X-Men Unlimited (2nd series) #1

Issue Date: 
April 2004
Story Title: 
Memories (1st story), The most wonderful time of the year (2nd story)

First story:
Tony Lee (writer), Ben & Rai Lai (pencils and inks), Brian Reber (colors), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Stephanie Moore (assistant editor), Cory Sedlmeier (editor), Teresa Focarile & Mike Marts (consulting editors), Joe Quesada (chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Second story:
J.T. Krule (writer), Tom Mandrake (artist), Brad Anderson (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Stephanie Moore (assistant editor), Cory Sedlmeier (editor), Mike Marts & Teresa Focarile (consulting editors), Joe Quesada (chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

First story:
Sage breaks into the personal office of Voldemir Zhivago, a former shareholder of the Hellfire Club. When he left the club, he took with him something that Sage wants back. She speaks with Bishop as she searches the office using her cyber shades and the range of her multitasking abilities is impressive. She mentions that she’s in the process of grand theft after breaking and entering but doesn’t elaborate on this, instead losing Bishop’s connection. She continues her search and finds a safe behind a painting, breaking the safe within minutes and removing the item she came for. Zhivago’s bodyguard, Chung Yu, appears and tries to stop her. Unfortunately for him, even while playing chess with people online through the shades and watching a movie from memory, she is still far too much for him to handle. With him unconscious, she departs before two more guards can reach her and heads home. There, she assures Storm that everything’s fine, after Ororo had received word of her activities from Bishop. She opens the envelope and pulls out a picture of herself and Charles Xavier, taken a long time ago. She wonders if he knew, when he first employed her as a spy, that one day she would no longer be the girl he first met, but that she would find herself feeling part of their family.

Second story:
It’s Halloween, and a young resident of Xavier’s school is looking forward to spending the evening trick-or-treating. Andy doesn’t look entirely human and this has caused problems for him in the outside world. The senior X-Men gather the younger children from the Institute and drive them into town for a couple of hours. Andy’s appearance tonight doesn’t cause other children to fear him and this allows him to feel like a normal child for once. He bumps into a couple of sisters, one of whom had her sweets knocked out of her hands. He helps pick them up and the girl’s sister, Amanda, thinks he looks cool. With Andy’s friends in the distance, they hang out together and the two older children chat while Sue runs on ahead. Unfortunately, Sue is grabbed by two men and dragged into a van, which speeds off. Andy goes in pursuit and catches up with the van, leaping on to the roof before entering through the back and warning the men off her. The driver stops the van and threatens Andy with a pistol but, before he can shoot, Emma Frost and Cyclops appear and disable him. Andy takes Sue back to Amanda, but she, as well as the other people who saw him in action, is repulsed by seeing what he really is. For Andy, Halloween is over, and he returns to the Institute, hoping Xavier’s dream of humans and mutants living together in harmony comes sooner rather than later.

Full Summary: 

First story:
(New York City, 9:37 PM)
Bishop is at a loose end and calls his teammate, Sage, using the cyber shades she wears, that allow her not only speak with him but which also have a range of uses. He is at a loose end and wonders if she fancies renting a Jackie Chan movie. She replies that she’s actually watching one. The advantage of total recall is that you never have to rent a film twice. Bishop asks what else she’s up to. After laser-cutting her way through a skyscraper window and entering the building, she replies that, currently, she’s playing chess against a high school club in Nebraska and a Grandmaster in St. Petersburg, watching a film and, of course, talking to him.

Bishop says it’s amazing how she can keep her sanity with so much multi tasking, but Sage says that’s the beauty of the wireless technology in her cyber shades. To Bishop, it’s a means of communication but, to her, it’s an unlimited Internet connection. Bishop points out that it helps that her mutant gene allows her brain to function like a super-computer. “The ability to figure complex statistics in seconds,” states Sage, “Total recall. Kinetic memory. So I have a computer mind. At least I’m not blue and furry.”

Bishop asks if she’s any other plans for tonight, as she moves around the room using a flashlight. She tells him she’s doing the usual; recategorizing her mnemonic triggers; writing a counterbalance to Mozart’s Requiem; performing grand theft after breaking and entering... “What?” Bishop replies, surprised. Sage asks him to hold on, as Jackie’s got to the bit with the stepladder. He asks her to assure him that she’s joking, but she replies that she’s losing bandwidth and, instead, cuts him off.

As she carefully searches the office, behind her on the wall is a painting showing Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost and the man whose office she is currently in: Voldemir Zhivago. He is an arms dealer, land baron and one-time shareholder in the Hellfire Club. Its name still chills Sage. The Hellfire Club is an organization that dates from the 1770’s, where the Inner Circle of global leaders decides the fate of the world. As a young girl with special powers, she was placed there as the eyes and ears of Professor Xavier, risking her life daily to pass him information. She was trained as a spy, while the others were trained to be heroes. She never wanted the glory that he gave them, but the recognition as an equal would have been nice.

As she continues looking around the room, she recalls her time spent at the Hellfire Club and wonders if she should have played the games she did while she was Tessa. The problem with her total recall is of course that her past mistakes can always be played back in digital surround sound. She played Voldemir too well and, when he left, he took a very personal item of hers with him; something she wants back.

