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  Runaways (2nd series) #17
Author : Last Modified : 5/11/2009 2:21:45 PM

Issue Date: August 2006

Story Title: Parental Guidance - chapter four

Staff: Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Adrian Alphona (penciler), Craig Yeung (inker), Christina Strain (colorist), Tom Valente (production), Virtual Calligraphy’s Randy Gentile (letterer), Marcos Martin (cover artist), Nathan Cosby (assistant editor), Nick Lowe (editor), Joe Quesada (chief), Dan Buckley (publisher) with special thanks to C.B Cebulski & MacKenzie Cadenhead

Runaways created by Vaughan & Alphona

Brief Description:
Karolina and Xavin have returned to Earth after hostilities began again on her homeworld. The others are delighted to see her; especially Nico who thought she might be dead. They explain that Molly has been kidnapped by Geoffrey Wilder, and they decide to go after her immediately. Vic proves that the new Pride must have used him to spy for them, and the Leapfrog traces the signal to the Minoru's summer home. They head over there and discover a map of the Griffith Observatory. Unfortunately, before they can do anything, a bomb explodes, flattening everything in the vicinity. Luckily, Karolina has picked up a few tricks in her time off-world, and manages to protect them with a hastily-erected forcefield. They then head to the Griffith Observatory where they engage the new Pride in battle. Nico manages to sneak away and she confronts Geoffrey Wilder, who has a dagger in his hand and Molly tied up. She warns Wilder to drop it or she'll turn his bone marrow to jelly, but then she realizes that he has ambushed her. He uses Wizard's Ashes to prevent her Staff of One from working, turns, and shoots her in the chest. Molly screams as she hits the floor.

Full Synopsis:
(outside Randy's Donut's)
Molly has had her gag removed, and she uses the opportunity to scream for help. "I'm being kidnapped by a black man from the 1980's!" she yells. Stretch says she doesn't have to bring race into this. Lotus agrees, and reminds her that Geoffrey Wilder is a hero. He put everything on the line to save her from the villains who have been holding her hostage. Molly replies that they're the villains holding her hostage. She informs them that Alex's dad is the worst guy ever invented. he's tricked them into thinking that he's good because they're a bunch of stupid dummies. Before they can respond, Hunter gives them a heads up. They're going to have to finish deprogramming her later. Wilder is back. He slides open the van door with one hand whilst carrying a bag of donuts in the other. "Cruller, anyone?" he asks.

Stretch quickly puts the gag back over Molly's mouth and says no thanks. He's still on South Beach. Lotus asks Geoffrey what happened. They watched him go into the alley and then he just disappeared. He replies that he was on a higher plane, rapping with the celestial beings who blessed the original Pride with their powers. They gave him the green light to proceed directly to the final phase. Hunter asks about Molly. They're not taking her to the last battle, are they? He replies that the Gibborim feel she will be safest in their hands. He admits it will be dangerous for them all, but a better world is right around the corner.

(the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles)
"I can't leave you alone for a second, can I?" says Karolina. Chase is astonished at her return, and Nico figures it might be another impostor. She begins to ask Karolina where they first kissed, but Karolina interjects with the correct answer: Beverly Gardens. That was what she was going to ask... where they almost kissed, right? Gert, only half-jokingly, asks Nico if there's anyone on the team she hasn't tried to molest. Nico smiles uncomfortably, but with relief. "Thank goodness," she blushes. Karolina gives her a big hug and Nico tells her that she thought she was dead. She admits that she's been acting like a real jerk. Karolina shushes her and tells her it's all right.

Nico pulls back a little and asks if she's all right. What happened out there? Karolina explains that she was about to go through with her ceremony, when a Skrullos guest insulted one of the Majesdanian bridesmaid’s dresses. Stupid, right? The next thing she knows, the adults in both parties were fighting, and the peace she left to rebuild was completely shattered. Once second, everything's fine. The next... Old Lace then growls, and Gert asks Karolina if she's sure she didn't bring any wedding crashers with her. Old Lace says someone else is in there with them. Xavin appears from nowhere, in her Skrull form, and tells Gert that her animal's senses are impressive. Either that, or her invisibility skills still need work. She apologizes for the subterfuge, but she didn't wish to interfere with Karolina's reunion. Chase screams that it's the Lizard. "Somebody cut off his head off." Xavin shifts quickly into her female form and apologizes. She forgot that not all of them have had the opportunity to see her in her true form.

