X-Men (2nd series) #198

Issue Date: 
June 2007
Story Title: 
Condition Critical, part 2

Mike Carey (Writer), Chris Bachalo (Penciler), Tim Townsend (Inker), Studio F’s Antonio Fabella (Colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Sean Ryan (Assistant Editor), Andy Schmidt (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)

Brief Description: 

The Hecatomb arrives on Providence, while Cable tries to learn what he can from the Mummudrai, who is possessing Mystique. Cable allows the Mummudrai to possess him, which frees Mystique, enabling her and Iceman to go and aid Omega Sentinel, Lady Mastermind and Cannonball who are dealing with the Hecatomb which begins psionically eating the civilians at a football game. Cannonball blasts inside the Hecatomb and discovers something within it, while Cable learns the origins of both the Mummudrai and the Hecatomb. Lady Mastermind tries to slow the Hecatomb down by creating an illusion of a second Hecatomb while Iceman manages to open the gates to the stadium, freeing the remaining civilians - but Sabretooth, aboard the Conquistador, has blocked out Karima’s ability to control the ship, which she planned to use to as a safe place for the civilians, while the Hecatomb gets closer. Rogue meanwhile is still in a coma and medical personnel discuss her situation, revealing that only Rogue’s own immune system is keeping the Strain 88 at bay.

Full Summary: 

The Conquistador, home of one squad of X-Men, currently hovering fifteen hundred feet above the Island of Providence in the Pacific Ocean. Without warning, an enormous tidal wave swoops over the massive ship, ‘Karima! We’re in free fall!’ Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie cries out to his teammate Karima Shapandar a.k.a. “Omega Sentinel” as they are thrown about the ship. Karima replies that she knows and exclaims that something must have hit them, or perhaps passed through them, before informing him that it has taken out ever system on the Conquistador. Karima links up her body to the Conquistador’s system and explains that she is re-initialising the ship from her own Nano-technology.

The Conquistador regains its functions just several feet away from smashing into the island and Cannonball exclaims that they have stabilized, before remarking that whatever that was, it was heading for the ground, so they had better get down there. ‘And put the Conquistador on autopilot?’ Karima asks. Sam points out that they have got an unknown threat heading into a densely populated area, and asks Karima if she has a better idea. ‘It leaves Creed unattended. I think that would be a mistake’ Karima replies, to which Sam reminds her that Creed is in stasis and cannot do a thing. Karima informs Sam that the ship took a bad hit and she is receiving damage reports from all over. Sam asks her if there is anything critical, to which Karima replies there isn’t. ‘Then I guess it can wait’ Sam tells her, unaware that as they pass the lab with Victor “Sabretooth” Creed in a containment unit, where the deadly mutant is up to something.

Meanwhile, somewhere on Providence, people are going about their everyday activities, when lightning suddenly strikes the ground around them, and the Hecatomb arrives! A terrifying creature leaves everyone around it dead, while spouting off things in its own language, small snippets of English are heard: ‘Can’t be happening it just -’, ‘Believe in Sharra and K’ythri, monitor?’, ‘- Me please I can’t move I can’t -’, ‘Hungry. Still hungry. Come to me!’

Elsewhere, Cable a.k.a. Nathan Summers interrogates the mysterious Mummudrai who has possessed his teammate, Raven “Mystique” Darkholme. The powerful X-Man asks Mummudrai what the Hecatomb is and he wants to know in words, telling the being that it is bad enough it is in Mystique’s head, he does not want it in his again. The Mummudrai replies that it cannot explain in words, as it isn’t even in its language, adding that there is no time, ‘He’s here, you must trust me!’ Bobby “Iceman” Drake goes over and exclaims ‘Trust you? You’re an immortal psychic parasite that sees all life apart from your own as irrelevant!’ the cocky X-Man declares. ‘I am Mummudrai’ comes the creatures reply from within Mystique. ‘What I said!’ Bobby mumbles.

‘But he is worse!’ Mummudrai replies. ‘You hear the screams, Nathan Dayspring Askani’Son. You see the dead, lying in his wake!’ The Mummudrai remarks that Cable is a mind-walker and asks him to open up, ‘Let me show you what you need to know!’ Iceman declares that this “thing” is just looking for a new host, that it will say anything to get into him, but Cable informs Bobby that the Mummudrai is telling the truth. ‘What, you can read that in its thoughts?’ Bobby asks.

Cable informs Bobby that he cannot ready thoughts anymore, before informing him that he is picking up images from the CCTV cameras from around Millennium Prospect, and he can see something out there, but he cannot see it clearly, though you can follow its trail easily enough, ‘Because everything it touches falls down and stops moving’. Cable declares that almost half a million people live on this island, and he brought them here. ‘I know’ Mummudrai replies, to which Cable asks it if it needs permission to reach inside his head. ‘No, but it will be easier this way’ Mummudrai replies, adding that there is a greater possibility that his mind will still be intact afterwards.

