X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #22

Issue Date: 
March 1999
Story Title: 
Cat & Mouse

Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Patrick Gleason (penciler), Tom Nguyen (inker), Matt Webb (colors), Comicraft (letters), Frank Pittarese (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

After teasing the beautiful Kitty Pryde with a dead rat, Marrow lets slip that she has seen some terrorists in the subways underneath New York City. The X-Men question her before deciding they can’t sit back and do nothing, especially after Logan theorizes that Flag-Smasher and Ultimatum are probably to blame. Storm splits the X-Men into teams, one team will head for the tracks whilst the other goes and checks the underground. While Storm and Rogue fly to New York carrying Gambit and Colossus, Marrow, Kitty, Wolverine and Nightcrawler head into the city on an old garbage sweeper train, using Marrow’s stolen radios to communicate with each other. Marrow has a chip on her shoulder about humans and taunts Kitty about her beauty and being able to fit in with ‘the fleshbags’. Kitty hates this accusation and tries arguing her point in return. Reaching the place where Marrow saw the terrorists, Marrow is paired with Kurt before Kitty asks if she can go with her instead, which more than surprises her after their earlier confrontation. They check one track while Kurt and Logan check the other, where they run into some Ultimatum, troops and engage in a short fight. They escape the battle but Logan has wounds that need time to recover from. Colossus and Rogue meanwhile split up from the others in their team and followed a suspicious group of men aboard a train. Indeed they too are part of Ultimatum, but the two X-Men easily win the fight, being bulletproof and all. Kitty and Marrow finally arrive on the train where the bomb they are searching for is located but are taken captive by some Ultimatum goons. Luckily, they are saved by Storm and Gambit who help them rout their captors. The others arrive shortly after and have to decide what to do about the bomb which is set to blow up beneath the United Nations. Marrow realizes something is wrong with the situation and heads off, followed by Shadowcat. They discover that Flag-Smasher, Ultimatum’s leader has another bomb beneath Wall Street, the financial center of New York, the other simply being a decoy and so Marrow decides to attack him, helped by Kitty who smashes him in the face. Kitty is ready to sacrifice her life and phase the bomb underground but Marrow isn’t going to allow that and knocks her unconscious. She then stabs Flag-Smasher and tells him that he can defuse the bomb or die with it. She takes Kitty away who wakes up soon after, angry at Marrow’s behavior. The bomb doesn’t blow up though, proving Marrow’s ideas about humans to be correct, even if her methods are a little unorthodox.

Full Summary: 

Kitty Pryde is sound asleep clutching her teddy bear, a photograph of some of her friends sitting beside her on her bedside table. Watching her is Marrow. She remembers the first time she saw what a human looked like, when a paperback romantic novel with a lurid painted cover floated into the sewers where she lived. Kitty reminds her of the people in the picture; so beautiful. She notices her chestnut hair, as always falling perfectly over her flawless complexion. She thinks about her hazel eyes which she can never hide for long and sees her supple red lips which stay open just a little as she sleeps. There is no question, Marrow thinks, she deserves what comes next.

A dead rat lands with a ‘thwap’ on the teddy’s face. Kitty hazily hears the noise and opens her sleepy eyes, only to realize that a dead, bloody rat is only centimeters from her face. She yells Marrow’s name furiously as Marrow, crouching on her dressing table, tells her it is a gift as she looks like she’s put on weight recently and thought she might be fattening herself up for the winter. Wearing S.H.I.E.L.D. boxer shorts and a Dazzler world tour ’87 T-shirt, Kitty switches on her lamp and tells Marrow that today is the day she dies.

