X-Men (6th series) #25

Issue Date: 
October 2023
Story Title: 
From the Shadows
Staff: 

Gerry Duggan (writer), Stefano Caselli (artist), Marte Gracia (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Clayton Cowles (letterer & production), Tom Muller & Jay Bowen (designers), Joshua Cassara & Marte Gracia (cover artists), C.F. Villa & Federico Blee (Stormbreakers variant cover artists), Mark Brooks (Corner Box variant cover artist), Alex Ross (Connecting variant cover artist), Bryan Hitch & Alex Sinclair (Promo variant cover artists), Peach Momoko (Design variant cover artist), Russell Dauterman & Matt Wilson (Trading Card variant cover artists), Sergio Davila (variant cover artist), Sean Parsons & Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Kingpin variant cover artists), Lauren Amaro (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

 

Brief Description: 

After the tragic Hellfire Gala, Kate Pryde fell through a Krakoan gate and found herself in Jerusalem, where she was forced to defend herself against a dozen or so Orchis agents – and she did so, by killing them all. Weeks ago, Emma Frost, in her Hazel Kendall disguise, takes Kamala Khan back to her home where she uses her powers to make Kamala's family think Kamala never died, and Kamala agrees to assist Emma with the resistance against Orchis. Orchis have made strides in capturing and deporting mutants from Earth to Arakko, while using Tony Stark's Iron Man technology to enhance the abilities of their Sentinels. Krakoan gates are closed, and Orchis vows to double down on their measures, especially with the new Captain Krakoa causing problems for them, too. Dr. Stasis delights in tormenting the imprisoned Cyclops, while Kate Pryde has retrieved her old swords belonging to Ogun, and has taken the name Shadowkat. She is moody and dismissive as she works alongside a remaining rag-tag group of mutants – Synch, Talon, Ms Marvel and Rasputin IV – to do what they can to thwart Orchis. Synch confronts Shadowkat about her attitude and behaviour. But Shadowkat has one advantage – Orchis may have closed the gates, but for some reason she can access them, and does so, transporting herself to Arakko where a civil war rages. She's looking for Polaris, Forge and Sunfire, but she encounters a mutant called Woofer and asks him to start taking down the names and powers of all  the mutants he can. Forge meanwhile is trapped on a distant world with no way home, and realizes that no one is monitoring the Vault – indeed, in the jungles of Ecuador, the Children of the Vault find themselves free. The remaining X-Men are working with Emma, Tony Stark and the new Avengers Unity Squad against Orchis, and secret meetings are conducted in the old Morlock tunnels. It is there that Shadowkat informs Emma Frost that she is going to kill the traitor Firestar.

 

Full Summary: 

(Then)

Central Park, where Kate Pryde sits on a park bench next to an older woman and exclaims “Life is complicated”? That's all my rabbi has to say?' Kate points out that mutants can walk to other worlds through Krakoa's gates, except for her. Kate motions to a nearby Krakoan gateway and tells her rabbi she actually bounced her head off the door and busted her nose. 'I can walk through anything -' Kate begins, to which the older woman remarks 'Except that door, darling'. Kate declares that her friends and family have a home, but it isn't for her. The older woman chucks some bird seed on the ground and pigeons flock around her as she calls Kate “Kitty” and tells her that she reads the news: 'Krakatoa sounds wonderful and, of course. I heard your teacher's voice in my head.' She adds that so did everyone else on Earth, and she can't say she cared for it, but if the mutants of the world wish to come together and form a state, then it would be hypocritical to stand in the way of that.

'But what if I'm not a mutant!' Kate exclaims. 'What if you're not? Would that be so bad?' the older woman asks. 'Yes! I am a mutant' Kate declares, too which her rabbi tells her that she is glad that is settled. Kate scowls and turns away from her rabbi, deciding that it isn't fair of her to think that the older woman would understand. The rabbi pauses, before telling Kitty that she knows she has seen a lot of weird stuff up close, before asking her to be honest: 'Do you still believe in God?' the rabbi smiles. Kate goes wide-eyed as she turns to the older woman: 'Of course, Susan!' she exclaims. The older woman drops the rest of the bird seed on the ground and tells Kitty that was a relief, otherwise this was going to be a longer and more difficult conversation. 'You X-folks have really stirred the pot this week, and I have a few more park benches to warm. But God believes in you... we have to give in to her ride' Susan announces. As she stands up, she tells Kitty that there is a plan, for all of them, regardless of who or what she is deep down in those fancy genes of hers. 'And look at it this way... if all of your super-friends can do the same thing... but you can't... well, I think that makes you even more special'.

