#5
May 2001


Connections
by Chip Caroon

This issue takes place after X-Men #5.
"Natalie, where is Victor?"

"I don't know," Natalie Casswell replied.

The person on the other end of the phone line sighed. "Have you seen him since he went on patrol tonight?"

"Peter, you have to be kidding me? Vic went out tonight?"

Peter Parker took a deep breath. "Of course. It's nights like this that superheroes make their name."

"When I hear anything from him, I'll let you know. Are you at the Daily Planet?"

"Until dawn . . . "

"Okay, I'll see you around. Bye."

"Bye."

Natalie hung up the phone, and sat back down on her bed. Victor, she thought. I hope you know what you're doing . . .


"Do you know what you're doing?" Superman asked, watching the semi-invisible figure circle the recently fallen Sentinel.

"Not really," The Shadow replied. "I was hoping to find a tracking device or something . . . "

"Excuse me, but didn't you say you knew who was controlling this strange Sentinel?" Beast asked.

The Shadow shook his head. "No. I said I had an idea. Even if I'm right, I'm not completely sure where to find them."

"What do you know about them?" Superman asked.

"They're trying to capture me and make me one of their own."

"Will you be needing our help?"

The Shadow thought for a moment. "Yes. However, I just need a small portion of your team. Jean, Beast, and you, Superman may come with me." He looked back down at the fallen Prime Sentinel in front of him. "Hmm . . . It seems like I have found what I need." The Shadow bent down and picked up a small black box from the backside of the mechanical menace.

"Will that tell us what we need to know?" Superman asked.

"Indubitably."


Ebon was sitting back in his chair, enjoying a smoke when the dust began falling from the ceiling. Within a second, the bricks formerly situated above his head were now lying at his feet. Ebon stood up to face the quartet now in front of him. He could sense The Shadow crouching in front of him. Hovering behind him were Superman (by his flight powers) and Jean Grey (using her telekinesis). Beast was hanging down from the hole, smiling.

"Ebon . . . " The Shadow said. "Why am I not surprised that you are the one behind the Sentinel?"

"I don't know what you're talking about, Shadow!" Ebon exclaimed.

"Oh, please," Beast said. "Why should we believe that? First, you are a terrible liar. Second, you are in the presence of two of the potentially greatest telepaths. You're busted."

Ebon put his hands in the air, and the X-Men along with the Shadow were covered in a black film-like substance. While the X-Men struggled to get free, Ebon took the opportunity to flee.

Beast was able to get free first, because he had not been completely covered. He used his agility to bounce around the chamber, and landed on Ebon's back, knocking the Intergang boss to the ground.

"I don't think so," Beast said, in a slightly taunting tone of voice. "Look, I've been living in a tunnel for a week, after my home was destroyed. My mentor is dead, and I've spent most of the night fighting a rogue Sentinel that you had something to do with!"

"Beast, calm down," The Shadow said, walking up behind the X-Men. "We'll get everything straightened out."

"Actually, I am calm. I just needed to vent."

"Glad I could be of some use," Ebon said. "Now, will you kindly remove your feet from my back."

"Why, cert - "

The Shadow placed a hand on Beast's shoulder. "Not yet." He bent down to stare at Ebon. "I'm going to ask you this once, and you better give me the answer I want. What is the deal with the Prime Sentinel?"

"I'll never tell you," Ebon spit out.

The Shadow lunged forward, grabbed Ebon by the collar, and slammed him to a wall. If the Beast had not been so agile, he would have fallen down himself.

"Listen you piece of Intergang scum, tell me why my new friends and I were hunted down by a Prime Sentinel!" The Shadow shouted, continually slamming Ebon's head against the brick wall.

So much for staying calm . . . Beast thought.

"Okay," Ebon whispered. "I'll tell you. It wasn't my idea. It was the big guy."

"Who, Ebon? Who's the 'big guy'?"

