Age Of Apocalypse: Shifting Times
Summary: What if had Weapon-X not rescued to Jean Grey out of the pens?
Disclaimer: Sadly They belong to Marvel Comics.
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Part One. Double Face-
The vicious bone-crunching noise echoed across the narrow room.
Pietro reeled with the blow, and closed his eyes to numb the jarring pain. He'd have stumbled and fell down if strong and harsh arms hadn't held him still.
Slowly, the ache throbbing on his jaw dulled slightly, and his mouth got back the ability to feel. He moved it with difficulty, each muscle itching. It ought to be broken. A bitter taste with a hint of copper said him he had bit and his lips were bleeding. Perhaps the tongue too.
He half-lidded his eyes. God, even the faint light brought pain. He blinked, settling to the clarity, and aware of his bearings, sought to Ororo with his sight.
The ebony-skin white-haired goddess remained seized by her captors, the Bedlam brothers. Of course it'd be hard, though nice, that she ran away to somewhere else, preferably the X-Men HQ, or any place free of Apocalypse and his minions else.
His mind replayed the events of the last hours. The ambush were so easy and so obvious... So much they weren't deceived and walked in it knowing fully well the risks. Regrettably they were so confided, so damned sure with the fact of having spotted the snare, and so foolishly convinced of their skill to stomp on the trap and dodge the steel jaws in time...
They made it fine, but were so delighted and fond of their own conceit they wasted time and delayed too much, until a portal opened out of nowhere, flooding the place with Infinites. They could get away STILL, but chose to take them down. That wrong decission gave time to the reinforcements to arrive, surround the place, and storm inside. When turned to be painfully obvious they were outnumbered, barely might do an explosive breakdown in the siege, so Clarice teleported them away of there. He distracted to the troops with his super-speed, but he lost her focusing when Ororo was wounded. He was fired and badly injured, and Ororo faced the Infinites to save him, instead of running away.
Hence they were now in that plight.
In hands of an enemy who took pride in slaughter cruelty anyone quite silly to let itself get captured, and now had where he wanted to foes who took pride in being 'betrayers' and spoiling his crazy plans.
They had been took down, and swiftly moved at other place, the very Apocalypse stronghold while they were knocked out. He cursed to himself and scolded his arrogance and lacking of tactical-thinking, which had put in peril not only to him, but also to Ororo, more concerning in saving him than in staying alive. He'd bet she'd let to capture to help him to get away. That supposing they were able of managing it.
Right now they were in a severe room with walls ceiling and floor covered with metal layers. The walls were bare of any decoration, and the single furniture was a table and some chairs. Surely this was the room where the prisoners could be beaten in privacy, without anybody interfering with it. And they were in there, with the Bedlam brothers holding to Ororo, and the Guthrie siblings to him. Actually only the blonde giant was holding him, twisting his arms behind his back with crushing force. He was sure his bones were about of splitting. The Kentuckian brat was making sure of it with downright diligence.
He had been punched violently over and over, until his senses were dulled. He felt pain until beyond the point where you can't feel more. His powerful legs held him upright out of sheer will force, and he was thankful by his formidable musculature, since otherwise they'd be broken. He was sure at least one rib was broken, going along with his nose. His belly with the soft innards felt as a sponge.
Ororo was better, but no far better. They were venting their fury with him, the Magneto's son, before than the windrider. Due to that Ororo was quite winded and beaten, with a red cut leaking blood down one cheek, several bruises turning purple, and welts beneath the costume, marking her fair skin. Aurora and Northstar gripped tightly her upper and lower limbs, and she seemed drowsy, but even so she conserved her iron will, and kept her head high, denying to give them the satisfaction of bringing her down.
He saw her burning, defying eyes, and felt somewhat of her strength irradiated at him, invigorating him. Sudden warmth washed over him, and slowly the wounds, the blood and the hurt faded off his mind. Energy flooded his muscles, and he wrestled to stand up, proud and haughty. He did know Guthrie would just punch it using more strength, but didn't care for it.
Another fist smashed his head, brutally, crunching cartilage and cracking bone. His head jerked backwards, and a buzz ringed in his ears. He turned at him and smiled.
Guthrie squirmed, and Pietro might see him practically glowering with rage. He arched back a leg, probably to kick his groin, when the door slammed open with violence, rising a tiny dust cloud.
He stared at the newcomers. Wonderful, he pondered. Right when he was wondering whether they planned kill him on the spot or not, HE showed up.
Coal black skinsuit, fit tightly to the body. Heavy leather boots. Fingerless gloves of dark brown leather. Blonde hair, cropped short in military style. Face twisted in an inhuman snarling grimace. Eyes shining a razor sharp blue. However, barely saw spotted his beaten shape, they sparkled with glee, cruelty, and... Anticipation?
"Fine, fine. Seems at last our soldiers have demonstrated are capable of doing a simple thing well, and have brought here a traitor trash." Havok sneered evilly. He shoved brutally with an arm a female figure, roughly tied with thick ropes and gagged. The woman was impelled onwards with the strong momentum, and bumped in a table. The corner of the table stabbed her midsection, and she doubled over with a moan of pain. Her body slid downwards, unsteadily falling on her knees.
Pietro spotted purple hair, soft strands braided in a ponytail impeding them fall over the shoulders. It and the tight violet ninja garb were telltales of the woman in question.
Psylocke, one of the newest X-Men, and brother of the HC member, Brian Braddock.
Havok strode at the table, and pulled out a chair, kicking aside to Betsy as if she was piece of garbage. She rolled along the unforgiving and cold tiles, but to her credit, the woman didn't moan, or cry, or sob, or do anything, anything would give satisfaction to her enemy, the satisfaction of having raised a reaction. Only remained quiet and motionless. However, Pietro and Ororo could see her face, darkened with the long bangs shrouding her expression. And it burnt with indomitable fury smoldering on her eyes.
The Prelate ignored this, and seated down comfortably, folding his legs and threading his hands together.
"Greetings, my unexpected quest. Surely may I hope the service was of your liking?" his smile was infectious and oily. His teeth reminded to Pietro of a crocodile.
"No, it was quite lame. Though I'd not expect other thing of the Apocalypse whores." He stated diffidently.
Cracking of leather wrinkling sounded. Havok smiled no longer, and his fingers were clenching and unclenching with barely restrained fury. His eyes squinted and began to tinge with a dull golden glow. When spoke, his voice was colder than chunk of ice, harsh and emotionless. It gave goosebumps to the listeners.
"That's funny. You're a filthy betrayer to your race, and take pride in it. You're an active and unrepentant foe of my Lord. You're in my power. You extremely painful and unpleasant demise can give me the title of Horseman at last. I can kill you in the span of a second if I want, of thousand different ways. And you instead understanding your position, throw petty remarks and insults. The X-Men go crazy always whenever are captured?"
Pietro snorted derisively. "What were you looking forward to, exactly? See me frightened and crying, groveling beneath your feet and begging you don't kill me? You're dreaming awake, Summers. Your kin can laugh when they kill defenseless people, and get wet their pants when they're prisoners and without powers, but that isn't the X-Men style. If you planned see me crawl humiliated, I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint."
He huffed with finality, leering at Havok with endless contempt, and not ever altered his face when Guthrie backhanded him, rattling his teeth.
Ororo stared the scene unfolding, and took a choice. She couldn't allow Pietro was the single focus of his attention -or fury-. She reasoned they were to be kept alive until they got information. However, with the hot temper of the Prelate Summers, this one might just kill to Pietro and tear the information off her. If she could to distract him...
"Evidently, Quicksilver, the Prelate thinks everyone act like him. And if he's cocky and gloating with bounded prisoners, but whimpers and screams as a little girl when you beat up him in a bloody pulp, he'll think you're due to behave likewise. Do you remember Nebraska?"
"Impossible forget it" his eyes flashed with mirth while he stated gleefully that short sentence.
Both howled with laughter. Though a loud clatter echoed for above of their voices. Havok had sit up, throwing backwards the chair with the sudden and violent movement.
"Caged canaries squawking as eagles." He spat.
Wavering ripples of golden energy of plasma pulsated silently around his fists. These crackled with power pleading being unleashed. The very air screeched and moaned with the power gathering and building up. The glow was only dulled with the wildly flashing eyes of the Prelate. He was about of exploding in other of his savage, uncontrollable displays of rage. The hoarse growl going past his throat was molding in intelligible words.
"You are speaking too much, cretins. Do you want see a show of my authority? Perfect, I'll assure personally are going to suffer a full demonstration, with as many encores as you demanded. And after I'm done with both of you, anything left will be give to Dark Beast to play with or do away with, it won't mind while you squeal."
The amber glow intensified and increased, flashing with dazzling bolts. The energy circles widened and grew in size, and his form was concealed with the radiant light, brightest than a shining sun, enveloping him. Electricity crackled and coursed his body, ending on his fingertips. A shapeless curtain of bright-yellow power was given off by his body, releasing the explosive energy his human frame hardly could contain. The air grew hotter and weighed, thickened with pressure. Each step Havok gave left a footprint of molten metal, sizzling on the floor.
