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Sentinel Squad O*N*E # 5

Issue Date: July 2006

Story Title: Tin Can Heroes: Part 5: Creep Mission

Staff: John Layman (writer), Aaron Lopresti (pencils), Norm Rapmund (inks), Chris Walker (colors), Dave Sharpe (letters), Nick Lowe (associate editor), Sean Ryan (editor), Mike Marts (supervising editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description:
The O*N*E* recruits all safely return back at the base, but are welcomed by a disappointed General Lazer. He wants to arrest Lex for keeping the secret that he is in fact a mutant. Luckily, Rhodes steps up for Lex and has him freed. Three weeks later, Winston now works at the lab and Briggs has been made squad captain. He explains that there is some trouble in Ecuador. The insect-Sentinels Cassandra Nova created there not too long ago are apparently not all destroyed, but out of control and are busy murdering out an entire mutant village. The O*N*E* troops travel to Ecuador, where they eventually destroy all of the bugs. Meld declares that he wants to stay in Ecuador to protect the mutants who have lost their family and friends to the bugs. Lex thinks it’s a good idea for Meld to stay there, and convinces the others to lie back at the base and claim that Meld was killed in action, so they won’t come after him. After taking the proper goodbyes, the troops head back home. A month later, M-Day takes place. Just like most mutants on the planet, Lex is one of those who lose their powers. He feels good about it, and even gets promoted to become the new squad captain, and once again outranks Briggs. Realizing that the mutants are the minority now, O*N*E* decides to use their Sentinels to protect them. Lex and his friends are permanently assigned to safeguard the Xavier Institute, and soon meet up with the astonished X-Men!

Full Synopsis:
Sentinel Squad O*N*E* training base and Central Command...
The recruits have all returned back at the base and have even brought their mixed Sentinel with them. They all talk about what they are going to do next. Tracy thinks that she’s going to take a shower first, and jokes there won’t be enough soap on this base to wash off all of that dinosaur funk that’s covered on all of her body. Slayton jokes that he would give an arm and a leg – if he would have another leg – for six uninterrupted hours of free time. P> Lex wants to go take a cheeseburger, and no more of those K rations. And he doesn’t want anything in his mouth that spent even a minute inside a can. Speaking of tin cans, Winston reveals that he’s done there. He never wants to get inside a Sentinel again. Not after what they just went through. Meld asks Winston if he’s certain about that, but Winston is dead serious. He explains that he’s a scientist – a robotics engineer. He belongs in a lab and not in a war zone. Besides, he adds, building that modified Sentinel gave him some good ideas about some future design modifications. Lex can imagine that Cooper is going to have some choice words about that modifying thing they did. Slayton corrects they won’t have just Cooper to deal with: he can see General Lazer himself approaching them. And Lazer sure doesn’t look too happy.

Lazer orders his soldiers to arrest Lexington where he stands. His soldiers quickly point their guns at Lex. Lex wants to know what’s going on. Lazer reveals that he got a sworn testimony from Briggs, who’s standing next to him, that Lex defied the orders of a superior, which resulted in that superior’s and his entire squad’s deaths. And Lazer doesn’t even want to bring up the fact that Lex didn’t inform any of them that he is a mutant.

Rhodes tries to defend Lex, but Lazer warns Rhodes that he’s getting pretty close to insubordination himself. James doesn’t care and angrily defends that Lex saved his life, and also the lives of every single squad member Lazer can see today. Lazer wants to know if it’s possible that the lying mutant is also a hero. If that’s true, maybe he won’t lock Lex up. But, Lazer promises the troops, they can all be sure that there are going to be some changes around the base.

Three weeks later…
The alarm goes off at the base. An angry Briggs shouts at all of the troops to get up because this isn’t a drill. As the troops line up, Tracy asks Briggs what’s going on. Briggs warns Tracy to call him Squad Captain Briggs now. Standing next to each other, Lex asks Meld if he has given any more thought about what they were talking about. Meld claims that he hasn’t been thinking about anything else. He knows that things were bad enough before Lex got demoted and Lazer put Briggs in charge. Now, Jeremiah can’t wait to get out of there. Slayton wants to know what Meld is going to do. Meld isn’t sure, but he thinks he’s going to wait for the right time and place. Briggs hears the boys whispering, and angrily wants to know what they are talking about.

Lex apologizes for it, and wants to know what the mission of today is. Briggs smiles that Lex and Meld are going to love this particular mission. It’s a rescue mission for a bunch of mutants. These mutants got themselves a village in Ecuador, at the base of a volcano that is known as Gigante Dolor. The volcano has been unstable for a while, and geologists have been saying it could erupt at any possible time. The geologist just didn’t know that the volcano would erupt giant insect-like Sentinels, who are now busy killing all of those mutants!

