The Vanisher’s Safehouse. Japan…
Telford Porter screams as one of Wolverine’s claws slices through his right nostril. Wrong answer, Wolverine tells the Vanisher. Stunned at his leader’s brutality, Elixir asks Logan why he did such a thing and reaches out his healing hand to fix the gash in the Vanisher’s nose. X-23 stops him. Vanisher asks what the hell is wrong with Logan. He’s telling the truth, Telford says while putting pressure on his bleeding nose; he doesn’t have the Legacy Virus. Logan asks who has it, then. The Vanisher says if he tells him, he’ll think he’s crazy. Wolverine says to try him.
“Alright! Alright!” the Vanisher pleads. He explains how when he got to the lab, everything seemed to go just fine. Once he had a sample of the virus in his hands, however, he heard a guttural noise coming from the back of the lab. He turned around and found himself face-to-face with the Marauders. He recognized Sabretooth, Harpoon, Vertigo and Scrambler, and saw several others whose identities he couldn’t discern. Their eyes seemed gray and lifeless, with dark-blue veins running through their bodies. He didn’t know where they came from or how they found him, but he knew they were out for blood. Sabretooth took a swipe at him. As he teleported to safety, he dropped the vial.
“Sure, why the hell not? Everyone else is coming back from the dead, why not Sabretooth?” Logan asks. “It’s not like I cut off his head or anything.”
Archangel interrupts, however, and states the Vanisher didn’t actually encounter Sabretooth; he encountered a clone. He reminds his teammates they have seen this sort of thing with Mr. Sinister in the past; he has entire clone farms for his Marauders. Warren presumes this batch must have hatched after Sinister died. “They’re not real,” he says.
Warren’s words wound Laura, but she tries not to let it show. Josh cannot help but notice the hurt expression on her face.
Domino, meanwhile, takes a moment to absorb the strange nature of this scene. She never thought she would see the day an X-Man would slice open a guy’s nose to make him talk. Apparently she’s missed a few meetings. Logan told her he would fill her in on everything later, but the one thing he can tell her right now—that they’re going to make the crybaby teleport them into Sinister’s lab so they can destroy the virus and burn the lab to the ground—makes her pretty happy. Vanisher, still clutching his bleeding nose, winces. Wolverine isn’t talking about him, is he?
Outside Camp Verde, Arizona…
Warpath lunges at a paw of the colossal Demon Bear with his hunting knives extended. The paw seems to vanish. Warpath’s knives instead plunge into the ground, and he stares at them in confusion. Before he has the chance to comprehend what just happened, the Demon Bear bats him aside. He soars through the air and crashes into a canyon wall. James looks up in horror; for some reason, he can’t touch the bear—but it can touch him. Great. The Demon Bear, its eyes glowing green, comes over to the ledge and roars in Warpath’s face.
Ninety-seven miles away…
A man speeds down the highway on his motorcycle. He hears the roar of the Demon Bear reverberating across the desert. He slams on his brakes. As he cranes his neck to face the direction of the noise, his head ignites, revealing the flaming skull of the Ghost Rider.
Angel’s Aerie, Colorado…
Inside the mostly empty mansion, a newscaster warns nearby residents of several reported wolf sightings in the Rocky Mountains. The broadcaster urges anyone who spots a wolf to call animal control immediately. The weatherman takes over and comments on the recent cold snap that just won’t let up. It’s been an unusually strong and sudden winter storm—even for the Rocky Mountains, the weatherman says. They had over four feet of snow in some areas since the previous night, and the storm shows no signs of stopping. They’re currently witnessing record low temperatures in the higher altitudes and heavy ice on several mountain roads. He advises all motorists to get chains on their tires. Kate the newscaster thanks Jim the weatherman for his report, and moves on to a news item about the cleanup following the recent invasion.
Elsewhere in the mansion, Rahne Sinclair, dressed in a nightshirt and shorts, sits alone in a nook by a window. She looks solemnly out into the snowstorm. On her seat rests an open copy of the Bible. In her left hand, she loosely holds a rosary. Suddenly, a strange noise from outside catches her attention. Rahne perks up and looks out into the storm. To her surprise, she finds two glowing, yellow eyes staring back at her.
