DISCLAIMER: X-Men: Evo and its characters don't belong to me, nor to any of the other authors involved with this fic. We tried to buy them from Marvel, we really did. Put all our collective funds in the pot and everything. But we were pipped at the post by another bidder called WB, or some such. Feh.

TRUCKLOAD O' NOTES: I want you to close your eyes and cast your mind back. Far back, into the dim and distant past, when Evo was just a pilot and we knew nothing other than Strategy X. Can you see it? Can you see all the history of Evo's three seasons since then? You can?

Well, delete it. Delete it all. You see, last October the authors of InterNutter's Bulletin Board got together and started a fic where only the events of Strategy X were relevant, and everything went off at a tangent from there. We called it _Judgment Day_, and the fic below is the fruit of our labours. I've edited out the post divisions, so everything runs as one coherent narrative.


CREDITS: Authors in order of posting are Scribbler, InterNutter, Amicitia, Lyra Silvertongue, FuzzyElfMirage, Kladyelf, Idsunki, Yma, Yodelbean and Klutz.


_'Judgment Day'_

First Fragment ~ _'Pyrrhic Victory'_


The street was dark, and a foetid stench hung on the air. Clouds of black flies swarmed around, heavy and sinister billows in the already bleak alleyway. They clustered around a sizeable mound surrounded by various kinds of garbage, landing and crawling inside like the hideous insects they were.

A sound nearby startled them, and the horde lifted off as one, buzzing their anger at being disturbed.

Carefully, a subtle blue shape moved amongst the trash, picking its way through like a deer on legs too deformed to be anything but delicate. A small nose scented the air, wrinkling, but suppressing a snort at the putrid reek. Skirting around, it bent and scented again. The stink was strongest here, and it extended one misshapen hand to poke at the mouldering refuse.

With a shift and a slide, the decomposing stuff moved, releasing a fresh wave of stomach churning stench. The slender shape reeled back, gagging and clapping both hands over its face. Purple, bulging fingers slipped into view, engorged with old death, and a face bloated beyond all recognition stared glassily at nothing.

The shape rose and shook its head. Something long and thin whipped behind it, choosing to avoid contact with the ground and remain in the air, safely away from any other unpleasantries this alley had to offer.

A large black fly hovered about, too tempted by the rich, decaying smell to stay away. It risked death by flying close, but instead of swatting the insect the figure turned and slid away, elusive as a living shadow clinging to the murk.

The dead city rose up, tall and imposing on all sides. Old newspapers blew past, swatting against rusty cars and scudding past open entrances where doors banged far too loud for their own good in the chill wind. Not a soul stirred. Nobody dared. If anyone was left in this deserted place, then they remained in hiding, cowering away like rats in a giant trap. The once-bustling metropolis made for an eerie scene as the silent figure slid noiselessly on its way, weaving through shadows like a ghost: intangible and mysterious.

One particularly dilapidated building knifed up out of the gloom, broken glass windows glaring angrily out at the world. Several panes had been boarded up, but the nails were old, and the job half-hearted. Pulling aside one of the planks, the taciturn figure crawled inside.

Within was a veritable warren of fallen beams and bricks, strewn about any which way. A scorched hole in the ceiling showed a few tired stars peeping down from the sky, and their watery light provided just enough illumination for the figure to negotiate it's way, cat-like, through the network of wood and stone. It's back arched, and it's muscles contorted in a way no normal creature could, and eventually, after many minutes of careful navigation, it emerged at a sizeable tear in the floor. The fallen debris arced over it like a screen, providing a sort-of protection from prying eyes.

With a quick, precursory glance about, the shape dropped through the gap and landed on all fours with a faint 'floomph' and a shower of dust.

A scurrying sounded a little distance away, and the figure turned golden eyes to the noise. "Robyn?"


"Robyn, it's me."

A shuffle, followed by a voice, high and fluty. "Kurti?"


Tentatively, a movement made itself known in the corner of the abandoned cellar, and the blue figure homed in on it like a beacon, its sight being much better here in the darkness than most.

