Born with extraordinary abilities, Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men use their mutant powers in the name of peace. But these powers have often led to conflict in a world that hates and fears mutants. With wide-spread anti-mutant fervor and an upcoming presidential election, concern over mutant abilities is at an all time high. While men like Charles Xavier seek to understand these abilities, there potential for conflict remains vast.
In recent battles, the X-men have encountered situations where great power has led to great corruption. One such instance was Bastion, where a fully human test pilot became corrupted by an advanced sentinel-derived suit of armor meant to combat mutants. Another more deadly incident was Proteus, the omega level mutant that rampaged through Liverpool, England and killed over 200 people. In each instance, someone lost control. Now Professor Xavier is rededicating himself to avoiding such conflicts and one is already building within his own team.
Since the Proteus battle, Jean Grey has been ailing. Having already showed remarkable feats of power in the past, she is now showing sings of something far greater. Some believe it is a result of her growing psychic powers. Other suspect it might be something much more exotic. Whatever it is, it continues to grow inside her at an alarming rate.
Jersey Turnpike – 13 Years Ago
It was amazing how life could change so quickly. All it took was one instant of tragedy. One wrong move and everything could come crashing down, sometimes in a painfully literal manner.
8-year-old Jean Grey already had a pretty stressful life. She and her sister, Sara Grey, were sitting in the back seat of their parents’ van after a long, chaotic day. They were just returning from yet another ill-fated visit to their aunt and her daughter, Madelyn. The visit ended up with them having to bail them both out of a county jail again. It wasn’t the first time Jean had to watch parts of her family mess up behind bars and with the way things were going, it wouldn’t be the last.
“How many more times are you going to do this, Elaine?” said a very annoyed John Grey, “I know she’s your sister, but you can’t keep bailing her out! She’s a deviant and she belongs in jail!”
“Don’t raise your voice with me, John! Not when the children are present!” said an equally annoyed Elaine Grey, “She’s still my sister and she’s been going through a string of bad luck lately.”
“Luck has nothing to do with it! That sister of yours is worse than my brother. At least he had the good sense to stay in prison after he got busted.”
“Don’t start comparing your brother to my sister! It’s not like either of them had as many chances as we have!”
“Chances my ass! Why is it that I’m the only one who has settled down, gone to school, and worked a steady job when the better part of the family can’t stay off a police report for more than a year?”
“Don’t try and set yourself above everyone, John! Like it or not, you had luck on your side! My sister didn’t! Now can we please lay this issue to rest?”
“Isn’t that what we always do? Isn’t that part of the problem?” he argued strongly.
The arguing continued. It was a common theme among her parents. They worked so hard to be normal and loving, but when challenges came along it got bad quickly. Jean tried not to listen. She hated hearing people argue. Sometimes she felt as though just being around angry people made her angry as too. Thankfully, her older sister was often there to calm her down.
“Don’t listen to them, Jean. It’ll pass. It always does,” Sara told her.
“You always say that!” groaned the younger girl, “I don’t like it when mommy and daddy get upset. It makes me upset too.”
“I know it does, but you just have to be patient. This is just how Mom and Dad are sometimes.”
“Do they have to be? Why can’t they change?” asked Jean desperately.
It was a difficult question that many Greys before her struggled to answer. There was only so much Sara could say to console her younger sister. She was always such a fragile little girl, often so deeply affected by the states of others. It made her pretty compassionate for her age, but that wasn’t always a good thing in their family.
With a heavy sigh, Sara tried to console her sister with a reassuring gesture. Then it happened. In that one instant second, everything changed for Jean, Sara, and her family.
“JOHN LOOK OUT!”
The desperate cries of Elaine Grey were frozen in time as John Grey looked up ahead to see pickup truck swerve into their lane. Everything slowed down as he hooked the wheel to the right in an effort to avoid it, but it was too late.
The next few moments were a daze. First they heard the screech of the tires. Then they heard the two vehicles crash. In a split second, their whole world was shaken. Metal and glass were warped under crushing forces. The pickup truck spun wildly and crashed into the guard rail where it flipped over, crushing the driver inside. As for the Grey family van, it did several dizzying spins before toppling over on itself and skidding into a nearby concrete construction barrier. As it crashed the entire structure of the car seemed to collapse on itself. The Grey family could do nothing except brace themselves.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” cried a horrified Jean Grey.
The terrified cries of the 8-year-old girl were the only cries that filled the van. John, Elaine, and Sara Grey didn’t even get a chance. Her cries mixed with the deafening sound of breaking glass, warping metal, and skidding roads. When everything finally stopped, there was only a deathly silence.
It was like being in her worst nightmare, only this wasn’t one she could wake up from. When the car came to a rest, she was the only one left conscious. With the car now upside down she was trapped under her seatbelt. Her head was pounding, her arm was broken, and blood was trailing down her head. She managed to slip out from her seatbelt, but was in such a daze she could barley tell which direction was up.
She instinctively looked to her parents, but they were both severely injured. Her father was still half-conscious, his head resting against the steering wheel as he groaned in pain. Her mother was out cold, her mid-section now wedged between a protruding shard of metal and her seat. She couldn’t tell, but she saw a lot of bleeding around her torso. It was truly a horrific scene. Then she turned to her side and saw the worst sight of all.
Her sister, Sara, was deathly still. She had a gaping wound on her head and her neck was warped in a sickening way. She wasn’t breathing and her eyes were still partially open, but there was no sign of life in her.
“Mommy! Daddy! Sara!” Jean cried out, “Please…wake up!”
Her cries fell on deaf ears. Tears quickly formed in her eyes as she tried desperately to rouse her lifeless sister. As she stumbled through the wreck Jean kept crying harder and harder. Deep in her core, she felt the true impact of what just happened. Her father was hurt. Her mother was dying. And her sister was dead.
“NOOOOO!” she sobbed, “Please…somebody…anybody…HELP ME!”
Xavier Institute – Present
“Jean! Jean, wake up!”
In a gasp of anguish, Jean Grey shot up in from her sleeping state. Drenched in a cold sweat, she panted desperately for air. Her world was a daze of pain and confusion. It took her a moment to adjust to her surroundings. As her vision cleared, she realized she was in the institute living room. Scott, Logan, Hank, and the Professor were there with her and understandably worried.
“Hnn…Scott? Professor?” she groaned.
“It’s alright, Jean,” said the worried voice of Scott Summers, “You were just having a bad dream.”
“Just take a few moments and breathe,” urged Hank, “Let it come back to you.”
“Ungh…my head! It’s on fire!” she groaned as she clutched her temples.
“Calm down, Jean. Let met help you,” said the calm voice of Charles Xavier.
That word help triggered a whole range of emotions. It all played out in her mind so vividly. She could still feel the presence of death around her. It was so overwhelming. Her already weakened mind was overloaded. Those fragile blocks the Professor erected earlier were crumbling around her.
It caught Scott Summers completely off guard. He thought Jean was doing better. After their walk with Kurt and Miss Munroe, they returned to the mansion and decided to watch a movie together. Since Jean was still ailing he elected to watch Terminator 2 Judgment Day, Jean’s all-time favorite movie. It seemed to help her. Then halfway through the movie she became tired and dozed off. As the movie play on, he let her rest comfortably in his lap. That’s when the nightmare started.
Luckily, the Professor sensed Jean’s chaotic state and rushed to her aid. Hank was with him and standing by just in case. Just as he had done before, Professor Xavier tried to stabilize Jean’s condition with psychic blocks. It was much more difficult this time. Her eyes were flashing bright yellow again and everything around them was shaking slightly with telekinetic force.
“What happened, Professor? She was fine just a few minutes ago!” said Scott anxiously.
“I don’t know!” he said in defeat, “It’s as if the pressure in her mind is building up faster than I predicted. The blocks I put in earlier could not contain it.”
“Can you make them stronger this time?” asked Hank with equal concern.
“I’m trying! But I’m approaching the limits of my telepathic remedies. If this continues, the blocks alone may not be enough!”
Those were not encouraging words. Charles Xavier was the world’s most powerful telepath. If he was reaching his limits then they were all in big trouble, especially Jean.
As his new psychic blocks went up, Jean calmed down. Scott was there to take her in his arms, doing his best to support her while trying to hide his growing helplessness. She eventually became dazed and woozy. She was still in a great deal of discomfort as Xavier managed to stabilize her. Just as they were finishing up, Logan came barging in with his claws drawn.
“The hell’s going on? Was that Jeannie screaming?!” he growled, looking as though he was ready to rip into anything.
“Damn it, Logan! Stand down!” ordered Scott as he protectively held onto Jean, “It was nothing, okay? She was having a nightmare!”
