Excalibur: Air Apparent

Issue Date: 
December 1991
Story Title: 
Air Apparent

Scott Lobdell (writer), Ron Lim, Brian Stelfreeze, Dwayne Turner, Jackson Guice, Rick Leonardi, Erik Larsen, James Fry (pencilers), Al Gordon, Karl Story, Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, Joe Rubinstein, Erik Larsen, Don Hudson (inkers), Glynis Oliver, Dana Moreshead, Ariane (colorists), Michael Heisler & Steve Dutro (letterers), Mark Powers (assistant editor), Terry Cavanaugh (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Excalibur receive a briefing from Alysande Stuart of the Weird Happenings Organization, who informs them that a mad scientist called Jonathan Cayre has acquired the Air-Walker technology created by Galactus, and that he is involved in a plot to test the technology on human physiology. Stuart splits the team up, sending them each on individual missions relating to stopping Cayre’s mad plot. Nightcrawler arrives at a shopping center after tracking down Cayre’s assistant, the nuclear-warhead robot called Norm. They battle for a brief time, until Nightcrawler makes Norm explode. Shadowcat arrives in a lab beneath Cayre’s home, where she finds a proto-type of the Air-Walker that Cayre has developed. The robot stalks Kitty, mimicking her abilities, but not her intelligence, as she tricks it into following her into a tunnel where lava flows, and it falls into the lava. Meggan is sent to another laboratory, where she is tasked with planting a bomb and a virus to eradicate all of Cayre’s notes. She is somewhat confused by her mission, and adding to her troubles is the arrival of the mercenary called Coldblood, who was sent to retrieve the information Meggan needs to destroy. Meggan tries to talk to Coldblood, who seems conflicted about his mission. Eventually, they form an understanding, and Coldblood forgoes the millions of dollars he will be paid, and the destruction of the lab goes ahead. Coldblood helps Meggan escape in his car. Phoenix finds herself in a pub where Cayre was supposed to be. She deduces that the locals are protecting him, and eventually they give him up. Cayre has been transformed into a hideous creature thanks to his experiments, and every time he kills himself, he simply regenerates thanks to the Air-Walker technology. Rachel gets upset when he kills the bar patrons, but finds that even her power cannot stop him - as he simply regenerate. But, when she traps him in solid glass, she succeeds in defeating him, for he cannot breathe in the glass, and his body simply continuously regenerates. WHO operatives come and take him away. Captain Britain arrives at the village which Air-Walker has been terrorizing. Air-Walker is very powerful, and Captain Britain’s first attempt to stop him proves unsuccessful. Captain Britain manages to pierce Air-Walker’s force field, and theorizes that he may be able to destroy Air-Walker on a cosmic scale, so he uses Air-Walker’s own flaming wings against him, causing the alien-robot to explode on a cosmic scale. At Excalibur’s Lighthouse, two bumbling WHO agents arrive with the intention of discovering Excalibur’s “secret” - whatever that may be. However, Lockheed foils their invasion and scares them off. Excalibur soon arrive home, successful in their mission, though Captain Britain gets a hard time for almost destroying the Earth simply on his theory that he could destroy Air-Walker on a cosmic level.

Full Summary: 

Chapter 1:

Brigadier Alysande Stuart of the Weird Happenings Organization, shortly WHO, is wearing her formal uniform and stands before several monitors depicting scenes of violence and destruction. She announces that three hours ago, the entire fishing village of Carrin’s Hollow was destroyed – the men, women and children were murdered by a rampaging alien android – and they were the lucky ones. Alysande reveals that the “survivors” were reduced to blobs of nerveless protoplasm by the scientist who reanimated the aforementioned android. ‘Of course, all of this is guess work. The doctor and the android are roaming the Scottish countryside just outside of Glasgow. They’re out there somewhere – and they might be the least of our problems’ Alysande announces.

Inside the flying headquarters of WHO, Alysande tells those she is addressing to listen closely, as she only has time to go over this once. She explains that as near as the Weird Happenings Organization can tell, the man responsible for all of this is Doctor Jonathan Cayre, a brilliant bio-physicist, who is the portrait of a mad scientist, complete with a deranged lab assistant – “Norm”, a Life Model Decoy, LMD robot. An image of Dr Cayre appears on a monitor, followed by that of Norm the LMD. Alysande reveals that Cayre acquired the LMD when he was working with Machinesmith in the States. She explains that years ago in America, Cayre witnessed a battle between Thor and the Herald of Galactus called Air-Walker. Although Thor threw his hammer through Air-Walker, Galactus built his androids to last, as Air-Walker came equipped with self-regenerating technology, and Cayre managed to get his hands on the smallest piece of alien debris.

