Uncanny X-Men Annual '95

Issue Date: 
November 1995
Story Title: 
Growing Pains

Terry Kavanagh (writer), Bryan Hitch (penciler), Bob McLeod (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Cannonball arrives at the Massachusetts Academy, and after a tense encounter with the White Queen, meets with his sister, Husk and informs her that there is trouble back home. Indeed, as their younger sister, Joelle, has become involved with an older man called Preacher, and the anti-mutant organisation called Humanity’s Last Stand. Preacher has strange visions and paints what he sees. Cannonball and Husk arrive in Cumberland, Kentucky, accompanied by Cannonball’s teammates Wolverine, Storm and Bishop. Cannonball and Husk are greeted by their mother, Lucinda, and most of their siblings, and introductions are made between the Guthries and the X-Men. Tensions run high between Husk and Lucinda, and Josh, now the eldest sibling at home, is starting to have an attitude. Lucinda explains how she is worried for Joelle, and offers what information she can about the Humanity’s Last Stand group. The X-Men want to help, but Cannonball asks them to stay out of it for now, as this is a family thing. Cannonball and Husk, along with many locals, attend a large rally that Humanity’s Last Stand is having to promote themselves and spew hate speech towards mutant kind. A man called Garibaldi seems to be in charge, and he allows Preacher to take the stage so that he can speak about the dangers he sees with the mutant race. Someone watches the proceedings on security cameras and from his secure location sends several armored operatives to apprehend Cannonball and Husk when he recognizes them on screen. Preacher’s talk about how dangerous mutants are gathers a lot of supporters, and when the rally concludes and people start to go their separate ways, Cannonball and Husk confront their sister Joelle. Husk starts to explore the complex, while Cannonball talks to his sister, who is clearly angry at all the attention her mutant siblings get, as she wants to be special, too. They argue for a time, while Husk follows Garibaldi and Preacher into some caverns. Cannonball tries to talk Joelle around, before he is attacked by the armored operatives. He puts up a good fight, but is outnumbered and overwhelmed - especially when some of the civilians realize he is a mutant and attack him, too. Cannonball is then forced to retreat back to the homestead, while, in the cavern, Husk comes across Preacher and Garibaldi reporting to someone else, a man hidden in the shadows - although she hears his name, Trask, and remembers that the Trask family has something to do with the Sentinels. Garibaldi soon discovers Husk and they battle, only ending with Garibaldi beating Husk severely. Trask then tells them to gather the other shepherds, and Joelle. Cannonball crashes to the ground back home, and taking some time to rest, he fills the X-Men and his mother in on what happened. He then admits to the X-Men that he was wrong and that he needs their help to rescue his sisters. Preacher finds Joelle and tells her that they have to go - they are leaving. He informs her that he saw a blonde woman with strange skin beaten, and Joelle realizes Preacher is talking about her sister. Cannonball and the X-Men arrive at the compound and Sam locates Husk in the caverns. He rescues her, but Garibaldi and the armored operatives appear. Bishop finds Preacher and Joelle, and Preacher realizes that Bishop has known the apocalypse. Bishop is confused by Preacher’s ramblings, and they are soon confronted by the armored operatives. Wolverine and Storm engage Garibaldi and his companions in combat, and Wolverine realizes that these aren’t just any operatives, but Nimrods. The Nimrods battle Bishop, who absorbs so much energy that he expels it on the cavern, trapping the Nimrods inside, though the X-Men and Husk escape. Joelle is upset with Preacher while Garibaldi survives thye cave in and threatens the X-Men, who then leave. Husk and Cannonball prepare to leave their home and mother once more, while Bishop briefly speaks to Joelle about Preacher.

Full Summary: 

This late morning the sky belongs to him - and home alone. Gently drifting clouds tear apart before his rushing descent, revealing the rolling New England countryside below. Laughter echoes up from the grounds of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Massachusetts, confirming his destination. Five unique individuals are playing basketball in front of the mansion. ‘Pass, pass!’ Angelo Epsinosa a.k.a. Skin calls out. ‘What are you waiting for?’ Jubilation Lee, better known as Jubilee exclaims. The excited shouts of teens at play, singularly special teens with unique methods of play are soon drowned out by the rocketing of his arrival. ‘I’m open over here!’ Skin exclaims as he extends his arms to grab the ball, while the aloof M flies overhead, Jubilee release some firework-like explosives, and Jonathan “Chamber” Starsmore and Everett “Synch” Thomas both lunge for the ball.

