Sentinels Mark IV – VI / Project Wideawake
|Appearances:||Uncanny X-Men #151, New Mutants (1st series) #2, Alpha Flight (1st series) #43, Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #329, 351-352, X-Factor (1st series) #92, X-Men (2nd series) #46, X-Factor (1st series) #125, X-Men (2nd series) #55, Iron Man (1st series) #332, X-Man #19, X-Men (2nd series) #56|
|Mark IV Sentinels:||retractable tentacles, energy bolts and "starfire sequence" for blinding opponents, incapable of independent action but rather were controlled at a distance by remote pilots and operators|
|Mark V Sentinels:||independent computerized brains and new features including frigi-beams, anesthetic gas nozzles, and a concentrated laser disintegration ray|
|Mark VI Stealth Sentinels:||LED plating and radar jamming capabilities to become invisible to the naked eye or electronic detection, limited to only detecting active use of mutant powers when in stealth mode|
|Tri-Sentinel:||three different Shaw Industries models fused and enhanced by Loki's magic, possessing extra-ordinary size, strength, endurance, durability, molecular reconstruction abilities, lasers, hyper-cold beams, electricity, plasma bolts, steel coils, anesthetic gas, deflective energy screens, triple-augmented logic capacity, and boot rockets|
Despite the demise of Lang's Project: Armageddon, Sebastian Shaw knew that sooner or later the government would resume their attempts to keep mutants under control. Rather than fear the inevitable, Shaw handled the situation liked any good businessman would, as he sought the personal and financial opportunities that it might provide him with. If the Sentinels were to be produced again, he could at least make some money from them, if nothing else. To make sure that it would be his own company that would be assigned with the task of designing the next generation of Sentinels, and as such receive the governmental funding that came along, it was Shaw himself who would set the new project in motion. Already knowing the right man to address in Senator Robert Kelly, a well-known anti-mutant politician and fellow member of the prestigious Hellfire Club, Shaw perfectly timed his suggestion. After a conflict between the Inner Circle and the X-Men went awry, the mutants having tried to secretly enter the Hellfire Club during one of their parties only to end up fighting their opponents in front of numerous bystanders – including Kelly – Sebastian portrayed a new and improved series of Sentinels as a long-term solution to the “mutant menace.” [X-Men (1st series) #135]
If he still had any doubts about the idea of using Sentinels against mutants, they were blown away after Kelly found himself almost assassinated by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Within a few weeks, Shaw's proposal made its way through Kelly’s Senatorial committee and eventually found itself on the desk of the president of the United States. Though troubled by some of its draconian and perhaps illegal parts, the president agreed due to concerns of national security and so the covert Project: Wideawake was conceived. Appointed to head the secret organization, agent Henry Peter Gyrich was directed to work with Shaw Industries to design and construct the new breed of Sentinels. [Uncanny X-Men #142]
After the problems of both Trasks and Lang, Shaw learned from their mistakes and declined to repeat them. Wanting to ensure that the new Sentinels would remain under control, Shaw apparently renounced making use of a Master Mold unit, rather having the Sentinel manufactured one by one in his factories. The first generation of Sentinels built for Project Wideawake, the Mark IV Sentinels, were incapable of independent thought and had to be remote-controlled from afar. This was obviously another security measure against the Sentinels turning against their creators. Additionally, Sebastian Shaw purposely designed his Sentinels with an inherent flaw. While capable of registering all mutant activity within a certain range, there was one genetic signature the giant robots would never recognize for a mutant – Shaw's own. [X-51 #4]
As such, Shaw made sure that his business partners would never learn his, nor the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle's secret. Seeking revenge for the X-Men's initial attack on the Hellfire Club, Shaw eventually used the new Sentinels to attack the hero team at Xavier's mansion. Shaw did this behind the back of Henry Peter Gyrich and everyone else working for Project Wideawake, knowing for sure that the X-Men could not alert the authorities without compromising their secret identities. However, the mutants at Xavier's school, being used to fighting more advanced Sentinels, found the remote-controlled Mark IV models to be quite easy to overcome. [Uncanny X-Men #151]
Sebastian Shaw must have realized that, to convince his employers of the Sentinels’ effectiveness, the Sentinels needed to be capable of independent action. So, the Mark V series were given back that feature, among other improvements. However, the people working for Project Wideawake did more than just construct Sentinels; they also gathered data on any known mutants. Due to him having manifested his powers in public, the identity of Sunspot of the New Mutants was already known to Gyrich's staff, and by checking his friends and background, they quickly uncovered the real names of Sunspot's teammates as well. When Shaw suggested to try the new Sentinels against Xavier's students, Gyrich was against it, arguing that the mutant hunting robots had been designed to take down adult villains, and not a bunch of teenagers who hadn't comitted any crimes yet. In addition, he had been ordered by the president to keep the entire operation under wraps.
