11:50PM

These tunnels, they are long and feel never-ending. For some unknown reason it feels like I have been searching for hours, yet finding nothing, heck, I don't even know what I'm looking for. I hear a voice, a strange and faint voice.

" . . . come to me . . . "

I have no idea what to do; I'm frozen in my tracks. Which is pretty ironic since they call me the Iceman. With all my strength, I attempt to break free, but to no avail, I'm trapped. I see it, a face, it just appears in front of me. A big grin across it. I . . . I . . . I . . .

In a cold sweet, Bobby woke up abruptly, falling from the cot that he slept on. He hit the dirty ground, and just lay there, not wanting to move.

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Clark sat alone in a dark tunnel, contemplating what to do next. Callisto, the leader of this underground race of mutants, has extended an offer to join them in the 'war' against humanity. Not to take the offense, not to attack and kill like the Brotherhood, but to band together and protect each other. Somewhere to fit in, then again, Clark really doesn't fit in anywhere. Recently, just before Charles Xavier's death, both Xavier and Clark merged minds for just a moment. In that moment, a lifetime of repressed memories came back to Clark, showing him the truth of his "origin." Now, he knew the truth, he wasn't a mutant . . . Then again, he wasn't a human either. "Hey, something on your mind, babe?"

Jean had been looking for Clark for the past hour, she really needed someone to talk to but would never let her vulnerability show on the outside. Stay strong, is what her father had always told her. She sat down next to Clark, leaning on his shoulder.

In a soft voice, he answers her. "You're the telepath, you tell me . . . "

"Clark, you know that I would never . . . "

"Yeah, I know."

"So."

"So . . . Jean. Are you okay? Charles, the professor, he was family to both of us. We never even got to put his body to rest, never got to honor his memory. I . . . "

Tears formed in Jean's eyes, but she held them back.

"Clark, we honor his memory always, every day that we work to obtain his dream. Every day that we work to achieve peace between both humans and mutants. I . . . " She paused as a tear fell from her eyes. "I know that we'll do him proud."

Both paused for a moment, and total silence followed. Clark realized something that he had really known since their first few moments in the tunnels. Jean hugged Clark's arm, and closed her eyes, finally feeling some comfort.

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Two young deformed teens were practicing with their powers, attempting to have some fun. One of the mutants formed both hands into gun like barrels, and fired a round of bullets from his arm. He shattered a line of plates taped on the wall a good twenty feet away. The other teen concentrated really hard; the strain could be seen in her eyes.

"Come on, Jess, I know you can do it . . . "

After a few more moments, a flower sprung from the ground and bloomed.

"Yeah, way to go!!!"

The hug, followed by a sincere kiss. A shadow fell over them. They turned to see a normal size man in black rags, his face covered by the shadows.

"Brad, what's happening . . . "

"I don't know, who are you stranger?"

The man in rags didn't move, his eyes glowing white through the shadows over his face.

SNIKT

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

The boy stood before Callisto, ready to go. He had already spent plenty of time with the Morlocks, after being found by Jean Grey during the blackout in New York City. "Callisto," he said, "I wish to leave, and return to my friends and family."

"What makes you think you're parents are still alive?" the leader of the Morlocks asked.

"I don't know. I just have this feeling. Either way, I must know!"

"Silence!" Callisto said. "Do not take that tone of voice with me again, young man."

The boy clinched his fists by his side. He could feel the energy building up. By now, his fists were probably already turning green. He raised his hands, palms out, and released the energy into Callisto.

Callisto and her chair were knocked backwards, and the boy began running out. Stupid! he thought. I should have just run. Why did I bother asking? Now, I may not even have a chance to talk to Jean. She has to know . . . something is not kosher here . . .

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Maycobb County, Kansas

Two nights ago.

An older gentlemen had been plowing the fields all day. The dust and dirt filled the air and the sun shone over his wrinkled sweaty face.

He was very happy, and very content.

Years before, his wife had died of illness. He could almost remember the dead silence from when he found her laying on the bed, lifeless. His daughter had left for live in the big city many, many years ago. That life was a bit of a struggle for her and recently she was forced to send her teenage daughter to live with her father on the farm, while she tried to save up some money from her struggling job. The girl, only fourteen years of age now, had to adapt to a life much different than what she had known. No more lights and craziness, well, maybe the latter.