The Kitakyushu Smelting Plant. Japan…
X-Force always went after the bad guys, Domino says to herself. They were proactive; that was their thing. It’s what they did. But the safety is off now, Logan tells her. This X-Force doesn’t hold back. Domino didn’t ask questions. She remembers the way Archangel came after her in Tokyo. He was playing for keeps.
Wolverine, Archangel, X-23, Elixir, Domino and the Vanisher materialize on a catwalk in the smelting plant, courtesy of Vanisher’s powers. Thinking his job done, he tells X-Force they are now on their own. Logan tells him this place doesn’t look like a science lab. Archangel asks Vanisher what this place is. He tells them it’s some factory. His agent just gave him the blueprints, not a lecture on how Mr. Sinister picks his real estate. The lab, he tells them, is at the center of the factory. Wolverine shoves him. “You can go first,” he says. Vanisher doesn’t think Professor Xavier would approve of this. “Tell me about it,” Logan says.
As they travel to the lab, Domino sizes up her new teammates. Elixir is a scared kid, but she can tell he isn’t scared for himself. X-23, meanwhile, has the killer instinct. Domino can see it in her eyes. And Logan…well, he’s Logan, Domino believes. Up is down. Black is white. Something tells me I should be worried… but then again, I’ve got luck on my side. Still, she must admit this is the grimmest bunch of mutants she has ever seen. Even Cable smiled more than this team.
X-Force wanders down a long corridor presumably leading to the laboratory. Elixir grows nervous; he doesn’t think he should be there. He told Logan he didn’t want to come. “Don’t worry, kiddo. I’m sure everything will be fine,” Domino assures him. “So… who thinks we’re all about to die? I only mention it because Vanisher did say he dropped the vial with the virus in it. What if it broke?” If that’s the case, Logan supposes, then they’re all about to have a bad day.
X-23 catches a whiff of a familiar scent in the air. Wolverine asks how many there are. Fourteen targets—but some identical scents are present, she says. There could be more than fourteen. Wolverine asks Domino to open the doors. As Domino lifts her grenade launcher, she tells Wolverine he always says the most romantic things to her. The noise and heat from the explosion reverberate down the corridor. Neither Wolverine nor X-23 flinches. Vanisher turns and shields his head. Domino, on the other hand, just smiles as the air rushes past her face. You know what I love about Wolverine? she asks herself rhetorically. He really knows how to release tension. She asks Wolverine for any inspirational words as they face their emerging foes. Yeah, he says to Domino as an army of Marauder clones charge down the hallway; if she dies, take one of them with her.
Warpath, lying in the shadow of the Demon Bear, picks himself up off the ground. He tells the mangy piece of crap that if this is how he dies, then he will die like an Apache. He will die like a Proudstar. Warpath launches himself off the ground and flies at the Demon Bear’s roaring face with his knives extended. Again, the bear swats him away, sending him crashing onto the packed deserve floor. It pins him to the ground with a monstrous claw. As he looks up from underneath its talons, Warpath spies an evil-looking dagger protruding from the bear’s neck. The Demon Bear presses down on him.
As the life slips out of the body of James Proudstar, he hears the roar of a motorcycle and the snap of a whip. Ghost Rider appears and snaps his chain across the Demon Bear’s maw. It howls, lifting its paw in pain. Ghost Rider swoops in, grabs the unconscious Warpath by the hand, and rides to safety. The Demon Bear growls at its victim as he disappears over the horizon.
As X-Force rips through the squad of Marauder clones, Domino contemplates the brutality of the situation. After all, it’s easy to forget just how deadly mutants can be—especially when they dress in colorful costumes and play hero all of the time. She takes a moment to observe her team.
While using one of his metallic wings to deflect a flurry of shuriken sent his way by a clone of Riptide, Archangel stabs a Vertigo clone through the torso with his other wing. Nearby, Wolverine pierces an Arclight clone through the shoulder while shaking off one of her energy attacks. Behind him, X-23 cuts through a Scrambler. Domino considers Wolverine one of the most dangerous men on the planet. He can be an X-Man one moment and a savage beast the next. As much as she likes him, Domino always makes sure she has her guns loaded when she is in his presence. She flips over one of Harpoon’s projectile attacks and fires a few rounds from her sub-machineguns through a different Scrambler.
