Chapter 12: St. Kurt the Emancipated
by one, the Acolytes filed into Kurt's cell. Sabertooth glared
black hatred at Scott; Gamit grinned suggestively at Rogue; Pyro and
Colossus looked around the bizarrely decorated room; and Mastermind
and Magneto looked intently at Kurt.
Kurt swigged his wine, burped, and took another bite of his sandwich.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Scott demanded.
Magneto glanced at him. "What you, apparently, were unable to do," he said haughtily. "Releasing Nightcrawler from this… immoral incarceration."
"That's nice of you," Kurt said cheerfully. "Would you like some of my sandwich?"
For a long moment, everyone was silent.
"What?" Magneto finally said.
"Some of my sandwich," Kurt repeated. "It's delicious!"
"Get away from him!" Scott ordered, stepping up to the bars with Rogue right beside him. Mastermind gave them a withering look.
"Cyclops, don't embarrass yourself. Even if you were a match for one of us, you don't really think you stand a chance against the Acolytes united, do you?"
"He ain't alone," Rogue growled, slipping her gloves off.
"Oui," said Gambit, "but you are on the other side of the bars. An' it ain't likely you'll get through in a hurry."
"Nightcrawler," Magneto said imperiously, "come. It is time you made your presence in this city known in a more… dramatic manner. You will be a new symbol of hope for oppressed mutants all over the world."
Kurt's chewing slowed, and he blinked up at Magneto. "Was?"
"Your acceptance by the Church will be a blow against our common enemies. Through you, so much good will be accomplished once your deification is complete."
Pyro scratched his head. "Thought this was canonization."
"Only for starters," Magneto told him.
"You didn't do your homework very well, did you?" Kurt asked. The Acolytes paused.
"What the hell're you talkin' about, Rat?" Sabertooth growled at him.
"He doesn't want to be a Saint," Rogue informed him. "That's what this whole thing is. He came to Italy to protest his canonization."
Kurt's face lit up. "That's right! I'd forgotten!"
Magneto looked bewildered. "But… why would he…"
"Believe it or not," Scott spat at him, "not everyone shares your dreams of megalomania. In fact most people don't. Kurt doesn't want to be your slave, he doesn't want to be a Saint, he doesn't want to be anyone but himself, and we're just trying to help him with that!"
Magneto's face darkened. "You would dare speak to me like that?" he demanded. "Everything I do, every action I have undertaken has been for the benefit of our kind, and you have done nothing but stand in my way! Decades of prejudice could be undone, thousands of lives could be saved through the chance being offered to Nightcrawler, and you would throw it aside?"
"I'd do what's best for my friend!" Scott shouted.
"By whose definition?" Magneto roared. "Your friend would achieve a dream few have ever approached! He would be a hero in the truest sense of the word! You do nothing but what Charles orders, regardless of the price to others!"
"Don't you dare tell me about the price to others!" Scott roared back, veins standing out on his forehead.
"Guys?" said Rogue.
"No-one has sacrificed more for the cause than I!" Magneto ranted, ignoring her completely. "I have lost those dear to me, thrown away a life's work, all for the greater good – and a band of schoolchildren led by a misguided dreamer would lay it all to waste!"
"Okay, let's just calm down," Rogue tried to interject.
"If we're so lousy," Scott spat, also ignoring Rogue, "then what does it say about you if we beat you every time?"
"Don't bother trying," Mastermind said to her as the two continued shouting at the top of their lungs. "They can't hear you."
"What, are you blockin' me or something?"
"No, they're just being very loud."
Watching the debate with interest,
Kurt continued devouring his sandwich and offered the wine bottle to
Pyro. Shrugging, the redheaded mutant took it, downed a mouthful, and
settled onto the bunk next to Kurt.
"I get the feeling they'll be a while," Mastermind told her. "It's… not convenient."
"You're tellin' me," Rogue said. "If the others get back an' see this, the Professor's gonna tear us a new one."
"Maybe we could talk him down?" Gambit suggested. "It weren't your fault, Cherie…"
Sabertooth and Colossus rolled their eyes, Rogue scowled at Gambit, Mastermind looked apologetic, Kurt and Pyro swapped the wine bottle, and Scott and Magneto roared insults at each other, completely oblivious to what was going on around them.
"So what's taking your friends so long?" Mastermind asked, apparently just for something to say.
"C'mon, c'mon," Logan growled. "I
don't wanna sit in traffic all day."
"I am sorry," the taxi driver said, still watching the road. "This beautiful city, sometimes she attracts so many people, the streets are hard to go through."