The man shifted the gears and shutdown the tractor, wiping the sweat from his brow before climbing to the ground. He paced himself as he began to walk towards the barn, where Emilie was. At first glance all looked normal, but than he realized that there was silence, dead silence. He began to walk faster toward the barn, not knowing what to expect. As he moved, his legs began to move faster and faster until finally he was running over to the barn.

The wind rushed through his hair, the sweat flowed. He reached the door and took a deep breath before opening it. As the old wooden door opened, the sight was horrible. Cows, chickens, and other animals all around were on their sides, dead and partly wasted away. In the middle of all of them was Emilie, shaking and in shock.

The Pestilence has begun.

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Captain America and Martian Manhunter were standing in the war room of the Hall of Justice. They both stared at the monitor with Henry Gyrich's face. It was all part of a video conference call. "Cap, you Avengers have to start hunting the mutants, like your charter states," Gyrich said.

Cap remained calm, and his expression failed to change. "Gyrich, think what you wish, but the Avengers League wasn't reformed to hunt mutants. It was reformed because the world needed them."

"Bull," Gyrich replied. "You were commissioned to hunt mutants. One group in particular. If you choose to not hunt them, then you can kiss your government sponsorship goodbye!"

"Mr. Gyrich," Martian Manhunter began. "I believe that you will not do such a thing. Right now, you have us in your pocket, and won't take us out willingly."

Gyrich ignored the comment. "Captain America, I want you to find and capture the mutant group known as the X-Men. And I want them captured within the next month!"

Gyrich cut the connection. Martian Manhunter looked at Cap.

"What shall we do?" he asked.

"We find the X-Men, and do as we are told."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

Henry McCoy, the Beast, much like Clark and Jean, couldn't really sleep. His arm in pain, still bandaged up after the first fight with the Brotherhood.

Life can never be simple, never normal, he thought. Ever since he was born, he had grown up with constant ridicule, being teased in every grade while growing up. His unique large hands and feet made him the easy target. Life at home wasn't any easier; his father, the basic drunk. Both Henry and his mother were beat, sometimes badly battered. This occurred almost every night up until about the age of sixteen, when he ran away. His mother wouldn't run though, and he had to leave her. After a few weeks of being alone, stealing and fighting for food, Xavier found him, helped him and gave him a chance for the future. He became a part of the first class of the Xavier Institute of Higher Learning. This is when he learned that his distortion and mutation had a name; he learned that he was a mutant. By his playful and fun exterior, you would never even suspect the real pain and beast within him.

From the shadows, a familiar figure watched him; taking notes, and recording behavior.

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Interlude

In a cell, almost a world away, Reed Richards sat in darkness. The events from years past play over in his head once again. They always end the same way, his wife disappearing right in front of his eyes, then it all goes black. What happened right after that, if only he knew? Did he really cause the death of all the people he held close to his heart?

But now, it's the same day after day. Locked away, far from the rest of society, deemed unfit. Deemed dangerous. Steel walls all around him, a collar around his neck, no exits in sight. Unlike normal inmates, his intellect lets him stand out, the government calls upon him from time to time to create inventions and weapons. They always do the same, promise to re-look over his papers, maybe give him time off on good behavior. Yet, they never do. Never do. Soon.

End Interlude

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

The boy kept running. He navigated through the tunnels with ease, having had the spare time to learn their twists and turns. He knew how to get out, but not how to get to Jean. Behind him, he heard the footsteps of his pursuers - two of Callisto's closest aides. He continued running, looking over his shoulder, until he hit something and fell down. Looking up, he saw a pale skinned man. It was Morph.

"Hey, there, William," Morph said. "Where are you off to in such a rush?"

"Morph!" William exclaimed. "I need to leave, but Callisto doesn't want me to!"

"That doesn't sound good." Just then, Morph saw the two Morlocks coming. William did as well. He lifted his hands, and fired green plasma at them. They fell down, trapped until a shimmering field of green. William turned to the X-Man standing beside him.

"I have to go now. Tell Jean I said goodbye, and that I'll try to contact her again."

Morph nodded. "I will."

William turned and ran out of the tunnels.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

Clark looked at Jean, sleeping peacefully on his shoulder. Not too long ago, everything was easier; not peaceful, but easier. Now, everything just seemed so hard, maybe not even worth it. Clark's head quickly turned after he heard a noise coming closer. Through the darkness he saw a small built figure.

