Fear compounded upon fear.

Fear that they are after you.

Fear that they know exactly who and what you are.

She is feared.

And she is afraid.

Cecilia Reyes is feared, but for the life of her she has no idea why she is feared.

Cecilia Reyes is afraid because they are after her.

Because she is different? Because she was born with the ability to envelope herself in a protective force field upon physical impact?

Does that really make her so bad?

In their eyes it does.

In the eyes of something called Weapon X.

There were being followed by something like the army. Armed men with guns and jeeps and very scary looking uniforms.

It started out small, she felt like she was being followed. She could see people behind her, driving next to her, walking in front of her. The same people just kept showing up. The other noticed it too. And so they ran, and the bad guys picked up speed and force

It had been four days now since they were blatantly being pursued by jeeps and at time helicopters. These men were persistent, yet did not seem to be using full force. They simply seemed to keep harassing Cecilia and her friends. There had been one encounter, but it ended quickly.

It was that one encounter where they learned of the organization called Weapon X. Some military branch that hunted mutants for some reason. Cecilia didn't know. All she knew was that they had bragged of captured and dead mutants. And she knew that she was next.

They had a van, a used one that Dominic still had put away somewhere. It was a piece of junk, but at least it would take them away from their troubles. They were in Central New York State now, after having returned from Washington D.C. a couple weeks ago. They were on their way to visit the X-Men in Westchester when the full "attack" began, so they ran instead.

They being X-Force, Cecilia's group of friends. All mutants, all on the run from hatred and fear, all now banded together for protection against such people as this Weapon X.

The name "X-Force" came from Jamie Madrox. Jamie was the unofficial leader of the group. He named the team after his heroes the X-Men, mutants who had banded together to stop the hatred and stop other mutants who tried to destroy humanity, mutants like Magneto. Jamie, upon physical impact, could create an exact duplicate of himself. It was a useful power. He was basing his little group of friends after the X-Men, and had decided they also needed codenames like Beast and Cyclops. He hadn't chosen one for himself yet.

Cecilia had chosen to just be called Doc, nothing fancy, but everyone still called her Cecilia anyway. She was very loyal to Jamie and everything he had done for her. She sat in the passenger seat of the big blue van.

Driving the van was Dominic Petros, Avalanche, with the power to control the seismic waves of the earth under their feet. Basically he could make earthquakes with just the thought. He was behind Madrox with this whole superhero thing; he wanted to help save mutant-kind. He had a small goatee going with his dark black hair.

Jubilee, Marrow, and Mimic were all children. Jubilee was 17; Marrow and Mimic were both 13. Jubilee had been with Jamie and Cecilia for a long time now, originally it had been for protection, but now she actually cared.

Marrow was the little girl named Sara. She was an enigma. Her mutant power manifested by having her bones grow through her skin, so at all times she had erratic and sometimes jagged bones sticking out from all parts of her body. With considerable pain she could pull a bone from her body to be used as a weapon. Sara was a tough young girl whose true origins are still a mystery to her friends. Somehow, for one so young, she deals with the pain.

Calvin Rankin was a scared young boy on the run from everything. He had encountered Jamie, Cecilia, and Jubilee a while ago. He was running to the Savage Land and didn't want their help. They didn't press him. After Magneto was proven a madman in Washington and was destroyed, Calvin had nowhere to go. Luckily for him, he encountered X-Force on their way back to New York. He asked politely and he joined them, finally finding a place and finally giving Sara a friend. He had the ability to mimic another person's traits, in the case of mutants, their powers. He could control it, but just barely. It took some concentration to keep from having bones grow out of his skin.

They were all together, and all on the run in a junkie old van.

"How much farther to Syracuse?" Jamie asked from the first back seat to the driver.

"About an hour to go," Dominic told him, "we're making good time."

"What's in Syracuse again?" Calvin asked Jamie innocently.

"It's a big enough city where we can hide out I suppose," Jamie answered sitting back down. "They've a giant mall, a large university, lots of places to hide. So I figure these soldiers won't attack while we're in a very crowded area."