Crossing the room, Kitty phases her hand into Marrow’s head and says that assuming she has one, she’s going to phase her brain right out of her thick skull and eat it for breakfast. Marrow is unimpressed, telling her she doesn’t have the guts, and in any case, if she wants something to eat there are plenty more where this came from, waving the dead rat by its tail at Kitty. Kitty retreats, disgusted and stands at her window saying that if she’s that desperate for attention why doesn’t she go and show her pets to Gambit. There are also Steak-Ums in the fridge, as Earthlings get their supper from places other than sewers. Picking something from her teeth with a small bone, Marrow replies that these aren’t sewer rats, they’re subway rats. She also mentions that plenty of people hang out in the tunnels at night; “Homeless guys, construction workers, terrorists planting explosives…” Kitty turns and looks at Marrow inquisitively upon hearing the latter.

Shortly after, the X-Men are gathered in the mansion’s kitchen. Colossus, Rogue and Storm are still in casual or night clothes whilst Nightcrawler and Gambit are both already in uniform. Marrow is seated at the table, hands propping up her chin as her team-mates question her about what she said to Kitty. Marrow thinks about when she used to live in the tunnels underneath New York. Now that she lives in the mansion above it, she misses the sewers. Everybody always overreacts in this house. “What’s the big deal?” Marrow asks. She explains to them that while she was shopping for groceries, she watched a guy in a cape and a bunch of goons in ugly berets loading something like a bomb onto a train. They were going on about “uniting the globe” or something but took off before they spotted her. “Who cares?” she asks again, “This isn’t a problem for us.”

Kurt says it sounds far-fetched and asks why they should believe any of it. Colossus agrees, and adds that the little one might just be crying wolf for attention. Storm defends her though and points out that as Marrow is an X-Man, they should trust that what she says is the truth. As they speak, Marrow provides a mental rundown of what she thinks about her new cohorts. She thinks Nightcrawler is obnoxious; his power being teleporting and stinking. She calls Colossus a big hunk of communism, a leftover from a Euro team of rejects called Excalibur. She doesn’t know what to make of Gambit just yet but knows Storm all too well as she once had her heart ripped out by her. She’s gotten over it. Rogue she calls Miss Georgia.

Standing in the doorway sipping a hot drink, Rogue says that guys in berets don’t sound like anyone she remembers tangling with in the past. She asks where Logan is as he is the shadowy government type. Assuming what Marrow’s telling them is true, maybe he would know which bunch of terrorists this could be. As she speaks, a cigar is lit in the darkness behind her and just as she takes another sip, Logan says, “Sounds like a group named Ultimatum to me.” Rogue splutters her drink out, more than surprised at Logan’s sudden appearance.

Logan continues that they’re a troop of hate-mongers led by a cape wearing lug named Flag-Smasher. He thought they’d been shut down but he’s been out of the international espionage scene for a spell. He adds that if Marrow really did see a bomb, he can guarantee that they plan on using it and unfortunately he thinks she’s telling the truth. Marrow thinks how smug Wolverine is, and wishes she was lying just so she could prove him wrong for once.

Kitty agrees with Marrow that this does seem a little out of their jurisdiction and wonders if they should maybe call the Avengers or at least, the transit cops. Logan reminds her that they’re outlaws and whatever standing they had with the Avengers was lost when Beast took off for the hills. He suspects the law will have more trouble believing Marrow than they did. Storm agrees with Wolverine and says they have a responsibility to protect all life, and thinks that maybe they have become too reactive lately. Marrow taunts her, telling her that she hopes she doesn’t get lost in the 237 miles of Manhattan subway tracks, and wonders how her claustrophobia will cope when the tunnels shrink to just three-feet. Kitty turns to her and is about to launch a verbal attack but Ororo stops her and says they need a united team for this. She adds that Marrow knows the tunnels better than anyone. She will lead a team on board the subways themselves and Kurt will take the others through the actual tunnels. Marrow however will coordinate their movements. Surprised at the suggestion, and Storm’s faith in her she asks, “I will?”