‘And eventually re-created the Air-Walker, which has since gone on a rampage alone’ Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner of Excalibur concludes as he stands with his teammates listening to Alysande’s briefing. Kurt then asks his ally where the part of about the nerveless protoplasm comes in. He and the rest of Excalibur – Captain Britain, Phoenix, Shadowcat and Meggan – listen as Alysande replies that, as she mentioned, Cayre’s field of study is genetics, and according to his notes, he was trying to apply Galactus’ self-regenerating technology to human physiology. ‘But isn’t that like mixing apples and apples?’ Meggan asks. ‘You mean “apples and oranges”’ Kitty mumbles.

Alysande tells Excalibur that Cayre’s notes indicated he has experimented on himself, but was less than successful. She announces that he has been driven completely insane, and that his slightest touch unravels a person’s genetic structure. ‘Then Excalibur will split up. Half of us will find the android –‘ Captain Britain begins, but Alysande interrupts, telling him that if only it was that simple. She points out that Excalibur is an independent organization, and that as a field commander of WHO, she can’t tell him what to do. ‘But if I could –‘ Alysande begins, announcing that she would ask Nightrcrawler to track down the missing LMD before Borm can trigger his nuclear warhead. ‘A warhead?’ Kurt asks. Alysande continues, stating that Shadowcat would be assigned to investigate Cayre’s underground vault. ‘What would I be looking for?’ Kitty asks. Alysande informs her that she would be looking for Cayre’s prototype of Air-Walker.

Alysande explains that they need someone who could alter their own body chemistry long enough to destroy Cayre’s lab from within. ‘Someone named “Meggan”?’ the elemental asks. ‘Exactly. SHIELD lent us the hardware for this mission – it’s up to WHO to enlist the talent’ Alysande replies. ‘Then there’s the Doctor himself. Phoenix...?’ Alysande asks. Rachel grimaces and announces that she can’t wait to meet what is left of the man.
‘Which would leave Captain Britain –‘ Alysande begins, ‘- to dismantle the Air-Walker’ Captain Britain replies, gritting his teeth. He adds that since Alysande is too polite to ask, he supposes that it is up to Excalibur to volunteer.

With that, Captain Britain, Meggan and Phoenix fly out of the floating HQ, while Nightcrawler teleports alongside them and Shadowcat drops out, becoming intangible so she can float. Quietly, Alysande says to herself ‘And in England’s darkest hours...Excalibur, her mighty blade, will once more be drawn’. ‘Pardon, Brigadier?’ an officer calls out. ‘I wasn’t talking to you, Peel!’ Alysande snaps at the young officer, adding ‘But I am when I say I want you to monitor their every move!’ she adds that she wants updates every five minutes, and that if he loses track of Excalibur, he has lost his job. ‘Got it, mister?’ she declares. ‘Yes, Sir! Tracking now!’ Peel replies.

Chapter 2:

Operative: Nightcrawler

Ability: Teleporter

Location: Glasgow Galleria

Objective: Disarming nuclear warhead designated “Norm”

Perched on a beam that runs high beneath the shopping center ceiling, Kurt tells himself that he has come a long way from the circus. ‘There was a time when your biggest concern was sharing a dressing room with Gilda the Bearded Lady’ he reminds himself. ‘Years later, you’re prowling about a crowded shopping mall in Glasgow in search of a walking nuclear warhead! Suddenly, it seems petty to have complained about hair in the sink’ he decides.
Crawling down the wall, he knows he must be discreet, as alerting Norm to his presence will avail Kurt nothing. He goes into a clothing store and takes a trench coat and wide-brimmed hat to the counter. ‘Will that be all, Mr -?’ the shop assistant asks. ‘You don’t recognize me?’ Kurt asks. ‘Should I?’ the assistant enquires. ‘Nein. Good’ Kurt remarks, before stepping back out into the main part of the shopping mall, where a little boy suddenly shouts ‘Mommy, that man has a tail!’

The boy’s mother tells him not to point, as it is impolite. ‘Ain’t no man! It’s Nightcrawler’ someone calls out. ‘Britain a jerk or what?’ someone else exclaims as a crowd begins to form around Nightcrawler. Someone asks him what he is doing here, while another asks for Phoenix’s phone number. ‘Nice ta meet ya!’ someone declares, while Kurt tells the crowd ‘Would you believe, being discreet?’, as a man on the next level up stands by the railing and looks down at the crowd. It is Norm. ‘So it begins’ he mutters while frowning. He then raises a large machine gun and aims it down into the crowd. ‘Your intent is to neutralize this unit. You seek to interrogate me to gain information regarding Master Cayre’s plans! Tough luck, Nightcrawler – this unit’s not for dissecting!’ Norm shouts.

Kurt sees the machine gun pointed down at the crowd, and teleports up to the next level, ‘I must insist you dispense with the firearm’ Kurt tells Norm as he kicks his arm, causing him to aim the firing weapon away from the crowd. ‘You have realigned my arm?’ Norm asks. ‘That’s one way of putting it!’ Nightcrawler tells him, while down below, the crowd begins to realize what is going on. ‘They’re crazy!’ someone shouts, while another exclaims that they are getting out of here. ‘I have a statement I would like to make’ Norm states, before Kurt kicks him in the face. ‘That’s what snappy patter during battle is for’ Kurt tells him, smashing Norm’s glasses. Norm looks at Kurt and declares ‘You are not strong enough to defeat me’ Nervously, Kurt asks him what makes him so sure. ‘This’ Norm boasts as he moves forward and pushes Kurt backwards off the railing. Kurt lands on his feet, and removes his trench coat, while wondering why it is that during the debriefing no one ever thinks to mention things like “super strength”.

