As the next step in human evolution, mutants hold promise for the future. But in a world that hates and fears them, Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men work to keep that future from falling apart. Since Magneto’s uprising on the island nation of Genosha, that task has become increasingly complicated. Tensions between humans and mutants remain high, but with help from allies in government and former enemies in the Maximoff twins the X-men maintain a fragile peace.
Their biggest challenge has revolved around the sentinels, giant robot humanoids designed to hunt and kill mutants. Recently, an underworld leader named Black Tom stole plans for the sentinels from Worthington Industries. He then sold the plans to a mysterious figure known only as Sinister, who the now disbanded Brotherhood of Mutants have been working for. What they plan to do with these plans remains to be seen.
For the X-men, it is a race against time. Having followed failed leads in New Orleans and getting side-tracked by Juggernaut, they remain no closer to the truth. But as it turns out, they are not the only ones looking for answers.
Genosha – Capital City
Wanda Maximoff had endured her share of stresses since this ordeal began. She had to deal with overwhelming situations such as watching her father get hauled off to jail, dealing with suspicious military types from all over the world, keeping the peace on an island full of disgruntled mutants, making a good impression on the international community, and working with Charles Xavier and the X-men. She liked to think she had done well for herself given the circumstances. Genosha was still an unstable region, but signs of progress were emerging.
The opulent palace where Cameron Hodge once ruled with an iron fist had been officially destroyed. As a gesture to the mutant presence on Genosha, she willingly stopped living there and used her powers to destroy the whole mansion. It earned her a lot of cheers and even won over a few critics. What made it even more remarkable was that this gesture had been suggested to her by Pietro, who at one point had plotted against her. For all his arrogance and stubborn loyalty to their father, Pietro made a genuine effort to cooperate. None-the-less, she was still unsure just how much she could trust him.
Now operating out of a refurbished military office, Wanda presided over an island that was more peaceful than in previous months but still on edge. The military presence from the UN was still a source of tension. Mutants didn’t like the feeling of a human army watching over them ready to strike at any moment. She didn’t like them on the island either, but it was a necessary evil at the moment. Xavier told her to be patient with this process. For now, she could only endure. In the meantime she found ways to keep busy.
One of her fastest growing pastimes involved keeping in touch with Lorna, her estranged half-sister. While things were still strained between them as a family, Lorna was willing to give her a chance. They had much to talk about from life on Genosha to Lorna’s ongoing romance with Bobby. But there were still challenges along the way.
“Ugh! I have the power to change the probability of something with only a one tenth of a one millionth percent of happening to a perfect one hundred percent certainty. And I can’t for the life of me figure out this texting crap! Seriously, why does every message have to be in code? Can’t Lorna just type it out already?”
Groaning to herself, Wanda finished her response on the new cell phone Professor Xavier gave her. If she had known Lorna was so into texting she would have gotten something else. Maybe it would be less frustrating if she just paid her a visit, if she could ever find the time.
As soon as she finished the message, a distinct gust of wind filled her modest dwelling. It was Pietro and as usual he came in unannounced and unexpected.
“Wanda! You got a minute?” he said in his hurried tone.
“Pietro!” said Wanda, nearly fumbling her phone, “Do I really have to yell at you again for barging in when I’m in the middle of something?”
“Sorry, but I figured you would be used to it by now.”
“So did I, but here we are,” she said dryly, “Now what is it? I’m talking to Lorna.”
“It’s about the Brotherhood,” he said with a mysterious grin, “You know, those oh so loyal friends of ours that jumped ship as soon as the going got tough?”
“Yeah, what about them?” said Wanda, wary of the tone in her brother’s voice.
“Well I heard you and Xavier had reached a dead end trying to find them. So I’ve been doing a little investigation of my own.”
“I don’t like where this is going.”
“You will! See I’ve been running around a couple of dark alleys, chasing a few leads, talking to some people who know some people. You know, real James Bond stuff without the martinis…well, maybe a few.”
Wanda rolled her eyes. She hoped after the Cortez incident Pietro would at least try to stay within the boundaries they agreed upon. She should have known better that nothing could restrain Pietro Maximoff.
“Now I really don’t like where this is going,” groaned Wanda, “You haven’t actually found something, have you?”
“Oh I’ve found something!” said Pietro confidently, “This guy, Tom Cassy or whatever the hell his name was, gave me some intel on what the old crew has been up to.”
“We already know what they’ve been up to. Professor Xavier showed us. They’ve been stealing sentinel tech from ports.”
“Right, but he also told me he’s been keeping track of them. And he knows where they’ve been holding up!”
“And you actually trust this guy?” said Wanda skeptically, “Just like you trusted Fabian Cortez?”
“This is different!” said Pietro intently, “I have a good feeling about this! We can catch these nitwits and stop them from screwing us all over! Come on, you can’t tell me you don’t want to get your hands on them for messing with sentinel gear.”
“That’s not the point!” said Wanda strongly, “We don’t know what they’re caught up in. We don’t know how volatile this situation is!”
“So let me find out!” said Pietro, speaking with an aura of confidence, “Just give me a chance! I can clear this whole mess up!”
“Or you could mess it up even more like you always do.”
“Oh so you’re willing to take a chance at letting the Brotherhood slip through your hands, possibly the sentinels to re-emerge in some new god-awful way, instead of trusting your own brother,” said the speedster mockingly, “And here I was thinking you would leave nothing to chance when it came to the well-being of mutants everywhere.”
Wanda’s expression contorted with a mix of annoyance and intrigue. Pietro was fighting dirty. He knew she bore a heavy burden for mutant kind. It was her responsibility to protect this island and mutants at large. If there was a chance that the Brotherhood was helping to resurrect the sentinels, it would be her fault if it led to more suffering. She didn’t have many reasons to trust her brother after some of the stunts he pulled in the past. Yet despite his arrogant demeanor, he seemed very serious about this.
“I’m not asking you to gravel, Wanda. I’m just asking you to give me a chance,” he said as if it were the most casual thing in the world, “Let me take a few mutants and investigate these leads. If I come back here with Lance, Freddy, John, and Mort with their heads hung low and no sentinels, we can all share a round of cocktails and a good laugh. If not, you just have more excuses to yell at me.”
“There’s also a chance something will go horribly wrong,” said Wanda seriously.
“There’s also a chance you’ll die from choking on a pretzel! I know you’re not one to play the odds Wanda…figuratively speaking. But you want a reason to trust me? Let me give you one!”
To further coax her, Pietro flashed his sister his best puppy dog eyes. They always worked when they were kids. It could never hurt to give it a try. He was sick of being her brother and still garnering the most suspicion. He admitted he messed up with Cortez. Even though Wanda forgave him, she still didn’t trust him. That was something he had to change if he was to play a major role here on Genosha.
Wanda was still skeptical. She wanted to be able to trust her brother. Her every instinct told her not to trust him. It would be nice considering how hard it was doing this alone. There were so many past incidents where trusting him led to trouble. But if there was even a minute possibility that Pietro could redeem himself, wasn’t it a chance worth taking? Especially if it could also help their people? Sighing to herself, the Scarlet Witch made her decision.
“Okay,” said Wanda, “I’ll give you this chance.”
“That’s my sister!” teased Pietro, giving her cheek a little pinch, “I knew you couldn’t stay mad at me forever!”
