X-Force (1st series) #57

Issue Date: 
August 1996
Story Title: 
In the Company of Strangers - part 2: The Best Laid Plans…

Jeph Loeb (Writer), Anthony Castrillo (Penciler), Mark Morales (Inker), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Marie Javins (Colorist), Ben Raab (Assistant Editor), Bob Harras (Editor and Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

With the Onslaught debacle occurring, X-Force must protect X-Man from Onslaught – but Mr. Sinister has arrived at the Xavier Institute intent on taking the powerful mutant for himself. After Caliban attacks him, he is taken down momentarily, and Domino hits the “self-destruct” button, causing part of the mansion to explode. Returning from his time away from the team, with his new companion, Risque, Warpath sees what the explosion and after Risque tells him that his business is hers, they go to find any survivors. Meltdown comforts the terrified Caliban after he let loose against Sinister, while X-Man tries to take the Askani from Sunspot, resulting in a backlash from Blaquesmith. Sinister finds Siryn and is about to kill her when Shatterstar attacks him, only to be taken out. Warpath runs to his friend’s rescue and as Risque attacks Sinister, he is surprised that he does not know who she is. Everyone sans Meltdown and Caliban regroup and when X-Man tries to read Sinister’s thoughts, the villain creates a backlash, knocking everyone out. He then leaves with X-Man.

Full Summary: 

Caliban watches as his friends are in trouble – he knows he didn’t make the trouble, for he is a good person – someone else made this mess: Mr. Sinister. As Sinister begins to walk away, dragging Nate Grey a.k.a. the alternate dimension reject known as “X-Man”, the X-Forcer Domino walks up to him carrying a very big gun and tells him that the only way he is leaving here with Nate is over her dead body. The insidious Sinister tells Domino that if that is the price then he will be more than willing to pay it.

With her several unconscious teammates behind her, Domino charges her high-tech gun and tells Sinister that he caught them by surprise, but declares that he is not going up against a bunch of kids anymore. Domino reminds Sinister that the last time they ran into each other he treated her like she was nothing, and declares that it is now time for a little payback. Sinister tells Domino to put down her absurd weapon and boasts that none of Cable’s whelps can help her now.

Caliban recalls how he and his friends were supposed to stop Onslaught from taking Nate Grey, but Onslaught did not come, Sinister came instead. Caliban does not understand that Onslaught is Charles Xavier, the man whose house, a mansion in Westchester, where they are all currently located. Caliban remembers how he used to live in the sewers, and likes the mansion better. Caliban knows why he likes Professor X – because he helps mutants, because they all have powers, sometimes scary ones.

Sinister grins wickedly and asks Domino if she doesn’t find it somewhat ironic that she of all people would stand against him. Caliban feels like his head is on fire, something is happening to him, something bad. As he begins to drop from the ceiling, Domino sees him and calls to him, warning him that he is in the line of fire. Sinister thinks Domino is trying to trick him and tells her she cannot expect him to turn around, when Caliban drops down on him, causing him to scream as Caliban’s mighty claws shred through his back.

Domino manages to stop herself from firing the gun, for Caliban’s actions were unexpected. Caliban growls as he faces Sinister, who exclaims ‘The Hound shows his true colors!’ before announcing that he sees now allowing him to escape the slaughter of his fellow Morlocks was an error on his part. Observing Caliban, Sinister is fascinated at how there is more than just rage at work and notes that it has all the hand prints of his ancient foe, Apocalypse. Sinister recalls that when Caliban was genetically altered by Apocalypse, the ancient mutant implanted some sort of fail-safe device against him.

Caliban lunges at Sinister, who declares as he holds Caliban back that it is time to find out how well “the Eternal One” played his hand. Domino watches in astonishment as Caliban actually holds his own against Mr. Sinister, knowing that Caliban has never hinted at that kind of power to them before. It is a horrible thing to lose control, to have your humanity stripped away, so that all that is left is an engine of destruction. A cold merciless, unstoppable killing machine, where once was a gentle soul.

