It has been a difficult adjustment period for the X-men. Their mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, has worked tirelessly to rebuild human/mutant relations in wake of Magneto’s uprising on Genosha. It hasn’t been easy, but a fragile status quo remains. However, a number of daunting personal issues have arisen.
Among them involved Warren and his father. Recently, it was revealed that the family company Worthington Industries has gained possession of sentinel technology, the army of robot humanoids designed to attack and contain mutants. While the intentions of Worthington Industries are unclear, Warren is suspicious of his father’s agenda and finds himself in a difficult position between his family and his kind.
Tied to this affair is a situation with Kurt Wagner, a young mutant with a demonic appearance who was one part of an infamous mercenary group known as Azazel. Recently, he was abducted along with his girlfriend, Amanda Sefton, from their home in rural Germany by the mysterious figure, Black Tom. He and his daughter Siryn have given the former mercenary-in-training an ultimatum: steal the sentinel plans from Worthington Industries or Amanda dies. Kurt reluctantly agreed.
However, Kurt’s abduction did not go unnoticed by his biological mother, Mystique. She and a reluctant Rogue have teamed up to save him from the clutches of Black Tom.
Mississippi – 12 Years Ago
“But mommy, I don’t want to go to bed! I’m not even tired!”
Raven Darkholme groaned as she held a restless 6-year-old girl in her arms. Bedtime was always an adventure with Marie. She proved to be quite a little rogue so far in her young life. But those were the perils of parenting. And tonight was sure to be more difficult.
“Sorry, Marie, but it’s getting late and you need your rest,” she said as she wrestled with the young girl.
“But why? I don’t want to sleep! I know when I wake up in the morning you’ll be gone.”
“Only for a while, Marie,” assured the shape shifter, “Mommy has to make a very important trip over to Germany to check on your brother.”
“But why can’t I come too?” she complained, “I’ve never even met my little brother.”
Mystique’s expression fell somewhat as she looked into the young, innocent eyes of her adopted daughter. She knew about her biological son, Kurt. She showed her pictures of him and told her about Germany where he lived. But they had never met in person. There was a good reason for that, but she was too young to understand.
“I’m sorry, Marie. But I can’t tell you.”
“But why?” she whined.
“Because it’s not safe,” she said solemnly, “There are bad people out there who would do you and your brother great harm. Keeping you here and your brother back in Germany is the only way to protect you.”
Marie turned away bitterly. Clearly she was too young to understand. But Raven placed a warm, reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. I can only promise that one day your paths will cross. Until then, you’ll just have to be patient.”
“But how much longer do I have to wait?” she complained.
“I wish I knew,” sighed the shape shifter, “But I tell you what…I’ll let you stay up a little later so you can write a note for Kurt. Then when I leave tomorrow, I’ll be sure to give it to him.”
“Really?” said Marie, perking up a bit.
“I promise. And if you’re lucky, he’ll send you a response. You can be like pen pals. Even if you can’t meet your brother, you can still talk to him.”
Marie thought about it at first. The mystery of her brother was almost as big a mystery as who her biological parents were. It wasn’t the same as meeting him in person, but it was enough to put a smile back on her face.
“Okay,” she said with a cute smile, “So how long can I stay up?”
Raven Darkholme smiled and rolled her eyes. She found it next to impossible not to get emotional with her. It wasn’t easy since the circumstances of her life weren’t easy. But for her, she would do what she had to do. Even if it meant avoiding the truth and leaving her behind, she would do it if for nothing else to protect that smile of hers.
Aboard Private Jet – Present Time
Mystique emerged from a dazed state as the jet started descending over Indiana. She and Rogue hadn’t said much since they took off. She could still tell she didn’t trust her. She was still very bitter from her previous missteps with her as a mother. She seemed to have forgotten or at least ignored the good they once had together. It was almost tragic, but that was an issue for later. For now, another challenge was at hand.
Rogue kept a close eye on her, ready to fight back the moment she turned on her. It was paranoid, but with Mystique it was necessary. At the same time Rogue couldn’t help but be a little anxious about Kurt. In the years before Mystique ran off, she and Kurt exchanged regular letters. From the time she was six to the time they were in their teens, she would write him and send him pictures and he would write back. In that time it felt like she really did have a brother, even though they never met face-to-face. Now she was finally going to meet him, albeit under grave circumstances.
“We’re almost there,” said Mystique, finally breaking the silence, “I’ve made sure a car is waiting for us on the runway. It’ll take us right to the Worthington facility.”
“Whatever,” muttered Rogue, “Will we get there before Kurt and Black Tom?”
“Knowing how he operates, I doubt it,” said the shape shifter, “We’ll have to work fast. For all we know their little operation could be underway.”
“That’s encouraging,” said Rogue dryly, “Who the heck is this Black Tom guy anyways? He sounds like a real dick.”
Mystique’s expression tensed with anger. Black Tom was one of a handful of names that always stirred a certain level of rage in her.
“He’s an old enemy of mine,” she said, “We go back quite a ways. When I was working with Kurt’s biological father, he was our chief rival. Think of Cameron Hodge only as a mutant with more brains to go along with his power.”
“Sounds pretty nasty,” commented Rogue.
“He is. He’s more businessman than visionary. He would gladly set the world on fire if it meant a quick buck. But my hatred for him doesn’t stem from his lack of laurels.”
“Ah’m sure,” said Rogue dryly, “Is it because he’s more successful than you?”
“No…because he’s the reason Kurt’s father is gone.”
Rogue wasn’t expecting that. She actually saw Mystique get a little emotional. It was hard to imagine now, but then again she remembered that her mother was capable of it one point, even if it was a long time ago. As bitter as she was, she set aside her sarcastic demeanor and got more serious.
“Ah’m sorry, mama,” she said.
“Don’t be,” said the shape shifter with an undertone of seething rage, “This is a personal matter for both of us. Regardless of what you think of me, Black Tom is far more responsible for our suffering.”
“Is he the reason why ya ran off on meh four years ago?” inquired Rogue.
Mystique groaned to herself. Rogue wasn’t making this any easier with all these questions. Even at this late stage in their relationship, she couldn’t understand.
“That’s a far more complicated matter,” she responded, “For now, our focus is on Black Tom and saving Kurt. We’ll discuss the more personal aspects another time.”
Rogue grunted in frustration. It seemed as good a time as any to get the answers that she had clamored for. But her mother was a stubborn woman. Either she was avoiding it or the truth was so bad it would make things even worse between them. And they couldn’t afford that when they were trying to save Kurt. Whatever the truth may be, Rogue set her curiosity aside as she held on for the final approach. For many years she looked forward to meeting her foster brother in person. At long last she was going to get her chance.
As leader of the X-men, Scott Summers was used to stress. Ever since he joined the institute, he had been dealing with it in some form or another. Over time he found numerous ways to deal with the rigors of classes, training, and leading the X-men. But as adept as he was in managing his responsibilities, there were times it got to him. Sometimes he didn’t even realize it. It was only when he actually took time to unwind that he realized how bad it got.
Thankfully, he had friends like Jean who kept him grounded. Over the years, she had done more than anyone else in his life to keep him from getting too caught up in being Cyclops, leader of the X-men, instead of Scott Summers, a normal man with normal limits. There had been others in his life that helped, but Jean always had a special talent for reaching him. This was no exception.
Sitting at a corner table at one of their longtime hang-outs, Cafè-a-Go-Go, he and Jean talked and reminisced about any number of topics. They laughed, joked, and enjoyed a few cups of coffee. It was just what Scott needed. Even as the world around them changed, it was comforting to know that some important aspects remained the same.
“Thank you for dragging me out here, Jean. You were right. I needed this,” said Scott.
“It’s not an easy job, keeping you from losing your mind from stress. But someone’s gotta do it,” shrugged Jean jokingly.
“And you do a bang up job too,” smiled Scott, “If only you could do this with everybody this world would be a much better place.”
“Perhaps, but then the X-men would be out of business and we would have to spend all our time in class. I don’t think I could manage that.”
“You think it’s we all have some deep seeded need to run out into a life-threatening crisis every now and then to manage?”
“No, I just don’t think I could stand that kind of boredom,” she said, “I believe we all need a little excitement in our lives or we would all go crazy.”
“As if fighting giant mutant-killing robots isn’t exciting enough?”
