X-Factor (1st series) #78

Issue Date: 
May 1992
Story Title: 
Playing with Fire

Peter David (writer), Larry Stroman/Brandon Peterson (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Mike Thomas (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Bob Harras (editors), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Tempo of the Mutant Liberation Front calls Dr. Tucker, warning him that his research clinic is going to be attacked. X-Factor is called but some members find themselves in a moral quandary, not wishing to defend Tucker’s research that allows parents to identify and abort embryos with the mutant gene. Quicksilver refuses to help in the mission. The others fight the MLF, who kill Tucker. Before he dies, Tucker asks Wolfsbane to save his research, but instead she destroys it. Afterwards, Quicksilver tells them how his own genetic supremacism managed to destroy his relationship with his daughter Luna. Mr Sinister gets his Nasty Boys back from the MLF.

Full Summary: 

7:45 a.m. At a pay phone, a young African-American woman calls the Tucker research clinic. That early in the morning, only Dr. Tucker himself is in. He’s going to be attacked, the woman informs him. He doesn’t run from attacks, Dr. Tucker blusters. She knows he doesn’t, she interrupts him. He is a foolish man, but the Mutant Liberation Front has targeted him and she… had to warn him. She tells him to get out of there. He won’t bow to terrorism, Tucker announces before he asks if he knows her. Her voice sounds familiar… The woman puts the receiver onto the cradle and walks away.

Elsewhere, Dr. Valerie Cooper has gathered X-Factor to proudly present their very own Danger Room. Now at Toys ‘R’ Us for $49.95, Jamie Madrox ad-libs. Figures not included. Val chides him to be serious. They need a training room – hence the Danger Room. In mock concern, Guido Carosella points out they could get hurt.

Quicksilver remarks they are all experienced with their powers. Their headsets allow instant communication. They already have a workout room for weights and exercising. What need is there for a tricked-up obstacle course? Because there is, Val insists stubbornly. It’s mandatory. Whatever happened to free will? To freedom of choice? Polaris protests. Val asks her what that has to do with the government.

Havok blusters that he wasn’t consulted. Val explains it was in the works before he came aboard. Uncle Sam is able to make a move or two without him.

Wolfsbane worries that mutants tend to be pretty hard on a Danger Room. They might destroy it in five minutes if it isn’t up to snuff. It’ll stand up just fine Val insists. The door for example is pure Castrodinium. Nothing can break through it. She assures them the finest government contractors were brought in. Jamie laughs that those guys are chosen by who offers the lowest price. Which means they cut corners. Ignoring Jamie, she tells them to see government workmanship at its finest. She touches the doorknob which comes off. The team walks away.

In the lobby, Guido sees a pretty strawberry blond woman waiting for Val. He introduces himself as Ms. Cooper’s most trusted associate and she is? Victoria Wang, public defender’s office. She asks for Val. Guido announces she is in a very important meeting. Perhaps she’d like to grab breakfast with him? He took Sean to a lovely café the other day. Sean Young, he clarifies. It’s nothing serious, Guido adds. Vicky grins. If he is keeping company with such high profile individuals, she doubts she’d be that interesting to him.

Ignoring his protests, she gets up and asks him to tell Val she was there. She should call her if she gets more information on Mr. Suffs and Mr. Anderson. Who? Guido asks. Hairbag and Slag, he is told and she leaves.

He tells himself that could have gone better but he’s just started. Jamie mocks him about Sean Young. He was serious, Guido claims. Right, and he’s the leader of the Mutant Liberation Front, Jamie replies.

Elsewhere, Hairbag is trying to fight Wildside when said leader, Stryfe, interferes, announcing somebody has come to claim him and Slab. “Someone” turns out to be Mr. Sinister who doesn’t accept a ‘no’.

In the meantime, via commlink Havok informs Professor Xavier and Cyclops about Mr. Sinister’s return. He has also figured out that the Shaffran they fought probably was a disguised Sinister as well. Xavier thanks him and promises to alert both X-Men teams.

Will he alert X-Force as well? Wolfsbane asks. They have no contact with X-Force, she is told. He does not approve of their leader or their tactics. They are the opposite of everything the New Mutants were meant to be. Alex agrees and tells them good-bye.