Pietro felt his heartbeats quickening up his pace. He was sweating, drops of glistening water prickling his skin and evaporating barely shed. His throat was dry and hot, as if his tongue was made of sandpaper, and he'd have swallowed a mouthful of dirt. His eyes were meeting difficulties to stay open and enduring the hot-melting, radiant glow, and the heat was giving him dizziness anyway.
He panted heavily, his lungs swallowing desperately air in hopes of getting moistness, and he wondered idly if Summers was planning melt him in a puddle on the spot itself. Or maybe evaporate the water off his entire body, and rendering him paper-dry as a wizened flower. The picture of his skin a sea of toasted wrinkles clinging on his slim body floated in his mind like a death vision.
His sight, clouded with a mist of vapor saw to Guthrie backing off, shivering in spite of the flaring heat, overwhelmed by a raw fear. Elisabeth Guthrie and the Bedlames weren't so lucky, and were being roasted joined to him and-
Ororo? How was Ororo? He shook his head and searched her frantically. She was upright still, but her head was slumped on her chest, waving at both sides, and she babbled in low voice. The warmth was dehydrating her. She lived in Egypt, Sudan and Serengeti, but Havok was turning that tiny chamber in the sun core.
Pietro steeled, denying to Havok the sight of him covering in fear, shuddering, or simply worried. Though his firm countenance was blurred with the intense light. It was spreading in lazy circles, licking the borders of the chamber, and switching its colors. From the radiant golden to amber to clear yellow and to bright white and to ivory purest than the snow finally.
Quicksilver started to think Summers was way gone off by now. If he released such energy, the area in a circle of dozens of meters of diameter would be blistered in a split-second, including the prisoners and the citadel. He swiftly looked for options, but he did know if his temper had blown up its top, he was far beyond of being reasonable.
Pietro pleaded inwardly by some last-second-possible rescue.
"What is going on here?" bellowed an imperious, hoarse voice.
The speedster mutant glanced quickly to the door, where a figure stood upright and with his arms folded. That person remained apparently oblivious to the excruciating heat burning the air and scorching the walls until the metal bubbled. Random tendrils of radiation brushed it and faded if touched the skin, and the air surrounding him was less charged with power, less warmer, and the light blinked off, giving him an halo-like aura of dimmed light which allowed make out the factions.
Pietro stared the tight blue costume of spandex and kevlar, the gloves and boots yellows, the severe, stern face, the square and unshaven chin, the long mane brown concealing the half of his face, and the visor concealing the eyesight with its red lenses, glinting sharply. He groaned.
No, please, that no. Anyone else, please he beseeched to nobody.
Summers barely spared at him a glance. "Stay out of my business, brother." He warned.
"_Your_ business?" the eldest Prelate repeated skeptically. "I'm in charge of the pens. Any new prisoner must be reported to me, mainly in case of rebels. And I don't recall have authorized to kill prisoners with important information only because you're pissed off, brother."
To Quicksilver was weird seeing the exchange. Cyclops was the very picture of the calm, the coldness, and the self-control. His face was an emotionless mask, unyielding and stern, looking down his brother without giving away anything. However Havok was bold, rush, thoughtless, furious and uncontrollable. His face was perpetually snarling to his brother.
Havok blacked out abruptly his energy building, displaying an impressive control, and strode angrily as far as one centimeter in front of Cyclops. His fists were clenched still, and seemed be pleading for Summers giving one, ONE, motive to punch his face.
"Listen me well, brother" he roared "I know make my work, and I'll not bear to rebels who don't know their places, or brats who waste the time being pampered by everyone and getting in the way!"
"Ironical you say that, boy. Scott is six years older than you." Stated a voice from the threshold. It was female, serene, analytical with a hint of scorn and sarcasm, and sounded too painfully familiar to both rebels.
The blonde Prelate sidestepped his brother, ignoring him now completely.
"Shut up your filthy mouth, you bi--"
Suddenly, his voice emitted a strangled sound, and his eyes widened impossibly, bulging out of their sockets. He held his throat with the hands and gasped helpless and needing air. The lacking of oxygen shoved him on his knees. He wobbled, and with a final jerk, crumbled aside, sprawled on the floor.
He gurgled incoherently when of sudden air returned to fill his lungs. He gulped it anxiously, heaving heavily, with loud intakes.
"Watch it, Alex. The last person speaking to me like that belched his innards." The voice in the door echoed with frosty voice. It sounded indifferent, like if its statement was a comment about the weather.
Inside of the room walked proud and haughty a woman. Clad in black and blue, a tight suit fitting her slender body, and wearing her blood-red locks cut in shoulder-length, a triangular tattoo marked her face, very mesmerizing but otherwise impassive.
She wandered over the hunched body of Summers, absolutely furious but unable of making something about it, and she looked him down, infinite disdain twisting her face.
"You are really a fool, Alex. A stupid, dumb, overestimated fool. Beyond remission and way beyond of understanding. You behave with deliberate and extreme cruelty and blood-thirst to appeal to Sinister and he likes more you instead, but your only gain is his spite and his lectures. You are a brat, Alex, a brat with too might for your own good, and the saddest bit is you're the only who don't see it or don't want to see. Perfect. Go on."
She kicked playfully his side, and gave him the cold shoulder.
"Don't even try and insulting me or plotting behind my back, Havok. Happens I know who you meet with every night in Heaven, I and everyone in fact, and may slip it out in my dream."
Alex didn't allow his inner flinch was seen outwardly, but his blanched face was perfectly clear. He knew perfectly what she was talking about. She had told him one day she was aware his romance with a flatscan, and when he wanted to deny it, couldn't. Couldn't talk, think, access to his power, and hardly breath. Then his mind replayed the scene of the night before, and his lips uttered the Scarlet name with the sound of climaxing in orgasmic pleasure.
The woman declared then she hoped this proved who was in control there, and warned Apocalypse would be aware too of his 'indiscretion' if he tried to mess with her or Summers, or did so much as think dismissively from them. She was blackmailing him unashamedly, rendering him powerless, and he knew. Though he couldn't retaliate. He suspected she had an affair with his brother, but they had never been caught, and might turn out she was merely using him. Other than it couldn't care less to anyone, Sinister included. Existed the possibility of blackmailing to Scott using her, but she had looked after of it, blackmailing him first.
That didn't stop him however to keep on hating his brother for snatching away all what he deserved, obtaining fame, power and position, throwing to him the crumbs he rejected. And now also that woman who suddenly had turned in his apparent protector and guardian, whether it was by egoist interest or by other reasons. The same woman he craved for destroying, and who right now was hurling glares at the prisoners. He watched vigilantly, focusing his brain in the scene, ready to discover any glimpse of affect or possible hint of treason. If was in connivance with the rebels, he'd know...
Pietro was boring his loath-filled eyes in her, burning with fierceness, while Ororo, the passionate and bold X-Woman was giving her longing, regretful looks. "Jean..." she whispered.
A brutal momentum, a fist of air, blasted to Storm against the wall, the sheer blow denting the metal and splitting cracks in the cement below it. The weather mistress moaned feeling her bones rattling, and fainted, albeit a light went off in her eyes before shutting them. Still the Bedlams were behind her and had absorbed the bigger part of the impact, sliding downwards in two limped heaps.
Guthrie sucked her breath and stepped backwards, the only reason he hadn't covered in fear for was retain a last grip on his dignity. Scott merely stared speechless, the Kentuckian giant gaped, and Pietro screamed, frightened.
"Don't talk me as if we were friends, Storm." Jean sneered angrily.
Or maybe not Havok thought, reconsidering his strategy. He regarded the fallen bodies under the neon light, and hurled a glare at Jean. "Look what you actions have caused. Now those two useless are out!"
She spun around glowing in anger. "And your actions were about of blowing up the citadel, Alex. Don't be a smart-ass." She looked over the bodies and shrugged. "Drag to Aurora and Northstar to the lab to heal them. With luck, Dark Beast will fix their brains up. I mean, they can't possibly get worst, can they?"
He blinked. That sounded ruthless even to him. Because his brother, a compassionate fool was with her was beyond his understanding.
"Your... back-stabbing, double-crosser traitor..." trailed off Pietro, still focused in the brutalized heap of Ororo. He was breathing raggedly, with difficulty; something weighed seated on his chest as a rock. He willed go to check on her and wake up her and hug her, but was efficiently and surely restrained.
Jean whipped her head, glaring him. She stepped forward, and slapped him. Hard.
"YOU betrayed to ME, quicksilver. YOU let they captured me during the assault, you ran away leaving me behind, and YOU never came to my rescue. I was left alone to fend off by myself, and did what I had to do to survive. So don't dare to judge me." She roared. Pietro gulped saliva, unable of retaliating or deny that.
They had left her, true. But that nearly had torn apart the team. Weapon-X menaced with kill to Magnus for giving up her first and impeding him to rescue her after. Rogue had been inconsolable, Ororo wept every night for weeks, and many were distraught. After, when they could attack all together, she was siding with Apocalypse. That defection was very hard, Logan and Gambit began to question his father's leadership, and other whispered about that, but the team held together finally. Excluding the Gambit desertion, which was for an entirely different issue.
She studied his face, and then continued, calmer, but just so harsh and cold. "You believe to yourselves better than Apocalypse, but to save your butts sacrifice to anyone, partners included, if you survive so. Apocalypse is honest about it, at least."