“Don’t give me that crap! I know nightmares and that sounded like way more than a freakin’ nightmare!” Logan snarled.
“Please, Logan, keep your voice down!” coaxed the Professor, “The last thing we need is an irrational argument. Jean’s mind is in too fragile a state.”
“Hnn…I can still hear, you know?” groaned a dazed and disoriented Jean, “I’m not a porcelain doll. I can fight this this. I just need to…ugh.”
That was all she could manage. Jean’s eyes rolled back and she passed out, keeling over in Scott’s arms. Logan withdrew his claws and rushed over to catch her. Despite their bitter history, the two men coordinated and held onto her carefully. They laid her back down on the couch so she could rest.
“Jeannie…” said Logan with a touch of frustration.
“This is become quite grave, Charles,” said Hank as he rushed over to check her vitals, “Her pulse is still high and her muscles are tense. Whatever seems to be hurting her so, it’s getting progressively stronger.”
“I know, Hank. That’s been the trend for a while now,” said Xavier solemnly.
“So what the hell are we doing about it?!” exclaimed Logan, “We can’t just sit on our asses and while Jeannie losing her damn mind!”
“I’m doing everything I possibly can, Logan! But we’re running out of options!” said Xavier as he looked at Jean with great worry, “If we cannot uncover what is causing Jean’s condition, we may have to consider more extreme measures.”
“I don’t like where this is going, Professor,” said Scott grimly as he caressed Jean’s face.
“Neither do I, Scott. But if we don’t do something soon, she could be in mortal danger and so could all those around her.”
“You sayin’ we ain’t tough enough to take it?” snarled Logan.
“You saw how she confronted Proteus. Resolve aside, we may not have a choice in the matter.”
Logan and Scott cast the Professor a bitter look for making such a suggestion. They maintained a watchful eye on the resting woman. The two men exchanged worried glances. They didn’t agree on much of anything, but Jean’s well-being was one area where they saw eye-to-eye.
The Professor sensed their determined resolve. He didn’t blame them for resenting his words. He resented them as well, unavoidable they may be.
“What should our next step be, Charles?” asked Hank solemnly, “To continue her current course of treatment may be detrimental in the long run.”
“In the current political climate, our options are limited,” said Xavier as he roughly contemplated the issue, “I’ve been in touch with Moria. She’s open to getting involved even though Muir Island remains under intense scrutiny. After all, she does have experience in dealing with these matters.”
“Albeit tragically,” Hank reminded.
“Even so, we need all the help we can get. Something is hurting Jean greatly. we need answers and we need them soon! We can’t let Jean suffer the same fate as Kevin.”
“Don’t even try to compare Jeannie with that shit, Chuck!” Logan scolded.
“As much as I dispose such association, it is our only point of reference,” Hank lamented.
The implications were serious. The battle with Proteus was still fresh in everyone’s mind. His incredible display of power left a good chunk of Liverpool heavily damaged and a lot of people dead. If Jean was able to match that power when she took him on, then that opened the potential for even greater destruction. Kevin ended up killing himself as a result of wielding so much power. They didn’t even want to contemplate Jean sharing a similar fate.
While Scott and Logan continued to tend to Jean, Hank and the Professor continued to ponder their options. Jean could have an episode at any moment. And next time the Professor may not be able to make the blocks strong enough. As they mulled over what needed to be done, Kurt appeared before them via teleportation carrying a phone.
“Sorry to interrupt, Herr Professor. But you have an emergency phone call,” he said as he handed him the phone.
“An emergency at a time like this? What else could be going wrong?” the Professor groaned.
“I don’t know, but it sounded pretty serious.”
The Professor turned took the phone and answered it. Few people had the ability to make an emergency call to the X-men privately. Whoever this was, it had to be someone in a very precarious position.
“To whom am I speaking?” he asked.
“Professor! Thank heavens, I reached you!”
The Professor’s eyes widened upon hearing that voice. He recognized it immediately.
As soon as he said this name, Scott looked up and took a sudden interest.
“Emma! Is that who’s on the line?”
“Oh boy, here we go,” groaned Logan, “Who the hell is Emma and why the hell is it such a big deal?”
“Quiet Logan! I’m having trouble hearing her!” said Xavier as he held the phone closer.
The room fell silent as the Professor listened intently. He knew that voice belonged to Emma, but he couldn’t make out what she was saying. There was commotion in the background.
“Big trouble…downtown New York…mercenaries…hostages…can’t get away! Need…the X-men! I…”
“Emma? Emma, I can’t hear you! What’s going on? Are you…”
“Hey bitch! Give me that damn phone!”
“Back off you ugly…”
“I said give it, bitch!”
Those last few words did not belong to Emma. They belonged to someone the Professor didn’t recognize. Whoever it was, it didn’t sound friendly. Before he could decipher more, he heard a gunshot. Then the line went dead.
“Emma? Emma are you there?!” he exclaimed.
Leaving Jean to rest, Scott got up and rushed over.
“What is it, Professor? Is she okay?!” he asked nervously.
Professor Xavier looked at the phone and then back at Scott with a look of dread. He had that same sinking feeling as his mentor. Something was up and if it involved Emma Frost, it could only be very dangerous.
“Assemble the team, Scott,” the Professor answered him, “Tell everyone to suit up and prepare for a hostage situation!”
“Emma is caught up in a hostage situation?” said Hank with a touch of skepticism, “As a hostage no less? I find that hard to believe.”
“I share your surprise, Hank. But I know what I heard and we must act!”
“How bad is it, Professor? Is zhis another Proteus level incident?” asked Kurt anxiously.
“Not quite, but if it’s too much for Emma Frost to handle then that does not bode well!” said Scott strongly.
The X-leader promptly rushed out the door in full urgency. Kurt followed him as well, not concerning himself too much with the details. Logan, however, wasn’t so eager.
“Not that I’m against a good fight, but what about Jeannie?” asked Logan.
“I’ll stay with her,” said Xavier as he wheeled up to his resting student, “If she has another episode, I’ll take care of it.”
“You don’t sound too sure of yourself, Chuck. You sure you can handle it?” said Logan skeptically, hesitating to leave Jean behind like this.
“She’s in good hands, Logan,” said Hank, coaxing the feral mutant away, “Overwhelming it may be, we must deal with crises as they come. And once we tell you about Emma Frost, you’ll see why.”
“Oh this I gotta hear,” he muttered.
Logan gave Jean one last worried look before following Hank out. He didn’t like the idea of leaving her at a time like this, but the X-men couldn’t shut down just because of her. It seemed this recovery period of theirs was not meant to last. Even with an ailing Jean Grey, there was still a hostile world out there and the X-men had to confront it.
Shaw Industries Corporate Headquarters – Board Room
There was an old saying in the business world. The best public policy is one that maximizes company privacy. Men of wealth learned long ago that to much publicity was to invite undue attention. With attention came the risk of unwanted exposure. Most businesses went to great lengths to keep the inner workings of their business private and Sebastian Shaw of Shaw Industries had long followed this tactic. For the most part, he had been very successful with it. The most he ever did publicly was paint his organization as a faceless, boring business amongst a sea of corporate giants. But in the high-risk, high-rewards game of power he had to think big.
At the moment he was watching such an event unfold before his very eyes. Sitting in the board room of his corporate headquarters, he observed with an amused but serious demeanor at a news report being projected on a projection screen.
“If you’re just joining us, we have a developing situation in downtown Manhattan. An hour ago, a group of heavily armed terrorists seized control of a major office building on Wall Street and are holding a number of people hostage. Many of these people are heads of major hedge funds. The takeover happened swiftly and we’re getting mixed reports that the terrorists are armed with some sort of advanced weaponry. Nearly all of Wall Street has been cleared out and the police have cordoned off the area. Negotiations are just beginning, but so far the terrorists are not talking and there is no word on the state of the hostages.”
It was certainly a major story, especially to those who did business on Wall Street. Sebastian Shaw was one of them and so were many of his associates, two of which were standing behind him.
“This is quite a stunt you’re pulling, Sebastian. You’ve got a terrorist attack in a major city during an election year,” said Harry Leland in a critical tone.
“And on Wall Street no less, a place where many of us have a great deal of investments,” said Donald Pierce with equal disdain.
“If you’re worried about your stocks doing poorly, you should remember I did give you fair warning,” said Shaw dryly, “All you had to do was short the shares I told you and you would come out of this with a handsome profit.”
“That’s not the point, Sebastian!” barked Leland, “You’re playing a dangerous game, acting as puppet master for an event this grand! What’s to stop some curious authority figure from following the strings back to you?”
“And us by default?” added Pierce.
Sebastian Shaw didn’t take his eyes off the screen to address his worried colleagues. He maintained his stoic yet confident demeanor, letting Harry and Donald worry while he contemplated the next step.
