Excalibur (1st series) #89

Issue Date: 
September 1995
Story Title: 
Dream Nails - part 2: Easy Tiger

Warren Ellis (Writer), David Williams (Penciler), Mike Miller, Mike Christian & Phil Moy (Inkers), Joe Rosas & Digital Chameleon (Colorists), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Suzanne Gaffney (Editor), Bob Harras (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Investigating the death of Wisdom’s friend and fellow Black Air agent, Kitty and Wisdom learn more about Dream Nails and that some aliens may be involved. Kitty learns from Wisdom’s associate Jardine, some very interesting things about Wisdom, and starts to develop feelings for him. Much to Wisdom’s protests, Kitty joins him when they break into Dream Nails, and everything goes to plan – until after recovering information about Culley in which they learn he was infected with bacteria from an alien. Wisdom and Kitty are about to kiss when their cover is blown, and Wisdom is knocked unconscious, before he orders the phased Kitty to leave, though she does so reluctantly. Amanda Sefton returns to Muir Island and is shocked to learn that Rory is psychoanalyzing the mutant Spoor. When Nightcrawler asks her what her concerns are, she changes the subject, not wanting to break her promise to Rory, who is indeed interrogating the mutant serial killer Spoor. Also, Moira MacTaggert has been searching for a pattern as to who and why the victims of the Legacy Virus contract it, when Meggan and Douglock, who had been doing some readings on it, discover and inform her that there is no pattern, that it is all random.

Full Summary: 

At a pub in Soho, Excalibur founder, Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde sits across from Black Air agent Pete Wisdom who has recently been associated with the British super team, based on Muir Island. Kitty recalls that she took Wisdom to London because his old friend Culley was in trouble – plus she wanted to keep an eye on him. Wisdom stares back – he thinks that Pryde doesn’t trust him, and of course Culley didn’t even trust him – Culley who has now died from some mystery disease. Kitty thinks that it is just as well Pete didn’t go to the group he works for asking for help – because Black Air has tried to kill them. Pete recalls the recent attack by Black Air and boasts that it is not going to scare him away from finding out how Culley died. Kitty thinks that it is al connected to Dream Nails, the air base Culley was working at. She knows Pete liked Culley – as hard as it is to believe he likes anyone. Pete gives Kitty – ‘I mean Pryde’ – credit for being good in a crisis, ‘she’s all right for a nosey cow’. Across the table, Kitty decides that she doesn’t like Wisdom – she really doesn’t like him.

Kitty finally breaks the silence by telling Wisdom that she doesn’t understand what they are doing back in the pub. Pete reminds Kitty that he has already told her this is the drinking place for spies, which makes it neutral ground. He adds that they are safe here, that this pub is practically a church in Intel circles. Wisdom motions to Kitty’s drink and tells her to drink it as they have just been shot at and it should help her. Kitty replies that she doesn’t want it before informing him that she has been an X-Man since she was fourteen, that it is juts like wearing a big sign saying “Please try and kill me, I like it!”

Pete downs his drink as he declares that it is not much different to working for Black Air – except that he never got used to it. Kitty watches Wisdom drink and tells him that Wolverine used to drink whiskey like that, ‘of course he had a healing factor. I bet you don’t even have insurance’. ‘How did you know?’ Wisdom replies jokingly before seeing out of the corner of his eye, Jardine, one of his associates. Pete asks Jardine where he came from, and Jardine replies that in Criminal Intel they are like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects them. Jardine says hello to Kitty, and she just declares that she suddenly feels like a drink.

Jardine stands beside their table and informs them that he has heard things that he thought they should know and that he has asked around about Dream Nails. He reveals that it exists under the file cover of “Easy Tiger” and that it is a Black Air operation from cover to top. He suggests they come back to his office, for he has heard Black Air is no longer playing the game fair and that they may be bugging the pub. Wisdom puts a hand up to his face – ‘Easy Tiger? Oh, bloody marvelous’.

Meanwhile, on Muir Island, in the middle of a very cold dark night the sound of a thousand harps breaks into the blackness. The sound and the pink bubbles that appear are the teleport signal of Amanda Sefton, a.k.a. “Daytripper”, arriving on Muir after time away in Germany. As the beautiful sorceress enters the research station she is greeted by her boyfriend, Kurt Wagner, a.k.a. “Nightcrawler”, of whom she parodied her codename. Kurt tells Amanda that the station sensor detected her teleport signature before noticing her new yellow and pink costume with green cape, replacing her red and silver costume with blue cape. He smiles and tells her that he likes her new costume, to which Amanda tells him he is ‘a dirty old man’ and to let her in. They embrace.