Blood flies all over the place as Caliban claws at Sinister and Tabitha Smith a.k.a. Meltdown, who has known Caliban the longest out of anyone else in the room and watching him go wild, she knows that the appeal of cutting loose has been lurking within her for sometime. Up until now, she has found her power almost intoxicating, but as each member of the team regains consciousness, they all share the same thought – at one time or another, mutants can lose control of their powers. And they wonder “Could this happen to me?”

Bobby DaCosta a.k.a. Sunspot, Shatterstar and their sort-of-ally X-Man gather around Domino and Meltdown, as Domino informs them that Caliban has brought them some time, but it is still their responsibility to keep Onslaught away from Nate Grey. Domino remarks that they should be grateful that when Cable built this arsenal down here – over Xavier’s jurisdiction she adds –that he did it with a back-up plan, and as she hits the “self-destruct” button, she tells the kids to brace themselves and shouts ‘Fire in the hole!’

The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning is located in Salem Center, Westchester, New York, and over the years the mansion has gone from being a home to a school to a headquarters, of both the Uncanny X-Men and recently the Unpredictable X-Force. It has been tormented from the outside by deadly super villains and most recently preyed upon by Xavier himself, at the hand of Onslaught. Yet, through Xavier’s strength of will, they have always, always, always rebuilt.

However, as the fireball lights up the night sky, there is a certain air of sadness. For this is one time those who have followed the dream of Charles Xavier, that humans and mutants would one day live in harmony, worry it will not survive this nightmare.

At that moment, elsewhere, a motorcycle speeds towards the mansion, its driver, James “Warpath” Proudstar and his companion, Gloria Dolores Munoz, better known as “Risque” see the explosion after hearing about the news of what is happening in New York – the Sentinels and the destruction – they were in Florida together. James tells Risque that he never thought anything this bad to happen. Both James and Gloria are about to learn that one cannot run away from one’s problems, for they only get worse.

James remarks that he was counting on the mansion being safe, that everyone was safe. Gloria sees the concern in her friend’s face, but nevertheless, she tells him that she has a bad feeling about this. James glances back at her and asks her what it is that she is always saying to him – “What’s life without a little Risque?” James jumps off the motorcycle and tells Risque that he is going inside. Risque starts to say something, but James cuts her off and tells her that he appreciates her coming along and everything that they have shared, but he had no idea they would be coming back to this.

Proudstar starts to tells Gloria that he knows this is none of her business, but getting off the motorcycle, Risque walks over to James and putting her arms around him she tells him that he doesn’t understand then, for she didn’t put her life on hold just to have a little fun, and that he better get used to the fact that his business is also her business. James smiles, agrees and as Risque hugs him he looks at her, stunned by what a difference this is from the indifference Siryn has shown him all the time. Suddenly, James’ thoughts turn to the young woman whom he has liked very much for a long time, his friend and teammate Theresa Rourke Cassidy a.k.a. “Siryn” and wonders if she has been hurt in the explosion.

Inside, Sinister bursts through the debris that was covering him and admits that he may have underestimated the “children”. But he knows that from what he has learned from the monstrous Sugar Man and from the memories of Bishop, Nate Grey represents the culmination of Sinister’s entire life’s work. Sinister remembers that it was he alone who saw to it that Cable was born as a safeguard against Apocalypse, but in turn Apocalypse perverted that plan with giving Cable the Techno-Organic virus. Sinister narrows his eyes, for he knows that Nate Grey has no such weaknesses, so by right, by will, and by the end of the night: ‘Nate Grey will be mine!’

Elsewhere in the mansion, Domino leads Sunspot and X-Man, declaring that at least they are alive and still with X-Man. Nate tells Domino that she has guts, he will give her that, but wants to know how she knew they would survive the explosion. Domino replies that she didn’t, but that sometimes things have a habit of going her way. Sunspot is furious by this and asks Domino why she jeopardized all of their lives, just because the three of them made it. Domino cuts him off before Bobby can finish what he wants to say and tells him that she does not have time for his famous arrogance right now, that she did what she had to do given the circumstance.

Bobby starts to say ‘Cable wouldn't –’ but Domino cuts him off, telling him not to go there, as he will only be disappointed. Nate informs Domino and Sunspot that Sinister has managed to shut down his powers so he doesn’t think he will be of any use to Onslaught now and suggests that he should turn himself over to Sinister and takes his chances with him. ‘Not a chance’ exclaims Domino, who declares that just as Sinister shut him down, they may be able to start him up again.

