In a complicated and dangerous world, Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates them. They carry out this fight using powers they were born with and have since developed into a powerful force. However, there are others that do not choose to use their powers so justly.
Recently, the X-men have been dealing with a number of these individuals. Chief among them is, Magneto, a former ally and friend of Charles Xavier. As leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, he has been plotting for greater conflict between humans and mutants. He caused significant damage to the X-men’s resolve when he recruited Lance Alvers in Detroit and later led the X-men into a trap with the mysterious organization, Weapon X. But his fights haven’t all been successes. Recently, his Brotherhood was thwarted from another stunt at a concert featuring a mutant known as Dazzler. And while frustrated by the X-men’s interference, he is not daunted.
After the Dazzler incident Scott Summers, field leader of the X-men, got together with fellow teammate, Rogue, decided to go on a date. While it started off good, it quickly took a dangerous turn when they were attacked by the Morlocks, a mysterious subterranean race of mutants. After a difficult fight, they were able to capture Scott. Now it is up the X-men to save their missing leader.
Xavier Institute Rec Room
As night fell over the institute, everybody settled into their own outing. Scott was on a date with Rogue, Jean working overtime in class, Ororo and Hank were spending some quality time together, and Logan was off doing whatever it was he did on his alone time. That gave Bobby and Warren the rec room all to themselves and they took full advantage of it. Bobby fired up one of the mansions various video game consoles and Warren joined in. From there, they let the hours slip away.
“You know, I don’t think people give video games their due credit,” said Bobby, his eyes locked on the screen as he punched away at the buttons on his controller, “They’re so much fun and educational to boot!”
“How is shooting an alien with six arms in the head with a rocket launcher educational?” asked Warren, trying hard just to keep up with his friend.
“It can teach us many things, my friend!” grinned the Iceman, “First, it’s a brilliant display of the physics of explosions. Where else will you test what a rocket does to the head of a twenty foot alien? And moreover, it teaches us all valuable lessons about political discourse and the grave implications of what happens when peace breaks down.”
“I’m sure the FCC is thrilled,” snickered the winged mutant.
“Hey I’m surprised Professor Xavier doesn’t make these a part of our curriculum! In our line of work it helps to know how things explode and how to handle giant aliens. You never know when that knowledge might come in handy!”
Warren rolled his eyes. Bobby Drake always found strange ways to rationalize the world. They weren’t always right, but they were thought provoking at the very least. It was little wonder why he had always been the most enthusiastic member of the team.
“Whatever you say, Bobby,” said the winged mutant, “But I’m more surprised that you’re spending more time on video games and less time with, Lorna. I notice you haven’t been making as many trips to her lately.”
“It’s no big deal,” said Bobby, grunting as he momentarily lost focus on the game.
Warren obviously struck a chord and since Bobby had the upper hand in the game he decided to push it.
“Is it?” he questioned, “Less than a month ago you roped us to driving you to her place at least twice a week. Now it’s been what? Two weeks since you last saw her in person?”
“A week and a half,” Bobby corrected, his focus faltering again, “But she’s got a good reason. Her mother hasn’t been feeling well again and she’s been working overtime at her job. We still talk on the phone and chat online though.”
“Her mothers sick?” said Warren dryly, “Are you sure she’s not just using that as an excuse?”
“Of course not!” said Bobby, getting a bit worked up as he continued to lose focus, “Why would she? I mean, she has no reason to lie to me. She knows I’ll be there for her.”
“I’m sure she does, but maybe she thinks it’s something you wouldn’t understand. Or maybe it’s something she wants to deal with alone.”
“Why would she want that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask her,” shrugged Warren.
At that point, Bobby’s lack of focus caught up to him and Warren finished him off in the game. It caught Bobby off guard. Usually he was so focused and skilled with video games. It was one of the few activities he could routinely beat everyone in. For him to lose like this was quite telling.
Setting the controller down, Bobby turned to his winged friend and scowled. Warren was still grinning, taking in his victory despite his friend’s scorn.
“What?” he said innocently.
“I know what you’re trying to do, Warren,” said Bobby seriously, “Just because you’ve had trust issues in your relationships doesn’t mean I have them with Lorna. I know her. I love her. And I trust her when she tells me her mother isn’t feeling well and she can’t make time.”
“Hey, I’m not trying to make you doubt her,” said Warren, “I’m just saying there may be other forces involved beyond your control that she isn’t telling you about.”
“Now you’re just being paranoid,” said Bobby, “You may not understand what Lorna and I have, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful. Whatever issues she’s got going on, I have faith she won’t keep me in the dark if they’re really important.”
“Okay, but be careful with your assumptions. There’s always a chance you’ll get burned.”
“I appreciate the concern, but I can handle it,” assured Bobby.
Warren didn’t look convinced, but Bobby didn’t care. Warren had been cynical about trust in relationships ever since his last girlfriend. Bobby was one of the elite few who knew the details and he could see where he was coming from. But he didn’t believe he would have that problem with Lorna. He cared about her too much and she cared for him as well. If their relationship was to succeed, they had to have trust and he wasn’t going to start questioning it.
“Just for that little stunt we’re going to play again,” said Bobby, returning to his cocky self, “This time I’m going to beat you so bad you’ll have nightmares about it for weeks!”
“You’re on!” said Warren.
The two young mutants were about to start another game. But before they could the doors to the rec room burst open and a hysterical Jean Grey stormed in wearing her X-men uniform.
“What are you two doing?! Put that game down and get to the War Room! We’ve got a major emergency!” she exclaimed.
“Whoa there! Slow down, Jean,” coaxed Warren, “What’s going on? Are we under attack again or something?”
“No, Scott’s been abducted! Rogue just called in and said the Morlocks attacked them! They left her, but they took Scott!”
“Wait, the Morlocks?” said Bobby, “Why would they want to abduct, Scott?”
“I don’t know! So stop asking questions and suited up! We’re going to rescue him!” said Jean in a commanding tone.
To further prove her point, Jean used her telekinesis to unplug the video game console and the TV. She then stormed out the door as if the building was on fire and rushed to the lower levels. Warren and Bobby were shocked by her demeanor. They rarely saw her in such an urgent state. But when it involved Scott it affected her more. There were any number of reasons why that was so, a few being more obvious than others. While they could both have a field day dissecting this, Jean’s tone left little room for joking.
“Are you going to comment on that too, Warren?” asked Bobby.
“Are you kidding?” scoffed the winged mutant with a bewildered look, “Even X-men aren’t that brave! Let’s just do what she says before she goes on one of her moody psychic triads. You know as well as I do how bad those can get.”
“And how!” said Bobby as he rushed off with his friend, “I almost feel sorry for the Morlocks.”
Sewers – Main Morlock Lair
Scott Summers groaned as he returned to the world of the conscious. His head was spinning and half his body was stinging with a penetrating soreness. It felt as though somebody hooked his nerves up to a car engine and kicked it into overdrive. Gritting his teeth, Scott pushed through the pain and rose up. When he opened his eyes he quickly realized he wasn’t at the mini-mall anymore. He was in a dark, dingy room no bigger than an average closet. There was only one dim light illuminating the area above and all along the dingy stone walls were pipes and cables. Upon seeing this it all started coming back to him.
He remembered being in the parking lot at the mini mall with Rogue. Then they were attacked by a couple of Morlocks. The fight had been rough, but they managed to subdue them. Then there was this blinding flash of lightening that hit him from behind. After that everything went dark. Even though he was in a world of pain, he quickly surmised what was going on. The Morlocks had abducted him and given his experience with these mutants, he knew his situation was grim.
“This can’t be good,” Scott groaned.