"Ah, it's not so bad," Warren said.
"Says you," Bobby shot back at him. "You don't have your face in Logan's armpit."
Kitty squirmed uncomfortably against the door of the taxi. "Remind me again why he got the front seat and we're a bunch of sardines again?"
"Because I called shotgun," Warren said.
"Curse shotgun," Jubilee muttered.
"Damn straight," said Logan. "An' quit stickin' yer elbow in my ribs."
"Ah!" the driver exclaimed. "Green light!"
The overloaded taxi moved on.
"We weren't the ones
who unleashed Apocalypse!" Scott bellowed, his face by now the same
colour as his glasses.
"Nor would you have ever defeated him alone," Magneto roared, who had changed his own shade to match his helmet. "Yet you insist that only Charles can make a decision for the good of the world, even though he is unwilling to make the most difficult decisions of all!"
Pyro raised one hand. "Uh, excuse me."
"Sacrificing others for your own cause isn't bravery!"
"Sacrificing yourself without need is stupidity!"
"Fellas?" Pyro waved his hand. "Hello?"
"The Professor would give anything to help people, but that doesn't mean he's willing to risk the lives of others!"
"And because I am, because I would risk the few – myself included – to save the many, I'm your enemy? I make the most difficult choice of all, Cyclops, in my willingness to be portrayed as a monster if it is for the greater good!"
"Hey," Gambit said. "You to wan' to calm it down for a moment? Important stuff goin' on here."
"You think you're a hero because people say you're an asshole?" Scott shouted, spittle flying from his lips. "Are you that goddamn crazy?"
"I know the sacrifices I am willing to make, and that includes myself in all senses of the word!" Magneto shouted back. "I do not, and never have, cared if others perceive me as evil, because I know that ultimately the end justifies the means! I would willingly be remembered as a tyrant and a monster, so long as one day mutants survive to remember it – something Charles cannot understand!"
Abruptly an explosion of flame billowed between the two arguing mutants, scorching away most of their eyebrows. They stepped back, covering their faces.
"Now that I've got your attention," Pyro said in the momentary silence, "maybe you two would like to join us in the world of current events."
"What are you talking about?" Magneto growled.
"Um…" He jerked his thumb sideways, indicating the otherwise empty bed. "Nightcrawler's gone, for one thing."
Magneto's faces fell. "When did this happen?" Scott
"Couple minutes ago," Rogue told him. "Y'all were too busy tearin' each other's throats out to listen."
"He said goodbye," Colossus said helpfully, "but I think you did not hear him."
Magneto and Scott exchanged a dark look. "Where has he gone?" Magneto asked.
"The Vatican," Mastermind informed him. "He took two steps outside the cell, waved, and teleported away before we could stop him."
"He remembered why he came here," Rogue told Scott. "An' even though he promised he wouldn't teleport outta the cell, once the wall was gone…"
Scott and Magneto turned to one another again.
"Oh, good work," Magneto sarcasmed.
"You let him out of the cell!" Scott accused him.
"You were the one who told him to go to the Vatican!" the older man shot back.
"That was his idea!"
"You reminded him!"
Rogue sighed, reached one arm through the bars, and slapped both Magneto and Scott upside the head simultaneously.
"Can y'all get back to that later?" she asked. "Right now we gotta stop him."
"Thought you didn't want him to be a Saint?" Sabertooth put in.
"We don't," she told him, "but we don't want the drunk bastard assaultin' the Pope, neither."
Magneto looked fit to burst; instead of resuming shouting again, however, he spun around with frosty dignity and stalked out of the cell.
"Find him and stop him," was all he said to the Acolytes.
Scott and Rogue
stepped back and exchanged a look.
"So," said Scott.
"Yeah," said Rogue.
And then the two sprinted up the hall toward the exit.
"Ain't there another way around?"
"I am sorry, sir," the driver apologised. "This is the fastest way to the police station, the traffic will be worse on other routes."
"Damn it," Kitty growled. "Can't the other cars just, y'know, get out of the way?"
Abruptly, four car lengths ahead of them, a blue blur flashed across the road. Seconds behind it, an enormous metal man followed, tossing cars out of the way; behind him came the rest of the Acolytes in hot pursuit.
"Oh, look," said Bobby, "they're gone now."
"I think we'll get out here," Warren said to the driver, handing him some money. "Keep the change."
The mutants spilled out of the car as all around them, people ran screaming from the destruction; they ran to the intersection and watched the stampeding Acolytes continue on their way, thundering after the elusive blue Elf while sirens rose all around them.
