X-Force (1st series) #105

Issue Date: 
September 2000
Story Title: 
Games Without Frontiers, part four

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

Brief Description: 

X-Force assess the chaos in San Francisco, while Wisdom keeps watch from the SHIELD facility, on monitors linked to cameras around the city. At his own observation facility, the mad scientist Dr Niles Roman finds that he is having trouble keeping watch, as if someone is piggy-backing on their cameras and the signal is being split. Ford is able to the trace the signal, and Roman relishes in the fact that the good old days have returned. Wisdom informs X-Force that they are close to the bio-reactor, but that the closer they get, the more mutated civilians they will encounter. Several soon set upon X-Force, but the young mutants have been trained well by Wisdom, and can use their new abilities to their advantage. Roman observes X-Force in action, and soon discovers that the signal is being split because the SHIELD facility is using the cameras also. Roman knows the SHIELD facility is abandoned, and supposes that whoever is using it, is in charge of his foes. X-Force soon come across some civilians in danger, holed up in a store, where police officers are shooting at the mutated humans. Cannonball wastes no time in giving X-Force orders as part of a plan, which they carry out, though it involves the ever-reluctant Bedlam once again pushing his powers to the limit. Wisdom discovers a severely mutated group of civilians, merged into one creature, sitting on top of the bio-reactor. Observing the mutated civilians that Bedlam took out with an electro-pulse, X-Force learn that they revert to their normal selves. Wisdom reports that the bio-reactor is at least three hundred feet right underneath them. Cannonball blasts into the sky, ready to “bomb” his way underground, but the creature emerges, and Bedlam is forced to confront it, doing so, he manages to split the creature apart, rescuing the civilians. Cannonball dives into the hole, and destroys the bio-reactor. Wisdom is pleased at X-Force’s good work, but he is soon confronted by Niles Roman, who shoots him. X-Force return to the SHIELD base, on a high after their successful mission, only to find Wisdom, dead.

Full Summary: 

San Francisco, where the young mutants of X-Force - Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie, Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith, James Proudstar and Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson survey the death and destruction of the secret war that is playing out. Via communication link, their new team leader, Pete Wisdom asks Cannonball how everything is looking out on the ground. ‘Pretty darn bad, Sir’ Cannonball replies, adding that he has never seen anything like it. ‘The bodies…the smell…it’s like…’, but Wisdom tells him that he understands, and to keep a clear head. ‘Understood’ Cannonball replies, before pointing out that whatever happened here, they missed it, and asks Wisdom if he can point them to somewhere they can do some good.

Watching via monitors placed around the city, Wisdom observes the situation and tells Sam to give him a second as he needs to pull the rest of the ghost-sensors online. He touches buttons on a touch-screen monitor, and more cameras around the city fire up. Wisdom reports that all eyes are wide open across the city. ‘Stand-by for new orders’ he tells X-Force.

Meantime, at another facility hidden within San Francisco, the deformed Dr Niles Roman scowls from under his hood, ‘Blast you, Ford! I thought you said the systems here were still fully functional!’ he tells his companion, who replies that they should be, and that he ran a full diagnostics shortly after they arrived. He then reports that they are operating within 97% capacity. As pictures of mutated civilians around the city appear on screen, Niles mutters that the pictures are weak, the signal diluted. ‘Do you think someone else could be piggy-backing on our cameras, splitting the signal?’ he asks. Ford replies that it is easy to check, as he can back-trace the signal, ‘Biting the hand that feeds them so to speak’ Ford adds, before telling Dr Roman that it is almost like the old times. Dr Roman smirks, ‘Ah yes, technology, murder and information…the good old days’.

Inside the base where Wisdom has set-up headquarters, the British mutant uses his “hot-knives” to light another cigarette, and tells X-Force that the sensors show they are near to Greebo Central, which means the bioreactor is close by. ‘Find the device and kill it. If we’re lucky that’s all it’ll take to deactivate the genome wild cards’ Wisdom explains, adding that there is a problem, for the closer they get, the denser the population of enforced mutants will be - all baying for their blood. ‘Figures’ Proudstar mutters as he slides down some debris, while Cannonball blasts through the air. ‘We’re mutants too. We’re they going after us?’ Bedlam enquires. ‘Duh! Because we’re not slaves to the bio-signal like they are’ Meltdown mutters, as the transformed civilians emerge on the hills nearby.