“Don’t push it, Pietro. Father isn’t the only one who holds grudges,” she muttered, “Just please, for the love of everything holy, don’t make me regret this. I have enough crap to deal with here.”
“Say no more! I’ll get right on it!” said Pietro with a mock salute, “Oh, and tell Lorna I said hi! And just so you know, in texting a semi-colon and a parenthesis means a wink, not a smile.”
The speedster then ran off in a blur, leaving an anxious and agitated Wanda. She sincerely hoped her brother came through for once. The last thing they needed was the sentinels rearing their menacing heads again. They also didn’t need the Brotherhood helping them out. If it turns out they were in on this and Pietro brought them back, they were going to answer to her.
But first, she had to see if she could get this darned texting thing down.
Xavier Institute – Danger Room
“I WILL EAT YOU ALIVE!” yelled a raging Fred Dukes.
“Hey one-eye! Do you mind?!” grunted an annoyed Logan, “Stop jerking around and back me up already!”
“Funny, weren’t you the one who said he could handle the Brotherhood program all by himself?”
“Stop being a dick or shoot this thing already!”
Grinning to himself, Scott Summers ducked and dodged his way through the advanced Danger Room program. It was a special program the team had been running a lot lately. It involved taking down the Brotherhood in a duplicate of the port of New Orleans. The targets were Blob, Pyro, Toad, and Avalanche. There were also a few other obstacles like laser cannons and swinging medicine balls to add to the challenge, but the objective was always the same. They were to take out the Brotherhood.
Using his optic blasts, Scott took out the attacking Toad who tried to pounce on him from behind. He had already taken out Pyro and it was Logan’s job to down Avalanche and Blob. He was able to make quick work of Avalanche, having literally kicked his head off after prying that helmet of his off with his claws. But Blob was proving more difficult. Logan tried to stab him in the head, but he ended up getting caught in his powerful grip. Now Blob was squeezing the life out of the feral mutant, putting pressure on his body that stressed even an adamantium skeleton.
As much as Scott enjoyed seeing Logan’s hot-headedness get him into trouble again, the mission was still paramount. The Brotherhood had to be stopped.
“Hey Blob!” he called out.
Blob turned around briefly, only to get a face full of concentrated optic blast. It packed so much force it caused him to stumble back and drop Logan in the process.
“Augh!” he grunted.
“Trust me, you don’t want to eat that,” Scott commented.
“I WILL EAT YOU ALL ALIVE!” he proclaimed again, his eyes obviously showing the program was a bit rudimentary.
“I heard you the first time, lard boy!” grunted Logan, “Who writes this shit anyways?”
“Beast is a technical genius. He’s not one for dialogue,” said Scott as he continued to fire on Blob.
Despite a lingering soreness from head to toe, Logan leapt back up on top of the oversized mutant and stabbed his claws right into his neck. This time he was right on the mark. Blob didn’t stand a chance. For good measure, Scott hit him with an optic blast to knock him over. He narrowly missed Logan in the process, earning him another snide look from the feral mutant. But Scott was used to that and so was Logan.
“All objectives have been achieved. Score: 65. Program complete.”
Scott and Logan stood by and caught their breath as the holographic scenery and figures faded. It was yet another successful exercise. It had been more chaotic than usual. Originally, it wasn’t supposed to be just them. Rogue was supposed to join them, but she was habitually late again so they started without her. Kitty and Warren were supposed to be there as well, but they had tests to make up. Without the others, Scott and Logan were left to train on their own accord and that always left a mess.
As much as they annoyed each other, it was still a far cry from when they first started out. Not long ago Scott and Logan couldn’t train together without getting into a bitter fight. After Jean and Logan broke up, Logan was especially resentful because he blamed Scott for some of the troubles they faced. He knew he wasn’t fully responsible for issues like Rose, but he sure didn’t make it any easier.
“You did it again, Logan. You used lethal force,” said Scott as he caught his breath, “That docked the score almost by half.”
“Spare me the stat lecture, bub. I didn’t have a choice and you damn well know it!” scoffed Logan.
“There’s always a choice,” said Scott firmly, “It’s important to remember the X-men aren’t killers. You heard the Professor. If and when we face the Brotherhood, we’re supposed to bring them in alive.”
“If you can think of a way to stop lard boy when he’s on a hunger-driven rampage I’d love to hear it.”
“Logan, if we stop Juggernaut and Magneto without killing them, we can definitely find a way to stop Blob. It’s how we do things here.”
“I know damn it!” groaned Logan, “I don’t need the morality lecture again.”
“Then I won’t give it,” said Scott, “But look at it this way, we’ll need them all alive if we’re to find out what they’re involved in. And dead people don’t reveal their secrets.”
There was no arguing the practical aspects. Scott was a tactician and Logan was a fighter. Such strategies differing strategies always clashed. Even with Jean no longer a source of conflict, it didn’t seem like Scott and Logan would ever get along.
Despite the disappointing score, the two X-men powered down the Danger Room and ended their session. There was only so much training they could endure together without getting on each others’ nerves.
“But for the record, Logan, I do appreciate your feelings for the Brotherhood,” said Scott as they made their way out of the arena, “With the stunts they’ve pulled, I don’t blame you for wanting to beat up on them.”
“You trying to be friendly, Summers? Because you’re doing a piss poor job,” muttered Logan.
“I’m trying to empathize,” said Scott in a frustrated tone, “Seriously, Logan, can we at least try to not fight each other at every turn? It’s getting old!”
“It is old. I’ll give you that. But so long as you keep finding ways to bug the hell out of me, I’m gonna bug you right back.”
“That doesn’t mean we have to keep making a scene out of it. It’s not good for the team,” said Scott in a more serious tone, “I’ll be honest with you, now that you and Jean aren’t an item anymore I don’t resent you as much. In fact, I’m glad I was wrong about you two. You really did care about her. You were serious about your relationship with her.”
“She making you bring this up or something?” said Logan, surprised Scott would humble himself like this.
“Unless Jean is secretly manipulating my mind and making me do this, no,” joked Scott, “But I’ve been meaning to bring this up for a while now. Even though I didn’t like you two together, I can see you did make her happy. And that says a lot about you that I know you’ll never say overtly.”
“Yeah, it says I’m good with women,” said Logan with a dirty grin.
“That or Jean just really had you whipped.”
“There you go again,” he said dryly, “Finding new ways to bug me.”
“Just trying to be honest,” he shrugged, “The fact we’re not throwing insults at each other at this point shows progress.”
“You’re still a dick.”
“I stand corrected,” sighed Scott, “But seriously, Logan, I’m not just saying this for the sake of the team. We may not like each other, but it would be nice if we could get along. It will make these battles a whole lot easier. Plus, it would save Jean a world of trouble.”
“That’s for sure. Guess that’s one thing we can agree on. Keeping Jeannie happy makes us both happy.”
“See? I knew we could find some common ground,” said Scott triumphantly.
“Don’t let it go to your head, Cyke.”
The two men shared a half-grin. Despite all their animosity, it was nice to find one thing they could agree on. They both cared deeply for Jean Grey. Logan didn’t think Scott Summers would ever get to this point where he stopped whining about his relationship with Jean. It showed he may not be as pig-headed as he thought. If only he could bring that same attitude to Jean he could save them all a lot of trouble. But thinking back to the conversation he had with John Proudstar, that wasn’t as easy as it should have been.