Halfway across the chamber it stepped into a patch of starlight, and at once a hushed squeal preceded a small body that came flying forth from the murkiness.

"Kurti!" the voice, which belonged to a tiny girl with sunken cheeks and hollow eyes, said happily. "I was so *worried*."

The larger figure, now identified as 'Kurti', enveloped the child in a hug, wrapping his arms about her tiny, painfully thin body and avoiding the jutting bones that stuck out at all angles. She nestled into his shoulder.

"Shhh, liebchen. I'm back now."

"But you were gone so *long*." Eyes as round as moons stared innocently up at him. "Did you find anything?"

Kurti decided against telling her about the body in the alley, instead flashing a toothy smile and extracting a small package from the pocket of his overly long coat. She grabbed it gladly and began tearing at the wrapping with her sharp little teeth. The paper gave easily, and a clutch of shiny bars fell to the floor.

The little girl gasped. "Chocolate?" She was breathless with excitement. Chocolate was a luxury left behind with the era before the 'bad times'. To find one bar was unusual, but to be presented with three just like this was unbelievable. "Where did you find this much food?"

Kurti grunted. "A shop," he said noncommittally.

She shot him a look. "Kurti...." she said warningly, sounding at least twice her age. He was lying. She knew he was lying.

Kurti sighed and threw up his hands. "OK, OK, you got me. Not a shop."

"Where then?" She was suspicious, as well she might be. With food a short as it was, the little that was left was fought over. Kurti had come home before now with cuts and bruises from some scrap or other over a piece of bread he'd found whilst out foraging. He was generally victorious in such battles, but Robyn often felt a pang of sympathy for the folk who'd gone hungry that they might eat.

Or, at least, she used to. When there were still people around to feel sorry for.

There hadn't been anybody around these parts save themselves for a long time, now.

Kurti shoved his strange hands in his pockets, scuffing his bare feet.


"Found a house."

"People?" Hope tinged her voice. Other people in this wasteland of a city?


"Mutants?" Even more hope.

He shrugged. "Dunno."

Her face fell, realisation coming with the equivalent of a slap. "Dead then," she said simply.

For a moment her bluntness shocked him. Then Kurti swallowed and nodded, choosing not to mention the various stages of decomposition, or the gruesome ways in which the family had met their ends. "Ja."

"Oh." Robyn scrutinised the bars of chocolate. "Theirs?"

"Ja. A secret stash. I found it under a floorboard." Kurti hunkered down, taking a glossy tablet and splitting the packaging with a practised hand. He raised the brown square to his face, inhaling the luxurious scent with gusto. "Eat up," he advised, gesturing to the two bars left. "Won't do any good if you leave them."

Robyn did as she was bade, although with much less finesse. She fell upon the remaining chocolate like a wild beast, snatching at one and cramming it into her mouth. Kurti was much more subdued, eating his with small bites that lasted a long time, so as to make the food seem more to his growling belly.

The last bar stared up at them. Kurti reached forward with his tail and pushed it towards Robyn. "You take it," he said generously, although his empty gut howled at losing the prize.

In answer, she opened the bar, counted the squares, and broke it into two even portions. She offered one to him, which he refused, pushing it back at her. Robyn frowned. "I won't eat it unless you do."

Sighing, Kurti took the proffered sweet and devoured it. Sugar coursed through his blood, and he sucked his fingers with a contented sigh.

"Time to bed down," he said with a glance up at the sky poking through the fallen beams. "It'll be light soon."

"Aw," Robyn groaned, but there was no turning him, and she morosely went to the single mattress in the corner that served as bed for both of them. Kurti followed after her, favouring two legs and swinging his tail from side to side.

Robyn waited as he lay down, then curled up behind him, pressing her back to his and curling her tail around her hunched knees. It wasn't as dexterous as Kurti's, but the tuft on the end trapped heat, and was good for keeping her legs warm where her fur was shortest. She shivered, groping around for the grubby blanket and heaving it over the two of them. It was old, probably from some baby's crib. Robyn liked to fantasise it had been her own, and nestled her fuzzy snout into the fabric, ignoring the musty smell in favour of its softness against her sensitive nose.