Then, there is a deafening whistle and whine of wind, as Cannonball a.k.a. Sam Guthrie has come home, and Generation X stare at him in shock and awe as he blasts between them. ‘Yowzer!’ Synch grins. ‘Incroyable!’ M gasps. Jubilee tells her to get over it already. ‘Ya seen one showy X-Man entrance… ya seen ‘em all’.
Emma Frost, the White Queen, steps outside and greets Cannonball, remarking that she assumes the trip from Westchester was uneventful, if tiring. ‘Would you care to join me inside for a cup of -’ Emma begins, but Sam declines the offer, dropping down beside the White Queen, he remarks that he is hold she has gone through quite a few changes recently, for the better, what with her being the new headmistress and all. ‘And Ah’m not one to hold a grudge forever…but Ah’m not sure Ah’m ready to put our history behind me just yet either’ Sam explains.

‘Under the circumstances, I’d much appreciate if my sister, Paige, could come out here instead’ Cannonball adds. ‘Of course, Sam’ Emma replies, adding that she relayed the message to his sister last night, and notified her that he would be here before lunch. ‘But it would seem -’ Emma begins, when suddenly, someone lunges at Cannonball,
‘Got a bone to pick with you, Sammy-boy…defend yourself!’ they call out as Sam falls to the ground, attacked by someone whose appearance resembles glass or crystal. ‘Who the -?’ Skin asks. ‘Has she gone nuts?’ Chamber calls out. ‘Nonsense. The girl is merely trying to -’ M begins, until the White Queen telepathically tells her to be quiet. ‘Sibling rivalry is always entertaining to watch’ the White Queen adds, while Cannonball’s attacker tells him to give it up and announces that he is pinned, as she forces him to the ground. ‘Think again, li’l miss…HUSK!’ Cannonball gasps when his sister, Paige Guthrie sheds her skin, revealing herself underneath.

Laughter erupts, while M asks the White Queen ‘Bad blood between Cannonball and yourself, Emma?’ The White Queen replies ‘Simply a shadow of the past. And I am “Ms Frost” to you, young lady. Or “Sir”.
The kids in Generation X return to their ball game, while Cannonball and Husk start to take a walk through the school grounds. Husk asks her brother how he knew it was her, to which Sam tells her it was easy enough, adding that he recognized that hold from her wrestling-circuit fave. ‘Ouch’ Paige mutters, while asking ‘Can you believe we used to watch that stuff?’ Sam reminds her that they did not have much choice, as they only had one TV station back home. ‘And now my big brother’s a full-fledged X-Man, running with the pros in the big city. While Ah’m stuck here with the Generation X brat pack’ Paige complains. ‘Don’t remind me’ Sam replies.

Sam continues, telling Paige that he understands the need for training with her mutant powers, and the yen to understand time with others like oneself, before he tells Paige that the Hellions died under Emma’s watch. ‘I knew them. I can’t pretend Ah -’ Sam begins, but Paige pulls away from her brother and tells him not to go there. ‘If that’s why you wanted to get together today…’ she starts to say, but Sam tells her that it isn’t - but that this is about family - about Joelle.

Elsewhere: ‘Wh - what is that?’ Joelle Guthrie enquires. ‘Preacher?’ she asks the older man before her when she gets no response. ‘Answer me, Preach, please - what is it?’ Joelle repeats as Preacher holds a paint can in one hand and a brush in the other and they look up at his latest piece of artwork, a huge painting on the cavern wall before them. ‘I don’t know, Joelle’ Preacher replies as he examines the artwork - seeming monsters attacking other people, skulls and bones scattered across the ground, some people tied to posts. ‘Then why does it haunt you so, baby? Where’d this nightmare comer from - where do all these twisted nightmares come from - and, most importantly, what can I do to help you?’ Joelle asks. The cavern is lit by dozens of candles laid throughout it, and more canvases of artwork are strung throughout. Preacher swears to Joelle that he doesn’t know, explaining that he paints what is on his mind, whatever he sees in his mind’s eye.

Preacher tells Joelle that lately, since coming here at least, he has been thinking a lot about the future they face. You, me…us. All of us’ he explains. They hold hands and walk to the edge of the cavern, which Joelle calls a chapel and tells Preacher that if he asks her, he is spending way too much time here, when they are supposed to be preparing for the rally tonight. They walk down the stairs leading up to the cavern, and Joelle calls Preacher her lover, reminding him that they are not alone anymore, either one of them. ‘You and I found a whole new family here - people that need us just as much as we need them - Humanity’s Last Stand!’ Joelle declares.

The cavern leads down to a huge sprawling series of large buildings, roads and grassy areas, all surrounded by a huge fence. Armored soldiers stand guard at various points. As always, as it’s meant to do - the scope of their current refuge takes the couple’s breath away. This is a survivalist camp, nestled at the very foot of the Appalachian Mountains, a militant mecca hidden right out in the open - closer than any suspect.