For Scott, it was a strange feeling trying to reach out to Logan. He spent so much time distancing himself from this man, it was an unfamiliar feeling to try and relate to him as a friend. There were so many reasons for them not to get along. Being on a team, they could tolerate each other. But living under the same roof and having to rely on each other in these ever evolving battles required more than just tolerance. He didn’t expect them to be friends. Hopefully, they could make due with mutual respect.
“One more thing about Jeannie,” said Logan as they entered the halls of the lower levels, “If some other shmuck comes along and tries to hook up with her, I’m ripping his guts out. No matter what the Prof’s policy is on killing.”
“As much as I respect that policy, I may be willing to make an exception there,” smirked Scott, “Let’s hope it doesn’t. Hopefully she’s learned her lessons with you.”
“She damn well better. Jeannie still means a lot to me. When we were together, she made me a better man. She deserves someone who will make her a better woman. Even though she’s already a hell of a babe, she needs someone who can love her more than I can and for all the right reasons.”
“Yeah…she does,” said Scott distantly, “I hope she finds that man one day.”
“Probably impossible at this point,” shrugged Logan.
“What makes you say that?” asked Scott.
“Because…she’s in love with you.”
Scott froze in mid stride, nearly tripping over his own feet in the process. Logan didn’t stop walking. He didn’t even look back and laugh at Scott’s reaction. The X-leader found himself in a daze. At first he thought Logan was just screwing with him like he so often did. But he didn’t get that sense. His tone was dead serious. He wasn’t just saying it to say it. He was saying it as if he knew it with utter certainty.
Standing silently, Scott pondered Logan’s words. What if he was right? What if Jean really was in love with him? It was an issue he had pondered before, but not like this. He and Jean had a long, complicated history. They made it through two relationships and plenty of ‘friendly flirting’ as Bobby called it. Maybe it was time to finally be serious about it. Maybe it was time to really consider the possibility that he and Jean could be something more.
Xavier Institute – Backwoods
Jean Grey had an awful lot to think about lately. Often, she found it helpful to go on long walks in the quiet backwoods area behind the mansion. It was quiet, scenic, and comforting in many ways. As a telepath she struggled so much to block out the thoughts of others that she didn’t have time to work on her own. She had already finished her assignments for the day and most of the others were either training or in class. It also helped that the weather was perfect, sunny and cool. It was a nice way for her to be alone with her thoughts.
All her musings seemed to revolve around her ever complicated romantic life. After her breakup with Logan and seeing her ex-lover, John Proudstar, again she found herself musing over many issues both past and present. She thought about how these relationships affected her, what went wrong, and what to do about it in the future. In a ways she was lucky. Each man she dated treated her very well. James and Logan supported her, embraced her, and showed their affection towards her both physically and emotionally. Yet it didn’t work out. There were issues they just couldn’t overcome.
She already voiced some of her musings to her friends. She freely admitted she got caught up in these relationships without knowing what to make of them. But what she didn’t talk about were the deeper aspects. She learned with both Logan and John that there was a difference between love and true love. The challenge was knowing which was which. She didn’t exactly have much reference (which she partially blamed her father for), but she was determined to not make the same mistakes again no matter who she got together with next time.
Lost in thought, Jean was making her way around the backwoods path for the third time. Then she felt a mysterious breeze. It seemed to come from above, which was unusual for a place like this. Looking up, Jean saw the source of the breeze and smiled.
“Hello Jean,” greeted Ororo as she descended from the air, “Out for an afternoon stroll as well?”
“That depends,” joked Jean, “Is stroll defined as flying over the lake along gale force winds?”
“It’s how I unwind. Flying relaxes me more than walking,” said the African woman as she landed next to her.
“Hey, whatever gets the job done,” shrugged Jean.
Ororo smiled at the young woman. Even though Jean was her student, she didn’t think of her that way very often. She was so mature and well-rounded. She carried herself like an adult even if she still had a youthful spirit to her.
“So how are you holding up, Miss Munroe?” asked Jean, “I notice you’ve been taking more of these ‘strolls’ than usual.”
“I guess I’m doing as well as can be expected,” she sighed, “After New Orleans and Juggernaut, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately. It hasn’t made getting over my breakup with Hank any easier. I still find myself dwelling on it.”
“Congratulations, you’re both normal and sane,” said Jean with a humored grin, “Those feelings are a given with any breakup.”
“I suppose,” sighed Ororo as she started walking alongside Jean, “But I do wish it would sink in sooner. I still have my responsibilities here. I have to teach and train like everybody else. And I feel like I can’t do my job as well as I should when I have this hanging over me.”
“You find ways to cope,” said Jean as she gazed out ahead of her, “You sort of have to in the X-men.”
“You seem to have it down, Jean,” commented Ororo.
“I’ve been here since I was 15 years old. I’ve had time to learn,” she replied light-heartedly, “But you’re doing fine. If I weren’t psychic I never would guess you were still thinking about Hank.”
“I wish I had your certainty.”
“Considering you and Hank can still be in the same room with each other and not have it be too weird, I’d say that’s proof enough you’re on the right track.”
That earned Jean a smile from the older woman. Despite their difference in age and roles at the institute, they could definitely relate on a number of levels. They both were dealing with failed relationships and both found solace in nature they needed to think. For the next five minutes, neither of them said anything. They just kept walking the serene path, thinking about their own affairs.
“We still haven’t talked much since it happened,” said Ororo distantly, “There are a number of things I want to say to him. Even though it didn’t work out between us, I still want us to be friends.”
“That’s always an awkward transition,” sighed Jean, “Especially when you’ve seen each other naked.”
“Indeed,” said Ororo, laughing at her comment, “But if I can make the transition with Remy, I should be able to make it with Hank. He’s too nice a man to distance myself from. And heavens knows it’s important to have nice men in your life.”
“That’s for sure. So many people already hate and fear us in this world. We need all the friends we can get, even ex-lovers. It sure was hard for me and Logan. I got the sense he felt guilty every time he looked at me. And I guess I felt some of that too, like there was something I could have done to make it easier.”
“Did you ever second guess some of the decisions you made with him?”
“Of course I did. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned with relationships it’s that there are bound to be mistakes. Some you can look past and others you can’t. Sometimes it’s hard telling the difference between the two. But the weird thing is no matter how many things you do right, if it’s not meant to be it works itself out.”
“I don’t see how this kind of breakup can be interpreted as being worked out.”
“I never said it worked itself out cleanly,” Jean added, “But I like to think it’s for the better in the long run.”
It wasn’t a very optimistic spin on this issue. A breakup was still a breakup. Neither Jean nor Ororo could think of any way to put that in a positive light. They just kept walking and wondering, eventually stopping at an area that looked over the lake.
Ororo faced her share of uncertainty through this difficult process. Even if breaking up with Hank was better in the long run, it left her feeling at a loss. Being in a relationship and having someone to be close to did a lot to help her adjust to life here at the institute. Everybody faced a tough transition, but she liked to think hers was a lot easier with Hank by her side. Having spent so much of her life alone and relying on her own wits to survive, she had a special appreciation for those close, intimate connections.
“I miss it, you know,” said Ororo.
