Issue Date: April 2009
Story Title: Untitled
Staff: Marjorie Liu (writer), Kalman Andrasofszky & Sara Pichelli (pencilers), Ramon Perez & Sarah Pichelli (inkers), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Alina Urusov (cover artist), Michael Horwitz (assistant editor), John Barber (editor), Axel Alonso (group editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)
Bobby Soul suffers through a disturbing hallucination. Sniper Chick tricks Tatiana into revealing her killer instinct, and leaves her alone after offering a choice. Kiden endures a hallucination in which Ms. Palmer blames everything on her. Kiden wakes up to see the ghost of her father, who explains he orchestrated these events in order to save Kiden’s life. Sniper Chick enters; Mr. Nixon tells her to leave. She steps out into the hallway, where Lil Bro’s psionic dragon bites off her head. The gang frees Kiden and, using the knowledge of the building Tatiana absorbed from Sniper Chick, finds and rescues Ms. Palmer as well. After they drop her at the hospital, the vagrant teens continue their quest for survival. Meanwhile, Mr. Nixon’s ghost converses with a mysterious colleague with whom he made his arrangement. The two men now wait to see how Kiden and her friends will change the world.
Are you comfortable? Sniper Chick asks. An unconscious Bobby Soul lies strapped to an operating table, his body plugged in to several electrodes and IV lines. Perhaps some refreshments before we start. A surgeon draws a drug out of a vial and injects Bobby. His eyes suddenly open wide; he clenches his teeth. In his mind’s eye, he sees himself plunging into the depths of his own pupil, eventually reaching the end of the blackness by smashing into a concrete pad.
The speaker continues, laying out the rules of conduct for the organization, and imploring the need for professionalism in this line of work. There are things to remember, if you are to become a professional. We honor our contracts. We treat our clients with respect. We are good to each other. In return for these simple obligations, we live well. But here’s the rub, sweet thing. If you do not meet your obligations... if you do not follow the simple rules of conduct and behave as a professional... our professional... we will scrub you. We will hurt you. We will kill you.
Bobby picks himself up and looks at his new surroundings, dumbfounded. He sees an urban environment centered on a red and white-striped silo with a silly cartoon cat’s head resting at the top. He hears something approaching from behind, and turns, seeing a digitized, stylized version of his little brother. Lil Bro gestures for Bobby to turn around. He does, and sees an angry mob of cartoon figures with pitchforks and clubs. Bobby reaches down and lifts Lil Bro into his arms. He runs, but finds his path blocked by a wrought-iron gate. The mob approaches. Bobby is cornered. He tries to fight them off, but the mob overpowers him and snatches Lil Bro from his grip. One of the kidnappers suddenly transforms into a digitized version of Bobby. This imposter lifts his weapon, a crowbar, and brings it down over Lil Bro’s head. The head shatters; Bobby screams. Then everything goes black.
Tatiana Caban suddenly snaps to attention. The audio cassette player in the lounge finishes its message with an offer of milk and cookies. Sniper Chick approaches and hits its stop button, puts an end to the recording, but continues conversing with it anyway. Tatiana calls her crazy; Sniper Chick implies Tatiana is crazy too. Tatiana denies it.
Abruptly, Sniper Chick whips out a pistol, points it at the young mutant, and tells her she can either choose to live, or choose to die. The choice is simple. To emphasize her point, she fires the gun at the ground next to Tatiana’s feet. Tatiana screams; the bullet ricochets off the floor and moves past Sniper Chick's face, grazing her cheek.
She reaches down, grabs Tatiana by the wrist, and forces the gun into her hand. Time to decide, she says, turning the gun toward Tatiana's head. Will she live, or die? Stepping back, Sniper Chick spreads her arms wide, as if to invite an attack. Blood drips down the side of her bullet-scarred face. She asks her again: live or die? Tatiana begins to cry. She struggles to decide. Sniper Chick lurches forward and throws her arms on either side of Tatiana's chair. Well which is it, she asks? Tatiana looks her in the eye, raises the gun, and pulls the trigger. The back of Sniper Chick's head explodes outward, splattering the room with blood and bits of brain.