Like him, Harry Leland and Donald Pierce were wealthy businessmen. Harry owned Leland Enterprise, a major investment firm that put money into what some may consider dirty projects. Deforestation, major mining projects, and deceptive real-estate dealings were his specialty, earning him the ire of pretty much every left-wing environmentalist in the world. Donald Pierce owned a robotics company that also specialized in weapons. He was an unapologetic war profiteer, making money off wars and regional conflicts by selling weapons. Also like Shaw, they were more than ordinary humans. Leland was a mutant who could alter his mass and affect the weight of nearby objects. Pierce wasn’t a mutant, but he underwent surgery that endowed him with advanced cybernetics. In any respect, they were a force to be reckoned with.
Both men worked closely with Sebastian Shaw on a strictly business level. They often complimented each other in their various endeavors, bthey were also part of something much bigger that went beyond the business world. It was this shady partnership that sparked the recent sequence of events that had them so concerned.
“Gentlemen, I’m insulted,” scoffed Shaw, “You should know by now that I never make a move without covering every angle. I’ve planned this down to the last detail. There is no way anyone can trace these events back to me or to you for that matter.”
“Does that include the always infuriating detail known as Emma Frost?” quipped Leland.
“Honestly Harry, is it really necessary to bring that up?” groaned Shaw.
“I think it is. This is the same woman who screwed us all over…in your case literally.”
“For heaven’s sake, will you people ever let me live that down? It’s not like you didn’t try with her.”
“But I never tried to mold her into my personal plaything/protégé. It’s because of her we weren’t able to make this move sooner! Now you’re trusting her again?”
“It has nothing to do with trust,” said Shaw sternly, “Emma is just another pawn. She has assets we need.”
“That may be so, but you’re still assuming you can control her,” Pierce pointed out, “How can we be sure she’ll do as we tell her?”
“She will do as I say if she knows what’s good for her.”
“This is Emma Frost we’re talking about here. That may not be enough.”
Shaw’s expression hardened as he continued to watch the report. Images of the building flashed on screen. They were the same building he visited earlier when he met up with Emma Frost. It would have been nice if the meeting had gone a little smoother. It was probably too much to ask for her to have sympathy for an old flame. For that same reason, there was always a chance she could pull a fast one.
“Tell me, Sebastian, how does her majesty, the Queen, feel about this?” asked Leland.
“You’ve already made light of my romantic history with Emma Frost, Harry. For your own sake, do not make light of my commitment to the Inner Circle,” said Shaw firmly.
“I take it she was just as skeptical as we are,” grinned Pierce.
“How her majesty feels is irrelevant in this matter. All she cares about is obtaining the final piece to her little ritual. If this little plan of mine goes smoothly, she have what she wants and so will we.”
“And if Emma become a problem?” said Leland, continuing to push their point.
“I’ll deal with her…severely if necessary,” said Sebastian.
“As you should have years ago,” said Pierce.
“It is still working to our favor, is it not?” he argued, “We all want this to happen. It doesn’t matter what actions Emma or the X-men may take. They cannot stop what has already been set into motion. It’s part of our age-old motto. The world may whither away, but the Inner Circle shall always dominate.”
Skies Over Wall Street – X-jet
The streets of New York’s busy financial district were in chaos, much more so than usual. At this time of day, it should have been bustling with investors and businessmen running around, trying to predict the next market move and how to make a profit from it. Instead, the streets were swarming with police officers, SWAT teams, and federal agents. For once it was not a good day to be a rich businessman.
Within twenty minutes of the call from Emma Frost, the X-men assembled in the hanger and took off in the X-jet. Naturally, there were a lot of questions surrounding this unexpected development. This didn’t sound like a mission in which the X-men would normally get involved, but Professor Xavier made it clear there were other important reasons why they needed to deal with this.
“I can’t believe it! How long has it been? A year?” exclaimed a highly agitated Bobby.
“More like a year-and-a-half,” corrected Hank, who was equally conflicted at the nature of this mission.
“Hell, let’s just call it two! Either way, it’s crazy! Emma Frost has been too busy to so much as send us a Christmas card. Now she just calls us up and says she’s a hostage in some crazy takeover? I know we X-men are used to crazy shit like aliens and Magneto, but this is too much!”
“Which part? The mere fact that Emma called us or the fact someone actually managed to hold her hostage?” said Hank dryly.
“Both! On a scale of X-men-style-crazy this ranks about a 9.0,” said Bobby.
Hank was almost inclined to agree. If Warren were here, he would probably agree as well. He was still caught up with that investigation of his into Shaw Industries. Scott, who was in the cockpit flying the plane, was equally distressed if not more so. Unlike the others, he had a number of other reasons for being concerned.
For Ororo, Logan, Kitty, Kurt, Rogue, and Remy it was still confusing. None of them knew a thing about Emma Frost. All they had been told so far is that she was a very important person to the X-men.
“Okay, Ah think we’ve all been too dang polite to this point! Someone serious needs to fill us in here!” said Rogue in frustration.
“I’m with stripes,” said Logan, “Just who the hell is this Emma Frost chick? Chuck said she’s really close with the team. So why the hell haven’t we heard of her?”
“Remy’s gonna take a wild guess and say it be complicated,” said the Cajun.
“Yes, I would say that is accurate, but not in the way you may suspect,” said Hank, “You see, Emma Frost is another former resident of the institute that left before many of you came on board. She’s a powerful telepath who can also shift her body into a diamond-hard shell. She was also a unique case in her participation with the X-men.”
“Aren’t we all?” Kitty pointed out.
“True, but with Emma it was even more pronounced. You see, before she joined us she was on a dark path to say the least. She was working in a gentleman’s club, using her developing psychic powers to steal business secrets for wealthy clients.”
“Wait…she used to be a stripper?” said Remy, finding that detail particularly intriguing.
“Yep, and a pretty good one too,” said Bobby with a half-smirk, “You wouldn’t believe what some people paid her for her services!”
“Damn…now I’m pissed at Chuck for not telling me about her,” said Logan, earning him a look from Ororo.
“But stripping was not her main trade. It was the stealing secrets aspect of her job that got her into trouble. She started falling in with some very bad people. They tried to condition her to be part of some sinister group called the Inner Circle. She never divulged who was involved or what part she played in it, but they were turning her into someone she didn’t want to be. Luckily, our paths crossed before she could get in too deep. She joined the X-men and steadily returned to a less unsavory path.”
“So vhy did she leave?” asked Kurt.
Hank fell silent. He looked up into the cockpit where Scott was sitting silently. There was a lot more to the story of Emma Frost, but not all the details were for him to say.
“That’s actually quite a conundrum and one I’ve little time to recount,” said Hank.
“If Warren was here and not obsessing over that little side-project of his, he could tell you plenty of stories,” added Bobby.
“But in summation, Emma chose to leave of her own volition. She had been aspiring to be a successful business-woman. Being an X-man was never part of her long-term plans so she took what she learned from Charles and left the institute. She ended up founded her own hedge fund on Wall Street.”
“So she’s cut all her ties with the X-men?” said Ororo.
“Not all her ties,” said Hank, “While she was with us, she rarely participated in field work and went to great lengths to keep her identity concealed.”
“Why would she want to do that?” asked Rogue suspiciously.
Hank paused again, exchanging more glances with Bobby. They knew some of the story and it wasn’t for them to tell. Plus, if they said something wrong then Emma would not take kindly to their actions.
“Let’s just say she had her reasons,” said Bobby.
“Sounds like she had her share of enemies,” commented Kurt.
“You could say that, but she’s always been able to take care of herself,” said Hank, “That’s part of why this unusual development is so surprising.”
“Just part of it?” said Logan, still not convinced this was all, “The way Chuck reacted, that can’t be all!”
Logan had a point. The others maintained their curiosity as well. But Hank and Bobby hesitated to say more. Some of these issues were just too personal to reveal. Thankfully, Scott finally broke his silence and chimed in.
“It isn’t,” he affirmed in a flat tone, “Emma Frost also happens to be my ex-girlfriend.”
That certainly caught the others by surprise. It was well documented that Scott dated three women in his life, two of them being Rogue and Jean. The first had always been a mystery. They figured it was a touchy subject. It looked as though they were right.
“Your ex?!” said Rogue, particularly struck by this revelation, being an ex-girlfriend of Scott Summers herself, “You mean to tell me we’re on our way to rescue your ex?!
“Yes…and if it’s all the same to you guys I’d rather spare you the details.”
“Are you kidding?!” laughed Remy, “We be hearing you dated an ex-stripper and you want us to ignore the details?”
“Not to sound too immature, but even I’m curious,” said Kitty.