"Jean . . . Jean, get up!"

BANG BANG BANG

Clark quickly turned his body in front of Jean as three bullets cut through the darkness.

"What? What's going on?" Jean said, fear in her eyes.

"An attack of some sort, stay low!"

Clark ran right at the source of the fire, hitting a small built man directly in the chest. Clark's hands melted into the man's body, as four holes formed and shot a round bullet at Clark, causing him to lose his footing. Clark's eyes glowed red for a moment, and then two thin shots of heat vision shot out, hitting the other man directly in the chest. The young mutant fell to the ground, sobbing. His chest burnt red.

"Who are you?!?" Clark asked, his voice ringing through out the tunnels.

Jean ran toward the two and grabbed Clark's arm.

"Wait up, something is wrong here!"

Jean went down to her knees, right in front of the boy, who was sobbing uncontrollably.

"Are you okay? What's you name?"

"He . . . HE . . . Killed her . . . he killed . . . Jess . . . Killed her . . . "

"What? Who killed her?"

" . . . de . . . .de . . . death . . . "

Before the young boy could even finish, a figure stepped out of the shadows. Black rags covered his body. He lifted his arms in front of his body.

SNIKT!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

Jean Gray ran through the crowd, pushing people aside. She had to get to Clark, to Superman. In her mind, she could see the image that she couldn't see because of the crowds. Superman was lying on the ground, blood pouring out of his wounds. The man in black rags stood towered over him, clearly the victor. His only thought was very vivid in his mind, and being a telepath, Jean couldn't ignore it. It was a simple thought, also his name.

DEATH.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

A few hours before . . . SNIKT!

Three metal claws ripped through both hands, as blood slowly crept down his fingers. Clark stood tall in front of Jean and the young boy.

"Who are you? What do you want?"

"I am here for you. You the sole survivor from a world at war. For you are the chosen one. The time is almost upon us. The dawn of darkness. We will rise."

"Clark, what's he talking about? Sole survivor?"

"This guy is nuts!"

"This. This is your destiny."

"No! My destiny is to stop people like you from hurting innocents!"

Clark's eyes lit up bright red and two beams shot across the tunnel. Death quickly lifted his hands, with ease he blocked the heat beams. Both men lunged at each other, meeting in mid air. Death brought all six claws down on Clark's side, piercing the skin. Clark grinned his teeth in pain as he punched Death right across the face; a hit powerful enough to collapse the tunnel around them. The stranger shrugged it off like it was nothing.

Blood? Oh my God, nothing has ever been able to pierce my skin! Nothing.

{Clark! Watch out!!!}

Death swung his right hand directly in front of Clark's chest; abruptly it stopped only an inch away.

{Thanks Jean.}

While Jean kept Death's arms in place, Clark took this time to use his super speed and super strength while he pounded his fists at Death's body. They were shots that could kill any normal human, yet they had more or less no effect on Death. Clark kept on the offense, never giving Death the chance to use his claws.

{Jean, take out the floor!}

As Clark was pounding into Death's chest, Jean concentrated on the floor below them. After a few moments, it caved in, Death falling into it while Clark stayed in mid air. Clark shot two heat beams above his head, caving in the ceiling above him, which covered the hole that Death fell into.

Clark flew back down to where Jean was standing. The young boy was lying beside her, just regaining consciousness.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"I - " Jean began, but was interrupted by a strange noise behind her. Clark's eyes grew wider as he saw three claws ripping through the ground. He jumped, and pushed Jean to the side.

Now standing before them was Death. Clark rushed up and slammed into him, causing them both to fall into the sewer below.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

"Ugh!" Superman exclaimed, coming back to the surface. He was chest deep in water, and whatever else was mixed in. It was very thick and disgusting. He looked for Death, but he couldn't see anything, so he used his X-ray vision. Nothing.

"Don't fight what you are to become . . . "

Clark turned to where he heard the voice coming from, and found himself slugged. He staggered back, falling onto the dry concrete on the edge of the tunnel.

Death continued talking. "I know about your past. Your TRUE past. You were sent here for a reason. You are one of the four."

Superman stood up, and took a few steps back as he saw Death coming toward him.

"Look," he said. "I don't even know my past that well. Whatever you are talking about . . . The four Chosen Ones? It has nothing to do with me!"

"I'm sorry that you feel that way. Jor-El wouldn't be pleased. No. He wouldn't."