(X weeks ago)

Kate passes through a Krakoan portal to the remains of the Xavier School for the Gifted, in Westchester, New York. She phases through the building, which has been damaged and desecrated with graffiti. While the world slept, Orchis changed the world. Launching a flag attack against humanity and laying the blame at the foot of the mutant nation-state of Krakoa. The Hellfire Gala served as an important function of the state. Those nights were celebrations of mutant culture and the special friendship the X-Men always tried to foster with humanity. An arrest warrant has been issued for Kate Pryde. As a member of Krakoa's ruling council, she was designated as a high-value mutant terrorist – an excellent frame job.

 

Kate arrives in a particular room, and phases her hands through some floorboards to retrieve something. She has gone through many names over the years. Ariel. Sprite. Captain Kate Pryde. The Red Queen. She could not use those names again. Kate retrieves two swords and a note. She opens the note and reads it. The note is from Ogun and says “You will forever be the weapon that made you, Shadowkat.”

Meanwhile, 'It's been weeks since this headline' Dr. Stasis remarks as he looks at a copy of the Daily Bugle which the headline “Mutant Massacre – Hellfire Gala turns deadly – Krakoa blamed.” Dr. Stasis announces that unfortunately Orchis arrived at Mykines too late to help any of the humans, and when the bloodthirsty mutants were confronted with Orchis' superior force, they fled. He introduces himself and states that he wants to remind humanity that Orchis is continuing to roll out untainted alternatives to the laced Krakoan medicines. Dr. Stasis stands in front of a Krakoan portal, with Angelica Jones a.k.a. Firestar at his side, and a large amount of reporters and camera operators gathered, listening and watching.

Dr. Stasis boasts that Orchis stands ready to bring their righteous anger down upon the mutants should they attack again. 'Some mutants didn't believe in Xavier's cult – like Firestar standing beside me' Dr. Stasis adds, explaining that Firestar was an invaluable part of their intelligence operation and a valuable spy against mutants who deemed themselves to be gods. Dr. Stasis asks Firestar to demonstrate the gateway. 'Of course' Firestar replies calmly, and steps towards the gate, which does not open for her. Dr. Stasis claims that the hardworking men and women of Orchis have slammed these Krakoan gates closed forever, and shall leave them up as a reminder of what they escaped and the doom that could have been. Several Stark Sentinels fly above the crowd, and Ben Urich can be seen taking notes as Dr. Stasis reports that in the vacuum left behind by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fall, Orchis has risen to the challenge of defending mankind. 'We want everyone to know that despite their heinous crimes, we in Orchis are treating the citizens of Krakoa...with respect and dignity. Those who wish to relocate to Mars are being given free rides'.

Elsewhere, an Orchis vessel hovers near where the mutant called Woofer is located. 'Good luck, “Woofer.” Careful. I hear there's a war on your new home planet' an Orchis soldier standing nearby jokes. 'What the $%#&? I'm from Chicago – I don't even have a passport!' Woofer calls out as he begins to run from the Orchis vessel.

Elsewhere still, a mutant is dragged towards an Orchis tent, while Dr. Stasis tells the crowd that Orchis are using their gene therapies to help mutants back into the fold of mankind. Dr. Stasis tells the reporters that unlike those who attacked Orchis, they will not lie. They are brave enough to give the bad news. He states that their secure situation is tenuous at best – and that until Captain Krakoa and his Brotherhood are brought to justice for the outrageous murders of politicians in Washington, they are all in danger. Dr. Stasis assures everyone that, in the meantime, Orchis will be vigilant, and will not fail the world of man. As an Orchis operative places a CLOSED sign over the entrance of a Krakoan gate, Dr. Stasis declares that they have a planet to protect, and need humanity's help to do so. 'If you see a mutant – say something!'

