X-Men Annual (2nd series) 2000

Issue Date: 
September 2000
Story Title: 
Mutie. Dead

Chris Claremont (writer), Scott Eaton (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Jonathan Babcock (letters), Hi-Fi Design (colors), Mark Powers (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

The Prime Sentinel program is reactivated. Lady Deathstrike is sent an e-mail, but it fails to transform her, so she seeks the aid of the X-Men, pursued by four Sentinels, who the X-Men easily defeat. But is Bastion behind the re-emergence of the Prime Sentinels or yet another old adversary? For the time being the X-Men, with Rogue as their leader, must work with their former enemy to find and destroy who ever is activating the Sentinels. Forge connects the four Primes‘ human identities to a Caribbean resort, where each of them won an all expenses paid trip to in the past year. The X-Men journey there, where Rogue tells Deathstrike that the reason they're trusting her is because the X-Men is all about second chances and redeeming souls. She trusts her with watching the X-Men’s backs, while the X-Men assault a temple in the jungle. Inside they find the Sentinels equipment and are confronted by Stryfe, the clone of Cable. He plans to use the catalyst codes placed inside Deathstrike by Bastion to activate every Prime in the world, which will result in the extinction of mutant kind. Outside Deathstrike is left to fight hordes of half-activated Sentinels, vowing not to kill them like she wants to, but honoring Rogue's wishes to just incapacitate them. The X-Men fare even worse than her, as their powers are virtually useless against Stryfe and his mind powers. In the end though, Nightcrawler distracts him by pulling the plug on the activation program, giving Psylocke the chance to use her psychic katana to slash past Stryfe’s psychic force field. With the villain vulnerable now, the rest of the team start to battle him, but Stryfe beams away though, saved by an automatic escape program. With the Primes deactivated with no memory of what happened; and the team working on mutating the source codes so the Primes can't be activated all at once ever again, the X-Men celebrate their victory. The real victory, however, is giving Lady Deathstrike the chance to be redeemed. Logan tells Rogue that she did a good job as leader.

Full Summary: 

Shanghai, Lao Mei-Ling. Nairobi, Samuel Mbende. Berlin, Jürgen Tiebold. Los Angeles, Delilah Fremont. These four people each receive an e-mail from mutant-hunter Bastion that transforms them instantly into Prime Sentinels. Also receiving an activation e-mail is Yuriko Oyama in Toronto; head of the Oyama Design Group. In anger she destroys her computer before she can be activated; she regrets it, thinking such lack of control is unseemly. She muses that the world is well rid of Bastion as he nearly brought the world to ruin; and why would he want to contact her?

Hovering outside the Crown Imperial Hotel, where she is staying, a Prime Sentinel is scanning her room as the alpha mode trigger sequence failed, and is shifting to beta mode. He finds Yuriko's life signs and brings up information on her, including her codename Lady Deathstrike; that she has adamantium bonded to her bones; and she possesses formidable integral weapons array. She is considered highly lethal, and maximum aggressor mode is sanctioned. The Sentinel knocks on Yuriko's door. She answers it, expecting someone else; and the Sentinel blasts her with a massive energy flare.

In Salem Center, New York, Rogue and her fellow X-Men (Nightcrawler, Colossus, Psylocke, Thunderbird and Wolverine) are enjoying a hot, lazy day at Breakstone Lake. She remembers the river she used to play at when she was a girl, where she had a favorite tree, and some days she'd play Tarzan or Jean Lafitte. Then she wanted to see how far she could fly without hitting the water. Now, a grown woman, the essentials haven't changed. She still loves life with a fierce passion, and as she splashes into the lake, she lets the world know it with a laugh! Psylocke runs and jumps into the lake with her friends, announcing a challenge. "Who's up for a race to the float?" The float upon which Logan lazes with a few cans of beer. Thunderbird and Rogue respond to the challenge and the race is on! Psylocke wins, despite Rogue thinking herself to be the better swimmer. Neal is lightly embarrassed, he came in last though he thought he was in good shape.