"Kurti?" she said warily. The elder mutant had been out foraging all night, and was probably tired. She didn't want to wake him if he'd already fallen asleep.

The warm mound pressed to her spine moved. "Ja, Kleines?" He sounded sleepy, but still alert enough to talk.

Robyn hugged the blanket close. "Can you tell the story again. The one about... before."

Behind her, Kurti twitched his ears. "Don't you want to hear a different one tonight, liebchen? You've heard that one a thousand times."

"I like it," she sniffed. "Makes me feel all nice inside."

Kurti sighed. "OK, ich erkläre Ihnen die Geschichte wieder.[1]"

"Thank you, Kurti." She reached out to hold his hand. "I like when you tell the story. You tell it well."

Unseen, Kurti's expression turned sad. He could understand why Robyn like to hear certain parts of this story, but she always insisted he tell it right through to the end. It wasn't right that such a little girl hear about things like that.


"A long time ago," he said in answer, "The city wasn't like this. A long time ago, lots of people lived here. They lived in giant glass and stone houses as tall as the sky, and every day they'd wake up to a new morning where the sun shone and the birds sang. Back then there were a great many things you don't see so much of now, like trees and grass. You've never felt grass wriggling between your toes before, have you Robyn?"

"Uh-uh. Is it nice?"

"Zweifellos! Cool, and in the mornings it was always wet with dew."

"Did lots of people like the grass?"


"Then why did they burn it all?"

"I'm getting to that bit, just wait a second." Kurti paused as he took up the thread again, remembering with perfect clarity what life had been like back then. "Like I said, lots of people lived in this city. But this wasn't the only one. There were a great many cities, each one containing thousands upon thousands of people - maybe even millions."

"So many," came the hushed breath. "I wish I could've seen them all."

"I did," Kurti told her, right on cue, as he always did at this point in the story. It was like a role-play they acted out every time Robyn asked for him to tell it to her, and they were the actors who knew their parts implicitly. "I saw them all. But not all people were nice, Robyn, and not all people were the same either. Some people had special abilities, special powers that others didn't possess."

"Like magic?"

"Ja, like magic. These special people were given their own special name. They were called 'mutants'. But other people were very frightened of these mutants, so for a long time they hid away, and pretended to be normal, like everybody else. They knew that if it was discovered they were different then they would be shunned and hurt, because people hate and fear what they don't understand."

"That was when you came here, wasn't it Kurti? When all the mutants were pretending to be like normal people."

"Ja. I came here to a special school, to learn about my powers and meet other mutants. But I had only been here a short while when normal people found out about our school. They were scared of us, so they shut us down."

"Were you sent away?"

"They tried to send me away, but I stayed with the man who brought me here. Herr Xavier. Or should I say, Herr Engel? We all tried to stay with him; me, Scott, Jean, Ororo, even Logan. But it wasn't to be."

"Because the bad times came."

"Ja, the bad times. People were so scared of we mutants that they decided they didn't want us around anymore. So they tried to get rid of us by putting us in special jails, and making us wear special collars that took away our powers. But there were far more mutants that people realised at first, and they wouldn't all fit in these prisons. So they tried hunting us down instead."

Tears gathered in his eyes as he remembered being chased by an angry mob, armed with rifles and shotguns. He'd never tell Robyn about how they'd found the motley remains of the Institute, or how they'd shot Herr Xavier as he slept, or how he had found the kind man's body, eyes open and staring glassily at the ceiling as the blood collected around his head. He'd keep that bit of history close to him, along with all the happy memories of the few short weeks he'd spent here in America before the mutant hunters came and flushed them out.


"I'm all right, liebchen. Where was I?"

"The bad times had started," she prompted.

