Initiation (Part Five)
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Even though this is the last chapter, you can probably guess by the ending that there will be a sequel. It might be a month or so before I start it but it's in the works. Until then, please remember to review.
Pixie had been to Hell before. She had seen the fire and the demons and everything else that Limbo had to offer. Part of her soul was ripped out by a crazy, demonic witch and she had come as close to death as a person possibly could. Yet that experience was nowhere near as hellish as what she was currently experiencing.
"Nori!" shouted Pixie as she tried to convince herself the nightmares she was seeing were fake, "Nori, I can't see you!" Megan could barely hear the sound of her own voice. Her senses were threatening to overload from the illusions she was immersed in.
"This is what you created!" snarled Serotonin as he suddenly appeared in front of Pixie, "You started this and now I can't control it!" In Pixie's mind, he looked utterly demonic. There was fire in his eyes and a decidedly inhuman quality to his appearance.
"It's not real," whispered Pixie tearfully as she tried to fight against Serotonin's illusions, "It's not real. It's not real."
"It is," assured Serotonin cruelly, "It is real and it's going to destroy all of us."
"We could keep doing this all day," assured Hellion as the New X-Men and the Initiative looked at one another across the battlefield, "Nothing's going to change."
"We're not going to stop," assured MVP, "One way or another, we're taking you in." The two teams were about to attack one another once again when something suddenly descended upon them. It was as if some sort of hallucinatory fog settled over the bridge and enveloped everyone in its psychotic effects. The New X-Men and the Initiative were suddenly caught up in their own nightmarish worlds as their fears became manifest and magnified to an unholy extent. The teenage heroes were bombarded by these horrifying illusions and the air rang with their cries of agony and fear.
"Long time, no see," said the hallucinatory ghost of Brian Cruz as he smirked at Hellion, "That's the theme for your life isn't it, Julian? Everyone you care about dies or doesn't want you in their lives." Hellion wanted to believe that nothing he was seeing was true. Unfortunately, the realism level of Serotonin's illusions made it almost impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy.
"You'll always be a disappointment." Mercury heard the voices of her parents ringing in ears she didn't really have. Their constant disapproval of her mutation left her with a very large and possibility permanent inferiority complex. She would never be good enough for them. No matter how hard she tried or how many lives she saved, Cessily would never earn her parents' approval.
"You thought I was some kind of hero." Rockslide grew up idolizing the Hulk. People mistakenly thought he looked up to the Thing due to his particular mutation but Santo was always a Hulk fan. At least, he was until he actually fought the Hulk. It was then that Rockslide realized the Hulk was no hero or idol. The Hulk was a monster and if Rockslide idolized a monster then what did that say about him?
"I'm not you," stated Rockslide as he took a swing at the imaginary Hulk.
"No because I'm stronger," retorted the Hulk as he swung back, the blow having more of an effect on Rockslide than Santo's punch did on his foe. If he could see anything but his own nightmares, Santo would realize that the rest of the New X-Men and the Initiative were all battling their own private, imaginary demons and all of them were losing those battles. Someone had to do something to stop Serotonin before all of them went completely insane and ended up killing one another just to gain some peace and shelter from their nightmares.
Noriko Ashida felt like a failure. When her parents discovered her mutation, Nori felt ashamed for disgracing them and the family name she carried. When she used pills to try to control her abilities, Nori became completely at the mercy of her addiction. When Emma Frost named her leader of the New X-Men, Surge felt completely out of her league and it didn't help matters when her boyfriend was better qualified for the job even though he wasn't a mutant anymore. At first, Nori enjoyed defying the standards everyone else had set for her attitude, her behavior, and her appearance. It didn't help to ease the burden she felt she carried with her, a burden that was now threatening to physically crush her under its weight thanks to Serotonin and his illusions.