Superman paused for a moment. Something about that name he spoke caused a very strange feeling inside of him. "Jor-El?" he asked. "Who is that?"

"Your father," Death replied. "Your real father. He made the agreement to spare your life. To send you here. Now, you are breaking it. No, Jor-El wouldn't be pleased."

Superman felt the emotion building up inside of him. It was a jumble of different feelings. First, he was angry that this man knew more about his past than he did. But he was also confused as to what this man was talking about. And part of him was sad that he did not have the chance to know his father.

"Lies . . . " he whispered. "ALL LIES!"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

"Are you sure that you're okay, Bobby?" Beast asked. "I'm fine," Iceman replied. He was sitting on the edge of his cot. He had given up on sleeping a couple of hours ago.

"You did hit the floor hard . . . "

"Hank, it was hours ago. I had a nightmare. These cots are small. I woke suddenly."

"Actually, I'd be more concerned about why you woke up."

"It was just a nightmare. I kinda don't like these tunnels."

"Fear of being underground?"

"Something like that."

Beast stood up. "I'll let you rest." He walked away.

Bobby Drake laid back down. He could still hear the voice calling him in his dream.

" . . . come to me . . . "

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

Bricks turned to dust, and pipes turned to scrap metal as Superman sailed through a wall. Death ran over to stand over him. Clark aimed his heat vision at the metal claws. None of them even turned white. The man was now on top of Clark and he lifted his right arm, bringing his clawed hand down. Clark was able to slide his head to his left, and avoided becoming a Superman shish-kabob.

Clark raised his left knee, and make hard contact with the other man's groin. He then began flying up. The man swung his left hand. The three claws were able to graze Clark's left arm. Clark threw him back into the darkness, and then floated back down, holding on to his arm, which stung.

Suddenly, Death tackled him from behind. Superman was slammed into a wall, and several bricks fell.

{STOP!}

"Pathetic minds tricks won't help you, woman," Death growled, turning to face Jean, and dropping Superman.

Jean used her telekinesis to try to pull Death's feet out from under him. However, it was to no avail. But, it was enough to provide a distraction for Superman to fire his heat vision straight into Death's back. Still, it had no effect on him.

It just made him madder.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

Superman let up on the barrage of punches that he had been giving Death. It was doing nothing except weakening. He bent his head down to catch his breath. He could feel his stomach churning. "Clark, are you all right?" Jean asked.

Superman nodded weakly. "Just a little weak."

{Clark, you don't get weak, or sick . . . }

{ . . . I . . . know . . . }

Death grabbed Superman by the throat and slammed him into another wall. This time, they entered the subway tunnel. Death dumped Superman's bloody, barely conscious body onto the track.

He turned and glared at Jean. "Follow me and save innocents, or save your love."

Just then, the noise of a subway train could be heard coming. Jean looked down the tunnel and saw a train coming straight at Superman at a very high speed. She looked up and saw a platform ahead. The sign read "Times Square."

Death jumped up onto the platform, and ran up the stairs. Jean looks at him, then at Superman.

The train came closer, and Death was getting away.

Finally, Jean made a decision. At the last second, she used her telekinesis to push Clark into the far wall, saving him in the nick of time.

After the train passed, she glided over the track using her telekinesis. She landed beside Clark and held him in her arms.

"You okay?" she asked as the tears began falling out of her eyes. Jean didn't need to have telepathy to know what kind of emotional and physical pain Clark was in.

"Is it . . . Doomsday . . . ?" Clark whispered.

"Close enough, I fear," Jean replied.

Clark put his hand on her shoulder, and tried to lift himself up. "Jean," he said through gritted teeth. "Block out the pain. I need to end this fight."

"He's killing you."

"Better than him killing millions of innocents."

She held her hand to his head and closed her eyes, blocking out his pain.

{Thank you}

Jean let go and they looked into each other's eyes for a moment. Clark leaned forward, and came closer to her face. They kissed for a moment, and then Clark pulled his head away.

After a moment of silence, Clark stood up. "I have to go . . . "

Before Jean could say "bye", he was gone, having already flew up the stairs to Times Square above.

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William finally reached Times Square. It was difficult, trying to make sure that he hadn't been followed by any Morlocks. He looked ahead, and saw a large crowd forming. A lot of people were making noise that didn't sound happy.

William came closer, and he saw a man in black rags, tearing into six adults, leaving their young children screaming.

