Professor Charles Xavier and his mutant team, the X-men, have fought long and hard to foster peace between humans and mutants. The fight hasn’t been easy. They have gone up against the likes of Magneto, the Brotherhood, Cameron Hodge, Sinister, and Weapon X. They haven’t always triumphed, but they haven’t let the fight slip away. The greatest challenge is adapting to increasingly complex circumstances.
It wasn’t long ago that Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants sent the world to the brink of total war with the Genosha uprising. They gathered disgruntled mutants from around the world and led an invasion against the forces of Cameron Hodge and the sentinels. The X-men were able to stop the uprising and the war, but the after effects have been a challenge unto themselves. Magneto’s daughter, Wanda Maximoff, was left in charge of helping international authorities clean up the island while Magneto himself was put into prison and charged with war crimes. But the master of magnetism has shown no remorse and has not given up his crusade against humanity.
While Magneto may be in jail, he and his mutant allies continue to plot. Elements of his mysterious agenda were uncovered by the X-men recently in wake of a battle with Juggernaut. When Hank McCoy investigated, he found out that Magneto’s ally Mystique was behind it. While they fought Juggernaut, she freed an imprisoned mutant named Forge. Now the X-men are rushing to find out what she and Magneto plan to do next, but it may already be too late.
Former Brotherhood Lair
The Brotherhood’s old base of operations hadn’t changed much after Magneto left it behind in the Genosha uprising. He and the rest of his team left with the intention of never having to see it again. Their new base was to be on Genosha, the future capital for a new world order led by homo superior.
Of course, the plan didn’t pan out that way. Thanks to the X-men, Magneto’s master vision never came to pass. Genosha was once again a hotbed of mutant activity and international controversy while the Brotherhood was left in disarray. But as confident as Magneto was in his plans, he was smart enough to have something else in reserve just in case. That’s where this old cave lair came in. He made sure it was not left in a state of disrepair. If his uprising were to fail, his next great plan for homo superior would begin here. It was a plan he entrusted Mystique to carry out.
The shape shifter had already been hard at work. Shortly after the incident with Kurt and Black Tom, she focused all her attention on this ambitious endeavor. It was to succeed where the Genosha uprising failed. It was to bring the world to its knees in a different, but equally powerful way. It required her to gather a number of unique resources, the most important being a young mutant who would make everything Magneto had laid out for her possible.
“How much more of this junk do you need, Forge?” groaned Mystique as she and Exodus brought in a new round of equipment.
“How many times do I have to tell you? It’s not junk, Mystique! It’s vital to making this gizmo Magneto designed work,” said the calm yet irked Native American.
“Most of this stuff came from a junkyard and the rest of it was lifted from a Home Depot,” said Exodus, who was using his strength and flight powers to carry the crates of junk in using heavy chains, “This doesn’t strike me as the kind of material that would make something Magneto described as being so high tech.”
“Coming from a guy who barely remembers anything beyond this decade, I wouldn’t call that assessment too credible,” quipped Forge.
“You’re a punk who got himself arrested three times in the last eight years! You’re not exactly Mr. Clean either!”
“At least I know how to deliver the goods,” said Forge, not looking up from his work, “Why do you think the NSA, the FBI, and the whole US military wanted me behind lock and key? I know how to get things done.”
“Considering the trouble I went through to help you escape, you damn well better,” said Mystique as Exodus set the crates down, “I had to release Juggernaut to make a big enough distraction to extract you!”
“Oh you know I’ll make it worth your while,” grinned Forge as he cracked his knuckles confidently, “This stuff may look like a pile of junk now, but just you wait! Soon it’ll be the ultimate endgame Magneto’s been looking for! Just let me work my magic.”
He could tell Mystique still had her reservations about him, but Forge had every intention of completing the job. This was a unique challenge for him. The plans Magneto left behind for Mystique were ambiguous at best, but the goal was clear. He wanted something that was going to give him the power he needed to make a statement that would be heard on every corner of the globe. He was going to do something big, something that would reshape the world as they knew it. For Forge, it was about time.
For most of his life, Forge cared little for the human/mutant conflict. Growing up on a Cheyenne reservation, his life revolved around tinkering and inventing. He discovered his mutant power when he was only eight when he turned a normal payphone into a death ray. Part of his power wasn’t just understanding machines, he could shift his hands and limbs into organic metal tools of any kind. It made his work that much easier. Through his teen years he endured some setbacks. One time when he was trying to turn an old truck into a hovercraft, he ignited the engine prematurely and nearly blew off his leg. Luckily, he was able to build a metal replacement that worked just as well if not better.
But that wasn’t the hardest challenge to overcome. After he left the reservation, he sought to take his talents to the next level. He believed he could use his inventions to make himself rich and powerful, but the advanced nature of his inventions were so ahead of their time, the military stepped in and pretty much monopolized his talent. If he was going to create any machine, they wanted it for their use. At first he was stoked to have the limitless backing of the military, but he quickly discovered they just wanted a lap dog who would give them the weapon they wanted.
Three times he tried to break out and three times he got caught. That’s why he ended up in a cell right next to Juggernaut. That’s why he was willing to help Magneto. Only in a world dominated by mutants could he be free to utilize his inventions.
“How much longer?” asked Mystique as she looked over the emerging mass of metal and machinery Forge was assembling, “This was supposed to be completed weeks ago! They could deliver Magneto a death sentence any day now.”
“The way the legal system works? No way,” scoffed Forge, “Besides, I’m just about finished. I just have to calibrate the gyroscopic targeting computer to compensate for the rotation of the Earth and align the transduction electromagnetic amplifiers. Then it’s just a matter of making some ultra-efficient superconductors from this new material you got for me and…”
“Stop wasting your breath, Forge. Does it look like we care about the details?” groaned Exodus as he used his telekinesis to open the crates, “Stop the Star Trek talk and just do what you need to do.”
“Fine,” he said, rolling his eyes, “I just thought you would show a little more appreciation to something that’s never been built before and has the capacity to change life on this Earth as we know it.”
“You’ll get plenty of appreciation from Magneto once you complete it,” said Mystique impatiently, “Just tell me these are all the materials you need to finish.”
“Almost,” answered Forge as he started shifting through the debris, “The machine may be nearly complete, but it’s nothing without power. And for what this baby’s going to do it’s going to need a lot of it. That’s why I need the two of you to get me four heavy duty diesel engines. I’m going to convert them into cold fusion generators.”
“I’m not even going to pretend to know what that entails, but we’ll get you the engines,” said the shape shifter, “How much longer after that?”
“By the time you get back, I should be done. And converting diesel engines into cold fusion generators is easy. I can have them ready before lunch. The only catch is they only provide enough power for a single burst.”
“That’s all we need. Magneto will take it from there,” said Mystique confidently.
“I’m sure he will,” said Forge as he found some thick wires from the junk, “What exactly does he have in mind anyways? I mean I know what he says he’s going to do with this thing, but is that all?”
“That’s not something you should concern yourself with. Just finish the machine and we’ll do the rest.”
“I’m hoping I get some sort of reward first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as eager to see mutants become dominate as the rest of you. But the big guy better have something ready for me. Hell, I’d settle for my own country!”
“And they say I’m without class,” commented Exodus.
Forge ignored Exodus’s comments while Mystique tossed Forge some new parts.
