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Exiles (2nd series) # 5

Issue Date: October 2009

Story Title: The Humans are Dead

Staff: Jeff Parker (writer), Casey Jones (penciler), Karl Kesel (inker), Anthony Washington (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer), Jordan D. White (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Alan Fine (executive producer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Dave Bullock (cover)

Brief Description:
The rage inside Blink takes over and she smashes into the android lab where her teammates are held. Moments later, Ultron and the gang show up and the brawl begins. Through some trickery on his part, Vision and the unwitting Blink destroy Cerebro’s remote unit, cutting off his live feed to the lab. That’s when the robot triumvirate explains they’re actually against Cerebro. Polaris, inside a Jocasta outfit, backs up their story and the rest of the Exiles are released from their holding tubes. It turns out Ultron is really Hank Pym. Early on he manipulated his way into Cerebro’s ranks and altered the neutron bomb and the machine men assembly program so that all human life forces destroyed by the attack were stored inside the machine men. And now he’s figured out a way to stop Cerebro once and for all. The story is cut short when Cerebro’s reinforcements show up at the lab. The Exiles and their new allies escape before the lab is destroyed by Sentinels. The group then splits up, half keep the robots distracted and the others infiltrate Cerebro’s command and control. The Cerebro group is caught off guard when they teleport inside and discover no air. That problem’s solved by Blink continually teleporting air inside. Unfortunately, Cerebro interfaces with Forge’s electronics and takes control of his arm, knocking out Blink and Forge. It’s then up to Beast, who previously admitted his intelligence has been gradually declining. Instead of continuing Forge’s work he relies on brute strength and starts tearing into everything. He finally gets to Cerebro’s core and when the A.I. ringleader tries to upload himself elsewhere he finds himself blocked thanks to Pym’s recently erected firewalls across the globe. Cerebro dies and his army stops working. Soon after the Exiles are teleported back to nowhere land to meet with Morph who explains they have to go back to their first mission and disrupt the harmony between the original X-Men and Brotherhood members.

Full Synopsis:
Earth #10102
Lab 89
“Lorna!” Blink yells in anguished surprise as she watches her teammate getting sliced and diced by a Jocasta model robot. Blink leaps toward the window feet first and shatters it to pieces. She lets loose with a shard of teleportation energy that cuts the robot in half through the midsection. Blink stands over her incapacitated foe as Cerebro sounds the alarm that Lab 89 was breached.

Vision is first on the scene and promises Cerebro they’ll handle it. He’s followed immediately after by his buddies Ultron and M-51. M stretches out his arms and tries snatching Blink, but she deftly avoids his grasp and finds herself hip deep with a slew of Jocastas.

“Contain her without destroying the lab,” Ultron yells, but Blink has every intention of doing just that, and putting a hurt on them too. She throws another shard with uncanny precision at Ultron’s head. Right before it connects Ultron separates his head from his body and the pinkish energy blast passes harmlessly through.

As the heat of the battle brings Blink closer to her teammates who are unconscious and suspended in stasis tubes, Vision tells her to stay away, referring to them as specimens. Blink takes umbrage with the word “specimens” and fires an arrow of energy at the synthezoid. Vizh alters his density and is unaffected by the shard as it passes through his chest and destroys Cerebro’s remote unit stationed directly behind him.

“Perfect,” Vision proclaims. Running a scan on the remote unit Ultron confirms the unit destroyed and Cerebro no longer in contact. Blink, still furious and not noticing the turn of events, readies another shard of energy in her left hand, drawing her arm back to throw. Just then a Jocasta comes running toward her from behind yelling for Blink to stop.

The Jocasta removes its helmet revealing her true identity, Polaris. Needless to say Blink is a bit confused. Polaris explains the body on the table was a fake out for Cerebro. Understandably, Blink asks why the robots would want to fake out Cerebro as they’re the ones who helped him wipe out the continent.