Before long, as the full moon lights up the city streets, the X-Men make their way to the subway. Storm splits them into teams; she and Rogue will fly Piotr and Remy ahead to the subways while Kurt takes Wolverine, Marrow and Kitty to the underground. Marrow slings an arm round Kitty’s shoulders and says, “Hey, can we be buddies!” Kitty looks to the floor in mock desperation and asks if she can be on the other team. Hanging from a leafless tree, Kurt tells Ororo that he trusts her judgement but how does she propose they keep in touch with each other. Didn’t Bastion steal their communication equipment? Marrow had thought this through, and shows them a few walkie-talkies she had boosted from some maintenance guys in the tunnels. “Boosted?” asks Storm; “You stole radios?” adds Gambit. Marrow replies, “Gimme a break, I’m gonna get lectured on taking things that aren’t mine by a pickpocket and a member of the Thieves Guild?” Neither Ororo nor Remy have any kind of coherent response for that.

Fifteen minutes later and Marrow is finally home, wading through the tunnels carrying a flaming torch to light the way with Kurt, Kitty and Logan following her. Logan asks how it is that she gets back and forth between Westchester and Manhattan so quickly and Marrow says she’s glad he asked. The short cuts she learned with the Morlocks are some help but if you really want to move down there, you need a train. Her torch lights up an old garbage sweeper train. She tells them it isn’t too fast but it’ll get them into the city quicker than, “the elf’s puke-coaster.” Kurt is mildly offended by the description of his teleporting prowess. Kitty looks at the rusting, dilapidated train carriage and says that a few years ago, they traveled the globe in the finest sonic jets and now they creep around in a stolen trash train. She appreciates the irony. Marrow plays driver, holding a lever as she says, “All aboard the X-Press train kiddies!”

Nightcrawler radios Storm and informs her that the tunnel team is on the move and asks her if she’s reached her destination yet. She replies that she can barely hear her but copies. Her team has arrived at the station closest to where Marrow saw Flag-Smasher and his men. Colossus (not currently armored up) opens a large street map and Rogue tells him it’s nice; if the terrorists don’t kill them the locals probably will. Storm tells Kurt that as per Marrow’s suggestion, they’ll split up at Times Square and inspect the interiors of as many cars as they can and then ends the call. Rogue asks Gambit why he has a long face. He tells her that he hates these tunnels. He didn’t know the Marauders would massacre the Morlocks when he led them down there but that’s no break for his conscience. He adds that he’d rather be anywhere in the world right now but this is the least he owes Marrow. He helped take away the girl’s family and he’ll never forgive himself for it.

They get through the barriers using Metrocards, something Colossus has never used before, having lived in Scotland for a while. Marrow then calls them back and tells them to turn off their radio (accidentally left on) and get to work on the trains. Kurt adds that is all from his team and wishes them luck finding the explosives, adding that they’ll sweep the tunnels for the men who planted it. Kitty wonders what they hope to gain from blowing up a subway car anyway, and Wolverine replies that he suspects that it’s not the trains they wish to blow up, but what’s above them. Flag-Smasher and his Ultimatum boys don’t take too kindly to any symbol of national pride and unfortunately, New York has its fair share of those.

Marrow is disparaging of the human race in general, asking why should they care what they blow up? For once this isn’t a mutant problem, it’s just between humans and they should let the meatbags thin their herd out a little. Kurt is amazed, and asks her if she actually believes what comes out of her mouth. He cannot accept that she’s learned so little after all her time with the X-Men. Kitty is about to question Marrow’s idiosyncrasies before the train screeches to a halt and Marrow says, “Last stop, Terroristville. Everybody off.”

Lights arc around the tunnel ahead of them as Marrow explains that this is where she saw them load the bomb onto the train and they must have taken it from there down the two or five line. After that they could have gone anywhere. Now prepared for action, Wolverine replies that whichever tunnel they find with berets keeping guard in will at least point them in the right direction of where the bomb went. Kurt agrees and splits the four into two pairs; he and Marrow taking the five line and Wolverine accompanying Shadowcat in the other. Kitty, to Marrow’s surprise, asks if she can join Marrow instead, as she hates to split up him and his drinking buddy. Kurt is okay with this and tells her to stay in touch via radio and call him the moment they see anything. As the two teams head off down adjoining tunnels, they are watched from the shadows by the masked Flag-Smasher.

