Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men fight for peace and understanding in a world that hates and fears them. As mutants, they are the next evolutionary step for the human race. But as with all great change, conflict is inevitable and that conflict has taken on many forms.
The world is in a fragile place. The deal with the mutant nation of Genosha has brought unprecedented prosperity to the world by exporting alien technology. It has also added new challenges. General Grimshaw and his Mutant Security Agency are tasked with holding mutants accountable to the law. This has been exceedingly difficult, having suffered a recent setback with a major prison break at Fort Leavenworth. It led him and President Kelly to place their trust in a program called Weapon Plus, which ended up backfiring horribly and subsequently raised tensions to even greater levels.
In the midst of this tension, the X-men have been on the front lines trying to mitigate relations between the opposing sides. It has put a great deal of strain on the team and for that very reason, the X-men must find ways to remain focused. And sometimes that involves taking a night off.
Xavier Institute – Scott and Jean’s Room
“Oh what to wear? What to wear?” mused a restless Jean Grey, “It’s been so long since I’ve one out on a girl’s night. I may have actually forgotten how to choose the right dress.”
“Explain it to me again, Jean. What’s the difference between a dress for night out versus a dress for a girl’s night out?” said Scott from the bathroom.
“If I had a long weekend and a full-fledged Danger Room scenario at my disposal, I might be able to explain it. Since I’m strapped for time, you’ll just have to take my word for it.”
It was a big deal for Jean Grey. Tonight was a rare off night. The Professor was away on personal business with Aerie Global and there were no classes or Danger Room sessions scheduled. So in an effort to unwind, Jean proposed a girls night out with Kitty, Ororo, and Betsy. It didn’t take much convincing. There was unanimous consent that they needed to get away from living weapons and escaped mutant prisoners for a while.
The clock was ticking and Jean had four dresses laid out on the bed. She held each of them up over her underwear-clad body, trying to decide which one to wear. As she wrestled with her decision, Scott emerged from the bathroom with a towel around his waist. He had just gotten back from a workout in the gym and was drying his hair. He couldn’t help but grin at seeing his girlfriend put so much energy into choosing a dress.
“I’m hardly a fashion expert, but I’ll go out on a limb and say you should choose the red dress,” said Scott jokingly.
“Says the guy who sees everything in red,” said Jean, rolling her eyes.
“Well you can’t accuse me mismatching colors,” he shrugged, “Everything you wear looks hot to me anyways. Not that it matters this time since I won’t be the one admiring you in it.”
“You get to admire me enough on your own time…whatever time we spend wearing clothes anyways,” she said as she held up another dress, which happened to be red, “But this is different. A girl’s night is about celebrating care-free fun without excessive emotional entanglements.”
“Sounds needlessly complicated,” Scott commented.
“Hardly,” scoffed Jean, “Ororo and I planned it all out. First we’ll hit the high end shopping district. Then we’ll grab a bite at this trendy new restaurant. Then we’ll start hopping clubs. And if that’s not enough, we’ll wing it the rest of the way!”
“Sounds like a guy’s night, minus the hot dresses,” Scott commented.
“Girls night…guys night…it doesn’t matter. The point is to help us forget that we’re overworked students and part-time superheroes. We need something less Earth-shattering than lost civilizations or living weapons to excite us. A night in New York City is just the kind of outlet we need!”
“You sound pretty eager. Should I worry that my girlfriend is intent on looking so hot for a night on the town?” asked Scott as he approached his excited girlfriend from behind.
“Come on, Scott. You know better than to worry,” she grinned as she felt his arms slipping around her, “I’m going to have as much fun as I can with the girls, but if I end up in bed with anyone tonight, it’s going to be you.”
“I know. I still feel obligated to at least bring it up. That way you can’t accuse me of not caring if other men think dirty thoughts about you.”
“I wasn’t going to accuse you of anything, but wearing only a towel is making it even harder to concentrate on my dress.”
“I could take the towel off if that would help?” said Scott playfully.
“I’m sure that’s part of your master plan, fearless leader,” said Jean coyly, “I’ll have to thwart you for now. I can only promise to play fair on your next scheme.”
“It’s already in the works.”
