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Secret Defenders # 18

Issue Date: August 1994

Story Title: A Tiny Little WAR

Staff: Tom Brevoort & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Bill Wylie (penciler), Hudson & Dezuniga (inkers), John Costanza (letterer), Jim Hoston (colorist), Lynaire Brust (assistant editor), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom De Falco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description:
After examining Cadaver, who is not really dead, Dr Druid gets a visit from his associate, Mathieson, who informs Druid, Shadowoman and Cadaver that Bureau 18 has become aware of a large number of strange insect activity, and that a number of migratory patterns are leading to the research facility Rand-Meachum, though he is unsure if that is related or not. Druid agrees to look into this for Mathieson, provided Mathieson keeps his recent occult activities a secret. Druid enlists the assistance of Henry Pym - Giant Man - who arrives at Rand-Meachum on official business, explaining the Avengers received a communiqué from the highest levels of the United States government. Mathieson has planted himself amongst the scientific staff at Rand-Meachum, while Danny Rand explains that they were planning to fire up the new supercollider for the first time. Druid, Shadowoman and Cadaver follow Giant Man and Danny Rand around, hidden by a psychic screen. Giant Man puts on a cybernetic communicator to try and talk to the local insects, but receives powerful feedback. Druid has the information he needs and takes his companions outside, as he has sensed where the mystic disturbance has come from. Cadaver pulls the Sword of Bone out from inside him, and he uses it to carve a tunnel into the ground. In the tunnel, the trio are attacked by insects, and both Druid and Cadaver are trapped by a cave in, although Shadowoman escapes. Druid ad Cadaver wake and find themselves stuck to the wall in a nearby cavern, prison of the insect-creature called Swarm, who is seeking revenge on humanity for polluting the insect world. Druid makes a psychic connection with Swarm, and sees some of his past battles, but Swarm’s hive-mind soon shuts Druid out. Swarm explains how his - their - form has changed recently, and continues on about revenge. Druid knows he needs more help, and psychically disguises himself as Professor X, contacting Archangel and Iceman, who had fought Swarm in their Champions says, and summons them to Rand-Meachum, claiming “mutant activity”. Giant Man is soon under attack from insects, and Danny Rand reveals himself to be Iron Fist. They team up to save the scientists and make their way to a chamber deep within the facility. Iron Fist summons all his chi to keep back to the insects while Giant Man works on repairing his cybernetic communicator. He does so, and changes the communicator so that it emit’s a frequency which keeps the insects at bay. Mathieson contacts his fellows at Bureau 18 and orders them that if he does not report every thirty minutes, to see that a nuclear device is accidentally detonated at Rand-Meachum. Shadowoman recovers Cadaver’s Sword of Bone, but its energies won’t let her pick it up, so she travels into the cavern , sees her teammates trapped and wonders what to do next. At the chamber, Giant Man learns that the insects are reconfiguring their language around the vibrations his helmet is giving off - and that will be able to penetrate the barrier and get through to them for another attack very soon. Meanwhile, at Druid’s home, a strange shadow being looms over the statue that usually houses Shadowoman.

Full Synopsis:
‘You have no soul!’ Dr Anthony Ludgate Druid announces, stern-faced, as he hovers over the greyish body of the man known as Cadaver. ‘That’s nice. I don’t got not rhythm, either. But what’s it mean, Doc? By rights, I should be pushing up my share of the daises. Why am I still here?’ Cadaver inquires. Smoke from candles wafts through Druid’s atrium, as Druid replies ‘An excellent question. But, unfortunately…one with no easy answer’. Druid tells Cody that he is indeed quite dead, of that there can be no doubt, that his soul quit this vessel when Malach turned the power of the Moebius Stone upon him, leaving the shell free to be occupied by the spirit of the stone’s mystic guardian.

The mystic energies subside and Druid and Cody set down on the ground, with Druid adding ‘Your thoughts and feelings to the contrary, you are not Cody Fleisher. That person, as such, no longer exists. Only his Cadaver remains…animated and sustained through some form of retro-metabolism’. Cadaver frowns and mutters ‘Swell. So not only am I dead, I’m not who I think I am, either’, before asking Druid if the Moebius Stone was backing his little zombie act, why is it that he is still kicking now that the stone has been “86’d”. Druid smiles and suggests that they can discover why in time, but that such ruminations must be put aside for the moment, as they are about to have a visitor.