Meantime, the time-stranded X-Man called Bishop drives a red convertible car down a farm road, his teammate Storm a.k.a. Ororo Munro tells him that she is impressed, for one so new, he has proven to be a surprisingly able driver. ‘Of course, Storm. In my time -’ Bishop begins, to which Wolverine a.k.a. Logan interrupts, and tells him do them all a favor by saving the war stories for the next road trip. ‘And someone remind me to stay home’ Logan mutters. From the back seat, Husk tells Wolverine not to make Bishop stop, as she is dying to hear more about the X-Men’s adventures, to which Cannonball tells Paige that it will have to wait. ‘Or haven’t you noticed yet… we’re home!’ Sam exclaims.

As usual with these journeys, the trek from New York State to Cumberland, Kentucky has taken far longer than anticipated. Storm, Bishop and Wolverine - truly strangers in a strange land - are weary and hungry, and anxious to have the road out from under them. The Guthrie siblings, on the other hand, are just plain anxious. As the car pull up in front of the Guthrie homestead, Storm asks Cannonball if he is sure he will not need their help with this matter. ‘Like I said, Ororo, we appreciate the ride and all…but this is family business’ Sam replies as he and Paige leap out of the car. ‘And are we not - family?’ Storm points out.

‘MOMMA!’ Sam shouts as he moves up onto the porch and hugs his mother, Lucinda Guthrie. ‘Oh, Sammy, my boy… thank the Lord you’re here’ Lucinda exclaims, while Paige starts hugging her younger siblings. ‘Didja miss us, Paige?’ the ginger-haired Jedediah Guthrie asks. ‘Of course Ah - I mean, I’ Paige replies, correcting her revert to Southern accent. ‘Whatcha been up to, sis?’ the young sibling called Lewis asks, while his twin sister watches form nearby and Paige hugs her younger brunette sister. ‘Lots of -’ Paige begins, as Lewis asks her whether she brought him anything. Joshua Guthrie stands to one side, guitar in hand.

Storm, Wolverine an Bishop get out of the car and walk towards the Guthries, as Storm announces that the dark-haired boy is Joshua, and that he is the oldest remaining since Paige left the farm. Bishop replies that he has heard Joshua’s name mentioned, and as Storm notices him staring, she suggests he doesn’t, as he will scare the children. Wolverine removes his hat, ‘Lo there, Ma’am’ he greets Lucinda, as Sam turns to his teammates and asks his mother if she remembers his friends. ‘That there’s Logan, and this is Ororo Munro and - believe it or not - Bishop’. Lucinda wipes her hands on her apron and announces that she can’t say they run into folks like the X-Men around these parts very often. ‘I would imagine not’ Storm replies as she follows Lucinda into the homestead. ‘Which just makes y’all the more welcome, Ah say’ Lucinda adds, while Wolverine and Joshua Guthrie keep an eye on each other.

Once inside, Lucinda tells Paige that she wasn’t suspecting she would be home anytime soon, to which Paige tells her mother that is not fair, and that she has as much right to be here as Sam. ‘Someone fetch me a yardstick. Maybe two. Ah wanna see how much you little monsters have sprouted since my last visit’ Sam tells his younger siblings, while keeping an eye on Paige and their mother. ‘This is my family, too, and if there’s trouble -’ Paige begins. ‘Ah know that, honey…that’s not what I meant’ Lucinda replies, pointing out that Paige was in such a hurry to go when she last saw her, to get out there into what she called the “real world”. Lucinda assures Paige that they need her and admits that she was scared that Paige wouldn’t need them anymore.

Lewis and his twin approach Storm, ‘Scuse me, lady…where’d ya get that pretty hat?’ Lewis asks. Storm kneels down beside the twins, while Josh frowns and watches. Storm starts to explain that it is a traditional headdress of her native - when Josh moves in and ushers the twins away. Calling them “runts” he tells them they could use a bath. Lucinda, exhausted, sits down at the kitchen table and assures Storm that Josh was not raised to be so rude, but explains he is growing up too fast these days, getting way ahead of himself. Lucinda supposes that Josh is frustrated lately, feeling a little trapped here, same as Sam and Paige did. ‘Momma, that’s not -’ Paige begins, while Lucinda adds that Josh might be a little scared - they al felt the fear when the papers started going on about that virus that is killing mutants.