Vision disagrees with the entirety of her statement and Ultron, returning his head to its original position, points out they haven’t been chasing her since she destroyed the eye. Blink waves an arm toward her friends in the stasis tubes and asks about them.

Beep Zoot, M-51 punches some commands into the console and explains they’ve sent a psychic-wavecast with all pertinent information to them as they revived. Right on cue the four Exiles emerge, soaking wet, but none the worse for wear. Blink says she doesn’t trust information put into her head and tells Vision to give her an oral account. The synthezoid agrees to her request, but adds there’s little time.

Pointing at Cerebro’s busted remote unit Vision explains he stood there on purpose in the hopes Blink would destroy it. Not that all their problems are solved, he furthers, as Cerebro is sure to send a robot to investigate. Blink admits she thought they were all connected together like a network. That’s what Cerebro wants, Ultron replies, but they have a good reason for stalling as he is not in fact actually an Ultron, but Hank Pym.

Pym explains that early on he was able to tap into the part of Cerebro’s system that was Ultron-based where he learned of the plan to neutron-pulse bioorganisms out of existence. Following that he returned to an old project of his, transferring human minds to computer neural nets. His first success was with his own body, just before Cerebro fired his initial test of the neutron destroying his body. In fact, the only member of the Avengers to survive was the Vision who, in turn, found the sole independent entity of the Machine Man program. Knowing Cerebro would expand his attack they quickly formed an alternative to the genocide and went to Cerebro with a more efficient plan. They were warmly welcomed by Cerebro who thought this was the best way to gain independent A.I.’s into the fold.

M-51 takes over the story at this point and explains that they infiltrated the android factories and programmed a modification into them, that the machine men troops positioned around the world were set to receive and contain massive energy stores. The stores, as M-51 continues, were the individual life force of all the people hit by the neutron field. Pym’s rebuild of the device was now a two-stage process where the initial blast pushed out the human synaptic charges, intact, while the androids collected and stored them with the help of pre-commandeered server fields. Most humans, M finishes, are preserved in electrical form in the bodies of the machine men.

“Plucked from the moment of death, sounds familiar,” Beast grouchily adds. Vision questions what that means, but Blink says it’s a long story and asks why they just didn’t sabotage Cerebro in the first place. Pym explains their plan was actually easier as Cerebro can transfer his database practically anywhere in the world and designing a firewall against him to prevent that was more difficult.

Now, however, Vision explains, Pym’s smuggled firewall details to the world’s largest computer networks and they now have Cerebro locked out with nowhere to flee. Well, what are you waiting for, Beast asks, but as Vision starts to explain he receives an alarm that androids are approaching.

A robot sentry smashes through the door to the lab using a golden sledge hammer. He demands to know why the entrance was blocked to a designate of Cerebro. His entourage of machine men spy the Exiles free and immediately jump into action.

Beast jams his fist clean through the chest of an approaching robot soldier. The Witch takes care of three more with her hex powers while Polaris levitates another two and smashes them together.

Vision yells for them to stop. Pym asks if they’ve listened to anything he’s said, that the machine men are storing human life force. He points out they just killed 30,000 people.

The Witch begins sobbing into her hands realizing what she’s done. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize, she responds. Hank tells the team if they need to fight them go for their heads and the life batteries shouldn’t be affected. He then grabs Forge by the forearm and asks if his drives interface with his brain. Yes, Forge affirms, and Pym proceeds to download all the specs on Cerebro.

M-51 yells “incoming” as a trio of Sentinels approaches from the skies. “Destroy Lab 89,” one of them declares. Blink yells for everyone to get close and once they do teleports everyone away. Mere seconds later the Sentinels tear down the spire containing Lab 89, certain they’ve accomplished their mission.

