wonders why he would waste his time scribbling out reams of it. The car stops and when they get out Wisdom leads Kitty to a pub, as she asks why they are stopping here. Wisdom tells her that they are going to find out where Culley was working, and that the first round is on her.

Inside the bar, two men greet Wisdom, one of them telling him it is good to see him and asks him to sit down with them. Another man asks Pete if he should find his girlfriend a seta. Wisdom greets the men – Doyle and Pitman – and introduces them to Kitty, as the confused one in MI6, which is like her CIA and the fat ugly one is in the MI5. He points to an older man, Jardine and tells Kitty that he is with Criminal Intelligence. Wisdom adds that this pub is the favored watering hole of the British Intelligence community. The place is full of spies? asks Kitty.

Wisdom tells the men that he is trying to find Ed Culley and asks them what the word through the grapevine is. Pitman asks if Black Air didn’t send Culley to an air base in the midlands. Doyle reveals that the base’s codename is Dream Nails and that Culley was the security chief and the place had a weird file cover. Everyone gets up from the table and someone tells Wisdom that Culley is dead, and that he is in the Black Air morgue in Whitehall.

Back on Muir Island, in the medlab, Moira leads Nightcrawler, Douglock and the elemental faire Meggan through a giant computerized human chromosome, the structure in which their genes hang. This particular one however contains the “X” gene that makes mutants. Motioning to part of the chromosome she points out the Legacy Virus, at least a basic version of it that they first encountered. Since then Hank McCoy has isolated two other strains, but Moira wants to keep this simple.

She tells the heroes that originally the virus only seemed to attack mutants, only making its entry into their body through the “X” gene, where it corrupted the “X” gene and from their began to affect the metabolism and the control center for mutant abilities. Moira reminds them that in most cases, the victims of the Legacy Virus were consumed by their own wildly accelerating powers.

Looking around, Kurt asks if they are no closer to a cure, for he knows that the example Moira is showing them are what Phoenix and Cyclops brought back from the future. Moira tells Kurt that he is correct, but things have begun to change and she motions to a base line human chromosome, where the “X” gene is clearly missing. However, as she points out, in this instance, the Legacy Virus is simply bonding itself onto the chemical branch where the “X” gene would plug in.

Moira reveals that this is her chromosomal structure and that it is what has happened to her. Kurt thanks Moira and tells her that it has all become clearer to him. Moira replies that she wishes it was clearer for her – why would it target a human? Why hasn’t it infected more? There are so many questions, and all Moira hears is the ticking of a time bomb in her genes that will eat her alive when it blows. ‘Just ticking away, ticking away…’

At the Black Air morgue, Wisdom and Kitty are shown Culley’s body, the doctor tells Wisdom he has looked better, except for the time they all went on a bender in Reykjavik. Wisdom is taken aback at the state of his friend’s body and asks the doctor, Stamford, if he remembers he had to give Culley CPR after the tequila session. He asks Stamford what it was that Culley died of. Stamford informs Wisdom that they do now know, but that he is not contagious. Stamford tells Wisdom tat Scicluna wants the case to be left alone, to call it natural causes and bury him. Wisdom looks at Stamford and tells him that if anyone asks, they were never there.

Pete and Kitty leave the building, Pete confused, and Kitty asks him if Scicluna is his boss at Black Air. Wisdom replies that she is, but doesn’t understand how one can get infected with a disease that no one has ever heard of at an air base. He thinks it must have something to do with Black Air, as Culley did not want them near him – suddenly his cigarette snaps in half – a bullet flies through it.

More bullets are fired and Pete realizes that it is a hit, so he shoves Kitty out of the way. Kitty phases instinctively so that the bullets just pass right through her, and she sees men using silencers firing at her – if Pete hadn’t pushed her out of the way she would not have known about them until after she was dead. Pete thinks that Kitty has got guts, and is bright too for she worked out the sniper’s position without missing a beat.

Kitty, trained in the art of the ninja by her friend Wolverine, takes down one of her opponents, and as for the one who sneaks up behind her, Wisdom uses his “hot knives” on him. Kitty kicks him out of the way and tells Wisdom that he didn’t need to do that, as she was intangible. Wisdom apologizes and remarks that it was a force of habit.

Wisdom starts to look through the mans pockets for ID’s as he thinks that for as far as hits go it was not very professional – he pulls out an ID card as Kitty asks who they were and why they were shooting at them. Wisdom replies that he can make a guess – as they are Black Air operatives!

Characters Involved: 

Britannic, Douglock, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Pete Wisdom (All Excalibur)

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Dr. Rory Campbell

Professor Xavier

Spoor (incarcerated Acolyte)


Body of Ed Culley

Jardine, Doyle, Pitman and other patrons at the bar

Black Air Operatives

The Uncreated

London Civilians

Taxi Driver

Story Notes: 

The ordeal with the Phalanx took place in Uncanny X-Men #316-317, X-Men (second series) #37-38, Excalibur (first series) #82, X-Factor (first series) #106 and X-Force (first series) #38.

The Midnight Runner was damaged in Excalibur (first series) #86-87 when the team was journeying to Genosha.

It will be some years before the combined efforts of Moira MacTaggert, Beast and even Mystique develop a cure for the Legacy virus, but not without the expense of Moira’s life, as she died receiving injuries from Mystique and Colossus, who was used as an agent to release the cure into the air. [Uncanny X-Men #388-390, X-Men (second series) #108]. Many mutants would contract the Virus, those who died include Pyro, Magik, Infectia, Mastermind and Revanche, while Maverick, Bolt, Feral and others were cured when the antidote went airborne.

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