Unaware that Josh is just outside the kitchen, still listening, Lucinda informs the others that it is then that Joelle drifted into the pro-human group that was forming in the hills, a cult, and she finally took off with that strange drifter boy. ‘We haven’t heard from her since’ Luncida explains. ‘Mrs Guthrie, if there is any way we can aid in finding your daughter -’ Storm begins, but Cannonball tells her that is not necessary, as he and Page can deal with this. Lucinda has tears in her eyes as Cannonball tells Storm and Bishop that he means no offense, but that the two of them are not exactly built for infiltration in this neck of the woods. ‘And Wolverine…well…he…’ Cannonball’s voice drifts off, and Storm tells him that she sees his point. Cannonball reveals that the location of this so-called survivalist camp is no secret to the locals, and declares that if his sister won’t come to them, then they will go to her.

Night has fallen over the fortified Humanity’s Last Stand fortress, and a large gathering has amassed. Armed soldiers stand watch, as one man wearing an elaborate red and black costume addresses the audience: ‘Welcome, one and all - both the committed and the curious - a place can be found here for every man, woman and child who cries for the future of humanity’. He declares that Humanity’s Last Stand is the voice of the people, rising to the challenge of tomorrow. On brightly lit stage, with large screens projecting him, the man continues, declaring that God’s plan has gone awry, that his children have been conceived in God’s image, only to be eclipsed in the shadow of evolution. ‘A branch of nature itself has proven unnatural - diseased, rotting threatening the whole of the tree - spreading its Legacy Virus from so called homo superior to humanity proper’.

The man continues, stating that innocent humans now suffer for the sins of mutants, but that their God helps those who help themselves. He turns to others on stage with him, including Joelle and Preacher, wearing the same elaborate red and gold robe as he, while, in the audience, Paige and Sam look up at the stage and see Joelle. ‘Their God…?’ Sam mutters under his breath, surrounded by people holding up signs that read “Graydon Creed for President”. ‘What about innocent mutants? Who is this bozo to say that we’re an unnatural step?’ Sam asks, before boasting that he is taking Joelle out of this loony-bin, but Paige tells Sam that it isn’t that she disagrees with him, but that they can’t. ‘Trust me on this’ she asks Sam, who stops as he moves forward through the crowd. Paige tells Sam that their little sister has to believe she can take care of herself. ‘Ands we just have to be strong enough…to let her make her own mistakes’.

The man on stage continues, ‘You all know me as Garibaldi. A shepherd only, one of many. But as we close ranks here - far from the consummate conflict to come - ever more are called’. He puts his hand on Joelle’s shoulder, and she smiles and looks at Preacher, who turns to the audience, as Garibaldi declares that ever more have come, and that this young man brings quite a story to those with ears to hear. Eyes wide, Preacher adds ‘A fable, really, I think. I pray’. And as images of a horrid reality, the Age of Apocalypse, float through his mind, he declares ‘I tell of a broken promise, of the worst of all words. Mutant against man, man against mutant. And one monster making monsters of them all. I see landscapes of darkest red, nothing but broken bones and bodies drenched in blood’. Preacher adds that he knows a place where this can happen, and that he knows it far too well.

Elsewhere, someone is watching the gathering of Humanity’s Last Stand on monitors, monitors which include a search function, as a scan is done for any mutant presence. When Sam and Paige are spotted in the audience, a man sitting in a high-tech chamber watching the recording remarks ‘Not unexpected’. He turns to four beings in a purple armor that stand before him: ‘You’ve heard all the words, my flock. And now you see the wolves in our midst revealed. Make an example of them…for the masses’ he commands, staring at the image of Husk and Cannonball on the monitor before him, as the armoured-beings take flight up through an opening in the ceiling.

Back on the stage: ‘That place is here. Our home, our world. Our world. We face nothing less than the twilight of mankind, my friends’. ‘NEVER!’ ‘NOOO!’ shout the crowd before the stage. Preacher raises a fist into the air and declares ‘You can hide from the night, but it will not hide from you. It will find you all, each and every one, in your homes, in your beds…in your very dreams’. Preacher tells them to do what they will, as he has done what he can. The twinkling torches blaze brightest, it seems, before burning out, and the crowd begins to disperse. ‘Always leaves ‘em wanting more, they say’
Sam remarks to Paige, who agrees that the kid has a real way with words, and that the rest of this crew has it down to a science. They head to the back of the stage, ‘Reminds me of the stuff I’ve read about the height of Hitler’s -’ Sam begins, before Paige shouts ‘JOELLE!’, who then turns to see her older siblings.

