Born with extraordinary powers, a group of gifted mutants known as the X-men fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. Led by their mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, they stand against the forces of violence and hatred. Only now, it seems those forces have taken strange and horrifying new shapes.
In wake of the Genosha uprising, the X-men have been pursuing a string of thefts linked to stolen plans for the mutant hunting sentinels. Their investigation revealed that remnants of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants were the culprits, but somehow their activities and location was being kept secret by an unknown power. That power soon made itself known, sending a modified sentinel to the institute and after a bitter battle, was able to abduct Scott, Jean, and Rogue.
Upon their awakening, the captive X-men came face-to-face with the man behind the theft. His name is Nathanial Essex, but he goes by enigmatic surname, Sinister. Driven by a devious desire to tap the power of evolution, he holds Scott, Jean, and Rogue hostage for use in an elaborate experiment. It is an experiment that promises to reveal many secrets and Sinister will not rest until he has what he wants, regardless of what it may do to his victims.
But just as the experiment was beginning, the X-men arrived after having traced Sinister’s trail with the help of Pietro Maximoff. Now they fight desperately to save their friends and among those standing in the way are the Brotherhood.
Abandoned Military Base – Ground Floor
Avalanche, Blog, Toad, and Pyro cared little for Sinister or his goals. As far as they were concerned, he was more twisted than Magneto and that was saying something. But they needed him if they were to avoid the same fate as Magneto. And that meant defending his mysterious agenda from the likes of the X-men. It didn’t come as a surprise that they showed up. As soon as they saw that Sinister had kidnapped three X-men, it was only a matter of time. Sinister boasted he had taken all the necessary precautions. The Brotherhood didn’t believe it for a second and they ended up being right.
Just outside the building they were instructed to defend, the battle between the X-men and the sentinel raged. They could hear the commotion of Storm’s winds, Wolverine’s howls, and Iceman’s blasts. At one point the lights started shaking as a particularly bright flash of lightning from Storm struck parts of the building. It was not a good sign. As tough as that sentinel was, there was no way it was going to single-handedly defeat the X-men. That’s why they were the second line of defense. If the X-men got through, they were to engage them. It was a task none of them looked forward to.
“Twenty bucks says that tin can’t lasts less than five minutes!” said Pyro.
“Dude, don’t even joke about that!” groaned Toad, “Do you really want to face these guys after they’ve had time to warm up against a sentinel?”
“Don’t tell me you’re scared!” scoffed Blob, “They’re the X-men! I’ve been itching for a second stab at them!”
“I’m not scared! I just don’t wanna end up being cell-mates with Magneto! Sinister doesn’t exactly have our backs! He’s just throwing us out here hoping we’ll slow them down!”
Toad’s concerns seemed completely warranted. Sinister wasn’t like Magneto in the sense that he didn’t make them part of his plans. He just used them as enforcers. Realistically speaking, they were just his glorified security guards. He could care less about them. Magneto was a lot of things, but he cared about his mutant brethren. Sinister only cared about his precious experiments.
Standing just outside the front entrance, waiting behind a makeshift garrison of sandbags and crates, the Brotherhood could only wait anxiously for the X-men to reach them.
“I don’t like it either, Toad,” said Avalanche, “This guy has no reason to help us. As far as he’s concerned, the X-men beating us just means he doesn’t have to deliver on his promise. I doubt he’ll lose a second of sleep over it.”
“In other words, we’re screwed either way,” surmised Pyro.
“Looks like it,” sighed Avalanche.
Then an unexpected voice came from behind them and caught them all by surprise.
“Oh, poor babies. But you know there is a third option you guys.”
Pyro, Blob, Avalanche, and Toad all turned around swiftly to see Quicksilver standing behind them casually leaning against the wall with that distinct snide grin on his face. It was a strange sight that left them all momentarily stunned. He was the last person they would ever expect to show up along with the X-men.
“Pietro?!” exclaimed Blob.
“The one and only! Accept no substitutes!” said the speedster proudly.
“What the hell are you doing here? Are you with the X-men now?!” said Avalanche.
“Please! Don’t insult me,” scoffed the speedster, “Let’s just say they tagged along for their own reasons. I came here specifically to find you guys.”
“Um…you’re not here to turn us in, are you?” said Toad anxiously.
Pietro swiftly ran up to his wary team and patted Toad on the shoulder.
“Of course not! Brothers don’t turn in brothers,” he said, “You think the name Brotherhood was just for kicks?”
“Coulda fooled me,” said Pyro, “You and Wanda didn’t try very hard to keep us together, that’s for true.”
“That’s a hell of a reason to just up and run off,” said Quicksilver dryly, “And look what it got you. Four wanted mutants working for some nut stealing sentinel parts. And for what? Just so you can escape to some haven in the middle of nowhere?”
“If you got a better idea I’d love to hear it,” said Avalanche, folding his arms bitterly.
“As a matter of fact I do,” grinned the speedster.
The noises outside got louder and the four Brotherhood members got more anxious. It was just what Quicksilver was hoping for. He caught these guys in quite a predicament. It was going to be much harder for them to say no once he laid out his offer. If this didn’t prove himself to Wanda he didn’t know what would.
“Come back to Genosha,” he told them, “With me and Wanda running the show, we need a little muscle to deal with the nuts who try to make trouble. Xavier’s whole gimmick about talking to people and reasoning with them is just too pathetic. Even Wanda agrees we need a little intimidation to keep certain people in line.”
“Is that it?” laughed Pyro, “Go with you and bust heads on Genosha?”
“For the most part, yeah,” said Pietro in a sneaky tone, “But make no mistake. We have plans for that little island. And if you agree to this, you agree to help us with them. No questions asked. Got it?”
“What about the X-men?” asked Blob.
“Fred, old buddy, you worry too much!” he coaxed, “Baldy and his circus act won’t be a problem. Just trust me.”
“Trust you?” said Avalanche suspiciously, “I don’t know, Pietro. Trust isn’t a trait that runs well in your family.”
“If that’s the way you feel, fine,” shrugged Quicksilver, “Go ahead and take your chances here. But if I leave I take my offer with me.”
Blob, Toad, Avalanche, and Pyro exchanged glances. All points considered the choice was pretty clear. Take their chances with the X-men, take their chances with Sinister, or take their chances with Quicksilver. None of them could say they had any fondness for the speedster. But what he was offering had plenty of appeal. They could start a new life on Genosha, acting as enforcers for the new mutant nation. They would still be under Wanda and Pietro’s thumb, but that was still a step up from Sinister. Without even talking to each other, they all made their decision.
“Fine…we’ll go with you,” said Avalanche.
“Ditto! I’ve had enough of this Sinister guy anyways,” said Toad.
“Yeah, this gig blows!” said Blob.
“And I wouldn’t mind seeing Wanda again,” grinned Pyro.
Quicksilver scorned Pyro’s remark about Wanda. But he would deal with that later. He got what he wanted. The Brotherhood was back and he didn’t screw it up. Wanda couldn’t chew him out for this even if she wanted to. Maybe now he could finally get some respect from her. He was going to need it if their plans on Genosha were to reach their full potential.
“So how are you gonna get us out of here?” asked Toad.
“Follow me,” said Quicksilver confidently, “I’ve got some transport orbs on the way.”
“What about the sentinel?” said Blob, the noises from outside getting more ominous.
“Let the X-men take care of it,” scoffed the speedster, “This is their mission now. Mine has been officially completed!”
Abandoned Military Base – Storage Area
While the battle against the sentinel raged outside, Gambit and Shadowcat slipped in through the side of the main building. They ended up in a storage area that was packed with old boxes and computer equipment. It was mostly dark except for some flickering lights. It was also pretty dingy, showing just how long it had been since this base had been active. But compared to fighting a sentinel, it was a welcome change.
