Disclaimer: X-Men is a trademark of Marvel comics. I do not claim to own any of the characters or settings used below. However, the original characters Andrew and Sheila Tyson, Jerry Murdock and Matthew Tyson as well as the plot belong to me.

Chapter 18: Divide and Conquer

The afternoon sun beat down on the sands of Nevada. The sea of dunes was entirely peaceful aside form the occasional breeze. That breeze blew tumbleweed across a lonely paved road where it caught on a black mailbox. The deep bass notes of tires and treads on the pavement caused the mailbox to rattle and the tumbleweed to shake free. Moments later several heavily armed military jeeps blew by the mailbox without a second thought. Tanks followed them, and a squadron of Blackhawk transport helicopters and Apache gun-ships whipped the dunes into a sandstorm as they followed the jeeps to intercept their target. One Blackhawk that carried the commanding officer of the battalion as the pilot radioed back in to the Groom Lake Facility.

"HQ, this is Blackhawk Alpha, encryption code 32—Charlie—X-Ray. Come in, over?"

"We read you, Alpha. Status report?"

"The battalion is closing in on the horsemen. Current velocity and heading puts our ETA at two minutes."

"Very good Alpha. Do not open fire on the suspects until ordered to do so. That is an order from the president."

"Yes sir. Alpha over and out."

The pilot turned to the CO as he flipped off his radio. "Sir, we have a contact on the radar. Its small…the signature indicates a single person."

The Commanding Officer leaned forward with a concerned look on his face. "Impossible. There are supposed to be four of them. How did one person make it in and out of The Facility completely undetected?"

"I don't know, sir, but he stopped running. Should be coming into sight…now."

The helicopter roared over a giant dune, quickly followed by the jeeps, tanks, Blackhawk choppers and Apache gun-ships. The troops quickly encircled the person standing in the dunes as they poured out of the helicopters. There were many clicks as the primer bars on assault rifles and humming as the chain guns on the jeeps and choppers warmed up. The Commanding Officer stepped out of his Blackhawk and chuckled to himself. He was just a boy, no older than fifteen. Dressed in a black leather jacket, faded blue jeans, boots, sunglasses and a backwards turned Georgia Bulldogs baseball cap, he stood in the sand as though the heat of the Nevada desert didn't affect him at all. The boy ignored the thick circle of troops and stared at the CO as he approached the boy. As he got closer and broke the front line, the temperature dropped dramatically and his breath fogged. The boy smirked at the confused look on the CO's face.

"Commander Edward Marcell, they sent you after me? I must really be a threat. Tell me, do your friends still call you 'Big Eddie?'" he asked in a barely human voice.

"Horseman of Apocalypse, deactivate your powers and put your hands on your head."

"Not much of a talker, huh?" the boy chuckled as he put his hand on his head. The air remained cold though and there were several dull thumps inside the tanks.

Marcell turned a bit red in the face. "Deactivate your powers Horseman, this is your last warning." He pulled his sidearm and aimed it at the boy's head.

"You won't shoot me because I have this," he said as he pulled a small vial from his jacket pocket, "If you shoot me then I break this, and we all will die. And if the wind catches it then it could hit a major city within the hour. You really want to be the cause of a nationwide epidemic?"

Marcell lowered his pistol. "Give me the vial and no one has to die. From what I hear federal prison is quite nice. I can ensure that you don't get the death penalty if you cooperate."

The boy put the vial back in his pocket and began walking slowly towards the Commander. There was a pair of dry clicks as the assault shotguns belonging to the Commander's bodyguards cocked. "Stand down, mutant."

The boy laughed and put his cap on the Commander's head, revealing spiky white hair. Commander Marcell's eyes widened. It was the telekinetic, the Horseman of War. "I do believe it is you who should stand down," he replied with a smirk.