"And if they do attack?" Jubilee asked from the backseat, purposefully sparring with Madrox.

"Then we give them you and hope they leave the rest of us alone," Madrox shot back, obviously joking. Calvin giggled.

The banter continued, as it always does. They were a lighthearted group. If they kept from deeply thinking of their situation, it didn't seem as bad. They were together, a team, and together they could tackle any problem. Together they could surpass every obstacle.

Together they could beat this Weapon X.

Sara knew this.

She really believed it, despite her cryptic attitude and regular harshness towards the group.

Her life had been tough, she had the right to be as cruel as she wanted. Her mutant power made her ugly, and it hurt to pull the bones from her body. She had every right in the world to by cynical. She sat in the back of the van, her eyes on the road behind them.

She would always be ready.

No evil force would sneak up and surprise Sara while she was alive. She was a warrior, young, but tough.

She wore a blue cloak that covered the bones nicely. It also hid her face in shadows. Unlike the others in the van, she actually looked different. Her skin was pink, and her hair was a sharp magenta. She was very different.

She had every right to hate.

Since she was looking behind them, she saw the rocket first.

"Turn now!" she shrieked as she jumped to her a crouch and pulled out two bone daggers.

"What?" Dominic questioned, barely understanding.

But Cecilia had heard the urgency, and quickly slammed her hands onto the wheel. The van squealed as it quickly broke left. The others started screaming, and it increased in pitch as the rocket hit the road where they had just been, launching the van through the air. It didn't flip; it was merely lifted and almost floated over to the side of the road. It crashed into the side of a tree; they had been driving through forest country.

They were in the middle of nowhere.

"Is everyone okay?" Jamie asked, one of them actually. Thanks to the impact, there were now three Jamie Madroxes. All three pulled themselves from the smoking vehicle, instantly worried about the others.

"I'm fine," Cecilia announced, pulling herself from the inside. She glowed a faint yellow; her force field had protected her. As soon as she was out, she looked back in, trying to help anyone she could.

In a matter of minutes, all members of X-Force were present and accounted for. A few cuts and bruises here and there, but everyone was okay.

Just as one of the Madroxes was about to cut a joke, bullets tore through the side of the van snapping everyone to attention.

"Run!" the main Madrox shouted and instantly absorbed one of his duplicates. The seven of them left the roadside and ran into the forest. Trees on all sides, in a matter of seconds they could no longer see the van behind them. They just kept running. The sun was just beginning to set in the sky; they would only have a couple more hours before dark.

But it didn't matter; they just kept running.

The story of their lives.

It seemed like forever before they came to a clearing. Surrounded on three sides by trees, a low hill was to their right. They all stopped to rest.

"What the hell do we do now?" Jubilee asked after a couple minutes, breaking the tension.

"We wait," Dominic said calmly.

"For what! Those military goons!" Jubilee cried in frustration. "They have guns and men and all sorts of nice and fun ways to kill us. I do not want to die is this stupid forest!"

"Jubilee calm down," Cecilia asserted patiently, "just calm down. We'll think of something."

Jubilee silenced herself, and crossed her arms. Cecilia had a calming affect on Jubilee. Sara and Calvin stood off to the side, the two youngest members often stayed with each other, apart from the rest of the group. They chatted quietly, worried about what was coming but neither one wanting to say anything.

"Jamie, what do we do?" Cecilia asked Madrox.

"I'm not sure Cecilia," he responded, looking out at the woods, "I guess we just wait for them. I suppose this is our final confrontation with these Weapon X people. If we have to fight, we can do it."

"Yes we can!" Dominic agreed, vibrating the ground a little to demonstrate what kind of power was at his control.

A rapid fire of bullets silenced them all, and they braced for the attack. It was just a warning. A full minute of silence passed, and X-Force relaxed just slightly.

A break Weapon X had planned on.

They quickly fired again, into the air because the mutants were to be captured, not killed. Beaten, shot, hacked, shocked, stabbed, but not killed. These mutants were to become new recruits.