“Tough!” said Scott firmly, “All you need to know is that Emma is in trouble and we need to save her. Being a former X-man, we should assume it took a hell of an attack to subdue her. Whatever or whoever it involves, it definitely not something the authorities are equipped to deal with. So it’s up to us!”
This Emma Frost already sounded like quite a character. Finding out that she was a former girlfriend of Scott Summers only made her more intriguing, but the X-leader wasn’t going to just start spilling details. It would take flat out torture at this point. That still didn’t stop Logan from casting him a look.
“Don’t even think about it, Logan,” said Scott under his breath.
“Asshole,” grunted Logan.
The X-leader gripped the controls of the jet as he took it in lower. They had just flown over the famous New York Stock Exchange, which was crawling with police and federal agents. The jet was in stealth mode so no one knew they were entering the conflict. To ensure the safety of Emma and the hostages, they needed the element of surprise.
The jet came to a steady hover not far from the office building where Emma Frost worked. This was the building where all the attention was focused. It was hard to tell what was going on inside, but from the looks of it the situation was getting tense.
“Dang, Warren sure don’t know what he’s missing!” commented Remy.
“He was in no condition to fight unfortunately. Last I saw he was passed out over the War Room computer,” said Ororo with a sigh.
“He’s still busy chasing ghosts with that Shaw Industries stuff?” said Kitty.
“That’s his problem. We’ll have to make due without him and Jean for this one,” said Scott as he got out of his seat and took command, “Let’s get moving, X-men! We’re on a standard civilian defense tactic! Do not alert the police and do not engage the terrorists until I give the order! Is that clear?”
“We know the drill, one-eye. It’s your standard hero shit,” said Logan as he followed him to the hatch.
“And we’ll make sure Emma is okay,” said Ororo in a more reassuring tone.
“Once you get to know her, you’ll understand why that’s way trickier than it sounds,” said Bobby.
Scott remained tense, but held firm as a leader. He could not allow his personal stake in this matter affect him. Even though he had so much on his mind with Jean, he still had a duty to carry out. With no more room for comments or questions, the rest of the team followed their leader out the jet and into the conflict.
“Man, Scott sure has it rough,” commented Kitty, “He’s going on a mission to save his ex-girlfriend with another ex-girlfriend on the team while his current girlfriend is sick with some bizarre psychic condition.”
“Oui, Remy be surprised he ain’t had a nervous breakdown yet,” added Remy.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t,” said Hank more seriously, “Anything Emma Frost gets caught up in is usually bound to be fairly volatile.”
Frost Enterprise Investments – Emma’s Office
It was a tense and terrifying scene for all the unlucky hostages of this chaotic affair. For many it was a situation the likes of which they had never endured. These people were schooled in the high-pressure world of business, which was very different than the equally high-pressure world of hostage-taking. These terrorists singled them out because they were wealthy hedge fund managers. They wielded money and wealth on a scale most day-traders could only dream of and these men wanted that wealth for themselves.
It all happened so fast. One minute they were casually going about their business and the next these heavily armed men were storming their offices and putting guns to their heads. Despite security measures and numerous on-site officers, they were no match for these people as they were no ordinary terrorists.
These men weren’t just men with guns either. They were cyborgs. Many of them had their limbs replaced with high tech weapons. One had an arm with a cannon on the end of it. Another had his legs replaced with motorized wheels. Another even had hands with long, claw-like fingers extending out. They also all had masks of sorts, covering their faces or at least partially obscuring them. Their expressions were every bit as mechanical as their lethal weapons and bore few traces of humanity.
The leader of the group was a tall, slim figure with a full-headed mask with a skull on the face. Like many of his associates, his arms and legs were all mechanical. Unlike his associates, however, he was wielding a weapon that wasn’t attached to his body. It looked like a bazooka, only more high tech. With the way he was aiming it out the window, it seemed capable of serious damage. When he pointed it at some of the hostages, they trembled with fear.
“Please! Stop pointing that thing at me!” a middle aged man in a gray suit cowered, “Look, I’m willing to give you the money you want if you just…”
“Shut it, you caviar sucking pissant!” spat one of the cyborgs as he hit the man over the head with his fist.
“Damn it, will you at least try to be more careful?!” exclaimed the leader, “It’s too early to start wounding hostages! We need them alive if we’re going to get our big payday!”
“Sorry Skullbuster, but these overpaid pansies are annoying me! I mean seriously, does any one of you have balls that aren’t microscopic?”
“You can question their bravery later! For now, stick to the plan! The negotiators are setting up shop as we speak!”
“They better hurry up!” said another one of the cyborgs, “I’m getting bored with this shit!”
“Relax my friend. When all this is over the Reavers will be set for life!” said the leader they called Skullbuster.
The six cyborgs followed their leaders orders. Three kept a watchful eye on the hostages, one was sitting at a desk with a laptop, and two were standing near the window with their weapons pointed down below. It was all on the negotiators now. Once they got started on their end, it would really get interesting.
The dozen or so hostages could only wait and hope, trying hard not to despair. Among them was Emma Frost, who was sitting near the back of the group. She was probably the only one who wasn’t sweating nervously or holding back sobs. She remained stoic as she had trained herself to be over the years, both in business and as an X-man. Many of her fellow hostages didn’t have the luxury of such conditioning. They also didn’t have the luxury of knowing the finer details of this situation.
“How the fuck can you look so calm, Frost?!” exclaimed another female hostage under her breath.
“It’s my office. Why shouldn’t I be calm?” muttered Emma dryly.
“These men are crazy! With all these cops and SWAT teams, these cyborg thugs are cornered! They must know that!”
“So now you’re an expert on terrorist tactics?” said Emma, rolling her eyes.
“Now you’re making light of it?! Face it, Frost! These people aren’t going to let us go! And I don’t think anybody down there is equipped to deal with them! Someone is going to die here! I know it!”
“Then you better start praying. Or at the very least, hope that someone out there has sympathy for us cold, greedy hedge fund managers.”
Emma’s words did little to encourage her fellow hostage. Many weren’t even looking up at this point, afraid to speak. Only Emma had the gumption to make eye-contact with the Reavers as they carried out their plan. At times they gave her a menacing look. Each time she responded with a scorn of her own. She knew what these men were doing and why they were doing it. Terrorist was too polite a term for them. They were pawns and nothing more.
After a tense couple of minutes, Emma’s office phone rang and Skullbuster answered it. The Reaver on the laptop, who had hooked into the phone system, gave his leader a quick signal to let him know he was ready.
“I hope you’ve called in a better negotiator this time,” he said into the phone, “My associate is looking at our offshore accounts and they’re still empty. That does not bode well for these hostages.”
“Please sir, give us some more time. Our primary concern is the safety of these hostages. They’ve done nothing wrong. You don’t want to hurt them.”
“Don’t tell me what I want! I know what I want! And you’re not giving it to me! I don’t care who you have to call! It can be the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, or the freakin’ FAA! But someone out there is going to have to give me a clean, secure, untraceable line to wire my money through! If I don’t get that within the next thirty minutes, I’ll blow the brains out of one of these fat cats and dump their entrails out the window!”
“Please don’t! We…”
“This discussion is over!” barked Skullbuster, “You have thirty minutes! Use it wisely!”
Skullbuster slammed the phone down, effectively ending the call. If they knew what was good for them, they wouldn’t call back. As expected, they didn’t. So far, everything was going according to plan. The next few steps were vital, but they were well on their way. The Reavers were on the cusp of their biggest job yet.
“Think they’ll do it?” said the Reaver on the laptop.
“Does it matter?” shrugged Skullbuster, “Either way, we’ll get what we want. It’s only a matter of following each step. And if everything goes accordingly, the next phase should begin very soon.”
“But how will we know?” asked one of the Reavers looking over the hostages.
“Oh we’ll know,” the Reaver leader said confidently.
Another heavy silence fell over the room. The Reavers kept their eyes on the hostages and the authorities outside. Every one of them was on the lookout for whatever this sign Skullbuster mentioned. Luckily, they didn’t have to wait long.
While they were carefully monitoring their surroundings, the lone Reaver looking out the window noticed something strange. The skies above had suddenly turned dark gray when moments ago there was hardly a cloud in the sky.
“Uh…boss, did you happen to catch the weather report today?” he asked.
“Why do you ask?” asked Skullbuster curiously.
“Because I don’t think it called for something like this,” he said as he looked up into the sky.
Skullbuster quickly moved away from Emma’s desk and looked out the window. The skies were not only dark with storm clouds, but from the looks of it a strange whirlwind was heading right towards their building. It was so unexpected it even caught the authorities below off guard. But instead of showing concern, Skullbuster was elated. If his face hadn’t been completely replaced by machines, he would have smiled.