Psylocke says that Rogue is taking it rather well, but Logan already knows that Rogue is up to something. Indeed, she challenges the other two to a flying race back. Thunderbird doesn't want to race again, so it's up to Rogue and Psylocke! As the two ladies depart, Logan thinks that Psylocke has no chance to win this contest. Unfortunately he is again right, as Betsy is running out of steam. Her energy becomes spotty and broken, instead of it’s usual smooth wake, and she starts to fall. Watching from the shore, Piotr suggests Kurt teleport to save her, but Neal swoops in to catch her, thinking about how his life changed in recent months.

He can wield the nuclear forces of the sun itself and fly! These powers cost him dearly though; his friends, family, homeland, and the woman he loved. When he catches Betsy in his arms he thinks it may have been worth it. Neal asks whether Betsy is alright. She says yes, flirting with him at the same time, and he blushes. The other X-Men notice this. Rogue, however, berates them, saying that in a combat situation against the Neo or Magneto she doesn't want their powers flunking out. They need to be at their best, and they aren't. Betsy wonders who made her “the new Professor X“, but Rogue calmly responds that they did by making her team leader, and she doesn't tolerate no sass! The others mock salute her. Betsy is slightly annoyed, but Logan tells her that she, with her changed powers, and Neal are at the bottom of the learning curve, and that it's time to go back to school.

Neal notices something in the sky, and starts to ask Logan whether he sees it too when something crashes into the ground, causing an impact crater. Inside the crater is a battered Yuriko; she has no hair and the metallic parts of her skeleton and cybernetic implants are showing through her skin. Neal wonders whether it's anyone they know. Logan recognizes her, as they have a similar kind of skeleton, only she comes with the full load of accessories. Rogue assumes, under the circumstances, that she's here for their help. Piotr knows why, as he, Kurt and Betsy spot four Prime Sentinels flying in pursuit of her. "Take ‘em down, team," Rogue orders. "Fast as you can. Hard as you can!"

The Sentinels identify the group as the X-Men and execute their Prime Directive; which means they are all to be terminated! Piotr transforms instantly into the armored form of Colossus and orders his friends to get behind him as the Prime Sentinels fire their energy weapons. Although she is still lacking fine motor control of her new-found telekinesis, Betsy uses it against the Omega, thinking she can cut loose, however the robot deflects her attack back at her, knocking her into the ground. Kurt teleports in to kick at the confused Sentinel that Betsy left behind, but his blows of pinpoint accuracy have no effect. Piotr knows that they defeated them once, so they can defeat them again, and tries to hammer a Prime Sentinel that was once a female. She/it is too powerful, and with one blow sends Piotr flying like a rocket to smash into the boat house.

The Omega concludes that the X-Men are operating at less than rated capacity. There is no external or physiological reason for this, so he estimates it is because their adversaries know that they are an amalgamation of bionics and human systems and are holding back. Rogue confirms that they're trying to find a way to beat them without harming the people they used to be. Logan tells her that anything less than lethal force won‘t do the trick. Rogue won‘t accept that, and tries to absorb the abilities and consciousness of the Omega to know for sure what they are dealing with. Nothing happens – the Sentinel may be made of flesh and blood, but the cyborg half is dominant. She finds nothing; no humanity; no soul. The Omega tells her those are liabilities; that they were deleted upon their transformation. Rogue figures the people these Sentinels once were are now as good as dead; it would be kindness to put these folks out of their misery.

Neal takes this as his cue, and unleashes his raw solar plasma at full force at the unwary Prime Sentinels. That blast was the most powerful he's ever created, but he only manages to knock down one of them, and the remaining three adapt from the attack. Neal wonders how they can beat them. "The old fashioned way, boy," says Logan, thrusting his adamantium claws into the Omega Sentinel. However, it quickly starts to repair it's systems and targets Wolverine. As they fight, Logan considers the Sentinel's speed and armor, and compares it against his own unbreakable bones. However he also has a part of him that goes berserk, and screams at Thunderbird to cut loose, which he does. Logan's plan is to make holes in it's armor so Neal can fry the insides; he doesn't mind getting a little scorched in the way. He releases his rage to an extent that hasn't been unleashed so far, his only goal to take down this foe, even if he dies in the process.