X-Force was not a fighting force, and stood at different areas. The soldiers of Weapon X, dressed in dark green and black camoflauge with visored helmets emerged almost mysteriously from the trees. Some held guns, firing wildly into the sky, others held clubs.

The first attack was Jubilee's, she blasted full forcer her fireworks at a soldier moving towards Cecilia. The battle was on.

Quickly the air was filled with gunfire and screaming. Screams of rage and pain nearly drowned out the gunfire. Jubilee would fiercely blast at anyone she could see. She was able to keep them off of her. Marrow attacked viciously at any that came near her. Her bones were strong and sharp, very useful in slicing through their uniforms.

As soon as the battle began, one soldier snuck up behind Avalanche and blasted him in the back of the head with a club. The mutant who controlled the earthquakes had to be taken down first.

The battle was relatively quick. Cecilia and Madrox could only fight hand-to-hand. Every time Cecilia was hit, her force field would take over and she would be protected. But she was still tiring quickly. The soldiers came from everywhere and seemed infinite in number.

She kicked one soldier straight to the chest, and he went down hard. Cecilia quickly turned around to keep off another threat, only to turn straight into a lasso. A rope was quickly thrown over Cecilia's head and tightened around her arms, pinning them to her sides. The soldiers of Weapon X had a way around her force field, simply immobilize her. She was quickly tied up, and then rudely shoved to the ground. Cecilia Reyes had been dealt with. But she could still watch the battle.

She watched as more and more soldiers advanced on Jubilee. She watched as they brutally struck her with clubs, forcing her to the ground. Jubilee had also been caught, handcuffed and tied. They were falling quickly.

The only ones left were Sara, Jamie, and Calvin. Calvin and Jamie seemed to be doing a good job fending off soldiers, but darting into trees and such. Sara, Marrow, was taking them head-on, bone daggers slicing through armor and skin. She was fierce.

But not fierce enough.

In a matter of seconds, the clubs and the bats had beaten young Sara to the ground. She could fight, but she could not fight them all. The soldiers kicked the bones out of her hands, and bound her wrists and ankles. They shoved her to the ground. One particular soldier, who had been slashed across the chest, blatantly kicked Sara in the stomach as she lay on the ground.

An act that did not go unnoticed.

Calvin Rankin was afraid. He used to be brave. He had run away from home when we realized he was a mutant, and had bravely made his way south to somehow get to the Savage Land and safety. But all that changed when Magneto was destroyed, now he was on the run and afraid.

All he had were his new friends.

Especially Sara.

All this time he had been keeping his mutant power in check, to keep from mimicking the rest of X-Force. He had kept it all in, until he saw the soldier viciously kick his friend Sara as she lay in pain on the ground.

And when he saw that act...

The Mimic roared.

All that he held back, the pain, the anger, the disappointment, his mutant power, all of that came to the foreground of his mind. He raised his arms to they sky as he let loose the loudest scream imaginable.

But it wasn't a scream of anger; it was his soul giving birth to the pain.

Pain as dozens of jagged bones ripped themselves through his back.

Pain as they burst through his skin on his arms and legs.

Pain as his own bones mimicked Sara and erupted like sharp pimples on his face.

Marrow's bones would have been the worst part of his mutant ability, they would have hurt him.

Calvin screamed in pain as her powers manifested on him. But even as he screamed, he could feel a new surge bubbling to the surface of his soul. A feeling of power.

The strength and confidence of all the soldiers around him gave him a courage long hidden. Also, the unmistakable force of the earth from Avalanche. Calvin could feel the power inside him.

With this new strength, he viewed what was around him. Cecilia, Sara, Jubilee, and Avalanche were already captured, and Jamie was being tied down as he watched. The soldiers weren't closing in on Calvin. They could feel the power reverberating around him. They had heard his screams. But it only took seconds before they recovered from the initial fright and began to advance.

Calvin smirked.

With a sudden thrust, he raised his arms high to the sky, bringing the upheaval of the earth beneath the soldiers' feet. But Avalanche's powers were not the only ones, the ground was surging with plasma energy, the same kind the Jubilee shot from her fingertips. The soldiers were knocked from the ground.