After splitting up at Times Square, Storm and Gambit checked three trains and apart from an adolescent who tried appropriating Gambit’s wallet, they’d found nothing out of the ordinary. Gambit stands near her, holding said adolescent who is now unconscious having learned a valuable lesson. She asks Colossus by radio what their status is. He replies that he and Rogue are with a large group of men who boarded a seven train. There was nothing going on but it seems suspicious to them at this late hour. Kurt uses his radio to tell Piotr to stay on it while he and Wolverine work their way down the two line and see if there are any undesirables on their tracks. Wolverine meanwhile smells M1 grease, the kind they use on machine guns.

Marrow and Kitty by this point have checked much of track five and found nothing. She informs her team-mates by radio that she and Kitty will meet them at Grand Central. Kitty appears impressed that Marrow finally seems to be learning how to play with the rest of the boys and girls. They continue their journey. Marrow says she doesn’t know what Kitty is trying to prove by coming with her but it’s not going to work. She replies that she’s not trying to prove anything. She tells Marrow that she isn’t the first new girl in this club. Jubilee filled the role before her and she herself was around before Jubilee. She adds, “Maybe she and I were young and naïve, but the X-Men helped them believe that humans and mutants could live together. I know you’re not convinced and I’m wondering why..why I can’t give you what they gave to me. I’m just trying to understand you.” Marrow, with a small bone protruding from her nose replies that a beautiful girl like her would never understand. Kitty’s eyes flick towards Marrow and she says, “What did you say?”

Meanwhile, Wolverine spots about a dozen Ultimatum troops, holding heavy duty weapons and all dressed in a similar fashion; berets, sunglasses, big boots. He shushes Nightcrawler, points them out and he realizes what the hats mean. They now know Marrow was telling the truth and Kurt is telling Wolverine that there might be more close by and it’s probably better if they handle this subtly. Unfortunately, Colossus takes this inopportune moment to contact them and his voice comes over the radio, telling them they may have trouble back there. Before they have time to worry about Piotr’s plight, they decide to attack before they are attacked themselves. Wolverine, in his traditional yellow and blue outfit and Nightcrawler, teleporting effortlessly through the tunnels wade into the troops, Wolverine slashing the chest of one as Kurt cartwheels between bullets. “So much for subtlety,” cries Nightcrawler.

Kitty and Marrow are still wandering through their tunnel, continuing their conversation. Marrow tells her that she heard her. She can’t understand the way she sees humans because she’s so pretty herself. She grew up with them and thinks like them, she even looks like them. She adds that she fits in with the beautiful fleshbags and they’ve blinded her to what they truly are. Kitty becomes angry at the accusation and shoves Marrow against the concrete wall, breaking a few splinters from the bones protruding from her back. “How dare you?” she cries, “You think I had it easy just because I look human? I’ve watched my friends die at their hands you presumptuous little Morlock.” She continues to say that she should get over her obsession with beauty and despite thinking that because she doesn’t look like the humans, it gives her the right to hate them, she isn’t as ugly as she thinks. Before she actually says Marrow is beautiful, she is pushed away as Marrow tells her not to say it, not another syllable and to save her hollow words for the next girl.

Breaking the tension temporarily, the radio crackles into life and Kurt’s voice is heard amidst a barrage of gunfire noise telling them they have a situation there. He continues to say that the Ultimatum troops have found them and there are at least ten of them on the track around the corner. He and Wolverine took on as many as they could but Wolverine is injured so they retreated onto to line seven. As he speaks, hiding in the shadows, Logan holds onto Kurt, arm around the shoulder as his other hand stems the bleeding coming from his stomach. His healing factor will take care of that but for the time being he is too weak to fight.