Across the corridor, another Harpoon clone stabs Archangel in the back. He groans, but perseveres. He’s so good looking and charming when he’s the Angel, Domino thinks, that when he becomes this other form—when he becomes Death—she’s never quite ready for it. As Archangel, he simultaneously embodies both beauty and horror.
X-23, meanwhile, finds herself fighting off two Sabretooth clones at once. One of them takes her arm from behind, but she reaches back and stabs him in the cheek, while slicing another across the face with the adamantium claw on her foot. Domino thinks X-23 is like a machine; she’s never seen anything like her. The girl is so small—there are moments when Domino looks at her and just wants to laugh—but right now, Domino isn’t laughing. Right now, Domino is just glad they’re all on the same team.
Nearby, Elixir and Vanisher cower behind a corner. Telford asks Josh what he’s doing hiding; with his powers, he could be out there tearing up the bad guys. Josh looks out at the horror of the battlefield. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he tells Vanisher. “Are you %*@$ing kidding me? You gave me a %*^@ing tumor!” Vanisher reminds him. Josh tells him he didn’t want to do that. “Whatever, Mother Theresa. Look, you heard what bird-boy said,” Telford continues. “They’re clones! They’re not real!”
X-23 overhears this comment as she cuts the throat of a Harpoon. While facing off with a Sabretooth, she turns to Elixir and shouts “Vanisher is right! Do not hold back!”
S.H.I.E.L.D. Division C…
“This girl is not human,” Agent Morales says to Agent Young. He tells Morales S.H.I.E.L.D. had been after X-23 for some time before the case went cold. Morales reminds him the girl has been killing people since she was nine. X-23 has killed politicians, dictators, drug lords, mob bosses, members of AIM, HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D.—and those are merely the targets they can identify. Who knows how many others she has killed? Plus, she’s wanted in over a dozen countries and has troubling ties with radical groups. On Agent Young’s desk, a photograph of a Dr. Sarah Kinney is circled in red pen alongside a large, red question-mark. Agent Morales lifts a different photo from the array on the desk and holds it toward Young. Unfortunately, the only known person with firsthand knowledge of the target is dead, she says, referring to the photograph of the recently deceased Captain America. As much as it pains her to disappoint Agent Young, he must accept that until X-23 makes another move, they have no leads to follow.
James Proudstar wakes up from a dream, muttering his dead brother’s name as he returns to the realm of the conscious. His eyes snap open and he jerks awake. How is he alive? Why is he alive? “Because you have not tasted vengeance… yet,” an eerie voice tells him. James looks across the campfire at his savior, Ghost Rider, who sits patiently on a fallen log. James asks if he can scratch his last question, and instead ask another: why is he in Hell? Ghost Rider tells James he knows nothing of Hell. He then orders him to gather his strength, because tonight, he intends to show the mutant how to kill a demon.
In the middle of all the murder, blood and chaos is the vial of the Legacy Virus. Domino can hardly believe that one tiny drop of it could make mutants extinct. To her surprise, she spots the vial lying not too far from her position. I’m closest to it. Lucky me, she thinks as she leaps toward it. She fires a few rounds from her pistol over her shoulder as she makes the grab, hitting a nearby Sabretooth in the face. With the vial safely in her hand, she tells her team that it’s time to leave.
Suddenly, the concrete of a nearby wall crumbles into debris, revealing yet another squad of enemies—this one outfitted in heavy, mechanical suits with machineguns mounted on the back. Creepy smiles and eyes that seem to come from a children’s cartoon adorn the faces of the armored units. They set their laser sights on X-Force, but mainly on Domino, their nearest target. The leader of the Right orders his squad to take the virus—and let no mutant out alive.
Ever since Domino hooked up with the X-Men, she’s held back because the X-Men don’t kill. It didn’t make a lot of sense to her—but she respected it. And now, finally, when mutants are up against the wall as a species and it’s kill or be killed, Domino thinks, …that’s when my luck runs out. Great.