He used the wall to pull himself up, fighting off dizziness and a pounding headache. His eyes felt strange. Something was wrong with his powers. It was the same feeling he got back in Weapon X when they put inhibitor collars on him. He gathered the Morlocks did something to him to hold his powers back.
“Damn it, my powers!” he grunted as he leaned on the wall for support, “Gotta contact the X-men!”
He stammered to his feet, shaking off the rest of his discomfort. But before he could formulate a plan, the main door opened and Marrow emerged.
“Good, you’re awake,” she said in her authoritative tone, “Come with me. We have important matters to discuss.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what this is about,” said Scott defiantly, “What’s going on, Marrow? Why are you doing this?”
“You’re in no position to make demands, Scott Summers!” shot Marrow, “You’re in our domain, you’re powerless, and you’re surrounded by Morlocks! Either cooperate or we’ll have to find more extreme ways of keeping you docile!”
Scott weighed his options briefly. He contemplated these situations all the time. And whenever he was outnumbered like this, the best thing he could do was buy time.
He remained still as Marrow ordered Sunder and Masque, another shape shifter, to enter the cell and grab restrain him. Sunder slapped a pair of shackles on him for good measure just in case.
“You know the X-men will come for me,” said Scott in a threatening tone as the two Morlocks shoved him towards the door.
“Of course they will,” she grinned, “I’m counting on it, which is why we had best make this discussion quick. The faster we get it done the less messy this has to be.”
“Resorting to old tactics, I see,” said the X-leader, “I thought you learned your lesson last time.”
“Quiet, surface scum!” grunted Masque, “So long as you are in our domain you will respect our authority!”
Scott maintained his silence as he was led out the cell. Then with Sunder and Masque watching him closely, he followed Marrow down the dingy corridors of the sewer. Waiting for them outside were a number of other Morlocks. They included Healer and Callisto, the two other major authority figures in the Morlock realm. It was only natural they would be a part of this as well. Ray Crisp and Caliban were there too, most likely as backup. Also next to Ray was a odd-looking young kid with greenish skin, orange hair, and yellow eyes. He seemed somewhat out of place among these hardened mutants, but he was a nice change of personality compared to the others.
As they started walking, the boy walked up to Scott and smiled.
“Do not worry about powers,” he said, “I’m Leech. I can hold them back.”
“Yeah…thanks kid,” said Scott, trying to sound friendly despite the circumstances.
“If you want you can remove your eyewear,” said Healer, who was walking slightly in front of him.
“I’ll keep them on,” said Scott in a flat tone.
“Very well, I understand,” said Healer.
Leech looked at him again curiously, but Healer waved him off. The boy was too young to understand this situation. He couldn’t blame Scott for being a bit cold. This was not a pleasant position to be in, but it wasn’t something he had control over.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for the circumstances of this predicament,” said Healer, “Please understand that times are difficult for us.”
“Don’t try to make excuses, Healer,” said Scott, “A man like you should know full well there are none for this. So do yourself a favor and stop being a hypocrite.”
That earned him another shove from Sunder.
“Hey! Show some respect, pretty boy!” said the hulking mutant, “You make one more comment like that and I’ll snap your neck!”
Scott fell silent and so did Healer. He cast the young man a look of apology, but the X-leader remained stoic. He had every right to call him out like this. It didn’t sit well with his conscious, but like it or not this situation was out of his hands.
The Morlock leaders and their associates led Scott down a series of sewer paths into the primary hub of their domain. It was a large, spacious area that had been drained of water and cleared away to make room for beds, camps, and other assorted living materials. There were camp fires, creates full with food, and wires running over the ground powering various electronics like ovens, heaters, and TVs. None of it was very organized or clean for that matter, but one would expect nothing less living in a sewer.
As Scott took it in, he couldn’t help but be impressed. It was like an underground catacomb of caves that all converged at one area. It was shaped somewhat like a stadium with the center area being the main arena. Scott also noticed it was pretty crowded. From the looks of it, Morlocks from far and wide had gathered around this area. They were also not shy about voicing their disapproval over his presence..
“There he is! The filthy surface dweller!”
“He’s no better than the humans! Living up top while we’re stuck down here!”
“I hope they cut him up so he can know what it’s like to live underground!”
It was a hostile crowd to say the least. Looking around, Scott saw a large assortment of inhuman mutants. They all shared the distinctive look of a Morlock, appearing too inhuman to live on the surface. He saw mutants with reptilian and amphibian appearances. He saw mutants with rock-like skin and facial features. He also saw mutants that looked human, but had disfigured faces and animal-like features. But Scott kept his poise. He couldn’t afford to show vulnerability. His best chance was to stay calm, buy time, and hope the X-men would find him before this got out of hand. But from the looks of it things were already out of hand. He had never seen so many Morlocks in one place before. Something big must be brewing and he was caught up in it.
Once in the center of the lair, Marrow stopped. Callisto and Healer walked up beside her while Sunder forced Scott down onto his knees, holding him firmly by the shoulder so he couldn’t move or lash out. Berserker also remained on standby, his hands glowing with electrical energy. It was his way of intimidating him.
“Don’t try anything,” Ray warned, “Or the next shock will be even worse.”
Scott’s expression hardened, showing his was not afraid. His focus then shifted to Marrow, gesturing towards the resentful crowd to get them to calm down. They were all anxious and resentful about having a surface dweller in their midst, but they respect Marrow, Callisto, and Healer enough to respect their orders. Once everything was silent, Marrow approached the young X-leader with a confrontational leer.
“It’s been a while, X-man,” she said apprehensively as she stood over him in a dominating manner, “As you can see our population has grown considerably since our last encounter. Every day, more mutants emerge. Among them, there are those who are cursed with an appearance that forces them to run from arrogant surface dwellers.”
“I see your fondness of the surface world hasn’t changed,” made Scott, “Do you spread that hatred to everybody down here? Because that’s a lousy way to make progress.”
“You’re in no position to judge me, scum!” spat Marrow, “I know of your kind! I know of your exploits! Just because you and your X-men aren’t disfigured by your powers, it doesn’t mean you’re any less a freak!”
“Is that what you teach everybody here to think? That they’re freaks?”
“We are freaks, Cyclops,” said Callisto strongly, stepping in to give Marrow a moment to cool off, “Just look at us. Look around you. Can you honestly see mankind accepting us any other way?”
“Maybe not today, but that doesn’t mean it’ll always be like this,” reasoned Scott, “You’ll never gain acceptance if you don’t give them a chance. Feeding the resentment of these people isn’t helping your odds either.”
“We’ve given them countless chances!” barked Callisto, “And what have we gotten? More hatred! More frustration! Our people are at their breaking point and people like you are making it worse by protecting the very people who oppress us!”
A rousing cheer among the Morlocks erupted. Some even threw trash in the center towards Scott. They were all so angry and bitter. Years of oppression had only hardened and emboldened them. The anger was boiling over.
“You see, X-man? We’ve done things the peaceful way for too long!” said Marrow, taking over for Callisto, “We’re sick of turning the other cheek! Now we have an opportunity to do something about it, which brings us to why we brought you here.”
“If you think the X-men are going to step aside and let you spread your violence, you’re sadly mistaken,” said Scott defiantly, “Even without me, they’ll stop you.”
“Don’t insult my intelligence, Cyclops. I’m not here to make idle threats,” said Marrow, “I’m here to propose something different. Believe it or not, I wish to form a partnership between the Morlocks and the X-men.”
Scott looked at her strangely. That was the last thing he expected to hear.
“Partnership?” he said curiously, “What kind of partnership? Since when do the Morlocks trust anybody from the surface?”
Now it was Healer’s turn to step in. Being the most level-headed of the trio, he was probably the best one to explain. Hopefully Scott would give him more credence than he would with Callisto or Marrow.