“When is it ever?” quipped Jean dryly.
The two friends shared a good laugh. It did seem kind of ironic how tied they were to the X-men. They couldn’t even contemplate living a life without the dangers and challenges that came with being part of the team. It didn’t seem normal, but then again they weren’t normal to begin with.
When the laughter died down, Jean looked down at her coffee and then back up at Scott. She found herself smiling warmly, happy to be in his presence like this. Ever since her breakup with Logan she had developed a newfound appreciation for it. Others liked to joke about it and Rogue never showed much approval, but she didn’t care. Scott was an important part of her life and she never wanted it to change.
“You know, seeing as how you’ve already thanked me several times for helping you unwind, I think it’s only fair I thank you as well,” she said in a more serious tone.
“Why? What’s there to thank me for?”
“For being there for me these past few months,” she said warmly, “Aside from all the other stresses we’ve dealt with as X-men, you’ve really helped me get through my breakup with Logan. I know it hasn’t been easy for you, especially when I let slip some of the more intimate aspects of our relationship.”
“Yeah, there are still some disturbing images I can’t get out of my head,” joked Scott.
“Yet that never stopped you,” she said, maintaining her serious tone, “You were still there for me, helping every step of the way like you always have.”
“That’s what friends do for each other, Jean,” he said sincerely
“I know. But you’ve been so much more than a friend, Scott. I can never tell you how much that means to me.”
Scott blushed at her words. They helped each other through breakups before, but with everything else going on it was especially difficult. It brought them even closer, which was difficult in its own right. But it was something he was willing to deal with for her.
There was a brief silence between them. Scott was at a loss for words. It was getting a little awkward. Jean helped reassure him by reaching across the table and placing her hand over his.
“You’ve also helped me in other ways,” she went on, “Since I broke with Logan, I’ve gained a clearer perspective on our relationship.”
“How so?” asked Scott curiously.
“Well remember how he was so confused on why he was attracted to me?” she asked.
“Of course, I must have pointed it out to him at least a dozen times.”
“Well it wasn’t just for him. Relationships go both ways in case you’ve forgotten,” she said, “I was attracted to him too. While it wasn’t nearly as complicated for me as it was for him, I did have my share of uncertainties. I really wasn’t sure why I was so drawn to him. But now I think I know why.”
“Is this something that will put another disturbing image in my head?” asked Scott half-jokingly.
“I doubt it,” she said in a humored tone, “But it makes sense now that we’re over.”
Jean sighed to herself as she thought back to Logan and everything she shared with him.
“What it all boiled down to was the mystery,” she said in a distant tone, “Logan is a real mystery in his own right. I saw it in him when he saved us on our first encounter. And I saw it even more when we got to know each other. Then he made a move on me and well…you know the rest.”
“Don’t we all,” said Scott, still reserving some bitterness.
“But beyond the mystery, I found a good man in him. Even if the man wasn’t always in control, he was a man I could have genuine feelings for. He had his quirks. He was still a rugged, brutish, bad-boy and I’m not afraid to admit I found that appealing as well.”
“How that works, I’ll never know,” mused Scott.
“Me neither,” sighed Jean, “Some say it’s the maternal instinct women feel for those kind of men. Others say it’s the excitement. For me, it was probably a little of both. But it all came back to reaching the man behind the mystery. That’s what mattered most to me.”
“So the bad-boy part was secondary,” said Scott with some sense of relief.
“Yes, and even though it didn’t work out, I don’t regret being with him. I’ll never say anything bad about our relationship. While we were together he was never too controlling over me, he was never violent with me, and he was never disrespectful of me…even if he did like to crack dirty jokes.”
“He still does,” Scott pointed out.
“But beyond that, I know what we had and I know why it didn’t work. What still bothers me though is that the same thing happened with my last boyfriend.”
“And you’re worried it’ll happen again, aren’t you?”
Jean smiled. Scott was always good at following her train of thought. It made him easy to talk to and saved her the trouble of wrestling with it, but the same issues remained.
“If it does I’m sure you’ll be quick to point it out,” she said with a half-grin, “But it may not prevent future heartaches. I don’t know what it is that leads me to these crazy relationships. Maybe it’s part of being a Grey and I’m following my father’s mistakes.”
“Don’t think like that, Jean,” said Scott, squeezing her hand, “You’re not like him.”
“I sure as hell hope so,” she said distantly, “Maybe I’m being melodramatic, but I don’t want this to be a cycle. I don’t want to be one of those girls who go from relationship to relationship, making the same mistakes and never finding anybody. I just want to find someone I can love unconditionally…someone I can be with without all the uncertainty.”
“That’s…a pretty tall order, Jean.”
“I know. And maybe I’m being a little selfish. But does it have to be so complicated? Maybe we’re just making it that way. It’s just like you told me that day Logan and I broke up. There’s a difference between thinking and knowing. Maybe the problem is we do know, but just don’t realize it. Could that be it?”
It was a daunting notion. It left them in a distant silence. Jean seemed to understand now that the dust had settled on her relationship with Logan. Scott still wasn’t at that point with Rogue, but it did make him think about it in a different way. Strangely enough, it made them think about each other as well and not in just regarding friendship.
Then in an unexpected gesture, Jean started looking into his gaze more deeply. Scott just stared back at first. But then he remembered Rogue and promptly snapped back to reality. In an awkward gesture, he pulled out of Jean’s grip and shifted his gaze.
“Is everything okay?” she asked with a touch of concern, “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, you just…got a little ahead of yourself again,” said Scott awkwardly.
Jean blushed profusely, turning back to her empty cup. She almost forgot that Scott was still with Rogue. Getting too personal like this was asking for trouble. Rogue was already suspicious of her. Plus, it probably wasn’t a good idea to get caught up in this sort of thing with her best friend.
“Sorry,” she said, managing a half-smile, “Old habits die hard, I guess.”
“Tell me about it,” said Scott, smiling back, “Maybe we should start heading back. I should probably catch up with Rogue.”
“Oh what’s the rush? We’ve only been here a half-hour,” said Jean casually, “I’m sure Rogue will appreciate it more if you catch up with her when you’re less tense.”
“That’s assuming she won’t make a big deal out of us hanging out like she always does,” muttered Scott.
“All the more reason to be ready when it comes up,” concluded Jean, not ready to end this little outing, “How about this…we’ll stop talking about relationship issues and I’ll get us an extra large sundae?”
It was a tempting offer and Rogue’s Danger Room session wouldn’t be over for another hour or so anyways. Plus, he didn’t want to end this outing on an awkward note. Jean threw in that begging look just to make sure.
“You drive a hard bargain, Jean Grey,” grinned Scott.
“What can I say? I can be a temptress when I have to,” she said proudly.
“That you can,” said the X-leader, “And I can always make it up to Rogue. I’m sure she can work over the Danger Room without me.”
With that settled, Jean signaled the waitress so they could order their desert. It seemed both their evenings were looking up. Jean finally got some stuff off her chest and Scott was finally unwinding a bit. Scott was concerned about Rogue, but for now his focus was on his friend. If something did come up, she could always call him.
Xavier Institute – Dormitories
Kitty Pryde was fuming. She had just gotten out from an abbreviated Danger Room session that had been anything but productive. It was supposed to be a team-building exercise that Logan and Ororo set up. She and Rogue were supposed to work together on a couple of new courses. She thought she had taken Rogue’s usual tardiness into account, but she ended up blowing her off completely. It meant going through a ‘revised’ session set up by Logan and that was never easy. She was going to be sore the rest of the night.
Ororo and Logan promised to sit down and have a talk with Rogue, but Kitty wasn’t going to wait. Just because she didn’t like the advice she gave her earlier about her relationship with Scott didn’t mean she had a right to blow her off like this. Before Logan ripped into her, she was going to give her a piece of her mind.
“Rogue! Rogue, where the hell were you?!” yelled Kitty as she banged on Rogue’s locked door.
She got no answer. Growing impatient, she phased through to get a brief glimpse inside. The lights were off and nothing seemed out of place. Rogue’s room was as messy as it always was with clothes and cigarette cartons strewn about. But there was no sign of her.
Muttering various obscenities under her breath, Kitty made her way further down the hallway towards Scott’s room. When she wasn’t in her room, Rogue was usually hanging out with Scott. And whenever she was with him, she had a way of losing track of time.