“Miss what?” asked Jean curiously.
“Having someone I could call my lover,” she replied, “Don’t get me wrong, friends are nice and all. But there’s just something extra special about that feeling you get when you’re with someone you truly care about. Even if it isn’t meant to be, it still makes you feel so good.”
“That it does,” said Jean, “Now that you mention it, I kind of miss it too. Whether I was with John or Logan, nothing beats crawling into bed with someone and just letting all your troubles melt away.”
“And of course, there’s the sex,” added Ororo.
“Yeah, can’t forget about that,” Jean grinned.
“It all makes me hopeful that there’s someone else out there. As bad as these breakups can be, it’s worth that wonderful feeling.”
“I’m with you there, Miss Munroe. But do you ever wonder what it’s like when you’re with ‘the one?’ You know, the one you don’t end up having a messy breakup with?”
“I’m sure that’s very different. Considering I haven’t met ‘the one’ I can only imagine.”
“That’s kind of what I’ve been doing out here on these long walks,” said Jean as she gazed out over the lake, “I imagine it’s different. Just like relationships that aren’t meant to be, those that are must have a way of working as well. I mean it has to be that way, doesn’t it? If there really is someone out there that is the one for you?”
“I suppose that assumes there is such a thing.”
“So you don’t believe it?” asked Jean, turning towards the older woman.
“I don’t know,” sighed Ororo, “Perhaps it’s just breakup bitterness talking, but I’m skeptical. In my experience love is fleeting. Even when you think you know you can still be wrong.”
“But what if you know you know? Or at least you know with so much certainty that thinking about it is sort of a moot point?”
Ororo looked at Jean strangely. She thought she was playing word games for a minute, but she had a serious look in her eye. Clearly she believed in the concept of ‘the one’ more than her. It wasn’t too hard to figure out who she had in mind.
“I’m not sure I follow what you’re implying, but I would assume if someone did know they would have acted on it. If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”
“That assumes someone would know how to act on it even if they did know,” Jean retorted.
“Which would in turn be assuming too many assumptions to make any coherent sense,” said Ororo wryly.
“Okay, now you’re just confusing me,” said Jean with a bemused look.
“You’re confusing yourself with these kinds of musings,” said Ororo as she started walking again, “Maybe that’s our problem, Jean. We muse too much. Perhaps these long walks aren’t as productive as we like to think.”
“So can I assume you’re going back to the mansion right now to talk to Hank?”
“Again Jean, too many assumptions,” said Ororo with a coy grin.
The two women shared a round of laughter. Ororo took to the air again, resuming her preferred way of unwinding through the busy affairs of the X-men. Jean continued to linger at the lake, watching Ororo fly off and musing over her words. It was nice to talk some of these issues out, even if they ended up confusing her. They were not easy issues, but she couldn’t avoid them forever. Her heart wouldn’t let her.
There was one aspect Jean did understand though as she continued to gaze out over the lake. All this thinking hadn’t led to much action. There were a lot of things she wanted to say and things she wanted to do. She just didn’t know where to begin. It almost felt as though she would never be able to work up the nerve. If she tried made a move and it backfired, she would never forgive herself. She would run the risk of ruining other important relationships in her life. But still, wasn’t it a risk worth taking?
Xavier Institute – Classroom
“Bobby? Hey Bobby!” shouted Kitty.
“What?!” groaned Bobby in an irked tone.
“Will you stop tapping your phone on the table like that? It’s getting on my nerves!”
“Yeah, some of us are trying to take a test here,” said Warren, who was hunched over a computer screen.
“Sorry guys, I’m just a little annoyed right now,” he muttered, “Lorna’s been texting with Wanda for over an hour. I sent her a message half an hour ago and she still hasn’t responded!”
“I don’t see vhy you vould be vorrying about zhat now mien, considering you should be vorking on your research paper,” said Kurt.
“I’m taking a break,” he shrugged, “If Rogue can go on smoke breaks with Remy, why can’t I take a break for Lorna?”
Kitty, Warren, and Kurt tried not to scoff at such a notion. Bobby took breaks for Lorna at least every other hour. It wasn’t how they were supposed to be spending this afternoon.
Class was in session. Hank and Ororo lectured earlier, some of them took a few tests, and now they were supposed to be working on their various side-assignments. Hank had originally been keeping an eye on them, but he slipped away to do work in his lab. He had been using that excuse a lot lately. He was still visibly distraught over his recent breakup with Ororo. He didn’t let it show in his teaching, but it sure showed in his demeanor. Since none of the teachers were watching over them, it was easy to get distracted.
Bobby, who was prone to distraction enough as it is, found it particularly hard to focus as he got into another conversation with Lorna. While he had been warned numerous times by Hank and Ororo about texting during class time, it wasn’t enough to make him stop. He just couldn’t stay away from Lorna long enough. It seemed to reach a new high recently with Lorna chatting with Wanda.
“This is ridiculous. What could they be talking about?” wondered Bobby.
“Vhy are you so anxious about zhis, mien friend? Vhy vouldn’t Lorna vant to talk to Vanda? Zhey are sisters, aren’t zhey?”
“Put yourself in my shoes for a minute, Kurt. How would you feel if Amanda was chatting more with Wanda Maximoff?” quipped Bobby, “Bearing in mind she’s Magneto’s daughter, Pietro’s twin brother, and the de-facto leader on Genosha.”
Kurt rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. When he put it like that, it made much more sense.
“Ja, I see vhat you mean.”
“Isn’t that still a little paranoid, Bobby?” asked Warren critically, “Not to belabor the point, but you are talking to someone whose had a relationship killed by that sort of thing.”
“That’s grossly oversimplifying it, Warren. I would hardly classify my relationship with Lorna in the same zip code as the one you had.”
“I know. Mine was a lot more serious,” argued the winged mutant.
“We’re serious too! But it’s not like we’re getting married anytime soon!”
“Right, because marriage requires maturity,” muttered Kitty, who was trying to focus on her assignment.
“Considering that’s coming from the one person in this room who hasn’t been in a relationship, I’ll ignore that.”
Kitty shot Bobby a dirty look, but he remained fixated on his phone. The young mutant was genuinely worried about this. It wasn’t paranoia to him. It was a real issue with real implications for their relationship.
“Maybe I am being paranoid,” said Bobby, “But bear in mind, Wanda and Pietro once roped Lorna into their affairs before. And it made quite a mess of things to say the least.”
“Once bitten twice shy,” shrugged Warren, “Lorna seems smart enough to avoid the Maximoff trap.”
“I’d like to think so, but we’re talking about the seeds of Magneto! I know Wanda doesn’t possess her father’s messiah complex, but she still has a mean streak. It doesn’t take much to send her off the deep end.”
“You zhink Wanda vill try and use her sister again in some other plot?” asked Kurt.
“I think she’ll be able to play the family card if she earns Lorna’s trust. With that, there’s no telling what she could get her caught up in.”
“So you trust Lorna enough with a relationship and what not, but you don’t trust her enough to rebuild a relationship with her half sister,” remarked Kitty, “Sounds like trust is a big issue for you two. Isn’t that like the first sign of a relationship on the rocks?”