Meanwhile, at the White House, which is currently under the watch of two large Stark Sentinels. Feilong of Orchis is meeting with the President, who tells him that he understands the difficult position he finds himself in. 'I'm technically a Chinese national... and yet here I sit, invited as a private citizen to sit in the office of the most powerful man in the world' Feilong remarks. He tells the President that he is grateful for his leadership, and that by accepting Orchis' help, he sends a message to the rest of the world that Orchis is to be trusted. 'And yet, Mr. Feilong, you made certain promises that have not been kept. Captain Krakoa attacked this nation, and he's still on the run. You and Orchis promised results' the President remarks. Feilong frowns and assures the President that they are getting them, noting that most of the mutants have left Earth, although it is true that they still have a few of the worst apples to deal with. 'That's why I stationed those Stark Sentinels on your front lawn' Feilong adds, before reporting that Orchis is also building a robust defense system on the moon to protect when Mars attacks.

Feilong continues, and informs the President that he is also deploying their War Machines to Phobos above the red planet to they can be sure they have total information awareness on any potential battlefield. 'I know you're concerned about the lack of oversight...but let me promise you, mutants are being treated with dignity they do not afford us. The Henry Gyrich Center for Behavioral Studies on Randall's island in New York is hardly a 'gulag''. Feilong points out. He tells the President that it makers Norway's prisons look like Abu Ghraib, and that, frankly, the mutants are safer in custody than they are on the streets. 'Their brazen attack and poisoning of their medicinal gifts have stirred up violent passions. The mutants are lucky that we are compassionate to those who would seek to harm us. I promise you. There will be fair trials... and convictions'.

At said facility on Randall's Island, several mutants are being processed by Orchis operatives, when suddenly, Dr. Stasis arrives. 'Ooh. You lads look sharp. I like the new shock uniforms' Dr. Stasis remarks as he walks past two armed operatives. 'Thanks, Doctor -' one of them begins, to which Dr. Stasis snaps 'I didn't say you could speak to me -' Dr. Stasis begins, before he approaches a nervous man whom he addresses as Dr. Kemble. 'I understand Prisoner Ten is awake?' Dr. Stasis asks. Dr. Kemble confirms that Prisoner Ten is awake, but that he isn't very happy  with the medical procedure and is not amenable to chatting. 'Yes, but he hasn't been asked tob chat with me' Dr. Stasis smirks.

Dr. Stasis enters the padded cell where Prisoner Ten is being held. 'I know you're awake. I was starting to worry you might have tumbled out of your Treehouse harder than we thought' Dr. Stasis remarks. He tells the prisoner that he can see by his expression that he is pained to find himself in this position, even though he can promise him that they are going to great lengths to prevent him from feeling any pain. 'Of course, heh, your broken back is pitching in on that front, too'. Dr. Stasis smirks. 'The good news is, I'd be wheelie surprised if Xavier hadn't left you any number of chairs in storage that we can fetch for you' Dr. Stasis adds. He pauses, before looking down at the prisoner and assuring him that he really wants to help him, and that they can help each other. 'Mutants took a planet – lord knows we weren't doing anything with it. Go live on it – or keep going!' Dr. Stasis leans in towards the prisoner and tells him to leave humanity in peace on Earth, as humanity only has one precious planet. 'If you will come around and endorse the official story of the Mutant Massacre, there will be trials and convictions, but then I get you and all your people off Earth. A little compliance will save lives' Dr. Stasis tells the prisoner, before asking him what he says.

'I say... GO #%&% YOURSELF!' Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops a.k.a. Prisoner Ten shouts as he lay on an angle, strapped to a large X, his ankles and wrists restrained, stitches have shut his eyelids together. This angers Dr. Stasis, who scowls and calls Cyclops a “Pigheaded ignoramus” and tells him that it's over, humans won. 'Accept my mercy!' he exclaims. Dr. Stasis then tells Cyclops that his eyesight is not what it once was, and so he wants to be blunt with him. 'You're in an adamantium neck brace, connected to an adamantium filament – and any time we want – you can be yanked at great speed into a hole the size of a baseball. So I'd start thinking about some cooperation' Dr. Stasis remarks. 'I'll never cooperate with you murdering bigots! The X-Men will -' Cyclops begins, to which Dr. Stasis pretends to look concerned: “Oh no – not the X-Men!” he mocks, before calling Cyclops an idiot and informing him that there are no more X-Men. 'Krakoa is empty. Your transit system shuttered. Your Treehouse burned. Your medicines laced with a “kill switch”. Humans are calling for your deaths! It's Orchis who's urging restraint. “Not all mutants,” we say. But... it's only a matter of time before all the remaining muties are pulled kicking and screaming... from whatever hole they're hiding in'.