"Jean, that isn't right! We-" he yelled, wanting to explain her the reasons, the motives, the outcome her capture had got in the team, the suffering her friends and her lover had gone through, although part of him wondered if they wouldn't ring empty to her...
"Don't say it. Whatever it is. Meaningless gusts of hot air where I stand from." she cut, perhaps reading partially his mind. He shut up, but was sure if he might explain her, and she listened...
"If you weren't so stubborn fools, would follow after my example. The Magneto ideals haven't stopped to Apocalypse. Nothing did it. Magnus not ever could impede he take over the half the world, what are you that confided for in he'll accomplish the dream of that dead man? The Magneto's dream failed, the good intentions failed. Humans and mutants fight with each other, and when can, kill among themselves. It's time for giving up the utopia and living in the reality. I did. Can you do it?"
His answer was fast and quick even for him. "NO!"
Jean was about of saying some else, when Cyclops got between both. "It's enough with this nonsense. Guthrie, you and your sister lead them to one cell and lock in to the three."
"Silence!" he bellowed "They are so beaten wouldn't survive to the interrogatory the time enough to answer one single question, least reveal the full information. So follow my orders and shut up."
Sam spun around in time to hide his assassin, resentful glare, and hoisted to Storm, handing over to his sister. She grew in size to grab to Pietro under an arm and bear to Storm heaving her over her shoulder. Meanwhile Sam took to Psylocke, and dragged her roughly along the floor.
"By the way." The prelate added off-hand. "Limit yourselves to obey my orders. I'm fed-up of punishing your transgressions because you ignore which is your duty and are always over-exceeding."
The tone was low and unreadable, but the menace underlying was unmistakable. With a growl the brothers left the chamber with their cargoes. Alex straightened, feeling the lecture was directed also at him.
"I know which is my job and how make it, brother." He growled.
"It's curious, you have never proved that to anyone, brother. Never. Among other things because you're eternally protesting when I want you do the job you claim to know make. Speaking of which, I wait a full report in my table in hour and one half. You DO write the reports, don't you?"
"YES. I DO" He seethed.
Without other word, Scott got out. Jean followed after him, silent and close as a shadow.
Havok remained motionless for seconds, basking in his fury, letting it fuel him, rejecting to cool down. Then he flashed with white, and his fist released a stray plasma bolt, drilling a hole on a wall. A puddle of molten metal slid downwards, hissing and steaming.
Havok spared a swift glance to the two siblings slumped and stirring with agony, and stomped out angrily. He couldn't care less for them.
The rubble of the floor sensed hard on his face.
In another time he'd blink to clean the dust out his eyes, close the mouth to taste less rocks, turned his body to be not sedated on sharp pebbles. But no now. It wouldn't be of use.
He was a hollow shell of skin clung to dry bones, a limp heap barely alive crawling on the tough, stony ground, one more of the many moaning, whimpering, sick, weak, starving prisoners lurching on the floor and lying in thousand positions of self-abandon. His tongue hurt and his throat was dry as sand. He wondered sometimes when was the last time he tried water. His muscles were flaccid and thin, due to the undernourishment and the frequent beatings. A red haze floated in his brain dulling his reflects and sapping his strengths, erasing even the idea of escaping.
The fatalism took over him. What escape for? Only would be caught again, and beaten again, and thrown in the pens again, where he would agonize again. He'd be awoken, and remember he was starving, and thirsty, and tired, and wounded, and bleeding, and caged, since long ago, and above all he couldn't run away. No, was better surrender to all, sleep, sleep, sleep, a dream without dreams, ignore the world, ignore who was him, ignore all, forget, forget, forget.
The strong neon light however needled his eyes with pain, and the overwhelming reek stunk his nostrils, avoiding he sank into the blessing oblivion, the murky, glossy darkness his body was begging. It interfered with the suggestion polluting his brain. Even with splint bones, pummeled muscles and flayed skin, even with the death stalking in shape of hunger, thirst, pain, fear, Pietro Lensheer was too stubborn to surrender.
He rolled wearily over the hard, unforgiving ground. Still that easy chore let him breathing hard, and with his entire musculature screaming and moaning. Red spots danced on his eyesight, and a headache buzzed and pounded in his skull. His tongue tasted a bitter liquid. He had to have bitten a lip. Oh, well, it was refreshing.
Ignoring his joints snapping, he crawled over the stinking floor, dodging the living cadavers howling under him, and the monitors sending pictures above him. He shook his head and went on doing his way bit to bit, scratching the floor to hold and slicing his fingers in the process, stopping for nothing or nobody until reaching his goal.
The grey ivory Ororo's hair was matted with blood, and she was too tired and sleepy to open her mesmerizing, pupils-void, white eyes, but otherwise she was fine. He touched her temples. Hot. Feverish.
"She isn't hallucinating yet, I assure you, but her resistance is very worn off. I don't know how much we can bear this."
He rubbed her eyes so the dark blur condensed in a shape. It was Psylocke, her face tissue nearly so purple as her hair, swollen with bruises and crisscrossed with wounds, but she seemed definitively better than he did. Pietro wondered why.
However, that was a secondary matter, registered and kept on the back of his mind, always too hasty and fast to focus in something but the here and now. And now he wanted give her some hope to get out of here. But he had got no one to give her. He wasn't sure himself of their odds. He couldn't give consolation either. Not even a bad advice.
He glanced at passing the figure hunched underneath Psylocke. Surprise hued his expression seeing the green-haired, red-clad woman. It was that poor, lunatic woman who believed herself his sister, his father's daughter, and who his stepmother had absorbed long ago. He didn't recall her name.
"Do you know how we go out of here?" the ninja questioned evenly.
Despair gripped his heart and twisted on his chest. His eyes stung, but no tears were spilled. He had run out of supply long ago.
"No. I don't." He mumbled regretfully, his voice barely louder than a low whisper, black with hopelessness, cracked with grief. He lie the blame on him, the whole guilt was his, he leaded them to the trap, he should can protect them, but had failed, failed miserably, poor excuse of leader...
"Perhaps I can help." Stated a silent voice. It was low and flat, but its words stood out over the deaf mumble of the prisoners.
Psylocke raised up her head, and Quicksilver whirled as fast as his hips, energies and remainder speed allowed him. Which turned to be a lot.
One tall figure was standing upright above the rows of fallen heaps and rotten corpses, a lime green cloak enveloping a slim body, its open front billowing with every of her motions to show a red-and-yellow spandex hugging her female body. An ample cowl shrouded in dim darkness her face and factions, and only a stray red lock of hair fell out the shadows.
Pietro was speechless. He wasn't sure why, but the woman standing in front of them was remembering him of his dead sister, Wanda.
He was going to open the mouth when a lean finger touched his lips closing them. In the proximity he saw two specks of flaring green in the middle of the blackness.
"Silence" She hushed. "You and Betsy carry to Ororo and Lorna and follow me. I'll get out of here to all of you."
"What must we trust in you for?" he whispered.
"I'll explain to its due time. This isn't it. I'm in peril here, and each second counts." She answered.
Pietro wasn't fully sure of the validity of her reasons, but after few seconds -his brain could analyze and argue the pros and cons of a matter in less time, but with the drugs laced in the food and the telepathy disrupting his brain that was the best he was capable of-, he chose against turning down the offer. After all, what had he to lose? If this was a trap, they'd deal with it -foreboding thought-. If this was real, they had a chance of running away. If they were captured again, they wouldn't worse than now. And if they were got killed, in this situation death was liberation.
He glanced at Psylocke, and she agreed with a quiet nod, straightening to the woman. He cradled to Ororo and lifted her up, holding her in arms.
"All right, woman. We heed you lead, by now. But I swear" his voice steeled. Steeled? He was inwardly shocked. Where did the resolution come from? "If this is a trap, you demise will be long before than ours, and for my own hand."
She nodded but didn't dignify him with an answer. The hooded person simply spun around, slight and shadow-like, and moved away of them, beckoning them with a hand. Pietro and Psylocke exchanged swift glances, and went after.
Her feet did a nonexistent noise while she advanced slowly, avoiding step on the prisoners, and marking an erratic trail. Or might seem erratic, when she swayed and bend her body, zigzagged in the middle of the jail, sidestepped an empty spot, of walked ducking. But Pietro saw her motions were too forced, too well studied to be erratic, too fluid and easy. She was dodging something...
Realization dawned in him. The security monitors. He and her partners focused in repeating her movements and going after her way.
The trail wasn't easy yet. The poor captives rolled or stirred, and they had to sidestep, or nudge them to move. Psylocke pretended be a Prelate, and ordered them move away. Pietro shivered seeing her using that mean trick with mechanical coldness, but he didn't argue. Once in a while, someone noticed they were trying and doing, and stretched his or her arm in plead. And he looked away and forced to himself to ignore it, although felt something twisting on his belly each time it occurred. Under his viewpoint he wasn't being better than the ninja, but what was the other alternative there?
The mysterious woman leaned her frame next to the exit, drawing the folds of the cloak in her, and sneaked a hand to type the electronic lock. The door hummed silently, and opened with a screeching sound. She peeked out, looking around to spot guards. They waited apprehensively.