Shaw though, had different ideas. He wanted Xavier's students to become as paranoid about humans as possible, so that they could be easier manipulated into joining the Hellfire Club. When a team of FBI agents were sent to arrest and interrogate the kids, Shaw arranged for one of the agents to call three Sentinels into action. Somehow, Colonel Mike Rossi learned of all this and he tried to warn the New Mutants, but he was too late. By the time he reached them, the youngsters found themselves already under attack by the giant robots. Still unfamiliar in the use of their powers, the New Mutants still overcame the three Sentinels attacking them. As the battle occurred in a crowded shopping mall, the incident turned into a double failure for Project Wideawake – not only had the advanced robots been beaten by a group of untrained teenagers, but they had also been spotted in public. [New Mutants (1st series) #2]
Probably in order to avoid such future incidents, Shaw Industries designed the Mark VI series of the Sentinels to have cloaking and camouflage capabilities. While in stealth mode, these Sentinels could not be detected, neither by radar nor by the naked eye. Together with the overseer of this project, an overeager FBI agent launched the untested Stealth Sentinels when the mutant hypnotist known as Mesmero broke out of prison and escaped to Canada. The new Sentinels not being spotted in Canadian airspace, the FBI agent hoped to avoid an international incident. Perhaps the idea might have worked, if these Sentinels didn't have a glitch; while in Stealth mode, they would only register a mutant when they actively used their powers, opposed to regular Sentinels who could constantly target any mutants within sensor range. Because of that, the Sentinels decided to phase out of stealth mode, as soon as they first locked on Mesmero's signature, not wanting to lose him again. The giant mutant robots suddenly materializing in the heart of Vancouver caused exactly the unwanted attention the FBI agent had hoped to avoid. Learning of the incident too late, a quite angry Sebastian Shaw promised to make him pay personally, should the incident end his relationship with the defense department. Fortunately for Shaw, they were lucky. Canada's premiere team, Alpha Flight, not only managed to subdue Mesmero, but they also destroyed the Sentinels before they caused and further harm. [Alpha Flight (1st series) #43]
While it's never been outright established, it seems that the Mark VI stealth units were retired after this incident. Perhaps this was due to the problem between the model’s stealth technology and its mutant detective sensors, or perhaps it was due to it having nearly caused an international incident with a friendly, neighboring nation.
Whatever the reason, a mothballed Mark VI Sentinel was available to two very ambitious men, looking for advancement. An aspiring US Senator for the state of Wisconsin, Jeff Knudson enlisted the aid of Archie Hunt, a military man working with the Sentinel program. Together, the two programmed a Mark VI unit into kidnapping Knudson’s political rival, dropping him in Lake Michigan. After winning the election, Senator Knudson arranged for Hunt’s advancement to the rank of colonel and his placement in the Commission on Superhuman Activities. [Sentinel (2nd series) #1-5]
Though the Mark VI Sentinel had been programmed to self-destruct, the Sentinel more or less survived in one piece and crash landed outside of the rural city of Antigo, Wisconsin. It was soon discovered by a teenager named Juston Seyfert, who possessed just enough technical knowhow to reactivate the Sentinel’s self-repair circuits. Due to the damage of its memory banks, which it had just begun to recompile, Juston was able to insert his own directives onto the Sentinel, making it loyal to him above all other instructions. [Sentinel (1st series) #1-6]
Though the Mark VI Sentinel model was evidently abandoned, the Sentinel program continued its work on a stealth unit for a time, developing a more advanced Mark VII. At least one variation of this model, the Mark VII-A, was developed and became operational shortly after Knudson and Hunt’s political assassination. For whatever reason, this new model was soon thereafter abandoned, with perhaps its single unit being mothballed in an underground base in Washington DC.
