While the X-Men follow her trail to India, Rogue is at the mercy of the man known as Pandemic! What is his fascinating connection with Rogue? What has he done to Lady Mastermind? Why is he called Pandemic? All good questions. Read the issue and find out!
‘Cable, if you’re receiving this transmission, now would be a good time to show up!’ Karima Shapandar, recent recruit to the X-Men exclaims, transmitting through her advanced technological attributes she possess thanks to being on Omega Sentinel. Karima announces that it has gone very bad here, that they have found Rogue, but they could not free her. ‘This will be my last sit-rep’ Karima adds. From the X-Jet, Nathan “Cable” Summers replies, informing Karima that they have some problems of their own here. Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie is at the controls of the jet as Cable asks Karima what is happening and whether or not she and the others can fall back and regroup.
‘That’s a negative’ Karima replies, adding that she will keep broadcasting for as long as she can…’We’re not going anywhere!’ Indeed, they aren’t, for she lies broken on the ground, her robotic body crushed. Bobby “Iceman” Drake is trapped, unmoving nearby, and Regan Wyngarde a.k.a. Lady Mastermind lies slumped in a corner. With little else to do, Karima starts to recall the events that led the X-Men into their current predicament….
Karima remembers Sea Eagle, and how it was a trap - nothing more than a teleport gate with a roof over it. Rogue was pulled through and the rest of the team was left standing. ‘It makes sense now, that she was all they wanted right from the start.
Raven “Mystique” Darkholme tells Karima to get the coordinates from the core processor. ‘You’re a machine, aren’t you? You speak its language?’ Karima sarcastically thanks Mystique, remarking that her tact is appreciated. Karima stands at a computer and explains that it will not be that easy, as the I/O system melted down after the teleport, presumably to stop them reading anything from it. Mystique mutters that her daughter Rogue could be half a world away by now, to which Karima replies that, judging by the scale of the power surge, Rogue is half a world away.
‘And you’re telling me that there’s nothing we can do?’ Raven asks. ‘I didn’t say that’ Karima mutters in reply, before announcing that she is going to try to replace the damaged components with her Sentinel-technology, as it may be possible to work backwards from electron traces and recreate the precise signal sequence. Karima explains that if it works, she will send the three of them to wherever Rogue is, then she will follow, leaving as little of her components behind as possible.
Bobby notices Regan holding a hand to her head and asks her if she is okay. Regan replies that she is fine, just has a headache. Bobby asks her if she wants to drop out, to which she exclaims ‘Get real. I owe this Pan guy blood and tears!’ Tinkering with the device, Karima announces that she is synched, and tells everyone to get ready, warning them that this is going to be rough! Suddenly, a blinding blue light flashes, and the X-Men are teleported away.
An instant later, ‘…oh great! X-Men! RESCUE!’ screams Lady Mastermind as she materializes high in the air and begins plummeting to the city below.
Iceman is unable to help, as he has materialized in the middle of a small building, his upper body on the outside of the building, the rest of him not. According to Karima, it is a fundamental physical law that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time - if they try, there are consequences.
The consequences for Iceman are severe, as his body combusts, shattering in front of a dozen or so civilian onlookers. But Iceman learned a very important thing after his run-in with the Beaubier twins Northstar and Aurora - that ice is not flesh. It’s actually crystal, and every part of a crystal contains enough information to re-create the whole. Reforming his body, Bobby mutters that it was like pulling himself up by his boot-straps - after knotting the boots out of his own guts that is!
Bobby looks to the sky and remarks that there is no rest for the wicked, seeing his sultry teammate plummeting to her doom, he creates an ice-sled and races to her rescue. ‘Well, you took your sweet time’ Regan mutters. ‘You’re welcome!’ Bobby replies, before asking her how her head is. ‘Worse’ Regan replies. ‘I think it’s stress!’ Bobby motions nearby and tells Regan that if that is Mystique down there, then Regan should count her blessings.
Iceman and Lady Mastermind stop near Mystique, who seems to be stuck, half of her body in this location, the other half not. ‘Wow. She always seemed so together!’ Regan jokes.
Back at Sea Eagle, Karima is busy tending to the gate, which had been triggered to scatter the signal. She tries one last time to patch it together, then she teleports out also, moments later, reappearing next to Bobby and Regan. Bobby asks Karima where Mystique went, to which Karima replies that she doesn’t know, and explains that she was trying to re-create the original vector, the locus where Rogue was sent. ‘Yeah, you did great. I always wanted to see the butt end of nowhere’ Lady Mastermind mutters.
