Born with extraordinary powers, those classified as homo superior set the stage for the next phase in human evolution. Through these exciting and dangerous times, a man named Professor Charles Xavier works tirelessly with his team of gifted youngsters, the X-men, to ensure this phase comes peacefully. Their challenges along the way have been many and their latest battle has been no exception.
It all started when an underworld boss named Black Tom Cassidy stole plans for the mutant hunting sentinels and sold them on the black market to a mysterious yet powerful figure. That figure seemed to make good use of those plans quickly, hiring the disbanded remnants of the Brotherhood of Mutants to steal the necessary parts to construct a newer and more deadly version of the sentinels. Both Charles Xavier and the Maximoff twins, who currently are running the broken nation of Genosha, have been investigating this matter with limited success.
Now it appears they are too late. A lone sentinel bearing more advanced weaponry attacked the Xavier Institute head on. The X-men put up a valiant fight, but in the end the sentinel overpowered them and abducted Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Rogue. Now they are in the custody of the same mysterious figure, who goes by the ominous name Sinister.
Abandoned Military Base – Lounge
Lance, Freddy, John, and Mortimer were once again bored out of their minds. Working for Sinister was nowhere near as interesting as working for Magneto. Aside from the heists, they really didn’t have much else to do. Since they were wanted by federal and international authorities for their part in Magneto’s uprising, they couldn’t go out or anything. They had to stay within the confines of Sinister’s base. It was only here that Sinister could use his connections as he called them to make sure nobody knew where they were. It was nice being able to stay under the radar, but it sure got boring fast.
When they weren’t stealing sentinel parts or doing whatever it was Sinister asked of them, they were lofting about in the lounge area. This base may be old, but it still had plenty of amenities. There were a couple of TVs, a few decks of cards, and a ping pong table. Freddy was usually on the couch, snacking on whatever he could find while he flipped through the channels. Toad was half-asleep, slumped over on a chair as he stared blankly at the TV. John and Lance were sitting at the ping pong table playing cards, looking equally bored. John was casually fooling around with his lighter, his feet lazily resting on the table. Lance remained restless, barely able to focus on the game.
Besides boredom, the Brotherhood had their share of concerns. This was a critical time in this little deal they had worked up with Sinister. After seemingly endless toil, they were finally close to regaining their freedom.
“Jeez, when is Sinister going to be done already?” groaned Lance as he tossed down his cards, “He said we could get the hell out of here as soon as we finished the last job!”
“Take it easy, Lance. He also said he had to make sure he’s got everything he needs to do those weird experiments of his,” said Blob as he finished a bag of chips, “So quite whining! Show a little patience for once in your life.”
“Bet it’s easy to be patient when you’re stuffing your fat face half the time,” muttered Lance under his breath so that Blob wouldn’t hear.
“What kind of experiments do you think he’s doing anyways?” wondered Mortimer, “With all the stuff we’ve stolen, it could be anything from killer cyborgs to giant worm parasites.”
“I’d rather not know,” muttered Lance, “Whatever he needs, I hope he has it. As soon as we’re out of here I never want to be in the same room with that creep again.”
“Ah take it easy, Lance! He’s not all bad,” said John as he started shuffling the cards, “Sure, he gives off that Dearth Vader vibe, but he’s way cooler than Magneto and Mystique ever were!”
“This coming from a guy who gets excited whenever he sees a forest fire,” snickered Freddy.
“So says the guy who gets excited whenever he sees a McDonalds commercial,” quipped John.
“Knock it off you two! Argue about what gets you off later!” groaned Lance, “We’re all on edge here. At least with Magneto we had some idea of what he was planning. Sinister’s a different story and if it’s all the same to you guys, I would rather not be around for whatever he has planned.”
“You and me both, man!” said Mortimer, “I’ve heard way too much weird shit about this guy on the streets. Whatever he’s got going on, it’s best if we’re far away when it all goes down.”
“But what if it’s something as big as Magneto’s Genosha invasion?” pondered Lance, “It would be pretty damn hard to hide from something like that.”
“Eh, why worry? If anything that big goes down, Xavier and his X-geeks will step in,” shrugged John, “Let them handle it.”
“That’s not helping Pyro!” scolded Lance, “We all know how messed up it can get when the X-men are involved.”
Nobody argued that. They hadn’t forgotten how badly the X-men messed up the Genosha invasion. It was largely due to their interference they had to go on the run in the first place. Nothing would have satisfied them more than to be around to see the X-men get what they deserved, but when they were all internationally wanted like this they couldn’t afford such luxuries. They could only do as Sinister told them and hope he delivered what he promised them.
John prepared to deal the cards again while Fred kept flipping through the channels. Then the door to the lounge opened and Sinister stepped in. Even though the Brotherhood was used to menacing figures with Magneto, Sinister still gave them that proverbial clench whenever he entered.
“It’s time,” he said in his deep, dark tone.
“Is it over already? Can we go now?” asked Lance intently.
“Not yet,” he answered, “I need you to stick around for a little while longer. I’m about to welcome some guests and I need you to stand watch.”
“Stand watch…right,” grinned John with a playful wink.
“Please tell me this is it,” said Toad as he got up from the couch.
“Don’t worry. Your service is almost up,” he went on, “It won’t be long now. Once I’m done, you’ll be free to go. I just need to make sure I have everything I need to proceed.”
“I don’t even wanna know,” said Lance, “Let’s just get this over with.”
Sinister grinned as the Brotherhood followed him to his lab. It was a shame they were too ignorant to appreciate what they were about to witness. It was an even greater shame they wouldn’t be around much longer realize it. Such was the fate of all those who opposed the whims of evolution. The natural order would always win out. They were all about to find out why.
Xavier Institute – War Room
Professor Charles Xavier was at a loss for words. With every crisis that came up for him and his X-men, he always tried to maintain an aura of calm reassurance. But it was hard to maintain that demeanor when the crisis was personal. This wasn’t some mutant uprising, some out-of-control mutant, or some plot by anti-mutant zealots. Someone directly attacked him and his team in their own home for the express purpose of abducting three of his students. As reasonable a man he was, it was hard for him to hide his own anger at times.
Regardless of his personal anguish, the rest of the team was leaning on him for leadership and he had to stay strong. It took nearly half an hour for the team to recover from the paralyzing blast from the sentinel. Some were still out of it, but not enough to make them want to sit this one out. It was personal for them too. This thing didn’t just attack their teammates. It attacked their friends. Whoever was behind this madness was going to pay dearly.
“Well I think one mystery is officially solved. Someone really was able to rebuild the sentinels and do a damn good job of it,” groaned Warren, his wings still sore from the fight.
“They didn’t just rebuild them! It was practically custom made to stop the X-men!” growled Logan as he paced restlessly, “This wasn’t some nut with too much free time and no internet connection on his hands! This was planned!”
“Yeah, I think we’ve all figured that out by now,” said Bobby, still rubbing his temples, “But would you stop yelling it out to us? Not everyone has a healing factor, you know?”