Scott affectionately kissed his lover’s cheek before letting her go. She still had to pick a dress and he still had to shave. It was one of those finer details to their relationship. Jean was beautiful and it was inevitable that men were going to stare. He was protective of her, but Jean loved him enough to shrug off men who tried to pursue her. It also helped she had a cosmic entity backing her up.
While Scott slipped back into the bathroom, Jean finally picked out a dress. She ended up taking her lover’s advice and picked the red dress. She had worn it on dates before. It was not too short, but it showed off her legs and butt in all the right ways. It also went well with her hair, complimenting her looks in just the way she needed. Since Ororo and the others were probably waiting, she quickly slipped it on. She then stood in front of the mirror, adusted her hair, and applied some extra makeup. Once satisfied she grabbed her purse and gathered her things.
“In between your scheming, I hope you find a way to make good use of this off night,” said Jean as she touched up her lipstick.
“I’m sure I’ll find a way to occupy myself,” said Scott from the bathroom.
“By occupy yourself, I hope you don’t mean catching up on homework. Everybody needs some time off, even the leader of the X-men.”
“You have your ways and I have mine,” he said.
“That better not be code for some extra Danger Room training,” teased Jean.
“Quit worry about me, Jean. I’ll be fine. Go and enjoy your night with the girls.”
“I always worry about the ones I love. That’s why we need a little fun in our lives. It makes the worrying easier.”
Jean sent her lover a psychic kiss before heading out. Scott wasn’t done shaving yet, but he acknowledged the gesture through their psychic link. Jean had always been more outgoing than him. He needed someone like that in his life. It helped him be a better man. It also kept him from being wound too tightly for his own good.
That didn’t mean his night would be as exciting as hers. He never knew what to do with himself on an off night. Either he caught up on school work or went on dates with Jean. He always focused on the next mission, no matter how big or small it may be.
‘Guess that means I’ll never stop worrying her. Maybe I should try something different tonight…something to take my mind off all these recent setbacks. There has to be a way to keep myself from thinking about Toad, Fantomex, or Genosha.’
His thoughts continued to wander until he finished shaving and splashed some hot water on his face. Then he heard his cell phone go off in the other room. After drying off, he walked over while still wearing just a towel. He checked his phone to see that it was a text message that he didn’t expect to get this soon.
“Found some of what you asked for. Need to talk. Meet me at Café-A-Go-Go. Thunderbird.”
Scott Summers gazed at the message for a moment. It had been a while since he asked a favor of John Proudstar. It wasn’t every day a man asked his girlfriend’s ex for help, but John was a former X-man and he was in a position to uncover things he couldn’t. If he wanted to meet at their old hang-out, then he must have found something important.
‘Sorry Jean. I’ll have to unwind another time. This is something I can’t set aside. I need to learn the truth more than I need a night off.’
Xavier Institute – Living Room
“Ah simple television T&A…I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy you,” said very relaxed Bobby Drake.
It was an ovedue moment of peace and for Bobby Drake. And that peace meant watching a special sexy ladies edition of wrestling with the volume turned up. For once, he wasn’t endlessly brooding or worrying. He wasn’t obsessing over his girlfriend being a pain. He was just a simple guy enjoying some peace and quiet in the form of mindless entertainment.
Bobby hadn’t gotten up from the couch in nearly two hours. He had been lounging in the same slouched position, fixated on the big screen TV as images of scantily clad women graced the screen. It was somewhat liberating. The drama surrounding Lorna, Kitty, and Jubilee had been stressing him out for so long. Even with new drama surrounding Amara Aquilla, he needed to be young and single for a while. So he decided to set aside relationship dramas and leave them to those more equipped to handle it.
“Quite an interesting choice of programming, Bobby,” said the wry voice of Hank McCoy, “Is this how you plan on spending all your off nights from now on?”
“Seeing as how we get so few, does that really matter?” said Bobby, not even looking up.
“I’d say it does. You look content, yet confounded. Is your recent melodrama with Jubilee still troubling you? If so, I’m here to talk if you need it.”
“Believe me, Mr. McCoy, talk is the last thing I want,” replied the young mutant, “Besides, you’re the one with the stable relationship now. You’ve been walking on air since we got back from Genosha.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m incapable of talking about it.”
