X-Force (1st series) #102

Issue Date: 
May 2000
Story Title: 
Games Without Frontiers, part one

Warren Ellis (plotter), Ian Edgington (scripter), Whilce Portacio (penciler), Gerry Alanguilan (inker), Avalon Studios (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Lysa Kraiger (assistant editor), Jason Leibig (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Six months ago, Pete Wisdom returned to England aboard a ship, where he encountered Alistaire Stuart. They discussed various things, mostly the under-world of society, spies, and crimes against mutants. Wisdom warned Alistaire that people are keeping an eye on him, and people like him. Today, Major Valentina Rychenko and her officers are attempting to take down the mysterious Russian facility known as Science City 51, where innocent civilians are in danger from meatspore automatons. Her team struggles on its own, but they are soon assisted by Pete Wisdom, and his own team - X-Force. Displaying newfound skills and abilities, X-Force quickly enter the fray, battling the meatspore storm troopers. Meltdown can now manifest her time-bombs as streams of plasma, and Bedlam is more powerful than before. Their combined teamwork takes down Science City 51. Wisdom reminds X-Force about their mission to take down dark places and seek vengeance from wrong doings to mutants. Valentina is reunited with Wisdom, and she notices he has an injured leg. Later, in San Francisco, a woman jogging along a street suddenly convulses and starts shooting beams of energy from her eyes.

Full Summary: 

Six months ago, aboard the freighter known as the Sulya, which makes its way across dark waters on an even darker night. At the bar aboard the vessel, British mutant Pete Wisdom leans against the counter. ‘Never seen anyone in here with an eye patch before’ the woman behind the bar smiles, leaning towards Wisdom. ‘I kind of like it…it’s so…manly’ another woman in a revealing outfit exclaims as she smiles at Pete, who smiles back. ‘Oh, poor you. How did it happen?’ a third woman asks, leaning against a cigarette dispensing machine. ‘Well, I tell you. I’m never going to bloody Dagestan on a wet Wednesday again’ Pete replies. Leaving the bar, Pete steps out onto the deck. ‘Hello, Mr Wisdom’ a voice calls out from the shadows. ‘Alistaire Stuart’ Pete replies.

Lightning his cigarette, Pete remarks that he hasn’t seen Alistaire since Black Air ran its terminal phase in London. ‘Did you go off to run the office that replaced it?’ Pete enquires. ‘The Department, yes’ Alistaire confirms. Pete then asks him what the head of the Department, with personal helicopters and jets and all that, is doing on the Harwich ferry? ‘Waiting to have a word with you, Mr Wisdom’ Alistaire reveals. ‘I’m all ears, Ally, old son. Call me Pete’ Wisdom replies. Alistaire realizes that Wisdom is up to something. ‘I don’t like it’ he remarks. Pete smirks at Alistaire and asks ‘Little me? I’m what you might call semi-retired. No intel. No X-Teams. Just a nice bungalow in Cornwall and an old woman who comes in to wash me every second Thursday’.

Alistaire is unimpressed and frowns, ‘You’re still full of it, I see’ he remarks, before asking how the eye is. Pete flips up his eye patch and smiles, ‘Sound. This is the eye patch of love. Best thing I ever invested in. Gives me the mutant power of being horribly sexy’ he jokes, before realizing that Alistaire is not here for tips on how to pick up girls. Alistaire reveals that he knows all about Dagestan. ‘You’ve since been spotted in Genosha, Tokyo, Helsinki and Washington DC’ Alistaire points out. Pete explains that Dagestan was a misunderstanding. ‘And I like to travel a lot. So?’ he adds, telling Alistaire that if he had been born in the scrag-end of London instead of some country pile with a silver spoon in his mouth, he would want to spend some time away from home, too.

‘Don’t you like England, Mr Wisdom? That’s the English shoreline out there, good old Essex…’ Alistaire points out. Still calling Alistaire “Ally”, Wisdom tells him that he doesn’t particularly like anywhere. ‘Everywhere I go, there’s secrets and lies and other nasty things that get up my nose. I mean, bloody Essex. You know what’s just up the toad from Harwich?’ Wisdom replies. ‘An old government nuclear bunker. It’s a tourist attraction, now’ Alistaire tells Wisdom, who replies ‘Right. And east of that on the coast, is British intel’s primary dissection lab’. ‘Excuse me?’ Alistaire asks. Wisdom explains that it was part of the Easy Tiger program, where Martians were dissected in 1899, kicking off a century of cutting up aliens for fun and profit. ‘Black Air used it to dissect the Warpies. Remember them? Poor little buggers mutated by all that reality-structure damage’ Wisdom remarks, before suggesting that Alistaire does remember the Warpies, as he helped rescue a lot of them from some bad guy. ‘Didn’t you?’ Wisdom asks.

