|Secret Invasion: X-Men #4|| || |
Issue Date: January 2009
Story Title: Untitled
Staff: Mike Carey (writer), Cary Nord and Ma Sepulveda (artists), Dave McCaig (color artist), VC’s Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Justin Ponsor (cover artists), Daniel Ketchum (assistant editor), Nick Lowe (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
The Skrulls present the X-Men an ultimatum: surrender, or they will execute their 50,000 captive, human civilians. With their options severely limited, Cyclops proposes the X-Men douse themselves in the modified Skrull-killing Legacy Virus and feign surrender. They do, and after Cyclops is taken aboard the Skrull flagship to meet with Commander H’Kurrek, he reveals what the X-Men have done, adding that the commander can still save his fleet should he surrender. The commander refuses and orders the fleet to self-destruct. The X-Men escape just in time. Afterward, Beast approaches Cyclops and tries to talk to him about recklessly using the virus, but Cyclops brushes him off and instead joins the X-Men in greeting the grateful citizens of San Francisco.
Ard’ran, a telepathic Fourth-Rank Skrull Engineer, reports to Commander H’Kurrek for duty. He comments on why she never joined the Thought-Wall; her powers are somewhat diluted, a result of her mother marrying outside of her sect. Nevertheless, H’Kurrek needs her help now. He orders her to transmit a message to the X-Men, which he begins dictating immediately.
The X-Men hear the Skrull commander’s message loud and clear. H’Kurrek notifies them of the fifty thousand human civilians he has gathered inside of the city’s skyscrapers. The X-Men knows he speaks truth; they have seen the culling themselves. The Skrull flagship, conveniently guarded by their most powerful Super-Skrulls, has its guns centered on these buildings and awaits his orders to fire. Because they X-Men do not know which buildings he intends to strike first, and because the Skrulls control a multitude of cannons, they have no conceivable way of saving every captive’s life. At best, they could stop one, maybe two cannons. Skrull Commander H’Kurrek orders the X-Men to surrender. They have ten minutes.
The message ends. Cyclops immediately asks Prodigy for the location of the internment buildings. David confirms their locations are too scattered; he doesn’t think they could defend all of them. Angel suggests they teleport the humans out of there, using Nightcrawler and Pixie’s abilities. That would take hours, Emma says. Cyclops agrees, adding their movements would be detected; H’Kurrek would surely open fire. Cannonball proposes spiking the cannons. He and Magma and Sunspot could easily do it. However, Iceman reminds him they would only stop a few from firing; the rest would hit their targets.
With their rescue options exhausted, Emma asks whether or not H’Kurrek will actually keep his word should they surrender. Scott reminds her that H’Kurrek gave no word. He never actually promised not to kill the hostages. Besides, Scott refuses to pin his hopes on the mercy of a religious fanatic, especially not when the team has another available course of action. Beast, standing nearby, hangs his head. He asks Cyclops for a word.
Surely he doesn’t intend to use the Legacy Virus, Hank says. Besides, there is something Cyclops needs to know before accepting that option. Scott doesn’t understand; Hank has tested the virus already. Won’t it work, he asks? “Like wildfire,” Hank answers. Because of the continuous cellular mutation of Skrull physiology, the virus should affect them in mere minutes. “It will kill every Skrull in this fleet – for starters,” Hank adds.
Cyclops reminds his teammate of what H’Kurrek has pledged to do. By taking TENS of thousands innocent civilians hostage, he has changed the rules of engagement. He’s made the X-Men’s choice for them. Not so, Hank says. They must make the choice themselves, and live with its consequences. “I’ll live with it,” Cyclops says.
“I said we,” Hank says. “I need to live with it too…and since we’re talking about consequences – isn’t there something else you want to ask me, Scott?”
Inside the buildings…
The panicked civilians wait in anticipation. One woman notes there are children with them in these buildings; surely the Skrulls wouldn’t hurt children! A jaded man reminds her the Skrulls will do whatever they feel. They are running the show right now. However, he is confident the X-Men will stop them. Another man interrupts. The X-Men, he asks? Muties? The X-Men are probably collaborating with the Skrulls, he suggests. However, another frightened civilian stands up for the heroes. He saw them take down a Skrull ship at Fisherman’s Wharf, even comparing it to a miracle “Yeah?” the cynical man asks. “Well we need a bigger one now.”