“Maybe not, but I’ve had enough of that crap. Right now, all I need is my first and true love…television. I’ll never have to worry about a TV busting my balls.”
Hank rolled his eyes, resisting the urge to list the many logical shortcomings of such love. While he couldn’t blame him for being jaded, that didn’t mean this current attitude was healthy.
“Very well. I’ll leave you to reconnect with your digital love interest,” he sighed, “Although I hope this does not invoke a new round of haughty habits.”
“Let’s face it, teach. There are way worse ways for me to cope,” said Bobby, sinking further into the couch.
“Perhaps you are right. However, you would be wise to heed the advice of someone who has endured being alone and being together. Without going into elaborate proofs, together is far more preferable to alone.”
Bobby chose to turn up the volume on the TV rather than respond. It was not a lesson he needed to learn at the moment. Even if Hank was right, he had endured too much heartache to justify not being alone for the moment. He understood he couldn’t wallow in it forever, but that was too much to dwell on at the moment.
Hank left his student to his mindless wrestling show. Hopefully, this was just a passing phase. He was in too good a mood to share his student’s distress. His love affair with Sage gave him more than enough reasons to smile. He and Sage had advanced their relationship to new heights. The conflict surrounding Fantomex and her techno-organic research should’ve torn them apart, but it ended up bringing them closer than ever. For the first time since he had been with Carley, he was with someone he wanted to share his life with on a truly intimate level.
Since this was an off night, Hank was tempted to call Sage for a little get-together. Unfortunately, she had other plans. District X was still rebuilding after the Fantomex attack and she needed to help remedy the situation. It left him with a night to himself. Seeing as how Bobby wasn’t going to budge from the TV, he made his way towards Remy and Piotr, who were sitting at a table playing cards.
“You gonna fold or not, homme? Remy ain’t gonna call your bluff no matter how much you bore me,” said the Cajun.
“Very well. I fold,” sighed the Russian, “You win again, comrade Remy.”
“You makin’ this too easy,” grinned Remy as he took his share of the poker chips.
“Then perhaps I can add some competition,” said Hank as he pulled up a chair, “Mind if I join in?”
“If you okay with losing, then by all means,” said the Cajun with a friendly gesture.
“Overconfidence is the first step to humiliation in games of chance.”
Remy grinned, welcoming some wittier humor as he shuffled a fresh deck of cards. Piotr was usually a solid poker buddy, but his sense of humor was as hard as his metal skin. He just wasn’t into it tonight, but the Cajun didn’t bother prying. Piotr Rasputin may have had a solid poker face. However, he did a poor job hiding certain subtleties.
“I’m surprised you’re spending your off night playing card games, comrade McCoy,” said Piotr.
“Why? You got something against cards?” said Remy in a humored tone.
“Nyet, I assumed that since your lover is not on this girl’s night, as Kitty described it, you would be spending time with her,” he said, “Just as Logan has chosen to spend time with Laura at the Academy.”
“It would be preferable, I admit. Unfortunately, Tessa has a lot of work to catch up on in District X,” Hank sighed, “I offered to help, but she insisted that I make good use of my off night. She said if we started discussing computer upgrades in a certain manner, it could become a bit distracting.”
“Thanks for the visual, teach. Forgive Remy if he needs to soak his brain in bourbon to get that image outta my mind,” groaned Remy, not used to hearing sexual innuendo from Hank McCoy.
“Would you feel better if I told you Rogue was assisting Tessa? And that she seems to be doing better lately?”
“It be a minor consolation.”
Hank shook his head in bemusement while Remy finished shuffling the cards and divvied up the poker chips so that Hank now had a share. The Cajun had a good sense of humor about his remarks. It was rare to hear Hank McCoy be this upbeat without discussing quantum physics. That’s why it came as surprise that Piotr didn’t crack a smile.
“Were my remarks too inappropriate for you too, Mr. Rasputin? Are you also in need of consolation?” said Hank as Remy dealt the cards.
“I will manage. I hope you do not take offense if I say I wasn’t listening,” said the Russian.
