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Volume 6 -- Issue 130 -- Impossible Odds Part 2

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Impossible Odds Part 2
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Born with extraordinary powers, the X-men fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. But now they must now endure that fight without Professor Charles Xavier. His health ravaged by an addiction to pain killers, he chose to step down so he could get treatment. Now this team of gifted youngsters must find a way to bring order back to a world spinning out of control.

It started with the Mutant Liberation Front. This team of mutant extremist launched a series of attacks that have crippled infrastructure and disrupted the global economy. A renewed fear of mutants has sent the human/mutant conflict to crisis levels. But in spite of that fear, some seek to exploit it.

Where some see fear, Mojo Adams sees entertainment. Under the guise of Mojovision Productions, he’s put together an extreme survival show utilizing technology similar to what the X-men use in their Danger Room. Two unlucky mutants, Alison Blaire and Arthur Centino, must play Mojo’s game and survive on live TV. The broadcast has been streamed all over the world and millions are tuning in.

Wanting to avoid another publicity nightmare, the X-men set out to pull the plug on Mojovision. However, the team is not at full strength amd the scars left by the Mutant Liberation Front means the X-men must improvise.


Xavier Institute – War Room

“This sucks on so many levels!” groaned a frustrated Kitty Pryde.

She still couldn’t believe it. The X-men were going on a mission to stop Mojovision and she was sidelined. Usually something this important required the whole team. It wasn’t unusual for someone like Logan not to be present. He often had his own personal missions that kept him distracted. Kitty took pride in always trying to contribute, but her broken leg limited her ability to do so.

As a result, she was left behind while everyone who didn’t have one too many broken bones went to pay Mojo a visit. Beast gave her a few tasks to complete. Even though he claimed they were vital to the mission, it didn’t make getting left behind any less agonizing. It certainly didn’t help that she had to keep an eye on the broadcast through the War Room computer.

“You saw it here first, folks! Dazzler and Longshot have successfully endured the zombie attack and fended off an army of werewolves! What lies next for these two intrepid mutants? How much longer can they hold out? Stay tuned as the action, the drama, and potential romance continues to unfold live! Email or text your support for Mojovision productions! Standard text rates apply and a base fee for all displayed messages will be added as a surcharge! Now back to the action!”

“Shameless promotions and mindless brutality,” sighed Kitty, “TV has reached a new low and it doesn’t even involve fart jokes. I swear if I have to watch much more of this I’ll go as crazy as Magneto.”

She tried to look away, but it was like a horrible train wreck. No one could ignore it. Dazzler and Longshot were in yet another bizarre and life-threatening siguation. First they fought aliens. Then they fought zombies and werewolves. Now they were fighting killer robots in a post-apocalyptic future. Longshot was holding his own, using a spare metal rod to impale a Terminator-like robot through the head. Dazzler fought back with more firepower, firing off waves of dazzling energy blasts. They were both starting to show signs of fatigue. There was no way they could keep this up forever. For all they knew, Mojo would keep throwing disasters at them until they were killed on live TV. And that would definitely set back mutant relations at least another two decades.

This gave the X-men all the more reason to shut this crap down. Given the recent events surrounding the Mutant Liberation Front, some may actually enjoy seeing mutants killed in such a spectacle. Kitty sank into her seat in the War Room, awaiting her next round of instructions.

“Miss Pryde, I hope you’re not sulking. I have what you need and will send it momentarily,” said a voice through the War Room computer.

“Does it matter, Miss Tessa? Am I allowed to be pissed off and still run this auto-strike program Beast told me about?” grumbled Kitty as she opened a communication line.

“I would rather you remain focused. I’ve been monitoring the Mojovision broadcast as well. I too feel my IQ slipping with every second. That’s exactly why we need to make sure this works. If Mojovision is using Danger Room technology, then this special program is critical to the X-men’s mission.”

“Is this program critical enough to undo the damage this crap will do to everyone who watches it?”

“I’m sorry, Miss Pryde. There are limits to even the greatest of intellects.”

It didn’t sound too promising. Kitty wasn’t expecting a miracle. Mr. McCoy said he had a hunch. He didn’t claim it was a full fledged solution.

Kitty watched the secondary screen as Tessa sent her a special program via email attachment. She finally managed to turn away from the broadcast to access it. She would still rather be with the others. Tasks like this were usually reserved for Professor Xavier, who often stayed behind for missions that required the full team. It was yet another harsh reminder of his absence. Kitty tried to set that aside as she began running the program.

“This thing better work fast,” she mused, “I’m sure Mojo won’t pull the plug without a fight. Too bad I can’t be there to see that fat-ass’s face when the X-men cancel him for good!”


Skies Over Los Angeles – Aboard X-Jet

The X-men were closing in on Mojovision studios. The smog-filled skies of Los Angeles were almost a welcome sight. In the time it took for Cyclops to pick up the rest of the team, Mojo’s broadcast captivated another fifteen million viewers. Disgusting it may be, thrusting Dazzler and Longshot into an extreme situation had plenty of appeal. The prospect of seeing two mutants die on live TV was too appealing for a lot of people.

Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Iceman, Storm, Gambit, Colossus, and Psylocke were all too eager to put a stop to it. For much of the flight, they monitored the broadcast through the X-jet’s computer uplink. They also kept in touch with Shadowcat back at the mansion, who was feeding them additional data. It was a sad and twisted moment for the X-men’s mission.

“Our first mission since the Professor stepped down and it involves shutting down a TV show,” said Iceman, “Is that ironic or pathetic?”

“I vote none-of-the-above,” said Psylocke.

“I’m sure Wolverine would love to sharpen his claws on an asshole like Mojo,” added Iceman, “Yet once again, he’s MIA. Where is he again?”

“Does he even watch TV?” asked Colossus.

“I have no idea on both counts,” said Phoenix from the front of the jet, “I tried calling him twice and went straight to voicemail. I guess he’s busy with whatever he ran off to do this morning.”

“Should we be worried?” asked Storm.

“Not more than usual,” she sighed, “I figure if something was really wrong, he would have dropped a few hints. Logan isn’t one for subtlety.”

“He’s not the only one,” said Cyclops from the cockpit, “I’m more interested in what’s wrong with this Mojo Adams. Someone who puts mutants in snuff films has to have at least half as many issues as Wolverine.”

“Your reasoning may be valid, Cyclops,” said Beast, who was in the co-pilot chair, “Shadowcat just sent me a data-file from one of Lilandra’s associates. And I think it’s safe to conclude that Mr. Adams’s issues are almost as disturbing as his tastes in entertainment.”

The X-jet flew in lower, passing over the famous Hollywood sign down below. They were about to confront this deranged man and needed to know what they were up against. They weren’t about to be caught off guard like they were with the Mutant Liberation Front.

“How disturbing we talkin’ about here?” asked Gambit, “Remy’s met plenty of folk who get their kicks watchin’ people die. There be plenty of room for places in between.”

“I would say that Mr. Adams occupies a place all his own,” said Beast, “According to his official file, his full name is Matejovsky Santonio Adams. Mojo is the nickname he earned as a chess prodigy growing up in Eastern Europe. Technically, he’s a mutant too. An Albino to be precise. But he won’t show up on any Cerebrum scan.”

“That explains why he looks like a crackhead version of the Pillsbury Doughboy,” said Psylocke, “I bet he was never on the Friends of Humanity’s hit-list.”

“That’s more than likely. Albinism doesn’t require the X-gene. His appearance is only one of his many defining traits, which include a 169 IQ and three PHDs. He graduated secondary school at 13. He graduated college from the Ukraine at 17. Then he spent three years at Cambridge, earning himself a spot in their advanced particle physics department. I read over some of his old papers. It’s safe to say we’re dealing with someone who is as intelligent as he is outspoken.”

“Yet he decided to make a reality show?” said Cyclops skeptically.

“That doesn’t sound very intelligent to me,” said Phoenix.

“That was long after he got a job working for Chandilar Enterprises, where he has spent the past several decades turning his brilliance into advanced technology,” said Beast.

“Chandilar? Isn’t that the company Lilandra Neramani ran?” asked Storm.

“The very same,” he affirmed, “Mr. Adams was their top researcher in the field of optics, quantum computing, and particle physics. He is largely responsible for developing the breakthroughs that make the Danger Room possible.”

“So he’s to thank for all the soreness, bruises, and broken bones,” said Iceman dryly.

“You could say that and he could have made a good name for himself with this venture. But even during this more innocent time of his life, there were signs that he was a bit…unstable.”

“Oh this ought to be plenty disturbing,” said Gambit, rolling his eyes.

Hank scrolled to the bottom of the report. It was here where the details of Matejovsky Adams’s life got sketchy.

“According to one of Lilandra’s associates, Mr. Adams was rather ambitious about how to implement his research. Merely contributing to science wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to use his holographic technology in the entertainment field. It seemed like a reasonable venture at first, but then he started conducting a few unsanctioned tests. He used company resources to create special effects that were so real that they caused serious injuries to his test subjects.”

