X-Force (1st series) #55

Issue Date: 
June 1996
Story Title: 
Without a Net

Jeph Loeb (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Morales (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letterers), Marie Javins (colorist), Malibu (enhancements), Ben Raab (assistant editor), Bob Harras (editor& editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

X-Force break into the SHIELD Helicarrier, on a mission for the X-Men. Siryn expresses her view that they should in fact be looking for their missing teammate Warpath, and Domino suggests to her that she admit her true feelings for Warpath before it’s too late. As they make their way through the Helicarrier, Meltdown uncovers information that reveals Sabretooth is actually still alive, while the SHIELD top agents Dum-Dum Dugan, Contessa Valentina de la Fontaine and G.W. Bridge involve themselves in arguments over the best way to handle the invading mutants. When X-Force arrive at their destination, they use teamwork to break open the doors to the room keeping Cyclops prisoner - only to be ambushed by countless SHIELD agents. After G.W. forces X-Force to surrender, Cable uses his telekinesis to take the device off Cyclops’ eyes and guide his optic blast telekinetically through the room, taking out all the SHIELD agents. Cable then knocks out G.W. and with Cyclops rescued, X-Force make their way to the awaiting Blackbird, where Cyclops is then reunited with Phoenix. Meanwhile, in Florida, Warpath is being looked after by Risque who rescued him from Selene, and has given him a large tattoo on his back. She tells Warpath that even though he has recovered, she doesn’t want to leave him.

Full Summary: 

Several thousand feet above sea level. ‘If I were you, I’d move!’ exclaims Tabitha “Meltdown” Smith as she hangs upside down, grinning, a powerful plasma time-bomb in her hand. ‘I am not going anywhere’ Shatterstar, Meltdown’s X-Force teammate replies as he holds her foot, resting on a narrow ledge of a large aircraft. ‘Okay by me, Shatterstar. It’s your funeral!’ Tabitha replies. The large vessel that the young mutants have attached themselves to is the SHIELD Helicarrier. This aircraft is an impenetrable fortress that hovers in the sky, the pride of America’s top secret intelligence organization.

No one has ever successfully broken past the massive security - that alone would be tempting enough for these unique young men and women with dazzling, but nearly uncontrollable powers. Tonight, however, somewhere between New York City and Washington D.C., they are on a mission… ‘Three, two, one!’ exclaims Meltdown as she releases her time-bomb. ‘It’s show time, folks!’.

Inside the helm, a computer gives off a warning signal, alerting all personnel to a hull breach on level 27. ‘What the -?’ exclaims Timothy Dugan, who has been in charge of internal security for the “tub” as he calls it for more years than he will admit. The computer announces that there are hull breaches on level 9 and level 54 also. While SHIELD agents mill about, Dugan shouts ‘What in the name of Sam Hill is going on out there?!’. “Dum-Dum” Dugan, as his previous boss, Nick Fury, used to call him, has an odd feeling - even though the night is still young, it is going to be one that he will not forget.

Dum-Dum tells everyone to listen up, announcing that he wants Task Forces One, Two and Three to check out the explosion sites and orders an F-14 squad to be launched. ‘Whatever wants in here so bad is about to get the surprise of his, her or it’s life!’. Suddenly, someone approaches Dugan and tells him that this is not a break-in, but a break-out, reminding him that they have on board the man wanted for the assassination attempt on Senator Robert Kelly. ‘Who - oh, it’s you’ Dugan replies coldly.

Dugan tells the new arrival that since the last time he checked, he is still head of security, ‘So why don’tcha take a long walk off -’ he remarks, to which the newcomer points out that when it involves mutants, the ball is in his court. ‘In a pig’s eye!‘ shouts Dugan, until he is interrupted by Contessa Valentina de la Fontaine, acting head of SHIELD who tells him to stand down. ‘He’s right. It’s his show’ Contessa declares, ‘For now’ she thinks to herself, while the newcomer thanks Contessa, remarking ‘At least someone understands the chain-of-command’. Dugan just skulks off, muttering that this is not the way Nick would handle things.

Meanwhile, Shatterstar and Meltdown radio to their teammates, announcing that they are in at level 27, while on level 54, another plasma time-bomb goes off, and on level 9, Siryn a.k.a. Theresa Rourke Cassidy asks her teammate Domino if she can remember a time when Meltdown could handle multiple explosions, but multiple locations also. ‘Yeah, our little “Meltdown” is a pip’ Domino replies, before telling Siryn to concentrate on the mission. Domino knows that X-Force are sticking their heads into the lion’s mouth, and doesn’t like it one bit. Nearby, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta radios to his teammates, telling them that he has taken out two more satellite mines, and announces that they are secure.

