As with the first story, I'm basically ignoring Wolverine Origins and First Class (well, they basically ignored the trilogy) and picking up where I left off.
The three mutants were running. All other thoughts had long since disappeared from their mind except the desire to escape. But behind them the repeated thump-thump-thump of the metallic feet hitting the ground reminded them that their pursuers were remorseless and relentless, never tiring.
They turned and faced the three giant robots, who loomed over them, standing over twelve feet tall. One of the three mutants fired off a shockwave blast from his hands at the nearest robot. It barely reacted to the hit before sending back an energy charge that burnt a hole in his chest, dropping him dead to the floor.
The other two raised their hands in surrender. One of the robots whipped out a metal cable that surrounded them and imprisoned them. They were helpless to resist as they were dragged away to their fate…
Henry Peter Guyrich turned off the video clip.
He turned to face his audience: The President and Secretary Trask. "As you can see,"he remarked, "the proposed Sentinel robots would be quite effective."
"If we are to believe this computer demonstration,"the President observed. "But you haven't actually built these robots and set them against real mutants, have you?"
Guyrich forced a smile. "No,"he conceeded. "But this threat exists and we must work to contain it."
"I have yet to see any sign of a threat."
Guyrich gaped at the President in astonishment. "There have been at least four times in recent years when evil mutants have brought about a near holocaust. If the next Magneto or Apocalypse comes along, they won't send us a warning letter first. Are we forever to rely on the X-Men?"
"Your disdain for the X-Men is well-documented,"Trask reminded him.
"I make no attempt to hide it. Wherever we might believe their loyalties lie, they are a law unto themselves. Control of the situation must rest in the hands of government agencies. The Sentinels are the next step in the operation that began with the creation of the roboguards. And I would have expected some support from you, General, given that your son is in charge of the project."
Trask bristled slightly. "Colonel Laurence Trask has my support as his superior officer, nothing else. He makes his own decisions and they are not necessarily the same I would make."
Guyrich realised he had made a mistake. "I apologise for the presumption, Secretary. Nevertheless, Mr. President, I believe that this is the way forward."
The President considered this. "Your demonstration showed a mutant being killed."
"It was well within the bounds of the rules of engagement. The Sentinels will be programmed to defend themselves and the public, not to kill mutants indiscriminantly."
The President nodded slowly. "Very well. You have my permission to begin construction of the test robots."
The silence outside the Danger Room was practically deafening. The two older X-Men and the three younger students, all dressed in the black leather outfits they wore for combat training, fidgeted awkwardly, none of them sure how to break the silence.
Finally, Nightcrawler gave a broad grin and disappeared in a puff of smoke, reappearing hanging upside down with his tail wrapped around the door frame. "Can you do that?"he asked.
"No,"Jubilee conceeded. "But I can do this." She generated fireworks from her hands and scattered them around the air, where they exploded harmlessly.
"That's good,"Nightcrawler agreed. "You would do well in the circus."
"I could be the strong man,"Colossus suggested.
"I could break glasses with my voice,"Siryn offered. "Although that's not really a circus thing."
"We can adapt,"Nightcrawler told her.
Only Wolverine didn't seem inclined to join in the banter. His expression remained sullen. "Well, who needs combat training?"he commented. "Next time an evil mutant comes a-calling, we'll just show him some card tricks."
The rest of them lapsed into silence again.
It was broken by the sound of running feet as the other two members of the session came rushing down the corridor, hair askew and looking as though they'd put their uniforms on in a hurry. Bobby and Rogue skidded to a halt a few feet away from them, looking bashful. "Sorry, Logan,"Rogue put in.
"We lost track of time,"Bobby added. "My fault."
Wolverine looked at them both without blinking. "We understand. The whole being able to touch each other thing is still new to you. You want to practise." Their faces reddened even more. He took a step closer and whispered to Bobby. "You careful?"
Bobby gulped. "Yes, sir. Always."
"Good boy." Logan turned towards the Danger Room. "Saddle up, folks, this is where the fun begins."
Kitty smiled with delight as she watched Warren weaving about in the sky above her. It was his first flight with his new wings, after the old ones had been destroyed in the crossfire of the battle between the Brotherhood and the roboguards. Moira McTaggert's prediction when she examined him after the business with Apocalypse had proved correct: They had regrown. Only his blue skin, and his insistence on the codename Archangel, remained as evidence of what he had been through.
He came into land next to her with a whoop of joy and flung his arms around her, lifting her off her feet. "I did it!"
She smiled at him. "You were brilliant."
"I didn't think it would be so easy." He kissed her lightly. "You should have come with me."
She took his hand and shook her head. "This was your time. I can tag along for your next flight."
He put an arm round her shoulder and they headed back up towards the mansion. Gambit and Leech were sat at a table outside the building, both of them with a selection of cards spread out in their hands. "So, raise or call?"Gambit asked.
Kitty looked at them in shock. "Remy, are you teaching him to gamble?"
"Relax, belle. We play for match sticks. I just practise."
"All the same…"
Leech looked at her in annoyance. "It's okay for me to fight Apocalypse but not to play cards?"
Warren grinned at him. "Sometimes life's funny like that."
"There's no-one else for me to play with,"Gambit pointed out. "Logan and Kurt are training the youngsters and Hank's gone back to Washington."
"What about Storm?"Kitty asked.
Gambit shrugged. "When is she ever here?"
Forge shot a furtive look over at where Storm was sitting. Even though they'd be working closely these last few months, she was still unaware of much of what went on in his laboratory. Satisfied she wasn't listening, he returned his attention to Guyrich's telephone call. "Go ahead."
"We have authorisation from the President for the construction of the Sentinel prototypes."
"Now?"Forge asked in surprise.
The irritation in Guyrich's voice was evident. "You told me you were ready."
"I am but…I have certain other projects on the go at the moment."
"Cancel them. This has top priority."
There was one project that Forge had no intention of cancelling. But like Storm, Guyrich didn't need to know everything. "I will have the prototype Sentinels ready in two days' time."
"All right. I'll arrange the demonstration for then." Forge heard Guyrich hang up.
Storm barely seemed to have registered that he'd left the room. She was still staring silently at their completed work when he rejoined her. "Ororo?"he asked gently.
She looked round. "Is he ready?"
Forge gestured to the metal form in front of her. "It is ready. He is another matter."
Storm nodded. "I'll get in touch with Moira. It's all up to him now."
As Storm went to make the call, Forge looked at his creation with pride. Though he had never met the man, he knew that in terms of physical appearance the automaton was a perfect replica of the person they were hoping to give life again. Professor Xavier.