Meet Pete Wisdom. He’s dead. But…six months ago…
Flashback, six months ago:
Pete Wisdom stands, cigarette in hand, on a ridge overlooking San Francisco. This former British spy and one-time member of the mutant team Excalibur, took a disillusioned, disparate band of young genetic renegades known as X-Force, and gave them a fresh purpose - to punish those who had perpetrated vile, secret crimes on mutantkind. No easy task, one that cost Wisdom his life. Fortunately, his legacy lives on, lessons learned fighting on the front line of a very secret war: words of wisdom, ‘People don’t try changing the world cause they think they can’t. They imagine it’s too big. The powers-that-be let them think this way cause it’s all about control. Who has it and who doesn’t’ Wisdom remarked. He added, ‘With all I’ve taught you, my X-Men, you have the skills, the knowledge, to change things for the better. So go on, throw a spanner in the works and don’ let anyone stop you’.
San Francisco’s Market Street, where someone is trying to do just that. Black choppers dart between the skyscrapers, and one pilot, the “den mother” radios to the “wings” congratulating them on their good work. ‘The vehicle is totalled. I’m reading zero life signs’ the pilot announces, before exclaiming that there is movement. ‘Stand by for another pass. We’ll put ‘em down for good this time’ he orders, and as the bus lies wrecked on the street, powerlines down and fire spreading from it, Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie blasts towards the chopper: ‘You are so gonna pay!’ the young mutant exclaims as he darts around the choppers. ‘Take him out, now!’ one of the pilots orders, while another exclaims that they can’t get a lock, as he is maneuvering too fast. ‘Let’s play a li’l follow my leader. Catch me if you can!’ Cannonball shouts, before blasting downwards towards the street.
‘I’m on him. Get in tight, pour it on!’ one of the pilots announces as the chopper moves downwards and starts firing at Cannonball, who blasts low to the road. ‘You really don’t wanna do that!’ Cannonball exclaims, as shards of the road break up with the impact of the weapons fire, and are knocked into the air after one of the bullets strikes a gas main. ‘Pull up! Pull up!’ the pilot shouts as they try to move the chopper to safety. ‘Told you’ Cannonball mutters, looking upwards at the chopper, which is now on fire. At the bus, Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith tells everyone to get out. Looking at X-Force’s associate, Baker, she asks him if he is okay, to which Baker replies that he is a little cooked, but that he will live. Suddenly, several bullets are fired down to where X-Force and their allies are, and one strikes Abel. The peculiar female called Charlie calls out to him, while Domino turns to Jesse “Bedlam” Aaronson. ‘I’m on it’ Bedlam announces, looking up to the chopper, he uses his control over energies to cause the chopper to fall.
‘Electrical power’s out…systems fried! The mutant’s crippled us with an EMP burst!’ one of the chopper pilots exclaims. ‘Brace for impact!’ they report, before the chopper crashes into the side of a skyscraper, then slides downwards, landing on the street. X-Force go over to the chopper, and Meltdown calls out to James Proudstar, asking him if he wants to do the honors. ‘My pleasure’ Proudstar replies, before he uses his incredible strength to rip a panel off the chopper, ‘Knock knock!’ he exclaims, only to find the pilot with a machine gun raised: ‘Die, mutant scum!’ the pilot declares as he opens fire, but Proudstar manages to grab the pilot and holding him up by his neck with one hand, uses his other hand to destroy the gun. ‘That’s mister mutant scum to you!’ Proudstar shouts, warning the pilot to give it up, or else get pounded.
‘I hear that!’ the pilot exclaims, raising his arms overhead. Cannonball approaches him and demands to know who sent him and who he is working for. The pilot replies that he doesn’t know anything, explaining that he just flies their machines. Cannonball punches the pilot in the face, ‘Not good enough, boy! You tried to murder me and mind which puts me in the frame of mind for removing your internal organs in alphabetical order!’ Cannonball warns him, before he starts shaking the pilot, ordering him to talk, and fast. ‘Go to…’ the pilot begins to say, before he glows, and then falls to the ground. ‘Sam, they’re dead! Shot with a virtual bullet. It’s Tsung, he’s here!’ Domino exclaims. Cannonball orders Bedlam to trawl for Tsung’s bio-EMP signature and find him, but looking straight ahead, Bedlam replies that there is no need. ‘He’s found us!’ Bedlam exclaims, as standing on a ridge nearby, Marcus Tsung looks down at X-Force.
‘This is wrong. He carries the mutant gene for murder, kills on line of sight. He can drop us where we stand, so what’s he waiting for?’ Domino exclaims. Cannonball points out that there is only one way to find out, and blasts towards Tsung, despite Domino telling him to wait. Sam tells her not to sweat it, as he has a plan - he thinks. As he gets closer to Tsung, Sam decides that this is the moment of truth, ‘Let’s see what you’re made of’ he tells himself, and an instant later Sam glows, with the surge of Tsung’s death-touch coursing through him. Tsung frowns, and shouts ‘Die, American child!’, but his power has no effect on Cannonball, who smiles, despite the blood tricking from his nose and ears, he remarks ‘Well, ain’t this a surprise. Guess I figured right, my blast field that shields me when I’m flying also reduces the effect of your virtual bullets…mostly’.