“Does that make him a mad scientist or an eccentric director?” asked Psylocke.

“He’s likely a little of both. And Chandilar shared those sentiments,” said Beast, “About four years ago, Adams was fired for allegedly stealing significant amounts of company hardware.”

“Yet he’s not in jail or an insane asylum?” questioned Iceman.

“I emphasize the word allegedly because it was never proven. Therefore, he was never convicted.”

“And once again another bloody sod slips through the cracks of the legal system,” groaned Psylocke.

“Well you did say he was smart. I’m sure if he’s guilty, he figured out how to get away with it,” said Phoenix.

“That would explain how he’s been able to equip Mojovision Productions with Danger Room technology. In the time after his dismissal, he fell off the radar. It appears he pooled the money he earned from his various patents at Chandilar into a blind trust. From those funds, he started his studio and has spent the last few years putting together this nefarious broadcast.”

“So where do mutants factor into this madness?” asked Colossus.

“That’s where the details get rather inane,” sighed Beast, “From what I gather, Mr. Adams has no side in the conflict between humans and mutants. He merely used mutants because they have peoples’ attention at the moment.”

“So if Justin Bieber or aliens from Mars were inspiring all this fear and hatred, they would be the ones caught up in this mess?” said Iceman.

“By following his twisted logic, this appears to be the case.”

They were clearly dealing with a very strange yet very dangerous man. Mojo didn’t appear intent on upsetting human/mutant relations. He was just a crazy visionary who wanted to make a spectacle. It was a different kind of enemy, but one that still posed a major threat.

“I don’t care how twisted his logic may be. We need to stop this guy whether he calls himself Mojo or Matejovsky,” said Cyclops.

“I prefer Mojo. It’ll be easier to pronounce while I’m beating the piss out of him,” said Psylocke.

“We also have to keep in mind that two innocent mutants are caught up in this,” reminded Cyclops, “We’ve crossed paths with Alison Blaire before. We’ve seen the kind of danger she attracts. Our first priority is to protect her and whoever her unlucky co-star is so Mojo can’t use them as hostages. And since we’re dealing with Danger Room technology, we need to find a way to shut it down as well.”

“All while on global television, no less,” added Phoenix.

“Nothing like a little extra scrutiny to raise the stakes, non?” commented Gambit.

“All the more reason to avoid making the same mistakes we made against the Mutant Liberation Front,” added the X-leader, “This is our first mission without Professor Xavier. I know it still feels weird, but we need to prove to the world and ourselves that we can handle it! Mojo is probably expecting us to interfere. So we’ll have to gain an edge by being more resourceful.”

“We’ve already taken the first few steps, Cyclops,” said Beast, “Sage and Kitty are utilizing the resources on their end to help us put a stop to this. However, he’ll still need to put ourselves in the line of fire.”

“That is probably the only part that isn’t messed up,” said Colossus.

“No matter how messed up it may get, I believe we’re ready for this, Cyclops!” said Storm, “You’re the Operations Commander. We’ll follow you’re lead.”

“Then get ready to enter the spotlight, X-men!” said the X-leader as Mojovision Studios came into view.

The X-men held on as the X-jet circled around the building in preparation for the attack. From the outside, it didn’t appear to have a clear entrance. That didn’t matter. They would make one if they had to. The sooner they could stop Mojo’s broadcast, the better. Cyclops was about to take it into a hover mode and lead the team into battle. Then without warning, a strange blue light appeared at the back of the jet and Spiral emerged.

“Late as always, X-men! You have been losing your touch!” she said with a grin.

“Shit! Somebody contain her!” barked Cyclops.

“Oh this can’t be good!” groaned Iceman.

“I have a special message from Mojo. He says prepare for your close-up!”

Before any of them could even get out of their seats, Spiral utilized her powers to teleport the X-men. Cyclops, Phoenix, Iceman, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Psylock, and Colossus each felt an ominous blue ring form around them. And in an instant, they were transported away from the X-jet to an unknown destination.


Mojovision Studios – Main Stage

The X-men reappeared in an exceedingly unforgiving environment. They were now standing in the middle of a decimated city with buildings that looked like they had been hit with bombs and streets that were filled with cracks. Above them was an eerie twilight with a bright red sun. In every direction there was nothing but destruction. It was as confusing as it was disorienting.

“Whoa…what just happened?” said a dazed Colossus.

“Either we’ve been transported to the future every Terminator movie warned us about or we’re standing in the middle of Mojo’s insanity,” said Phoenix as she looked around.

“I haven’t heard anyone say ‘come with me if you want to live’ yet so I guess that narrows it down!” said Cyclops as he put his hand on his visor in preparation.

As the X-men took in their new surroundings, Spiral emerged atop a pile of rubble about a hundred feet away from them. When she appeared, she had weapons in each of her many hands that included four guns and two swords. She stared down at Cyclops, Phoenix, Iceman, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus with a predatory scowl. She had been waiting for this chance for quite some time.

“Smile for the cameras, X-men! You’ve officially joined Mojovision’s inaugural broadcast!” she proclaimed.

“You almost sound proud of that,” scoffed Psylocke as she formed a psionic blade.

“I assume that little exercise in teleportation is not solely part of Mojo’s act. You’re a mutant, aren’t you?” surmised Beast.

“Were the extra arms not enough of a clue?” said Spiral.

“If that’s true, then what the hell are you doing helping a creep Mojo?!” asked Iceman.

“I’m simply returning the favor of screwing you over!” she replied ominously, “I was on Genosha the day you had to butt in and ruin everything! As far as I’m concerned, you did our entire race a disservice! What better way to punish your treachery than humiliating you on global television?”

Some within the team who took part in the Genosha uprising now remembered her. She was one of the many mutants who watched Magneto’s plan fail because of them. She was obviously not satisfied with what happened after and was looking for an opportunity to see the X-men fail as well.

“Just what Remy needs, another crazy femme that holds a grudge,” muttered Gambit.

“And you didn’t even get to sleep with her,” commented Psylocke.

“That be her loss. Although with those arms, it probably ain’t worth it.”

“At least she’ll save us the trouble of finding someone who can lead us to Dazzler and Longshot!” said Cyclops as he prepared his visor.

“Oh come now, X-men! Where’s your sense of theatrics?” scoffed Spiral, “Say what you will about Mojo. He’s always in control!”

Spiral kept grinning as several large shadows passed overhead. The X-men looked up to see a hoard of oversized killer robots. They knew they were of the killing variety because instead of arms, they had two massive cannons attached to a large triangular body with a large red light in the center. They had no legs to support themselves, using a constant thrust of rocket exhaust to keep it air-born. It didn’t have the same presence of a sentinel, but they all set their sights on the X-men as if having taken commands by Spiral.

“Mutant life-forms detected. Must destroy. Must destroy,” the robots all blared.

“You do realize you’re doing an even greater disservice to our kind by participating in this blood sport, right?” Storm yelled towards Spiral as the X-men were surrounded.

“With the Mutant Liberation Force running rampant, it can’t get much worse. At least I had the good sense to make Mojo pay me for my services,” retorted Spiral.

“Whoa…you’re getting paid for this and we aren’t?” said Iceman, “Cyclops, seeing as how we’re in Hollywood…”

“Save it, Iceman! Killer robots first! Hollywood attitude later!” said the X-leader.

“Just putting it out there,” he replied, “If we’re going to get our asses kicked again, it might help to get a little compensation for it.”

Taking command as the X-men’s Operations Commander, Cyclops fired the first short at one of the incoming robots. It only dented the thick metal shell, allowing it to aim its arm cannons right towards the X-men and forcing them to go on the evasive.

“Dang! So we really be playing Mojo’s game?” asked Gambit.

“We have to for now! But not for too long!” said the X-leader.

“The odds are more fair than you think, Gambit,” said Beast, “We deal with such threats on a regular basis. Consider this an impromptu Danger Room session.”

“With Wolverine controlling the scenario while drunk,” added Phoenix added.

“Even with killer robots? I don’t think it is that bad,” said Colossus, despite one of the robots aiming its cannons right at his head.

Another robot opened fire. This time Colossus didn’t try to avoid it, choosing to draw the attack so the rest of the team could get into position. He braced himself for the major hit, which delivered the kind of force that would rip the flesh off any man who didn’t have metal skin. While it did mess up his uniform, it also gave the rest of the X-men a chance to counter.

Cyclops coordinated with Phoenix and Iceman, who each focused their attacks on two robots hovering over Spiral, hitting them both with a mix of optic and ice blasts. Beast and Gambit broke off in the other direction, drawing two more killer robots towards one of the decimated building. In close quarters, their agility gave them an edge and allowed them to better outmaneuver these behemoths. In many ways it was like a Danger Room session because there were rules to follow and strategy to utilize.