"Oh yes. Well, you see poppet, even by chasing mutants and shooting them, they couldn't stop them appearing, so somebody came up with an idea. A terrible, horrible idea, that still haunts us today. A scientist created a virus that attacked only mutants and killed them, leaving normal humans alone. Do you know what that virus was called?"

"The X-Virus?"

"That's right, the X-Virus. It was a deadly thing, but people were so scared they used it anyway. They hated mutants so much that they didn't care what happened as long as those who were different were gone. But something went wrong. The virus did indeed kill off many, many mutants. The streets were piled high with the dead because nobody wanted to touch the 'muties' to bury them. But then the sickness got out of control. It was too potent, too strong to be used in the quantities they spread it around in. It mutated, and started attacking normal people too."

"How awful," Robyn said automatically, with little of the feeling supposed to be used with the words. "Did a lot of people die?"

"Ja, lots and lots and lots. Eventually they managed to create an anti-virus to make it impossible for the sickness to affect people, but it was already too late. Millions had died. The cities were desolate, abandoned because living so close together meant that the illness spread faster. Everything was dead. Killed by fear and stupidity. They pumped in clouds of the anti-virus, but it did no good. It killed everything green, but there weren't enough people left to save."

"But we survived."

"Yes, poppet. You and I survived. I found you crying in your pram in the street when you were very tiny. There was nobody else around, so I took you with me."

"Didn't I have anybody with me?" She didn't sound remorseful. She'd heard the story too many times for such petty emotion.

Kurti winced as he remembered the woman's body slumped next to the pram. "No, you were all alone."

"Oh." She paused for a second. The story was drawing to a close. Now she was supposed to say 'thank you' to him, turn over and go to sleep. Kurti waited for her to loose his hand, but was surprised when, for the first time in months, Robyn kept hold and said something different. "Kurti, do you think the lots-of-people will ever come back?"

"Robyn, you know they can't. They're - "

"All dead," she cut him off, "I know. You said so. But we survived, didn't we? Wouldn't there be other people in other places who did too? Other mutants?"

"Maybe," he conceded. "But you know why we can't go look for them, don't you? After the virus was removed, those humans still left blamed mutants for what had happened. They started to hunt us again, and now it's not safe to go out very much." He shivered as the memory of mutant bounty hunters flitted across his mind. He'd had several near misses with them before, and was in no hurry to expose little Robyn to their 'tender mercies'.

"But couldn't they come here, to us?" There was a desperate note to her voice, and Kurti's heart, made melancholy by the retelling of the story, softened at the sound of it.

"It's possible, poppet. Just not probable."

She said nothing more, but Kurti felt her shift, and knew that she was burying her face in the blanket again. He knew how she wished that she were older, that she might go out foraging with him, but his chest clenched at the very notion. After losing his teammates one by one, Robyn was all he had left. He was her protector, and there was no way he would ever let anything happen to this one little girl.

He was just dozing off, sleep finally claiming his eyelids, when her delicate voice came again. "G'night Kurti," she whispered.

He smiled, and let his tail-tip brush her cheek in a gesture of affection. "Gute Nacht, meine kleine Schwester."


It wasn't easy, being insane. But you had to keep busy. For someone who was faster than the eye could register, this was pretty tough. But Pietro had found something to do.

Clean up Bayville.

He started in the city centre, picked a building, and set it up nicely. Any bodies he found were taken to a the park and buried with enough information as he had.

Each building, corpses included, took the better part of the day. Burying was the longest, because he had to work at the speed that the backhoe did, but everything else was peachy.

He spoke to the dead, because there was no-one else to speak to, and carried on marvellously witty dialogues with thin air.

He found no survivors, because the other survivors in the city were afraid to show themselves to daylight. He just had to hope that someone would see or hear him.

Maybe even his sister.

Or father.

Hell, he'd even make nice to *Mystique*.

If only he could find someone. Or someone could find him.


A face reared up out of the darkness. Its skin flapped loose, and larvae crawled freely beneath the flesh. Its mouth was nothing but a gaping hole, teeth and lips long gone.