She approached Scott’s room a little more carefully. The door was closed, but she wasn’t as quick to barge in. One time she made that mistake and phased through the door only to see them in bed together. Luckily they were so busy they didn’t notice her, but it was still pretty embarrassing. So this time she made sure to knock first.
“Scott? Is Rogue in there?” she called out.
Again, she got no response. She listened closer to make sure there were no unusual noises coming from inside. She didn’t hear any, but she found herself peering in just to be sure. Rogue may have been hiding to avoid the session. But all she saw was an empty room. She noticed Scott’s jacket was gone so chances were he went out. If Rogue was with him she may never get a chance to yell at her.
Groaning in frustration she turned to walk away. But then something caught her eye. It was Scott’s phone. It was still on his night stand and the red light was blinking, indicating there was an unread message.
“That’s odd. Scott never leaves his phone behind,” she said.
Curious, she walked phased through the rest of the door and grabbed the phone. Scott was so uptight that even forgetting something as basic as his phone was cause for concern. Wondering if something was wrong, she opened it to check the message. But when she saw who it was from and what it read, she was overcome with a new dread. Apparently, Rogue had a good excuse for missing the Danger Room session after all.
“Oh no…” she gasped, “PROFESSOR!”
Worthington Defense – Outside Defense Gate
Kurt Wagner still couldn’t believe he was really going to do this. Gazing outside the window of an unassuming black van, he took in his imposing target. It was every bit as daunting as Black Tom made it out to be. The whole area was cordoned off with fifteen foot high barb wire gates that were also electrified in some areas. There were only a handful of entry points and every one of them had guards armed with automatic weapons. Beyond that there were roving security personnel on foot and in jeeps, all of which were armed. But the heaviest security was saved for the large gates leading into the main hanger, where Black Tom said much of the sentinel remnants resided.
Even for someone of his skill and power, it was going to be a challenge. But Black Tom and his associates made it clear he was not letting him back out. As soon as the plane landed, Siryn forcibly guided them onto an open runway where two vans awaited them. He was forced to sit in the first one with Black Tom while Siryn sat in the other one with Amanda and her mother. For good measure, he included some of his armed henchmen. Siryn was keeping the two women docile with her powers, but as soon as they were in the van she released him from her hold. It took a while for the effects to wear off, but they made it clear that one wrong move was all it took and Amanda would suffer.
The drive lasted a mere 30 minutes. But it felt like much longer for Kurt. He was forced to face Black Tom the whole way. The neatly dressed man maintained a smug grin the whole way. He looked pretty proud of himself, getting someone like him to do his dirty work. As they pulled up to a vacant parking lot, he casually rested his hands on his cane and leered over him.
“We’re here,” said Black Tom, “You know what to do. Get in. Get the plans. Get out.”
“I know how zhis vorks,” said Kurt bitterly, “But it vould be much viser to come back late at night vhen there aren’t so many people.”
“We can’t afford to wait that long,” he said, “As we speak the military is working with Worthington’s army of well-paid eggheads to scan the plans onto secure mainframes. As soon as they’re done, they’ll destroy the originals. And I can’t have that.”
“You’re taking a much bigger risk by sending me in this blind! I may not even be able to extract the plans from zheir data drives.”
“Genosha used antiquated computer systems it stole form the old Soviet Union. I think you’re more than qualified to handle those systems. Wasn’t that the second thing your father taught you after fighting?”
Kurt tensed with anger at the mention of his father. But Black Tom was not intimidated. He just kept staring him down while casually twirling his cane.
“Enough with the stalling. Get going, Nightcralwer,” said Black Tom, “You have 30 minutes max. Amanda will stay under the watchful eye of Siryn until you return.”
“How nice of you,” he said dryly, “She better be okay vhen I get back. Otherwise I’ll show you firsthand zhe third thing my father taught me.”
With those ominous words Kurt teleported away, leaving a puff of sulfurous smoke in his wake. It was an impressive display and Black Tom had seen many. It should make this little plan of his a lot easier and a lot more interesting. It was almost a shame someone of Kurt’s skill was going to have to go to waste.
Once Nightcrawler was gone, one of his henchmen casually opened the passenger door. He casually stepped out and made his way to the van behind him where Siryn was keeping an eye on Amanda, at least as far as Kurt knew. About halfway to the van the door opened up on the passenger side as well and Siryn stepped out. She bore the same mischievous grin as her father. This was the part of the plan where things got more interesting. Once Kurt gave them what they wanted, he was in for a surprise.
“Is she ready, Siryn?” asked Black Tom.
“Oh she’s ready alright,” grinned Siryn, “I pumped her with enough sedative to down a pack of wolves. She won’t be waking up anytime soon.”
“Good, and what of the little ‘surprise’ I told you to set up?” he asked her.
“It just needs to be armed and she’ll be ready to go. I’ve already wired it to the van’s remote control mechanism. She won’t even know what hit her and neither will Nightcrawler.”
“And with any luck, some media personnel will still be present. They’ll most certainly want a shot of this. It’ll also give us a wee bit of free advertising. I’m sure many prospective clients will be very interested once they see this.”
Siryn couldn’t help but grin. Her father really knew how to cover every angle. It was an elaborate plan, but the payoff potential was huge. Too bad Kurt and Amanda wouldn’t be around to appreciate it.
“Your business sense never ceases to amaze me, father,” she said.
“It’s what I do,” he boasted as he turned back towards the van, “Now then, help me prepare the van. All we have to do now is wait for Nightcrawler and enjoy the fireworks.”
Worthington Defense – Behind Main Hanger
The security at Worthington Industries was no joke. There were both military and private security forces on hand. The company wasn’t taking any chances with the sentinel gear on hand. Kurt noticed a number of high ranking officials barking out commands. There were a lot of obstacles in his way, even for someone with teleportation powers. But he ignored the risks and went to work.
Getting to the hanger was simple enough. He teleported up to one of the checkpoints and hid behind an unoccupied jeep. He then created a distraction, hitting a button on the dashboard that opened the rear entrance and allowed some supplies to spill out. While the guards scrambled to take care of it, he teleported on top of the sentry post so he could get a good look at the hanger. He had to act fast because it wasn’t completely dark yet so he could be easily seen. He quickly scanned the area and saw a vacant area behind the main hanger. Once he teleported to it, he stuck close to the wall and looked for a way in.
“Just like old times,” he mused.
He made his way down the rear wall of the hanger. Along the way he came across a locked door with a small circular window. It looked like it led into the utility area of the building. He did a quick scan to make sure no one was inside. Once certain, he teleported and appeared in the facility. Kurt was already breathing hard, but didn’t lose his focus. The margin for error here was much smaller than he was comfortable with. He was beginning to wonder if Black Tom was expecting him to get caught. If that was the case, it provided extra motivation to disappoint him. So as he carefully stayed in the shadows, he made his way through the utility area.
It was dark and dingy in this area. He surmised this was a power station because there were a number of diesel generators running. Judging by how many there were, the workers here must be doing something major. It must have to do with compiling the plans for the sentinels. He made a note of that as looked for a doorway out into the main area.
Along the way he saw a number of technicians and guards looking over the gauges. Kurt was forced to pull back. They weren’t taking any chances here. If they were guarding the utility areas it must be pretty serious. He took shelter behind a furnace while a guard and several technicians walked by.
“Be sure to refill the tanks every hour,” said a technician, “This sentinel gear is sucking up a lot of juice. We need to keep the power flowing.”
“For how much longer?” asked one of the other technicians, “We only have enough diesel to power all these generators for another 12 hours.”
“It shouldn’t be much longer. It’s just tedious with all the choppy bits of data left in the sentinel brains. I don’t know how Hodge ever powered them.”
“That’s something the top brass is very interested in finding out,” said the guard, “I’ll help refill the tanks. Just keep the juice flowing so we can finish this.”
The guard set his weapon down and helped the technicians. Based on what he heard, Kurt saw an opportunity to make this go more efficiently. If he could stop the flow of power, he could create the diversion he needed to get the plans. He may also be able to slow them down a bit. But it meant being a little ‘direct.’
He waited until the four men were busy with the heavy canisters. Then he sprang into action, teleporting right behind the guard and tapping him on the shoulder. When he turned to see his face, his eyes widened with shock.