As part of this strategy, Psylocke moved in and backed up Colossus, throwing her psionic blades right up at the killer robot that first shot at them. She managed to hit the arm cannons before it could shot Colossus again. It caused the robot’s components to spark erratically and spin out of control.

“Thank you, Psylocke, I’d rather not take too many of those,” said Colossus, his ears still ringing.

“These blokes may look tough, but at least the Sentinels had personality,” commented Psylocke as she formed another psionic blade.

“I hope that means they’re as easy to outsmart,” said the Russian.

“I’ll put that theory to the test!” said Storm as she flew by.

From the moment the first shot was fired, Storm took to the air. Surrounded by wind and sparks of lightning, she boldly flew in the face of one of the killer robots. She taunted it with small lightning strikes. The robot took notice and set its sights solely on Storm. Once she had the robot’s attention, she flew up higher. The robot tried shooting at her along the way, but she was moving too fast. It tried to catch up by pursuing her. Storm allowed this, only hitting back with a few blizzard bursts.

From below, Gambit watched this with concern. Storm was playing a dangerous game with these killer robots. He was usually the one who played those games because she didn’t usually bluff nearly as well.

“What the hell you doing, Stormy? Hit that thing with some lightning already!” Gambit called out.

“She knows what she’s doing, Gambit! We have a more pressing concern in case you’ve forgotten!” said Beast.

A blast from the robot narrowly missed the distracted Cajun. It would have hit him point blank had Beast not redirected it by jumping on its back. In the narrow confines of an abandoned building, Beast used his agility to scale the rubble and avoid the killer robot. Then when the mechanized behemoth turned its attention towards Gambit, he jumped on it and clung to one of the arm cannons.

“Obstruction detected. Crush the mutant,” said the machine as it swung its arm around.

“Oh dear! I don’t think I’m tall enough for this ride!” said Beast as he held on tightly.

“Stick to the merry-go-round, teach!” said Gambit as he took out a fresh deck of cards.

Using a blown out window as cover, Gambit threw six charged cards. He aimed carefully so he wouldn’t hit Beast. The cards exploded around the other cannon arm of the robot. It didn’t do a lot of surface damage, but one of the cards went right into the muzzle. And when this one went off, it unleashed a much larger explosion. It was so large that it blow the arm right off of the robot, causing it to lose balance and allowing Beast to lead it right into a wall. He jumped off just before it crashed.

“That could have been more dexterous. Remind me to help you with your aim in our next training session, Gambit,” said Beast, rubbing his head.

“You’re welcome,” was all Gambit said in response.

With one killer robot down, the two X-men met up with Colossus and Psylock. They were taking on another robot that had them cornered in the middle of the street. Not far from where they were standing, two more killer robots hovered above. Cyclops, Phoenix, and Iceman handled this threat, maintaining a high rate of fire with optic blasts, ice beams, and telekinesis. They were struggling, but holding their ground. And Spiral couldn’t have that.

“You’re not heroes, X-men! Not after today!” said the determined mutant.

The two killer robots sustained heavy damage from optic blasts and ice blasts. They couldn’t counter either because the blasts from their arm cannons blocked by Phoenix’s telekinesis. Spiral turned the tide by teleporting herself in behind the three X-men. As soon as she appeared, she drop-kicked Phoenix right in the back.

“Umf!” grunted the psychic, getting the wind knocked out of her in the process.

“Phoenix!” exclaimed Cyclops.

“Damn! There goes our cover!” said Iceman.

The minute her telekinetic shields went down, the two damaged robots attacked. Cyclops grabbed the dazed Phoenix and pushed her out of the way. Iceman jumped to the side just as one of the blasts hit the ground next to him. Unfortunately, he tumbled right in front of Spiral.

“If your parents are watching, they’ll want to look away!” she said as she pointed her guns at the young mutant.

“And miss my breakout performance? No way!” said Iceman.

He rolled away just as Spiral started shooting. Gunshots rang out and the bullets narrowly missed him. One grazed his icy shell, but did little damage. He got up quickly and fired a couple of ice beams. They hit two of Spiral’s six arms, freezing the guns in a ball of snow. When Spiral tried to fire them, they exploded in her hand. It caused her discomfort, but she barely winced.

“You think that hurt? I have plenty of hands to spare!” she said.

“There are so many dirty jokes I could make about that, but I’ll risk your wrath over the FCC’s!” quipped the young mutant.

Spiral attacked again, this time more with her swords. Iceman formed a shield of ice to block her strikes. That ice was quickly chipped away, but it brought him some time while his teammates recovered.

Cyclops and Phoenix saw his predicament. However, they weren’t able to help. The two killer robots they had been fighting earlier were still active. This time Phoenix didn’t bother putting up a telekinetic shield. She and Cyclops went on the offensive, avoiding the incoming shots and countering with blasts of their own. Cyclops’s optic blasts were enough to inflict surface damage while Phoenix delivered the final blow.

“We’ve dragged this out enough! Go for it, Phoenix!” ordered Cyclops.

“You’re enjoying your new title way too much, babe!” grinned Phoenix.

The powerful psychic took to the air, a halo of cosmic fire forming around her in the process. With her eyes glowing, she unleashed a powerful telekinetic burst that was augmented by a little Phoenix power. The arms of the two robots were roughly pulled apart, ending any chance of another shot. Under the strain, their arms were ripped right from their sockets. This left them critically damaged, allowing Cyclops to finish them off.

“I hope you’re watching this, Mojo!” Cyclops called out.

After a quick adjustment of his visor, Cyclops unleashed two concentrated optic blasts that hit the center of each robot. It took out the glowing red light, causing the two robots to fall limply to exploded in a spectacle. It was probably something Mojo programmed into it. He wanted this fight to be flashy and so far he was getting it.

With the killer robots on the ground neutralized, the only one that remained was the one chasing Storm. It had been following her as she ascended rapidly into the sky. The robot kept firing, but could not hit her. She used wind and fog to keep it from getting a clear shot. It wasn’t just defensive either. Storm had a plan and it didn’t just involve countering the robot’s attack.

“If Mojo really is using Danger Room technology, that means it can be tricked,” she mused, “Warren always did this to cheat in the Sentinel training program. It should work here!”

Storm accelerated faster under the guidance of her winds. It put more distance between her and the killer robot, forcing it to increased its speed as well.

“You cannot escape, mutant!”

Faster and faster, the two figures flew. Storm felt the blistering wind around her face as well as energy blasts from the robot. They were still missing her, but they were cutting it close. She was almost there. She could sense it. Her eyes glowed bright white as she formed more clouds and directed them in front of her like a light tornado. Storm watched carefully for changes while being mindful of the robot’s firepower.

Then she saw it. The winds from her cloudy tornado hit something. Her eyes told her there was still boundless sky ahead of her, but like the Danger Room this was a simulation. That meant there was a ceiling to this vast arena and as soon as she reached it, her winds dissipated. She also noticed the image of the sky becoming wavy, which was probably a result of her disrupting the hologram.

“There! I knew it!” she exclaimed.

As she closed in on the ceiling, Storm abruptly shifted the winds so that she changed direction at a near right-angle. This tested her tolerance for g-forces, but she avoided crashing. However, the killer robot tailing her wasn’t so lucky.

Moments after Storm turned away from the ceiling, the killer robot slammed into the unseen barrier. It got lost in Storm’s fog so it wasn’t able to avoid the impact. However, when it hit it didn’t explode. Instead, it’s entire structure became warped. In a process that seemed to defy all known physics, the robot disintegrated in a burst of stray light. It also caused the image of the sky to warp as well, causing a few sparks to fly.

“A hologram is a hologram, even in Hollywood. You can’t hide behind them forever, Mojo!” she said out loud, knowing Mojo was listening, “Sooner or later, you’re going to get a dose of reality and I promise you it’ll hurt!”


Mojovision Studios – Control Room

The struggles with Longshot, Dazzler, and the X-men were escalating by the minute and Mojovisions cameras caputred every glorious moment. Audiences all over the world were eating it up. Revenue from ads was pouring in. In a very short span of time, Mojovision had achieved unprecedented success. Now that success was threatened.

Storm’s tactic against the killer robot hadn’t gone unnoticed. She and the rest of the X-men were clearly familiar with this technology. They knew its limitations and how to exploit it. This could undermine the whole show. Mr. and Miss Domo understood this, knowing there was only so much they could do if the holographic technology was compromised.

“It seems the X-men are every bit as resourceful as we anticipated,” said Mr. Domo, remaining calm even as some analysts showed signs of panic.

“That attack from Storm damaged one of the holographic projectors. If they damage too many, the whole scenario could collapse!” said one of the technicians.

“That will not go over well with the audience,” said one of the marketing analysts, “A few of our advertisers expressed concern upon seeing this attack.”