Cannonball blasts downwards, ‘It’s enough for me to kick your behind clear into next week’ he tells Tsung, but as he flies down, Tsung just somersaults over Sam with ease.’ Huh? Man, he’s fast…he’s using the momentum to carry himself up the side of the building!’ Sam observes as Tsung indeed runs up the side of the building. Sam urns around, he can’t see where Tsung has gone, before realizing, that he is blasting straight towards him, against the side of the building. Sam isn’t able to pull up in time, and Tsung leaps towards him, kicking him hard in the face, with his bare feet, Sam plummets to the road below. Meltdown calls out to him and rushes over. Tsung drops down to the ground, ‘You have failed, American child. As I knew you would. Your confidence in your talent is your weakness’ Tsung states.
Tsung puts a foot against Cannonball’s neck, and announces that he is blocking the windpipe, starving Cannonball of oxygen, neutering its higher functions. ‘Try as you might, you cannot summon enough concentration to activate your mutant power’ Tsung states, smiling as he declares ‘I win. I am murder. Time to die’, when suddenly, he finds himself under attack. ‘What is this?’ he demands. Bedlam concentrates hard and tells X-Force that he is blocking Tsung’s neural bio-EMP with a feedback loop, essentially turned his power off, but announces that he cannot hold Tsung for long. ‘I’m already there’ Proudstar declares as he speeds over to Tsung, who turns around: ‘Ah, now I understand. Ingenious…but ultimately futile’ he states.
‘You labour under the same delusion as your friend. Permit me to enlighten you’ Tsung states, as Proudstar lunges to punch him, but misses, and is confused. ‘By the time I was thirteen, several years before my gift manifested itself. I had already killed nine men with my bare hands alone’ Tsung reveals. His fingers tense, and he boasts that he studied martial arts so lethal and obscene that they have no name, that he can kill with a caress and cripple with a touch. He grabs Proudstar by his armpit, adding that his genetic gift is merely an adjunct to these skills he possesses. ‘Your mistake. The last you will ever make’ Tsung declares, as Proudstar falls on top of a shocked Bedlam, who is unable to move.
‘Ah, that’s better…’ Tsung smiles, turning his attention back to Cannonball, he places his foot against Cannonball’s neck once more’ Where were we? Oh yes, your death’ he states, when suddenly, ‘Guess who?’ Meltdown declares as she comes up behind Tsung and places her hands over his eyes, before unleashing he plasma charge directly on Tsung’s face, causing the villain to scream in agony. Charlie, Abel and Baker all avert their eyes, and suddenly, Tsung falls to the ground, his face terribly burnt. ‘Oh my…Tabitha…what did you do?’ Domino asks, surprised. ‘What I had to do’ Meltdown replies. Tabitha drops down beside Sam, ‘Talk to me…you okay?’ she asks him, holding him in her arms, before they get to their feet and kiss. Proudstar has recovered, and gotten up from the ground. ‘You want me to pucker up too?’ Bedlam asks him.
‘I take it that’s a yes?’ Meltdown asks as she and Sam separate. ‘You saved my life, Tab. This’s getting to be habit’ Sam tells her. Tabby replies that she lies it, especially the smooch part, as it makes her toes tingle. Suddenly, ‘Tabitha, behind you!’ Domino exclaims, as Tsung has gotten to his feet, and he places a hand around the back of Meltdown’s neck, ‘That’s good…because you get a similar sensation by having a hole blown in your spine. What say we give it a try, eh?’ Tsung asks, his face still smouldering from Tabby’s blast.
‘There’s only one way to end this’ Domino decides, picking up a gun from one of the fallen chopper pilots. ‘Or what? I’m the one with the upper hand, here. I’ve won. You’re all dead’ Tsung declares as Sam, Jesse and James close in towards Tabitha. ‘Looking into my eye’ Tsung grins, indeed he only has one eye now, the other being covered over by melted flesh. ‘I’m looking you son of a…’ Domino begins as she raises the gun and fires, striking Tsung in his arm, forcing him to let go of Meltdown and fall backwards. Suddenly, ‘Romany…Romany Wisdom?’ Domino calls out as she sees Pete Wisdom’s sister. ‘The girl’s clear…finish him’ Romany barks into her communicator.
Soldiers can be seen on nearby rooftops, ‘…take him out’ Romany orders, and an instant later, several bullets are fired into Tsung’s body, including his head, and he falls to the ground. ‘So much for the mutant gene for murder. He’s got the mutant gene for being a corpse now’ Romany declares. She turns to Abel, Baker and Charlie and tells them that she cut them some slack for what they did for her brother, but that was one time. ‘He’s gone…we’re done…cross the line again, I’ll put you all down’ she warns them. ‘They were only trying to help us!’ Cannonball points out. Romany smirks at him and asks ‘Were they? You’re so naïve. Maybe that’s why he picked you?’