“Suck it up, popsicle! Nobody gets to make excuses when some dickless nut attacks us on our own home!”
“Who said we were making excuses?” said Kitty, “We’re all on edge here. Just tell me we have a way to find them.”
There was a desperate tone in her voice. It was a sentiment many shared. Logan was extra disgruntled with Jean being one of the victims. Even though she was his ex-girlfriend, he still cared enough about her to want to eviscerate whoever was behind this. Kurt and Remy were also more distraught. Kurt worried for the safety of his sister while Remy bore some of the burden for not being able to protect her.
They all turned back to the Professor, who seemed to share all their sentiment. If the look on his face was any indication, it wasn’t very promising.
“I wish I could say so, Kitty,” he said solemnly, “But I already tried doing a scan with Cerebro at full power.”
“Don’t say it. You came up with nothing, right?” muttered Bobby.
“I’m afraid so. It’s as if they don’t even exist anymore.”
“Vhat about zhe sentinel?” asked Kurt desperately, “Surely something zhat big can’t escape vithout leaving some sort of trace!”
“You would think so, but I’ve yet to find any,” said Hank, who was standing beside the Professor, “This sentinel was not like the ones we faced on Genosha. It’s weapons were more advanced and it had stealth capabilities unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
“That would explain why none of our alarms picked it up,” said Ororo, “But wasn’t Scott wearing his uniform at the time? And I think Jean had her cell phone with her. Can’t we track their signals?”
“That was the second method we tried,” said the Professor, “But as soon as that sentinel left with them, all signals and tracing mechanisms were either shut off or destroyed. Whoever was behind this clearly didn’t want to be followed.”
“So then the big question be what kind of homme has them kinds of mojo,” said Remy, who was fervently shuffling some cards to help him concentrate, “It’s gotta be the same bastard behind all them thefts in New Orleans!”
“That seems highly likely,” said Hank, “But we still don’t know…”
Before Hank could finish, his cell phone went off. The whole team groaned because this was hardly an appropriate time for someone to be calling. Add to that, it wasn’t the first time in the past half-hour.
“Damn it, Hank! Either turn that freakin’ phone off or throw it in the nearest garbage disposal!” roared Logan in annoyance.
“I do apologize,” groaned Hank as he turned off his phone, “I don’t usually expect so many calls at a time like this.”
“Whoever it is, tell them to leave a message! We got a crisis on our hands!”
Hank briefly looked at his phone and saw it was a text message from Tessa. His expression tensed. This woman had already done much to complicate his relationships. Now she was complicating his X-man duties. It was getting out of hand.
Ororo could tell by the look on his face that it was the same woman. She had to hide her own look of bitterness. Even after they were over, Hank was still caught up with her. She wasn’t sure what to make of it, but it still struck her on a personal level. For now, she had to set such concerns aside. Scott, Jean, and Rogue were their top concerns.
“So vhat do ve do now?” asked Kurt impatiently, “Ve can’t just sit here and do nothing!”
“We won’t, Kurt. But our leads are limited,” said the Professor, “We’ve been investigating these sentinel thefts long enough to know how cunning this shady adversary is. Clearly we aren’t going to make any progress on our own. So we’re going to need help of some kind.”
“I hope you’re not suggesting what I think you are, Professor,” said Warren warily.
“What choice do we have?” he said, “We’ll need to get in touch with Wanda and see if we can catch up with Pietro on his investigation. He claims he has a lead on the thefts.”
“He also once claimed he was going to single-handedly beat us all up and drop us into the middle of the Arctic Ocean,” Bobby pointed out, “I’d say he’s got limited credibility at best.”
“And that says nothing about his competence,” added Kitty, “Seriously, Professor, I think we can do better. I doubt Pietro will even help us! I can’t say I blame him given we’re the ones that threw his father in jail.”
“Let me talk to him for two minutes,” snarled Logan, “I’ll get him to help.”
“You’ll do no such thing, Logan,” said the Professor sternly, “I’ll contact Wanda and she’ll try to convince Pietro to assist. We’ll then see if we can link up and search together.”
“How long will that take?” groaned Remy.
“Considering Pietro’s usual stubbornness, it may be a while. But for now, he’s our only lead,” said the Professor.
“Why do I not find that comforting in the slightest?” muttered Warren.
“Name one time working with Pietro Maximoff was ever beneficial,” said Bobby.
“I don’t think we’ve ever worked with him.”
“I rest my case.”
The Professor ignored the sentiments of his students. They were all clearly skeptical of reaching out to Quicksilver for help. Even Wanda expressed her doubts and they had yet to verify the reports she sent them. But for the sake of Scott, Jean, and Rogue’s safety they would have to set such doubts aside.
“I’ll call Wanda,” said the Professor as he activated the War Room computer, “The rest of you suite up and gather in the hanger. Hank, prep the Blackbird. We’ll fly out as soon as we figure out what Pietro is up to.”
“Oh this will be good,” muttered Bobby, “Give Pietro all the more reason to gloat.”
“If it helps us find Rogue and zhe others, he can gloat all he wants,” said Kurt, “Ve need to get our friends back.”
“Oui, and we need to make whoever’s behind this voodoo pay!” added Remy.
Xavier went to work getting in touch with Wanda while the rest of the team filed out. But as they were leaving, Hank felt his phone ring again. This time it only vibrated. Groaning again, he looked down to check it. As expected, it was yet another message from Tessa. At least this one came after the meeting was over. It was still not a good time. He was in no mood to respond at this time. His complicated affair with Tessa was an issue that was going to have to wait while he rescued his students.
Scott Summers groaned in a woozy daze. He found himself somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness, not coherent enough to make sense of his surroundings but still aware he was somewhere different than he remembered. His whole body felt paralyzed. The air around him felt cold and sterile, reminding him of a hospital of sorts. At first he thought he was in the institute infirmary. But he got a sinking feeling that something was very wrong.
As he became more aware, the events from earlier came rushing back to him. He remembered the fight with the sentinel. That seemed to catch everybody off guard. They managed to regroup and fight back. Just when it looked like they had it on the ropes, it deployed some new weapon that took everybody out. After that, it all went dark for him. Wherever he was now one thing was for sure. He wasn’t at the Xavier Institute anymore.
Fighting through soreness and pain, Scott opened his eyes. He was quickly relieved to find that his visor was still on and he was still in his uniform. But that relief was short lived. As his vision cleared, he discovered he wasn’t in a hospital or infirmary. He was in a lab of sorts. Looming above him was an ominous machine looking as though it came from an alien spacecraft. Various surgical tools and wires protruded from it, making the idea of being right under it very unappealing.
He immediately started struggling, wanting nothing more than to get out from under this thing. But to his dismay, he found his hands and feet were bound by hard metal restraints. Panic and urgency quickly set in. The young X-leader started thrashing wildly. As he did, he turned to his side briefly and saw that he wasn’t alone. Lying right next to him on a similar table was an unconscious Jean Grey.