Alistaire offers no response, so Wisdom declares that one would think someone who saved defenseless mutant children and now runs Britain’s key paranormal response office would be aware of where they died, and shut it down. ‘In fact, you’d think that person would be aware of what still goes on there’ Wisdom remarks. Alistaire stares straight ahead. ‘Wouldn’t you?’ Wisdom remarks, before asking Alistaire what the time is. ‘Midnight’ Alistaire responds, looking at his watch, when suddenly, up ahead on the shoreline, there is an explosion which lights up the night. ‘Ooops. Dissection lab go boom’ Wisdom remarks. Shocked, Alistaire tells Wisdom that was a terrorist act. ‘Was it really? Wonder why’ Wisdom replies.

Wisdom turns to Alistaire and exclaims ‘Maybe it’s because you people - the world intel community - are not behaving properly. You are perpetrating disgusting crimes against humanity - and I am personally offended by the crimes against mutant humanity, which are committed with abandon’. Alistaire looks worried, while Wisdom warns him that there are a lot of people just like him out there in the dark. ‘And we’re keeping an eye on you’ he tells Alistaire.

Today, a large helicopter darts about in the air. ‘Major?’ the pilot calls out to a woman, who slams a radio transmitter against the wall,’ Moscow will give us nothing!’ she exclaims. ‘But they have to - you told them - they know what’s loose in 53?’ another member of the chopper crew asks. The woman hangs her head and explains that Moscow still says Science City 53 does not officially exist, even aa decade after communism fell. ‘So how can we be seen to commit forces to a place that it not on any maps?’ she asks, before telling Pilot Korolyev to make another sweep and to watch for ground-to-air attack. The woman hangs her head and tells the crew that they will remain on standby and watch them swarm and grow until everyone in the city is dead. ‘Then, everyone in the province and so on until someone notices - or until we’re all dead’.

Down below, in Science City 53, as it is known, trapped in a room, over a dozen humans are backed into a corner, as a horde of horrid creatures move towards them.

Back aboard the chopper, ‘Valentina? Do you copy?’ a voice calls out over the transmitter. ‘Who is this?’ the major asks, speaking into the transmitter. ‘Pete Wisdom. You called for help. The old Spooks network’ Wisdom replies. ‘That was barely twelve hours ago! When the spore first went critical’ Valentina exclaims. In another chopper nearby, Wisdom explains that someone owed him a favor and he has brought friends. ‘Do you have a containment op in process?’ he asks. ‘We have nothing!’ Valentina exclaims, so Wisdom asks her what they are dealing with. ‘meatspore storm troopers’ Valentine replies, explaining that one might call them cellular automata, robot soldiers that just happen to be made out of meant and blood. ‘Two functions; to kill, and to build more of themselves’ she adds.

Valentina informs Wisdom that they are not alive in any true sense, as they have no mind, just a flesh carrier medium, brain tissue wrapped around a simple computer processor. She explains that they stole the process from Cuckoo, an American intelligence office, in 1953, but in 1961, Science City 53 was redirected into other research. ‘And something set it off’ Wisdom guesses, before asking Valentina if she has any idea what it was. Valentina explains that all the Cuckoo innovations seem strangely unstable, despite their improvement of the processes involved. ‘They were a good thirty years ahead of their time, but still…can you help?’ she asks.

Wisdom smiles, and radios to his team: ‘Pete Wisdom to all points. Let’s bring this one home. Sam, death from above’ he orders. Outside the chopper, Sam Guthrie a.k.a. Cannonball, sporting a large oversized jacket, short cropped hair and “goatee” style, responds via his earpiece, ‘Hard in where the concentration is, at dead center: understood’, while Wisdom replies that he has been thinking, ‘Maybe you should start calling me Professor W’.

Back in the chopper, Wisdom turns around, where the rest of X-Force, all dressed in new black leather costumes, are waiting for instructions - Jesse Aaronson a.k.a. Bedlam, Tabitha Smith a.k.a. Meltdown, and James Proudstar watch Wisdom, ‘Tabby precious, when we’re in close enough, you’re ground assault. Jim, you’re Jesse’s delivery system. Sam’s cleaning a hot zone - drop him in it. Speaking of which…where are you, country boy? Time’s wasting!’ Wisdom radios to Cannonball, who is blasting downwards through the sky, towards Science City 53. ‘I hear you boss. Incoming!’ Cannonball replies, while the meatspore storm trooper creatures look up and see Cannonball - but an instant later, Sam forces himself down to the facility, the impact of his landing resulting in shockwaves ripping through the old buildings, and the meatspore storm troopers.

‘Death from above, huh? No fooling’ Jesse remarks as he clings to Proudstar’s back, as the super-strong mutant leaps from the chopper, and lands them both safely on the ground, where Cannonball is waiting for them. ‘We aim to please’ Sam jokes, before asking Jesse which way he is headed. Jesse replies that he will work from here, and that Pete wants the rest of them to scout the perimeter by thirds and recon for survivors, if any. ‘Done’ Sam replies, and as he and Proudstar take off, Jesse contacts Wisdom, telling him that once Tabby is down, he should evac the chopper to minimum distance, as he is going to lay down a serious electronic disruption field. ‘Give it ten seconds then large it some, my son’ Wisdom replies, telling him to push the monsters back and save those that need saving. ‘Everyone copy?’ Wisdom asks, while Tabby drops from the low-flying chopper down to the ground. ‘Hmm, I just love that accent of yours’ she tells Wisdom via the communication device, and as she casts a plasma time bomb towards one of the storm troopers.