Walking down one of the corridors of the research station Amanda asks how everyone is. Kurt tells Amanda the truth – that they are all lousy. He informs her that they were in Genosha looking for a way to end the factional fighting but it was a bust. Amanda asks Kurt since when it was that politics became Excalibur’s province, and he replies by revealing that the British Intelligence conned them into it. Kurt adds that the human guerrillas are using a mutant piercing bullet that was made in England, supposedly developed by Brian Braddock’s father before he died.

Concerned, Amanda asks how Brian is taking it, but Kurt doesn’t know, as Brian wont talk to anyone about it. Kurt comes over to where Amanda is sitting on the bench and she sees some coffee in his hands. Amanda smiles and says ‘Moira’s coffee? I thought you cared about me?’ Kurt tells her that it is actually the last of Rory’s, who at this very moment is doing some psychoanalysis on Spoor. Amanda asks if that is wise, but when Kurt asks her what she means, she quickly looks away and tells him that it is nothing before asking him to get on with the coffee as she is cold.

Amanda does not continue the conversation with Kurt about Rory, for Rory Campbell swore her to secrecy, for a horror lies gestating within him, that only the two of them know about. Amanda and Rory have seen a glimpse of the future, a future where Rory has taken the name Ahab and uses his skill in psychology to torture mutants.

In the new psychoanalysis room that has been designed for Rory, he sits at a table across from the mutant serial killer Spoor. Rory reads over some notes, revealing that Spoor’s real name is Andrew Hamish Graves, and declares that he thought Graves would be a good enough name for a “super villain”. Spoor doesn’t answer and Rory suggests the new codename of “Murdering Slime” and asks Spoor how that suits him. Rory reminds Spoor that he never had the guts to kill anyone himself and so used his mood-altering powers to make them kill themselves or each other. Rory boasts that it will not happen here, as he is taking mood-stabilizers and holds one up to show Spoor.

Sitting amongst the hostility-detectors, Rory tells Spoor that he has done research on him and that he intends to cure his sociopathic tendencies. Spoor doesn’t say anything, he just smirks. Rory reminds Spoor of his background, that it wasn’t so much being brought up, but dragged up, for Spoor’s father made him eat out of garbage cans. Rory smiles and declares that he doesn’t blame him and asks Spoor if he blames him. No response, Rory reads his notes, revealing that Spoor’s father was a drunk and killed Spoor’s mother by making her drink paint stripper.

Horror spreads over Spoor’s face, and Rory asks him if he didn’t know, and asks him if he believed the story his father told him about his mother running away. Rory raises his voice and tells Spoor that his father killed his mother because she had given birth to a ‘stinking evil hairy half-bright dog’. He adds that he has pictures, before telling Spoor to remember the way he is feeling right now, because it is how the families of his victims feel all the time.

Back in London, Pete tells Jardine he has a nice office. Jardine replies ‘they’ll do’ before asking Kitty if she took all this information that she is handing him from Culley’s flat. Kitty replies that she thought they might hold a clue as to what happened to him, before asking if someone is going to tell her what “Easy Tiger” stands for. Jardine replies that he doesn’t know, because it is a Black Air designation. Wisdom turns to them and tells them that it is a simple one – “Easy Tiger” – ET – Extra Terrestrial.

Jardine asks Wisdom if what he means to tell him is that there are space aliens shacked up at Dream Nails. Kitty tells “Mister Jardine” that she doesn’t know how much he knows about her background, but that he should believe her when she says aliens exists, adding that they are usually hungry. Wisdom starts walking across the room and says, “The truth is out there - and its got bloody great teeth” before adding that he is going to the loo.

With Wisdom out of the room, Kitty asks Jardine why it is that he is helping Pete, for he doesn’t seem to be the type that inspires loyalty. Jardine smiles and tells Kitty that if she means Wisdom is a ‘rude, unpleasant toerag’ then she should say so, for he is. However, as Jardine reveals to Kitty, Wisdom saved his daughter’s life in China four years ago and took three bullets doing it. Jardine adds than when he asked Wisdom why he did that for a complete stranger he replied “It needed doing”.

Jardine asks Kitty if she remembers fat Doyle from the pub, and reveals that Wisdom stole a Black Air chopper so he could get Doyle to the hospital when his appendix ruptured because, as he said it “needed doing”. Kitty looks shocked. Jardine points out that they help Wisdom because he has spent his whole life on his own and however much he likes to cover it up, he cares about people. Kitty smiles and turns around as Wisdom enters the room telling them that they can stop talking about him now. Kitty jokingly asks Wisdom if he thinks they don’t have better things to talk about than him.