At last the woman turned at them with a nod. "The coast is clear." She whispered, and sneaked out with a flap of the cloak, as a wraith. Perhaps she was.
The two X-Men braced for anything, and darted outwards, clutching their weakened partners. The woman was leaning on the wall, folded arms below the cloak when they ran out. Without hoping for them, she closed again the sliding door, sealing the people inside.
"It hurts me let them inside." Pietro mumbled. "It seems selfish, free to the four of us and leave behind several dozens." Not well he'd emerged out the cell, his mind was less clouded, and his rational process were easier, less numbed.
"We have no choice." She stated matter-of-factly from the depths of her hood. "You've got other mission. Free them is the mine."
She did other gesture, and bolted down the gateway. They sprinted after her.
The quintet ran along narrow and winding passages, leaving behind cells after cells, every loaded with miserable, dirty and sick prisoners. Occasionally they stopped to dodge a patrol, or went back to hid behind some tower or in a murky dead end.
Thus the awesome and malignant majesty of the pens unfolded ahead of them with all his perverse glory. And Pietro was overwhelmed and sickened by it.
It was only a portion from his viewpoint, but boxes and boxes crowded with moaning and tattered shades, blinded with red lights spread at all directions, joined through platforms. Massive wires were hooked to the cells, machines and generators, and streamed upwards, straight as pillars or winding as monstrous snakes, covering the walls and columns of the dome as a techno-organic, gigantic, misshapen climbing plant, a sea of hanging weeds that cloaked and stole the bright sunlight. And far away, in the middle of the super-structure was outlined the looming base of the central Tower, climbing upwards with pride, and spearing the sky.
And in the pits of pens, the low, unceasing, relentless mumble that were the screams and moans of the humans and lesser mutants caged, remained everlasting, spreading as a tide.
"This... monstrosity." Choked Pietro, shivering with chilliness was no due to the cold. Unmentionable daily horrors floated in his frightened mind, and he wondered if this was what got mad to Jean.
Her guide stopped, and gave him a strange, private smile.
"We've reached the place." She spoke, and lowered slowly, dusting off a layer on the ground. Her fingers poked in one dented corner, and she used the leverage to pry it off.
The metal tile was lifted, and Pietro saw a stinky, shady subway spreading beneath them. A strong reek of wetness, murkiness and rottenness filled his nostrils with its repugnant scent.
"These are the lower levels. It's a maze of forgotten subways and old sewers. This is a kingdom of rats, and worst vermin. Few ones are enough bold, brave or fool to descent. Even the Infinites are too scared for going down, and only the Elite chase and hunt down prisoners. Of course this is our major drawback."
Her voice filled with some weird in there. Warmth and hope. Pietro realized then that it was rich and nice, filled with love and mercy.
She beckoned them to go. Pietro pushed to Betsy, who landed gracefully even wearing a burden, and he fell down after. The guide leapt diffidently in the sewer, and shut the makeshift hatch behind her.
She landed with a splash on a puddle of viscous water, tendrils of liquid leaking through cracks on the rocks, and flowing in a pothole. She rubbed in annoy her boots against a dry patch of the floor, amidst the several puddles of thick water spotted the place, born of liquid trickling out of the pipes, or sliding down the walls. Quicksilver noted, however, she seemed being soiling them with dirt instead.
A refreshing gust of wind streamed along the tunnels, making a hissing noise. Quicksilver sighed in relief, and Psylocke released to the green-haired woman, letting her down to see if she could stand. She stumbled and tripped, but before she fell down, Psylocke picked her up. She denied with the head, thought, and shook her head to get ride from the dizziness. Then she parted away from Psylocke, and struggled to remain on her feet. She wobbled, but achieved stay upright. Her legs shivered as jelly, but she looked ostensibly better.
She supported her weight on a wall and rubbed her face. "Here. Now I'm better. If I can't run, only would be a nuisance for you."
Pietro was aghast. "Don't be silly, Miss..."
"Dane. Lorna Dane."
"Dane, if you can't walk, one of us will carry you. We shan't leave here to someone if we can help it." He assured sternly, flinching nonetheless with the Jean's memory. In spite of that, part of him was gladder. If Miss Dane was recovering her bearings and understanding the situation, then her psychological state was getting better.
Her enigmatic savior strode at her and hugged her warmly, patting her back. Then she looked at them.
"You feel better because the Brain Consortium can't play with your minds down here. They are six brains of telepaths who sedate psychically to the prisoners to eradicate even the very idea of an evasion or breakout. But the aren't in charge of scan the tunnels to discourage fugitives as ourselves. But I don't rely entirely on it anyway. Excessive confidence is dangerous." She stated warningly.
Pietro took her advice at heart, that unknown woman troubling her already. "Too true. Who are you and what did you save us for?"
As if in clue, Ororo, free of the hallucinations of her self trapped down tons of debris and surrounded by corpses, chose to stir up and moan. Pietro averted her attention to her, stroking softly her temple and silvery hair.
"Easy, Ororo. We're out of the pens... Well, almost. You're safe." He cradled her soothingly, brushing her lids with care, all the time while she slowly opened them, letting the tiny illumination of the subway touched her pupils.
She blinked and shook her head to get used to the light in that zone, when she randomly spotted to the figure shrouded in the darkness of her cowl. She spotted sparkling green eyes and red hair.
"Jean?" she yelped hesitantly, although she would always recognize to her former best friend.
"Jean?" screamed Pietro shocked.
"Jean?" screeched maddeningly Psylocke, getting her guard high instantly. Twin purple blazes erupted out her fists and condensed in dagger-like blades.
"Jean?" mused Lorna dumbfounded, peering at her dubiously, not understanding whatever was happening, but alert and ready only in case.
Before Quicksilver got to Ororo down and bolted running, Storm summoned the elements, and Psylocke jumped brandishing her psychic weapons, a rosy light enveloped them, tying them and restraining them surely.
"Calm down." she said with neutral voice. "I'm not your adversary. I'm on your side."
"So? You were very busy showing the opposite thing weeks ago!" snarled Pietro, frustrated with the psychic bounds halting him airborne.
"You've been down here less than a week, only. Do you think truthfully can pass a month without you visiting the Interrogatory Room?" she stated disdainfully, combing her curls on her shoulder. "Besides, If I display a tiny bit of sympathy regarding to you, I'd dead. No, I'm sorry, I'd be beheaded, disemboweled and artistically maimed, and my chopped limbs would be stored in jars afterwards. And you'd remain in the pits."
She was using with him the voice tone plenty people used with little children to explain some obvious but they were too naive and ignorant to grasp. Pietro hated that tone, but there was something in her words giving a new light on the matter, a possibility unfolding he wasn't sure of wishing believing in. It would be too good.
"How can we know we can trust in you?" he wondered firmly, taking care in keeping the uncertain out of his voice.
With a wave of her hand, the rose tendrils seizing up safety to Psylocke dissolved in nothingness. The ninja, suspended middle-air, landed crouched.
Jean stared at her. "Read my mind. And fast, before other telepath can find me."
Next she took down her shields, allowing her inside. Psylocke brushed briefly the edges, fascinated with her power, an unbelievable might restrained, unexplored and unknown even for that woman, who could easily throw her out of her mind if she wished so. Though, Jean was allowing her a probe.
Psylocke submerged into her head and went out a second later, letting to Jean to rose her barriers up again.
She... She's telling the truth Psylocke broadcast telepathically. Jean observed thankful she'd realized the seriousness and dangers in her situation. She's stood here to free prisoners
Ororo disengaged away from Pietro, and landed to sprint towards Jean and embrace her warmly. The redhead wrapped her arms around her, returning joyous the hug.
Don't spell that name she warned sternly. It was quite bad actually when the four of you named me. There's no cameras or microphones down here, but I'm not taking chances
Ororo nodded, her backhand cleaning the wet trails on her pretty ebony face. Of course. Oh, my dearest friend, I'm so very sorry having doubted of you. Beg you forgiveness
Jean patted her. Please, Ro, that was the idea. If you didn't buy my act, the Prelates would have find out about me long ago, and I'd get killed
Nevertheless, I'm sorry
The remainder three approached slowly. Pietro was beaming with pride at her, and Psylocke had got another expression, growing respect in it by Jean. Lorna was dizzy still, but understood and valued her sacrifice.
I'm sorry for having thought, even for a moment-
"Pietro" she cut off bothered "we have gone through it already. Now we're moving us, or guess who will be hunting down our hides. And I can positively assure he won't be secretly nice."
He nodded. The suggestion was wearing off fully, and he was returning to his former, rushed self. The interval was getting him nervous, and the pause itching along his legs. He needed move.
"Let's go." She mumbled, and jogged off, her cloak trailing behind her and flapping as a ghost. The three X-Men and Lorna followed her running, and when they had reached her, she sprinted. Thankfully they kept up, even Lorna.
It's dangerous if a telepath read my mind. Thankfully there's no telepaths among the Prelates and I don't know to anyone mightiest than me, other than Shadow King. And Apocalypse exterminated the psychics, so there's no a lot of us to start with. For once, one of his stupidities worked in our advantage
The entire bunch nodded. Do you know the Prelates we may run into as we run away? Psylocke wondered, seeking retrieving information as a good warrior, and letting Pietro and Ororo 'listen' it.