“I’m focusing more cameras on Longshot and Dazzler,” said Miss Domo, “They’re nearing the X-men’s position. Our latest surveys indicate that audiences are intrigued by their chemistry.”

“That chemistry won’t do us much good if the X-men destroy the studio,” said Mr. Domo, “What’s our next move, Mr. Mojo?”

Mojo Adams was the only one not taking this development seriously. He divided most of his attention between the broadcast and the ratings screen. The numbers kept growing. The sight of Storm damaging a key component to this broadcast barely registered.

“You almost sound worried, Mr. Domo. In fact, that’s the most emotion you’ve shown since I’ve hired you!” laughed Mojo.

“If it’s a concern, I promise it won’t happen again,” said Mr. Domo flatly.

“I have many concerns. Your lack of personality isn’t one of them. Storm’s little stunt isn’t one of them either. I know Chandilar has been selling Xavier this technology for years. I expect them to exploit its flaws.”

“I was under the impression that it wouldn’t happen this quickly,” said Mr. Domo, “There is still plenty of room for the ratings to grow, but they can’t grow if the X-men find a way to shut down the broadcast.”

“They won’t! I’ll make sure of it! That’s exactly why I prepared a few special scenarios!”

Mojo cracked his knuckles confidently. He then turned away from the monitors that tracked the ratings and approached the console that controlled the holographic scenario. So far the post-apocalyptic future was providing a decent bit of action for their stars. Now they needed a scenario that would remind them that he was the one in charge.

“Prepare scenario X16! Allow Longshot and Dazzler to reach the X-men and then implement protocol 31!” ordered Mojo.

“Yes sir,” said the technician, “Shall we utilize parameters that Spiral requested?”

“Why not? She’s been so helpful! She deserves a reward!” said Mojo.

“If you’re using the imagery I think you’re using, it may be a bit jarring to the audience,” said Mr. Mojo, “Are you sure it’s appropriate at this point in the broadcast?”

“Only to the extent that it’ll keep people watching! Now hurry up and load it! We’re nearing the grand finale and I want to see numbers that mathematicians haven’t heard of!” seethed Mojo as he rushed back to the main monitor, “Ready those cameras and hold onto your hats! Mojovision is about to make broadcast history!”


Mojovision Studios – Main Stage

“This way, Longshot! I see a commotion up ahead and I recognize some of it!” yelled Dazzler as three killer robots pursed them.

“Fine, but for the record, I’m still not liking the whole Longshot name,” mused Longshot as he followed the pop star closely.

“Those red lasers and ice blasts can only be the X-men!” she said intently, “They’ll get us out of this! I know they will!”

“I don’t care if they’re the Power Rangers! I’ll take any help we can get at this point!”

Longshot and Dazzler had been running for what felt like a lifetime. They had been through a sci-fi battle and a real-life horror movie. Yet aliens, zombies, and werewolves still weren’t enough for Mojo. That’s when the scenario changed and they found themselves in an apocalyptic setting with a fresh round of danger.

It started off similar to the previous challenges. Mojo surrounded them with killer robots, forcing them to go on the run again. But this time Longshot and Dazzler were more coordinated. After agreeing to trust one another, they used their combined powers to fight their way through. Longshot utilized his luck powers to help them dodge the incoming blasts while Dazzler used her firepower to strike back. It didn’t destroy all the robots, but it did give them time take cover in the ruins of the destroyed city.

Then moments ago, they discovered they weren’t the only ones trapped in Mojo’s madness. The robots seemed to be chasing them towards another part of the arena. That’s when they noticed a few flashes in the distance. Someone else was here and once Dazzler recognized them, she couldn’t reach out to them fast enough.

“HEY! OVER HERE!” she shouted out at the top of her lungs, “CYCLOPS! ICEMAN! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!”

Dazzler’s shouting seemed to provoke the killer robots. They took aim at her again and fired another round of blasts.

“Die filthy creature!”

“Watch out!” yelled Longshot.

The struggling actor had to tackle Dazzler to the ground just as the robot attacked. He shielded her with his body as the blast hit just up ahead of them. Had Dazzler still been running, she would have been hit. Sensing that the robot would go in for another shot, Longshot rolled over and looked up at the incoming killer robot.

“Go back to playing extras in Japanese anime!” he shouted as his eye flashed.

Just as two of the killer robots flew close to them, they passed near a half-destroyed sky-scraper. Longhshot then used his powers to cause the already decimated building to crumble in a way that was statistically impossible for anyone without obscene luck. It gave way just as the killer robots were taking aim for another blast. Chunks of concrete and glass poured down, crushing the two killer robots and burying them in a pile of rubble.

This tactic took care of the robots. It also allowed Longshot and Dazzler to breathe a quick sigh of relief. Longshot almost forgot he was still on top of Dazzler.

“The cameras are still rolling, pretty boy. You can get off me now,” said Dazzler with a half-grin despite her exhaustion.

“You’re welcome again,” quipped Longshot as he helped her up.

“I would have given you the full thank-you, but you missed one in case you haven’t noticed!” she said, pointing behind him.

Longshot turned around and saw another killer robot flying in close. It was almost within shooting range. It was also flying higher so there were no buildings that Longshot could use to take it down. They were about to turn around and run again. Then an ice blast from behind shot out and covered the arm cannons of the menacing drone.

“I knew I recognized that superstar voice!” said Iceman as he came in on an ice slide.

“Iceman!” Dazzler called out, “So the X-men really are here!”

“I like to think we’re more than just Facebook friends after we saved you the first time!” he replied, “I see you have company too! Hope he’s not a groupie!”

Dazzler laughed while Longshot rolled his eyes. It almost took away the satisfaction of seeing Iceman neutralize the killer robot by encasing it in ice. He even put up an ice wall to slow down two more robots that were trying to catch up. It gave him time to come around on his ice slide and pick them both up.

“Hop aboard!” said Iceman as he passed by, “The rest of the X-men should be finished on their end!”

“Please tell me you guys know how to stop this. I don’t think I can stomach another minute in Mojo’s sick world,” said Longshot as he stepped on the slide with Dazzler.

“Turst me, you’re in good company. We’re just as eager to shut him down.”

“So you have a plan?” asked Dazzler anxiously.

“It’s…developing,” he replied cryptically, “I’m not the mastermind. I’m just the guy who plays it cool.”

Hey may not have had a plan, but, Dazzler and Longshot still followed him. They held on for the ride as Iceman took them on his ice slide across the post-apocalyptic wasteland. He led them back to the crosswalk where the X-men were battling Spiral and one more stray robot.

While they approached, Psylocke and Gambit finished off the killer robot. Psylocke managed to jump on top of it and impale it with her psionic blades. Gambit kept it from throwing her off by hitting the front part of the robot with charged cards. To keep it from flying away, Colossus grabbed it by one of it’s arms. He even managed to warp the arm cannon so it couldn’t fire, holding it in place so Psylocke could finish it off.

“Why won’t this bloody thing die already?!” exclaimed Psylocke in between stabs.

“Funny, didn’t you mutter that when we broke up?” commented Gambit as he charged another deck.

“Do not provoke an angry woman, Gambit! Especially an ex-lover!” grunted Colossus as he struggled to hold onto the creature, “Remember, this is live TV!”

“Hope that means they getting Remy’s good side,” said the Cajun.

“Don’t start smiling for the cameras, luv!” said Psylocke as she jammed the last blade into the killer robot, “It looks like we’re one step closer to shutting down this bloody show!”

From atop the killer robot, Psylocke watched Iceman fly in with Dazzler and Longshot. They arrived just in time to see the robot she was fighting short out and collapse. This left only Spiral, who was surrounded by Cyclops, Beast, and Phoenix. The X-men seemed to be at an advantage and they needed to keep it that way if they were to put a stop to this.

“Hey guys! Look who I picked up off the sunset strip!” said Iceman as he passed over Psylocke and landed near Beast.

“You’re just in time, Iceman. Spiral is a formidable fighter, but the odds are not in her favor,” said Beast.

“You sure about that!” grunted Spiral as she tried to teleport in behind Beast for a quick hit.

However, the resourceful mutant didn’t get a chance to land a blow this time. Cyclops anticipated this move and hit her with an optic blast. This sent her crashing into the remaints of a robot that had just been destroyed.

“Arrgghhh!” he cried out.

“Yeah...we’re pretty sure,” said Cyclops, keeping his hands on his visor as he approached the skilled mutant.

“Don’t even try teleporting again!” warned Phoenix, her eyes glowing with cosmic fire, “I’ll telepathically rewire your mind so that you think you’re a two-year-old girl with bladder control problems if I have to!”

Spiral looked up and saw that she was surrounded. Cyclops and Phoenix loomed over her. Beast joined them along with Iceman, Dazzler, and Longshot. Colossus, Gambit, and Psylocke caught up in as well. They showed little patience after fighting so many killer robots. They were ready to end this madness. Yet Spiral remained defiant, pointing all her guns towards the X-men.