“Jean!” he exclaimed in horror, “Jean, wake up! Try to…augh!”
It was then Scott felt a paralyzing surge through his body. Everything from the neck down started to sting and go numb. It was then Scott realized that some of those wires from that machine above him were going into his body. Two were hooked right into his neck. It was a painful, invasive feeling, making this place all the more ominous.
“What…what is this?!” he called out, “What the hell is going on here?!”
“I wouldn’t recommend struggling. You are currently hooked up to some very advanced sedatives. The more you fight them, the more it will hurt. Trust me when I say you do not want to test them.”
That cold, dark voice sent chills down Scott’s spine. Grunting through the pain, he looked up to see an imposing figure emerge from across the lab. When Scott saw him he gasped at his macabre appearance. There was little doubt if evil had a face this man would be it.
He stood over six and a half feet tall, his whole body covered in a mysterious black body suit that hugged his frame like a second skin. Along his neck there were these protruding red tendrils that draped down his back, acting like a cape of sorts. But the most dominating feature was his face. His skin was white as snow and his eyes glowed with an ominous red malevolence. There was also this unusual red diamond on his forehead which seemed to grow a little brighter. Even for Scott, who had seen his share of monstrous figures with the X-men, this man was a new kind of scary.
“Who are you? Were you the one behind that sentinel?!” Scott demanded.
The dark figure just smiled and laughed sadistically as he casually walked alongside the unconscious Jean.
“So many questions. So little time,” he said, “But I’m not without manners. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Nathanial Essex, but I prefer the name, Sinister.”
“You’re a doctor and you go by the name, Sinister? I don’t know what kind of clinic you’re running, but I want no part of it!”
“A little late for that my boy,” he said, not taking his eyes off Jean, “You and your friends are part of this whether you like it or not. You have been for a very long time.”
“If you’re trying to play mind games, save yourself the trouble! I’m not doing this!”
“Oh it’s no game I assure you,” said Sinister ominously, “Forget everything you’ve ever heard about mutation and evolution. From the moment you were born, every one of you has been part of something truly special…something that defies the rules of evolution.”
“Spare me the raging psychopath speech! What do you want with us?!”
Sinister kept grinning as he traced his finger down the side of Jean’s face. Scott’s face contorted with anger as he saw this and started struggling again. But Sinister was unaffected.
“You and Jean are truly remarkable,” he went on, “If mutation was analogous to cars, you two would be the Rolls Royce of the pack. What you can do with your abilities is remarkable enough. But it’s the secrets that lie within where the real magic resides!”
“Secrets? What secrets?”
“I’m not surprised you’re unaware. Even a man as brilliant as Charles Xavier never understood what he has with you. It’s a shame really, but his shortcomings are my strengths! Thanks to you two, I can finally have something I’ve worked countless years to obtain.”
Scott watched with anger and disgust as Sinister continued to loom over Jean. The mark on his forehead flashed bright red for a moment. Then he lightly touched her forehead. Almost instantly, Jean let out a shocked gasp as she was thrust back into consciousness by an unknown force.
“Ack!” she coughed, the shock momentarily overwhelming her.
“Take it easy, Miss Grey. Breathe deep,” said Sinister in a deep tone.
“I…I…I feel sick,” she groaned, “What’s going on?”
“It’s okay, Jean! I’m here!” Scott called out.
“Scott? Where are you? I…I can’t see.”
“Just…just take it easy. Everything’s going to be okay.”
“Oh, how sweet,” said Sinister dryly, “And they say romance is overrated. But do her a favor. Spare her from the pain of false hope.”
Scott scowled angrily at the dark figure, but Sinister kept his focus on Jean. She was still visibly dazed. She groaned as she struggled to take in her surroundings. Her eyes lacked focus, as if she was unable to concentrate. It was just what Sinister hoped to see.
“My…my head. It hurts,” groaned Jean.
“Then my sedatives are doing their job,” said Sinister, “I do apologize for the discomfort, but I can’t have you using those powers of yours. I need the both of you nice and docile for my little experiment.”
“What experiment?!” demanded Scott, “If you think we’re going to help you, you’re as crazy as you are-augh!”
Before Scott could finish, he let out a pained groan. That same sting he felt earlier coursed through his body again. This time it was even worse. Sinister had ordered more sedative into his system. The young X-leader tensed and groaned in agony, gasping for air and struggling in vain. It was a horrific scene for Jean to take in. Even in her dazed state, she looked at him full of worry.
“Scott…” she cried.
“Oh don’t worry, Miss Grey. He’ll be fine…provided he stops resisting,” said Sinister ominously, “Just try and relax. It’ll all be over soon. I can’t promise it won’t be painful. Such sacrifices are necessary for the progress of science.”
The mark on his forehead flashed again. He then turned and gestured towards the center of the room. As he did, a couple of metal panels on the floor opened up and a strange tube-like structure rose up. Jean’s vision was still blurry so she couldn’t make out what it was at first. It looked like a bio-tank of sorts, not unlike the ones she saw when they were captive at Weapon X. When she looked harder, her eyes widened as she made out the distinct figure inside.
“Rogue…” she said.
“Is that the name she goes by?” laughed Sinister as he walked up to the tank, “Typical rebellious youth. But whatever her name is, she’ll be the key to this complicated procedure. You have no idea how hard it is to find a mutant of such unique ability. It’s ironic because our powers are so similar.”
“You’re…a mutant?” said Jean, becoming increasingly disturbed by this man.
“In a manner of speaking,” he said ominously, “I have the ability to take a single sample of DNA from any individual and integrate it into my own genome. If that sounds like an unusual attribute, you don’t know the half of it. I’ve used it to absorb my share of powers over the years. But what I do is child’s play compared to what Miss Darkholme can do.”
“Is…is that what this is about?” she groaned, “Our powers?”
“If only it were that simple,” he sighed, “But why go through the trouble of explaining it? Just lay back and I’ll show you!”
Sinister pushed a button on a nearby console. A series of lights came on, illuminating the area around them and Rogue. As Jean watched on she saw that Rogue was completely unconscious in the tank and surrounded by green fluid. She had on this strange black suit with wire sockets scattered all throughout her body. Those wires went out from the tank and into the ominous contraption above them where they eventually fed into the IVs they had in their bodies.
It was not a promising sight. It was like being lab rats in some madman’s experiment. Jean tried to struggle, but she couldn’t focus because of the sedative. She could barely keep her thoughts together, let alone use her powers. Right next to her Scott was still groaning in pain. It was not looking good for them. This was bad on so many levels.
“No!” she groaned defiantly.
“Yes…” seethed Sinister, “It’s no use struggling, my dear. There will be no escape. Your friends will not find you. Nobody will find you. You, Scott, and Rogue will play your parts. You will grant me that which I desire.”
“You’re…insane!” grunted Scott, finally pushing through the pain.
“Hardly,” he scoffed, “I’m just a man who accepts his destiny. Now it’s time that you accept yours!”