She captures the painting in her torch beam and digs her fingers into it, dragging the painting away from the wall to reveal a safe hidden underneath. A quick check reveals to her that it’s a Stark Microsystems H900 with binary encrypted passcode encoded into a base six algorithm. It’s supposedly unbreakable, to the average person. She breaks it in three minutes twenty seconds, opening the safe and removing an envelope from inside with the name Tessa printed on it. There’s enough material in the safe to blackmail half of Washington, but she only cares about the envelope.

Suddenly, the door opens and a muscular guy appears and says that he hopes she’s going to put that back. He introduces himself as Chung Yu, Zhivago’s personal bodyguard. Sage doesn’t appear unduly worried by his appearance and asks if he’s some kind of ninja master here to kick her butt. He replies that he is a master of Kung do karate, second only to its originator, Hwang Do Lan; so, yes, he is. Sage stands and fiddles with her cyber shades, asking Chung to give her a moment. He wonders what on Earth she’s doing, so she informs him that she’s downloading everything ever written or filmed about his sensei. She tells him that, to her, he seems like a clumsy amateur.

This infuriates Chung Yum who leaps towards her screaming, “You lie!” Sage counters his attack with ease, and says that this is a case in point; he ducked his shoulder and telegraphed his intended move. “Clumsy, and slow,” she adds. She teases him about going easy on her because she’s a girl, but does so as she lands a kick to his stomach. As Chung readies for his next attack, Sage says Knight takes Queen, which throws him a little. She apologizes for thinking aloud and informs him that she’s currently enjoying a stimulating game of chess. “If you want, I could pretend you have my full concentration,” she adds. This makes him even angrier and, therefore, more careless. He tries to kick Sage, but her athleticism allows her to flip backwards onto the desk behind her.

“Is it my go yet?” she asks. Chung Yu tells her that was her first mistake, but Sage decides she’s played with him enough and goes on the attack. She says that, firstly, if he’s going to be a master of a martial art, he should make sure it’s a good one and, secondly, if he’s a bodyguard, then he should ensure he’s up to the job. Finally, she points out, as she follows up a hand attack by slamming her left foot into his face, has he ever thought of a change of career? Perhaps something with flowers?

With Chung Yu laid out unconscious, Sage notices two more assailants heading her way, using the cyber shades’ infra-red function to spot their body heat through the wall. By the time they throw the door open and warn her to freeze, she is already defenestrating herself, leaping gracefully as the bullets narrowly miss her. She knows that, below that window, should be Voldemir’s personal pool. He doesn’t normally let outsiders use it but, today, he’ll have to live with the disappointment. Three years back, Sage was taught to dive by an Olympic medallist and the joys of a kinetic memory is that she never needs more than one lesson, ever. She lands perfectly and skips out of the pool, lucky not to be caught by more bullets fired from above. It’s been fun, she thinks, but time’s a calling.

Later that night, Sage steps out of the shower. Spending years undercover is the finest way possible of learning to lie with a straight face. Using the shades, she is in conversation with Storm and assures her she is fine; Bishop must have misunderstood her. “So you’re not breaking and entering then?” Ororo asks. “No! You caught me taking a shower,” Sage replies. Ororo signs off, thankful she’s okay, and Sage tears open the envelope she retrieved from Zhivago’s. It’s funny, she thinks, that although she can remember the picture in perfect detail, holding it in her hand is more important to her. The picture shows a young Sage dressed in military uniform and holding a large machine gun with her arm around the shoulders of Charles Xavier, also in military attire.

She moves to her window and looks over the New York skyline, lit by a full moon. She calls Bishop, using the shades, and asks him whether the offer of a film is still open. Sure, he replies, but won’t it be repetitive to her? To be honest, she tells him, she could do with the company, “Unless you’d like a game of chess?”

Her life has been three lives. There was her time as an X-Man, her time with the Hellfire Club and her time before Xavier. She wonders if Charles knew what changes he would be making to her life the day he telepathically called to her. The more she thinks about it, the more she believes he did; but wonders if he looked at the young soldier all those years back and thought of her as a possible spy, alone and unassisted; or did he see further, hoping that one day she would no longer be the lonely girl he met, but would instead have finally found family.

Second story:
Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning, Halloween)
Andy likes it here. It’s nice to be able to hang out with friends and not hear the names ‘freak’ or ‘monster’ or rat boy.’ As great as things are, though, he misses being out in the real world but knows it wouldn’t be any different to how it was before. Professor Xavier talks about the day when everyone can live together, unafraid and out in the open. Andy hopes it comes sooner rather than later.

He receives a telepathic call from Xavier, asking if he wishes to join them this evening. His face lights up and he bounds to the lobby, where Cyclops, Beast and Emma Frost are gathering the other younger children. Andy is of stocky build, darkish green in color, covered in fur with fangs and carrying a mass of dreadlocked hair. His appearance is nothing out of the ordinary at Xavier’s. The senior X-Men help the children on with their costumes, for tonight’s trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. Their costumes include several heroes such as Thor, Spider-Man, the Punisher and Captain America, but also a few non-heroes like Mr. T from the A-Team, a clown and a pirate.