Elsewhere at the base, Valerie meets up with Lazer. Lazer wants to hear an update concerning the new squad assignments. Valerie explains that Tracy Skylark is doing well. She gets along with her teammates and, as a pilot, she’s seamlessly incorporated into the squad. Rajani Dhama is excelling with the brawler unit, as is Jake Slayton on the recon. Professor Winston has been transferred into the research and design division, and he has already offered up some very promising model schematics.

When Lazer next wants to hear about Nathaniel Briggs, Valerie confesses that the entire squad hates Briggs. Not one of Briggs’ teammates respects him. They think he’s a bully, a coward and even a rat. Alexander Lexington, on the other hand, has shown real leadership, initiative and imagination. Not to mention bravery. He has saved his teammates lives, and possibly the Sentinel Squad program, several times over.

Lazer recalls that Lexington also lied to him, hiding the fact that he is a mutant. And Lazer is aware that Lexington’s teammates would have helped him keep that secret. That’s why he promoted Briggs to squad captain. Lazer doesn’t particularly care what Briggs’ teammates think of him, as long as Briggs is loyal to him it’s all fine. Valerie admits that she thought she and Rhodes were in charge of the personnel. Lazer confirms that they are, but he gets to decided about one particular thing: he doesn’t care who gets on the roster of this team, as long as the squad leader isn’t a mutant.

Later, at Ecuador…
The squad flies towards the mutant town. Slayton explains that the “no mutants” rule is the primary bit of programming that houses in every Sentinel. And hence them operating these things now. He realizes that too many Sentinels have gone nuts because of that programming over the years. These particular insect-models attacking the troops have to deal with in Ecuador were created by a madwoman known as Cassandra Nova. They possess an animal-level sort of artificial intelligence and are self-sustaining, creating other models from discarded metal and technology. Apparently, despite the squad’s best efforts to drive these things to extinction, the insects found a way to survive, developing into several distinct types of species and societies. A hive of them had an underground colony in this area, but Slayton guesses that the lure of a town populated primary by mutants was too hard to resist.

As the Sentinels land in the middle of the town, they are immediately spotted by the insect-Sentinels. Slayton starts scanning for mutant life readings, but he can already tell his fellow recruits one thing: these bugs are everywhere! Lex tells everyone to hold up, noticing that the insects aren’t attacking them. He makes his Sentinel move closer to one of the insects, and they gently touch the Sentinel’s finger. The insects can feel that the Sentinels are related to them. Lex wants to try to send some information to the insects so that maybe they can communicate. He wants to input the right code signal to the bugs, and convince them something like he’s their queen, or something. Maybe this way, they can end this peacefully.

Briggs totally disagrees with that and has his Sentinel fire a blast, obliterating a group of the bugs! The troops are surprised at what Briggs is doing, but he doesn’t care. He’s the one giving orders around here, and he orders his troops to exterminate the bugs. He activates the flamethrowers on his unit, and literally starts burning up the insect-Sentinels. The troops don’t like the idea but obey Briggs. Joni calls Briggs an idiot, mocking that he’s in a fight now where he doesn’t have to run away from. Briggs orders her to shut up and just do as told. He orders Lex to finish the bugs. Lex powers up, and channels his powers through his Sentinel unit so he can take out most of them. Briggs asks Meld if he can use his metal-altering powers on the insects.

Jeremiah smiles he can and does so. He touches the control panel of his Sentinel, and channels his powers through the Sentinel and has the robot’s fingers stretch so that it grabs some of the bugs. After a short while, Meld does the same thing to his entire unit, and, he jokes, for as far as the bugs are concerned, he’s now acting like a flypaper! After Meld destroys the many insects surrounding him, Slayton detects some life readings. He notices a church, and it has a basement under it where the life signs are coming from. Tracy doesn’t really like tearing up churches but, under the current circumstances, she’s certain that God will understand it. She rips the roof open, and actually finds some surviving mutants!

Tracy picks them up in the pal of her Sentinel’s giant hand, and promises to the scared mutants that they really are the good guys. The troops have now completely destroyed every last one of the insect-Sentinels, and think they’ve done a good job. Meld thinks that’s a small consolation for the kids that have lost their families now and are all alone. He believes that this is the right time and place. Briggs doesn’t understand, and at first neither does Slayton, but eventually he does get it. Lex gives Meld his thumbs up, promising they’ve got his back.

Meld reports to Briggs that he’s getting a transmission from Quito. When Briggs doesn’t understand, Meld explains he is referring to Ecuador’s capital. It’s about a 20 minutes flight from there if they move it. He explains that the local TV news team spotted something in the air, heading for the big city but it isn’t too big. And according to Meld’s long-range scanners, it’s probably no more than five of those Sentinel-skeeter thingies.