She nodded. Unfortunately is likely than the Guthries, since is their sector and their shift, but Havok can have switched the shifts without Scott knowing of it. The better had been to act in another hour, or in an area patrolled by Scott or myself, but we were risking us enough to be exposed. It's better the danger of a battle now
Pietro blinked. He searched in his memory who Scott could be and where he'd heard the name. And then he remembered to Jean naming to the High Prelate in the room. Her words were registered with their full implications in his head. Wait a moment! Do you mean the Prelate Summers is working with you?
She glanced at him with a strange expression, and sent her answer leading it to all. No, Pietro. I am working WITH HIM
Astonishment invaded the group. However, before anybody spoke or though something, Jean took an ounce of her power and hurled it in their brains as a spear. It coursed throughout their heads as a lightning, and a scene was replayed into their minds.
She was checking the library, looking for some book worthy of her time, when a ruckus echoed from the living room. Her curiosity picked, and a bad foreboding driving her, she rushed out to investigate. She was frequently lonely these days. The Prelate stopped little time in there of late, and he usually slipped out of the room during the nights, when he believed she was sleeping. Besides, he'd turned more close-mouthed and elusive than usual.
The quarters of the Prelate Cyclops had been her cage since the goddamned day of her capture. She did know it might be worse -actually much worse-, but it did nothing to take away the obviousness of she was trapped inside with a demon. And still, Summers didn't seem so bad and abhorrent as the rest, his brother and Dark Beast for example. Scratch that, he WASN'T as bad as they were, no for a long shot. Actually there was something different in him, she couldn't put the finger on...
And he had been of late more... distant. More introvert, less talkative. She couldn't bait him in arguing so easily. And sometimes she surprised him giving a secret, longing glance, almost wishful. But what was he wishing for? And above all she read in his ever-shielded eyes guilt. A big, massive guilt, awful blame, massive sorrow, crawling into him and stabbing gleefully his entrails, weighing him down so much he walked downcast constantly, except when he was controlling to the Prelates. And they were a mob definitively needed of control.
She stopped ahead of the living room's door, unlocked and half-opened. Through the slit, yellow light and scathing voices filtered. She peeked.
The Prelate Summers was standing with the folded arms facing his little brother. Flanking his sides were the Guthries and the Bedlams, and behind them, observing the scene, was Sinister. His pale face was an unreadable mask, and he poised as a silent hawk.
Havok was smiling sardonically and pointing at his brother. Hollow eyes of icy-blue color accusing. Demanding. Calling him... traitor?
As in a court, Havok recounted his accusations to his brother. Accusations of being responsible of many evasions. Of him having betrayed to Apocalypse. Of him having rebelled. Grave charges that could get his brother killed, and he enunciated with a glutton, sick grin, eagerness written over his face.
Meanwhile, his squad moved silently, stealthily at Cyclops. This one remained motionless, unyielding, enduring stoically the accusation without quivering a brow ever. The only emotion his visor wasn't concealing was his contempt.
Then, a red blur leapt forward, a spike of sharp fear stabbing her heart as ice. She pushed it aside.
"He wasn't! I did it!" Jean shouted.
The entire assembly whirled towards her, shocked with that revelation. And no all of them had the same motives.
Havok barked an incoherent profanity, and Jean smirked -much to her own surprise- and using the little she had listened, crumbled the Havok theory with a make-shift history. She was risking much, but she made up an explanation about how that task might accomplish it just a telekinetic such like her. Full knowing her cooked-up tale could be taken apart easily, she claimed she had acted knowing the Prelate was in other place that night, therefore getting her hands free.
Surprisingly Sinister, of all people, had supported her confession saying it seemed likely and classed to him as reasonable. Still was obvious he wasn't buying it fully, so she threw her trump card.
Jean gloated saying didn't take much to trick to the Prelate because he was so driven in hating to his brother he used any given excuse to throw him to the dogs. She knew it wasn't a very smart idea, but during the little time she had known to the Prelate Havok, she had seen if he was angry, let his fury cloud his judgment wholly. Hence, he wouldn't question his alibi.
It worked. With a yell of 'filthy whore', he strode swiftly at her, and backhanded her with his fist brutally. Jean felt the sickening sound of bones crunching, and was hurled to the unforgiving floor. Her ears were ringing still with the brutal blow when she felt thick fingers grasp her throat and lift her. The Prelate held her body level-eye, and arched back a fist to smash her face.
A strong darted, griping Havok when was about of connecting, and with an unheard force snapped it backwards, and twisted it.
Havok howled in pain, and glared at his brother. The sinister light on his eyes didn't hide the tears.
"What the fuck are you doing, brother? Have you gone mad?"
And his violent, harsh tone didn't mask the gasps of hurt.
"Let her go." Cyclops grated in a slow whisper, dangerous whisper.
"You-" he argued. Stupidly.
"NOW!" he boomed.
A split-second later, Havok crashed against the wall, making it to tremble with the hit, and Cyclops was holding to Jean with his hand.
Havok shook his head, struggling for regaining his bearings. His skull throbbed with waves of pain, and he'd swear it quaked and ringed with the hit. His nose was a bloody mess of cartilage broken and glued against a cheek, oozing red blood. He leaned onward with a whimpering moan, but he was satisfied enough his back wasn't broken of.
Piercing light harmed his eyes until a shadow got in the way, looming him. Cyclops had stomped as far as his knocked down body, and now tapped impatiently the floor. Jean might see he was in a rage, but it was an emotion carefully controlled and tightly caged. It did most threatening and dangerous.
She also glanced at the four Havok goons tense and prepare to lunge to Scott, but Sinister halted them with a simple cough. Her intuition was telling her they couldn't care less to Cyclops.
He growled at Alex. "I'll deal with her."
"What?" his brother yelled, and winced. Scream wasn't a good idea when a headache was pounding on your brains.
"You've heard me. I'll see personally she receives her punishment."
"With what right?" seethed Havok, less aloud than usual. All in all he got retentive memory.
Cyclops grabbed him roughly and heaved him. The red glass sparked and shone with far brightness than Jean had seen ever, and wisps of red blazes were pouring out. The optic power behind the visor had to be building up.
"Point One: You are the Security Chief, and you have allowed a breakout!" he roared loudly. "Point Two: You have just accused your upper official of treachery. Point Three: Only for getting a raise you've interfered in an ongoing investigation, and let your petty jealousy allow to the guilty to get away with it. Point Three: I'm getting mightily sick of your petty jealousy and your inferiority complex, and besides it's getting in the way of your work. And Point Four" his chest heaved, raised, and lowered "She's incriminated to me, so I'm the fittest to decide his punishment."
A disturbing grin tugged upwards his lips, twisting them in something ugly.
Suddenly Sinister placed a hand on the Cyclops shoulder, and gave him permission. Scott nodded to Sinister, and Jean listened clearly his words.
"Evidently she hasn't learned yet which is his place here, Father. Trust me in this, I'll assure me of she knows it from now." He leered at her, cracking his knuckles. She shivered unwillingly, suddenly insecure and less adamantine than before.
The next minutes were a blur, facts happening so quick she remembered very little of. She noticed barely he dismissed to his subordinates and Sinister and he said good-bye at each other. He shut the door with a heavy sigh, and hurling a glance at her, grabbed her arm and dragged her roughly towards his bedroom, sitting her down on the bed. He closed the door and drew the drapes, and sighed again. Sparing another swift look, he took a chair, and placing it facing her, crumbled on it.
The muffled noise of his body resting on the cushion and the carved wood of the back was the last sound in several minutes.
"Why did you do that?" he stated.
The sound of his voice startled her. It seemed harsh, distrustful.
"Why did I do that?" she repeated, hesitantly.
"Yes, 'that'. Cover my back. Or back up my cover" she cringed, reflecting his wisecracks were awful at its best "Was it for protecting me? Or are you trying blackmailing me?"
His voice could slice steel, and it blew up her temper. Then she screamed before being able of stopping to herself "What do you mean with it? How can you think like that? So low is your opinion about me?"
His grim countenance darkened very much, and she realized too late he had got plenty reasons to be distrustful. He lived in a place where everyone looked forward to one chance to backstab him, and she was his prisoner. So much as she hurt he thought she could use an advantage to destroy him, he was right in that. She could, and in fact she'd have done so if the opportunity had presented formerly.
So why did she not want doing that now, and why was she disgusted with he thinking she was capable?
"I'm not blackmailing, Summers. Besides, If I tried, you could get me executed easily, couldn't you?" she amended. "But I DO think is fair you answer me other question. Is true they told?"
He kept quiet for a while, examining her. Probably studying each detail, each expression and each twitch of her muscles and eyes.
"Yes." He stated finally, and shut up her mouth.
She felt her chest suddenly lighter. Something fluttered inside it.
"Why?" She pleaded. She wanted hear it.
He stared at her bewildered. "Why? Are you asking me why? PRECISELY YOU?"
It was her turn to stare back bewildered. "Yes. I'm asking that."