He turned rapidly and blasted an approaching soldier with Jubilee's powers, sending the man flying away into the trees.

One brave soldier sneaked behind him while he was turned, and slammed Calvin with a club. But Calvin simply used Cecilia's powers to take the blow. With a move as fast as the fastest Weapon X soldier, Calvin ripped a bone from his back and stabbed the soldier in the upper part of his left leg. Blood splattered Calvin, but he could not see it, nor did he care. He was stuck in a powerful frenzy.

But Weapon X had had enough. One soldier, taller and thicker than the rest, stepped forward with his rifle and shot Calvin Rankin in the shoulder.

The young boy fell, out of power.

"Calvin!" Cecilia shrieked, and received a shove from a soldier for her concern. She was standing now, they all were. Lined up like prisoners. Well, at least those that could stand. Cecilia and Jamie were next to each other.

"Calm down Cecilia," Jamie whispered to her, "you worry too much."

"Jamie, won't don't you get here?" she asked in an angry whisper.

"Hey c'mon, have a little more faith in us," he winked at her.

Then Madrox stepped out of line.

"Hey soldier-boy!" he shouted right in the face of the nearest Weapon X soldier.

In an instant the soldier's gun was pointing Madrox right in the face, and all other guns were pointed at him as well.

"Get back in line mutant," the soldier ordered in a mechanical sound.

"Well there's just something I thought I should tell you before you kill us all or take us to wherever it is you plan on taking us."

The gun was brought closer to Madrox's nose.

"It's just that you should know that all of Madrox's duplicate look exactly like him."

"What?" the soldier asked as the Jamie Madrox before him disappeared, reabsorbed by the original.

"Where'd he go?" a different soldier asked.

"That was just a duplicate!" the large one shouted, "You fools! The original is still out there some where. Rodriguez, go find him!" He pointed at one soldier, and that man ran off over the hill to find the real Madrox.

Cecilia smiled openly.

Jamie was still out there.

There was still hope.

"Let's keep them here for now," the large soldier announced, "he'll be back for them soon enough. They're bait."

* * * *

"Damn mutants," Rodriguez whispered silently to himself as he trudged through the forest, it was dusk and getting darker.

Rodriguez was upset. He should be out looking for the Brotherhood, or even helping with the X-Men. But no, he was stuck here with Shurke and these other buffoons hunting down no-name mutant scum. Mutants they had read about in the paper who were at Washington. Why did he have to get stuck tracking them down?

And then he couldn't kill them. That was the worst of all. The top brass wanted them taken prisoner. Damn them all!

Especially the mutants!

He trudged through the tall grass, gun raised, ears perked for any and every sound.

"Who are you?" a voice called to Rodriguez from the trees.

He turned quickly to his left, gun taking aim.

"Get out here mutant!" he shouted to the trees.

"Why do you hate me?" the voice asked again, this time from a different source.

"I will blow your freakin' head off mutant!" Rodriguez screamed.

"Oh really?" Jamie Madrox said as he tackled the Weapon X soldier from behind. They went tumbling for a couple feet before they each found their footing. But by the time Rodriguez had brought his gun up to shoot, the duplicate was already reabsorbed.

"What the hell are you mutant?" Rodriguez shouted, a little fear in his voice.

"That's exactly what I am," Madrox said from the trees.

"A mutant!" shouted dozens of the same voice at the same time from the trees.

And Rodriguez was startled as rocks, acorns, and millions of small objects launched from the trees and began pelting him. It was almost too much to handle. He fired blindly into the trees, but hit nothing. He just kept getting hit by the small objects.

The soldier fell to his knees.

And the pelting stopped. Rodriguez looked up just in time to see Jamie Madrox run up and kick him in the gut, hard. Rodriguez grabbed his stomach and buckled forward. He landed at the feet of Madrox, gasping for breath. Another Jamie came up beside him and took the gun, then disappeared again in the woods.

"Get up," Madrox ordered, looking down on the soldier.

"F-filthy mutant!" Rodriguez choked out, and spit on Madrox's shoes.

