X-Force (1st series) #101

Issue Date: 
April 2000
Story Title: 
Learning to Fly

Joseph Harris (writer), Steven Harris (penciler), Rick Ketchum (inker), Matt Higgins (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Lysa Kraiger (assistant editor), Jason Leibig (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

A boy at a school is bullied by his peers, until he reveals he can fly. Meltdown is out watching Cannonball fly one evening, when suddenly, he loses his power and plummets to the water. Meltdown tries to use her power to send for help, but her power doesn’t seem to work, either. She dives into the water to help him, but he is found by harbor patrol. Cannonball is rushed to hospital, and Moonstar, Proudstar and Bedlam soon arrive. They reveal that they have lost their powers, too, while Cannonball remains in a critical condition. The next day, the boy at school attempts to fly in front of even more kids - but he falls on his face and they laugh at him, except for one girl. At their HQ, Moonstar and Proudstar discuss the ramifications of losing their powers, while Bedlam isn’t that bothered by it all. Meltdown goes for a walk to clear her head, when she comes across the boy, attempting to fly in the park. He falls on his face, and reveals to her that he could fly, up until yesterday. Meltdown assumes he is a mutant and that he lost his power, too, so when she tries to explain how being “normal” will be good for him, he is not happy, and runs away, while the girl from school was watching them. The next day, the boy goes to a water tower, and with a large gathering of students watching, he attempts to fly from it. The girl knows what is going on, and finds Meltdown, asking for her help. Meltdown races up the water tower, trying to talk the boy down. He doesn’t listen, and steps off, but as he begins to fall, he realizes he made a mistake. Thankfully, Meltdown is able to grab him and pull him to safety. After a few days, Cannonball recovers from his injuries and is released from hospital. He and Meltdown spend a night watching the stars. Meltdown reveals that she wishes she could fly, and they embrace, while at the school playground, the boy frowns and looks to the stars as well.

Full Summary: 

Folks say the one thing certain in life is change. Folks say lots of things, actually…but that statement is as true as any. Change is always coming…and it never stops.

A school bell rings, and kids start to enter the buildings. Two kids hang back, round the corner of one of the buildings. ‘You think it’s cool to -’ one of them begins. ‘Shhh…wait a second man. Let the rest of ‘em get back to class’ the second declares, while asking the third what he is in much a hurry for, anyway? Looking over to the playground, they see a boy sitting on the top of some jungle gym equipment. ‘He ain’t going anywhere’ the second kid declares. They walk over to the playground once all the other kids are gone, and the first kid asks the second why he is wasting his time with this. ‘I got detention all this week. Now I’m cutting out and I’m gonna get it all next week, too!’ he exclaims, calling his friend Toby. Toby calls the first boy Billy, and tells him that this will be worth it. ‘You’ll see’ he adds, when suddenly he calls out to the kid on the jungle gym: ‘Hey! Freakshow! How you doing today, freakshow? I brought somebody to meet you. Say hello, freakshow…come on’ Toby taunts.

‘Hello’ the boy on the jungle gym replies. ‘Yeah…and I want you to show him what you shown me’ Toby orders. The boy on the jungle gym remarks that his name is Kevin, while Billy starts moving around on the grass, telling Toby that he has to see this. ‘He starts in with the flapping and the breathing and then -’ he exclaims excitedly, but Billy tells Toby to shut up as he looks up at Kevin. ‘Is that what you do?’ he asks him. ‘Sometimes’ Kevin replies, seemingly anxious. ‘Forget this…’ Billy mutters as he turns and starts to walk away. Toby races after him and asks where he is going, to which Billy mutters ‘Ah, he ain’t nothing but a nothing. You’re crazy, Toby’. Billy adds, pointing out that this is San Francisco, and they don’t have those kind of people here. But as they carry on walking, Toby tells Billy to hold on. ‘You hear -’ he begins, as there is a loud SWOOP, and as they fall to the ground, they look up, and see Kevin hovering over them. ‘Holy…’ Billy utters. ‘I told you, man!’ Toby exclaims.

‘I’ve seen a lot of change in my day. You learn how to deal with it however you can. Sometimes I wish I could fly…I’ve always wondered what it feels like. The wind in your face. The rush. Being a mutant’s a curse, sure. And saving a world that hates us is the cross we bear, but still…if you gotta have powers’ Tabitha Smith a.k.a. Meltdown thinks to herself as she looks up to the sky, watching her teammate Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie blast across the night time sky in spectacular display. She has been watching him for the last half hour or so, and decides that he always looks so alive up there. The only way she can describe it is beautiful. Seated on a grassy bank, Tabitha is supposed to keep an eye on the time, make sure nobody gets a good enough look and starts reporting some “rocket man” soaring over San Francisco.