At that moment, in the former Morlock Tunnels beneath New York City, a group of mutants gathered from the survivors of the Mutant Massacre are discussing their plans. Everett Thomas a.k.a. Synch reports that they have been able to upgrade their safe house in the Morlock tunnels thanks to the kindness of their friends. He turns to Rasputin IV and Kamala Khan a.k.a. Ms. Marvel and informs them that he and Talon would like them to surveil Orchis' gulag. 'The stepped up their defenses, so it's likely they're guarding some high-value targets' Synch announces. 'Understood' the chimera called Rasputin responds. Suddenly, 'Speak of the devil and she appears. Hello, Kate' Synch remarks as Kate Pryde phases into the tunnel. Kate reports that she has here to rest up for a few, and then head back out. Laura Kinney a.k.a. Talon offers to take over, and suggests to Rasputin and Ms. Marvel that they go over the patrol assignments.

Shadowkat walks past the others, but Synch follows her, and tells her that they need to talk. 'I'm busy' Kate responds as she phases through a tunnel wall. Synch sighs and copies Kate's power, enabling him to phase through the tunnel also, into Kate's makeshift quarters. Kate sits on her bed and looks at the wound on her arm, blood trickling down from it. 'I never knew how annoying I was to everyone around me until you started doing my bit' Kate remarks. Synch ignores that comment and tells Kate that he thought he smelled blood, before asking her if he can be of service. '... Yeah, thanks' Kate replies as she hands Synch a small needle. Synch tells Kate that none of them are whole these days. He creates a small flame and sterilizes the needle as he informs Kate that Ms. Marvel is a little afraid of her. 'Good. She's not cut out for the X-Men. She should walk away' Kate responds.

As Synch begins sewing up the wound, he tells Kate that he disagrees, before asking her if she knows Rasputin IV thinks that she hates her. Kate pauses, before telling Synch that Rasputin being here is a reminder of their – of her -failures. 'On Krakoa and beyond' Kate adds, before telling Synch that she did Rasputin's thing once – go back and fix the failings of the previous generation. 'Now I am the future' Kate laments. With the wound sewn up, Kate moves away from Synch and pulls her cowl over her head. Synch tells Kate that he doesn't blame anyone but Orchis, and neither should she, before warning her that she is going to have a scar. 'If you were at the top of your game, nobody would even be able to touch you' Synch adds. 'I don't even know where Lockheed is' Kate responds. Synch tells her that she is fighting sloppy, and if they lose her, they lose not just another mutant, but their best asset and secret weapon.

Synch continues, informing Kate that he can't use the Krakoan gates when he syncs with her, and he doesn't know why Rasputin IV can't, either. 'Maybe she has a plan' Kate mutters. 'Who? Rasputin?' Synch asks. Kate turns and walks towards another wall which she begins to phase through, and Synch tells her that if she gets herself killed or captured, they will suffer a terrible loss. 'I survived living with a Wolverine longer than anyone, and I know you need your space... but I need you on this team. I need that census of mutants, and I need that scout of Orchis strongholds' Synch declares. 'And you'll have them' Kate replies as she casually turns to Synch, adding that she will be careful, and might even make their rendezvous later.

The most accurate information the resistance had on the strengths, weaknesses and positioning of the enemy was from Shadowkat sneaking through the Krakoan transit system. She was not able to use the gates before Orchis hacked and closed them. But now, she is a ghost in the machine. Moving about unseen in the remnants of a mutant empire. There were gates across this solar system and beyond. Humans barely understand their own politics, so one must forgive them if the finer points of mutant diplomacy are also beyond their grasp. Suffice to say, the colonized world of Mars was not a “mutant safe haven” for anyone born on Earth. Civil war rages on Arakko. And at least one side did not see the majority of their cousins from Earth as anything other than weak.

As several mutants take shelter, other mutants rage war nearby. Forced deportations are a staple of most genocides, and the mutants stranded on Arakko found no comfort. No helping hands from a tribe of mutants who had fought demons for millennia and were now at war again. The mutants deposited on the planet mostly congregate in its lone spaceport on the Promethean plane in the northern hemisphere. 'Holy $#%&!' a mutant with green skin gasps as he glances down a corridor and sees Shadowkat emerge through the Krakoan portal. The mutant runs away from the others he is seeking refuge with and calls out to Shadowkat, telling her that he saw her come through the gate, and asking her if she is here to save them 'Shh. I don't know what you think you saw, but you're mistaken' Shadowkat responds. 'You're from Earth, right? Didn't you testify before congress?' the mutant remarks. 'Kid, you're confused' Shadowkat tells him. 'No – I saw you!' the mutant exclaims as he grabs Shadowkat by her wrist.

