X-Factor #20: Children’s Crusade

Rusty, Skids, Artie, Leech and Rictor are fixing dinner in anticipation of X-Factor’s return from defeating Apocalypse’s Horsemen. While the rest talk cheerfully about their victory, newcomer Rictor is confused as to whether X-Factor (or X-Terminators for that matter) are supposed to be good or bad. On the one hand, they rescue mutants under the guise of mutant hunters. On the other, they destroy nature on large-scale fights. X-Factor is hiding behind their human facade so they’re associated with the good guys, further painting mutants in a bad light. Fiercely loyal to X-Factor, Rusty is aggravated at Rictor’s opinions. The two start fighting and Rictor’s powers act up. Skids and Leech quickly step in to break up the fight. Guilty about something that happened in Mexico due to his powers, Rictor runs off.

X-Factor return via their secret tunnels. Beast is ill and Iceman has to be thawed out again by Rusty. Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Caliban take Beast to the infirmary while Rusty, Skids, Artie and Leech bring Iceman to the kitchen for some hot soup while they watch the news. Iceman is still shivering badly and is taken to the infirmary as well.

Cyclops and Caliban try to restrain Beast, who is burning a fever. Leech is instructed to stay by Iceman to stop him from freezing solid. Rictor makes his way to the infirmary. He can’t find Cameron Hodge, but offers to stay and help. Frustrated, Cyclops brushes off the help offered by the youngsters. Feeling unwanted, Rusty, Skids, Artie and Rictor leave. Not wanting to sit by idly, Rusty intends to prove that mutants are capable of good deeds. Rictor warns Rusty about starting a massive fire to melt the ice. Skids is afraid that the government will catch Rusty once he exposes himself. Rusty thinks Rictor a “coward”. Rictor retaliates, stating that Rusty does not know how it is to wield powers “too dangerous to control”. Marvel Girls steps in to break up the fight and send them all to bed.

Later, Rictor is brooding in bed over what Rusty said. Artie is unable to sleep and goes in search of his best friend Rusty, who is missing from his room.

Rusty has snuck out to Central Park to try and melt all the ice. He comes across some thugs beating a helpless, homeless man. They spot a light from Rusty in a distance and go to investigate. One of them shoots into the trees, causing a small avalanche, burying Rusty.

Artie senses what happened to Rusty and wakes Skids and Rictor. The three of them set off to find their friend who is in trouble. They catch a train to Central Park. Seeing all the anti-mutant posters on the train, they take it upon themselves to rip the posters off. They are chased by a policeman for vandalising public property, barely avoiding arrest.

They find Rusty, who is being threatened by the thugs. Skids jumps in and puts up a force field to shield Rusty from the gunfire. The shooting shocks Rictor, who starts shaking. The thugs think a bigger avalanche is upon them and runs away.

Rusty is set on accomplishing his mission to melt the ice. But he accidentally catches a tree on fire. Skids is about to call a fire truck, but Rictor manages to keep his powers under control and shake off just enough snow to “smother”the fire.

Rusty, Skids and Artie are delighted with Rictor for saving the day. Rictor confides in them that he had caused an earthquake that “destroyed a city”. But he now sees the good he can do and tries to shake off more ice from trees. Little by little, they unfreeze the park overnight.

The next morning, the sleeping youngsters awaken to the news coverage of Central Park freed of ice. Iceman is in better spirits, especially after seeing what Rusty, Skids, Artie and Rictor had accomplished. The youngsters beam with pride.