“You’ll get your reward, Forge. We all will,” said the shape shifter, “Exodus and I will be back in two hours. We’ll return with Pietro and the Brotherhood. Once we complete this critical first step, it’ll all be over. The humans won’t have a chance.”
“So long as the X-men don’t screw it up again,” snickered Forge as he went back to work.
“Trust me, they won’t be a factor this time,” said Mystique ominously, “Not even they will be able to stop us this time.”
Forge shrugged, taking her word for it as he shifted his hand into a new array of tools and continued working. He didn’t know the full story, but he felt he knew enough. Magneto was a mysterious guy with big ambitions. He couldn’t help but admire that considering how bad it had gotten for mutants. That’s part of why he was prepared to help Magneto finish what he started on Genosha. If it did a way with an order that threw guys like him in jail, then good riddance.
While Exodus headed back towards the transport orbs, Mystique turned back to take in the machine Forge had been working on. By now it took up nearly the entire central area where Magneto once stored his computer array. The structure was deceptively simple, consisting of a large mechanical ground plate about the size of a basketball court and several stacks of concentric rings that rose up and came together at an antenna assembly pointed towards the sky. It was quite a sight and if it did what Magneto said it would do, then humanity was effectively doomed. The mutant revolution would finally be complete.
Xavier Institute – War Room
“I’m sorry, Professor. But I’ve done all I can. Every one of my contacts in White Cell and the military say the same thing. Forge is gone and all his records are classified.”
Those were difficult words for Professor Charles Xavier to hear. But such was the case since this investigation began. As soon as Hank uncovered the truth behind Juggernaut’s release, he dedicated most of his energy into finding Mystique and this mysterious mutant she freed, known as Forge. He felt with the utmost certainty that they were up to something and Magneto was involved. If it was anything like the Genosha uprising, then it had to be stopped.
“Thank you for your help, John. Your assistance is greatly appreciated,” sighed Professor Xavier.
“Anytime, Professor, but I wish I could be of more help. I’m as worried as you with Magneto being up to his old tricks. Just let me know if you find anything. I’d love to help keep old buckethead in a cell.”
“I’ll let you know if anything comes up. I’m sure we’ll need your help when the time comes,” he said.
The holographic image of John Proudstar faded as the communication link was closed. Professor Xavier could do nothing but contemplate this grim situation. With him were Hank, Logan, Scott, and Jean. They along with the rest of the team had been helping with this investigation in whatever way they could. They hoped just as he did that John Proudstar would have some leads with his contacts in White Cell. But no such luck. Whatever Magneto was planning, he was doing a good job of keeping it secret.
“Well that sure was a waste of time,” said Logan in a fit of frustration, “Should’ve figured the guys who let Mystique break Juggernaut out wouldn’t do squat to help.”
“It was still a lead worth following, Logan,” Scott argued, “The military must really be covering their trails this time. They don’t want anything about anything to get out about this Forge guy.”
“Considering what he can do, that’s understandable,” said Hank as he contemplated their next move with the Professor, “A mutant that can build any machine would most certainly be coveted by any power broker. Under Magneto’s influence, there’s no telling what he could be building.”
“And he’s had lots of time to work with too,” said Jean, not at all confident with this situation, “For all we know it could be too late.”
“We mustn’t think that way, Jean. If they were ready they would have made a move by now. So far all is quiet. That can only mean whatever Magneto and the Brotherhood are planning hasn’t come to pass yet.”
“But what could they be planning? Haven’t you brought this up with Wanda?” asked Jean.
“I have, but she is reluctant to talk. She is still quite bitter with us after what happened at Magneto’s trial.”
“Well she better get the hell over it!” snarled Logan, “If she or any other Brotherhood goon knows something, they’ll better be ready to talk or I’ll have to make them!”
“I’m almost certain that Wanda is unaware for the most part,” said Xavier confidently, “I would have sensed otherwise if she did.”
“That doesn’t mean she has no useful information for us,” said Scott, “She is Magneto’s daughter last I checked. There are any number of ways she could know something.”
Professor Xavier lowered his head solemnly. Since the uprising, he hoped he had gotten through to Wanda on some levels. He always sensed in her someone with more compassion than Magneto’s other followers. She wanted what was best for mutant kind like her father, but she was willing to be more reasonable. He thought she was growing to accept his more peaceful alternatives. But she was still very much dedicated to her father.
The rest of the team was equally disappointed. After such a hard fought battle against Magneto on Genosha, they thought they had contained him for the most part. But men like Magneto were too cunning to let one defeat hold them back. He always found a way strike back. If this was anything like his uprising, they were in for another rough fight.
“We must continue to investigate,” said Hank strongly, “I’ve been hacking through old FBI files with Forge. I’m sure something will come up sooner or later.”
“Better make it sooner, Hank. This whole mess stinks a million different ways!” said Logan, “I swear you should’ve let me kill Magneto back on Genosha!”
“Don’t go off and start criticizing X-men policies, Logan! You know why we spared him and for all we know it would have made things even worse!” said Scott apprehensively.
“Or it could’ve solved everything! You’re just too scared we were wrong!”
Scott and Logan started getting hostile again, forcing Jean to get between them again. She rolled her eyes begrudgingly, wondering how much longer she would have to keep doing this. Luckily, the Professor stepped in.
“Let’s not waste time debating past decisions,” said the Professor strongly. “What’s done is done. The best we can do now is deal with our present situation.”
“And just how do we plan on doing that?” said Logan dryly.
“By getting the answers directly from the source,” he replied ominously, “I’m going to go pay Magneto a visit at Guantanamo Bay.”
“What?! You don’t expect him to give us any answers!” exclaimed Scott.
“I’m still going to try,” said Xavier strongly, “Hank will escort me while the rest of the team stays here. You will continue with your duties. The moment something comes up, I expect you to be ready.”
“We will be, Professor. You can always count on us, right guys?” said Jean, shooting Logan and Scott annoyed looks, “Just be careful, okay?”
“I will, Jean,” he assured her, “I promise.”
There was no room for debate. Professor Xavier was going and that was final. There was nothing Scott, Jean, Logan, or Hank could say to stop him. It was still unlikely he was going to get anything out of the master of magnetism. They could only hope that he could reach Magneto in some ways as a friend.
Beyond their little argument, Scott and Logan were still annoyed with each other. But the threatening look from Jean Grey was more than enough to silence them. It was one of the few things that consistently did. Even with the relationship drama between them having been resolved and the clashes between them not being nearly as harsh, Scott and Logan still didn’t get along. For letting it get out of hand, Jean sent her lover, Scott, a message.
‘Just for that, you won’t be seeing me naked tonight.’
Scott left the War Room with a disgruntled look with Logan and Jean followed close behind to make sure they didn’t restart the fight. But before she left, she cast one last worried gaze towards Hank and the Professor. She didn’t like this plan either. Going to visit Magneto when he was clearly plotting again walked a fine line between risky and fool-hardy. She understood his reasoning. She just had a very bad feeling about it.
Professor Xavier tried to cast a reassuring glance. He sensed her worry and he shared some of it. But he made his decision. He was visiting his old friend. Last time he failed to reach Magneto before the Genosha uprising. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
“Are you certain this is a good idea, Charles?” asked Hank with equal concern.
“As certain as one could hope,” sighed Xavier, “But Magneto came too close to succeeding last time. We must not give him a second chance. If that means taking a significant risk, so be it. We just have to make sure we’re ready to face him should the need arise.”