Meltdown turns to the unfortunates and releases a stream of plasma energy, ‘Which means we’re going to have to play nasty’ Meltdown adds, keeping the transformed people at bay. Cannonball asks Proudstar if he thinks he can take them down without killing them all. ‘No sweat’ Proudstar replies, adding that he has been wanting to try something Wisdom suggested. ‘Go. Cause trouble’ Cannonball tells him, and Warpath rushes forward at super speed, while Bedlam tells Meltdown that he has a problem with this - fighting good people gone bad, through no fault of their own, while releasing a burst of energy to keep them back. ‘I’ll remind you of that when they’re eating your liver’ Meltdown tells her teammate, before pointing out that James is coming their way. And he does, the force of his speed knocking the civilians backwards.

Proudstar picks up a piece of wood that caught on fire, possibly thanks to Meltdown’s plasma beams, and he runs with it through the transformed civilians, scaring them and forcing them backwards as he takes them all down by slamming the plasma-charged wood against them. ‘And the crowd goes wild’ Proudstar jokes. ‘The crows was already wild. You just beat them to a pulp’ Bedlam smiles. ‘Showy. Very showy’ Meltdown remarks, while Cannonball points out that it worked, but that they aren’t done yet.

Back at the observatory, Ford announces that he has it, that he has tapped into whoever is pirating their signal. ‘Hah! It’s SHIELD!’ Niles remarks. ‘Of all people, their riders on our cameras’ he adds, deciding that it is especially interesting since SHIELD no longer has a crewed presence here, and realizes that it is because this isn’t SHIELD, that someone else must be using their facility. When one of the monitors suddenly shows images of X-Force in action, Roman exclaims ‘It’s these people. Whoever’s running the pirate relay is also running them!’

As the battle continues while X-Force moves on, and Cannonball radios Wisdom, asking him if they are any closer to the source yet. Wisdom reports that they are almost there, and that he is bearing down on the signal emergence point. He announces that he will have the exact location locked down any time now. Bedlam alerts Cannonball to a problem, motioning to where several non-transformed civilians are being closed in on. They’ve got maybe three minutes, max!’ Bedlam exclaims, while the civilians holed up near a store fire guns at the approaching mutates. ‘Copy that. Listen up, everyone, here’s the plan…’ Cannonball announces via the communicators. As Cannonball blasts skyward, he tells Proudstar to divide and conquer, to hit the freaks hard and bust them out to take the core. He orders Meltdown to drive the mutates towards Bedlam. ‘Me, but…’ the ever-apprehensive Bedlam calls back. ’No buts, no time’ Cannonball replies as he blasts downwards, right into the mutates, pointing out that the trapped people are depending on them. ‘I need a neural EMP blast. Get hot!’ Cannonball orders.

Meltdown makes her way down towards the civilians, and several police officers are there. ‘Don’t know who you are or where you came from, Miss. But you’re sure a sight for sore eyes’ one of them remarks. ‘Aw, shucks, officer. I bet you say that to all the plasma-wielding mutant girls’ Meltdown replies as she releases a massive wave of plasma towards the mutates, sending them back towards Beldam, who charges up a burst of energy, ‘I can do this…just gotta hold it together for a few seconds’ Bedlam tells himself. He manages to control his power, and Cannonball drops down beside him, congratulating him on good work, as the mutates collapse under Bedlam’s power. Jesse tells Sam that he took a heck of a gamble, pointing out that in training, he normally only managed one EMP flare every couple of hours, that it is not like using his normal power, that it is risky.

‘Taking risks is why we’re here. It comes with that X you’re wearing’ Sam replies. Jesse just frowns, while Wisdom reports that he has the bioreactor’s location, but the problem is, there is something big an ugly sitting on it. Observing the strange creature, Wisdom sees that it appears to have no legs, but four arms. A round blob-like body, and a large, gaping mouth. Wisdom adds that what is really creeping him out, is that the creature looks like a woman he snogged at a Pistols’’ gig in 1975. ‘Say again? I didn’t catch all that. Who’re the Pistols?’ Cannonball asks, pressing the communication device against his ear, before Bedlam alerts him to where the air is clearing around the civilians Beldam hit with the EMP burst - and the civilians have reverted to normal - naked, but normal.