"It's not real!" Surge heard Pixie's voice from somewhere but it sounded so far away and she wasn't strong enough to reach it. The weight on her body was tremendous, so tremendous that she had a hard time moving at all. Surge crawled across the floor, slowly inching her way towards something she didn't even know. Her movements were slow and laborious, her muscles and bones aching fiercely from supporting the ever-present weight of societal expectations that threatened to crush her. She heard Pixie's voice again and desperately tried to move in that direction.
"I can't," whispered Surge as her aching muscles suddenly stopped, "I'm sorry . . . I can't." With her last coherent thought, Surge expelled the electricity she had stored inside her. For a moment, everything suddenly snapped back into reality. She could see Serotonin standing over Pixie while the girl huddled against the wall of the cargo hold. She strained and slowly clawed her way towards them. She had foolishly expelled all the electricity she had stored up. Now, Surge was running only on reserve power. Even if she made it to Pixie, Nori couldn't do much of anything to help the girl except perhaps take the brunt of some sort of attack.
"You're a tenacious one," assured Serotonin as he felt something grab his ankle and looked down at Surge trying desperately to mount some kind of offense, "I think I could grow to like that."
"Let . . . her . . . go," gasped Surge as she blindly groped for something to help pull her to her feet. She wasn't even sure if she would be able to stand on her own power if she could get to her feet. Nevertheless, Surge knew she had to do something to stop Serotonin from what he was doing.
"Not an option," stated Serotonin as he kicked Surge away, "I see that I can't rely on you to simply wait your turn. I'll have to take care of you immediately." Pixie had felt the shock that Surge had expelled from her body. The jolt was enough to get her back into the real world and out of the illusionary world Serotonin had created. At this point, Pixie's vision was flickering. It was as if the image was like a bad television picture. It kept flickering from real to illusion and back again.
"So much inadequacy," said Serotonin as he skimmed through Surge's mind, "It's delicious." Surge felt as if her skull was going to explode. The pressure on her body was immense and it only seemed to increase as Serotonin slowly stalked towards her. Pixie knew she had to do something and she had to do it now. She knew of only one guaranteed way to slow Serotonin down. Pixie quickly crawled forward and delivered an uppercut that struck Serotonin in the groin. Pixie watched her enemy's knees buckle as he crumpled to the floor. She could see her Souldagger lying on the floor of the cargo hold. If she could get to it then she could at least defend herself against Serotonin and possibly defend Surge as well.
"I'll kill you for that!" snarled Serotonin as Pixie darted across the floor and managed to get a few fingers around the hilt of her dagger. Serotonin grabbed Pixie by the ankle and yanked her towards him.
"Not if I kill you first," retorted Pixie as she turned and drove her Souldagger into Serotonin's hand. The mutant illusionist let out a howl of pain and relinquished his grip on Pixie's ankle. Serotonin clutched his hand and grimaced in pain. His stare shot daggers at Pixie as the girl quickly scrambled to her feet and held her Souldagger out in front of her, ready to strike again if necessary.
"You're going to have to try harder than that," assured Serotonin, "I don't even have to touch you to attack you."
"I never said I'd give you the chance," reminded Pixie as she suddenly flew towards Serotonin and tackled him to the floor, "The second you try to do anything to me, I'm going to stab you."
"Promises, promises," retorted Serotonin as he grappled with Pixie, trying to keep her Souldagger away from his body. He finally managed to kick Pixie off and regain his footing. Serotonin's eyes began to cloud and, once again, Pixie felt her world turn upside down. Her vision suddenly exploded into a kaleidoscope of colors. She blindly staggered backwards and shut her eyes to block out the psychedelic colors that threatened to blind her. Unfortunately, closing her eyes left Pixie vulnerable to a physical attack from her opponent. Serotonin took such an advantage and hit Pixie in the jaw. The blow sent Pixie to the floor, her vision still blinded by Serotonin's illusions.
"We can help you," assured Pixie.
"You will," stated Serotonin cruelly, "Killing you will make me feel much better."
Michael Van Patrick knew exactly what was going on. The visions of KIA danced behind his eyes but they were no longer as potent as they once were. MVP could see clearly enough to understand what was going on. Serotonin was conspicuously absent from the battlefield and MVP knew exactly where he would be.