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Pietro Maximoff was rarely surprised by anything. Having a tyrannical father like Magneto and a sister that could manipulate probability, he was used to the strange and unexpected. It also helped that his speed powers made it hard for anybody or anything to get the jump on him. But every so often something came a long that really did catch him off guard. This definitely qualified.
“Okay, just say this to me again so I completely understand. And say it out loud so I’m dead certain this isn’t a dream,” said Pietro, on the brink of laughter.
“We’ve said it twice already, Pietro! Do you need us to write you a novel?!” groaned Warren in annoyance, “We need your help!”
“I still can’t believe it!” he said as he burst out laughing, “Maybe if you all said it at once and in song…”
The speedster was abruptly cut off by Logan, who grabbed him by the shirt and drew his claws in a threatening manner. He, like all the others, had enough of Pietro’s gloating.
“Bub! You’re working on my last nerve!” he snarled, “I swear if you don’t wipe away that stupid grin I’ll peel your whole freakin’ face off!”
“If you don’t put those claws away, Wolverine, I may just change my mind. And you don’t want that now do you?” said Pietro, still grinning snidely despite Logan’s menacing gesture.
Logan was very tempted to just forget the deal and decapitate this prick on the spot. He was even more annoying than his father. But then he remembered Jeannie was in trouble and with burning anger still in his eyes, he backed off.
“I thought not,” grinned Pietro as he smoothed out his shirt.
“Enough games, Quicksilver!” said Ororo firmly, “Are you going to help us or not?”
“Why not? I’m in a giving mood today,” he said coyly, “Sure, you guys did spoil my father’s plans and threw him in jail. And sure, the idea of helping you guys makes me sick to the pit of my stomach.”
“But Wanda already ordered you to help us anyways so you really don’t have a choice,” reminded Bobby.
“Unless you be wanting us to get her on the phone again,” said Remy, throwing in some threatening subtext as well.
“Relax, no need to get her involved,” he said casually, “I’ll do it. I just need a moment to take it all in! It’s not every day the mighty X-men come crawling to little old me begging for help.”
“Keep with the attitude, speedy, and it’ll be the last!” growled Logan.
Pietro continued to smile snidely at the feral mutant, but before another fight could break out Hank stepped between them and took on a more reasonable demeanor.
“Please, can we dispense the apprehension and focus on the task at hand?” he coaxed, “We need to know what you know, Pietro. Tell us, what has led you here to Baton Rouge?”
Pietro wished he could enjoy this moment a bit longer, but as much as he loved taunting the X-men he had a job to do. His standing with Wanda and Genosha depended on his success.
He and the X-men currently found themselves on a commercial dock in the north part of the city that sat along the Mississippi river. It was an area where many people had fishing boats and yachts parked in shallow waters. It was also an area that stood just outside some major swamps, which factored heavily into Pietro’s mission.
“Fine…” he sighed, “I’ll have plenty of time to look back fondly on this moment later.”
The speedster then reached into a backpack he had been carrying and pulled out a number of documents.
“I already told you how it started. While trying to catch up with the old Brotherhood, I got a tip from this guy calling himself Tom.”
“Zhat vould be Black Tom Cassidy,” said Kurt bitterly, “Ve know him.”
“Lucky you,” he said dryly, “Anyways, he said he knew what the old crew was up to. Some guy hired them to steal gear they could use for sentinels. He didn’t tell me much about him, only that he’s a sneaky bastard with an uncanny talent for covering stuff up and leaving no trace.”
“So we’ve learned,” said Ororo, “What else did he tell you?”
“Nothing much,” he said, “He gave me these reports that detailed each theft. He also told me with each successful theft, the old crew hid the goods in some old military base in the swamps. That’s why I came here. I took a peak at a couple of state records to see how many bases are in the area and which were no longer being used. I had to really probe for a few though.”
“Translation, you stole the records,” Kitty surmised.
“Are you going to give me a morality lecture or do you want to see what I found?”
Pietro held up a couple of files, all of which had sensitive or classified stamps on them. With a begrudging sigh, Hank took some of the files and looked at the contents. They were definitely official. There were even a few notices on them, warning that the contents of these files were confidential and not meant to be taken outside the archives. Pietro certainly broke a few laws in obtaining them, but that was a secondary concern at the moment. In one of the files there was a map of each base on the state. One section focused on those along the banks of the Mississippi.
“It seems entirely plausible,” said Hank, “A military base in a swamp would be an ideal place to hide sentinel hardware.”
“Or hold abducted prisoners,” grumbled Remy, “How many are there?”
“Not much thankfully,” said Hank, “If the Brotherhood are using boats to move their equipment and operating in ports, they’ll want to stay near the river. So it’s reasonable to assume they’ll choose a base that resides along the river. If this mysterious individual is as cunning as Black Tom claims, he’ll use an unofficial base not privy to public scrutiny.”
“That would be in this file,” grinned Pietro as he pulled out another folder that was also littered with classified stamps.
Hank motioned to grab it, but Pietro pulled it away to spite him.
“Hold up…I didn’t hear a please,” he said snidely.
Logan snarled angrily, but before he could start threatening the speedster Kurt stepped forth and grabbed the file right from his hand.
“Please Pietro,” said the German mutant, “Now if you don’t mind, my sister is in danger! Gloat about it all you vant after she is safe.”
“Killjoy,” muttered Pietro.
Ignoring the speedster’s obnoxious behavior, Kurt handed the file to Hank for him to look at. Others gathered around to see the file that may contain the information they needed to find their missing friends. The papers inside folded out to display a mid-sized map, mostly of central Louisiana. The specially shaded areas highlighted the military bases.
“Let’s see, according to this map there are a total of three small bases along the river. All are located in swamp areas and all are currently inactive.”
“So how do we figure out which one has the Brotherhood?” asked Kitty.
“Meh, I figured I’d do a quick run-by for each of them. If they’re there I’ll smell Toad’s dirty laundry and I’ll see the trail of candy wrappers left by Blob.”
“Or…” said Hank more specifically, “We could use simple deduction. Of these three bases, two of them were decommissioned publically after the cold war. At least as publically as a base of this nature would allow.”
“What about the other one?” asked Remy.
Hank scanned through the file briefly, but didn’t find any records.
“It doesn’t say,” he said, “There don’t seem to be any further details on it. Are you sure these are all the materials you could find, Pietro?”
“If they’re not there they probably don’t exist,” affirmed the speedster.
“That’s all the convincing I need,” said Logan, “In my experience, when there ain’t any records on a military base that’s a nasty sign.”
“Agreed,” said Ororo, the memories of Weapon X still fresh in her mind, “Let’s pay them a visit.”
“Fine by me,” shrugged Pietro, “I was just about to get myself a boat anyways.”
“By get I assume you mean steal,” said Warren.
“You gonna start something again, chicken wings?”
“Please…that will not be necessary,” said Hank, coming between them again, “We have our own transport.”
