X-Men (5th series) #18

Issue Date: 
April 2021
Story Title: 
Inside the Vault

Jonathan Hickman (writer), Mahmud Asrar (artist), Sunny Gho (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Lenil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho (cover artists), Peach Momoko; Ernanda Souza; David Finch & Frank D'Armata (variant cover artists), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Nick Russell (production), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

Inside the Vault in South America, a squad consisting of Synch, Darwin and Laura Kinney find themselves in uncertain territory. They all know why they have been sent to the Vault, their adaptive abilities make them the most suitable to explore this strange reality. It's here that Synch develops romantic feelings for Laura. As the Children of the Vault are rebooted, the City detects intruders, and sends the Children to investigate. The mutants try to evade the Children but eventually they are forced to defend themselves and battle the Children. The mutants appear to kill several of the Children, before one of the Children, Aguja releases an intense amount of energy that seems to wipe out everything around her – including the mutants.

Full Summary: 

South America, at the old Master Mold which sits partially demolished within a jungle. It is the entrance to the Vault. From this point forward, one cannot depend on time to function in any manner resembling normal – it waxes and wanes, like temporal tides. With a little help from their fellow mutants, Laura Kinney a.k.a. Wolverine, Armando Munoz a.k.a. Darwin and Everitt Thomas a.k.a. Synch have successfully breached the external defenses of the Vault and proceeded inside without detection. Easier than expected – but they will take the win, as they expect things to go south, and quickly.

This is day one.  Synch, Wolverine and Darwin stand on platform that looks out over the sprawling city within the Vault before them. Their objective is to ascertain the threat level and potential weaknesses of the Vault and the full capabilities of what lies within, and those of the children. Synch remembers being told “good luck” as he and his companions entered the Vault – he thinks they are going to need it.

'Oh, man... look at the size of that place. Massive. There's gotta be, what, a million people in there? Maybe more?' Synch asks. Darwin notes that the Vault could definitely hold that, no doubt, but he thinks it is pretty unlikely. He asks Synch if he read the file, and remarks that one of the main reasons the three of them are in here is because they just don't know enough about these people.

As Darwin's face shifts, transforming so that it contains several analytical scanning devices, he remarks that it has been theorized that, for whatever reason, the Children of the Vault have engaged in strict population control. He decides that the theory seems sound, and acknowledges that there may be a few who don't register a heat signature, but from what he is seeing, that city is pretty sparsely populated. Synch has copied Darwin's powers and his face uses the same scanning devices, and he agrees that Darwin is right. 'Hey, maybe we can do this without getting caught. Or even seen. Get home in time for dinner' Synch suggests.

Synch knows that Darwin's powers of rapid evolutionary adaptation make him perfect for both data collection and analysis, while Wolverine's abilities are essential to their long-term survival – against both environment and adversary. He decides that she is quite prickly, though, as she pushes past him and declares 'Not gonna happen if the two of you don't keep it down'. Synch looks at Wolverine and wonders how he feels about that. Wolverine stares back at him, 'What are you looking at?' she asks, popping her claws. 'I'm feeling pretty good' Synch thinks to himself, smiling at Laura, while his colorful aura glows around him.

The trio make their way down a set of stairs towards some sort of tube with a platform that lowers down through the tube, like an elevator. Synch reminds himself that his powers make him a redundancy – a literal backup for both – extra surveillance and survival when needed or extra muscle if that is what is called for. He hopes that with any luck, they will be out of here in a day or two, a week at tops. 'So here's one for luck...' he thinks to himself as he touches a panel that lowers the platform downwards. 'This is Synch. Descending into the Vault' he thinks to himself, realizing that the real mission begins now.

In the center of the Vault is the Dome. In the heart of the Dome is the City, where one of the Children of the Vault, Serafina, is currently connected to some equipment, which scans her for contagion. The equipment states that the scan is complete and the subject is clean. The computer system identifies her, the child, as Serafina, and notes that she is level two. 'The Vault welcomes you home' the computer tells her, still connected to her via several wires, it asks her to report. 'Downloading...' Serafina remarks, as the computer absorbs her memories, and discovers that the mission was a failure. The computer makes a secondary analysis and notes the increased threat activity level of non-augmented, naturally occurring human population, adding that non-posthuman resistance is expected, and that threat level is secondary. It notes the increased threat level activity of Homo Superior, and expects mutant resistance, allocating it a primary threat level.