Cyclops, speaking to the X-Men, reminds them that in wartime, one must often do deplorable things. This is one of those times. The buildings, he says, will not fall; they will not let them. Because they cannot win in a direct fight, they have no options other than the one he has prepared. The way he sees it, it’s this, or nothing. However, he does not intend to make this choice for any of his teammates. If any of them have any doubts about what the X-Men are about to do, they can step aside.
No one moves. With that out of the way, Cyclops orders them to get into their teams and get moving. They have only a minute and a half to spare.
The Skrull flagship…
The Skrull countdown approaches its final twenty seconds. The X-Men, however, have yet to respond. H’Kurrek orders Lieutenant Jash to ready the guns. He wants the targets allocated randomly, so the X-Men will have no pattern to read from the minds of the operators. Just as Ard’ran transmits this order, she picks up multiple teleportation signatures on the ground beneath the ship. The commander realizes it may be an attack, but also realizes the X-Men know they would die were they to do something so reckless. He orders his guns to hold fire until they see what the X-Men intend to do.
Nightcrawler, with Colossus, Cyclops, and Iceman in tow, teleports to a squad of Skrulls, and the four X-Men approach peacefully. The squad leader immediately recognizes Cyclops, and reminds him of the order to surrender. Scott complies, raising his hands. “Now get your ships away from those civilians,” he says.
Nearby, Rockslide, Warpath, Angel, and Mercury surrender to another group of Skrulls.
Elsewhere, Magma, the Stepford Cuckoos, and X-23 turn themselves in. The Skrulls order them to drop their weapons; Magma says that isn’t quite so easy for some of them.
Meanwhile, the Skrulls place a pair of shackles on Nightcrawler. The know how to deal with teleporters, the Skrulls say. The shackles contain a psionic scrambler. Should he attempt to teleport, he will leave behind half of his body mass.
The Skrull flagship…
Ard’ran informs her commander of the X-Men’s surrender. They have offered no resistance, and have presented themselves at various points all over the city. Commander H’Kurrek understands why they chose this tactic; the Skrulls cannot track them back to their base this way. Not that it matters at this point, as the Skrulls have won. H’Kurrek demands Cyclops be brought to him immediately.
While the anxious civilians watch from their internment points, several Skrull dropships descend to the city below and begin extracting the X-Men. One particularly large Skrull scoffs at the apparent cowardice of the X-Men. He thought they would opt to die in battle, like true men of faith. Nightcrawler, his hands cuffed behind his back, looks up at the imposing Skrull and offers an anecdote. He begins explaining the story of Job, a man whose faith God tested by taking away all he held dear, but the Skrull hits Kurt with a powerful uppercut.
Iceman and Colossus immediately prepare to hit the Skrull back, but Cyclops, orders them to stand down. He walks over to Kurt and helps him off the ground. As Kurt stands, the imposing Skrull returns, puts his finger in his face, and says that if suffering is truly a test of faith, then Nightcrawler should be thanking him.
“We can swap Bible stories later, Skrull,” Cyclops says. “I think your commander mentioned a deadline.” With that, the dropship takes the captured X-Men back to their commander. After docking, they march Cyclops off the ship and immediately present him to Commander H’Kurrek. Ever the humble victor, H’Kurrek congratulates Cyclops on the expert guerrilla war he waged; the X-Men managed to hold off an overwhelmingly superior military force for much longer than thought possible. They meet as brothers and equals, H’Kurrek says. “We do? Funny. I do have a brother who’s a rabid, murderous psychopath,” Scott says. “But somehow I still feel insulted by that.”
The enormous Super-Skrulls, objecting to this maltreatment, prepare to pummel Scott, but H’Kurrek orders them to hold. He addresses Cyclops coolly, stating how disappointed he is they cannot rise above their differences. Such a thing will not be possible when their differences include mass murder, Cyclops says. H’Kurrek insists he merely did his duty as a soldier. “No, H’Kurrek. A soldier is what you were when you started out,” Cyclops says. “I think we both know what you are now.”
The Skrull Commander has had enough. He reminds his captive he brought him to his ship to personally accept his surrender. He regrets that courtesy now. Take him away, he says. Cyclops, however, shakes off the Super-Skrulls; he never said that the X-Men surrendered. Puzzled, H’Kurrek begins asking what he means, but one of his officers interrupts. She just received an urgent transmission from Jora’thrll, who is in some sort of trouble!
Meanwhile, just above the streets of San Francisco, a Skrull shuttle explodes in mid-air and plummets to the ground.