“Hope the others can hold that thing off,” said Shadowcat, taking a moment to catch her breath.
“They’ll be fine,” said Gambit confidently, “Let’s just be focusing on getting Rogue, Scott, and Jean. They gotta be in here somewhere.”
“Any idea on where to start looking? This place is huge!”
“You forget, petite, you be in the presence of a master thief,” said the Cajun boastfully, “This ain’t the first time Remy’s busted into a place like this. Probably won’t be the last either. But whenever you be looking for someone, the best place to start is the most obvious.”
“So if I were a guy crazy enough to build a sentinel, hire the Brotherhood, and attack the X-men where I be holding out?” said Shadowcat dryly.
“Simple,” said Gabmit as he took out his bow staff and pointed it towards the light, “Follow the power. In a place like this, wherever the lights be the homme behind the trouble be.”
“Works for me,” she replied, “Grab on and we’ll get through this dump in no time.”
“Coming from a femme, Remy’s happy to oblige!”
Shadowcat rolled her eyes. This guy took flirting to an annoying level, even to girls way too young for him. But she resisted the urge to make a jailbait joke for now. Scott, Jean, and Rogue were counting on them and so were the others outside battling that sentinel. Grabbing his hand, they started running through the walls and into the heart of the building.
Following Gambit’s advice, they followed the lights. That proved easier than expected. Like much of the base a good portion of it was in disrepair. The main lights weren’t even working. The halls and walls were lined with light fixtures like those found in a mind shaft. Any lights that were on, they either flickered or were very dim. Making their way through the various halls and rooms, they noticed none of the lights led to the upper levels. They briefly passed through a stairwell and looked up to see that there was no power whatsoever to the upper part of the building. Everything was concentrated on the lower levels. They also noticed that as they followed the lights, they heard a distinct humming noise from the wires. Whatever was going on here, it involved a lot of power.
At times even the secondary lights flickered, hinting that something was going on. And if Scott, Jean, and Rogue were involved that couldn’t be good. Moving with more urgency, Shadowcat led Gambit through a couple of dead ends and towards the west end corner of the building, which wasn’t far from the rear entrance facing the river. When they arrived, they came upon a heavy steel door that seemed out of place with the rest of the base. Chances were it was put in later, leading them to believe they were on the right path.
“What do you know? A door that isn’t rusted beyond recognition,” commented Shadowcat, “I’m guessing this will take us to our unlucky kidnapper.”
“We best not be keeping him waiting,” said Gambit, “But first thing’s first.”
“What now? More thieving wisdom?” said Shadowcat dryly.
“It’s worked so far, hasn’t it?”
Gambit let go of Shadowcat’s hand briefly and stood under one of the dim lights hanging on the ceiling. Then with his bow staff, he systematically shattered the bulbs one-by-one. Then he took out a playing card, charged it, and tossed it into the ceiling. When it exploded, it caused wires to sever and sparks to fly. Shadowcat was a bit surprised by this destructive tactic, but the Cajun thief seemed very confident in what he was doing.
“Whatever this homme be up to, it’s taking a lot of juice. If we gonna slow him down, we gotta cut it best we can. Buy us some time get to our friends. We ain’t gonna surprise him since he send that sentinel after us. We might as well put the odds in our favor.”
“Are you sure about this?” she asked warily, “What if it just makes him resort to extreme measures? The kind that can really hurt our friends?”
“Let’s not give him the time to find out!” said Gambit as he threw several more charged cards into the ceiling.
With sparks flying and debris everywhere, Gambit grabbed Shadowcat’s hand and followed her through the door. They soon found themselves on a staircase leading into the basement area. There were more wires and lights above them. Along the way Gambit tossed more cards, causing more destruction and affecting the power supply of whatever madman was behind this.
Their friends were close. They knew it. They just had to hold out a little bit longer. They didn’t know who was behind all this, but whoever it was it wasn’t going to be a pretty picture when they met.
“NO! Damn it, not this! Not now!” cursed an enraged Sinister as he banged his fist on one of his gauges.
His experiment was almost at the critical point. The extraction process had just begun. The special procedure he prepared for Rogue was in full swing, using various chemicals and electrodes to manipulate her powers in just the way he wanted. She had been slowly draining Scott and Jean, who were still fighting the sedatives on the gurneys, but he wouldn’t get the full package until the draining procedure was at full power.
That’s when the power faltered. Just as he was beginning the next round of protocols, the lights started flickering. This old base had an antiquated power system that he had to modify with more advanced generators, but much of the system still had be linked through the wiring in the building. Either they were failing on him now of all times, or someone was disrupting them. Given the way his sentinel was faltering, it was highly likely the X-men were behind this.
As lights flickered and more power gauges showed grim readings, the experiment was in jeopardy. Without power, he couldn’t keep his machines working. And if his machines couldn’t work, the process couldn’t be completed. He was in too early a stage to push for full extraction. If he were to try his systems would be fried along with his specimens and that was something he couldn’t afford.
“Damn you, Charles Xavier!” he spat, literally punching through one of the monitors.
From the gurneys, Scott and Jean were still dazed and in a world of pain. But they could definitely see something was wrong. The flickering lights and the flashing computer screens could only mean one thing. The X-men were getting closer.
“See that, Sinister?” grunted Scott through the pain, “That’s our friends coming to kick your ass!”
“Face it,” said Jean, still in a daze, “You…you failed!”
“I may have underestimated the X-men! But you would be wise not to underestimate me either! I may not be able to complete my experiment, but I can make sure it isn’t a total loss!”
In a fit of frustration, Sinister picked up another computer screen and shattered it with his bare hands. He then stormed over to the area between Scott and Jean’s gurneys and entered a couple of commands on a key pad that was on some computer console behind them. The two mutants then felt a brief sting in their arms where a large IV was in. A quick sample of blood, tissue, and bone marrow was quickly extracted and sent through a series of tubes that led into the console. After about a minute of continuous typing, a panel below the keypad opened and two glowing vials emerged.
These weren’t necessarily what Sinister was hoping for. They were but a part of something much grander he hoped this experiment would grant him. But without the full capacity of his equipment, that was impossible. His major goals had not been thwarted. The destiny of these two very special mutants had not changed either. It was just going to have to wait.
“It’s not much, but it’ll do for now,” said Sinister as he looked at the two vials, “You two still have many secrets in your genetics. I will uncover them all, but not today.”
“So what are you going to do?” grunted Scott, “Kill us?”
“Kill you? Why would I want to do that?” said Sinister with an ominous grin, “Like I said, you two are very special to me. The last thing I would want is for you to perish before your true potential is unlocked.”
“I’m touched,” groaned Jean, “But you’re still an asshole!”
“Does it look like I care what you think of me?” scoffed Sinister, “Like it or not, our destinies are linked. Mark my word, our paths will cross again. And when they do, expect me to be far more prepared.”
Scott and Jean struggled harder to lash out against the mad geneticist. With the equipment faltering, the machines pumping them with sedatives failed and they were beginning to feel some strength return to them. But it was not enough to break the shackles. Sinister knew this and before he ended this, he had one last point to make.
“Oh and one more thing…thanks for the powers,” he grinned.
He then placed his hands over Scott and Jean’s face. Under his cold, firm grip they felt a sharp sting, causing them both to tense in discomfort. When Sinister let go his eyes flashed ruby red, the same color as Scott’s optic blast. They realized what he had just done. He copied their powers. He was already making good on his word to be more prepared next time.
“Send Charles my regards,” he taunted as he made his way towards the other side of the lab where there was another heavy door.