Ebon laughed. "Like I'm telling you. Anyway, he found this new prototype of a robot that hunts mutants. He stole it to come after you. But then those weird things - what are they, Manhunters? - take over, and the Sentinel goes AWOL."

The Shadow pulled Ebon from the wall, and for a second he acted as if he would set Ebon down gently. But without any warning, he bodyslammed Ebon to the wall, rendering him unconscious.

"Intergang . . . It all comes down to some gang who wants to recruit me because I blew their cover."

"That sounds odd," Jean said. "One would think that they would want you dead."

"If I wasn't so powerful, that would be true. As it is, they probably want to brainwash me. They've been trying for weeks. First, by sending a powerful supervillain after me, and then by sending the reincarnation of my predecessor's arch enemy."

"But now that we've discovered this connection, what more can we do?" Superman asked.

The Shadow was silent for a moment. Finally, he spoke.

"We look for another one."


He sat in his office, reflecting in the darkness. He had learned several meditation techniques years ago which he utilized now. He was brought out of his "trance" by the blinking of a red light, and a very faint buzz, alerting him to trouble.

He was able to identify the source of the trouble based on the position of the light. Ebon . . . he thought. The Shadow must have come to him. Very well. I will send the other surprise I have for that meddler.


The Shadow turned to face the three X-Men. "Quick, look around this chamber. Look for secret entrances or something. Anything that could be used to surprise us."

"But, shouldn't we be helping with the situation elsewhere, before your personal vendetta?" Jean asked.

"This may be the only chance I get to look around here," the Shadow replied. "You have plenty of X-Men left to help the Morlocks, and I'm sure the Avengers League and S.H.I.E.L.D. are both out taking care of business in the city."

"He does have a point," Superman said, already walking to a wall. "Jean, maybe you better use your telepathy to search for any other signs of life around here."

"Maybe we can find some of those Intergang lowlifes."

The Shadow began going down the wall, feeling for any possible cracks. The X-Men each took one of the other three walls and did the same. Jean also conducted a telepathic search, but found no one hidden.

Just as The Shadow met up with Superman, he felt something strange on the wall.

"I think we might have found it."

Superman nodded. "I feel a crack down here too. Should I?"

The Shadow stepped aside. "Go ahead."

Superman stood back, raised his fist, and then punched through the wall. The hole was nearly a perfect rectangular shape. Beast leapt over and glanced over his leader's shoulder.

"Oh my stars and garters," he said, looking in.

The hidden recess stored a Sentinel. It looked more like the ones that the X-Men had seen previewed, but nowhere near the size projected.

"This must be another kind of prototype," Superman announced. "This is most definitely not a Prime Sentinel."

"Figures that they'd have a back-up plan," The Shadow commented. "Let's hope this one stays benevolent . . . "

Before the last word left the Shadow's lips, the Sentinel's eyes lit up. Everyone stepped back.

"I believe your wish was a bit premature," Beast said.

Superman moved to stand in front of the opening. If the Sentinel tried to do anything, it'd have to go through him first. Sure enough, the Sentinel raised its arm and prepared to fire. Before the energy could travel down its arm, however, Superman had already dismantled the arm.

"Wait!" The Shadow exclaimed. "We may need this thing somewhat intact!"

"But we found the brains behind it," Beast said, pointing to the unconscious gang leader lying on the floor. "He's kinda out of it."

"Did it ever occur to you that maybe he has a boss? This Sentinel could possibly lead us to the main man."

The Sentinel used the distraction to blast a hole in the ceiling above him. The X-Men jumped back once more. The Shadow began climbing the rubble, chasing the machine.

"Uh, guys?" Jean asked, pointing to a group of people wearing blue jackets standing where the X-Men had made their grand entrance earlier. "Who are they?"

{Intergang,} The Shadow said into the X-Men's heads. {You guys handle them. I'll deal with the Sentinel.}

The Shadow began climbing up the walls of the rough tunnel that the Sentinel had created. About six feet up, he found another tunnel that ran perpendicular. It had already been made. The Shadow climbed up and crouched.

