Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #324

Issue Date: 
September 1995
Story Title: 
Deadly Messengers

Scott Lobdell (story), Roger Cruz (guest penciler), Townsend/Russell/Milgrom (inkers), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors), Bob Harras (editor)

Brief Description: 

Psylocke takes a clandestine tour through Gambit’s mind, but Remy spots her and warns her to keep out. He doesn’t want his secrets revealed just yet. In New York, Storm, Cannonball, Wolverine and Detective Charlotte Jones are faced with a new threat coming from two mutants, who say they are members of a previously unheard of group called Gene Nation, which promises to kill one hundred humans for every mutant they have killed. Cannonball takes on Sack, while the stronger Vessel faces Wolverine and Storm. They disrupt a Friends of Humanity rally, and Beast steps in to save Graydon Creed from a chunk of masonry thrown by Vessel. He then watches, as Storm proceeds to use her lighting powers to release the ‘lights’ inside Vessel, while Cannonball manages to prevent absorption by Sack by smashing them both into the ground. Vessel and Sack manage to escape, leaving Storm to swear they will pay for their crimes. Meanwhile, in Millstone, Arizona, Rogue and Iceman stop at a saloon while their car is fixed and Rogue passes on her regards to Grey Crow to the waitress, a man who hasn’t worked there for six years, which is when Gambit also used to work there.

Full Summary: 

(the Xavier Institute: inside Remy’s mind)
Psylocke is sneaking around in her psi-armor inside Gambit’s mind, which is presently a subdued landscape of New Orleans, inhabited by people without faces. Betsy knows she shouldn’t be there and is finding it difficult to justify invading Remy’s privacy. However, something is clearly amiss with Mr. LeBeau; something buried deep in his past, which is obvious by the stark portrayal of his home city.

She wonders if she should confront him directly, as Charles would certainly not approve of her actions. Suddenly, she realizes that the figure of Remy she was following has vanished and this surprises her, as she should have been undetectable. As she rounds a corner, she decides to leave before she’s spotted, but Remy appears at her side, holding a kinetically charged card. He asks her where she’s off to; “Surely you didn’t come all this way ‘chere, just to leave?”

Remy grabs Betsy by the arm and asks if he can help her with something. She’s a little flustered but replies no. She tells him that, when he passed out earlier, she was concerned, and was hoping to use her psi-power to do something. “Somethin’ like pry around in my head, uninvited?” he replies, “Don’t ever need dat kinda help.” Psylocke leaves the room and, as she walks down the Institute’s corridor, she can still feel his eyes on her back. She knows there is more to his story, but also knows that he’s been through a lot lately, especially after his kiss with Rogue. It’s understandable that his thoughts might be a little conflicted.

(New York City)
A standoff is taking place, with Wolverine looking furiously at two members of Gene Nation, Vessel and Sack, taunting them to see how tough they are against people who can fight back. Storm and Cannonball stand beside him. Vessel snarls that, for every mutant that has died at the hands of Homo sapiens, they will kill a hundred humans. Sack tells Wolverine to listen to his partner; Gene Nation is just getting warmed up. Detective Charlotte Jones tries to inform them that they’re under arrest but Vessel replies that he doesn’t recognize her authority. Their Morlock forefathers could not suppress them and she will fare no better. Ororo is surprised at the mention of the Morlocks, wondering what Gene Nation has to do with them. Sack suddenly makes a leap for Detective Jones, who aims her pistol at him and shoots four times, creating gaping holes in his torso. Sack simply stands there, and everyone watches as his body knits itself back together.

Sack then grabs Jones by the throat, informing her that his primary function allows him to apply his body over a human host. Yes, it’s painful but, as Doctor Chen found out, it is mercifully 100% fatal. Cannonball comes to the rescue, using his kinetic force field to hopefully protect him against Sack’s powers. Charlotte thinks that, although he’s the X-Men’s newest member, he looks like he wouldn’t back down from anything. Wolverine goes after Vessel, the larger of the two, and smells numerous scents on his opponent, almost like the different people he has killed are still inside of him. Vessel tells him that in a manner of speaking, they are. His mutant ability allows him to siphon off psionic and even physical residue from the recently deceased, remnant energy that he can transmute into raw, physical power. With this said, he backhands Wolverine clean off the ground to prove the point before being forced against a wall by one of storm’s powerful gusts.

(Millstone, Arizona)
Far away from this battle, Rogue walks into the saloon in Millstone, Arizona; her skimpy attire attracting a fair amount of attention. Bobby Drake follows her in, not bothered about something to eat but desperate for a pitcher of water to replenish himself. Rogue tells him to pull up a stool, as the ‘mechanic’ out front told her that it’ll be a spell before he gets their car from where they left it. Bobby is about to mention that they should have used their powers to get them out of trouble, but Rogue dismisses the idea outright. Bobby suddenly turns and sees the waitress and is startled to see Emma Frost standing before him, asking them if she can get them something to drink while they look at the menu.

(New York)
Cannonball takes Sack high into the air above Manhattan but Sack taunts him about the fact that, despite having a blast field, by putting himself into direct contact with him, he has condemned himself to becoming Sack’s host body. Sam realizes that Sack is telling the truth and feels unable to resist him. “Want to hear the most ironic part? I’m going to use you to destroy the rest of your team,” Sack tells him as energy and gunk passes between them. This would be a pretty lousy way to end his first mission as an X-Man, Sam thinks.

