Fan Fiction: X-Men: Sanctuary #4 by Kyle Phoenix

X-Men: Sanctuary Issue # 4 By Kyle Phoenix

San Madre, Argentina, South America:

"We can't get any closer?" Nightcrawler asked incredulously, trying to look at a town from five miles away even through advanced binoculars wasn't easy.
Hunter pointed to the valley that bordered the town on three sides. "They chose this town because there is only one avenue of land entrance. They also have monitoring sensors throughout the valley ridges."
"Ok, so how do we get in and what do we do once we're there?' Spike asked, her and the rest of the X-Men crouched in the under brush on the side of a cliff.
"Yes, how do we separate out the infected from the non-infected?" Karma asked.
"There is no separation. All of them are Brood infected. The entirety of the town," Hunter replied.
"All of them?!" Frenzy asked in shock. "There have got to be about five thousand people there. We're no match for that!"
"We have to find a way to contain them and then destroy them all," Talisman offered. "They've stayed together obviously to build a strong enough base of power to leave here and attack the Shi'ar Empire. Or what's left of it. But their presence here maintains the constant threat of simply their split off into a thousand different directions and infecting the whole planet. The world would be overrun, conquered before we could even marshal a defense."
"Maybe we should call in the Avengers? I mean just as consultants, I'm not saying we can't do this, just consultants?" Spike suggested.
They could take the continent before we or any other heroes could get here in force. Also it would be noticeable if suddenly the Avengers came here.. Which brings us back to how we stop them without a nuclear warhead? Chamber asked telepathically.
"My plan is risky. Within my ship is a cryogenically frozen Brood, the one that you saw, Karma," Hunter nodded at Karma who grimaced at the memory of Tran phasing through the ship and coming face to face with the monster. "We cover ourselves in its' secretions, a resin, so as not to "smell" different than the other residents. Infiltrate the town and get to the reactor core of the star ship they must be building at this point, under the town and set it to self-destruct. Destroying the town and all of it's residents before they can achieve flight," Hunter explained.
"The Defenders? I've heard good things about them. Ok, not good things but doesn't the Hulk work with them? The Hulk would be good here. Hulk smash, Hulk kill, Hulk stand in the middle of a town going nuclear. You know, that kind of stuff, Spike offered.
"Again, the same problem, Spike, contacting them in time without alerting the Brood. Hunter, are you sure this resin will safeguard us within that nest? If it doesn't we're as good as dead. They will impregnate us for sure," Nightcrawler shivered. "It's happened to me before. I do not wish that upon my darkest enemy and I'm not sure I have the right to ask any of you to risk that, even as X-Men." "I concur. Whoever is insane enough to do this has to be prepared for that eventuality," Spike pointed out. "I've studied the X-Men's files on them, it's not an easy process to remove the eggs once they're in." Bloody hell! When you put it that way, how about Thor? He's a tough one. The hammer, the whole God thing going on. Cecelia might have a point, a God in spirit and one in form might help, Chamber said somberly.
"Should anyone be infected we have my ship to go into space. There is still an operational Stargate on the border of the star system next to this one. We simply take my ship through it and back and the eggs are purged from our systems," Hunter said.
"Ok, is it just me or are there about fourteen thousand different ways we can all see this plan going afoul?" Frenzy laughed.
"For one, I can't have a Brood egg implanted within me, it's an evil species. I am a-----------nun is the best approximate term for why my body can't be compromised in such a fashion but I will back you up to the end," Talisman explained. "I have several very dangerous spells that I would be reticent to use against humans but that I can cause a lot of damage with to that town."
Nightcrawler nodded. "It might actually work best if only some of us are infiltrators but which ones? If there's a Brood Queen at the center of this mess, she'll know me. Hunter would set off their suspicions immediately. We need to get in, ascertain the threat level and at the same time leave a rear guard to either aid in escape or go for help. I doubt that the rest of our squad will get back from Tokyo to Australia in time to rocket over here."
Karma cleared her throat and they all turned to her, she'd been silent for quite some time. "My brother Tran suggests myself and Frenzy. Her mutant enhanced strength makes her the most able to resist them in a close quarter's fight and that would leave Nightcrawler here to teleport us out. And I can approach with the knowledge that Tran will be able to dissipate this body, even if I'm rendered unconscious."
"Thank you for voting me in," Frenzy muttered. "I'm not saying I'm not willing to do it, I just want to make sure I don't turn into one of those slugs."
"Chamber can act as a telepathic relay to the two of them," Talisman nodded and I can teleport into the town should they be close to being overwhelmed and wreck havoc like they can't imagine to cover the escape."
"Hey, what about Heroes for Hire? I've got a little bit saved up, we could all chip in and you know get Powerman down here," Spike grinned
Nightcrawler agreed wondering if Archangels portion of the team was working out so well in strategic terms. There seemed to be fluidity to their grouping. He wondered if there was relevance to Talismans assertion that Xavier had a deep influence over the one's who became X-men. Quasi-X- Men comprised this squad and those who had never been members before. He pushed it out of his mind. Something to ponder another day. If they survived this battle. "Spike, Talisman, work on a way to contain the town itself. Hunter, Chamber, wait for the signal of where I am to teleport into to activate the reactor's destruction and pull everyone out."
"This all sounds too simple out loud," Spike said in a worried tone.
"Oh, I'm sure it will fall apart three ways from Sunday but we'll pull it out of the bag!" Nightcrawler answered with a dark mirth. "That's what X-Men do!"


The scrying pool swirled in the center of the cavern. Small insects darted around the stone floor next to the ornate wooden chair, runes carved into the dark marble floor. A thin green hand grasped the arm rest then raised a single finger and the Sanctuary base appeared, next to it, slowly another image produced of Amara dressed as the Red Queen.
"Very interesting," Wraith chuckled, "I hadn't expected her to move so fast."
"No one did," Selene said as she sauntered over to the scrying pool, her heels clicking delicately on the floor. "It seems we may have to step up our operations faster than anticipated."
"Ah. War. Always a median option though this will claim quite a bit. Are you prepared?" Wraith asked her.
"This incarnation of the X-Men has far more possibilities than the others. More power over a greater span of disciplines. They are also not of such a puritanical bent as some of the others. They are..disenfranchised in a sense. "
"Yes, my hand is within them already. I am both pleased and troubled by how easily they've been co-opted on so many levels," Wraith replied. "Again, dear Selene, are you prepared?"
"Yes, yes, I am," Selene promised then drew her cloak around her and vanished.

Four Seasons Hotel, Tokyo, Japan:

A battered copy of Louise Erdrich's Tracks in her hand, Danielle Moonstar sat by the window of the enormous master suite reading by the two hour old sunlight. Or at least that's what it looked like. Warren Worthington sat on the edge of his bed in pajama bottoms, having recovered from being held prisoner by a serial killer the night before, his wings occasionally expanding and contracting the way one would stretch their arms. He stared out of the glass terrace doors at the horizon. To the casual observer it would look like two lovers, quietly in each other's presence before breakfast. In truth, there was a fierce argument going on through their psionic rapport.
Listen to me, Warren, I'm right!
That Amara set us all up? Every one of us? The X-Men? Channel? The Hellfire Club? That's ridiculous! No offense but she's not that bright.
What's that suppose to mean? I saw that flash! For her age? Like me?!
Get out of my head if you don't want my honest opinion!
Warren, she knew the Black Bishop's name---Carlos---Carlos Allegra but only myself, Paulie and, Bobby had been introduced to him. She'd never met him before but she knew his name!
Maybe they've met before. She has been bumming around Europe. He's a Spaniard, very big in oil and textiles in Europe. I've known of him and his family for years, in passing.
So how come she's the only one out of the whole scenario who wins, huh?
Why would she do this, Danielle?
To avenge her mother, to gain status in one stroke, to become a better bitch, I don't know! She can kill Selene with Shaw's help and be a Red Queen in the friggin' Hellfire Club----a position last held by Phoenix!
The Phoenix entity. Not the real Jean Grey.
Whatever! Are you listening to me?
Yes, you're like a goddamn boom box in my head. Tone it down.
Sorry. I just can't talk to anyone else about this. Not yet. I don't even want it verbalized out loud.
I understand that but what are we suppose to do? Confront her? Stop her? From doing what? How? She averted a war in the Hellfire Club by placating both sides.
She doesn't know the whole story.
What story, Dani, what else are you holding back?
She blames Selene for her mother's death but she's never faced up to the fact that Selene may be her mother. Selene went out of her way to fight Channel not to kill her. He said Selene was inside of her body desperately negotiating for Amara's life. She's had a thousand opportunities to off her and hasn't. And in Nova Roma, things happened, I got a feeling.... Warren, it may look like a solution, like a better way but this has got time bomb written all over it.
Ok, calm, down, chief, we're ok. I'll keep my eagle eyes open. I'm not saying I'm convinced and we can't know without a telepath scanning Amara but it does add a new angle to things.
Dani took a deep breath and put down her book as he walked over to the chair in front of the terrace doors, his feet sinking into the plush carpeting. He leaned down so that they were facing each other, his eyes twinkling with thrill.
Yeah, it is, she whispered in his head.
What? Oh. You caught that feeling? It does feel like it. Being married. Yes, it does feel like that sometimes. I'm sorry that we're locked into this rapport. We didn't have a chance to get to know each other, to get comfortable with each other first. Scott and Jean did. We all did with the professor. That jaunt to finding you? Into your head, into your soul? That was too much, too fast. I remember pieces, Warren admitted. Not everything. What did you see? "Too much," Dani said aloud then got up and walked out, shutting down her end of the rapport.