Hank pointed up to reveal the X-jet flying down towards them. It had been hovering high in the sky in stealth mode, invisible from sight. Pietro, who had to fly here in a cramped transport orb, stared bitterly. Why they couldn’t spring for a jet like this back on Genosha was beyond him.
As it hovered over them, they all heard the Professor’s voice in their head. Since this was such a personal mission, he came along and acted a pilot for the X-jet.
‘Climb aboard, X-men. Pietro, you’re welcome to come along.’
‘Thanks, but only if you stay the hell out of my head! I don’t need no psychic snoops probing for secrets!’
The Professor didn’t respond, not wanting to provoke the suspicious speedster. He came along as Ororo summoned a jet of wind to take them up to the X-jet.
But as they were lifted aboard, Hank was once again distracted by his phone. It was vibrating again, indicating another new message. What had been just a nuisance earlier was starting to worry him. Maybe there was something more to these messages than Tessa just wanting to catch up. While everyone else was focused on getting back into the jet, Hank took a peak at the message. When he saw part of the text, his eyes widened.
“Everything okay, Mr. McCoy?” asked Kitty.
“Of…of course,” said Hank quickly as he hid his phone, “Everything’s fine. Just…a little on edge, that’s all. Let us focus on the mission at hand, shall we?”
Time was running out for Scott and Jean. The madman who called himself Sinister was moving along with his insane experiment. The two mutants were conscious, but utterly helpless as they remained bound and restrained. At the moment the gurneys they were lying on had been elevated so that they were nearly upright, facing the center of the lab where the unconscious Rogue continued floating in the bio tank. More wires and electrodes went into them, making this procedure all the more sickening. It was all setting the stage for something greater, something Scott and Jean wanted no part of.
Sinister loomed over them, checking and re-checking his equipment. He seemed poised to begin. Every time he looked at Scott and Jean there was this mysterious glimmer in his eyes. It was almost as if he had a strange affection for them. It was disturbing on a whole new level. They weren’t sure what to make of it. They just knew they didn’t want to be part of this.
While Sinister was hard at work, activating every machine in sight, Jean turned towards a still struggling Scott Summers. He was still reeling from the sedative. It was causing him a great deal of discomfort. Seeing him suffer was a difficult sight. It was a prelude of things to come and there was no guarantee they were going to make it out in one piece. If that was the case, she couldn’t wait a second longer.
“Scott…” she said in a tired tone.
“Hnn…Jean?” he groaned, turning to face her as well.
“If…if we don’t make it out of this, there’s something I have to tell you. I…I meant to tell you sooner, but…I need you to know before this is over.”
Scott may have been out of it, but he was lucid enough to pick up on the emotional undertone to her voice. His heart jumped just thinking about it, but this was not the place for such a moment.
“No Jean. Don’t say it,” he told her.
“There will be plenty of time after this is over,” he said, still short of breath, “I promise I’ll tell you everything. But not here…not like this.”
It was difficult to hold back her emotions, even with the strength of his words. Looking at him through his shrouded eyes, there was so much she wanted to say. But he was right. This was not how it should be. She had to have faith they would get out of this. Then she could finally tell him what she had been meaning to tell him for so long.
For Sinister, it was an interesting scene. Even though his expression remained cold and stoic, a part of him did appreciate such an exchange. It almost brought back memories of another life when he would have treasured such moments.
“How touching,” he said dryly, “Too bad you’ll have to break that promise. Neither one of you will be leaving until I’m finished.”
“You’re wrong!” said Scott strongly, “Our friends will find us!”
“Not with the precautions I’ve put in place,” said Sinister with a confident grin, “Even if they do manage to somehow find you, they’ll be too late.”
The mysterious figure then pressed a large red button on the panel and various machines throughout the lab came to life. Above them, the various tools and sensors came to life. Computer screens all over the area were turned on and gauges started fluctuating. Inside the bio tank, bubbles started forming around Rogue. Her body even started twitching, indicating she was enduring some discomfort. Scott and Jean quickly felt it as well, feeling a strange surge in their bodies as a new array of chemicals flowed through them.
All the while, Sinister watched with intent. He was oblivious to the pained state to two young mutants were in. There was no empathy, compassion, or guilt. He cared only about the results. They could never understand the majesty of what they were a part of, but they would in due time.
“Have you ever heard of the Philosopher’s Stone?” he asked as the procedure began, “You both seem like well-educated youths so I’ll assume you have. But what you read in books and see in movies is a gross perversion.”
Scott and Jean tensed as they felt a round of shocks course through their bodies. Something was happening. It kind of felt like what happened when Rogue touched them with her powers. Looking over at the bio tank, they saw her body tensing more. They couldn’t tell if she was conscious, but she was definitely in pain. Sinister remained oblivious to it all and kept talking.
“In the old days of alchemy, it was believed that such a stone could be used to turn lead into gold. It was sought mostly by the greedy and the foolish. But those who were more enlightened, the pre-cursors to real scientists if you will, knew better. They believed that the Philosopher’s Stone was an elixir of life. With it, living systems could be rejuvenated and even enhanced. Such a power would not only make mankind immortal, it would make them gods in their own right.”
“Is that was this is about? Making yourself immortal?” grunted Scott through the pain, “Sounds pretty unoriginal!”
“Oh you misunderstand me, my boy,” grinned Sinister, “I don’t need immortality. I already have it. What I’m looking is far more profound than anything the alchemists of the past could imagine.”
The dark figure then walked over to a nearby table and picked up a strange-looking test tube with a glowing mixture inside.
“Not many people know this, but Charles Darwin himself believed in a sort of philosopher’s stone. Even as a strict man of science, he understood there were certain forces in nature he didn’t fully understand. Towards his dying days, he confided in his associates that there were forces beyond natural selection that could push life to new levels that would seem like magic to the unenlightened. In a sense, he predicted mutants before they ever came to light. But in his old age, he understood he was too frail to investigate such forces. So he taught only his most trusted friends. One of them happened to be my father.”
Sinister then walked back to the gurneys where he leered over Scott and Jean with a sadistic grin. It was almost as disturbing as the effects of the chemicals coursing through their bodies.
“As a boy I always found my father’s stories about Darwin fascinating. Time and again, he would tell me how he sought to understand all the forces behind evolution. Sadly, his own morality caught up with him. I was left to carry on his legacy. In my studies, I have discovered things that would make Darwin proud.”
“I bet if he saw you now he would still call you a monster!” spat Scott.
“Perhaps, but if that’s the price of knowledge so be it. These forces I seek are cunning to say the very least. But that’s where you come in. For you see, the knowledge I seek is etched in your very DNA. It has been since the day you were born.”
Sinister then walked up to the bio tank where Rogue was hovering. She was still unconscious, but her body was twitching and tensing. There were sparks going off in the greenish fluid and sensors from the wires going into her body indicated that her mutant power was working at full throttle.
“Getting that knowledge has been the focus of my work for years,” he went on, “But your little friend here provides a convenient service. One of the hardest parts about extracting information from DNA is getting all the necessary energy with it. Where I can only absorb the powers of mutant DNA, your little Rogue here can absorb so much more. With some creative tweaking I hope that’s not all she’ll absorb from you.”