As the Mummudrai, through Mystique, reaches out to Cable, the handsome X-Man tells Iceman to go and slow that other thing down anyway he can, assuring Bobby that he will join him soon. ‘Go ahead. I’m ready!’ Cable tells Mummudrai, and in an instant, Mystique collapses as the parasite leaps from her lithe body into Cable’s muscular form. Bobby grabs Mystique and asks her if she is okay. ‘Not in the least. I’ve just been used as a puppet’ Raven snaps back. ‘And your hands are cold’ she adds. Bobby tells her that she was going to find that out sooner or later, before picking her up and speeding away on an ice-sled, leaving an unmoving Cable lying on the ground. Raven asks what the mission is, and Bobby informs her that they are running interference with some kind of alien monster while Cable tries to buy them an advantage by mind-merging with a psionic parasite. ‘Life gets tedious, doesn’t it?’

Meanwhile, Providence’s military has surrounded the Hecatomb and one of the soldiers tells it to stop where it is, otherwise they will fire. The horrid Hecatomb says something in its own language, before once again a snippet of English is heard, ‘Didn’t even write to us, and your mother thought -’. The soldiers don’t know what to make of what is going on, and one of them again tells the creature to stop, warning it that they will open fire. The Hecatomb repeats some phrases that it has already said, before exclaiming ‘Maximal population density? Vector 168.03. Processing. Hungry. Processing’.

At the nearby hospital, two medical staff look out of a window and a woman in a white lab coat tells everyone not to panic, as the creature is heading away from them. Another woman asks what happens if it turns around and suggests they should evacuate while they can. ‘We should get the patients the Hell out of here!’ The woman in the lab coat points out that if they do that, then some of the patients will die, so declares that they all just need to stay calm and do their jobs, before asking about the X-Man that Cable brought in, ‘How is she?’ The other woman replies that there is no change with Rogue, explaining that they used phages to kill the infection in her blood but that is all they can do.

The blonde woman in the lab coat picks up some scans and asks if these are Rogue’s brain scans. The other woman replies that they are and remarks that the organism, Strain 88, has passed the meningeal wall. ‘Her central nervous system is saturated with it!’ she exclaims, adding that Rogue has only got her own immune responses to fall back on now. ‘She’s fighting this alone’.

Meanwhile, at the Tyler Dayspring Stadium, where currently 250,000 people are watching a soccer game. An announcer declares that the Stonewalls are running away with this game. Another announcer agrees, and remarks that the 3-0 lead is starting to look untouchable. The announcers begin to comment on the loud crowd, when suddenly, the Hecatomb attacks. ‘My sweet God!’ one of the announcers exclaims as the crowd is ripped apart. ‘I don’t know what that thing is, but some people are down - a lot of people are down! Oh Lord, I think they could be dead!’ an announcer shouts.

Suddenly, Iceman and Mystique speed past on an ice-sled, and Raven begins blasting the terrifying creature with guns, before they make their way down to the field and join up with Cannonball and Karima. ‘Good to see you, Bobby’ Sam remarks to his teammate, and Bobby replies ‘Likewise’ before asking Sam what that thing is made of. Karima declares that she is scanning it across the entire width of the electro-magnetic spectrum, but that she has no idea. Suddenly, a woman falls off a high part of the stadium, but Cannonball blasts up in time and grabs her.

Cannonball tells the woman not to worry, and assures her that he has got hold of her. The woman notices Sam’s accent and asks him if he is from Kentucky. Sam replies ‘Cumberland’ and asks the woman where she is from. ‘Fayette County. Small world!’ she remarks. Sam blasts past the Hecatomb while Iceman slides back towards it, ‘Yeah, come and get me, ugly!’ Bobby exclaims, ‘Ignore the rest of these guys, I’m cooler and more refreshing!’

Sam drops the woman down on the field as Mystique remarks to Omega Sentinel that nothing can touch that thing. Karima replies that she isn’t sure that is entirely true, unlikely as it sounds, and adds that she is reading a small solid core. Cannonball reminds her that when the creature passed through the Conquistador, it made a hole. Sam tells Karima and Mystique to see if they can get this stampede under control and remarks that as he cannot be hurt when blasting, he supposes it is down to him, ‘I’m gonna see if I can do some heart surgery!’ Cannonball shouts as he blasts straight into the creature. He gets rather far in, and comes to some globe that looks like a large disco-ball, energy crackles around it, but Sam cannot get any further, and the Hecatomb soon spits him out.

Meanwhile, the Mummudrai has burrowed its way into Cable, ‘You see, Askani’son?’ it asks. ‘You see now? This is how it was?’ Indeed, Cable sees visions, and the Mummudrai explains what it is - his original host, Ul’var Urizen - with the mark of Clan Ul’var on his chest. There, in the bottle, that is Mummudrai - Ev Teel Urizen. ‘Mummudrai are born with you - with all of you - in the womb. Most die there’ the Mummudrai exclaims, explaining that a few survive by eating the mind of the host, and that fewer still remain dormant, harmless, like itself - until the Shi’ar scientists extracted it, stretched him on sheer plans and opened him up with psi-scalpels. ‘Mapped me inside and out’.