The entire fourteen foot high by twenty long bedroom wall was mirrored. A single piece of glass. And Amara studied herself very carefully. A red bustier with matching bottom briefs, thigh high boots and the heavy red velvet, silk lined cloak. She'd added her X-men uniform under the boots and briefs, her choker with the monogrammed X on it. One of the team but also meshed with something else. The Red Queen of the Hellfire Club Inner Circle. The last person to bear that title had destroyed a sun, killed 5 billion people. Her fair-haired tresses hanging below her shoulder was a beautiful effect upon the deep blood red of her cloak. She smiled and her eyes flashed for a moment and her hair turned to flickering, dripping flames, a corona of ever changing energy that said much more than simple locks of hair. But to display her power would be ostentatious. Something a commoner would do. She pulled her power in ever so slightly so that there was a gentle glow radiating from her skin, her face, as if she were glistening constantly and she knew that her temperature was at least fifteen to twenty degrees higher than a normal persons. Yes, that was a delicious effect. She focused and set her skins temperature at closer to 120 degrees, along with the glisten.
Yes, yes, that was it. Amara laughed heartily then twirled around. 
Dani was standing in the doorway watching her. "Danielle, you didn't knock," Amara playfully chided. Dani's face was sour and her voice hard. "
No, I didn't. I'll cut to the chase, Amara, what kind of damn game are you playing at?" 
"Oh, I am not playing. I am a Red Queen in heart and soul," she beamed. 
"You don't even know what the hell that means. You're, excuse the pun, playing with fire. Why would you do this? You've been to the future, I've been to the future! Selene got Roberto to join and now you. It corrupts you two!" Dani hissed, trying to keep her voice down from the others in the suite hearing. 
"Then stay closer, my friend. Don't judge me, but be my counsel," Amara walked closer and stumbled, falling to one knee from the hip high boots narrow heel. "Now these are going to take some getting used too!" 
"Shaw and Selene will eat you alive!' Dani said helping her stand. "Cute trick with the warm flesh. Is that for the men there?" 
"Or women," Amara said with a wicked grin. "Dani, I have my reasons and we averted a massacre between Shaw and Selene. A strong third party will keep them focused if not on peace then at least hesitant before war. I represent the X-Men and the future." 
"The X-Men?" Dani snorted. "This is so far from Xavier's dream, so far." 
"Dani, don't tell me you've bought into his prattle all of these years. The answer lies somewhere between Charles and Magneto, a third option. Personally, I want my children to live, to live a good life whether they be born powerful mutants or humans. Throughout history position and privilege have provided that kind of security." 
"I don't----." 
You don't know what it's like to be alone, Dani! I am alone and lost in this world. Part future, part thousands of years old. I may be too many things to be simply a fool or an X-Man or even a woman but I will be a survivor, you of all people, your people know that! I'm tired, Dani of not having people, a place, family, a heritage! This is my chance to start my own line, my own tribe," Amara said desperately, tears welling in her eyes. 
"Amara, I'm worried that they will eat you alive and spit you out as something twisted and evil," Dani said holding the trembling woman's arms. 
"Be my friend, Dani. Don't judge me, be my conscience, please but trust that I am wise beyond my years and it is time for allegiances. Hellfire members in the X-Men and now X-Men in their Inner Circle. I will make myself a vanguard, a stalwart but even I know I cannot do it alone. Stand with me as my friend, Dani." 
Dani wavered, the raw emotional distraught of her friend needed grounding. "Ok, Amara, we'll play your hand for now. I am with you. We X-Men will back you up." She still wasn't any closer to answering her suspicion that Amara had planned all of this. There were times when raw telepathy would've answered so many questions. If she could just pluck a yes or no from her friend's mind, but she couldn't. Instead she was relegated to simply watching Amara Aquilla, the new Red Queen of the Inner Circle and hoping that when the time came to tell her no to a decision, she was still listening to her counsel. 
"Thank you, Danielle. Thank you."

Dani awoke with a start and she was in a luxurious parlor full of Roman busts and single thrown that Selene languished on. 
"Child," Selene grinned, clad in a silk black shrift, watching Dani the way a cat watched prey. "
I take it you cast this mental spell for a reason? Not to kill me or I'd be dead. If you could kill me," Dani said calmly, clad in a white dress like a servant. "If you're looking for fear, you won't get it. Say your bit or let me go." Selene tilted her head in curiosity. 
"Not frightened. My have you grown, child! But I assume it has to do with the time you spent in Asgaard, hmmm? Yes, the scent of your work as a Valkyrie sits squarely on your shoulders like a cloak, for those of us who can see such things. Not even Xavier has an idea of exactly how long you spent there, does he?" 
"No," Dani admitted honestly, it had been one of her fears at being in his presence again, the look he'd given her. "He still conceives of me as a mortal." "And in all the ways that concern you I'm sure you think you are. But you aren't, you understand?" 
"I do. My sister Valkyries made that clear. Anyway, you know my dirty little secret and I guess the fact that I'm here is not about me but Amara?" 
"Yes, our Red Queen. I say our because she won't break her allegiance to the X-Men, in fact she'll surely now strengthen it. She needs soldiers, fodder." 
"I figured as much. It would be interesting if you or Shaw admitted that you were using to Channel to kill the other and she outfoxed you both. She turned you both to her advantage," Dani said smugly, thought about in the middle of their power games, Amara had pulled off quite the feat. 
"She's her mother's daughter," Selene smiled coyly. Dani didn't think she'd be so blunt with that possibility. 
"I take it that's a question you intend to play as a card one day?" 
"Perhaps. Anyway, I come to you while asleep, brought you to the astral plane to remind you to stand by her, to temper her fiery nature with your shrewdness; the maturity born of age." 
"Worried for her or about her?" 
"Both and neither. She was born and bred for this kind of game but she's entered it too rashly, too viciously. She's desperate for the status she possessed in Nova Roma, her new enemies will use that against her." 
"New enemies?" 
"Count, child, Black, White, Red and Grey. You've seen glimpses of some of the pieces on the Hellfire Inner Circle Board. But not all. Some positions are filled, others have thousands within their ranks. Learn chess. It's a fabulous game. Caesar enjoyed it." 
"You played with Caesar?" 
"Child, I taught it to him. You count your age by number, I by empires gone and buried that don't even have names on your wizened people's lips. Make sure that Amara stands strong as the Red Queen but temper her, this game isn't even in the opening salvos of the war it's to become. Xavier has no idea what the Inner Circle is truly after," Selene chuckled. "
And you're telling me this because....?' 
"I care." 
"A great many things seen and unseen. But Xavier also underestimates you, the Valkyrie part of you. Because he can't for all of his self-proclaimed psi powers see you clearly, see it clearly, he doesn't understand what it will see in a person, in a room," Selene whispered and then Dani's eyes opened and she was back in her room in the hotel in Tokyo.