“Errrrrrr Sinister!” grunted Scott.
The madman was about to slip away, giving Scott and Jean one more ominous grin as he stood near the door. But before he could leave, there a sharp blast erupted from the main entrance on the other side of the lab. The heavy steel door was literally blown off the hinges, causing further disruptions in the power array in the room. From the now gaping hole, Gambit and Shadowcat emerged.
“Scott! Jean!” Shadowcat called out when she saw her imprisoned friends.
“Rogue!” exclaimed Gambit as he saw her hovering in the bio tank.
The Cajun’s gaze quickly turned to Sinister, who seemed completely indifferent to their arrival.
“Who the hell are you?!” he said angrily, “What did you do?!”
“Sorry X-men, but those are questions for another day,” said Sinister.
Gambit was about to throw a charged card his way, but Sinister struck first. Tapping his newly acquired power, he fired an optic blast right at the two bewildered mutants. They instinctively leapt out of the way. While they were stunned, Sinister used his newfound telekinesis to knock over several barrels of chemicals. Within seconds the chemicals came into contact with equipment that was already sparking from the blast. It immediately ignited, starting a fire that quickly spread throughout the lab.
With this new distraction as his cover, Mister Sinister slipped away through the back exit. Flames quickly engulfed the area he was standing, ensuring that nobody would be able to follow him.
“Damn! That guy’s as sneaky as he is ugly!” commented Shadowcat.
“Leave him!” said Gambit as he braved the fires, “You get Scott and Jean out! I’ll get Rogue! We best be getting out of here soon or we be cooked!”
Acting fast, Shadowcat ran through the flames, phasing through equipment and debris along the way. Scott and Jean were still in a dazed state, the effects of the sedatives not wearing off quite yet. Shadowcat wasted no time in phasing them out of the shackles and helping them to their feet. They were barely able to stand under their own power and had to lean on their friend for support.
“Are you guys okay? You’re still in one piece, right?” she asked anxiously.
“We’re fine,” groaned Jean, clutching her throbbing head, “You stopped him before the dissection could begin.”
“Who was that guy anyways?”
“Long story,” groaned Scott, feeling light headed upon standing, “Where’s the rest of the team?”
“Taking care of the sentinel topside,” she answered, “Better go see if they need a hand! Can you make it?”
“We’ll be fine. We’ve endured worse,” said Jean, casting a brief smile towards Scott.
Scott smiled back briefly, knowing she was referring to the Savage Land. This hadn’t been as worse, but it was close. They were more than ready to leave it behind and started following Shadowcat through the flames.
While Shadowcat was freeing Scott and Jean, Gambit worked to get Rogue out of the sinister-looking bio tank. She looked unconscious, but her body was moving. He could even make out a faint expression of pain on her face. Using that as extra motivation, the Cajun mutant lightly tapped the glass and traced his fingers in a large circle. He made sure to give the glass only a light charge so the blast wouldn’t hurt Rogue. A series of sparks followed, causing the glass to rupture in the shape he traced. As it did, the green fluid came gushing out. Gambit step to the side to let it drain. As it did, Rogue fell forward and he caught her in his arms.
“Hnn…” she groaned.
“It’s okay, cherè. Remy’s here,” he told her.
She sounded like she was in a fair amount of pain. He tried to be gentle, but he quickly felt her pass out. With increasing worry, Gambit ripped off the wires and IVs and cradled her in his arms. He then met up with Shadowcat, who was helping Scott and Jean brave the fire. By now, it was consuming the whole lab. At the rate it was going, it would consume the entire building in a matter of minutes.
“She doesn’t look too good,” commented Shadowcat, “What did that psycho do to her?”
“I’m not entirely sure, but we better get her out of here!” said Scott.
“Yeah, this place isn’t going to hold up much longer!” groaned Jean, still weakened from the sedatives.
“Don’t need to tell Remy twice!” said Gambit as he started running with Shadowcat following close behind, “Just hope the others is taking care of that sentinel!”
“If Wolverine hasn’t torn it to pieces yet, I’ll be very surprised!” said Shadowcat.
As the flames spread, Gambit and Shadowcat led Scott, Jean, and Rogue out the lab and up through the complex. With Scott and Jean still out of it and Rogue unconscious, they could only move so quickly. The smoke and fire was spreading fast, giving them little time to spare.
As they left the lab behind, Scott found himself looking back. There was something about Sinister that lingered with him, something that went beyond his devious madness. When he said he knew him and Jean on a very personal level, something in his gut told him it was true. He still felt a burning hatred for that man, but he also felt a strange curiosity. He didn’t doubt their paths would cross again. Only next time, he would get the full story.
“Hrrrrraahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” roared an angry and battered Wolverine as he relentlessly attacked the head of the sentinel.
“Damn I hate these things!” cursed Angel, “Why won’t it go down?!”
“I wish I knew, Angel!” said Storm as she kept assaulting it with lightning, “But we must take it down!”
“If only this were an 80s sci-fi movie! At least all the killer robots in those have weaknesses!” groaned Iceman as he dodged a laser attack before resuming his ice blasts.
The sentinel was being stubborn to say the least. The weapons in its right arm were disabled, sparks were flying from joints as a result of Storm’s lightning, and its sensors were being incessantly assaulted by ice and fog. If this were a normal sentinel on Genosha, it would have gone down by now. But whoever made this thing made it a lot more resilient.
They were running out of ways to keep this thing back. It was only a matter of time before it countered. Wolverine was still clawing at the head, now behind its eyes and trying to pierce the thick armor. The sentinel thrashed wildly, trying to shake him off. It was kept in check by a constant barrage of lightning from Storm and ice from Iceman. Nightcrawler remained close to Iceman, teleporting him out of the way from occasional blasts and helping him fire at new angles. But they were running out of tactics. To make matters worse, the main building was on fire. By any measure it wasn’t looking good.
While this onslaught raged, Beast was keeping his cover and watching his phone closely. He was keeping in touch with Tessa, who claimed to be analyzing data on this sentinel at this very moment. She promised new knowledge that would give them an edge. If only that knowledge could come faster.
“Come on, Tessa! Give us something! We’re running out of time!” he groaned as another blast hit within inches of him.
Finally, a new message came in. It was the message he and the team had been waiting for. Finally, they could end this battle decisively.
“By stars and garters…could it really be that absurdly simple?”
Looking up at the sentinel, which had just brushed off another ice attack from Iceman and was attacking Storm and Angel, he didn’t have time to second guess it. They had to act now. Putting his phone away, Beast activated his communicator.
“X-men! I’ve determined a weakness!” he called out, “Hit the mark on its forehead! It’s some sort of adaptive power core! Destroy it and the sentinel is vanquished!”
“And you know zhis how?” said Nightcrawler who appeared next to him.
“I just know,” he replied.
“Sounds as good a plan as any!” shrugged Iceman, “You get that, Wolverine?”
Up on top of the sentinel where Wolverine was still clinging to the back of the head, the feral mutant got the message from his communicator. It was hard to hear in his current position, but he would take any tactic at this point.
“Give me a minute,” growled the feral mutant, “I’ll finish this thing off!”
Wolverine howled in a rage as he clung to the sentinel with his claws. He tried maneuvering himself to the front again, but the sentinel wasn’t giving him the chance. It was almost as if it knew what he was trying to do. If that thing was adaptive like Beast said it was, that could very well be the case. It was making his job a lot more difficult, even with Storm and Iceman trying to cover him. He wasn’t in position to make his move. Someone was going to have to give him an opening.
“Any time, Wolverine!” yelled Angel as he narrowly avoided another attack.
“I’m working on it!” howled Wolverine.