Two duplicates came up on Rodriguez's sides. They reached down and lifted him rudely into a standing position. He was eye to eye with the mutant. Madrox was looking behind him, and nodded once.

Another duplicate came up behind Rodriguez and ripped his helmet off, revealing a young man's face. Hispanic, but mostly American. Shaved black hair and a small mustache.

"Damn mutant," Rodriguez muttered.

Madrox backhanded him across the face. The duplicates kept Rodriguez on his feet.

"Shut up!" Madrox shouted at him, "I'm not going to take any of your crap!"

The duplicates released Rodriguez and disappeared once again into the woods. He remained standing.

"I will kill you!" Rodriguez shouted at the young man in front of him, the horrible mutant.

"You get one shot," Madrox said calmly and pointed at his stomach, "make it a good one."

Without hesitating, Rodriguez slammed his fist into Madrox's belly. Jamie let out a desperate noise, and fell to the ground. His mutant power reacted immediately, and a duplicate appeared next to Rodriguez. The duplicate punched Rodriguez in the stomach.

Rodriguez was a trained soldier, and fought back. Each blow he connected with, the duplicate responded with another duplicate that also hit Rodriguez. He was quickly overpowered.

Madrox let the beating continue for a couple minutes, none of the duplicates really beating on Rodriguez. Then he had them hold Rodriguez up again. He faced him again.

"You didn't hit me hard enough," Madrox said and punched Rodriguez in the face, sending the soldier flying backwards to the ground. The duplicates moved to the side, spectators.

"Get up!" Madrox shouted at the man lying before him on the ground. "What's wrong? I'm right here, get up and kill me."

Rodriguez stumbled to his feet and took a slow and foolish shot that Madrox easily dodged, slamming the soldier to the ground once again with another hit.

"Why do you hate my kind?" Madrox asked as Rodriguez kept trying, each time Madrox would hit him back. "What has a mutant ever done to you? What have I ever done to you? We were peaceful, we just wanted to live, you attacked us first! Now look at us..."

Madrox slammed his knee into Rodriguez's crotch.

"We're fighting like animals in the woods. You've captured my friends. I will do whatever it takes to get them back. But what are you doing here? What makes you think I'm even here? You've seen my power," Madrox indicated his duplicates standing solemnly off to the side, "what if I'm a duplicate? What if there are more duplicates at your camp freeing my friends and saving the day? Maybe you're just wasting your time here. Did you ever think of that?"

Rodriguez, bloodied and beaten, tried to make a run for it. He ran into the forest, only to encounter more duplicates of Jamie Madrox. He froze in front of them. Madrox came up and grabbed him by the lapels and slammed him into a tree. Their faces were mere inches apart.

"I hate you!" Madrox said slowly, "You are the worst kind of scum in this world. Blind hate because of fear. If I were more of the monster you think I am you would be dead by now. But you're not dead, you're alive!"

Madrox pulled Rodriguez and threw him to the ground. He stood over the fallen soldier, wind blowing.

"I'm a hero. I am Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man!" he shouted, "You are nothing but a monster. A nameless soldier hunting something he doesn't understand! You represent everything that is wrong with the world, everything that Professor Xavier fights against. Blind hatred and prejudice. I have beaten you."

Rodriguez pulled his face from the ground to see what appeared to be hundreds of duplicates emerge from the trees. They surrounded him and the one he had been fighting. A giant circle in the woods. He felt for sure they were going to kill him.

Instead, they all disappeared.

Leaving the one he had been fighting.

"Of course it was the real me," Jamie Madrox whispered, "This was something I, personally, had to do. Now leave, with your life, and never bother me or my friends again."

He walked off through the woods.

Leaving Rodriguez broken and battered on the ground.

* * * *

Cecilia was afraid.

More so for Jamie than for herself.

They had heard shots fired, but that had to be at least twenty minutes ago. It wasn't looking good.

The soldiers had left them all out in the open. Dominic and Calvin, the most powerful two, were still unconscious, but Jubilee, Sara, and herself were still awake and aware.

