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Louise Simonson (writer), Walter Simonson (artist), Laura Martin (color), John Workman (letterer), Mark Basso (editor), Jordan D. White (senior editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Some time ago, Warren Worthington decapitated his former friend turned deadly enemy Cameron Hodge. He was unaware that, due to the deal Hodge made with the demon N’astirh, Hodge’s head survived, helpless and mute, until he was found by Apocalypse. Cyclops and Marvel Girl are relaxing in their HQ, the sentient Ship, getting used to their new reality now that they have found Cyclops’ infant son Christopher. Beast and Iceman return from a trip to town, but they lose control over the instruments of their crate and barely make it out before it explodes. Ship itself is running out of control and doesn’t know why. X-Factor battle their way to another part of the Ship, where they can restore at least partial control. Apocalypse, in the meantime, has taken Hodge to one of his lairs. Watching the scene with Ship, he is aware that its creators are calling it home and he would prefer for there to be no living specimen aboard, meaning X-Factor must die. He makes a deal with Hodge. He gives him a battlesuit and offers that, should he kill X-Factor, he will get a new body permanently. Then the mute and masked Hodge is teleported aboard X-Factor’s ship.
Some time ago:Warren Worthington, now the horseman Death, is in battle with his former friend turned deadly enemy Cameron Hodge who is wearing a battlesuit. Hodge swears to kill him, claiming the demon has promised him eternal life and, for all Warren’s demon wings, he is still the perfect Angel. An Angel? Warren repeats. Old news. Now he is Death. He shatters Hodge’s suit and decapitates him with his razor wings.
What Warren doesn’t know as he leaves is that Hodge’s head is still alive, hoping for his RIGHT soldiers to find him. Instead, the head is found and picked up by Apocalypse.
Eternal life in this state? The ancient mutant asks mockingly. He should have worded his deal with N’astirh more carefully. Hodge wants to scream in horror, but Death destroyed his vocal chords. Apocalypse’s hound Caliban opines that, having heard Hodge’s anti mutant rants, he prefers his silence. Calling him his hellhound, Apocalypse warns him to beware of deals with demons before they leave with the head.
X-Factor’s Ship over the Atlantic Ocean:Jean Grey puts a struggling baby Christopher to bed. She joins Cyclops and asks where everybody else is. He informs her that Bobby and Hank took their teenage charges to the city to watch a movie. Normal teenage behavior. Jean approves. They’ve earned some fun. Scott continues that Wolverine will pick them up afterwards and take them to the X-mansion. Jean asks about Warren. Somewhere on the Ship brooding probably, Scott opines. And Scott is not? she teases. He grumbles but smiles slightly.
Jean muses that a lot has changed for Warren… for her… for all of them. She has the memories of Madelyne and Phoenix in her head now. And through her reemerging telepathy she can feel Warren’s pain. They all need some time to readjust to their new reality.
Scott points out it isn’t all bad. They saved Christopher. He is another part of their new reality, Jean muses. Scott’s son with Madelyne, but genetically Jean’s, linked with her empathically…
And asleep at last, he points out and suggests they take advantage of the quiet as he kisses her.
That moment, Ship alerts them to Bobby and Hank’s return. It warns that their vessel is flying too fast and erratically. Something is wrong! That moment, they are joined by Archangel.
In the small ship, Hank and Bobby realize the controls are frozen and they cannot communicate with Ship. The next moment, the walls collapse. Iceman blocks them with his ice but it can’t hold as the walls crack. Iceman creates an iceslide and slides out of the Ship along with Hank. The Ship dismantles itself and the fragments fly everywhere.
Cyclops fires an optic blast at the remnants of the Ship while the other two join them.
Cyclops asks Ship why the crate it made tried to kill them. Ship speculates it wasn’t trying to kill them but call an absent piece of itself home. It was autonomic, beyond Ship’s volition. Such things have happened before. There are records.
That moment, they hear baby Christopher scream. Jean hopes it doesn’t mean he is as attuned to her moods as she is to his. She wants to head inside to get the baby, but the automatic door slams shut in front of her.