And then, he saw a flash of red fly out of the subway . . .

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

When Superman reached the street above, he saw Death waiting for him with three young children in front of him. Their parents lay dead on the street around them. Naturally, the children were crying and screaming. Added to that noise was the sound of people all around, yelling and screaming. Death looked at Superman. "Until you see your destiny, there will be only one thing. There will be only death."

With that, he jammed the claws of his right hand into the back of a young boy standing in front of him, killing him instantly.

"NO!" Superman yelled, flying directly at Death. He impacted with a large amount of force, but it did nothing to hurt Death. Superman staggered back, suddenly woozy again.

What is happening to me?

Crowds began to form around the fight. News vans were pulling up, and cameramen were jumping out.

Jean came out of the subway tunnel and tried to get to Clark, but there were too many people in her way.

Superman was barely standing, and he looked at Death, and then he sent his right fist flying toward Death. It missed, and Superman collapsed, rolling onto his back.

Death began laughing as he turned. A few unfortunate souls had actually been crazy enough to gather too close to the fight and paid for it when Death's claws cut through them.

"NO!" Jean shouted. She thought she might have seen a flash of green energy, but wasn't really paying attention to it. She pushed people aside and focused as much telekinetic energy as she could at Death, hoping that it would damage him at least a little. She could also read the one thought on his mind.

DEATH.

However, it backfired, and the energy came ripping back at her, nearly taking off her head.

By now, Superman had gotten on his hands and knees. Mist was pouring from his mouth. It was his breath, which had now been tinted green. Death looked down at him, and retracted five of his claws.

Superman looked up at Death. Death jabbed his remaining claw into Superman's side, causing him to fall back down on the ground.

"Remember this day. Remember my words."

With that, Death disappeared. Jean ran over to Clark, and held him in her arms.

Superman opened his eyes. "I'm feeling much better now. For some reason, I feel really sick only when Death is around."

"Is everything okay here?"

Jean turned and saw Beast and Iceman walking up.

"How did you know?" Superman asked.

"Jean contacted us right after you rushed out of the tunnel. Bobby created an ice slide to get us here," Beast replied.

Superman tried to get up, but Jean held him back. "You need to rest," she said. "Don't try to exert yourself. Let us carry you back."

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When the X-Men returned to the tunnels, they took Clark to the Morlock healers. Morph came up to Jean after she left her love.

"Jean, William left. He said he was sorry, and that he couldn't tell you goodbye."

"What happened?"

Morph grabbed Jean's arm. "Come over here . . . "

He took her to the area where she had been sleeping the past few nights. She saw a flash of green in the shadows.

"Maybe he should tell you," Morph said.

"William?"

William took a step forward. "I had to come back, even though it's dangerous."

"Dangerous?"

"Callisto didn't want me to leave, so she gave an order to kill me. But that's not the worst part. My parents are dead."

"I'm sorry," Jean said. "Do you know how?"

"Death."

"As in the big scary guy that nearly beat the crap out of Clark?"

William nodded.

Jean remembered the green flash of light. "So, I did see your power go off."

"I need help, Jean . . . "

"Of course," Jean replied. "Don't worry, the X-Men will protect you."

"Thank you . . . "

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Meanwhile, in the healing room, Beast and Iceman watched as healers performed their rituals. "We should get him to a doctor," Iceman said.

"For some reason, I don't know if that would work," Beast replied. "The healers know what they are doing." He looked at his watch. "Come on, let's get some sleep. We can figure out who Death is later."

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Morph and Beast - his arm not in a sling for the first time in weeks - walked out of the tunnels, into the city above. All night long, they had heard some crazy things happening. Finally, they knew they had to go and investigate.

"It's so strange," Morph said. "The sky is . . . red!"

"Fascinating," Beast replied. "Although, it is probably a sign of danger."

"Perhaps," Morph replied. "What of this rain? It's pouring like crazy."

Beast looked around. He saw fires off in the distance. "It's almost like hell on earth."

"Why do I have the feeling tonight is going to be a long night?" Morph asked.

"You have that feeling, too?"

The shape shifter nodded. "But I'm not scared."

"Neither am I," Beast replied. "What is there to be scared of?"

Suddenly, as if on cue, a nasty looking demon came flying in, and took a swing at Beast. He was able to dodge it, and come up behind the creature. Beast gave a quick karate chop to the back of the demon's neck, but it did nothing to slow the creature down. The demon swung its arm back and sent Beast flying through the air. He hit a brick wall, and fell to the ground.