“But why us?! What’s so special about our DNA anyway?!” exclaimed Jean.
“There’s no easy way to explain that,” grinned Sinister, “But it helps to think back to the Philosopher Stone. Imagine that pieces of it are trapped within your genetics. Now imagine Rogue is the mining equipment that will extract it. Now do you get the picture?”
“Now I know you’re insane!” spat Scott.
“They called Charles Darwin insane in his day as well,” quipped Sinister, “He was a genius among fools. In time, history proved him right. I like to think I’m following in his footsteps. You and Jean should feel lucky to be a part of this. It is your destiny. I knew it from the day you were born. In that sense I am like family…in more ways than you think.”
“Family?! What are you talking about?” demanded Scott.
Sinister grinned ominously. He couldn’t help but let that slip. There was so much they didn’t know. Their connection was more complicated than they could imagine. He would have loved to see their reaction to a few special revelations, but that would only make them more difficult to deal with.
“That’s a story for another day,” he said, “For now, you had best conserve your strength. You’re going to need it.”
The dark figure then flipped a couple of switches and entered in a number of commands on the console. As soon as he did, Scott and Jean felt another round of painful surges. Rogue seemed to feel it too. They could hear her groaning within the bio tank. That painful, draining feeling was washing over them. Only this time it didn’t happen suddenly or swiftly. It was sickening and excruciating. Scott and Jean could do nothing except endure. Whatever this madman wanted from him, nothing was going to stop him from getting it.
Sinister’s ominous grin widened as he watched the data stream in. Everything was going according to plan. The secrets he had been seeking for so long were finally within his grasp. They were not going to be his without a fight, but it was only a matter of time. Whatever discomfort or pain these three endured would all be worth it in the end.
But just when it seemed everything was coming together, a red light on the console went off and a small alarm sounded.
“That better be a malfunction,” he groaned.
He pushed the button and an image of Toad came up. He looked worried if not scared by something.
“Uh…Mr. S? We got a problem. You know those security sensors you’ve got around this place? Well uh…they’ve been going off like crazy.”
“Which ones?! Is it coming from the river?”
“Um…I don’t think so. It’s coming from the ones in the hanger. You know, near all those old barrels of jet fuel?”
“Then it’s coming from the sky, you fool! Can you not make such a simple connection?!”
“Sorry! But what should we do? Could it be who I think it is?”
“If it’s not obvious to you than you’re an even greater fool than I thought!” barked Sinister, “It’s the X-men! It has to be! How the hell could they have found me?!”
“You want us to take them out?”
“Given your record against them?” scoffed Sinister, “I’ll activate the sentinel. You and the others back it up! I don’t care what you have to do, just stop them from getting to my lab! I’m not done with the experiment yet!”
“You got it! We’ll slow them down!”
“You better! Or prison with Magneto will be the least of your worries!”
Sinister slammed his fist on the console, turning off the camera. He thought he took every precaution. He covered every possible loose end, ensuring that nobody would stumble upon his operations in the swamp. There were only so many ways the X-men could have found him. There were even fewer ways how word of his operation could get out. The list was short, but one name did come to mind.
“Damn you, Black Tom! Only you could stoop so low as to rat me out!” he cursed, “But no matter. I need only delay them!”
Sinister quickly punched in the necessary commands to a separate computer. He brought up the sentinel program, which he had used to great affect to thwart the X-men earlier. He had the element of surprise then. Now it would be a different story.
“I knew that sentinel was a worthwhile investment. I don’t care what Black Tom told them, I will not be denied once again!”
Outside – Above The Base
The X-men along with Pietro Maximoff were almost in position. With Professor Xavier flying the jet, they hovered over the small but imposing base below. It was a bit hard to see because it was surrounded by trees and swampy haze. But what they could see confirmed what Pietro’s reports stated. This base was abandoned. There were no personnel or authorities in sight. It was the perfect place for someone to hold their friends captive. It was also the perfect place to hide a sentinel. There was no doubt. Scott, Jean, and Rogue had to be in there.
“Hover capacity and stealth? Boy, this jet is nice!” commented Pietro, “Where the heck do you get something like this anyways?”
“Like we’d tell you,” scoffed Bobby.
“You wouldn’t need it anyways. Those silver orb things Magneto flies around in look so comfortable,” chided Kitty.
“Don’t even joke about that! You have any idea how hard it is standing in those things when they’re moving?”
“Cry us a river, Quicksilver,” scoffed Warren, “With the kind of whining you do, no wonder Magneto’s a psychotic tyrant.”
“Keep talking, bird brain! Or I’ll show you whose the whiner!” spat Pietro.
“All of you, shut up!” yelled Remy, “We almost there so at least try not to drive us all crazy before we gotta save our friends!”
Pietro, Kitty, Bobby, and Warren fell silent. The speedster was still fuming. He didn’t like their presence anymore than they liked his. Luckily, this impromptu team-up was almost over. The jet was just passing over the base.
“Can you tell if they’re down there, Herr Professor?” asked Kurt anxiously, who was deeply concerned for Rogue.
Now that the X-jet was in hover, Professor Xavier put his hands on his temples and did a quick scan.
“Strange, the shielding in this facility is not like anything I’ve seen before. Whoever is behind it must be highly resourceful.”
“I’ll bet. Can’t wait to meet him,” snarled Logan.
Everybody seemed to share Logan’s sentiment, except maybe Pietro. Whoever kidnapped their friends, all the resourcefulness in the world wasn’t going to stop them. If they did anything to seriously hurt Scott, Jean, or Rogue they would pay. Kurt, Remy, and Logan were especially intent on confronting this new foe while the Professor still had his share of reservations.
“Be careful down there, X-men,” he said, “I’ll watch over from above.”
“What about Speedy here?” asked Kitty, pointing to Pietro snidely.
“Worry about your own mission. I have mine,” scoffed the speedster.
“Whatever bub. Just don’t get in our way so I don’t have to gut you,” snarled Logan.
Pietro shot the feral mutant a look, but he ignored it as the team gathered. With Scott not available to lead, Ororo took charge. She didn’t have his same tactical skill, but she had the leadership they would need to save their friends. She led them to the hatch and opened it, giving them a whiff of the hot, muggy swamp air.
“Hold on, X-men,” said Ororo assertively, “Keep your eyes open. We have no idea what kind of traps may be down there.”
“Only one way to find out,” said Bobby boldly as he iced up.
“I hate the swamp,” groaned Warren.
The team braced themselves as the African woman summoned a stream of air to take them to the ground below. Storm, Beast, Angel, Iceman, Shadowcat, Nightcralwer, Wolverine, and Gambit were officially on dangerous ground. Quicksilver followed closely, but didn’t seem as serious about the mission as the rest of them. After all, he wasn’t here to rescue friends. He was just here to find the Brotherhood and show Wanda he could get things done.
