X-Factor (2nd series) #3

Issue Date: 
September 2002
Story Title: 

Jeff Jensen (writer), Arthur Ranson (artist), Paul Mounts (colors), Paul Tutrone (letters), Lynne Yoshii (assistant editor), Lis and Powers (editors), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Driven by anti-mutant sentiment, Kyle Nakamura successfully detonates a bomb of his own design, obliterating a sanctuary church and killing 29 mutants gathered there for worship. To his horror, four young girls emerge from the inferno and stare at him with accusatory eyes. After freeing immigrant mutants from a forced labor sweatshop in Oklahoma, Aaron Kearse and his partner Catherine Gray, are called to investigate the church bombing in San Francisco. Their initial investment reveals nothing, but after Kearse is visited by an irate Wolverine and Gray by her FBI confidential document bearing mother, the two agents begin to wonder about the big picture. The next morning they are surprised to learn that FBI Field Director Kendall Green has identified the bomber and is about to conduct a raid on the suspect's hideout. To their amazement, Gray and Kearse are told by Director Green to sit out the raid. Further, Green, worried about not surviving the raid, gives Kearse a key and a password - Mountaintop. When the raid does not seem to go according to plan, Gray and Kearse enter the house and find Kyle Nakamura hiding behind the four girls from the church. Using their apparent powers to repel gunfire, he is using them as a shield. Despite this ploy, a well-aimed shot from Kearse ends Nakaura's threat and his life. The crisis is barely over when a deafening rumble and vibrations from an aircraft engine heralds new arrivals. Moments later, when the X-Men appear to retrieve the four girls, Kearse becomes incensed. He yells incoherently, telling them repeatedly not to touch him again.

Full Summary: 

As he runs with all his speed, Kyle Nakamura thinks that they have left him with no choice, no choice at all. As the distance between he and the church widens, Kyle thinks to God of how he has prayed fervently, fasted for weeks, and waited for signs or schemes. And still the mutants defile His temple, stain His holy land, and He does nothing. Now heavenly Father, he thinks, He has left him no choice.

The calm and peace of the night sky is ended suddenly and horrifically, as an explosion transforms the church into a gigantic fireball. The running Kyle Nakamura is knocked to the ground by the force of the explosion. His bomb, which took him three months to build, has taken seconds to obliterate 29 mutants worshipping inside the church. Rolling onto his back, Kyle begins to rise, looking at the results of his handiwork. Rather than his expected sense of accomplishment, Kyle‘s expression turns to horror. From out of the raging inferno that was once a place of worship, a place from which no one should have been able to walk away, four young girls, not even in their teens, emerge unscathed. Both perpetrator and victims of this act of terror look with horror into each other's eyes, speechless.

It is the image of a Teddy Bear on the empty jumpsuit of an infant that transfixes Ramon. Calling out to her husband in the basement, Catherine Gray asks what he is doing. Quickly placing the jumpsuit into a box, Ramon replies that he is wallowing in self-pity. Communing with a ghost. Mourning. Actually, he says, he doesn't know. Sometimes, he continues, he just needs to know she was real. Turning the conversation around, Ramon asks Catherine if she is sneaking down for another smoke. Before she can answer, he tells her that she can smell it in the baby's clothes. Pulling a cigarette from her pack, Catherine retorts that if he is trying to goad her into talking about this, cruelty isn't the way to go.

Holding up a picture of long ago with Catherine and her now deceased baby, Ramon guesses at what his wife will not say aloud. She is worried that their unborn baby will manifest the same untenable mutant powers, just like Moira. She's worried the baby will die... horribly... just like Moira. She is considering an abortion, which he can accept, but he deserves... Catherine interrupts he husband with news; there was a church bombing in San Francisco. She has to be on the plane in one hour. Obviously, she says, they can't discuss... Obviously, Ramon interrupts. Turning his back, Ramon tells her that there's always an “obviously“ with her. Going back to his work, he tells her to go, do her duty or whatever she's calling running away today. He will be waiting. Before he can even finish his last sentence, Catherine has left, punctuating her departure with the slam of the basement door.