“You have a telekinetic and a guy with metal skin standing in front of you,” said Iceman, “You really think that’s going to do you any good?”

“Do yourself a favor. Surrender and tell us where Mojo is,” said Colossus, cracking his knuckles in a threatening display.

“You poor, pitiful X-men,” said Spiral with a snide grin, “You’re so used to having things go your way. Well in this world, those rules don’t apply!”

Phoenix and Psylocke were about to probe her mind for answers. Thenthe body of Storm came crashing down as if she was a plane spinning out of control. She came close to hitting Gambit and Beast, who ducked just in time. The X-men quickly rushed to her aid. She was in bad shape, her uniform torn as if she had taken a major blow. She was still conscious, but had a nasty bruise on her right shoulder and lower leg. It looked like she had the wind knocked out of her and for someone of her power that was not a good sign.

“Stormy!” exclaimed Gambit.

“My word! What happened to her?” said Beast as he knelt down.

“Hnn…run,” was all she got out.

“Run? From what?” asked Cyclops intently.

The X-men got their answer in the form of ominous shadows that fell upon them from above. The shadows took the familiar form of Magneto, sparking a new sense of dread. And if one Magneto wasn’t bad enough, Mojo clearly went for overkill because he made an army of them.

“That answer your question?” grinned Spiral.

“Yeah…I’d say that’s a pretty solid answer,” said Iceman, suppressing a gulp.

“Is that who I think it is?” said Longshot as he looked up.

“Who else wears a bucket for a hat and can take down an X-man?” groaned Dazzler.

There were dozens of them if not hundreds. They all had the distinct uniform and helmet that Magneto wore when he was running the Brotherhood. Their faces were vacant, looking more machine than man. There was none of the colorful personality they had come to know and fear from the master of magnetism. However, the power was clearly there. As they descended towards their position, all the metal in the surrounding environment shook violently. It levitated before their eyes and swirled around them in a tornado of metal.

The X-men were now trapped along with Longshot and Dazzler. Killer robots, zombies, and aliens were hard enough. Mojo clearly had done his research on the X-men and knew how to put them in an unwinnable position. Now with the clear upper hand, Spiral arose and was joined by two Magnetos. Despite this intimidating presence, Cyclops kept a strong demeanor.

“Don’t get shell-shocked, X-men! These are all holograms! None of them are the real Magneto!” said Cyclops.

“Does it really matter?” said Spiral as she approached the trapped mutants, “This is Mojo’s world. That means these Magnetos are as real as he wants them to be.”

“Does he even have the slightest understanding of the word overkill?” commented Psylocke.

“Mojo doesn’t like to take chances. That’s why I agreed to help him,” said the angry mutant, “You X-men have created ten problems for every one you’ve solved. As far as I’m concerned, Mojo is doing the world a favor by profiting from your demise!”

“Mixing vengeance with profit?” questioned Longshot, “Sorry lady, but you’ve been in Hollywood for way too long!”

“If you think attitude will earn you any mercy, you’re going to have to be a lot stronger than that! Mojo’s orders are clear. The show will go on even if it’s unbearably painful!”

Spiral was serious and she clearly held a grudge. That was not a good combination as the X-men watched the metal swirl faster. Gambit and Colossus tried to hold Storm up, who was still woozy. She wouldn’t be the only one at the rate the Magneto army was closing in. The metal was only a few feet away as the X-men backed up, standing together in the face of this overwhelming show of force. Longshot and Dazzler stayed close as well, their hopes of ending this nightmare gig dwindling.

“Not to put any added pressure on you, X-men, but a plan would be very helpful right about now!” said Dazzler anxiously.

“You sound as though we carry that sort of thing in our back pockets,” said Phoenix.

“Not to share the prima donna attitude, but if you guys have a plan B of any kind, then this would be the time to use it!” said Longshot.

The metal was closing in on them. Through the swirling chaos, a light began flashing on Beast’s communicator. The same light went off on Cyclops’s communicator as well. In this dire moment of overwhelming odds, it was the signal they had been waiting for.

“Funny you should say that. Looks like our plan A is finally ready,” said Cyclops.

“Does this mean what I think it means?” asked Colossus eagerly.

“It most assuredly does!” said Beast with a confident grin, “Our significant others have succeeded, Colossus. I believe Mojo’s audience is about to be left with a cliff-hanger.”

“What do you mean! What are you babbling about?!” demanded Spiral.

“Wait for it, cherè,” taunted Gambit, “Just try not to be too pissed.”


Meanwhile

Kitty Pryde had been watching Mojo’s perverse broadcast for too long. The more she saw, the harder she worked with Tessa to get her little software package going. Moments ago, she watched Mojo take it ten steps further by conjuring his own army of Magnetos. He had the X-men surrounded and outgunned before a global audience. Then she and Tessa finally succeeded in what they had hoped to do a half-hour ago.

“Yes! It’s working!” exclaimed Kitty, “We’re patched into the controls for Mojo’s toys! I can take it from here, Miss Tessa!”

“You know what to do now, Kitty. My program should do most of the heavy lifting,” said Tessa through the video link, “Hank was right. Mojo’s holographic technology has the same fail safes as the Danger Room. He couldn’t deactivate them. Chandilar wouldn’t allow it. Some of Lilandra’s friends were nice enough to provide some special access codes. Using Mojo’s own broadcast signal, you should be able to pull the plug.”

“I hope you’re not offended if I didn’t catch all that. I’m a little anxious to end this sham of a show and spare the world more mindless TV garbage,” said Kitty, who was typing feverishly on the main panel.

It didn’t take long for Kitty to get the access she needed. All the familiar control screens were at her fingertips. Having worked on the Danger Room with Beast before, this was a simple process from here on out. On the secondary screen that was streaming the broadcast, she could see the effects. Within seconds, the feed was cut and the screen went black.

“You’re finished, Mojo! Consider yourself canceled!”


Mojovision – Main Stage

“YOU FUCKING, PISSANT, SELF-RIGHTEOUS PRICKS! I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE DOING, BUT YOU’RE GOING TO FUCKING PAY!” yelled an incensed Spiral.

“Guess she didn’t hear Remy ask nicely to not be pissed,” sighed Gambit.

“Don’t tell me you’re surprised,” said Iceman, looking equally humored.

Mojo’s world was literally fading before their eyes. Seconds after receiving the message from Kitty, everything within the elaborate holographic scenario froze as if someone hit a giant pause button. All the Magnetos stopped cold in their tracks and so did the swirling metal. The barren post-apocalyptic wasteland became wavy and distorted. It was soon reduced to poorly rendered computer graphics, fading back to the bland gray arena that made up the main stage. It rendered Mojo’s twisted broadcast a complete bust.

While the X-men weren’t terribly surprised, Dazzler and Longshot were shocked. They had almost forgotten that all these twisted scenarios had just been holograms. Whatever the X-men did, it worked. However, Spiral wouldn’t let it end quietly.

“DIE YOU MUTANT TRAITORS!” she yelled as she charged towards the X-men.

“You want to do the honors, Psylocke?” asked Cyclops.

“Certainly, Mr. Operations Commander,” grinned Psylocke.

Phoenix put up a telekinetic barrier to block any incoming gunfire from Spiral. Then Psylocke used her ninja skills to dodge her reckless sword attacks so she emerged right behind her. She then let her telepathy deliver the final blow. She struck her first with one of her psionic blades to trip her up and hit her with an aggressive telepathic probe that knocked her out cold. She had some psychic shielding, but in her enraged state it was easy to break. Sprial fell lifelessly to the ground, dropping her weapons in the process.

“That was…an unglamorous finale. But I’ll take it!” said Dazzler, still baffled by everything that just happened.

“Me too,” said Longshot, “I thought I was lucky, but you X-men know how to make your own luck!”

“Coming from a man named Longshot, your words are much appreciated,” said Colossus.

“Is your name really Longshot?” asked Iceman.

“No, but it’s kind of growing on me,” he said, “I almost want to thank, Mojo. And by thank him, I mean beat the everloving shit out of him. We are going to beat him, right?”

“We’re already working on that,” said Cyclops, already formulating their next move.

Now that the danger had passed, the X-leader turned his attention to the injured Storm. He and Phoenix went to her aid. She was now standing up under her own power. She took a pretty nasty hit, but she didn’t sustain anything that a day or two in the infirmary couldn’t heal.

“How are you holding up, Storm?” asked Cyclops.

“I’ve endured worse from a rogue Danger Room session,” she replied, “That doesn’t make it any more comfortable.”

“It would seem Mother Nature cushioned your fall as she so often does,” joked Beast.

“She still doesn’t take the place of aspirin, which I’m sure I’ll need when this is over.”

“Which should be soon, non?” said Gambit.