Tatiana opens her eyes. “Good. You have backbone,” the supposedly dead woman says. The startled girl spins around and sees her nemesis still standing. She just killed her, Tatiana says! Duly noted, Sniper Chick says, and without regret, to boot. She assumes Tatiana will try to kill her again. Tatiana raises the pistol again and fires it at Sniper Chick's face. This time, when Tatiana drops the hammer, nothing happens. Sniper Chick doesn't flinch. She continues speaking as if uninterrupted. The drugs gave her enough room to play around in Tatiana's mind, she says. However, everything Tatiana did was of her own free will, including her two attempts to murder her captor just now. The next time she pulls the trigger on a gun, she won't even think about it. Although Tatiana refutes what this means, the well-dressed woman insists that the young girl is an easy killer; she even likes blood.
She wipes the streak of blood from her face and begins to leave. She will have someone bring Tatiana milk and cookies as a reward for her good behavior. If she continues to behave so well, maybe she will get to see Ms. Cameron Palmer again... while she still lives. Sniper Chick leaves. The terrified Tatiana averts her eyes to the floor, and cannot help but notice the drops of blood the woman left behind.
Some things are out of our control. And sometimes what we control, we destroy.
Kiden wakes up on a cold concrete floor, clothed only in a towel. She sees her former teacher Ms. Palmer lying face-down in a pool of blood, her neck contorted in an unspeakable manner. Cameron Palmer speaks and tells Kiden this is her fault. Please don't say that, Kiden says, beginning to cry. Two sets of hands reach down, bind Cameron's hands, and hold a knife to her throat. Through it all, she insists Kiden is to blame. Kiden screams as she watches the strangers slit her teacher's throat. Sobbing hysterically, she crawls over to Ms. Palmer's body, through the pools of blood amassing on the floor, and checks for sings of life. She begs her not to leave again.
Sniper Chick, still dressed in her white pant-suit with stiletto-heeled boots, approaches the groveling Kiden and mocks her begging. Without hesitating, Kiden grabs the kitchen knife from the floor, stands up, and stabs Sniper Chick in the shoulder. She is horrified to see the person she stabbed is actually her good friend Tatiana Caban. As the gravity of what she has just done begins to sink in, Bobby Soul approaches from behind and punches Kiden in the face. She falls to the ground. He kneels down and grips her throat. They died because of her, he shouts! Each of them had a life before, and now, because of Kiden, they're dead!
“Without you, they would have been dead anyway,” a familiar voice says. Kiden looks over and sees the specter of her father gently patting Lil Bro on the head. Officer Nixon tells his daughter she gave her friends the best things for which anyone can ask. She gave them time, and new opportunities. She gave them He smiles and asks her to wake up.
Kiden opens her eyes in her dreary cell, still chained to the operating table. Her father stands over her. Although he resembles a corpse, he retains the gentle glow in his eyes. Kiden tells her dad he could have warned her. Mr. Nixon insists she wouldn't have listened. She would have liked hearing about this situation.
The cell door opens; Sniper Chick steps in. She calls Mr. Nixon a liar and reminds him he said he wouldn't interrupt Kiden's session. He reminds her she said she wouldn't start with Kiden. Sniper Chick insists she hasn't yet; however, she gave Mr. Nixon his alone time and doesn't care if he wasted it. “Little Kiden Nixon,” Sniper Chick begins, “...do you know what your daddy has done? Do you know why he conspired to bring you here?” Kiden tells her to go to hell. Sniper Chick smirks; she realizes Officer Nixon still hasn't told his daughter how he saved her life. Angered, Mr. Nixon asks the woman to leave. She acquiesces, granting him ten more minutes with his daughter, and steps out into the hall.
A fierce right-hook takes her by surprise. Sniper Chick looks up to see Bobby Soul and Lil Bro standing with Tatiana, who now bears a striking similarity to Sniper Chick herself. The transfigured Tatiana shakes out her fist and glares at her former captor. Sniper Chick cannot help but wonder how they caught her off guard, but then realizes the key: the boy. Mr. Nixon told her Lil Bro had no powers; he broke his word! Mr. Nixon thinks otherwise. Meanwhile, one of Lil Bro’s astral projections – a large, serpentine dragon –slinks around and locks eyes with Sniper Chick. Then, it opens its jaws wide and clamps down on her back. It disappears, and she slumps to the floor, a bloodied, decapitated heap. Tatiana looks on in horror. Bobby Soul averts his brother's eyes. Kiden says “dude”.
With their primary obstacle removed, the kids hurry to release Kiden from her bonds. Kiden, meanwhile, continues her conversation with her father. “What did she mean you made a bargain? What did you do?” she asks. Mr. Nixon tells her he did what he had to do in order to save Kiden's life.
