Standard disclaimer: The characters aren't mine. If I owned the X-Men, I wouldn't be writing fan fiction, I'd be writing the real thing.

(1 July 2003)


The Untouchables
Part 6: Truths and Consequences

The installation was bathed in darkness, only the occasional emergency light served for illumination. That, and the warning lights. They flashed a slow but constant crimson, like a dull throb. Like a beating heart. She wanted nothing more than to crush it, to make the heart stop beating forever.

She closed her eyes and shook her head, but could still see the pulse.

Red.
Black.
Red.
Black.
Beat.
Pause.
Beat.
ENOUGH!

Nothing was making sense, yet she understood everything. The past week had been reduced to a few brief moments of lucidity amidst a fog of confusion, but she knew. God help them, she knew.

They had wanted her to kill. In one brief moment, one flash of gunpowder, the world would be changed forever. Fingers would point in just the right direction, they would have seen to that. She would become a target herself, a representative of her kind to make an example of. And they would have. She could hear his imagined shout of triumph, his laughter echoed in her thoughts.

He was laughing.

He was on his knees before her, as though praying. She was his judge and jury. She was his God. And he was laughing at her.

Stop it, she wanted to yell. Stop it. STOP LAUGHING!!

But she said nothing as her lips pulled back across her teeth in a soundless snarl. She was out of words for him. She pulled back the hammer on the gun that was leveled at his head and let the distinctive click speak for her.

He simply laughed harder.

She had confronted him with her findings. The CD she had burned on his own computer contained his organization's most incriminating evidence, from basic tax fraud all the way up to his escape from prison and his plans for her. The information would ensure his conviction, despite his connections, despite the many people who agree with his ultimate goal. She had him, and was not ashamed to admit that she took no small amount of joy from telling him so.

He hadn't cared. Not one bit.

The sound of his laughter began to worm its way into her head like a living thing, a parasite intent on consuming her utterly, body and soul. She could feel it crawling up her spine and burrow into her brain. Her shoulder twitched involuntarily and waves of intense heat and numbing cold coursed through her. She knew that she would do anything to make it stop.

Anything.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a movement, but only barely registered who it was. A friend. Someone who would try to stop her. They didn't understand him like she did. When confronted with the evidence, he had smiled at her, like a parent amused at their child's latest impossibly cute declaration. In that instant, she knew. There would be no stopping him. Bars had already proved to be no barrier; he had engineered this entire situation from inside a maximum-security cell. She had seen his financial records and contact lists. He had invaded society like a cancer, spreading his influence through every group he encountered. They could stop this current plan, but that was little more than cutting out the biggest tumor. He would be back. He had assured her of this, and she knew it to be true. He would never rest until he had obliterated her and her kind.

Unless…

She had the chance. She had the power. She had the opportunity to end it, here and now, to make the world safe again. To put an end to the nightmares. To stop the laughter.

She took it.


Kitty bolted upright with a gasp, the sound of the gunshot still echoing in her ears. In her mind, she could still see Stryker's body falling to the ground, still feel his warm blood on her hands and face. Kitty gulped for breath like a drowning woman and looked anxiously around the room, half-expecting to see the wall and carpet splattered thick with brains, blood and skull fragments. Her stomach lurched at the thought, and Kitty ran, one hand clasped to her mouth as she phased through the hotel room wall into the bathroom.

In the next bed, still half-asleep, Rogue rested her chin on her knees and sighed deeply at the sounds of Kitty being repeatedly, violently sick in the next room. It was going to be a long night.