Monday, 26 March 2012
NMU #2: "Sentinels"
(Aliens, robots, and Spielberg. Not AI, thank fuck.)
Holodecks piss me off. You can talk about replicators and tractor beams and hard-light projections all you want, I don't see how you can travel for hours, or get too far apart, and not bump into a wall.
The Danger Room works according to much more sensible parameters, which is good news for Dani, considering she's trapped inside with a flesh-hungry monster. Escaping the initial charge, she clambers up an escarpment that she assumes disguises the wall, and works her way around, hoping to find the door.
What she finds instead is a Brood Queen. That's not even a near miss. Alien Fiend #2 explains that since Dani has picked up on the creature's presence (presumably that's why she ran in terror from the Danger Room - "Xavier" had arranged a little "accident"), Psyche has to die. Broodie then pushes Dani from the ledge to the floor below which, since the Danger Room can't be more than thirty feet tall, doesn't really strike me as a sufficiently certain method of execution.
Elsewhere, Dani's team-mates and Stevie Hunter are leaving Foxy's cinema, which is showing E.T., rather than the soft-core porn implied by the name. Rahne's managed to get herself over-stimulated all the same, and is in floods of tears over the "wee bairn's" return home. If it were me, I'd be crying because my first exposure to cinema was that piece of anodyne sentimental crap, but that's hardly all that separates me from the young Ms Sinclair.
While our young heroes interact awkwardly with the local teenagers ("We're international terrorists!"), Stevie heads off to find a phone and check all is well in the mansion. There's a crisis developing far closer to them, though - the group are under surveillance by Henry Gyrich, head of Project: WIDEAWAKE, alongside his political ally, Sebastian Shaw.
This is where things get interesting, and provide another example of how far the X-books have come since their original creation. Gyrich isn't the from the unreasoning, hyperbolic bigot mould first exhibited by the Trask family. Indeed, when Sebastian Shaw suggests the idea that mutants are eventually liable to replace humanity, Gyrich dismisses this as, at worst, a problem for the future. Instead, his concern is much more sensible: what happens if an antagonistic foreign power happens to be where the next ludicrously powerful mutant is born? With the benefit of hindsight, things didn't really work out that way - mutants ended up pretty much considering themselves their own nationality, eventually more-or-less literally, but it's an entirely sensible concern, entirely in keeping with the foreign policy approach of the US government: how can we pre-emptively screw over everyone in the world?
That's why Gyrich has hired Shaw to put together a new generation of Sentinels. Of course, Shaw has no real intention of defending the US, but his position within WIDEAWAKE is providing him with plenty of intel and, more importantly, the opportunity to make sure it all goes tits up, leading to an awful lot of pissed-off mutants he can recruit. Sneaky.
Gyrich's plan is to "escort" the New Mutants to a WIDEAWAKE facility, and study their genetic make-up (as always, constitutional rights mysteriously vanishing whenever the most general and hypothetical national security threat can be drummed up). Fortunately for the good guys, someone else has gotten wind of the plan, and grabs Stevie to lay things out. This is Michael Rossi, a former partner (in more than one sense) of Carol Danvers, and he views WIDEAWAKE as "technically illegal", which is certainly true of their plan to snatch minors from the street. A group of agents attempt this moments later, but the arrival of Rossi encourages the mutants to fight back, making short work of their would-be kidnappers.
That's when a trio of Sentinels arrive. Rossi is quickly gassed into unconsciousness, but Roberto has the presence of mind to leave him with the women whilst he and Sam fight back. Ah, Sunspot. So confident, so arrogant, so disinterested in how anybody feels about his spectacular sexism. In fairness, he and Sam do manage to take on a pair of Sentinels (of course, they have by far the most destructive powers, which says something in itself, actually, at least until Magma shows up), though perhaps with a little help, 'Berto might have been able to avoid obliterating half the mall in the process of decapitating his enemy.
Sam's opponent is made of sterner stuff, knocking him out and taking to the air. In response, Karma possesses her team-mate, allowing him to fight back against his captor. This then leaves Karma helpless, but by now Rossi has recovered, and he and Sunspot are able to run interference until Sam, now also awake, brings his erstwhile kidnapper back to earth at full speed, cannoning into the final Sentinel and destroying both robots.
With the crisis passed, the young mutants hang around just long enough for Karma to force the head agent into a confession. She describes herself as deeply uncomfortable with the idea, which is further evidence that these people don't think at all like me - I think it's an act of vicious genius. That done, they head home, only to find Dani unconscious in the Danger Room. As it wearyingly predictable, Stevie refuses to believe Dani, suggesting it was a mix-up with the room's scenario files.
Except (and this is great), she doesn't really doubt Psyche at all, she's just pretending (presumably to keep the kids from freaking out). She knows full well that only three people who could have de-activated the safety protocols. One of them is in Britain, one of them is her.
The third one is Charles.
This story follows on immediately from the preceding one, and takes place over the course of a few hours.
Stevie describes the X-Men's kidnapping as having taken place "months ago". By our time-line it's been a little over seven weeks, but that's not too far off.
Wednesday 6th of July, 1983.
The Polish Air Force encounter a UFO near Slupsk. The story goes that an interceptor pilot described it a steel-grey, spinning object, which disappeared when the pilot received the order to fire. Whether this sound less or more far-fetched than the comic summary above is entirely down to personal taste.
"I love your hair, girl... are you punk or new-wave?"