Morph let out a mental cry for help, which he hoped could be picked up by Jean Grey. He then ran over to the demon, who was now ready to tear Beast to bits and pieces.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

Clark Kent and Jean Grey were taking a stroll through the Morlock tunnels. "I am surprised at how fast you healed from your encounter with Death," Jean commented.

"I'm surprised at how sick I got just by coming closer to him," Clark replied.

"That was odd."

Before either could say another word, Jean picked up Morph's telepathic call for help. "Clark," she said. "We have to get up to the surface. Morph and Beast have been attacked by a demon!"

As Jean began running off, Clark wondered what demons were doing in New York City.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

The remaining four X-Men rushed up to the surface, and found Beast lying on the ground, trying to get up. Morph and the demon were in hand-to-hand combat. Superman flew over, and tried to help him out. Sarah rushed over to Beast. "What happened, Hank?"

"We were . . . coming out to . . . see what was going on when that thing attacked us. It's supernaturally strong."

"Of course, it's a demon," Jean said. "How do we beat it? It looks like Morph and Superman aren't doing any good."

"Don't you people ever watch horror movies?" Iceman asked. "I know the perfect way to stop that demon."

Iceman ran to the demon. "Morph! Superman! Jump back!" he shouted, forming a cross of ice in his hand, and slamming in into the demon's chest.

The demon screamed, and fell to his knees. Iceman kept forming the cross, as it kept melting against the heat of the demon's body. Finally, Iceman took the cross off very fast, and the demon ran away in a ball of fire.

"Very good."

"I know that voice," Superman said, turning around. "Death."

"You are correct."

The X-Men looked up and saw Death hovering in the air above them.

"Dude!" Iceman exclaimed. "Isn't that the guy that nearly killed Superman?"

"Yes," Superman replied, coldly. "But this time, the odds are a little more even . . . "

"If you only knew . . . "

"Knew what?" Superman shouted.

"If you only knew of the great destiny that lies before you . . . but you must choose it."

"Enough with these cryptic messages! Why can't you ever tell us straightforward what you want to say?"

"I am Death."

"ENOUGH!" Iceman shouted. "I'm tired of hearing this garbage! We know you're Death, what are you going to do about it?"

Death jumped at Iceman, claws out, ready to tear him to pieces, but Iceman threw as much ice up as possible to stop Death.

And for once, something actually worked against Death.

Jean tried a mental assault, but it didn't work. Death's mind was shielded very well. Even if Professor Xavier was still alive, he probably couldn't have penetrated the shield himself.

Morph watched the battle. He saw how every attack was failing. Iceman's ice trick slowed Death down a little, but Jean's mental attack, and Superman's physical attack weren't doing a thing to stop him.

So, Morph began spinning. He used his shapeshifting power to make his body size smaller, and shifted as much mass into his fist as he could. He continued doing this until he had morphed into an object the size of a bowling ball, but much denser. The momentum he had built up from spinning allowed him to sail though the air, and ram right into Death's chest. It was enough to knock him down, and cause some serious damage. At the very least, it broke some bones.

Iceman took advantage of Death's new weakness, and brought large ice spikes down on top of him, plummeting right into his chest. He hoped it punctured some organs.

"ICEMAN, STOP!" Superman ordered. "We don't have to kill him!"

"But this creep doesn't deserve to live!" Iceman replied.

"Yeah!" Morph agreed, already shifting back into his normal form. "You saw what he did to all of those people in Times Square! Not to mention how he nearly killed you!"

"But that's no reason for us to kill him!" Superman shouted back. "He's still a . . . " He hesitated, not sure if Death was human. After all, he was pretty strong and invulnerable. Finally, he found the right words. "He's still a living being!"

"Superman . . . come here . . . " Death called weakly.

At first, Superman felt it might be a trick. But then he realized that Death really was dying. He knelt down beside the warrior.

"Take my hand," Death whispered.

Superman took Death's hand, and suddenly found himself in another reality. He could see green for miles around.

"Welcome to your home planet of Krypton . . . "

"Krypton? That place Professor Xavier told me about when he died?" Superman wondered aloud. "But, it exploded."

"We are not on the plane of reality that you normally perceive. I have brought us into a state of Beta meditation. It is an ancient Kryptonian practice."

