X-Man #61

Issue Date: 
March 2000
Story Title: 
Falling Forward

Terry Kavanagh (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Bud Larosa (inker), Mike Thomas (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letterers), Jason Liebig (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

X-Man finds himself prisoner in a mining colony along with other humanoid aliens. Everyone wears the same suits and helmets, and when he removes his, the Underseers - guards - come to apprehend him. Nate fights back, and is joined by two of the other prisoners, Grun and Urch. Nate is captured and taken to a laboratory, where another prisoner is about to give birth. One the other rebels, Urch, finds Nate and they rescue the baby as it is born, although her mother is killed. Nate’s powers have changed - he needs to make physical contact now to use his psychic abilities. He grabs Urch and the baby and they flee, but the guards follow them. Nate is frustrated, not knowing why he was imprisoned or where he is. He turns to face the guards, and recognizes their alien language, before he, Urch and the baby fall through a wall.

Full Summary: 

Who is he? the young man asks himself. What is he doing here? What is this place? How long has he been here - how did he get here - where is here? He appears to be in some sort of cavernous mine, along with many others, all wearing the same plain black costume as he, with a metal chest plate that extends around their waists and down their arms, and a strange pink and silver helmet that covers their entire face. It is not right, that much he knows, that much seems obvious. But despite his uncomfortable familiarity with such harsh surroundings, the answers to these questions escape him at the moment - escape - escape is the wrong word, a bad word. Work is a good word. The right word. This is his work time and these are his work clothes, same as theirs - same as everyone’s for as far as the eye can see in this dark, dank, sprawling hole - everyone works.

A large man lifts some rock and calls out to a woman who is sitting on a heap of rocks, playing with some sort of energy. He addresses her as Urch, and exclaims in his native tongue ‘Enough goofing off with the little spark-on-a-leash - there’s mining to be done here today!’ ‘And tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that - same as yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that…’ the woman replies in her native language, adding that Fuzz may be just another self-evolved fuzzy-logic program to most of them, but he is her inspiration, a bright, shining example of something that made a life for itself, literally, down here. ‘Actually, even made something better of itself’ she points out.

‘Good for both of you, girl! But it just means we have to pick up your slack… as usual!’ the larger man exclaims.

The young man knows that their language is not his, but he understands them, and the words strike his ears as meaningless babble, but the thoughts behind them are crystal-clear in his mind.

Suddenly, the larger man shouts ‘YOU - 19X - make yourself useful! Start breaking these pieces down to size, starting with that one there… give us something we can transport’ he orders the young man. The young man goes over to the large boulder and knows that once he could have lifted it, any boulder from where he stood with just a thought - he is sure of it. ‘Where’s your shovel-ax, boy?’ the larger man asks. But the young man squats down and picks the boulder up in his arms. ‘All newbies are supplied with their own tool and take sole responsibility for it’s -’ he begins, before he takes a step back, surprised that the young man could lift the boulder on his own. ‘Super strength?’ he asks.

‘Telekinesis, really, but -’ the young man begins to reply, telepathically, as the larger man interrupts: ‘And telepathy, too, from the sound of your voice in my head’. He then tells the younger man that he is wasted in here, and they need him working the quarry foundation over with the other special-powered prisoners. “Prisoners?” the young man thinks to himself, and wonders if he is meant to be a prisoner here, who are his captors, and what is his crime? He remembers a city known as New York - and damage done. A country called Latveria - and more damage. Ireland - and again, damage. He knows that others here carry no such guilt, however. Yet even a quick surface-scan of those present reveals that their minds are as fogged as his own - affected by a low-frequency buzz of some sort, they are able to function on a simple, primal level, but they remain hazy on the details.

‘URCH!’ the larger male shouts, while another prisoner addresses the large male as Grun and suggests he give them a break, ‘Maybe they’re working up to another buzz color!’ he exclaims. ‘Quiet, idiot! Their foolish graffiti-games have cost us too many sleep-creds already’ Grun responds. The young man watches them, and he has never felt such a concentration of misery and despair. Not since his days on Earth - his Earth. There is some even sense that all their labor is in vain, that there is nothing of real value to be mined here - others suspect an even uglier truth - that they are doing little more than digging more space to hold more prisoners for more pointless digging.

Suddenly, the young man starts to remove his helmet. ‘19X - stop - stop!’ Grun calls out when he sees this. ‘You can’t do that!’ Grun exclaims. ‘Wrong. Hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt before, admittedly, but I can do pretty much anything… once I put my mind to it’ 19X responds.