Hellfire Club Inner Circle Coronation:

"Tell me why we're dressed like this again?" Jean Paul sighed as the X-Men entered the formal ballroom of the Hellfire Club, he was referring to the waistcoats and ruffled shirts that all the male X-Men were wearing. Amara was decked out in her bustier and cloak queen ensemble while Dani was in a Victorian white dress that billowed to make her look like an oval. But around her throat was a red choker. Same on the men, though all of their outfits were black velvet. It seemed that the chokers denoted allegiance to those who weren't pieces. Which Warren had explained was even lower than it sounded. They were simply the Red Queen's squires at this point. Danielle had to admit that the sumptuous banquet and dozens of people in the room in similar attire was truly amazing. She almost gasped out loud as a blonde haired woman passed by her with her much younger husband. She had one of her cd's! She was one of the most famous women in the world and she was a member of the Inner Circle! 
"Blessed Madonna! Holy shit!" Paulie muttered, gaping with Dani. 
"She's only a Rook," Warren informed them. 
"And you?" Bobby asked knowing that Warren's father had passed on his membership to his son. Warren's wings out and resplendent but in no way being gawked at by the gathering, shrugged. 
"I could push to be an Inner Circle member but I'm---- reticent. For obvious reasons." 
Sebastian Shaw lifted his goblet and the room hushed. "Come forth." 
The Red Queen walked to the center of the room confidently. 
"Kneel," he commanded. Amara looked him square in the eye and spoke calmly.
"I will fulfill anything my liege asks of me. But a Queen worth the title, never kneels." There was an almost physical silence in the ballroom and Dani felt Warren trying to soothe her through their rapport. She thought that Amara had made a tremendous mistake but slowly hands went up, goblets raised. They were acknowledging the Red Queen's strength. 
"Very good, Lady Amara, you'll lead your pieces well when your King isn't present," Shaw smiled. "And strike when my King orders or to protect my pieces interest and the good of the Inner Circle," she replied. And then with great flourish opened her cloak and kneeled before Shaw. 
"Why didn't she do it the first time he ordered her to?" Bobby asked in a whisper.
"Submission is choice but not command to a Queen worth following, Warren answered. 
"Of course," Bobby said as if it were the most natural answer in the world. Shaw brought the goblet down to his lips, sipped it then handed it to Amara. 
"Welcome to the Inner Circle, Lady Amara, you are it's new Red Queen. Drink of us." 
"I don't want to know what's in that cup, do I?" Dani muttered. 
"No, you don't," Warren answered. Dani closed her eyes, wondering what kind of unholy covenant her friend was making and how much of this world Warren knew. It was then she felt a whisper, almost a scent and she glanced up. Her psi powers dampened by the baffles in the room but there were some that couldn't be hidden. Sure enough, Emma Frost, the White Queen was at the farthest end of the ballroom, amidst a crowded of people in gleaming white clothing. Pieces and their "servants" but she had felt him. Hiding and then slipping away, his presence mandatory she was sure. And Dani understood why there were so many people and why for that one instance Shaw had drawn everyone's attention to the center of the room, other pieces wore masks s if at a costume ball. None of the others noticed it, couldn't have but she'd had Selene's dream chat about her being a Valkyrie to enhance her senses. Senses psi baffles could do nothing too. A Valkyrie could spot power. Charles Francis Xavier, the White King slipped away believing one of his most closely guarded secrets kept.

"You must be very proud of your friend," Carlos Allegra said to Warren, the coronation officially having segued into a party of mingling and networking. 
"I'm not sure if proud is the right word. I wanted to thank you though for helping to rescue us from Channel's clutches. Speaking of which, what happened to him?" Warren asked, slowly sipping his champagne and watching the calm eyes of the Black Bishop. 
"I'm afraid, Warren that I serve the Black King and Queen, I do not question them," he said evasively. 
"He's a serial killer. Quite a few people died at his hands just to attack Shaw. I can't leave here without knowing that he's been dealt with. Perhaps you should convey that to your King and Queen. My commitment to seeing this through." 
"I will do just that," the Black Bishop nodded then walked away.

"Is this what you've always wanted, Amara?" Sebastian Shaw asked her as they danced a waltz in the midst of dozen of other couples.
"I was tricked by Selene into believing I was born into royalty. When her spell wore off I realized I had become accustomed to the illusion. To the gifts of strength of character," Amara answered with a shy smile.
"As the leader of the Inner Circle I must make sure that the other members do not fight without just cause. Let me make myself clear, my dear Red Queen, I know of your history with our Black Queen. These are not times to cripple our power with old vengeance's.  As your first act of fealty to me, I ask you to renounce the vendetta you have for the Black Queen," he said in a low tone, holding her tightly against his body in spite of the higher temperature her body was giving off. He watched as she fought an inner battle, her eyes glaring at him for long moments then going calm again. She held his stare until she realized that this would one of her true tests, acknowledging this man as her superior.
Amara nodded. "She is as safe as my teammates, as any of my allies."
Shaw's eyes went from deadly to twinkling in an instant. "Excellent! When the moment comes for you to unsheathe that vendetta, I will tell you."
For a moment she was confused then she saw his meaning in his smile and smiled broadly herself. He wasn't protecting the witch as much as he was aligning pieces against her one day. "Yes, my King." 

She laid her head onto his shoulder and allowed her glance to take in all of the guests who were dancing and milling about, every few seconds their eyes flickering to her, to the new Red Queen in the arms of the Black King. She heard a soft laughter from the other side of the room and saw Selene staring at her boldly. The ebony dressed woman, half in shadows raised a flute of champagne in toast to Amara who beamed back until Shaw's dance lead turned her away.

The Xavier Institute:

"Did you enjoy the coronation of your new Red Queen?" Charles Xavier asked Emma Frost as she strolled into the garden, the night sky was full of the moon and several clouds casting shadows on them both.
Emma smiled and stood closer to Charles, she in a simple white dress and him in a white tuxedo. "The question is did you enjoy it?"
"We've had glimpses of the future, we knew that we somewhat certainty, Amara would one day join the Hellfire Club," he said neutrally.
"And yet it still unnerves you?" she chuckled and trailed her finger along his chin. "Don't worry, Charles, your shields are as formidable as ever. It's simply my feminine instinct that sees you so clearly."
Charles kept his face to the night sky, ignoring her touch though intrigued by her line of questioning. Out of so many confidants, she had become if not valued....then preferred for some of his darker thoughts. "We such little time. We seek to change a world with but a handful of mutants. I often doubt my own machinations. And then sometimes I concerned that in the writing of this history, no one will understand the choices I made. The alliances."
"The greater good and all of that?" Emma chuckled. "I played the darker side of this chess game for years to cull the best mutants, to guide them and they still end up dead. Even Magneto for all of his bluster created more in Genosha than we ever have."
"Cassandra, another facet of me. She destroyed that. Amazing how we tend to be the weapons to destroy our own dreams, eh? The Sanctuary team, they have so many mysteries wrapped within enigmas to undo."
"I advised against creating such a team. They are a wildcard. We won't even touch on how Storm's team should be dealt with."
"I should mentally coerce them to stay?" he shook his head ruefully, this was an old argument with them.
"You say it would be but I suspect that someone like Cyclops or say Jean or even Wolverine are tied tighter to your mind than you want any of us to know."
"Emma, please, speak your mind. Don't concern yourself with insulting everything I stand for and against," he snapped sarcastically.
"I'm White King," she whispered then walked away, laughing to herself.