Cadaver is confused, and remarks that he didn’t hear anything, but Druid picks up a golden statue of a woman and replies ‘That is because you are not Anthony Druid…Master of the Unknown!’, and with that, the sleek Jillian Marie Woods emerges from the statue. Druid asks her if she would be so kind as to show their guest in, while Jillian looks puzzled and asks Druid if he is sure the top knot in his pony-tail braid isn’t tied too tight, as she didn’t hear the doorbell chime. ‘He shall arrive momentarily’ Druid promises. Cadaver puts a large jacket over his body and remarks ‘Weird! She acts like she was standing there the whole time!’ to which Druid explains that Jillian’s condition is “sensitive”, and instructs Cadaver not to speak to Jillian about what he just witnessed. ‘Is that understood?’ he orders.

Jillian opens the door, and a man in a suit smiles as he walks over and exclaims ‘Anthony Druid. A.k.a. Anthony Droom a.k.a. Guntag Borghelm a.k.a. Midnight Eye. Splendid to see you again, I like the braid’. Druid shakes the man’s hand, while the man looks around the room and states ‘What a magnificent tree!’ as he looks at the large tree in the room. He asks if it is oak, and points out that oak is the Celtic symbol of strength and power. ‘Mathieson. You did not come all this way to compliment my horticulture’ Druid remarks, before telling him to speak freely, as his - associates - are of the utmost discretion.

Mathieson opens his briefcase, and a projector displays images of people being attacked by bees, while he announces ‘As you know, I currently serve as Head of Bureau 18’. ‘Bureau 18 of what?’ Cadaver asks. ‘That information…is classified’ Mathieson replies, but reveals that they function as this nation’s Department of Covert Extranormal Investigation and Disinformation. ‘Ever hear of the Kree? No? That was me’ Mathieson remarks, before explaining that over the last several months they have received a series of reports containing insect-related fatalities. He states that in each case, the victim was in some way connected with the study of entomology, and there were no other commonalities, adding that he saw the last victims himself - not pretty.

‘Killer bees? Give me a break! Those went out with mood rings and polyester!’ Jillian snorts. ‘You’d do well not to scoff so, my dear’ Mathieson replies, explaining that Bureau 18 had a hand in eradicating those little beasties in the 70’s, and the alien intelligence behind them. ‘But you won’t find that face in any official report’ he adds. Mathieson continues, explaining that upon further investigation, they discovered a subtle shift in certain insect migratory patterns - inordinate numbers of numerous species converging upon a Rand-Meacham supercollider project near Houston, Texas. ‘The technos there are playing around the sub-quantum particles, dangerous stuff’ Mathieson explains, although he admits that it might not be related.

Mathieson tells Druid and his associates that his sources have proven unequal to the task of ferreting out the underlying cause of the disturbances. Mathieson announces that he discovered a report about a mysterious breka-in at the Chicago Museum of Art, in which a number of Celtic artificats had been arranged to form some sort of sigil, he knew that Druid must have become active again. ‘Don’t worry, I buried the report, as always’ Mathieson assures Druid. ‘You thought my affinity with nature might succeed where science has failed’ Druid supposes, arms folded across his chest, before telling his old friend that he will do his bidding, this one time, adding that he will require the services of an expert in insect behavior - Henry Pym a.k.a. the Avenger called Giant Man.

At that moment, in a Quinjet, Dr Pym is informed that he is cleared for landing. ‘Roger that, control. Now making final approach’ Pym replies, as the Quinjet descends at a high-tech facility. Giant Man emerges from the Quinjet, and is approached by several people, one of whom introduces himself as Daniel Rand, the Chairman and CEO of Rand-Meachum Inc. ‘May I say, it’s an honor to have a celebrity of your - stature - pay us a call’ Danny Rand announces, before telling Giant Man that he doesn’t want to appear rude, while asking what exactly brings him here. Carrying two containers, Giant Man replies ‘Offiical business, Mr Rand’, explaining that the Avengers received a communiqué from the highest levels of US Government. ‘Seems someone thinks there’s a problem involving the local insects’ Giant Man explains.

As he shifts down to a regular size, Giant Man declares that next to size shifting, chatting with the ants is what he does best. ‘I think someone’s been pulling your sizeable leg, Doctor’ Danny remarks as he follows Giant Man, telling him that they have been finding a few insects in their equipment, but that that seems more like a job for the local exterminator. Giant Man responds by telling Danny Rand that ecological concerns are seldom that cut-and-dried. ‘But we’ll see soon enough’ he points out.