“Don’t be so quick to reject us, Cyclops. We’re very serious,” said Healer in a more reasonable tone, “You see we were recently visited by an agent of your old nemesis, Magneto.”
“Magneto?! You’re working with him now?” exclaimed Scott.
“No, please hear me out,” said Healer calmly, “It’s true, Magneto came to us with a message. He says he’s planning an uprising against the human world and he invites all mutants, Morlocks or not, to join in. He promises that our people will finally have a chance to live in a better world outside these dingy walls.”
“Magneto will promise you anything to get what he wants,” retorted the X-leader, “Trust me on this one. He’ll go back on his word the second it’s more convenient for him.”
“That’s exactly why we want the X-men to help us,” retorted the old man, “There are too many of us who wish to see this through. A chance like this to escape the oppression of the surface world is a chance too great to ignore.”
His expression then shifted from one of reason to one of desperation.
“You’ve faced Magneto many times,” Healer went on, “You and your X-men can be our insurance against his treachery. We’re not asking you to partake in the fighting. We’re just asking for your cooperation in ensuring the safety of our people.”
The look in his eyes was one of sincerity. It resonated strongly with Scott. This man was older than almost any Morlock here and he knew the suffering of the Morlocks better than anybody. He couldn’t blame him for taking a chance like this seriously, even if it was from Magneto. But what he was asking flew in the face of many of Xavier’s principles. Looking around at these people who really weren’t all that different from him, he had a great deal of sympathy. But he could never push himself to be a part of this.
“I want to help you, Healer,” said Scott, “But this is not the way to go about it. You’re talking about direct confrontation between humans and mutants. That’s not going to make your peoples’ situation better. It’ll just make things worse!”
“That’s your assessment,” said Marrow firmly, “We’ve weighed the options. We know the risk.”
“I don’t think you do,” retorted Scott, “Take it from someone who knows Magneto better than any of you. Going along with him is a mistake!”
“Does this mean you refuse our offer?” said Marrow.
“Professor Charles Xavier always taught me that violence only leads to more violence. And time and again, he’s been proven right,” said Scott strongly, “I won’t do it and neither will the X-men. We’re willing to help the Morlocks, but not like this!”
Marrow looked down at the young X-man with a scowl. She hoped Healer could reason with him, but he was just too stubborn for his own good. She should have expected nothing less from an X-man. But she had a feeling this may happen and had already prepared for it. There were no lengths she wasn’t willing to go for her people.
“A pity,” she said, “We could have made a formidable team. But know this, Cyclops, one way or another the X-men will assist the Morlocks. If not by choice, then by other more persuasive means.”
“What are you going to do? Threaten to kill me if they don’t go along?” said Scott defiantly, “Because that won’t work!”
“Oh I know it won’t,” said Marrow with an ominous grin, “That’s why I’ve taken additional measures. Knowing your friends, they’re probably on their way right now. And when they get here, they’ll be in for a rude awakening!”
Before Scott could say another word, he was hit over the head by Sunder and knocked out. The other Morlocks cheered as the hated surface dweller fell unconscious and was hauled away. If he insisted on doing this the hard way, so be it. But not every Morlock was convinced. Healer watched Sunder haul Scott away with a look of concern. As much as he wanted his people to be free, he still wasn’t sure if this was the right way to go about it. But what choice did they have?
“Is he going to be okay, Healer? I like him,” asked the young Leech, who stuck close to Healer.
“I don’t know,” he said distantly, “We’ll have to wait and see. But for all our sake, I hope Marrow and Callisto know what they’re doing. A lot of lives are depending on them.”
The tension aboard the X-jet was strong as they flew over a major sewer hub near the water treatment plant. Beast was flying the jet and Logan was in the seat next to his. Bobby, Warren, Jean, and Ororo were sitting behind in the passenger areas. Rogue was there as well, now in her X-uniform. But she kept to herself. She was visibly anxious about Scott. There was also a touch of anger. She seemed intent on finding the ones who interrupted her and Scott’s date and taking them out with her bear hands.
But Rogue wasn’t the only one worried. Jean was also noticeably concerned about Scott. She was the one who got panicked call from Rogue after she came to at the mall. And she was the one that spurred the team into action. Her demeanor came as no surprise given Scott was her best friend, but that didn’t stop others from speculating about a deeper meaning. Even Logan picked up on it and it clearly didn’t sit well. He rarely saw her get this worked up about anything else. Now was not the time to call her out on it.
There was also an obvious tension between Rogue and Jean once they picked Rogue up from the mall. Jean kept staring at her bitterly, as if she was the one responsible for Scott’s abduction. Rogue returned her gaze, staring back with equal resentment. Things were already tense enough between the two of them with her dating Scott. This was just adding fuel to the fire.
“What?” said Rogue defensively towards Jean, “You gonna give me that look all night, Jean? Cause Ah ain’t in the mood to pick a fight!”
“I’m not out to fight you, Rogue,” said Jean bitterly, “I’m just worried about Scott.”
“So am Ah! But ya keep lookin’ at me like it’s mah fault!” exclaimed Rogue, “You think Ah didn’t do everything in mah power to stop this? Trust meh, if Ah could swap places with Scott right now Ah’d do it!”
“I’m not blaming you! I’m just frustrated!”
“Yeah right! Ya just want an excuse to be mad at meh because Scott and Ah were out on a date! Heck, Ah bet part of you likes he was captured because it meant Ah couldn’t get any closer to him!”
“Damn it, Rogue! I’m not having this conversation with you!”
“Yeah, ‘cause you’re such an angel ya won’t say what ya really feel!” said Rogue snidely, “But Ah can tell! Ah don’t even need psychic powers because you do a god awful job of hiding it!”
Jean’s expression contorted with anger. Rogue was really pushing her. She had a mind to give her a telekinetic slap so hard she wished she had been the one they took. Maybe there was some truth in her words. A part of her did resent Rogue for going out with Scott. It wouldn’t be the first time Rogue called her out on it and there were many issues surrounding it that they hadn’t worked out.
“Rogue…” she began in a stern tone.
Before this spat could go any further, Ororo stepped in.
“Both of you, stop it!” she commanded, “This is no time for petty arguments! We’re all upset about this, but that’s no reason to start attacking each other! You can work this out when this is over!”
Rogue and Jean exchanged bitter glances before falling silent again. There was still plenty of resentment, but for Scott’s sake they set it aside. This issue was sure to come up again and from the looks of it there was no resolution in sight.
“Talk about bad blood,” said Bobby, “Scott’s not even here and he’s still got two women fighting over him. How is that fair?”
“Let’s just hope they have enough fight to go around with the Morlocks,” said Warren, “If they’re anything like last time, we’ll need it.”
Logan looked back from the cockpit at Jean and Rogue. He didn’t like how Jean was getting so worked up about Scott. A part of him agreed with Rogue. He knew what she was seeing. Jean’s concern for Scott was pretty telling, even if he was her best friend. He tried ignoring it to avoid more arguments. They already had enough about it. It wasn’t easy, but it kept everything in check for now. He was content to focus on the mission.
“So who exactly are these Morlocks?” asked Logan, “With a name like that they don’t sound too friendly.”
“That would be quite an understatement, Logan,” said Hank, “They are a large collection of mutants, most of which look too inhuman to live in normal society. So they choose to reside underground in the sewers.”
“Why the hell would they choose that? Literally living in shit ain’t that big a step up.”
“It’s tragic, but they have few other options,” said Hank solemnly, “None-the-less, they’ve been able to make it work for them. Using an array of mutant powers, they’ve been able to create an entire society within the sewers of major cities. They have hubs everywhere and have grown a great deal over the years as the mutant population has risen. As you can expect, they do not think highly of surface dwellers.”