“Well then…I’d say this is pretty obvious,” he stated.
Before he or his fellow Reavers could ask questions, the mysterious whirlwind swooped down from the sky and struck the window head on. The moment it hit, the glass shattered and a sharp gust of wind filled the room.
“Oh my God!” exclaimed one of the hostages.
”What’s happening? Are they shooting at us?!” exclaimed another.
“No…it’s something a bit more exotic,” said Emma ominously.
As the winds filled the office, a series of deafening explosions could be heard just outside. In the open area just outside Emma’s office, an optic blast and a series of charged cards shattered more glass panes. As they broke, more heavy winds rushed in and filled the whole floor. Riding a couple of ice slides, the X-men came storming inside with full force. Cyclops landed just outside the office with Iceman, Gambit, Beast, and Shadowcat. His visor set to a more focused setting, he took command and began the daring operation.
“Let’s give ourselves some space to work with!” he ordered, “Wolverine, we’re going to need a distraction!”
Over the two way communication link, the X-leader got a quick response.
“You got one, bub!”
Inside the office, the Reavers were still stunned by the incoming winds. Just as they were gathering themselves, another window was blown in only this time it wasn’t from the wind. With a feral roar, Wolverine came crashing in with his claws drawn and ready to battle. Rogue came flying in with him, armed with her strength and invulnerability. As soon as they saw the Reavers, they had their first clear idea of what they were up against.
“Cyborgs, eh?” grunted Wolverine, “Gotta say I’m disappointed.”
“Dang, you guys are the terrorists? Guess the Professor was worried for nothing!” grinned Rogue.
“Too bad Jeannie ain’t be here for this. Beating up cyborgs would probably do wonders for her migrains!”
Their words were bold, but the Reavers were not dissuaded. If anything, they were elated with the X-men’s arrival.
“Finally some real action!” said one of the Reavers.
“The time has come to collect our money, my Reaver brethren!” said Skullbuster, “ATTACK!”
Two of the six Reavers stormed forth and fired on the two X-men. Each was armed with arm-mounted blasters that fired high energy rounds. It turned out they weren’t high energy enough. Putting her arms up, Rogue used her invulnerable form to absorb and deflect the incoming rounds. As she drew their fire, Wolverine began an attack of his own. Using his nimble agility, he leapt up over Rogue and used her shoulders as a jumping off point. With his usual reckless abandon, he plunged towards the two Reavers and landed right between them where he sliced off the blaster for one and back-kicked the one behind him.
“Looks like you punks need an upgrade!” Wolverine roared.
“Oh we’re just getting warmed up!” said Skullbuster.
“So are we!” grinned Rogue.
Right on cue, the walls to the office suddenly became covered in ice. The temperature throughout the room dropped a good ten degrees in the process. Then in a powerful burst, an optic blast shattered the ice and blew a gaping hole in the wall. Through this hole, Cyclops and the rest of the X-men entered the office. For the Reavers the fight became that much more daunting. For the hostages, the situation became that much more hopeful.
“Never thought I would be so glad to see mutants,” said one of the hostages.
“Your humility is awe-inspiring,” said Emma dryly as she watched with mixed emotions at the fight unfolding before her.
“If they save our asses, I’ll take back every penny I ever donated to Senator Kelly’s campaign!” said another hostage.
Now that Rogue and Wolverine had Skullbuster and his two attackers occupied, Cyclops focused on the three Reavers guarding the hostages. With Iceman, Shadowcat, Gambit, and Beast behind him they outnumbered their adversaries in both numbers and force.
“Man, Jean would so love this mission!” commented Iceman, “Fighting a bunch of terminator wannabes? What could be better medicine?”
“Too bad they don’t look as good as Schwarzenegger,” added Shadowcat.
“I would advise you kindergarten rejects shut the hell up!” spat the Reaver with the claw-like hands, “I am so sick of being compared to American movie characters! I may just kill a hostage just for that remark!”
To show he was serious, he held his claw-like fingers to the throat of a nervous hostage.
“No! Please I…I’ll pay you the ransom! I have overseas accounts!” the hostage trembled.
“Trust me, you don’t want to do that!” threatened Cyclops with one hand on his visor.
“Now you’re giving us orders?” scoffed another Reaver, “We’re the ones with the hostages, remember?”
“And we be the ones with the much cooler powers,” grinned Gambit.
“Moreover, we know how to use them,” added Beast.
Before the three Reavers could respond, an unexpected presence appeared behind them in a puff of sulfurous smoke. It was Nightcrawler, who had been waiting in the wings for just the right moment to make his appearance. As soon as he did, he pulled off an acrobatic spin kick that knocked the first two Reavers away. The one with his hands to the hostage prepared to counter, but was blindsided by an optic blast from Cyclops. This attack gave the hostages some much needed breathing space.
“Be calm, mien friends! Zhe X-men vill handle zhis!” announced the German mutant.
“Get me out first and I’ll pay you enough money to buy yourself another one of those X-men jets!” said a hostage.
“Bribing a hero now? No wonder people hate hedge fund managers so much,” muttered Emma.
“Hey, you don’t get into the top tax bracket without providing incentives!”
Ignoring this lone hostage’s plea, Nightcrawler protectively stood over the twelve terrified figures and prepared for the Reavers to counter-attack. He didn’t have to wait too long. The first two Reavers he attacked were up first. One of them, which had motorized wheels for legs, revealed a series of mini-cannons from his cybernetic body. The other one revealed a wrist-mounted laser in his left arm and a more ominous looking cannon in his chest. Their focus now solely on the X-men, the determined cyborg mercenaries took aim and fired.
“So you want to talk powers? Let me show you mine!” grinned the Reaver with wheels for legs.
Before he could begin his assault, Cyclops delivered the next order.
“Shadowcat, go!” he called out.
“On it, Cyclops!” she affirmed.
Shaodwcat boldly ran out into the Reaver’s sights, drawing his fire as he unleaded a wave of small but powerful laser bursts. They all passed right through her, allowing Cyclops and the others to take cover.
“Now Iceman!” ordered Cyclops, “Give us some cover!”
“Once Iceman surprise, coming up!” the younger mutant affirmed as he started forming a thick ice shell around his fellow X-men.
“Remy thought that other trick you did with the snow cone was the Iceman surprise,” grinned Gambit.
“That…was last months surprise. This is way more useful!”
Now Cyclops, Gambit, Beast, and Iceman had a barrier to protect themselves from the Reaver’s retaliations. Shadowcat bought them just enough time, leading their fire away from the hostages. By the time they realized what was going on, it was too late. As soon as they turned their attention back to the X-men, Shadowcat phased right into the floor and disappeared out of sight.
“If only all our enemies could be this predicable,” mused Shadowcat as she commenced the next part of their battle plan.
At first the two Reavers were confused by her sudden disappearance. Then the other Reaver with claw-hands quickly stepped up and gave new orders.
“Forget the girl! Blow the rest of them away!” he ordered.
“What do you think we’ve been trying to do?!”
With growing frustration, the two Reavers instinctively did as they were told and redirected their fire towards the ice shell where the rest of the X-men were hiding behind. The ice was thick so their blasts did not penetrate the barrier immediately. While they were trying to take it down, the other Reaver attacked Nightcralwer who was still watching over the hostages. They were soon engaged in an acrobatic fight pitting brute cybernetic strength against speed and agility. It kept the Reaver occupied while the rest of the X-men prepared their next move.
Holding up behind the ice wall, Cyclops and the rest of the team moved carefully before making their next move. The ice shell was holding steady, but it would not stay that way for long.
“We must neutralize their weapons and get to the hostages!” said Beast.
“Can’t hit em without a clean shot!” said Gambit, one round narrowly missing his face as he tried to peak around the shell.
“Let me guess, it’s up to me again,” sighed Iceman.
“As if you need an excuse to show off?” said Cyclops.
“No worries guys, I’ll take care of it! I’m sure Emma is getting impatient.”
With the sound of various laser rounds going off, Iceman formed what looked like a medieval shield around his arm. This would give him some brief cover so he could get out and make his move. Holding the shield up to his head, he boldly rolled out from the ice shell and took aim with his ice blasts. He fired two concentrated beams, each at the main blasters the two cyborgs were using. They hit dead center, quickly encasing the weapons in ice and momentarily stopping their assault.
“Ha! I think a ‘hasta la vista baby’ would be appropriate here!” taunted Iceman.
“Think again!” grunted one of the Reavers.
Despite his arm being encased in ice, one of the Reavers still had his chest-mounted cannon free to use. Taking aim at Iceman, he fired a concentrated shot that caught the young X-man. He barely had enough time to raise his ice shield, but to force of the blast was enough to shatter it like class and send him flying back.