More radio communication comes from Ororo who tells Kurt her radio is dying on her and asks again if it was line seven they are on. She gets no reply but Gambit mentions that didn’t somebody say there were trains running on that line? Colossus, as mentioned earlier, does indeed have trouble there as he and Rogue have a gun pointed at them by an Ultimatum goon. He tells him to put the radio down if he wants to live, but calls him civilian as Piotr isn’t armored up at the moment. Before he does, Piotr manages to tell his team-mates that they are on the Brooklyn-bound seven. Kitty and Marrow hear this message and Kitty says that sounds like their bomb train, and they should head off. “What about the German?” Marrow asks.

Kurt and Logan are walking down track seven, Logan still holding on for support. He replies to Marrow’s query, telling her they’ll be fine as Ultimatum appear to have backed away from their tracks for some reason. “Uh…elf?” Wolverine says as their backs begin to light up. Kurt turns and sees the problem; a train is heading straight for them. Logan tells him they’d better teleport out of there but Kurt, a little panic setting in now tells him he cannot teleport blindly as they might materialize within a brick foundation. Logan says that he should teleport past the train then but Kurt replies by asking, “How long is it? If I undershoot we’re dead, but if I overshoot I may put us right in front of another train!” As the train lights become so bright that they just become silhouettes, Logan tries to work out how long each carriage is providing there are nine cars to a train. Kurt flicks on the radio and asks if anyone knows how long “Ein verdammter train ist?” but Wolverine realizes the futility in this and is about to tell him to just jump before we cut back to Storm and Gambit who has his ear to the failing radio. “Well?” asks Storm. “I don’t know, all I heard was a bamf” replies Remy.

Back with the two youngsters, Marrow thinks that Flag-Smasher would be flying at half-mast by now if she weren’t weighed down with pathetic amateurs. Kitty makes her as uncomfortable in her own tunnels as she usually does upworld. Kitty asks how long it will take to reach line seven and Marrow tells her too long, about an hour and a half. Kitty asks, what if they go through the lines. Marrow knows the inevitable phase is about to happen and covers her face in dread. Kitty radios Storm and informs her that if she can hear her, she and Marrow will be phasing through the tunnels and won’t be able to make radio contact. If she can make out this message she should go to the seven line immediately. She then holds her hand out to Marrow, asking her to take it.

Apparently Colossus didn’t take kindly to having a gun aimed at his face and is now armored up and standing alongside Rogue, routing the assailants who were unfortunate enough to pick on them. Holding one in each arm as bullets bounce off his steely hide, often through the train’s windows, Rogue who is also pretty much bulletproof holds a couple more and tells him there’s something happening on the tracks. She looks outside and notices Nightcrawler and Wolverine appear in a swirl of smoke, Kurt unable to believe they made it. Wolverine says they could have cut it closer but is distracted by bullets flying past them via the train they just avoided. They turn to see an Ultimatum troop hanging from the back window and Logan says that’s their train and asks Kurt, even though he knows it’s a strain to get them on board.

Kitty and Marrow are making their way quickly between tunnels, through train carriages (which surprises the commuters on board) and despite Marrow’s objections that she can’t take any more, they end up on a train on the seven line. Marrow tells her it’s going in the wrong direction but Kitty says, “I know. Ever seen the movie Ghost?” Marrow replies that romances make her want to kill herself before they jumps between that train and the one travelling in the opposite direction, arriving on the train carrying the bomb with a bump. Unfortunately, several Ultimatum troops, again with berets, shades and big guns are guarding it and aim their weapons at the two X-Men. The bomb itself is of the peculiar hi-tech variety, complete with twin chambers filled with a green liquid and a computer keyboard. Any second now, Marrow thinks, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and the rest will come smashing through the door…..any second now. With no rescue forthcoming, the pair of them raise their hands in surrender.

Kurt meanwhile is outstretched on the floor of the carriage Rogue and Colossus made their battleground. He is winded from teleporting himself and Wolverine on board and Rogue asks him what happened. Logan tells her he is fine as his healing factor has already taken care of his gut wound but the elf is hurting from the stress of the jump and rhetorically asks whether they practiced teleporting whilst with Excalibur across the pond. Piotr is about to argue with this statement but they are interrupted by the radio which crackles into life as they are told that the bomb is on the front car of the train. Colossus says there are hundreds of armed men between their car and the bomb to which Logan replies, “Only hundreds?” He pops his claws as Colossus readies his steel fists. “Let’s get to work,” says Rogue.