Suddenly, he was blasted from behind, and knocked into another chamber, one he had never seen before. The Sentinel followed him.

"TARGET: Shadow. OBJECTIVE: Eliminate."

Just then, The Shadow saw something flash before his eyes, and then the Sentinel was on its back.

What the heck just happened? he thought as he stood up. Looking into the dark corner, he noticed something. He walked over.

"Stop . . . "

The voice was deep; way deeper than The Shadow had ever heard himself or any of his predecessors go. He felt he had no choice but to follow the command, and so he stopped in his tracks.

"Identify yourself . . . "

"I am The Shadow. Who are you?"

"Never mind that. Why are you invisible?"

"Because I am The Shadow. I am supposed to be invisible."

"Why are you here?"

"I am here to take out this Sentinel which I assume you have saved me the trouble of doing."

"How did you know of this place?"

"The man who lives in the chamber next door has tried to capture me a few times. Now, would you care to identify yourself?"

"Not really. I stick to the shadows. Stealth is my game."

"Hmm. Sounds like you're moving in on my territory."

"Or perhaps you on mine."

"As much as I'd love to continue this philosophical discussion, I have some friends that probably need some help in the next room, so, it's been fun, but I gotta go."

The Shadow jumped up and climbed into the tunnel, climbing back to the chamber where he left the X-Men. He found them standing triumphant over a pile of semi-conscious Intergang members.

"How nice of you to finally join us," Beast said.

The Shadow walked over and picked up one gangster still aware of his surroundings.

"Who's the boss, and how can I find him?"

"I dunno," the guy answered.

"You don't know or won't tell?"

"Pick one."

The Shadow threw the gang member down and walked back to the X-Men. "Let's go. There's nothing left here."


By the time Victor Cranston returned home, it was almost time for some people to begin waking up. Natalie was waiting for him in his bedroom. She had fallen asleep on his bed. When he closed the door and turned on the flashlight on the bookcase beside the door, she woke up.

"Hey, where've you been?" she asked.

"Fighting robots," Vic replied. He walked over and gave Natalie a quick kiss. "What have you been up to?"

"I've been waiting for you. Peter Parker called earlier. He wanted to know where you were."

"We met earlier tonight," Vic said. "I guess he called afterward. I'll call him to let him know what happened. Is he at the Planet?"

"He said until dawn."

Vic picked up the phone and dialed the number for the Daily Planet.

"Lois Lane," the voice on the other end answered.

"Lois, it's Vic. Is Peter around?"

"Sure." Vic could hear Lois call Peter in the distance. Then, Peter got on the line.

"Vic. What's up?"

"That Sentinel . . . it's toast. I ran into a group of mutants called the X-Men. They helped me take care of it. It's dangerous, man."

"Tell me about it," Peter said. "Hey, I had to deal with tons of stuff tonight. First, that Iron Man robot attacked me. Fortunately, the Avengers League was able to straighten that out, and prevent NORAD from getting shut down. Then, the Green Goblin attacked, followed by the Sentinel. I'm ready for a break."

"No rest for the weary . . . "

"At least not while the lights are out."

"I'll talk to you later," Vic said.

"See ya."

Vic hung up and turned back to Natalie. "You know, I had been wanting to contact the X-Men."

"Why?"

"I felt like they could help me deal with my being a mutant," Vic answered as he walked closer to Natalie and hugged her. They stayed in that embrace for a while.

"Did they?"

"Well, I realized that I don't have it bad. I can hide in plain side. But some of them can't. Heck, there's a whole nation of Morlocks living in tunnels under the city."

"Don't worry about it now," Natalie said. She looked up at Vic and then they kissed again.


The Manhunter Agenda concludes in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. #12! Then, make sure you come back here next issue for the exciting conclusion to the Shadow/Intergang war! It's a no holds barred full out war! Plus, more on the man in the shadows! And to top it off, the big boss of Intergang will be revealed!