Disclaimer: I don't own GI Joe or any of the Marvel Universe.

The X-Factor

Chapter 2: The Countdown begins

Where: Our universe, The GI Joe PIT
When: Three days ago, 11:00

"So what exactly took place in this secret meeting of Cobra's?" Lady Jaye asked. Duke and Hawk exchanged glances before the former nodded slightly at Snake Eyes. The ninja silently placed a packet of photos on the table.

"What you see there," Duke said matter of factly, "Are Cobra's new associates." The other Joes peered at the photographs as they were passed around. They showed Cobra Commander walking with two strange figures. One was a tall, pale man with long raven hair and glowing red eyes. The other…

"Has Mindbender been experimenting again?" Stalker asked. Duke's lips pursed into a thin line before answering.

"We don't know," he admitted reluctantly. "What evidence we have appears to suggest that the man and the…creature…with Cobra Commander are not in fact a result of Mindbender's genetic experiments. However…"

Lifeline listened with half an ear as he studied the photographs. The 'creature,' as Duke had called it, was huge. It easily towered over Cobra Commander and Destro. Its skin appeared to be hard granite and its eyes, pitch black, were embedded deep into the craggy face.

"He's an ugly one," Dusty muttered. Beach Head gave a snort as he crossed his arms and stared hard at the two men at the head of the round table.

"How could they be anything besides one of Mindbender's experiments?" the Ranger drawled. "If you expect me to believe that this is some kind of hocus pocus crap…"

"He just said that he doesn't know Beach Head," Flint said sharply. The balaclava hid a wry smirk as the Ranger replied back.

"Then we should find out then, shouldn't we?" Wayne Sneeden said dryly. This received a set of glares, none of which fazed the Ranger in the slightest.

"Beach Head's right," Cover Girl finally said. "We can't jump to conclusions yet."

"Do we know anything else yet Duke?" Scarlett asked. The blonde in question tapped a key on his laptop and brought up several images on the large flat screen behind him.

"These photos were taken in the Xizang Autonomous region on the Chinese-Indian border," he said. "Cobra's using the Himalayas as cover." With another tap of his finger, Duke brought up a series of aerial maps as well as a partial blueprint of the base.

"Most of the compound is tunneled into the mountains," Hawk continued for Duke. "Kamakura and Jinx are still there, trying to find out more."

"Are we sending in a team?" Flint asked.

"Once we have more information," Hawk said. "Then yes."

……………………………………………………………………………………………

Where: The X-Men universe, The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning
When: Three days ago, 14:36

"Are Wayne and Scott still arguing?" Dr. Edwin Steen asked. His blue companion chuckled as he moved a piece on the chess board between them.

"I believe Logan has joined it now," Dr. Henry "Hank" McCoy answered. "Knowing our short Canadian friend, he undoubtedly has taken Wayne's side."

"When did Logan get back?" Lifeline asked. He moved one of his pawns.

"It was early this morning." The Beast studied the board for a moment before continuing. "He was in Japan again."

Edwin winced as Hank captured one of his knights. Beast briefly studied the other mutant, who, unlike him, showed no physical sign of his mutation.

"I was under the impression that you had a class to teach today," Hank said. Edwin studied the board for a split second before swiping one of Hank's rooks.

"Excellent choice, my friend," Hank McCoy said. "At least, it would have been…" He moved a knight closer to Edwin's queen. Lifeline hid a smirk as he hoped the other doctor would fall into his trap.

The two doctors were fairly evenly matched. Hank had the higher intelligence but Edwin had the faster brain.

"Are you still having nightmares?" Hank finally asked quietly. Edwin's fingers hesitated a moment above his bishop, then picked it up and moved it.

"I'll take that as a yes," the Beast said. He intertwined his enormous blue fingers as he studied Lifeline with the same intensity that he had formerly been giving to the chess game. Edwin sighed.

"The Professor has scanned me more than once, as has Jean," he stated, "But…"

"But they haven't found anything," Hank finished.

"…No."

"It wasn't your fault Edwin."

"Those are cheap words Hank."

"It was Apocalypse, not you."