Marrow meanwhile is still hoping for a rescue from the front of the train but is pleasantly surprised when Storm and Gambit come tearing through the rear. Storm hurls a couple of troops away with her wind blast thanking Shadowcat for her message and apologizing for their lateness. Gambit notices an attacker about to strike and calls for Marrow but she is already on the case and tosses one of her bone daggers clean through their opponent’s hand, making him drop the knife he is carrying. Remy reaches to his inside jacket pocket, only to realize that his pack of cards has been stolen by the pickpocket he dealt with earlier. Thinking quickly though, he grabs the Metrocard he used earlier and charges is up, destroying another attacker’s machine gun upon impact. Marrow smiles and says she owes him, but Gambit, feeling guilty about his actions in the Morlock Massacre says, “Chere, you don’t owe me a thing.”

Suddenly, from the opposite side of the carriage, Colossus tears a new doorway and he, Rogue and the two less healthy members of the team enter, ready for action. They find however, that their work has already been done, as the other four stand around several unconscious Ultimatum troops, some discarded weaponry and a whole lot of debris. Rogue asks if they are late but Ororo says it isn’t over yet; they still have a bomb to take care of and Ultimatum’s conductor is out cold. She trusts no-one there is qualified to drive a subway train. Marrow points out that the plantation princess (Rogue) can simply pluck out the instructions from the driver’s memories and learn how to stop it, right? Rogue replies that is only a last resort, and they still have one more resort to visit. She flies out of the train and puts herself on the track, bringing the entire train to halt using her strength. Show off, thinks Marrow.

Rogue doesn’t take all the credit for stopping the train as it was already slowing after hitting a red switch. She says the Ultimatum boys wanted it to stop there. Piotr wonders why and asks where they are. Marrow tells him that they are towards the end of the underground sections of the seven, just shy of the East River, 42nd and 1st Avenue she guesses. She reckons it looks like they plan on taking out a few city blocks with the bomb and asks if there’s anything there worth blowing up. “Aw nuts,” says Wolverine, “The U.N. building.” Standing around the bomb, Ororo looks contemplative as Marrow leans against a pole thinking something isn’t quite right here. The others discuss their options; getting the bomb away from there, defusing it, asking each other whether it is nuclear or chemical when Marrow leaps from the train and says, “Nuts to this. You guys are just doing what the meatbags want you to do.” Kitty thinks she’s gone crazy and tells the team she will follow and ensure she doesn’t get herself killed and shouts to Marrow to wait up.

Phasing through a wall to cut Marrow off, she asks her what she’s afraid of. Marrow sprints towards her and straight through her without a thought, replying that she’s not afraid of anything; she’s just playing hero like everyone wants her to and she is going to find the real bomb. “The real bomb?” Kitty says. Marrow stops running and turns to Kitty. She says she has read a few books, and isn’t as stupid as Kitty would like to think. She asks her why would a guy who wants one united world blow up a place that’s trying to do the same thing. She then says, “Come on girlie, you know what all flatscans are really interested in.” Kitty asks her what that is and she replies, “Money!”

Beginning her sprint again and using her bones to help propel her along the tunnels by digging them into the side of the train, Marrow is convinced she is right. They discuss their ideas about humans. Kitty questions her, asking if she thinks she understands humans better that the other X-Men who’ve been surrounded by them their whole lives. Marrow replies that it is because she hasn’t spent her whole life around them that she does. Kitty sarcastically says ‘that’ makes sense. Marrow tells her it does, as she can’t see the forest for the trees. When you live your whole life apart from something like she did, you get perspective. She got to see humans for what they really are. “Whatever,” replies Kitty, “So what are we doing now, o judge of humanity?” Following the money she tells Kitty, and adds that they are underneath the place where all the suits buy and sell stuff all day. “You mean Wall Street?” asks Kitty. Marrow places her finger to her own lips and tells her to shush, and to take a good look at human nature.