Walking down a corridor, Danny tells Giant Man that he picked an apt time to check out the facility, as they are planning to fire up the supercollider for the first time later today, which is why he is here to oversee the test. Danny explains that if it works, there is no telling what secrets of creation they may lay bare. ‘Sounds intriguing’ Giant Man replies, before Danny introduces the team responsible for the project. Several scientists gather around, while with them is Harvey Allwood, safety inspector for the state. ‘Doctor Pym a.k.a. Giant Man a.k.a. Ant-Man a.k.a. Yellowjacket. Pleased to meet you’ Harvey Allwood calls out as he and Giant Man shake hands.

Standing behind Giant Man and Danny Rand is Dr Druid, Jillian Marie Woods and Cadaver. ‘Your pal Mathieson blends into a crowd almost as seamlessly as we do, Anthony’ Jillian remarks, while Mathieson - “Harvey Allwood” remains with the scientists. ‘All part of his job’ Druid replies, adding that, for thme, the subtle psychic screen should insure their anonymity, and guarantee that Pym doesn’t recognize him. ‘The Avengers think me a threat at worst, an incompetent at best’ Druid points out, adding that, for the moment, he sees nothing to be gained by altering that perception.

Giant Man holds up a cybernetic communicator and is about to place it on his head as tells everyone ‘If there is a problem with the local fauna, this cybernetic communicator should enable me to -’, but he suddenly, there is a loud ZUMM ZUMM noise, and Hank screams in agony, and pulls the headpiece away from him. Concerned, Danny Rand asks Dr Pym if he is all right. Hank replies that he is, but that he has never heard anything like it. Giant Man holds up the headpiece, which has smoke pouring from it, and announces that it was as though all of the insects in the region, regardless of genus, were singing in harmony. Hank explains that he will need to make a few adjustments to the helmet’s decrypting circuitry before attempting a second contact.

Dr Druid beckons Jillian and Cadaver to come with him, assuring them that he has the information he needs. They exit the facility and Druid explains that as Pym has detected it, they shall seek out the source of the “insect harmony” by their own means. As she summons her rather familiar costume, Jillian asks Anthony if he is sure they wont be needing Giant Man on this expedition. ‘You made a pretty big production about arranging for his presence here’ she points out. Calling Jillian by her code-name, Shadowoman, Druid admits that Pym has his uses, but that he wouldn’t trust him with anything important.

Soon, the trio sand on some dry, cracked ground, and Druid announces that this is the spot. He explains that his mystic senses detect a disturbance below them, adding that the harmony remonstrates from deep within the earth itself. ‘Well, if that’s the case…let nothing bar out path!’ Cadaver exclaims as he pulls a rib bone from his own body. Green gunk spurts everywhere, before he raises the bone overhead, and it transforms into a large sword, which he shoves into the ground, and from it, the earth opens, creating a large hole. ‘Not exactly shy or retiring, is he?’ Shadowoman comments. ‘Indeed ‘Druid agrees, and as they follow Cadaver into the hole, while he continues to cut away at the earth, Druid decides that Cody Fleisher - Cadaver - is an ally of inestimable value, and one whom he can ill afford to lose.

‘Look at him go! Makes John Henry look like Woody Allen!’ Shadowoman jokes as she and Druid follow Cadaver through the tunnel, as he continues to use his transformed rib to move the earth before them. Druid announces that they are nearing the epicenter of the phenomenon. ‘Be prepared for -’ he begins, when suddenly, ‘Bugs! Millions of them!’ Shadowoman exclaims as various insects swarm around them. Cadaver looks horrified and declares that the Sword of Bone is ill-equipped to deal with such myriad miniscule antagonists. However, the cavern begins to crumble, and cave in on the heroes. Druid falls forward, and tells Jillian to assume her shadow-form, to save herself. ‘Anthony!’ Shadowoman calls out, as Druid and Cadaver are buried in the rubble.

Meanwhile, back at the Boston townhouse of Dr Druid, in the central arboretum, there is a rumbling noise, and the statute which houses Jillian Woods suddenly glows. A large demonic figure appears and towers over the statue, laughter booming throughout the atrium. The statue releases energies up at the demon, and more rumbling follows.

At that moment, back in the caved-in ground. ‘Jillian…’ Dr Druid utters as he wakes up. ‘I think we found the source of all that racket!’ Cadaver exclaims as he and Druid are stuck to the edge of the cavern. ‘Or rather, it found us!’ Cadaver adds, and Dr Druid looks at the insects which cluster about a central mass, almost assuming a humanoid form. A large purple cloak billows behind the humanoid form, while more insects buzz around Druid and Cadaver, who exclaims ‘That thing’s got us stuck up here like flies to paper! And, with the Sword of Bone torn from my grasp…I cannot exert sufficient force to rend this substance asunder!’