Norm drops his machine gun over the side of the railing and drops down to the ground level, announcing that the authorities will arrive momentarily, and that he will be required to shoot his way to freedom. ‘Dying in a blood bath, fruend Norm? A bit melodramatic, nein?’ Kurt ask as he teleports in front of Norm, who reaches for the machine gun. He then lunges for Kurt again, replying ‘True. But any more so than being beaten to a bloody pulp?’, to which Kurt declares that he wouldn’t know, as he dodges Norm’s advances by leaping over him, and grabbing the machine gun. ‘You’re about to find out!’ Norm warns Kurt, throwing a punch towards him, but Kurt teleports just in time. ‘Not any time soon!’ he exclaims. Kurt reappears and fires the machine gun at Norm, remarking that he isn’t a big fan of firearms, but that Norm is stronger than him. ‘And technically ... I’m not killing you ... as you are not a living being’ he points out as he makes several very quick teleports, while firing the weapon at Norm, who thrashes about, trying to grab Nightcrawler.

However, Kurt comes to a standstill when the machine gun gets hammed. Norm uses this to his advantage and moves forward, grabbing Kurt by his head, he pulls him into the air. Much of Norm’s face is now exposed for what he really is – wires, circuits and pieces of metal. He declares that he cannot disguise his appearance, and internally injured, he cannot fight his way to safety. ‘I refuse to be captured. Therefore I have activated my nuclear warhead. In thirty seconds I will build to a critical mass. Just thought you’d like to know’ he announces, half smiling. ‘Thirty seconds?’ Nightcrawler manages to utter, deciding that is plenty of time, he puts his hand on Norm’s face, and teleports. ‘Where’d they go?’ someone calls out. ‘What’s that smell?’ another asks, while someone queries where Captain Britain is, and another wonders if they have “blue light specials” in England. ‘Bluffing about the warhead?’ someone else asks.

An instant later, there is a loud BOOM and an explosion at the indoor water fountain, as a result of Norm’s detonation. Kurt is propelled by the blast, and he grabs the beam running across the top of the mall, under the ceiling. ‘If this is the explosion he made upon his wires being exposed to the water in the fountain – I can only imagine what would have happened had he achieved critical mass’ Kurt tells himself. Down below, the crowd of civilians starts calling out to him once more. ‘Right then!’ someone shouts. ‘Way to go “Crawler”!’ another declares. ‘Thank Heaven for Excalibur!’ someone gasps, while the person enquiring earlier about Phoenix’s phone number once again asks for it. ‘Love ya, fuzzy!’ someone else calls out. Kurt smiles, and as he perches himself on the beam, decides that these life and death battles have a way of putting the rest of life in perspective. ‘While I’m here...I should pick up a box of razors and send them to Gilda’ hr tells himself.

Chapter 3:

Operative: Shadowcat

Ability: Phasing power

Location: Vault, one mile below Cayre’s home

Objective: Locate and destroy prototype

‘KRREEAKT!’ a hideous alien-robot hybrid screeches in the vault, with wires and cables sticking out all over the room, Kitty exclaims ‘Oh, like I’m enjoying this?’ as she has phased herself through the hybrid’s body. ‘You snuck up on me, you demented Mr Coffee. Frying electrical circuits is a natural extension of my unnatural ability to phase through solid objects! Is it my fault it hurts?’ Kitty asks the hybrid. ‘Kreeakt!’ the hybrid calls out as its head convulses back and forth after toppling to the floor. ‘I hope Cayre saved his warranty on this prototype’ Kitty jokes, deciding that with any luck, he can trade it in for an Ultimate Nullifier or something. ‘Let’s hear it for the little from Deerfield, Illinois! It took all of twelve seconds to achieve my objective!’ Kitty smiles.

Looking down at the robot-alien hybrid, Kitty remarks that when they said Cayre was a genius, they weren’t just being polite. It boggles the mind to think he cobbled together all this technology from scraps of the original Air-Walker, as Kitty barely recognizes a simple equation of this kind of cosmic math. She stares at a monitor with some bizarre symbols on it and wonders if she can at least find “X”. ‘Bring down the variable integers...carry the three 12Y...multiply by – a carrot!?’ she exclaims, surprised. ‘Face it, Pryde. You haven’t got...a...clue...’ Kitty utters, her expression one of shock as she sees the creature reflecting in the monitor, getting to its feet. She leaps to one side just in time as the alien lunges at her, shoving its clawed hand through the monitor. ‘You’ve got this self-regenerative bit down to a science, no?’ Kitty asks. ‘KREEAKT!’ the alien screeches. ‘You said “kreeakt” earlier. Is it the only word you know or the only one you need?’ Kitty enquires, but of course gets no response.

