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Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (penciler), Kev Walker & Jason Gorder (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)
In Murderworld things have come to a boil. A trigger-scent crazed X-23 attacks Hazmat and is in turn attacked by Anachronism, who blames her for the death of Nara. Reptil tries to stop him, none of them noticing that Hazmat’s powers seems to be going into meltdown. Elsewhere, Nico is trying to kill Cullen Bloodstone. Cammi tricks Chase into losing the DarkHawk amulet and takes it for herself to try and talk some sense into Nico, an act that might backfire. Below in his control center, Arcade seems to be at the mercy of Apex, Death Locket and Chris Powell but quickly tricks them and teleports away. When Apex is on her own to depower Murderworld and save the others, Arcade contacts her and points out she will be publicly reviled for her past deeds if she saves the others. However, he could give her control of Murderworld to let the battle play out to the end, leaving her the sole survivor and he would edit the published material to make her seems the heroine. Apex suppresses her brother Tim’s personality and accepts. She then takes control of Death Locket again and takes out Chris Powell.
Murderworld, day 29:Goaded by the trigger scent, a horribly burnt X-23 still attacks Hazmat, who is lying on the ground, pleading that Laura will hate herself when she wakes up. Anachronism chances upon them. As far as he is concerned, X-23 is to blame for his girlfriend Nara’s death. He swings his axe and hits X-23 on the stomach. When she’s fallen, he raises his axe for the killing blow.
Reptil, in his dinosaur form, shouts at him to stop and stampedes into Anachronism. He orders him to get the hell away from his friends. Hazmat groans they need to stop fighting. They are giving him what he wants.
In his lair, Arcade finds himself overpowered by Apex, Death Locket and the freed (though powerless) Chris Powell aka Darkhawk. Arcade admits they have him at a disadvantage, as his godlike arena powers don’t extend down to the control room. On paper, he is screwed.
Chris orders him to turn off the game. Playing for time, Arcade admits that’s an option. But he thinks there are others. Maybe beating the bad guy and going home isn’t the best solution for everyone involved. Apex listens attentively. Consider the consequence—
Turn it off! Chris orders, his foot now in Arcade’s face. Arcade relents and gets up. Chris gets sick and orders the girls to watch Arcade. Death Locket trains her gun arm at him. Chris throws up again and the girls are distracted. Arcade taps a few keys and is teleported away. Tell her she is not the only one who saw that coming, Apex sighs.
In Murderworld, Nico has a harder time drowning Cullen than she thought. She apologizes. He is tougher than he looks. Catch-22, he mocks. With the ring he is hard to kill. Without it, he’s an unstoppable monster. Nico apologizes again and hits him with her magical new arm. He falls into the ocean.
Some distance away, Cammi tells Chase that Nico is killing Cullen. He has to stop her. Chase protests that that’s what it looks like but this is her move. Time is straight up, yo, and they can’t risk that thing-- Cammi trains her gun at him. Does he thinks she has any interest in his dumbass yo-ridden justification for this crap? Shut his surfboy mouth and go stop her!
As Darkhawk, he grabs her gun and squashes it. Feeling guilty, he powers down and admits this was harsher than he wanted. He didn’t want to break her gun. Cammi uses a judo move to topple him. Don’t worry about her gun, she tells him as she sits astride him and uses a knife from her glove to cut out the Darkhawk gem. Moments later, she turns into Darkhawk and flies off.
Downstairs, Chris Powell, Becka and Tim watch the events and consider how to stop it. Katy replaces Tim and announces they could stop it faster if her brother would kindly sod off into their head and let her work. Tim apologizes. Becka hesitantly asks if they can trust her. Impatiently, Katy replies, yes, the murderous bitch can be trusted to get them out. She’s a pragmatist, not a serial killer. All she ever wanted was out. Becka announces she’ll take Chris for some water in the kitchen.
Bloody simpletons, Katy mutters once she is alone. A moment later, a screen goes on, showing Arcade (who whispers conspiratorially, wanting to talk to her. Katy announces she isn’t interested and busy hacking his systems. He praises her for her skills but he doesn’t get this move.
Tim pops up, asking what Katy is doing. Katy suppresses him, announcing let her finish and thy can lock him out. Arcade continues she was playing the game so well until now. She’s seen what’s happening up top. They’ve got this thing won, her and him. Doesn’t she want to take home the trophy?
Tim reappears and begs her not to listen. She’s not! Katy shouts. Stop treating her like a monster! And you shut up! she shouts at Arcade. She’s not like him. She was only trying to survive!
There’s the rub, Arcade points out smoothly. People want a bad guy. When he looks at what she’s done, he sees a survivor. A brilliant strategist fighting for her life. But how will the world see her? Doesn’t matter, she replies. Place’s got cameras all over. She can’t change anything. He hasn’t released the videos yet, he points out. The way he sees it, there are two possible ending: Number one: keep doing what she’s doing. Shut it all down and maybe save a few lives. Arcade will be forced to release the tape as is. Not a win for him but close enough. But Apex will walk out of here a pariah. The real villain of the story.
Then there’s option number two, in which he gives her complete system control now. They let this thing play out naturally. Tie up those loose ends. He gets his win.
Tim pops out. They are done listening, he announces. Katy suppresses him and tells Arcade to go on.
After a little creative editing, she becomes Murderworld’s charismatic lead. Tragic. Beloved. The sole survivor of this horrific ordeal.
Upstairs, Nico lands next to the injured Cullen in the sand and assures him she knows this isn’t right. It’s neither what she wants nor he deserves. But this place has never been fair and it’s time to take care of herself and hers. She’ll try to make it quick. Cullen thanks her sarcastically and spits at her to get it done.
Before she can, though, Cammihawk flies into her. Don’t tell her she let this place turn her cold. Not Nico! She’s way better than that! She’s so $%*#ing good she rubbed off on Cammi and made her better than that! What choice does she have? Nico shouts back. This thing ends tomorrow! She’s seen what that thing inside Cullen is capable of. If it comes down to a fight they are all— Yes, Cammi interrupts her calmly. This is Murderworld. It’s day 29 of 30 and they’re all gonna die tomorrow. What else is new? She gets where Nico’s coming from. Self-preservation is what she does. But murder is one thing she doesn’t want to survive.
She already has, Nico whispers. What? Cammi asks shocked. Nico comes clear that she buried Katy and Death Locket alive. Katy cut off her arm, kicked her over a cliff and left her to die. Maybe she deserved it. But Death Locket? She was a puppet. She couldn’t help it. And Chase— she almost killed— Nico trails off, realizing Cammi, who has powered down, was wearing Chase’s Darkhawk costume. Where’s Chase? she asks eyes aglow and grabs Cammi’s arm. How did she get his amulet? She can explain, Cammi replies.
Downstairs, Chris Powell lies unconscious in the corner, shot in the shoulder by Death Locket, who is once again under Katy’s control…
While Reptil and Anachronism still battle, Hazmat is forgotten as green energy surrounds her. She begs them to stop and sinks down.
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