Chapter 3: It's time.

You run.

Crying out into the night sky, nothing around you but trees -- nothing before you but a small dirt trail.

And then it happens.

You trip, falling to the ground.

Like something out of a bad horror movie, a random stump had been in your path. And as you turn, looking up to your oppressor, a look of fear comes over her face.

Wait a minute, she's got you cornered ... right where she's wanted you since the pursuit began. Why is she looking down in fear -- even stumbling back?

And then you realize it, as the pain hits you. Raw, pink energy flows from your mouth and eyes -- busting through without warning.

You were only fourteen years old.

Elizabeth Braddock, Brittanica ...

...It's time to wake up.

And so she does, sweat dripping down her forehead. Pushing her purple hair away from her face and behind her neck, she sighs. The same dream. Again. It always leads to the same thing. Her powers had kicked in for the very first time.

It was before the ... change ... into what she is now. And we're not just talking mutant, either.

Brittanica shook her head, trying to rid herself of the thoughts. She glanced over at the clock upon her night stand in her temporary room. 5:45 AM. This ... X-Mansion, as some of the others called it ... was somewhat appealing. More so than she would let on. Bloodstorm, however, noted that this was not StrategiX's base. Only that they were staying here temporarily.

Oh well. She'd heard StrategiX's base was a Castle. Not too shabby. Brittanica quickly leapt from her bed, moving to her uniform, and slipping it on. It was time for her to train.



Complete and total silence.

Something that is rarely achieved, but has become a reality for Elektra and Forge.

Forge had never experienced anything like what was going on, but Elektra ... Elektra has.

The last time she was here was with Havok, who remained unconscious in the back. But even then, Havok ventured alone into the darkness. On the journey she's going to have to take.

The journey which she had intended to take alone, until Forge was discovered, having stowed away at the command of Bloodstorm.

Within the next few moments there was a blinding light. Both Forge and Elektra shielded their eyes -- it was the brightest thing either of them had ever seen. When their eyes reopened, a new setting was before them.

Where once there were skies, there was now complete and total darkness. And then there is another flash of light -- but nothing compared to the last one. It was more like a spotlight.

Seemingly from nowhere, pointing to nowhere.

Until a figure steps into the light, glaring up at the jet. All around him, despite the light, was darkness -- shadows. It was as if he had them at his very command. His face was shrouded, hidden behind a cloak. The long, flowing cape he wore swirled all around him.

"Welcome to my home."


"What have you been up to since we saw you last?" Dr. Cecelia Cassidy, otherwise known as Revamp, looked across the breakfast table to Samuel Guthrie -- Momentum.

"A lot, actually," the Kentucky native began, chowing down on his cereal. "Ah went back home for a while, helped out with the family."

"He's so different from the vibrant young man he used to be. Most likely because of what happened to Paige. He couldn't have known ... But he refuses to accept that, and I'd rather not bring it up, Cecelia thought to herself, until finally speaking. "I remember seeing your picture in the paper. From your work with the Avengers."

"It wasn't anything big, really," Guthrie smiled, recalling the experience. "Just a mission or two."

"Well, you're here in the big leagues now. Officially. Which is exactly what Sean had in mind for you. I know you can make him proud."

"Ah sure hope so."


Alex Summers floated upright, now in the spotlight standing next to the man who had hours ago welcomed the Blackbird and its occupants into his home. Beside the unconscious Summers stood Elektra and Forge.

"Do you think you can help him?" Elektra asked simply.

"You should know the answer to that, Elektra -- unless you doubt me?"

"I was taught never to doubt anyone," she replied in a threatening tone, "but after Havok's current state, and it being your orb that did it to him, I'm skeptical."

"There was an outside force here," the cloaked man replied simply -- an edge to his voice. "I had not anticipated it."

"Perhaps you should have," Elektra hissed.

"Perhaps you should mind your tongue. I will need silence, Elektra. Leave me."

Elektra blinked -- and when her eyelids opened, she found herself back in the Blackbird. Forge was at her side. "Who ... was that?"

"They call him Strange," Elektra said flatly before returning to her thoughts. "And Strange he is, indeed. Years ago, the man was the Sorcerer Supreme -- working alongside the world's most powerful super-heroes, making a name for himself. Havok never told me what happened to him ... only that there was a battle with Reed Richard's son that somehow led to Strange's current whereabouts ... and the fact that he can't leave this place ... whatever this place is."

Elektra's thoughts stopped, and she looked to Forge once again. "And before you ask anymore questions -- Shut up."

Forge was silent after that.

Down in the spotlight, Havok's feet planted themselves upon the ground in front of the shadow-cloaked man called Strange. His eyes had gone milky white, and he was silent. Within moments, an old Latin spell was being uttered by the sorcerer.

Brilliant color schemes of energy began to flow from Strange, stopping at Havok until eventually moving on to swirl around the two men. They grew closer, the energy pulling them together. The entire time words continued to pour from Strange's mouth.