Kitty phases into the floor. ‘Sort of like “Aloha”? It can mean “hello”... “the tide is in”... or “I’m going to eviscerate you”!’ Kitty jokes, while deciding that it is incredible, for in order to regenerate, the alien must instantly adapt to all input. ‘Look at the way he’s absorbing the computer’s circuits’ she thinks to herself, before phasing completely through the floor, joking that she hates to analyze and run, but she needs to take the Kitty Pryde Express straight down. However, as she falls into the caverns beneath, Kitty is shocked that the alien is able to follow her, phasing down through solid rock. It screeches at her once more, and Kitty asks ‘Can’t a girl get a little privacy around here?’ before dodging the creature’s claws hand as it lunges at her. She asks it if it has an “off” switch, or an owner’s manual. ‘That was close! Phased as I am, he can’t hurt me – but why take changes?’ Kitty asks herself, before telling the alien-robot that this is a stalemate, for so long as they are both phased, there is nothing he can do to her. But, the alien-robot screeches again, and lashes out – slicing his claws across Kitty’s leg, he actually cuts her.

Kitty is surprised by this, and instantly turns around and rushes down the cavern, ‘So much for the joys of trial and error. I should have figured – the same way I can hold onto people when I’m phased...similarly altered objects can have a direct effect on me!’ she tells herself, adding that the good news is she doesn’t have to spend this entire battle on the defensive. ‘I’m not a teenage mutant ninja for nothing!’ Kitty exclaims as she kicks the robot-alien in the neck, causing it to screech at her once more. ‘Then again – maybe it is all for nothing’ Kitty mutters as she rushes down the cavern some more. The creature follows her, ‘KREEAKT!’ it calls after her. ‘Rub it in’ Kitty tells it, but when the alien-robot continues to shriek ‘KREEAKT’ she tells it to shut up.

The further she gets down the cavern, Kitty realizes that it is getting hot in here, and discovers the reason up ahead – or rather, down below – another cavern, which Kitty guesses, judging by the heat and noise, it to be a subterranean river of molten lava. ‘That, or a hopelessly lost A-train’ she jokes, before phasing through the rock beneath her, she then sees the river of lava. ‘Right the first time!’ Kitty thinks to herself, while her “shadow”, the alien-robot, who has been aping her every move does the same, following Kitty through the rock, he it copies Kitty, becoming solid as she does – however before Kitty is in any imminent danger, she reaches upwards, and grabs onto a stalactite hanging from the ceiling of the cavern. The alien-robot is confused, and tries to latch onto her, ‘Sorry, this stalactite is taken’ Kitty tells it, before the prototype Air-Walker plummets into the lava with a splash. ‘Or don’t’ Kitty adds, before examining the lava as it settles down, and deciding that, self-regenerative or not, there is now way that he could have survived that. She wonders if he was the prototype that didn’t work, then what will Captain Britain face when he confronts the successful model?

Chapter 4:

Operative: Meggan

Ability: Closest designation – metamorph?

Location: Dr Cayre’s laboratory, Carrin’s Hollow

Objective: The destruction of all soft/hardware pertaining to Galactus’ pirated technology

In amongst some rubble, the elegant Meggan stares at her reflection in some glass. Her skin is now green and has scales, as she recalls that the WHO people said that by assuming the attributes of a cobra, a reptile’s venom-regenerating physiology should act as a deterrent to any biology-altering particles still active in the lab. ‘I don’t know what that means. But I hope it works’ Meggan tells herself. Entering the lab, Meggan realizes that she has to remember everything else the WHO told her – ‘I know I have to blow up the lab. I just have to attach this explosive bomb-thing’ she reminds herself as she places the bomb to the wall. Meggan then sits down at a computer console and decides that that this is the hard part – giving the computer a fever. ‘Not fever, whaty was the word...? Virus! That’s right!’ she tells herself, adding that a virus will erase all Cayre’s notes anywhere they are.

Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘We’re dealing with a regular PhD, here’, to which a robotic voice replies ‘Negative. According to files, Excalibur member Meggan possesses no formal education –‘, to which the first more human voice replies ‘Shut up, computer’, as a man in a blue costume appears, aiming a weapon at Meggan he tells her that he is not a big fan of unnecessary bloodshed – hers or his. He asks her to step away from the console so they can have a happy ending all around. ‘You’re a robot?!’ Meggan gasps. The man replies that he is only half-robot, and the rest of him is the remains of a US soldier named Eric Savin. ‘Correction: There is actually a 79 to 21% ratio of –‘ the computer begins, but Eric tells it to shut up, and reveals that somebody is paying him a lot of money for Cayre’s notes.