“Not at all,” replied Hank, “But if you weren’t listening, does that imply you were distracted? That usually means something is on your mind and if Mr. Lebeau here hasn’t asked, might I inquire?”
“Dang it, teach. Remy was hoping to avoid them sorts of topics tonight,” complained Remy.
“I can never take a break from being curious, especially when it involves my students.”
Piotr avoided Hank’s gaze as Remy dealt the cards. He didn’t get up or leave though. Even on an off night, he couldn’t avoid certain issues.
“You’re not the only one who is constantly curious, comrade McCoy,” said the Russian mutant, “The girls left on their night out a half-hour ago. I tried to catch up with Kitty to wish her well.”
“And probably to admire that new dress she be wearing,” added Remy.
“That too,” he conceded, “She hugged and kissed me as expected. But she seemed…distant.”
“Distant how?” asked Hank curiously.
“I am not yet certain. I think it has something to do with what happened on Genosha. During the battle against Fantomex, we had to fight harder than we usually do. For me, that meant resorting to some old tactics I learned in the Russian Mafia. I hadn’t shown that side of myself in a while. When Kitty saw it, I sense she was…put off.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t a result of her concussion? I remember her being pretty woozy for a while.”
“I am sure,” said Piotr strongly, “I’ve come to know Kitty Pryde well enough to sense when she’s troubled. I cannot blame her either.”
The Russian mutant paused as he played the hand he was dealt by Remy. His expression didn’t change as he laid down three cards and tossed a few chips into the center to call Remy’s initial bet. Hank did so as well, but was more attentive to Piotr’s concerns.
“There are parts of my life I am not liking to reveal,” Piotr went on in a more serious tone, “There are things I did in the Russian mob that I’m not proud of…horrible things that I’ve chosen to conceal from Kitty. I want to tell her everything one day. That is what I must do if I am to be her boyfriend, yes?”
“There always be room for some secrets,” Remy pointed out as he drew two cards, “Honesty ain’t always a safe bet.”
“Well this may be something I cannot hide from her,” the Russian went on, “When Omega Red trained me using Spetsnaz conditioning, I had to be a cold, calculated killer. It’s the only way to survive in the Russian Mob. I walked a fine line, doing all these horrible acts with a face as hard as my metal skin. I thought I didn’t have to walk that line after I left. Then this happens. And I suspect Kitty realizes it more than I do.”
“Even if she does, that doesn’t mean she’s put off by you,” reasoned Hank, “We tend to reveal ourselves more than we expect when we’re in love. I know this from experience with Ororo and Tessa.”
“Your circumstances are different, Comrade McCoy. I am not sure I’m ready to reveal this part of my life to Kitty or anyone for that matter. It troubles me because it leaves me to wonder if she’ll become too frustrated with me.”
He had really closed himself off. It was a reflection of his powers in a sense. He put a shell around himself that was difficult to penetrate. But now he found himself in a relationship with a girl who could walk through any barrier. This was uncharted territory for Piotr. He still had a lot to learn about opening up, especially those he cared about.
“It sounds like you’re giving yourself too much credit and offering too little to Miss Pryde,” said Hank while raising his bet.
“Remy didn’t think it be possible to give less credit to the petite,” commented the Cajun as he studied his hand, “Kitty be the kind of femme that don’t hide the truth, even if she wants to.”
“This is true. However, she is still bound by the universal laws of attraction. One of those laws include concept of relationship distance.”
“My English must not be up to speed. I have no knowledge of these laws you speak of,” said Piotr in confusion.
“It’s a metaphor, my boy. The theories of Einstein are predicated on matter and energy being bound by distances imposed by space-time. One particle or joule cannot go from one point to another instantly. It must travel in a line.”
“Only you could turn a perfectly fun poker game into a physics quiz, teach,” sighed Remy.
“As this relates to you and Kitty, you cannot jump from one level of trust to another without stumbling. It’s a process,” Hank went on, “Whatever proclivities you two share, they must unfold naturally. You cannot reasonably expect to do everything at once.”
It was still pretty confusing, but it made sense on some levels. Piotr couldn’t gloss over his life in the Russian Mafia. Whether it was with Kitty or the rest of the X-men, he couldn’t ignore it. The idea of it being a process still seemed daunting. His ability to endure seemed dependent on how deep his feelings for Kitty Pryde were getting.