‘Why are -? When did you two -? How’d y’all find me here?’ Joelle asks them. Sam puts his hands on his sister’s shoulders and tells her that it was kind of hard to notice her up there on stage, as large as life. ‘Not to mention side by side with that Garibaldi garbage and his baby bullhorn’ Sam points out. ‘Preacher’s least as old as you, brother. And twice the man you’ll ever be’ Joelle mutters. ‘Oh, really?’ Paige thinks to herself, while starting to walk around the stage, she decides that this bears another look. ‘Ganging up on Joey only makes her that much more stubborn, anyway’ Paige knows, who deciding that she has heard enough of Sam’s lectures to last a lifetime. Joelle looks away from Sam, who ask her what is up with all of this. ‘Does it have something to do with me, or Paige? Or the fact we couldn’t stay around to -’ Sam begins, to which Joelle snaps ‘You would think that, wouldn’t you?’

Joelle then tells Sam that he would actually be right this time - it has everything to do with him, both of them. ‘It always does, doesn’t it? The flashy-family favorites, the oh-so-special ones. The mutants’ Joelle snarls, before asking what is wrong with regular humans finding a place for themselves somewhere, righting to make it their own somehow. ‘Nothing, but -’ Sam begins, as Joelle spins around, ‘But what, “Cannonball”? It’s not as important as your race to the stars, your never-ending battle for world peace?’ Joelle asks, while suspecting that Sam is just jealous of anything that makes her special, too. ‘Not true, ‘Elle…not even close’ Sam replies.

At the same time, Paige finds the staircase into the caverns, marked “restricted access” and watches Garibaldi lead Preacher up the stairs. She can’t make out what they are saying, as Garibaldi is doing all the talking, and most of the walking. ‘Looks like Preacher-boy’s just along for the ride, innocent as a lamb…being led into the Lion’s Den’ Husk decides.

Back on the stage, Sam assures Joelle that she is special, that she always has been, and all the folks that love her know that. ‘Momma says you’re the smartest. Josh and the twins are closet to you be a long shot - even Roggie Clinton’s had a crush on you since kindergarten - and Paige and I both know you’re the bravest of us all -’ Sam begins, before he screams and falls backwards, as something attacks him from behind. ‘What -?’ Joelle gasps, while one of the purple-armoured beings stands over Sam, warning him that this is private property, and that trespassers will be eliminated. ‘That case, tin man…you wasted a warning shot!’ Cannonballl exclaims as he starts to blast straight off the stage, up into the attacker. ‘Wait - please - what are you -?’ Joelle calls out while another of the beings in the purple armor goes over to her. ‘A low-level sonic spike, freak. Just enough to expose your true colors!’ Sam’s attacker declares, knocking Sam back, thye young hero lands with a thud on the stage.

‘Did you see him fly, my shepherds? It is a mutant. Disguised as a human, spying on us’ an elderly man from Humanity’s Last Stand’ calls out, as several men gather around Sam. ‘Hang on, guys - nobody’s spying -’ Sam begins to say, before one of them kick him in the face. The others start to attack him, punching and kicking him, too. ‘Kill it! In the name of Trask…kill it now!’ the elderly man orders. ‘Mission accomplished. Prep the pit for -’ one of those in the purple armor announces, when suddenly, ‘NO!’ Cannonball shouts, as he blasts upwards, forcing his attackers away from him, he flies into the sky. ‘It’s getting away…’ the old man laments.

Deeper into the cavern, ‘He will see you now’ Garibaldi tells Preacher, who asks ‘And how should I address him, Garibaldi, this leader who leads from afar?’ he enquires. Garibaldi tells Preacher that he asks too many questions without answers. ‘He is known only as the Shepherd of Shepherds until -’ Garibaldi begins, as they approach a man sitting on a chair in the candle-lit cavern. The man sitting on the golden chair announces ‘I say you may call me Trask’ and declares that there should be no secrets between them, as they are prophets of the same storm. Garibaldi starts to leave, while Preacher kneels before Trask and asks him ‘Why do you hold me back, teacher Trask? Why do you keep the people from hearing all they need to hear…seeing all the ugly things I am cursed to see?’ he enquires, hands clasped as if he was praying.

Paige watches from behind a rock and listens as Trask replies that truth is merely a tool, a means to a very important end - the very survival of their species against the scourge of mutants. ‘The tainted plague that you yourself are a living testimony to, Preacher. A wary and weary witness of the worst to come’. Paige realizes that she recognizes the name Trask from the X-Men’s files, as Trask declares ‘And a truth this great is a chess match that need be played like a symphony’, Paige remembers reading something about a father and a son, and those giant Sentinels that hunt mutants.