‘Really?’ Meggan asks, before remarking ‘I’m curious – how much does a cyborg’s soul cost?’Eric hangs his head: ‘Cheap shot, lady’ he tells Meggan, adding that the last thing he needs is career counselling from a woman whose body is covered in scales. ‘No matter how considerable that body may be’ he adds. Meggan looks concerned and tells Eric that she wished she had the time, and the words, to convince him, but that the bomb-thing is going to go off any minute. ‘Warning! Meggan is engaged in evasive action!’ the computer declares. ‘Tell me something I don’t know’ Eric replies. ‘There is not enough time to tell you everything you don’t know’ the computer states. As Meggan leaps towards Eric, he tells his computer ‘Please, less schtick and more assistance!’ as he fires at Meggan, but misses. Meggan latches herself onto Eric’s shoulders, as the computer declares ‘Warning! Meggan is astride your should-‘. ‘Computer...?’ Eric calls out. ‘Shut up?’ the computer asks. ‘Listen, Mr – ’ Meggan begins, ‘Colblood’ Eric introduces himself as. ‘Mr Coldblood, my boyfriend is really, really rich. If I promise to get him to pay you more money than these other people – would you help me destroy all the notes?’ Meggan asks.

Coldblood flips Meggan off of him and replies ‘You’re kidding right? I may be new to this cyborg for hire vocation – but I’m sure that’s one way to get kicked out of the professional mercenary’s guild’. ‘Query? Did you mean to use excessive force?’ the computer asks. ‘What are you talking about?’ Coldblood replies as he slams Meggan into the computer console, which suddenly explodes. ‘I didn’t mean for that to happen!’ Coldblood exclaims, adding that no one was supposed to get hurt – that no one was even supposed to be here. Coldblood declares that Roxxon doesn’t pay him enough to hurt innocent people. ‘How much financial payment would be required to hurt inno-‘ the computer begins, causing Coldblood to sigh.

Amongst the rubble, Meggan calls out to Coldblood, ‘Please...Cayre’s germ things turn people into a nervous platypus’ Meggan tells him, beginning to cry. ‘Nerveless protoplasm?’ Coldblood asks. ‘Yes’ Meggan tells him, adding that WHO doesn’t even know if the people are alive or dead – maybe somewhere in between. ‘Another cheap shot, lady’ Coldblood tells Meggan, remarking that she plays off his self-hatred over being half-dead, half-robot. ‘And I forsake my million dollar deal?’ he asks, adding that he is not going to flush his first merc contract down the drain just to save the world. ‘Unlikely’ the computer declares. Meggan reverts to her default human appearance, and Coldblood tells her that she may look like a bimbo, but that she is a shrewd one. ‘I don’t mean to look like a “bimbo”!’ Meggan replies, before Colblood tells her to get out of here. The computer asks Coldblood what he is doing, as he starts tearing up the console, adding to the flames already spreading.

‘What does it look like?’ Coldblood replies. ‘That you’re “going to flush our fist merc contract down the drain – just to save the world”?’ the computer replies, repeating what Coldblood early said. ‘Exactly’ Coldblood tells the computer, while Meggan remarks that she can’t leave yet, as she has t put in the virus to destroy all Cayre’s notes, before the next sixty seconds when the lab explodes. Coldblood tells her that he is on it as he starts tinkering with the exploding equipment. ‘There is no way to establish a résumé conductive to –’ the computer begins, but Coldblood tells it to shut up, and to just confirm that he splicing together the proper wires. The computer then confirms that the virus is initiated throughout the system. ‘We only have seconds to get out of –’ Meggan begins, before a car screeches into the lab. ‘Is this your car?’ Meggan enquires. ‘For a bimbo, you catch on fast’ Coldblood tells her.

As the laboratory begins to come apart around them, Meggan asks Coldblood how the car got here. Coldblood explains that he summoned it, as it came with his built-in computer. ‘Sort of like a free toaster’ he jokes as they enter the car, and speed away, just the laboratory explodes in spectacular display behind them. Meggan tells Coldblood that she is sorry he lost a million dollars because of her, but that she thinks it is better that he protected the planet from deadly germ warfare practically created by Galactus. ‘Well, sure, when you put it that way’ Coldblood replies. The moon shines down on them as Meggan looks at Coldblood and asks him if she can pay him something. ‘I mean, you’re still a mercenary, right?’ she asks. ‘Right. I’m just not a very good one’ Coldblood tells her. ‘Amen to that’ his computer agrees.

Chapter 5:

Operative: Phoenix

Ability: Celestial Avatar

Location: Clover’s Pub, Clover Corner, twelve miles up the coast of Carrin’s Hollow
Objective: Apprehend Dr Jonathan Cayre

Rachel stands on some stairs and addresses the men in the pub: ‘The three of you who know how to read a newspaper might recognize me as a member of Excalibur. The rest of you will have to take it on faith when I say you don’t want to annoy me. Now, I’ll ask you again. Where is Dr Cayre?’ she demands. The drunken men look at her and one shouts out ‘Wot’s that – yer lookin’ t’play “doctor”? I’m yer man!’, while someone else boasts that she will need a strapping young buck like him. ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ another exclaims. ‘I’ll give ya a physical! It’ll start with me-’ one of the men calls out, before someone else shushes him. The bartender tells Rachel that they don’t want any trouble. ‘Good. Neither do I’ Rachel replies, before suggesting that everyone have a drink, on her. Using her power, she causes all the barrels of beer to burst their taps, and beer spills out into the pub.