Tatiana, assuming Kiden directed the question at her, also answers. She says that although she knows nothing about a bargain, she managed to get enough of the deranged woman's blood in her to absorb her memories of where she stored Kiden, Bobby, and Lil Bro. She also discovered where they imprisoned Ms. Palmer.
Kiden asks her dad to tell her the truth about the bargain. He refuses; she will hate him when she learns. “What did you do?” she snaps. Mr. Nixon explains she can never comprehend the horrible things that would have happened to her, had he not intervened. This will change everything for her. “So you did... you did help cause this. You hurt my friends, you hurt me—”
“I love you. I did all of this because I love you, and you were going to die, otherwise,” Mr. Nixon says.
Tatiana, walking with Kiden's arm slung over her shoulder, guides her across the slippery, blood-strewn floor. Suddenly tempted by the blood, Tatiana licks her lips. Bobby notices her getting distracted and grabs her shoulder. He asks her to focus. Kiden, meanwhile, calls out to her dad. They were all going to die, Mr. Nixon reiterates. Bobby grabs Kiden by the shoulder and asks her to snap out of it. There is nothing there, he says; she is talking to air.
The kids navigate the halls in search of Ms. Palmer. Bobby comments on the utter emptiness of the building. It's like no one else is even there, he says. Tatiana assures him they are not alone. Continuing, Bobby wonders if the building was emptied out intentionally, possibly by the sniper woman. She didn't do this, Tatiana says, still channeling the woman in question. She can see that much, Bobby asks? Tatiana tells him she sees enough.
Using her borrowed knowledge of the building's layout, she quickly leads them to Ms. Palmer's location. They swing open the door and are assaulted by a pungent array of stale human smells. They step into the darkened room. Ms. Palmer has obviously been tortured; Tatiana asks whether it's wise to move her. Do they have a choice, Bobby asks? They can't leave her in this place. Kiden reaches down and wakes up their former teacher. She tells her everything will be okay. Cameron recoils from her touch. “You,” she says. “Get away from me. Don't touch me. Get away! This is all your fault, Kiden!” This accusation hits Kiden hard; her jaw goes slack, and she stares at her only role model in shocked horror. Tatiana asks if Ms. Palmer was brainwashed or something. Actually, she might be on to something, Bobby Soul says.
They free Ms. Palmer and escape from the building with her safely in Bobby's arms. Officer Nixon, waiting in a control room, observes their exit via security cameras. A mysterious man in an expensive suit, sitting in a lounge chair while sipping a cappuccino, asks Mr. Nixon if he is satisfied. Kiden's alive, Mr. Nixon answers, but he will only consider their bargain met when she makes it to old age. Besides, he asks if a father is ever truly satisfied. “I suppose not,” the cappuccino-sipping man says. “A man tries so hard. You build your children young, from the bottom up. You present them with possibilities and hard choices, and then force those choices. Until one day your children... become something else. Something useful.” He raises his cup to his lips and takes a drink.
Kiden’s father cannot help but note the detachment in the man's tone. After all, Mr. Nixon just made Lil Bro kill the man's daughter. Doesn't that grieve him? It was worth it, the man says, to see what the boy could do. Besides, he can make other children; Mr. Nixon cannot. They have different goals, the mysterious man says. Mr. Nixon agrees; he only wanted to set his daughter on the right path, so she stayed alive. “And so you have,” the man says. Now, he wants to know of the future, of what Kiden and her friends will do to change things. Then, they will plan how they can help them.
On the security monitor, Kiden Nixon, Tatiana Caban, Lil Bro, and Bobby Soul, carrying Cameron Palmer in his arms, step outside the building. A moment later, they’re gone. They arrive at the hospital and drop the unconscious Ms. Palmer by the doors. Will she be okay, Tatiana asks? She's still alive, Bobby answers. That isn't what Tatiana meant, but Bobby knows. It's the best answer he can give.
Tatiana asks her friends what they intend to do now. All Kiden knows is that she spent years trying to kill herself in various ways because of what happened to her father. But, she got better. She forged a new life, and found friends who trusted her. She moved on. What do they do?now, she asks. They keep surviving. She grabs their hands, and the tight-knit group of friends walks forward into the motionless streets of New York City.
Cameron Palmer (high school teacher)
Officer Nixon (Kiden’s dead father)
Mysterious man (Sniper Chick’s father)
Issue Summary written by: Sixhoursoflucy