Outside a town called Chesterton, Oklahoma, some 75 miles south of Norman, lay a farm that is not a farm. In a fenced-in field where crops should grow, grow a field of weeds, which have grown tall from neglect. Lying silent on the outskirts of this field are a dozen FBI agents in full tactical gear. Using the weeds as cover, they survey the nearby barn and the door that leads inside. One of the agents, identifying himself as Blue 2 calls on the radio to Red 1. The agent informs Red 1 that all units are in position. Replying to the information, Red 1 tells Blue 2 that he copies, and instructs him to hand tough for two seconds.

Lying nearby in another section of the weed field, Agents Kearse and Duncan ready themselves. Anxious in anticipation of their operation, Agent Duncan tells Kearse that they are waiting on him. Manipulating his right arm with his left hand, Kearse replies that he's just adjusting his new arm's hand-eye calibration. A moment later, Kearse replies that he's done. Taking a moment to pull one of the tall weeds closer for inspection, Duncan curses the waste of land. Drawing his attention back to the mission, Duncan calls to the rest of the agents and tells them to proceed. Moments later, the agents are at the barn door. While several agents cover the door with weapons, two others use a hand-held battering ram to break through. Racing through the newly created entrance, the agents raise their weapons and yell for no one to move.

Instead of any of the machinery or paraphernalia usually associated with a farmer's barn, a dozen workbenches manned by dozens of workers are found. As expected, the farm is merely a front for a mob-controlled sweatshop producing cheap, knock-off consumer electronics. The labor: illegal immigrants... all mutants. Seeing the FBI agents, the foreman/guard curses himself for trusting a stupid freakin'... The foreman, already brandishing a pistol, fires it at the agents and catches Agent Duncan through the upper arm. Taking less than a moment to digest his friend's fate, Kearse fires his own pistol. The bullet pierces the mobster's hand, effectively disarming him.

Not giving up, the mobster, known as Jimmy Fingers, once a high-ranking lieutenant in the Genovese crime family, tries to make a break for the gun he keeps hidden in the office. Kearse follows Jimmy, and arrives in time to see him already having reached his weapon. However, instead of raising the gun at Kearse, Jimmy instructs him to tell his boss that he will see him in hell. Without another word, Jimmy Fingers places his gun in his own mouth and pulls the trigger. Stunned, Kearse walks back into the barn's hold. There, he is met by the thankful adoration of the former sweatshop's workers/prisoners. As they reach out to touch Kearse, he panics and retreats back into the office, closing the door. The door closed, Kearse takes a moment to soak in the events of the past few minutes.

Later, outside the barn, Duncan, holding his arm and addressing Kearse as "Bible Boy", tells him he was hardcore. Continuing, Duncan tells Kearse that Green said that he was back in form, but in honesty, he had his doubt. Repeating what he told Duncan earlier, Kearse says that Genovese shot himself. Not pressing further, Duncan says that he is just "busting his chops". However he wants to write it up, Duncan tells Kearse, is fine with him. Turning the conversation to the mobster's final moments, Kearse asks Duncan what he thinks of what he said about "your boss". Duncan suggests paranoid blather, but he neither knows nor actually cares. The only think they need to worry about is the next plane to 'Frisco. Green wants them there ASAP. When Kearse asks what's in San Francisco, Duncan asks him if he didn't feel the disturbance in the "Jesus force"? Somebody bombed a church, a mutie church.

(seven hours later)

As they fly by helicopter over the crater that was once a church, Duncan tells the others that if he can live the rest of his life without seeing one more "Ground Zero", he will be a very, very happy man. Turning to a more official capacity, Duncan informs the agents that they can't even be given a body count, the bomb was so powerful. A couple of heads were found as were some hands, a spiky, blue-green tail and some other mutie freakishness, but that's it. According to the brief from Green, it was a "Sanctuary" church, which caused a big rift in the community. People moved, real estate values plummeted, blah, blah, blah.