‘It feels like a fire hose!’ one of the patrons remarks as they are pushed back by the force of the beer, while someone else exclaims that it is a waste of perfectly good brew. Rachel informs everyone that the WHO techs traced Cayre here, but for some reason, she can’t get a psionic grip on him. ‘So, for the last time...where are you hiding Dr Cayre?’ she asks once again. Instantly, all the men point to a booth in the corner, shrouded in darkness, although the silhouette of a large figure is seen slumped over the table. The figure lumbers out of the booth – ‘Hello Phoenix’ the seriously deformed Dr Cayre calls out, asking her to forgive him for his appearance, he remarks that it seems he is not half the man he once was. ‘Maybe I’m more. Maybe I’m less. Maybe less is more – more or less!’ he mutters, adding ‘Who knew Galactus’ self-regenerating technology wasn’t compatible with human physiology? Live and learn, I suppose’.

Alarmed, Rachel orders everyone out, while Dr Cayre tells her that they were only protecting him out of fear, before explaining that the same experiment that killed him automatically resurrected him – only to kill him again, and resurrect him yet again. ‘Only to kill me and resurrect me and kill me and – you get the idea’ he tells Rachel, remarking that as in touch as he is with himself, he has complete control over his own molecules. ‘Let me demonstrate’ he begins, as he clasps his hands together, creating an explosion which sends residue out over the remaining humans, turning them into goo. Rachel throws a shield up around herself, while the humans cry out in pain. ‘You killed all those people – just as you did in Carrin’s Hollow!’ Rachael declares angrily. Dr Cayre mutters that “kill” is such a judgmental term, and that he prefers to think of it as having helped them achieve a higher state of consciousness. He moves towards her, and suggests that if she learned to let her guard down, he is sure she would enjoy it.

Rachel edges backwards, with her telekinetic force field still up, however Dr Cayre starts to literally move through the force field. Rachel tells herself that it does make sense, in a freaked out sort of way, as Galactus’ power is para-cosmic, so even this watered-down, home-made fraction of his science can affect her. However, Dr Cayre pulls back from the force field, and Rachel asks him what is wrong. ‘Out of breath?’ she enquires. Dr Cayre slowly replies ‘Apparently...but give me...a moment...and we’ll try again’. Rachel suggests they try something more fair, and using her telekinetic power, lifts up a pool table, and slams it down on him. ‘What do you say to a game of pool?’ she asks as Dr Cayre’s body splatters under the weight of the table. ‘That should knock the wind out of him’ Rachel decides, but two seconds later, Dr Cayre starts to slither out from under the table.

‘I prefer chess myself’ Dr Cayre tells Rachel, admitting that he can’t imagine his ability to ooze out from under a chess board will be much of an advantage. He grins at Rachel and tells her that if she will excuse him, he must be going. ‘Going where?’ Rachel asks. ‘Anywhere I please’ Cayre replies, as he starts to lumber up a staircase, pointing out that their abilities cancel each other out, and he has an entire world to terrorize. ‘And you can’t stop me!’ he declares. Rachel looks worried, but she knows Dr Cayre is right, so her only choice is to fire up the Phoenix power, and hurl his molecules from one end of the universe to the other. But as she powers up, Rachel remembers something Professor X used to tell her – “Murder is for the unimaginative”. She tells the Professor, wherever he is, that she is sorry, but doesn’t see any other way. However, as she stands on some broken glass, Rachel has an idea.

‘Cayre! Any physical contact we make has an adverse effect on both of us! You could probably fry my force-field after a while’ Rachel tells him, before announcing that glass is an entirely different matter. She telekinetically pulls all the broken glass, and glasses and lampshades in the pub before Dr Cayre can make it out the door. ‘A waste of time! Even if the glass shards kill me – I’ll only resurrect myself!’ Cayre replies. ‘Who said anything about killing you?’ Rachel replies, as she uses the power of the Phoenix for forge the glass into an airtight chrysalis, trapping him. ‘But, I can’t breathe! I’ll...’ Dr Cayre utters. Rachel stands in front of him, tells him that he will die – and resurrect, but that at least all his molecules are in one place. Several WHO technicians arrive in the pub and start to move the trapped Cayre, as Rachel tells him that, with any luck, they will be able to cure him someday. Looking down at the dead men in the pub, Rachel adds that someday after that, Cayre might be able to forgive himself for all he has done. ‘I know I never will’ she adds.