“Yes…very soon,” said Cyclops, “If you’re up to it, we’re going after Mojo. But if you want, you can stay here with Dazzler and Longshot.”

Dazzler and Longshot heard this and quickly interjected.

“What?! You’re leaving us behind?” exclaimed Longshot.

“I may be a pampered pop star, but even I’m pissed enough to lay him out!” said Dazzler, “How do you even know where he is?”

“This whole stage is built like the Danger Room we use back at the mansion. That’s how we were able to stop it,” explained Cyclops, “We had someone back home hijack Mojo’s systems and shut them down. They have the same flaws and fail safes as ours.”

“That also means it has the same designs,” explained Beast, “Our Danger Room has an observation deck located on the north wall. It must be positioned within proximity of the projectors in order to provide a clear observation of the images below. So as we speak, Mojo is probably watching over us rather irritated at his systems crashing.”

“And we’re going to irritate him even more,” said Cyclops, “If you really want to join us, I don’t have the time to argue with you. But I must warn you it may be dangerous.”

Dazzler and Longshot exchanged glances. They were the ones most exploited by Mojo’s stunt. They were taken advantage of, their career aspirations used against them. If anyone was going to take on Mojo, it was only appropriate that they were part of it.

“We’ve faced a lifetime of danger already today. I’m up for a little more!” said Dazzler.

“Me too! Mojo’s got a big ass. There’s plenty of it for all of us to kick!” said Longshot.

Cyclops grinned. Seeing as how Mojo had a taste for overkill, it couldn’t hurt to use a little themselves.

“In that case, let’s put Mojovision out of business!” said the X-leader, “Phoenix, you know what to do.”

“Way ahead of you, babe!” said Phoenix, her body already surrounded with cosmic flames, “It’s too bad the cameras stopped rolling. I would love to get Mojo’s reaction!”


Mojovision Studios – Control Booth

“NO! NO! NOOOOOO! THE BROADCAST! THE RATINGS! IT’S ALL GONE! SOMEBODY TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED AND TO FIX IT RIGHT NOW!”

Mojo’s outrage echoed throughout the room. One moment the broadcast was going strong, the ratings kept soaring, and money was pouring in. Then in an instant it was over. The broadcast was cut. The holographic scenario was powered down and Mojovision’s historic production was stopped cold in its tracks.

It happened just as the show was reaching its zenith. They were approaching historic ratings and record profits. It looked as though they were playing the X-men perfectly, making them believe they stood a chance before surrounding them with an army of Magnetos. Then everything just stopped. The machines didn’t malfunction. The power didn’t go out. It just stopped, as if someone hit an off switch.

It sent every analyst in the room into a frenzy, trying desperately to get the program up and running again. Mr. and Miss Domo were the only ones that managed to remain calm, but even they understood that this was bad.

“This doesn’t make sense! We’re locked out!” said one of the computer programmers.

“Some kind of fail-safe has been activated!” announced one of the engineers, “We’re trying to override it, but we can’t access the projectors!”

“Even our broadcast signal has been lost!” said a communications specialist, “It’s as if someone else took control of it and locked us out!”

“That appears to be exactly what has transpired,” said Miss Domo from one of the larger consoles, “Someone was able to use our own signal against us. Whoever it is, they clearly have in depth knowledge as to how these systems work.”

“I don’t think I need to tell you what this has done to our revenue flow,” said Mr. Domo, still calm despite the crisis, “It is likely that the X-men planned this from the beginning.”

“I don’t care what they know or how much they know it!” shouted Mojo, “Can we or can’t we get the broadcast up and running?! We can’t end this like the damn Sopranos finale!”

“We’re trying everything we can, Mr. Mojo,” said Miss Domo, “It will require time and we don’t know how much of it we have to work with.”

Just as Mojo was about to start yelling again, the one-way window that looked out over the main stage was shattered in a burst of telekinetic force. Lights flickered and glass was sprayed in all directions. Every analyst and worker stopped what they were doing and took cover. Even Mr. and Miss Domo had to stop as they looked to see a very angry team of X-men along with Dazzler and Longshot riding Phoenix’s telekinesis into the room.

“I believe this means our time is up,” said Mr. Domo.

“You don’t know the half of it!” said Phoenix through her halo of cosmic flame.

“X-men, let’s show Mojo the same courtesy he’s shown us,” said Cyclops.

“And to think, Wolverine’s gonna miss the fun for once!” grinned Gambit.

The X-men ended all hopes of restarting the broadcast. Cyclops, Iceman, Gambit, and Psylocke unleashed a wave of firepower to destroy Mojo’s hardware. Every major console was rendered useless by a wave of optic blasts, ice blasts, charged cards, and psionic blades. All the workers quickly abandoned their loyalty to Mojo and tried to escape. Phoenix and Storm prevented them from doing so. Phoenix used her telekinesis to seal the doors and Storm kicked up some winds despite her injuries to force everybody to back up against the wall. This avoided further injuries and allowed the others to focus on Mojo.

“Is this really necessary?” said Miss Domo, finally showing a sliver of frustration, “Do you have any idea how expensive these machines are?”

“After what you put us through, no amount of money can buy your way out of this,” said a Colossus sternly.

“You will face justice, but not until you face those you used so recklessly,” said Beast.

With Mojo’s workers and equipment out of the way, the oversized figure was backed into a nearby corner with the Domos. Beast, Colossus, Dazzler, and Longshot confronted them while the others made sure none of this gear was salvageable. Longshot and Dazzler led the charge. Longshot grabbed the oversized man by the collar and pulled him close so he could look into his enraged gaze. Dazzler stood behind him, forming a series of energy sparks to demonstrate how pissed she was at this man’s madness.

“You’re as sick as you are fat, Mr. Mojo! Did you really think you could fuck with us for your own amusement?” spat Longshot.

“It takes a special kind of psychopath to put desperate people into a high tech death trap! It takes a new level of insanity to make a reality show of it!” said Dazzler, who lingered close behind Longshot.

“You used us! You played off our hopes and dreams!” added Longshot, “ You’re going to pay for what you’ve done! I’m sure the FCC will have field day screwing you over, but not before we get our shot!”

Mojo grinned nervously, holding up his hands even as Longshot and Dazzler forced him up against the wall next to Mr. Domo. The look in their eyes was much harsher than the rest of the X-men and the X-men didn’t seem too keen on stopping them. Now they were the ones enjoying the show.

“Now see here…this doesn’t have to get ugly,” said Mojo anxiously.

“Coming from you, that has to be a joke,” said Dazzler.

“I’m dead serious! Just stop and think about this for a moment! Your ordeal put you in the spotlight just as I promised! Everything you went through was captured and broadcast all over the world! You brought in ratings that no other actor, mutant or human, will likely see in their lifetime! Say we worked out a deal…one that involves a little less coercion! Think of all the fame and fortune! Not just for Mojovision, but for mutants everywhere!”

“Now I know you’re crazy,” scoffed Dazzler, “You think parading mutants around in a death trap actually helps them?”

“Even by Hollywood standards, you’re a real scum bag,” spat Longshot, “Do you really think you’re in a position to make a deal?”

“Actually, we’re in a better position than you think, Mr. Centino,” said Mr. Domo.

What happened next caught the two mutant stars and the X-men completely by surprise. The satisfying sight of Mojo’s people being cornered became distorted. It was just like what happened on the main stage when the scenario with the Magneto army was shut down. Every figure and object took on the distinct appearance of computer graphics, leading them to only one conclusion.

“No way!” said Longshot as he backed away.

“Whoa…we did leave the main stage, didn’t we?” said Iceman while rubbing his eyes.

“We certainly did,” said Beast as he pieced it together, “It would seem that isn’t the only stage. What we’re seeing now isn’t actually here. Mojo must have programmed a secondary system on a closed network. That way the program I had Kitty run wouldn’t affect it.”

“He probably moved out with his people just as we arrived,” said Cyclops flatly, “If he’s smart enough to make this technology, then he’s smart enough to have a backup plan.”

“It would also explain why I’ve been getting a lot of psychic interference,” said Phoenix, clutching her head.

“You just telling us this now?” groaned Gambit.

“You didn’t ask and we didn’t exactly have time to process it, luv. Telepathy has its limits,” said Psylocke.

It was a disappointing moment for the X-men, but it was even more disappointing for Dazzler and Longshot. It meant that Mojo wasn’t really in front of them and they weren’t going to get a chance to make him pay.

They had to back away while watching Mojo and his people fade away. First his workers disappeared. Then all the equipment in the control booth disappeared. Mr. and Miss Domo were next, fading into nothing and leaving only a gray room in their wake. Mojo still remained, adjusting his suit and grinning smugly. He may have been a manipulative asshole, but he was cunning as any Hollywood mogul should be.

“We could have done so much together!” he said, “You could have been stars in a world that desperately needs them! You may still get your chance. While this initial broadcast was cut short, it was still a success! Dare I say…this demands a sequel!”