Yet it was its eyes that held him. Or rather, the lack of them. The living corpse extended one bulbous finger and pointed, intoning in a voice barely above a whisper; "You failed us, Kurt. You failed us all."

More figures appeared by its side, each as repulsively decayed as the last. All of them pointed with what limbs they had left, moaning through ruptured windpipes.

"You failed us, Kurt. You failed us."

Kurt skittered backwards, stumbled, and fell. The bodies loomed closer, staggering toward him on legs covered in torn and tattered clothes. Bits dropped off as they hulked along, and pools of viscous liquid trailed behind more than one of them. Kurt covered his face with his hands, not wanting to look upon them. Upon the hideous *things* they'd become.

The stink of rotting meat filled his nostrils, and he had to remove his hands to breathe. When he opened his eyes the corpses had surrounded him, still pointing and lamenting loudly. His stomach lurched as he recognised what was left of their faces.

There were three of them in all. One sat, but the other two stood either side of his wheelchair like grotesque guards. The tallest one lifted an arm that bore no hand and gestured at the trembling elf.

"Kurt. Why? Why did you do it?"

Kurt could only quiver, shaking his head. He had no voice to answer, and no words to say even if he could.

The other standing figure, the one with only half a face, asked; "Weren't we a team? A family?" The voice was breathy, since its throat was an open wound, but female. Kurt looked up at her, taking in the lank red hair and lifeless, filmy eyes.

"Ja," he replied. The first word he'd said. "You were all precious to me. All of you."

The other corpse glared balefully at him with empty sockets. A pair of shattered glasses were clutched in its only hand, and it waved these about angrily. "Then why did you desert us?"

"Scott," Kurt tried to plead with the irate shade, "I... I couldn't help myself. I was scared. Please try to understand. I couldn't help myself... I didn't... I didn't mean for this to happen... honestly... bitte..."

"All I understand is that you saw them coming. You knew they were on their way, and yet you ran instead of warning us. You let them kill us, Kurt! You *let* them!" the carcass yelled, black blood oozing from the side of its once-mouth.

The female beside him grated sonorously; "We tried to fight them, but there were too many. I was first. They took my throat away, Kurt." She indicated to the flapping folds. "Scott blasted his way over, but it was too late. I was already gone by the time he reached me." She sounded more sad than angry, and Kurt's already broken heart cracked a little more.

The corpse that had once been Scott Summers advanced on him. "I held her in my arms while she was dying, Kurt. I saw the blood coming from her neck, but there was nothing I could do. *Nothing*! And do you know what her last words to me were? She said, 'I hope Kurt got out OK'. Then she died, right there in front of me! I couldn't even see straight after that, I was so angry. Two bullets," he pointed to his chest and torso, "Here and here. I had to lie there on the ground, bleeding to death before one of the bastards took pity and came to finish me off."

Kurt pressed his hands over his ears. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he muttered soulfully, "They had torches and guns. The memories... I-I-I couldn't control them. I was so scared... it was Winzeldorf all over again. I'm sorry, entschuldigung. I'm so, so sorry - "

"Leave him alone," a new voice entered the fray, and both standing bodies turned to look at the speaker. "Let me talk to him."

Kurt heard shuffling as they moved back, and a ghastly creaking, like rending metal, approached where he crouched in the darkness. He didn't dare to look up, and kept his gaze fixed on the invisible ground at his feet.

The noise grew nearer, and then halted.

"Kurt," said the voice. The elf almost cried out in pain and grief. He knew that voice. He'd loved that voice, once. That voice had given him new hope, new purpose. That voice had inspired a belief in his soul that peace was a possibility. He recognised that voice, and screwed up his eyes.

"Nein, nein, don't make me look! I don't want to see! Bitte, don't make me look!"

"Kurt," the voice said again, and despite all his efforts, Kurt found himself raising his head. His sight was drawn to the face that matched the speaker, and lifted until he could look at it.

Except that the face no longer matched the voice.

Parts were still the same. Those that weren't covered in blood. The angular nose, the wise mouth, the high cheekbones - he remembered all of them. But the rest....