Chapter 6:

Designate: Captain Britain

Location: The evacuated village of Mollenshire

Abilities: Superhuman physical attributes

Objective: Nothing short of the total annihilation of rampant Air-Walker

Captain Britain stands behind a house, while the steel-cold Air Walker hovers in the air above, flaming wings sprouting from his alien-robot body. Captain Britain runs through his head some possible phrases to get Air-Walker’s attention, such as “All right, Air-Walker – stop where you are”, or “Cease and desist, you mechanical monstrosity”, and “This is going to hurt you more than –” but decides that one is too cliché. Brian wonders how he starts this off, deciding that in Finishing School, he must have been absent the day they covered “Initiating Confrontations with Former Heralds of Galactus”. However, up above, Air Walker starts using his abilities to destroy buildings in the village with single blasts of energy and shouts ‘Stand forth, human! It is senseless to conceal yourself from one possessed of the power cosmic!’

Air-Walker declares that on every civilized world throughout the trackless void of space, cowering is considered an unmanly act. As the house he was standing behind is splintered into nothingness, Captain Britain replies that he was hardly cowering, simply planning. Air-Walker appears to grin and asks if they should get this over with, as he has a world to conquer. ‘Not this world, Air-Walker! Not in this lifetime!’ Captain Britain boasts as he flies towards the robot-alien. ‘As I suspected. No mere human can penetrate my barrier of pollutants and inert gasses’ Air-Walker announces, as Captain Britain slams against him. ‘Like hitting a stone wall’ Brian thinks to himself. Air-Walker folds his arms across his chest and states that twice before he has walked the Earth, and as many times as the semblance of life has been stripped from his immortal coil, it shall not happen again. Air-Walker then carries on through the air – literally walking across it, while Captain Britain falls back to the ground. ‘Not from lack of trying’ he mumbles, as he slams into a building.

But, an instant later, Captain Britain bursts up through the rubble of the building, and slams his fist into Air-Walker’s lower back. ‘Perfect! I came up beneath your barrier!’ Captain Britain calls out, while thinking to himself ‘Great strategy – wish IO could take credit for it. I “lucked out”!’, as Air-Walker warns him that he will pay for this effrontery and that only a coward would strike from behind. ‘A coward, or a mere mortal who realizes he’s totally outclassed’ Brian thinks to himself. As Air-Walker fumbles through the air, Brian knows that he has to press his advantage, and flies after Air-Walker, who tells him that he surely must jest, ‘You have no “advantage”!’ he exclaims, as Air-Walker composes himself, and comes to a screeching halt through the air, announcing that his self-regeneration is complete, down to the fire cloak that adds as a cosmic collector. Brian looks worries, ‘He halted mid-air! There’s no time to stop!’ he thinks to himself, as he slams into Air-Walker, who wraps his arms around him, and declares that one he has crushed Captain Britain’s life from him, his skin will serve him well. ‘Then I shall claim this planet in his name – and await the return of my sacred liege!’ Air-Walker boasts.

Captain Britain knows that he only has one chance, and struggling under the pressure of Air-Walker, he recalls that his “fire cloak” wings collect cosmic energy. So he attempts to reach around Air-Walker’s back and grabs hold of the wings. Brian encourages himself to hold on, as the energy pulses in his hands. ‘I pity you, human! As I pity all who shall know the wrath of the Air-Walker!’ the alien-robot boasts, but Captain Britain manages to cross the flaming wings, hoping that it will create a cosmic feedback loop. It works, as Air-Walker’s mouth opens wide, and energy bursts within him. He releases Captain Britain from his hold, and Brian is able to breathe again. ‘Time for one last gasp before I die’ Brian tells himself, clutching his head he looks concerned, and an instant later, Air-Walker explodes in a brilliant mixture of yellow and pink cosmic energies – but Captain America, and the village below are fine. ‘Just as I theorized – the explosion took place on a cosmic level – while the minutia was unaffected. A perfectly sound scientific theory’ Brian thinks to himself, smiling as he takes flight, still in disbelief that the theory actually worked.

Chapter 7:

Meanwhile, in Excalibur’s Lighthouse, Kitty’s faithful dragon Lockheed stands ever vigilant. He is perched on the edge of a table in a living room, and looks up as he hears a loud KBUMP and someone whispering ‘Shhh!’ Standing atop the steps leading up the rock-face to the Lighthouse, someone asks ‘Why “shhh”? Excalibur is on a mission for WHO – there’s no one here to hear a “KBUMP”! Or, maybe me even saying “Why, shhh”!’ someone calls out. Two men dressed in black have a green box between them, that has crashed into the concrete platform at the top of the steps. ‘Shut up, you idiot! We only learned an hour ago that the premises are vacant. They may return any moment!’ the shorter man declares. The taller man calls his colleague Styman, and points out that if they find them here, they will know they were trying to bug their home, and then they would tell Brigadier Stuart. ‘And we’d be kicked out of the WHO! That, Krieger – is why we’re doing it on the sly’ Styman explains. He explains that once they have reaped the benefits, Brigadier Stuart will be forced to acknowledge their collective genius. ‘But we have to strike now, while no one’s home’ he points out. While, inside, Lockheed grins wickedly.