This annoys Shadowkat, who pushes the mutant up against a wall and grabs her sword, phasing the blade into him. 'Saw another word before I ask you to speak and it'll be your last' Shadowkat snarls. She tells the mutant to compose himself and answer all her questions, and this sword she ghosted into his chest will come out just as easy – otherwise, things may get messy. Glancing around Shadowkat tells the mutant that she didn't expect to get noticed, and claims that she is just taking a stroll, taking a census, looking for others who survived the attack. She then asks the mutant who is and where he is from. The green-skinned mutant introduces himself as woofer and reveals that he is from Chicago. He reveals that the X-Men saved him, but after whatever happened at the Hellfire Gala, Orchis came back and dumped him here. 'They said we have a family here, but that's not true' Woofer exclaims.

Shadowkat tells Woofer that she knows, and that they got done dirty. 'I won't lie. Things are going to stay rough for a while' Shadowkat reveals, before explaining that she can't phase anyone through the gates. 'There's no help coming...for a while. But I can help you help everyone here' Kate remarks, announcing that every mutant still standing is an X-Man. 'Understand?' she asks. 'It's up to us now. I was hoping to find some of my friends – Sunfire, Polaris and Forge. We need our big guns' Kate announces, before reminding Woofer that he said the X-Mern saved him, and tells that it is now time to pay that forward and be a leader, keep everyone here safe. She adds that help will arrive, but she isn't sure when. Kate hands Woofer a book and instructs him to take a census of everyone here – names and powers – and she will return to collect it. 'Now cause a distraction... I want eyes on you not me when I hit that gate' Kate declares as she slips away from Woofer.

Clutching the book, Woofer replies 'Uh...wow. I'm an X-Man? Okay'. Suddenly, a large mutant appears behind Woofer, who turns around and slaps his hand against the other mutant's chest. 'Don't you try and steal from me!' Woofer shouts. Woofer glances at the portal, and can see Kate step through it. 'I've taken nothing from you, puny Krakoan... but if I did take something, it would be mine by law!' the Arakkii mutant snarls. 'Do you wish to pursue this claim and die as so many on Amenth did, or -?' the Arakkii mutant begins, to which Woofer apologizes to the other mtuant, telling him that he is sorry, and that he thought he was somebody else. 'By the way, have you seen somebody named Polaris... or Forge?' Woofer asks.

Forge is... somewhere else. Weeks ago, he was having a drink and getting ready to unveil versions of the X-Men's Treehouses as gifts to humanity to end homelessness. The next moment, he was coerced through a Krakoan gateway and ended up on a distant world, with no way home. He wondered if someone spiked his drink, but when he discovered that the gates are closed, he realized that Krakoa was incapacitated – and the Vault is now unsupervised.

Deep within the jungle of Ecuador, where Forge had used Krakoan technology to seal off the murderous Children of the Vault, the X-Men's problems suddenly multiplied by the hour, as the pods keeping the Children of the Vault in stasis suddenly open, and Serafina, Fuego and Perro emerge. 'The X-Men trapped us – we're gonna kill them all' Perro declares.

(X Weeks ago)

The fallout from the Mutant Massacre was just  the beginning for newly discovered mutant Kamala Khan. She was escorted home by the White Queen, who was hiding in plain sight as “Hazel Kendal,” the personal assistant to Tony Stark. Under the cover of night, “Hazel” and Kamala arrive at the Khan home. Stark Sentinels can be seen patrolling the area. “Hazel” tells Kamala that she is sorry she was trapped inside the tunnel all day, but that it is safer to move about at night, and she had to get Stark to the Hellfire Club. Kamala extends her legs to climb the front steps in one motion. 'We're all just doing our best. Thanks for everything, Emma – er, Hazel' she responds. Hazel tells Kamala that she knows she is afraid of walking through that door, but that her family is going to be overjoyed that their daughter is alive. 'Not everyone is so lucky' Hazel adds, hanging her head.