Upon landing, they were met with an eerie silence. Aside from the sounds of the surrounding swamp, the base was quiet. The team stood right in the center. Behind them was the front gate where a now dilapidated road led to a secure entrance. Inside the base was divided into a rectangular shape with four small buildings behind them, most likely storage areas, and six larger buildings along the river. The first four looked like barracks and office areas. The other two, which were located in the center, were slightly larger and had several large hanger bays out front and in back. Whatever had been going on at this base, it was centered on those two buildings.
“I don’t like the smell of this place,” snarled Wolverine.
“It’s an old military base in the swamp, Wolverine,” said Quicksilver, “What did you expect it to smell like? Cherry blossoms?”
“Shut up! It’s a different kind of stench!” said the feral mutant as he stepped out in front, “I’d know it anywhere! It’s a lab!”
“A lab? Vhat kind of a lab?” asked Nightcrawler.
“Not the kind they make cosmetics at, that’s for damn sure,” snarled Wolverine.
“Then it’s safe to assume that’s were we’ll find our friends,” said Storm, “Lead the way, Wolverine. We’ll cover you.”
“Yeah…sure we will,” said Quicksilver dryly.
“You want to take this on alone? Be my guest,” said Angel firmly, “You’ll save us the asshole-induced-migraines.”
“Hey, the way I see it you guys attracted trouble wherever you go. If I stick around long enough, something’s sure to come up. That’s all I’m here for.”
“And you guys say I don’t make a big enough effort,” snickered Iceman.
“Work smart. Not hard,” shrugged the speedster.
The team rolled their eyes. Working with Pietro Maximoff was almost as annoying as fighting him. It was tempting to just push him away, but they were stuck with him. He had a stake in this too and he wasn’t leaving until he got what he wanted.
Together, the team endured Quicksilver’s annoying presence and followed Wolverine towards one of the two main buildings. If there was a lab in this place and it was doing less than friendly experiments on Scott, Jean, and Rogue then Logan was sure to sniff it out. He knew the scent of those labs better than anybody.
But before they could even get halfway to the building, Beast felt his phone vibrate again. He had been silent since they left Baton Rouge, secretly answering incoming texts from Tessa. He didn’t tell the others. Tessa was still a private matter for him. But as soon as he opened his phone and checked the latest message, his expression grew grim.
“Oh no…” he gasped.
“What is it, Beast?” asked Angel.
“Not to be abrupt, but I think we should fall back!” he said urgently.
“Fall back? Why?” asked Storm suspiciously.
Before Beast could answer they got their reason. Suddenly, the concrete ground beneath them started to move. But it wasn’t like an earthquake or a tremor. The ground was literally moving as if it were on a rail.
“The hell is this?!” said Gambit as he and the others struggled to keep their balance.
“Do you really gotta ask?” groaned Iceman.
“X-men fall back!” ordered Storm.
The team scrambled to get away from the moving ground. They followed Beast’s lead, who started moving before anybody even answered. They didn’t have to get far though because before the ground even stopped, an all too familiar figure emerged from below. Angel took to the sky so he could get a better look. He quickly realized that the shaking ground was a result of them standing right on top of the sliding panels to an underground hanger. And from that hanger, an all too familiar foe emerged.
Flying out on a trail of rocket exhaust, the black sentinel with the mysterious red emblem in its forehead emerged and landed with an earthshaking presence. The team quickly identified it as the same sentinel they faced earlier at the mansion. It looked every bit as imposing as it did before.
“Here we go again! It’s the sentinel!” Angel called out.
“Thanks for pointing that out! A giant robot be pretty hard to miss!” grunted Gambit.
“Guess that means we’re in the right place,” said Shadowcat.
“Vhich means Rogue and zhe others can’t be far!” said Nightcrawler.
It seemed like a perfectly logical assumption. It more or less confirmed that this was where those sentinel thefts originated and this was where Scott, Jean, and Rogue had been taken. Their search was over. Now the battle could begin.
The sentinel’s eyes flashed menacingly as it flew back, the moving panels in the ground closing in the process. It then positioned itself in front of the very building Wolverine had been leading them to. Then in a defensive gesture, its shoulders opened up and the same paralyzing blasters they saw earlier arose. The robot menace also raised its arms, revealing hand and wrist-mounted cannons. It was a very forceful display, one that made clear that they weren’t getting through without a fight.
“Defense protocols initiated. Objective: Protect and Destroy.”
“I’m guessing this thing is the security guard,” commented Iceman.
“Some guard,” scoffed Angel, “Someone went to all this trouble to build a sentinel just to guard something and abduct our friends?”
“Think of it another way. Can you imagine a better failsafe?” said Beast.
It made plenty of sense. If someone wanted to attack the X-men, abduct some of them, and stop them from coming after them a sentinel was a pretty good way to do it.
“We must get past it!” said Storm strongly, “Spread out and attack, X-men! Watch out for the paralysis blasts!”
“Run if you want, but I’ve been itching for a rematch!” snarled Wolverine as he drew his claws, “This thing owes me a new uniform! Hrrrrrrahhhhhhhhhhhh!”
Wolverine attacked head on while Storm, Angel, Iceman, Beast, Gambit, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler all went in different directions to spread out its firepower. Quicksilver seemed to slip away as well, running off and leaving them to fight the killer robot. Just as before, it hit hard early on. It started by firing a barrage of high-energy ion blasts from its hands at Wolverine. The nimble mutant was able to dodge and evade them while working his way closer to the behemoth.
While Wolverine was began his attack, Storm and Angel took to the air and drew more of its fire. They swooped in close, prompting it to shoot at them with the laser blaster built into its forehead. Having learned their lesson last time, the two mutants flew faster to evade it. While it was focused on them, Storm kicked up some clouds over the head of the sentinel. She then unleashed a wave of lightning threw off its balance, but it did little to stop it.
“Man, this thing is built tough!” commented Angel, “Better step it up, Storm!”
“I’m trying! The armor on that monstrosity is too thick!”
“Allow me to make some holes!” growled Wolverine from below.
The feral mutant went right for the legs like last time. But he didn’t begin his assault there. He relentlessly clawed his way up to the torso, driving his unbreakable claws into the thick skin of the sentinel. It was still a lot tougher than the older sentinels he fought, but no matter how well made it was he was going to rip it to shreds.
“This is for Jeannie, bub!” he roared.
With lightning striking just above him, Wolverine began tearing into the metal monstrosity. It took a bit of effort to pierce the outer skin, but as soon as he started seeing wires and gears he dug deeper. As soon as the sentinel detected this, it acted swiftly.
“Emergency. Primary armor pierced.”
Despite still being focused on Storm and Angel, the sentinel maneuvered its arm so that one of its hand cannons was aimed directly at Wolverine. The feral mutant saw this and prepared to move, but the cannon fired its high-energy round before he could. When it hit it didn’t do much damage to its surface, but it sent Wolverine flying.
“Augh!” he grunted.