Outside – Picnic Table
Remy Lebeau was still going through a difficult adjustment period at the Xavier Institute. Going from master thief to student and X-man was quite a shift, one he wasn’t prepared for when he first joined. But he made a commitment to this place and he always honored his word. It had been slow going at first. He had to earn the trust of his fellow X-men and considering how he performed in the field so far, he was well on his way. But trust wasn’t his most difficult challenge. Even classes were easy to adapt around. It was the personal issues that were the real challenge.
“Okay Remy, what do you got?” asked Warren Worthington, who was sitting across from the Cajun at a picnic table.
“Pair of duces,” sighed the Cajun as he tossed his hand of cards on the table.
“Pair of eights,” said Warren as he did the same, “You’re not even trying anymore.”
“Sorry homme. Remy’s bluff just ain’t on today.”
“Not that I’m a sore winner, but I thought poker was your forte. You don’t let an amateur like me win this much without being really distracted or something.”
Remy fell silent and gathered up the cards. He and Warren were outside having lunch when Warren offered to play a little poker. The Cajun hoped a game or two would take his mind off his problems. It turns out that was a bit too much to ask for.
“It’s Rogue, isn’t it?” said the winged mutant.
Remy tensed bitterly as he started shuffling cards. He seriously had to work on his subtlety.
“Don’t be starting with another pep talk,” he said, “Remy’s heard it all from Stormy and the others.”
“I wasn’t going to give you a pep talk,” said Warren as he put down his sandwich, “I was just going to say I know how much it sucks, having people you care about pushing you away. Especially when it comes from a beautiful woman, it really takes you down.”
“How would you know?” scoffed Remy.
“I almost married one,” said Warren strongly, “You think you got the cold shoulder from Rogue, try getting it from the love of your life.”
Remy was silenced. He even fumbled some of the cards he was shuffling. He was inclined to believe the winged mutant was just leading him on. But that look on his face was unmistakable. It was the same look he saw in the mirror when Rogue pushed him away. It was the same look he saw when he lost Belladonna. It wasn’t something that could be faked and there was always a story behind it.
“I normally don’t share this with guys I don’t know too well, but I’ve seen how you’ve been slouching recently and it’s been bringing back some painful memories,” sighed Warren, “Just before I joined the institute, I was being homeschooled because my father felt my wings would cause too much of a scene for the other blue bloods who don’t take too kindly to those who are different.”
“Ain’t gotta convince Remy. I been around those people in the guilds,” said the Cajun.
“At least you could get away by wearing sunglasses. It was a lot harder hiding full grown wings. But among all those preppy snobs, there was one girl who reached out to me. Her name was Candy Southerner.”
“Southerner? That be sounding familiar.”
“It should,” said Warren in a low tone, “Southerner is prominent pharmaceutical company. As far as prestige goes in the billionaire circle, they’re right near the top. And Candy was the main heiress in line to take over. So when her family and my family found out we hooked up, they weren’t too disappointed. In their minds it was a good partnership, one they could them all more money in the long run.”
“But that wasn’t on your mind, non?” Remy surmised.
“Not for a second,” he said strongly, “I loved Candy. And she loved me. She got me through those rough years after my mother died and before Xavier took me in. You see how Bobby is now, always running off to be with Lorna and calling her constantly. Well I was just like that with Candy. The others will till you.”
“So it really be that serious?”
“Oh yes…very serious,” said Warren distantly, “We were together for over three years. It got to a point where she and I were already talking about marriage and stuff. But that’s when it all started going wrong.”
Warren needed a moment to gather himself for this next part. It was always hard for him to talk about. But he saw in Remy’s situation something very similar to what he faced. He should know he wasn’t the only one and couldn’t keep brooding like this. He had already been down that road and he knew better than anybody it was a dead end.
“First, I found out my father was already making deals with Candy’s parents. They pretty much went behind my back and started plotting on how to deal with me being a mutant. Apparently, that was an obstacle. No marriage or partnership could happen if one of us was a mutant. So they worked on a ‘cure’ for my condition.”
“A cure? How in the heck do they expect to cure mutation?” said Remy.
“Because to them it’s a disease!” spat Warren bitterly, “They didn’t want someone who stood out. They just wanted someone who would keep going with the flow, running the family business for the next generation. So they gave me an ultimatum. Lose the wings or lose Candy.”
“You girl or your power? Damn, that be a tough choice.”
“You have no idea. They didn’t understand. They were basically asking me to sacrifice a couple of limbs for them! I remember my father’s words clearly. He said ‘it’s better for everybody. I promise you’ll be happier without them.’ As if he would know!”
There was a strong anger in his voice when he mentioned his father. Remy knew that feeling well, having felt it many times with Jean-Luc. He sure didn’t help when it came to him and Belladonna. He and Warren’s father must have traded parenting tips.
“Fathers can be a bitch, non?” commented Remy.
“That’s being too kind,” muttered Warren, “But that wasn’t the worst part. I could deal with my father being a prick. I could even deal with him being ashamed of me for being a mutant. But what I couldn’t deal with is losing Candy because of him.”
“What happened? She couldn’t take the pressure from her folks?”
“It wasn’t just that. What hurt most was how she turned her back on me. I loved her so much I was willing to walk away from the Worthington name. But as it turns out, she didn’t love me enough to walk away from the Southerner name. She didn’t want to give up the comforts of being wealthy and having a future that was nicely laid out for her. I tried to reach out to her because I knew she loved me. But she pushed me away.”
Warren’s expression sank at the memory. He still felt a twinge of pain in his heart every time he thought about it. He had been so sure that Candy was the one for him. He was so sure she loved him on the same level. To find out her love had limits and she was willing to throw it all away hurt more than he could have imagined. It was even worse than having a father who tried to cut his wings off.
For Remy, the connection was clear. Warren really did understand. The love of his life pushed him away the same way Rogue pushed him away. In a way he was lucky. He just met Rogue and was only strongly attracted to her. Warren had been with this girl for years and really believed they were right for each other. To get rejected at that point, it had to hurt.
“So you see, I do have a pretty good idea what you’re going through,” Warren added, “With that in mind, take my advice. Try and move forward. The more you linger, the worse it’ll get. I’m not saying you should shut Rogue out completely. I know you like her, but do yourself a favor and keep her as a friend. You’ll save yourself a whole lot of heartache down the road.”
“You make it sound so dang easy, homme,” said Remy as he resumed shuffling his cards.
“I’m not saying it is. I’m just saying it’s a lot less painful. Rogue’s great, but let’s be real here. She can’t touch and she’s bitter about a million other things. The best you can do for her and yourself is to be a friend. That’s what she needs most right now.”
Remy thought about that for a moment. Warren didn’t give the most compassionate advice. He wasn’t like Storm, who always tried to reassure him before telling the truth. He looked at it from a strictly pragmatic perspective. He would only be making it harder for both of them if he stayed bitter. Avoiding her just because she rejected his advance was just hurting them both. They had to work with the situation they were stuck with. The best option without touch or intimacy was friendship.
“Remy will think about it,” said the Cajun, “But you really didn’t gotta make it so personal, homme.”
“Would you have taken me seriously if I hadn’t?” quipped Warren.
“Point taken, but I still don’t think me and Rogue is like the mess you had with that Candy girl.”
“Maybe it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.”
“It don’t mean you’re right either.”