Elsewhere in the city, Blink reemerges with the rest of her crew. Polaris voices her belief that Cerebro may assume they’re dead, but Vision reports Cerebro’s already scanning the city for bio-signs, and with all the chaos going iterates the need to press their advantage. Panther asks what he’s talking about. M-51 explains that if they get too close to Cerebro’s central processor he can override their systems, but as organisms the Exiles are not at risk. Forge asks about the neutron field, but Hank says he’s already overridden it.

Panther thumbs in the direction of the huge ebony tire in the middle of the city and asks if they’re supposed to infiltrate that. No, Vision replies, that’s where Cerebro wants everyone to think he is, but is in fact located 20 miles outside the city of which Forge has the location.

Sentinels flying overhead spot the motley crew and prepare to attack. Pym urges them to leave immediately. The Witch counteracts the first Sentinel’s attack and then Polaris takes care of all of them with a little robotic decapitation. “That never gets old,” Panther remarks, watching the headless mechanical beasts plummet to the ground.

However, that’s not all headed their way and the Exiles need to make some quick decisions. Blink asks who wants to stay behind and keep the robots distracted while she takes Forge to Cerebro. Forge suggests she take Beast as well in case something happens to him. Beast thinks he may serve a better purpose against the robots, but the two “sisters” say they’ll be fine as long as they have the prince with them. Panther thinks he’d be better served on a stealthy, skulky part of the mission, but the Witch won’t hear of it.

Blink does her thing and the three Exiles are immediately transported outside Cerebro’s hidden bunker. Forge gives Blink the exact location, thirty meters down, right in the center. Blink psyches herself up and works her magic once again.

Perfect, they end up right in Cerebro’s control room. “Intrusion,” Cerebro responds, and then compliments them on their resourcefulness, no doubt attributed to those three A.I.’s. As the Exiles struggle for oxygen Cerebro informs them he has no need for air as all his needs are serviced by robots.

Blink holds up a finger in strained protest and teleports out of there. She comes back immediately with a fresh pocket of air. Forge recovers and gets to work, Blink set to teleport in and out with O2 as many times as necessary until the job is complete.

Forge tells Beast to disable the routers, which should shut down his higher A.I. functions. Beast pauses, unsure what to say. He grabs his head in frustration and explains his predicament, that after he experimented with his mutant abilities every time he got bigger and stronger he also got dumber. He’s not the brilliant man he once was, he finishes.

The city
The Witch, Polaris and Panther maintain the robots’ attention riding aboard a disembodied Sentinel head. Panther sits between them calling the shots. He jokingly refers to it as a game of Space Invaders as he directs each lady with directional fire. Robot after robot is destroyed with ease.

Cerebro’s command and control
Blink returns with more air as Forge assures Hank he can handle it all on his own. Cerebro starts mocking his efforts explaining how he can just repurpose other sections of his brain. Blink asks how much longer it’ll take as she’s getting tired. Forge says it should be a few more minutes and then rocks his arm back clocking Blink in the face. The pink-skinned Exile falls lifeless to the ground, caught completely unaware by the betrayal.

“—Stop! No!” Forge yells, surprised as well by his arm’s duplicity. “That took longer than expected,” Cerebro chimes in and then Forge punches himself in the face, also knocking him into the land of the unconscious. Cerebro surmises this to be the reason the androids didn’t come after him on their own as they must have realized they couldn’t resist being overridden by his cerebral coils.

Cerebro doesn’t mind telling Beast that Forge was in the middle of undermining his sub-strata logic boards, figuring the simple-minded mutant wouldn’t be able to continue his work. As Cerebro attempts to repair the damage Beast yanks out one of the panels in front of him. He starts tearing through the wires and cables, but Cerebro reminds him he won’t last much longer without oxygen. Beast appears undeterred.

The city
Another Sentinel is down and the Exiles are getting cocky. Panther points out the android trinity has their back on the ground, Vision altering the density of his hands and running them through the heads of the machine men army, preserving the life force within. Polaris suggests they bring their attention back up as they’ve brought in reinforcements. Sure enough several dozen robots come storming toward them.