‘No matter how often we try and save the world. They still hate us for what we are’ Tabitha reminds herself, ‘But then, the more things change…’ she adds, deciding to keep her eyes on Sam, when suddenly, he seemingly explodes up in the sky. The world suddenly goes crazy. ‘Sam…?’ Tabitha calls out as she gets to her feet, but Sam is too high up. She knows something is wrong. ‘We call him “Cannonball” because he can propel himself though the air like one - or he could, anyway’ Tabitha reminds herself as she sees Sam suddenly fall down from the sky, so high up, plummeting to the bay below. He lands with a mighty splash, and there is nothing Meltdown can do. ‘Sam’s hurt…don’t know what happened out there…just use your powers, Tabitha…form a time bomb…’ the young mutant tells herself.

She creates a ball of plasma, using it as a signal flare, hoping to get some help -but her time bomb suddenly fizzes out. Tabitha stands at the edge of the cliff, looking down into the bay, the water is choppy and uneven. ‘SAMMMMM!’ she screams - but no one is listening. ‘You know that feeling? When you just…you’re screaming as loud as you can. But you’re the only one that hears it?’ she tells herself. Her powers don’t work. Sam’s powers don’t work. And she has to do something - so she suddenly dives head-first into the dangerous waters below. She tries to keep swimming, but the waters throw her about. Suddenly, there is a loud noise. ‘What the -?’ Tabby calls out as she is blinded by a light on the water - a harbor patrol boat has approached her, and its lights are scanning the waters. ‘H…how…?’ Tabitha wonders. She bobs in the water for a few seconds that take forever to pass, then Sam is removed from the water in front of her - he is limp and very, very unable to fly. Tabitha hangs her head and wonders what has happened to them.

At a hospital, a doctor is paged, as various hospital staff go about their important duties. ‘We got one more on his way - multiple lacerations to his chest and -’ a nurse calls out as they wheel another patient around on a bed. ‘In there’ someone exclaims, pointing to another room. The nurse remarks that it is a hot one tonight, and ER is full. ‘You bring ‘em here, he goes in there’ she adds. Sitting in the waiting room, Tabitha can’t think straight, it is so loud. It smells so clean that it burns. ‘I hate hospitals’ she thinks to herself, Suddenly, ‘TABITHA!’ someone calls out. Tabitha looks up to see her teammate Danielle Moonstar kneeling beside her. ‘We got here as quick as we could. What happened?’ Dani enquires. Tabby explains that she was just watching Sam fly up there, and then he wasn’t anymore, and there wasn’t anything she could do.
Two other members of X-Force, James Proudstar and Jesse Aaronson a.k.a. Bedlam enter the waiting room. ‘How is he?’ James asks. ‘He…he was so high up in the sky…and I…’ Tabitha utters. ‘Is he all right?’ James asks urgently. ‘James, please…’ Dani calls out, while telling Tabitha that it is all right. ‘Talk to me’ she asks her. Tabitha raises a hand as if she was creating a time-bomb and exclaims ‘No! It…it’s not okay! I tried to do something. Call for help - anything! And I wiggled my fingers…and nothing came out’ she explains. James informs Tabitha that last night, he tried to take out the trash all at once, and almost pulled his arm out of its socket. ‘There’s something wrong with all of our powers’ he announces. ‘We don’t know what it is yet. But we’ll find out’ he assures her. ‘I watched him fall, Jimmy…I watched him…’ Tabitha utters, burying her face into James’s shoulder. ‘Still a Proudstar, though no longer as strong’ Tabitha thinks to herself, while wondering what happened to Sam, what happened to them all.

‘My whole life they’ve teased me. “Kevin’s too small” they’d say. “Kevin’s too weak”!’ Kevin thinks to himself as he stands on the top of the jungle gym at school. Other kids gather around. ‘What’s taking so long?’ someone complains. ‘We don’t got all day, man!’ another declares. ‘You said he was gonna do it, Toby’ someone mutters. ‘Aw, he can’t do it - just a freak, anyway’ someone cruelly calls out, while Toby assures his fellow students that he has seen him. ‘C’mon, Kevin…you gonna do it or not?’ Billy calls out. ‘Yeah, freakshow Show ‘em like you shown us!’ Toby shouts. Kevin smiles, he can do this, they want him to do this. Toby smacks Billy, who asks him what he did that for. Toby tells Billy not to call Kevin a freakshow. ‘He’s gonna do it again’ he adds.