Back at the Guthrie homestead, Wolverine is sitting on the porch, and sniffs the air. ‘Up and at ‘em, X-Men! Outside on the double’ he orders. Storm and Bishop step out onto the porch, and Storm assures Wolverine that they were hardly sleeping. ‘Although the rest of the household -’ she begins, as Wolverine interrupts and points out that they are in for a rude awakening. ‘We got incoming, north-northeast’ he states. ‘What do you…glorious goddess!’ Storm gasps as she looks up and sees something careening towards them through the night sky. The fiery image then crashes into the ground before them. ‘SAMUEL!’ Storm exclaims as Cannonball is revealed, and she runs towards him. Laying in the dirt, the bruised Cannonball utters ‘Help me…please…help me…get back to them’.

Back in the caverns, Trask remains hidden in the shadows, but tells Preacher to listen to the hearts of fire in their flock, and tells him that he speaks to the spark in their souls. ‘The bodies will follow’ he adds. ‘First honest words I’ve heard all night’ Paige thinks to herself. It is taking everything she has to keep from stepping out into the light, telling these creeps exactly what she thinks about this little scene. But she knows she has to warn Sam and the others before things get worse. Before she can retreat however, Garibaldi appears and puts a gun to her head and tells her not to even think about it. ‘Every shepherd in the compound’s on full alert, looking for you. Just come along quietly and -’ he begins, before Paige interrupts: ‘Yeah, right…’ she mutters as she shoves her elbow into his neck, taking him by surprise, she then kicks him in the shoulder as she pulls away some of her skin, revealing a tough skin underneath.

But as Husk prepares for another kick, Garibaldi grabs her leg, ‘Impressive, deviant. You’re a lost faster than you look - and quite a bit tougher where it counts, apparently - but a novice, nonetheless’ he points out as he swings her upside down, and forces her to the ground. ‘And even your pretty little snakeskin can’t protect - what it doesn’t cover!’ he declares as he pushes her face into the ground. ‘Don’t do this…Garibaldi…’ Paige utters. ‘Shut up, mutie!’ Garibaldi replies as he punches her, then again and again, repeatedly, while telling her to shut up. Preacher overhears the commotion, and asks Trask to tell him to stop. ‘I have more reason than most to fear these mutants, but…how can you stand there and ignore her cries?’ Preacher asks.

Still hidden by the shadows, Trask asks ‘Would you instead have us ignore the clamor of those who need us, demand us, insist that we take up the sword of our species?’ He stands up as Garibaldi drags Husk towards them and asks ‘Can you escape their screams and shouts, son, their pleas for protection and preservation’ he then tells Garibaldi to prepare the wounded wolf, and to gather the other shepherds here within the hour. Trask turns away from the others, and remarks ‘That includes you, of course, Preacher…and your lovely Joelle’.

At the Guthrie homestead, Sam is on the sofa, while his teammates and mother gather around. He explains that he was so disorientated by the attack that he couldn’t see hide nor hair of Paige or Joelle by the time he burst free from the mob, and he was afraid he would only make the situation worse for everyone if he didn’t get out of there, pronto. ‘But Ah’m ready for ‘em now’ Sam assures everyone. Lucinda asks him not to do this, not to go back there again. ‘We’ll call Aaron. He can round up a few of his best and -’ Lucinda begins, but Sam tells his mother that Sheriff Flint and the boys would not stand a chance against those clowns. ‘But Ah can’t do it alone, either’ he admits.

‘And you will not, I assure you’ Storm announces, adding that it was a mistake to let the least experienced of them to go unaccompanied in the first place. ‘I do not repeat mistakes’ Storm declares, now in uniform. ‘Just her way of saying “I told you so”’ Bishop pointss out. ‘Maybe Ah deserve it, Bishop’ Cannonball admits as he, too, gets into uniform. Wolverine pops his claws as Cannonball tells his teammates that there is one more thing - he just remembered hearing a name while he was down. And, an instant later as the four X-Men leave the homestead in full fury, Wolverine roars ‘TRASK!’ as he slices his way through a tree. Bishop runs alongside him, Cannonball blasts through the air and Storm flies above.

In her quarters at Humanity’s Last Stand, Joelle sits on her bed, in disbelief and what is happening, and what she watched out there. She wonders why Sam and Paige had to show up here now and ruin everything again for her. ‘If those stupid shepherds hurt Sammy or -’ Joelle thinks to herself, when suddenly, Preacher bursts in, telling her to get up and move it. ‘Pack what’s important. Just necessities. Nothing heavy - we’re hitting the road! Now’ he tells her. Joelle assures Preach that she is with him, but starts to question him. ‘Right now, Jo’ Preacher declares. Joelle asks him what is going on, and why he is in a hurry all of a sudden. ‘Where’d you go after the rally?’ she adds, enquiring as to whether this has something to do with her brother or sister. ‘A captured blonde, scales instead of skin. Beaten to a bloody pulp by -’ Preacher begins. ‘Blonde hair… strange skin? That’s my sister - it has to be - you’re talking about Paige’ Joelle exclaims, tears in her eyes. Suddenly, there is a loud alarm that sounds through the facility. Joelle and Preacher turn their attention to the window, and Preacher remarks that there is a perimiter breach, and the complex will go into lockdown.