Rogue senses the Prime Sentinel going into self destruct mode though, and flies in, grabs the cyborg and a second Sentinel before she flies them into the atmosphere. She slams the two robots into each other and they explode like a baby nuke. Rogue comes crashing to the ground like a comet, where the last Prime Sentinel identifies her as a new target, and picks up the surprised Rogue to kill her. Psylocke screams "Let her go!" Betsy wields her katana, composed of focused telekinetic energy. At first the Prime Sentinel ignores her, unaware that Betsy’s power is no longer telepathy, which would have no effect on robots. The Sentinel prepares to transform Rogue into a Prime; but Betsy jumps in, slicing off the Prime's arm, saving Rogue.

As the X-Men gather their wits, expecting a second wave of attackers, Logan asks Yuriko what is going on. He thought they'd settled their differences. She tells him that she would never employ surrogates to kill him. He thinks she's capable of anything. Yuriko takes that as a compliment, and tells them she is not their enemy. Forge enters, a gun trained at her, not convinced. She could hardly pose a threat in the shape the Prime Sentinels left her in, and then asks them for their help.

Later, in the sub-levels of the X-Mansion devoted to Forge's workshop, Betsy enters, wondering how anything can be done in this pigsty. She asks Dani Moonstar how she likes being Forge's new apprentice, and she answers that actually she likes it quite a lot. They are currently studying the trashed Prime Sentinels. Usually defeated Sentinels purge their memory core, but Betsy's sword generated an internal magnetic pulse that trashed all it's defensive protocols. Though the memory core too was damaged by the blade, they have enough left to work with.

While the others are studying, Kurt tells Betsy that Dani quit X-Force because she disagreed with their methods. Betsy understands that Kurt disagrees with her methods as well, and brings up that Rogue said the Sentinels were dead and sanctioned lethal force. Kurt wonders whether it would have made a difference. "The cyborg's life for Rogue's?" asks Betsy. The answer is of course Rogue, and she would have no doubt or remorse killing the Sentinels if another life is at stake. Betsy states that unlike Bastion, who transformed these poor souls, she has a conscience, and in the world's defense she will do whatever is necessary.

Meanwhile Logan, Tessa and Rogue visit Yuriko in her holding cell. Yuriko is surprised to see Tessa there, asking whether the X-Men have struck an alliance with her master. Tessa states that she has no master and explains that she has just returned to an earlier affiliation. Yuriko finds this fascinating. Rogue considers it ironic that Yuriko would throw stones when she's proposing just an alliance herself. Plus, redemption is an old tradition for the X-Men ."With you and Wolverine as prime examples," Lady Deathstrike counters. Rogue threatens to throw her out. Tessa believes to do that would be to condemn Yuriko to a fate worse than death; she can tell as much from analyzing Yuriko’s body language. Logan proclaims that all her internal weaponry makes her less than human, and that there's no difference between her and the Primes. Tessa tells him her soul is her own though; the rest is just packaging. Yuriko explains to them how someone, apparently Bastion, sent her a dedicated encryption code to transform her into a Prime. It failed. Then he tried to suborn her bionic systems. That failed too, because he failed to realize that she has prepared her systems for just such an attack. Yuriko came to the X-Men, allowing the Primes to pursue her, because she knew they had the power to defeat them. Rogue wants to know why they should help her at all. Yuriko’s reasoning is simple : Her enemy is their enemy, and besides they don't know how many Prime Sentinels there are in the world; what would happen to mutant kind if they were all activated at once?

In the Danger Room, Piotr finds Neal playing cricket. Neal calls it baseball for gentlemen. Neal is confused; there is so much to get used to be about this new life, and he's not sure he likes it. Suddenly the bowler transforms into a woman who Neal identifies as Karmina Shapandar, and bowls a bomb at them instead of a cricket ball! Piotr transforms into his body armor state and tells Neal to get behind him. Neal instead bats the bomb into the air where it explodes, then he freezes the simulation. Piotr asks who this woman was. He tells her she was the woman he loved; now an Omega Prime Sentinel. A part of him is sure that somewhere inside her is a love for him. This is the reason why he fled home; why he hides his name. His greatest fear is that he will one day have to use his awesome power to slay the woman who holds his heart.