Longshot and Dazzler cringed at the prospect, knowing Mojo was still out there and crazy enough to try anything. They watched as his image faded completely. Now there was nothing. Mojo was gone. His people were gone. Everything was gone and they had nothing to show for all their struggles.

“Go on and run you sick bastard,” grumbled Longshot, “If you’re crazy enough to try again, I’ll make sure you’re not so lucky.”

“This is Hollywood, Arthur. You have to make your own luck,” said Dazzler, her frustrating giving way to acceptance, “That’s how guys like Mojo outsmart us.”

Dazzler put her hand on his shoulder. Having gone through this nightmare together, he took comfort in her touch. It didn’t seem fair. Even with his luck, he had no control over his situation. He wasn’t used to relying on others like this. Having Dazzler and the X-men to fall back on was more than just luck. Without either of them, there was no way he could have done this. It was a hard shot of humility in a town full of ego.

The X-men gave them some space before confronting them. Cyclops, Phoenix, Iceman, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus knew all too well what the two aspiring performers were going through. They endured defeat before. They had been bested by Magneto, Sinister, and the Mutant Liberation Front. It was never an easy feeling to digest. They had to be satisfied with making it out in one piece.

“We’re sorry you two had to go through this,” said Cyclops, “We can’t bring Mojo to justice, but we can help smooth things over with the authorities. We’ll even give you a ride back to wherever you need to go.”

“Assuming the X-jet didn’t crash when Spiral teleported us out,” said Iceman.

“Don’t be foolish, Robert. You know full well I programmed an emergency autopilot to ensure the jet remained airborne in case a pilot was not present,” said Beast confidently.

“That’s okay, X-men. I think you’ve helped enough,” said Dazzler with a light smile, “I just wish we didn’t keep meeting under these circumstances.”

“Ain’t nothing to it, cherè. You can always make it up to us with back stage passes at your next concert,” said Gambit.

“Since when do you care for pop rock concerts?” joked Phoenix.

“Is that another secret you kept from me while we were dating?” asked Psylocke.

Dazzler laughed while Longshot continued to fume. The X-men were taking this less-than-triumphant outcome a bit too well.  He was in no mood for optimism.

“Could you do me a favor and quit it with the jokes?” groaned Longshot, “I’m grateful for the rescue and all, but you guys didn’t just have your careers ruined.”

“I’m sorry if some of us are being insensitive, Mr. Centino,” said Storm, giving Iceman and Gambit a harsh glare.

“What? Was anything I said really that insensitive?” asked Iceman.

“In any case, you shouldn’t let Mojo be the final act of your career,” Storm went on, ignoring Iceman’s comment, “Sometimes challenges like this are good for us. It helps put things into perspective.”

“Not to sound insensitive myself, but I’ve had enough perspective for one day,” said Longshot, who was already making his way towards the nearest exit, “You guys can go back to being heroes. Dazzler can go back to being a famous singer. All I have is an empty apartment and a stack of unpaid bills. Let’s just get out of this dump so I can go back to being utterly ignored in this town.”


Later

“Mr. Centino! Over here! Can I get a statement?”

“Miss Blaire! Now that this ordeal is over, will you part ways with Mr. Centio?”

“What about the X-men? Is it true they’ve offered you a position with them?”

“What is your opinion on the Mutant Liberation Front? I can get you an interview with Larry King if you want!”

Arthur Centio and Allison Blaire were facing something they didn’t expect. Apparently, Mojo’s broadcast had attracted plenty of media attention in addition to viewers. The moment they stepped out of the Mojovision Studios building, they were mobbed by reporters and paparazzi. There were so many and everyone was clamoring for a statement. It was somewhat refreshing for Allison and a bit overwhelming for Arthur.

“What did you say earlier about your career being over?” commented Alison over the commotion.

“I rely on my luck more than my memory,” said Arthur with a sheepish grin, “I forgot there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

It was a bizarre yet not-so-cruel twist of irony. Mojo promised to make Arthur and Allison stars again. Despite his sadistic methods, he succeeded. They had almost forgotten that their exploits were viewed by millions of people. Regardless of how fearful the public was towards mutants, they captured everyone’s attention. And attention was all that was necessary to put them back in the spotlight.

While Arthur and Alison were trying to navigate through the sea of reporters, a number of agents forced their way towards them. They braved being trampled and shoved to reach them. Once they were close enough, they tried to literally shove their business cards into their hands.

“Mr. Centio! I represent 20th Century Fox! We have a new survival horror movie that you would be perfect for!” yelled one agent.

“Miss Blaire! How would you feel about hosting Saturday Night Live next week?” asked another agent, “We had Patrick Stewart scheduled, but we can move him back!”

“How do you feel about a TV spot on an up-and-coming medical drama produced by Bryan Singer?” said another.

“I can get both a part in Brett Ratner’s new movie!”

Arthur couldn’t stop smiling. Suddenly his career seemed bright again. He went from the unluckiest mutant on the planet to the luckiest again. He should have been used to it by now, but it still astonished him. He had to be duped, scammed, and used like a glorified puppet in a psychopath’s twisted fantasy. Yet in the end, it put his life back on track. This is what he always wanted. Now thanks to both good luck and bad luck, he had a chance.

Alison kept on smiling as well, looking at Arthur as he gazed out with stars in his eyes. She was somewhat used to the spotlight, but not like this. She could see in his face how much he wanted to be a star. Having seen her music decline after a meteoric rise, it was nice to be back on top again. In addition, it was nice to share it with someone.

Eventually, the two mutant stars stopped fighting the swarm of reporters. They stopped near the top steps leading up to Mojovision’s building. The X-men were behind them, giving them plenty of room to have their moment.

“I have a feeling you won’t have any trouble booking gigs anymore,” said Arthur.

“I’m sure my agent is already setting them up,” grinned Alison, “I have a feeling you’ll be able to pay your rent on time from now on.”

“I think it’s safe to say that both our careers are looking up,” he laughed, “Guess this means we won’t see each other. How could we given all the stresses of being mutant celebrities.”

“Does it have to be that way?” she said, sounding serious even though she was smiling.

“Well if you want, we can try to get together. Who knows how long our time in the spotlight might last?”

“So what are you saying? That we should wait until we’re not famous anymore?” asked Alison.

“No...I’m saying we should make the most of it.”

Then in front of countless cameras and swarming reporters, Arthur Centino grabbed Alison by the waist and pulled her into a passionate kiss. It was the kind of kiss that Hollywood dreams were made of. Alison wasn’t caught off guard as much as she was overwhelmed. She quickly understood what Arthur meant and began eagerly kissing back.

“GET A CLOSE UP! GET A CLOSE UP!”

“THIS IS GOLD! I’VE GOT YOUR FRONT PAGE FOR TOMORROW!”

The paparazzi loved it. Alison and Arthur loved it. It was an amazing scene at a time when mutants had precious few. It wasn’t going to solve the situation with the Mutant Liberation Front. At the very least, it was a happy ending at a time when so many needed one.


New York City – Holiday Inn

Logan had never been an avid TV watcher. He spent so much time busting heads in the real world that he didn’t have time to watch other people do a lousy job of imitating it. The recent news surrounding the Mutant Liberation Front had him checking in every so often. For the most part, it gave him more reasons to grab a beer. Today was different, but still required plenty of beer to keep from getting too pissed off.

Sitting on a hotel bed, he held the remote to the TV in one hand and a beer in the other. He was only in his boxer shorts. The room was thick with the smell of cigar smoke and sex. For Logan, it was the perfect environment. It was one of the few he could actually relax in, but that relaxation clashed with what he saw on the news. The ordeal surrounding Mojovision, Dazzler, Longshot, and the X-men was a big deal. Images of that crazy show were being reshown everywhere. Live feed of the aftermath was just as rampant, especially the kiss between Dazzler and Longshot.

Part of that aftermath involved a statement from the X-men. Logan wasn’t one for the cameras so he didn’t mind that he missed out. The one that kept replaying was a shot of Scott, Jeannie, Hank, Bobby, Ororo, Remy, Betsy, and Piotr standing just outside Mojovision studio with Scott making a memorable public statement.

“What happened today was a direct result of the fear. Mojo Adams turned two innocent mutants into a side-show and it’s because of peoples’ fear that he succeeded. If everyone was just as scared of polar bears, he would have used them too. That’s what happens when fear dominates a conflict. That’s why the X-men are going to work hard at confronting this fear. Not just with the Mutant Liberation Front, but in the eyes of the public. And we can’t confront this fear alone. We need regular people to be heroes as well. That way men like Mojo Adams can never exploit us again.”

It was a moving speech from a man Logan had never been very moved by. Rather than roll his eyes, he gulped down the rest of his beer and muted the broadcast. While it was nice to see the X-men succeed, he could do without Summers turning it into a lecture.