In the cavern, Paige wakes, drowsy, her head is pounding, she can barely see, and cannot even shift her skin, as she realizes she is in some half-transformed state, with green patches covering her body. Paige doubts that she could work up the strength to scream, and realizing she is chained up to a cross, she wonders what they are planning to do. ‘Scratch that. Ah do not want to know’ she decides, before noticing something moving in the shadows, crawling closer to her. ‘SAM!’ Paige suddenly shouts when she realizes it is her brother. Sam moves closer and tells Paige to shush, while assuring her there is nothing to be scared of anymore. He removes her shackles and helps her to the ground, as Paige declares that she was not scared. ‘Healthy does of fright keeps ya careful, Paige. Trust me on this’ Sam remarks. ‘Said the spider…to the fly!’ Garibaldi declares as he appears in the cavern with the purple-armoured beings at his side. ‘Uh-oh’ Sam mutters. ‘Got that right, sucker. Two Guthries down…one last race-traitor to go’ Garibaldi adds.

Back in her quarters, Joelle tells Preach that she can’t, she won’t leave without her sister. ‘You don’t understand, Jo. There’s nothing we can do. It’s already too late for -’ Preacher begins, when suddenly, Bishop steps in and announces ‘Actually, it would appear to be the proverbial nick of time. Wolverine tracked the girl’s scent straight to this barracks and I mean to -’ Bishop starts to say, when Preacher moves forward, ‘Stay away from Joelle, monster! I won’t let you hurt her!’ he snaps. Bishop raises his very large weapon and declares that he has no intention of hurting anyone, unless his hand is forced. ‘Wait, wait…leave him alone. Let him go!’ Joelle calls out, pushing herself between Preacher and Bishop, whom she recognizes as an X-Man. ‘Sam described ya in his last letter -’ Joelle explains, before Preacher notices Bishop’s eyes, and asks him ‘You’ve seen what I’ve seen, haven’t you?’ Preacher grabs Bishop’s face and stares at him closely, ‘You’ve known the Apocalypse!’ Preacher shouts. Bishop starts to tell Preacher that they have no time for this now, when suddenly, two of the armored soldiers appear behind him: ‘No kidding, gene-joke…time’s up!’ one of them exclaims.

Back in the cavern, ‘You used her, didn’t you, Garibaldi? Just used Joelle’s relationship with your pet Preacher to keep him in line…while you used him to convert more and more to your cancerous crusade!’ Husk exclaims as she pulls her skin back, completing her transformation. Garibaldi stands with a weapon ready and replies ‘Let’s not forget luring two of the Devil’s own into our web. Scheduled to be the fist official sacrifices to the cause, in a matter of -’ he doesn’t complete his sentence, as Storm and Wolverine lunge at him from behind. ‘The reports of their impending deaths, “Shepherd”…have been greatly exaggerated’ Storm declares. ‘THE X-MEN!’ Garibaldi exclaims. ‘Got good news and bad news team…smells like Nimrods t’me!’ Wolverine announces as he engages in combat with the purple armored beings, now revealed to be Nimrods.

Wolverine slices at one of the Nimrods with his claws, while Storm fires a lightning blast at another. Cannonball blasts around the cavern, narrowly missing one of Garibaldi’s gun shots, as Husk, in her transformed state, dodges an attack from another Nimrod.

Back in Joelle’s quarters, Bishop is blown out the window. He knows that the bad news is the Nimrod technology incorporates all of the most advanced features of the Sentinel series. He lands on the ground as rain starts to beat down. The two Nimrods fly out the hole in the building and move towards Bishop while some of Humanity’s Last Stand followers gather around him. ‘Mutant hunter-killers. Virtually unstoppable’ Bishop thinks to himself. At the same time, Joelle follows Preacher down a corridor, and Preacher tells her that it is happening here, now - the darkest of his nightmares is born into being. ‘We have to try and slip past the…’ his voice trails off as they arrive outside, and the Nimrods see him. ‘Not likely, Judas-goats. Not ever’ one of the Nimrods states. Bishop tells himself that the good news is the Nimrods are nothing but robots, and tells the Nimrods to forget about the kids, as he is their true target. His fist glows with power, as one of them replies ‘Noted, mutant’ as it fires a powerful surge of energy at Bishop, knocking him back.

