"So how many of them got away?" Sunfire asked cautiously, looking over the collection of fallen Weapon X.
"We're missing Gambit, Kane, Logan, Daredevil and that fire chick you were brawling with." Sabretooth counted aloud. A soft moan caught his attention off to the side.
"Oooh…number of that… truck?" Deadpool asked weakly as he slowly began to stir, rubbing his head.
"What's that you say Deadpool?" Sabretooth grinned as he knelt over to where the red and black mercenary lay. Sabretooth's enormous hands reached around the sides of Deadpool's head. "That healing factor of yours keeping your tank running even after getting creamed by the Hulk? Well, can't have that, can we?" And with that, there was an enormous crack as Deadpool neck was snapped like a twig.
The snap was loud enough to attract the horrified attention of the rest of his Exiles.
"Now we're talking." Illyana snarled as she raised her sword, standing over the prone body of Angel. "Let's win this war and get on with our lives already."
"Whoa, whoa!" Mimic appeared in a burst of super speed, catching Magik's sword between his armored hands before the blade could finish its swipe. "We're not killing anyone Illyana."
"And why not?" Magik realized that she shouldn't have been surprised by her teammate's reaction, but she simply couldn't contain her incredulousness. "What do you think they would be doing right now if our positions were switched?"
"Kid does have a point." Sabretooth grunted in agreement.
"No she doesn't Victor." Blink bit back sharply "because we're not like Weapon X. We're not murderers."
"Oh really?" Illyana gestured to Deadpool whose head now lay at a hundred and eighty degree angle atop his shoulders. "Look at what your precious Sabretooth just did."
"Actually blondie, I just did that to keep him from getting back up." Sabretooth smirked. "That little move didn't kill him before, and you can bet it didn't just now either. But it should keep him out of our hair for a little while."
"And what are we supposed to do in the meantime?" Magik turned to the group Exiles. She could see the distrusting glances from all those she recognized, as well as several that she didn't, but she raged past them all. "Just stand watch over them until the rest of Weapon X comes back and tries to kill us again?"
"No. You're right, we can't just stand out here." Blink turned to the rest of her teammates assembled near her. "Mimic, Sunfire, Power Princess, you three are on recon. We need food and shelter. See what you can find. Check back in an hour."
"On it." Sunfire added proudly as all three Exiles flew up into the air in perfect unison.
"So, will that do?" Mimic asked as he guided his teammates atop the cliff overlooking his particular idea for 'shelter'. He was unable to completely suppress the small amount of pride in his voice.
"Over compensatin' for something there Cal?" Sabretooth tried his best to hide his own surprise behind his usual, rough attitude, lugging Deadpool over his shoulder, as he eyed the enormous alien structure that all but filled the up the horizon. It stood at least half a mile high and twice that in diameter.
"That thing is bigger than the X Mansion." Nocturne breathed in awe at the sight, even as she uncomfortably lugged the unconscious body of the teenaged Storm over her shoulder.
"At least a hundred times bigger." Sunfire swore.
"I'd say about ninety eight," Magnus calculated as he magnetically dragged along Vision and Iron Man.
"Alright, alright, it's big." Thunderbird agreed as he shifted the unconscious Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Colossus over his shoulders. "Can we just go now? I'm sick of carrying these guys. Plus, the Hulk has B.O like you can't imagine."
"Welcome to my world." Sasquatch added, hauling She Hulk and Maveric. "It's always 'Heather, grab this. Heather, knock that down'."
"Guess it's settled then." Blink smirked as she teleported the entire team, prisoners and all, down the five mile incline towards the bottom of the base. To her surprise the structure, its architecture completely alien, was even more enormously brooding and awe inspiring from so up close.
"'Heather, hit that guy." Sasquatch continued with her observation from earlier. "'Heather, huff and puff and blow that door down.'"
"We should be careful. It doesn't look like anyone is home, but there could still be booby traps." Mimic noted aloud.
"I'll check it out. I'm pretty much the most invulnerable one here." Thunderbird volunteered, before noting the strange look on Nocturne's face. "TJ, what is it?"
"You're so cute when you act all brave." She cooed, drawing several smirks from the rest of the team.
"TJ. Cut it out." The towering Thunderbird insisted in a hushed whisper, trying and failing miserably to contain his blush.
"Well that went well" Logan noted sourly from within the ship. The small craft used to transport Weapon X had felt more like a tomb by virtue of the sheer, maddening silence. Logan's sarcasm was the most any of Weapon X had spoken in what felt like hours.
"I don't want to hear it."