Rahne thanks him for not mentioning she saw Sam Guthrie the other day. Alex admits he is still angry about that, so he saw no reason to upset Professor X as well. Sam could have led them straight to Cable. He is not surprised at Rahne but Lorna could have stopped him cold. Whose side is she on?

Her loyalty is to X-Factor, Lorna replies, but that doesn’t mean she left her own mind at the door. Sam approached Rahne in good faith… misguided but good. She chose not to use that against him. It seemed… tacky. And, frankly, she can sympathize with Rahne. She knows how hard it is to have someone you care for on the other side. So does he, Alex admits. He asks them to tell him if X-Force contact either of the again. Rahne eagerly agrees.

Val wearing an X-Factor style uniform comes in, telling them they got a call from authorities in Kansas City. Mutant Liberation Front. Let’s move. Some outfit Val has on, Rahne remarks. Does she like it? She didn’t say that.

Very soon, they are in the air and Val debriefs the. Dr. Tucker is running a clinic for genetic research. He’s developed an experimental test to determine the likelihood of an unborn child being a mutant. It’s nowhere near 100 per cent accurate but Tucker claims he can find the DNA that leads to mutation and remove it.

And they are going there to tell him he is engaging in abominable activities and talk sense to him? Rahne asks. No, they are going to stop the MLF from murdering him, Val corrects her. Rahne agrees with the later part, but that test… No one has the right to play God!

Alex tells her when they save people they don’t do it because they agree or disagree with their philosophies. They do it to because they need help. He knows it sounds simple but they gotta stop the bad guys.

She’d walk through fire for him, Rahne replies, but this… it’d be like approving of what he is doing. She turns to Lorna. She understands, doesn’t she? It’s unborn mutants they are speaking of!

Lorna replies that isn’t the issue they are dealing with. It’s about free will. The parents have to decide. Alex tells Rahne her position is understandable. If she wants out of this mission, fine. Anybody else?

Count him out, Quicksilver announces without looking at anyone. When asked why, he replies it’s personal. Fine, maybe being short-handed won’t hurt them, Val grumbles. The local authorities have been alerted and they’ve dispatched a swat team in the area. They are the first line of defense, in case the MLF get there before X-Factor do. Maybe if they are lucky they won’t be needed at all. Not that she believes that.

The MLF arrive and fight the cops. Fourarm berates Tempo for claiming she is tired from stopping that first wave of cops. She hardly did anything at all! He tells her to twist some time. Tempo retorts he has no idea what’s involved for her to do this, so clam up! When Reaper kills some of the cops, she protests. Fourarm tells her to stop whining.

They break down the building’s wall. Dr. Tucker stands there bravely ordering them to get out. So he’s the guy trying to get mutants before they can get him, Wildside greets him. Tucker replies he only wants to give people the knowledge they need and the option to make the appropriate genetic change. That includes making them as informed about their progeny as possible.

The MLF ask about the rest of his staff. He told them not come in. But he won’t be scared off by terrorists. His life is in his research. His death is in his research! Wildside laughs. He needles him, asking what he is afraid of. What is he afraid of? Tucker shoots back. That if his parents had known they were getting a vomitus freak they’d have—

Wildside slashes him, ordering him to shut up. All his posturing about helping people. He is just a bigot with a medical degree!

Bright, his teammates sigh. He just eviscerated the guy before he could tell them where he kept his research and samples of the test. They needed him. Wildside suggests just destroying everything. If they run across the material, they bring it back to Stryfe. If they don’t, they’ll make sure nobody else does. They begin searching and wrecking the place.

Reaper suggests they send out a press release. There’s enough people who approve of what they are doing they might actually be able to make this gig pay. At the very least, they could wind up on A Current Affair. Who would turn that down? He tries to open a door. Guido hits him from the other side, announcing him, He’s an Entertainment Tonight kind of guy.

Strobe melts Guido’s glasses onto his face. Havok takes out Strobe, while Lorna is to try to take out Tempo with her metal helmet. Fourarm wrestles Guido. .