“What the?!” he exclaimed.
“Forgive me. I’ll make zhis quick,” he said.
In a swift show of acrobatic skill, Kurt laid the imposing guard out with a menacing haymaker that knocked him out cold. When the three technicians saw this they dropped the canisters and horror and stood in terror at the sight of his demonic form.
“My god! What are you?!”
“In a hurry,” answered Kurt.
Then in three swift teleports, he appeared before the technicians and knocked them out with a series of punches and jump kicks. Even though it had been three years since he fought, he hadn’t lost his touch. His father and the Azazel trained him well.
With each technician out, he moved their unconscious bodies to an area behind the furnace where they wouldn’t be seen. Not far from where they had been filling up the tanks, he saw a heavy door with a small window in it. He rushed over and looked through it, getting a glimpse of the main area of the hanger. It was large and spacious so he couldn’t see everything, but he saw his target. Lying in the center amidst an army of technicians and soldiers were the remnants of the sentinels. Even though he saw pictures of them in the news, seeing them up close like this was quite a sight. The idea of Black Tom having them didn’t sit well. But with Amanda weighing heavy on his mind he didn’t have time to lament. He had to do his job. He would worry about stopping him later.
As he watched soldiers and technicians run back and forth, he looked for the area Black Tom told him about. The main hanger area was divided into four levels, each of which were visible from catwalks built around a central area. He was told this is where Worthington Industries did a lot of missile research for the military so there was plenty of open space, leaving him little room to hide.
The area he needed to get to was a server hub on the second level. That was where the plans were compiled from the antiquated data disks from the wreckage. Black Tom said he should be able to download it all onto a portable hard drive. And since he didn’t provide him with one, he was going to have to borrow one from the technicians. If he was do this and get to the server area, he would need to play his diversion carefully.
“I hope zhis vorks,” he mused, “Hang on, Amanda.”
Working swiftly, Kurt teleported back to the generators and one by one he turned them off. To buy himself more time, he broke off some of the keys inside the ignitions and pulled out a couple of wires. It was risky because if anyone suspected sabotage, they wouldn’t hesitate to lock this area down. Hopefully he would be finished before that. Within five minutes, he shut down a dozen generators. Soon the lights started flickering. His plan was already working. Now came the hard part.
Worthington Defense – Outside Main Building
As the sun set and evening fell over the area, the soldiers and security guards around the main facility stepped up their patrols. The next few hours were critical and they could afford no breaches. There were still a number of media vans in the parking lots from the earlier press event, but they had their story and were on their way out. Once they were gone, this area would officially be on lockdown.
But that wasn’t going to stop Mystique and Rogue. They had just arrived and Mystique had already set up a way for them to gain entry. It meant coaxing a couple of soldiers on a break to lend them their jeep, but it got them a way in. Mystique then took the form of one of the soldiers while Rogue hid in the back under some blankets. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to get in, but it was their only option.
“Dang it, mama! Could ya hurry it up? Mah legs are startin’ to cramp back here!” complained Rogue in a loud whisper.
“Quiet Rogue! This is not the time to complain!” said the shape shifter.
“Damn, the things Ah do for mah brother,” she groaned.
Rogue closed her eyes and took deep breaths, staying as still as possible while Mystique drove the jeep up to a checkpoint, following a convoy of fresh soldiers from across the base. Hopefully the guards wouldn’t ask too many questions. Once they got to the gate, a couple of military police looked over them like they did all other jeeps. They weren’t taking any chances, scrutinizing everything they could at least on the surface.
“I thought you were helping get the media out of here?” said one of the guards.
“I did. But now the Colonel wants me inside now,” said Mystique putting on her best gruff soldier tone, “He said something about hauling some sensitive gear over to the R&D, but I can’t say anything more. Now do you mind? I’m already working overtime here! I don’t need to give the Colonel another reason to bust my balls!”
It wasn’t bad for a story she just threw together with the most basic of knowledge extracted from the soldiers they knocked out. And the guard seemed dubious. But with other jeeps waiting impatiently behind them, he bought it and waved them through.
“Fine, go ahead,” he said, “But pull around back. The top brass still doesn’t want anybody going through the front entrance.”
Mystique only nodded as she drove through the checkpoint and into the facility. Now that they were within the grounds they could move more freely. Rogue let out a sigh of relief while Mystique maintained her hardened gaze. She carefully navigated around the hoards of guards and personnel to the rear entrance. Along the way she managed to get a brief glimpse of the front area where the bulk of the security forces resided. She couldn’t make out much from this distance, but she could see traces of sentinel parts. Her gaze narrowed with seething resentment. These people were almost as bad as Black Tom, but she would deal with them in her own way.
“Ah can’t believe they feel for that,” commented Rogue from her cover in the back, “But how are we gonna find, Kurt?”
“Don’t worry. He’ll make his presence known,” she assured, “We just have to let him lead us to Black Tom and protect him from his trickery.”
“Any idea what we’re in for?”
“With Black Tom, it’s always a surprise. But it’s always best to assume the worst.”
Skies Over Indiana – Blackbird
It was a race against time for the X-men. As soon as Kitty reported what she found to the Professor, he promptly gathered all available X-men. This included Wolverine, Storm, Beast, and Iceman. There was no time to get in touch with Scott and Jean and Warren was staying behind. But they didn’t have time to assemble the full team at this point. They needed to get to Worthington Defense as soon as possible and prevent an incident that was going to make everything worse.
The mood was restless in the X-jet. Wolverine and Beast were in the cockpit while Storm was keeping a communication link open with the Professor. Iceman was the only one who didn’t seem too worked up. He had been on his way to see Lorna just before the Professor called everyone down to the War Room. He was obviously disappointed, but he sent a text message to Lorna to assure her he would make up for it.
“Man, of all the times for Rogue to run off with Mystique,” groaned Iceman as he closed his phone, “Guess Lorna and I will have to see that new horror flick another time.”
“I’m sure it’ll be out on DVD soon, Bobby,” said Shadowcat, rolling her eyes, “At least try to show some concern for Rogue. She ran off with Mystique for crying out loud! Doesn’t that concern you?”
“Of course it does, but it’s not like she kidnapped her. She already tried that once and I think she learned her lesson,” he said, grinning at the memory.
“It doesn’t matter if she’s kidnapped or not! Anytime it involves Mystique it can’t be good!” growled Wolverine from the cockpit, “Rogue’s got a lot to answer for, but first we find out what she’s up to!”
“Hopefully there’s a reasonable explanation,” said Beast, “But I think it is disturbing enough that the Professor tracked her to Worthington Defense. This is where the remnants of the sentinels are being held. It’s quite possible Mystique is out to finish what they started on Genosha.”
“If that’s the case, I’d say we’re undermanned,” said Storm, “I still think we should have waited for Scott and Jean to return.”
“Yeah, where were they anyways?” wondered Shadowcat, “And why would Scott leave his phone behind?”
“If he’s with Jean, he probably got distracted,” shrugged Iceman, “You know how those two are. They probably went on one of their little ‘walks’ that Rogue hates so much.”
That comment only irked Wolverine, who knew all too well how touchy an issue that was. Even though he and Jean weren’t together anymore, that didn’t mean he appreciated the reminders.
“Shut up, Iceman! It’s their loss! Rogue can yell at Summers for that later. But first we gotta find her and find out what the hell is goin’ on.”
“But why would Rogue help her?” asked Storm, that one issue bothering her the most, “And moreover, why would Mystique reach out to her?”
“Shit if I know,” grunted Wolverine as he ignited the afterburner, “Only one way to find out.”
With those determined words, the X-men held on as the Blackbird soared westward towards Worthington defense. The sun had just set so they would soon have to deal with the cover of dark. That wasn’t going to make this any easier, but they had to get to Rogue. It was a mystery as to why she was working with the mother who lied to her so much, but they set that aside. Rogue was still an X-man and regardless of her intentions, they had to reach out to her and get the answers they needed. They also had to get to her before Mystique pulled another one of her tricks.