Kamala explains that it isn't just that she was dead, or that she is a mutant, it's that she has been hiding so much for so long. 'Kamala Khan and Ms. Marvel both publicly died that day. My parents will have put it together. And when they ask how I'm back, I'll have to tell them I'm a mutant – oh, and we've all been framed for murder' Kamala points out. The door opens, and Kamala's mother, Muneeba Khan appears. 'In that case, darling, let your fairy godmother make your life a little easier' Muneeba remarks – although it's not her speaking. 'Emma? You're in my mom's head?' Kamala gasps. 'Remember. Hazel Kendal, if you would be so kind. Emma Frost is a wanted woman and not the kind that she enjoys' Emma – Hazel – declares. Kamala glances at Emma and asks her what she is doing. 'Your inhibitor ring -' Kamala begins, but Hazel tells her that it is off, and that they must be brief. 'In a moment, your family will wake up and believe you have been on a school trip to Washington DC. Emma confirms that all traumatic memories of Kamala's death have been erased, and that this afternoon, she visited the New York coroner's office – nobody has any recollection of Kamala dying, and there will be no death certificate.

'That's amazing, but how can you be sure -?' Kamala gasps as she and Emma walk into the living room, where Kamala's mother is now sitting on the sofa between her husband Yusif, and brother, Aamir. Emma declares that she is good at what she does. 'And if I makes you feel any better, I used to do this all the time professionally or the Kingpin' Emma adds, boasting that if she wants to change a man's mind...it is changed. Adjusting the ring on her finger, Emma tells Kamala that, unfortunately, her parents won't know how complicated, brave and wonderful their daughter is – they won't know that she is an Inhuman, a mutant, or that she is secretly Ms. Marvel. 'I don't know how to thank you' Kamala utters. 'I do. Forget that you're a mutant and stay away from the X-Men' Emma declares as she turns and starts to walk away.

Bright lights courtesy of the Stark Sentinel shine down on the Khan household. 'Doesn't take them long, does it?' To catch our scent. My ring is back on. I'm hidden again. Now, about hiding. At the Gala, I wanted you to come out asa a mutant – be proud of who you are – but then the world changed. You hid your powers from your family. You wear a mask. Keep hiding. There's nothing to be gained by having your family terrified that Orchis is going to storm into their home' Emma announces, before telling Kamala that her family is set to wake. 'I'm glad at least one of us can go home' she adds. Emma glances back to Kamala and tells her that there is no more safety net, and while the Five snatched her from death, they are now gone – forever. Emma leaves the Khan home, closing the door behind her.

'Kamala? I didn't hear you come in' Muneeba calls out. Kamala embraces her mother, who tells her that it is good to see her. 'How was Washington?' Muneeba asks. 'I missed you!' Kamala exclaims. 'Oh. Well, we missed you too' Muneeba responds.

(Now)

In the Morlock tunnels, Shadowkat, Synch, Rasputin IV, Talon and Ms. Marvel meet with Emma, still disguised as Hazel Kendal, who turns to Kamala and tells her that she broke her promise. 'Perhaps I should have made you forget some things' she adds. Kamala apologizes, and tells Emma that she appreciates the burden she took from her family, but that it is not right what is happening to the X-Men, to mutants. 'It's not right, and I'd be standing with you all even if I didn't have an X-Gene' Kamala announces. Hazel frowns and warns Kamala to be careful, and not to underestimate the ruthlessness of their enemies.

But the mutants had fallen before, and perhaps, if they lived, they would fall again. But they were not alone this time. Steve Rogers has reformed the Unity Squad of the Avengers, with a roster skewed heavily with X-Men. Steve Rogers knows the value of symbolism and optics. While Deadpool waves at Rasputin, Captain America and Synch shake hands, and Cap asks Synch how the Avengers can help. Synch tells Cap that it is good to see him, and explains that they are making progress on the laced drugs, and they think they have a way to penetrate Orchis. Tony Stark can be seen during the gathering, as can Kwannon of the Unity Squad. 'Some of my best friends are from the future' Deadpool tells Rasputin, who announces that she has heard of him, and, calling him a clown, warns him to give her a wide berth.