"Well this isn't good," Jubilee finally said.
"Guys!" came Scott's voice behind them. They turned to see the two cell-watchers running up to them, out of breath.
"Kurt got out," Rogue panted.
"We noticed," Logan growled. "What the hell happened?"
"Acolytes showed up," Scott reported in between gasps for air. "Busted into Kurt's cell and did their usual recruitment drive. Kurt wasn't interested, left through the hole in the wall, and went after the Vatican again."
"Why didn't he just teleport out?" Warren wanted to know.
"Long story," Rogue said. "Anyway, now what?"
"Now?" Logan shook his head. "Now, Chuck's gonna kibble us."
"Yeah, well, not if we…" Scott paused. "Wait, he's going to what?"
Kitty shoved him on the shoulder. "Shut up and move," she ordered. "We've got an Elf to catch."
blocks ahead, a young couple wandered down the street, pausing to
look in the windows of buildings around them. At one window, the
young woman pointed at a bassinet and hugged her husband; he wrapped
his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.
Then a demented, intoxicated, demonic blue Elf exploded into existence three feet above their heads and latched onto the wall above the window.
"Guten Tag!" he shouted happily over the young lady's scream. "Do you know the way to the Vatican, bitte?"
The couple stared at him, wide-eyed. The young man made the sign of the cross.
"The Vatican?" Kurt repeated. "Where is the Vatican?"
Shivering with fear, the young lady pointed across the street. Kurt followed her finger to a large sign saying Vatican, with an arrow pointing South. His face lit up.
"Dankeschoen!" he shouted merrily, somersaulted off the wall, and galloped off down the street on all fours, leaving them staring astonished after him.
In short order, however, their attention was diverted as a group of men – two of whom very large, one of whom apparently wrapped in tinfoil – skidded to a halt in front of them.
"Did a blue mutant come through here?" demanded the one with the bucket on his head.
The young couple stared; Magneto twitched impatiently. "Well?"
Wordlessly, the young man pointed south; as one, the group turned and galloped off.
"Ta for the help!" shouted the red-haired one. Still too stunned to talk, they merely stared after them.
When the angel flapped down in front of them a moment later, they merely pointed south, then turned and ran in the opposite direction.
By the time the police cars screeched into the street a minute later, the couple was already en route to their apartment and reconsidering bringing a child into the world at all, having decided it could be an extremely confusing place to be.
Well on his way to the Vatican, Kurt scaled a building on
a street corner to look around, only to have to duck the moment he
reached the top as a metal sphere that would have knocked him
senseless whizzed inches over his head. On the street below, Magneto
cursed; then a blast of bright red energy smashed into him and sent
him flying into a nearby storefront. As Warren swooped down, trying
to grab him, Kurt rolled to the side and leaped off the rooftop, and
a trashcan sailed up and connected with the blonde mutant in mid-air,
courtesy of Sabertooth.
As Logan reached Sabertooth and delivered a hearty blow to the head, and Warren landed on the roof and shook his head to clear it, the rest of the assorted mutants lunged for Kurt. He leaped over their heads, landed on Colossus' back, and ricocheted off to continue on his way toward the Vatican.
Kitty, Bobby and Gambit moved after him; before they could go three steps they were knocked over by Logan, who'd been hurled away by Sabertooth, and all four of them went down in a pile. Rogue and Pyro evaded the chaos around them and continued on their way, dodging a police car that skidded to a halt next to them.
As Kurt turned at the next intersection, another police car almost crashed into him. He leaped onto the hood of the moving vehicle, bounded from there onto a nearby lightpole, spun around once and somersaulted gracefully back to the sidewalk. The car attempted to stop, but Magneto suddenly caught up with them and flipped it onto its back.
Moments later, twin helicopters roared overhead, causing Magneto to look up as they nearly crashed into Warren, who was back in the air himself. Below, Scott and Colossus rounded the corner and continued their dogged pursuit of the Elf, as Kitty emerged from the wall of a nearby building and rejoined the chase. Behind them, the rest of the mutants appeared, running as fast as they could after Kurt; and bringing up the rear, one police car after another turned into the street, shouting into their radios for backup.
And oblivious to all, Kurt led the way, cutting a path of destruction – inevitably, indefatigably leading them all directly toward the Vatican.
"So you see," the Professor was
saying, "if you add a little lemon, it really improves the flavour
and it has a soothing effect on people."
"I will have to remember that," Bellstraus nodded. "Thank you."