He gripped the seat of the chair. "This is YOUR FAULT, woman. You are the cause I'm doing this. It's your fault. All was perfect, or so I could delusion to myself, until you showed in my life to teach me how screwed it is!"
She gasped, but no sound came out of her mouth.
"How useless, unworthy, pathetic, sad it's! I wasn't glad with this, never seemed right or good or fair, but I might ignore it and obey orders, I could bow to Apocalypse and kill who he said me that deserved to get killed. I could ignore the damned GAP in my chest, the BLOOD staining my hands, the HATRED of my own kin for getting things I never wanted, the WAY my fore father manipulates me, the miserable LIE my life is. But you showed then. You damned spirit, your pride, your arrogance, your bravery, your fire, yourself, opened my eyes. You did me question to Apocalypse. You did me question why I followed his orders ever. You showed me the truth, and since then this place has made less sense each time!"
He rose up, and began to pace. He halted facing her, and spreading his arms.
"Look me. Look this place. Here people that are defeated in battles or are unlucky enough to no get killed outside are dragged, jailed and tortured. We tell they're weak and that is their destine. However I've seen many of them. Proud and strong in his or her time, now turned in wrecks. And nobody clues ever any of us can be in that place. Samuel punches to the prisoners grinning and never thinks if Alex a day chooses to cripple him and throw in the pits he'll downright defenseless, and nobody, neither his sister, will help him. Anyone of us can be in there, a pale hide of a living being. We believe ourselves the strong ones, but any strongest than us can slaughter suddenly for whatever reason."
"The strong ones. Ha! That's funny. It's suppose we are the best, our power makes us best, but the only single thing the strong ones make is beat up to people who can't stand on their feet ever to defend themselves. Where is the pride, the honor in that? Where is the victory in blowing someone wounded, maimed, defenseless that barely can plead with cracked voice? Where is the strength in that? Where is the power? Is that all we can do? Isn't there anything better than this?"
"Look the smirking Infinites. They laugh and boast while char people, but never realize they are born of the repugnant McCoy's soup, cooked with the people they look down and slander about. Never realize in their foolish, absurd gall and selfishness they're just lab experiments, who will last few time before dying, and really matter to no one, Apocalypse the least of all"
"Look the Madri. They pray and sing and shout, worshipping to Apocalypse. Neither knows they were created cloning until the death a poor, anodyne mutant that ended crazy? Neither knows Apocalypse thinks of the clones? They're really other link in the food pyramid, more pawns easily discardable. All of us are to Apocalypse. But we don't wish see it."
"I walk along the tunnels, among the pens, and saw the people frightened from me, seeing a kind of devilish monster. All screech and whimper and back off and stay away and run away from me. Is that power? That is nothing but fear! I've studied history! Any HUMAN dictator could get that effect, and without mutant powers!"
"We gloat being the new race, the upper kind, but look this world. We behave like humans, kill and die like humans and destroy anything we see like humans. We are the self-proclaimed superior race, but the only thing we're doing with that superiority is razor this world, kill, kill, kill, always kill, and we're moving us toward a world war who NOBODY can win. Apocalypse says the fittest and strongest will survive. Apocalypse is a fool! Nobody is going to survive to the storm of death he plans unleash. A fool and a self-centered egoist! He can't care less 'his genefolk'. While he survives, nothing else matters to him. Nothing and nobody. But we're too much fool to understand it, even thought it's obvious. We're serving to one madman!"
For then he had crumbled on the floor, seated on the carpet and with his knees drew high, covering his face. His arms were wrapped around them, embracing his shoulders. And he hiccuped and sobbed strongly, releasing all of it, at last letting loose all he had buried down during years.
Years of hurt. Years of loneliness. Years of seeing violence and blood. Years of suffering in secret. Years of controlling himself. Years of lies and hidings. Years of hollowness.
Jean was stunned. He'd been listening to her during all their arguments. All of them. And they had got an effect in him stronger than a nuclear bomb. She'd got in him a power that nobody else matched.
She raised, and strode as far as him, kneeling to his height. However, while she leaned her knees on the ground, the picture blurred and vanished slowly.
A cloak of blackness filled their sight, and when it dissolved, they were abruptly back in the physical world. All except Psylocke sucked his or her breath when saw the ground approaching to all speed.
Pietro brought forward a leg more hastily than usual to regain his balance while gasped surprised the whole, startling memory had been printed in his head in the short span between two steps. Shocked, he went on running, the rest following his trail.
They remained quiet, sprinting along with Jean. Ororo was the first speaking.
Was that real? I mean, did he say those exact words actually?
Jean grumbled. Ro, I'm a telepath. I NEVER forget things
Psylocke nodded in agreement. He suggested you got those thoughts into his head. Don't you-
NO Jean flared in every head with a roar. They winced. I did nothing. He decided rebel against Apocalypse and the people who had harmed him on his own freewill
She paused a bit, and then continued. He isn't like them. He's, in his core, a decent, honorable, merciful person. There was something in him not even Sinister could manipulate, resisting the conditioning, enduring the evil surrounding him. He hadn't served to Apocalypse if someone would have give an alternative or exit. But nobody did, nobody knew see it, nobody looked past the rough facade
Pietro and Ororo, her two oldest friends were amazed and curious hearing the deep, bitter sorrow creeping into her voice. They were going to ask about that, when she talked again into their minds.
I've always believed in the redemption, and now more than never. When I found out the way he'd broken with his former life, rejecting what he did and loathing what he was, and had risked saving lives, I just KNEW I'd to help. He had changed for the better and thanks to me, wouldn't be fair I gave up in him now, as all the rest did. I agreed being part of the Elite and pretended being one of them for that, and he and me have lived the last two years endangering our lives saving people
Psylocke sensed her partners were in awe, specially the poor Lorna, but she was feeling other emotions more coming from Jean. A certain burst of feelings, swiftly squished and repressed. She wanted to perform a discreet sweep, to find out what was it all about, but suddenly her psychic alarms sparked in life.
"Look out! Two enemies are incoming ahead of us!" she shouted in warned.
Less than a split-second later, a thunder and a flash tore the stillness of the tunnel, and with loud crackles two lightnings of blue-white electricity seared the air rushing towards them with deadly intention.
Their strength was terrific and their speed was blinding, but life-preserving instincts kicked, and the group dodged, zigzagged or sidestepped. Jean rose up her head with glowing challenging eyes, but kept her cowl carefully on.
Fuck! They're Northstar and Aurora! They must have switched shifts! she broadcast to her partners.
"Shit!" growled aloud Pietro "Scatter you!"
Storm clenched her fists, and spheres of lightnings burst and crackled on them. Psylocke leapt, invoking her psychic blade, and Lorna gulped saliva wondering if she was up to this fight. Her power and her stamina were very worn off. However, an unfathomable dread to be dragged back to the pits was showing, and it caused determination settling in her and giving her steel to her spirit. She'd fight and win her freedom, or die down there, but NEVER, ever, she'd be arrested again.
"Leave Northstar to me" Pietro fumed, and bolted onwards, fading in a blur of speed.
Wind streamed howling with violence and dragging massive boulders in its wake. Gales of wind blew, clashed with each other and swirled making whirlwinds, before bursting. And in their wild and unleashed orgy, carried with them the rumbling sound of legs running with such speed plowed furrows on the tough floor, fists pummeling in flesh with rock-cracking strength, and blinding bright electricity bolts exploding.
Two blurs of color and speed rushed ramming in each other, and after parting.
Forcing the sonic speed, Pietro positioned behind Northstar a second after of being in front of him, and his fists linked to hammer brutally downwards, using his speed and momentum to multiply his strength. His rival got out the way in time, but the air his arms pushed was enough to explode a hole in the floor.
And then he rushed, sidestepping a thunder and facing to Bedlam.
"Why don't you surrender, genescum, and accept the unavoidable? Both of us know how will end up this."
"This is your mistake, Bedlam. Only ONE of us knows how this will end up, and you aren't." Pietro spat, and sneered. "But we know you'll not kill me. I'm too sexy to die, am not I?"
"Don't flatter to yourself." Growled the Canadian, streaming forward.
"I don't." Stated Quicksilver, bolting simultaneously. "But I think your High Lord must be very thankful for you being queer. Or else you might breed."
"How do you dare?" He yelled. Other electricity blast erupted out his fingers.
"Excuse me? Do you kill people for being different than you, but you don't like jokes about you being different?" Pietro snarled, ducking and sprinting along a wall. "I've got no troubles with the gay men, but you are quite the shame of your kind. And according to your own beliefs, you should let me kindly break your bones"
"THAT DID IT!" He screamed, while a blue-white lightning lunged over him and threw a punch. He dodged nimbly, and whirled; then cupped his hands and lightnings gathered and crackled in a giant ball he shot forward. The massive discharge struck the floor and imploded in thousand tiny lightnings, darting at everywhere. Arcs of power crackled in his hands and he released a barrage from them. The formerly dim and murky passage enlightened with light of a storm, and the walls moaned while withstood the blasts.
Northstar blasted and fired energy, his mind hoping Pietro was at least paralyzed by the tiny sparks, and his bigger discharges charred him.
However, his prey was in nowhere. He halted the assault and gagged, bewildered and amazed.
A hand taped on his shoulder. Two milliseconds after, his fist arched backwards. Unfortunately a fist had smashed his face in-between.