“In situations like this, it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about dealing with the circumstances we’re dealt. This is what we’ve got. We can’t change it so the best we can do is adapt.”
Remy still wasn’t sure. But Warren had a point. He couldn’t do anything about Rogue’s powers and he couldn’t do anything about her rejecting him. He felt he really connected with Rogue back in New Orleans. It was something he wanted to explore, but perhaps the Sinister event was a sign. It just wasn’t in the cards for them. Maybe it was for the best if he just tried to put it behind him and worked on building a friendship. It may be easier on both of them in the long run.
“Dang it! When the heck did this get so hard?” shouted Rogue over the commotion of their latest Danger Room session.
“Ugh! We heard you the first time, Rogue!” groaned Kitty as she ran for her life, “Stop complaining and take that thing out already!”
“Ah’m trying! But Ah can’t get close!”
“Leave zhat to me, mien sister!” Kurt called out, “I’ll take care of it as soon as I finish up on my end!”
“Take care of it soon, Nightcralwer! Time is almost up!” Ororo announced, who was hovering above on a tornado of wind.
It had been a busy day so far for the X-men. After a round of early morning classes Kurt, Kitty, and Rogue took part in a Danger Room session organized by Ororo. Originally, Logan was supposed to lead. But he got caught up in a meeting with Scott, Jean, Hank, and Professor Xavier. At first they thought that was a good thing because Ororo was a lot less stringent than Logan, but she quickly showed them she was willing to be every bit as rough when it came to training.
The session for the day was one of the more advanced scenarios. It consisted of a fight on the flaming ruins of Genosha. Their enemies consisted of sentinels and randomly generated robots with the appearance of known mutant radical like the Brotherhood. The objective was twofold: destroy a set number of targets under a certain amount of time and looking after one another to make sure nobody got hurt. If one of them was taken out, the whole mission was a failure. It was pretty strict guidelines and the skill level of their enemies was much higher than usual.
Two of the sentinels were coordinating their attacks, concentrating their fire against Rogue as she flew through the air trying to land an attack. Ororo fought with her, but her only role was to provide cover in the form of rain, lightning, and fog. She wanted the rest of them to complete the tasks without her. Kurt and Kitty were left to deal with the Brotherhood, who were trying to divide and conquer so they couldn’t help their friend. Kurt was held up by a robot simulating Pyro while Kitty was struggling to deal with Toad and Pietro.
“Miss Munroe! We need more assistance!” said Kitty as she failed to phase through Pietro again because of his speed, “A quick tornado sure would help!”
“Remember the guidelines, Kitty. I am here only as cover. I want you four to handle this on your own.”
“But zhis vasn’t vhat zhe program vas set up for!” Kurt complained, “Bobby vas supposed to join us as vell!”
“I know. And I assure you I’ll see he makes up for this. But for now, you have to deal with these circumstances. Just like you may have to do in the field,” Ororo explained, “Not everything can go according to plan. You must know how to adapt. That is part of your objective.”
“Since when did you start playing rough on us, Miss Munroe?” asked Rogue as she narrowly avoided another blast from the sentinel.
“The more you keep talking, the more energy you waste,” said the African woman assertively.
“Ugh, that sounds like something Logan would say,” muttered Kurt.
“Maybe she spent too much time drinking with him in Germany,” groaned Kitty as she narrowly avoided another attack by Pietro.
That earned an amused look from the African woman. Not much had been said about her decision to go to Germany while Kurt visited Amanda. But when she returned, she looked a lot less tense than she was when she left. And there was a good reason for that. Following Logan through Germany, enjoying some drinks, and seeing the sights was just what she needed to clear her head. She never understood why Logan would go out from time to time and just drown himself in alcohol. After enduring such a difficult breakup with Hank, she understood and couldn’t help by try some of his other tendencies.
The battle was really heating up. Pietro now had Kitty surrounded, using his super speed to literally run circles around her and kick up a powerful whirlwind. It stunted her concentration, making it difficult for her to fight back. Toad’s slime attacks weren’t helping either and she already had enough gunk on her uniform to warrant getting a new one. Kurt wasn’t faring much better with Pyro either. He was trying to get away so he could help Rogue, but his efforts were continually thwarted by walls of fire.
Their strategy wasn’t working. Usually Bobby’s presence would have tipped the balance by taking on Pyro. But that wasn’t the case. He skipped out on the session again and Miss Munroe wasn’t cutting them any slack. It was up to them to figure out a new way.
“Zhis isn’t vorking!” grunted Kurt as he narrowly avoided being seriously burned, “Shadowcat, how about ve switch dance partners, ja?”
“Sounds great! I think I’ve had all I can stand from these two!” she groaned as she narrowly avoided being hit in the face by a slime ball from Toad.
Kurt and Kitty quickly switched it up. Kurt teleported away from Pyro and appeared right in front of Kitty, who was still standing in the middle of Pietro’s whirlwind. He took another slime ball from Kurt, trying not to gag as he absorbed it with his arms while Kitty braved the strong winds and phased out of the tight confines. She narrowly missed Pietro, but didn’t press her luck and attack again. Her focus was now on Pyro while Kurt focused on Toad and Pietro.
Pyro didn’t miss a beat. As soon as he saw Kitty coming, he ignited a new round of red hot fireballs and sent them flying towards her. Kitty guarded her face and bravely phased through them, feeling the heat but not avoiding the burns. It was like being thrown into an oven briefly, but she pushed through the heat until she came face-to-face with the grinning pyromaniac. Since these were robots, they didn’t have the charming personality of the real Brotherhood. They just had their annoying laughter.
“Ahahahahaha! Burn, X-men! Burn!” proclaimed the Pyro robot.
“Ah shut up!” yelled Kitty as she ran right through him.
As soon as she passed through the robot, sparks flew and within three seconds it shorted out. Pyro’s flamethrowers were blown out and the area around him erupted in a hot ball of flame that consumed him and burned the figure to a crisp. When the flames died down, all that was left was a charred skeleton of metal.
Needing a moment to catch her breath, Kitty stopped for a second to wipe the sweat off her forehead. She then turned to Kurt, who was preparing his attack for Pietro and Toad.
With Pietro closing in on him, Kurt kept his eye on Toad as he leapt about across piles of debris while spitting globs of toxic slime at him. It wasn’t the same as the real Toad’s slime, but just as disgusting. He had a plan to take them both down. It just required picture perfect timing. He stared down Toad while trying to keep his footing from the swarming Pietro.
“Is zhis zhe best you can do, Toad? Just because you are part amphibian doesn’t mean you have to be as foolish as one.”
Even though it was a robot replica, Toad still responded. With a sickening snort, he formed the biggest slime ball yet. Then with another disgusting snarl, he spat the oversized glob right towards Kurt. It was just the move he was hoping for.
Before it hit, Kurt teleported out of the way and the ball impacted just behind him. In doing so, Pietro stepped right on it and slipped. Because he was running at such high speeds, he tumbled wildly across the debris ridden area and crashed into the remains of a collapsed building. The force was so strong it shattered the robotic components, causing the holographic image to fade while the robot frame sparked and shorted out.
With Pietro defeated, that left only Toad. It didn’t have much of a reaction, but it seemed to know it made a mistake. This left it momentarily stunned. It wasn’t for long, but it was just long enough for Kurt to teleport behind him and deliver a punishing drop kick.
“Batter up, Kitty!” Kurt called out.
“I got him, Kurt!” said Kitty as she ran towards him.