"Oh, thank Ororo for that. She's one of the finest chefs I've ever known."
Ororo blushed. "Really, it's just an old trick I learned."
"Of course," Bellstrauss said, "but I thank you nevertheless. Now, shall we discuss matters of greater importance? I believe you were telling me about our friend Mr. Wagner."
"Ah, yes." The Professor nodded. "Well, I was hoping that we could put all this unpleasantness behind us. I'm aware of the seriousness of what Kurt has done, and I have no illusions that something must be done about it, but there are rather extenuating circumstances."
"Besides," Jean added. "All of this has upset him enough. He doesn't need his life ruined any more than it already has been."
"Exactly. We just want to end all this," Ororo put in, "before anyone is hurt."
Bellstrauss raised an eyebrow. "And by 'put an end to all this'," he said, "what do you mean?"
"The canonization," the Professor said simply. "The honour is beyond question, but so is the fact that it's done far more harm than good. We're trying to find a way to resolve this so that nobody loses face, but I'm afraid…" he spread his hands. "…Kurt has simply acted before anyone had time to negotiate the matter."
Bellstrauss nodded, but with a frown on his face. "This much I can see," he agreed. "But Professor, there is still something I do not understand. The way you say this, it almost sounds as if Mr. Wagner does not want to become a Saint."
None of the mutants said anything.
"Does he want to become a Saint?" Bellstrauss repeated. "I feel we should have this out in the open."
There was still no response. Instead, the three mutants stared fixedly at something behind Bellstrauss, expressions of dawning horror on their faces.
"What is it?" the Cardinal asked, turning in his chair to look out his office window – whereupon he froze too.
Smoke was rising from the
streets out the window, and the flashing lights could be seen shining
through it from below. The distant sound of crashes and explosions,
merged with the wailing of sirens, came muffled through the window,
growing louder as they came closer.
A group of people, half of whom dressed in body armour and spandex, were sprinting full-speed down a busy street, demolishing any vehicles, stalls or fixtures that stood in their way. Some were duelling as they ran, such as Logan and Sabertooth, who lashed out the instant they came close enough as they ran; others attempted to protect themselves from attack, such as Gambit, who bent over and covered his head as he ran while Rogue rained blows down on the Cajun's head with his own staff; and the rest simply moved as fast as they could toward the Vatican.
Even the skies were filled. A half-dozen helicopters swooped overhead, trying to close in on the chaos, as an angel and a man wearing a bucket and a cape soared through the air avoiding them. Beneath the circling aircraft, police cars and army trucks roared in from every direction, attempting to intercept the procession of destruction as it tore a swathe of chaos through the city toward the Vatican.
And leading the entire group by a comfortable margin, an expression of total and utterly inexplicable glee on his face, was Kurt.
of our Lord," Bellstrauss whispered. Behind him, Ororo, Jean and
the Professor all stared, looking distraught.
"So…" Jean managed after a long moment. "…it looks like Kurt's on his way here…"
Standing up, the Cardinal knocked his chair backwards onto the floor and moved toward the door.
"All of you," he said quickly. "Come with me this instant."
Exchanging a queasy look, they did so.
Outside, Kurt cackled with glee as he
neared the Vatican. A police car skidded to a halt in front of him;
he rolled forwards, somersaulted into a handspring, landed on the
roof of the vehicle, and leaped forward onto the wall of the Vatican
Still laughing insanely, he began to scale the wall, tail whipping back and forth in excitement. Rolling to one side, he dodged Magneto swooping in to seize him; using the master of magnetism as a stepping-stone he leaped into the air, grabbed an awning, and swung further around the side of the building. Warren made his move, flying in toward Kurt, only to intercept a net, fired from a helicopter. Wrapped in the mesh, Warren cursed and began to lose altitude as his wings became tangled – and Kurt climbed higher.
Suddenly he came out before a magnificent square, a bare wall with no cover. Arrayed in the square were dozens of police and military vehicles; the circling helicopters swung around and hovered overhead; and the assorted mutants ran into the square, looking up at him. All of whom, at precisely the same instant, aimed their weapons at him and began shouting for him to stop.
Ignoring them all, Kurt leaped up to grab another awning and swinging around it to find himself on a balcony with an open door. Turning, he gave the crowd a wave, and stepped backwards into the Vatican.
"Anschlag!" came a voice behind him. Surprised, Kurt turned.
One Joseph Alois Ratzinger stared defiantly back at him.
"In the name of our Father," said Pope Benedict XVI with stony dignity, "who are you and what are you doing here?"