An ugly hole glared out of the bald forehead, ringed by black and dried blood. The skull around it was shattered; shards of bone poking through the papery skin. The owner of this terrible injury tilted his neck a little, and Kurt could just see the awful remains of the exit wound.

The wraith once known as Charles Xavier extended a hand out to his former pupil, and smiled. "Kurt," it said with something akin to warmth, "Kurt, it's time to go."

Kurt trembled. "What do you mean?"

"You were to blame for our deaths," the Scott-shade explained with disgust. "So, to repay us, you must now give up your life in return."

Kurt gaped, words deserting him once more. He opened and shut his mouth like a beached fish, golden eyes staring and wide. He looked at the proffered hand before him. It was mere inches from his body, open and inviting. Just as it had once been back in Heirelgart, when he was first asked to join the Institute.

Slowly, as if in another plain of reality, The Professor's fingers began to change. The flesh shifted, became hard, and a glittering sheen settled over them. The shone in a light that wasn't there, reflecting Kurt's terror-stricken expression with perfect, sickening clarity.

Charles drew his arm back and, still smiling, rammed the knife deep into Kurt's chest.

Agony lanced through him, consuming his very soul in a fiery pain more than anything he'd ever known. It was worse than the flames licking up him at the stake in Winzeldorf - beyond it. It was sadness, remorse, grief and guilt, sharpened and honed and plunged into his heart where he'd never forget them. Never forget what he'd done that day when the hunters came a-calling and he abandoned his team.

And Kurt screamed.


Robyn started, blinking sleepily. The blanket was still clutched possessively to her chest, and she yawned widely.

Something had woken her. But what?

At her back, Kurti's body moved, and she heard him whimper. Realising what had awoken her, she crawled off the mattress and went to him, touching his shoulder gently.

Kurt sat up with a jolt, eyes like new moons and sweat slicking his fur. He was breathing hard, and gawped openly for a moment before his eyes alighted on the little mutant girl kneeling in front of him.

"R-R-R-" he stuttered, still too shaken to be coherent.

Robyn stood up and laid a cooling hand on his brow, stroking and soothing him with the sound of her voice. "Shhh," she whispered. "You were having another nightmare."

"A ni-" Kurt looked at his hands, and felt his chest. He was whole and unscathed, and there was nobody here but himself and Robyn, who looked at him with nothing but kindness in her soft brown eyes. The elf sighed, but his lungs remained tight, the memory of his visions refusing to let go so easily.

"Was it another bad one?"

"Ja. I'm sorry, poppet. Did I wake you?"

She shook her head, lying to make him feel better. Kurti was always so distraught after these bad dreams. They didn't happen very often any more, but when they did he was not quite the same for hours afterwards. He never told her what they were about, but sometimes she'd come to only to find him sitting in the corner, face to the wall, muttering something about 'Verrat[2]' and 'Ausfall[3]', whatever *they* were.

Kurt stared down at her, not for the first time marvelling that God should send him Robyn as a second chance to prove himself. He'd been so dejected that day when he found her. Almost suicidal. Everything had been too much: the memories, the guilt, the feeling that nothing was ever going to get better for someone as worthless as him.

Then, lo and behold, she was sent to him. A reason to carry on. She depended on him, and Kurt had sworn on that day that he would protect her with his life.

It was all it was good for anymore, after all.

He opened his arms and enveloped her in a hug. Robyn was surprised for a moment, but returned it in kind.

When he let her go, she looked at him curiously, cocking her head to one side.

"Kurti, are you OK?"

He gave her a wan smile, though his eyes were still harrowingly sad. "Of course I am, Kleines. Of course I am. Now, back to sleep. It's still light out, and no time for the likes of us to be awake." He let her go, and turned back to lie down on the makeshift bed.


He paused for a moment. "Ja, Kleines?"

"You know I love you, don't you?"

He smiled, and this time it reached his eyes. "I love you too, Robyn."


"Cripes, Daniels, you really let yourself go."