Wisdom sits down next to Kitty at Jardine’s desk and boasts that he has an idea. Jardine tells him that he hopes it is better than Culley’s idea, as Culley seems to have spent his last days scribbling notes about “Space Antigods”. Wisdom lights a cigarette and tells them that it isn't really, for the only way he is going to find out how Culley died and to make Black Air do something about it, is to break into Dream Nails.

Back on Muir Island, in the medlab, Doctor Moira MacTaggert, world-renowned scientist and the only human in the world to be infected with the mutant-killing Legacy Virus is picking emotional scabs. She looks up at a computer panel of all the people the Virus has killed and those who are currently infected with it. She could turn off the computer at any time and stop hurting herself. But she won’t, for she finds picking scabs strangely satisfying.

Suddenly, she is interrupted by Excalibur members – the elemental Meggan and the techno-organic Douglock. Wiping tears from her eyes, Moira beckons them in and asks what she can do for them. Meggan tells Moira that Douglock has been helping her with her lessons as Kitty is away, and they got talking. Douglock informs Moira that Meggan’s reading is now average for her age and species and they were reading a document on the Legacy Virus. Moira looks away, so Meggan knows to tread carefully in her speech. She reveals that they spoke to Kurt also, who informed them that she was looking for a pattern in the Legacy Virus infections.

Meggan tells Moira that since her powers are directly tied into nature, she is sensitive to patterns and cycles. Moira looks up and Douglock points out that his own techno-organic nature leads him to perceive life in terms of logic systems, so together they reviewed the available data. Meggan smiles as she reveals to Moira that there is no pattern, that there is no reason why the virus has infected her or anyone else. ‘Isn't that…unnatural?’

In the Midnight Runner, Kitty sees the Dream Nails air base, exactly where Jardine said it would be and she starts to set the ship down in the forest. Wisdom tells Kitty to let him down, as he only agreed to let her fly him here, not to letting her go in with him. Kitty ignores him and remarks at how Brian’s new stealth system mode is going well. Wisdom declares that he doesn’t care about Brian’s bloody systems and that he is going into the base alone – for the job needs doing and he is going to do it.

Kitty asks Wisdom if he doesn’t think it is time he stopped doing everything alone. She tells Wisdom that he can spend the rest of his life getting shot at and being horrible to people and being alone if he likes, but that some people can see through him and that caring about people is a two-way thing – she cuts herself off and swings back around in her chair to look away from him. She changes the subject, declaring that she has her costume on now so they are breaking into Dram Nails together.

Kitty wonders if she is going mad, for Wisdom is moody, nasty and probably ten years older than her – not to mention that she never settled things with Colossus, and then there is the fact that Colossus’ name is Peter too, which is a sign of trouble…and she nearly told him. Kitty wishes that she had Ororo or Rachel to talk to. Wisdom gazes out the window and tells himself not to even think about it, for even if Kitty was interested she is still ten years younger than him, so why would she be interested? He thinks it is safer on your own, as no one else gets hurt.

The Midnight Runner hovers in stealth mode above the forest as Wisdom tells Kitty to do as he says and follow her lead, to do as he says ‘or else you get a spanking. Clear?’ ‘Yes boss’ Kitty replies. Kitty smiles and leaning into Pete tells him to hold on tight, as she will phase them so they are intangible enough to phase to the ground. Wisdom asks her if she has to stand so close. As they drop through the Runner, Kitty tells Wisdom that his jacket smells like cigarettes. ‘What did you expect? Daffodils?’ he replies.

As they approach the perimeter fence, Kitty declares that the security seems rather basic, and Pete reminds her Jardine said Dream Nails is not too active anymore, mostly a royal air force storage facility. Holding her hand, Wisdom asks Kitty if she wants to phase them through the fence. Kitty replies she does, before dragging him through the fence and telling him that he takes her to the nicest places. Noticing a security guard, Kitty points out how strange looking he is. Wisdom informs her that it is a Special Forces soldier in Black Air’s private army livery.

They reach a door and being the computer genius that she is, Kitty informs Wisdom that the door is electronically locked and needs a code entering on the keypad, adding that if she phases through the electronics will fritz but the door might not open. Wisdom tells her that there is no need and to listen and learn ‘grasshopper’. He informs her that keypad codes are easy if you know who has programmed them, and he knows Black Air codes. He picks up some dirt into his hand and tells Kitty that all they need it the numbers used, and as these numbers are pressed a dozen times a day, they pick up skin oil, moisture and dirt and can get slightly sticky.