Sure enough, Marrow is bang on the money, as they peer from the shadows to see Flag-Smasher, resplendent in mask, costume and flowing red cape with his hands on a different bomb altogether. Kitty thinks he looks like Space Ghost. “Enter: Our reclusive criminal mastermind,” says Marrow. Before Shadowcat can stop her impetuous team-mate, Marrow is leaping forward toward their foe, saying that he’s a typical human; unable to trust his goons to do the job and having to do it himself. Confidently, Marrow flips herself high into the air, a bone dagger poised to strike in each hand as she shouts, “Hey, Flag-Smasher, meet Face-Smasher!” Instinctively, Flag-Smasher whips around and catches Marrow full in the mouth with his club, sending blood and bone splattering into the air. “A pleasure,” he replies.

He recognizes her as being one of the mutant ‘heroes’ he saw earlier and thought his decoy bomb would keep her occupied, commending her on finding him whilst raising his club for a killing blow but sadly he says, her kind are not welcome in his united globe and brings his club down with all his force. Marrow cringes but doesn’t feel a thing, raising her arms in case of a follow-up attack. She needn’t worry however, as Kitty has phased him, making them both intangible. Flag-Smasher turns to see the much smaller woman behind him, just in time to see her deliver a fantastically punishing heel-kick into his smug, deluded face. He is knocked clear off the ground and comes to a rest against his bomb which is a little different to the decoy. Marrow asks Kitty if old man Logan taught her that move as her follow through was weak. Kitty tells her, “Right, wish I could fight like you kid.”

Kitty taunts Flag-Smasher, telling him he is bush-league and she took care of tougher Joes when she was thirteen. She adds her congratulations on being a part of the shortest X-Men fight ever. Flag-Smasher wipes a river of blood coming from his mask-covered nose and tells them that he’s already won; there’s no way to deactivate his real weapon. In ten minutes, the stock exchange will be ashes and the American dollar will be crippled. He’ll bring the world one step closer to adopting a single, global currency. “Money, what I tell ya!” Marrow says to Kitty and pointing her bone dagger at Flag-Smasher’s face, she tells him to defuse it now or she’ll start carving out his organs in alphabetical order. Kitty is more concerned though and says he’s serious, and that psychos like him are always willing to die for their stupid beliefs. She says there’s only one chance, and unless she does something, thousands of men and women could die.

Marrow doesn’t care. She replies that this guy can deactivate it. Flatscans are selfish and won’t give their lives for anything. Kitty is thinking about how to save the day and says that if she phases part of the bomb it may set it off. She’ll have to phase the whole thing and wait for it to explode. She doesn’t know what will happen, she doesn’t know if it’ll even work. She says she’d better phase it as far underground as she can and either way, she’s punching out today. Marrow however isn’t going to see her new friend sacrifice herself needlessly and before Kitty can touch the bomb she whacks her over the head with one of her bones, knocking Kitty unconscious.

Flag-Smasher is horrified. Marrow stands before him as he asks her what she’s doing. He knows by the look in her eye that he’s in trouble now as Marrow tells him she thought they needed time alone. She sits on him and slips her bone dagger underneath his mask, telling him it looks stupid; he’s a child. He tells her through gritted teeth, “You don’t scare me. You filthy mutant. You’re just…” Before he finishes his sentence, his mask is torn away from his face and Marrow holds him by the neck, telling him she thought so. This is why he hides his face. He has a chiseled beauty and he knows he doesn’t deserve it. Nervously, the young man says, “Aren’t you, aren’t you going to get us out of here; the bomb?” She stands before him and tells him he isn’t going anywhere and quickly brings her dagger down on him with a sickening ‘shunk’ as it pierces his shoulder, deep, which causes blood to flow freely from it. “Ouch,” she says, “That’s in deep. Looks like you’re staying here with your toy, pal. You can defuse the bomb if you know how. I don’t care. Kill as many fleshbags as you want, I won’t lose my sleep.” Struggling to remove the dagger, he replies that she’s supposed to be a hero. She tells him, “Says who human? I’m just another ugly mutant looking out for my own. Later pretty boy.” Flag-Smasher cries out as she fades away into the darkness, carrying Kitty.