“Augh!” he groaned as he hit a potted plant near the back of the wall.
“So much for showing off, non?” commented Gambit.
Now bruised and dazed, Iceman struggled to pull himself up. The other Reavers quickly prepared to fire on him again, but Cyclops was able to pull him away and back into the protective cover of his ice shell.
“You just had to throw another Terminator reference at them!” groaned Cyclops as he quickly got Iceman out of the line of fire.
“Ungh…I thought psyching them out was good strategy?” Iceman argued.
“Next time, leave the strategizing to the experts, homme,” said Gambit as he helped him back to his feet.
“Speaking of which, we may need a new one,” said Beast as the ice shell around them was starting to crumble.
“Don’t worry. I already have something lined up,” said Cyclops intently as he adjusted his visor again.
“You mean you could have saved me a concussion?” groaned Iceman.
“Would you have listened?” the X-leader retorted.
Iceman didn’t argue. He was not a strategy expert. Luckily, these cyborgs didn’t seem to be experts either. That should make this fight much shorter than it had to be.
The two Reavers quickly blew the ice off their weapons and kept firing. The ice shell was almost destroyed. They eagerly awaited a clear shot against the X-men, but they were so focused on destroying the ice shell they didn’t see a figure rising up from the floor behind them. It was Shadowcat and part of the strategy Cyclops lined up involved her.
“You guys look tired. Why don’t you kick back a little?” she grinned.
Grabbing hold of their legs or wheels, Shadowcat phased the two Reavers right into the floor. Within seconds, they were submerged up to their waist, which effectively froze them where they stood. Since everything below their waist was mostly cybernetic anyways, it also had the effect of shorting them out.
“What the?! Ack! You little…” grunted the Reaver with wheels for legs.
“Take it easy. I’m not going to throw another Terminator reference at you,” she said as she phased up out of the floor, leaving them trapped.
“I’ll still kill you for this!” spat the other Reaver as he pointed his arm cannon at her.
“Go on and try. I dare you,” she teased.
Before he could fire, an optic blast shot out from beyond the ice shell and literally blew his cybernetic arm off. This effectively disarmed the Reaver in more ways than one, leaving the two of them defenseless and vulnerable.
“Nooo!” the Reaver exclaimed.
“Nice shot, Cyclops! These fellas be needing a lesson in manners when it comes to femmes!” commented Gambit as he, Cyclops, Beast, and Iceman emerged from the shell, “And Remy just so happens to have another!”
With the two Reavers unable to move the Cajun mutant took out a couple of cards, gave them a charge, and skillfully flicked them towards the two wary Reavers. They could only watch as the glowing cards gracefully descended right onto their laps and brace themselves. When the cards exploded, it blew a sizable hole right into the floor and sent the two Reavers crashing down to level below.
Now clear of return fire, Cyclops and Gambit checked to make sure their two adversaries were out of the fight. Looking down into the hole they saw the two figures lying on their side unconscious.
“They ain’t saying ‘I’ll be back’ so they must be done,” shrugged Remy.
“Again with the Terminator references?” groaned Cyclops.
“It’s hard to resist when you’re fighting cyborgs,” shrugged Iceman, who was still woozy after the blow he took earlier.
“Well try and hold off at least until the hostages are safe,” said Beast, “The sooner we can get them to safety, the sooner we can finish this.”
Acting on his own advice, Beast handed the struggling Iceman off to Cyclops and Gambit to support. He then rushed over to aid Nightcrawler, who was still locked in combat with a claw-handed Reaver.
The fight had been raging for a while now. Nightcrawler was sticking to the plan laid out earlier and drawing him away from the hostages. It gave the others time to get into position, but it was pushing the limits of his endurance. He may be nimble enough to avoid the attacks, but these Reavers clearly had the edge in terms of stamina.
“Errrrrr! Hold still you little rat!” grunted the Reaver as his claws nearly sliced Emma’s desk in half.
“Surprisingly, zhat is not zhe vorst zhing I’ve been called,” commented Nightcrawler breathlessly as he pulled off an acrobatic back-flip to avoid the attack.
“Give me a few more minutes! You’ll be called worse when I get through with you!”
The raging Reaver lunged forward, ready to rip into the nimble mutant for a fatal blow. But before he could build up any momentum, two powerful arms grabbed him from behind and restrained him. These arms belonged to Beast and he was finally giving Nightcrawler a chance to catch his breath. By staying behind the Reaver and keeping him in a firm grapple, he effectively neutralized the attack.
“Errr! Get off me, Donkey Kong!” he barked.
“I have him, Nightcrawler!” said Beast, “Take care of him before he resorts to less juvenile insults!
“Vill do, mien friend! But be careful vith zhis one!” Nightcrawler warned, “He does not seem to get tired!”
“I’ll be okay. Just hurry up and help Shadowcat get the hostages to safety!”
Nightcrawler left Beast to handle the Reaver, shifting his attention to the hostages now. They were all still very anxious, staying close in the corner and trying to avoid the mayhem of the fight. The German mutant teleported right next to Shadowcat, who had been busy removing the restraints from a few of the hostages.
“I zhink zhese people have seen enough, ja?” said Nightcrawler.
“Definitely!” said Shadowcat as she phased off the last restraint, “Anybody here know the quickest way out?”
“There’s utility stairwell on the northwest side! That leads right down to the ground floor!” said Emma.
“But isn’t that door locked most of the time?” asked another hostage.
“Not going to be a problem,” grinned Shadowcat, “Everybody hold on and follow us! We’ll get you out of here!”
“Can’t believe I’m trusting a mutant,” muttered one of the hostages.
“Hey, do you want us to save your life or not?” said Kitty.
“I said I can’t believe it. Doesn’t mean I won’t accept it.”
The hostages quickly gathered around the two mutants and followed their lead. They were all eager to escape from this nightmare and any way out would be a welcome relief. Eight of the hostages linked hands while Kitty grabbed the hand of the person closest to the wall. Then using her phasing powers, she led them through the wall and out of the office. Nightcrawler followed suit by grabbing onto three other hostages. It was always a bit of a push to teleport more than one person, but for such a short distance it was manageable.
The only hostage who wasn’t going along with the others was Emma Frost. Even though Kurt extended his hand to her, she refused to take it. Her gaze remained locked on the fight unfolding between the X-men and the Reavers.
“Come on, Miss! I can get you out!” he urged.
“Go on ahead. I’m staying,” said Emma in a firm tone.
“Vhat?! But you…”
“I said go!” she barked, “I know what I’m doing! If you’re going to argue with me you’re going to make it worse for the rest of these cowards!”
Nightcrawler still hesitated, uncertain as to why anyone would want to stay behind. But the urging of the other hostages moved him along.
“You heard her! Let’s go already!” barked a hostage.
“Yeah, she’s been snide during this whole mess anyways! She deserves to stay!” said another.
“You don’t know how right you are,” said Emma under her breath.
With no time to debate, Nightcrawler did they said and teleported them out of the office. As he did, Shadowcat got her share of the hostages out of the line of fire. Now that they were safe, the team could focus on finishing the Reavers.
While Cyclops and Gambit helped Beast take care of the claw-handed Reaver, Wolverine and Rogue had their hands full with Skullbuster and the two Reavers aiding him. As two of the most durable members of the team, they could absorb much of the firepower they threw at them. Skullbuster stayed near the window to keep an eye on the authorities below, who looked very confused by the clouds and winds outside. It would only be a matter of time before they saw what was going on and took advantage of it. He wasn’t going to let that happen.
While his two associates had Wolverine and Rogue wrapped up, he kept his weapon at a lower power setting so he could maintain a higher rate of fire. One Reaver was attempting to fight off Wolverine by using long metal blades that were built into his upper forearm and the other was trying to use a shoulder-mounted laser cannon to attack Rogue. It did little to her invulnerable form, barely slowing her down as she flew in to lay a few punishing blows of her own. The blows Wolverine took were more visible, taking a few sizable nicks from his opponent while also taking some shots from Skullbuster.
“You amateurs are gonna have to do better than that!” snarled Wolverine as he deflected another slash by the Reaver while taking a shot from Skullbuster.
“That’s for sure! Are you fellas even trying?” taunted Rogue as she hit her opponent with a solid uppercut.
“Erah! You X-men are in for it now!” barked the stunned Reaver.
“And Ah’m still waitin’ for it,” she quipped.
The still stunned Reaver tried to shoot her again with his shoulder-mounted cannon. This time before he could get the shot off, Rogue lunged forth and redirected the cannon so it was aimed right at Skullbuster. When it went off, Skullbuster was caught off guard and took a shot to the shoulder. This caused him to drop his weapon and fall to the floor, leaving his comrade uncovered and very unnerved.