"I could feel your upset in my sleep, Warren, you're going to learn how to tone it down or I'm going to knock you out every night," Dani chuckled as she walked into the living room. He sat on the edge of an end table watching the plasma screen tv on the wall.
"Aliens tried to invade Madripoor, Storm's team rebuffed them. The island is in shambles," he sipped a tumbler of scotch then offered it to her. She shook her head. "We should go help."
"Why is that?" he was feeling a swirl of dark emotions from him, anger, despair, terror.
"It will be a good cover. My company helping them, backing up the other X-Men team with help."
"Lie to someone who hasn't got a line into your head. What is this really about?"
"The Marauders. They're raiding Lowtown. The New Mutants missed them during the Mutant Massacre, they destroyed my wings. I owe Apocalypse more than a man ever should. In order to get them back he twisted me. I'll start with his cloned monsters. I can't allow them to do what they did to me to others," he downed the last of the scotch as Dani came over to him and gently touched his wings. They felt like silk under her fingertips, so much like her beloved Brightwind's wings.
Warren turned to her and the rapport was so intense for a moment that her vision blurred and she saw his pink skin shimmer blue, his feathers felt like hard metal and then he became human again. He moved her waist length hair away from her face and brought her close enough so that she could feel his breath on her cheek.
"Is the attraction because of the rapport?" he whispered.
She shrugged. "It must intensify it."
"But it's real?" he opened up his lips and touched hers. For moment they simply touched lips, not moving further, enjoying the sensation of the psychic rapport tingling through their flesh.
"You're drunk and going through a lot," she shook her head and pulled away. "I agree with stopping the Marauders and I'll back you up with the others in the morning but we're not going to kill them, Warren."

Madripoor, High Town:

Dani stood in the shower, enjoying the fact that six different nozzles were trained on her. She had to admit that traveling with the X-Men, particularly Warren was like being a celebrity. They'd gone from Tokyo on his private jet to Madripoor in a couple of hours, there being no checking at customs or anything. In fact, Dani couldn't remember if anyone had even questioned them. Some of it was mutant hysteria, it was clear who they were, traveling with Warren, one of the most public mutants on the planet. But also it was the clout that his wealth bought. It was almost decadent. A triplex penthouse suite, again at Madripoor's premiere hotel ready to accommodate eight, each with a separate bedroom and full bath as soon as they'd arrived. And after this quick mopping up of the Marauders they would be in Australia, a place more to her liking. She could bring Brightwind from Asgard and ride him on the ground or the skies.
Yes, she enjoyed the luxuries but there were certain things she did miss deeply. Thoughts of Brightwind though brought up worries about her enemies there in Asgard. As a Valkyrie she'd made a few, particularly one who she knew was hunting for her now.
She should've explained all of this to the others, trusted them but there hadn't been time and she wasn't sure that Sarat would come for her as he'd sworn. He was a mercurial man. There had been many levels to their relationship in all the time she'd spent in Asgard. But explaining her relationship to Sarat would involve her explaining exactly how long she had been in that dimension, aging in ways they couldn't see. She wasn't ready for that conversation.
"Why so worried?" Warren said, his face suddenly appearing on the other side of the glass enclosure.
"I worry, it's what I do," Dani shrugged. The fact that she was nude didn't bother her, she felt so comfortable with Warren. And it had only been a couple of weeks with the rapport. What would happen after a year?
"Want some company?" he asked and Dani smoothed back her hair to answer. He knew that she was full of conflict about their relationship, about what level to take it to or not. It said a lot about his character and restraint that he asked her verbally, able to read her emotions clearer and clearer the more time they spent together. She did want him. She did. That they both knew. When and how.......? That was the only question.
"Yes," she whispered. She would risk it. She would risk her heart again even though she'd sworn several times in Asgard that she never would again.
He stepped into the enclosure, already nude but she hadn't seen that because of the condensation on the glass and the steam. He touched her hair first, his wings suddenly making the shower smaller and smaller as he fit them inside. Then they wrapped around them both , gentle feathers along her back and legs bringing her closer.
"Thank you for being there for me when Channel had me prisoner. It was really great to know I wasn't alone," he smiled with perfect teeth and crystal blue eyes, hair becoming wet from one of the water streams.
"Would you be here if we didn't have a rapport?" she asked and purposefully closed off their connection. She wanted to know from him, from his lips not his mind. It was amazing how people craved such an intimacy and she was content to dim it to truly listen to this man.
"When you came into the mansion, I was watching you and thinking how beautiful you were, how much you'd changed since you'd been away. How confident you always seem as well as simply being yourself without apology. That's very attractive, Danielle. Intoxicating. And to know it's standing with me, as my comrade makes you even sexier," he said honestly. 
They stepped closer and Dani let him kiss her, a slow kiss of just getting closer. Then it became more intense as she allowed the connection to open up with their minds. It became deeper, more intense, freer. Suddenly all the restrictions and restraint was lost to the psi rapport. Dani felt as if she were flying, as if she had wings and conversely she could feel him feeling his own touch on her body, what it was doing to her. It was beyond intoxicating, beyond even what they'd both experienced of telepathy, it was a symbiosis of consciousness.  What normal people tried to achieve with words, with physical actions was manifested in the flesh between them.
Bracing his wings against the glass walls, he lifted them both, cradling her in his arms, using the crowded space to increase their intimacy, to bring her closer to him. She reached down, her figures touching his rippled muscles, his mind explaining in a second that it was part of his mutation---no body fat. Her instantly knew how sensitive her throat was, how someone else had kissed her there once, someone in shadows, someone she both loved and was afraid of. With a batting away, the way one would knock aside pillows on a bed, Dani knocked aside her past and focused on Warren, on her future on consummating the mental to physical, on unification.

"I really do hate to break this up but we have a meeting downstairs. Charles and Emma are here," Amara said with a dry chuckle tapping on the glass. Dani shrieked and Warren backpedaled, slipping on the tiles and landing solidly on his rear.
"AMARA!" Dani roared red-faced, embarrassed, flustered and more embarrassingly still tingling and dazed from the erotic rapport.
"I came in here as the only other female member to tell you to hurry up with your shower, Danielle. How did I know you'd be in here---jockeying for position," Amara grinned then turned on her heel and walked out, her leather red X-Men/Hellfire Uniform looking like a blood stain seeping through the steamy mist.
Dani looked down and Warren was laughing.
"It's not funny, Warren, you have to command respect on this team. And as your back-up so do I! This was one of the reasons why I was reluctant to get involved!" she said and suddenly felt the giggle rumbling through her too. It really was hilarious and Amara being so blasé about it was indicative of how silly it was to pretend it wouldn't happen.
Warren stood up carefully, he didn't want to explain his wings and shatter the glass encasement. "It could have been worse, Emma or the Professor could have come a knocking in our heads and been in for quite a treat."
"Y-yes, that would've been worse," Dani said, suddenly feeling self- conscious standing in a shower naked with Warren.
"After this mission we'll have plenty of time to explore our rapport. We go right to Sanctuary from here, no detours," Warren kissed her and this time she let herself feel safe with him.
"The rapport makes it so easy to mistake it and an attraction for love, we have to be careful," Dani smiled, water dribbling between her face and his chest.
"Let's not be careful, let's be reckless!" Warren laughed. "Let's just call it Deep Like with Potential."
"I like that!" Dani exclaimed and they stepped out of the shower. "Now go downstairs, I'm not exactly ready to go down to them swinging hands, making goo goo eyes."
"Yes, ma'am!" Warren mock saluted then hurried out of the shower, grabbing a towel to wrap around his waist. Even though the door shut behind her, they were still connected with their minds----almost akin to kissing and they did so the entire time it took them to get dressed.