Xavier Institute – Cerebro
As the team neared Worthington Defense, Professor Xavier kept a close vigil with Cerebro. Since this was a sensitive situation in a sensitive time, he had to make sure this didn’t spiral out of control. The sentinels were a hard enough issue to deal with. If Mystique got involved, it was sure to get worse. But what really concerned him was Rogue. As soon as Kitty told him about the message left on Scott’s phone, he tried contacting her. But she shut her mind out. He could have tried probing deeper, but refused to resort to such tactics with his students.
He couldn’t help but feel there was more to this than just the sentinels. Rogue never would have gone along with Mystique if that was her only target. There had to be other forces at work, but he knew better than most how shady Mystique’s history could be. Unlike Magneto, her intentions were never clear.
‘Please Rogue, answer me. I know you can hear me. I just want to help you.’
But his psychic message did not get a reply. Rogue was still shut off. Whatever she was caught up in, she wasn’t going to be distracted.
“Still no luck, Professor?” asked Warren, who was standing behind him.
“None so far,” sighed Xavier, “I’m certain she’s in trouble. The message she sent Scott was not an accident. She sent it because she knew she may need us.”
“With Mystique, that’s a given,” said the winged mutant, “But what more can we do? She didn’t exactly give us all the details.”
“I doubt even Rogue knows the full story, which is why we have to investigate. But I fear her actions along with Mystique could cause a far more volatile affair if something goes wrong. If we’re to handle this, we’re going to need help of a different kind.”
“What do are you suggesting?” asked Warren anxiously.
Xavier gave him an ominous look. It was a look he only gave his students when he had to convey a message that would upset them. Warren got it many times before and it never turned out well. It didn’t take long for him to figure out what he was implying.
“Wait…please don’t tell me you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking,” said Warren anxiously.
“If it makes you feel more comfortable, I could always just say it telepathically,” said Xavier.
“That’s not the point! I’m sitting out this mission for a reason! I can’t set foot on Worthington property and you know it!”
“But you can still reach your father,” said the Professor strongly, “We may need his help of we’re to contain this situation. And you know he’ll listen to you.”
“Yeah, out of guilt and pity!”
“But he’ll still listen.”
Xavier then cast the young man a sympathetic look. This was not an easy thing to ask of him, especially given the history with his father.
“Warren, I know it’s been a long time.”
“Not long enough,” he muttered bitterly.
“Even so, please consider what this means to the X-men and mutants everywhere. If you can’t get through to your father we’ll have a far worse situation on our hands.”
Warren clenched his fists in anger at the thought of talking to his father again. But the look of urging from the Professor was strong. And the idea of his friends getting caught up in his father’s web of lies was even more unsettling. He could care less about mending the relationship with his old family, but he couldn’t let his bitterness hurt his new family. It was a difficult decision. In the end he had to do what was best for his friends and the X-men.
“Fine…” he sighed, “I’ll set up a secure line in the war room.”
“Thank you, Warren,” said Xavier with a gracious smile, “I’ll help you. Let us hope we can get through to him before it’s too late.”
Worthington Defense – Main Research Area
“What the hell? What’s with the lights?”
“Damn it, the main CPU just went out! Could somebody check the damn generators?!”
Confusion quickly set in throughout the core of main building. One minute everything was going smoothly and the next minute systems, lights, and anything else running on power started going offline. There were backups for the important systems, but with so much hardware running at once some systems just turned off completely. It was not a welcome sight to the technicians and high ranking officials who wanted to see this task completed. It had everybody scrambling for answers and that was just what Kurt needed.
From the utility door, he watched as technicians started combing the wires and switches to check for any abnormalities. Other workers from the upper levels ran down too, having watched their systems fail as well. The soldiers and guards took notice as well, going on full alert and scanning the area with their guns ready in case any intruder was found. It didn’t take long for some to run over to his area. But before they stormed his position, he teleported away and appeared on a catwalk on the second level.
As soon as he appeared he got low and looked down at the area below him. He was standing just over a pile of sentinel debris, which had various wires running out of it and into the computer network. He couldn’t stay here long. The moment someone got a glimpse of him, they would shoot first and ask questions later. Never losing his focus, he followed the cables from the computers to an array of servers on the second level. There were still a fair amount of technicians and soldiers present, but most were running down to the lower levels.
“Go check the connections!” ordered one of the technicians, “We’ve got the backup going, but that’s not going to cut it for long.”
“Relax,” said one of the more senior workers, “We’re still compiling at a steady rate. We’ll get the job done one way or another.”
That was all Kurt needed to hear. He waited a few seconds more until most of the soldiers had passed. Then he teleported in closer, appearing on top of one of the servers. One of the technicians heard the distinct ‘bamf’ noise that followed whenever he used his power. Using his agility, he quickly got out of the way. But he wouldn’t be able to hide for long.
“Did you hear that?” asked one of the technicians.
“Hear what?” asked the senior supervisor.
Before he could response he heard it again. This time it appeared right in front of him, Kurt appeared between the two bewildered men and before they could react, he pulled off an acrobatic jump kick that knocked both men out. Six other technicians could only watch in bewilderment, but their shock wouldn’t last for long. Kurt moved in to take them out.
“What in the…security!” one of them began to yell.
“I vas hoping to avoid that,” Kurt groaned.
Without hesitation he teleported up to each technician and took them out with series of quick take-down maneuvers. All the technicians heard was that ominous bamf just before they were hit with a fist or a foot. Two even tried to run. When Kurt saw this he teleported right into their paths and clotheslined them with his arms, knocking them down but not knocking them out. He slugged them across the face just to make sure. It was rougher than he was comfortable with, but he didn’t have a choice.
Once the technicians were out, he scrambled for a drive. There was a lot of electronic junk strewn about, hinting this array had been hastily assembled. He quickly dug through a box of debris, looking for any hard drive he could use to get the plans.
“Come on! Zhis place has to have backups! Vhere are zhey?!” he said impatiently.
Finally he found one. It was a bit old and had a coffee stain on top, but it was still intact. He grabbed a nearby cable and ran up to one of the servers. After locating the console he plugged it in and accessed the database. Just as Black Tom said, the plans were being compiled and secured in an encrypted database. But they weren’t complete so they weren’t encrypted yet. Some of the data was spread out to various other servers, but they could all be accessed. Working swiftly, he copied everything he could and began the download. Luckily, the hard drive worked and process began.
“Damn zhese systems! Hurry up!” he said impatiently.
While he was waiting, a couple of guards and technicians were running over towards his position. Apparently, they heard that one technician’s call for help.
“What the hell is going on here?” exclaimed one of the guards as he saw all the unconscious bodies.
Then when he saw Kurt, he became even more alarmed.
“Please don’t finish zhat,” groaned Kurt as he jumped into action.
The guard raised his weapon, but Kurt managed to teleport right under him and kick it out of his hands. He then jumped up, caught it in mid air, and hit him across the face with it. The other bewildered guard tried to shoot him as well, Kurt did the same to him. Three more guards tried and got of a couple of shots, but Kurt teleported out of the way and appeared behind them where he pulled off a couple of sweep kicks to take them down.
“What is this thing?!” exclaimed the last guard.
Before he could fire another shot, Kurt appeared right in front of him and disarmed them.
“Not your concern,” he answered just before slugging him across the face.
Kurt watched as a couple of technicians ran off in horror yelling for security. He couldn’t afford to stay much longer. Once word of a demonic intruder got out, he would have every soldier in the area bearing down on him. They were still probably disorganized from the power situation. But that wouldn’t last much longer.
Turning back towards the console, he checked the status. It was just about ready, but he could already hear the footsteps of more guards drawing near.
“Hurry up! Hurry up!” he urged.
“This way! I heard gunshots over here!” said one of the military police.
Kurt grew increasingly anxious as he watched the status bar move painfully slow. Then just as they were about to enter his area the download was completed. He swiftly unplugged the chord and pocketed the hard drive. Before he could teleport eight armed military police stormed his position and pointed their guns right at him.
“Freeze freak!” ordered the lead soldier.
With so many guns and so little room to move, Kurt’s only choice was to do as he asked.
“Damn,” he cursed.
“Don’t move a muscle or I swear I’ll blow your brains out!”
Kurt groaned in frustration. He had the plans, but getting out of here was going to be a challenge. The guards had him surrounded and he could hear more coming. It looked as though he was going to have to fight his way out.
