X-Treme X-Men (1st series) #9

Issue Date: 
March 2002
Story Title: 
Face The Music !

Chris Claremont (writer), Salvador Larroca (artist), (uninked), Liquid (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Andrew Lis (editors), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president)

Brief Description: 

Gambit and Red Lotus invade a meeting of the Triad’s ruling council. They present evidence that proves Gambit’s innocence as actually the Examiner is responsible for the murder of the Viceroy and he and Shaw had wanted to take over all of australia’s crime syndicates. In the X-Men’s appartment, Storm is visitied by an astral image of Jean Grey. From half a world away, Jean establishes contact and though their conversation would fill hours in the real world, it takes only seconds on the astral plane. Jean warns Storm of Cassandra Nova and that she might have infected the teams at the school with some strange illness, so they should consider the mansion quarantained. Also the diaries given to Xavier by Mystique are missing. Before departing Jean telekinetically braids Ororo’s hair. In the next room the catatonic Sage is still trapped in Lady Mastermind’s illusion. The others wonder what to do, as Sage suddenly reaches out to Heather, whose Lifeguard powers activate as she is pulled into the illusion as well. She experiences the scenarios that Tessa has to witness until being discovered by the illusionist. Lifeguard manifests new abilities for every new threat that Mastermind throws at her, but her power is limited to only reacting and she can’t hope to defeat her foe. Meanwhile Tessa is manipulated into pointing a weapon towards a version of herself, representing her allliance to the X-Men. Once she shoots it, she will be loyal to Shaw once more. Mastermind believes Lifeguard defeated after draining her body of water in a desert-scenario, yet her skin cracks to reveal Tesa underneath. Trained by Xavier himself, Sage managed to switch places in the illusion scenario, right under Mastermind’s nose. Still the bullet is fired against Heather who finds herself in the victim position, but Tessa, within Lifeguard’s armor, leaps in between and the bullet bounces off. Sage and Heather return to the real world, where Tessa apologizes for taking over Heather’s body and risking her life. Lady Mastermind took the bullet’s impact herself and is wheeled catatonic into a hospital. Bishop and policewoman Terri Baltimore try to arrest Sebastian Shaw, but can’t come up with enough evidence to support it.

Full Summary: 