Emma Frost and Charles Xavier stood in astral form in the middle of the living, the X-Men all assembled, along with Carlos Allegra.
"I want to compliment you all on your first mission and preventing the death of Sebastian Shaw from the entity/mutant Channel," Prof. Xavier said calmly.
"The Hellfire Club is holding him in custody, we haven't told the IRC yet that we didn't officially get our man," Northstar explained. "It seems that we're here to try and catch another pack of mass murderers to make up for that snafu."
"I've spoken with Shaw and we've designed a way to keep Channel prisoner for sometime. Something that the IRC wouldn't be capable of yet in its infancy, as it is now."
"Professor, we should at least give them a chance. Channel killed seven people-----which we know of! What about the justice there? Or do we only look out for mutants now?" Dani sneered.
"Danielle, there will be certain extreme times when we have to mitigate laws ourselves, this is one of them. Channel, like the Shadow King is an entity, not a corporeal being. It seems that Camus is his brother and therefore a symbiotic "grounding", to this reality, as well as a mental slave to him, if you will. Camus has agreed to work with X-Corp and Shaw Industries in exchange he will no longer be a slave to his brother," Xavier calmly explained.
"And Channel? Last we saw he was a green globe," Paulie pointed out. "What happens to him now that Camus isn't his to manipulate anymore?"
"I understand that Selene is using him as a nite light," Emma said impassively and the room went silent.
"She is joking, right? Dani asked and Xavier had nothing but a slow smile. "We asked and encouraged Selene to turn her entrapment of Channel over to us but she insisted she was better equipped to contain him within her spell. I must take my leave now, there are other matters that need my attention. Warren, all of you, you are doing excellent work, I'm especially proud of you, Bobby for making sure there was no loss of life when Yashida Tower was nearly destroyed. You have all proven my trust in you to be X-Men was in no way remiss. Thank you," Xavier said calmly then turned to Carlos. "It is good to see you have finally aligned yourself with the X-Men. My invitation to join has been open to you for many years." Carlos nodded politely. 
"It is good to see you again, Charles. And yes, I am to be Lady Amara's personal guard and as she is a member of the X-Men then I humbly ask to accompany them. However, let the distinction be understood, that I have my reasons now and in the past for not accepting your offer to be an X-Man. I will stand with this group and give my life if necessary but only out of loyalty and service to Lady Amara." Charles visibly stiffened. 
"There are great many things I could teach you." 
"No, Charles, there are not. I am someone for whom your tutelage is both unnecessary and too late for," Carlos said, with an air of slight sadness. 
"Then hopefully you will find our camaraderie and friendship helpful to you," Charles said. "If you will all excuse me, I must take my leave, matters call for my attention. Good luck, my X-Men, Carlos." With that his astral self vanished.

Emma stood patiently smiling, her hair in a bun, glasses tilted on the end of her nose as she floated several feet above the ground in her astral body so that she could look down on them all. "However from what we've been able to glean from your report, there were some areas that could've been dealt with much more efficiently..............," and with that pronouncement she flipped open a pad and began her criticisms.

Sanctuary Base, Australia

"Hello," a bright red digitized head said as IT appeared next to Alex.
"What the heck is that?" Kitty asked.
"IT," Alex answered calmly.
"Yes, it," Peter smiled and pointed. "Can't you see it? Or is this some sort of telepathic thing?"
"No, I can see IT. Of course I can see IT, I designed IT," Alex said.
"Then what do you call it?" Peter asked.
"IT," Kitty replied.
"Yes, that's what I mean. It. The head."
"IT," IT said in a pleasant, slightly British accented tone with a smile.
"Aha, it doesn't have a name yet," Peter nodded knowing.
"Dear God....," Alex groaned.
"If you'll pardon me, Mr. Rasputin, I appeared to alert Alex to the presence of the X-Men Sanctuary team on an Asian television station," IT said, his head expanding into a holographic viewer screen.
"Tokyo? Saw that, IT," Alex said glancing at the screen. This was new, it was a vicious battle between the squad that had gone to Tokyo and the Marauders.
"The Marauders," Kitty said with gritted teeth. "That's not Tokyo either. Where is it?"
"It's right there," Peter offered helpfully tapping her and pointing at the floating head.
"They are in Madripoor. The section known as High Town," IT reported.
"Who are these Marauders?" Peter asked.
"A team of mutant assassins that killed hundreds of Morlocks some time back. They also gravely wounded, Kitty, Angel, Nightcrawler and your father, I believe," Alex answered.
"Then we have to help!" Peter exclaimed. "They can't be allowed to kill our teammates or more mutants."
"You're right, Peter but we're a good ten hours away. They're in the thick of battle, we'd never get there in time," Kitty said, then noticed she'd been digging her fingernails into her palms to the point of nearly drawing blood. She could see Harpoon hurls the energy javelins that had so seriously injured her before. She wanted him, wanted to hurt him for the torture of thinking she was going to die for months after his attack on her. And she'd had friends amongst the Morlocks, friends that had been killed or died as a result of the Marauder's attack.
"Well, I am essentially the manager here. I managed to arrange some transportation," Alex said with a smug grin and nodded up at an outcropping that overlooked the town like a natural perch. Atop it sat Gateway, bola already in hand spinning to open a direct gateway to Madripoor. "He, Xavier and I came to an understanding. Quite the nice chap actually. Amazing gin rummy player."
Kitty looked up at Gateway, she didn't have to go. If she did, she was back into the game. The one she'd left abruptly because it had claimed so many of her friends and loved ones, including Peter's father. Could she endanger him too? Could she join another incarnation of the X-Men and watch them die too? Like a recovering alcoholic, could she only have one "drink"?

Madripoor, High Town

Scattered throughout the rubble of High Town Madripoor the X-Men found that the Marauders had in no way tired of savagery. Each blow was met with the deadliest of responses and still the battle was inconclusive. Both groups were worn out by the melee and it still wasn't clear who the victor would be. Paulie was proud of himself. He hadn't screamed or cried out once and Blockbuster was smashing yet another massive fist into his body, sending him through a storefront. In came the big monster, bald and thick browed, his fingers flexing as he made another fist to strike Paulie with. They'd been trading punches for a few minutes now, unfortunately Paulie didn't have the muscle mass to back up his invulnerability. He could take it but he couldn't dish it out. So all he had was his wits and next to someone like Blockbuster, only a minuscule amount of comparable super strength. Mainly since his body wouldn't break or muscles snap, he could lift a car if he got the right leverage and his strength did seem to be a dozen times more than a man his size would normal be. Xavier had theorized that psychologically Paulie had developed his invulnerability from anxiety and fear about being hurt so that he was to some unconscious degree limiting a large increase in strength as well. Or he could simply be a mutant who would always lack super strength. Not every power set was complimentary. 
"Ok, you freak, I'm gonna have to take you down hard!" Paulie snapped, steadying his body for his next move. He would use leverage not strength to do this right the first time. Paulie stood up and took the next blows, then grabbed Blockbuster's wrists, yanked hard until the massive Marauder was tumbling head first down a flight of stairs. Paulie snatched up a metal rod and leaped down the stairs, standing on Piledriver's back, then with all of his might, drove the pipe into the man's spine. Though the skin didn't break, Piledriver howled in agony and swatted Paulie through several walls. 
"You will die slowly for that!" Piledriver roared, thrashing his way through the walls until he came upon Paulie who was laying curled up on the floor. 
"Guess what?" Paulie coughed. 
"What?!" Piledriver demanded. 
"Your inner probably ain't as tough as your outer!" Paulie screamed and drove the pipe into the mutant's open mouth, up through the roof of his mouth and into his brain, killing him instantly. Piledriver fell back, dumfounded and dead in an instant. 
"Surprised ain't you, motherfucker! Huh?! HUH? Yeah, thought I was gonna go all Cyclops on your beefy ass and play fair, right? Nope, I read. Not only are you guys the official mad dogs of the mutant world, you're also a bunch of clones. And I'm pro- choice, baby! You ain't nothing but something that ain't even covered by the goddamn Constitution!" Paulie spit on him, his own blood from the inside of his mouth, coming it, the inspiration for his final blow. "That's the problem with these X jokers, you gotta leave a few bodies around every once in awhile so people know not to fuck with you. Hey, maybe 'Constitution'? That's a good code name." He gave it a moment of thought then shook his head as he hurried back outside. 
Nah, it sounded like he had the ability to not vomit.