Wisdom throws dirt across the keypad, and seeing where the dirt sticks the most, he sees the four numbers used. He tells Kitty, who is watching him very impressed, that knowing the way Black Air makes their codes, he can tap in 1638, the year French King Louis XIV was born, creator of the first real secret service “Le Cabinet Noir”. The door opens. ‘You see grasshopper?’ Pete asks as Kitty leads the way into the building. ‘Listen and learn, right showoff? She asks.

Walking through a corridor, Pryde and Wisdom are unaware that they are being watched on security cameras, and Kitty declares that they need some kind of records room. Wisdom notes that it is very quiet, so perhaps the guards are changing shift, but they need to do it fast.

They come across a room labeled “Basic Ops” and Wisdom informs Kitty that it is a Black Air word for intelligence. He tries the door, but it is locked so he is about to shove the lock out when Kitty tells him to let her do it, and she phases into the room, smiling at Wisdom and telling her that she is as quiet as a “Cat in Shadows”. She opens the door for Wisdom without all the publicity, and mimicking Wisdom accent she says, “Oi’ll shove tha lock aht!” Wisdom flicks his cigarette lighter to light the room and tells Kitty that her accent is worse than Dick Van Dyke’s.

Kitty tells Wisdom that all Americans learned about England from that film: London fog, cobblestones, sidewalks… Wisdom cuts Kitty off and tells her that he will cobblestone her in a minute, but complains when he sees a computer ahead of them, as he is rotten with computers. Kitty tells Wisdom that it is luck he brought her along with him isn't it. He asks her if she knows Computers and Kitty tells him that she will have him know she is the goddess of computers, and he can worship her later if he wants. ‘Don’t put ideas in my head’ says Wisdom before Kitty has hacked into the computer and pulls up Culley’s personnel file.

Reading through it, Kitty informs Wisdom that Culley had a “terminal mutation caused by exposure to alien casual bacteria”. Wisdom asks what it means, and Kitty tells him there is a reference on a hypertext link. She asks Wisdom if he knows that humans all carry around diseases that they are immune to, well it seems that it is the same with this particular alien species – ‘except humans are not immune to the bacteria they carry’ Wisdom states, finishing Kitty’s sentence.

Kitty smiles at Wisdom and tells him that it seems Culley was in an enclosure with the aliens and one bit through his containment suit, exposing him. Wisdom realizes that if Culley went to Black air for help they would have turned him into a lab rat. He thinks that if he takes this information to other Intel services they may be able to embarrass Black Air into cleaning up their act at Dream Nails and stop it from happening again.

Kitty looks up at Pete, his face moving closer to hers as she tells him that she is saving it to disk and they will be able to walk out of here with it all. Wisdom thanks her, and as they are about to kiss, Kitty tells him it is her pleasure – before someone kicks the door down. Wisdom reminds Kitty that he said this was too good to be true, and Kitty frowns, certain that she did not trip and computer alarms.

Black Air agents rush in and begin firing at Wisdom and Kitty. Wisdom realizes that they are using spitguns and tells Kitty to phase, because if she is hit then she is dead. Using her trained hand-to-hand combat skills she attacks the soldiers, while asking Pete what he is going to do. Wisdom uses his mutant power, his “hot knives” on the agents while telling Kitty not to worry about him, that he can look after himself. Kitty calls Wisdom a jerk and reminds him that she phase both of them out.

Kitty makes her way to Pete – when a gun is put to Wisdom’s head and Kitty is ordered to freeze, because if she makes one more step than Wisdom’s brains will be blown out. Wisdom looks sternly at Kitty and tells her that even if he can kill the two who are holding him, one of them will be able to blow him away before she can phase him away. Pete tells Kitty to stay phased and get out. Kitty tells Wisdom that she cannot leave him behind, but he tells her that they do not have a choice. She phases through the floor, the last thing she sees is the guards knocking Wisdom out.

Characters Involved: 

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

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Dr. Rory Campbell



Agents of Black Air

In Kitty’s thoughts


On Computer Screen

Infectia, Magik, Mastermind, Mutate, Pyro, Revanche and other Legacy Virus victims

Story Notes: 

Daytripper and Rory learned that Rory may become the mutant hating Ahab in Excalibur (first series) #75.

An alien mentioned in the prologue of Excalibur (first series) #88 that it bit through someone’s containment suit, meaning Culley.

Wisdom’s crack about nobody ever expecting the Spanish Inquisition refers to a famous Monty Python sketch.
Wisdom’s “the truth is out there” quote refers to the tag line of the X-Files
Le Cabinet Noir
Dick van Dyke, US actor and comic, infamous for his thick, fake English accent in Mary Poppins

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