Meanwhile, below the mansion Caliban finds himself in a sewer system and declares that he does not understand, for he remembers “Patch Eye” yelling something, but now he is all alone. Coming up behind him, Meltdown reveals her presence and tells Caliban that he put on some show upstairs. Caliban tells Tabby that he was not “putting on a show”, and admits that he was out of control. Meltdown tells him not to get all wimpy as he did a good thing. Caliban asks what would happen if he does it again, and someone he likes gets hurt.

Meltdown frowns as she watches Caliban, and realizes by the tone of his voice that he is really scared. She thinks she should just let him work it out the hard way, everything he is feeling, she has been there and done that. Perhaps because she thinks no one can see her, or maybe because when you strip everything away from her, there is still a scared little girl somewhere inside Tabitha Smith as well, she hugs Caliban. For despite all her bravado, she knows what Caliban is looking for...because for years it is nothing less than what she herself has yearend for. She tells him he will not hurt anybody, and that no one will hurt them either.

Soon, Domino, Sunspot and X-Man are walking through the mansion, and Domino declares that she doesn’t pretend to know about genetic mutation, for they know Sinister practically wrote the book on it, but she wants to know why, if Sinister has the ability to shut down Nate, then why hasn’t he done it to Cable? Nate replies ‘Don’t ask me, Cable and I aren’t the same person’ and declares that their recent encounter proved that.

‘Not that anyone is asking me’ says Sunspot before suggesting the reason Sinister has not shut down Cable yet is because of the Techno-Organic virus in his bloodstream, which was another way that Apocalypse saw to it that Sinister could not get to Cable. Domino isn't so sure, she thinks it could be something else, something that has to do with Cable’s teachings, for she has seen it herself, that Cable has some kind of protective aura.

Nate tells Domino and Bobby that they may as well pack it in then, because the biggest difference between he and Cable, is that he doesn’t know anything about Askani. Bobby agrees, but declares that somehow, he knows. Domino tells the others that they will have to risk a little psionic surgery then, and asks Nate if he has one psi-probe left with him. He replies ‘Just’ to which Domino says ‘Confidence. Love that in a man’.

Nate puts a hand on Bobby’s head and warns him that although he is one of the world’s most powerful telepaths, ‘when it comes to skill…’ To quote Cable, Sunspot says “We learn by doing” before asking Domino what will happen to him should Nate remove the Askani teachings in him – will he revert to Reignfire’s persona? Domino tells him that they will cross that bridge when they come to, and pray that after Onslaught there is still a bridge to cross.

Suddenly, in a burst of telekinetic energy, the psionic image of Blaquesmith appears. For in all things that involve the Askani, the quasi-religion that Cable was tutored in the future, his often-unwelcome teacher and mentor has a mysterious hand. Speaking Askani, the psionic image of Blaquesmith results in a backlash that knocks both Sunspot and Nate Grey out.

Elsewhere in the mansion, Siryn has stumbled across Mr. Sinister, and uses her sonic scream against him. His image blurs and he tells Siryn she made an admirable effort, but for one who can manipulate his own genetic material, like he just did, her effort was woefully inadequate. Grabbing Siryn by throat, Sinister tells her he will delight in telling her father how she died when he sees him next.

But before Sinister can kill Siryn, Shatterstar leaps at him with his swords and boasting that the only blood shed tonight will be Sinister’s. Gritting his teeth, the annoyed Sinister tells Shatterstar that if he had the slightest inkling of the true power he wields he might actually make good on his boast, before swatting Shatterstar back. As Shatterstar lies on the floor, Sinister tells him that at any other time it might be intriguing to see what he would do with that knowledge.

Between Sinister’s gnawing scientific curiosity and his overwhelming ego, he does not notice the blur that approaches him – the oncoming Warpath! James pummels Sinister back from Siryn, declaring that he prays they got here in time. Calling to Risque, he shouts ‘Now!’ and Gloria turns to some machinery in the room, while thinking ‘That’s Sinister himself!’ and how she knew she might run into some of the Legendary Ones, but not this soon. Risque has the mutant power to implode inorganic materials, and while keeping it’s mass she can hurl it with awesome consequences – and does so against Sinister, knocking him to the ground again with the machinery.