"No really. Swell plan there boss." Logan paid Gambit's mood no heed. "Can see why you got picked to lead this team."
"I didn't hear you coming up with anything better." Firestar replied in the same foul mood as the rest of her team.
"Really?" Daredevil chirped in. "All I heard the whole time was him grumbling like an old man whose cane was stolen." An almost triumphant smirked cross Daredevil's face at a thought. "I've done that by the way. FYI, it's even funnier when you leave it hanging five feet above their head."
"Everyone shut up." Gambit shouted as he continued to struggle with the controls to their ship. How the blazes Iron Man had figured out how to fly it was beyond him. "I just need to think."
"Well, you've got plenty to think about, don't you bub?" Wolverine leaned in on the side of his chair as a smug grin decorated his face. "Maybe for your next brilliant strategy, we can ask the Exiles to surrender."
"I said shut up!"
"This place is absolutely amazing." Blink marveled aloud. She, Sunfire, Mimic and Nocturne roamed together as one of four groups that searched the enormous alien complex.
"Magnus and Spider-Man found a huge control room about thirty levels above us." Mimic reported as he flew up above her and Nocturne, alongside Sunfire. "They've already started redecorating."
"Even better than that." Sunfire added. "Psylocke's team found a detention area, equipped with stasis cells. The last of Weapon X should be secured right now. Psylocke even says Deadpool's neck has already completely healed itself."
Nocturne couldn't help to resist spreading a bit of gossip. "Is it just my imagination, or has anyone else noticed the way Sabretooth keeps starring at her."
Sunfire found an infectious smile spread across her face as she added "is it my imagination or has anyone else noticed the way she keeps starring at Morph?"
"Well worry about that later. I want someone watching the prisoners at all times. Weapon X shouldn't be underestimated." Blink had to fight back the urge to join in their girly gossip. She was still team leader and didn't have time for such luxuries.
"I'll get Namora to take the first watch." Mimic informed.
"As long as we don't let Illyana down there." Sunfire noted, a sour chord ringing in her voice. "I gotta admit, as thrilled as I am to see you guys, I really could have gone without her again."
"I know what you mean." Blink admitted. "But we need all the help we can get. Ask Morph to keep an eye on her. If she's close to anyone on this team, it's him. Right now, we need to have a team chat."
Blink stood before the entire team, each seated in a large lecture style room whose glass walls reviled unusual alien foliage behind them. None the less, every Exile gave Blink their undivided attention.
"From what I gather, Magnus and Spider-Man have been able to figure out how most of the fortress and its technology works. Longshot informs me that we've already found a kind of alien cafeteria with enough food to feed an army for years, and this place looks like it could withstand a direct hit from an H-bomb. We have food, shelter, and a big advantage, but this is not the time to relax. Right now, we need to stay focused and consolidate our gains."
"Sure, but what's the big deal?" Nocturne had to ask. "I mean come on. In case no one checked the score, the Exiles are ahead thirteen points after only the first quarter with Weapon X fans crying in the stands."
"There's still five of them out there TJ." Mimic warned cautiously. "Plus Holocaust is still on the loose somewhere. We've definitely got a big edge, but the last thing we need to do now is blow it by getting cocky."
"We'll keep our guard up." Blink agreed. "But a little wishful thinking never hurt anyone. Either way, we can't afford to slip up now by leaping before we look. Mimic, Sunfire, and Zarda, I want you three making regular patrols around the fortress perimeter. In the meantime, everyone try to get some rest. We need to be ready for whenever Weapon X attacks. I figure they'll try some last desperate attack as soon as they figure out where we are and get a plan together. Giving their new weapons and how quickly they were able to get a bead on our position earlier, it's probably a safe bet they've found another fortress of their own."
"So let's find it, teleport a bomb on top of them, and be done with it." Magik had to state as if it were the most obvious solution in the world. "Why are we sitting here, waiting for them to come to us?"
"Hate to keep agreeing with blondie," Sabretooth voiced in "but that's not the worst plan I ever heard. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than waiting for them to come to us."
"Ah come on." Heather, having reverted to her human form, interjected. "We already got their strongest and smartest in our dungeon. What's the worst they can do?"
"You don't know Weapon X, Heather." Sabretooth took a grim visage as he looked down in thought. "Just cause we got the Hulk doesn't mean we got their best. Guys like the Hulk only know how to do one thing; smash. It's what they do when they're winning and it's what they do when they're losing. Guys like Deadpool and Logan on the other hand…" Sabretooth paused at the memories "they're capable of anything, especially when they're desperate. You think this is the worst they've ever had it? Think again."