That was the last straw. Bobby could take snarky comments, but when somebody went so far as to imply he and Lorna were having trouble that’s where he drew the line. He had no doubts about his relationship. Doubts were for couples like Jean and Logan or Hank and Ororo who broke up. It wasn’t for him and Lorna. Kitty just didn’t understand that.
“Oh what do you know?!” scoffed Bobby as he packed up his things, “Get yourself a boyfriend and then start lecturing me about signs!”
The Iceman then stormed off, knocking over some of Kitty’s books in the process. Kitty scowled in anger, but Bobby didn’t even look back. She was about to get up and go after him, but Warren and Kurt stopped her before she could go too far.
“Easy Kitty,” coaxed Kurt, “No need to turn class into combat training.”
“Yeah, and no offense but that was pretty blatantly insensitive,” said Warren.
“What?! I was just pointing out the facts!” spat Kitty as she shoved off her fellow teammates, “It’s not my fault he has the response capacity of a five-year-old!”
“Coming from someone who has been in Bobby’s shoes and had girlfriends caught up with unsavory people, I would say that was pretty appropriate,” said Warren strongly, “Let me point out a fact to you, Kitty. Even if you are right about him and Lorna, you don’t understand. So stop acting like you do!”
Kitty usually didn’t take well to that kind of tone. She grew up not shying away from confrontation. But looking at Warren and thinking back to what she said to Bobby, she couldn’t deny the facts. She really didn’t understand. Bobby may be immature and annoying at times, but even she could see how much he loved Lorna. For her to call him out like that was just mean-spirited.
Groaning to herself, Kitty shook her head and went back to her desk. Warren kept giving her a hard look, but Kurt seemed more sympathetic. He offered a reassuring smile. It helped make Kitty feel a little better. She was probably going to have to apologize to Bobby at one point. That was sure to be an unpleasant conversation. At the very least, she could tell him she hoped she was wrong about him and Lorna. The institute endured enough breakups. There should be at least one happy couple among them.
Xavier Institute Sub-Levels – Hank’s Lab
Hank McCoy was usually so excited about his work. Whether it was a biology experiment or a new physics puzzle, he would always carry himself with a certain poise and enthusiasm. But even the most engaging experiment in the world and the most promising data couldn’t lift his spirits now. He would almost prefer another fight with Juggernaut if it would distract him.
Sitting at his desk, he blankly stared into his microscope at his latest blood sample he cultured from Rogue and Logan. The computer was gathering data and he was seeing his share of abnormalities. But he couldn’t seem to get excited about it. His brilliant and focused mind was too focused on Ororo. He had endured breakups before. Leaving his fiancé, Carlie, had been truly heart-wrenching. He thought he was ready to move on. Perhaps he was naïve to think he could. He was unable to commit to Ororo like he did Carlie. And he had nobody to blame but himself.
‘Bizarre protein combinations, unusual cellular dynamics, and a strange energy process that hasn’t even been documented before. If only I had the focus to appreciate such grandeur.’
Hank rose up from his desk and set his samples aside. He was clearly in no state to properly interpret the data. He was going to have to wait until he had a level head again. When that would be was beyond even his knowledge. Perhaps he should talk to Ororo. They hadn’t spoken much since they broke up. He hoped he could at least salvage a friendship with her. If Logan could do so with Jean, why couldn’t he and Ororo? There were just a number of issues that would be hard to get around.
As he started putting away his experiments, he heard a beep on his laptop. His expression fell even further, for he already knew who it was. He turned around and looked at the screen and sure enough, it was an email message from Tessa. He could already make up the subject line. It read “Haven’t heard from you in a while. Is everything okay?”
“So fitting the guilty party is met with constant reminders,” he sighed to himself.
Usually he would respond quickly to any message from Tessa. Instead, he walked over to his laptop and closed it. He wasn’t ready to talk to her yet. Not after what happened to him and Ororo. A part of him wanted to blame her. She had been the one who contacted him and provided such stunning intellectual insight that it distracted him from his girlfriend. But the rational side of his brain quickly reminded him that he never told Tessa about Ororo just as he never told Ororo about Tessa until they broke up. It was his fault for getting emotionally involved with her. He had to deal with that.
With no chance of continuing his experiments in his current state, he grabbed a stack of books and prepared to return to his room. Perhaps a good reading into quantum mechanics would clear his mind. But as he opened the door to his lab, he was met by Professor Xavier.
“Oh…hello, Charles,” said a somewhat startled Hank, “Is everything alright?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” said the Professor with a concerned tone, “You’ve been cooped up in your lab more than usual. And usually you don’t come out looking so despondent.”
“You’re the world’s most powerful telepath, Charles. You know why I’ve been keeping to my self. Please do not make me go into the lurid details.”
“I’m not asking you to,” he said with a friendly gesture, “But I’m worried about you, Hank. I still remember how hard it was for you to get over Carley. And even though you weren’t as serious with Ororo…”
But Hank didn’t let him finish.
“Please Charles…don’t,” said Hank, turning away solemnly, “I know you wish only to console me. But in this rare instance, consolation is neither desired nor deserved.”
There was a strong sense of guilt in his voice. Charles didn’t remember hearing that when he was dealing with Carley. The circumstances with Ororo must be more different than he thought. Hank was projecting a lot of conflicting feelings, but out of respect for his privacy the Professor blocked them out. Hank was clearly not ready to talk yet.
“Sorry old friend, but I think it would be best if I just found a way to distract myself for a few hours,” said Hank as he started walking away.
“Wait…” said Xavier, stopping him before he could get far, “If it’s a distraction you seek, perhaps I can help.”
“If it has anything to do with upgrading Cerebro or the Danger Room, I would rather not. I never do my best programming in this state of mind.”
“It doesn’t. It has to do with tracking the Brotherhood. I may have a new lead.”
Hank’s expression shifted from solemn to curious. If ever there was a distraction to take seriously, the Brotherhood fit the proverbial bill. Seeing he had his attention, the Professor went on.
“I’ve been in touch with Wanda,” he said, “She sent me some cryptic reports from New Orleans and I need help verifying them. They may provide our best chance to locate the sentinel plans.”
Hank was silent for a moment. It sounded promising and much more engaging than going over his vast library of books. It also had a pragmatic value, which would provide extra motivation. It was everything he needed at a time like this. Despite his solemn state of mind, he managed a slight smile and put his books down.
“I think I may be able to help you with that, Charles.”
Xavier Institute – Front Yard
Rogue and Remy were on their third smoke break of the day. They had just opened a new pack of cigarettes and were taking steady drags as they lounged lazily on the fountain in the front yard. It was quickly becoming a regular ritual of theirs. At certain points in the day they would break off from training or classes to have a smoke. And they quickly found it was more enjoyable to share this time together.
Rogue came to appreciate Remy’s company. Before the only other person she could share a smoke break with is Logan, but he was not a people person to say the least. She found it hard to have a genuine conversation with him. Remy was different. He had a quick wit and a keen charm. He wasn’t afraid to make jokes and be serious when he had to. It also helped he was very attractive.
He was also not afraid to flirt. After opening a new pack and handing her a cigarette, he teased her a bit by giving the tip a light charge with his powers to light it. It caused a little spark, but it still lit the cigarette. It was a blatant example of showing off, but Rogue didn’t mind. She even smiled as they started taking steady drags and talked about whatever came to mind.