“On the floor, face down!” the MP ordered as he anxiously approached, “We have the area surrounded! You’ve got no way…”
But the dutiful soldier never finished his words. And this time, it wasn’t Kurt’s doing. What happened next caught everybody off guard. Just as Kurt was contemplating his next move, every soldier, technician, and guard in the area froze where they stood. Their eyes widened and their bodies went ridged. Then he heard a strange, but familiar shriek. It sounded only like a high pitched hum to him, but when the guards heard it they clutched their heads in pain.
“AHHHHHHH! My ears! My head! Make it stop! Make it…”
In short order, everyone in sight went limp and fell into unconsciousness. Their eyes rolled in the back of their head as collapsed. But it wasn’t just everybody in Kurt’s field of vision. He could hear the anguished cries and the sound of collapsing bodies everywhere. It was as if it engulfed the whole building. The combination of high pitched sounds and people becoming paralyzed and unconscious was a telling sign for him. Only one person could be behind it.
“Siryn…” Kurt mused.
He had a bad feeling about this. Stepping over the bodies, he rushed out from the server area back onto the catwalk where he could see the whole area. He quickly confirmed what he suspected. This sonic blast hit everybody in the facility. Every soldier, technician, and guard was unconscious, leaving the whole area eerily quiet. On the surface it seemed like a blessing, but something about this didn’t feel right. If Siryn was capable of this, why didn’t Black Tom just have her do this in the first place? It would have saved him all kinds of trouble. It could only mean he had other reasons.
“I have a bad feeling about zhis,” he said to himself.
He teleported to the ground floor in the central area where the sentinel remnants were strewn. He quickly scanned the area for signs of Black Tom and Siryn. If they were able to pull this off, they must be close. He didn’t have to scan long before he heard a new noise coming from the west side of the structure. What happened next caught him off guard again.
In a blinding burst of fiery light, a huge chunk of the wall was blown apart. The shockwave was so powerful it nearly knocked Kurt off his balance. Through the deafening bang he heard the engine of a fan riding in at full speed. He quickly identified it as the van Amanda had been riding in with Siryn earlier. It was driving erratically and heading straight towards him. Instinctively, he teleported out of the way. He then watched as the van came to a screeching halt next to the pile of sentinel debris.
“Vhat in God’s name?” gasped Kurt.
Then through the hole the van made, two familiar figures emerged. It was Black Tom and Siryn, walking side by side and approaching him with their dominating leer.
“I trust your have the plans, Nightcrawler?” said Black Tom.
“Black Tom! Vhat are you doing?” demanded Kurt.
But Black Tom was not in a patient mood. He turned to Siryn, who was still grinning from her earlier attack that took down this whole building. Using her sonic powers, she unleashed another wave of inaudible screeching that paralyzed Kurt and froze him where he stood.
“Augh! Not again!” he groaned.
“The plans,” said Black Tom firmly, “Were you successful?”
“I…yes!” grunted Kurt through the paralysis, “I have zhem on a hard drive!”
“Siryn, if you please,” he said.
“Gladly,” grinned the dominating woman.
Siryn casually walked up to Kurt, giving him a snide look every step of the way. She then reached into his pocket and grabbed the hard drive. Kurt tried to fight her control, but she had a firm grip on him. Just as before, he couldn’t move or teleport away. With the hard drive in hand, Siryn did a quick by plugging it into her phone. After a few seconds of checking, she got was satisfied and rejoined her father.
“They’re all here,” she told him.
“Excellent,” said Black Tom proudly, “You’re everything I hoped you would be, Kurt. But as much as I admire your skills, I’m afraid the nature of our deal has changed.”
“Changed?!” grunted Kurt through the paralyzing pain, “But…”
“Now before you begin, let me assure you that Amanda and her mother are fine…in a manner of speaking,” said Black Tom ominously, “But surely someone such as yourself can understand the importance of strategy. Those who do not plan effectively in this business can always plan to be defeated. And sometimes those plans get a little messy.”
Black Tom then took out a small remote control from his pocket and clicked a red button. This opened the back of the van, revealing to Kurt a horrific sight. Lying unconscious in the middle of the back was Amanda and her mother. Surrounding them were a series of bombs that appeared to be the high tech and highly potent variety. Kurt could only look on with burning anger and grave concern. He sensed Black Tom was the kind of person who would screw him over, but this was devious on a new level.
“Amanda…” he gasped.
“Yes, still out like a light and surrounded by enough explosives to bring this whole building down,” boasted Black Tom, “Honestly, Nightcrawler, did you really think I would go through the trouble of hiring a former mercenary teenager to do a job my daughter could have easily done in half the time? It isn’t enough to just steal the plans. I prefer leaving a more lasting impression.”
“Vith common terrorism?” spat Kurt, “Some mastermind you are! You’re just a thug!”
“You haven’t even heard the beauty of my plan,” grinned Black Tom, “You see, there are still hoards of media surrounding this area. When they get wind that a potential terrirost bombing perpetrated by a couple of renegade mutants, one of which is tied to the famous Azazel, it’ll cause an all out uproar. Human/mutant conflict will escalate to levels Magneto could only dream of! And as it just so happens, I control the plans to the ultimate mutant-fighting weapons system.”
“So if zhey vant zhe sentinels…zhey have to go through you,” Kurt surmised.
“Can you imagine a more lucrative deal? It isn’t just enough to have something that’s scarce and valuable. Any thug or businessman can attain that. But to have power over the course of world affairs, gaining not just money but influence…well, you get the idea.”
“You’re insane!” spat Kurt.
“I’m a businessman,” said Black Tom strongly.
He had everything he wanted. His plan had gone flawlessly. Kurt, for all his skill, was not smart enough to stay a step ahead of him. Now his role was nearly complete. There was just one final step.
Gripping his cane, Black Tom walked up to the paralyzed young mutant and pointed it right at his head. As he did, the cane started glowing an ominous array of colors.
“Mutant powers are amazing, aren’t they? For some they turn into inhuman-looking demons and for others it allows them to use any materials to channel concentrated energy bursts. Don’t worry. This cane is made out of a special material. Under my power, the energy it unleashes is exceptionally lethal. You won’t feel a thing.”
“You…you fiend!” shot Kurt as he fearlessly stared down the imposing figure, “You vill burn in hell for your sins!”
“We all will one day,” grinned Black Tom, “For you, it ends here. But when you get to the other side, send your father my regards.”
Kurt let out an angry grunt as he stared down Black Tom. He kept struggling to break free. He refused to let this madman control him like this. He always feared his past life would be the end of him. It seemed he was about to be proven right. Worst of all, he was taking Amanda with him. Now there was nothing more he could do to save her.
“Amanda…I’m sorry,” he said.
Black Tom grinned as he prepared to fire, ending the legacy of yet another Azazel product. But just as he was about to unleash the blast, a lone gunshot rang out and the cane was literally blown out of his hand along with a good chunk of his flesh.
“Augh! My hand!” he cried out.
“Father!” exclaimed Siryn as she rushed to her father’s aid.
As Black Tom clutched his bloody hand and fell to his knees, an angry voice rang out from the cat walk above.
“That’s enough Cassidy! Step away from my son!” commanded an enraged Mystique.
Black Tom and Siryn looked only to see Mystique and Rogue descending right onto their position from a couple of ropes dangling from the banisters. Mystique went straight for Black Tom, landing a devastating drop kick on him that knocked him back against the pile of sentinel debris. Before Siryn could respond, Rogue landed behind her and put her in a choke hold. This not only immobilized her, it kept her from using her sonic powers.
“Easy there, Madonna. Save the singin’ for American Idol!” said Rogue.
While Rogue restrained Siryn and Mystique approached Black Tom, Kurt watched on in shock. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was really her. He would know that distinctive white streak anywhere. It was his foster sister, Marie. He hadn’t heard from her in four years. Now here she was, a full grown woman and clearly tougher than her old pictures would imply. Along with her was his mother, a woman he hadn’t seen in even longer. It would be a joyous moment for him if the situation wasn’t so dire.
Rogue took her glove off her free hand and prepared to drain Siryn. But before she could touch her face, Siryn pulled off an acrobatic kick that struck Rogue in the back and caused her to loosen her grip. Then in with a burst of strength, she shoved her off and slugged her across the face.
“Hands off, punk bitch!” she grunted, “Just for that I’ll make sure your head explodes!”
