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Dennis Hopeless (writer), Karl Moline (penciler), Mark Pennington w/Rick Magyar & Karl Moline (inkers), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Francesco Frankavilla (cover artist), Jon Moisan (assistant editor), Bill Rosemann (editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (Exec. Publisher)
With Nara’s accidental death at the hand of Cullen Bloodstone, Anachronism has been pushed too far and tries to kill his friend. Instead of helping, Nico and Chase have also decided to kill Cullen. While Nico attack Cullen, Cammi tricks Chase, getting the Darkhawk armor. Not far away, Hazmat runs for her life from X-23. Arcade watches the show entranced and Death Locket and Katy / Tim, who have been hiding in the airshafts, realize they must stop him. Death Locket creates a diversion by breaking several cages and Tim and Katy try to hack into his system, only to get caught. Arcade wants to watch the rest of the show with them when he is taken out by Chris Powell, the former Darkhawk, whom Death Locket freed.
Arcade’s lair:Your kids will surprise you, the villain muses. He always thought that was some silly crap parents tell themselves to justify ill-advised procreation. But, man, ain’t it the truth. When he set that clock for 30 days, he was hoping for a real high school splatter platter. Wanted kiddies skinning each other for pelts by the end of the first week. No dice, instead he got a slow burn. Big beefy hero hearts breaking with every death. Their finger nails bloody from clawing at the backside of the inevitable.
He likes to think those kids knew better. That they remembered something he’d forgotten. Great games aren’t won in the first half. No, they build gradually. The make you wait, cracking your knuckles to stop the itch as that precious momentum shifts back and forth. True classics always come down to the wire. It took every second of 29 days to break these kids. But there they are, broken. And what comes next, it’s gonna be well worth the wait.
In Murderworld, Anachronism, mad with grief over Nara, is about to hit Cullen Bloodstone with his axe. Cullen, who realizes he has lost Aiden, doesn’t budge, willing to at least give Aiden his death. After the blow, Aiden kicks him in the face.
Cammi trains her gun on him, ordering him to stop, berating everyone for their stupidity and most of all herself.
Reptil turns to the two Runaways, asking them they have to help. No, Nico refuses. Chase is surprised but follows her lead.
Angrily, Cammi blasts Aiden away. Reptil figures Nico predicted that Cammi had it. Chase, Nico orders. She sure? he asks. Yeah, she tells him and Reptil becomes suspicious a moment before Chase turns Darkhawk and blasts him.
Cammi helps Cullen up. She shouldn’t have stopped Aiden, he tells her. He deserved that. Sure he did, she tells him, unimpressed. Nico and Chase join them. They both know what has to be done, Nico tells Chase. She’ll do it. She grabs Cullen and flies out to the water. She figures she tried to be herself in here, tried to be compassionate. All that won her was a shallow grave. Lesson learned.
In the forest, Hazmat feels something is wrong. She is hurt, her suit damaged. Leaking radiation, she struggles to get help. As she finds a bleeding X-23, she realizes she’s screwed.
X-23 wakes up, realizing her prey is close. Immediately, she figures out the quickest ways to kill Hazmat. Wounded, Hazmat runs through the forest, thinking she’s always been a hater…
Elsewhere underground:From an airshaft, Death Locket spies on Arcade. She realizes something has changed. They’ve been watching Arcade for two days now. He is obsessed with his schedule and doesn’t deviate from his routine. By this time of night, he shouldn’t be watching the arena. He should be sixteen minutes into his 8:30 bath right now, sipping wine or sculpting a bubble foam beard. What’s got him so-- She sees the images of the other kids fighting each other and understands.
She crawls back into the shaft where Tim Bashir is waiting and fixing her cyborg arm. She explains he did it. Everybody’s fighting each other. If they don’t shut this thing down tonight, they are all gonna kill each other.
They share a moment of closeness and suddenly he turns into a disgusted Katy, who shoves Death Locket away. Had she known she’d have to put up with them snogging all day, she’d have taken her chances sweet-talking Arcade.
Tim takes over again, telling her to come off it. She is just as buggered as they are if he catches up. This plan is their only way out. Katy comes back remarking the ‘hack the system and shut it all down’ plan couldn’t’ possibly be pulled off without her. It took him the better part of a week to rebuild a simple blaster cannon. Or has he suddenly become a hundred times more powerful? she mocks.
They argue angrily until the fed-up Becka is moving away. She tells them she will create a diversion before their yelling gets them caught. If they could stop arguing long enough to watch the vent and get themselves ready, that would be awesome. Their little poppet has grown some bollocks, Katy admits.
Becka climbs down into a room full of caged animals. Very soon, Locke-2 informs Arcade some animals have gotten out of their pens. Impatient, Arcade tells him to deal with it.
From her hideout, Becka realizes the distraction wasn’t big enough. She grabs Kid Briton’s sword, looking for something suitably big and finds Kid Briton’s tank. Soon there is a crashing noise. Angrily, Arcade shouts at Locke-2 to deal with it.
Becka attacks the robot from behind, destroying it with the sword. The ensuing explosion tosses her against Darkhawk’s tank. She is in for a shock when inside the tank Chris Powell opens his eyes. Frightened, she screams loud enough for Arcade to hear.
Muttering angrily, he goes to investigate, allowing Katy to enter the room. She looks at Arcade’s screens. Agitated, Tim tells her Death Locket might need help. Katy rolls her eyes and orders him to calm down. It was her job to create a diversion. That scream sounded real, he points out. Yes, quite real, she agrees unimpressed. Something is wrong, he insists. Angrily, she reminds him what’s wrong is them being trapped in the basement with an invincible clown who gets off on killing kiddies and Tim won’t shut up about his bloody robot waifu long enough for her to save all their lives! Now please sod off and let her work!
She enters Arcade’s command system when suddenly an image of him appears on the screens and tells her not to touch that dial. A moment later, the real Arcade comes in with a frightened Death Locket, commending Katy on getting in there. But the system requires voice and fingerprint verification for outgoing calls. Don’t you just love letting a girl think she’s won the race before you cut her little legs off?
He admits he doesn’t know how they managed it. Thought they’d been buried alive. But bra-vo. Katy turns into Tim. Arcade congratulates him on the new weapons arm he made for Death Locket. Did he cobble this out of scraps in his workshop? He pushes them onto a sofa. He should probably send them both back up to join the final reindeer games. But that death of theirs… there’s video. They can watch later. Thing. Of. Beauty! He’d kinda hate to retcon it. There’s time… that decision can wait. For now, let’s watch. He turns to the big screen where X-23 is about to eviscerate Hazmat.
Nico is trying to drown Cullen. Cammi is aiming her gun at Chase / Darkhawk and Anachronism raises his axe as Reptil charges at him.
Isn’t this something to see? Arcade asks entranced, when suddenly he is wacked from behind with a blunt object. Brilliant, Katy chuckles. Arcade admits his secret is out. Artificial superpowers don’t work so well down here. They were built for up top. He supposes he should have killed the old Darkhawk when he had the chance, he mutters, as Chris Powell stands above him, weapon raised.
Anachronism, Apex / Tim Bashir, Cullen Bloodstone, Cammi, Chase Stein, Darkhawk, Death Locket, Hazmat, Nico Minoru, Reptil, X-23
DEAD: Juston Syefried, Kid Briton, Mettle, Nara, Red Raven
The cover is an homage to Heinlein’s novel “Have Spacesuit, will travel.”
The issue is narrated by almost everyone.
Hazmat has caught up to the situation she was shown in in issue #1.