‘Heh…we found him, you know’ Billy tells the other students. Kevin raises his arms high, ‘I’ve got powers and they don’t. I can do this. I’ll show them. I’ll show them all’ he thinks to himself as he steps forward, ready to fly off the jungle gym - but, instead, he just falls to the ground, flat on his face, with a loud WHUMP! ‘Ohhhh…’ Kevin mutters, while the kids just stare at him, before they begin to disperse. ‘Yo, Toby…this ain’t cool, man. I mean…we say him do it, right?’ Billy remarks. ‘Freakshow busted mother…I ain’t seen nothing, man’ another kid calls out. Kevin looks up, and one other student remains standing over him. ‘Um…Kevin? Are you okay?’ the girl asks. ‘Huh? Oh…hi, Patty…no…no, I’m not okay’ Kevin replies. Patty just frowns.

The next morning, at the San Francisco headquarters of X-Force, Dani looks in the mirror, touching her face, she tells James that she looks the same, but feels so different. James tells Dani that he has felt different all his life, and that this is nothing quite as comforting. ‘How often have you just woken up in the morning up in the morning and, just for a second, you forgot what you were?’ Dani asks James. ‘Then it hits you, you know? You see that big “X” on your belt…or you realize you’re late for training while the other kids are on their way to homeroom’ Dani adds. The young mutant continues, asking James how many times in his life has he wished he was normal. ‘And how naïve do you feel for thinking it could ever be as simple as that?’ Dani asks.

Sitting on a couch nearby, Bedlam calls out ‘So…I’m sorry…you call him the High What’s-A-Nary…?’, to which Dani corrects him, ‘The High Evolutionary, Jesse. He’s a genetic tinkered. Now he’s tinkering with mutants’ she explains that it is the same all over - the X-Men, Generation X - mutants have been robbed of their powers. Jesse sighs and mutters that he would love to call this a blessing in disguise. ‘Ah, don’t look at me like that…I know it ain’t that simple’ he tells his teammates, before asking them ‘What now?’ James tells him that they wait. ‘And we hope…for Sam. Not to mention Tabitha’ Dani adds.

‘They’re wondering where I am. I know they are’ Tabitha thinks to herself as she walks through a park. She knows she should be home with the others, wondering what has gone wrong with them, wondering what comes next. But she can’t. be inside there right now. ‘Got to just…walk, I don’t know’ Tabitha tells herself. She doesn’t want to think about it - no Sam. No X-Force. No mutants. Suddenly, there is a loud WHUMP!, and Tabitha stops in her tracks, turning to a park bench, where Kevin is standing on top of, ‘Don’t think about it…just…just close your eyes…’ the boy tells himself. He holds his arms out at each side, ‘That’s it…you’re a superstar, Kevin…and they love you. ‘Cause you can…’ he tells himself, but as he attempts to fly, he just falls flat on his face, creating another loud WHUMP! sound.

‘Um…having trouble?’ Tabitha asks as she goes over to Kevin, who looks up at her, ‘W-what?’ he utters. ‘Are you…having some kind of trouble? I noticed you jumped off that bench there, and…well, I don’t know…it looked like a problem’ she remarks. Kevin just tells her to leave him alone. ‘You got it, boss’ Tabitha replies as she walks off, thinking to herself that he is a cute kid, the bizarre bench-jumping thing notwithstanding, but she has other things to worry about. ‘Last thing I need is somebody else’s problems’ she tells herself, when suddenly, she hears another WHUMP! Tabitha turns back to the boy, who has started sobbing, ‘I did it, though…I can too fly!’ he exclaims. Tabitha sits down on the park bench, the boy sits at the other end of it, saying nothing. ‘What am I doing here?’ Tabitha wonders, when suddenly the boy declares ‘I can do it, you know’. ‘Fly?’ Tabitha asks him. ‘Yeah…’ he replies.

‘This is not going where I think it is…’ an anguished Tabitha tells herself. Kevin explains that it just started - one day he fell out of a tree, but he didn’t fall. ‘I just…did it’ he remarks, standing up on the bench, he explains that he kept doing it, and the kids who used to think he was a nothing started thinking he might be a something - all because he could fly. ‘Until yesterday, anyway…’ he adds. ‘You said…yesterday, didn’t you?’ Tabitha asks. ‘Yeah…’ Kevin replies. ‘Oy…’ Tabitha mutters, before informing Kevin that she knows he is not going to believe what she is saying, but that if he could do “special stuff” then come yesterday he couldn’t anymore, he is better off. ‘What do you know about it?’ Kevin snaps. Tabitha explains that she knows being “special” isn’t all it has cracked up to be, and that he should be thankful if he never flies again. Kevin frowns and runs off, ‘I can fly…’ he declares. ‘Well, this could have gone better’ Tabitha thinks to herself, unaware that she and Kevin are being watched from the bushes nearby. ‘And I’ll make them pay attention to me! I can…I can!’ Kevin exclaims as he rushes off down the street.