It’s raining in Sydney, Australia. A lightning bolt strikes across the sky. Storm is standing on the balcony of the X-Men’s hotel suite, as suddenly the astral image of Jean Grey appears in front of her. Jean says they need to talk.
In another room of the appartment, Heather, Neal and Davis are concerned over Sage’s status. She is still catatonic and they fear she is dying. Rogue comes in telling that the bad weather is screwing the electric power. Davis saysthat Sage should be brought to a hospital, but Rogue answers that normal doctors won’t be able to help her. Through the communication device built into the team’s sunglasses, Rogue contacts Bishop and fills him in on the situation. Lady Mastermind, aka Regan Wyngarde seems to have crashed their human computer, they already learned how dangerous she is when she nearly made Rogue kill Bishop (last issue). Rogue comes into Storm’s room and is blinded by a flash of lightning.
In Sydney’s chinatown, Gambit and Red Lotus are about to deal with the Triad, who are still after Gambit, believing he murdered an australian crimlord. Red Lotus asks if Gambit is sure, and he confirms; whatever happens to Sage, he can’t help.
In Sage’s room, Heather wishes that she understood her powers better. Then she might be able to help. Neal asks how her powers work, and Heather sums up as much as she knows. She is a Lifeguard, when somebody gets in trouble, she all of a sudden can do whatever is necessary to make a rescue. But it never has been a conscious decision and she doesn’t know how to activate her power. Suddenly Heather starts glowing, as she feels Sage calling out to her to save her life.
At the Xavier Inbstitute, Jean is sitting inside the new Cerebra device, that amplifies her powers so that she can communicate with Storm who is on the other side of the globe. She and Ororo are talking while walking into Sydney and into a shopping mall, or actually the astral plane modeled after these locations. Jean tells her friend about recent events in New York : she is the school’s headministress now, and ever since Xavier outed himself as a mutant, there have been acts of violence. Even her parents have been attacked, but the university where Dr. Grey lectures supported him and he did not lose his job. In a few hours, Jean will have to give her first press conference. Hearing how much she has weighing on her mind, Ororo offers to talk with her later, but Jean says they may not have a “later“. They tell each other how much they miss themselves, while Jean rearranges her clothes to wear the outfit she sees on one of the mannequins in a shop window. Ororo asks how the Beast is, and Jean says that he is better than could be expected, though he is still kind of repressed and won’t talk about the events in Spain regarding Psylocke’s death or what happened to Ororo in the Savage Land. Suddenly Jean senses that Ororo has a new love interest, Storm tries to deny it, but Jean is sure as she otherwise would spend so much time with her trolling boutiques; Jean is already wearing another outfit. Ororo tries to change topic, getting back to business, but Jean wants to hear everything.
In Chinatown, Red Lotus and Gambit have interrupted a meeting of the Triad’s ruling council. Gambit finds dozens of guns pointed to his head, and the Examiner thanks Red Lotus for delivering the murderer. Yet when Red Lotus announces that it wasn’t Gambit, but the Examiner himself who killed his grandfather, the Examiner shouts that he must be mindcontrolled by Gambit. Red Lotus and Gambit present evidence, they found documents in Sebastian Shaw’s files that prove that Shaw and the Examiner wanted to not only take over the Triad, but every major crime syndicate of Australia. The Examiner throws his needles towards Red Lotus, but he uses the briefcase as a shield, and Gambit stops the opponents escape with his explosive trademark cards. While the Examiner is taken into custody, the other Triad members thank Gambit and Red Lotus for pointing them to the truth.
Jean and Ororo are now in the astral simulacrum of a swing club, and again wearing other outfits. While dancing, Ororo says that Davis is the perfect gentleman so far and she doesn’t know if she should take the initiative in their relationship. She is holding back as she doesn’t want to draw him into the line of fire that comes along with the X-Men’s profession, on the other hand his sister Heather is a mutant too. Jean is curious and wants to know more, and Ororo fills her in on Lifeguard, a name that describes both her occupation and her mutant abilities.
Heather finds herself in strange landscape, wearing a costume in the style of the X-Treme team. Last she remembers she was sitting at Sage’s bedside, so this must have to do with her. As the only structure in sight is a huge fortress, Heather wants to start looking there, but it would take her days to walk the long stairway she is on. As she takes the first step, the stairs transform into a slide, and Heather’s body reacts to the danger by transforming into golden armor. Using the slide’s momentum, she heads for the fortress like a supersonic rocket and smashes through a wall. On the other side is a balkan village and a girl is hunted by a mob. Heather recognizes the child as Sage, but would have sided with the kid over the mob anytime. While she deals with the hunters, Tessa runds into a house, and when Heather follows her through the door, the scene changes once more. Recognizing him from TV, Lifeguard sees Charles Xavier and Tessa as a teenager, wearing the basic X-costume. Xavier singles out Tessa to be his spy, while the X-Men’s lifes will be defined by honor. Heather follws Tessa through another door, thinking that this cold man can’t be the same guy that Storm and the others put their faith in.
Ororo is enjoying an icecream and offers Jean to pick up it’s taste from her mind, yet the redhead says that her weather powers create to much static in Storm’s brain to pry into her pleasure center. Ororo shows some relief that she has some privacy ensured. Jean now gets to the point of the meeting, she wants to warn Storm’s group of Cassandra Nova. The powerful foe came out of nowhere and she switched identities with Xavier, the supreme telepath, right under the X-Men’s noses without anybody realizing it. Xavier now suffers from some form of psychicAlzheimer that is slowly killing him and she might also have infected the other inhabitants of the mansion with some strange illness. That is why Jean wants Ororo’s team to consider the manion quarantined and to avoid all contact with them. During the conversation, Jean telekinetically braids Ororo’s hair.
Heather has followed Tessa into the Hellfire Club, and now sees her dancing with Sebastian Shaw. She decides that she has finally seen enough and wants to act, but can’t move. A presence reveals herself right next to her, and the form of Lady Mastermind appears. The illusionist inspects the person who invaded the illusion world she created for Tessa, she recognizes the uniform, but not the face, so Heather apparently is a new recruit of the X-Men. Heather is rendered mute and immovable by Mastermind and can’t prevent her from shredding apart the golden armor to reveal plain Heather in her bathing suit underneath. Regan Wyngarde laughs that the X-Men sent only a lifeguard after her. Telepathically sensing that Heather is the Viceroy’s daughter, she wants to see if she fares any better than him. It was her who killed the Viceroy, by trapping him in the illusion of being at the bottom of the ocean until he drowned, and now Heather too finds herself under water. Her power kicks in and she transforms into a golden mermaid. Mastermind enjoys the challenge and creates a giant Squid squeezing Heather, who transforms into a whale. Yet now she has to face whalehunters and is hit in the back by a harpoon. While Heather wonders how to defeat Mastermind, when her powers allows her to only react to what’s thrown at her, Shaw leads Tessa through another door. In the real world, Heather is still glowing and Davis and Neal recognize that she is bleeding at her back.
Back in the illusion, Lady Mastermind states that Heather is untrained and has no psi-shields against her telepathy, but Heather switches back to human, leaps out of the water and kicks the illusionist in the face, saying that when thought and action are one, her telepathy is useless. The scene changes to a dessert. Shaw gives Tessa a gun and says that she will soon have the chance to prove her loyalty. Mastermind stands over the exhautsed Lifeguard and explains that Tessa used to work for Shaw, but actually was a double agent placed there by Xavier. As Mastermind torments Heather by draining her body of water, she says that Shaw wants Tessa back and therefore she created this illusion world for her. In the final door appears a figure, looking like Sage in her X-Treme X-Men costume. Once Tessa kills this version of herself, she will be loyal to Shaw once and for all. Mastermind smashes Lifeguard in the face and the withered body cracks, only to reveal golden armored Tessa underneath. While Mastermind was bickering, Tessa pulled a switch, she placed Heather inside the Sage figure in the doorway, while she herself took control of Lifeguard’s body – and Masterming never noticed, as Tessa was trained by the best. While she knocks Regan out, Shaw has made his way to the Tessa he has handed the gun to, he helps her aim and pulls the trigger, hoping that when the bullet strikes Sage/Heather in the doorway, his aide will be his once more. Tessa, in Lifeguard’s body leaps in between and the bullet bounces off her armor.
The illusion ends, Heather is back in the real world and yells at Sage who is coming around. She was used by her the whole time and could have been killed. Sage apologizes, but says that she had no other choice. Heather held the power to defeat Mastermind, but lacks the skill to wield it properly. Next time she might ask. Davis inspects his sister’s back, despite her shirt being soaked with blood, there is no harm to her body. They ask what happened to Mastermind, and Sage says that the force of the bullet meant for her, hit the illusionist instead. The catatonic form of Regan Wyngarde is seen in a wheelchair, as it seems inside one of Sydney’s hospitals.
Bishop and Inspector Terri Baltimore are at Shaw’s office, showing their police badges and ready to arrest him. Yet Shaw and his lawyer state that they have no evidence to prove his involvement, despite what they believe to know. Bishop says that it doesn’t matter, the crime syndicates know what Shaw and the Examiner were planning and they will want to take revenge. Terri leaves with Bishop on her motorbike and accepts his invitation for having dinner later on.
Jean senses that Ororo is worried. She wonders how Jean can maintain their contact and braid her hair from half a world away. Ororo can’t help but be reminded of Dark Phoenix. Jean says that sheis just doing what comes naturally, and that’s also why she is holding on to normal interaction with her friends – to remind herself what it’s like to be human. Unfortunately she can’t stay much longer, Cassandra has departed to the Shi’Ar, masquerading as Xavier and they don’t know what will happen when she returns, probably with the alien empire under her control. The X-Men will have to fight her, and Jean wants Ororo’s squad to be secret trump card. Storm thinks that there might be a connection between Vargas and Cassandra Nova, one being the epitome of physical powers the other psychic. Also she asks Jean for the volumes of Destiny’s Diary that were left in the mansion, but Jean says they are missing – possibly Cassandra has stolen them. Jean then lights up a phoenix effect and departs.
Rogue has just come into Storm’s room. There is no light as the power is still out. Rogue shouts Ororo’s name and she answers that her mind was wandering. A lightning lights up the sky and Rogue sees Storm leaning in the door to the balcony, her hair is braided and she is wearing a new costume. When they join the others in Sage’s room, they are happy to see their teammate alive and well. Also Gambit, Bishop and Red Lotus are there, and the cajun X-Man has been cleared off all charges.