Elsewhere in the Helicarrier, ‘Okay, boys and girls. Make some noise!’ exclaims Cable a.k.a. Nathan Summers, telepathically, as he makes his way through the gateway for the Helicarrier’s enormous turbine engines, in the wake of the deafening propeller blades, the last two members of X-Force make their entrance, quietly, Cable, accompanied by the mutant tracker, the simple-minded Caliban. Cable tells the Morlock that they have to time this right, ‘Unless you want to wind up like slice bologna’ Cable remarks. ‘Caliban likes bologna’ Caliban replies. ‘But Caliban would not want to be bologna’.

‘Well, come one!’ Cable exclaims. Looking at the massive spinning fan, Caliban whispers that he wants to move, but that he is scared. ‘We don’t have time for this!’ Cable exclaims, and suddenly picks Caliban up and throws him through the spinning blades. Cable tells Caliban that he knows what it is like not to be at the top of your game, and remarks that Caliban’s incident with Absalom must have spooked him about dying. ‘But everyone is depending on you now. You want to let them down?’ he asks. ‘N-no’ Caliban replies nervously. Cable starts running ahead, telling Caliban that the sooner he finds their target, the sooner they will all get home safely. Caliban thinks to himself that he hears Cable’s words, but that he can also see Cable is not feeling well either.

Elsewhere, Domino runs along a corridor, with Siryn flying above her, but Domino exclaims that something is not right, pointing out that they haven’t encountered any hostile resistance. ‘Thank Heaven for small favors!’ Theresa replies, before telling Domino that she doesn’t understand why X-Force is off doing the X-Men’s business when one of their own is missing. Domino grabs Siryn’s foot, preventing Theresa to fly any further and tells her to get her head out of the clouds, before pointing out that there is an empty corridor up ahead and asks her what the standard operating procedure is.

Siryn apologizes and replies ‘Check - then proceed’. Siryn recalls how her Dad, Banshee taught her this “trick”, as she sends out a single pulse of sound, like a depth charge, ‘Whoa!’ she exclaims as she sees dozens of red lazers lining the corridor. ‘So, that’s the way SHIELD wants to handle it. Automated defense response to limit the human contact. Well, they just made their first mistake!’ she exclaims, before leaping into the danger zone. No one has ever pinpointed exactly what Domino’s mutant ability is, some say that things just have a habit of going her way - but as she tucks, rolls and fires, taking out the state of the art laser cannon’s shot for shot, one thing is certain - she has a bit more than just luck on her side!

The ladies make their way down the corridor, with Domino remarking that she cant help thinking that this is a bit ironic, that after all this time, Siryn waits until Warpath is missing to show concern for him. ‘What?’ exclaims a wide-eyed Siryn. ‘How is it wrong to be worried about a fellow teammate?’ she asks. Domino tells Siryn that she has lost too many friends and too many chances to tell them that she cared - ‘And then it was too late…’.

Meanwhile, Meltdown tells Shatterstar that she is glad she got paired with him. ‘How so?’ Shatterstar asks. Meltdown explains that when the rest of the team turned away from her over the Sabretooth thing, he was the only one who didn’t. ‘I wont forget that’ she assures him. Shatterstar replies that he only did what he believed was right. ‘Yeah, well, so did everybody else’ Tabitha points out as they enter a room full of SHIELD agents. Checking a scanner though, Meltdown announces that she is getting no bio-readings, and announces that they are all Life Model Decoys. ‘Have at ‘em, killer!’ Meltdown exclaims.

Indeed, Shatterstar lunges full-throttle into the LMD’s, “killer”? he thinks to himself. ‘If only she knew. My warrior instinct seems to be waning’. Shatterstar slices the glorified robots apart, wondering if this is what lies ahead for him, reduced to brandishing his sword against men made of metal. Looking around at the fallen LMD’s only moments later, Tabitha grins and jokes ‘Remind me not to talk to you until you’ve had your morning coffee!’. Shatterstar replies that he doesn’t understand and points out that he doesn’t drink Coffee, to which Tabitha tells him to forget it, as it was a joke.

‘This is not a joking matter’ Shatterstar declares, reminding Meltdown that their orders are specific to keeping on the move. ‘Yeah, well, nobody thought we were gonna trip over a SHIELD data base either!’ Tabitha exclaims leaning over a computer console. ‘Meaning?’ Shatterstar asks. ‘We’ve got access to the entire intelligence community - including what they have on us!’ Tabitha replies, asking Shatterstar if he can operate the system. Shatterstar replies that he doesn’t see why not, and boasts that compared to his home-world, it will be like child’s theater.