The young man stands with his helmet removed, revealing his shaved hair - brown with a white patch at the front. He is of course Nate Grey, ‘Enough with the 19X already, people’ he telepathically calls out. Introducing himself, he reveals that things are starting to clear up again, without the buzzing in his hears from that screwy helmet. ‘I gotta recommend you all try -’ he begins, but Grun shouts ‘No! No! You don’t understand!’ and tells 19X that the gases will be released any moment.

Suddenly, several beings in strange brown armor rush into the cavern, wielding red axe-like weapons, one of them shouts ‘And the Underseers are already here!’ ‘These suckers? They’ve got armor, sure - okay, the weapons, too - but you’ve got me now, G…what’s left to worry about?’ Nate calls out to Grun as he dodges the Underseer who attempts to strike him, and sends him flying back with a punch.

‘Plenty’ Nate decides as more of the Underseers lunge towards him, but after knocking some of their weapons out of their hands, he picks tow of them up, and gives one of them to Grun. ‘His ‘em low, Grun… and hit ‘em hard!’ Nate shouts. ‘My pleasure, X! Just don’t expect the rest of the crew to pitch in on this…’  Grun responds as he starts attacking the Underseers. Grun explains that the others have a lot more to lose than an old-timer like he. ‘NO! Please, don’t…’  Urch calls out as one of the Underseers approaches her. ‘URCH?’ Naste shouts, and as the Underseer smacks Urch with his weapon, Nate picks up another Undseerer and throws it at the one who struck Urch with their weapon. ‘Murderers! She was a just a child! Harmless - defenseless - all of these people were defenseless - until now!’ Nate declares.

Nate and Grun move so that they are between the Underseers and Urch. ‘Stay away from her, if Urch is dead, if you’ve harmed her at all…I swear I’ll -’ Grun begins, when suddenly, someone materializes behind them. ‘You will do nothing, prisoner, and energy bursts suddenly bind Nate and Urch’s hands. ‘Except what you are told’ the new arrival calls out, before vanishing. ‘An Overlord?’ Grun exclaims, before telling Nate that they are finished, as the Lords have total control of their magni-cuffs. ‘And I’m afraid we’re way past surrender!’ Nate turns to Urch, ‘Look - look - Urch’s body is…’ he calls out to Grun, before there is a series of thudding noises, and then darkness.

Nate dreams of yesterdays on the Earth of his birth - short days spent in hiding and long nights wasted against the tyranny of its butcher-king, Apocalypse. He dreams of tomorrows on his new Earth, immeasurable pain of his own making, as his all-too-human body is inevitably consumed from within by his own mutant power. But he wakes, to the real nightmare.

Shirtless, Nate is strapped to a chair-like contraption, bright spotlights glaring over him. It is an automated laboratory of some sort, unlike anything he has ever seen before, unlike anything he has ever even imagined, and there is no sign of the Overseers - whoever ,whatever they are - in this cold, dark place. But he senses others like himself nearby, hundreds, thousands, too many to count - all in pain.

Looking to his right, Nate sees a pregnant woman trapped to a similar contraption that he is stuck in, only hers has a panel covering her body. He telepathically calls out to her?: ‘What have they done to you? What are they doing?’ The woman replies in her native tongue, telling Nate that it hurts so much, she begs for his help, then screams as a mechanical device looms over her face, with very sharp pincer-like tips. Nate looks up and sees a different device over him. He telepathically tells the woman to hand on just a little longer. ‘Soon as I get my hands free… I’ll be able to telekinetically bust us both out of - uh-oh. Spoke too soon…’ Nate declares as the strange clothing he is wearing weaves itself up, covering his chest and arms, the device overhead pulls him up like a crane lifting cargo, his arms are shackled, he supposes that his captors are finished with him here and now he is being shifted down the assembly line. ‘Next stop, helmet welding’ he thinks to himself, supposing that this time they have something a little more reinforced in mind for him.