Arclight slammed her fists on the ground sending a violent shock wave that caused windows to blow apart, cars to tumble, and Psyche, Carlos and Iceman to fall to the ground. "Looks like I get to burn some X-Men too! Could this gig be any better?" Arclight chuckled. 
"Have a care, cow, those are my teammates!" Northstar said, slamming into Arclight from behind, then snapping back into the air, slamming into her again, then repeating several times, until she had been smashed through the pavement. Psyche, on her knees, didn't hesitate as she reached into Arclight's mind and brutally ripped out her worst fear for all to see. The hazy image seemed to be the incubation tanks these clones were held in and then it was opened and the face of Sinister appeared. Arclight crouched screaming in dread at the thought of being awakened once again from what she hoped would be death to fight again for a master she couldn't get away from. 
"Nicely done," Allegra complimented as Iceman froze Arclight from head to toe. 
"We try to get the job done," Psyche shrugged as they got to their feet. "Watch out for that arrogance, red skin," Scalphunter said from the other end of the street opening fire with a heavy artillery gun of his own creation. 
"Rabbit!" Psyche shouted as Allegra pulled her behind a car and Northstar scooped up Iceman who had thrown up a hasty ice shield to cover their dispersal. It had been ripped to shreds by the bullets. 
"My hero! Whatever would I do without you?" Iceman cooed mockingly. 
"End up the way of your pathetic shield attempt," Northstar said circling back. Scalphunter had continued to fire until the ice encasing Arclight was weakened enough for her to rip it apart angrily. 
"Bitch! I will kill you for that!" Arclight screamed charging towards Psyche. Psyche easily ducked under Arclight's first blow and came up with a mean upper cut that had barely any effect upon the woman. 
"Allow me," Allegra stand, his hands pressing on Psyche's body for a brief moment so that he could get airborne enough to kick Arclight back. "Not good enough, spic!" Arclight said, grabbing Allegra's foot before he had landed and swatting him at Psyche like a club. Psyche leaped over Allegra, used Arclight's shoulders as balance to flip over, grabbing the woman's hair at the last second. Before her feet were even on the ground she had Arclight bending backwards and then on her back being flipped into a car before the woman was quite sure what had happened. 
"Excellent," Allegra said, having fallen to the ground. He shoved Psyche to the side as Arclight charged like a mad bull between them and they both slammed their elbows down onto her neck. Psyche's hand came around with her psi bow and arrow ready, a quick flick and the arrow was lodged in Arclight's back, the woman writhing in pain. "Allow me for her slurring of us both," Allegra said. "By all means," Psyche laughed. Allegra grabbed the back of Arclight's neck and closed his eyes. A moment later she had stopped fighting the still embedded and glow psi arrow and was unconscious.
"You want to explain how you did that?" Psyche asked him.
"When we have more time, I promise."