He was getting increasingly frustrated. The smoke from the building wasn’t helping either. The X-men couldn’t get into position to finish this thing off. Storm tried hitting the forehead with her lightning, but it was thrashing too wildly.
“It won’t stay still!” grunted the African woman in frustration, “We need a new plan!”
Then she and the rest of the X-men heard an unexpected voice through their communicators. And overhead, they heard the roar of the X-jet descend over the area.
“Perhaps I can be of assistance, Storm. Tell Wolverine to watch out. I’m coming in!”
It was Professor Xavier. No longer content to just watch his team struggle, he entered the chaos to help in his own way. Sitting at the helm of the X-jet, he armed one of the aircrafts few weapons and flew in at a parabolic arc at high speeds. The sentinel looked up to see him flying in. It looked ready to fire an energy blast at him. But before it could, Charles Xavier locked onto the head with the high energy laser built into the underbelly of the X-jet and fired.
It took only three short bursts. The first two missed, but the third one was right on target. As soon as it hit the head of the sentinel, there was a large burst near the forehead. It triggered a right blast that caused the whole sentinel to fall and nearly crash right into the building. The blackbird completed its pass, but it was still active.
“Nice shot, Professor!” said Beast through the radio, “I think that did it!”
“Emergency. Emergency. System compromised. Initiating backup protocols.”
“Apparently not,” groaned Nightcralwer, “It’s still going strong!”
“Not for long!” growled Wolverine.
With the sentinel stunned and all systems going haywire, Wolverine moved in to finish it off. Pulling his claws out from the head, he braved the smoke and sparks and maneuvered around to the front. In a daring move he climbed up the face past the eyes so he was looking right at the strange symbol on the forehead, which was sparking dangerously. Then with a feral howl, he plunged his claws into the forehead. As soon as he did, the whole head of the sentinel literally exploded.
In the wake of the blast, Wolverine was sent flying like a rocket. He would have made it all the way into the river if Angel hadn’t flown in and caught him before he could get too far. The impact, however, was less than soft. The winged mutant braced himself for his incoming friend. When he caught him, they tumbled to the ground below and impacted in the marshy grass near one of the unused buildings.
“Ungh!” grunted Angel as they both impacted, “Do you have to blow yourself up in every mission, Wolverine?”
“It works, doesn’t it?” grunted the feral mutant, his body once again burned.
Now without a head, the sentinel fell limply to the ground in a heap of twisted metal. It fell right back into the building, causing more smoke to pour out. The impact left the structure so unstable it was bound to crumble at any minute. With their friends still inside, that was something they could not allow to happen.
“Iceman! The building!” yelled Storm.
“I got it!” said Iceman confidently.
Using his ice blasts, Iceman created a wall of cold that formed a thick block of ice around the sentinel and the front of the building. It wasn’t going to keep it up for long, especially with the fires. But it would give their friends inside some extra time. Even before he finished, the ice started cracking under the fires. He kept at it until he saw several figures emerge from the smoke. It was Gambit and Shadowcat and they had Scott, Jean, and Rogue with them.
“Zhere zhey are! I see zhem!” exclaimed Nightcrawler.
“Does that mean I can let this dumb thing crumble now?” panted Iceman, running low on energy.
“Nothing would make us happier, Iceman,” said Beast as he ran up to his friends.
With a tired groan, Iceman ceased his blasts. Without ice to resist the fires, the building soon began to crumble under the heat from the fire and the destruction caused by the collapsing sentinel. Gambit and Shadowcat managed to get the others clear just in time, allowing this god-forsaken place to fittingly burn to the ground.
Now clear of the building and free from Sinister’s grasp, Gambit and Shadowcat let their tired friends rest and catch their breath. Scott and Jean fell to the ground, gasping for air from both smoke and exhaustion. The sedatives were finally wearing off, but the strain still left them tired and weakened. Rogue remained fully unconscious, resting silently in Gambit’s arms. Her status was unclear, leaving Gambit and her friends very worried.
Beast, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Storm, Angel, and Wolverine each gathered around their friends. It was a relief to see that they were alright, even if they looked distant and drained.
“Scott! Jean! Are you two alright?” asked Storm as she landed next to them.
“We’re fine, Storm,” said Jean, rubbing her head, “Just…give me a minute while my head stops pounding.”
“Did you find out the asshole behind this mess?!” said Wolverine, knelling down to help Jean stay upright.
“Oh we found out, Logan. Let’s just say he’s as nasty as you think he is,” said Scott.
“Please tell me he didn’t burn to a crisp so I can get my hands on him!”
“You’ll get your chance. He got away. He’s probably long gone by now,” said Scott.
“You can fill us in on him later,” said Angel, still sore from the impact with Wolverine, “For now, I feel like taking a bath in pain killers.”
“I second that,” groaned Jean.
“I’ll forward that along to the Professor,” said Storm with a reassuring smile, “He’s already on his way with the X-jet.”
Wolverine and Storm helped Scott and Jean up, allowing them to collect themselves as they awaited the X-jet with the others. They were exhausted and drained. Being captured and experimented on by a guy named Sinister would take it out of anybody. Add a killer sentinel into the mix and everybody was ready to head home.
But as they saw the X-jet come into sight, Scott and Jean exchanged glances. It hadn’t been lost on either of them what they almost said to one another. Now that they were free and in one piece, all that was left to contemplate was when it was going to happen. Despite their tired and dazed state they shared a warm smile, hoping that time would come very soon.
While they waited on the jet, Beast and Nightcrawler knelt down with Gambit to take a look at Rogue. She was still out cold, but covered in sweat and residue from the bio tank. Gambit and Nightcrawler were both worried while Beast carefully observed her, making sure he didn’t touch her exposed skin.
“She doesn’t look too good,” lamented Nightcralwer, “Vhat happened to her?”
“Remy ain’t sure,” said Gambit as he cradled her in his arms, “You can help her, can’t you, Beast?”
“I’ll do my best,” he said as he looked over her state, “I don’t know what was done to her. But whatever it was, let us pray it did not have any lasting effects.”
Genosha – Capital City
The Brotherhood’s return to Genosha was bittersweet in many ways. Lance, Fred, John, and Mortimer had little affinity for a place where everything they had been promised was denied. But they were surprised to see a very different island than they remembered. Much of the destruction and battle scars left from the uprising had been cleared away and much of the cities had been cleared of old buildings to make way for new ones. They watched with intrigue and satisfaction as mutants from the uprising took part in rebuilding the island, as if they were making it their own home. They still didn’t like the sight of military and UN officials walking about. But it was still a step up in their minds.
Now they found themselves standing before Wanda and Pietro at the top of Genosha’s highest building. It was not the friendliest of circumstances. Wanda still looked pretty angry at them for having walked out on them. And Pietro wouldn’t wipe that snide grin off his face. He knew that they were officially under their thumb again. They made a decision to go with him rather than fight for Sinister and now they were going to have to deal with the consequences.
“I would say it’s nice to see you guys again, but I’m finding it hard not to be pissed at you guys for leaving when you did,” said Wanda, her arms folded in an authoritative stance.
“Aw, come on, shelia! You’re not gonna hold a grudge now, are you?” coaxed John.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t,” she said strongly.
“Because uh…you have a soft spot for us?” said Mortimer sheepishly.
“If you’re shooting for compassion, you’re doing a lousy job of it, Toad,” grumbled Fred.
“I’m still waiting for a reason!” said Wanda impatiently.
The Brotherhood was silent for a moment. If one of them blurted out the wrong thing they would be in a world of hurt. Wanda may not be as ruthless as her father, but she was every bit as tough. Then Lance stepped forward.