“Can’t blame em for holding a grudge,” shrugged Logan, “You guys ever face them?”
“Indeed we have,” said Hank as he flew the jet in lower, “Two years ago, a faction of militant Morlocks formed their own task force and began carrying out attacks on power grids, sewage systems, and water treatment plants. Years of living underground made them so bitter they wanted the rest of the world to know what it was like.”
“Blegh, glad I wasn’t around for that,” said Logan, “All that sewage ain’t good when you got a nose that can smell the booze on a man’s breath from half a mile away.”
“You have no idea, Logan,” said Warren from the back, “I still have nightmares about that mess. You don’t want to know the kind of stuff I had to wash out of my wings.”
“It could have been a lot worse,” said Hank, “The authorities were planning to strike back by pumping poison gas into the sewer. Many could have died and mutant relations would have been set back at least several decades. But we were able to get through to the Morlock leadership and convince them to stop their attacks. We offered many of them a chance to join us, but they refused.”
“Let me guess, they’re the untrusting type,” said Wolverine.
“Very much so, which is why it is hardly surprising they would resort to abduction. But it still doesn’t make sense,” reasoned Hank, “The Morlocks have maintained a strictly defensive policy for years. Why would they all of the sudden change their stance?”
“Who knows? Maybe they’re planning a new round of attacks. That or they just think Summers has the kind of mug they just have to have him in their ranks.”
That earned Logan a look from both Rogue and Jean, but before they could comment on it the communication link from the main console came online. It brought up a greenish holographic image of Charles Xavier in the cockpit. As usual he was keeping tabs on the mission back in the mansion with Cerebro. He was their eyes and ears for this operation, using his psychic talents to locate Scott before the Morlocks could hurt him.
“X-men, I’ve just located a faint signature not far from where you are. I believe it belongs to Scott.”
“Do ya know if he’s okay, Professor?” asked Rogue, her tone thick with concern.
“I do not know his condition, but I am certain that he is alive. But this signature appears to be a bit too clear. The Morlocks are usually very adept at escaping detection, even from psychics.”
“That could only mean one thing,” growled Logan, “They’re setting a trap.”
“That’s a very real possibility, Wolverine. Which is why I recommend pulling back so we can formulate a plan.”
“Pull back?!” exclaimed Rogue, “You want us to leave Scott in the hands of those wackos even longer? For all we know they could kill him any second!”
“They won’t do that, Rogue. I know the Morlocks. They are an embittered people, but they are not monsters.”
“Even so, we can’t afford to pull back now!” said Jean strongly, “We have to go in and rescue him!”
“So we should just walk into a trap?” said Ororo, “Jean, that won’t do Scott any good.”
“It’s better than doing nothing!” said the young psychic, “Professor, I know it’s risky. But we have to take that chance for Scott’s sake! We were able to reason with the Morlocks before. We can do it again! We don’t have to risk Scott’s life!”
Xavier considered it for a moment. He all too well the tendencies of the Morlocks. They were not adverse to mal-treatment of their prisoners, especially surface dwellers. Even though they abandoned their militant tendencies two years ago, that didn’t meant they had given up on violence. Jean gave him that pleading look. Rogue gave him a similar look. All points considered it was still risky, but Scott’s safety was at stake.
“Very well, there’s a large sewer duct just outside the main facility of the water treatment plant. You should be able to gain access to all the main sewer lines from there.”
“Thank you, Professor,” said Rogue graciously.
“But again, I urge you to exercise great caution. If the Morlocks are preparing a trap, you must take every measure to avoid it. You’re going into their domain and they’ll use every advantage against you.”
“Sounds like a fair fight to me,” said Logan with a wolfish grin, “Don’t worry, Chuck. We can handle ‘em. With all the aftershave Cyke wears, he shouldn’t be hard to track.”
“Let us hope so, Wolverine. I’ll be in touch.”
The holographic image went out as the link went down. Hank then flew the jet in lower so they could land in a clearing. The thought of venturing into the sewers with all the sewage, garbage, and grunge that went along with it didn’t appeal to anybody. But their friend was trouble. They couldn’t leave him in the hands of the Morlocks. Even if this was a trap, they had to save their leader.
“Another mission into the sewer,” groaned Bobby, “Scott owes us big time for this.”
Morlock Lair – Later
Upon landing the jet, the team entered through a large metal mesh tube that led out into a nearby lake. Wolverine used his claws to create an opening. Then he and Jean took lead with Logan tracking Scott with his nose while Jean followed the telepathic signals linked to her by the Professor. The sewers hadn’t changed much since the last time the X-men faced the Morlocks. It was as dark and dingy now as it was then. The endless pipes and paths through with rivers of trash and sewage flowed was as imposing as ever. Given the scale of it all, it wasn’t hard to contemplate how an entire society of mutants could be living here.
The first five minutes of the trek was uneventful. Much of the team was just trying to get over the putrid smell that emanated from every direction. There were many gags and groans. Even Hank and Ororo found it difficult to adapt. The only ones who didn’t seem effected by it were Jean and Rogue. They were just too focused on finding Scott to care about the stench. There was still plenty of bitterness between them, but they kept it to themselves for Scott’s sake.
After about fifteen minutes of wandering through the sewers, the paths started to narrow and the surroundings began to get more ominous. These were the older parts of the sewers that workers didn’t venture towards very often. There was a lot of empty space drained pathways, prime grounds for Morlock colonies. They started seeing signs of habitation like empty boxes, old beds, and piles of food wrappers. It showed they were going in the right direction, but it was still strange. The signs were there, but the inhabitants were no where to be seen.
“Ugh, I hate the sewer,” complained Warren, “How much further? This stale air can’t be good for my wings.”
“Hold onto your panties, rich boy. We’re getting close,” said Logan as he picked up a burger wrapper, “This stuff is still warm. A lot of people were in this area recently.”
“So where might they be now?” asked Beast as he looked over some beds and tables, “If none are present they may have been called out.”
Logan sniffed the air closer, filtering out the stench of sewage and muck. He followed a trail of scents down a wider path to the north.
“Every trail leads in one direction. They must have all been summoned somewhere at once,” he surmised.
“Great, that must mean they’re coordinating their efforts. As if just a few of these Morlocks aren’t bad enough,” said Bobby.
“At least it saves us the trouble of beatin’ the answers out of anybody,” said Rogue, “What about, Scott? Any sign of him?”
Logan sniffed the air more carefully while Jean concentrated harder. It was hard to pick out minds down here. But the Morlocks had many mutants in their midst and a large number of mutant powers at their disposal. They could easily have another telepath or another mutant with psionic blocking powers holding them back. Through the muddled haze of minds, Jean was able to pick out a faint signature.
“I…I think I’ve got something,” said Jean as she clutched her temples, “It’s this way.”
“So are all the scents,” said Logan, “If Cyke is up ahead then he’s definitely got company.”
“Well what are we waiting for?! Let’s get to him already!” urged Rogue.
She was about to run ahead, but Ororo was there to hold her back.
“Take it easy, Rogue. We will,” said the African woman, “But remember what the Professor said. It could be a trap. We must proceed carefully.”
Rogue suppressed a groan. Being slow and careful was not her style, especially when someone she cared about was in trouble. But she followed the lead of the team, staying close behind Jean and Logan as they followed the trail down a series of pips and pathways. As they passed through them they noticed them getting wider and larger, hinting this path converged with others at some point. They also noticed the lights getting dimmer. The deeper they went the darker it got.
“What’s with the lights? Don’t these people live in enough darkness?” said Bobby as he bumped into Hank from behind.
“It’s a sewer, Bobby. It wasn’t built for lighting,” reminded Jean, “We don’t need it anyways. Just stay close. The sooner we get Scott out of here the sooner we can leave.”