As he sent Toad flying, Kitty jumped up towards the flying mutant and phased right through him. Just as it did with Pyro it shorted out the robotic components causing the image of Toad to fade and the figure to collapse in a heap of metal. With the Brotherhood officially taken care of that just left one objective, help Rogue take down the sentinels.
Rogue had been struggling the whole time, unable to get close enough to deliver the final blow. She spent most of her time trying to dodge the sentinels eye lasers. The only thing keeping them from landing a devastating hit on her was Storm’s fog shroud. A little lightning would have helped, but the African mutant remained adamant. She had to take these two sentinels down on her own. It was a tall order, but she didn’t mind. At the very least, it would give her a way to vent her ongoing frustrations.
“Ouch! Damn lasers!” cursed Rogue as one grazed her shoulder, singing her uniform, “You bucket of bolts owe meh a new uniform!”
She flew in at a sharp angle, going at high enough speeds to avoid the lasers. She managed to strike one right in the chest, knocking it back against a crumbled building. But before she could move in for the finishing blow, the second one swiped at her with a powerful right cross. She was able to block it, but then it hit her again and sent her flying. Growing increasingly frustrated, Kurt and Kitty finally joined in.
“Hold on, Rogue! Ve vill level zhe playing field!” said Kurt.
“Just give meh a few more passes and I’ll beat these things to a pulp with mah bear hands!” said Rogue with burning determination.
“Then allow us to make it a little easier!” said Kitty as she turned to her teammate, “Kurt, if you please?”
Taking her hand, Kurt teleported Kitty up to the sentinel that was still recovering from Rogue’s earlier blow. They appeared right behind its head and away from its lasers. It detected them quickly and reached to crush them with its hand. That’s when Kitty phased right through it, plunging down from the neck all throughout the body of the giant robot humanoid and casually walking out through the left foot. As she did, the eyes of the sentinel flashed and every joint sparked. It was officially stunned and helpless, leaving it open for Rogue to finish off.
Still flying high above them, Rogue gracefully pulled off an elegant flip in mid air and came plunging back down towards the stunned sentinel. This time with no eye lasers to hold her back, she came full speed and head on. Driven by frustration and anger, some of which was more personal than mission related, she made two solid fists and delivered a devastating haymaker to the head of the sentinel. She hit it so hard she literally knocked it off its shoulders, ensuring it would not be able to fight back.
“That never gets old,” she grinned, “That’s the best dang therapy a gal could ask for! Beatin’ a sentinel into scrap!”
But while she was taking in the satisfaction of defeating the sentinel, she nearly forgot that there was another one looming just over her. It took aim at her while she was hovering in mid air with its eye lasers.
“Rogue, look out!” Kurt exclaimed.
The situation quickly caught up with Rogue and she turned around to defend herself. Then out of nowhere, a large bolt of lightning came shooting down from above and struck the sentinel right in the head. It was so powerful it nearly caused the limbs to blow right off. The eyes of the robot humanoid shattered and it crumbled to the ground, leaving Rogue, Kurt, and Kitty to let out a sigh of relief.
From above, the source of the lightning descended towards them. It was Storm, her eyes still glowing white with winds swirling around her. She looked just as satisfied as Rogue after having destroyed a sentinel, but she was more subtle about it. Now that the last sentinel was destroyed, the session was officially over. But it wasn’t without concern.
“Miss Munroe? I thought you were just covering us?” said Kitty breathlessly.
“Time was almost up. It would be a shame if we had to run this scenario again,” said African mutant, “Besides, I couldn’t let you have all the fun.”
“Yet another thing I vould expect from Logan,” snickered Kurt, “No offence Miss Munroe, but you seem to have spent a bit too much time vith him in Germany. His hardnosed approached to training seems to have rubbed off on you.”
“Yeah, you ain’t getting fresh with him now are you?” teased Rogue.
“Of course not,” said Ororo with a serous tone, but still smiling, “But you’re not the only one who needs to blow off steam, Rogue. In addition to honing our skills, we all need to take time to vent our frustrations. With the prospect of another confrontation against Magneto’s forces, we can’t afford to be in the wrong mindset.”
“If the right mindset is being drop-dead exhausted, mission accomplished,” said Kitty.
Ororo shook her head as she powered down the simulation. Kurt may have had a point. Hanging around Logan in Germany may have allowed her to pick up some of his tendencies. Given the conflicted state she had been in since her breakup with Hank, it was only logical. She just had to remind herself there were limits to how much of those traits she could take on. The students could barely handle one Logan as a combat instructor. Two would really be pushing it.
While Kurt and Kitty caught their breath, Rogue rubbed her sore shoulder and sighed. Now that the fighting was over she could get back to the bitter mood she had been in since the incident with Remy. She thought she was doing better in terms of dealing with her new powers situation. Those morning flights Warren showed her sure helped. But that incident with Remy still hung strongly in her mind. It was making this challenge all the more difficult to overcome.
“Feel better, mien sister?” asked Kurt with a friendly gesture, “You certainly seem to have a better handle on your powers.”
“Guess that’s one issue Ah’m improving on,” she said distantly.
“Yet you still seem so conflicted about something. Should ve summon another sentinel for you to beat up?”
“That’s sweet of ya, Kurt. But Ah’m good. Ah just need to pull mahself together.”
Kurt didn’t seem convinced. He could read Rogue better than most people. That was the benefit of being her brother. He also had a pretty good idea of what her troubles entailed.
“You’ve been avoiding Remy haven’t you?” he said.
“Ain’t you happy about that?” muttered Rogue, “You made it pretty dang clear how much you hated him when he first showed up.”
“I didn’t hate him. I just didn’t like how he vas coming onto you. But since zhat isn’t an issue anymore, I’m still worried. You’ve been doing much better lately dealing vith your powers, Rogue. Yet you’re still so unhappy. I may be overbearing at times, but I hate seeing you like zhis. If zhere is anything you can do to make it better, I say go vith it.”
“Yeah, and it would do Remy some good as well,” said Kitty, still catching her breath, “Don’t be like Mr. McCoy and Miss Munroe and keep putting it off. We have enough overblown drama on the team as it is.”
Rogue was still distant, but she found herself laughing somewhat at Kurt and Kitty’s comments. Kitty had a point. There was a lot of drama going throughout the team already. She was just adding to it by dragging out this mess with Remy. She had been avoiding him since she pushed him away. It was just so awkward being near someone who almost made a move on her. She had it bad enough adjusting to her new powers. She would do the both of them a big favor by sucking it up and working this out.
“Ah’ll do mah best,” she sighed, “But no promises. Remy can be a stubborn fella.”
“Takes one to know one,” snickered Kurt.
”Hey! Why you…” Rogue began.
But Kurt cut her off.
“Oops, look at zhe time,” he said, “I just remember I vas supposed to give Bobby a late slip for missing zhe Danger Room session. Ve’ll catch up later, Rogue! Good luck!”
Before Rogue could yell at him for his comments he teleported away, leaving her annoyed and bemused. Kurt was a sweet brother most of the time, but he knew how to push her buttons. Brothers were like that. Even with super strength, flight, and invulnerability she wasn’t immune to the overwhelming power of sibling obnoxiousness.
“Ah family,” joked Kitty, who was trying not to laugh too hard.
“Shut up, Kitty.”