Xavin regrets that she and Karolina were forced to leave their planet, but their elders had clearly lost interest in negotiation. "So you guys are still... together?" whispers Nico. Her comment goes unheeded, and Karolina continues to explain that everyone went insane. They barely escaped Tarnax VII before Xavin's outpost world launched antimatter missiles at Majesdene. It was horrible! They crash-landed their escape pod miles from the hostel. She doesn't know if anyone from their system survived. Nico says she's sorry. She can't imagine what they've been through. She offers her the bracelet that inhibited her powers, which she kept just in case she ever returned. Xavin extends an elastic arm and takes the ring. She explains that Karolina doesn't need to suppress her abilities anymore. She's learned so much about herself and her powers back home.

Karolina asks what's happening there. Why are they at each other's throats? Gert explains that they're in the middle of a war of their own. They've got another Benedict Arnold. Nico looks around. She'd totally forgot about Vic spying on them. Vic is standing next to the Leapfrog. He insists he hasn't been spying on anyone. Someone's been spying through him. A hatch is open on the side of the 'Frog, and Vic attaches a lead from his arm into the machine. He tells them that when they fought the people who stole Molly, one of them took control of his body. He started to wonder, what if they could also take signals from his brain? He's been patching some of his cyborg components into the Leapfrog, so he can trace any cerebral spyware back to its source. Leapfrog promptly confirms that it has traced a transmission broadcast to its destination at 1222 Whispering Hills Lane. Nico points out that it’s her parent's old summer home. Chase reckon they should go kick some doors in.

Karolina asks them to hang on. Someone took Molly? Xavin adds that if the hatchling is in trouble, she'd like to help. Nico replies no, but Xavin informs her that she's not just a lowly shape-shifter. She is... was, a cadet in the Imperial Armada, studying to one day be the next Super Skrull! She may only be able to use one of her cosmic abilities at a time, but... Nico cuts her off, and tells her that what she meant was, they'll need someone to hold the fort while they're gone, just in case it's a ploy to lure them out of the hostel. Karolina asks who's doing this and what are they fighting. "The past," sighs Gert.

(soon)
The Leapfrog bounds through the night sky with Chase at the helm. He's explaining everything that Karolina's missed, and concludes with the story about Gert finding about Nico kissing him. Gert's pretty much dumped him forever. Karolina assures him that she's probably just scared and confused. Give her time and she'll come around. They were made for each other. Chase glances over at her and says it stinks the way they had to come back the way they did, but he's glad she's there. The team was falling apart without her. Karolina replies that they've been falling apart since day one. They just have to find a way to fall apart together.

Behind them, all is quiet. Gert has her arms folded and looks blankly in front of her. Nico has her arms folded in a similarly stubborn and defensive fashion, whilst Vic and Old Lace take the middle ground. He glances to either side. "So..." he utters. Gert apologizes for smashing his arm open with a giant monkey wrench. Vic says it's cool. He's never seen what was inside there, so at least there's that. Nico apologizes for doubting his loyalty. Vic tells her he understands, but as long as they're making amends, why doesn't she and Gert bury the hatchet? "Tell Nico she can keep her hatchet," barks Gert. Nico turns to her and snarls, asking Vic to tell Gert that she's holding onto it in case her dinosaur tries to eat her again. Gert responds with, "Tell Nico my dinosaur doesn't like the taste of tarts!" Nico asks Vic to tell Gert that it looks like she likes the taste of everything. Gert comes back again, asking Vic to tell Nico that if she'd put some meat on her anorexic bones, maybe she wouldn't have to steal other girls' guys. Both of them give a nervous laugh before leaning over and shaking hands. "W.T.F." says Gert. "B.F.F." replies Nico. Vic hasn't a clue what just happened. Chase asks them to put away the yearbooks. Recess is almost over.

The Leapfrog has landed in wasteland near the Minoru's old summer home. The gang exit via the main hatch, and Vic asks if summer homes aren't meant to be... summery? Gert replies that Nico's parents weren't much into bright and cheery. Chase notes that there is no sign of their wheels. Maybe they just missed them. Karolina wonders if maybe they're still on their way back. He should probably cloak the Leapfrog. Nico pulls out a key which she has hanging from a chain around her neck. She figures Latchkey Kid will do the rest. One inside, they ask if Molly is there but there is no response. Vic checks out the classic pencil-and-paper guides on the table. He never figured Nico for a role-playing type. Nico assures him she's not. they must belong to whoever's been squatting there. "Didn't Alex used to play that crap?" asks Gert. Maybe that's how those zilches hooked up with his dad. Chase opens up a cupboard and finds what looks like an empty weapons cabinet. That can't be good.

Victor comes across some monitors and finds his face looking back at him. the spy camera is clearly still working. Gert discovers a map which says it's to the new Vivarium. Victor has never heard of the Vivarium, so Nico explains its purpose. Gert figures this must be a backup site, located at the convergence of a bunch of 'ley lines' or some such mystical mumbo jumbo. It's hidden beneath the Griffith Observatory. Karolina figures that must be why her parents were always going when she was a kid. Chase points out that the hoedown at the last Vivarium involved some kind of human sacrifice. What if they took Molly there? Vic then lifts a sheet and finds something underneath. A note reads, 'From the Pride with love.' It's a bomb, and it explodes instantly. The entire house is blown up.