"The Exiles have been through much worse than this too." Nocturne added with a razor's edge in her voice. She still wasn't entirely comfortable with the notion of Sabretooth having been placed on her team in her absence. "If we can handle that, we can handle your old friends."
"That's enough, everyone." Blink could smell tension brewing among the ranks and knew she had to defuse it immediately. "Weapon X is not to be underestimated. But neither are we. We don't need to chase after them, because they are going to come straight to us. They won't go down easily, but if we all do our part, there's no reason we can't take them without losing a single hand."
There had been utter silence in Weapon X's transport. Gambit's face had been set in stone as he had been lost in thought, his hands practically glued to the controls. Finally, he came to a decision.
"Firestar, I want you to head back to the base ahead of the rest of us. Make sure the Exiles haven't found it and are waiting for us in ambush. The rest of us will meet you there."
"What? Why?" Firestar looked to her leader, clearly confused.
"I've got an idea, but the rest of us are going to need to make a detour. We'll meet up with you at the base."
Firestar looked to the other members of Weapon X as if some kind of sympathy or understanding. Finding neither, she reluctantly moved to the back of the transport, lowering the ramp enough to fly out under her own power.
"So," Logan pitched in "what you got in mind that'll make your girlfriend so squeamish?"
Gambit ignored his mood "I told you, I've got an idea" he explained, his face completely deadest.
"So, what's the urgent urgency?" Blink asked as she and Mimic walked into the large control room, adorned with enormous computer banks of alien design, where Magnus, Sasquatch and Spider-Man had been hard at work.
"Well," Magnus began as he continued to hover in the center of the room "we've actually got some good news. We've managed to get these alien monitors working." Magnus explained as he gestured to the five enormous screens that stuck out of the wall, showing larger than life real-time images. "From here, we should be able to look anywhere on the planet."
"Actually," Dr. Hudson interjected with a slight degree of sarcasm "what Magnus humbly meant to say was that he got the monitors working, and actually improved them, all without evening lifting a finger, while Spider-Man and I have been standing over in this corner, trying not to look like toddlers discovering the intricate mysteries of a Lego set."
"Hmph." Spider-Man let out softly. "I'd understand these just fine if he'd go five seconds without rewiring something."
"Don't take it personally Spider-Man." Mimic assured with a sympathetic smile. "We're all a little intimidated by just what Magnus can do."
"Regardless," Magnus attempted to re-gather the attention of his team leaders, pretending to retain his humility at the compliment, "the reason we called you here was to show you what we've discovered. Take a look at these monitors."
For a moment, Mimic and Blink's gazes passed from one monitor to the next to the next.
"It can't be." Mimic reasoned aloud in a soft, awed whisper.
"We all assumed that the Beyonder had transported us to some alien planet." Magnus spoke to no one in particular. "He didn't."
"He transported us to Earth." Blink could scarcely believe the words coming out of her own mouth, but the images on the screens offered no other explanation.
"Actually, a variety of Earths all linked together." Spider-Man interjected, eager to show that his place as the resident tech expert wasn't about to be usurped by this newcomer to the team. "Take a look at the way the topography changes every couple of miles."
Sure enough, the Exiles watched the monitor Spider-Man had indicated too as the desert where they had clearly fought Weapon X in mere hours ago seemed to abruptly change into a thick, lush forest. There was no sign of increased growth in vegetation, no transition between the two. One second, the ground was barren and dry, and the next, thick, well grown foliage.
"Our theory," Spider-Man didn't wait for Magnus to explain "is that the Beyonder has taken different sections of different Earths and 'jig sawed' them together."
"He actually ripped different chunks of different Earths together to make his own?" Blink could scarcely believe the implications. What sort of being were they dealing with here?
"Actually no." Magnus took his chance to explain. "We think each Earth is slightly out of phase with itself, but only to the degree that it makes up a section of this planet. Each section of Earth not only exists within its own Earth but also simultaneously within this new, merged Earth."
"And if we're right," Spider-Man saw his opening "none of the Earths or any of the people living in each section of each Earth is at all aware of it. Look."
Spider-Man pointed a monitor showing a stretch of highway where a lone SUV drove towards the edge of one of the sections. Up ahead of it, the topography changed from a highway in the middle of the desert, to what appeared to be a volcanic filled rocky section with no roads or signs of civilization at all. The car either didn't notice or didn't care as it drove straight on its path, straight for the rocky terrain ahead of it, and then completely vanishing from sight.
"Where did it go?"