"It was still my body, how the hell wasn't it me?" Edwin asked sharply. Beast opened his mouth to say something further, but decided against it. The two men played silently for a few minutes before Hank decided to change the subject.

"This is quite surprising," Hank McCoy observed as he prepared to move another knight. "We have managed to play for nearly twenty minutes without any interruptions…"

Bamf.

"Ich heisse Errol Flynn!" Kurt Wagner shouted. 'Errol Flynn' sailed over the two doctors' heads as he brandished a fencing epee, his tail flowing behind him. The blue mutant known as Nightcrawler gave the sword a few flicks at his imaginary opponent before teleporting away, leaving behind his signature scent of brimstone.

Hank's furry fingers were still paused above the spot where he was intending to place his knight.

"You spoke too soon," Edwin informed him dryly. Hank set down his chess piece as shouts of random German floated into the room from elsewhere in the mansion, followed by what suspiciously sounded like Rogue and Gambit yelling dire threats to the rampaging German mutant. Suddenly, there was a crash, followed by a muffled cry of 'Mein Gott!'

Then there was silence.

Seconds later, a female head poke up out of the chess board, causing both men to jump.

"Kitty!" Edwin exclaimed. "I wish you wouldn't do that!" Kitty Pryde flashed an innocent smile as she phased the rest of the way out of the floor and sat in a nearby chair.

"A little blue bird told me you two were in here," she said.

"Pray, did it carry a sword and speak German?" Hank asked dryly.

"How did you know?" Kitty asked in mock surprise.

"An educated guess."

"We noticed that it suddenly became mysteriously quiet after your little bird shouted 'Mein Gott'," Edwin said. Kitty's smile widened as her eyes gave a mischievous twinkle.

"That would be when I accidentally phased through Kurt while he and Remy were having a duel," she answered.

"Accidentally?" Hank questioned. Edwin sighed.

"Lighten up Ed," Kitty grinned. "They're just having fun. They're not intentionally trying to kill each other."

"Even so…" Lifeline started.

"You're foot's tapping," Shadowcat suddenly pointed out. "So's your finger."

"Yes," Hank added thoughtfully. "I'm surprised that he's sat still this long." Edwin Steen ignored the commentary as he vainly tried to protect his queen from his furry blue companion. Just because his mutant power happened to be superspeed didn't mean he couldn't sit still…

Edwin watched with growing impatience as Hank's hand appeared to move with agonizing slowness.

"Checkmate," Beast said.

And none too soon. Edwin's other foot was starting to fidget as well.

"I suppose we should return to the lab," Hank said regretfully. The two doctors were currently working on a cure for the Legacy virus that was running through the mutant population.

"X-Men, please report to the boardroom."

The three mutants looked at each other as the voice of Charles Xavier entered their minds.

"Never a dull moment when you're an X-Man," Shadowcat remarked. As Lifeline grabbed a hold of each of his friends and whisked them down the corridor, he couldn't help but agree.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

Where: Our universe, the Xizang Autonomous Region, China
When: Three days ago, 21:08

The man formerly known as Nathaniel Essex sipped on his tea as the blue garbed mad man next to him continued to prattle on about their future "relationship." However, as much as Cobra Commander might choose to believe, Mr. Sinister was anything but a pawn.

Sinister could sense the distrust emanating from the Scotsman to his right. Destro had said little to the mutant yet, to which he was actually grateful. Cobra Commander was a tool to be used and tossed away, nothing more.

However, if Destro proved trustworthy, he could make a useful servant.

Mr. Sinister hid a smile as he pondered on what to do with this world. With Apocalypse's defeat over a year ago, as well as being presumed dead, he was free to experiment as he wished.

He hadn't expected to open up a gateway to another universe.

Nor had he expected it to be a world devoid of mutants.

Mr. Sinister, an immortal mutant, was well known for his genetic 'experiments', particularly if it involved the Summers' bloodline. This new Earth, free of the mutant gene, was his to play with. To experiment with.

The possibilities were endless.

……………………….

Notes:

"Ich heisse Errol Flynn!" (My name is Errol Flynn!)

"Mein Gott!" (My God!)