Unfamiliar with the term, Gray asks Duncan to explain the term sanctuary church. When Duncan kicks the question to him, Agent Kearse explains that it is a movement started five years ago by more liberal, socially active denominations in response to mutant persecutions. The churches offer shelter, food, health and educational services to mutant runaways, dissidents and asylum seekers. Some denominations followed the lead, others didn't. Understanding this point, Kearse tells Duncan that the mutant phenomenon is a tricky one for Christians since they can't explain it since the Bible doesn't cover it. Evolution? No way, says Kearse, we're not buying that. Having landed, the group begins to walk among the ruins. Continuing his train of thought, Kearse asks the theological question: what are mutants then? Demon-possessed, the physical manifestation of a sinful, fallen world? Freakishly handicapped? Jumping in, Gray answers the question: they are American citizens with rights... "inalienable rights"... that are guaranteed by a little thing that they call the Constitution. That's all, Gray says, that matters if you're an officer of the law. Duncan asks Gray if a nerve was touched, but when she begins to respond, Duncan calls on the rest of the agents present. Telling them to focus, he points out that there's a lot of homes around, which means they should have a lot of witnesses. He instructs them all to start knocking on some doors; who knows what they may dig up?

Over the long and muggy afternoon, Agents Kearse and Gray walk in silence. Occasionally, upon reaching a house, their silence is broken by variations of the same story. One woman tells them that she heard nothing and saw nothing. Another neighborhood resident claims that he slept right through it actually. With the weird hours he keeps because of his computer job... Another two explain that they were out of town that day and no, they never had a problem with the church... even if the church had a problem with them. Another woman explains in Spanish that she doesn't understand English. Their last house contains a young woman who apologizes, and explains that she doesn't know anything. When Kearse asks if she ever had any dealing with the church or attended any of the services, she begins to say yes, but then says no, not anymore. Not since Kyle lost is job to... Cognizant of the gun at her head held by Kyle, who is hidden behind the door, the woman explains that it just wasn't for them. Too much modern music... they like the old time hymns. Apologizing again, she tells the agents that she has to go. She really needs to get the kids fed.

Walking to their car, Gray asks Kearse if he thinks it's hard to believe: eighty-seven houses and zero eye witnesses. Speaking his mind, Kearse answers, honestly, no. Driving away, Gray asks Kearse what he meant about not finding it hard to believe. Almost having forgot the statement, Kearse answers that he was just being cynical after a long day. Turning the conversation to the sanctuary movement, Gray asks Kearse if his church belongs to it. Taken aback, Kearse asks if he has a sign on his back or something that says, "Christian: Kick Me". Beginning to defend her question, Gray is interrupted by Kearse's answer: no, it's not. They voted it down. When Gray asks why, Kearse replies that he doesn't know; the votes just didn't go that way. When Gray promptly asks which way he voted, Kearse defensively asks why she is so damn interested in his religious beliefs? Trying to drop the subject, Gray tell Kearse to forget it and, Jesus, she is sorry she asked. Please, please, Kearse asks Gray, not to take His name in vain around him. Realizing her mistake, Gray tells per partner that he knows she meant no disrespect. Questioning what she thinks she knows, Kearse tries to drop the subject. Having just pulled into the parking lot of a motel, he suggests that they just call it a night.

Walking to his motel room, under the dark of the night, Kearse is pulled into an alley. His assailant tells him not to speak a word, not a peep. While the assailant holds Kearse with his right hand, three metal claws extend from his left, which he holds high in a threatening manner. Showing the claws, the assailant tells Kearse that maybe he's dirty or maybe he's just a pawn, either way he doesn't care. What he does care about, the assailant says, is this bomber and the fact that the FBI knows who it is, but has done nothing. Moving a claw until it touches Kearse's forehead, the mutant offers Kearse a deal; they have twelve hours to turn that nothing into something. If they don't, then he and his friends will do the job for them... as usual. And after that, the mutant says while cutting Kearse's tie with his claw, he will be coming for him. Him and all his dirty friends. Disappearing into the night, the mutant tells the stunned Kearse to have a good evening.