“Because we’re a team,” he said, “When you and your old man first came to us, you came with the promise that we would be a team. We would look out for each other. And for you to hold a grudge and just brush us off would be breaking that promise.”
Wanda looked at Lance curiously. He made an interesting, but compelling argument. Thinking back to their initial recruitment, they did make promises to them. Even if they did run off on them, that didn’t give her a right to break that promise. But Lance didn’t stop there.
“That doesn’t even take into account you need guys like us. Pietro filled us in on what you were planning to do here. It’s not a bad idea, but you’ll need people to watch your back if you’re to have any chance at succeeding.”
“Yeah! Think of us as the muscle!” said Fred in his deep, imposing tone, “You really want to miss out on that all because of a simple grudge?”
Wanda’s expression was stoic. For their thug-like nature, these four showed that they did take what they told them when they were first recruited seriously. She never would have expected as such given their lackluster effort at times, but the fact they stuck together even after they left showed they were still a unit. Even if they ran off, her father still gave them his word and it was her responsibility to uphold it.
“I’m officially surprised,” she said, “Guess you guys aren’t as pig headed as you look.”
“Ha! I knew you couldn’t stay mad at us, babe!” said John with a flirtatious grin, “You do have a soft spot after all.”
“Don’t push it,” she said threateningly, “I’ll let you in on our operations. I guess you’ll be my entourage as they say in America.”
“Sweet! The Brotherhood is officially back in business!” cheered Mortimer.
“But what about the X-men?” asked Fred, “Didn’t Xavier want to lock us up?”
“I’ll deal with him. He wants you guys turned over, he’s gotta go through me,” said Wanda, “If he doesn’t like it, that’s his problem.”
“Wow…I feel safer already,” said John, still giving Wanda a look despite her constant scorn.
“But make no mistake, if you guys run away again I won’t hesitate to call the X-men!” she warned, “And once they catch you I’ll make sure they throw you in a hole so deep it will make my father’s prison cell look like a palace! Got it?”
“Yeah, we got it,” groaned Lance, resisting the urge to throw in another comment, “Right guys?”
“Right, we’re good,” said Mortimer timidly.
“Yeah whatever,” groaned Fred.
“Ditto!” said John, “You’ll never have to worry about me leaving your side, Wanda! That’s for true!”
Wanda scowled the young Australian, her eyes flashing with hex energy briefly. But before this could get ugly, Lance pulled John away and led the others back downstairs.
“That’s enough, John. I think she’s got the message,” said Lance.
“Ah, you blokes are cramping my style!” said John as she shook off Lance’s grip.
“You’ll thank us when Wanda doesn’t peel your skin off and shove it up your ass,” said Fred, “Just keep your dirty comments to yourself, John! We don’t need you making this any harder!”
John reluctantly fell silent while Lance, Fred, and Mortimer dragged him away before he could find another way to piss Wanda off. They just escaped working for a madman who called himself Sinister and avoided a confrontation with the X-men. They were content to quit while they were ahead and start over again as the Brotherhood here on Genosha.
As they walked off, Wanda continued to fume somewhat over John’s comments. But she was also relieved. She accomplished what she hoped with this little excursion. She got the Brotherhood back on her side. She needed all the help she could get if they were to move forward. The stage was set for a whole new nation to emerge, one that would be a sanctuary for mutants everywhere. As with any sanctuary, there would need to be a means of force to ensure security. Hopefully the Brotherhood was up to the challenge.
Once the Brotherhood was gone, Pietro stepped forward and approached his sister. He stayed silent while she addressed their wayward comrades, which was quite an accomplishment for him. But even as Wanda contemplated this new development, the speedster never stopped grinning. Compared to everyone else involved in this affair, including the X-men, he was the only one who really came out on top.
“So are you going to say it or not?” he said to her, “You know you have to at some point. So why put it off?”
“If you’re going to be snide about this you can forget about hearing any sort of praise,” said Wanda bitterly.
“Excuse me? But who’s the one being snide here?” questioned Pietro, “Weren’t you the one who was so skeptical that I would be able to follow up on the Brotherhood? Weren’t you the one saying I was going to screw it up? Well here’s brief rundown of what I’ve done today. First, I found the guy who was stealing sentinel parts and traced him to his base. Second, I found the Brotherhood and convinced them to come back. And third, and most importantly, I led the X-men to their friends so they could clean up this mess so we don’t have to. And if you’re not going to acknowledge any of that then you’re not just being snide, you’re being a downright bitch.”
Wanda scowled her brother’s choice of words, but he had a point. For once, his hunch was right. And for once, he didn’t find a way to make an already fragile situation worse. He succeeded in every way he promised. She had been looking for a reason to trust him and bitterness aside, he made a pretty strong case for himself.
“Fine…” she sighed in defeat, “I’ll say it. You did good, Pietro.”
“Thank you! Now was that so hard?” he said, giving his sister a little pat on the shoulder.
“Harder than you think,” said Wanda, “But don’t think this completely absolves you for all your screw-ups thus far. This just earns you some leeway with me.”
“So does that mean you’ll finally let me be more involved?”
“As much as any sister would allow a cocky, arrogant twin-brother,” she said dryly.
“That’s still being pretty snide,” joked Pietro.
“I’m just trying to keep things in perspective, Pietro. You may have done well today, but if you’re going to be a part of this you have to trust me as much as I’m willing to trust you. So please, from sibling to sibling, don’t make light of this. This is big for us and our kind. I want you to be a part of it, but only if you’re going to take it seriously.”
“Oh I’ll take it seriously, Wanda. You can count on it!” he said confidently, “I’ll get the job done! Just you wait and see!”
Wanda rolled her eyes, having heard that from her brother before. A part of her was still skeptical, but she managed a smile none-the-less. She was glad Pietro proved himself. She looked forward to having his support and that of the Brotherhood. So long as he stayed out of trouble, she was okay with this new arrangement. But with Pietro, that was always a tall order.
The speedster wasn’t worried though. He could tell Wanda made up her mind. She was willing to humble herself in the face of his success. It wasn’t often he showed up Wanda, but when he did it made quite a statement. It was a good thing too because he was going to need her trust. There was still much to be done on Genosha. The stage had already been set for something far grander in the very near future.
Xavier Institute – Infirmary
The return to the mansion was wrought with a mix of relief and exhaustion. Between kidnappings, sentinels, and mad geneticists the team had its fill of conflict for one day. This mission resolved some issues while revealing new ones. They were able to locate the Brotherhood and the man behind the thefts. They were even able to neutralize the sentinel created from those thefts. But they also encountered a dangerous new foe in Sinister. Upon hearing about him form Scott and Jean, he definitely sounded like someone they would have to keep an eye on. But that was a battle for another time.
For now, the X-men’s chief concern was recovery. As soon as they left, Warren called his father and told him about the sentinel they had found. He assured him and Professor Xavier his people would be on the scene within hours to dismantle and analyze it. Warren urged the Professor to keep an eye on the process just in case. His father could never have too much scrutiny. Xavier agreed and promised to keep track of the ordeal with Cerebro. Once the sentinel was taken care of they turned their focus on their friends, who were still reeling from their abduction.
In addition to the usual bumps and bruises of a mission, Scott and Jean underwent a quick checkup in the infirmary. By now the sedatives had worn off for the most part. They had their energy back and Jean could use her powers again. They were given some aspirin to help with the lingering soreness, but overall they got a clean bill of health. Rogue, however, was a different story.
At the moment, Hank and Professor Xavier were going over some blood work they took from Rogue after they got back. Remy and Kurt were with them, staying close to her as she lay unconscious in a bed. Sinister put a lot of strain on her body and her powers during his experiment. There was no telling what kind of side-effects it may have on her. If Hank’s expression was any indication, it wasn’t looking good for her.