The officer relays this event to her commander. The pilot must have lost consciousness and crashed. She then slumps over her control station and asks her commander for permission to rest; suddenly she doesn’t feel so well.
“In fact, Commander H’Kurrek,” Cyclops says with confidence, “I’m ready to accept your surrender. Any time you want to throw in the towel.” H’Kurrek grabs Cyclops by the collar and shouts in his face. What has he done? Coolly, Cyclops tells him the X-Men brought with them an infection. They sprayed it on their skin and on their clothes, and every Skrull who contacted an X-Man, and every Skrull those Skrulls have encountered, have been exposed. This, of course, includes H’Kurrek and his chief officers. The commander looks around the room, and sees his men falling over unconscious. The rest should be displaying symptoms in a few hours. Two days after that, Cyclops says, they will all be dead.
The commander orders Lieutenant Jash to summon the telepath Ard’ran immediately. He then turns to Cyclops and clenches his fist. “You upbraid me for murder then use plague as a weapon?” he asks Cyclops. However, Cyclops doesn’t think it has to end like this; no one has to die. The X-Men have an antidote, he says, and it has been adapted to Skrull physiology. If the commander and his fleet stand down, they can have it. Otherwise, they will carry a death sentence to every fellow Skrull they encounter.
Ard’ran suddenly arrives, at which point H’Kurrek orders her to read Scott’s mind and report whether he speaks the truth. Ard’ran looks at him for a moment. Her eyes widen. The virus is indeed real, she reports, and so is the cure. Cyclops can do as he claims.
H’Kurrek looks Cyclops directly in the face and tells him he is foul and unfit to breathe His air. What, and killing civilians is morally neutral, Scott asks? The way he sees it, H’Kurrek created this nightmare; Cyclops just brought it to his home. A Skrull officer asks the commander for his orders. H’Kurrek asks him to open a communication channel. “For God’s sake, let’s end this,” Scott tells him.
“For God’s sake, X-Man? For God’s sake?” H’Kurrek asks. “You’ll see what I’m prepared to do for God’s sake.” Sweating profusely, he turns and addresses his entire armada. He orders them to stand down and return to their base ships immediately. Although the sacred Skrull invasion continues, the battle for San Francisco is over. As impossible as it may sound, they are all casualties. It was an honor to serve with them, he says, before giving his final order. The Skrulls are to turn all helms over to H’Kurrek’s control. “And take comfort in His great love, as I do.” With that, he begins the five-second self-destruction countdown.
With only seconds to act, Scott has Emma patch him in with the rest of the team, whom he orders to retreat immediately. After pushing the Super-Skrulls out of his way, he blasts a hole in the side of the ship and leaps out into the unknown. Fortunately, Iceman appears beneath his plummeting teammate and scoops him up on his ice-slide. As the rest of the X-men escape, the entire Skrull fleet self-destructs over the skies of San Francisco.
From the ground, Iceman watches in awe as the armada crumbles. He can barely believe the commander scuttled the entire fleet. Cyclops reveals he would have done the same thing in his place; an infection of that severity requires cauterization. He reminds the X-Men their task is not yet complete, however. They still need to free the civilians. Upon his orders, Rockslide rips open the side of the building, and the X-Men escort the grateful hostages to safety.
Beast, meanwhile, approaches his long-time teammate and asks for a word. It seems all is well that ends well, he says. Cyclops agrees, and asks if Hank has something on his mind. “Something, yes,” Hank answers, scowling. “The fact that you decided to use the Legacy Virus before you asked me if I had a working antidote.”
Cyclops, looking away, tells Hank his conscience is one of the things he values most about him. “Never stop challenging me on things like that.” With that, Cyclops congratulates his X-Men on doing what needed to be done as the team turns and greets their adoring public.
Angel, Anole, Armor, Beast, Cannonball, Colossus, Cyclops, Dazzler, Emma Frost, Graymalkin, Iceman, Ink, Magma, Mercury, Moonstar, Nightcrawler, Pixie, Prodigy, The Stepford Cuckoos, Sunspot, X-23 (all X-Men)
Skrull Commander H’Kurrek
Engineer Fourth Rank Ard’ran
Various Skrull officers
Job is a Biblical figure whose faith was tested by God because of a challenge of Satan’s.
The “rabid, murderous psychopath” brother to whom Cyclops refers is Vulcan.
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Secret Invasion: X-Men (Trade Paperback)
Issue Summary written by: Sixhoursoflucy