The Mummudrai reveals that this was many centuries ago, when the Shi’ar were fighting the Heptarchy - and losing. Mummudrai explains that the Shi’ar had the sleeping Destroyer, but that they were greedy and wanted to take the Heptarchy worlds intact, so the Shi’ar developed an unanswerable weapon - Hecatomb, a bomb that would devour minds, but leave buildings and infrastructure intact. The bomb was an artificial Mummudrai, based on Ev Teel Urizen’s template, which the Shi’ar scientists could turn on and off at will. ‘Like an evil spirit contained within a bottle - only in this case, the bottle was a field of electro-chemical force’.

‘That was what they dropped on the Heptarchy home world’ the Mummudrai informs Cable, adding that the bombing raid was a suicide run, but that scarcely mattered. ‘Eighteen billion died. Instantly. Without even knowing that they died’. However, Ev Teel Urizen reveals that there was a flaw in the design, for the Hecatomb device couldn’t contain so much thought energy at one time. Thus, the minds of the dead woke within the matrix that was meant to erase them - and to their horror, we’re merged with it.

Mummudrai explains that when the Shi’ar engineers hit the off switch, the only effect it had was to goad the thing they had created into anger. ‘That is the Hecatomb. The monstrous fusion of the device with the minds of its victims. It feeds on thought, Askani’son - and it can never be sated. I know this to my cost’. Ev Teel Urizen explains that when he broke free from the Shi’ar containment fields, the Hecatomb followed him, he believes because the Hecatomb found its scent to be familiar to it. ‘It devoured every mind it met along the way. Never slowing. Never turning aside. And now it is here!’

Ev Teel Urizen asks Cable what he has to say - ‘Will you be one with me?’ Mummudrai offers to give Cable the strength to fight the bodiless devourer - the powers he has lost, his telepathy and telekinesis. ‘Let you stay in my head? No! That’s too much to ask!’ Cable exclaims. ‘Then lie here!’ Mummudrai snaps back. ‘And watch your people die because they trusted you - that’s a familiar experience for you, isn’t it?’ Mummudrai asks, jibing Cable. ‘Damn you! Damn you!’ Cable exclaims, to which Mummudrai replies that he needs an answer. ‘We need something else’ he adds, a hidden advantage that the hecatomb cannot anticipate - something they can throw into the breach without exposing themselves to danger. Searching Cable’s mind for an answer, the Mummudrai finds one. ‘Ah, yes. Yes, indeed. This will do nicely’.

Meanwhile, Iceman, Mystique, Cannonball and Omega Sentinel gather themselves while countless civilians run, all trying to escape their impending doom, but they cannot get past the locked gates. Suddenly though, ‘Hey ache-face. Want to rumble?’ asks a second Hecatomb as it comes between the first and the civilians. The first Hecatomb says something in its native language. ‘Need to find my babies - can anyone see…anomalous…anomalous…anomalos’. ‘Talking to yourself. I heard that’s the first sign of madness!’ the second Hecatomb exclaims.

Mystique turns to Lady Mastermind, who reveals that the second Hecatomb is her doing. ‘Send a ghost to catch a ghost, X-morons!’ she mutters as her illusory Hecatomb attacks the real one. Karima exclaims that Regan has bought them a window and asks Iceman to get the fate, adding that she plans to evacuate these people into the Conquistador. Bobby creates an ice sled and zooms over to the gate, where he busts through it, enabling the citizens to follow him out. The rest of the X-Men soon follow, while Karima tries to link-up with the Conquistador, which she discovers is not responding, despite hovering in the air only a short distance away.

Sitting aboard the Conquistador, Sabretooth drinks some alcohol and radios down to the X-Men, telling them not to worry as he is holding the fort topside. ‘Can’t say I like the odds you’re facing, but it’s a hell of a show!’ he exclaims. Karima shouts back that there is going to be a massacre down here, that they need to get these people off the streets. Sabretooth jokes that the signal is breaking up, and cuts the communications. ‘You’re on your own!’ Creed exclaims as the Hecatomb looms over the X-Men.

Characters Involved: 

Cable, Cannonball, Iceman, Lady Mastermind, Mystique, Omega Sentinel, Rogue, Sabretooth (all X-Men)

Doctors and other staff at Providence Island

Soccer players

Other civilians including 250,000 at soccer game





In Mummudrai’s flashback / vision shown to Cable:

Ul’var Urizen

Ev Teel Urizen / Mummudrai


People of the Heptarchy

Story Notes: 

Rogue was infected with Strain 88 in X-Men (2nd series) #196.

The battle against Hecatomb can also be seen in Cable & Dead pool #40.

In the cover corner box, this issue is titled “Red Data” part 2.

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