He fell down and rolled as far as the next wall, hitting it with his back. He raised quivering, his body and face filthy with the blackened dust.
Pietro grinned. He said nothing, just unleashed a wide and glowing beam abruptly at a target was already vanishing when his fingers flashed.
Northstar barely made out a fist coming from nowhere, just in time for blocking it. Pietro ran away before he retaliated. And then clutched his belly, which was hurting terribly.
He whimpered and stared upwards. He had never seen that hit. "It's impossible. You can't be so-"
"What? Fast? Quick? Speedy?" said Pietro calmly. Northstar could distinguish only the blue trails he was leaving in his run, going and coming around.
Suddenly, Bedlam was hurled against the opposite wall. He had barely felt the impact when his back struck another wall.
"Oh, I'm warming up just." His mocking voice echoed of everywhere and nowhere at the same time. "My real speed is more like THIS!"
Northstar scrambled on his feet and glared.
Quicksilver was in nowhere to be seen. Not even his trail remained.
A monstrous blow pummeled his face. After other hammered his back. Something sharp kicked his guts, a swishing sweep hit on his ankles, and he was tossed around and pounded on the floor.
All in the interval of two seconds.
Then it came.
Punch after punch after punch, striking, pummeling, striking, hitting, and smashing with a raising, unceasing rhythm. Dozens of fists crushed him in the first seconds, and he lost the ability to tell one of another after the next waves. Soon he'd lost the ability to tell what was happening, while his muscles turned in jelly and his bones were shattered. His ears sensed a loud, booming rumbling, a constant and steady sound, made with hundreds of hits threw in such close space of time their sound had mixed in n only deafening rumble.
He was still moaning, his body scattered in the floor, a numb and motionless heap, whimpering through broken teeth, and twitching, when the sound slowly ceased. It remained ringing in his ears nonetheless.
Pietro was over him, with his fists raised, realizing he didn't realize the beating had halted. His brain kept registering an endless rain of blows squashing him and stomping him and pulverizing him.
He walked away, with the silence of someone lost in his thoughts. However, when he had turned the fist corner, his knees gave away, and he stumbled against a wall. During the fight he'd pretend be in perfect fit, but in reality he'd forced his body beyond his limits. The plight on the pens had weakened him, but if he let to Northstar see his weakness, he was over.
"I hope they are fine." He muttered, thinking about his friends clashing against Aurora.
"Die! Die all! Die, die, die!"
"Her vocabulary is expanded past one word! I'm impressed!" Psylocke sneered while somersaulted backwards, bending her body as a willow stick to dodge the attacks.
Aurora roared relentlessly her threats as shot bolts everywhere. She fired several times from a place, then flew at other in half-second and fired from there, getting them confused and unbalanced. It wasn't working.
Neither of the rebels could overpower her speed, and Jean Grey couldn't use her powers in an obvious way -would be caught right away-, but Marvel Girl and Psylocke might use her telepathy to foresee her plans, and to the two of them, thinking and action were the same thing. And the speed thought is the light speed. Aurora couldn't top that.
And was frustrating her, although she didn't know the reason which her preys were evading her for.
She blasted a cannon shot of electricity, but the rebel Storm spun around, and linked her arms to unleash another blast. Both glowing lightnings met halfway in the air, and parried, each one struggling against the other. Aurora sweated and tried shifting her tactic, stopping of emit energy. The Storm's beam engulfed hers and rocketed towards her, but she sidestepped, and hurled a barrage of rays with both hands. Storm comfortably clashed, and answered with streams of wind and electricity. Aurora was so focused, she didn't notice the air becoming damper. Perhaps she'd think that was benefiting her not matter what.
Jean didn't speak or gloat. Be noticed was NO an option. Instead she placed her hands on the floor, behind of a column serving her like parapet, and made the floor to waver, pretending being a geokinetic. Land hummed and cracked, and a tide of ground rushed forward, roaring and steaming. Aurora saw that, and saw the Storm's lightning had bounced on the ceiling and was coming from up. She ascended avoiding one, and dodged another. However didn't dodge the cloud of thick dirt blanketing eyes, nose and mouth.
And then Lorna Dane, scorned, tortured and labeled by the Prelates like crazy and weak, used her magnetism and the humidity pervading the air surrounding to Aurora to channel all the remainder electricity she and Ororo had generated at Aurora. The Prelate was enveloped in a flashing energy ball, pulsating wildly with electricity, whose crackling roars choked the cries of Aurora.
Ororo fed the blast with more thundering beams as Lorna tested all the stuff made of iron nearby. She flung her arm, and walls and ground spat large and width metal layers, striking to Aurora and wounding in her four limbs. The ground was tore open and wires and pipes bolted outwards, coiling and shaking as snakes. They winded around Aurora, fastening around her and tightening.
Can you help with telekinesis or not?
Too dangerous. Better you give the final blow
Psylocke leapt high, stepped on the wall, folded her legs and sprang ahead as a hawk, her psychic blade blazing savagely on her fist, and a challenging scream going out her lips.
"Is this enough strong for you, bitch?" she roared and struck her head with the knuckles, spearing her psy power in her brain. The knife sliced it like butter, and her mind shattered in thousand shards. She screeched and shrieked. Then ripples of telepathy washed over her brain, swallowing and drowning her.
The light on her eyes blinked off, and her limbs lost strength. When her body was limped, Lorna freed her hold, and she was dropped down. Her body hit the floor and rolled sideways. Her eyes were white, dead-like.
Psylocke somersaulted and landed skillfully. Instantly she folded her knees and clutched her stomach. Her skin was singed and bruised in several spots, ugly patches of black and violet branding her hide. The bitch had injured her more than she'd like.
The other three girls gathered beside to her and approached slowly at Aurora, powers at ready.
Two hands clapped.
They rose their guard up, but the person was a very bemused Pietro, leaning on a broad rusty pipe.
"A great battle, girls. Words can't do it justice. I wish father was here to see it." He congratulated.
"Words can't do justice to I'll make to you if you call me 'girl' again" Psylocke growled.
"Calm down, sister. I know Pietro didn't intend an offense."
"Magneto will must to come here to see a battle if we don't rush." Jean warned at all. "And the time I counted with is ebbing minute after minute. Let's go."
The group nodded, and they started to run again.
They were standing next to the docks.
Psylocke gazed the black, cold water, polluted with the toxic wastes of the stronghold and the rotten corpses cast in the Atlantic. A soft, nearly imperceptible breeze blow at them from the sea, pushing little waves at the shoreline, and caressing them with a peaceful feeling. However she felt homesickness rather peace.
She was thinking about her England, wondering herself if she'd return back to see it some day ever. Would she survive so long? Would she be fit to travel? Would she like what she'd see? Would her homeland remain how she remembered, or it'd be leveled and burnt by Apocalypse for then?
"We must part ways now, pals." Said Jean waving the stone pier. "I can't help you anymore, and I have to leave now and go back, but I hope you can make it from here until the secret hideout."
She beamed sorrowfully. Pietro nodded vehemently. Ororo bit her lips. Jean cringed looking her face. The African goddess was about of weeping in grief.
"Goddess, J-my dear friend, can't you come with us?" She sobbed. "We all miss you. He-"
"She can't help it, Ororo." Quicksilver cut off her, ceasing the torture to one very relieved Jean. Still she didn't feel relieved for that only. "We understand. I'll explain all to the rest."
She nodded smiling. "Thanks, Pietro. Please, tell to Magnus it wasn't his fault."
"I'll do." He assured her, and then said something did her heart skip several beats. "Some message for Logan?"
She gulped, feeling her throat suddenly dry. "Yes. You say him... say him I'm fine and he mustn't get worried. See he understand that, it pass through his thick skull. Tell him it wasn't his fault either, and ask him he doesn't break into to rescue me. I'm fine, and I've got a mission here."
"The job needs be done" nodded Pietro. "Take care of yourself."
"Good-bye, my partner. I wish we see again at each other, and in pleasant circumstances."
"Remember shield to yourself in every moments. And get ready always a getaway backup plan only in case."
"I-I can't thank you enough times you save me. If your gambit get dangerous, run away, please. I'd like me to see you again."
"Less talk, more run away. Good-bye, friends." She mumbled, embracing to everyone, kissing to Ororo on her cheeks, and stepping back slowly.
At last, she spun away, and leapt in the darkness, her green cloak flapping behind her as wings.
The X-Men wiped out their tears and moved. They had to honor her pleads and reach the X-refugee.
Long hours had passed since then.
From her window she observed the world below covered in a coal-black mist of gloom and murkiness.
Even with the setbacks, the plan had been executed smoothly. There was quite distrust, but the alibi she and Scott had made up worked neatly. She noticed they were under suspect like always, but nothing had been proved. However, bearing in mind the glares Alex was hurling at Scott, or the quirk of the McCoy brows, they weren't clear out of the official reports.
However Sinister of all people had accepted thankfully her explanation and the backup of Scott. They were fortunate, since Alex wasn't above of hooking a Prelate to the McCoy gadgets and looking away if he thought he or she was lying him.