But the meetings never last long, and are always in different parts of subterranean Manhattan. The X-Men and Avengers routinely share strategy, compare notes and give each other hope. Even Tony Stark's mood is improved by the resistance meetings. His heart was turned to lead by watching helplessly as his Iron Man tech was assimilated into the mutant-hunting Sentinels. Tonight, it is the former queens of Hellfire who are despondent. When everyone else has left the tunnels, Emma looks at Katherine through “Hazel's” thick glasses and tells her that she would like a word. Katherine doesn't respond, so Emma asks her if she doesn't think it's time she told her what happened. “What happened”? Kate quotes. 'The world ended. And we helped give it a push' Kate declares, wide-eyed. Emma grabs Kate by her shoulders and tells her not to say that, as it isn't true. 'But it's exactly what your abusers would very much like you to believe' Emma remarks, before asking Kate what happened to her when she fell through the gates.

(Flashback – following g the end of the Gala)

The Krakoan Embassy, Jerusalem, where several Orchis operatives stand in front of a Krakoan gateway and supervise several mutants as they are marched through the gate. An Orchis agent who doesn't wear a helmet or mask contacts his superior and reports that, at Jerusalem Station, the last of the mutants have been exfiltrated through the gates. 'Copy that' someone responds over communicator, and states that the gates are now shut. 'Cool' the agent with no helmet responds, before reporting that it was weird, as the muties were zombie-like. 'Whatever. They're gone now. Let's have a beer and go home' he suggests – when, suddenly – 'Whoa! What's happening!?' Kate Pryde calls out as she falls backwards through the Krakoan portal, landing on the ground, wearing her Hellfire Gala outfit, she finds herself surrounded by the Orchis operatives.

'What the hell is this?' the lead Orchis operative asks, as he and the others aim their guns at Kate. Kate looks up and sighs. 'You fellas aren't gonna behave, are you?' she asks. 'Jerusalem Station to Central Column. Confirm the mutie gates are closed' one of the Orchis agents asks, to which Kate tells everyone to chill out for a second. A response comes over the Orchis agent's communicator, confirming that the mutant transit is kaput. 'Even we can't use them anymore' the voice adds. 'Oh no' Kate gasps, wide-eyed. Kate springs into action, hitting the man without the helmet on, and phasing her through the other operative's communicator. 'Nobody move!' Kate shouts. As the Orchis operatives surround her, she tells them that she kiled the radio, but doesn't want to kill any of them. 'You started a war that you won't win. Surrender!' Kate declares. Kate tells the Orchis agents that she will make sure they are treated well – not like Orchis treated mutants tonight. 'This is your last chance. Surrender' she adds.

An Orchis agent with gray hair and beard turns to the others and asks them what they think. 'Should we surrender?' he enquires. There is silence, before all of the Orchis operatives burst into laughter. 'I'll tell the Central Column that you resisted arrest' the first agent with no helmet, who has a strip of short red hair on his head remarks. He notes that Kate is a high-value target, that she was on the Quiet Council and trained by Xavier, and now she's going out begging. 'You're worried about the wrong teacher. When you  go to Hell. Tell Ogun I said hello' Kate responds, narrowing her eyes. 'She's really gonna make us do this. Okay...' the agent with the short hair begins, as he fires his weapon towards Kate, although the tranq dart phases through her. Kate then shoves her boot into his neck. He dies whistling, but that's only because he is trying to breathe through a shattered windpipe. 'Krakoa was a land of laws. The first was “murder no man” guess that one's coming off the books' Kate announces as she phases the agent's gun into his own head, and then lets it turn solid.

The aggressor sets the tone in any conflict, and overnight, Orchis turned a cold war hot. Kate Pryde's training takes over as she knocks another agent to the ground. She is aware that her sudden ability to access the Krakoan transit system represents a huge tactical advantage – and it is a secret worth killing to protect. 'Nooo -' the agent who fell to the ground calls out before Kate begins to phase him into the floor. Kate would come to wonder what she would have done had the Orchis agents surrendered – where could she have taken them. She didn't know it at the time, but Krakoa was ringed by Sentinels. Her land has been stolen. Her people are once more pushed to the brink of extinction. One of the agents rushes towards her, so she grabs him and hurls him at another agent, phasing him in the process – until he solidifies as he connects with the other agent, their bodies now mangled in one grotesque form.