(the Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park)
Geoffrey Wilder holds a remote control in his fingers. "And that ends that," he states coldly. Hunter asks him what he's talking about. He replies that it's just a little something he cooked up to take care of their opponents, so the Pride can get back to doing the Lord's work. He asks them to make sure Molly's restraints are tight. He's about to take their young charge inside with the Abstract, while they set up a defensive perimeter around the place. Stretch though he said the bad guys were taken care of, but Wilder replies that it's probably what they thought about him. He picks up Molly and enters the building. Lotus has a sword, and she asks Hunter to patrol the west bank while Stretch takes the east. She'll guard point. She thinks it's kind of ironic. It takes a couple of dorks who've spent most of their adult lives hanging out in imaginary universes to make world peace a reality.

Hunter looks at a weapon he is holding and adds that if Wilder's spell works, Alex's journal says they will eradicate poverty, global warming, terrorism.. war. They'll do what every super hero combined hasn't been able to pull off. Stretch smiles. They are so gonna be on TV. They should get codenames. "Good idea, Mr. Fat-Tastic," comes a voice from behind them. "How about the Legion of Duds?" Chase leads the runaways out of the Leapfrog with Nico at his side. She adds that they suck at blowing up people. Lotus has no idea what that's supposed to mean.

Karolina glows beautifully in the darkness, and she explains that she's picked up a few tricks off-world, like how to put an impenetrable forcefield around her friends. Thankfully, it works on her enemies, too. She envelopes them in a cocoon of radiant energy, but Stretch quickly cuts a hole in the field with the sword. Lotus peeps out and says the alien invades again. Mr. Wilder said that the Abstract warned them that she might show her face. Hunter tells them that this is what happens when you mess with masters. Stretch explains that this is why they forged the sword out of the material that dampens her energy points. Hunter presses a switch on his remote console, but this time, nothing happens to Victor. He tells Hunter that he set up an internal firewall so he can't hack into his mainframe again. Hunter replies that he's not trying to hack into him. The Leapfrog's lasers fire, and Karolina is sent sprawling. Gert asks Nico to go. She and Chase will buy her some time. "Just find Molly!

Inside the Observatory, Molly brings on the tears and begs Wilder not to hurt her. He calmly asks her to skip the waterworks. Her cloying Rudy Huxtable routine is just an act she puts on to get attention from her older friends. Why doesn't she behave like the bright young woman they both know she is? Molly stops and grunts, "Fine. " Strapped to a wooden chair by the alien restraints, she tells Geoffrey Wilder that his son took after him. He was a total freakin' failure. Wilder says that's more like it. Nico then appears and orders Wilder to drop the dagger he's holding. She warns him to do it, or she'll turn his bone marrow into lava. She holds out the Staff of One menacingly. With his back to her, Wilder tells her she has a wicked mind. However, her brand of magic doesn't work down there, or did she miss the circle of Wizard's ashes she just stepped over? She notices the ring, just as Wilder turns and points a gun at her. "Abracadabra," he says as he fires the bullet. It strikes her in the chest, and she drops the Staff of One before dropping to the floor. Nico! cries Molly. Geoffrey Wilder tells Molly that it's over. She was just the bait. The big fish here was his sacrifice.

Characters:
Karolina Dean, Molly Hayes, Victor Mancha, Nico Minoru, Chase Stein, Xavin, Gertrude Yorkes (all Runaways)
Old Lace

Hunter, Lotus, Stretch (all members of the new Pride)
A young Geoffrey Wilder

Notes:
A Cruller is a deep-fried donut, usually eaten in Germany and other European countries on Shrove Tuesday in order to use uup any spare fat before Lent.

The South Beach comment relates to a type of diet.

Benedict Arnold was a General in the American Revolutionary War who originally fought for the United States before switching sides to work for the British.

B.F.F. means and W.T.F. means. Best Friends Forever and What the F*&k.

Latchkey Kids are children who have keys to their homes so they can come and go while their parents are out at work.

One of the books in the kitchen is called 'Cooking with the Thing.' Another is '1,21 Gigawatts' which is a reference to the amount of power required to transport the DeLorean in Back to the Future movies. The third is 'I Invented Your Mom' by Disco Steve. This appears to be a made-up title. The only other thing on the shelf is a carton of soul glo, presumably used by the young Geoffrey Wilder to keep his hair slick.

Rudy Huxtable is a character from the long-running Cosby Show.

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