A large vessel appears overhead, and bright lights shine down from it the streets below. ‘Ours?’ Cannonball asks. ‘Please. No arguments. I’m not looking for a fight. So come with me or my marksmen will drop you, okay?’ Romany replies. ‘You saved us, now you’re threatening us. Why?’ Bedlam enquires. ‘What can I say? Those are the breaks. That and the fact little miss lucky there has Armageddon riding on her back’ Romany explains. ‘What?’ Cannonball asks. Romany reveals that the thing on Domino’s back wiped out the dinosaurs. ‘Global extinction, nuclear winter, etc, etc…she’s wearing it, pr part of it, at least. We have to get it off her, pronto’ Romany declares.
Suddenly, ‘NO!’ Domino exclaims with a strange voice, as she reaches up and grabs Romany around the neck. ‘Domino!’ Cannonball declares, but Domino uses her other hand to grab him. ‘No one touches us…’ the strange voice from within Domino snarls. ‘We touch them!’ the voice adds, as strange tentacles with spiked-mouths whip around from the creature on her back, and attempt to latch themselves onto Cannonball and Romany - ‘I don’t think so!’ Romany exclaims as she reaches into her jacket and pulls out a weapon - firing it at Domino’s head, point-blank range. Domino then falls to the ground, the tentacles writing around her. ‘I hate it when they do that’ Romany mutters, before motioning to the vessel which has lowered to the street, ‘Shall we?’ she suggests to X-Force.
Later, X-Force are gathered in an office, and watching a news report, which the announcer states that the three navy helicopters were returning from maneuvers to the naval base at Alameda when the mid-air collision occurred, and that all three air crews were killed, although there were no civilian casualties. She adds that there was substantial property damage, estimated to run into tens of millions of dollars. She reveals that the navy is currently cooperating with the civil authorities to investigate how the collision occurred and why the aircraft were flying so dangerously low over the city. ‘Pete was right. The bigger the lie you tell, the more folks will go for it’ James remarks. Looking at a biscuit of some sort, Meltdown frowns and exclaims ‘Would someone tell me what this is supposed to be, cause it’s not a cookie!’
Romany smiles as she enters the room, ‘Back in the old country, we call it a Jammie Dodger’ she remarks. Cannonball asks how Domino is and when they can see her, to which Romany replies that she is fine, that they caught this one in time. ‘You’ve done this before?’ Sam enquires. ‘That would be telling’ Romany responds. James supposes that Romany can’t even tell them what the creature is, either, to which Romany states that they honestly don’t know. Romany explains that a best guess is that it is sentient technology, an alien component of some form. Bedlam asks if it is bio-organic, like the Phalanx, but Romany replies ‘No, it’s something new, or old, take your pick’.
Sam asks how Domino got infected, to which Romany replies ‘Now how but why? It wasn’t just bad luck. She was chosen. By whom or to what end, we don’t know’. Sam asks what happens now, and Romany tells him that for them, nothing, X-Force get to take their friend home ‘We keep the device’ she adds. ‘Who’s this “we”? How do we even know who you say you are? Last time we saw you, you looked like a school librarian!’ Sam points out. Meltdown agrees, and suggests that Romany could be the bad guy here. ‘Same goes for you, cherub’ Romany replies as she points out that X-Force took everything Peter said on faith, but that she knows from experience that Pete was an extremist with his own agenda.
Meltdown replies that Pete was their friend, that he wanted to do the right thing and make a better world. ‘And you believed him?’ Romany asks, hands on hips. Sam frowns and remarks that he sees where this is going, what Romany is doing, and tells her that it won’t work. ‘You’re trying to undermine us, undermine what Mister W taught us. Why?’ he asks. Romany scowls and replies ‘You want the truth?’, and reveals that years before X-Force met Peter on Genosha, and even before Excalibur, Pete had a psychotic episode, a breakdown, and he was in a catatonic state for six months, did nothing but drool and take food and drugs through a tube. She asks X-Force if they never once questioned why Wisdom was such a zealot, why he was driven to punish those who had inflicted terrible injustices on mutants. ‘The answer’s obvious if you think about it’ she remarks.
Continuing, Romany tells X-Force that back in the early days, way before Black Air, Peter was assigned to a covert unit known as the Factory, that their remit was data extraction from genetic anomalies - mutants, and during his time there, Peter committed the kind of offences that X-Force is now avenging. ‘He was a traitor to his own kind!’ Romany declares. Meltdown begins to cry, while Romany explains that eventually it all proved too much, but that you don’t resign fro that kind of life, and Wisdom was interrogated, incarcerated and tortured - they broke him.
Romany reveals that she nursed her brother back to health, that when he recovered, he embarked on his single-minded crusade to try and atone for his actions. ‘Peter was my brother and I loved him - beneath the sarcasm and cigarettes, he was a tormented idealist who wouldn’t let anyone or anything sway him from his purpose - it got him killed’. James, Sam, Jesse and Tabby listen intently as Romany tells them that they were lucky today, as second chances don’t happen too often in this game. The sun sets outside, lowering down over the skyscrapers, and Romany tells X-Force to go home, and get a life while they still can. ‘Before you bury another friend…or they bury you’.