When a series of misadventures with Seyfert’s Sentinel gained national attention for the as-yet “unidentified robot,” Senator Knudson and Colonel Hunt realized it might be their Sentinel and activated the Mark VII-A unit to eliminate evidence of their earlier crime. To the colonel’s surprise, Juston’s Mark VI unit held its own against the more advanced Mark VII-A, leading Colonel Hunt to utilize the unit’s “manual drive,” its ability to be controlled remotely via a mechanical suit Hunt was wearing half a continent away. Unfortunately for Hunt, Juston’s Sentinel created a not-dissimilar interface by constructing a cockpit within its torso, from which Juston could control it. After besting the Mark VII-A again, Juston threatened Knudson and Hunt to leave him alone, or he would reveal their secret, which he’d found recorded in the Mark VI’s memory banks. Returning home, Juston began to upgrade his Mark VI unit with technology he managed to scavenge from the downed Mark VII-A. [Sentinel (2nd series) #1-5]
Sometime thereafter, Juston and his Sentinel were invited to enroll in the Avengers Academy. Though most of the students distrusted the presence of a Sentinel, especially following its repeated involuntary proclamation of “Destroy all mutants!”, they ultimately trusted Juston and accepted him as one of their own. [Avengers Academy 20-33] In fact, when Emma Frost became temporarily imbued with one-fifth of the Phoenix Force and went about destroying all Sentinels in the world, the academy students stood up against her and on behalf of Juston’s Sentinel. Nevertheless, Emma was too powerful and dismantled it into all of its component pieces, after which she slagged its CPU. However, after she left, Quicksilver surprised the group by appearing with the intact CPU, which he had switch right before Emma’s eyes too quickly for her to see. Quicksilver then swiftly reassembled the Sentinel, much to Juston’s gratitude.
Things seemed good for Juston and his Sentinel for a while. However, months later the youth and his robot were among the young superhumans captured by Arcade for his latest Murder World game. After some weeks in the game, Juston was killed by Apex, who stole his Sentinel, which in turn was later destroyed by Nico of the Runaways. [Avengers Arena #1-3, 8-9]
Despite the abandonment of the VI & VII models, Sebastian Shaw had his engineers at Shaw industries design even more prototypes for different Sentinel models. Unfortunately for him he was completely unaware that his progress was being observed by Loki, the Norse god of deceit. Having experienced a humiliating defeat at the hand of the Avengers, Loki was out for revenge. He magically transformed three different models of Shaw's prototypes, merging them into one entity, the so-called Tri-Sentinel. Loki also overrode the robot's programming; instead of hunting down mutants, it was to destroy the island of Manhattan by blowing up a nuclear power plant. Fortunately, it was right then that Spider-Man was cosmically empowered by the Enigma Force, enabling him to destroy the robot before it could carry out its mission. However, the remains of the Tri-Sentinel were salvaged by the Life Foundation, who sought to exploit its technology. Like any other Sentinel equipped with the ability to repair the damages it received, the Tri-Sentinel eventually walked again, once more trying to fulfill Loki’s order. Back to his usual self, Spider-Man had to rely on his brains more than on his powers and, with the help of Nova, he caused the robot to self-destruct after overloading its power core. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #329, 351-352]
Shortly thereafter, Sebastian Shaw was apparently killed by his son, Shinobi. [X-Factor (1st series) #67] It would be many months if not years that Shaw spent in hiding, recovering from his son’s attack, and naturally during this time he was no longer working together with Henry Peter Gyrich or any other of his business partners. Project Wideawake, though, continued. In fact, the US government took it one step further, with Senator Robert Kelly taking on a much more active role than he had in the past. Deciding that they had let the production and construction in private hands for far too long, the Senate sanctioned more funds for Project Wideawake, which set up base at a harmlessly looking military facility in Camp Hayden, Kentucky. Working from designs and prototypes that Shaw had provided them with, the engineers and scientists of Project Wideawake tried to further improve the Sentinels, [X-Factor (1st series) #92] even adding technology derived from Nimrod, the highly advanced super-Sentinel from the future who had fought the X-Men several times.