Pietro found him in the basement, past an amazing array of spikes. Obviously, the boy had tried not to hurt anyone. There were no traces of blood on the walls or ceiling. Only tatters of cloth, pinned by bone. Pietro, now used to reading the evidence, could piece it all together.

The mob chased him until his calcium reserves were so depleted that he broke his own legs in the effort to run. Then they'd beat him and left him to die.

At least it was quicker than the virus. And marginally more merciful.

Pietro knelt beside him. "I dreamed about beating you all my life," he said. "I had it pictured a million different ways. But I never saw your bones turn to powder on you and some bunch of idiots crush what was left..."

Why didn't he feel happy? He and Evan had been fighting for forever. There wasn't a moment between them where they weren't at least bickering over *something*. Pietro had grown used to the challenge.

Now there wasn't any. No more scoring. No more verbal sparring.

No more Evan.

He'd won.

And he'd lost.

Pietro shucked his backpack and carefully cradled the body of his best enemy like a newborn. Then he threw back his head and howled out a lifetime of grief, for as long as he could bear it.

This building wouldn't be finished before dark. It might not be finished ever.

Pietro Maximoff suddenly didn't have anyone to show off at, anymore.


Kurt was pretending to sleep when a distant cry shattered all possibility of such an activity.

Beside him, Robyn jumped. "Wuzzat?" her ears twitched, trying to locate the source of the sound. "Dog?"

"No," Kurt tilted his head to listen. "Person."

"There's a person here?"

Kurt pushed himself up off the mattress without thinking. "I have to go to them."

Robyn caught hold of his tail, the only body part within reach. "You can't."

"Someone is hurting," Kurt said. "I have to help. Go back to sleep."

"It's light out. I won't let you go," Robyn said resolutely.

"It isn't your choice." Kurt gently unwrapped her fingers from his person.

"But - "

"Do *not* follow me," he said sternly. "I'll be back. I promise."

Then he crawled up through the hole in their ceiling, and was gone.


Pietro cried for Evan. He cried for all the other friends he had lost. He cried for the sad state of the world. He cried because he didn't know what else to do anymore.

Well, he could at least give his life rival a final courtesy. Like a handshake after a good game. Pietro couldn't remember how their eternal dispute had started, but he was sure that whatever Evan had done, it didn't merit being left to rot away in a basement.

He lay his enemy's body down gently, and went outside to dig a grave.


Kurt had memories of hiding in shadows. These days, there were none, as the apocalyptic 'war' had shrouded the world in a cloud of dust that simply refused to dissipate. An afterefect of the chemical they used in the anti-virus clouds, he supposed. Like the lack of rain.

He crept along, listening for indications of human activity. The mournful wail had ended, and Kurt had no more than a general idea of where it had come from.

As he progressed slowly westward, his ears began to pick up soft scratching noises. He slid along the edge of a rundown building (not that this state distinguished it from any other building in the city), moving steadily towards the source of the sound.

Someone was shovelling. They had a sniffle, or had recently been crying. Kurt peered cautiously around the corner.

"Pietro?" he gasped.

The white-haired boy jumped and looked around. Kurt edged into view. "Nightcrawler?" Pietro said in surprise. "Man, you look awful."

"Ha-ha," Kurt said tiredly.

"No, seriously." Pietro rose from his kneeling position beside a shallow pit. "I'm honestly not in the mood to insult you right now."

Kurt looked down. He *was* grubby, and even thinner than he used to be. Which was certainly something. "At least I'm alive."

"Did anyone else make it?" Pietro asked, almost daring to sound hopeful.

Kurt shook his head. "Scott, Jean.. Herr Professor.. no. I think Logan must have escaped. Maybe Evan..."

"No." Pietro looked down at his work. "I just found him. Beaten to death."

"Evan?" Kurt was silent for a moment in respect for his old buddy. "What about the Brotherhood?"

"Not sure," Pietro shrugged. "Mystique is probably around somewhere." He laughed mirthlessly. "She's like a cockroach."