“What are you gonna do? Sing ‘It’s Rainin’ Men?’” said Rogue as she quickly recovered.
“Not quite,” grinned Siryn.
Rogue lunged forward, trying to get to her before she could counter. But she wasn’t fast enough. Siryn unleashed an ear bursting shriek that was so loud it shattered nearby windows and computer screens. For Rogue, it was like having a bomb go off in her head. The special earplugs Mystique gave her to endure the first attack wouldn’t protect her this time. She was forced to cover her ears as she fell to her knees in agony.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” she yelled out over the shrieking.
Siryn stepped up her power, pushing her limits to ensure her enemy wouldn’t leave this intact. She obviously had some sort of ear plugs. Otherwise she would already be dead. But no amount of protection was going to save her. She would see to it.
Before she could step up her sonic assault, she felt an ominous tap on the shoulder. Then she quickly realized she had forgotten someone. She turned around just enough to see Kurt Wagner standing behind her. Before she could redirect her attack, he downed her with a hard blow to the head.
“Zhat’s quite enough of zhat,” said a determined Kurt as he rubbed his fist, “I don’t zhink my ears can take any more.”
Siryn fell to the ground in an unconscious heap. Kurt was still struggling with the lingering effects of paralysis, but he fought through them and helped Rogue up. Her head was still throbbing, but when she saw Kurt standing over her she froze. For years they knew about each other. For years they communicated through letters and pictures, getting to know each other as real siblings. Yet here they were, meeting for the first time.
“Kurt?” said Rogue, still rubbing her head.
“Marie…it’s really you, isn’t it?” he said, brushing his finger over the white streak in her hair.
“Yeah…it’s meh,” she said.
Despite the lingering pain and gave circumstances, he managed to smile.
“So you’re mien sister,” he said distantly.
“Foster sister, but yeah. Ah guess Ah am,” said Rogue, “Sorry we had to meet like this.”
“It’s okay. It’s still a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Rogue smiled back. Kurt looked every bit as nice as his letters implied. This introduction was many years overdue. But they could go through the formalities later. They still had a dangerous situation on their hands and it wasn’t over.
Despite having a bloodied hand, Black Tom wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Mystique loomed over him with a murderous look in her eye. She was clearly not happy about him using her son like this. He should have known she would show up. But he refused to let her thwart his plans. Using his good hand, he grabbed a shard from his cane and pointed it at the shape shifter. Then using his powers, he charged it up and fired at her with a lethal burst of energy. Mystique was able to dodge it, but Black Tom kept up his assault.
“You! How are you not dead?!” grunted Black Tom.
“You have any idea how many men have asked me that?” grunted Mystique as she narrowly avoided another blast.
“I can’t believe you have the gall to attack me! How did you even find out about my operation?!”
“You abducted my son!” spat Mystique, “Did you really think I wouldn’t notice?!”
“Funny, you don’t strike me as the caring, motherly type!”
Such abrasive words struck a chord as Black Tom continued to assault her with a barrage of energy blasts from his cane. Mystique could only grunt in frustration as she avoided them. But Black Tom wasn’t going to win this battle. Mystique already lost to him once before. She refused to lose again.
Grunting as she jumped out of the way of another blast, Mystique whipped out her pistol and took aim again. She fired off several shots, all of which missed wildly. Black Tom started moving away from the sentinel and towards the van with Amanda. But halfway Mystique got another shot off that hit his cane and knocked it out of his hand.
“Augh!” he grunted as he clutched his hand again.
He tried to reach for another piece of the cane. But Mystique fired her gun again, hitting the shard and knocking it away. This left Black Tom with no medium to channel his power. Without it he was a sitting duck. Panicked, he ran towards the van for cover. But Mystique didn’t let him get away. She lunged towards him, pulling off a flying kick that struck him right in the chest and knocked him back against the van. Before he could get up again, Mystique pinned him to the door with her foot and pointed a gun at his face. Black Tom, for all his cunning, could not weasel his way out of this one.
“You insidious excuse for a man!” seethed Mystique, “Do you have any idea what you’ve cost me? Do you have the faintest idea what you and people like you have taken from me?!”
“Whatever it is, I’m glad!” grunted Black Tom, “You think you’re the righteous one, Raven? I know your history! I know it better than you do! You deserve far worse than the losses you’ve endured!”
“You may be right,” conceded the shape shifter, “But that doesn’t mean I can’t return the favor!”
Mystique then looked into the van and saw all the explosives. She and Rogue had overheard his plan. He was planning to blow this place up with her son inside. A plan like that deserved something more fitting than a mere bullet to the head.
Grinning sadistically, Mystique reached down into his pocket and pulled out the small remote control he used earlier to bring the van in. When Black Tom saw this, his face paled. This woman really was crazy.
“What the hell are you doing?!” he exclaimed.
“You want these sentinels so badly? Then you can stay here and burn with them!” said Mystique, “You and the rest of these scum deserve it!”
Then to make sure he couldn’t run away, she shot both his kneecaps. Black Tom let out another wail of agony. Even when Mystique stepped away, he couldn’t get up. He could only crawl up to her with rage in his eyes.
“Augh! You bitch!” he yelled.
“That’s what you get for messing with my children!” she said as she turned away.
But just when she was about to walk away in triumph, Kurt and Rogue caught up with her. And when Kurt heard what she was planning to do he was appalled.
“Vait! You can’t be serious, mother!” Kurt exclaimed.
“I’m dead serious!” she said with a touch of motherly scolding, “This bastard has to pay for what he’s done! He and the rest of the scum that salvaged these sentinels!”
“Zhey have nothing to do vith zhis! Zhey do not deserve zhe same fate as Black Tom!”
“Don’t argue with me, son! This was inevitable! How else do you think I knew he abducted you? I’ve been keeping an eye on this place! I’ve been planning to destroy it for months! Black Tom just provided additional incentive.”
Now it was Rogue’s turn to be appalled. She knew Mystique had an ulterior motive. She should have seen it coming. It made perfect sense. She would have found out about Black Tom’s plan if she had been planning it herself. She and Kurt were just caught up in it.
“Damn it, mama! Again with the lying?! You used meh again!”
“Don’t start with me, Rogue! This is not a point for debate! We must leave this place NOW! Reinforcements are probably on their way this instant!”
“Zhen let zhem come,” said Kurt strongly, “I’m not leaving vith you! Not if your hatred for zhese people is stronger zhan your love for us!”
“Damn it, can’t you see?! I’m doing this for you! And this is how you thank me?!”
“No…you do zhis for yourself,” said Kurt in a low but firm tone, “Zhat does not make you zhe mother I know. It makes you just another monster like Black Tom.”
Coming from Kurt, that stung. Even Mystique wasn’t immune to such harsh words from her children. Sorrow mixed with her anger. Looking into the pleading eyes of her children, she saw a look of anguish. There was no affection or loyalty to their mother. There was only disgust for what she was doing. But as much as it hurt, she didn’t let go of the remote control. Even if they despised her for what she was doing, she couldn’t let that stop her. She had to do what was best for them.
“Please mama…just drop the dang remote,” urged Rogue.
“No!” exclaimed Mystique as she backed away, “I won’t!”
“Mother…” Kurt pleaded.
But before another word could be spoken, the sound of sirens and screeching tires echoed outside. Soon a fury of footsteps could be heard from all over as the front gate was blown open and armed military police came storming in through every opening. These were the reinforcements Mystique mentioned. An entire building of personnel being knocked out couldn’t go unnoticed for too long. Now they were surrounded with no way out.
“FREEZE MUTANTS!” barked one of the lead officers.
“You ungrateful brats,” Mystique cursed, “Now it’s too late.”
Kurt and Rogue were prepared to raise their hands and surrender. Mystique scolded them for being so weak. But even she saw the dire depth of this situation. It seemed nobody’s plan was working out as they wanted. Black Tom had failed and so had Mystique. Now they were on the cusp of yet another tenuous incident between humans and mutants.
But just as the soldiers were moving in, a strange wind blew through the building. Then in a deafening bang, every window and light shattered. Thunder and lightening started flashing all around, causing all the soldiers to halt their assault and take a defensive position.
“What the hell is going on?!”
Mystique and Kurt were equally confused, but Rogue knew what this was and couldn’t help but sigh in relief.
