THE SPLINTERED TOMORROW
Part Three of "The Splintered Tomorrow Arc"
Summary: It has been fourteen years since the apocalypse and the world has begun to rebuild itself. Almost seven years after the death of Remy and the defeat of Sinister, Rogue and Magneto find themselves fighting a new battle for the survival of mutant and humankind alike in the world of human politics. But on the cusp of repairing mutant/human relations, the Master of Magnetism's health begins to fail and an evil plot is unfurled that threatens to claim not only his future, but the future of the entire team. Faces from the X-Men's past return to haunt them, threatening to tear them apart with suspicion and betrayal, and torn and assaulted from within, they find themselves attacked from without by a new alliance built on destroying the X-Men any way they can. In the midst of all this turmoil, Jean-Luc and Irinee' have come of age and struggle to control their growing power, only to learn that the threat they pose to the world may be the most dangerous yet. (shades of Magneto/Rogue, echoes of Rogue/Gambit)
Continuity: This story takes place almost seven years after The Resurrection Gauntlet ends.
Status: Work in progress.
Author Notes: This is the final part of what was always meant to be a trilogy. If you haven't read the first two parts of the story (Death of a Dream and The Resurrection Gauntlet), I highly recommend that you read them. Go ahead, I'll wait :) If you are familiar with my previous works, you will notice that my writing style has matured greatly in the last few years. The feel of this story is the same, but the flavor a bit different. I hope you all enjoy it just as much.
Disclaimer: All characters featured in this story belong to Marvel Comics and are used without permission, except the ones that belong to me. I'm sure Marvel knows the difference :)
A whispering cat in a burgandy hat,
told her of a race that would die
But she told him instead she's in love with the dead,
she's a necromancing slave from the sky.
Crying rhymes for these dying times
If it's time to die there's nothing you can do.
It's coming after you.
~It's Coming After, Second Coming
Roma stood atop the mountain and stared down at the sprawling remains of human civilization. In the east, the sun was rising, plunging the scarred landscape below into deep shades of red and gold. Houses glittered in half-light, piles of litter and debris still lost to shadow, and it was possible to see the shape of the old world, to see the sleepy little town that had once nestled against the base of the mountain in solitude and peace. A simple thing to imagine people curled comfortably in their beds, lost in dreams and flights of fancy.
Chill wind rose, tossing long, dark hair about her form, and she ignored it, deep brown eyes so dark they were almost black as she watched. Watching… it was her stock in trade in current days. She had watched as the world had been turned into a battlefield, mutant against mutant, soldiers trooping across the land in a myriad of color, urged on by the Shadow King. She had witnessed with heavy heart a humanity that had been driven to near extinction by their tide. She was changeless, timeless, a Goddess; the world was not. She knew that to be true, and yet the plight of the world tugged at her as it always had, twisting in her breast like frail, weak humanity.
But she was not human. And despite it all, she had merely stood and looked on, a statue whose countenance was not touched by the grief that cracked her heart. She had interfered too many times already. The chessboard on which the Gods once played was now a wasteland, and its pawns had turned against them. No more.
And still… among the rubble of the broken world, a new light shone like the glimmer of a crystalline chess piece. But not King, nor Queen, nor Knight or Pawn. No. This player was a piece inadvertently born of the machinations of others in the game, forged by the shape of this new world in the fires of its need. Whatever its moves, whatever its purpose and final victory, it would not serve the will of the Gods. It would serve the will of nothing but itself, and its ending would come with the absolute destruction of Earth 616, or its salvation.
Either way, this world's time had come.
The sun rose, and the Guardian of the Multi-verse watched on.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
And while the Goddess watched, perhaps lax in her duties, others stepped up to take the reins.
"Are we ready, Renaldo?" Veronica Hayes asked as she strode into the lab.
"Yes, Dr. Hayes." Renaldo adjusted his glasses, cleared his throat as he looked down at his computer screen. "Temporal technology has been successfully merged with the machine and all systems are functioning within normal parameters. Exact time and coordinates have been pinpointed and programmed into the database down to the picosecond of the recorded time of the rift."
Dr. Hayes made a note on her digital clipboard and nodded. "And the information about the mission?"
"Has been loaded into the main and back-up clusters, including images, history, battle strategies, weaknesses and strengths, and known locations."