It came so natural that the awed Elektra and Forge, who looked down from the Blackbird, would have sworn he was born with the gift.

Alex's body had been swaying back and forth slightly along with the energy, but it had stopped now. His eyes returned to normal, and he looked onward to find Strange. His mouth erupted open, white energy pouring from it.

The white energy continued to flow steadily from Alex's mouth and through the air. It seemed to be going to a certain point -- and it was. It began to drift downward, and made the outline of a man.

Of Havok.

The energy swirled inside of the outline, and within moments it had become a mirror image of Alex Summers. And so it was. Dr. Strange stood in-between two Alex Summers'.

Mumbling something once more, Strange summoned Elektra back at his side -- without Forge. "I have done all that I am capable of."

Elektra looked on in confusion, "There are ... two ... of them?"

"Your eyes do not deceive you," spoke Strange. "There was ... someone else. Another Alex Summers. I cannot explain it, it is a complete blur even to me. It was as if there were two minds within Alex's body. I managed to purge one of them into the duplicate Summers you see behind me."

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Strange."

"Nor do I, not fully. I am no longer what I used to be, although I still wield great power. Rest assured, Elektra, that Havok will be his old self within the hour. Is that not all that matters?"

"...I ... suppose so."

"Very well, then. Make your leave."

* * * *

The flight home was a confusing one. Havok, just as before, lay asleep in the back -- while Elektra piloted next to Forge. Neither of them had any idea what had happened there, nor were they sure they wanted to know.

As Strange had said, all that mattered was that Havok was back. His words echoed through Elektra's mind, over and over again. Something about what had happened felt so very ... empty.

Something felt wrong. Her instincts practically screamed for her not to trust the situation, but there was nothing she could do. Her mission had been fulfilled, and she had to return to Scotty.

In time, she would learn that she had just made one of the biggest mistakes of her life.


Alex Summers was beginning to feel like he was home again. It was a feeling he'd been without for the past couple of days -- but now, thanks to Strange, he once again had it.


The man had his own agenda -- one that would ensure StrategiX several headaches in the future.

At the moment, however, Alex and Lorna Dane -- Polaris -- were sitting at a table in a Manhattan cafe. The two had always come here when they needed to get away from others, but this time was different.

"I brought you here because it's always been the one place we could talk, Alex," Polaris said in a concerned tone. "I know something's still bothering you. Talk to me about it."

"You'd probably think I was insane, Lorna," Alex said flatly.

"Insane? Never. Especially since you survived my father's first years as the X-Men's leader," Lorna smirked.

"I ... don't know, Lorna. For the first time in days I feel like I belong here. Like I'm home. But at the same time ... I don't know. I feel so ... lost. So ... out of place. Everything is familiar, but it doesn't completely click together." Alex sighed, "I keep hearing a man's voice in my head telling me that things are right."

"Do you think the man's voice is Strange? Elektra told the rest of us that's where she took you."

"I ... don't know. I wish I did."

"Alex, you're an emotional mess. A wreck. You've been through a lot lately. Between losing Madelyne, and the rest of StrategiX ... When we found you, you were dead. It's amazing that you have any memory at all. Between all of that, that ... orb, and your direct contact with Strange..."

"Part of me knows this is right, but there's another part that is shouting this is so very, very wrong. I look at you, Lorna, and I know I'm in love."


"I've always valued you as one of my closest friends, Lorna. But I look back at Madelyne ... my dead wife ... and I don't feel anything. When I look at you..."

"Alex, stop it. You don't know what you're saying."

"...That's exactly my point, Lorna! I don't know what's going on! Strange ... did something ... to me."

Polaris wrapped her hands around Alex's -- as much as she could, anyway. Her eyes met his and she smiled. "Mr. Summers, listen to me ... and listen good. I'm here for you -- We all are. But you have to let this ... whatever this is ... go. You're still here for a reason. Prove it."

Alex simply nodded, going to his thoughts. "Lorna is right. I don't know what this is.. these thoughts that I can't help but think. The voice that I keep hearing in my head ... if it is Strange, then he's telling me everything is fine. Everything is perfect, and as it should be. But is it? Something still feels out of place..

...Why can't I remember...?"

Alex's thoughts were interrupted as Polaris stood. "We should be getting back." The woman looked down at their cups -- still practically full. But it's not like she had come here for the coffee.

"You're right," Alex replied. "Lorna?"


Alex sighed, the same confused look on his face. He managed to push back his insecure thoughts and speak once more...



"You think these ones'll bleed as much as the last batch did, Logan?" The man known as Creed spoke with a vicious smile. "I love it when they bleed."

"Don't get too greedy, Creed, " the leader of the Wolverines spoke. "Make sure you save some more for the others this time. Or I'll learn ta love it when you bleed." The man was short, hairy, and wore only a loin cloth. But most noticeably, he had three claws protruding from each of his hands.

Creed only grunted in response. He knew his place.

Logan turned to the four men which made up The Wolverines, and spoke simply.

"It's time."