Iceman kept up the return volley of ice spears at Scalphunter, who was running through a shopping center, firing indiscriminately over his should at the sliding Iceman and the airborne Northstar. The speedster concerned himself with yanking and dropping to safety people who were in the line of fire from the Marauder's wild shots.
"We have to end this, Iceman," Northstar said to his teammate.
"Ok, switch!" Iceman said and Northstar dove down in pursuit of Scalphunter on foot as Iceman's slide rose up, ice walls freezing up behind him to protect the bystanders.
Northstar zipped through people, cursing the fact that it seemed to be a popular mall and that they had to watch out from hitting the people but that Scalphunter could use them as targets.
Northstar increased his speed dramatically then stopped short suddenly, the air pressure lashing through the crowd and slamming them all to the ground, including Scalphunter. Ice blocks appeared on the villains arms and instant later but before they could secure him properly the sky light above shattered and Archangel and Harpoon came tumbled through, locked in a vicious fist fight.
"The glass, Northstar!" Iceman shouted.
"Yes, yes, I see it and I'm dealing with it, Drake. Don't get your shorts in a bunch," Northstar sighed and began soaring back and forth in a circular formation around the ground floor until an updraft as created. His only concern was that his teammate might find it disconcerting.
Sabine watched them closely, the X-Men engaging the Marauders and she held her breath because other than Meridian, herself, none of them knew which X- Man was their first target. Her employer was a shrewd, one to not let all of her secrets out at once. Now? She asked her mistress mentally. Not yet, soon.
"This madness ends now, you hear me, butcher! You killed children, you even destroyed my wings before but I won't allow it again!" Archangel roared as he smashed through the mall skylight with Harpoon. He'd spotted the man covering his teammates from the room and dive-bombed into him. Harpoon though surprised was far from stunned as he gave Archangel blow for blow , not a care to his fate as he fell through the air.
Suddenly Northstar's updraft stilled them both in mid-air for an instant and then shot them back up through the roof. Archangel used to the surprise of up air currents, twisted his wings so that they took full advantage of the push and yanked Harpoon almost a thousand feet into the air.
"You may be tough, Harpoon but I've learned not to hesitate," Archangel said to the Inuit man as he spun around and threw Harpoon towards the ground. Harpoons screams could be heard for almost two blocks and then they ended as he crashed like a small meteor into a storefront.
"Fool! You would think that you would tire of this!" Magma shouted at Riptide as he spun his body like a blur, razor sharp resin stars firing at her. "I enjoy a good kill, woman!" He said advancing towards her slowly as she kept blasting in front of herself, destroying the stars. 
"I am not an easy kill, little man! I am both an X-Man and a Lord Cardinal and I tire of this sullying of my hands with a monster low enough to both slaughter innocents and then rape a war torn country of the few coins it has left!" 
"Eh, it's a living, what can I say?" he pressed closer to her, forcing her to generate even greater body temperatures to destroy the resin stars. Suddenly he was close enough to grab her throat, his hands seemingly unfazed by the heat radiating from her. 
"Start with: Our Father who art in Heaven?" Magma suggested grinning evilly and two columns of molten earth shot out of the soil, did a sharp ninety degree turn and compacted Riptide between them.
Now, Meridian ordered. Sabine rejoiced and ran from the lobby of the bank the Marauders had been robbing and where she'd been standing off to the side in a trench coat towards the X-Men. The trench coat was flung away revealing the silk bodysuit with leather straps across the chest to hold the back sheaths. Pulling her swords from the sheaths, arms and blades blurring as she streaked at Paulie who was coming out of a store he and Piledriver had crashed into. 
"Stupid idiot," he said, her blades the least of what he was afraid of from this group. He arrogantly reached out to catch the blades in mid-flight only to have Sabine swipe her blades away from him at what would've been the moment of contact and kick her leg into his, swiping him to the ground. Before he could move, she dug her sword into the ground below, pulled up an electrical cable and flicked it at him, the other sword, cut the causing open. The ensuing shock caused Paulie to shriek before he could weakly roll away from the live wire. Sabine was still moving, charging towards the other X-Men at the end of the street. 
"I've got her!" Psyche yelled, manifesting and firing psi arrows with her bow shaft but Sabine leapt suddenly, almost twenty feet directly up then dropped to the ground in a tumble. She came up completely having hopped over the arrows and slashed at her adversary. Psyche backpedaled, finally forced to use her bow shaft to block one of the blades as it slammed at her. Sabine smiled as the katana split open and metal needles flew out. 
"Aiiiiiieeeeeee!" Psyche screamed as the needles dug deeply into her forearms that she'd brought up to protect her face. Allegra slammed into Sabine from behind, having moved faster and quieter than anyone would've expected. Sabine rolled with the blow and came back up in a crouching stance, blades extended. 
Carlos Allegra? He's with them now? Meridian whispered in genuine surprise. Sabine, you're no match for him. They probably don't know the full extent of his abilities. He won't allow you to kill him but he will restrain himself. Use that advantage
Sabine grunted an acknowledgement then thrust herself at Allegra who used the flats of his hands to block the slashes, his accuracy remarkably as fast as her hyper kinetic attacks until Sabine somersaulted over his head landing her swords pointing forward. He turned to her back and Sabine clicked two buttons on her sword hilts, the blades collapsed from facing forward and shot out of the hilts in the opposite direction. He expertly twisted but was still impaled by one blade in the mid-section and grazed in the leg by the other. Sabine retracted the blades and somersaulted over him again, tossing her blades up in the air as she slammed her leg into his kidney and then several sharp nerve pinches into his back. She spun around, caught the dropping blades, flicked a switch and electrical arcs burst from the blades lifting him agonizingly off of the ground. 
Very good, Sabine, keep him off balance! He's worth the electrical charge and not that idiot Provenzano! Meridian laughed then warned calmly. Behind you. Sabine twisted as Archangel swooped down, hands clasped in a fist and slammed into her side, his original intent having been more impactful but he'd stopped the attack on Carlos Allegra who was stumbling away, bleeding profusely from his side. Psyche was also crouched down, pulling what looked like thin knives from her forearms. Their psi rapport was leaking her distress and he purposefully focused calming thoughts at her. He wouldn't let this go any further. 
"We've taken out nearly all of your team, give it up, lady," Archangel said, having flown back a few feet to avoid the length of her blades. Sabine grinned as she turned to the aloft Archangel, spinning her blades and the ground trembled as Magma burst up from a fissure, between them, covered in lava and tossed a clearly broken Riptide, questionably alive, at her feet. 
"The ass never had a chance," Magma spat in disgust. "He may twist the wind but I am one with the earth." 
"Careful, she's a tough one!" Paulie yelled as the three X-Men circled Sabine. Have a care, Sabine. They are going to be much more vicious having dealt with the other Marauders and you've yet to acquire the target. Yes, mistress. Sabine leaped up into the air, almost forty feet then dropped down spinning and contorting wildly, her swords slashing the air violently in every which direction until her target was uncertain. She flicked another button on the hilt of her sword and three inches from the tip of the blade rocketed off and impaled itself into Magma's arm, the carbotanium not melting at the searing temperatures the X-Men's body was giving off. Magma shrieked in pain and shock and fired a blast of flame at Sabine who was already back flipping away from it. 
Magma reverted to her human form, the poison secreted from the opening blade tip. Archangel went to help Amara, who waved him away. "I can use the earth to help me!" with that the earth enveloped her body, a flare of flames and lava erupting from where she lay, expunging the poison and the blade tip. The earthen cocoon opened to reveal a healed but unconscious Amara. .
"Form on me! Keep out of her reach!" Archangel yelled to Iceman and Northstar as they rushed over to aid the others in taking down the last Marauder. 
"We lost Scalphunter when you came through the roof!" Iceman yelled at Archangel. Sabine merely grinned and pirouetted into the air, defying gravity as if it were a choice and not a definite, landing in front of a startled Iceman. 
"She's moving at super speed, that's why you're all so useless!" Northstar realized, ascertaining that the single woman had caused so much damage to his teammates. He missiled towards her but she was already in elegant, eerily silent motion. Sabine turned and swiped at Iceman, cutting deeply into his iced up body, then she plunged the blade deep into his chest and pressed a button. Small pores opened within the blade delivering a potent acid explosion within him. "AHHHHHHHH!" Iceman screamed as Sabine turned to Northstar as the speedster snatched her up into the air. 
"Someone helped Bobby!" Northstar yelled into his comm link as he rapidly ascended higher and higher, the friction, air pressure change and lack of oxygen intended to knock the woman unconscious. Or kill her. At this point in the battle that had ravaged the financial district he wasn't sure if the X-men were eager to make discernment on what was too far with wanton murderers. 
Mistress? Sabine questioned. 
No, don't kill him. He has potential. More than even he knows. He won't kill you, Meridian promised. Achieve his desired results.. 
Northstar felt Sabine struggle for a few minutes and then finally lose consciousness, he casually arced back down towards Madripoor island, thousands of feet below them, the extreme shifts having no effect upon his body physiology which granted him superior protection to high speed. 
"Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Ohmigod! Help me!" Bobby shrieked as his ice body began crumbling in on itself, the acid eating away his insides. Archangel looked desperately at Psyche. 
"What can we do?" Psyche shook her head, her arms still bleeding from the needles she'd pulled out. "Actually, I don't think we have to do anything. I'm not seeing the specter of death on him, he's not dying. He just thinks he is. Bobby, focus! In ice form you control your every molecule!" she shouted at him, reluctant to touch him as the acid was bubbling through the surface of his ice "skin". Carlos Allegra limped over, obviously badly wounded but still able to function. He grabbed Bobby's ice hand and closed his eyes, focusing. 
"Be calm, Robert. Steady your mind as the Professor taught you. Close your eyes. You are envisioning pain, there is no true pain. I feel no pain from you." Archangel looked warily at Carlos, he was still a Lord Cardinal of the Hellfire Club, he didn't trust him, no matter his pledge to protect Amara. Psyche spoke up, getting vague psionic impressions of what was occurring. 
"Relax, Warren, its some sort of shared empathic wave. He's focusing his psi self at Bobby's core, to get Bobby to stop articulating himself emotionally to a body that he relates to his other form. He's just ice now. By choice. By panicking, he's forgotten that." 
"I've dealt with her," Northstar said landing and tossing Sabine to the ground as he rushed to Bobby's side. "Do not die on me, Drake, there is still a plethora of embarrassing and humiliating situations I have to put you into." 
"I-I'm trying!" Bobby groaned. "Carlos is helping but it's hard to stop thinking of this as my body. To repair it. I'm not sure where to start. Carlos is weak too, in pain, don't let him do this too far," Iceman moaned, seeing the strain on Carlos' face, his eyes shut tightly as he focused his self into him to affirm his core self. Northstar grabbed Carlos' other hand and simply pictured in his mind Iceman as completely whole in a pristine ice form and then a picture of Bobby as human and healed. 
"That is what you look like, you fool!" Northstar said, immediately feeling part of the psi link. "Carlos, can only sympathize not heal you. It's why he's such a good Bishop and will never be a Lord Cardinal King." 
"Jean-Paul, are you still mad about Madrid?" Carlos teased, chuckling, even as blood came to his lips. 
"I know both of you. Better than you know yourselves. You both whimper and jest and capitulate to have identities. Well now it's time to, by force of will alone, live! When this is over, genuflecting will be payment enough. Now focus, Bobby, we can't send Carlos back to Spain in a body bag because you drained him too far. Though there would be an uproar of applause, it is rude," A deep white glow extended from Northstar to the link between Carlos and Bobby and both men seemed to draw strength from it. 
"O-ok," Bobby said and slowly the acid seemed to stop bubbling so rapidly and instead ice bandages appeared and then the acid was forced out of Iceman's body until there were crackling puddles on the ground. 
"Not bad, Jean-Paul, were you going to tell us about that healing light of yours?" Psyche asked sarcastically. 
"I've only been able to do this with my sister, top help her at times with her fractured identities, but I reasoned that Carlos's empathy could tap into my strength of will that they both obviously lack," Northstar said snidely breaking contact. 
Bobby and Carlos both gasped as if an oxygen line had been taken away and then Bobby was able to shift to a fully human form. Carlos merely dropped to his haunches, holding his wound, but not looking as ragged anymore. 
"We need to get that tended to," Archangel said helping Carlos to his feet. "And thanks, Carlos,. Between the Professor's nod and you unhesitantly helping us twice I'm willing to offer you a hand of at the very least amicability." 
"Why thank you, Mr. Worthington," Carlos rasped, "you'll find that our motives and morals are not as far apart as my associations may've originally brought you to believe." 
"Touching," Sabine sneered then leapt at the group of them. She kicked Bobby and Psyche to one side then hurled steel pins at Archangel, nicking his wings in several places. Archangel tried to flap his way airborne but a thick resin was spreading like fire over his wings secreted from the pins until they were completely encased in a dark gelatinous goo as firm, dense and heavy as amber. Never having been without the balance of his wings but still saddled with their considerable weight he tumbled backgrounds, taking Carlos down to the ground with him. 
"Enough!" Psyche said, standing up an energy staff in her bloodied hands. "This ends here and now!" 
"Allow me!" Northstar said, dashing into Sabine with half a dozen blows that seemed to be moving in slow motion as she back flipped away from them, throwing equally vicious jabs and punches at him. Northstar maintained a heightened speed, increasing it in increments to dodge her blows but at best they were both evenly matched, they were at a stalemate of blocking blows rather than truly landing them. To the others it looked like the ultimate martial arts exchange with no headway being made by either. 
"Danielle!" Carlos groaned and Psyche helped him to stand, using her shoulder to brace him. We can't defeat her because of the thread. Can you see the thread?" 
"Thread? What are you talking--------?" but the very mentioned of it suddenly seemed to make it visible. Or better yet, apparent, apparent to her. There was a thread, no wider than a piece of cloth thread that seemed to be in Sabine's back and extending up into the air. 
"I see it! So we cut it?" 
"She is literally on the strings of someone else. And if it's the Marauders she leads then I would suggest Mr. Sinister. I doubt that either you or I have the power to cut his string to his puppet, but we might be able to disrupt it," Carlos said weakly to her. 
"Ok, how?" Psyche mumbled, she preferred direct action and the range of Carlos' psi abilities seemed to not be amazingly powerful but incredibly keen. She wasn't sure if she trusted him more or less for them now being revealed. 
"Psionics is not my power base.merely an offshoot. But I can perceive on different planes. I can show you how to attack the thread itself if you'll link with me. It doesn't exist in this plane of reality," he whispered. The flurry of Northstar and Sabine's violent dance to Carlos' eyes an obvious standoff. 
"You're always so polite, Carlos, so cautious with your words. Say what it is or what you mean, man, we don't have a lot of time here!" Psyche barked. Carlos laughed, choking again then turned her face to his with his free hand. 
"For one so powerful and ripened with the Valkyrie essence, you are such a tempestuous one. Look at me, Danielle and see what I hold within my essence!" Psyche felt her mind being first poked at, almost cautiously, or rather politely. And that polite touching could only be the ever-courteous Allegra. Finally she felt his essence spreading over hers, touching her being without trying to pierce into her sense of Self, merely becoming like a drape over her mind. He leaned in and kissed her, long and deep and at first she was enraptured, amazed at the gentleness she sensed in him and then she realized it was an ulterior motive as his salty blood was forced down her throat by his tongue. 
Don't resist, Danielle, the Beast is strong but there shall be no harm, Carlos projected into her mind and Psyche hesitated wondering what he was talking about then she saw the Death image in his face, crawling up her flesh, seeping into her. Death was in his blood! But not like a biological disease, this Death was an Entity. So old that she got whispers of it in words, in names she knew were older than anything she could ever hope to speak. But she knew that it hungered. It hungered for light, for flesh, for breath, and when it saw all three in Psyche it instinctively grabbed at her. She screamed and tried to refuse him, to put up her psi shields but Carlos, weakened by a wound, held her in an iron grip, body and mind. 
Get out of me! You are one of Death's champions, 
Danielle, do not insult one of it's relatives, Carlos smiled and she felt him grip her in the comfort of his own essence as a barrier against the darkness, a shield from that which he gave her. He was allowing her to share in it but not be possessed by it, infected by it, as he was. Her first instinct had been to panic but now she understood that Carlos was both gleeful to share this secret and deeply concerned that she not be infected by it. She also caught the wisp of a secret of his, he had manipulated Amara into liking him, into wanting him as her second, as her bodyguard, but Danielle fascinated him. Something akin to infatuation, as if he had so many things he wanted to share with her, talk to her about that only she would understand. That they were akin to the other. 
Danielle shrieked again and tumbled to the ground, Carlos landing on top of her, their mouths still locked, clutching each other until he slipped unconscious. But she could feel that his mind was strong, glowing with power even and his body was healing, somehow the transfer had boosted his ability to heal rapidly. She could sense that the wound was almost completely healed. Similar to her rapport with Warren she could feel deeply into Carlos's mental state but unlike Warren, Carlos had experience in keeping his mind private, segmented. She could sense him, his presence, his healing but his thoughts were his own. There was something in the blood which had locked them into a rapport, some kind of animal----hadn't he called it a Beast? 
"Paulie, help her!" Archangel ordered, trying to crawl over to Dani. "It felt like she was drowning in something. Something in his mind!" He clawed his way across the ground trying to get closer to her, his wings like huge stone weights, not sure what Carlos had done to her though her could feel her calming through their rapport. 
"Dani? You ok? What happened?" Paulie asked as he lifted Carlos off of her and gently rolled him onto his back. "That did not look like a fight. In fact it looked like humping. Which if that's his super power, I will not be practicing with him in the Danger Room. Though if it's a new power of yours, I'm willing to be your test case when you need it." 
"It wasn't a fight. I'm fine. He's a psi but not like we understand, he was trying to show me something Help me see what he can see on Sabine," Psyche said, letting her teammate help her to her feet as she took a good look at Sabine and Northstar who looked like vague impressions striking at each other. But with a bit of focus, almost like holding Carlos's mental hand she could see them moving much slower, closer to human speed which explained how he'd been able to fight her. But the thread was a fully intact cord now, wrapped firmly around the hand of a woman, an astral figure that was a deep cerulean. 
"Who are you?" Psyche demanded of the woman. "Yes, you!" 
Meridian turned, mildly surprised at their battlefield improvisation but not afraid. I am the one who holds Sabine's conduit, Meridian answered as if it was simply the most obvious answer on the planet. 
"Who are you talking to, Moonstar? Don't go bonkers on me now!" Paulie asked nervously. 