“So you and Scottie were pretty hot and heavy, no?” said Remy as casually shuffled a deck of cards in between drags.
“Coming from a fella like you Ah ain’t sure what that entails, but Ah’ll say yes,” she said coyly, “We were pretty into each other. Scott really helped meh adjust to mah new life here. He was such a gent, even if he was a little dense at times.”
“But you seem to work around that,” grinned Remy.
“He just needed a little push,” Rogue shrugged, “But he picked up fast. Ah know he doesn’t look it when he’s barkin’ out orders in the Danger Room, but that man knows how to treat a woman.”
“Sounds like you had some pretty good times,” said the Cajun in a dirty tone.
“Oh we had good times…very good in fact,” she said, matching his tone with her on innuendo, “He may be uptight at times, but he knows how to let loose when he has to. But sex was never the problem. There were plenty more reasons why we didn’t work out. Ah could go into details, but we would need a whole new carton of cigarettes.”
“Remy ain’t ever been one for details. Just knowing you be single is all I need to know.”
“Don’t get any bright ideas, Cajun,” said Rogue coyly, “Just because Ah’m single doesn’t mean Ah’m ready to hook up with someone else. Ah got enough crap to deal without throwing a relationship into the fire.”
“Did Remy say he wanted to hook up?” he replied innocently.
“You ain’t said you’re not interested.”
“Now you’re just playing word games.”
“I’d be happy to stop, but you seem to like them so much. You act like you’re annoyed, but you can’t stop smiling.”
It was true. Rogue tried to change her expression to something more serious, but it was no use. Remy’s playful discourse was just too much fun. As much as she wanted to hold off on relationships after Scott was still fresh in her mind, this man was making that difficult. At the rate they were going, she was going to have to reassess her current attitude towards hookups.
Remy took another steady drag on his cigarette and laughed as he started doing a few card tricks. Rogue was a strange woman. She claimed she was still hung up on Scott, but she was so coy around him. In his experience with women beyond Belladonna, that was always a promising sign. He already felt a certain kinship with her after he opened up to her back in New Orleans during their ordeal with the guilds. She had also been the only one besides Ororo to really trust him after he joined. That was reason enough for him to be interested.
“You really are a walking ego,” said Rogue, “How did Ororo ever put up with that?”
“Same way Scottie put up with a wild femme like you,” quipped Remy, “It just happens. That’s all there is to it.”
“You always have to look at things so simplistically?”
“Why not? It makes things a lot easier. It be one of Remy’s philosophies on life,” he said as he casually flicked an ace of spades into the air.
“You mean besides stealing and hitting on gals fresh off breakups?” she quipped.
“There be more to it than that, cherè,” he said in a more serious tone, “If there be one thing I learned with Bella and the guilds it’s that when things get messy, things go wrong. There be a time and a place for all the complicated shit in life. Remy prefers to take them on a need-be basis only.”
“Funny, Ah took you as a guy not afraid of a challenge.”
“There be a difference. A challenge is stealin’ a priceless jewel from an underground bank vault with five layers of security and an army to guard it. A bigger challenges be getting around family that be pushin’ you in all different directions and somehow have them not hate you. You be a smart girl Rogue. Which do you think is harder?”
He made a good point, something not many people got from Remy. Given Rogue knew more about his history than others, she could see why he would think this way. She could also relate because she experienced family issues as well with Mystique. Compared to some of the other challenges she faced here at the X-men, she would take a hundred fights with Juggernaut rather than deal with her mother.
“Can’t believe Ah’m sayin’ this, but that makes a heck of a lot of sense,” she said.
“Remy can be insightful when he has to be,” he said with a playful grin.
“And yet you still ain’t taking any classes,” she pointed out, “You really should. If this is the kind of stuff you’re good at, why not take philosophy classes or something? The Professor did say you gotta take something if you’re gonna be part of the institute.”
“Philosophy huh?” he said with a touch of intrigue, “What good would that do a guy like Remy in the real world?”
“Try not to think of it like that. Heck, Ah’m takin’ liberal arts. But think about it, philosophy fits a guy like you. Remember how you told meh back in New Orleans how your mama taught you about right and wrong? Well maybe it doesn’t have to stop with her. It won’t be as exciting as stealing that priceless jewel you mentioned. But it would be something.”
It sounded reasonable. Thinking back to his foster mother and what she taught him, philosophy seemed right up his alley. And a guy as morally guided as Professor Xavier would have plenty to say about that issue.
“Remy will give it some thought,” he said as she took another puff of his cigarette, “But if Remy be in classes, he may not have as much time to spend with you.”
“Ah’m sure you’ll find any number of ways to catch up with meh,” grinned Rogue, “Who else are you gonna share a cigarette with on a nice sunny day like this? Heck, Logan’s the only other one who smokes.”
“And Logan ain’t as easy on the eyes,” he teased as he flipped a queen of hearts her way.
“Again with the flirting?”
“You’re still smiling,” Remy pointed out.
“And you’re still annoying meh,” she said, despite her smile, “Why can’t we just share a nice pack of cigarettes without the drama?”
“Now where be the fun in that?”
“Unlike some people, Ah do have classes,” sighed Rogue as she leaned back against the fountain and stared at the sky, “Ah can only have one more cigarette before I gotta go. So let’s just skip the flirting, look at the clouds, and relax.”
“Aw, don’t get tired on me, cherè. Besides, there ain’t even any clouds in the sky to look it! Remy would much rather look at you.”
“Ah’m sure,” she said, rolling her eyes, “Look all you want, Cajun, but at this point in mah life Ah want a break from the drama. Ah’ve had so much goin’ on lately that…”
Suddenly, Rogue froze in mid sentence. Remy noticed her expression become more urgent. She slowly rose up, tossing aside her half-finished cigarette in the process, and gazed up at the sky with dread.
“What is it, cherè? Was it something I said?” said Remy in a worried tone.
“Remy, look up at that cloud!” she said pointing into the sky.
“What cloud? Remy told you there ain’t a cloud in the sky.”
“Just look, damn it!”
Not arguing with her tone, Remy looked up and to his surprise he did see something. There was a strange cloud forming overhead. It was small, resembling the trail left by a plane when it flew by. But it was moving and shifting fast. It was unlike anything Remy had seen before, but Rogue seemed to know what it is.
“What the hell kind of cloud is that?” wondered Remy.
“It ain’t a cloud!” said Rogue strongly, “We better get the Professor! We’re about to be in a world of trouble!”
Xavier Institute – Cerebro Chamber
“Are you sure about this information, Wanda? Could Pietro have been mistaken?” asked a nervous Charles Xavier.
“With my brother, that’s always a possibility. That’s why I called you. I need some way to verify it.”
“We’ll do our best, but it’s going to take time. These kinds of matters are not easy to investigate.”
“I know! But I don’t want this to be another one of Pietro’s debacles! If he screws up, I want to be on top of it this time!”
Wanda’s tone was a mix of urgency and anger. She had been talking with the Professor via video link for the last half-hour. It was an unexpected revelation that Pietro had been involved in the sentinel investigation. It was even more surprising to find out he got a lead before anybody else. Wanda said he claimed it was from a man he just called Tom. That was an immediate red flag for the Professor because it could refer to Black Tom Cassidy, who stole the plans to begin with. But considering Pietro’s shaky credibility, they had to verify it before they could act.