"Who are you?" Superman asked.

"I am Death."

"No, really. Not just your name. Who are you?"

"I am an agent of the Great Rao."

"Rao? Who's that?"

"Rao is the sun god of your home planet . . . Krypton."

Superman was perplexed. "Why have you come to Earth, then?"

"Rao made a deal with several upper class families on Krypton, that he would spare their children. He did not want to see his worshipers completely die out."

"That's why you called me one of the four . . . "

"Correct."

"So, where are the other three?"

"Their fathers were lesser men than your own. The spacecraft that those three resided in where not of high enough quality to allow them to survive once they had left the atmosphere." Death coughed.

"So, I guess death comes to those called Death, as well, huh?" Superman asked.

"Yes . . . But because you are unwilling to come back, the mighty Rao will be angry."

"Won't hurt my feelings. I never knew the guy."

"Joke now . . . Pay later . . . "

"I know nothing of this heritage," Superman said. "Why should I abandon my life here to please a god who is no longer worshiped?"

"You wish to know more of your life. Ever since you found out you weren't human, you have felt a void in your life. Nothing makes sense to you anymore because you thought you had all of the answers, when in fact, you didn't even know all of the questions."

"So, you came to bring me back?"

"Correct."

"But bring me back to what?" Superman wondered. "If Krypton exploded, what is there left to go to?"

"That is the question you must find answer to . . . Farewell, Kal-El of Krypton . . . "

Superman suddenly found himself standing back in the street, with the X-Men around him. Death was dead.

"We have to go back," he said.

"Go back where?" Jean asked. "The tunnels?"

"No. Home. The mansion . . . "

"But what about the Morlocks?" Sarah asked.

"They are not our captors," Superman replied. "We'll go to them in the morning, and let them know we are leaving. In the meantime, we shall attempt to find out what exactly is going out tonight."

Beast spoke up. "Might I ask one question, first?"

"Sure."

"What did Death say to you?"

Superman was silent for a moment. He didn't want to tell them too much of something he did not completely understand.

"He said he was the agent of a god."

"A god?" Beast commented. "Hmm, I fear that tonight's rather unusual events will become even stranger."

"Clark, I think we're dealing with something out of our league," Jean said. "We're used to fighting mundane, material foes. But tonight, we've dealt with a demon and an agent of a god."

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In a supply room in the Hall of Justice, the Cosmic Treadmill whirled back to life. Captain America, Flash, and Thor stepped off. "Strange," Flash said. "I would have thought that at least one of them would have stayed for us."

"Something is definitely wrong," Cap replied. "They obviously had an emergency come up."

"Was it so important that they couldst not wait for thee?" Thor asked.

"Must of been," Flash answered. "Cap, can you contact the others with your card."

"Of course," Cap said. "But, so can you."

Flash blushed. "I kinda left my card at home . . . "

Cap smiled. "Okay. I'll try to call the others. You go around the city and scout things out."

"And what of me?" Thor asked.

"You'll stay here with me," Captain America replied.

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A minute later, Flash saw a group of people standing in the rain, surrounding a figure lying on the ground. "Hi, I'm the Flash," he said. "Is something wrong?"

"What's it to you?" Morph snapped.

The speedster put his hands up in the air. "Hey, I was just going to offer to help if you needed it. I'm with the Avengers League."

Suddenly, he was hit in the back by a large block of ice. He fell to the ground and turned around. He saw Iceman shooting ice, covering him.

Flash vibrated, and slid out of the ice block before Superman could finish saying, "Iceman, that was out of line!"

"I take it you're mutants," Flash said, standing up.

"The X-Men, to be precise," Beast replied. "And I wish to apologize for my teammate's behavior. Tonight's activities have taken a toll on him."

Flash nodded in the direction of Death. "What's with him?"

"He claims to be the agent of a god worshiped by a dead planet," Superman replied. "He nearly killed me a few days ago."

"Is he dead?"

Superman nodded. "Death comes to he who is called Death."

"I suppose I should be taking you into custody right now," Flash said, "but since I don't have my Avengers League card on me, I guess I really don't have the proper authority."

"Are you sure it doesn't have anything to do with the crisis at hand, and the fact that you need all the help you can get?" Beast asked.

"That, and the fact that it's six to one, even though I can outrun you . . . "

"So, what is going on, if I may ask?" Jean inquired.