The tension among the team rose as Logan and Jean picked up the pace. It was so dark they could barely see more than ten feet in front of them. But they could hear the sound of running water getting louder and they felt cooler gusts of air, hinting they were entering more spacious areas. But the ominous feeling still lingered. There was definitely a presence here and a big one.
Logan stopped briefly to sniff the air. Jean stopped as well, looking towards Logan for guidance. While her mind could pick up the signatures, he could pick up the danger. There was a lot of interference, but he was definitely close. She knew Scott’s mental signature better than anybody.
“We’re close,” said Logan, “But there’s a lot of other scents around here I don’t like.”
“You sure that’s not just the sewage?” said Warren, groaning again as he picked a banana peel out of his wings.
“I’m sensing it too,” said Jean, “But they must have some psychics among them because I can’t get a clear reading.”
“Maybe we should just follow the rats and hope they lead us to Scott,” said Bobby, squinting to see further ahead.
“Quit complaining, Bobby. Ah see some light up ahead,” said Rogue.
The team moved faster towards the faint light in the distance. It wasn’t much, just some yellowish-gray glow at the end of the wide tunnel. But it was enough to rouse their suspicions. Logan stayed in front, following the muffled trail of scents. It was hard to single them out because there were so many. The closer he got to the light the more suspicious it seemed.
“Something’s wrong here,” he growled intently.
Logan stopped as they reached the end of the pipe. From here they could see clearly into the narrow light, which just barely illuminated a small area up ahead. But as soon as it came into focus, they were able to make out a faint figure. Right there laying in the center of the light was the unmistakable yet unconscious body of Scott Summers. And as soon as Rogue saw him her eyes widened and she started frantically running towards him.
“It’s Scott!” she exclaimed.
“Damn it, Rogue! Don’t!” yelled Logan.
But it was too late. Rogue had already broken off, running at full speed to the unmoving body of her date. She didn’t give the situation much thought. She just reacted. But as soon as she got close enough to his unmoving body, she got the shock of a lifetime. Before she could even reach out to touch him, his body came to life and he turned over and grabbed Rogue by the arm. The young woman fell back in shock, for the face she was looking at was not the face of Scott Summers. It was a grotesque, disfigured, horrifying face straight from her nightmares. Before she could process what was happening, the face spoke.
“Foolish surface scum!” hissed the figure.
Then before Rogue could pull back, the strange figure hit Rogue with a punishing uppercut that nearly knocked her out and sent her face first onto the hard sewer ground. The rest of the X-men could only watch in shock as the figure that was clearly not Scott rose up and shape shifted before their very eyes, revealing himself to be the Morlock known as Masque.
“We’ve been expecting you, X-men!” proclaimed the disfigured mutant, “I hope you enjoy our hospitality!”
“Bub, you got five seconds to back off or that face of yours will be the least of your problems!” growled Logan, drawing his claws.
“Your threats are meaningless!” scoffed Masque, “This is our domain! You will play by our rules!”
Logan was about to storm in for an attack, but before they could even get out of the pipe a mysterious wall of energy formed behind them. It was a yellowish, green barrier that stood nearly three feet thick. Before anybody could even try to test it the energy field was thrust forward like a ram, forcing them out of the pipe and into the open.
“Whoa-boy!” exclaimed Bobby he and the others were literally thrust out.
Logan, Jean, Warren, Bobby, Hank, and Ororo all tumbled out into the open arena not far from Rogue. They were all stunned, but were quick to get up.
“Ugh, now I know what a pinball feels like,” groaned Warren.
“Shake it off, bub,” grunted Logan as he shot up and prepared to attack, “These sideshow wannabes wanna play rough? I’m game!”
“Brave words from an arrogant surface dweller,” grinned Masque.
Suddenly, a series of lights came on throughout the arena. It not only revealed the vast expanse of this area of the sewer, but it also revealed just how outnumbered they were. From wall to wall, there were dozens upon dozens of Morlocks, standing guard and watching over them like spectators in a sporting event. They ranged from monstrous, inhuman looking mutants to small, sickly looking mutants with various deformities and abnormalities. But the one thing they all shared in common was the disgusted look they had for them, the filthy surface dwellers.
In the center of the arena were Marrow, Callisto, and Healer. They were accompanied by Sunder, Caliban, Berserker, and Leech. There was also a young teenage girl with a strange yellowish glow to her, similar to that of the force field that pushed them into this area. She was Skids and they figured she was responsible for their bumpy entrance.
“Oh my…” said Ororo as she looked around in awe, “These are the Morlocks?”
“Indeed…and it seems their ranks have swelled since our last encounter,” commented Hank.
“That’s a conservative estimate, Hank,” said Warren.
It was an intimidating sight, being so outnumbered. But the grave predicament was lost on Jean as she ran up to Rogue, who was still conscious but groaning in pain.
“Damn it, Rogue,” she cursed as she looked up at Marrow and Callisto, “What the hell is going on here?! What have you done with Scott?!”
“I’d watch your tone, surface dwellers!” said Marrow firmly, “Your comrade is fine. But he was a bit uncooperative as you can see.”
Marrow gestured towards Sunder, who had Scott’s unconscious body hitched over his shoulder. With callous grit the hulking mutant tossed his unmoving figure onto the ground. The Morlocks had been pretty rough with him. When Rogue and Jean saw the shape he was in they were filled with shock and anger.
“Scott…” said Rogue, groaning through the pain, “You son-of-a…”
“Watch your tongue, girl!” warned Callisto, “You’re lucky he’s still in one piece!”
“That’s more than Ah can say for you,” grunted the southern mutant as she shot up and charged the woman who attacked her earlier.
“No Rogue-augh! Not again!” groaned Jean.
It was the second time Rogue acted on an impulse. Grunting through her pain she charged towards Callisto, but before she even got halfway there she was stopped cold in her tracks by another energy barrier. It was like running into a brick wall the impact sent her back to the ground in a world of pain. From behind Callisto, Skids stepped forward. Her eyes were glowing bright yellow as she put up more barriers all throughout the arena. Soon every entrance and exit was covered.
“Not a very fast learner, are you?” taunted Skids, “But no matter. None of you are leaving! Not until you face the judgment of the Morlocks!”
A wave of cheers erupted from around the area. Many taunted and jeered their unwelcome guests. And with no way out the X-men were going to have to endure it.
“Talk about a hostile crowd,” commented Bobby.
“Indeed,” said Ororo as she looked at the intimidating audience, “What do we do now?”
“What do you think?!” growled Logan, his claws still drawn, “There’s hundreds of them and seven of us! Sounds like a fair fight to me!”
“Stand down, Wolverine. Remember what the professor said,” said Hank, “We have to be diplomatic.”
“I don’t think they’re interested in talkin’ anything out, Hank. Just ask Summers.”
“Still, we must try,” he said.
Hank stepped forward, walking up to Jean and Rogue. Jean was still helping her up, clearly not enthused by Rogue’s brash actions. But now was not the time to argue with one another. While they held back, Hank approached the barrier separating them from Marrow and the others.
“Please, Marrow, we do not wish for any conflict between us or the Morlocks,” he said in a reasonable tone, “Just let us take our friend home and we’ll leave. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
“On the contrary. This is now the only way!” said Marrow firmly, “We presented an offer to your friend. We proposed a deal of mutual protection between the Morlocks and the X-men. But he foolishly refused, once again showing how weak the X-men are when it comes to doing what is necessary!”
“That’s Cyke for ya,” muttered Logan, “He just has to rope us all into this.”
“Had he agreed, this could have been much more peaceful,” said Marrow, “But since that is not the case, we’ll be doing this the hard way. Just know that one way or another you will assist the Morlocks! You may not like it, but make no mistakes! There are no lengths I am not willing to go to for my people!”
