Two figures waited in the snow-covered clearing. The ledge dropping steeply off into the rocky slopes of the mountain.
One figure leaned against his metal orb as the modified SR-71 landed next to him. The exhaust from the jet whipped his long hair around, but he patiently waited until the aircraft's engines were cut before shaking it out of his eyes.
Logan, as always, was the first to step through the Blackbird's doors. And who was there to greet him really, basically, just pissed him off. "What's he doing here?" He grunted.
Sabertooth, still leaning against his pod, just let out a low guttural growl.
"Believe me." Magneto said as he passed by Logan on the ramp. "We will need all the help we can get."
Mastermind ignored the staring contest and walked up to Magneto as he left the aircraft. "We have seen nothing since our arrival." He looked up the mountain. "But I can sense that he is here."
"Do you think you can take care of him?" Magneto asked.
Mastermind looked over as Xavier wheeled down the ramp of the jet. "If he is willing to help."
Sabertooth continued to smirk at Logan, as if daring him to try anything. Logan just remained on the ramp of the jet as the entire contents emptied out. A breeze rolled up the mountain, and Logan tilted his nose up to catch it. "We got trouble."
"Pietro." Magneto spoke to his son.
Quicksilver smirked. "Back in a flash." He said just before zooming down the mountain towards the pass.
Victor chuckled. "Took you long enough to smell them runt." He growled.
Logan narrowed his eyes and prepared to extend his claws.
Before any further words, or actions, were exchanged, a silver blur came between them. "Guys! We got big trouble." Quicksilver barked. "It's a whole army!"
"An army?" Magneto arched an eyebrow up behind the confines of his helmet. "Weapons?"
"Lets see." Pietro remarked sarcastically as he counted out on his fingers. "Swords, knives, POINTYFRIGGINSTICKS!!!!"
Eric looked back at the gathered mutants behind him. "If you do not object Charles. I do believe I am better at the battle planning."
Xavier simply nodded. Trusting that his old friend knew best when it came to such matters.
"Since I doubt there is a vast amount of metal up there I will stay here and deal with the attackers scaling the mountain." He looked at the new recruits. "The younger X-Men will wait at the entrance of the temple and hold it should any slip past me." He looked over the group, evaluating the powers of each of them. "Angel, provide them with reconnaissance. Storm and Mystique, stay in the jet and remain airborne and ready for a quick escape."
Ororo spoke up. "I want Jamie to stay with me."
Eric looked at the young boy. "As you wish."
Jamie kicked at the snow under his feet in annoyance. So close to being part of the main team. Ororo smiled and ruffled the boy's hair, something she knew he despised.
"Charles, I am sure Mesmero will be down there. Unless you and Mastermind can stop him our own people may turn on us."
Xavier nodded. "I understand."
"Kurt, stay with Xavier. Teleport him out if need be." He looked over towards the telepathic girl. "Jean may be needed to assist you, and Scott should provide you with some physical offensive powers."
"The rest of you will enter the bowels of the pyramid and focus on finding Rogue. I am sure whoever is behind Gabriel's actions will be there, so be careful."
The three teams started milling around, grouping together as Magneto had instructed. All save for Tabitha.
She marched away from the other new recruits, coming face to face with Scott. "I'm coming with you." Tabby glared at him, poking her finger sternly to his chest. "Any objections?"
Scott looked at the blond, hands on her hips, daring him to say no. "No maam." He said timidly as he shook his head.
Jean smiled, leaning over to whisper in his ear. "Your learning to deal with the opposite sex well."
She turned from her group as he name was called. Lance was standing there, nervously running his fingers through his messy hair. "Yeah Lance?"
He shifted uncomfortably as he watched the group beginning to walk up the narrow path to the temple's entrance. "Its probably better if I stay up here with the younger kids. I'd probably be doing more harm than good if I started shaking things up down there." He laughed nervously. "Be careful okay. And bring back Rogue."
She smiled. "I will." She gave him a hug and a quick peck on the cheek. "You keep the others safe too okay?"
"I will." He smiled. "You had better get going."
Kitty nodded at him and ran to join the others.
Pietro watched the exchange and rolled his eyes. Lance was such a dork sometimes, like he would ever be caught like that. Sighing, and once again doubting the competency of his fellow Brotherhood member, he prepared to jet up the mountain and wait for the others at the entrance.
"Pietro." Magneto's voice stopped him cold.
He turned around, his father's black and red silhouette ding out on the stark white mountainside. "Yeah?"
Magneto did not turn to face him. "Look after your sister." He simply said. "And know that I love you both."
Rogue glared at him as he stood in the corner of the chamber. She stared so hard at one point she felt her own eyes start to burn. "So where do you fit into all this." She finally broke the defining silence. "Just Sinister's gofer?" She practically spat at the silent Gabe.