Eventually, a self-awareness program serving as a sleeper virus to wait for the opportunity to access a Sentinel's self repair systems became activated, and Nimrod began to re-create itself. Due to the timely interference of X-Force, however, the future Sentinel was stopped and rendered inert. In the aftermath of that crisis, one of the scientists at Camp Hayden struck a deal with the mutants. She removed the robot’s central neural net and handed it to X-Force, such ensuring that Nimrod could no longer function, yet wanted to keep the rest of the robot so that she and her colleagues could study its defensive systems and alloys. As X-Force couldn't argue against the idea of humanity deserving the chance to protect themselves from evil mutants, they accepted the compromise, well aware that Project Wideawake would continue to produce Sentinels capable of hunting down and killing mutants. [X-Force (1st series) #35-36]
However, the people behind Project Wideawake would soon learn that weapons can lull one into a false sense of security. It not only requires for one to have a weapon and to be capable of operating it properly, but one also needs to make sure that the weapon doesn't fall into the enemies’ hands or else it might be turned against those it was originally tried to protect. Shortly after the enigmatic being called Onslaught made his presence known, the base in Camp Hayden, as well as another Sentinel production facility, were raided either by Onslaught himself or some of his lackeys. Not only were the Sentinels being stored there taken, but so were the scientists working on them and their equipment. [X-Men (2nd series) #46, X-Force (1st series) #52]
Eventually, X-Factor stumbled upon Onslaught’s plans with the former mutant-hunting robots, which the villain had reprogrammed to target only baseline humans, though it was already too late. Onslaught's minions kept X-Factor too busy to stop the Sentinels being launched. [X-Factor (1st series) #125] While Onslaught continued to work on his power base, reaching near omnipotence, his army of Sentinels was terrorizing Manhattan. The robots effectively created a barrier between the island and the rest of the world and, unable to fight the villain directly, most of New York's various heroes did their best trying to protect the citizens from the attacking Sentinels. Still, they couldn't be everywhere at once, and numerous people were injured or killed before Onslaught was eventually defeated. [Onslaught crossover]
It took many months before the damages to the city were repaired, and one might think that after experiencing the Sentinels' power first hand, baseline humans might have refrained from continuing any Sentinel-related projects, but that's not the case. Whether it was some of Onslaught's Sentinels being repaired and re-re-programmed, or some newly produced robots based on the designs of Shaw Industries, a couple of years later the Sentinels were again called into action during a most drastic time. Making use of technology from a few centuries ahead, the time traveler called Kang led his forces into battle in an attempt to conquer Earth. When the Avengers' various attempts to penetrate Kang's orbital fortress failed, a desperate general from the US military had a battalion of Sentinels launched at the station in Earth's orbit. Unfortunately, Kang's knowledge of future technology enabled him to easily override the robots' prime directives and, just like Onslaught, he then added the Sentinels to his own troops, giving the Avengers quite a hard time. In the end, most of these Sentinels were destroyed, whereas Kang was only defeated after his own son betrayed him. [Avengers (3rd series) #45-46, 48-49]
Twice having lost control of the Sentinels, it seems the US government has learned their lesson, as since then they have not employed any Sentinels that solely relied on artificial intelligences. While capable of independent action, the Sentinels lack any code of morals or ethics to guide them while making decisions. Operating within the mission parameters programmed into them, the Sentinels carry out whatever they deem most effective to accomplish their task. Unfortunately though, when an outside force manages to alter their programming, the Sentinels will as easily follow their new prime directives without question or hesitation. Yet, when given too much independence, the Sentinels have proven to be able to alter their mission parameters by themselves, making them as dangerous, if not more.