“Rogue? Is zhis your doing?” asked Kurt.
“Someone here had to have a backup plan,” she grinned, “Ah’m just ticked it didn’t show up sooner.”
“Rogue, what did you do?!” exclaimed Mystique.
“Sorry mama. But you ain’t the only one who lies.”
Before Mystique could scold her, a large tornado whipped through a window in the roof. Then in the narrow space between the soldiers and Rogue, the X-men descended onto the area. Wolverine, Beast, Iceman, and Shadowcat all rode in on a trail of wind from Storm. The soldiers were bewildered, but didn’t fire. Only Mystique was enraged at their presence.
“No! This doesn’t involve you!” she yelled as she pointed the gun at them.
“It does now!” growled Wolverine as he sprung into action.
Breaking off from the group, the feral mutant pounced on the shape shifter. She got off two shots, both of which hit him in the chest. But it did nothing to slow him down. As soon as he landed, he slashed the gun into pieces with his claws and kicked the controller out of her hands. Then for good measure, he destroyed it. It left Mystique with no other bargaining chips and no other options.
“Go on, Mystique…I dare you!” growled Wolverine.
Mystique looked at Wolverine and then back at her children, who were still supporting each other. They continued to stare at her with a solemn gaze. While she did much to help them, her brazen actions were hard to forget. Rogue wasn’t surprised and just stared bitterly. But Kurt looked at her with more sorrow.
“Please mother,” he urged her, “You’ve done enough.”
Mystique’s expression contorted with a mix of frustration and remorse. She did so much to help her kids and yet she still found a way to make them hate her more. Now with the X-men involved, she was overmatched. That left only one course of action.
“This isn’t over,” she warned, “You may have my kids. But you’ll never take me.”
The shape shifter then transformed into a small black raven and flew away through the hole Storm made in the roof. Wolverine growled and tried to slash at her as she left, but Iceman and Shadowcat held him off.
“Let her go, Logan. I think she needs some serious quiet time,” said Iceman.
“More like a lifetime’s worth,” commented Shadowcat, “Besides, we’ve got other issues to deal with.”
“Whatever,” grumbled Wolverine as he watched Mystique fly off.
While this tense moment was developing, Siryn awoke from her unconscious state. Her head was still throbbing from Rogue’s blow. But when she saw the X-men and the army of soldiers surrounding them, she knew it was time to get out. Looking over towards the van, she saw her father still reeling from the beating Mystique gave him. And while everyone was focused on Mystique, she slipped away and grabbed him.
“I think it’s time we made our leave,” she said.
“Indeed,” said Black Tom, still clutching his hands, “Do you still have the plans?”
“Right here,” said Siryn, showing him the data disk, “It didn’t go as you planned, but it isn’t a total loss.”
“It would seem so,” he said as his daughter helped him up, “But no worries. I’m sure I’ll find plenty of ways to use this information.”
Then before Mystique flew off, Siryn used her sonic powers to fly her and her father out through the opening where the van had come in. She made sure none of the soldiers noticed as well, using her hypnotic voice to keep them dazed while they escaped. They were leaving a very messy situation, but it was no longer their problem. They would let the X-men clean it up. For now, they had business to attend to.
With Mystique and Black Tom now gone, it was just the X-men and a hoard of soldiers armed to the teeth and looking for someone to blame. It wasn’t looking good for them with so many unconscious bodies around them, courtesy of Siryn. Rogue wasn’t feeling too optimistic and neither was Kurt. But the rest of the team didn’t look too concerned.
“Are you okay, Rogue?” asked Storm.
“Ah’m fahne,” muttered Rogue, “But Ah think you guys are a little too late. Mystique and Black Tom left us with a hell of a mess.”
“No worries, Rogue,” assured Beast, “We’ve already taken care of it.”
Rogue looked at him strangely. The soldiers didn’t seem to get it either. They still closed in with dozens of reinforcements behind them.
“Stop right there, X-men! You have a lot of explaining to do!”
“Please, there’s no need for further violence,” said Beast with a peaceful gesture.
“I’ll be the judge of that!” said one of the lead captain. “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t have you all arrested here in front of plenty of media!”
“Because your superior won’t allow it,” grinned Beast as he took out his phone and tossed it to him, “Here, see for yourself.”
The captain caught the phone and looked at it in confusion. Then to his shock, he saw first hand what Beast had been referring to. On the phone in a live video feed was the one man who had the authority to tell them to back off. It was Warren Worthington Jr. And he looked dead serious.
“Pull your men back captain. The X-men are not your enemies.”
“But Mr. Worthington, sir, what about…”
“I mean it captain! Pull back and let the X-men go. Don’t make me call the president.”
Coming from a man like Worthington, that was not an idle threat. Looking at the phone and then back at the X-men, the captain had no choice. As suspicious as he and the rest of his unit were, they had to follow orders. They would have to learn the truth another way.
“Pull back!” ordered the captain, “All personnel, pull back and secure the perimeter. Let the X-men go.”
Despite plenty of confusion, every soldier obeyed. Soon, all the guns were lowered and the threat had passed. Rogue and Kurt let out a sigh of relief. It seemed finally the ordeal was over.
“You guys are miracle workers!” exclaimed Rogue, “How in the heck did ya pull that one off?”
“You can thank, Warren,” said Iceman, “He’s the one that got his old man to vouch for us. And since Worthington is the name on the building, his word carries a lot of weight!”
Rogue couldn’t help but grin. The X-men kept finding new ways to impress her. It vindicated her earlier decision to disobey her mother and send them a warning. They didn’t get it as soon as she hoped, but they still got here. And curiously, Scott wasn’t present. It did strike her, but that was a concern for another time. For now, she had one more loose end to tie up.
For Kurt Wagner, it was quite a moment. He didn’t keep in touch all that much with the outside world, but he knew about the X-men. They were heroes. They used their mutant powers for good as opposed to using them for greed as he once had. Not only had they just saved his life, but he found out his sister was one of them. It was a very powerful feeling. He was at a loss for words.
“Who might this be?” asked Storm, referring to Kurt.
Kurt wasn’t sure what to say. But a reassuring glance from Rogue set him at ease.
“Uh guys…” said Rogue awkwardly, “Ah’d like to introduce ya all to mah adopted brother, Kurt. Kurt, these are mah friends the X-men.”
That came as quite a revelation. They never got from her message that she was here to save her brother. But it made a lot more sense now.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” said Kurt in a kind tone.
“Any friend of Rogue’s is a friend of ours,” said Shadowcat in a friendly tone.
“You said it, Kit,” grinned Iceman as he shook Kurt’s hand, “So you’re Rogue’s brother? I gotta say, I don’t see the resemblance.”
That earned him a look from Rogue and a round of laughs from the others. Even Kurt smiled, finding it a refreshing feeling now that this ordeal was over. But then he remembered one important aspect that was still unresolved.
Shaking off his lingering paralysis, Kurt stormed past Rogue and Iceman and ran up to the van where Amanda and her mother were still unconscious. Rogue and the others followed close behind, but they gave Kurt some space.
When he arrived at the van he quickly took Amanda in his arms and cradled her tenderly. With great relief, he gazed down at her. She came so close to getting caught up in the violence of his old life, something he promised her would never happen. It was a promise that couldn’t be kept. He realized that now and a sense of sorrow came over him.
“I’m sorry, Amanda,” he told her, “For everything.”
His soft words were heartfelt and sincere. Then through the daze of sedatives, Amanda stirred and so did her mother. When Amanda opened her eyes and saw his caring expression she smiled. Margali saw this and immediately became concerned.
“What in heavens name happened?” wondered Margali in a worried daze, “Amanda! Is she…”
“She’s fine,” assured Kurt.
Margali looked towards her daughter and let out a sigh of great relief. She was safely in the arms of her lover. Kurt affectionately caressed her face and smiled back. Then she spoke in a raspy voice.
“Kurt…is it over now? Can we go home?”
Kurt smiled, so desperately wanting to say they could. But as he looked at her and then back at Rogue, who gave him a knowing look, a sad sense of realization came over him. As glad as he was that this predicament was over, a whole new set of challenges and decisions awaited him.
“Not quite,” he said softly, “Something new has come up…something zhat is sure to change both our lives.”
Next Issue: Family and Fiends Part 3
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