Characters Involved: 

Bishop, Phoenix IV, Rogue, Sage, Storm, Thunderbird (all X-Men)

Gambit, former X-Man / ally


Davis Cameron

Inspector Teri Baltimore

Red Lotus
The Boxers

The Examiner

Sebastian Shaw

Lady Mastermind

Story Notes: 

Jean became headministress in New X-Men #117, her press conference occurs in New X-Men #123.
Psylocke was brutally slain by Vargas in X-Treme X-Men #2-3, In the Savage Land Ororo was manipulated and transformed into a feral creature by Brainchild of the Savage Land Mutates. (X-Treme X-men Savage Land #1-4)
The diaries at the mansion were handed to Xavier from Mystique. In X-Men (2nd series) #105 she was seen with five volumes, and she said to have given them to the professor in Uncanny X-Men #389. Yet it’s not Cassandra Nova who has stolen the diaries, but Shadowcat. The five volumes are seen in her room at university in the second story of X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001.
The entire conversion of Jean and Ororo is set on the astral plane and happens within seconds – thanks to the unlimited speed of thoughts. The same can be assumed for Heather entering the illusion scenario that Sage was trapped in. The scenes involving Gambit, Red Lotus, Bishop and Terri Baltimore happen in real time and are only told within for reasons of story-telling, though they actually happen before or shortly after the Jean / Ororo conversion.

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