In her own motel room, Agent Gray enters her room and closes the door behind her. Upon her bed she find a pack of documents, neatly tied together with a string. Her back to the door, Gray declares to her mother, previously hidden behind the door, that she smells the distinctive aroma of moldy trench coat. Now facing her mother, Gray asks to what does she owe this round of breaking and entering. Proof, responds Catherine's mother. Proof that the FBI is not helping the mutant cause, but hindering it. Proof that her employers are plotting something deadly... something that could possibly trigger another Civil War. Looking at the documents, Gray realizes that they are all Confidential FBI Memoranda. Looking accusatorily to her mother, she asks where she obtained them. Ever secretive, Gray's mother answers that while her organization may not be what it once was, it still has friends in high places.

Over the hand-held radio carried by Mrs. Gray, a voice identifying himself as Logan asks for Moira to respond. After Agent Gray's mother does so, Logan informs her that the Feds have ears where she is, but he is jamming them. However, he suggests she should wrap it up. Visibly worried, Agent Gray asks her mother what is going on. Exposing evil, saving lives, making the world a safer place, Moira responds. And looking after her daughter. Dropping the memoranda into the trash basket, Gray retorts that it is a little late for the protective routine, doesn't she think?

Accusatorily, Gray tells her mother that she wasn't there for her when little Moira died. Fine, Moira the mother responds. Don't do it for yourself or your husband, she tells her daughter. Do it for their unborn child. Shocked, Gray asks how she knew, but then realizes the obvious. Of course, she says, your telepathic X-Men buddies. Angrily, Gray asks if her new little friend told her? She's not keeping it. Taken aback, Moira asks why? Growing irate, Gray asks in kind why would she bring a life, especially a mutant life, into a world like this? She asks her mother if she has taken a look around lately and noticed how cruel and hateful it's become? Disappearing through the door to the world beyond, Moira leaves her daughter with a final thought. She's been noticing the way the world works for sometime now. What does she think that she's been doing with her life? With the close of the door, Catherine Gray locks it and latches the chain. For her, and her partner who has been visited by a likewise disturbing individual, the night is long and there is no rest.

(the next morning)

As she peruses her mother's information, Agent Gray's phone rings. Answering it, Gray hears an excited Kearse who tells her that, like he, she has been left behind. After he tells her to turn on the TV, she does so and sees a news anchor reading a breaking story. FBI tactical units, under the leadership of field director Kendall Green have sealed off 34th, 35th and 36th avenues. According to police sources, the anchor reports, a raid on a suspect in the church bombings is imminent. Shocked, Gray asks Kearse when did Green arrive? Responding that he doesn't know, Kearse notes that they searched those neighborhoods yesterday. Did they miss something? Why did they get cut out? Still looking at the secret FBI memoranda, Gray responds that she doesn't know, but suggests that they find out.

Twenty-five minutes later in the area of the church blast designated Ground Zero, Duncan studies neighborhood blueprints with two other agents. As one agent notes that there's no rear entry, Duncan finishes his thought, saying that they'll have to go right through Kyle Nakamura's front door. Director Kendall Green, the third agent, comments that he knew that Nakamura was trouble. He never should have let Duncan recruit... Duncan silences the thought, pointing out that now's not the time. Besides, he doesn't think that he's in a position to second-guess him now.

In flack-jackets, Agents Gray and Kearse arrive on the scene. Immediately, Director Green tells the new arrivals that he doesn't recall ordering either of them to suit up for the operation. Responding that they know, Kearse tells the director that they would like to know why. Too personal, Green responds to Kearse's amazement. All smiles, Duncan tells Kearse to come clean and tell him how he threatened to pull strings to get in on this. His attention now at Agent Gray, Green states that he doesn't think that someone in her condition should be risking danger to more than just herself like this. Confused, Kearse asks what condition. Retorting sharply, Gray replies the kind of condition that nobody should know anything about...

The discussion finished in his eyes, Green tells the two agents that they will talk about it later. Not interested, Kearse responds that they will discuss it now. Placing his arm around Kearse, Green begins to walk him away from the situation and apologizes. Trust him, he asks. Speaking quietly, Green tells him that he wishes that he could have brought him in on it sooner, but he couldn't. If something should happen to him today, he whispers, use this: the password is Mountaintop. As Green and the other FBI run toward their mission, Kearse finds a solitary key placed in his palm from his last handshake.