Wisdom tells Tabby to concentrate and to remember what he taught her. ‘Sharpen your focus on the plasma bombs you generate, make them hard and bright in your mind’ - Tabitha does so, and her powers emerge unlike they have ever done so before - as streams and darts of plasma energy, which she directs towards her foes. Wisdom smiles and tells Meltdown that he is impressed. ‘Nice one, treasure’ he adds, before announcing to the team that the hard word is given. A large storm trooper moves towards a child, who looks up, scared - until Proudstar smashes the meatspore storm trooper backwards, fists pummelling the creature, blood flies everywhere.

Meltdown continues to release her power like never before, while Cannonball scouts the area. Wisdom reports to Bedlam that they are all clear. ‘Understood’ Bedlam replies, as he unleashes his mutant power, which flows outwards, electrical energies covering the storm troopers, and shattering them in a mass effort. Wisdom smiles, ‘And that’s a wrap. Take me down, pilot’ Wisdom orders. ‘Where now, my X-Men?’ Wisdom asks as X-Force gather around him once his chopper landed. Another chopper hovers nearby, and Cannonball tells Wisdom that they need to go to San Francisco, ‘We got real comfortable there last year’ he reveals. ‘San Francisco it is’ Wisdom agrees, to which Meltdown tells him that he can’t smoke in Californian bars now. ‘Hmm…let’s go to Morocco’ Wisdom suggests. ‘You said San Francisco!’ Meltdown declares. ‘I lied’ Wisdom smiles.

Meltdown rushes over to Wisdom, but he holds his hands up and assures them all they will go to San Francisco - but not yet. ‘Here it comes…’ Meltdown smirks. ‘Isn’t this what you all really signed up for? You wanted a real job, real purpose. This is it’ he tells X-Force, lighting another cigarette. ‘What was it you said to me, Jesse? Forget Xavier’s fairy-dust bull about integration? Let’s show ‘em by example that we know what’s right?’ Wisdom asks. He tells the young adults that this is the underside of the world right here, a dark place of secret histories, alternative truths and unknown crimes against humanity. ‘Isn’t it time someone policed it - showed ‘em all that we do the jobs worth doing?’ Wisdom asks, stating that this job ain’t done yet. ‘I want to know what Cuckoo was, why it designed a spore that clones meat robots at factory speed’.

Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘We still have the archives, or did before the spore erupted’, and Wisdom turns to see Valentina standing before him. ‘Provided it’s still intact, all the data we have is yours’ she tells Wisdom, who asks if that will cause trouble in Moscow. ‘We owe you’ the major replies. ‘You saved the day like good westerners. Either we pay in information or you invoice the Duma for many rubbles they don’t have. Trust me. They will love us for this’ she remarks, putting her arms around Wisdom, who replies ‘That’s my girl. Pretty as a penny and sharp as a razor as always’, before Valentina looks at Wisdom’s leg, and realizes that he is propped up with a cane. ‘Your poor leg…’ she remarks. Wisdom replies that he gets by.

Later, in San Francisco, the streets are busy as people go about their business. A woman suddenly convulses, and blood starts trickling from her nose. ‘Whu…what?’ she wonders, before looking up at a man in a suit who walks past, her eyes glow, and she leaps up and attacks him, breaking his neck. ‘Oh my…did you see that?’ someone calls out. ‘Get offa him, you crazy -’ another passer by exclaims, as they pull the woman away. ‘Let…GO!’ she screams, releasing beams of energy from her eyes, which knock over a nearby tram. The woman falls to the ground and people back away from her. ‘Hu…help me…’ she calls out as blood begins to pool around her…

Characters Involved: 

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

Alistaire Stuart

Major Valentina Rychenko

Pilot Korolyev and other crew members

Meatspore storm troopers

Prisoners at Science City 53

Civilians in San Francisco

Story Notes: 

Part 1 of the “Counter X” storyline, which takes place six months after X-Force (1st series) #101. A flashback in X-Force (1st series) #106 depicts the event that lead to the change in the membership and direction of X-Force.

Pete Wisdom is a former member of the British cover operations unit known as Black Air, and a former member of Excalibur.

Wisdom was spotted in Genosha in X-Force (1st series) #94-95, where he enlisted the assistance of X-Force to find an important artefact. In that story he also first sported the eyepatch which Ellis apparently disliked and therefore retcons out in this story.

Alistaire Stuart is a long-time ally of Excalibur, and high-ranking British official.
Black Air was a evil secret organization Wisdom used to be a member of.
The Warpies were British children mutated by a reality warp as told in Captain Britain (2nd series).
The Martians might be a tip of the hat to H.G. Wells classic novel “War of the Worlds”.

Issue Information: 
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