“My leader!” the Reaver exclaimed.
“You think he looks hurt? Wait till you feel your face!” grinned Rogue.
Making a hard fist, Rogue slugged her cyborg adversary with a crippling haymaker. This knocked out the hapless Reaver and gave Skullbuster one less bit of manpower to work with. He was still recovering, but even he could see that the fight was not going in his favor anymore.
While Rogue finished off the other Reaver, Wolverine did the same with the Reaver he was fighting. Once Skullbuster stopped shooting, he could focus all his attention on taking down his opponent. His wrist-mounted blades were longer and heavier, but he didn’t wield them nearly as well. With growing desperation, he slashed and stabbed at the feral mutant. But Wolverine was able to avoid each blow.
“When are you people gonna learn? Blades ain’t no substitute for these!” he snarled, showing his claws menacingly.
“Care to test that theory!” spat the angry Reaver.
Lunging forth, the Reaver tried to impale Wolverine with his blades. Again, he missed. Only this time, his rage caused him to lunge too hard. He ended up digging his claws right into the floor where they got stuck. Now he couldn’t attack or avoid a finishing blow.
“Test this, bub!” he snarled.
Leading with his adamantium claws Wolverine skillfully slashed at the paralyzed Reaver, cutting right into his arms just below the shoulder. Sparks flew as he sliced right threw them, effectively freeing his opponent from being stuck. Except now he was disarmed both literally and figuratively. With nothing more to threaten him with, Wolverine finished the job with a powerful roundhouse kick to the face.
At the same time Wolverine was handling this Reaver, Beast and the others took care of the other one who had been giving them so many problems. He remained locked in Beast’s grip while the hostages were freed. He tried kicking and clawing his way out, but Beast’s ape-like strength kept him immobile.
“Errr! Let me go!” he roared.
Looking over towards Cyclops and Gambit, Beast smiled and saw his chance.
“As you wish,” said Beast with a sneaky grin.
With his grip still solid, Beast backed up a little and pulled off an acrobatic flip. As he did, he kicked the hapless Reaver towards Cyclops and Gambit. As he flew towards them, Cyclops took aim with his visor.
“Batter up!” said the X-leader.
Letting out a concentrated blast, Cyclops hit the flying cyborg dead on and sent him crashing back into the ruins of Emma’s desk. When he landed he groaned in pain at first, trying to get back up again. As determined as he was, even cyborgs had their limits.
The X-men seemed ready to put an end to this. Skullbuster no longer had the hostages as leverage, nor did he have his henchmen to fall back on. Down below, the authorities seemed to be re-organizing themselves. They sensed something was going on and were sending SWAT teams into the building. It only seemed a matter of time now.
“Game’s over, pal! Make it easier on yourself and give up!” commanded Cyclops as he and the rest of the team approached Skullbuster.
“Or don’t! Give me even more reasons to send you to the ER!” snarled Wolverine.
“Or a mechanic, whichever these fellas use,” joked Rogue, cracking her knuckles.
Skullbuster was facing daunting odds. With no hostages or support, he had little chance against the X-men. But this was to be expected. Even with his comrades long since fallen, he fought on like any Reaver should. Besides, it would be more convincing this way.
“NO!” he bellowed.
Shooting up, Skullbuster grabbed his oversized weapon and switched it to the highest setting. He then swiftly took aim at the standing X-men, giving them little time to react.
“Get down!” yelled Cyclops.
Skullbuster got a shot off and this time it was much bigger than the previous rounds. A powerful bema of blew energy exploded from the tip of the weapon. Rogue instinctively jumped out in front, hoping to absorb the blast with her invulnerable form. However, even her durable form could not absorb this blast. It sent her flying across the room, crashing into Gambit in the process. The two X-men ended up being blown right out of the hole they made when they entered the office, landing in a nearby cubicle.
Rogue was momentarily stunned, having not endured a blast like that since Proteus. But she quickly shook it off when she realized Gambit was underneath her.
“Remy!” she exclaimed, “Ah dang! Please be alright!”
Struggling up, she cradled the very dazed Gambit in her arms. He looked pretty out of it, but still had a goofy grin on his face when he saw Rogue holding him.
“Merde…what a ride,” the Cajun said, “Was it good enough for you, cherè.”
“You’re fine,” said Rogue with a relieved and bemused grin.
Back in Emma’s office, Skullbuster was preparing to unleash another round. The rest of the X-men were still stunned from this stunning show of force. Cyclops and Wolverine had ducked away near the desk while Beast tried to keep the still wounded Iceman out of the way. If the next blast was as big as the previous blast, it was going to be difficult to avoid.
“Out of my way, X-men! I’ve had enough of your heroics!” said Skullbuster as he took aim once more.
But as he fired, another voice entered the scene and joined the action.
“Really darling? Then why don’t you try mine!”
Just as Skullbuster unleashed the next burst, Emma Frost jumped out in front of the gun so she was barely six feet away from it. Before entering the path of the beam, she shifted her body into her diamond hard form. Bracing herself for the impact, she dug her heels into the floor and deflected the beam with her forearms. Remarkably, she was able to absorb the blast and keep it from reaching the others. Her expensive business suit got fairly mangled in the process, but it surprised and enraged Skullbuster so it was worth it.
“The hell are you doing?!” the Reaver exclaimed.
“If you have to ask, you’re too foolish to understand!” quipped Emma.
The angry blonde quickly disarmed Skullbuster, kicking the weapon right out of his arms. She threw in another roundhouse kick, knocking him right back against the window. Clenching his fists in a murderous rage, Skullbuster prepared to strike back.
“Errrrrrr! You’ll pay for this, bitch!” he spat.
“I already have,” she muttered.
Emma prepared to defend herself, but it turned out she didn’t have to. Before Skullbuster could get too far from the window, a bright flash of lightning shot from the clouds outside. The lightning traveled swiftly through the air and into the window where it hit Skullbuster right in the back. As soon as it struck him, it overloaded his circuits and put him in a world of pain.
“AUUUGGGGHHHHHHHH!” he howled out in pain.
His body now bursting with sparks, Skullbuster fell to the floor unconscious. His limbs continued tensing lightly, but he was effectively out of the fight.
With the last Reaver defeated, another gust of wind filled the office. Through the now broken window, Storm came flying in on a cushion of air. Her eyes were still glowing white from having summoned that lightning. It seemed fitting that this would be how the Reavers would be finished.
“Is that the last of them?” asked Storm.
“Heh, you got great timing, darlin’. Only a gal like you could finish this chump off, and look so damn hot doing it,” grinned Wolverine.
Storm smiled and blushed somewhat at her boyfriend’s compliment. It also brought a much needed sigh of relief. This conflict was officially over.
While Storm met up with Wolverine for a quick embrace, Rogue and Gambit rejoined the others as well with Gambit leaning on Rogue for support. Beast continued to help the still woozy Iceman and Cyclops rushed over to help Emma, who didn’t look hurt but was still somewhat dazed. She didn’t seem to share the same relief as the other hostages. Shifting out of her diamond form she turned to confront the X-men.
“Are you okay, Emma?” said Cyclops as he came to her aid.
“Just peachy, darling,” she groaned, “How long has it been? Almost two years? I cut you, Charles, and everyone else off like a heartless bitch and you come to my rescue. In what reality is that remotely fair?”
“Come on, don’t be like that,” coaxed Cyclops.
“Why shouldn’t I? And don’t you dare give me that charming sweet talk you know I find so infuriating!”
“I know it’s been a while, but it’s still nice to see you again. We’re glad you’re okay.”
Emma’s expression shifted slightly under Cyclops’s gaze. The X-leader offered her a comforting gesture, which seemed to make her a bit less bitter. She still stopped herself from feeling any sense of relief or jubilation. All she could do was fake a smile and pretend she was just happy to see the X-men again.
This strange exchange between Emma and Cyclops did not go unnoticed by some of the others. Rogue especially found it strange, given how much it reminded her of the lingering feelings she had for the X-leader after having dated him as well. But a much stronger reaction came from the men. Now that the fighting had stopped, those such as Gambit and Wolverine had a chance to take in Emma’s appearance. To say she wasn’t what they were expecting would have been pushing it. All X-women had a tendency to be pretty attractive, but this woman took it up a notch. Her long flowing blonde hair, perfect hour-glass figure, and voluptuous curves were in a league of her own.
“Dang…that’s Scottie’s former girl?” commented Gambit.
“Yep,” affirmed a still woozy Iceman, “That’s her.”
Wolverine looked at Emma, then back at Scott, and then at Emma again. Under normal circumstances, he would find a way to chide the X-leader as he so often did. In this rare instance, he was in no position to do so.