She recalled his snarling face when Essex said him he was looking forward his report. He was the Security Chief, but he hadn't been able of shedding light on the numerous evasions, neither hunting down to the responsible. Therefore, he'd to write three X-Men, one of them a field commander, had fled out the pits and taken down two Prelates, helped by a mysterious cloaked strange.
So he'd be going mad and ravenous for finding the culprit, or culprits, seeking the Sinister favor. And if he thought he might destroy his brother at the same stroke... She was far sure he was suspicious Scott's since that day, and also of her, but until now he had could prove nothing. They were being extremely careful, but had got very close calls. Still Sinister gave his full support to Scott, and seemed to trust in her. Jean guessed he wished make her another pawn in the weird chess game he was playing. The same as Scott.
Get free to her old partners was very risky and chancy, but it had to be done, and done soon. Couldn't be allowed Beast got his claws on them. They planned the best they could the rescue, and it was going to coincide with the Dane's one. She wasn't sure of the convenience of that, but it was a lucky circumstance.
Now their movements would be fully watched, and their first mistake would surely be the last one. The British was right. They needed be ready for running away. Just she wasn't sure of wanting to run away now. No if it meant leave behind to Scott. And he was committed to pay back his sins of one way or other.
She couldn't betray him like everyone.
Her thoughts leaded unwillingly at other man who she admitted reluctantly hadn't thought of in months. Logan. She prayed he listened to Pietro and respected her choice. But he was very bull-headed and impulsive, she wasn't sure he wouldn't intend. And she pleaded he didn't come, since she couldn't face him right now.
If he had rescued her when she was trapped at the beginning, she ignored that she'd have done. She wouldn't admit it then to herself, but a part of her didn't want to be rescued, not wanted to be free. Not matter that Logan would have done, she'd be torn.
Logan. She had always thought of him as her soulmate, the only person she truly needed, the only in that world of pain. She was convinced she only needed to him, and loved to him only. But now...
Scott was so different than he was, and so similar at the same time. He was other sort of man, firm and controlled, a rock of stability where you could be attached to, someone who you could depend on, count with, and trust in. Someone firm and certain, who would be always there if you needed him.
Logan was loyal and honorable at a fault, but he was flicker, and let his emotions ruled over him constantly, even getting in the way of his reason or morality. Sometimes he let to be dragged by them, forgetting his humanity, and she was scared.
She knew he was sweet and caring under his gruff exterior, but she had never said to him how much she suffered when he fell on his berserk state, how much she suffered seeing the man she loved turning into a wild beast, how much she suffered when she had to patch his mind together again. Every time he always vowed never again, and she knew he meant, but what he wanted seemed matter little. She agonized each time it happened, and she'd never tell, never in one million of years, that she couldn't bear to see him like this. She would never confess what it tore her apart.
And the worst part was she tended to lose herself in the rush of the emotions churning in her like Logan, and the idea of losing the control like this was frightening. And she had let her temper, her fury, her stubbornness, her bullheadedness cloud her and swallow her. Could she become like him? Logan commented they were both of a kind, with a beast within and wanting let it free. It was bound to be flatterer, but it'd scared the hell out of her. And what she was scared with the idea of being like her lover wasn't anything nice or she was willing to admit, but she knew deep down.
Scott. The contrast with him had been huge in that side.
She'd realized when she saw him that his emotions boiled inside him likewise, seeking eat him alive. However, he possessed an uncanny self-control, an absolute ruling over himself that both she was intrigued for and envied secretly. She wondered how he kept his emotions so tightly bottled. He hated control loss. He loathed it, despised it, and avoided it. He was master of himself. He conserved his self, his identity, and it was something nobody could take away of him ever. And it was the motive he'd conserved and kept his decency, his honesty and his heart out of danger, untouched by the corruption surrounding him. She'd like to can tell that of herself. She didn't want admit that either, and never would say loud, but was a trait she liked him in a man.
With Logan there was much passion. Overwhelming, impetuous, feverish. She might burn in him. They were both of a kind, certainly. A good chemistry gave between them had charmed to Jean. However, she stared past that good chemistry, to see what other things she and Logan got in common, what there was out their passion, and she averted swiftly the sight. No liking her she had seen.
She wanted deny it.
She wanted deny it.
But the most time she passed away of Logan and away of his lifestyle -living only the present, never caring for the future, giving in her primal emotions, no looking for another thing than quench them- the most she saw it. And looked away, not wanting see it.
She loved him, didn't she?
She was attracted for him, drawn to him.
But was it enough? The true thing was she couldn't find anything else in their relationship. They were good together, but wasn't clear they worked together on the long-term. Passion without substance, that was. And she was just now beginning to see it. And it hurt her.
The sensation with Scott was so different. And she pleaded forgiveness for thinking like that, but she couldn't deny it.
In reality, he had always been different. Of the devils surrounding him, but also of any person she'd known.
Even without her telepathy, she noticed he wasn't like them all along. They were so fanatically SURE, convinced of the things they did were right, and never questioned them, using cruelty and violence with no measure. But Summers wasn't ruthless or violent. Of course, he could kill willingly, she had seen him returning to cast away his blood-drenched costume before showering, but him... did it as a machine, an automaton. A robot fulfilling orders without question. His emotions were squished and deeply buried, but she knew he was very, very unhappy.
That was his trouble, and salvation, she decided. On the contrary than the rest, he didn't BELIEVE in the crimes they made. He obeyed orders because didn't know act otherwise, because nobody gave him other alternative ever. She had learned he was raised with 'Obey or get killed' mentality. But he wasn't evil.
Unlike than the others, who would never follow up another option, even if was offered, since they were comfortable with their lifestyle.
But he was very different. She could see that. She recalled have seen him stopping to the fugitives with minimal force, stopping to the jailers when they were too enthusiastic, and never saw him enjoying beating 'weak ones' or being mean only for the sake of being.
No, he wasn't evil. No really. She realized, and the why he went on obeying to Sinister was beyond her. She had said him many times, trying revealing him the truth, but he had turned it down unceasingly. Nonetheless he was more shaken after every conversation. One time she was screaming him to drill it in his brain when he slapped her, yelling. Asking why she did this to him. In that moment his voice was a growl for the volume but a plead for the tone. After he beat a hasty retreat. And it was a retreat. She had the distinct impression of she had done him more damage with words than he did to her with violence.
Thus was it. And she understood it afterwards.
She got doubts many times about the Logan methods, his viewpoints, and his beliefs. She even was distinctly sure that he wouldn't renounce to his ideals for her. If she was contrary some day to something he was about of doing, and he considered it fair or necessary, he'd carry out it, regardless her. And if she was frontal opposite to him, until the point of losing the life, he'd not yield.
Her death would torn him apart, a man broken and with half soul ripped from him, letting him bleeding. He wouldn't forgive to himself ever. But he would do it nevertheless.
Utterly opposite to Scott, who likewise followed unwaveringly a path when made a choice, but had questioned all his beliefs, ideals and actions since his adolescence for her. He had seen his world rocked upside down by her, and had turned down a life of luxury and pleasure, a life of kings, for her. He had left behind his adoptive father and his brother for her, without looking back. He risked his life in a constant basis for her, a life fully changed only for the single blazing sparks in her green eyes.
She was the only person who had seen and pulled out the gold in his inside, the only being who had done him wish being better person. And damn if it wasn't flatterer.
And now they were collaborating together in saving lives. She noticed each prisoner rescued, each person saved, each life preserved released a bit more the burden he bore. But he would never be satisfied, never feel free and clean.
She lived still in his chambers, talking with him, eating with him, living with him, plotting with him. It was extremely inward and intensely intimate. He wouldn't touch her. But she saw the stealth glances he gave her, the way he was protecting her and keeping her safe, the sorrowful, wishful thinking aching in him when he thought about her.
Often she tossed relentlessly in her bed, shaken with a black nightmare of death and oblivion haunting her, and she became aware in the middle of her sleep of him seated on the side, looking her quietly and watching over her dream.
He, who was the only good person capable of loving and feeling in that cursed citadel. He, who was handsome and noble and brave. He, who was a true hero. He, who had changed for her. He, who cared for her. He, who thought of her the light of his soul, the only good thing had happened to him in his entire life. He, who despite of his endearing qualities, virtues and worth kept on seeing to himself the same blood-stained murderer servant to Sinister and lapdog to Apocalypse. He, who worshipped her. He, who had fallen in love hard, very hard with her, but never, ever, no in one million of years, would confess his absolute devotion to her.
Simply, he saw absolutely worthless of her, a dirty butcher who had no business loving to someone. He thought his touch would soil anything he stroked, and he didn't want to stain her with blood. She was, to his eyes, pure, the only thing pure, and she had to remain pure.
She did know, but he would never say. And part of her prayed, pleaded, begged, he wouldn't do. Put simply, because she was insecure of the answer.
And it was frightening her.
End of Part One.
Notes: Did you like? Or not? My plan is convey the entire Age of Apocalypse and even go beyond of Onslaught. Excuse me? How can I cover the normal timeline? Read and you will know.
Next Part: The X-Men fight the High Lord army in Seattle. The man who they shall meet and his revelations will get the impact of a bombshell in that reality. Scott and Jean survive in the pens while Magneto scatter to his X-Men in worldwide missions.