"It didn't go anywhere Mimic." Magnus explained calmly. "It's still on its own Earth. It has no idea it's simultaneously on this new Earth as well. We think that the Beyonder must have made it so that only we, and Weapon X in all likelihood, are capable of moving from one section of Earth to another. For everyone and everything else, they keep going and going on their own Earth, with no idea as to where we are or what's happening."
Blink took a moment to process the implications. For one, it meant that there little private war with Weapon X was no longer so private. There were now potentially billions of innocent pedestrians in the way. This realization brought Creed's warning of Weapon X back to her mind. "So, what are the ramifications of this for us?"
"None, really." Heather explained, frankly. "Hopefully, we finish off Weapon X and get sent home before anyone or anything from some other Earth gets caught in the crossfire. As near as we can tell, we're actually in the middle of the Nevada desert on some Earth or another. The good news is, with this technology, we've managed to locate Weapon X's base of operations."
"And the bad news?" Mimic asked with resignation. There was always bad news to go along with good news.
"Well," Heather took the chance to break it to the leaders. "We caught sight of a transport returning to the base not two minutes you got here. Presumably returning home after their fight with us. But before they did, they made a little stop along the way."
"What stop?" Blink asked.
"You found him?" Firestar asked in horror as Wolverine and Kane walked past her, carrying the large weight between them.
"Wasn't hard. Sucker stuck out like a statue in a desert." Daredevil explained amusedly.
"Not funny." Gambit bit sharply. "Just get him to the lab."
"You actually found him?" Firestar repeated, a sharp anger rising in her voice next to sheer terror.
"Gal doesn't miss a thing, does she?" Wolverine noted with a proud sarcasm as he and Kane continued to carry the inanimate, metal form of Hyperion between them walking past a horrified Firestar.
"Firestar, not now." Gambit ordered, his mood dropping sharply with each passing second as he addressed Wolverine, Kane and Daredevil. "You three hurry. I'll meet you in the lab in a second."
"Heh." Logan just smirked as the trio walked off, leaving Gambit alone with a smoking angry, literally, Firestar. "Good luck lasting till then."
"Are you insane?" Firestar shouted the question furiously.
"Or really desperate." Gambit offered. "Take your pick."
"Ok, of all the bad ideas you've had, this one takes the cake."
"I don't want to hear it." The Weapon X leader ordered as he turned about, walking off with Firestar right behind him.
"Well, you get to hear it anyway." Firestar's face began to burn as an eerie red glow rose from her body. "He's a monster. He'll kill you the first chance he gets. He'll kill us both."
"He may want to." Gambit admitted. "On the other hand, considering that he got his butt handed to him just the same as the rest of us, he might be more likely to listen to reason. Right now, I figure he needs us as much as we need him."
"That's a load and you know it." Firestar reached out, grabbing Gambit by the coat, and pulling him face to face with her. "What has gotten into you? You pick a fight with the Exiles without even bothering to find another way and now you want to bring back Hyperion?"
Gambit didn't even hesitate in his response. "I don't know if you were paying attention but we just got whipped and sent running with our tails between our legs. And that was when we had the element of surprise and they were already tired. Right now, we are seriously short on muscle and brains and we need a lot of both. Hyperion is the only edge we have left."
Firestar looked at him, her face every bit as set in stone as his. In the end, all she finally said was "You know the worst thing about dealing with the devil? You always have to pay up. Always."
"They… they can't possibly bring him back, can they?" Blink asked in a horrified whisper, even as she couldn't help but wonder if either she or Illyana could possibly make it to the Weapon X base with a large enough explosive in time.
Magnus' head fell slightly at the question. "No. We have nothing to worry about."
Weapon X, or what stood for their ranks, continued to stand around the flat examination table, staring together silently at the metal Hyperion before them.
"So," Gambit looked up at Kane. "What do you think?"
Kane reached out, knocking on the metallic figure before him, producing a solid tapping sound echoing off it. "I think he's dead."
"I know that." Gambit bit down on his upper lip as blood rushed unbidden to his features. "I mean, can you do something?"
"I can use him as a paper weight." Kane offered.
"I mean something useful." Gambit managed to force out through clenched teeth.
"I can use him to club one of the Exiles to death, if they stand very still for it."
"I mean something useful and practical." Another wrong word would result in violence.
Kane took another long second to look down at the frozen alien. "No."
"Well then this was a waste of time." Firestar didn't wait another second. Intense microwave energy burned from her hand, enveloping the metallic Hyperion and reducing him to metal slag. Firestar maintained a cold, dispassionate expression the entire time as she watched the recognizable features of Hyperion melt to clear, grey liquid goo.
"Well, that went well." Logan chirped back in. "So what now?"