Cerebro’s command and control
Beast has Cerebro’s core wrapped in his arms. Cerebro is surprised at how strong Hank is. He congratulates Beast on his efforts for now he must abandon his core. Cerebro points out the futility of his efforts as all he has to do now is upload himself into another large system elsewhere in the world.

Cerebro tries the Moscow City system, but is denied access. He next tries Pan-Asia network 3, but once again access is denied. Beast continues tearing away, though his strength is quickly waning. He grabs two more handfuls of wires and yanks them free.

Cerebro tries working out why everything is blocked to him. As he does so his speech begins to slur. He tries an alternate technique, dispersing himself in packets, but he’s too late. After a few more garbled attempts at communication Cerebro “dies.”

The city
All the robots have ceased attacking. Polaris, the Witch and Panther land their Sentinel head and decide to investigate. They survey the landscape, which is basically a sea of non-functioning robots. The A.I. triumvirate join them and explain their teammates must have succeeded in taking out Cerebro.

Panther pounds his fist on a Jocasta head and asks what’ll happen to the people they stored now that Cerebro’s destroyed. M-51 says they’ll restructure the android factories to build new hosts for those in stasis. Polaris asks if that means everyone is going to be machine men and Jocastas? Pym asks if she remembers the unit they posed as her back in the lab and explains that was what S.H.I.E.L.D. calls a life model decoy.

With that, Hank lifts open his mask and reveals a very humanoid face underneath. Vision adds they’ll use those blueprints to give people bodies close to what they knew. Wanda guesses everyone will remember themselves as extremely hot. And as Vizh admits it won’t be a perfect process the Exiles suddenly disappear. Mini-satellites pop out from M-51 as he runs a bio-sweep for the missing heroes, but they register nothing within the city limits.

Somewhere
The Exiles find themselves back together atop a grassy knoll. Beast, Blink and Forge are just grateful for the air as their other teammates rush over to congratulate them. Forge gives credit to Hank since he and Blink were taken out early.

The moon suddenly comes to life, literally, and congratulates them all on a job well done. It’s Morph, aka the Timebroker, and he explains they stopped the Earth from turning into Machine World, adding that North America will be full of human-like robots, who never die or reproduce. He jokingly wonders how that will turn out.

Blink asks about the first reality they never fixed and questions whether there’s still time to fix it. Morph, changing into Master Po, is glad she asked. There’s still time from what he can figure out and explains they need to break up the alliance between Xavier’s gang and the Brotherhood. Panther says they can definitely do that based on some information he picked up when they were there. “Then git ‘er done son!” Morph replies, now sporting overalls and a John Deere hat, and then congratulates the team once again.

Characters:
Beast, Blink, Forge, the Panther, Polaris, the Witch (all Exiles)
Morph

Earth #10102
Ultron/Henry Pym, Vision, M-51 (all Tribunal)
Jocastas

Cerebro
Machine Men
Sentinels

flashback
Henry Pym

Ultron/Henry Pym, Vision, M-51 (all Tribunal)

Notes:
Morph does the opening recap page.

Space Invaders was an old arcade game originally released in the late 1970’s wherein you had to fight off wave after wave of aliens bent on human conquest.

One of the robots looks like "B-9 robot from the old Lost in Space TV show.

Surrounded by candles, Morph’s brief panel as a robed man, sporting a long beard and moustache is a shout out to Master Po, a blind Shaolin master and teacher to David Carradine’s titular character in the 70’s TV series, Kung Fu. Morph calls Blink “grasshopper” which was Master Po’s nickname for Caine (Carradine’s character).

“Git ‘er done” is a famous catchphrase from the “redneck” comedian, Larry the Cable Guy. In that same panel Morph’s sporting a green hat with a picture of a deer on the front. The deer and the color green are representative of the John Deere company which specializes in tractor equipment.

Issue Summary written by: Milleniumcyke


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