There was a humming as the tanks changed their targets to the gun-ships and opened fire. The choppers exploded and hit the ground in a ball of fire, the shockwave knocking the troops off balance. Once back on their feet, they looked where the boy was only to see air. He was nowhere to be found, but the tanks were running and moving of their own accord, undoubtedly under the boy's control. Marcell flipped on his field radio, transmitting back to The Facility. "HQ, this is Commander Edward Marcell. Horseman is hostile, repeat, hostile. Permission to engage?"

"Fire at will Commander, but do not break that vial. Our national security depends on this."

"Sir, yes sir. Marcell, over and out." He put away the field radio and turned to address his battalion. "We have a very dangerous mutant on the loose and deadly force has been authorized. Since he is carrying precious cargo, I am ordering everyone to switch to cure rounds. Spread out and check the sand for footprints. He might be able to vanish but I don't think he can fly."

Oh how stupid you are, Commander… came a voice from nowhere. It didn't sound like the boy, but something else entirely. Like a ghost.

"Who said that?" Marcell demanded.

There was powerful disembodied laughter that shook them to the core as a fog bank rolled in and the air temperature plummeted. The tanks swiveled around and opened fire on the jeeps then used their guns to mow down the troops. Hundreds of men fell in a matter of seconds, leaving only a platoon of men and the Commander. The laughter rang out again as the men shivered in the temperature and out of fear. Suddenly the laughter stopped, the fog vanished and the tanks rumbled to a stop. The men scrambled and ran for the tanks only to hit an invisible wall a few feet from the tanks. The men lay on their backs, writhing in pain. Marcell detected movement to his left and drew his sidearm. The boy stood there laughing, his arms crossed across his chest.

"Now that was funny. Don't you think so, Commander?"

"Stand down, War. These are cure rounds. Surrender the vial or lose your power."

The boy smirked. "Go ahead, pull the trigger. The cure doesn't scare me."

A scowl crossed Marcell's face. He had had enough of this boy's arrogance. He squeezed the trigger and as the bullet left the chamber the boy was gone. His voice was in the Commander's ear within seconds. He was standing behind him.

"I will take my hat back now, Commander. You're a good shot, I might just let you live."

Marcell screamed and emptied the pistol's magazine where the boy should be. He shot nothing but air, and the boy's hat vanished from his head. He scrambled for his magazine of normal bullets. He had had enough of these games. He saw an assault rifle vanish from the sand, meaning the boy had it in his possession. Marcell scanned the area, looking for any sign of the boy. The only evidence of his presence still remaining were the wet cracks of bone as one by one the necks of his men snapped. Seconds later, Marcell was all alone in the Nevada desert amongst a mass grave of what used to be a battalion of his best men. He broke down into tears and remained that way for a few moments until movement caught his eye and he raised his sidearm. Amidst the bright sands of the desert, the dark void spinning inches above the ground stood out like a man with two heads. The boy appeared in front of it, the assault rifle strapped over his shoulder. He looked back and winked at the Commander, then was gone. Marcell dropped to his knees, looked at the carnage all around him, and screamed at the top of his lungs. Only the wind answered him.

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2,000 miles away, in the woods of Westchester, New York, Professor Xavier winced as the men died in Nevada. Such carnage could only be the work of a Horseman. His footsteps crackled the leaves as he walked amongst the throngs of students. They had taken to the woods after hearing Jerry's premonition about the damage to the mansion. He left only the X-men behind, to safeguard the mansion's secrets in case the premonition proved to be false. Kurt had returned to the mansion as well on his request, and was with them to provide a quick escape. Of course Xavier was mentally keeping an eye on all of them, but the human side of him still feared for their safety.

A small mutant with green hair and snake eyes noticed the look on Xavier's face and walked over to him. "Are you alright, sir?"

Xavier smiled. "Yes, my boy. Things are going to be just fine."

If only I honestly knew that to be true…

A/N: I know in the last chapter that I said the update wouldn't take very long. Sorry about that. This semester has been ridiculously busy. I should be writing more over Christmas break, but I have finals next week so it may be a little while until the next update. Sorry again about the short chapter.