She sounded pretty serious. They didn’t know what it was Scott turned down, but it must have been extreme if they were willing to go to these kinds of lengths.
“But is this the kind of example you want to set?” said Ororo, stepping in to assist her lover, “Is this the kind of behavior you want your people to aspire to? You’ll only be making things worse for them! Just let us help! We can find another way!”
But her words fell on deaf ears. If anything, they made Marrow even angrier.
“No offence Miss Munroe, but you have a poor way with words,” said Jean as she helped Rogue up.
“Enough!” barked Marrow, “Morlocks, subdue them!”
“Oh this will be fun,” growled Logan.
With that order, another round of cheers erupted amongst the Morlocks as the attack began. Marrow led the charge with Callisto, Sunder, Caliban, and Berserker. But from the crowds more, joined in. One was a large, hulking lizard-like mutant with a humanoid figure. Another was a tall muscular figure with a pit-bull-like head and a canine-like fury. Others sought to join in as well, but they were held back by Skids to make room for their best fighters. Only Healer and Leech stayed back with Cyclops, staying silent and not voicing any objections. But their uncertainty showed.
“They won’t hurt them will they, Healer?” asked Leech in a worried tone.
Healer found it hard to look at the young boy’s innocent eyes and lie, but he had no choice.
“It’ll be fine,” he assured them, “Just stay focused and keep holding Cyclops’s powers back. Do not push yourself. You know you can only hold back one power at time.”
“Okay,” said the boy obediently, “But why must they fight? I like the X-men.”
It was a question Healer couldn’t answer. His only option now was to stay back and be ready to heal anybody, X-men or Morlock, at a moment’s notice.
The fight that ensued was chaotic. Callisto went for Rogue again, looking for a rematch from last time after she slugged her at the mini-mall. Marvel Girl took on the pit-bull mutant, who charged her with a vengeance. Iceman took on Berserker, shielding himself with ice while Berserker’s hands sparked with electricity. Angel went up against Marrow, who had a full body of boney spikes and armor plates. Storm took on the hulking Sunder, who wasted no time in trying to crush her. Beast took on Caliban, who knew he had to be mindful of his imposing strength. And Wolverine took on the growling, snarling reptilian humanoid that attacked him with a primal rage. But with his claws drawn, he was prepared to match him.
“Ain’t you a looker?” he taunted, “Come on! Let’s see if you fight as bad as you smell!”
“Errrrr! Vile surface scum!”
The reptilian mutant roared as it attacked the nimble Wolverine, looking to take a huge bite out of him in one swift attack. He managed to get a few good scratches on him, but they didn’t even slow him down. Wolverine countered by leaping to the side and jumping onto the imposing figure’s back and plunging his claws into him, causing it to roar in agony. It earned him the ire of the Morlock crowd. One mutant that had powers to form sticky, glue-like substances from his hands even threw a large glob at him. It missed, but it showed just how outnumbered they were.
The rest of the X-men didn’t fare much better. Rogue, still reeling from the blows she took earlier, was forced into a defensive battle with the stronger, faster Callisto. She just barely dodged several blows that caused huge dents in the floor or wall. And unlike last time, she didn’t let her get close enough to absorb her. Beast faced a similar problem with Caliban, who despite his slim frame proved to be quite strong. Other Morlocks tossed him heavy slabs of stone and oil drums to use against the nimble Beast. He was able to avoid them and managed to pull him into a grapple. But Caliban was able to break free and slug him hard across the face. It left Beast stunned, but not defeated.
“Ah could use a little help here!” exclaimed Rogue.
“Ha! After the stunt you pulled last time you couldn’t raise an army big enough to keep me from you!” shot Callisto.
Upon seeing this, Beast took action. Caliban moved in for another attack. This time he grabbed his arm and spun him around twice to build up momentum. Then he let him go, flinging him right into Callisto.
“I don’t have an army, but perhaps the laws of physics will do,” said Beast.
“Thanks Beast!” said Rogue as she got down and absorbed some of their strength, “Let’s end this and get Scott out of here!”
“Nobody’s going anywhere!” exclaimed Marrow, who was wildly shooting spikes at Warren as he flew about the arena, “Skids! Box them in!”
Skids did as she was told, creating a box-like barrier that walled the X-men in even tighter. It kept Warren from flying down lower to get Scott and left him vulnerable to Marrow’s spikes. With a sharp grunt, Marrow lined her left arm with boney shards and fired them right at Warren. Most missed, but one hit him right in the wing.
“Augh!” he groaned as he plummeted to the ground.
“I’ve got you, Angel!” proclaimed Storm, creating a whirlwind to slow his descent.
But in her act to help her friend, she made herself vulnerable to Sunder. She had been keeping him at bay by blinding him with a barrage of snow and hail. But she was forced to let up to help Angel. When she did this Sunder took his chance and roared out with a vengeance as he charged Storm and rammed her with his shoulder right into the barrier.
“Ahhhh!” she cried out.
“Storm!” exclaimed Marvel Girl, who was struggling to use her telekinesis to hold back the snarling pit-bull mutant.
“Oh man! This is bad!” said Iceman as he fired ice blasts at Berserker.
“It’s about to get worse!” grinned Berserker as he rolled to the side to avoid one of Bobby’s blasts, “Ever hear of electrolysis?”
Berserker charged up a concentrated ball of electrical energy in both hands until they were glowing brilliantly. Upon seeing this, Iceman put up a barrier of ice to shield himself. But when Berserker let the energy go, it literally boiled away the ice, splitting it into its separate hydrogen and oxygen elements. This caught Iceman off guard, who now deeply regretted skipping chemistry classes. Before he could get out of the way, Berserker hit him again with another punishing shock that sent him falling to the ground.
More cheers from the Morlock crowds erupted. Logan, Jean, Beast, and Rogue were forced to band together near the center and take on the Morlocks themselves while giving their downed friends some time to recover. Logan had taken down the reptilian mutant, but several other imposing, animal-like mutants swarmed in to take their place. While Callisto and Caliban were down, they were still getting outnumbered and there were plenty of willing reserves to join in. Despite these odds, the X-men fought on.
Marrow urged them on, forming two large staffs from her bones and attacked Wolverine. They fought it out hard while Beast, Rogue, and Marvel Girl tried to push back Berserker, Sunder, and the other hulking Morlocks. Marvel Girl used telekinetic bursts to knock some of them back. She even managed to knock Berserker into Sunder, taking him out of the fight at least for a moment. But Sunder just charged her and broke her telekinetic shield, forcing her towards Skid’s energy barrier. Rogue tried to take on the several monstrous Morlocks that surrounded her, but even with enhanced strength it wasn’t easy. They took her powerful punches and countered with tail whips and kicks. They coordinated their efforts to a point where they sent her flying back into the barrier along with Jean.
“This ain’t goin’ well!” growled Wolverine as he slashed through Marrow’s spikes.
“You’re just figuring that out now?!” exclaimed Rogue.
“We need a new strategy! Jeannie, can’t you attack their minds?!”
“What do you think I’ve been trying to do?!” said Marvel Girl, “There’s some other telepath here holding be back! But I think I can break it!”
“Oh no you don’t!” grunted Marrow as she looked up towards the cheering crowds, “Brain Cell! Step it up! Don’t let her mind attack us!”
“I won’t, Marrow!” said Brain Cell, a young Morlock who was standing safely behind a hoard of Morlocks.
“Oh dear, that explains where the psychic interference came from,” said Beast, “We must find a new strategy!”
It was becoming increasingly frustrating. The Morlocks were getting the better of them and Rogue wasn’t willing to wait for a plan.
“Knock yourself out, Hank! Ah got mah own methods!” she said as she shoved one of the Morlocks aside.