Standing at the front door, Styman asks Krieger if he has a sonic lock-pick, and reaching into his bag, Krieger replies ‘Yes, of course! Absolutely! Pos...itive...ly. Probably. More than likely’ his voice gets quieter, before assuring Styman that it is here somewhere. Suddenly, the door opens with a prolonged creaking. Krieger peers into the Lighthouse, ‘Styman?’ he asks nervously. Wide-eyed, Styman suggests that it must be automated, and adds that, at least it is opened. ‘At least!’ Krieger mutters as he starts to run away. ‘Krieger! Get back here, you moron!’ Styman calls out, while Lockheed has his tail wrapped around the inside handle of the door. ‘I’m not a moron!’ Krieger calls back, announcing that he is a coward.

They enter the Lighthouse and start to look around at all the fascinating objects. ‘This place is a warehouse of weirdness! No wonder Excalibur turned down WHO’s official request to thoroughly examine their home’ Styman decides. Lockheed is perched on a table, standing very still, as if he were a statue, while Krieger remarks that he is sure it had nothing to do with it being none of their business. ‘Don’t go getting all moral on me, Krieger! I’m telling you, we’ll be heroes once we reveal the truth about Excalibur...whatever that is’. Styman bends over as he examines a sword in a stone and tells Krieger to look around for a spot to place the bugs. ‘Remember, the best place to hide something is often right out in the open’ he tells Kreiger, and, as if on cue, Lockheed leans forward and bites Styman on his rear, causing the susprised WHO agent to leap into the air, ‘YEARGH!’ he screams. Krieger goes over to him: ‘Did you say Yeargh”?’ he asks, remarking that he has seen it written, but never heard anyone actually use it in conversation.

‘What possessed you to do that?’ Styman asks. ‘Do what? I didn’t do any-’ Krieger begins, before noticing that the sword in the stone statue that Styman was looking at has disappeared. ‘It’s gone! But that’s impossible!’ he exclaims – and an instant later, it is dropped on his foot. He screams ‘YEARGH!’ and falls backwards against the table, toppling it onto Styman. ‘See! You said it yourse-’ Styman begins, while Krieger demands to be let out of here, as it is haunted. ‘There’s no such thing as a haunted hou –’ Styman begins, as the men crash about, trying to escape. ‘Watch here you’re going!’ one of them declares. ‘Where I’m going is home. My home. My unhaunted home!’ Krieger exclaims, while Lockheed flies upstairs, and into a closet. ‘You’re a WHO agent’ Styman tells Krieger, adding that he knows for every odd occurrence there is a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Suddenly, both men look horrified, as an orange glow appears over them. ‘Explain that!’ Krieger gasps. ‘P-p-perfectly r-r-reasonable exp-p-planation...’ Styman replies nervously, as a Captain Britain costume floats before them, surrounded by flames, and a terrible howling noise resonates around them. ‘It’s a ghost!’ one of them men shouts as they races out of the Lighthouse, and onto the rocks by the water below. ‘There’s another word you read a lot, but never really get used to’ Krieger remarks as Styman screams ‘AAAAIIIEE!’ ahead of him.

Lockheed emerges from the Captain Britain costume, his flame subsiding, he laughs, before falling onto the floor in a fit of hysterics. However, he sees several feet standing at the front door – Excalibur has returned home. ‘Who was the last one out this morning?’ Captain Britain asks. ‘That was me, but I’m sure I closed the door’ Nightcrawler replies. ‘Hmmp...’ Captain Britain remarks. Lockheed panics, and picks up the Captain Britain uniform, flying back upstairs, while Nightcrawler suggests ‘A strong wind, perhaps?


Excalibur are gathered in one of the living areas, as Kitty asks Brian to explain to her again why he felt that by destroying the universe on a cosmic level he would leave the rest of the world intact. ‘I didn’t say that! I said the explosion would have no effect on a non-cosmic level’ Brian explains. ‘Why is it when I almost destroy the universe everyone gets upset?’ Rachel mutters. ‘I hardly destroyed the universe’ Brian frowns. ‘But not for lack of trying’ Kurt grins, while Meggan exclaims that if Brian wanted to destroy the universe he would have. ‘So there’ she adds. ‘Maybe I should have destroyed the universe!’ Brian suggests, throwing his arms into the air. ‘Or, this house, at the very least!’ he jokes, and Meggan, Kitty, Rachel, Kurt and Lockheed burst into laughter.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Phoenix III, Shadowcat (all Excalibur)


Brigadier Alysande Stuart


Jonothon Cayre

Air Walker

Air-Walker prototype

Norm the robot


Krieger & Styman

WHO operatives

Various civilians

Story Notes: 

This issue takes place between Excalibur (1st series) #41 and #42.

Alysande’s last name, Stuart, is misspelt Stewart occasionally in this issue.

Issue Information: 
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