Such a task was easier said than done. That’s why Hank was helping. While Xavier manned the Cerebro controls, he was on a nearby console going over some reports that Wanda forwarded them. They were from Pietro, consisting of secret reports detailing the Brotherhood’s activities. How he got this and how they overlooked them was beyond them. It seemed almost too good to be true.
“How are the documents looking, Hank?” asked the Professor.
“Perhaps my intuitive detective skills are a little off, but I can see no flaws in these reports. They seem to be genuine documentation from the port authority over the missing parts. But when I cross check all official and unofficial channels, I can find no record or even a trace.”
“So it’s possible they could be forgeries?”
“That or the forces behind these affairs are covering it up in a way that defies common standards of efficiency,” said Hank as he looked up from the console, “In a strictly analytical sense, I would conclude these reports are genuine. But in my personal opinion, I would say each possibility is equally likely.”
Wanda didn’t look satisfied by his response. She seemed to want something more definitive. Professor Xavier shared in her frustrations. He wanted to know what the Brotherhood was up to as much as she did, especially if it could potentially avert another confrontation with the sentinels. Someone was clearly interested in using them again. It was in the interest of all sides that they be stopped.
“So either Pietro is telling the truth and about to get caught up in a very volatile situation or he screwed up again. I’m not sure which is worse, but I’d like to know as soon as possible.”
“Of course, Wanda,” said Xavier, “We’ll let you know as soon as we find something.”
“Thank you, Professor. And if by chance my brother screws it up again, please accept my apologies ahead of time.”
The video link went down and Wanda went back to her duties. The Professor powered down Cerebro and turned to Hank, who was looking over some of the reports again. He seemed desperate to find any clues, but there was nothing there.
“What now, Charles?” he asked.
“We keep investigating,” answered Xavier, “Something is bound to come up sooner or later. We just have to keep looking and hope we find it before it finds us.”
He turned back to the console to see the reports for himself. If he and Hank put their minds together, they were sure to find answers. He wasn’t going to let this turn into another Genosha.
Suddenly, the doors to the chamber shot open and Scott ran with a grave look on his face.
“Professor! We’ve got an emergency!” he exclaimed.
“Slow down, Scott. What is it?” said Xavier intently.
“Please tell me you sensed it! Tell me the security system picked it up!”
“Picked what up? What’s going on?”
Before Scott could answer, a red light blared on the main console. The Professor turned around to see Hank already working on it. What he saw made him pale with dread.
“Uh…Charles? I think I know what the emergency is. And we had better warn the team. We’re about to have company!”
Xavier Institute – Front Yard
“Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!”
Those ominous words and booming mechanical tone was unmistakable. The X-men had heard it before and they hoped they never had to hear it again. But it was happening again. The sentinels were back and they were attacking them in their own home.
It landed right in front of the fountain where Rogue and Remy had been sitting. It hit the ground, causing a sizable crater as it towered over the mansion. As it took it’s first step forward, it stepped on and crushed the fountain with ease. It’s eyes were already glowing, indicating it was scanning for targets. It didn’t have to scan long because the X-men quickly gathered to confront it.
Remy and Rogue rushed inside to gather the others. Having already been tipped off by the alarms and the unmistakable sight of a giant robot in their front yard, they quickly joined their two friends. Kurt, Kitty, and Warren linked up with Rogue and Remy while Bobby came out through a top window on an ice slide. Having faced the sentinels before they knew what they were in for. But this one seemed different. This sentinel was black and gray instead of the purple and red they saw on Genosha. It also had a red diamond-shaped eye on its forehead. Appearance aside, it looked just as menacing.
“Target identified. Mission protocols commence.”
Before the X-men could begin their attack, the robot humanoid fired a concentrated laser blast from the strange red eye on its forehead.
“Incoming!” Warren called out.
Remy, Rogue, Kurt, Kitty, Warren, and Bobby scrambled to avoid the blast. The impact of the blast was intense, more so than they remembered. This sentinel seemed to have a few upgrades.
“Dang, so this be a sentinel?” commented Remy as he picked himself up.
“More like sentinel 2.0. I don’t remember them having that trick on Genosha!” said Kitty.
“Who cares? There’s only one! Let’s take it out! It’s on our home turf now!” proclaimed Bobby.
The team prepared to counter. The sentinel didn’t move much. It just kept it’s eyes on all of them and kept shooting through the eye in its forehead.
“I have a bad feeling about zhis,” groaned Kurt as he narrowly avoided another blast.
“You and me both, Kurt!” said Warren as he took to the air.
As the sentinel kept shooting, Warren flew up high to draw it’s fire. It worked only briefly. The sentinel started throwing punches through the air, throwing Warren off balance while not even distracting it from the others. It was a tactic that worked on Genosha, but not here. Clearly, this thing had been upgraded.
“Whoa!” said Warren as he narrowly avoided a giant fist, “This thing is feisty!”
“Don’t worry! I’ll slow it down!” said Bobby confidently.
Swooping in on an ice slide, Bobby unleashed a punishing ice blast against the head of the giant robot humanoid. He managed to get half of it covered in ice before the metal behemoth put its arm up and blocked it. Bobby tried sliding around to hit it from another angle. But the sentinel turned its head and fired again with the laser on it’s forehead. It didn’t hit Bobby head on, but it hit right in front of him and threw him off enough to send him tumbling through the air.
“Whoa man!” he exclaimed.
Before he hit the ground, Rogue came in and caught the younger mutant. He still hit pretty hard, but Rogue was able to break his fall.
“You need to work on your aim, Iceman!” groaned Rogue.
“You need to work on your catching skills,” groaned Bobby.
While they were recovering, the sentinel turned its sights towards Rogue and Bobby. That strange red mark on it’s forehead kept flashing. Before it prepared to fire, it appeared to be processing something.
“Target beta identified. Engaging secondary objective.”
“What the heck is it blathering about? And why is it lookin’ at meh?!” exclaimed Rogue.
“Don’t worry ‘bout it, cherè!” said Remy as he leapt out in front of her with a deck of cards, “Remy’s gonna deal this thing a full hand!”
Charging every card in the deck, Remy unleashed an onslaught of firepower against the lumbering robot. Dozens of cards exploded all around its head and arms. The blinding flashes and powerful bursts were enough to throw it off its focus. Why it seemed bent on Rogue was anybody’s guess, but Remy wasn’t going to let it get that far.
While Remy drove the sentinel back, Kurt and Kitty got into position for an attack of their own. Kurt appeared behind Remy, Rogue, and Bobby. Kitty was holding onto Kurt and eying the sentinel’s head.
“We can finish this!” said Kitty, “I just need to get up to that head and phase through! The laws of physics will do the rest.”
“I’ll try and get you up zhere, but be careful,” warned Kurt, “Zhis thing came prepared.”
“It worked before! Why not try it again?”
It was sound reasoning despite some reservations. While Remy kept up the barrage, Kurt grabbed Kitty by the shoulder and teleported her up to the top of the sentinels. He appeared about ten feet above the head and with split-second maneuvers, dropped her right on top of the head.
“You’re mine, transformer wannabe!” she grunted as she prepared to phase through.
But before she could, the sentinel detected her presence.
“Surface threat detected. Activating primary defense.”