The computer concludes that the Vault opening should be delayed, as child-level three is necessary for successful occupation/subjugation of external environment – the world. The computer states that their City upgrade should go global, with all AI class and at level three. 'Hard not to learn a hard lesson. They've grown into something greater than anticipated. Were not strong enough for them. We need to be... more' Serafina announces. Several other Children of the Vault are gathered nearby. 'So back into the pot we go. Terrific' the gray-skinned Sangre mutters. 'Make it well done, I say. A little kiss of creation. Then we emerge in fire and blood' the muscular Perro declares. 'The problem is the cycle. It's always the cycle' the blonde Aguja suggests, while the fiery Fuego adds 'Which yields for nothing. I will fall forever that the city stands. It would be -', but he is interrupted as the computer states 'Attention!' and reports that there is an asymetrical breach. It scans for contagion, and when it completes the scan, detects that the Vault has been contaminated.

The computer states that the subjects are unidentified, their class is unknown and level is unknown, meaning an anomaly has been detected. 'Protect the city! Protect the city! Protect the city!' the computer repeats, as the Children – Serafina, Aguja, Fuego, Perro and Sangre – leap into action.

As Synch continues to stand on the platform that lowers him, Wolverine and Darwin down to another part of the Vault, he tells himself that there is something to keep in mind regarding memory reports – as he understands it, or had it explained to him, the brain stores memories atemporarily and in an interconnected manner that resonates. He knows it sounds like nonsense, but what it actually means is that people remember what matters most. After all, that is what makes nostalgia so powerful.

The door at the bottom of the tube opens, and the Children of the Vault are there waiting. 'Burn it' Sangre orders. Fuego unleashes a powerful surge of flame towards the tube, which blasts through the open door. 'No screams. I'm impressed' Perro remarks as he and Aguja move closer to the tube. Aguja sniffs the air and supposes that the intruders must have got off the tube somewhere before it reached the bottom.

'Oh no' Serafina remarks as she looks up and sees Wolverine leaping from a nearby ledge.

Synch and Darwin remain standing on the ledge, as Synch thinks to himself that if something happens five years from now, but reminds him of something that happened last week, that means he stands a better chance of remembering that specific memory in the future instead of the other memories that surrounded it. But the thing is, this doesn't have anything to do with facts or logic, or what actually happened – it's just how you remember it, how it affected you. Serafina looks horrified as Wolverine drops down above her, claws at the ready, she strikes, slashing her claws across Serafina's left side, the woman drops to the ground.

'In your head... and in your heart' Darwin thinks to himself. He, Laura and Darwin, in the Vault, counted the days – but what they remember, what mattered to each of them colors their memories of this experience.

Synch and Darwin drop down to the ground behind Wolverine, and the trio rush towards the remaining Children of the Vault. Fuego blasts Synch with fire, engulfing him and causing Synch to scream, as Aguja traps a bubble of water around Darwin's head. Darwin struggles to breathe, while Wolverine steps between Synch and Fuego, and as she shoves her claws through Fuego's skull, she touches Synch, she tells him that she has got him, and to use her to heal himself. 'It...it burns' Synch utters as he copies Laura's healing power, restoring himself, he stands over Fuego and touches him, too, while Darwin appears to have adjusted to breathing within the water bubble around his head.

'Eh?' Sangre asks as he and Perro look on, surprised. Laura is surprised, too, as she turns to Synch, who is now engulfed in flames, but controlling the flames. 'I didn't think you could copy anyone's powers except mutants' Laura remarks. 'I couldn't... looks like that's changed!' Synch responds as he unleashes two powerful beams of flaming energy directly at Perro and Fuego, incinerating them in an instant. 'NO!' Aguja screams in horror. 'You're going to pay for that' Aguja snaps as she finds herself surrounded by the three mutants. 'Oh man... she's  gonna blow. Back up! We need to get clear. Now!' Synch exclaims as he grabs Wolverine by her hand and tries to pull her back.

Energy begins to glow from several domes on the sleeves of Aguja's costume, as she exclaims 'You mutants... thinking you can run from this... run all you want. Run as fast as you can. It's not going to matter. You can't outrun us. You can't outrun the future!' she warns the mutants, as the energy increases around her.

Synch thinks to himself that their mission is to remember what they learn and report back – to escape with the knowledge. He knows that they did their best. On day one, they entered the Vault. No one will know what it took to get out.

Characters Involved: 

Darwin, Synch, Wolverine/Laura Kinney

Aguja, Fuego, Perro, Sangre, Serafina (all Children of the Vault)

Story Notes: 

Synch, Darwin and Laura Kinney were last seen in X-Men (5th series) #5.

This issue contains a one-page medical report from Cecilia Reyes discussing further developments regarding Synch's return that she has discovered, including a change to his powers, a change which she expects will happen in other recently resurrected mutants.

This issue also includes a one-page confidential note entitled “Murder no man”, which states that the Children of the Vault fall outside the definition of “human” and therefore lethal force is permitted against them.

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