Druid’s eyes glaze over, and he thinks to himself ‘Intriguing. It would appear that, in times of stress, Cody Fleisher’s persona is superseded by that of Agamotto’s Pale Horseman’. However, he decides that this is hardly the moment of such insights, and knows that he must attempt to communicate with the strange, aggregate entity, and discern its secrets, its history. ‘Perhaps a simple mind-touch will tell me what I need to -’ Druid begins, and as images flash before his eyes - of the strange creature fighting the Champions of Los Angeles, and at another time fighting Spider-Man, Druid suddenly screams ‘NOOOOO!’, while the strange creature speaks, ‘Foolish sack of flesh!’ it begins.

‘The thoughts of we are unknowable to one such as you!’ the creature explains. ‘But we shall deign to speak in a manner you will understand’ It explains that once they were as he, but that have shed any preteens of humanity. ‘We are Swarm!’ the creature boasts. ‘We are the superior life form! And we will not allow your attacks upon we to go un-answered!’ Swarm continues, stating that the energy emissions from the hive / colony have caused severe distress amongst “we”, and boasts that “they” will have restitution - revenge. ‘We had hoped to act surreptitiously, but now that we have been discovered…we must act’.

Swarm explains that they will commandeer the device the meat-mammals call a “supercollider”, and use its destruction to create a massive electromagnetic pulse, rendering their technology inoperative. ‘Without his machines to protect him, man will be easy prey for we…and the insect epoch - the triumph of the master race - will be assured!’ Swarm boasts. Druid understands that the emigrational disturbance was not an act of nature, but one of war, a war that may spell the end of the human species. Druid knows he has to concentrate and send his thoughts out across the void, as his mind-touch revealed that Swam has been confronted, and defeated, before, so it would behoove him to garner assistance from the architects of that defeat.

Meanwhile, in Greenwich Village, ‘This is the place, Warren’ Bobby “Iceman” Drake tells his friend and teammate Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel, who asks ‘A fern bar?’ Bobby explains that he and Hank used to come here all the time when they were young. ‘Trust me, you’ll love it. The poetry’s amazing!’ Bobby promises. Suddenly, the two heroes hear a voice in their heads - ‘Archangel! Iceman! This is Professor X!’ their mentor calls out telepathically, before projecting an image of himself above them. He announces that he has received word of mutant activity near the Rand-Meachum technological facility in Houston. He orders his X-Men to go and investigate.

Bobby freezes over, transforming into Iceman, while Archangel loses his trench coat, and his metal wings are on display as he takes flight, following Bobby on his ice-sled. Bobby asks Warren if the Professor seemed kind of brusque to him, to which Archangel reminds Iceman that the Professor has been under pressure lately - Illyana’s death, the Legacy Virus, the new academy. ‘With a load like that…is it really any wonder that he hasn’t been himself?’

Druid hangs his head, ‘Taxed…my failing resources to the limit…but that pseudo-image of their mentor should draw those I require to my side!’ he tells himself, praying that it is not already too late.

Back at the facility, ‘There! I’ve realigned the helmet’s input circuitry. With any luck, we’ll soon know what’s going on around here -’ Giant Man remarks as he examines the headpiece, when suddenly, he is attacked by a swarm of insects. ‘Get ‘em off me! Get ‘em off me!’ someone screams, while Danny Rand leaps into action, pushing people to safety, and Giant Man increases his size. Danny Rand tells everyone to follow him, while reaching into his suit pocket, deciding that if he is going to enter into combat, even against so bizarre and enemy, the traditions of K’un Lun demand that a warrior be properly attired.

Giant Man suddenly slams into the ceiling and tells the remaining scientists, including “Harvey Allwood”, to get out of here. He realizes that growing to such a size wasn’t a good idea, as there is only that much more of him for the insects to attack. ‘”Harvey Allwood” calls out to Giant Man, ‘Your cybernetic helmet!’ he exclaims, and Giant Man takes it from him as he shrinks back down to his regular size. Giant Man points out that they will need to fall back to a defensible position, and he, “Allwood” and the others begin to follow Danny Rand - whom Giant Man sees putting a mask on over his face, and exclaims ‘Rand! You - you’re Iron Fist!’. Iron Fist looks back and tells Giant Man that there is no time to exchange life histories, announcing that there is an airtight testing chamber near the heart of the complex.