Several Jamies attack Fourarm, asking if it is true he has a brother who can mentally operate toilets. His Name is Foreflusher. Guido has wrestled off his glasses and is in a bad mood.
Polaris slaps around Tempo who shouts she gives up. Lorna is unaware Wildside is creeping up behind her until Wofsbane saves her. Lorna thought she was back at the plane. Rahne replies she owes Lorna for letting Sam go. She does not like being in anyone’s debt. She means being in her debt, Lorna clarifies.

The MLF teleport away. Lorna and Rahne find a bomb. Lorna orders Rahne to get to safety while she will take the bomb outside and defuse it. Rahne smells blood…

Elsewhere, Guido and Jamie pile on Fourarm. Reaper tells Havok X-Factor is on the wrong side here. They are doing good! Havok shoots back he doesn’t consider him the authority on morality.

Rahne finds the badly injured Dr. Tucker and announces they have to get him to a doctor. He weakly jokes that he is a doctor, then tells her this compute has all updated data on the mutant test… formulas… everything! He is transferring it to disk. Let the computer finish, then give disks to government. With that, Dr. Tucker dies.

Zero opens a teleportation portal for the rest of the MLF, meaning their job is finished. Havok fires at Zero, hurting him. The teleportation portal breaks down. Reaper wasn’t wholly through and mid-teleport part of his left leg was cut off. Jamie remarks disgusted he knows they want to dismantle the MLF but there has to be a more efficient way than piecemeal!

Wolfsbane presses a button to abort the download then destroys the computer. She turns around to see Lorna watching her. She asks why she didn’t try to stop her. Lorna replies Rahne had a decision to make and she didn’t feel it was her place to tell her she couldn’t make it.

At the MLF’s HQ, Wildside points out first Reaper needed an artificial hand, now a foot. Guy’s gonna be Darth Vader before too long. Stryfe is disturbed that X-Factor knew at all. He asks if any of them know why. He addresses Tempo. Taking off her helmet, the young woman who called Dr. Tucker replies she has no idea. He replies he hopes that was a onetime fluke, perhaps due to a personal involvement with Doctor Tucker and won’t happen again. Temp agrees.

In X-Factor’s plane, Rahne remarks that she pictured Doctor Tucker as some huge slavering monster. But there he was and died in front of her and he didn’t seem evil at all. She’s feeling guilty that she though they shouldn’t protect him. And now that he’s dead she feels worse.

And how guilty does she feel that his work got accidentally irretrievably trashed? Val asks. Then again, they could have done better if they hadn’t been short-handed, isn’t that right? She asks Pietro.

He has a daughter, he replies. She was born with no powers, no mutant gene. He even tried to change her, but decided not to take the chance. He remembers thinking that if only he had known in his definition she was going to be a freak… that it would have been better if she’d never been born. This idiocy though was the beginning of the wedge driven between Crystal and him. He was such a fool! If she’d never been born he could never have held her. He didn’t realize she had the right to be born human. But because he didn’t appreciate and cherish her existence, she’s as good as lost to him. And now he cannot hold her and will probably end up a stranger to her. All she wanted to do was love him… and he wasn’t willing to accept her until too late. Makes him wonder who the real freak in the family is…

Characters Involved: 

Havok, Multiple Man, Polaris, Quicksilver, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane (all X-Factor)

Val Cooper, X-Factor’s governmental liaison

Dr. Tucker, scientist

Victoria Wang, lawyer of the Nasty Boys and friend of Val

Forearm, Reaper, Strobe, Stryfe, Tempo, Wildside and Zero (all Mutant Liberation Front)

Hairbag (Nasty Boys)

Mr. Sinister
Via commlink


Professor X

Story Notes: 

Castrodinium is a metal from the Star Trek universe.

Sean Young is a famous actress.

The artist mistakenly draws Val instead of Lorna in the scene with Rahne destroying the research and the computer, though she is colored as Lorna.

Wolfsbane and Polaris faced Cannonball last issue.

The team fought Sinister/Shaffan in issue #75.

The story how Quicksilver wanted to expose Luna to the Terrigen mists is told in The Thing #2.

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