Below them, Vessel tears up the place, forcing innocent bystanders to scurry away to safety. He is disrupting the Friends of Humanity rally held by Graydon Creed, whose bodyguards want to get him out of there. However, Creed informs them that they’re welcome to go, but he’ll die before he kowtows to mutant scum. Vessel balks at their use of man-made weapons and picks up a large lump of masonry, which he launches towards Creed. Out of nowhere, Beast arrives and catches the object mid-flight. He and Creed exchange a few choice words before Beast sends the object back towards Vessel who appears amazed to see him. “M’khail’s breath, it’s, first one,” he mutters.

Storm continues her assault and hits Vessel with her elemental powers. She tells him that he will fall but Vessel replies that, if he does, it won’t be at the hands of one who let his kind be sentenced to a living death. Wolverine glances at Storm and asks if she knows what he is talking about but, as Ororo responds, Wolverine suddenly loses himself in his bezerker rage, mentioning lights as he lashes out at Vessel with all his fury. Though on the receiving end of some punishing blows, Vessel taunts Logan by saying he can tear and hack all he wants; this vessel repairs itself in less time than his vaunted healing factor used to work. Any damage Wolverine inflicts is temporary at best. Hank thinks he’s bluffing, as Vessel says that they are the voice of the oppressed and victimized mutants. They won’t be, can’t be silenced.

Vessel blasts Wolverine but he shrugs it off, telling Beast that he’s feeling better every second; this is just like the old days. Being tossed around seems to have smacked some sense into him. Hank asks about what he mentioned earlier and Logan tells him about the lights. They’re inside Vessel, and every hack and puncture appears to release the very parts of him that keep him ticking. Logan realizes that the only way to destroy Vessel is to release the lights trapped inside of him.

Above them, Cannonball seizes the opportunity and rockets back towards the ground, as Sack complains that the absorption process is almost complete. Sam gambles by smashing himself and Sack into the ground, trusting that his tightened blast field will save him, but leave Sack to fend for himself. The impact smashes every window in a five-block radius, but this is nothing compared to the lightning bolts that Storm reigns down on Vessel, who twists and writhes with every hit. Creed watches her display alongside Wolverine and Beast. “And you people wonder why we fear you have too much power at your disposal.” Hank informs him that power isn’t the problem; it’s rather what you do with it.

Storm’s attack appears to be working, and a stream of golden lights pour from her opponent’s body of their own accord. While they may not be the souls of the humans who were murdered, she thinks, this final dignity is owed to those who were slain in the name of some unspeakably insane cause. As Vessel crumbles, the lights enter a morgue building nearby through a gaping hole in the wall and enter the bodies of those inside.

Nearby, Sam sits up, knowing that was a gamble he shouldn’t plan on using again anytime soon. He sees a stray spark coming from Vessel, which nails one of the remains of Sack. Before he can move, the remains of Sack disappear into the cracks in the concrete. He wants to follow but Logan tells him that the police are here and they’ll meet back at the mansion. As the X-Men take off, Ororo swears that those heartless creatures will pay for the blood that has been spilled in this senseless campaign of terror. Hank says that it almost makes a person miss the good ‘ol days of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, but his attempt at levity fails to lighten the mood.

(Millstone, Arizona)
After a meal and a rest, Rogue hands over the bill to the waitress and apologizes for her friend zoning out back there. She also passes on her regards to Grey Crow. “What did you say?” asks the waitress. When she repeats the sentence and asks why, the waitress, Claire DeLuc, remarks that it’s just that Grey Crow hasn’t worked there for six years and asks how she knows him. Rogue replies that, honestly, she doesn’t know. As the two X-Men leave, Claire thinks about the strange things she’s seen over the years; sometimes it’s the customers, sometimes the employees. She picks up a framed photo featuring herself, Grey Crow and Gambit. Never was it so odd as the time when it was just she, the Indian, and the Cajun.

Outside, Rogue calls to Bobby, who is on the phone, telling him it’s time to make happy trails. Bobby lets the phone ring, and ring, and ring before shouting,” Pick up the phone!” Back at Xavier’s School for Gifted youngsters, Emma Frost sits, looking at the ringing telephone. “Sorry, Robert Drake, no one is here to take your call right now.”

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Cannonball, Gambit, Iceman, Psylocke, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Detective Charlotte Jones

Vessel, Sack (both Gene Nation)

Claire DeLuc
Millstone bar customers

Graydon Creed
Creed’s bodyguards (all Friends of Humanity)
Gene Nation victims (all dead)
Emma Frost

(in Gambit’s mind)
Gambit, Psylocke (both X-Men)
New Orleans crowds

(Iceman’s hallucination)
Emma Frost

(in photograph)
Claire DeLuc, Gambit, Grey Crow

Story Notes: 

Gambit and Rogue kissed during the Legion Quest storyline, just before the Age of Apocalypse kicked in.

Sack murdered Doctor Chen in the previous issue.

Vessel confuses Beast with Dark Beast, who was known as First One by the Morlocks, having apparently being involved with their creation.

Grey Crow in the photograph is the Marauder known as Scalphunter. Rogue’s recollection comes from her having some of Gambit’s memories locked deep inside her head. This story is picked up again in Gambit (3rd series) #7 - 9.

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