“My word these readings are amazing!” he said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Is that a good or bad zhing?” asked Kurt as he anxiously watched over his unconscious sister.
“It’s…hard to say,” said Hank, “Whatever this Sinister fellow did to Rogue in his experiment, he pushed her powers to extraordinary limits. Had he been allowed to continue, she might have perished.”
“The bastard!” cursed Remy, “As if it ain’t bad enough that psycho caused all that bloodshed in New Orleans! I swear when we meet this homme again, Remy’s gonna teach him a lesson in how to treat a lady!”
“It may already be too late. The damage has been done,” said Professor Xavier as he set aside the readings.
“Vhat do you mean, Professor? Vhat damage?” asked Kurt anxiously.
Before he could answer, they heard a groan from Rogue. She was finally coming to. She sounded pretty woozy, but she was alive.
“Rogue!” said Remy, “She’s waking up!”
“Are you okay, mien sister? Can you hear me?” asked Kurt.
The young woman started to stir. Then something happened that caused Kurt and Remy to nearly fall out of their chairs. Right before their eyes, Rogue’s body slowly rose into the air. It was as if gravity around her had been turned off. Even Hank and the Professor were surprised by what they saw. But none were more surprised than Rogue when she opened her eyes and saw that she was hovering over her bed.
“Whoa! What the hell?!” she exclaimed.
“Uh…everything okay up there, cherè?” asked Remy sheepishly.
“Do Ah look okay?! Professor, what’s going on?!”
“Rogue, please calm down!” he urged her, “We’re trying to ascertain that as we speak.”
“And I believe you’ve just given us our greatest clue,” said Hank as he looked at the readings again.
Rogue forced herself to take deep breaths. She felt like she was freaking out. Her body was hovering in mid air and she wasn’t sure how she was doing it. It wasn’t like flying when she had Jean or Ororo’s powers. It was as if something within her was causing this. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she was deeply confused and very anxious.
After a series of deep breaths, she started lowering back down to the bed. As she got lower, Kurt reached up and took her hand.
“It’s okay, Rogue. I’ve got you. Just…”
“Kurt wait!” Hank exclaimed.
But it was too late. Kurt grabbed Rogue’s exposed hand and started draining him. The young mutant let out a sharp groan as he quickly pulled away. He fell back and was caught by Hank, looking dazed and confused. Now feeling even more anxious, Rogue felt around her neck to see that her inhibitor collar was present and active. For some reason it wasn’t working.
“Dang! Ah’m sorry, Kurt! Ah didn’t mean to do that! This stupid collar must be on the fritz or something!”
“The collar is working fine, I assure you,” said the Professor with growing worry, “It’s your powers that appear to be the issue.”
“Mah powers?” she said anxiously, “What the hell happened to me?!”
“If you would just settle down Hank and I will try to explain it to you,” he said in a calming tone.
Rogue took more deep breaths. This was all happening so fast. The last clear memory she had was being abducted by a sentinel. Everything after that was a blur. She remembered being surrounded in this green liquid, but it was all very vague. She was desperate to know what happened to her, but at the same time she was scared by what she might learn.
Hank and Charles exchanged glances. They looked at their readings again, double checking to make sure they were correct. Based on what they saw and what they measured, the effects of Sinister’s experiments could be surmised. While interesting in a purely scientific sense, it had grave implications for the young woman.
“As you are well-aware, Rogue, your powers are quite unique,” began Hank, “Your ability to drain ‘life energy’ as we call it is very powerful in addition to being poorly understood. What has happened here is this mysterious power has been pushed. The man behind it, who calls himself Sinister, wanted to use your powers as a conduit of sorts to absorb genetic material from Scott and Jean.”
“Sounds like a pretty sick bastard,” muttered Rogue, “Ah take it he didn’t succeed.”
“Correct, we managed to stop him,” said the Professor, “But not before the procedure he put you through had some serious effects. While we can’t be sure what he did precisely, he seems to have artificially activated your powers with machines. Then through another process, he pushed them beyond their normal limits. It overwhelmed your body. You’re very lucky to be alive.”
“Yeah, that part Ah remember,” she groaned, “It hurt like hell. Felt like mah whole body was on fire.”
“That was most likely a result of erratic metabolic processes,” Xavier went on, “Pushing your powers artificially like that forced your body to react. By doing so, your physiology has undergone permanent changes.”
“What kind of changes?” she asked nervously.
Xavier and Hank exchanged glances again. This was going to be a difficult revelation. Rogue had already been through so much. It appeared she was going to have to endure even more hardship.
“Your absorption powers have ‘expanded’ for lack of a better word,” said Hank, “If these mutagenic scans are correct, your ability to drain someone is more efficient and fast-acting. Now when you touch someone, you’ll have an even stronger grasp on their powers and memories, much more so than before.”
“But that ain’t all is it?” she said in a grim tone.
Professor Xavier took over from here. He wheeled up to her bed and placed a hand on her covered shoulder, offering the most compassionate gaze he could manage.
“It has also rendered the inhibitor collars useless,” he said sadly, “We discovered it in the test. No matter what we did or what we tried, nothing can hold your absorption powers back anymore. I’m sorry Rogue, but it appears you are unable to touch again.”
Rogue felt as though she had all the air knocked out of her lungs. When her powers first manifested, she was so angry and bitter that she would be doomed to a life of isolation. Then when the inhibitor collars came along, she felt so relieved. It was as if someone gave her part of her life back. Now it had been taken away from her all over again. This time it was even worse than before.
“No…” she said, swallowing a lump of sorrow and turning away.
“I’m sorry, Rogue,” said Kurt, offering a compassionate gesture.
For a moment there was silence. Hank and Xavier let the young woman digest this difficult feeling for a moment. It was hard to take in, especially after having already gone through it once before. But the revelations weren’t over yet.
“What about the flying?” asked Remy, breaking the silence, “What be behind that?”
“Yes, that was another major change,” said Hank as he looked back at his charts, “While we are uncertain of the exact processes, we are certain of the result. The stress put on your body during the experiment caused your whole biological makeup to have a sort of fight for flight reaction.”
“Fight for flight? What the hell is that?” said Rogue, her tone still very bitter.
“It’s the natural reaction programmed into all animals. When an organism senses danger, it either fights or tries to get away. In your case, your body took it a step further. It took traces left over from all the powers you absorbed and integrated them into your genetic structure right along with your X-gene. The resulting manifestations include the ability of flight and invulnerability. We surmise the latter emerged as a result from your recent encounter with Juggernaut.”
“So Ah can fly and take bullets, but Ah can’t touch?” she said dryly, “Well ain’t that just peachy?!”
In a fit of frustration, Rogue slammed her fists against the guard rail to the bed. But to her surprise, the metal guard rail broke off as if it had been hit by ten tons of raw force. It flew off with such power Remy had to jump out of the way. At first Rogue was confused, then it quickly dawned on her and Hank filled in the blanks.
“There was one other effect,” he said, “You also gained enhanced strength. That would constitute the fight aspect of fight for flight.”
“That’s for sure,” said Remy, having barely avoided it, “Guess her body went for overkill.”
“With so much stress all at once, it was the most natural reaction your physiology could manage,” said the Professor, “Had it not occurred you most likely would have perished.”
“Lucky meh,” muttered Rogue.
The young woman found herself turning away from her friends, lying back down on the bed and curling up in a fetal position. So she couldn’t touch anymore, she could fly, and had super strength and durability. She should have been more shocked, but after all these new revelations she was almost indifferent to it all. She could feel their sympathetic gazes on her. But they didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand.