Shortly afterwards, In the briefing room, the X-Men discuss what's to be done. Rogue figures Lady Deathstrike has a point; they don't know how many Prime Sentinels are out there. They barely survived their attacks last time, and the thought of the devastation they could cause gives her nightmares. Forge explains that the images that he retrieved from the memory processor of the Omega Prime confirms Deathstrike's story; that the triggering element was an email sent by Bastion. Tessa reminds them that Bastion was reported killed recently. "Yeah, like we've heard that one, sugar!" Rogue jokes. Forge however agrees with Tessa, this attack is uncharacteristic of Bastion. He'd be more likely to hit them with a thousand Sentinels. That means that someone else sent the emails; someone with access to Bastion's files and a knowledge of adamantium technology. Forge has found a common element to the Prime's civilian histories; they each received an all-expenses paid trip to a Caribbean resort in the last couple of years. In fact, the four that attacked them were present at the same time. What bothers Rogue is how Deathstrike managed to avoid those Sentinels; is she that good?

Deathstrike answers by waltzing into the room, having easily escaped the holding cells. Tessa thinks that maybe the Primes wanted Deathstrike to reach their doors; that she could be a trap. Colossus even suggests that she could even be a Prime Sentinels herself. Yuriko kneels in front of Logan, pledging her honor as both a daimo and oyabun that their will be peace between herself and the X-Men while this threat is dealt with. Should she be proven false she willingly offers her life to Logan. He says it's all just words, so Yuriko demands that Rogue touch her, to borrow her thoughts. Rogue tries to absorb her, but nothing happens. Yuriko is more bionic than human now, and Rogue's powers can only work on living materials. They have no proof that Yuriko is on their side.

Monkey River Town, Belize. Rogue and Yuriko are walking down a street in this tropical city, talking. Yuriko is surprised Rogue trusts her. Rogue explains that they have mutual interests; plus Charles Xavier took a chance on her, and she's willing to do the same for Yuriko. Yuriko thinks she is Rogue's pet project. They notice there's a lot of tourists for the off-season. Considering the way they are dressed, most of them look like they just upped and left their homes on a complete whim. Yuriko spots a man changing into a Prime Sentinel and warns Rogue, who quickly attaches an inhibitor module to the side of his head, saving him before the effects can fully take over. Yuriko was all for killing the man, but Rogue tells her it wasn't their fault that Bastion made them Primes, and they don't deserve to die for it. "You'd rather we take that risk instead?" Yuriko demands. "In a heartbeat," Rogue answers, as Lady Deathstrike turns nasty, grabbing her by the throat, pulling her into an alley, and slamming her against the wall. Rogue tells her this is her call, and if she doesn't like that then she can take a hike. "These creatures are the enemy!" Yuriko screams at her. Rogue tells her they are innocents, and until the metamorphosis is complete, they can be saved. They have to try anyway. Yuriko laughs at her ideals until Rogue turns the tables, grabbing her throat and slamming Deathstrike against the opposite wall. Rogue warns her not to grab her like that again, if she wants to keep her arm, then tells her that the X-Men aren't cops. They have no legal authority for what they do except for their own sense of morality and honor. That people think the worst of them already and they got to be better than the best. If Yuriko wants to work with them she has to work by their rules.

Rogue flies Yuriko up to the bell tower of a church, which forms the natural choke-point for the temple they're looking for. If things get hot, the bad guy will activate all the Primes to destroy them. Rogue tells Yuriko it's up to her to stop them. She says it will be her pleasure. Rogue tells her she's heard her story, about how she promised to avenge her Daddy's murder and somehow locked onto Wolverine as the cause. Rogue suggests that maybe she should let it drop. Yuriko says that as a Gaijin she knows nothing of honor, but Rogue does understand as her own hold to honor something fierce, and she can't help but be born a mutant, but the rest is hers to change, and Yuriko can do that too if she doesn't like the path she's taken. From here on it's up to her. Yuriko calls her a fool. Rogue can live with that. Yuriko never imagined that her life would lead her to this place, and fears she's lost everything of value. Rogue reminds her that she's alive, and free, and she can easily find what she's lost. It's that simple. Rogue flies off, and Yuriko wishes her good luck. "We're X-Men, Deathstrike. We make our own luck!" Rogue tells her.

Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Psylocke and Thunderbird are outside the temple, waiting. They have seen nothing strange so far. The only common element, Logan explains, is that every visitor who won a charter to the island spent a night at the temple. Nightcrawler thinks that they found out about it very easy, and Psylocke explains that Bastion saw no need to cover his tracks since he was certain that he could overwhelm any mutant force thrown against him. "What do we do then?" Thunderbird asks her. Psylocke tells him that just because Bastion was certain it doesn't make it so. Wolverine on the other hand is sure this isn't Bastion though. The modus operandi is Bastion's, but the grace is all wrong. But is that good news or bad that Bastion isn't behind this, Kurt wonders. Logan spots Rogue on the move, and Nightcrawler jumps onto Psylocke's back, and they teleport away.

High above the temple Rogue is hovering in the air, carrying Colossus. He curls himself into a cannonball and with his companion dives into the temple's ceiling, crashing through, making a small impact crater in the floor. They've hit pay dirt; they can see computer monitors and technology all over the place. On one of the monitors they see the locking code for the Primes. It looks as though someone is working through the encryption keys, and are nearing completion. Colossus thinks gaining entry to the temple was too easy. There was no force fields; no secondary defenses of any kind. Just the native stone of the temple itself. "What need for such toys..." says a sinister voice in the shadows. "...when a man can fulfil that task supremely well himself?" Suddenly a force of lightening strikes out as Rogue, the voice proclaiming her as less than nothing!

In town Lady Deathstrike watches from the church bell tower. Prime Sentinel transformations start to occur, but they are scattershot and incomplete, as if the catalyst code was missing crucial elements. She knows she could decapitate them with her adamantium claws with ease, but she has bound herself to Rogue's ideals now. The half-transformed Sentinels see her, and identify her as a mutant. One of them cries in terror as his new bionic arm fires at Deathstrike, and she sees the genuine fear in him and hopes Bastion rots in hell for what he's done. She jumps down from the tower, a massive gun in hand, and blasts at the Primes. The gun Forge has given her generates a localized electro-magnetic pulse that scrambles the Sentinel's command net. It is non-lethal, but totally incapacitating. She hopes there's enough charges though, as the Sentinels just keep on coming.

Outside the temple Psylocke can hear the battle inside, and knows Rogue and Colossus need their help desperately. Nightcrawler tells her not to go yet, as they were left behind on purpose. This is not the moment for instinctive reactions, they have purely human skills the others do not possess, and today they will be tested to their ultimate. Psylocke tells him that one false move and the consequences will be terrible; but she is up to this challenge. If only she still had her ability to teleport between shadows they could use that to surprise their opponent. Nightcrawler thinks that their foe might know of that talent and use it against her; he tells her they have to do it the hard way, using only skills instead of their powers, and they have to keep their thoughts so tightly closed that not even Xavier could detect them. Betsy agrees.

Thunderbird and Wolverine, creeping along the temple corridors, hear everything fall quiet, and hope the fighting has stopped. Wolverine recognizes their enemy though, even if Thunderbird does not. Their enemy smirks, and talks, with an unconscious Rogue grasped in his hand: "Please, Wolverine, allow me to introduce myself to the latest fool to chase Xavier's dream. I am Stryfe!" He dares Wolverine to do better than Rogue so he can perish by his hands; or he can run and be killed by the Prime Sentinels he's about to activate. It's up to him. Wolverine charges at him, his claws out. Stryfe is impressed by Wolverine's raw and untamed ferocity, but his claws cannot cut through his telekinetic force-field. Stryfe wonders if he can cope with everyone of his body's cells being completely obliterated. Wolverine tells him to go to blazes. Stryfe mocks his enemy‘s use of language, and tells Logan that he will beg to make his death quick. Suddenly Colossus smashes in, throwing a huge block of stone at his enemy, screaming at Stryfe, telling him that the X-Men will not be beaten. Stryfe has beaten them once though, and he will again, and he wont accept their surrender, only their death. Stryfe bats the block away with his telekinesis. Stryfe tells them exactly how he did it; he read Colossus' mind and knew his strategies. Wolverine charges at Stryfe, claws out, but nearly impales Colossus when Stryfe, knowing what is to come, puts the Russian X-Men in the way. Colossus wonders how they can beat such an enemy.