Before he crashed into one of the buildings, Nightcrawler came to his aid. He teleported into mid-air and caught the flying mutant, absorbing a good deal of his momentum in the process. He then teleported him back down to the surface where they tumbled into the nearest grass area.
“Ungh…are you okay, mien friend?” asked Nightcrawler.
Wolverine stammered up, revealing he had a good chunk of his right side blown off. Nightcrawler almost gagged when he saw the exposed bone. But the former living weapon didn’t miss a beat.
“I’m fine! Just get me back to that thing! I’m just getting warmed up!” he roared.
“Your pain tolerance is admirable, mien friend. But ve cannot vaste our time vith a sentinel! Ve have to find our friends!”
Wolverine groaned at such a reminder. In a fight it was easy to forget the objective sometimes. With that in mind, he re-thought his strategy.
“You’re right. Someone’s gotta be pulling the strings here! Let’s find out who!”
Nightcrawler followed Wolverine back into the battle. As they entered the line of fire again, Beast watched nervously as he took cover behind an old truck. He was trying to draw away the sentinel’s fire as well, but at the same time he was keeping an eye on his phone. That previous message Tessa just sent him was a warning. She claimed to have hacked the system that had been controlling this thing. If it had a weakness, she was sure to find it. But so far she wasn’t getting anything.
“Come on, Tessa! I need you to come through for me!” he mused.
While he was watching his phone, the sentinel sighted him and aimed at his position with its hand cannon. In another ionic burst, it fired right at the truck. By the time Beast saw it, it was already too late. As soon as the energy hit the truck, it exploded in a fiery burst. But to his surprise and relief, he was not singed in the slightest. Shadowcat ran in just in time to grab him and phase him through the danger.
“Oh my!” gasped Beast in surprise.
“Careful, Beast! Now is so not the time to be making long distance calls!” said Shadowcat as she led him away from the fires.
“I appreciate the save, but I need to keep in touch. I’m working on something to uncover a weakness in this monstrosity!”
“Great! Any way we could get that weakness a little faster?”
“I’m working on it! I just need more time!” said Beast, watching his phone anxiously in anticipation for the next message.
Beast stayed close with Shadowcat, who continued to phase him through incoming blasts. Whatever he was working on, it better be effective because this thing wasn’t letting up.
While Shadowcat and Beast were on the move, Gambit and Iceman took cover behind a couple of empty barrels. Now that the sentinel was fully engaged with moving targets, they had a window to launch an attack of its own. Storm’s lightning and Wolverine’s claws weren’t going to be enough. They needed some firepower to hit this thing.
“Better show your best hand, Gambit. This thing has the house edge!” said Iceman as he prepared for the attack.
“Leave the card gimmicks to me, homme. Remy does them so much better,” said the Cajun as he charged several cards in each hand.
“Can’t fault a guy for trying,” shrugged Iceman.
With fires and blasts going off all around, Gambit and Iceman stormed into the line of fire. They quickly unleashed their assault. Gambit threw six well-thrown charged cards right at the arms, hitting right around the hand cannons and causing a brief short-circuit. As soon as the sentinel detected this, it began charging up its shoulder-mounted paralysis blasters. Iceman noticed this and took aim, unleashing two concentrated blasts that hit the two blasters right on and encased them in ice. It continued to charge despite the attack. But when it tried to fire both blasters shorted, cracking the ice in the process.
“Ha! Not gonna use that trick again!” said Iceman proudly.
As soon as he finished uttering those words, the sentinel looked towards him and fired at him with a laser blast from its forehead. Having to act fast, Gambit had to shove him out of the way just as it impacted next to him.
“Whoa! Guess it can always use that trick,” groaned Iceman.
“No kiddin’,” groaned Gambit as he charged more cards, “Someone has to distract it. Where in the heck is that Pietro guy?”
“Beats me,” said Iceman, “It’s just like him to leave the fighting to us!”
“Remind Remy to jam his bow staff up his ass when this be over!” said Gambit as he flung more cards at the sentinel.
“I would, but he might like that.”
The two X-men kept up their assault, but the sentinel showed no signs of wavering. Even in the face of ice blasts, exploding cards, and lightning it kept fighting with everything it had. It shot out concentrated blasts from its eyes and forehead as well as its left arm, which hadn’t been short circuited. It kept Beast and Shadowcat on the move and Angel and Storm flying fast. Iceman and Gambit kept up their assault, but the sentinel’s extra thick armor protected it. The longer this went on the worse it would get for their friends. Something had to be done.
With the sentinel keeping a close guard on the building, Wolverine and Nightcrawler moved in for their assault. But this time the attack wasn’t focused on bringing down the sentinel. It was focused on giving them the window they needed to save their friends.
“Storm! Get ready to blind it with fog!” he called out, “I’m gonna get up close and personal with this thing!”
“That’s crazy!” exclaimed Storm.
“You got a better idea?!” he growled, “Don’t worry, I can take it! Just get someone inside already! We’re wasting too much freakin’ time with this thing!”
It was a dangerous move, the kind Storm was never good at executing. That was Scott’s expertise. But he wasn’t here. She would have to make the decision this time. Looking at the sentinel and how resilient it was, there was no question they had to get past it. If that meant Wolverine taking another crazy risk, so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“How Scott deals with this regularly I’ll never know,” she mused, “Okay Wolverine! Do what you have to do!”
The African woman then turned towards Gambit and Shadowcat, who were gathering right below her.
“Gambit, you and Shadowcat head inside and find our friends!” she told them, “We’ll keep this thing busy in the meantime!”
“You got it, Stormy!” said Gambit.
“And if you find zhe one responsible for kidnapping my sister and friends, please beat him senseless for me!” added Nightcrawler.
“Consider it done!” grinned Shadowcat.
Gambit and Shadowcat stood by and prepared to make their move. They watched as Nightcrawler grabbed Wolverine’s shoulder and teleported him up into the air so that he appeared about ten feet above the sentinel’s head. As he did this, Storm kicked up a new round of clouds that swirled around and consumed the massive robot humanoid. Despite this shroud the sentinel kept firing, which kept Gambit and Shadowcat from making their entrance. But when Wolverine landed, he landed right on the sentinel’s face. Now the only thing in its sights was the former living weapon.
“Hey bub. Remember me? No? Allow me to refresh your memory! Hrrrrraaaaaahhhh!
Now staring the metal monstrosity right in its glowing red eyes, Wolverine unleashed a fury of claw slashed. One of his claws was dug right into one of the glowing red eyes, causing sparks to fly and forcing the sentinel to halt its attack. It started thrashing wildly, trying to throw Wolverine off. But the feral mutant clung strong.
With the sentinel now completely distracted, Gabmit and Shadowcat made a dash for the building. Gambit grabbed onto the younger mutant’s shoulder and phased him inside. They would have t search fast. There was no telling what other tricks that sentinel or whoever was behind this affair had in store. But that was only their second greatest concern. Their focus remained on Scott, Jean, and Rogue. They were the ones they had to get to. They just had to hope they weren’t too late.
Next Issue: Sinister Intent Part 3
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