Ship apologizes for locking her out and rambles there was a similar occurrence two thousand years ago while Jean tries to telekinetically pry open the doors.
As Cyclops tries and fails to blast through the doors Ship loses control and begins to rearrange itself. Warren fears Apocalypse is doing this. He built Ship, didn’t he. Ship replies that he claimed to, but it doesn’t know. It fears it no longer knows itself.
Far beneath Kanchenjung Peak in Nepal lies a secret complex, belonging to Apocalypse, where he has brought Caliban and Hodge’s head. Watching the events on the Ship, Apocalypse muses he feared that day would come but hoped it wouldn’t come so soon. Caliban asks if it isn’t him doing it. Apocalypse replies he never completely controlled the Ship. It has begun another transformation cycle and X-Factor must stop it or die. For, if they fail and the Ship answers its creators’ call, it must arrive without living specimen. Caliban still doesn’t understand and Apocalypse doesn’t enlighten him further. He grabs Hodge’s head and, with a flick of a switch, he gives him back the ability to speak.
What does he want most in the world? Apocalypse asks. What any right-thinking human wants, is the reply. Mutants eradicated. X-Factor in particular, Apocalypse muses, and Worthington, his monster, their monster. Death is as much Hodge’s creation as Apocalypse’s. Hodge stole his Angel wings and gave Apocalypse the opening he needed. His destruction is his own doing. He suggests another collaboration.
Hodge is willing to do anything, as long as it ensures Warren’s destruction and the death of mutantkind. He is immortal! Hodge boasts and his hatred will last forever!
Apocalypse puts Hodge’s head into a giant battlesuit and asks if this body will suffice to accomplish his mission. Hodge, who can speak now, admits it is not the body he would have chosen, but it has potential.
Over the mid-Atlantic, Ship keeps on shifting. It doesn’t know why but suspects Apocalypse had previously damaged it to prevent it reverting to its original form. It would be grateful if they could restore control to it, but the hubs are deep inside it.
Iceman tells Beast to come along, as he creates an iceslide. They travel downward. Jean tells the others Christopher is nearby and Ship announces that, if Iceman can block that opening, a tunnel to the baby will appear.
They find Christopher and, with Ship’s direction, Cyclops tries to blast through a wall hiding the first hub. When he isn’t successful, Jean, her Phoenix persona taking over, tears the wall apart.
When the floor starts to shift again, Archangel orders the others out and sends his flechettes to blow up the hub. The others run and Iceman creates an iceshield between them and the explosion.
In his lair, Apocalypse muses that the Ship has stabilized but the outflow of information continues and the fate of their world may depend on this. Caliban informs him that X-Factor have survived and are emerging on deck. Neither a complete failure nor success, Apocalypse decides. He wonders whether he was right to choose them. He decides he cannot chance an indeterminate outcome. They must die. He puts a helmet over Hodge’s head and informs him his carapace is invulnerable and has weapons to counter X-factor’s powers. They will respond to his mental command. If he triumphs, he may command the design of his next incarnation. If he fails…
He won’t fail! Hodge claims. He rambles that the next body will be a human one, yet with all the powers this one possesses. And then he will come for Apocalypse!
As he is teleported away Caliban calls him a mad monster. Of his own making, Apocalypse agrees.
On deck, X-Factor are relaxing and Iceman has powered down to catch some sun. He asks Warren how he knew what to do with the wing knives. Warren doesn’t know, but Ship said there had to be damage.
Playing with Christopher, Beast muses that Ship is still running what he thinks is a series of protocols. Ship agrees; it thinks they are diagnostic, but it doesn’t know where they are sent.
Archangel announces they have a problem, as Hodge teleports in.
Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Factor)Nathan Christopher SummersShip
The story takes place between X-Factor (1st series) #42 and 43.
Archangel killed Hodge – or so he thought – in X-Factor (1st series) #34.
The kids’ evening is shown in issue #11.
The idea that Wolverine will be picking the kids up is unlikely, as the X-Mena re still doing their own thing in Australia.
Iceman’s hair is miscolored blonde instead of light brown.