"Any non-mutants?"

"Alive? None."

Kurt apparently understood what Pietro had been in the middle of, and crouched to help dig. "I found a child," he said as he worked. "Physical mutations, but no powers yet."

"How old?"

"About five, I think. Not entirely sure."

"Mm," Pietro grunted as he threw a rock to the side. "Shouldn't have to worry about anything suddenly manifesting, then."

"Maybe. Abilities tend to show up when they're most needed, though."

"Yeah." Pietro stood. "I'm going to get Evan," he said, in a tone completely different from the one he used so often when the other boy was alive.

Out of a morbid desire to see his comrade as he had fallen, Kurt followed. In the basement, Evan's body lay twisted and broken, his face set in an expression of pain and fear.

"Evan," Kurt took his friend's cold hand. "I always told you to be careful when skateboarding... I never thought you would go like this." Tears slid down his cheeks, clearing trails through the dust.

Pietro rested a friendly hand on Kurt's shoulder. Kurt raised his eyes to the ceiling. "God, please take Evan's soul," he said. "He was a good guy. A true friend, even if he didn't always know how to show it. He was angry sometimes, but never violent. This..." he looked at the general state of the room. "This is why. I really hope there's a place in heaven for mutants. Give Evan a happy eternity, ja? Tell him - " he choked on a sob, "Tell him K-man says hi..."

He turned his face away, and let Pietro carry the body out into the light.


"Okay," Evan said as he hovered beside his own grave. "So K-man was right about the whole afterlife thing."

He watched as Pietro lowered his former body into the pit, straightened the limbs into a more natural position, and, with tears in his eyes, threw a handful of dirt over the lifeless face.

In Pietro's hands, the dry soil moved rapidly from the mound back into the hole. As the task was finished, Kurt came outside with two of Evan's bone spikes. Using a bit of twine from his pocket, he fashioned the spikes into a makeshift cross, which he propped at the head of the grave.

"Thanks," Evan said, and meant it. "Both of you. See you around, I guess..." His voice trailed off as he faded from one world into the next.


Robyn hid, heart beating. Someone was walking around upstairs. And it wasn't Kurti.

"Poppet? Liebchen, it's me. I've - found someone." Kurti appeared in the hole in the roof. "It's all right, love. He's safe. A friend. Gekommen sie[4]. I'd like you to meet him."

Slowly, still afraid, Robyn emerged from hiding. "But... I thought your friends were all dead..."

Kurti came down to her. "Well, in the times before... we were sort of enemies. But now there's no need to fight anymore. And he needs company."


Pietro was staring at corners, quite unnaturally still for anyone who knew him before things went rotten. But then, there was hardly a point to moving. There was nowhere to run to. Nothing to run from. No-one to run for.

Kurt emerged from the hole with someone in his arms. A little girl who looked like she'd evolved from cats.

"Sure she ain't yours?" he quipped. "Well, she ain't blue, but you can't have everything, you know. I can't have anything. Not even someone to talk to..."

The kid stepped out of Kurt's arms, face open in raw curiosity.

Pietro half-expected her to sniff him.

"Pietro Maximoff, meet Robyn Lefleur. Robyn, Pietro - also known as Quicksilver."

"You can call me Pie-Pie," said Pietro. He used to hate the name. "It's way less flashy than 'Quicksilver'. I've decided to quit being flashy. No good for a grandiose janitor. Gotta keep busy. Gotta keep busy or you go insane..." The corners called for his gaze. "No-one to talk to for years..."

Robyn touched his face. "No fur. Not even a little."

"If it makes you more comfortable, I could try growing a beard," he offered. "Then there'd be three fuzzfaces." He laughed at his own joke, a little hysterically, perhaps, but it felt good to laugh.

Robyn looked to Kurt. "He's sick, isn't he?"

"He'll get better," soothed Kurt. "We'll help him."


To Be Continued...


[1] OK, I'll tell you the story again.

[2] Betrayal.

[3] Loss.

[4] Come out/up.