Briggs wants to go take care of the situation by himself, seeing there’s only five of the Sentinels. He orders everyone except Slayton, who has to come with him, to stay put while they deal with the situation. Joni notices that Briggs only shows an ounce of backbone when he’s got easy targets to deal with, and the media will turn him into a hero. But at least they are relieved from listening to his nonsense for an hour. Jeremiah wishes he could see the look on Briggs’ face when Slayton tells him they were just chasing a flock of geese. Lex smiles that, from there on out, Briggs is the last thing Jeremiah will have to worry about. Meld agrees, confident that things are over. He completely melds his Sentinel unit, and steps out of it. Meld proudly declares that from this point on, he quits!

Lex, Joni and Tracy also step out of their units. Joni is surprised that Lex had this whole thing planned out. Lex admits that he began planning when Jeremiah told him he was raised up like a military guinea pig. He admits that they were both in the brainstorming face yesterday, and didn’t knew they would do this so soon. Meld realizes that, but he won’t leave a bunch of traumatized mutant orphans to be wards of the government. Not of any government.

Joni and Tracy tell Meld they could have told them about the plan, because the both of them would have helped out. Lex smiles to the girls that they can still help. He explains that, when they get back to the base and file the report about how, as soon as Briggs and Slayton were out of range, a few surviving Sentinel creatures attacked and that Jeremiah was killed in action. He doubts that O*N*E* will ask too many questions, and General Lazer will probably not be too concerned either. Meld knows that he’ll be just another dead mutant to Lazer.

Later, Meld takes goodbye from his friends, and stays behind with the other mutants, ready to make a difference.

One month later…
Lex is sleeping in his bedroom. Suddenly, a bright, white light surrounds the chamber. It is soon followed by another, yellow light. Lex quickly wakes up, and feels weird. He wants to know what just happened.

M-Day…
Lex walks over to the cafeteria, where everyone is busy watching the TV. He asks Joni what’s going on. Joni tells him to watch TV, as the event is described on every channel. A reporter explains that a 90% of all of the mutants have suddenly been de-powered. Joni asks Lex how he’s doing. Lex confirms that he’s one of the mutants who lost their powers. And he feels great. Lex… feels human.

Rhodes thinks about all of the villains and madman that have been de-powered. This is a great day for national security. Valerie mentions that Lazer doesn’t agree with that. He believes that erasing mutants doesn’t erase anti-mutant sentiment. She believes that the enemies of mutantkind couldn’t have a better time than to strike now. And she believes that for the remaining mutants, things have gotten more desperate because their species is almost extinct now. She’s afraid that the O*N*E* agency is going to have to step in and stabilize the situation before it gets out of control.

Time passes…
Lex, Tracy, Slayton, Joni and Briggs all walk together to their new, permanent assignments. It’s a new world. Mutants have always been a minority, but at least they have been able to defend themselves. Things have changed now. There’s a lot less mutants out there now, and they are going to need O*N*E*’s protection. Briggs thinks that this can be compared to baby-sitting. He doesn’t want to be doing favours for mutants. Lex doesn’t care about what Briggs thinks, and tells him to move it.

As the troops leave, Lazer and Valerie observe them from their office. Lazer hopes that Valerie had a good reason for the team reassignment. After all, Lazer remembered that he told Val he doesn’t want Lexington leading the team. Val smiles that she heard Lazer say something different. According to her, Lazer said that he doesn’t want any mutants to be leading the team. And Lex isn’t a mutant anymore.

The troops walk over to Rhodes, and look at him guiding in some new recruits for the base. Rhodes congratulates Lex on his new assignment, and hopes he survives the experience. Lex salutes Rhodes and shakes his hand, and thanks him for everything. The new recruits look in awe at Lex and his friends, already having heard rumors that they took down the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in the Savage Land, and even took down Galactus.

A while later, the O*N*E* squad arrives at the Xavier Institute, with the astonished X-Men gazing at the Sentinels…

Characters:
Sentinels

James Rhodes
Valerie Cooper

General Demetrius Lazer

Alexander Lexington, Emil Winston, Nathaniel Briggs, Jake Slayton, Meld, Rajani Dhama, Tracy Skylark (all O*N*E* recruits)

Beast, Cyclops, Emma Frost, Gambit, Rogue, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Unnamed mutants in Ecuador

Notes:
The miniseries ends here, but chronologically, the O*N*E* recruits appear next in the Decimation: House of M: The Day After one-shot and in X-Men (2nd series) #177.

The Sentinels that attack Ecuador really were created by Cassandra Nova, as revealed in New X-Men (1st series) #114.

“M-Day” is the day the world discovered that most of the mutants had lost their special powers, unbeknownst to them thanks to the Scarlet Witch’s altering powers as seen in House of M #7. This issue reveals that Lexington is no longer a mutant thanks to this effect, but it’s unknown how his or the other O*N*E* recruits lives were altered during the House of M at this point.

Gigante Dolor is Spanish for "giant pain."

This Issue has been reprinted in:
Decimation: Sentinel Squad O*N*E* (Trade Paperback)

Issue Summary written by: Homer Jay


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