Outside the mansion, Cyclops divvies the kids to different cars. Robert, Tommy, Melissa, Jenna and Eve will ride with Beast; Susan, Jane, Devon and Carter will go with Iceman and he and Emma will take the remaining four. Driving away from the mansion, Emma recalls going trick-or-treating when she was a girl, being unable to decide between the two, so just doing both. Scott says that sounds like her: never having a good time without breaking the rules. “Jealous?” she asks.

They arrive in the neighborhood and Scott informs them that they’ll collect them from the same spot in three hours. “Have fun, but remember…” The kids reply in unison, “We know. Look out for Sentinels.” Scott tells them that he was going to say unwrapped candy, but Sentinels, too. The kids head off and Andy almost immediately gets a few compliments on his ‘costume’ from some other local kids. One asks where he got it, and he tells them he made it himself. Another says it looks way cooler than his Matrix costume. The four children make a few house calls and receive some candy before coming across two girls. Normally, they would run from Andy, but tonight is different. The youngest, Sue, wearing a ballerina’s costume, is crying. He bends down and offers her some of his candy and asks what happened. She replies that some stupid Power Rangers knocked her bag away. Her sister, Amanda, says she’s sure it was just an accident. Andy tells her that he doesn’t like Power Rangers either.

Sue tells Andy that he has a neat costume and asks what he’s supposed to be. “Oh, just me,” he replies. She says it’s cool and Amanda agrees, smiling at Andy. Tonight, he thinks, he isn’t a mutant to them and his self-esteem builds by the second. With his friends disappearing into the distance, Amanda asks if he wishes to join them for a while. As he’s able to track his friends down, he agrees and they wander along the street, which is full of kids on a similar mission. Amanda asks him his name and where he goes to school. Andy replies that he attends a private school a few miles away. He likes it there, but it’s kinda remote and he doesn’t get much chance to meet very many new people. “That’s what nights like tonight are for,” says Amanda.

They continue through the town, chatting about all sorts of things like MTV and how it’s changed from its initial conception. As they’ve been talking, Sue has gotten a little ahead of them and Amanda calls for her to wait for them. Suddenly, behind Sue, a van door slides open and two men reach out and pull her inside the van, causing her to drop her sweets, as she’s dragged inside. Andy sees what’s going on and his faces changes into something much more bestial. He tells Amanda to wait there and hurls himself forward at speed towards the van, some passers-by wondering if it’s a wild dog they see. The van accelerates away but Andy cuts away and intercepts them, swinging from a tree and landing on the van’s roof. Inside the van, one of the kidnappers says it’s almost too easy on Halloween, but the driver hears the thud of Andy landing and asks them if they heard it.

The other kidnapper tells him to just drive and orders Sue to shut up when she says she wants to go home. Suddenly, the rear doors are ripped open and Andy peers into the van, upside down and growls at the men inside. A tear springs from Sue’s eye, as she recognizes her savior. He clambers into the van and assures Sue that everything will be all right but the men prepare to attack him. Without a thought, he grabs the first and kicks the other, using his powerful limbs to keep him at bay. The driver stops the van and turns, aiming a pistol at Andy, warning him that he has three seconds before he puts a bullet in his head. One, two…

Three,” says Emma Frost. The driver is caught in her telepathic thrall, as she and Cyclops stare at him, helpless behind the wheel. Emma makes the men think that for the past two hours, they’ve been doing their laundry. Scott asks if they’re okay and he says sure, now. Andy takes Sue by the hand and takes her back to her sister, who is probably going nuts by now. Scott replies that they’ll finish up here. As they head off, Sue says she spilled all her candy but Andy says she can have his; he doesn’t eat sweets much.

Amanda sits on the curb, leaning on a large pumpkin and crying. Some people have gathered around, wondering when the police will turn up when Andy arrives with Sue. Amanda hugs her sister, but the other people look at Andy with disgust, saying he looks like something out of a nightmare. Even Amanda looks at him as if he’s some kid of freak. For Andy, just like that, it’s over. As he departs, Sue asks where he’s going and Amanda replies, “Back where he belongs.” That’s the problem with Halloween; it always ends too soon.

Characters Involved: 

First story:
Chang Yu
Two guards

(in painting)
Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Voldemir Zhivago

Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Tessa

(in photograph)
Charles Xavier

Second story:
Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Iceman (all X-Men)
Xavier Institute students including Carter, Devon, Eve, Jane, Jenna, Melissa, Robert, Susan and Tommy

Neighborhood children and parents
Amanda and Sue
Three kidnappers

Story Notes: 

The cover was drawn by Pat Lee, better known for drawing Transformers. Although Nightcrawler and Wolverine are shown, they do not appear in the issue.

(First story)
The movie Sage is watching is probably Jackie Chan’s First Strike, in which he skilfully uses a stepladder as a weapon.

Though this isn’t mentioned anywhere in the issue, this is volume two. The first volume ran for fifty issues.

(Second story)
The first tale is aimed primarily at newcomers to the comics, whilst this is aimed at the younger audience.

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