Still upset, Gray approaches her partner and asks if he is "involved" in this? Honestly, Kearse says in response, he has no idea what's going on. Arms crossed, Gray says that she thinks she does. And?, asks Kearse. Responding as honestly as she can, Gray tells Kearse that she doesn't know if she can trust him. The two agents' conversation is interrupted by the sound of gunfire. After multiple shots that ring through the air, the neighborhood falls silent. Drawing his weapon, Kearse tells Gray that he's going in... and hopes that she doesn't follow. But it's her choice. Saying to herself that he is damn right it is her choice, Gray likewise pulls out her own pistol and follows.

As the two agents near the house, they hear a voice blaring from speakers. The voice asks if they shall do nothing about this mutant plague? Shall demonic challenge go unmet by the people of God? Taking temporary cover from behind a street parked car, Kearse identifies the voice from a mutant hate preacher who sells tapes through churches and the Internet. Still crouched behind the car, Kearse identifies the squawks coming from his radio as being Morse code; "injuries"... "help"...

After she and Kearse have taken position on opposite sides of the door, Gray tells her partner that she is ready when he is. The two agents make their way through the house, guns raised, ready to fire. Around them the preacher's voice continues to blare. He proclaims the Lord has an answer to those questions and that answer is nay! For are they not ministers of God, called to execute His justice and establish His kingdom on Earth? In an open room, the two agents find the FBI team on the ground, apparently slaughtered. One of these fallen agents, Kearse discovers, is Director Kendall Green.

Following the ever-present booming voice, the two agents press onward. Noticing bullet holes in the wall, Gray notes that it's ricochet. Weird. Finding the right room, Kearse summons Gray. Inside the room, the kitchen, the two agents find four young girls, not even in their teens. With innocence in her eyes, one girl asks them why they want to kill them? Bullets, another says, won't hurt them. They just bounce off, informs a third. Lowering his weapon, the Kearse tries to explain that they want to help. Noticing a shape behind the girls, Agent Gray tries to warn her partner, but is too late. Springing up from behind the girls, Kyle Nakamura fires his pistol, yelling for them to die, die, die. Reacting instantly, Kearse turns, but still takes a bullet in his right mechanical arm. Firing with his other hand, he places a single bullet between the eyes of Kyle, who falls backward from the impact.

Taking in the events of the last few moments, Agent Gray realizes aloud that Kyle was using the girls as a shield. Suddenly, the voice of the loudspeaker is silent, replaced with a deafening rumble. Recognizing the noise and the accompanying vibration, Kearse identifies the effect as from an aircraft engine. Finally daring to smile, the four girls state that it's them. The angels. They're coming for them. They're going to take them away to a place where their kind can't hurt them anymore.

Suddenly, the deafening sound of the aircraft is replaced by a blinding light. Along with this new unbearable assault on his senses, Kearse's head begins to ache. Through this pain and through the blinding light, Kearse sees five shapes approaching him. One, a hulking blue beast, another a red one-eyed man, another who could be the man from the previous night, and two women, a platinum blonde and a red-head. Knowing panic in his heart, Kearse begins to yell. To these approaching people, most likely mutants, he yells not again. They are not touching him again! Almost incensed, Kearse asks repeatedly if they hear him before finally blacking out.

Characters Involved: 

Agent Catherine Gray, Agent Aaron Kearse (both FBI's Mutant Civil Rights Task Force)

FBI MCRTF Field Director Kendall Green

Agent Duncan

FBI agents

Ramon Gray, Catherine's husband

Moira, Catherine Gray's mother

Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Phoenix IV, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Four unnamed mutant girls from the sanctuary church

Kyle Nakamura

Kyle's girlfriend

Jimmy Fingers


Neighborhood residents

Mutant sweatshop workers

Story Notes: 

Agent Kearse's response to being touched by mutants no doubt comes from his experience with the mutant known as Wither. Eighteen months previous Kearse and Green's right arms were desiccated by Wither's mutant power. It was only in recent weeks that Kearse replaced is ruined arm with a mechanical replacement. [X-Factor (2nd series) #2]

Issue Information: 
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