As he is knocked back, Sinister is surprised that he does not know her: ‘That girl. A mutant, who is unknown to me?! Fascinating!’ James helps Theresa up and as she asks him if it is really he, he replies that he is back and brought help. ‘The ignorance of youth!’ declares Sinister as he gets up after Risque knocked him down, he tells them they obviously think they are fighting for some just cause, when they really have no idea of the stakes that are in play. ‘Apocalypse is alive!’ he bellows and declares that once again this planet ‘teeters on the sheer cliff, which would have it toppling into his gaping maw’.

As X-Man enters the room, Sinister declares that he must have this creation, to which Nate tells him that what he wants and what he gets are not on the same menu, before striking the villain with his powers. Risque asks Warpath who he is, to which James replies that he doesn’t know, but supposes he could be their last hope.

Attacking Sinister, Nate informs him that he knew someone like him once, someone who took away everything he had. As Sinister is “bathed” in X-Man’s power, he realizes he is being attacked psionically, telekinetically and physically all simultaneously. ‘his power, glorious, everything I have dreamed of!’ Referring back to his home dimension, the Age of Apocalypse, Nate reveals that his friends and father died, all in the name of Apocalypse, and while this Sinister may not be the same man, he has the same warped plans. ‘I killed that man, Sinister, and I wont think twice about doing it again!’

Sinister is blasted back, but holds a hand up to Nate, asking him to stop, he admits that he has no doubt Nate could slay him, ‘but taking that as a given, hear what I have to say’. As everyone gathers around, Proudstar holds onto Siryn, which does not impress Risque, and Domino tells Sinister ‘No dice’ before reminding Nate that Sinister is a liar and a manipulator, she tells him he is staying with them, and Sinister is leaving.

Sinister grins wickedly as he asks X-Man if this woman speaks for him and tells him that he must realize that his new friends are the hatchlings of Xavier. ‘So?’ Nate asks, frowning. Sinister asks him if he wasn’t the only one who saw Xavier as a danger and whether or not anyone else in the room sided with him before Onslaught was revealed. Nate informs Sinister that he will stand with them any day before he stands with him. Sinister declares that he seeks only to prevent Apocalypse of Onslaught from swallowing the world whole.

Sinister invites Nate to tear his mind asunder to prove otherwise, and as Nate starts to use his powers, Domino steps up and tells him not to. But Nate doesn’t listen to her, he tells her that he knows what is up and that Sinister cannot hide the truth from him. ‘I’ll rip it out of his head!’ Sinister smirks as he tells Nate to dig deep, deeper…. But as Nate Grey telepathically darts into the labyrinth of Sinister’s mind, it is too late when he realizes he has fallen into a perfectly orchestrated trap.

For one brief second, Sinister rechannels his psionic energy and sends it back at his enemies…tenfold. Sunspot; Warpath; Siryn; Shatterstar; Risque; Domino and X-Man all fall. ‘The end’ Sinister announces as he stands amongst the fallen heroes. He picks up Nate Grey and as he takes his leave, he declares ‘Now, we can begin’.

Characters Involved: 

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

Nate Grey / X-Man


Mr. Sinister

In psionic image


Story Notes: 

This issue is continued directly from X-Man #18.

X-Man’s fate is revealed in X-Man #19.

This issue is Onslaught: Impact 1 for the X-Force part of the Onslaught Crossover.

Domino and Mr. Sinister fought in Cable #28.

Caliban was altered by Apocalypse from a meek Morlock into one of his Horsemen. [X-Factor (1st series) #25]

Cable and X-Man were revealed to be different people in Cable #30 - 31 and X-Man #14.

Domino witnessed Cable’s protective aura in Cable #25.

Sunspot learnt Askani during his little journey with Locus. [X-Force (1st series) #28 - 43]

Sunspot’s fear that he may revert to Reginfire when the Askani is taken from him was because at the time everyone was unaware that they are in fact two different beings. [X-Force (1st series) #80]

Siryn’s father is Sean Cassidy, a.k.a. Banshee, former X-Man and now headmaster to the Generation X kids at the Massachusetts Academy.

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