Everyone follows Iron Fist, while the insects swarm after them, he explains that if they make it to the chamber they can use it as a bunker, they might have a fighting chance at survival. They move closer to the chamber, and Iron Fist shouts out an access code, so it opens, while he removes his suit jacket, revealing his costume underneath. ‘If I could get a moment to recalibrate the helmet, I might be able to disrupt -’ Giant Man begins, but Iron Fist leaps into action, telling him that he shall have the time he needs. Iron Fist summons forth his chi and lets the power of the Iron Fist ward off the insects’ stings. But, it is hard for him, as he is still not what he was before his “death” and resurrection. Danny urges himself not to falter, and manages to keep the insects at bay to give Giant Man the time he needs. ‘Even…even if it costs me…my life’ he thinks to himself, sweat dripping down his face, he clenches his teeth as the insects fall back from him.

Giant Man soon exit’s the chamber, wearing the helmet, which releases a frequency. ‘It’s working!’ he exclaims, explaining that he has jury-rigged the helmet into a crude cybernetic scrambler, broadcasting along the same frequency as the strange harmonic resonance. The result is a wall of painful static that the insects can’t cross. Iron Fist keels over and Giant Man asks him if he is all right. Clutching his head, Iron Fist replies that he is somewhat drained, but believes he is okay. ‘Take five anyway - doctor’s orders!’ giant Man calls out, telling Iron Fist that he has earned it, while pointing out that it is not like they are going anywhere.

Inside the chamber, “Allwood” stands away from the others, and whispers into a communicator: ‘Coronet Blue to System Seven, come in, Seven’, he reports that they have a glitch - priority Roswell. Sternly, he orders that if he fails to report in every thirty minutes, System Seven is to see to it that a nuclear device is “accidentally” detonated at this location.

Meantime, ‘Anthony…where…the cave-in! The bugs!’ Jillian Woods in her shadow form calls out. ‘Must’ve blacked out for a second’ she realizes, before telling herself ‘Ha-ha, Jillian. Very droll’. She knows that she is completely entombed, her intangible shadow-form must have passed right into the falling rock. She floats downwards through the tunnel, seeing neither Druid nor Cadaver, she knows that she must find them. Suddenly, she sees a light, and realizes that it is the Sword of Bone. Jillian knows that Cody would never leave it behind, as it is like a part of him. ‘Heck, it is a part of him’ she realizes, before trying to pick it up, only a burst of energy knocks her back. ‘Thing’s got a mind of it’s own! Won’t let me near it!’ she exclaims, before deciding that if Mohammad won’t come to the mountain, she will have to bring the mountain to Mohammad.

Shadowoman continues down through the tunnel, ‘That is, as soon as I find the mountain’ she thinks to herself, before noticing the insects around her are ignoring her, and passing through her as if she wasn’t there. ‘Not that I’m complaining’ she decides, supposing that it is a new function of her shadow power. ‘Just another question to add to the list’ she realizes, when suddenly, she reaches the cavern, ‘Ominous cloaked figure…bugs everywhere…Druid and Cody trussed to the wall…either I’ve stumbled into some new-wave bondage palace, or this is the place!’ she thinks to herself, while deciding that the only question is what she does next, as she hovers above Swarm.

Back in the Rand-Meachum facility, Iron Fist reports that communications with the outside world have been cut off by the bugs, so they are on their own. ‘That’s the least of our worries’ Giant Man replies Iron Fist asks him what is wrong, to which Giant Man explains that insects are adapting at a phenomenal rate. He continues to release the wave from the helmet, but announces that the insects are restructuring their language around the interference, and gradually penetrating the barrier. ‘And, once they’re through…so are we!’ Giant Man exclaims.

Characters:
Cadaver, Dr Druid, Shadowoman (all Secret Defenders)
Giant Man
Iron Fist
Archangel, Iceman (both X-Men)

Mathieson

Swarm

Scientists at Rand-Meachum Inc

In Flashback Illustrations:
Angel, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Iceman (all Champions)
Spider-Man

Swarm

Notes:
This story takes place between Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #318 and X-Men (2nd series) #38 / Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #319.

Cadaver’s story can be seen in Secret Defenders #16.

The break in at the museum and arrangement of artifacts took place in Secret Defenders #16.

The Champions fought and defeated Swarm in Champions #14-15. Absent from the illustrative flashback image is Darkstar.

Issue Summary written by: Daytripper (Steven Bishop)


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