“Looks like I missed a hell of a party,” he said out loud as he leaned back on the bed.

“Don’t sound so disappointed,” came a voice from the bathroom, “You didn’t get to stab anything, but we made quite the party on our own.”

“Do I sound like I’m complaining?” chuckled Logan, “As much as I love stabbing people that piss me off, I’ll take a cold beer and a beautiful woman as consolation any day.”

From the bathroom, Mystique emerged wearing only a towel. But she was in the form of Rose. It was a form she had been going back and forth with lately. It was a form she was still getting used to. Logan could tell she was growing more comfortable with it. She was using it in bed almost as much as her blue form.

With her usual tough poise, she made her way over to the bed. Logan smiled as she sat down next to him, quickly forgetting about the TV. Then her expression became more serious.

“As much as I enjoy consoling you, we need to make time for more serious matters,” she said, her attention now fixated on the muted broadcast.

Now you wanna be serious?” questioned Logan, “You call me up two months ago, say you need to see me, and I’ve been making all the time I can make for you. And that’s after you said you needed some space after the crap with the Legacy Virus.”

“Things have changed. I’ve changed,” she said distantly, “It hasn’t been an easy process. I still haven’t mustered the strength to see my kids.”

“Yet you’ve got enough strength multiple romps in a hotel bedroom?”

“That’s a different kind of resilience,” said Mystique, “After meeting up with Irene, she and I both agreed on a number of things. One of them was I would be a lot less bitter if I got laid more often.”

“Smart woman,” said Logan with a dirty grin.

“Yes…very smart,” she said in a somewhat wry tone, “I know we’re not where we once were all those years ago. But in remembering who I am, I’ve also remembered how nice it felt to be in bed with you.”

“Those are some damn good memories,” agreed Logan, “So what’s keeping you from going the distance? Not that I mind all the humping, but is it just your way of being less bitter or are you ready to except all the other crap that comes with it?”

This was where all the great sex in the world reached its limit. Mystique had spent months trying to pull herself together after the Legacy Virus. Meeting up with Irene was a solid first step. Meeting up with Logan was something much more daunting.

Mystique had been conflicted at first. As Rose and Raven, she had strong feelings for this man. She eventually accepted that she couldn’t escape them. So one day she decided to meet up with him. It turned into a difficult conversation that ended with them in bed together. The feelings they had for each other as Rose and James were still there. Logan wasn’t running from these feelings and she sensed he wanted to reclaim that connection they had. It wasn’t clear to her if she wanted the same, but that was rapidly changing.

The shape shifter reached up and caressed Logan’s burly face. Then she let out a deep sigh. Being bitter wasn’t her biggest problem anymore. Being who she needed to be was now her greatest challenge.

“I’m sorry, Logan. But I can’t take that step. Not yet,” she told him, “There are still some personal matters I need to confront first.”

“Not to sound impatient, but we both have a long list of issues. We’re only making it longer by beating around the bush. And that ain’t a dirty joke for once,” said Logan, now sharing her serious tone.

“Yes, I understand I’m complicating thing by sleeping with you and avoiding the obligatory pillow talk. I promise we’ll have that discussion at some point. Right now, there’s something I need to take care of. I know you’re not a patient man so I won’t make you wait it out. This is actually something I need your help with.”

“This the kind of help I can do with my pants on?”

“That depends on how creative you want to be.”

Mystique turned back towards the TV and rose up from the bed. She watched as images of Mojo’s broadcast and clips from the latest Mutant Liberation Front attacks were shown. Whenever mutants were in a heated conflict, she became a part of it one way or another. And this time she was going to be on the right side.

“You and I both know there are still gaps in our memory,” she told him, “Sinister showed me a lot of things, but there’s one gap in particular that’s been bothering me. And it’s one I’m sure you’ve gone on drinking binges over.”

“You talkin’ about you-know-when and you-know-who?” said Logan, rising up from the bed as well.

“It’s a memory buried so deep that even Sinister couldn’t reveal it. Since neither of us can recall it, that says to me that it’s important,” Mystique went on, not taking her eyes off the TV, “I’ve been doing some old fashioned spy work. I’ve also been working with Irene. She’s been having a fresh round of visions and the Mutant Liberation Front is a big part of it.”

“No surprise there. Those dirt-bags have been blowing shit up all over the world,” said Logan, “You don’t need a freakin’ pre-cog to know they’ll fuck up the future.”

“It goes deeper than that,” said Mystique strongly, “Irene suspects a strong connection between the Mutant Liberation Front whoever this you-know-who may be. We both know he’s still out there. He’s been lying low for all these years, biding his time and waiting for the right moment. Well I suspect the Mutant Liberation Front is that moment he’s been waiting for.”

“This a gut feeling or something Irene saw?” asked Logan.

“Both,” she said, scowling at the sight of the Mutant Liberation Front on the TV, “That’s why I’m going undercover in the deepest, darkest way.”

“Are you gonna tell me the details or are you gonna make me guess?”

“It’s better you not know. That way when you’re asked, you won’t have to lie. All I can tell you is the organization I have to infiltrate is ever bit as dangerous as Weapon X. I’ll have to earn a lot of trust and uncover a lot of secrets if I’m to learn the full truth. This kind of work will take time…time that means I won’t get to see you or my children.”

“So you’re cutting me off?” said Logan dryly, “Guess that means I’ll need more beer to fill the gap.”

“I’ll also need you to buy more time on your end as well,” she said, “In order to do that, you and the X-men will need to stop the Mutant Liberation Front.”

“That doesn’t sound like too tall an order,” shrugged Logan, “We were gonna bust their heads anyways.”

“Like you did in Switzerland?” Mystique questioned, “Sorry, but I need more assurance than that. Which is exactly why I used some of my old Azazel connections to give us both some badly needed foresight.”

Mystique shifted back into her blue-skinned form. Still wearing just a towel, she made her way over to the black bag she brought with her. Logan hadn’t asked about it. She didn’t expect him to once their clothes came off. Inside was an unmarked computer disk and a picture. She could have given it to Xavier or her kids, but right now she only trusted Logan to see it through. He had as much to lose in this as she did.

“What am I lookin’ at? Toad’s porno collection?” said Logan as he took the disk and picture.

“Think of it as a glimpse into the future,” said Mystique, “According to Irene, the Mutant Liberation Front are about to launch their most ambitious attack. It some powerful hardware that neither of us can make out. But we did manage to uncover who helps them.”

Logan looked at the disk and then at the picture. It depicted a seemingly normal-looking middle-aged man. It was grainy, indicating that he was a hard man to find. On the back was a name.

“Madison Jefferies,” he read out loud.

“That’s who you have to find. That’s who you have to stop,” said Mystique, “I don’t know if you need to kill him or capture him. So long as he doesn’t help the Mutant Liberation Front, it should buy us the time we need.”

“That sounds easy, but I know damn well that can’t be it,” said Logan, looking back towards Mystique.

“It isn’t,” she said, “There are a lot of forces at work here, Logan. I feel they’re all connected. Sinister, Azazel, my kids, and the gaps in our memories…there’s a dark hand in the middle of it all. Jefferies is just another pawn. So is the Mutant Liberation Front. The only way we’ll uncover the truth is to make those connections.”

It was a sensitive issue for both of them. Truth took on a new meaning for Mystique. For better or worse, Sinister gave her a new appreciation for it’s power. Bitterness gave way to strength as she pursued it with more tenacity. Logan respected that tenacity. However, he had his share of reservations.

The future and the past were colliding. And in his experience the truth could be very painful. Logan was just as eager to uncover the major gaps in his memory, but he had a bad feeling about what Mystique was going to uncover. That still wasn’t going to stop him from playing a part in this overly complicated affair.

“You know me, darlin’. I’m good at making connections and not just with certain body parts,” said Logan.

“I know you’ll do your you’re best at doing. That’s not my concern,” she said with a wry grin.

“Then what is your concern? You can’t deceive a guy you just slept with. So tell me already,” he said.

Mystique was silent for a moment. Her serious gaze faltered with new emotion. She moved in closer to Logan and caressed his face again.

“My concern is what happens when this is over,” she told him.

“That makes two of us. We’re gonna have a lot of shit to talk about. There’s only so much booze and sex can do, crazy as that sounds,” said Logan.

“I know. We’ll figure it out. Since I have such a bad history with keeping promises, I won’t make one. I’ll just say that anyone who tries to get in my way will get the shit beat out of them,” said the shape-shifter.

“Coming from you, that’s as good as any promise.”

Logan sealed the deal by kissing her. Mystique kissed back without hesitation. It was no longer a confusing, overwhelming feeling. It was a feeling that had meaning. They weren’t quite lovers, but they were more than friends. Their feelings for each other may be mixed at the moment, but their trust in each other was clear. It was now painfully clear that they couldn’t uncover this truth alone. They had to do it together.

Up next: Double Threat

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