“Rogue! Not again!” groaned Marvel Girl, who was trying to keep Sunder at bay.
But once again, Rogue didn’t listen. She set her sights on Scott, who was still lying unconscious with Healer and Leech. But it looked as though he was coming to. When Rogue saw this she ran towards the barrier at full speed, summoning all the strength she gained from Callisto and Caliban.
“Let’s see how tough that barrier of yours is, kid!” she grunted.
Skids’s vision narrowed as she intensive the fields. But Rogue kept coming at full speed with determination in her eyes. Like an unstoppable ram, she lowered her shoulders braced herself for impact. Then with all her strength she plowed into the barrier. As soon as she impacted, the whole glowing field ruptured and Skids let out a cry of anguish.
“Augh!” she exclaimed, her eyes flashing briefly as her force barriers were shattered.
“Skids!” said Healer as he was there to catch her.
Leech froze with fear as he watched the fight continue. He didn’t do anything to stop Rogue as she ran up to Scott, who was finally conscious but very much out of it.
“Scott! Scott, are you okay?” said a very worried Rogue as she helped him up.
“Ugh my head,” he groaned as he opened his eyes, “Rogue? What…what’s going on?”
“We’re on a date, remember? What date would be complete without an epic fight?” she said, smiling at the sound of his voice.
Hearing her make a joke at a time like this helped Scott get his strength back. He leaned on Rogue as she helped him up. Marvel Girl, who was still keeping Sunder at bay saw this and tried not to let the sight of him leaning on her affect her. The Morlock crowd was getting more restless and seeing Skids barrier go down was not a good sign. Other X-men like Iceman, Angel, and Storm were coming to as well and with the barrier down they had more room to work with they fight back more effectively. With Scott now able to lead, their chances were definitely better.
“This is getting too out of hand,” said Scott as he looked around, “We have to end this!”
“Ah’m with you, sugah!” said Rogue as she held onto him so he could stay upright.
Scott turned towards Healer, who just cast him a look of sorrow. He made it clear he wasn’t going to do anything to stop him. But Scott just stared back bitterly as if to scorn him for not using any of his influence to stop this. In Healer’s mind it was well-deserved. But when Marrow saw him doing nothing to stop their prisoner, who happened to be their best bargaining chip, she erupted in anger.
“No! Nobody leaves!” she proclaimed as she formed a series of spikes on her arm and aimed them at Scott and Rogue.
She had a murderous rage in her eyes and was poised to attack. When Healer saw what was in her line of fire, his expression turned to one of horror.
“No Marrow! Don’t!”
But it was too late. Marrow dodged another one of Wolverine’s attacks and fired her deadly projectiles towards Scott and Rogue. When Scott saw this he reacted on pure instinct, tackling Rogue to the ground and narrowly avoiding the projectiles. But right next to him, the young Leech was not so quick. He had been paralyzed by the sight of the battle, frightened by all the violence. So when one of the spikes came right at him, he was unable to get out of the way and it plunged right into his chest.
“No…” said Scott, who was still on top of Rogue on the ground.
“Leech!” exclaimed Healer as he ran to the little boy’s side.
Time slowed down for Marrow as she saw what she had done. Her expression turned from one of rage to one of shock and horror. She didn’t even see Leech standing there. She was so determined to attack her enemies she just fired indiscriminately. In doing so, she may have just killed an innocent little boy.
“What have I done?” she gasped.
As Marrow froze, the fighting around her continued and many of the Morlocks kept cheering. They didn’t even notice what was going on. It was then Marrow started looking around and taking in what she had initiated. The X-men were still fighting hard. Angel, Storm, and Iceman were now helping Wolverine, Marvel Girl, and Beast push back Sunder and the others. They seemed to be gaining the upper hand and spurred more Morlocks to descend to the area and overwhelm them.
But this was no longer a fight for the good of the Morlocks. It was no longer a stand against the oppression of the surface dwellers. It was just fighting, plain and simple. And she had to put an end to it.
“STOP!” she commanded, “Everybody stop! No more fighting! No more!”
The entire arena went silent quickly as every Morlock froze at the sound of Marrow’s commanding tone. Even those fighting the X-men stopped. Wolverine was about to move in and finish off sunder, but Marvel Girl held him back. She saw what happened to Leech and had a feeling this was coming.
“What are you doing, Marrow?!” exclaimed Callisto, who had finally woken up from Rogue’s attack.
“This…this isn’t right!” she said as she ran over to Healer and Leech, “This wasn’t supposed to happen!”
“This is what happens when you spur violence, Marrow,” said Scott strongly, “People get hurt, innocent or not. It’s unavoidable.”
Marrow was speechless as she knelt beside the unmoving body of the young boy. Healer cradled him in his arms, tears in his eyes as he watched the life drain away from his eyes. Other Morlocks watched on with horror as well. They all gathered around while the rest of the X-men met up with Rogue and Scott.
“Are you okay?” Jean asked him.
“I’m fine,” he said with only a slight smile, “I knew you guys would come for me. I just wish you came a little sooner.”
“So do we,” said Ororo, gasping as she saw Leech, “Oh my…”
A heavy silence fell over the crowded area. All their focus now was on Leech. They could stand to see outsiders get hurt, but for one of their own, especially a little boy, it was too much. They all watched anxiously as Healer pulled the spike out of Leech’s chest. Blood was pouring out, seeping onto the dingy sewer floor. He wasn’t moving or breathing. Healer felt around the young boy, looking for any signs of life. Judging by the look on his face, it wasn’t encouraging.
“Can…can you heal him?” asked Marrow, struggling to hold back her emotions.
“I don’t know,” said Healer, “But I’ll do my best.”
The old man took a deep breath as he placed his hand over Leech’s test. His face contorted with grit and determination as he focused his power onto this dying young boy. Soon his hand was consumed with a glowing yellowish energy. It was soft and gentle, giving off all the qualities one would expect of a healing agent. Every Morlock watched anxiously. The X-men watched on as well. Scott, who got to know the boy a little, was especially worried. He squeezed Rogue’s gloved hand as he hoped for the best.
Healer kept his hand over Leech for a good two minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. At first nothing happened. But soon they began to see the wound closing up. The more it healed the more energy Healer seemed to exuded. It looked taxing, but the old man didn’t let up. He kept pushing himself until the wound was entirely closed. Even afterwards, however, Leech was still unmoving. It showed they may be too late. But then Jean stepped in.
“Keep going, Healer,” she said, “Let me help.”
Using her telepathy, she connected with the young boy’s mind and kept him from crossing over. This allowed Healer to keep going a minute longer to finish the job. He finally gave out, letting out a tired gasp. But as he did, the young boy awoke as well in a series of ragged coughs.
“Hnn…is it over?” he asked in his innocent, young tone.
A great cheer of relief came over the Morlocks. The X-men also smiled at the sight of the little boy returning from the brink. Marrow’s expression remained stoic, but a tear escaped from her eye. While jubilation came over many, Marrow hugged her shoulders and turned away. Her actions nearly took the life of an innocent young boy. She couldn’t escape the guilt she felt over such brash actions. And yet even after everything they did, the X-men helped them.
“Thank you,” said Healer graciously towards Jean.
“Don’t mention it. It’s what we do,” said Jean.
“And we do it well, even to those who may not like us,” said Scott, giving Jean a pat on the shoulder and a warm smile.
Jean smiled back, but when she saw Scott holding Rogue’s hand she shifted a little. But she didn’t let it show. She just rose up and re-joined her friends.
“Now do you see, Marrow?” said Scott, “Do you see what this kind of violence can lead to? I know you want what’s best for your people, but this is not the way to go about it.”
Marrow was silent for a moment. Then she turned back to face the X-leader that she had put through so much.