"I'm not so sure myself," Flash replied. "All of a sudden, the sky started changing colors, and the rain started coming down real heavy. I ran over to the Hall of Justice and they hadn't realized it yet. We called a meeting almost immediately, and it's decided that I go with Captain America to Asgard."

"Asgard?" Beast interjected. "The mythical home of the Norse gods?"

"As it turns out, one of Cap's buddies from the 'big one' was Thor, the god of lightning. We went to him for help."

"This is too weird for me," Sarah said. "Demons, gods, red skies . . . it's too much."

"That's all well and good," Flash said. "But I gotta go and find my teammates." He zoomed off.

"So, fearless leader," Iceman said, turning to Superman. "What do we do now?"

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William was laying on the cot that he had been using as a bed for the past few nights. He heard something in the corner, and instantly charged his hands with his green plasma energy. Suddenly, he saw a man's form appear out of nowhere. William stood up, and got in an attack position. But, before he could do anything, the man was already behind him, with one arm around William's torso, and the other hand covering his mouth.

"You're William, right?"

William nodded.

"Don't worry, I'm not here to hurt you. I just didn't want you making noise and alerting someone." He let go of the young mutant.

"Who are you? What do you want?" William asked, facing his "guest."

The man disappeared. "I am called Stealth."

"What kind of name is that?"

"It describes my abilities. I am wearing a suit that allows me to melt into the shadows, and numerous other capabilities," Stealth replied.

"But what do you want with me?"

"I was sent to find you, and provide you with shelter and companionship."

"But I already have shelter - "

"You know very well you can't trust these Morlocks," Stealth interrupted. "They nearly tried to kill you. The only reason they've left you alone since you came back is because they don't want to piss off the X-Men for the time being."

"How do you know all this?" William asked.

"I have connections."

"What if I don't want to go?"

"It's your destiny."

"What if I want to stay with the X-Men?"

"What if I could promise you a stable home?"

William was silent for a moment. Stealth continued. "That's right. With the X-Men, there are no guarantees about anything. But, with me, at least I can give you a place to stay. They'll probably be on the run for a while at least."

"Okay," William said. "I'll go with you. But only because I don't like staying in these tunnels."

"I don't think you'll regret your decision," Stealth said.

"Can I tell the X-Men good-bye?"

"In the morning. Right now, we have some things to do."

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The X-Men returned to the tunnels, and were greeted by two Morlocks. One had brown, scaly skin, and wore an oversized yellow shirt and blue pants. The other had green, furry skin, and wore a red shirt and black pants. {Clark, something's wrong,} Jean said, telepathically. {They look possessed.}

Without warning, the Morlocks lunged at the X-Men, but their attack was stopped by Morph, who had leapt from behind, and formed his arms into clubs. He batted both Morlocks down with ease.

"Kill . . . kill . . . " the green one murmured.

"Kill . . . X . . . kill . . . X . . . " the other one chanted.

Morph repeated punched both of them. He was stopped when Beast grabbed his arm.

"What is wrong with you tonight, Morph?" Beast asked. "You don't have to go completely psycho on these guys."

The Morlocks jumped up and attached themselves to Beast.

"Hank!" Iceman shouted.

"Hank, watch out," Superman said. "I'm using my heat vision."

Superman aimed his heat vision at the Morlocks foreheads. They both fell off the big mutant.

However, they started walking toward the X-Men, continuing to chant. Sarah stepped forward and sent bolts of fire onto their legs.

It didn't slow them down a bit. They came closer, and the brown one hit Sarah in the stomach. She doubled over, and dropped to the ground.

"That's it!" Morph exclaimed. "We have to take them out!"

Before anyone could do anything, Morph formed his arms into spikes, and rammed them into the hearts of the Morlocks. They finally stopped, dead.

"Is that anyway to treat your hosts?" a voice asked.

"Callisto . . . " Beast growled as the leader of the Morlocks came into view. "Were you behind this?"

"What, me? No! They're just feeling the effects of what's going on in the upper world." Callisto's lips twisted into an evil smile.

"Callisto, we're leaving, first thing in the morning," Superman said.

"Fine by me . . . "

Superman walked forward, and the rest of the X-Men followed, leaving Callisto to take care of the two dead bodies.

As soon as she was sure they were out of earshot, she motioned for one of her followers to come close.

"After they leave, I want you to follow them, and kill them."