Nate looks over others who are being transported like he is, and realizes that it is only a matter of seconds now until he is half brain-dead again, same as everyone else. It is then that Nate discovers the others are all different kinds of aliens. Nate supposes that his initial telepathic scans didn’t pick up on this because no one actually thinks of themselves as aliens - and most of them are relatively humanoid from the looks of things. He decides that he should have realized it from the pregnant woman’s skin color, if nothing else. ‘Missing the obvious is the least of my problems right now, though…if I don’t find some way to make physical contact with this mechanical claw fast, some way to touch if before -’ Nate thinks to himself, ‘Hang on!’ he shouts, before realizing that he doesn’t need his hands to touch it, as the claw is already touching him - all over - so he sends a psychic charge through the strange contraption, causing it to drop Nate, who land on the ground below. ‘Duh’ Nate tells himself, realizing that missing the obvious thing is a bigger problem that he realized.

‘YESSSS!’ someone screams, and Nate decides that it sounds like the baby is making its entrance right now. ‘I am y be too - late?’ he thinks to himself as he walks through the strange room and makes his way back to the pregnant woman. However, he finds Urch pulling the mechanical contraptions away from the pregnant woman. Nate joins in and slides to Urch’s side, kicking a contraption away, he telepathically tells Urch that he knew she wasn’t dead, a least when her body went AWOL back at the work-site, but that she is the last person he expected to see here. ‘Thought you’d deserted the pack for a while there, girl’ Nate remarks. Urch reveals to nAte that she followed him, used his reconditioning-capture to find this place - to find them. ‘My baby…don’t let them take my baby…’ the pregnant woman utters. Nate notices the floor beneath the pregnant woman starting to open up, and as Urch moves forward, he tells her to pull back, while he uses his telekinesis to try and slow down the collapsing floor.

The pregnant woman screams, and some time later, Urch holds up a girl. ‘The baby! It’s a girl, Marchalla!’ Urch exclaims, while her electronic energy creature hovers beside her. The baby cries, while the woman, Marchalla, screams ‘NOOOO!’ as she is lowered down, as Nate is unable to stop the floor from sinking down. ‘A beautiful, healthy girl…’ Urch declares.  ‘I’ve lost the mother!’ Nate exclaims, frustrated, he doesn’t know how to apply these new limitations of his powers, yet. Urch tries to calm the baby, while telling “X” that he better be a quick study, then, because he, she, Fuzz and the kid, are all they have now. The strange creature, Fuzz, darts around them, and Urch tells Nate that according to Fuzz, there is company coming, and fast, from all sides.

Indeed, an army of Underseers rush into the room, and as Nate stands by Urch and the baby, he exclaims that they are surrounded - there is no way out. ‘Less maybe you can fly…’ Urch replies. ‘Nope’ Nate replies, adding that with his powers restricted to physical contact, levitating is out - ‘But with a little telekinetic launch - I can leap like nobody’s business!’ Nate boasts as he picks Urch and the baby up in his arms and leaps over the entire army of Underseers, while Fuzz flies behind them. ‘Great!’ Urch exclaims, but as Nate runs, the Underseers follow from many directions. ‘Out of the smelting sieve…and into the furnace!’ Urch remarks.

Nate tells Urch not to panic and explains that he can use the same trick to boost his running speed. ‘Long as we’re ahead of ‘em…we can stay ahead of ‘em!’ Nate assures her as he runs along the corridor, still carrying Urch, who holds the baby. Urch points out that they are lost, and that if they keep running in circles like this, sooner or later they are bound to hit - ‘Trouble!’ she exclaims as Nate skids to a half when an Underseer steps out from around a corner. Urch alerts Nate to the fact that they are right behind them, closing in fast. ‘Good!’ Nate declares as he leaps into the air in front of the Underseer, and kicks the Underseer in the chest so hard that he falls back through the wall, which opens it up into a dark space behind it. ‘We can use ‘em to do our dirty work! One down… twenty or thirty dozen to go’ Nate declares.

He turns to see the other Underseers running towards him and decides that he is done here. He picks up the spade-ax weapon and charges it telekinetically, telling Urch that he is sick of fighting against he doesn’t know what to escape from he doesn’t know where, with he doesn’t know who. ‘This ends right now!’ Nate shouts as he tears the spade-ax across the ground in front of them, causing it to crack. One of the Underseers calls out in an alien language, and Nate looks concerned. He knows that the seers are psi-screened so he can’t read their minds, but the language seems familiar, like he recognizes it from somewhere. ‘What is this place? How long has he been here? How did he get here? How the heck are they going to get out of here?’ Nate wonders, as the ground around him breaks up and he, Urch and the baby fall back into the darkness behind them.

Characters Involved: 



Grun, Marchalla, Urch and other alien prisoners




Written By: