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Volume 3 -- Issue 49 -- The Good, The Bad, The Sinister Part 3

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The Good, The Bad, The Sinister Part 3
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As mutants, the next step in human evolution, Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. But it’s not just the world they have to worry about anymore. There are other worlds out there that have the potential to affect their struggle in profound ways. Without even knowing it, they already have.

On a mission to Genosha to investigate the island’s mysterious past, the X-men discovered an alien ship that crash landed a 1,000 years ago on Earth. That ship, it turns out, was the first in a string of visits from an alien race known as the Shi’ar. Their agenda is unclear, but their interest in planet Earth is apparent. They have already affected the course of human history, sharing their technology with humans who in turn use them for good and for evil purposes. One of those humans was Dr. Nathanial Essex, better known as Sinister.

Having already abducted the X-men once, Sinister struck again. This time he captured Logan, later revealing that the technology he gained from the Shi’ar helped him work on the infamous Weapon X project. Through that project, Sinister took his work on unlocking the mysteries of mutation to a new level. Using Logan’s own blood, he demonstrated his prowess when he revived a mysterious yet powerful mutant who called himself Vulcan.

Now at Sinister’s mercy, Logan must rely on his fellow X-men to come to his aid. Thanks to a slip-up from Jean Grey’s wayward cousin, Madelyne Pryor, they’re hot on his trail.


X-jet – Over Cascade Mountains

Hank and the Professor worked fast to track down Sinister. Or more accurately, they worked fast to track down Madelyne. Within a few hours they picked up the signal from the beacon that Jean discretely put on Madelyne. As soon as they had their general location, the X-men gathered and took off on the jet.

The signal was traced to the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. To the west it was dreary and rainy for as far as they could see. In the mountains it was snowing steadily, providing Sinister with excellent cover for his operations. They had just passed over the snowy peaks of several mountains and were nearing that certain elevation where the snow and rain mixed, making conditions extra hazardous. But somewhere in these conditions Sinister was plotting and Logan was at his mercy.

For this operation, much of the team was assembled. Scott and Hank were in the cockpit with Scott flying the plane and Hank tracking the signal. Ororo was sitting right behind them, using her powers to clear the area in front of them so they could see better. Jean, Bobby, Kurt, Kitty, Rogue, and Remy were all sitting in the passenger section. The only one not present was Warren, who was not participating for personal reasons.

“I can’t believe Warren’s missing out on a critical mission,” mused Bobby as he gazed out the window, “You usually have to paralyze the guy to keep him out of the action.”

“Vith a hangover like his, I vould say zhis vould qualify,” said Kurt.

“Well when you go out drinking and partying it’s bound to happen. Too bad we all can’t have Logan’s healing factor,” said Kitty, “Him being out of this might be good for him. It should be a wakeup call that he needs a better way of getting over Candy.”

“I hope he finds it soon. The X-men don’t need a drunk angel as a mascot,” said Bobby.

“I’m sure he’ll come out of it,” said Kurt, “Zhe Professor said he vould talk to him vhen zhis vas over. I hope he gets zhrough to him.”

“We all do,” said Kitty.

It was a strange feeling being on a mission without Warren. He was one of the X-men’s veterans. He had a lot of experience with the team going back to the early days. Given the strained relationship he had with his father that they all knew so well by now, the X-men was his life. The heart-wrenching affair with Candy only added to that strain. It was just one more personal issue that the team had to work through.

But Warren’s personal issues weren’t the only dramas on everybody’s mind. For much of the flight, Jean Grey had been quiet and distant. While she was plenty worried for Logan like the rest of the team, she was also deeply affected by the encounter with her cousin, Madelyne Pryor. Few on the team knew the story behind them. Jean always had been pretty private with her family issues, even to those closest to her. But this was an issue she could no longer hide.

As she sat near a window, staring distantly with an embittered gaze, Remy couldn’t help but push further.

“So you gonna tell us the full story or what?” he asked Jean, “I think we all been pretty polite up to this here point.”

“If you’re referring to Madelyne, I’d rather not get into it. I’d be more comfortable diving out of this plane head first into a jagged cliff,” said Jean stoically.

“Then by all means, save us the trouble,” said Rogue snidely, “Remy’s right. That cousin of yours was quite the pest. And if we’re gonna face her again, Ah think we all have a right to know what we’re facing!”

Jean shot Rogue a dirty look. It was expected that she would come to Remy’s defense. That’s how those two were. She was inclined to just tell them off. This was a family issue and there were few things she hated more than her family issues. But before she could begin another bitter exchange, she got a look from Scott in the cockpit. It wasn’t one of scorn, but of pleading. As her best and closest friend, he knew some of the details. He also knew Remy had a point. They did deserve to know, even if it did pain her to do so.

Sighing under her boyfriend’s critical glare, she conceded. She would have to find a way to get around that look of his later.

“Fine, if you really want to know,” said Jean bitterly, “It’s not pretty. Madelyne and I go back quite a ways, before the X-men and before we knew we were mutants. I wish I could say those times were simpler, but they weren’t. You see, Madelyne epitomized the defining trait of those in the Grey/Pryor bloodline.”

“And what trait is that? Dressing in ridiculously revealing outfits?” said Rogue.

“Being a total screw-up,” Jean corrected, “Madelyne’s mother, my mother’s sister, was a struggling actress in LA who was into all the wrong things. Drugs, booze, screwing around with producers…you name it, she did it. And when she was got knocked up with Madelyne, she drew her right into that world.”

“Sounds like half the women Remy’s met back in New Orleans,” commented the Cajun.

“Only Madelyne worked to outdo her mother, who pretty much stepped out of the picture when she turned 16,” Jean went on, “Only instead of acting, she got into more glamorous trades like fraud, stripping, and con jobs. Like me, she has psychic powers. Only hers were more focused on telekinesis. She had only light telepathy, but she knew how to use it. It was her way of getting ahead.”

“And they say Ah’m a problem child,” said Rogue, her words dripping with sarcasm, “Sounds like she was less a rebel and more an outright deviant.”

“She was a deviant…more so than I ever could have imagined.”

Jean’s tone shifted from bitter to sad. As much as she despised the issues she had with her family, they were still her family. And Madelyne was the only other one who was dealing with the same issues as she was when her powers manifested. But instead of using that to bond, it tore them apart even further.

“It all came crashing down shortly after I joined the X-men,” said Jean distantly, “Madelyne was looking for ways to make her powers even better. So she hooked up with a few wayward Morlocks, who were still pretty belligerent at the time, and attempted to really go to town on LA. She was going to infiltrate this club of Hollywood elites and defraud them all of untold money and power. She wanted to be the one in control, not caring about the consequences to mutants in the process. So the X-men got involved.”

Jean paused for a moment as the memories of that incident played out in her mind again. She was a young, inexperienced X-man at the time. The very notion of going on these sorts of missions was still daunting to her. But she followed her training. To this day, she could still vividly recall Madelyne’s angry assault on her. It wasn’t just an attack on an enemy. It was an attack on a part of herself she hated.

“I’m not going to let you stop me, Jean! I’ve been an outcast all my life! We both have! This is our chance to rise above our lousy family history! And if you’re not going to help, you’re going to suffer like every other Grey!”

Jean needed a minute to collect herself. She held back her emotions, clenching her fists as anger and sorrow welled up inside.

“I take it you stopped her,” Rogue surmised.

“We had to,” said Jean sadly, “She fought dirty, but Maddie’s powers were more limited than mine. I was able to beat her. I was so angry that she was so willing to attack her own family to get what she wanted. So I didn’t feel too guilty when we helped turn her in.”

“You mean you sent your own cousin to prison?” said Remy with a touch of cynicism, “Remy hates a lot of his family too, but I ain’t ever gone that far.”

“Well I did and in case you haven’t noticed I’m pretty pissed about it!” said Jean, getting more upset, “Maddie had the same chances I did! We could have used our powers to rise above our family legacy! But she didn’t even try! She just used it to make it worse!”

“And now she’s working with Sinister,” said Kitty, who had been listening in, “I’ll admit that’s pretty bad, Jean.”

“Ja, I’m sorry you have to go zhrough zhis,” said Kurt sympathetically.

“Don’t be sorry,” said Jean in a stronger tone, “It’s Maddie’s fault, not mine. But she’s older than me and she’s had a lot of time to get even more pissed. She’s found a way to make herself stronger. She’s also found a new way to get under my skin. But I beat her before. I can beat her again.”

Jean sounded pretty determined to take down her cousin. It was something much of the team couldn’t understand. Some like Remy, Rogue, and Kurt had family issues of their own, but not like this. Madelyne was a different and disturbing case. Along with Sinister, she was a force to be reckoned with family grudge or no family grudge. These sorts of battles were hard enough. Making them personal like this only made it harder.

“Just be careful with her, Jean,” said Remy, “Take it from another guy with a messed up family. You can make all the wrong moves you want, but so long as you do the right thing it’ll work out in some way.”

“I hope you’re right, Remy,” said Jean anxiously, “It’s not like I had time to prepare for this. But if Madelyne wants a rematch, I’m going to give it to her.”

“You may get that chance with your cousin soon, Jean,” said Ororo from the cockpit, “It looks like we’re nearing our destination.”

The mood throughout the jet grew tense with that announcement. Jean, Rogue, Remy, Bobby, Kitty, and Kurt all undid their restraints and got up from their seats to see where they were heading. Outside, the weather hadn’t gotten any nicer. But something new came into view just up ahead.

From the windows of the cockpit, they could see what looked like an old air force outpost built atop a long plateau. It had a long runway running across the center, two hangers off to the side, and a run down control tower to the right. There were only a few lights, indicating that there was some activity on the ground. But there was nobody present that they could see. They couldn’t even see the plane that the Marauders took Logan in. But Beast seemed confident in the destination.

“The last signal from the beacon came from this outpost,” said Hank as he looked over the scanner, “It was an air force monitoring center during the Cold War. Near as I can tell, there is no significant military activity in the area.”

“Let me guess. It was officially decommissioned, but nobody bothered to destroy it?” said Scott as he guided the X-jet in.

“Got it in one,” he affirmed, “It fits the same profile of the previous facility Sinister used in New Orleans. And that station was barely half the size of this one. It seems reasonable to assume that whatever he’s got down there, it’s far more ambitious.”

“All the more reason to get Logan out,” said Ororo strongly, “I hope we’re not too late.”

It was an anxiety the whole team shared. They cut it very close with Scott and Jean the last time they faced Sinister. He would undoubtedly greater precautions this time.

Then as the jet flew in just under a few thousand feet, they shocked by an unexpected flash. From one of the hangers, a bright concentrated beam not unlike Scott’s optic blasts shot out into the sky. It was intense and quickly strayed towards the jet.

“Whoa! Hang on!” urged Scott.

“I think that means we’re officially late,” said Bobby as he strapped himself in.

Scott took some evasive maneuvers, doing a U-turn with the jet and bringing it down lower so they could land. They settled near the end of the runway, but the flashes kept coming. From the lone hanger, bright beams of energy shot up into the sky. It wasn’t long before half the roof of the building was littered with holes. Whatever was causing this display must have been pretty volatile. It was a tell-tale sign of Sinister at work.

The X-men quickly went on alert. Scott, Jean, Hank, Ororo, Bobby, Remy, Rogue, and Kurt scrambled out of the jet and into the brisk mountain air. When they set foot on the runway, they took in the sight of the dazzling energy display.

“I’m guessing we’re going to start looking for Logan over there,” said Kitty.

“Heck, it saves us the trouble of sleuthing out the rest of this dump,” shrugged Rogue.

“Just look for the source of the trouble. Logan is sure to be close by,” said Scott as he readied his visor, “And keep an eye out for Sinister’s henchmen!”

“You guys can take care of them! But leave Madelyne to me!” said Jean with a determined look on her face.

“Gonna show your cousin a little love?” commented Remy wryly.

“Trust me, Madelyne is incapable of love,” said Jean as she flew out ahead of the team, “She’s just like Sinister! She knows nothing but hate and deceit! When I get through with her, she’ll know pain just as well!”


Sinister’s Lab – Two Years Ago

Madelyne Pryor had never experienced this kind of pain before. She endured an apathetic family, a life of crime, and all the struggles of being a mutant. But none of that even remotely compared to this. The pain she was feeling was a pain that struck her at her heart. It was an alien feeling, given how new she was to basic emotions like affection, passion, and love. But it still hurt.

Lying before her in a sealed, hyperbaric chamber was the nearly unrecognizable figure of Gabriel Summers. His body was bloody and battered, covered in various burns and bruises. It looked as though he had been thrown into a shredder. The kind of pain he endured was immense. Madelyne knew first hand because she sensed some of it. It was a pain that filled her with a mix of anger and sorrow.

‘I’m sorry, Gabriel. I couldn’t stop them. I wasn’t strong enough. Please…forgive me.’

A rare tear fell from her eye as she placed her hand over the sealed chamber. Standing next to her was Sinister. He remained stoic, but even he showed concern. Gabriel Summers was close to him as well. It was a difficult sight to behold, one that would deeply affect the plans they had for the future.

“How…how bad is it?” Madelyne choked out.

“Very bad,” Sinister answered, “The Shi’ar hurt him badly. He’s lucky to be alive.”

“But will he be okay?!” she asked desperately, “Tell me you can heal him!”

“I can. And I will,” he said strongly, “Although it pains me to see Gabriel like this, the attack did offer some benefits. It confirmed what I’ve suspected all along. He and his bloodline is the key. It’s the only reason the Shi’ar would attack him…again.”

“Forget the Shi’ar and the benefits! What do we have to do to help him?!”

Sinister pondered this situation. Looking into the chamber at the unmoving figure, he saw more than just a wounded young man. He saw a clear sign that his work was destined to take a bold new direction. For decades he had been working to unlock the secrets of evolution. His work led him down many paths, but few offered him the answers he desired. Now he felt as though the Shi’ar and their attack on Gabriel had given him some of those answers. Or at the very least, they gave him clues to find them.

But to search further, he was going to have to do more than just heal Gabriel. He was going to have to take a bold new step. Just as he did with Weapon X, he had to be ready to push the limits. It would mean revisiting certain parts of his past and gambling part of his future. But that was a risk he was willing to take.

“Call the Marauders. We have a lot of work to do,” said Sinister, “I must do more research to verify my suspicions.”

“How is research going to help Gabriel?!” said Madelyne angrily.

“Patience, Madelyne. Gabriel is my primary concern. But for now, he must remain in stasis,” said Sinister as he turned away from the chamber, “I promise you my work will not only heal him, it’ll make him stronger. He’ll awaken a new man, stronger and more powerful than ever.”

“He better. I can’t lose him,” she said, her hands still hovering over the chamber.

“Don’t worry, my dear,” said Sinister with a reassuring gesture, “I’m a man of my word. Gabriel Summers will finally realize his true potential.”


Sinister’s Lab – Present

“Gabriel…my love,” said a dazed but enamored Madelyne Pryor.

Gabriel Summers, now calling himself Vulcan, smiled affectionately at the sight of the emotional woman. His body and eyes still glowing in a bright aura of energy, he stood proudly before her and Sinister. Never before had he felt so much power. He felt as though he could level this whole mountain. After two years in a coma, weakened and humiliated by his enemies, it was a welcome feeling.

“Madelyne…you look even more beautiful than I remembered,” he said to her, “You’re even wearing my favorite outfit.”

“Thought it would be a nice wakeup call after a two-year coma,” she purred, “I see you’re sporting some new attire as well.”

“Indeed,” said Vulcan as he clenched his fists, the energy aura around him growing even brighter, “I feel incredible! Almost god-like!”

“Then my experiment was a success,” grinned Sinister as he gazed proudly at the young man before him, “The healing agent in Wolverine’s blood successfully catalyzed the enhancements. Thanks to the genetics provided by Scott Summers and Jean Grey, your full potential has been unlocked!”

“You mean I have Madelyne’s cousin and Scott freaking Summers to thank for this?” he laughed as he gazed down at his hands, “Well isn’t that just perfect irony!”

From across the lab, a very battered Wolverine emerged from his injuries more enraged than before. Staring down his new foe, he faced a very daunting challenge. Sinister once again showed he was a sneaky devil. He completely caught him off guard by unleashing his latest experiment on him. And that name, Gabriel Summers, definitely caught his attention. Pretty much anything with the last name, Summers, always did.

But that was a concern for later. At the moment, his sole concern was cutting Sinister’s latest monstrosity down to size. Rising up to his feet, the feral mutant cracked his neck and let his healing factor get him ready again.

“So you’re Sinister’s favorite lab rat? Great! That’s one more Weapon X knock-off I get to rip apart!” taunted Wolverine as he drew his claws.

“That primate is still breathing?” said Vulcan in annoyance.

“Don’t be fooled. He’s more durable than he looks,” said Sinister.

“Fine by me,” said Gabriel, “Gives me a chance to test out my new powers.”

“I got your test right here, bub! Hrrrrrrahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

Wolverine let out a feral roar as he charged through the lab back towards Vulcan. The powerful mutant grinned as the energy around him brightened and he started firing off more concentrated photo-concussive beams. They were bright, narrow, and intense. They packed a great deal of force, more so than anything Wolverine every saw Cyclops show in the Danger Room. Not wanting to endure another blow like earlier, he took evasive maneuvers. Using various parts of the lab as his cover, he maneuvered in closer so he could get into position to attack.

His agility was admirable. Vulcan found himself firing blast after blast, missing each time. When his beams didn’t hit, they kept going and blew through machinery, walls, and even the roof. It caused quite a bit of damage, none of which Sinister was too happy about. This was his lab and it took a lot of work to put these materials together.

“Will you please be more careful, Vulcan! My lab is not a shooting range!” he urged.

“Relax, Sinister. This creature won’t take long,” said Vulcan confidently as he kept firing and missing.

“At least spare my more sensitive systems! I need them to continue the next step!”

“It’ll be fine,” said Madelyne, still gazing at Vulcan with a dark yet powerful affection, “Gabriel is a man of his word too, you know? And besides, it’s not like Wolverine has the X-men to back him up.”

Sinister was still anxious as he watched Wolverine leap from a number of tables up to some rafters in the ceiling. Along the way Vulcan fired and missed, destroying a number of computers and chemistry arrays in the process. Sinister cringed as he heard the glass shatter and the computers short circuit. Gabriel better finish Wolverine soon or else his plans were going to be delayed yet again.

In the midst of this fight, Sinister’s communicator went off. It was from his Marauders, namely Arclight.

“Errr not now!” grunted Sinister as he opened the link, “What is it?!”

“Sorry for interrupting, sir! But we have company! The X-men have showed up!”

“What?!” he exclaimed, “How could this happen again?! We took all the precautions this time! They never should have been able to trace us!”

At this point, Madelyne recalled her brief encounter with Jean. She shifted nervously as she looked down at her cape and outfit. It was then she noticed a small device having been attacked the inside of her cape. It was low so she never noticed it. It looked like some sort of transmitter, leaving little doubt in her mind that Jean was responsible for the X-men finding them. Not wanting to upset her mentor, she stayed silent.

“What do we do? Is the experiment over?”

“Not quite. We still have a certain mess to clean up,” muttered Sinister as he watched Vulcan inadvertently destroy more equipment, “Get the rest of the Marauders and intercept the X-men! Do not under any circumstances let them get down to my lab!”

“Affirmative sir! They won’t get through! We’ll see to it!”

“Be sure that you do.”

Sinister then turned to Madelyne, who was looking at him anxiously.

“Go guard the main entrance,” he ordered her, “If some of them get down here, I expect you to stop them!”

”I will,” she vowed.

“And this time, try not to let your petty rivalry mess things up any further!”

Madelyne tensed with anger. It looked like she was going to get that rematch with her cousin after all. It wasn’t under the circumstances she hoped, but she would take it. She hated her enough for all the grief she caused her as a cousin. She was not going to let her add to it as an X-man.

While she ran off, Vulcan kept up his assault on Wolverine. The feral mutant continued to show a predatory agility, a skill Weapon X trained in him very well. Sinister could only watch in frustration as his two creations slugged it out, causing their share of collateral damage in the process. His meticulous plan was starting to unravel. He couldn’t allow it to get worse or his more ambitious plans would be in jeopardy.


Outside Hanger

The X-men approached the hanger carefully as they watched more energy beams shoot out from the ground and roof. Storm and Marvel Girl led the way with Cyclops, Beast, Rogue, Gambit, Iceman, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler following close behind. They were almost at the main door when one energy beam shot out just in front of them, nearly hitting Storm.

“Whoa! What the hell is going on in that place?” wondered Shadowcat.

“Either Sinister’s experiment went really wrong or really right,” said Cyclops, “We better fall back before we get caught in the crossfire!”

“No!” yelled Storm as she flew ahead, “We keep going! Whatever is causing this, Logan can’t handle it on his own!”

“Vith Logan, zhat’s debatable,” commented Nightcrawler.

“You can hold back if you want! But I’m going in!” said Storm.

“So am I!” said Marvel Girl, “I’ll shield us until we…”

But before she could finish, the whole team was hit with an unexpected force. Glowing waves of energy shot out from behind the hanger door and the whole team was suddenly overcome by an overwhelming nausea. It was not a new feeling. They still remembered it from their last fight, revealing that their presence was officially known.

“Oh man, not this again!” groaned Gambit.

“So much for the element of surprise!” said Bobby, clutching his stomach.

As the X-men were immobilized, the hanger door was literally blown open by a glowing purplish burst of energy. Through the hole that formed, the Marauders stepped out. Arclight, Riptide, Blockbuster, Harpoon, and Vertigo each lined up near the entrance, prepared to defend it as Sinister ordered. They were not going to get through. With Vertigo’s powers holding them down, their task should be fairly easy.

“Didn’t you X-men learn your lesson the first time?” taunted Vertigo, “Perhaps if I make your brains leak out through your ears you’ll get the message!”

“Not too much, Vertigo. Save some for the rest of us!” said Blockbuster, who was cracking his knuckles.

“No, we can’t afford to be fancy,” said Arclight strongly, “Sinister wants them neutralized. Let’s not make the same mistakes the Brotherhood made.”

“Ah you’re no fun!”

The Marauders weren’t taking any chances. They were keeping their distance and letting Vertigo’s disorienting beams do the work. It left the X-men struggling to gather themselves. They were all reeling on the ground, the world around them spinning in a dizzying wave of nausea. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Storm were able to stay upright briefly, but they couldn’t focus enough to attack.

“Ugh! Cyclops…can you hit her?” asked Storm.

“I…I’m trying!” he said, fumbling to reach his visor, “Can’t aim!”

Seeing that Cyclops wasn’t going to be able to get a shot of, Nightcrawler pulled himself up a bit and focused ahead. As disoriented as he was, it was still nothing compared to his last venture in the sewers in Philadelphia. He could barely make out the five mutants standing in front of them. That was all he needed.

“Let me try!” said Nightcrawler intently.

Closing his eyes and shutting out the nausea, Nightcrawler teleported out from the path of Vertigo’s beam. Then to the surprise of the Marauders, he appeared right behind Vertigo and Blockbuster. Despite his continued nausea, the nimble mutant pulled off an agile jump kick that hit Vertigo right in the back. She could only gasp with shock as she fell face first onto the hard pavement, which not only broke her nose but halted her attack.

With the vertigo beam no longer affecting the X-men, they quickly gathered themselves. Clearly, this wasn’t going to be as easy as the Marauders hoped.

“You little rat!” grunted Blockbuster as he lunged towards Nightcrawler.

But just as he was about to get his hands on the young mutant, a lone optic blast shot out and struck him right in the side. It knocked him right against the hanger door, leaving Blockbuster stunned and with a nasty indent on the door.

“My aim’s back!” he announced as he pushed through the pain, “Shake it off, X-men! I know you’re still woozy, so let’s return the favor!”

“Ugh, with pleasure,” grunted Rogue, “By the time Ah get through with these guys, they’re gonna feel worse than Warren!”

“Almost, cherè,” joked Gambit as he took out his bow staff, “Let’s not go overboard.”

“After they abducted Logan? Yeah right!” said Shadowcat.

The X-men recovered quickly and charged the Marauders. Arclight and Harpoon led the counter while Riptide went after Nightcrawler. Cyclops and Gambit began the attack, hitting them with optic blasts and charged cards. Arclight countered by charging up and striking the ground, creating a shockwave that caused an uplift of the concrete to protect them from the assault. As their blows missed, Harpoon skillfully leapt up on the newly created ridge and formed two energy harpoons in his hands.

“Time to hook me an X-man!” he proclaimed.

His shots were aimed at Beast and Iceman. Beast managed to avoid the impact by leaping out of the way while Iceman created an ice barrier that took most of the impact.

“Two can play at that game!” grinned Iceman, “You hearing me, Beast?”

“I understand, Iceman! Do what you must!” said Beast, picking up on the subtext.

Jumping out from behind the ice, Iceman fired an ice beam atop the ridge where Harpoon was standing. At first he guarded himself, thinking he was aiming right for him. But instead the ice blast hit right around his feet, creating a thin but slick sheet of ice. He was confused at first, but he quickly picked up on what was happening when he saw Beast skillfully scaling the ridge. He tried to form another energy harpoon, but Beast got to him first. Using his ape-like reflexes, he leapt into the air and did a perfect back-flip. As he came around, he did a perfect drop kick that hit Harpoon square in the chest. And because of the ice, he was sent falling back as if he were on a skating rink without any skates. He ended up tumbling off the ridge, nearly falling on top of Arclight in the process.

“You idiot!” she yelled, “Could you at least try not to embarrass yourself?!”

“You should talk, sugah!” came a voice from behind the ridge.

Before Arclight could narrow in on the source of that voice, a lone fist punched right through the concrete barrier that had been created by the earlier arc blast. Arclight quickly found out that punch belonged to Rogue and barely avoided being grabbed by the neck. Falling back, she watched as super strong mutant plowed through the concrete and loomed over her.

Undaunted, Arclight clenched her fists and formed another ball of purplish energy around fist. Then with all her might, she lunged at Rogue with a right cross. Rogue countered with a block, but was surprised by the amount of force Arclight delivered. Anyone without invulnerability would have had half their bones break. She tried to counter with a right cross of her own, but Arclight ducked out of the way and hit her again. This time she struck her right in the stomach, which was still nauseous from Vertigo’s blasts. She almost lost her lunch on the spot.

“Think Vertigo’s blasts are bad? What until you feel mine!” grunted Arclight as she prepared for another blow.

“Ah’m never eating leftover coleslaw for lunch again,” groaned Rogue.

Arclight was about to lay Rogue out again, but before she could a bow staff shot out from behind and tripped her. She literally stumbled past Rogue and into the hole she made earlier. Her hands still glowing, she turned around to see Gambit standing over her.

“Remy don’t usually say this to a femme, but keep your hands to yourself,” he grinned.

Arclight tried to swipe at him, but Gambit easily avoided it and with a quick spin move he delivered a punishing blow across the face with his staff. Arclight literally did a 180 spin from the force, her face now with a bloody mark on the left side. She fell to the ground in a world of pain, her fists no longer glowing. Gambit made sure she would need more than a few seconds to get up from that one.

“Gotta be more careful, cherè,” teased the Cajun.

“Ah could’ve handled her,” said Rogue, who was still clutching her stomach, “Just be glad mah lunch didn’t end up on mah uniform.”

“We’ll play doctor later. Let’s just make sure this femme and her friend don’t make no more trouble,” said the Cajun as he watched Arclight get up.

While Rogue and Gambit kept Arclight in check, Riptide was keeping the rest of the X-men from getting into the hanger. Using his powers that allowed him to spin his body at a dizzying speeds, he created a powerful wind barrier that kept the team from gaining entry. In addition, he used his unique body chemistry to fire a barrage of boney projectiles in all directions. This forced Storm and Cyclops to take cover behind a telekinetic barrier by Marvel Girl. Riptide made sure he didn’t get another shot off like he did with Blockbuster. But while he kept them at bay, he had other concerns closer to him.

Nightcrawler, who was closer, avoided them with his nimble agility and tried to get in for a finishing blow. He ducked, dodged, and teleported around the spinning mutant to avoid the barrage. A few grazed him, but none were enough to stop him. The more Riptide missed, the more frustrated he became.

“Errrrrrrr! Hold still you little pest!” spat Riptide.

“Do people in zhis country not use zhe vord please?” teased Nightcrawler.

“Fine then! Will you PLEASE just die then?”

“You still have to hit me,” he taunted, “And vatch your blind spots.”

“Blind spots?” said Riptide in confusion.

He kept firing relentlessly at Nightcrawler while keeping the assault up on Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Storm. But in his determined assault, he didn’t direct much attention to his left. If he had he would have noticed a presence sneaking up beside him. It would have been hard for most people because of the punishing winds, but not for a select few. Riptide didn’t realize that until he felt a light tap on his shoulder.

“What the…” he exclaimed as he turned around.

Before he could make out the presence beside him, he was met with a hard roundhouse kick to the face. That kick came from Shadowcat, who used her phasing powers to get in close while Nightcrawler provided the distraction. The impact halted his assault and caused him to spin wildly until he crashed into the hanger not far from where Blockbuster hit. It looked painful, but humorous as well.

“He did warn you,” said Shadowcat with a grin, “Guess Sinister doesn’t place much emphasis on manners.”

“Indeed, he didn’t even say thank you,” added Nightcrawler.

With Riptide now stunned, the path into the hanger was clear. But it wouldn’t be clear for long. Blockbuster and Vertigo were getting up and so was Harpoon. Iceman and Beast quickly joined up with Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Storm as Marvel Girl let down her telekinetic shield. They saw their chance and with more energy beams coming out through the roof, it was a chance they had to take.

“We can’t let them hold us up anymore! We have to get inside!” said Marvel Girl, “Can you guys hold them off while Storm and I head in?”

“Are you sure that is wise, Marvel Girl?” said Beast critically, “Splitting up against Sinister is bound to make us more vulnerable.”

“Wasting time will only make it harder anyhow!” said Storm, “Marvel Girl is right! We need to split up! You handle the Marauders while we get Logan out!”

“You’re going in no matter what I say, so I’m not going to argue,” said Cyclops.

“As if we can ever win an argument with women?” shrugged Iceman.

“But I will say this though…” continued the X-leader as he turned towards his lover, “Be careful.”

“We will. I promise,” assured Marvel Girl, giving her lover that special look to reinforce her point.

Cyclops nodded with assurance, trusting his lover to make good on her word. With Blockbuster and Vertigo now on their feet, Storm and Marvel Girl took to the air and made their way into the hanger. Cyclops, Beast, and Iceman backed them up, going after the menacing Marauders before they could gather themselves.

Blockbuster and Vertigo were still rubbing their heads as they watched Storm and Marvel Girl flew past them. Their situation was taking a major turn for the worse. Sinister wouldn’t tolerate this kind of interference.

“Go after them, Blockbuster!” yelled Vertigo, “We can’t let them get to the lab!”

“I’m on it!” said Blockbuster, clenching his fists.

But before he could go after them, an ice blast sealed the hole Storm and Marvel Girl flew through. This left Blockbuster cut off and even more pissed than before.

“Hold it there big fella! Where are your manners?” said Iceman as he came in on an ice slide. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you ladies first?”

“Vertigo, will you shut these punks up?!” exclaimed Blockbuster.

“Quit stalling and go after them!” spat Vertigo.

She tried to unleash another round of her vertigo wave. But just as she raised her hand, an optic blast from Cyclops came in and hit her right in the side. It send her crashing right into Blockbuster, who was only momentarily stunned. Now he had three X-men bearing down on him. It didn’t make him nervous. It just made him angrier.

“Errrrrrrrrr! Out of my way!” he exclaimed.

“I believe you’re comment on manners were correct, Iceman. He didn’t even say please,” commented Beast.

“Guess he needs some lessons!” said Iceman intently.

“Glad to hear that wit of yours again, Bobby,” said Cyclops as he gripped his visor, “Try and keep it so we can back up Storm and Marvel Girl. I have a feeling they’re going to need all the help they can get!”


Inside Hanger

Once inside the hanger, Storm and Marvel Girl moved fast. There was little to navigate through in the structure, which by now was pretty damaged from the energy beams shooting out from the ground. There were only crates of equipment and barrels of chemicals strewn about, hinting that the bulk of Sinister’s lab was underground. With this in mind they quickly located an elevator on the far end of the hanger.

“Over there!” Storm pointed out, “That must be the elevator to his lab!”

“Man, what is it with this guy and underground labs?” wondered Marvel Girl.

Just as they were about to enter the elevator, another energy beam shot up from right under them. It came close to grazing them, but it did not dissuade them. It just showed they were getting closer.

“Whoa! What the hell has he got going on down there?” said Marvel Girl.

“Only one way to find out!” said Storm.

Using her powers, Storm formed a cloud over the elevator and hit it with a heavy bolt of lightning. This shorted out the electronics and shattered the cables, causing the shaft to plunge down to the area below. It was a somewhat extreme way of clearing the path down, but since they could both fly it would work. That didn’t stop Marvel Girl from taking notice.

“You know, we could’ve just ridden the elevator down,” she pointed out.

“You’re right. We could’ve,” said Storm flatly as she flew ahead.

“Logan has had an affect on you. It’s like you’re already dating him!”

“Let’s save that argument for afterwards,” said Storm, rolling her eyes.

Marvel Girl shrugged and followed Storm down the elevator shaft. It was strange because she remembered picking up some of Logan’s tendencies when they were together. It was subtle, but definitely apparent. It seemed Storm was ahead of her in that regard. After this was over, it was certainly something to keep tabs on.

The flight down the dark shaft was uneventful. Storm and Marvel Girl noticed that along the way, many of the lights were shorted out or flickering. The damage being done by whatever was causing these blasts must be taking a toll. Since they could still feel the vibrations, they could assume there was a hell of a fight going on down below. Knowing Logan, he was probably in the thick of it. He just had to hold out a bit longer.

When they reached the bottom, they encountered the now mangled elevator platform. After navigating over it, they encountered a long, wide tunnel with dim lighting. At the end they could see another heavily reinforced door. This one looked much more imposing than anything they saw topside, indicating it must be the entrance to the lab. But that wasn’t the only barrier standing in their way.

Standing at the end of the tunnel was a familiar figure. It was Madelyne and she looked determined to keep them from going any further. Seething with intent, her gaze narrowed on her cousin.

“Madelyne!” Marvel Girl yelled out.

“Hello Jean,” she said, her voice thick with hatred, “I was hoping for a rematch sooner or later. Glad it could be sooner. I never got to finish making you suffer!”

“Guess we can finally agree on something!” spat the younger psychic as she hovered within several feet of her cousin with Storm behind her.

“You and your friends aren’t going a step further! Not until Sinister is finished with your pet!”

“Forget Sinister! This is between you and me! I took you down once! I can do it again! Only this time I’ll take much more satisfaction from it!”

Marvel Girl didn’t wait for Madelyne to strike first. Still hovering on a wave of telekinesis, she charged her hated cousin at full speed. Madelyne took a defensive position, countering with a powerful telekinetic blast of her own. They clashed within three feet of each other. Glowing sparks of telekinetic force erupted throughout the tunnel as the two women stared each other down with determined intent.

Neither was strong enough to overpower the other, locking them in a psychic grapple. Marvel Girl landed on the ground so she could put all her mental resources into breaking Madelyne’s shield. She stumbled back at first, but quickly recovered and pushed closer. Soon she was so close she could reach out and grab her cousin. The psychic energy still simmering around them, Madelyne lunged for Marvel Girl with her fists. She managed to catch them, intensifying their grapple.

While this was going on Storm stayed back, trying not to get caught up in the psychic onslaught. Marvel Girl saw her and quickly reminded her of the mission at hand.

“Go after Logan, Storm!” she called out, “This is my fight! I’ll take care of it!”

“I know Cyclops told you this already, but be careful!” Storm called out.

“Don’t worry! This won’t take long!” grunted Marvel Girl.

“No…it won’t!” spat Madelyne.

Storm ran past the two psychics, narrowly avoiding some telekinetic fodder in the process. She cast her younger student a concerned look, seeing in her a range of heated emotions she had never seen before. This fight really was personal. It was already getting intense. But if Jean could handle an incoming asteroid, she could handle her crazed cousin.

While Storm continued on, the fight between Madelyne and Marvel Girl raged. Now in addition to telekinesis, the two cousins attacked one another with telepathic onslaughts. They were throwing everything they could at one another, trying to prove which was the better psychic. At one point, Marvel Girl started pushing Madelyne back. Her powers were still more advanced and she made a point to remind her.

‘Why do you keep doing this, Madelyne? Why do you insist on making the same mistakes as everyone else in our family?’

‘The only mistake I ever made was thinking my own cousin would understand! Just look at us, Jean! Look at the power we wield! I used to think of it as a mere tool! I thought I could use to get ahead in this lousy world! But instead of rising above, I got pulled back down! And it was all because of you and your friends!’

‘You were lying, cheating, and stealing! What did you expect me to do?! Cheer you on?’

‘I expected you to understand! Instead you just cast me off! And you were only able to because I was too weak! My mutation may not be as high a level as yours, but I’ve found other ways to compensate!’

Madelyne grunted hard, her eyes now glowing bright red, and hit her cousin with a sharp burst of telekinesis that momentarily broke her shield. Marvel Girl gasped and stumbled back, not expecting such power from her cousin. Madelyne used this brief window to unleash her full assault, clenching her fists and thrusting them forward as she hit her with a concentrated thrust of psychic force both telekinetically and telepathically. Marvel Girl tried to get her shields back up, but it wasn’t enough to keep her from being knocked back hard.

Crashing into a nearby wall, Marvel Girl fell to the floor briefly. Her mind was throbbing with pain. Another psychic migraine was setting in. She was forced to ignore it, watching as Madelyne charged in for the finishing blow. Marvel Girl managed to duck and roll away, avoiding what would have been a devastating telekinetic blast. While Madelyne was facing away from her, she struck back with a blast of her own. This hit Madelyne on the side and sent her stumbling as well. But she quickly recovered, her face tensing with more anger as she prepared another assault.

“You’re not going to beat me, Madelyne! Your psychic skills may have improved, but you’re limits haven’t!” taunted Marvel Girl as she hit her with another telepathic blow.

“My limits are many times greater than our previous encounter!” quipped Madelyne a she blocked the attack, “I’m just getting warmed up!”

“Guess I have Sinister to thank for that?”

“Among others,” said Madelyne ominously, “He may have helped with my mutation. But I got help from another certain someone on a few other skills! Allow me to demonstrate!”

Madelyne countered Marvel Girl’s telepathic blow with a quick shot of telekinesis to stun her. As expected, she blocked it. But as she was doing so, Madelyne summoned another power. And this one wasn’t psychic.

Her eyes were now glowing a bright purple color. Soon a ball of purplish energy formed around her hands of equal intensity. She then made a sharp gesture with her hands. At first Marvel Girl it was some sort of energy blast, but she quickly realized it was something very different. The next thing she knew, a strange purplish circle of glowing energy formed on the floor around her. She could feel a very dark power, the kind that sent chills down her spine. Madelyne didn’t have this trick the last time they faced. She had a feeling she had been saving this for the right moment.

“What is this?!” Marvel Girl demanded.

“A little trick I picked up from a mentor,” she said ominously, “You’ll find it a lot more potent than mere psionics!”

Suddenly, Marvel Girl heard a horrify screech from the glowing circle below her. Then she felt a powerful hand literally shoot up from the circle and grab her leg. She quickly looked down, but immediately wished she hadn’t. From this mysterious energy gate, a hoard of terrifying creatures attacked her. Their goblin-like appearance disgusted Marvel Girl. It was like being in a hellish nightmare of sorts.

“Augh! Stop! Get away! Get these things off me!” she exclaimed as she started fighting them off.

“Pesky, aren’t they?” taunted Madelyne as she approached her cousin, “Don’t waste your breath. They listen only to me. I am in a sense their queen. These little minions are quite helpful in a fight. What they lack in size, they make up for in sheer viciousness!”

Marvel Girl continued to struggle as the demonic creatures clawed at her, pulling her down to the floor and piling on top of her. It was like being buried in a sea of monsters. It was horrifying. But the young psychic pushed through her disgust, re-focusing her mind and fighting back with a new onslaught of telekinesis.

A sharp burst knocked most of the creatures off her. But this reprieve was only temporary. More quickly took their place. Leaping up from the energy gate, they swarmed her so that they surrounded her on all sides. Marvel Girl intensified her telekinetic shield, trying to keep them from grabbing her again. But their terrifying shrieks and relentless assault pushed her limits. Madelyne added to it as well, using her own telekinesis to pin her on the floor so that she was on her knees in a vulnerable state.

She couldn’t hold out much longer. Even with her power levels, Madelyne knew she couldn’t resist both the goblins and her telekinesis. She was nearing her breaking point. Madelyne could smell victory and vindication. It was only a matter of time.

“Face it, Jean! You’re no longer the family’s premier psychic!” taunted Madelyne, “You just sought to control your powers! I sought to evolve them and gain new ones! That’s why I’ll always be stronger! Now you’re going to know what it’s like to be beaten, subdued, and left to rot!”

Marvel Girl was at her limits. The pressure from the goblins and Madelyne was too much. She could feel her fragile grip on control weakening. There was nothing more she could do. Madelyne was going to win. But she couldn’t allow this. She couldn’t allow her cousin get the better of her. Madelyne represented everything about her family that she hated. To give into her was to give into the fate that so many relatives before her faced. She wasn’t going to let that happen. She couldn’t.

Suddenly, Marvel Girl’s eyes flashed a fiery orange. That fragile control she struggled so often to maintain was momentarily lost. Without this control, a surge of power filled her unlike no other. From this power, a massive wave of force burst forth from the young psychic.

“THIS…STOPS…NOW!” she yelled out as she unleashed her power.

Madelyne and her hoards of goblins were caught completely off guard. All they felt was an overwhelming wave of force, coupled by a bright fiery flash. Every one of the creatures was flung across the tunnel, disappearing into a burst of purplish energy as they hit. Madelyne was sent flying as well. She tried telekinetically shielding herself, but it was no use. Her shields were utterly shattered, sending a save of agony through both her mind and her body.

“AUUUGGGGGH!” she cried out.

When she struck the wall, she was nearly knocked out. Shortly after the mysterious purple energy gate from where her goblin hoards were coming from disappeared. Moments later, those goblins not destroyed in the blast disappeared as well. Madelyne was officially defeated. Even with her tricks and powers, she could not overcome this powerful burst by her cousin.

Marvel Girl was breathing hard, still on her knees as she processed what just happened. Just as she had with Magneto’s power amplifying machine, she lost control. Closing her eyes, she fought hard to regain control. The power she unleashed nearly tore her apart. She had to get control again.

‘My god…I did it again. So much power. I have to…get a hold of myself!’

With steady breathing and various techniques she learned from Professor Xavier over the years, Jean Grey got control of herself again. Her head was still throbbing, but she was still in one piece both mentally and physically. When she got up, she looked over to see Madelyne slumped over against the wall. She was utterly defeated, having failed to best her yet again. Despite the overwhelming circumstances, it was a satisfying sight.

“I wish I could say I’m sorry, Madelyne. But you’ve made it clear that you’ll never learn,” said Marvel Girl.

Marvel Girl cast her cousin a distant gaze. It was a shame her family had to be like this. Madelyne walked a path she swore she never would. It seemed there was no going back for either of them.

Still rubbing her pounding head, Marvel Girl pushed through and ran ahead to catch up with Storm. But as she did, she didn’t notice Madelyne slowly rising up. She was in a lot of pain as well, much more so than her cousin. But she wasn’t going to stop. No matter how much more powerful Jean Grey was, she was going to take her down.

“Jean…I’m not finished with you!” she called out.

“Yes you are!” came an unexpected voice from behind.

But before she could even rise to her feet, an unexpected red beam of energy shot out and knocked her back into the wall. This time she was knocked out cold. Surprised by this new presence Marvel Girl shot around to see Cyclops running towards her.

“Scott?” she said in confusion.

“Sorry,” he said sheepishly, “I didn’t want her to catch you off guard.”

Looking over at Madelyne and then back at him, Marvel Girl groaned and rubbed her temples. This mission just kept taking more and more strange turns.

“What about the others?” she asked him.

“They can handle the Marauders. But Sinister is personal for me too!” said the X-leader strongly, “He once captured us together. So let’s fight him together!”

“Together…right! Let’s go!” said Marvel Girl with new determination.

It seemed fitting. Sinister once abducted them and used them, just as he was probably using Logan. They still had vivid memories of that experience. Sinister ranted about how their fates were linked. Whether or not that was true didn’t matter. It was their responsibility to take him down.


Sinister’s Lab

“Hrrrrrrrraaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!”

The feral roar of Wolverine echoed through the lab as he lunged towards the powerful figure of Vulcan, taking a hard blast to the leg in the process. But after having absorbed a number of blows and avoiding far worse, the former living weapon was in a state of mind where pain didn’t matter. All that mattered was taking down this deranged mutant.

Gabriel Summers watched with ire as the feral mutant plunged towards him, not even stunned by nearly having his leg blown off. He stumbled back briefly, nearly falling into Sinister who was still besides him. Wolverine landed just in front of him and Vulcan had a clear shot. But just as he got a light blast off, Wolverine swiped at him with his claws and cut him badly across the shoulder and chest.

“Errrrr! Cheap shot!” grunted Vulcan.

“There’s more where that came from, bub!” taunted Wolverine, having been forced back slightly from the shot he got off.

“I’m through playing games! You’re the past, Weapon X! Time to make way for the future!”

Vulcan’s eyes flashed brightly as he charged up. This time he was poised for his strongest blast yet. Having already done his share of damage, Sinister was wary. Only now it wasn’t just his lab he was worried about. Vulcan was getting a bit ahead of himself.

“Vulcan wait!” he urged.

“No…be my guest!” grunted Wolverine as he lunged for another attack.

Wolverine tried to get in for the killing blow, driving his claws right towards his abdomen. But before he could reach him, Vulcun got off his shot. And it was every bit as intense as Sinister feared.

In a bright burst of reddish/white light, Vulcan unleashed a powerful wave of energy that filled much of the lab. It didn’t hit Wolverine head on, but the arc was wide enough to deliver plenty of force. It practically blew the entire top part of his uniform off, mangling his flesh in the process. He was knocked clear across the lab, landing right on top of a table full of glass beakers. The impact shattered much of the equipment, sending shards of glass scattering all over the area. Some got lodged in his flesh, adding to his agony. It was a blow that even a potent healing factor needed time to recover from.

In addition, such a blast left Vulcan very drained. Having never pushed his powers like that before, he was seething and appeared light-headed as he stumbled forth. His body was no longer glowing with the same energy aura. He could barely stand upright. The damage he did with that blast was great, but it appeared to end the conflict.

“Augh! My head!” he howled, “What…what happened?! Why do I feel weaker?”

“Slow down, Vulcan! You’re power levels may be greater, but you still have limits!” said Sinister as he helped him stand.

“Limits…right,” said Vulcan bitterly, “Sorry about the damage. But the damn animal was pesky!”

“I know. Believe me, I know,” muttered Sinister, “If you can finish him off, it’ll make all this damage worthwhile.”

“Consider it done!” said Vulcan, “I owe you as such. And so does he.”

Vulcan stumbled forth, regaining his composure as he stepped forth to finish off the former living weapon. Wolverine was still flat on his back, bloodied and covered in glass. He was still conscious, gritting his teeth as he struggled through the pain to get up. But Gabriel wasn’t going to give him another chance. Standing over the downed mutant, he formed a right ball of red energy in his right hand and aimed it right at the feral mutant.

Wolverine grunted as he tried to get back on his feet. But Vulcan kicked him back to the floor on top of more glass. He could feel blood flowing down his already mangled body. The pain was bad, but his healing factor hadn’t given him his agility back yet. He wouldn’t be able to leap around and avoid his blast this time.

“You a valiant fighter, Weapon X. Everything Sinister told me about you was well understated,” said Vulcan, still leaning on his mentor for support.

“Spare me the flattery, bub. If you’re gonna shoot me. Don’t be a wimp and get on with it!” grunted Wolverine.

“Tough words from a tough man,” grinned Vulcan, “I’m sure you won’t be missed.”

He was about to unleash his final blast, finishing off Weapon X once and for all. This time he would hit him with such power he would blow all the flesh off those metal bones of his. Even Wolverine couldn’t heal from that. He knew this, but remained unafraid.

But before he could get in his killing shot, a bright white flash filled the lab. It momentarily blinded by Sinister and Vulcan. From that flash, a massive bolt of lightning shot out and hit both Vulcan and Sinister. The resulting arc also blew out several lights and knocked over more tables of equipment, causing even more damage.

“Augh! What the hell was that?!” cursed Vulcan, clutching his chest where the lightning struck.

“No…” grunted Sinister as he gazed across the lab.

The source of the lightning was clear. It came from Storm, who had just come in through the far entrance and was making her presence known. Electricity was sparking all around her. Her eyes were glowing bright white and she was surrounded by a whirlwind of air currents. When she saw Sinister and Vulcan hovering over a bloodied Wolverine, she prepared to strike with the full force of nature.

“That’s enough, Sinister!” she said strongly, “If you’re as smart as you claim to be, you’ll back away!”

“Crazy bitch! Who do you think you are?!” exclaimed Vulcan.

That was all Storm needed to hear. If that was how they wanted to do this, so be it.

“Oh you’re fucked now, bub!” snickered Wolverine.

Her eyes flashing brighter, Storm clenched her fists and unleashed a full F5 tornado right at the two imposing figures. A dark cloud quickly formed and within seconds, a punishing wind ripped through the lab. Anything that wasn’t bolted to the floor was uplifted and pulled into the fray. Sinister could only watch as his arsenal of advanced equipment went up in cloud of debris. Everything he had worked so hard to make was being ripped apart and torn asunder.

Sinister cursed his Marauders for failing him and the X-men for being so tenacious. He and Vulcan were blown back through the lab, but to keep themselves from getting caught up in the tornado Sinister formed a telekinetic shield to protect them. The powerful winds and swirling debris put them on the defensive. It was not a position either of them was used to as nothing was going as planned anymore.

“She’s destroying everything!” exclaimed Vulcan.

“I know,” said Sinister stoically, “But it’s not over yet!”

While Sinister and Vulcan fought Storm’s winds, the African woman hovered over Wolverine. By now, his healing had kicked in enough to allow him to walk. Looking up at Storm, he smiled for the first time since this mess began. Storm couldn’t help but smile back. She had been so worried about him. He looked battered and bruised, but was alive none-the-less.

“Are you okay, Logan?” she asked him.

“Ain’t nothing some ice and a little whisky can’t cure,” he groaned as he pulled himself up, “You really know how to make an entrance, darlin’.”

“I was worried. We all were.”

“I’m sure you were,” grinned Wolverine with a dirty grin, “Just do me one more favor. Hit Sinister with enough lightning to make his damn head explode! For what he’s done to me, he deserves a little shock therapy!”

“Consider it done!” grinned the African woman.

Taking his request to heart, Storm’s eyes flashed brighter as she kicked up a lightning barrage within the tornado and directed it towards Sinister and Vulcan. Massive bolts of electricity surged forth, knocking out lights and setting fire to a number of chemical spills. Sinister was forced to bolster his telekinetic shield, but some lightning still managed to get through and shock both him and Vulcan. Since Wolverine still needed time to recover, Storm kept it up. For the two abductions he was responsible for, this was long overdue payback.

Sinister struggled as he was singed by more lightning, falling back as several sparks arced from behind him and ignited more chemicals. Everything around him was falling apart. Wolverine and the X-men were getting the better of him. He could not allow this travesty to continue.

“Errrrrr! Vulcan, take her down!”

“Not a problem,” said Vulcan, his eyes glowing brighter as well, “She caught be by surprise! Now it’s my turn!”

Charging up, Vulcan jumped out into the punishing winds and fired a single concentrated energy beam right at the hovering Storm. His aim wasn’t perfect because of the winds, but it still hit her on the shoulder and did enough damage to disrupt her assault.

“Ahhhh!” she cried out as she clutched her shoulder.

“I got you, Storm!” said Wolverine, pushing through his pain and catching her as she fell.

The powerful wind assault was abruptly halted, causing the swirling debris and equipment to fall back to the ground. Once the air cleared Sinister let down his telekinetic shield. Gazing around, he saw that his lab was in total ruin. Nearly everything was broken or in shambles. Half the lights were out, small fires were growing into larger fires, and much of his equipment was rendered useless. He understood he was taking a risk by bringing Wolverine here. He had no idea it would cause this much damage.

Seething with anger, Sinister approached Storm and Wolverine. Both mutants were still on their feet, but struggling from their injuries. Storm’s eyes were still glowing, but she lacked the focus to create another wind storm. Wolverine’s claws were still drawn, but he wasn’t going to let go of Storm when she was injured. Now with a clean shot, Vulcan prepared to deliver another lethal blow.

“That’s enough! You’ve made quite a mess of things and it stops now!” said Sinister, “Finish the job, Vulcan. And make sure it hurts!”

“It will, Sinister. I promise you that!”

His eyes flashing bright red, Vulcan raised his hand and prepared to fire. He couldn’t shoot with the same intensity as before, but he could still be lethal. With a labored grunt he fired a shot towards the two mutants. He aimed for the head this time, leaving nothing to chance. Wolverine instinctively got in front of Storm, ready to take the blow. But just as the beam was about to hit, it was unexpectedly diverted by a telekinetic shield.

“Errrrrr! What now?!” exclaimed Vulcan.

“That would be us!” said Marvel Girl from across the lab.

“You guys always have to cut it this close?” groaned Wolverine.

“Grumpy and ungrateful,” commented Cyclops, who was standing right beside her, “Guess Wolverine’s okay.”

It quickly dawned on Sinister where that shield came from. Looking back across the lab, he saw Cyclops and Marvel Girl running towards them. It was yet another turn for the worst. It appeared Madelyne failed him as well. Now he was facing another threat he hoped to avoid.

“You’re finished, Sinister! You abduct one of us! You deal with all of us!” said Cyclops.

Then as Marvel Girl helped Storm and Wolverine, Cyclops ran ahead of them and fired a single optic blast at Sinister. When it hit his resilient body, the result was unexpected.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” he howled in pain.

“Sinister!” exclaimed Vulcan, having to catch his mentor.

Right where the blast hit just below his chest, a gaping wound was formed. From that wound, a strange reddish/silver substance came gushing out. It didn’t look like blood, but it looked important to Sinister’s survival because it was causing him a lot of pain.

“Wow…I didn’t expect it to do that much damage. I’m not even on my highest power settings,” said Cyclops.

“You must have a special touch,” grunted Wolverine.

“I don’t think so,” said Marvel Girl, her medical knowledge coming into play.

Sinister was reeling, groaning in agony as he struggled to stop the bleeding. Vulcan, who was still weak himself, tried to help. But the damage was done.

“I…I was hoping to avoid this,” said Sinister, “Your powers…the powers of all those in the Summers bloodline…are unique.”

“Unique how? In that they can hurt you?” questioned Cyclops, “Why don’t we test that out?”

Cyclops fired again, hitting Sinister in the leg this time. The result was the same. A gaping wound was formed, causing more silvery red fluid to pour out. It left Sinister in even more pain. For Vulcan, this was enough.

“You bastard! You’ll pay for that!” exclaimed Vulcan.

His eyes glowing bright red, Vulcan unleashed the strongest blast he could muster in his weakened state. He fired so fast that Marvel Girl didn’t have time to deflect it with her shield. But to her surprise and that of Cyclops, she didn’t have to. The beam struck him, but did little damage. Cyclops only tensed in discomfort, stumbling back slightly. But the blast left no marks like it did on Storm and Wolverine. It just stung.

“Damn it! Not this again!” cursed Vulcan, “No matter, I can still beat you to a pulp with my bear hands!”

But Vulcan only took two steps before he was leveled by a concentrated blast of telekinetic force. Marvel Girl, who was just as confused as the others, wasn’t going to take a chance.

“I don’t know who you are pal, but no one hits my boyfriend!” she proclaimed.

Vulcan fell back next to the wounded Sinister, nearly passing out as he hit the floor. Marvel Girl made sure she hit him extra hard to take him out of the fight. Since Vulcan pushed himself so far earlier, the blow left a much greater impact. Sinister could only groan in frustration. Everything was falling apart around him.

But for Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Storm, and Wolverine there was little sense of triumph. Confusion quickly set in as they tried to process what just happened.

“The hell?!” exclaimed Wolverine, “I took a blast like that and it damn near blew my arm off!”

“Like I said…unique,” said Sinister, still writhing in pain, “The Summers bloodline carries with it the same mutation with different variance. It allows for the manipulation of certain energies in certain ways. But because of this…blasts between those of similar heritage are ineffective.”

“Similar heritage?” said Cyclops, tensing under Sinister’s choice of words.

“Yes…heritage. Such as parents, cousins, and of course…brothers.”

Cyclops took a closer look at Vulcan, who was still flat on the floor trying to get up. His eyes were glowing. He had a similar build, his hair and facial features were similar to his, and his powers worked in a similar manner. The only difference seemed to be that Vulcan was older and a bit taller. It led Cyclops to a chilling conclusion.

“No…”

“You know it’s true,” grunted Sinister, now sitting upright, “Gabriel, say hello to your brother.”

“Piss off!” spat Vulcan as he pulled himself up, “I was hoping we would never meet. I don’t like being associated with weaklings.”

“Oh hell,” groaned Wolverine, “Just what we need. A Summers family reunion!”

“Shut up, Logan!” spat Cyclops angrily as he loomed closer Gabriel, “How can you be my brother?! My father never mentioned you!”

“Father has many secrets,” said Gabriel ominously, “Too bad you and baby Alex will never know the truth.”

“What truth?! Tell me!” demanded Cyclops.

He put his hands on his visor in a threatening manner. The usually calm and collected leader of the X-men was now burning with rage. The ruby lenses of his visor glowed brightly with his optic energy. It was a sight that only made Gabriel grin because his eyes were glowing a similar color, further vindicating that they were indeed brothers.

But Gabriel was not going to give his brother the truth. Not yet anyways. He had just woken up from a long coma and had a range of new powers to get used to. There would be plenty of time to catch up with family affairs later.

“Talk!” exclaimed Cyclops.

“Sorry Scott, but the answers will have to wait,” said the still wounded Sinister.

Cyclops was just about to fire on Sinister again when he and Marvel Girl were hit with a powerful telekinetic wave. It knocked the two of them along with Storm and Wolverine a good fifteen feet to the side. By the time they landed and looked up, they saw Madelyne Pryor limping towards Sinister and Vulcan. She was still clutching her head from her earlier fight with Marvel Girl. But she was alert enough to do her job.

“Back away, X-men! You’ve had your fun. Now this ends!” said Madelyne as she hovered near Sinister and Gabriel.

Kneeling down, she closed her eyes and concentrated. A purplish aura soon enveloped her, Sinister, and Vulcan. Within seconds, a column of light was surrounding them.

“Hold on! I’ll get us out of here!” Madelyne proclaimed.

“I know you would come through,” said Gabriel affectionately.

“For you…always,” she said with a smile.

By the time Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Storm, and Wolverine got up the light was too intense. It was like a barrier was created around them and they were slowly starting to fade. They weren’t sure what was going on, but it was definitely some sort of escape tactic. After everything Sinsiter put them through, that was something they couldn’t let happen.

“No!” exclaimed Cyclops, still desperate for answers.

“Damn you, Madelyne!” cursed Marvel Girl.

“Next time, Jean,” her cousin vowed, “We’ll have other opportunities. I promise you that!”

“And I promise the next time I see any of you, I’ll carve you up first and get my answers later!” growled Wolverine.

“Oh you’re not going to do that,” taunted Sinister as he, Gabriel, and Madelyne faded away, “As I said before, our fates are linked. I still have much to offer you. And you still have much to offer me…James Howlett.”

Wolverine’s eyes widened with rage upon hearing that name. It was a name he never remembered hearing, yet it triggered within him a wave of mysterious musings. It was as if every emotion from a lifetime was surging through him all at once. In an instant he went from just being pissed to an all out berserker rage. Despite still being battered, bruised, and covered in glass he lunged towards Sinister in an all out rage.

“ERRRRRRRRRRRR SINISTER!!!”

Sinister didn’t stop smiling as the angry Wolverine attacked with maddened rage. Just as his claws were about to make contact with him, Sinister disappeared in the mysterious light along with Madelyne and Gabriel. Whatever secrets he had in regards to that name disappeared with him. All Wolverine could do was drive his claws into the ground where he once lay wounded. Even after he was gone, he kept thrashing about. There was no reason behind it. There was no higher thought. There was on rage and confusion as that name kept filtering through his mind, James Howlett.