Kurt tried to console his sister, kneeling down at her bedside and placing his hand on her shoulder. He wished he could take her hand, but that was too dangerous now. If ever there was a time she needed family support, this was it. But Rogue ended up shaking him off. His gentle touch offered no comfort to her pain.
“It’ll be okay, mien sister,” said Kurt, “I have faith ve vill find a vay to fix zhis. You did it once before, ja?”
“With all due respect, Kurt, faith ain’t doing me any good at this point.”
“Aw, don’t be like that, cherè. Try and look on the bright side,” said Remy, trying to sound more upbeat, “You ain’t ever gotta wait for a bus again and you’ll never have to struggle with another pickle jar.”
Rogue turned around and cast Remy a bemused look. Kurt, Hank, and the Professor gave him equally baffled expressions. If he was trying to lighten the mood with humor, he was doing a pretty bad job of it. He found himself rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, trying to offer Rogue what compassion he could. But it was no use.
“Ah…Ah need to be alone,” she said as she turned away.
“Rogue, I’ll do our best to help you get through this,” coaxed Professor Xavier, “Just know that we’re all here for you. You do not have to go through this alone.”
“Ah appreciate that, Professor, but Ah think Ah’ve had enough reassuring for one day,” said Rogue, her words thick with bitterness.
The Professor’s expression fell. He could already sense in Rogue’s thoughts how hard this was for her. There was nothing more he could say to her. There was nothing more Kurt or Gambit could say to her either. This was something Rogue herself was going to have to get through.
“I understand,” he said.
He then turned and wheeled himself out. It was a gesture Hank, Kurt, and Remy were hesitant to follow at first. Hank quickly picked up on it and cast Rogue one last look of sympathy before following his mentor. Kurt and Remy continued to linger. It was much harder for them to leave because of their personal attachment to Rogue. Even though she tried to hide it, they could tell there were tears in her eyes. Kurt tried to reach for her again, but Remy held him back.
“Let go,” said Kurt sternly, “She’s my sister!”
“Listen to him, Kurt,” said Rogue, holding back a hard sob, “Just leave meh.”
Kurt tensed in a show of frustration. He seemed ready to use every bit of mercenary training he ever learned to fight Remy off so he could be with his sister. But a solemn look from the Cajun mutant and another glance at the distraught Rogue held him back. He continued to linger, struggling to resist that familial need to comfort his sister. Eventually, Remy won out. Swallowing his pride and his sorrow, he sighed and followed the Cajun out of the infirmary.
Before they left entirely, Remy cast the beautiful woman one last look of compassion. As a thief, compassion wasn’t his greatest strength. But for Rogue, a woman who he connected with in one of his darkest hours, he made an exception. Just before he closed the door, he took out a lone card form his pocket. It was a queen of hearts, a card that always held a special meaning for him. Without saying a word, he skillfully tossed the card so it landed right next to Rogue on her bed. Then with one last smile, he left.
At first Rogue was silent. Once again, she was trapped in her own body. All those wonderful feelings she had when she could touch were memories now. Once again, she was going to have to wait and hope for another chance to control her powers. It was hard enough the first time and she wasn’t sure she wanted to go through it again. But as she contemplated her new situation, she found herself taking the card Remy gave her and holding it tightly. It was a strange but fitting gesture on his part. Nobody else understood it, but she did. And she was going to need it if she was to get through this.
Jean’s Room – Later
The late hours of the night had fallen upon the Xavier Institute. It had been a long, hard day full of conflict and revelation. The mystery surrounding the missing sentinel plans was over and the mystery surrounding Sinister had just begun. A new host of challenges loomed before the X-men, but most were content to leave them for another day. For now, getting a good night sleep was the only challenge that mattered.
After her checkup, Jean she returned to her room to be alone with her thoughts. The Professor urged her to get some sleep, but she was too restless to sleep. She didn’t even change into her sleeping clothes. She just found herself lying back on her bed, staring at the ceiling as she mused over everything that had happened. Sinister left quite an impression. It wasn’t so much his hideous appearance that stuck out. It was his intentions. The way he looked at her and Scott, it really felt like he knew them on a deeper level. It was difficult to contemplate what that entailed. At this point she could only speculate, but that wasn’t the most pressing issue on her mind.
Again and again, she thought back to that moment when she and Scott were strapped to those gurneys, not sure if they would get out in one piece. She came so close to telling him. Being in such a dire moment brought to surface many feelings she had been struggling with. She had been dealing with them since that fateful mission in the Savage Land years ago. It was there these feelings started and despite other relationships and new challenges, they kept on growing. Between her breakup with Logan and this encounter with Sinister, she couldn’t push this off any longer.
But accepting what she felt was the easy part. Actually going through with it was a whole other challenge. As she contemplated how she was going to do this, she heard a knock at her door.
“Jean? Are you still awake?”
Sensing who it was, Jean smiled and rose up.
“I’m up, Scott. Come on in,” she said.
Her door opened and Scott entered. Like her he looked restless. Closing her door behind him, she watched as he made his way over to her bed. She could tell he was struggling with this as much as she was. It was written on his demeanor, which was usually so calm and collected. But tonight was different.
“I take it you can’t sleep either,” she said.
“Didn’t bother trying,” he said as he stood at the foot of her bed, “Just have too much on my mind, I guess.”
“Join the club. You’ve got plenty of company,” she said with a lighthearted grin.
She patted the side of her bed, offering him to sit down. He accepted the invitation, sighing as he sat down next to her and leaned back on his arms.
“Boy, what a day,” Scott sighed.
“I hear you. After a day like this, it leaves you with a lot to think about.”
“That’s for sure,” he replied, “Must be even tougher for a psychic.”
“Not as much as you think,” she said distantly, “As if I didn’t have enough nightmare memories, now I have to deal with Sinister’s ugly mug in my dreams.”
“Yeah, he’s his own best horror movie,” mused Scott, “I don’t know what’s more disturbing, his face or what he said about knowing us.”
“I’d say it’s about even. I’d like to think a guy like that would stick out if he knew me. Guess that’s something we’ll have to look into, especially if he tries anything like this again.”
“I’m certain he will. He promised he would and he doesn’t strike me as a guy who makes idle threats.”
“As if we don’t have enough to worry about,” she sighed, “Guess we’ll just have to hope he won’t strike when we’re in the middle of another crisis.”
“Men like him rarely do. But next time we’ll be ready for him,” said Scott strongly.
“I hope so. There’s so much that creeps me out about that man it’s not funny.”
“Me too. If I see him again, I’ll shoot him extra just for you.”
“Oh you’re so sweet,” said Jean with a playful grin.
Scott smiled back, blushing somewhat under her gaze. There was a brief silence between them. The two long-time friends were making a herculean effort to try and not make this more awkward than it had to be. It was a tall order under the circumstances, but it was something they were willing to brave.
“So…are we going to talk about it or what?” asked Jean, her tone shaking with anxiety.
“If memory serves me right, I promised I would tell you everything when it was all over and I like to keep my promises…especially the ones I make to you.”
“You always have,” she said, “And if my memory is as good as yours, there was something I was going to tell you too. But considering one of us here is psychic and you’ve always had a talent for reading situations, I think we both know what we’re going to say. We would have to be dense on an entirely new level not to notice what’s happened between us these past few months.”
“It’s been happening longer than that, Jean…much longer,” said Scott in a deeper tone, “We’ve just been avoiding it. In a ways we still are.”