“Okay I’ll say it,” he muttered, “My respect for Summers just went up half a point.”
“Just half?” joked Storm.
“Still a record,” said Wolverine begrudgingly.
A few of the others shared a good laugh, but Rogue remained serious as she watched her former lover talk to Emma.
“Ah take it they have quite a story to tell,” she sighed, “Ah’m guessin’ it ain’t rated PG either.”
“You have no idea,” laughed Iceman, “But don’t expect them to spill. Between this mess, Jean’s illness, and Warren’s obsession we got enough on our plate.”
With the hostages safe and the Reavers defeated, the authorities took it from there. As soon as Kurt and Kitty led the hostages out the building, they couldn’t get away fast enough. A few offered their gratitude, but by and large these rich hedge fund managers were content to go back to their pent houses and put this behind them.
The police had a far greater mess on their hands with having to detain the Reavers. Since they were cyborgs, they couldn’t take them into custody like normal criminals. They had to call in special equipment. Within hours a couple of reinforced SWAT vans pulled up to haul the six Reavers off to jail. To keep them from fighting back, they were bound with special titanium restraints. But surprisingly, they did not put up much resistance. They all went willingly, saying few words and offering few threats to the police or the X-men.
“What a day, eh?” commented Skullbuster as he was pushed into a van.
“Shut up, Erector Boy! You’re going away for a long time!” spat one of the officers.
“We’ll see about that,” said the Reaver leader ominously.
The doors were closed up and sealed. The vans were then escorted out of the streets via police convoy. With the Reavers gone, the cleanup on Wall Street could begin. It wouldn’t be long before it was business as usual.
Watching the convoy from the roof of the building were Emma Frost and the X-men. Since their relationship with the media was still shaky in wake of the Proteus affair, they kept their distance from the news cameras. Now was certainly not the time to bring the spotlight back on them.
Emma Frost also had no desire to get herself on camera either. She had enough exposure for one day already, as evidenced by her now ruined business suit. But her job was far from over in more ways than one. She tried not to think about that as she found herself in a bittersweet reunion with the X-men. They filled her in on many of their recent affairs while she filled them in on hers. There were many new faces and a few that were notably absent. Despite past bitterness, she took time to catch up with them all.
“It was nice meeting you, Emma. Even if it is under these difficult circumstances,” said Ororo.
“Oui, it always be a pleasure to meet a former X-man…especially when it happens to be a beautiful femme,” said Remy with his usual suave gesture.
Rogue gave Remy a light punch in the side, making sure she hit some of his wounds. He groaned, but did not complain. And Emma didn’t mind either.
“Charmed as I am, it seems fitting that our paths would cross again like this,” said Emma, “It seems fair considering how I left.”
“True, but let’s not go down that road again,” said Scott.
“That’s for sure. And besides, it’s not like you burned any bridges,” shrugged Bobby, “You know the drill. Once an X-man, always an X-man!”
“Indeed,” said Hank with a friendly gesture, “You should know you’re still always welcome at the institute. Even though you seem to be doing okay on your own.”
“Yeah, because going from X-men to a money grubbing hedge fund broker is such an upgrade,” said Kitty dryly.
“Kitty don’t!” said Scott strongly.
“Easy darling. It’s a fair criticism, albeit grossly immature,” said Emma, earning her a harsh look from Kitty, “But regardless of my past choices, I’m glad I could still count on the X-men. They’re one of the few things on this wretched world that don’t screw me over.”
Her tone was dry, if not a little distant. It had clearly been a while since she enjoyed the camaraderie of the X-men. It was hard to tell if it was part of her history or an after-effect of being a hostage, but this woman had a strange way about herself.
“Jeez, could this woman be any more bitter?” said Rogue under her breath.
“Look who’s talking, Stripes,” said Logan.
“Ain’t you gonna say it’s strange? Or are you too hung up on this gal being Scott’s ex?”
“Don’t tell me you’re not,” scoffed Logan.
“Maybe, but not as much as you are.”
Logan snarled under his breath. Rogue had a point. He couldn’t help but be suspicious about this woman and not just because she boned Scott Summers. There was something else about her he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Even if she was a former X-man, something about her seemed off. He just didn’t know what it was.
Suspicious aside, Emma Frost wasn’t done yet. She wasn’t always good at showing gratitude, but for the X-men she was willing to make an exception. And in this case she had to.
“Look you guys, I know I’ve already thanked you for saving my ass several times already,” she began.
“Thank us as much as you need. You’ve got an ass worth saving,” said Bobby jokingly.
“Be that as it may, I want to return the favor. I owe you and Charles as such for everything you’ve done…and for what I’ve so thoroughly neglected.”
“You really don’t have to do zhat, Miss Frost,” said Kurt, “X-men are supposed to help other X-men.”
“All the more reason for me to do something of my own volition…for once,” she said with her usual touch of sass, “Now you said something about Jean having issues with her powers…as if she didn’t have enough issues to begin with.”
“Yes, she has. But we’re not going to get into that mess again, are we?” said Scott.
“Of course not,” assured Emma, “Heavens knows we’ve dealt with that enough. The only thing that shocked me is you both went through two more ill-matched relationships before you hooked up.”
“Watch it, Frosty!” barked Logan.
“Yeah, we’re standin’ right here!” said an equally irked Rogue, who had to be held back by Remy.
“Oh will you lighten up already? I’m just being brutally honest,” said Emma wryly.
“Yeah…brutally,” said Remy, still having to hold back Rogue.
Emma made it clear she was not one for sugarcoating or subtlety. She said what was on her mind and she wasn’t shy about it. Behind that attitude, however, she was still dead serious.
“As it just so happens, I know someone who specializes in ailments unique to telepaths,” she explained, “His name is Jason Wyngarde. He’s a mutant with exceptional psychic talents and a lifelong specialist in the study of psionics.”
“A psychic specialist, you say?” said Hank with intrigue, “The name actually does sound familiar. I think I remember reading about his work in a medical journal.”
“If he specializes in telepaths, that may be just what we need,” said Scott intently, “Especially since we’re running short on ideas.”
It was an interesting offer and one that Scott especially latched onto. It hadn’t been lost on him how much Jean was hurting. Even though Emma and Jean had somewhat of a history, they were still X-men. Emma wouldn’t let that stop her from doing what X-men did. But for some, it sounded too good to be true.
“Right, so you just happen to know a guy?” said Logan skeptically, “That’s pretty freakin’ convenient.”
“Call it what you want. I’m just putting it out there. If you want something else, I’m all ears. But it sounds like this is something you need,” said Emma intently, “Of course, if you feel you can handle it on your own…”
Her words trailed off. Some remained suspicious, but the prospect of helping Jean when she seemed so beyond help was too much to pass up. And it wasn’t like they were trusting just anybody. Emma Frost was one of them. Even though she left, she earned her trust with the team.
For Scott it was even more pronounced. This woman was someone he shared a very intimate history with. He once loved this woman and she loved him back. Even though their relationship ended on a sour note, there was still that connection between them. With Jean still weighing heavily on his mind, it seemed his responsibility as her lover to take this chance.
“If it’s really no problem, we really could use the help,” said Scott.
“Wonderful darling,” said Emma, “I’ll give him a call and meet you at the institute tonight.”
“You really sure this Wyngarde guy can help?” asked Logan suspiciously.
“If Emma vouches for him, that’s good enough for me,” said Scott.
“Me too,” said Hank, “I hope he can shed some light on Jean’s predicament though. It has become quite serious.”
“With her when is it not?” shrugged Emma, “But I guess we’ll find out tonight.”
“I guess so,” sighed Scott, “Thanks Emma. Really, I appreciate what you’re doing. You have no idea what it means to me.”
“Don’t thank me, darling. You’re the one that saved me. I’m just doing my part.”
Despite his many worries, Scott smiled at his former lover. Emma only managed a slight smile in return. Since Scott and Hank accepted her offer, nobody else argued. They trusted her enough to take her word for it. It was comforting to know she still had that trust after all this time. It was also very disheartening.
Emma maintained her disposition as she saw the X-men off. Hank summoned the X-jet and Ororo flew them up on board. They all waved goodbye to Emma and she waved back. As soon as they were out of sight her expression fell. She didn’t even watch the jet fly away. She simply turned away and hugged her shoulders, her face now wrought with a mix of anger and guilt.
‘They still trust me. They still care about me. Scott didn’t even hold a grudge and I broke his bloody heart! He and the X-men are my only real friends. And I just flat out lied to them. Damn you, Shaw! Damn you and the rest of the Inner Circle to Hell!’
Next Issue: The Phoenix Saga Part 3
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