Five minutes later, according to Marrow, Kitty is thanking her profusely for saving her life. “You self-centered moron!” Kitty says as she wakes up, holding her aching skull as she lies between a set of tracks, “You just left him there! Innocent people are going to die because of you. We have to go back and…” Marrow cuts in telling her there’s no time as the bomb’s set to go off in thirty seconds. She is confident he‘ll defuse it but Kitty says he won’t. She doesn’t know a thing about humans. Marrow counts down from five and the detonation time passes without incident. Marrow is fairly smug but Kitty just tells her she is a stupid, lucky sewer-rat before suddenly having some sort of seizure and passing out. Marrow looks more than concerned as her face is lit up by an approaching train. They are in the middle of the track and she shakes Kitty to try and wake her, telling her they have to go untouchable. She pleads for her to wake as the lights get closer and closer, and as the lights are within a few yards, she tells Kitty she’s sorry, so sorry. As the train’s brakes slam on and the wheels screech along the tracks, Wolverine’s hand is offered from trackside and he says, “Come on girl, let’s go home.”

With the trouble over, the eight X-Men sit atop the garbage sweeper train, silent and thoughtful. Marrow sits apart from them with Kitty asleep on her lap, her bones arcing from her back and others protruding through several parts of her body and thinks, ‘Look at all the pretty people. They played at being heroes today; did everything they could until the decoy bomb harmlessly fizzled out. I used to live with ugly people in the tunnels but that was a long time ago. Kitty still looks beautiful; her chestnut hair, those hazel eyes. ‘Me? In the end, I guess we all get what we deserve.’

Characters Involved: 

Colossus, Gambit, Marrow, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Shadowcat, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)


Ultimatum troops

Wallet thief

Tube station bystanders and train passengers

Story Notes: 

The shorts Kitty wore in bed were presumably given to her during her stint as an operative in Kitty Pryde: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1-3. The Dazzler World Tour ’87 T-shirt relates to Alison Blaire, the former X-Man who joined the team in that year.

When Iceman returned to the mansion with Marrow and Dr. Cecelia Reyes after Operation Zero Tolerance in X-Men (2nd series) #70, he found it stripped bare of everything by Bastion’s troops, including the communications equipment.

When Marrow first calls Storm on the radio, her response is mistakenly placed as coming from Rogue’s mouth. Also, when Gambit talks about helping take Marrow’s family away, his words come from Piotr’s mouth.

Kitty first appeared way back in Uncanny X-Men #129 and Jubilee in Uncanny X-Men #244.

Kitty’s reference to the movie Ghost makes the comparison between herself and Marrow leaping between trains and Patrick Swayze’s Sam Wheat character doing likewise as he searched for the subway ghost played by the excellent Vincent Schiavelli.

Rogue stopped the train partly using her incredible strength. Gambit and Bishop pulled off a similar stunt in X-Men (2nd series) #52.

Space Ghost is a superhero who appeared in Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the late 1960’s. He was based on the Ghost Planet, and was a kind of outer-space police officer. Space Ghost's wore a white suit, black hood and yellow cape. Flag-Smasher certainly did have a passing resemblance. Flag-Smasher first appeared in Captain America (1st series) #312 and is better known as a Captain America villain. Ultimatum is an acronym and means Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind.

Marrow’s decision to leave Flag-Smasher alone with the bomb was a strange one and Kitty was right to be furious with her. Maybe she knows her human psychology, but what was to stop Flag-Smasher defusing the bomb, reprogramming it and leaving it where it was before fleeing?

Issue Information: 
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