Karima looks at her surroundings and realizes that they are in Calcutta, Krishna Nagar Road to be precise. Karima tells her teammates that she can translate the signal and get bearing and distance. Bobby announces that there are some cops nearby and asks Karima if they are going to explain to the cops what they are doing here. Regan mutters that life is short and tells Karima, calling her “Cybergirl” to lead the way, while she handles their wardrobe. Using her illusion powers, Regan causes passers by and the police to see she, Bobby and Karima as civilians in traditional clothing. ‘Couldn’t you have at least made me a guy?’ Bobby mumbles. ‘If God couldn’t do it, Drake, how’d you expect me to?’ Lady Mastermind replies.
Karima sent out a data squirt to Cable as she left Sea Eagle, her tracking systems placed Cable in the Conquistador, the headquarters to Rogue’s squad of X-Men. Victor Creed a.k.a. Sabretooth tells Cable and Cannonball that they did the place up nice. ‘It’s the little details that turn a house into a home’ Creed exclaims, before remarking that it still smells of blood though. ‘Or did you lay that on just for me?’ he asks.
Cable tells Creed to understand one thing: ‘You’re up here because here’s where you can do the least harm’. Creed asks Cable if he doesn’t like the idea of him sitting in class with all the little X-kiddies. ‘Shame, I like making new friends!’ Creed snickers. Cable warns Creed that if he gives him an excuse, even half an excuse, and he will activate those Nano-Sentinels in his blood. Cable begins to tells Creed that he would as soon have him dead, when he receives a vision of Rogue and the others and walks away from Creed.
Cannonball asks his former X-Force and New Mutant leader what the deal is, to which Nathan replies that it was an upload from Karima, and tells Cannonball to show Creed to his quarters, as they have to go. ‘Hope you picked out some place nice for me, Hayseed’ Creed snarls. ‘It’s kind of a fixer-upper. But I think you’re gonna like it’ Sam replies.
Two minutes later, Creed is in darkness. ‘Nice. How about a few throw cushions?’ he snarls. ‘Hey, we made an effort! We gave you airholes!’ Sam replies, before slamming the door to the vault as the Conquistador leaves the Xavier Institute grounds.
Back in Calcutta, the trio of X-Men, now disguised as city police, stroll up to the Goloka Gardens Terrace Apartments. They pass the doorman, informing him that they have come to interview one of the residents. The doorman offers to contact the resident, but one of the “police” tells him not to, as they will find the resident their own way.
Gazing around the luxurious complex, Iceman asks his female companions if they “zigged” when they should have “zagged”. Karima replies that the vector and distance correlate exactly, but points out that it is hard to image Pandemic operating in a place that is so very public. ‘Well, duh. If you’ve got a teleport gate, you don’t need to come and go by the front door!’ Regan mumbles, before informing her teammates that they are being scanned, as she is getting the same kind of tingle she gets when using her own powers.
Regan declares that some of what they are seeing is not real, but if it is an illusion, she can hack into Bobby and Karima’s minds and tell them not to see it, like hitting reverse. ‘Feast your eyes!’ Lady Mastermind exclaims as she uses her powers to reveal not the fancy complex that they had been seeing, but a simple tower. ‘Target acquired!’ Karima announces as she takes flight. ‘Yeah, but think about what it’s gonna do to resale values!’ Iceman jokes as he creates an ice-sled to carry him up towards the tower, leaving Regan behind. ‘Hey, is someone gonna let me hitch a ride?’ she cries.
Regan decides that the building’s structure is still hard to get a lock on, but as she knew it was there, she can use infra-red to pick up the people inside. And as stealth is not an option, Karima goes for the thickest cluster she picks up, bursting straight through the wall. Examining her surroundings, Karima appears to be in some sort of laboratory, where thousands of gene and tissue samples are sealed behind glass like some sort of shrine.
Karima remarks that this seems like a level of security beyond paranoid, nearly berserker, but glancing at Lady Mastermind, decides that, given some of the personalities on the X-Men’s roster, perhaps she is in no position to comment.
Iceman has collected Regan, and as they arrive through Karima’s make-shift door, she tells Bobby to let her off the sled at the corner, as she has got some work to do. Regan rushes past dozens of workers, giving each of them an unpleasant illusion: ‘Nightmares! Infantile regression! Catatonia!’ Chasing after some others, she tells them not to go away, as she is just getting warmed up here!