The adrenaline surges, and Kate begins to remember that Jean and Bobby and so many others havve been killed. As another Orchis agent rushes towards her, she shoves her foot into his crotch.  She was trained by the ninja Ogun, but what she does here tonight in Jerusalem is made possible by learning from her friend, who happened to be the best at what he did – and what he did was not very nice. Kate grabs that Orchis agent and partially phases him into the ground. 'Oh God, stay calm. Stay back-to-back. She has to hold her breath. I think we can use that -' an Orchis agent remarks to another as they move back-to-back, when Kate emerges from the ground, '- to kill  me?' she asks. The two agents turn to her, as Kate asks them to look her in the eyes, and announces that they are never going to hurt anyone again.

Kate can barely hear the gunfire over all the screaming. She walks forward towards the two remaining Orchis agents. Like Logan, Kate doesn't enjoy doing what needs to be done – she just wants this to be over. She reaches the agents, grabs grenades from their belts, flicks the switch on them and phases them into the agents' bodies – a moment later, blood and body parts splatter into the air. Three remaining agents look on, and one of them contacts the Central Column, advising them that they have a problem. The agent farthest from Kate remembers the only thing he has that could hurt Kate – his radio. So Kate knows that he needs to be the next to go. She isn't sure where the radio is in the suits, so she phases his Orchis suit into his neck and leaving it stuffed in his voice box. Kate glances at another one, who raises an arm in defense – but it's no use, as Kate leaps towards him and phases her fist into his chest, then out the other side, while holding the agent's heart.

Kate turns to the last remaining agent, who calls out to her: 'Wait!' he exclaims, before informing Kate that the X-Men saved him when he was up on the Bloom, he was sucked out into space, and the X-Men saved him. Kate puts her hands on either side of the agent's face and tells him that that is what the X-Men do. They save everybody they can. Even their enemies. 'A shame – those X-Men are dead now' Kate utters as she breaks the agent's neck. Kate drops to her knees, the bodies of Orchis agents scattered around her. Come dawn in Jerusalem, the Red Queen is now dead.

Kate weeps until she feels nothing, and in the light of the new day, she will hide the grisly evidence by phasing the ten corpses into the roof. Kate will then run back to the first home she truly felt safe in, the giant one that somehow still felt crowded on Graymalkin Lane. She would retrieve her swords, and Shadowkat would be reborn.

(Now)

'Nothing happened' Kate tells Emma. 'Katherine...' Emma begins, before Kate replaces her swords into her holster and tells Emma that if she has to call her “Hazel” then they should leave all the old names on the funeral pyre. 'Now, if we're done with the hand-holding, I have a war to go win' Kate declares. Emma begins to suggest that they coordinate their efforts with Synch and Talon. 'Where are you off to now -?' Emma asks as Kate steps down into a watery tunnel and boasts that she doesn't need any help – and that she is going to kill Firestar!

Characters Involved: 

Ms. Marvel IV, Rasputin IV, Shadowkat, Synch, Talon (all X-Men)

Emma Frost/”Hazel Kendal”

Cyclops

Forge

Woofer

Captain America, Deadpool, Kwannon (all Avengers Unity Squad)

Tony Stark

 

Feilong, Firestar, Dr. Kemble, Dr. Stasis (all Orchis)

Fuego, Perro, Serafina (all Children of the Vault)

 

Muneeba & Yusif Khan

Aamir Khan

 

President of the United States

 

Orchis agents

Stark Sentinels

Unnamed mutants on Arrako

Unnamed mutants in Orchis detention centre

 

(in flashback)

Kate Pryde

Rabbi Susan

(in illustrative image)

Captain Krakoa

 

Story Notes: 

This issue takes place after X-Men: Hellfire Gala 2023 #1.

Woofer first appeared in X-Men (6th series) #22.

The politicians in Washington were killed in Avengers/X-Men Free Comic Book Day 2023 #1.

Sunfire was not at the Hellfire Gala, having been transported to Otherworld to find Redroot in X-Men (6th series) #24.

Polaris was last seen in X-Men (6th series) #24.

The Children of the Vault's story continues in Children of the Vault #1.

At the end of X-Men: Hellfire Gala 2023 #1, Kate fell through a Krakoan gate and found herself at the Krakoan Embassy in Jerusalem, which was overrun by Orchis operatives.

The flashback with Kate and her rabbi takes place between the pages of Marauders (1s series) #1. Indeed, Kate’s inability to phase though the Krakoan gate was  a mystery thought the series.

The mystery of the new Captain Krakoa is explored in Uncanny Avengers (4th series).

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