Suddenly, a surge of electricity shot through the skin of the robot humanoid. Sparks flew and small bolts of lighting shot out around the head and neck area, catching Kitty Pryde in a paralyzing trap. She could phase through solid objects, but electricity was a different force altogether.
“Ahhhhhhhh!” she cried out in pain as she fell from the head.
“Kitty!” Bobby cried out.
“I got her!” said Kurt.
Reacting quickly, Kurt teleported to her position and caught her while she was falling. Before they hit the ground, he teleported away again. He appeared over a nearby bush, where their momentum was still carrying them. The impact was rough, but bearable. Kitty was still out of it even after they landed and Kurt could even fell the static electricity sparking on his fur. It was clearly not a tactic the sentinels had not employed before. It was becoming increasingly apparent this one wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“Another upgrade?!” groaned Rogue, “This thing is getting on mah nerves!”
“Just hang in there, cherè! Backup be on the way!” said Remy as he pulled out another deck of cards.
Over from the wooded areas to the east, Jean and Ororo emerged and flew in on a trail of telekinesis and whirlwinds. In addition, Logan and Scott stormed out the front door still in uniform ready to fight. As soon as Logan saw the sentinel he growled and drew his claws. This thing had already caused quite a bit of damage. The rampage would stop here.
“Nice of you to save some for me!” he growled intently, “I kind of miss carving these tin cans a new one!”
“Careful Logan! This one is tricky!” said Warren as he flew towards Jean and Ororo.
“So am I! Hrrrrahhhhhhhhhhh!”
While Logan began his attack, Jean and Ororo hit it as well. Ororo kicked up a round of storm clouds over the head of the robot humanoid while Jean flew in closer with Warren so she could hit it with bursts of telekinesis. The sentinel instinctively took a defensive position, resisting Jean’s bursts. Ororo kicked it up by hitting it with lighting on the head, causing it to become even more disoriented. Logan took it from there.
Growling intently, Logan leapt up onto the left leg and started clawing at it. There were still sparks flying from the tactic it employed against Kitty. But Logan grit his teeth and endured the pain. Without mercy, he tore into the sentinel’s metal skin. It was thicker than he remembered, but his adamantium claws were getting through. While he tore into it, Scott fired away with his optic blasts. Soon Remy and Bobby joined him, hitting this monstrosity from all sides. Even with its upgrades, it couldn’t hold out forever.
“Warren was right! This sentinel is tricky!” said Ororo, “My lightning isn’t shorting it out!”
“That’s because the armor is thicker!” grunted Jean, “I can’t get through!”
“Me neither!” said Scott, “Who made this thing? And what does it want?!”
“Do you wanna find out? Or do you wanna blow it to hell?!” exclaimed Rogue, still put off by how that thing was focused on her.
The X-men stepped up their assault. But what they didn’t know is that while they were attacking, the sentinel was processing the situation with its sensors. It was being strictly defensive at the moment. Its sensors scanned each adversary one-by-one. Within a few milliseconds it identified each threat. They were all deemed dangerous, but only three drew it’s attention. First it locked in on Rogue. Then it turned towards Jean. Then it turned towards Scott.
“Alpha and Omega targets identified. Engaging primary objective.”
The red mark on the sentinel’s forehead flashed again. Then in a show of sheer power it thrashed menacingly, shaking Logan off in the process and knocking Jean, Ororo, Warren, and Bobby out of the air again. They all tumbled to the ground, but before they could get up the sentinel unveiled yet another surprise.
From its shoulders, two rectangular compartments opened up and from them two box-shaped apparatuses emerged. They resembled a cross between a stereo and a satellite dish. Once opened and armed, they started glowing with an ominous blue light. Then with a powerful burst, it unleashed a pulse of strange wave-like energy that was concentrated and focused. The first round hit Jean, Ororo, Warren, and Bobby. The second hit Rogue and Remy. As soon as it struck them, they let out pained cries as they fell limply to the ground.
“Mien Gott,” gasped Kurt as he and Kitty emerged from the bush.
“It’s some kind of paralyzing blast! Hurry! Take cover!” Scott ordered.
But before they could take more than a couple of steps, they were hit with blasts as well. The sentinel fired one blast to take out Kurt and Kitty and another to knock out Scott. They each let out the same pained cry as they fell limply to the ground. There was no struggle or lingering to the effects. As soon as the pulse hit them there was a blinding surge of pain and then total darkness.
In four short blasts, the sentinel took out most of the X-men. Only Logan remained, but he had no intention of going down that easily. When the sentinel shook him off, he was flung back against a nearby tree. Now fully recovered, he was in a rage. Seeing this robot menace take his teammates like that sent him over the edge. He was going to rip this thing to shreds bolt by bolt.
“Errrrrrr! You’ll need more than that to stop me!” roared the feral mutant.
Guided by predatory rage, Logan charged the sentinel. But the menacing sentinel wasn’t about to give him another chance to thwart its mission. Turning its head swiftly, the sentinel aimed and fired another concentrated energy blast from the red mark on its forehead. It used extra energy for this particular blast, making it bigger so Logan couldn’t avoid it. It hit him head on, sending the raging mutant flying and burning off a good chunk of his flesh in the process.
His feral roars echoed until he impacted another tree, leaving him too dazed to continue the fight. With the last of the X-men now neutralized, the sentinel launched a new program. It deactivated its shoulder-mounted paralyzing blasters and opened its large chest, revealing three distinct compartments with glass casing. The menacing sentinel then leaned down and picked up its targets from the unconscious group of mutants. First it took Jean. Then it took Scott and Rogue. Once they were in hand, it placed them each in the compartments. Once they were inside it was sealed and the chest plates closed.
“Targets secure. Mission complete. Returning to base.”
With the rest of the X-men still out cold, the imposing sentinel activated the jet thrusters in its legs and took off. The only one still conscious enough to watch it fly away was Logan, whose bloodied and battered body was still healing. All he could do was watch in a rage as the metal monstrosity flew away with Scott, Jeannie, and Rogue inside.
Louisiana – Abandoned Military Base
The signal from the sentinel was in. The mission had been a success. The robot humanoid was on its way back to the base, its precious cargo safely in hand. It had been as messy as could be expected when dealing with the likes of the X-me. But it had still been a success. The targets were on their way. Mutant kind was one step closer to its destiny.
Deep within the underground levels of an abandoned military base, a lone figure sat a command console. From here, he was able to monitor the mission every step of the way. He was also able to deliver the necessary commands. The X-men were a tenacious bunch, but they were no match for his brilliance. Every precaution had been taken. Every safeguard was in place. Once the sentinel returned, the next step could begin.
It was a momentous event that had been decades in the making. It wasn’t just a new phase of his work, it was deeply personal. What he hoped to accomplish would fulfill many promises, some of which were long overdue. Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Marie Anna Darkholme would each serve an important role. It was sure to get a little messy, but that was a necessary sacrifice. It was all in the name of evolution.
Grinning with intent, the figure loomed over the console screen. The sentinel had just activated its afterburners. In a mere two hours it would all be over.
“Poor little X-men. It seems I overestimated Charles Xavier and his team,” he mused in an ominous tone, “But his incompetence will be my gain. I hope he’s not too attached to these students of his. Their fate is and always has been with me…Mister Sinister.”
Next Issue: Sinister Intent Part 2
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