Cyclops and Marvel Girl, who were both equally dazed at the disappearance of Sinister and his minions, had to take a step back to avoid Wolverine’s outburst. Only Storm braved the fury, watching with worry as the former living weapon unleashed a myriad of pent up emotion.

“Logan stop!” the African woman exclaimed as she ran to his aid.

“Storm, be careful! He’s gone berserker again!” urged Marvel Girl.

“Then please calm him down! Don’t let it consume him!” she said as she narrowly avoided one of Wolverine’s thrashes.

Marvel Girl was very tired and sore from her earlier outburst with Madelyne. She could barely stand her head was throbbing so badly. But she pushed through it once more, gritting her teeth as she used her telepathy to sooth Wolverine’s rage. It was a lot harder than any of the previous times. Whatever that name meant to him, it enraged him in a way nothing else could.

The next few moments were tense, but Marvel Girl managed to get through enough of the rage to calm him down. It was times like this being an ex-girlfriend helped because she knew his tendencies so well. She didn’t have the strength to completely sooth him though. Eventually, mental fatigue finally caught up with her and she fell into Cyclops’s arms, who was still in a daze.

Even without Marvel Girl to finish the job, Storm was able to do the rest. Wolverine was still on his knees, snarling angrily with his claws still drawn as he hunched over where Sinister had once been. His mind was finally catching up with him, the twisted thoughts that name evoked finally coming into perspective. That name, James Howlett, was a name he knew. And for whatever reason, it enraged him. Even as he struggled to collect himself, he seethed with anger for both Sinister and himself.

“Damn you, Sinister,” he growled.

“He’s gone now, Logan,” said Storm softly.

“That asshole was true to his word. He did know something about my past! And he used it to screw with me!”

“And you’re letting him succeed in doing so,” she said, “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

“No…you don’t understand, Ro!” he said bitterly.

“Maybe I don’t. But I understand how you’re making it worse. Please…let your friends help you through this. We can’t give you the answers, but we can give you support.”

Wolverine was still in an angry daze, the effects of his berserker rage still lingering. Then he felt the warm, comforting arms of Ororo Munroe snake around his neck and shoulder. Her warm embrace and gentle words soothed what was left of the confusion and rage. Despite his current state she smiled, letting him know she was glad he was okay. He was to distant to smile back, but he withdrew his claws and placed his hand over hers in a tender gesture. It wasn’t much, but it spoke volumes.

While Wolverine was settling down, Cyclops and Marvel Girl needed a moment to process everything as well. Marvel Girl was still leaning on her lover for support. Another psychic migraine was setting in, but that wasn’t the most pressing matter on her mind. Nor was it the most pressing for Cyclops. They had both just encountered dark relics of their past. Marvel Girl faced a stronger, sinister, bolder Madelyne Pryor while Cyclops faced a brother he didn’t know he had. With an already strained relationship with his younger brother, Alex, Scott Summers shuttered at the notion of another Summers family rivalry. As he had done with Wolverine, Sinister was true to his word. Their fates were indeed entwined whether they liked it or not.

“Gabriel…” said Cyclops distantly.

“I know,” said Marvel Girl with an empathetic gaze, “Him and my cousin along with Sinister, that’s pretty bad.”

“And Alex, don’t forget about him,” muttered the X-leader, “But how? And why?”

“I wish I knew.”

There was a brief silence as the couple exchanged distant looks. These were personal matters of an entirely different kind.

“Look Scott, I’m still getting over Maddie’s latest stunt. But if you want to talk…”

“No,” said Cyclops bluntly.

“It’s not like we can avoid it,” she argued, “Maybe we should…”

“No Jean. Not now,” said the X-leader in a stronger tone, “I’m not ready. Neither of us is.”

Marvel Girl could only nod distantly and turn away. He was clearly in no condition to dwell on this and neither was she. It wasn’t in his nature, especially when it involved family. In any case they were going to have a lot to deal with.

As they all struggled with what just transpired, they received a new communication from Beast by way of their communicators. They had almost forgotten there was a battle going on right above them.

“Cyclops, do you read? The most peculiar thing just happened. One minute we’re fighting the Marauders, the next minute they disappear in some strange purple energy.”

“I read you, Beast. And I believe you too,” said Cyclops in a monotone, “That little light show was Sinister making his escape. He and the rest of his goons are long gone.”

“What about Wolverine? Is he okay?”

Cyclops looked over at Wolverine, who just gave him a disgruntled snarl. After what they all just experienced, it was hard to say either way and nobody was in the mood to dwell on it.

“He’s fine. Just gather the team and get the jet ready for takeoff. I’ll fill you in on the details later. Over and out.”

Beast didn’t inquire with any further questions. It was a good thing too. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Storm, and Wolverine were all reeling. Sinister once again proved worthy of his namesake. He didn’t just attack them in a traditional sense, he hit them personally as well. Even though they stopped him before he could continue any more of his insane experiments, it didn’t feel like much of a victory. Now as they left Sinister’s lab to the fire, a whole new host of problems awaited them.


Warren’s Room

Warren Worthington III felt like a total wreck. In wake of so much betrayal, he had fallen very hard. There weren’t a lot of rational ways for someone to react when they go through a double-heartache and a double-disappointed with both his father and his former love, Candy Southerner. It was a good reason to go out and drown these difficult feelings away in bars and strip clubs. But that only a temporary reprieve. He was just beginning to realize the far greater consequences.

While the rest of the team went off on a mission to save Wolverine, he was passed out in his bedroom with a paralyzing hangover. He had the shades drawn on all his windows, his clothes strewn all over his room, and various bottles of aspirin and hangover remedies strewn on his dresser. Warren wasn’t exactly sure what time it was or even what day it was. For all he knew, the team was still on the mission. He must have been sleeping for at least 14 hours. Yet he still felt tired and miserable.

‘Ungh…damn you, Dad! Damn you, Candy! Damn you all for pretending to love me! Why the hell do you do this to me? Why can’t I just leave it all behind?’

As he pondered these painful thoughts, he heard his bedroom door open. It was Professor Xavier, the only person who ever showed any genuine concern for him. But he couldn’t face him like this. There mere creaking sound his wheelchair made was enough to make him cover his head with a pillow.

“Ugh! Could you maybe put some grease on those wheels, Professor?”

“Sorry Warren, but I thought you might want to know that the mission was a success. The team saved Logan and are on their way back.”

“Hnn…that’s good news,” he said, still very much hung over.

“I also hope you take the time to apologize to them. Your absence was definitely felt,” said the Professor with a slight hint of scorn.

Warren groaned again. He wasn’t just disappointing his mentor. He was disappointing his friends. It was only adding more weight to an already horrendous burden.

“I’ll make it up to them,” he said, “When I’m not so hung over.”

“I’m sure you will,” said Xavier.

He turned to wheel himself out, causing more of that creaking noise that made Warren cringe. But before he left, he turned back to his struggling student and addressed him with a more compassionate tone.

“Warren, I know you’re going through a rough point in your life. What happened with your father and Candy was terrible. Nobody will blame you for being upset. But you can’t keep trying to numb your frustrations like this. You’re stronger than this. I know you are. Moving on from such personal struggles is difficult. But sooner or later, we all have to push forward even if we don’t think we’re ready. For you, I hope it will be sooner. Our cause needs you. The X-men need you.”

Professor Xavier left the young man with those words to ponder. He didn’t expect a coherent response in his current state. At the very least he hoped Warren would take his advice seriously. He had genuine empathy for his predicament. As a man who had his share of family dramas, it was easy to relate. If he could pull through, so could Warren. He just needed the right opportunity.

Even though he didn’t respond, Warren found himself musing over the Professor’s words. He rolled over on his bed, tossing his pillow aside and staring distantly at the ceiling. His thoughts drifted towards the team. For the first time his self-destructive behavior really impacted them. He drank himself too hard to contribute to a mission. That hit him harder than any hangover ever could. Even Logan never let his bad habits hurt the team. They deserved better and with their cause in such a fragile state, he couldn’t afford to keep moping like this.

‘The Professor’s right. It isn’t fair that I’m getting drunk while the X-men are fighting on. I’m being selfish. Hell, I’m being pathetic! I have to stop doing this. I have to find a way to make it up to the team. But how? Where do I even begin?’

As he was pondering the possibilities, he heard his cell phone vibrate on the night stand. It wasn’t too loud, but with his hangover it was plenty loud to get his attention. Setting his thoughts aside, Warren groaned and reached over to answer it. But when he saw who it was on the caller ID, he was shocked.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” said the winged mutant.

He didn’t want to answer it. He was in no state of mind to talk. But as the Professor said, he had to try even if he wasn’t ready. Pushing aside his hangover and his sorrows, Warren Worthington III sat up and answered his phone.

“Hello, Dad. This better be important.”


Next Issue: Proposals and Principles

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