The next day, at a tall water tower, Kevin stands at the bottom of a ladder to the tower, as Billy, Toby and other kids begin to gather around. ‘So…what’s going on?’ Billy asks. ‘Aw, man…you didn’t hear? Freakshow comes in this morning acting all hard and tough, saying we shouldn’t of laughed at him or nothing…and that he’s gonna show us all’ Toby explains, watching as Kevin climbs up the ladder, and steps on to the platform near the top of the tower.

Walking through the park once more, Tabitha has her head hanging low, and hands behind her back, despite the fact that Sam woke up today, and the doctors say he is going to be fine. ‘They don’t know the half of it. Another day and we’re all still “normal”…so how come I still can’t enjoy this?’ Tabitha wonders, when suddenly, ‘HEY!’ a voice calls out, and Tabitha turns around, to see the girl, Patty, rushing towards her. ‘You gotta come quick!’ Patty huffs, out of breath. ‘I saw you with him yesterday…and I didn’t know where else to turn…’ she explains, announcing that he is going to do something stupid, but the other kids won’t say anything, they want him to, ‘And he won’t listen to me!’ she exclaims. ‘Who? Who’s going to do something stupid…?’ Tabitha asks, raising her eyes when Patti tells her that it is Kevin.

‘Gee…two days ago I was a somebody’ Kevin thinks to himself, looking down from the platform. ‘And then my power went away. But I can hear them down there…calling my name, looking at me. I won’t be afraid’ Kevin tells himself. ‘Ah…he ain’t gonna do it. Why we wasting our time?’ Billy asks, while Toby calls out to him, telling him that he can do this. ‘Heh…we believe in you…’ he jokes. Suddenly, ‘KEVIN!’ Tabitha screams as she rushes forward towards the tower, pushing through various kids. Patty follows her, but Tabitha finds that the crowd doesn’t want to move. ‘The powers don’t work anymore, but they’re still turning out to see the freak’ Tabitha thinks to herself. ‘The more things change…’ she adds, before calling up to Kevin, telling him to stay right there. ‘I…’ Kevin begins, looking down to the ground below. Tabitha begins to climb up the ladder, and she tells Kevin that he doesn’t have to be special, not for them.

‘How do you know what it’s like?’ Kevin asks, holding onto the side of the tower. Tabitha reaches the platform and informs the boy that her friend used to be able to fly, and then his powers went away and he hurt himself, really bad. ‘What…what was his name?’ Kevin asks. Hanging her head, Tabby replies ‘Sam…’ before telling Kevin that there is so much that he doesn’t know about what he is. ‘Aw, to heck with this!’ Billy mutters, throwing his arms into the air, the kids begin to disperse below. ‘How much do you think they’ll like you, Kevin…once they realize how much better than them you are?’ Tabitha asks the confused boy. ‘I…no’ Kevin replies, raising one foot over the edge to step out. ‘You don’t know what it’s like…they came here to see me…and I can’t let them down!’ Kevin exclaims.

‘KEVIN!’ Tabitha screams. ‘You have no idea what I know!’ she shouts, reaching out, she only has one chance. Kevin lets out a gasp as he steps off - the kind you can hardly hear, but it tells Tabitha that he would take this back if he could. He’s lucky, though. Tabitha was here - this time, as her hand latches onto his pants, she saves him from plummeting to possible doom. The kids who hung around look up, deprived of the show they came for. Tabitha tries not to hate them, and using all her strength, she manages to pull Kevin back to the ledge, and all her guts not to cry along with him. Kevin mutters something about being sorry, before running of.

Life remains “normal” for the next couple of days. Tabitha doesn’t think any of the team had any idea it would be this hard. At night in the park, ‘Sometimes…I wish I could fly, you know. Just…take off, get the heck outta dodge and just…’ she tells Sam, who has his hands on Tabitha’s shoulders. ‘Ah know, Tab…ah know…’ Sam replies, while Tabitha asks Sam to hold her. They stand beneath the stars, quietly, considering how being normal isn’t all it has cracked up to be, and wondering what “change” the future may bring.

At the same time, Kevin sits on the jungle gym at school, frowning, and stares up to the stars….

Characters Involved: 

Bedlam II, Cannonball, Meltdown, Moonstar, Proudstar (all X-Force)

Billy, Kevin, Patty, Toby and other school kids

Hospital staff

Story Notes: 

Mutants lost their powers thanks to the High Evolutionary in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #379. This proved very short-lived, unlike the more famous de-powering of the mutant population courtesy of the Scarlet Witch during the “House of M”.

Issue Information: 
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