"Where did you park the jet?" asked MVP as he turned to Cloud 9. Abby regarded him with a strange, vacant look in her eyes as if her brain was having difficulty processing his question.
"The jet," mumbled Cloud 9 as she tried to fight off the lingering trauma of Serotonin's illusions, "On the roof." MVP looked around and quickly spotted the jet. He turned and saw that the New X-Men were still wrestling with their personal demons. This presented an interesting dilemma. MVP could get up to the jet and stop Serotonin, thereby ending everyone's nightmares. However, Serotonin's indirect attack was doing his teammates a favor by incapacitating the New X-Men. MVP found himself in a catch twenty-two situation and he took a moment to consider what decision he should make.
"Start trying to contain them," ordered MVP as he turned his attention back to Cloud 9 and the rest of his beleaguered team, "I'm going to stop Trent from causing any more chaos." Cloud 9 nodded and began to rally the rest of the team while MVP sprinted towards the building with the jet on its roof.
"Take them!" ordered Cloud 9. Hardball was the first to follow the order as he launched an energy ball at the New X-Men. Hellion created a very large telekinetic wall that stopped anything and everything from ever touching him or the rest of his team.
"We're missing someone," said Prodigy as he looked to Cloud 9, "Where's the new girl?" Cloud 9 looked around and couldn't find Loa anywhere.
"That's a problem we don't have time to deal with," retorted Cloud 9.
Since coming to Xavier's, Megan Gwynn had experienced many moments where she knew with absolute certainty that she was going to die. This moment with a lunatic towering over her ready to deliver a killing stroke was one of them. Pixie always thought she would live longer than this. She still had so many things left to accomplish. She wanted to get married, perhaps have children some day in the future. She still held out hope that some day she might even get to kiss Cyclops. Just one kiss would be enough to make her happy for the rest of her life.
"It's over, Megan," assured Serotonin as his hands reached for her throat, "It's time for you to go." Pixie's vision cleared just enough to see Serotonin's face hover over her. She could never be sure of what she saw due to Serotonin's abilities but Pixie suddenly saw a hand shoot out of Serotonin's chest. Serotonin's eyes went wide with shock and his grip suddenly slackened as the hand continued in the same direction until an entire arm could be seen.
"What?" asked Pixie as she realized there was no blood coming out of Serotonin's chest. The arm suddenly retracted and Serotonin slumped to the floor, his body spastically twitching and convulsing due to the shock of Loa phasing her arm through his chest.
"I should've just killed him," admitted Loa as she looked at her best friend, "Go, Megan. Take the others and go."
"What are you talking . . .?" began Pixie.
"Run!" ordered Loa, "I won't be able to hold the others off." Pixie suddenly remembered how to work her legs. She looked to see Surge starting to stand up, her legs woozy but ultimately fully functional.
"Thank you," said Pixie as she quickly flew out of the jet while Surge took off, her sprint enhanced to superhuman levels thanks to the electrical energy in her body. Loa simply stood there as MVP finally entered the cargo bay. The leader of the Initiative recruits looked to Serotonin's unconscious body on the floor and then to Loa.
"You let them get away," stated MVP as he looked at his teammate, "I could take you in as an accessory to a federal crime."
"You don't have any proof," reminded Loa, "This thing doesn't have any juice left in it. Any video recording equipment that might be in here wouldn't have been on to catch what happened. It's my word against yours."
"Why the hell are we running away?" asked Rockslide as the New X-Men hid in an alley close to their apartment complex, "We can take those clowns."
"Not after what happened on the bridge," said Hellion, "We need to get the hell out of town before those Initiative guys recover from what happened. Cess, Sooraya, and Vic are in there getting us some stuff. Once they're down, we're leaving town."
"We can't just leave our lives here behind," said Surge.
"We have to," stated Hellion, "It's not safe here anymore. All of us know that. Our best chance is to take it on the run."