‘”Child’s play”’ Meltdown corrects her teammate, and searches her own name, during which she discovers that Sabretooth is alive. ‘Location - classified?!’ Tabitha exclaims, reading off the computer screen. Enraged, she creates a time-bomb. ‘Classify this, you lying sacks of -’ Meltdown exclaims, until Shatterstar grabs her and pulls her away, telling her that they best keep moving, though Tabitha still tosses the time-bomb at the computer, causing it to explode.

This sends a warning signal to one of the control rooms, announcing that the data base on level 30 has been deactivated. ‘Mother of mercy! How much more of this are we supposed to take!’ Dum Dum Dugan complains. Contessa sighs and reminds Dugan that he of all people understands the chain of command. ‘But Val…Nick would never -’ Dugan begins to reply, until Contessa interrupts him, declaring that Nick is not coming back - ever - so he needs to get used to that. ‘Like the rest of us…’.

More computer warnings are signaled as X-Force continue to cause havoc on the Helicarrier, Sunspot damages the flight deck with his solar powers, while Siryn and Domino taken down the weapons systems, and Shatterstar and Meltdown destroy the internal communications center.

Finally, Cable kicks a vent open and crawls his way into another room, followed by Caliban. Nathan thinks to himself that it may be all clear, but it’s too clear, as the saying goes. ‘We’re breaking into the top military installation in the country - and this is what they have for security?’. Cable then calls out to the three squads, asking them to report telepathically. ‘Making noise with these boys!’ Meltdown exclaims, while Domino replies ‘Ditto’ and remarks that something is very weird about this.

Caliban points to a large door ahead and announces that “One-Eye” is in there. ‘Oh, fine’ Cable replies, before telepathically informing the others that they have made contact. Cable examines the hulking doors and declares that they are made of titanium, vibranium and who knows what else. ‘One thing’s for certain, they don’t want us opening this door!’. Caliban promises Cable that “One-Eye” is in there. Cable assures his teammate that he believes him, but that this is just going to be a little more difficult than he thought.

The rest of the team arrives and Meltdown asks Cable if he can handle it. ‘Tell us we didn’t come all this way for nothing!’ she exclaims. ‘Tell us you can handle it, right?’. Nathan hears the challenge in Tabitha’s voice and knows that it is not entirely unfair - he has, of late, had trouble focusing, a by-product of the growing Techno-Organic virus in his system. But Cable is, first and foremost, a leader to his team - and a leader never puts himself first. ‘Piece of cake!’ he exclaims, giving his team the “thumbs-up” signal.

Cable exclaims that they started this together, and will therefore finish it together. ‘Shatterstar!’ he exclaims, before telepathically explaining to the warrior that he wants him to find a hairline joint opening, that is all they will need. ‘As you wish!’ Shatterstar replies as he slices his sword into the doors. ‘Meltdown - I want something with a kick!’ Cable orders Tabitha, who replies ‘You got it, boss, but lay off on the psi-speak, you’re giving me a headache!’.

‘That’s it, work as a team!’ Cable exclaims, before telepathically telling Siryn that he wants her to scream her lungs out the second Meltdown is in place. Theresa exclaims that she understands what Cable is doing and unleashes her sonic scream, while Cable calls out to Domino, who holds her massive gun and replies ‘Grab hold of something kids’ before Cable orders ‘Hit it!’, and everyone’s powers react against the solid doors. Steam sizzles off the doors, which do not open. A dejected X-Force is silent for some time, ‘So. Do we have a plan “b”?’ Domino asks. Siryn asks Cable to forgive her for stating the obvious, but they are running out of time. Cable points at the door and exclaims that all they need is a little faith - ‘And for the entire team to PULL!’ he exclaims as everyone draws the two heaving doors apart.

Inside the new chamber, a voice exclaims ‘Hello -? Who’s there?’. X-Force cannot respond at first, the very sight of Scott “Cyclops” Summers, the leader, the very symbol and strength of unity of the senior X-Men team, bound helplessly, his optic blasts somehow curtailed, his voice harsh and raspy - has them each sharing the same terrible thought. Cyclops has been treated like this for one reason - he is a mutant. And despite all their efforts to see to it that Homo Sapien and Homo Superior can coexist peacefully…the horror before them is a brutal reminder of their awful reality.

‘Caliban was right…”One-Eye” is here!’ exclaims Caliban. Cable calls out to his father, informing him that X-Force will set him free, when, suddenly, countless cocking of weapons are heard in the darkness, and X-Force find themselves surrounded by countless SHIELD agents. ‘Nate?’. ‘Yes, Dom’. ‘I believe this is the hostile resistance we were expecting’ Domino remarks. ‘Thank you’ Cable replies coldly, while a figure steps forward from the mass of SHIELD agents, announcing that he has waited a long time for this. ‘But, I finally caught you with your hand in the cookie jar. My cookie jar!’.