Rogue stormed off to change out of her uniform and Kitty followed close behind. She would catch up with Kurt later and hopefully find a way to get back at him. In the meantime, she had to consider what she was going to say to Remy. He deserved some closure on this issue. They both did.
While the two younger X-women walked off, Ororo found herself lingering a bit. She had been off powering down the Danger Room on the control panel while they were talking. But she did overhear their conversation. The comment Kitty made about her and Hank especially stuck out. It wasn’t the first time someone called them out on it. It probably wouldn’t be the last if the aftermath of their breakup persisted. Like Rogue, she had been putting off confronting Hank for a while now. Part of the whole purpose of tagging along with Logan in Germany was to give her time to think. She still didn’t feel she was ready, but she the longer she waited the harder she was making it for both of them.
Sighing to herself, Ororo made herself a new promise. As soon as Hank got back with the Professor from Guantanamo Bay, she would talk to him. It would be best if they got it out of the way sooner rather than later. With Magneto’s forces plotting again, there was no telling how many more chances they would get.
“Come on! Come on! Pick up, Lorna! Where are you?”
Bobby groaned in frustration for what felt like the tenth time as he paced restlessly in his room, holding his cell phone close to his hear. Again and again, he kept calling and texting Lorna. But he got no response. It gave him that same nervous feeling he had just before the Genosha uprising when Magneto roped her into helping him. Only this time, the feeling was worse.
It had been building ever since she attended Magneto’s trial with him. She tired not to show it, but Bobby could tell his speech affected her. Even though she still called him a tyrannical madman, a part of her was resonating with him. He wasn’t sure why it was happening now of all times. Hank once suggested people are biologically programmed to connect with parents, no matter how much they one may despise them. He was no expert in biology, but it made as much sense as anything at this point. But that’s not what worried him most.
Just like with Genosha, Lorna distanced herself from him when Magneto prepared to make his move. He didn’t reach her until the ordeal was over and while it did bring them closer in a ways, it was very stressful. He loved Lorna and he knew she loved him back. The issue of her family just kept coming between them. Whether it was her homicidal father or her dying mother, it was something he tried to help her through but could never understand. It almost tore them apart last time. He wasn’t going to let it happen again.
Sitting down on his bed, Bobby cursed under his breath as he turned off his phone and stared at it. He found himself trying to will a response from Lorna. Any moment now he felt she would call or text. But with every moment that passed, it was becoming increasingly difficult.
“Please Lorna…let’s not go through this again,” he lamented.
As he stared at his phone, there was a distinct ‘bamf’ noise outside his door. Then there was a knock and Kurt entered, still in his uniform and carrying a red slip of paper.
“So zhis is vhere you’ve been hiding, mien friend,” said Kurt, “Have you been here all day?”
“Congratulations Kurt, you win the grand prize,” said Bobby dryly, “Let me guess, Logan is pissed I missed the Danger Room again.”
“You’re lucky. He vas busy vith a meeting in zhe War Room. Miss Munroe took over, but she hasn’t been in a forgiving mood lately. You’ll need to make it up tonight.”
“Yippie,” he groaned, “That’s on top of the classes I have to make up. The rate I’m going I’ll be caught up when the universe ends.”
“You know, I vould be tempted to criticize zhat attitude, but seeing as how Rogue, Remy, Mr. McCoy, Miss Munroe have been zhe same I might as vell save myself zhe trouble.”
“It’s like a disease, isn’t it? When Magneto starts making trouble, it hits hard on the relationship front. These are the symptoms and they won’t get better until we put that maniac in his place!”
Kurt rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. It was times like this he was glad he had a fairly stable relationship with Amanda. He never had to deal with these relationship dramas that seemed to persist throughout the team. Bobby probably had it the worst. He was the one dating Magneto’s daughter. He clearly cared about her, but he had a lot of forces working against him.
“Not to be insensitive to your situation, Bobby, but if zhis is zhe second time you’re having zhis issue vith Lorna, zhat may be a sign.”
“A sign of what? How much an asshole father Magneto is?”
“Zhat goes vithout saying, but I vas referring to Lorna. Relationships are supposed to cause stress. I vould know. I’ve had my share vith Amanda recently. And stress can be a good zhing. It can bring people closer. But zhere is a fine line between stress and distress. Distress is never good. And if a relationship is causing more distress than stress, zhen it may be worth contemplating whether or not it’s vorth it.”
“That’s not an issue. Lorna’s worth it. I know she is!” said Bobby strongly.
“I believe you. Question is does Lorna share zhat sentiment?” Kurt questioned.
Bobby was inclined to say yes with total certainty. Then he looked back at his phone, which still wasn’t ringing. It was a clear indication where he and Lorna stood. He was driving himself crazy worrying over her and she was cutting him off, dealing with her own issues. It led him to wonder if she was putting the same effort into this relationship as he was.
It was a difficult thought to consider, having a girlfriend who was no longer relating to him as she once had. The first challenge they faced with the uprising was difficult enough, but this felt different. It felt more serious. He couldn’t help but wonder if they could get through another incident like that. If Lorna kept doing this to him, how much of this angst could he take?
“It’s official. Women were put on this planet solely to drive men like me crazy,” he said as he tossed his phone aside.
“I agree. Zhey are a challenge,” laughed Kurt, “But zhey’re worth zhe effort. I hope you can vork zhings out vith Lorna, but in zhe meantime it may help to take your mind off zhis sort of thing.”
“You’re not going to suggest I follow Logan’s mantra of destroying the Danger Room and whatever else just happens to be breakable, are you?”
“Zhat only works for some people. In my experience, zhe best remedy involves ice cream, cookies, and bacon.”
Bobby’s angst-ridden demeanor shifted and he even managed a smile. Compared to the advice he usually got, Kurt’s was by far the most preferable. Perhaps it would help if he drowned his worries in a thick helping of ice cream for a while.
“Sounds like my kind of prescription,” said Bobby, “So long as you don’t recommend one of those weird sandwiches of yours.”
“Vhat is it about people in zhis country zhat get so disgusted by mayonnaise, baloney, and mustard?” wondered Kurt.
“Guess we can’t all share your unusual tastes,” muttered Bobby as he put his phone in his pocket and followed Kurt out of his room, “I already get sick to my stomach every time I contemplate what Magneto and his goons may be up to. If I’m going to drown my concerns in food, I at least need my appetite.”
“At zhe rate Magneto is going, ve all vill.”
Genosha – Capital Building
Wanda Maximoff had been keeping to herself a lot lately. Ever since the incident at her father’s trial, she grew increasingly conflicted. She felt betrayed by Professor Charles Xavier. She sacrificed a lot to go along with his agenda in wake of the Genosha uprising. She alienated her brother, her fellow mutants, and even herself in a ways. She was working with humans instead of against them, something her father always scolded. Admittedly, there were some benefits to doing so. By working with humans they were making more progress towards making Genosha a legitimate haven for mutants. It was something she still wanted, but now she wasn’t so sure.
She watched with the rest of the world as her father was crucified before the human world. They were really out to execute him as if he were a monster who had no purpose behind his endeavors. Nobody tried to understand. Nobody tried to be reasonable. Her father was just a scapegoat in a growing anti-mutant agenda, which stirred in her more resentment with each passing day. Professor Xavier said it wasn’t going to be like this. He said he could stem the anti-mutant tide. He was breaking his promise, leading her to consider possibly taking a new approach with Genosha.
Sitting in the top level of the main Genosha capital building, she looked out over the scattered cityscape that was still largely controlled by international peacekeepers. She couldn’t be sure, but she swore there were more of them than there were a few months ago. The more mutant relations deteriorated the more force the authorities showed. It wasn’t going over well with the mutants. She could even see a few heckling a convoy of soldiers as they passed by. If these trends continued, that heckling could quickly turn into something more turbulent.
‘This isn’t how it was supposed to be. Genosha was to be a sanctuary, a place that mutants could call home. Not some playground for soldiers to pose for cameras and harass mutants. I know Professor Xavier urges patience, but he and his X-men are wearing on my nerves. It’s not enough they’re failing at my father’s trail. They can’t even get these damn troops to leave us alone!’
Wanda’s vision narrowed as she watched a couple of troop transports block off a road and pin down a mutant who had been making a scene. It was Rusty again and he was threatening to shoot the transports. A couple of others rallied to support him, but the soldiers got to him first. Before he could use his powers, he was knocked out by the butt of a gun. Such a sight made Wanda cringe with outrage.
‘Maybe I was wrong to trust the X-men. Professor Xavier is a brilliant man, but father was right. He places too much faith in humanity. They’re never going to accept us. We try to set up a country where we can live apart in peace and they still harass us! When will it end?’
Wanda hugged her shoulders and turned away from the sight, still at a loss for herself and her fellow mutants. She was abruptly broken from her thoughts when the door to the office burst open and Pietro rushed in.
“You’re still here?” he scoffed, “You know Wanda, part of being a leader means actually leading sometimes.”
“Don’t start, Pietro. I’m not in the mood,” said Wanda bitterly.
“When are you ever? Seriously, sis, it’s getting bad down there. Ever since the trial the mutants have been restless. The Brotherhood is doing their best, but we’re seriously stretched thin here.”
“I’ll take care of it!” said Wanda sternly, “Times are hard right now. The governments that are supposed to be helping us are just making things worse. And Xavier sure isn’t keeping his end.”
“Yet you still give him the benefit of the doubt,” said the speedster dryly, “Face it, sis, the man made a promise he couldn’t keep. And if you keep giving him leeway, it’s going to be the end of us.”
“I won’t let it get that far! With or without Xavier, I’m going to make things on Genosha right. I just…”
Wanda found herself turning away from her brother. She felt so lost she couldn’t even face him. It was so overwhelming. Nothing was going right anymore. She was starting to lose hope.
But to her surprise, Pietro moved in closer to her and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. At first she thought it was a hallow gesture, but when she felt his eyes on him she sensed genuine concern. It wasn’t something she would expect from her brother, but it was unmistakable.
“Wanda, you’re my sister and we’re pretty much obligated to love each other. But don’t yell at me when I say you’re just bullshitting yourself. You are not a leader. This isn’t something you can do on your own.”
“I know I’m not a leader! That’s one trait that father didn’t seem to impart on me. But what choice do I have? Every mutant in Genosha is counting on me!”
Pietro turned her around so she could face him. He then smiled ominously in a way that didn’t sit well with Wanda.
“Funny you should say that because that’s exactly what I came here to discuss. We have to face facts. Everyone other mutant on this island is in agreement. Charles Xavier has failed us. He can’t set us free. The only way we’re going to make Genosha a mutant sanctuary is if we take charge!”
“I would say you’re scaring me with your undertone, Pietro. But at this point I’m open to suggestion,” said Wanda suspiciously.
“Then today’s your lucky day! Because as it just so happens, I’ve been working on a little side-project that may help.”
“You mean you’ve been plotting behind my back?!” exclaimed Wanda.
“Take it easy! Just hear me out,” said Pietro innocently, “It’s slightly more complicated than that.”
“Then uncomplicate it for me so I can decide whether or not to hex you to the other end of this island!”
“Oh that won’t be necessary, I promise you,” he boasted, “As it turns out, father’s even more resourceful than Xavier could imagine. Just before the uprising, he put into place a little backup plan should his efforts fail.”
“Backup plan? What kind of backup plan?” asked Wanda curiously.
Pietro’s grin widened as he slyly slipped his arm around his sister’s shoulder and started walking with her. It was time she be brought into the mix. She may not like some of the details, but given the current state of affairs he was certain she would go along with it.
“It goes like this…”
“Everybody stand back! She’s almost ready for her maiden voyage!” Forge called out.
“You better be right this time, Forge. We’re not in the mood for another false alarm,” said Exodus as he and Mystique cleared the area.
“Oh this time we’re in for a treat! I promise you!” boasted the Native American mutant.
The central area of the Brotherhood lair was a mess, full of tools and various clutter that had been strewn about by Forge as he worked. The ambitious advice Forge had been tasked to build was nearly complete. The structure actually looked stable now. The ground plate had been cleared, leaving only a nicely polished black metal surface. The four columns now had rings lining it, creating a more circular and symmetrical shape. The antenna sticking out at the top looked more aligned as well and didn’t have so many wires sticking out of it. Despite being a pain to work with at times, Forge kept his promise. He delivered the machine they needed.
Mystique and Exodus took a step back, watching as Forge scrambled about making the last adjustments. Mystique was confident this plan would succeed where the Genosha uprising failed. Once this machine was working at full power, nothing would stand in their way. Humanity would come face-to-face with their fate. But more importantly, she would finally have a world where she and her kids wouldn’t have to fight anymore. At last, they could be a family.
For Exodus, however, the stakes were different. He wasn’t just out to strike back against humanity. He had a more personal, if not selfish, reason for wanting this to succeed. His choice to intervene and stand for Magneto was not just about sharing views on the state of mutants. It also related to a matter that could potentially affect all mutants.
“So if this plan succeeds, are you certain Magneto will agree to help me?” asked Exodus.
“If it succeeds? Please, Exodus, you should know by now that Magneto leaves nothing to chance,” scoffed Mystique, “And don’t worry. Whatever this ‘serious issue’ of yours entails, he’ll assist so long as he deems it important.”
“It IS important,” said Exodus strongly, “More important than I can possibly describe.”
“You’ll need to be more specific if you’re to get Magneto’s attention. Why are you so certain he can help you anyways?”
“I’m not. But I’m a broken man with too many conflicting memories to make sense of. What I know will affect mutants more than this endeavor ever will. Only someone like Magneto could possibly understand it.”
“We’ll see about that,” said Mystique skeptically.
Exodus’s expression hardened. Mystique still wasn’t sure what to make of this mysterious man. As powerful as he was, he had to be the worst wreck of a man she had come across since Wolverine. He seemed to suffer from delusions of grandeur, believing he held the key to mutant salvation. She was inclined to believe he was mad, possibly even schizophrenic. If Magneto was to hear him out, hopefully he would come to the same conclusion and put him out of his misery. In the meantime he was a useful ally.
After a few more tweaks, Forge closed up all the wiring panels and stepped back. Tossing aside his welding goggles, he ran up and down the control consoles lining the walls. One by one, he flipped the switches to begin the power-up sequence. Lights all around the machine came on as it gave off a distinct humming noise. The rings around the device started spinning and a light at the tip of the antenna came on.
Once powered up, Forge ran over to the four cold fusion engines he built from the diesel engines Mystique and Exodus smuggled in earlier. He linked all four of them up with heavy duty superconductor wires. He modified them so that they could pack enough energy to power a continent. These were the devices that would give the device the bulk of the power it needed to do its job. Even with these levels of power, they would only get one shot.
“Hold onto your butts!” said Forge, brimming with excitement, “As soon as these puppies charge up, we’re ready to fire!”
“Is the targeting system locked on?” asked Mystique as she checked her watch, “We’ll only have a few minutes window.”
“Locked and in our sights!” affirmed Forge, “Trust me, a few minutes is all we need!”
Forge adjusted the dials on the fusion generators. He also monitored the status of the machine with a remote control he had built into his watch. Several status bars indicated the readiness of the machine. They were still loading while the generators powered up. As the energy grew, the fusion cells started glowing bright blue. The humming grew louder, indicating more energy being concentrated into the device.
As energy flowed into the machine, the rings started glowing in a bright aura of yellowish energy. The base plate started glowing as well, becoming inundated in a hazy greenish halo. The metal tools throughout the area started coming to life, being flung around and about wildly. It indicated the presence of a very powerful magnetic field. Mystique and Exodus were forced to step back further, but Forge ignored the danger and kept monitoring the generators.
“Thirty seconds and we’ll be at full power!” he announced.
“Is it supposed to be this loud?” asked Exodus over the commotion.
“I don’t know! I’ve never built something like this before! But in my experience, noise is a good sign something big is about to go down!”
After adjusting the last few dials, the fusion engines erupted in a burst of bright blue light. It was so bright it nearly knocked Forge off his feet. But he quickly recovered and ran to join Mystique and Exodus behind a barrier of rocks.
By now, the machine was glowing brightly. The rings were spinning at an increasingly fast pace. It got to the point where they were just glowing blurs surrounding the machine. The greenish halo at the bottom plate kept getting brighter as well, pulsing ominously as the energy built up. As the pulse brightened, the tip of the antenna started glowing a similar color. There was so much energy it caused the whole lair to shake. Rocks and equipment were knocked over and entire walls started to collapse.
The window drew closer. Mystique, Exodus, and Forge watched with anticipation as the energy kept growing. It got so intense it caused the top part of the lair to blow open. Rock and metal support beams shattered and were literally shot out through the roof of the lair like a volcano. Now with a gaping hole in the ceiling, they could see the cloudy skies above them. The device now had a clean shot at it’s target.
“It’s charged!” said Forge, “Prepare to fire in 5…4…3…2…1…”
The three mutants were forced to take cover and shield their eyes as the device erupted in a blinding flash of greenish-yellow light. When they opened their eyes and looked up, they saw a concentrated beam of energy shoot out into the sky. It was so powerful it literally thrust away the clouds in it’s way creating a perfect circle in the overcast. The machine let out a low-pitched pounding noise as it fired, causing the structure to shake even more as it unleashed its massive buildup of energy.
Then within the span of two seconds, the glowing faded and the pulse stopped. All four fusion generators sparked and were utterly burnt out. One even caught fire. The structure was still shaking even after the device fell dormant. When all was said and done, the lair was still a mess. But the machine was intact.
There was a heavy silence among them at first. Forge was still gazing in awe at what his creation just did. Mystique and Exodus were quicker to recover.
“Did it work?” asked Exodus.
Forge ran out over the debris and brought up an image on the console. After some quick typing, he got the final status report. What he saw brought a smile to his face.
“It worked,” he grinned, “My machine worked!”
“Congratulations, my urge to beat you to a pulp for your attitude just subsided,” said Mystique, “The first step in Magneto’s plan is officially complete.”
“Hopefully it’s all downhill from here,” said Forge as he proudly gazed at his machine.
“Oh it will be,” assured Mystique, “Soon, Magneto will grace us with his presence once more. He’ll announce to the world that humanity is doomed. And there’s nothing they can do to stop it.”
Through the halls of the White House, a frantic aide in a military uniform sprinted through the halls with a stack of papers in hand. His expression was grim and his face was drenched with sweat. But it wasn’t the sweat of exhaustion or heat. It was one of pure terror. What he just found out would horrify even the most hardened of men. He had to get the information to the president.
The President was in a closed meeting in the oval office, discussing various highly classified matters. The aide didn’t bother checking with the secretary or getting clearance from the secret service. He barged right in at full force, desperate to get this information into the hands of the only man with the power to stop it.
“Mr. President! Sir, something’s come up!” he exclaimed.
The President and his chiefs nearly fell out of their seats when the saw the aide come scrambling in. Two secret service personnel came rushing in, fearful it may be some kind of attack. But the President recognized the aide and quickly waved them off.
“Damn it, son! Can’t you see I’m in the middle of an important meeting?” said the commander-in-chief in an annoyed tone.
“This is more important, I promise! You have to see this!” said the aide as he took out a large sheet of folded up paper and laid it out right on the president’s desk, “I just got off the phone with NASA and NORAD. Just ten minutes ago, they detected a huge energy burst shoot out from some island off the coast! The power levels practically shorted out the computers it was so big! At first we thought it was some sort of weapon’s demonstration! Then the NASA observatories tracked it and discovered something!”
The aide then laid out another sheet of paper. This one was a large, high-resolution image from a space telescope. It depicted a large, black, rocky structure. The President hadn’t seen anything like it. The aide, who was still catching his breath, already knew what it was and what it meant for them.
“What the hell is this?” asked the President.
“An asteroid, sir,” said the aide grimly, “A huge, six-mile-wide, hunk of iron rock. Whatever that beam of energy was, this was the target! We’re not sure how, but whatever that blast was it caused that giant rock to change course! Now it’s heading straight towards us at speeds we’ve never seen before!”
The President and the Join Chiefs froze at such news. It was a moment right out of a horror movie. They just got word that the world was going to end. It was a revelation no man or leader ever wanted to get. But here it was, staring right at them.
The President needed a moment to process this. His first thoughts were for his family. He then contemplated what he was going to say to the American people. This country turned to their government to protect them. The whole world often turned to their government to protect them. But something like this, an asteroid coming at them capable of inflicting mass destruction on all of them, was not something they were equipped to deal with.
“How…how long?” asked the President.
“The asteroid was already set to pass a few million miles or so away in three days. But with the huge tug it just got, it’ll hit us in two weeks!”
“Two weeks? How in the hell is that possible?!” exclaimed one of the joint chiefs.
“We don’t know, sir!” said the aide desperately, “But we’re confident it wasn’t natural! Something or someone drove this asteroid towards us! And given it’s speed, composition, and size we’re looking at mass extinction if not total!”
“Total extinction?” said the President, still reeling with shock, “But…what or who could so such a thing?”
Before the aide could answer the phone on his desk abruptly rung. The men present were shocked again because the phone that rang was the special emergency phone, linked only to the most secure lines of communication. It was the line the President would use if he needed to launch a nuclear weapon. Whenever it rang, it was vital to answer.
“Maybe it’s NORAD,” said one of the Joint Chiefs.
“It damn well better be!” said the President.
With shaky hands, the President picked up the phone he hoped he would never have to pick up and answered.
“I’m here,” was all he said, assuming the people on the other line would know who they were calling.
The aide and the Joint Chiefs watched anxiously as the President held the phone to his ear. Then to their surprise, his look of horror turned to shock. Whatever he heard on the other end, it was just as bad as hearing the world was about to end.
“Who is it sir?” asked the aide nervously.
“It’s…it’s Magneto,” said the President grimly, “He’s giving me an ultimatum.”
Next Issue: Overlord Part 2
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