Bedlam informs Wisdom of the interesting development, and informs them that the neural EMP changed them back to normal. Pete replies that this makes sense, as Jesse’s burst would have purged their short term memory, including the bioreactor’s hold over them. Wisdom adds that their brains are no longer in any condition to receive or comprehend the signal from it. ‘Pity we can’t just wave Jesse over the city’ Sam smiles, to which Bedlam warns him that he would come back and haunt him for a million years. Wisdom explains that it would only be a temporary fix, as they would still need to take out the device. ‘So let’s get moving, shall we?’ he asks, adding that they will know when they are there. ‘Trust me. Like I said, it’s not a pretty sight’.

Wisdom supposes that several people must have merged when the bioreactor detonated. ‘This is what you’re fighting against, boys and girls. This is what it turns Jo Public into’ Wisdom states, getting a closer look of the unfortunate. ‘The longer we wait, the more people die’ Cannonball adds. ‘Right…’ Wisdom agrees, and informs the young mutants that the reactor is at least three hundred feet below that “creature”. ‘It’s your call. Hard choices time, old son’ Wisdom tells Sam, who replies that he understands. Cannonball turns to his teammates and instructs Meltdown and Proudstar to get Bedlam as close in as he can, then Bedlam has to stretch that neural flare of his top the limit, getting those people alive and clear before Cannonball strikes. ‘Before?’ Meltdown asks. ‘I’ve got to dig down three hundred feet. And we’re out of time. That thing’ll do its level best to kill me if it can’ Sam explains as he blasts into the air.

‘So death from above, huh?’ Tabitha calls out as she watches Sam fly higher. ‘Be fast, Tabitha’ Sam replies, before telling her that he loves her. ‘You…you…’ Tabitha mutters, before turning to Jesse and James and shouting ‘You heard the man. We’ve got two minutes minimum. Let’s go!’ But, suddenly, the unfortunate humans who were bonded to form the creature rises from the ground. ‘We’ve been made already! That pile of snot must have mutant precog talents along with everything else!’ Meltdown exclaims, before turning to Bedlam, who replies that there is no nee to get closer, that he just needs it kept busy. ‘Busy? Hey, I’m actually breaking a sweat here, y’know’ Meltdown mutters as she fires a plasma stream towards the “creature”. Deciding that this will only work by getting up close and personal, Bedlam lunges at the creature and places a neural-charged hand on it. His power spreads around the “creature”, and it separates, freeing the civilians from their unfortunate state.

‘Whoa’ Bedlam mutters as he falls back, amongst the naked people. Proudstar tells Meltdown and Bedlam that they have to move everyone one of the way, and now, as they have incoming. He begins to drag some of the civilians away, ‘Fire in the hole!’ Proudstar exclaims as Cannonball’s “death from above” tactic sends Sam bursting down through the ground, far enough so that he finds the bioreactor. ‘Yes! Yes! What a rush’ Cannonball exclaims, before he begins to destroy the bioreactor, ‘Game over O’Hara…game over!’ he shouts.

‘Amen to that’ Wisdom agrees back at the SHIELD base, when suddenly, he realizes someone is standing behind him - it’s Niles Roman and Ford. ‘I don’t know or care who or what you are, Sir. But you have ruined something I waited a long time to see’ Niles tells him, raising a gun he points it at Wisdom ‘Your mutant filth children I can deal with another time. But you, Sir - you do not survive this insult’ Niles Roman grins wickedly.

Later, X-Force are happy as they return to the SHIELD base, ‘And you, barking orders like you’re Nick Fury or something’ James tells Sam, who suggests that he could borrow Wisdom’s eye patch of love and look the part. ‘What d’you say, Professor W?’ Jesse asks as they enter the office where Wisdom had set up - only to find his body lying on the floor. Their joy turns to horror, as Sam calls out to Wisdom, and gets no response….

Characters Involved: 

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

Dr Niles Roman


Civilians in San Francisco

Police officers

In Flashback images:

Dr Niles Roman

Cuckoo scientists

Story Notes: 

Part 4 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.
The “Pistols” are the famous Punk band “The Sex Pistols”.

Issue Information: 
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