Psylocke continued to stare at the cold, enormous hallways of the enormous alien structure as she walked next to Mimic. Although she had initially regarded him with caution and concern, the apparent ease and confidence he instilled in his fellow Exiles, particularly Morph, had convinced her that this was an entirely different man from the Calvin Rankin of her own reality. She was still having some trouble with the whole notion of alternate realities and so many different versions of the same people, but after dealing with Sabretooth, it was becoming easier and easier to stomach. "So, you're really the leader of the X-men in your reality?"
"Yeah." Calvin admitted at the fond memories. "It took me a little while just to adjust to life at Xavier's, but once I did, it felt perfectly natural. Like a home."
"Yeah." Psylocke looked down at the floor ahead of her, a soft smile decorating her flawless visage. "I know what you mean." There was a slight pause before she just had to know. "So, do you know me? In your world I mean. Are we close or anything?"
"Well, we work together." Calvin admitted. "I did ask you out once. You said no."
"I can see that." Betty decided against seeing the confused expression on his face as the two walked in silence before finally arriving in the enormous control room. She was still a little uneasy with all the different names and faces, but from what she had come to understand, Blink, Magnus, Spider-Man, Heather, Magik and Beak all seemed eagerly anticipating her arrival.
"Finally." Illyana looked up at Psylocke.
"Psylocke, we need your help." Blink cut past Magik, getting straight to business.
"Sure. What's going on?"
"Well, our resident tech geniuses have managed to get this equipment working." Blink indicated to the enormous equipment banks and huge monitors hanging from the walls. "From here we can see just about everywhere on the planet, including Weapon X's base of operations. However, we've hit a slight problem."
The young man Morph had identified to her as Magnus explained. "There seems to be some kind of counter measure that prevents us from spying directly on Weapon X inside their base. It's possible they have similar equipment that is also incapable of spying on us. We might be able to modify our equipment given enough time, but we had another thought."
"You see," Blink spoke back up "you're the only one on the team with any real psychic ability. Mimic has a little leftover from when he copied Jean Grey's powers and Nocturne was born with some, but you put both of them to shame a hundred times over. We need you to peak in on Weapon X, and see what they're up to."
Psylocke swallowed a thick lump in her throat as she looked up at the monitor displaying the image of the enormous structure. "Look, I hate to say it, but I think you're giving me too much credit here. Even at my best, I could never reach that far with my telepathy."
"That's why we built a Cerebro to help you." Magnus gestured over to the corner of the room. Psylocke was astonished that she hadn't noticed it earlier but sure enough, there was a large assembly of equipment with a headset that perfectly matched the one from her own reality.
"You… built your own Cerebro?" Psylocke asked in a hushed awe.
"Actually, he's built three, including this one." Mimic smirked at the memories as he looked up at his magnetically gifted teammate. "Of course, this one puts the other two to shame."
"It's a lot easier to build one when you're not cannibalizing spare parts from a shopping mall." Magnus returned the smile at the memory.
"L-look, I hate to say this guys but I can't use my psychic abilities." Psylocke confessed. "I haven't for a long time now."
"Still, you have the ability within you, and it's more powerful than anything anyone else on the team can match." Magnus assured. "I can modify this Cerebro to work with your abilities without any risk to you."
It was Blink's turn to assure the uncomfortable ninja as she placed a re-affirming hand on her shoulder. "I know you can do this. And believe me, I wouldn't ask if we didn't need this."
Psylocke took a long look at the Cerebro. "Ok. Hook me up… I guess."
It was several seconds later as Psylocke sat in the chair. Magnus and Spider-Man worked to channel power into the machine as Psylocke reached out with her mind, sifting through the thoughts of those in the room, then in the fortress at large. Next, she moved beyond it, her mind spanning miles in a fraction of a second, until she reached out to the minds within the Weapon X base.
"I can see them." Psylocke cried out, her eyes firmly shut as continued her concentration. "I can hear their thoughts."
"How many are there?" Mimic was almost afraid to ask the question.
"Five." Psylocke didn't notice the collective sigh of relief that went out across the room. "They're beat. Exhausted. Demoralized. They don't know what to do."
Blink tried to hold back a hopeful expression on her face. It all seemed too good to be true, but if it was… if they really could win so easily…
"What about Hyperion?"
"He's not there." Psylocke replied with a bit of relief herself, though the focus she was forced to maintain made up for it. "No sense of him at all."
"Uhh, guys." Spider-Man called out as he looked at the monitors. I think we might have another problem right now. And it's not Weapon X."
"What problem?" Mimic looked up.