They had talked to the soldiers, mainly the large one named Shurke, the leader. Even though he despised their kind, he wasn't completely heartless. He told them a lot about why they were being captured and what would happen to them. Weapon X was a division of S.H.I.E.L.D. designed in using mutants. X-Force would become new soldiers for Weapon X.

Weapon X had read papers in Washington and had learned of a group of mutants helping civilians during the battle between the X-Men and Magneto. So along with a small team hunting the Brotherhood, and the main units capturing the X-Men, another group had been sent to capture X-Force.

This group.

And it appeared as if they had won.

But Shurke was getting restless.

"Dammit!" he shouted for about the hundredth time, "Where the hell is Rodriguez?"

No one answered him.

It was a rhetorical question.

"Okay that's it," Shurke shouted at the men, "load these mutants into cargo and let's get ready to move out. I'm going to track down Rodriguez and that mutant myself."

He began to head out into the forest, but was stopped short by a distant rumbling sound coming from the hill that Rodriguez left over.

Shurke stopped.

"What the hell is that?" he said staring at the hill.

Everyone turned to the hill as the rumbling grew louder. It sounded like a stampede, a large stampede. No one said a word, no one moved at all. They all watched the hill.

Soon, the sound of rumbling was joined by a roar. Not the roar of an animal. It was a man. Many men.

It was the roar of an army about to seize its victory.

* * * *

It seemed like he'd been lying on the ground forever.

It seemed like hours before he was able to find his footing.

Slowly and steadily, Rodriguez got to his feet.

And stumbled forward in search of his gun.

* * * *

They poured over that hill.

Like ants emerging from the top of their mound.

Like the sea washing over the beach.

The duplicates of Jamie Madrox poured over the top of the hill, literally poured.

There were hundreds, thousands of the young mutant, all shouting and running in anger. His friends had been hurt, his life had been difficult, but he had power.

Power in numbers.

The soldiers were dumbfounded. Some moved, most simply gawked at the sight.

But eventually the shock wore off, and the soldiers fired into the mob. Jamies fell, but more replaced them.

Madrox suffered, but it was a pain he was willing to bear.

Within seconds, the army of Multiple Men swarmed the soldiers of Weapon X. Armed with bare fists and branches, they quickly overpowered their foes. Even Shurke went down without much of a fight.

Cecilia was still in shock over their numbers. Once the soldiers had been defeated, the duplicates began to untie the others.

Jamie Madrox himself went up and untied Ms. Reyes' ropes.

"The cavalry has arrived," he announced proudly.

"Oh Jamie!" Cecilia cried as she jumped into his arms for a hug, "I was so worried."

"Please Cecilia," he responded, looking into her eyes, "give us a little faith."

"It was about time Madrox!" Jubilee whined as duplicates were helping her out of her restraints. Once free, Jubilee also ran up and hugged Jamie Madrox.

The duplicates helped Sara, Calvin, and Dominic, the two males starting to come around.

"Good fight?" Sara asked Madrox.

"Good fight Marrow," Madrox answered, rubbing her hair.

"Die mutant!" Shurke shouted as he leapt from the ground holding his sidearm. He had it pointed straight at Madrox.

X-Force had no time to react. They all simple froze.

And a shot was fired.

The large man slumped to the ground, a single bullet through the side of his head.

Madrox turned to the hill.

Barely standing, with his rifle falling to the ground, was Rodriquez.

"See you in hell mutant," he uttered harmlessly as he fell to the earth, finally consumed by the pain that wracked his body.

Madrox released Cecilia and Jubilee. They watched silently as Madrox slowly walked up the hill. He reabsorbed his duplicates as he went.

He reached the top of the hill and looked down at the man who'd given it all to save Madrox, a mutant.

The man he himself had just beaten in the woods mere minutes earlier. Madrox removed his hat slowly in remembrance and knelt down to close Rodriguez's eyelids. He lifted Rodriguez's gun and stood.

He looked down the hill at his soldiers, his fighters, his friends.

All were now awake; all were staring at him, their leader.

"Well now what do we do?" Jubilee called up to Madrox.

He just smiled, and turned to watch the end of a sunset.