“I fold,” said Piotr flatly.
“Figures,” said Remy.
“Just because he didn’t call your bluff doesn’t mean I won’t,” made Hank.
“Since the fur on your face gets puffy when you bluff, Remy’s gonna take that chance.”
Hank shook his head and ended up folding as well. He could tell Remy’s poker skills weren’t helping Piotr’s mood. He offered his student a reassuring glance. Having been through a similar process with Sage, he understood what Piotr was going through. If only he could learn to enjoy his off night rather than dwell on it. They all needed it.
Outside New York City – Highway 287
“HELLLLLLOOOOOOOOO NEW YORK!” proclaimed a jubilant Betsy Braddock.
“We’re not even officially in the city yet and you’re already this excited?” teased Jean.
“Sorry luv. It’s been a while since I’ve had a night on the town, let alone a night in the Big Apple.”
“Did I say I disapproved?”
Spirits were high among the X-women. Betsy, Jean, Kitty, and Ororo were about to begin their excursion into New York City. Since an off night was so rare, they didn’t just drive into the city. They rented a limousine, courtesy of Professor Xavier’s credit card, to take chuffer them. They were just outside the downtown area when Betsy and Jean decided to greet the city by standing up through the sunroof. The cool winds along with the crisp evening air offered the promise of an exciting night.
Inside the limo, Kitty and Ororo were conserving their energy. Ororo was helping herself to some complimentary drinks. Even though these were her students and she was technically a chaperon, she carried herself as one of the girls. She even wore one of her favorite dresses, which had a leopard skinned pattern along with a very low cut skirt. Kitty’s dress was probably the most conservative, consisting of a nice blue petite that nicely augmented her figure. As the youngest, this was a rare opportunity for her to be a normal rowdy teenager.
“Guess we’re skipping a couple of steps. I feel like I should be going a bit crazier,” commented Kitty as she looked towards Jean and Betsy.
“Don’t get too ahead of yourself, Kitty. You’re still young. You’ll have plenty of opportunities for craziness,” said Ororo.
“I’m also an X-man, remember? How limited are those opportunities going to be? I’m not even old enough to drink.”
“You can still have fun without drinking, luv,” said Betsy as she and Jean slipped back into the limo, “Keep in mind you’ve got two telepaths by your side. If someone were to think your old enough, well that’s not entirely their fault now is it?”
“You better not be toying with me, Betsy,” grinned Kitty.
“Only to the extent that we tolerate underage drinking,” said Jean, “But the point of a girls night isn’t to get drunk. We’ve got shopping, restaurants, and all the Broadway shows the Professor’s credit card can afford. Let’s do our best to diversify on this rare night of freedom!”
“Speak for yourself,” said Betsy, “You and Kitty are both have handsome studs waiting for you back at the mansion. Me and Ororo are single so we have to mingle.”
“I’m not sure hooking up should be our top priority, Betsy,” said Ororo.
“Why not? Remy and I are over and you’ve moved on from Logan. Why not open our eyes (amongst other things) to some willing and able men? Hell, I would argue that you’re the one most in need of some studly male company!”
Ororo blushed profusely. The subject of her personal life hadn’t come up since she broke up with Logan. She was content to avoid relationships for a while, but that was quite a while ago. It certainly couldn’t hurt to be open to the idea, albeit in a more restrained manner than Betsy was implying.
“If you’re going to be that friendly tonight, remember some of the ground rules,” said Jean, “We’re not bringing anyone back to the mansion and no one is letting anyone pass out in a bedroom with some stranger.”
“You make it sound as though we’re throwing ourselves out there, Jean. I thought you had more respect for us than that,” said Betsy, pretending to sound appalled.
“I didn’t say male company wasn’t welcome,” said Jean, “If you or Miss Munroe find some action, we won’t stop you. But if anyone senses any funny business, don’t expect us to stand aside.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that, Jean. We don’t need our off night becoming a search-and-rescue mission,” said Ororo.
“If it’s all the same to you guys, I’m hoping to avoid that stuff tonight,” said Kitty, “It seems we already get way too much of that.”