Back in town, Lady Deathstrike is blasting at one Sentinel after another, but they just keep on coming. The worst of it is that physically they are little more than puppets, but emotionally they remain mostly human. The Sentinels don't realize she's not shooting to kill, and they cry and they beg and they curse and they scream. Those noises, she thinks, will haunt her to her grave. As she is forced to retreat further and further back she realizes she is being herded in the direction of the temple.

Inside, Stryfe says it's only a matter of time before he will get his hands on Lady Deathstrike, which is when the real fireworks will begin. Thunderbird tells him to release Rogue or he'll fire. Stryfe finds his threats admirable, but he casts a telekinetic wave over them that paralyses them on the spot. He delves into Thunderbird's mind, realizing that Neal is afraid to take a life. He finds it quite easy, and offers to demonstrate by making Neal fire his plasma bolts on his friends. Wolverine and Colossus try to escape his telekinetic hold, but can't.

Nightcrawler and Psylocke watch from an alcove near the ceiling. She wants to help them, but Kurt tells her to stick to the plan, as they'll have only one shot at Stryfe. Below them, Stryfe notices Lady Deathstrike lurking in the shadows, and telekinetically pulls her out. He tells Yuriko that Bastion designed her bionic implants, and tucked away in the recesses of her memory the catalyst codes for the Primes. Without her the Primes can only be activated piece-meal; but with her he'll have access to an instant cyborg army that will wipe out every mutant on Earth. "I'll die before I give that to you!" Deathstrike screams. It's too late though; the catalyst has been activated! To Stryfe’s surprise, the program ends as quickly as it's been started; Nightcrawler has pulled out the plug. Stryfe attacks him with a psychic blast, and the fuzzy elf uses his acrobatic skills to evade the blasts. Stryfe knows "the gargoyle" will tire eventually, and then he'll be his.

Suddenly Psylocke is there. Stryfe can't sense her properly, as he trusts more on his telepathy than his eyes to perceive the world around him, and Betsy has locked down her own thoughts tight. Psylocke slashes him across the chest with her psychic katana, making a mess of his nervous system, allowing Wolverine to get in there with his claws; then for Rogue to give him one of her tough punches. As she lays into him more, Stryfe utters the words "Give my regards to Cable" and vanishes. The X-Men are in shock at their enemy getting away. Rogue muses that Stryfe had to have some kind of automatic escape system, set up to yank him out of major trouble. Wolverine tells them that next time they'll know better. "So will he," says Rogue gravely. Nightcrawler does remind them that, despite the fact that Stryfe got away, they did win. He thinks they should enjoy their victory

Somewhat later, the X-Men are celebrating on the beach of Belize, though Rogue is lost in her thoughts.
Psylocke tries to cheer her up. All the Prime Sentinels have reverted back to normal and are on their way home with no memory of what happened, and they are in the process of mutating the source codes so that they can never be activated wholesale ever again. Plus they sent Stryfe packing, which Betsy thinks is not such a bad day's work. Rogue asks Logan whether they made any difference in Lady Deathstrike. "She ain’t tried to kill me once. I'd call that a start," says Logan. He tells Rogue that the real fight that mattered here was Yuriko; saving the soul of an irredeemable hard case, that's the dream. It's why Charley founded this outfit. He tells Rogue, their leader, to learn from the mistakes she made today, but she's got no call to be ashamed. "You should be proud," he tells her. "Because we're all proud of you. You did good!!"

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Forge, Moonstar, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Rogue, Tessa, Thunderbird III, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Lady Deathstrike
Prime Sentinels

On computer screen :

Story Notes: 

The placing of the Annual is difficult. As Rogue is already team leader, it can’t be set before X-Men (2nd series) #103, and the issues afterwards form a tight storyline. The best way seems to be in between X-Men (2nd series) #103, right after the election, before the X-Men encounter the Goth.

Deathstrike and Wolverine "buried the hatchet" (so to speak) in Wolverine (2nd series) #114. She would still later try and kill him in subsequent issues.

Despite both of them have been X-Men for years, Nightcrawler and Psylocke were never full members at the same time until recently. This somewhat explains their argument about different methods.

The origin of Thunderbird III / Neal Shaara, and the revelation of his lover being a Prime Sentinel can be found in X-Men Unlimited #27.

It is unknown who or what screwed up Neal’s Danger Room simulation.

Bastion was reported slain in Astonishing X-Men (2nd series) #2.

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