Regan does something to one of the men, and Bobby asks her how she did it. ‘I didn’t do anything!’ Regan replies. Bobby blasts his opponents with freezing ice and tells Regan that it came out of the back of her head. ‘You’ve got a tail-gunner!’ he exclaims. ‘You’re dreaming, Drake!’ Regan replies.
A scientist calls out to Doctor Palance, informing him that they have a breach and all the samples are at risk. The scientist requests antibodies at locus fifteen, to which Doctor Palance replies ‘The gene bank? No need for antibodies, sub controller’, then suddenly he teleports into the lab, declaring that matter of this importance he prefers to handle himself!
The three X-Men stop fighting and turn to Pan, who addresses Karima and Regan and tells them that it is good to see them again, however they must stop fighting and they must stop right now. Pan informs them that these gene samples are irreplaceable, to which Regan tells him ‘Yeah? No problem, scumbag. I’m only after your cerebellum and your medulla!’ Pan remarks that Regan’s illusions seem less focused than they used to be and suggests that it is possibly a function of her coma. ‘Let me show you how it should be done!’ Pan exclaims, before knocking Regan unconscious.
Karima and Bobby look at their fallen teammate, before each saying ‘Pincers’ and Bobby telling Karima that he is ready when she is. Iceman creates a spear of ice and Karima readies her powers, but Pan exclaims that he has important work and they are merely disturbing him. He claims that he takes no pleasure in this, but that it must be done, and renders Karima unconscious while Iceman continues to encase him in ice.
Pan turns to Iceman and tells him that when a priest gives a benediction, he lays his hands on one’s head. Pan remarks that he was never a priest, but as a doctor the principle was the same. He reveals that two hundred and ninety-seven mutants were given into his hands, and he lad his hands on all of them, giving them his blessing and took what he needed in return. ‘Rogue was the most important of course, the inspiration. She made me possible. She was the seed from which I was born!’
Fire begins to surround Pan, and as a shocked Bobby watches him, Pan declares that if Rogue could exist, then everything else followed. Pan breaks out of the ice-cage he was trapped him, and asks Bobby if he sees what he has become, before telling him that his only options are to yield or to die. ‘So what have you to say to me?’ Bobby looks at the tank full of gene samples and replies ‘How about…low temperature transition fracture?’ The tank then explodes at Bobby’s touch, and Pan screams. ‘Gaaah! My life!’ Various powers begin emanating from Pan as he shouts ‘You end NOW!’
Nearby, in the Conquistador, Cable asks what their E.T.A. is. Sam replies that it is two or three minutes, and while he knows it makes sense to have the ship there, he can handle it himself, so he suggests Cable “body slides” in to help the others, and he can follow later. Cable is adjusting some equipment and explains that he has already tried, but there is a psionic scrambler covering the whole of Calcutta - someone is stopping him from teleporting in.
Pan holds Bobby by his neck, when Karima comes up behind him and unleashes a burst of power on him. Pan drops Bobby and turns to Karima. ‘Thomas Jones - Number 30. Shiro Yashida - never formerly referred to me - but I shook his hand once, and an embassy banquet’. Pan remarks that Paige Guthrie was his 126th patient, such a sweet girl, steel sheathed in velvet. He blasts Iceman, but Karima jumps in between.
Pan tells her that he has had enough, as he knows what she is trying to do, spinning out the agony, hoping that reinforcements will arrive. Pan tells the X-Men to trust him when he says that it is not going to happen. He then reveals that, for a brief but memorable time, Jean Grey was also on his books. ‘The second skin contact I had with her, when I took her pulse, almost burned out my nervous system! But the power opening before me like an endless, fractal landscape, it was worth it. Oh, it was worth it!’
Pan begins demonstrating Jean Grey’s power by causing the Conquistador to be knocked off its flight plan. Cannonball announces that the controls are frozen, to which Cable informs him that Karima is still transmitting, but they are outgunned and going down fast. Cable tells Sam that if they cannot help themselves, then they have to send Karima something they can use. ‘Like what? Sam asks, reminding Cable that the O*N*E* made them strip every last weapon out of this ship. Cable replies that he managed to hold onto one, and pressing a button, Sabretooth is ejected from his cell and plummets towards Pan’s laboratory….