It’s G.W. Bridge, once one of Cable’s closest allies, now he is in charge of something called “Mutant Affairs” for SHIELD. G.W. exclaims that Cyclops is a prisoner of the United States government. ‘And after tonight, so are the lot of you’ he adds. ‘Bridge! How could you do this? You used to run with Cable and me!’ Domino exclaims, annoyed. X-Force stand behind their leader who tells Dom to save it, reminding her that G.W. always had a justification for his actions. ‘Although I never thought he’d sink this low…’. Cable remarks, before declaring that G.W. has them to rights. ‘Hands up, everybody!’ Cable orders his team. ‘But -’ Meltdown begins to protest, until Cable shouts ‘I said get ‘em up!’.

Then, it only takes a moment of awestruck confusion - and a carefully aimed telekinetic whack, and the device covering Cyclops’ eyes is destroyed by Cable. ‘What goes on here?’ Scott demands to know. ‘Do you trust me?’ Cable asks his father telepathically. ‘Do I have a choice?’ Cyclops replies before Cable tells him to open his eyes wide and to let him guide his optic blasts telekinetically. This turns the tables around completely, as ruby-red optic blast is fired around the room, pouring from Cyclops’ eyes, guided by Cable and faster than anyone can comprehend.

Cable tells Siryn to get Cyclops down, while G.W. turns and sees all his soldiers knocked unconscious by the blast and puts his hands in the air. ‘Cable, he was involved in an attack on a United States -’ G.W. begins, until Cable tells him to shut up and punches him in the face, knocking him over. Cyclops is given a visor to keep his powers in check while Cable orders everyone to move it, as they still have to get off the Helicarrier. Sunspot drops down and asks if he missed anything, to which Siryn tells him he didn’t. ‘Good. Because I kinda had my hands full up there’ Bobby remarks.

Cyclops runs beside Cable, asking him how he knew that the telekinetic-eyebeam stunt would work, pointing out that they had never tried it before. Cable replies that he didn’t know it would work, and explains that G.W. knows him well enough so he could go to his usual bag of tricks. ‘When you’re flying without a net, Scott, you’ve gotta take some chances’. Looking up, Cyclops is shocked to see the Blackbird hovering there, waiting for them.

Cable explains that they kept the Blackbird cloaked for as long as they could, and had Sunspot as a diversion. ‘Oh, and I think you’ll appreciate my choice of pilot’ Cable adds. The hatch opens and a smiling face welcomes Cyclops as he enters. ‘Jean!’ he exclaims. ‘Hello, Mr. Summers’ replies his wife, Jean “Phoenix” Grey-Summers, one of the most powerful psychics on the planet, and a founding member of the X-Men, but right now, she only wants to be thought of as a woman in love reunited with her husband, ‘Hello, Mrs. Summers’ Scott replies as he kisses Jean. With everyone aboard, the Blackbird takes off for Westchester.

While inside the Helicarrier…’G.W.!’ screams a furious Dum-Dum Dugan.

Meanwhile, at South Beach in Florida, for days now, James “Warpath” Proudstar has been missing, apparently vanished during X-Force’s battle with Selene. ‘Owww!’ exclaims Warpath as someone places their hands on his shoulders. ‘You are such a wuss’ remarks the young woman rubbing his shoulders. ‘Am not’ James replies. ‘Are too!’ she exclaims, flipping over. A barely-dressed Warpath smiles at Risque and tells her that he wouldn’t trade this time they have had together for anything.

‘But you’re starting to feel guilty about not contacting X-Force by now’ Risque declares. ‘Am I that transparent?’ James asks. ‘Maybe’ the sultry Risque replies, reminding James that, when she rescued him in New York, she told him she only wanted to take care of him until he got better. ‘Now you’re better and…and I don’t know if I want to go back…’. James stands up, revealing a tribal bird tattoo which Risque painted on his back, and they kiss passionately.

Characters Involved: 

Cable, Caliban, Domino II, Meltdown II, Shatterstar, Siryn, Sunspot, Warpath (all X-Force)


Cyclops & Phoenix IV (both X-Men)

Dum-Dum Dugan

Contessa Valentina de la Fontaine

G.W. Bridge

Other SHIELD Agents

Story Notes: 

This issue takes place immediately after Uncanny X-Men #333.

Caliban was severely wounded by Absalom in X-Force (1st series) #53.

Warpath hasn’t been seen since he was rendered unconscious by Selene in X-Force (1st series) #53.

Shatterstar did not side with the rest of X-Force during an intervention they held to try and get Meltdown (then Boomer) to understand the wrong she was doing by helping Sabretooth. [X-Force (1st series) #48]

Warpath vanished during battle with Selene in X-Force (1st series) #53-54.

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