There was a hint of frustration in his tone. Jean felt it too. Rising up from her bed, she walked towards her window and hugged her shoulders. He rose up as well and walked over to her, gently touching her shoulder and turning her around so she was facing him again. She hesitated at first, but she seen found herself gazing deeply into the eyes of the man who had been such a big part of her life. Her legs grew weak and her heart started racing. Being close to him brought up a lot of conflicting feelings, but none of them were enough to avoid this any longer. She reached up to caress his face. Scott gently took her hand in his and gave it a firm squeeze.
“Scott…” she said, struggling to get the words out.
“Jean…remember what you told me just before Rogue broke up with me?” said Scott, his voice equally shaky, “You said when it came to love, you always struggled with uncertainty. Whether it was John or Logan, it was a conflict between thinking what felt right and knowing what felt right. Not knowing in the long run is what did both our relationships in. It just wasn’t the one as you put it.”
Jean smiled fondly at that memory. It was a difficult time for both of them. In many ways it was a turning point for both of them, bringing them a step closer to the situation they now found themselves in. But Scott took it a step further.
“Well I’ve had some time to think about that,” he went on, “After my breakup with Rogue and after spending so much time with you, I realized something.”
“And what’s that?” asked Jean, her legs practically trembling at this point.
Scott then placed both hands on her face and moved in closer to her, his shrouded eyes now locked onto hers in a powerful gaze.
“We already know what feels right. We’ve just been avoiding it, following other passions that were easier on us. But it didn’t change anything. I still feel the same way about you. I feel it with all my heart and I’m finally ready to say it.”
Now Jean’s heart was really pounding. It was taking every ounce of strength not to lose herself in her passions again. She didn’t want to make the same mistakes with this man as she had others in the past. Scott Summers was special to her. All the feelings he described were the same feelings she had been struggling with for so long. Now they were finally ready to come out.
Scott Summers had been on some pretty difficult missions in his life. He braved Magneto, the Brotherhood, and killer sentinels. But this by far was the most difficult thing he had ever done. Looking at this woman, who had been there for him in so many ways, he felt so many powerful emotions it was hard to make sense of. But he was tired of avoiding them. Nothing was going to stop him from saying what needed to be said.
“I’m in love with you, Jean,” he said in a serious yet passionate tone, “I don’t know why I waited so long to tell you, but it’s the true. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt. And I think you know too.”
“I…I do,” said Jean, her words choked with passion, “I’m in love with you too, Scott. I wanted to tell you so much, but I…”
Jean’s words soon trailed off, her voice now choked with emotion.
“I know,” said Scott as he affectionately caressed her face.
“You’ve always been so special to me, Scott,” she went on, “You’ve always been there for me. I…I honestly can’t tell you with words how much you mean to me.”
“You don’t have to.”
Another silence fell over them. Only this time, there was no awkwardness or anxiety. They continued gazing into each others’ eyes, lost in the feeling. They shared a warm smile. Jean moved in closer, slipping her arms around Scott’s neck and pulling him into an affectionate embrace. Time seemed to stop altogether as they stood lost in the moment. Then in a fitting yet long overdue gesture, Scott Summers and Jean Grey came together and shared a soft kiss.
As soon as their lips touched, all those pent up feelings came rushing out. Jean sensed Scott’s mind open to her in a way it never had before. Usually his mind was so closed off. For him to open it to her like this was truly special. She found herself opening her mind to him as well, using her powers to let him feel in his own mind how much she loved him and how much she wanted this.
Their embrace was almost desperate, driven by passion and a love unlike anything they ever felt before. It was profound and exhilarating, almost a relief of sorts that they could finally express what they had been wanting to for so long. It also felt so right. They didn’t just sense it. They knew it in their hearts.
“Scott…stay with me tonight,” gasped Jean breathlessly as she clung desperately to him.
“Are you sure, Jean?” said Scott, who was equally dazed.
“Never been more sure of anything in my life,” she said with a loving smile.
Smiling back, Scott and Jean kissed again and made their way to the bed. They never parted from their embrace, holding onto each other with tender passion as they followed this powerful feeling even further. Through tender gestures of affection, they removed their clothes and made love into the night. It was a fitting way for all these pent up emotions to manifest. It was also a celebration of sorts, commemorating the beginning of a whole new relationship for them.
At last Scott Summers and Jean Grey had come together. Now that their love had been fully realized, it could finally blossom. It had been a long, complicated journey to this point, full of many obstacles along the way. But it was definitely worth the wait.
Louis Armstrong International Airport – New Orleans
In the late hours of the night, the main terminal of the airport was quiet for the most part. Few passengers were coming and going at this hour. Only the occasional rush from an incoming flight or the steady patrol of police and airline workers filled the usually bustling building. All the news stands and restaurants were closed and traffic outside was at its lightest period in the 24-hour-operation that came with every international airport.
As janitors and officers made their rounds, a lone figure dressed in a black suit and tie made his way towards the furthest gate from the main entrance. Handcuffed to his wrist was an unmarked suitcase with two locks on it. The contents of that suitcase were vital in ways few could contemplate. And he wasn’t going to let it out of his sight until he reached his destination.
As the figure walked through long stretches of terminal, he took out a cell phone and made an important call.
“I’ve been waiting for your call, Sinister. Please tell me everything went according to plan.”
“I wish I could, Madelyn. But we hit an unfortunate snag. It turns out those precautions I took weren’t enough. The X-men found me before I could complete the experiment.”
“But how? I did everything you asked me to do. I made no mistakes! I covered our tracks!”
“I believe you. But it wasn’t mistakes that did us in. It was Black Tom.”
“The man who sold you the sentinel plans? How do you know?”
“Because he was the only one who could have leaked that information,” said Sinister with a touch of anger, “He must have known Xavier would have figured it out. They just needed the right clues.”
“I always knew that man was a prick! But why would he sabotage our plan like that?”
“Simple business tactics, my dear,” he surmised, “He must have thought my little experiment was going to cause too much of a scene. And he was right. It definitely would have. The way he sees it, if the X-men stopped me the market for those plans would still be wide open. He already had his money anyways. He had nothing to gain and much to lose from our success.”
“Remind me to liquefy his brain the next time I see him. So what happens next? I’m assuming you have a backup plan.”
“You know me well,” grinned Sinister, “Make no mistake, this experiment was not a failure. I still managed to get part of the genetic material I needed. It should be just enough to carry out a few other experiments I have planned, all of which should bring us ever closer to our ultimate goal!”
“And just how far away are we from that goal? Pardon my tone, but I’m losing my patience with these ventures.”
“All evolution requires time, Maddie. But we are much closer now than we’ve ever been before. That’s why I need you to get to my lab in Seattle and gather my Marauders. I’ll meet you there in a few hours. I’ve got a flight heading out in fifteen minutes.”
“Seattle? What the hell kind of experiment can you do there?”
“You’ll see,” he said in an ominous tone, “I’ll call you when I land. Make sure everything is ready.”
“It will be. For you, I’ll make sure of it.”
Sinister grinned, confident in her ability to deliver. That’s what he liked about Madelyn Pryor. She would go to any length for him, no matter what or who she had to go through. It also helped when family ties were thrown into the mix. It provided the perfect motivation to her and to him for that matter. There was a long, complicated behind his obsession with Scott Summers and Jean Grey. That history was going to be important as he continued with his next round of plans.
“One more thing, did Jean get out in one piece?”
“Of course she did. She is your cousin after all,” grinned Sinister.
“Figures, the pesky bitch. Next time, I’m coming along! I still have some old scores to settle with her!”
“Oh you’ll get your chance, Madelyn dear. I’m not done with those two, not by a long shot,” said Sinister as he approached his gate, “Mark my words, they will aid me in my ultimate goals. They will continue to be valuable specimens for all our endeavors. It isn’t just their potential. It’s their destiny.”
Next Issue: War Crimes
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