"You're not Sinister!" Psyche yelled. Meridian considered her answer then psi spoke so only Psyche could hear her. 
As a noun, no, but as an adjective, I'd have to say, yes
"I take it you're seeing something I can't?" Paulie nodded. "Or that a battlefield hump drives you crazy?" 
"Yes, Paulie, a woman. She's all blue and she has Sabine on a leash. I don't think we're dealing with Sinister at all." 
Sabine, if you're done exercising, you may leave with our prize now, Meridian said calmly. First, Iceman, he presents the most threat should he be accidentally harmed to my long term plans. 
Yes, mistress. Sabine tripled her speed, easily knocking Northstar out with several well placed blows, his shocked expression priceless then she held open her hands and shuriken appeared, flying into Bobby who was barely conscious, disabling him. 
"Behind me, chief, I think I know what to do," Paulie said as he ran towards Sabine. Sabine flipped backwards, landing with the grace of a falling feather, opened her hands and beckoned him. 
"Sabine has no use for you, Paulie. You I have been given as a kill." 
"Is that right?" Paulie grinned as Sabine charged into him with a flurry of kicks and jabs that had no effect upon his invulnerable flesh. 
"How about this!" he laughed then savagely kicked her in the crotch. 
"Works on women too." Sabine fell into a crouch then looked up, gasping in pain and grinning. 
"Yes, it does, however everything is fluid." With those words, Sabine's flesh flowed like water until she was a man and came up with a blow that sent Paulie hurtling hundreds of feet, his exclamation heard across the battlefield until he landed nearly half a mile away. 
"I do not need to keep any part of my body that is in pain." Magma stood up, flames flickering from her body. 
"Psyche, I take it that Sabine is a metamorphic as well." 
"Amara, I'm not sure what the hell Sabine is! But he, is very good." Sabine's swords were sheathed and he laid his palms out flat, energy cascading outwards like a wave that knocked the two X-Men to the ground. Sabine rose into the air, his body surrounded by flares of plasma energy and he fired another cascade at them, this time though it was stopped by an ice wall. 
"Once I remember what frog legs told me, I realized that my body, like yours, is a choice. And right now I choose the form that is gonna kick your ass!" Iceman roared, rising on a sled of ice, his body grotesquely over- proportioned and spiked. Sabine was startled by the speed which Iceman traveled the ramp, not so much carrying him as extending his body up so that the slamming blow to the ground could be achieved. 
Psyche took the chance at lashing out with her psi power at both Sabine and the blue woman, reasoning that the invisible woman could reach her with telepathy so she could be struck down mentally. Thousands of images came sprouting forth from both minds and Sabine curled into a ball then spasmed out, plasma again tidal waving into them all. Meridian, miles away, slammed back into her chair. She had to retreat from Sabine, from the battlefield so that her mind wouldn't be so violently rendered as her servant's was. She felt for the mental connection again, and wordlessly encouraged Sabine to look beyond all of the manifested fears. They were not real. There was only one true fear that Sabine need concern himself with. Failing Meridian. Paulie and Carlos ran over to the two X-Women who were keeping their distance from Sabine but ready to strike at a moment's notice. If the mutant metamorph was wise, he wouldn't get up. But Sabine turned a feral look on his face and smiled. 
"For that, I will take pleasure in this." 

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix

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