"Actually." A voice from behind her filled the room as Essex entered. "Omen is just a failed experiment."
"You mean a kidnapper?"
Essex chuckled once again. "You were kidnapped from me while you were just a baby Rogue, Omen merely returned you to your rightful owner."
"I ain't got no owner!"
"Sure you do." He walked around the foot of the alter she was tied to. "You have no parents, and I certainty doubt you would ever call that traitor Mystique 'mother'." He looked over to Gabe, who hadn't moved. "As a matter of fact Omen here is actually the closest thing you have to family."
"What are you blabbin about?"
"After your abduction, I started experimenting with a blood sample I had taken while you were an infant." He unwrapped the spear and gazed at it. "I was able to locate your X gene and inject it into an unfertilized egg, and then use a normal human's sperm to fertilize it."
"It was my hope that he would take your place if we couldn't find you. However instead of having your powers, he has the complete opposite, right down to your hair." He lightly sighed. "It was error on my part, 17 years ago we had no idea the male's sperm is responsible for carrying the X gene to future generations, and by placing it in the egg before fertilization it miraculously reversed the mutation."
"By the time his mutation formed I had already invested a vast amount of training in him. It would not have been practical to simply discard him." Essex said as if he was speaking of a lame animal.
Rogue stared at Gabe again. "You mean… he's my brother?"
"Clone." Essex corrected casually. "But I believe 'brother' will do."
Mesmero looked to his right, seeming to gaze past the stone wall of the temple. "They are here."
He sat down the spear and crossed the room. "Go; hold them back as long as possible." Essex commanded.
Mesmero nodded, and left the temple.
Essex looked into a darkened corner where the torchlight faded away. "You should get in position as well."
Rogue arched an eyebrow up, wondering who is the hell Essex was talking to. That was until what she thought was a statue in the darkened corner of the temple moved.
The hulking figure smiled and grunted a response, slowly turning and stomping out of the main chamber.
Rogue watched as the giant stooped to pass through the door of the chamber. She prayed for her friends.
Carved marble emerged from the jagged rocks like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The gates to the mountain temple were nearly twenty feet high, lighted torches and lamps recessed in the walls beckoned them to enter.
"Almost like they are expecting us." John commented lightly as they entered. Ahead of the group a falcon emerged from one of the torches and flew deeper ahead of them, John controlling the fire-bird as it went.
Charles wheeled down the unusually clean corridor. The shape of the structure worried him. It was prepared, not in shambles. Whoever was here had been here for some time, meaning they were well prepared.
Mastermind continued to walk next to the wheelchair-bound Xavier. Casually he looked back at the redheaded young girl. "Are you sure about her?"
Charles looked up at him, and followed his gaze. "I trust Jean with my life." Xavier stated.
"Mesmero is very powerful." Mastermind began contemplating how they would go abut this. "I can give you two a place to battle him where you will not have to worry about hurting others, but I cannot help in the fight."
"If you can indeed provide us a place where I do not have to worry about hurting the others, it will be more than enough."
Mastermind smirked. "I doubt that."
A harsh wind rolled up the mountain, billowing Magneto's cape around him. He reached up to his helmet, turning on the small radio transmitter. "Are you in place?"
Feathered wings used that same wind to ascend higher over the snowcapped clearing and the temple entrance. Angel looked down from his flight at the group of kids at the temple's entrance. "We got it."
Erik stayed on the line. "Ororo, Mystique?"
Ororo looked over at Mystique and Jamie as the Blackbird circled a few miles off. Gazing back out the window she could see the highest peak on the mountain range. "We're fine."
The large group of X-Men, Acolytes, and Brotherhood ventured deeper into the darkness; Wolverine and the flaming Amara at the head, Sabertooth and Colossus covering the rear. "We are making progress." Charles answered. "My students are trained Erik, but look out for them."
Terminating the communicator, Magneto walked out in the sand placing distance between himself and the others at the mountain temple's entrance. He looked to the West, and the cloud of oranges and reds rising into the air of the setting sun. "Good." He said unleashing a grim smile. "Then let them come."
~~Short one this time I know… Just had to get them ready for the big showdown.
Star-of-Chaos: Oatmeal raisin please.
Rurouni Tyriel: I don't like writing for Scott all that much (not a bash, I just can't seem to connect with the character) and, Tabitha just filled everyone in on what he's been up to lately.
Jukebox: Not much action this time, sorry. But look out for the next one, I promise.
Starfire: I've wanted to do that Magneto speech for a while. Glad you liked it.
Ishandahalf: I thought that made sense, and glad too see I'm not the only one. Seriously, I thought that up before I started writing the fic.
Zero: Thank you. Your review actually made me get off my ass and finish this chapter. Now, as for the rest, I hope it won't be too long.