She lifted her eyes to him, and beneath the excitement reflected in her cool, blue irises lurked a ghost of trepidation she scarcely knew existed. "We're ready then?" she asked, her voice just touch breathless.
"Right on schedule, Doctor," Renaldo replied with a smile.
She stood there a moment, taking that in, then nodded. She turned slowly toward the bulk of machinery behind her, eyes falling on it with a wistful, almost worshipful gaze. A robot stood in the center of the machine, constructed of smooth curves and severe, sharp edges, every inch of it made of high-polished silver that gleamed with no warmth; a monolith with eyes that were still dark like the color of blood, inert and lifeless. A tapestry of convoluted wires spread from its massive height, each intricate in its singular duty, and all around and in between, clear tubes pumped with curious colored liquids. Circuits hummed in quiet unison as they performed their task and seemed to sing in odd, harmonic tandem beneath the cold fluorescent light of the lab.
It was ready. It was all ready.
"Bring it online."
The flick of a switch between Renaldo's eager fingers and the circuits hummed louder, seeming to cry out with a life of their own. Within the mass of wires and metal, something stirred, fed by aqua and sunlight colored liquid that pulsed in furious synchronicity with the rumble of the machine. The rhythm of sound sped up as it sought to find its apex, and went faster still as crimson liquid poured from the array of cylinders that compressed and pumped in time. The orchestra of metal and plastic reached a tempestuous crescendo, and the machine screeched in a cacophony of steel and smoldering circuits as it protested against the demands being made upon it. The Doctor frowned, concerned, and then smiled, her brow smoothing as the rhythm slowed and steadied.
Thumpthump. Like the beat of a heart.
Thumpthump, the sound of music in her ears.
"Nimrod II is now online," intoned the cold, disembodied voice of the computer system.
Dr. Hayes felt chills spill up and down her spine. This was it. This was her moment.
"Send it back, Renaldo," she said, and her voice was a near-whisper. "Let's make history."
"Initiating Project 'Retroactive Strike'," Renaldo said, fingers flying over his keyboard.
"Disengaging manual support," the computer reported. The tubes drained of their liquid and came free with a hissing pop.
"Project 'Retroactive Strike' has been initiated," the computer replied. "Deploying in three…"
Renaldo breathed deep and looked up, his eyes wide as they focused on Nimrod II.
Dr. Hayes clutched her clipboard so hard that her fingers bruised.
"Come on," she whispered.
There was a brief flash of light, and then the sound of air popping as it rushed to fill the vacuum left behind by the robot.
"It worked!" Renaldo exclaimed, professional protocol forgotten for a moment as child-like joy overtook him.
Dr. Hayes said nothing, her eyes still wide and riveted on the empty space where Nimrod II had stood just seconds before. The machinery still hummed, and circuits and wires still weaved an intricate pattern throughout the launch pad, but the tubes dangled from the machinery like desiccated snakes, the object of their embrace gone.
Gone, she thought, and almost couldn't believe it. It had worked. They had done it.
She turned, the words of congratulations for her colleague on the tip of her tongue—
Light flashed, and backlit, her shadow loomed across the wall behind Renaldo like a scene out of a horror movie. Before she could turn, before she could speak, there came the sound of air ripping itself apart as something solid materialized within the construct.
"Oh," she said, hand coming up to cover her mouth. The word seemed to hang there, awkward and lingering and faintly stupid to her ears as it dissolved in the hum of machinery.
"No. No, no, no, no, no…" Renaldo was saying behind her, and his voice reached her dazed mind as if from a great distance away. "This is all wrong! This shouldn't even be possible! I calculated down to the picosecond."
Strung amongst the wires and empty tubes was a human body, its arms and legs splayed at odd angles that tangled in the circuitry and stuck there. The landscape of its flesh was seared and blackened, and in places it gleamed an unnatural pink where the skin had been scoured away all together, exposing the muscle beneath. The damage was so extreme, the ravages of feature so complete that gender or identity would be pointless questions. The smell of burned flesh pervaded the Doctor's nostrils and she gave a shudder of revulsion, feeling her breakfast rise in the back of her throat.
It was staring at her.
She opened her mouth to tell Renaldo to get it out of there, not even caring what it might mean to the project. At that moment, all she wanted was—
She pressed her fingers tight against her face. "Oh my God."
But she knew as well as anyone that God had left this building a long, long time ago.