At that moment, the others appear at the entrance to the cavern up the stairs, and Wolverine tells everyone that there is no need to hold back against soulless, lifeless, murdering machines. ‘More of the corrupted!’ one of the Nimrods calls out when he sees the other mutants. ‘Be that as it may, Wolverine…we are barely holding our own’ Storm points out, adding that the shepherds within are slowed, at best, by her winds, which she releases down the cavern. Cannonball tells the others that they have to finish this here, or innocent bystanders are going to get hurt. ‘The plague must be contained at all costs, brothers’ one of the Nimrods states as they take flight. ‘No…’ Bishop utters, before shouting ‘X-MEN! Pull clear of the cavern, all of you…NOW!’ and he releases a powerful charge of energy, striking the cavern as Wolverine, Storm, Cannonball and Husk leap clear.

Bishop announces that the Nimrods’ own power, the very energies they barraged him with, will be their death knell, as the cavern starts to tumble down upon them. ‘Nice shooting, future boy. Can wait t’hear about it the whole drive home’ Wolverine remarks as he and the others meet up with Bishop. Storm tells Bishop that the shepherds - the Nimrods - were never alive to begin with. ‘But you knew that, did you not?’ she asks. ‘Whatever you say, Storm’ Bishop replies. As the rain continues to beat down, Joelle goes over to Preacher and tells him that this is insane, that it is not what they signed up for, either one of them. ‘How could you have known about all this without telling me…’ she asks. Preacher claims that he didn’t know, but Cannonball tells his sister to look around at what Preacher stands for, ‘I swear I didn’t know’ Preacher says once more.

Suddenly, Garibaldi emerges from the rubble of the cavern and advises the X-Men to leave, while they still can. ‘You dare threaten us now, little man?’ Paige asks. Garibaldi shakes a fist at her and points out that the authorities have already been summoned. ‘We simply acted to defend ourselves from your incursion. You’ve accomplished nothing here, gene-trash, won nothing this day!’ Garibaldi exclaims, but Cannonball tells him that he couldn’t be more wrong about that - as they have unmasked the truth - and some folks will always follow the truth. With that, he and his sisters and teammates walk towards the exit of the fortress, as the sun rises in the distance.

Later, at the Guthrie homestead, the wind blows leaves around, and as they prepare to leave, Paige tells Storm and Wolverine that she can’t thank them enough. She adds that cavalry rescue could not have been better timed, really, and that she shudders to think what that Trask creep had in mind for the Guthrie siblings. Storm tells Husk that they can discuss this further in the car, as she wants to know every single detail about the man she saw in that chapel. On the porch, Sam says goodbye to his mother and tells her that, speaking from experience, Joelle is never going to be able to stay down on the farm again. But Lucinda tells him not to be so sure, as Joelle is not the same as he or Paige - never has been. And, Joelle sits on a nearby fence, as Bishop approaches her and tells her that if she would like to talk, he would like to hear about her and her friend. ‘There seemed to be something about the boy…’ his voice trails off.

Joelle has her hands clasped together and tells Bishop that his name is Preacher, and that wherever he is now, whatever he is doing, she just hopes he remembers. And, at that moment, Preacher is painting another canvas - this time, of Joelle, hands clasped an smiling.

Characters Involved: 

Bishop, Cannonball, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men

Chamber, Husk, Jubilee, M I, Skin, Synch (all Generation X)
White Queen

Lucinda Guthrie
Joshua Guthrie, Joelle Guthrie, Melody Guthrie (unnamed), Jedediah Guthrie, Lewis Guthrie and his unnamed twin sister

Simon Trask
Humanity’s Last Stand followers


Story Notes: 

This issue takes place after Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #325, after Wolverine (2nd series) #96, before X-Force (1st series) #48 and between Generation X #9 and Generation X Annual ‘95.

Cannonball and the White Queen’s history stems from Cannonball’s time with the New Mutants, and the White Queen being mentor to the Hellions, the New Mutants’ enemies.

Notably absent from the Guthrie family’s appearance this issue is Elizabeth, who, in the Age of Apocalypse, was also a mutant, called Amazon.

Melody (the brunette sister) is not named until Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #444.

Following this issue, Joshua, Melody and Jedediah are all confirmed as mutants. Later, Joshua (Icarus) is murdered in New X-Men (2nd series) #26, and Melody (Aero) is de-powered following M-Day.

Although he is not given a first name this issue, the Trask that appears is Simon Trask, brother of Bolivar, in his first appearance.

This issue contains several “X-Men Timelines” pages, containing a brief historical overview of: Archangel, Beast, Storm, Rogue and Mystique.

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