“It’s not easy,” she said distantly, “The only thing that ever seems to work for me is violence. I know it comes at a price. I thought I was willing to pay that price, but…”
Her words trailed off. But she didn’t have to say anything more.
“Yeah, it catches up to everyone. Believe me, I know,” said Logan.
“It won’t always be like this, Marrow,” said Hank confidently, “As the old saying goes, the night is darkest before the dawn. But the sun will always rise again. You cannot give up hope. It may be difficult now, but it can change for the better. You just have to be willing to do what is right and not always what is easiest.”
They were powerful words from a group of mutants she had done much to hurt. But as Marrow looked down at Leech, who was smiling again, they resonated with her. She had endured a lot in her life and violence was very much a part of it. But she didn’t want it to stay that way, not for herself or for her people. With that in mind she came to a decision.
“I can’t make any promises, but I will do my best,” said Marrow in a solemn tone, “In return you are free to leave now. I’ll even help lead you out. It won’t be easy, but we’ll learn to cope with our affairs and we’ll leave those of the surface world to you.”
“In addition, please accept our most humble apologize,” added Healer, “Even after what we’ve done to you, you still helped us.”
“It’s okay. The X-men try not to hold a grudge,” said Scott with a half-smile, “Just remember you do have allies on the surface. Don’t be afraid to turn to us if you need help. That’s what allies are for.”
Scott extended his hand as a token of good will. Despite bitterness and sorrow, Marrow finally smiled and shook it. It didn’t make up for abducting him and using him as bait for his friends, but it was a start. The Morlocks were a complicated people, hardened by oppression and distress. But they still clung to hope. Sometimes they needed to be reminded that despite their appearances, they were still human.
The rest of the Morlocks followed Marrow’s lead and bowed respectfully to the X-men. The only one who didn’t share in their show of respect was Callisto, who remained off to the side. She scowled at Marrow’s decision. As concerned as she had been for Leech, she saw Marrow’s sudden aversion to violence a sign of weakness. She was willing to do what was best for her people, but not get her hands dirty. It was something that didn’t sit well with her. As much as she resented the X-men, she respected the wishes of the other Morlocks and let them go. But she had no intention of leaving this matter to rest.
Despite reservations and bitterness, the Morlocks stepped aside and let the X-men leave. They were all too eager to get out of the sewer and back to the cozy, clean-smelling interior of the Xavier Institute. None were more relieved than Scott. Being abducted in the middle of a date with Rogue was not what he hoped for tonight. But it was over now. Looking over towards Rogue, he smiled. She smiled back and squeezed his hand as they followed the others out. It had been an eventful first date to say the least. Hopefully, it would give them something to build off of.
Scott’s Room – Later That Night
Being back in the mansion was a welcome feeling for the X-men. As soon as they returned, everyone hit the showers to wash off the smell of sewage and slime. Professor Xavier skipped the usual debriefing so everybody could rest. There was a lot to talk about. They learned from Scott that the Morlocks had been visited by Magneto. It seemed as though he was reaching further with his plans. It hinted that what he was working on, it was going to be much bigger than anything they had faced before. But that was an issue they would have to deal with another time.
For Scott, it was a night that didn’t go as well as he planned. He thought this would be his chance to see if he and Rogue really had something. It had been on his mind ever since they kissed at the Dazzler concert. But just when they were starting to get a feel for each other, some unexpected complications stepped in and turned it from a date to a rescue mission. It wasn’t the best way to start a relationship, but it could have been worse.
Having just taken a shower, Scott now lay on his bed in his usual sleeping attire lost in thought. He also had an ice pack with him to help with the soreness he still felt. Luckily Healer was nice enough to give him a few herbs to speed up the process. Aside from his injuries, a lot of the same uncertainties he had before tonight still lingered. Was this relationship with Rogue really worth exploring? How deep did his feelings go for her? He had never been good at this sort of thing. They clearly had something. He just wasn’t sure what to make of it.
Then a knock on his bedroom door interrupted his thoughts.
“Come in,” he called out.
The door opened and Rogue entered, also wearing her sleeping attire. Scott rose up and smiled at her presence, watching as she closed the door behind her and walked up to the foot of his bed.
“Hey sugah, how you feeling?” she asked.
“Sore, but I’ve survived worse,” he sighed.
“Ah’ll bet,” grinned Rogue as she sat down next to him on the bed, “Ah know you’re probably tired, but Ah just wanted to stop by so we could talk. There was a lot we didn’t finish on our date tonight.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” said Scott sheepishly, “Being abducted and trapped in the sewer wasn’t exactly how I envisioned the night panning out.”
“You got nothin’ to be sorry for,” she said, slipping in closer and taking his hand, “But all that aside, there’s something Ah wanna tell ya. Ah was gonna save it for the end of the date, but Ah figure now is as good a time as any. Ah don’t wanna risk another unexpected disaster interrupting us.”
They shared a good chuckle as Rogue slipped in closer, snaking her arms around his neck and draping her legs over his lap. She had her collar on so she could feel the warmth of his body and he could feel hers. It was important they could feel each other in order for this moment to be as meaningful as possible.
“Scott, for a long time Ah’ve been pushin’ people away. Ever since mah mama turned her back on meh, Ah just didn’t know how to trust someone. But the way you and the X-men have let meh in and gave meh a chance after all the trouble Ah’ve caused, it’s just…Ah can never tell ya how much that means to meh.”
Rogue promised herself she wouldn’t get too emotional. It just wasn’t her style, but it was hard not to with something like this. She barely managed to keep her composure as she caressed Scott’s face and went on.
“You’ve been so good to meh. Regardless of how our date tonight turned out, it doesn’t change how Ah feel. Without gettin’ too mushy on ya, Ah ain’t afraid to say Ah really like ya.”
Scott smiled at her words and slipped his arms around her waist.
“I really like you too, Rogue,” he said, “Behind that rebellious personality of yours, there’s quite a woman in there.”
“Aww, you’re such a gent,” she purred, “But that ain’t what Ah wanted to tell you. Ah know Ah may be goin’ a little fast here, but Ah want to take this further.”
“Further how?” asked Scott.
Rogue just smiled and responded with what seemed most appropriate. She pulled him in closer, allowing his body to come in full contact with hers, and captured his lips in a deep kiss. It was a sudden yet affectionate gesture, not at all dissimilar to the one they shared at the Dazzler concert. While Scott should have been more prepared the second time around, he was still caught off guard. But like last time, he went along with it. And before he knew it, they were kissing and feeling each other with such passion they soon lost themselves in it.
Being cut off from touch definitely showed. She clung to him firmly, feeling up his exposed upper body. Scott returned her embrace as best he could, savoring the taste of her lips and feeling along her womanly curves. She eventually pulled him down onto the bed so that he was on top of her. Through the heat of this moment they stopped and gazed affectionately into one another’s eyes.
“Wow…that’s pretty far,” said Scott breathlessly.
“Ah know,” she admitted coyly, “So long as Ah can still touch, Ah want to enjoy it. And Ah’d love it if you would be there to help me.”
It was an offer. It was all coming about so fast, but he could hardly blame Rogue for wanting to take a chance. He still had his uncertainties, but looking into her beautiful eyes and feeling her like this his choice was clear.
“Marie Darkhomle…I’d be honored.”
“Thanks, sugah,” she purred softly, “Mind if Ah spend the night here to celebrate?”
“Not at all,” said Scott with a manly grin.
Scott and Rogue shared another warm smile before coming together again in a deep kiss. From there they shared a passionate night together, enjoying their celebration well into the night. It was a powerful feeling that came about quickly and unexpectedly. Regardless of reservations they still harbored, it was a feeling they embraced and hoped to explore together.
Next Issue: Pryde and Prejudice
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