"I have to agree with Julian," admitted Pixie, "Alani stuck her neck out to save me and Nori. We have to make the most of it we can and the way we do that is by dodging the crap out of the Initiative."
"Not interested in getting registered?" asked Rockslide with a smirk.
"God no," assured Pixie as her eyes flicked to the building, "I think I'd rather go back to Limbo than do that."
"How much should we get?" asked Dust as she looked at Mercury.
"Whatever you can stuff in a travel bag," replied Mercury as she grabbed her bag and began stuffing clothes into it, "You get Nori's bag and I'll get Megan's." Dust nodded and began rummaging through Surge's closet.
"I really don't like this," admitted Mercury as she continued filling bags, "We shouldn't be running away like this."
"It is no longer safe here," reminded Dust. Both girls suddenly looked at the door as someone opened it. They breathed a sigh of relief as they realized it was just Anole.
"I'm taking off," stated Anole, "You two need to follow me as soon as you can. We don't need to carry everything."
"We'll be behind you soon," assured Mercury as she opened up a hole in her body and stuffed her bags in it, "Sooraya, give me your bags and I'll carry them." Dust nodded and handed her bags to Mercury. Cessily promptly stuffed the bags in the open hole before closing it up again. She knew she would expel the bags later when she reunited with the rest of the team.
"Are you ready?" asked Dust.
"Ready," stated Mercury. Dust quickly turned into her dust form and snaked through the air vents. Mercury turned into a blob of liquid metal and crept under the door and down the hallway. She quickly trickled down the steps and then slipped through the crack in the front door of the building before crossing the street. Once she was safely in the midst of her teammates, Mercury reformed into her more human form and then expelled the bags she had collected.
"Little gross there," said Rockslide.
"Whatever gets the job done," reminded Mercury.
"Let's go," ordered Hellion, "We've spent too much time here already."
"Where exactly do you plan on going?" asked Mercury.
"How far can you jump us?" asked Hellion as he looked at Pixie.
"Maybe a couple of states," replied Pixie, "I dunno how far I can go and still keep all of us together."
"Give it a try and see what happens," encouraged Hellion.
Serotonin opened his eyes and looked at his surroundings. He flexed his arms and found out that he was strapped to a gurney. Serotonin strained against his clamps and let out a growl more akin to something a cornered animal would utter.
"You proved to be a very huge disappointment," stated Henry Gyrich as he looked at Serotonin and adjusted his glasses, "I had to alter some paperwork just to get you approved for field missions. This is how you repay me?"
"What did you do to me?" asked Serotonin, "I can't hear Him!"
"Yes, the voices in your head," said Gyrich, "We have this wonderful thing called SPIN tech that you've been inoculated with. You don't have your powers anymore."
"Give it back!" snarled Serotonin as he struggled to break free, "Give it back to me or I'll . . ."
"You'll do nothing," finished Gyrich, "You'll get your powers back when you learn to follow certain rules. Until then, I would get used to your current state because you'll be in it for a very long time." With that, Gyrich calmly exited the room, letting the heavy, metal doors close behind him while Serotonin screamed with rage.
"You altered my report," stated Danielle Moonstar as she looked at Gyrich, "I can't say I'm surprised by that."
"You received your money," reminded Gyrich, "You're free to leave whenever you want."
"I'm taking Alani and Josh out of this place," stated Dani.
"Miss Ryan needs to have a little conference with me," replied Gyrich, "Although we have no hard evidence, we believe she intentionally helped her former friends escape."
"She probably saved them from him," said Dani as she gestured to the door and the mentally unstable mutant behind it, "None of this would've ever happened if you hadn't have moved him into combat situations before he was ready."
"Since you seem to be so intent on undercutting my authority, I have a job for you," said Gyrich, "You want Alani Ryan and Josh Foley out of our program? Find me a way to get me those teenage X-Men and then we'll talk."
"How do you expect me to do that?" asked Dani.
"Figure it out," retorted Gyrich as he walked past her, "Until you do, you won't be taking Alani and Josh anywhere."