“This coming from a girl who’s dating a tall, handsome Russian farm boy?” made Betsy, “That’s a surprise…unless there’s some drama already.”
“Like I said, I’d like to avoid that tonight. So how about we have a few more drinks before we hit the high end shopping district?”
“Works for me,” shrugged Jean.
Kitty’s insistence on avoiding relationship talk was a bit telling, but not enough to belabor. If it was serious, she wouldn’t be so eager to get this night going. With that in mind Jean used her telekinesis to levitate a few glasses from the complimentary cooler. She showed off some psychic skill, pouring a small helping of champagne as she guided it to each girl.
“We’ve got another twenty minutes before we begin our assault on the Big Apple. So let’s squeeze in one quick toast,” said Jean as she grabbed her glass.
“Assault, Jean? You’ve been picking up on way too many of Scott’s quirks,” commented Betsy.
“Call it whatever you want, Betsy. As far as I’m concerned, this is every bit as serious as a mission. We may be X-men, but these are the kinds of nights that remind us that we’re still human. As such, humans need a little fun in their lives. It keeps us grounded and makes us better at everything we do. So I propose this toast in the spirit of our humanity. May this girl’s night out make us better heroes!”
“Better heroes…I can drink to that,” said Ororo with a smile.
“Me too!” agreed Kitty.
The four X-women tipped their classes and gulped down their drinks. The limo entered the city limits, officially beginning of their night out. For once, there would be no concerns over missions, politics, living weapons, or anything of the sort. They were just four young women out to have a good time.
Genosha – Warlock Factories
“I seriously need a day off from this shit,” groaned an exhausted Pietro Maximoff.
“Hey Pietro! I thought you said you would have this done in a Quicksilver minute?” yelled Alex Summers.
“Guess I’m not the only one,” he sighed.
“Well when you’ve got an ordinary minute, I need you over here.
“Hold off on the aneurysm, Summers. I’ll be right there.”
Work in the highly secure Warlock sector had been hectic since the Fantomex debacle. The Brotherhood was still demolishing the World and getting the factories going again. Alex was head of the operation, but Pietro was supposed to do the heavy lifting.
Wanda made it a priority to secure Warlock. That’s why she entrusted him with rebuilding the security system around the area. She let him access the full extent of Warlock’s technological potential in order to make this part of the island impenetrable. That was why he was so tired. Using Warlock technology, he constructed an elaborate security array around the factories that consisted of a series of walls that completely encircled the area. Within these walls were some of the best alien weaponry that Warlock had in its system. It made the structure looked more like a fortress than a factory.
While he ran the operation, his sister played the role of diplomat. Wanda was in constant communication with world leaders, justifying an increase in what they were charging for the advanced technology that much of world had come to rely on. It didn’t improve their international image, but the world had to recognize that there were consequences to plotting against Genosha.
“I’m fast, but even I can’t be everywhere at once,” he sighed as he looked back towards the advanced arrays he had constructed.
“Who the hell would want that? One of you is hard enough to deal with” commented Blob as he walked by with Mellencamp.
“Shut up, lard-ass!”
Pietro stretched his legs and yawned. Blob scolded the speedster as he walked by, carrying some extra heavy components from the World in his arms. They were among the last major pieces, leaving the large dome structure an empty shell. There were a number of other mutant acolytes handling the more menial tasks. The most important parts of this process had to be handled by the Brotherhood. Despite his restlessness, Pietro ran towards the central area where Alex, Lorna, Lance, and Quentin had gathered.
“You know there is such a thing as breaks,” said the speedster as he approached his fellow Brotherhood, “With all the running around I’ve done, I thought I earned one.”
“You thought wrong,” said Alex firmly, “What’s the status on the new security upgrades?”
“Is your head farther up your ass than usual?” scoffed Pietro, “I hotwired an entire Warlock factory to set up these new defenses. We’ve got a 25-foot wall complete with force shield barriers, directed energy weapons covering every square inch of a 20 mile radius, and more sensors than even I’ll be able to count.”
“I’m not sure if that’s confidence or excessive caffeine, but I’ll take offence to it anyways,” said Lance in a snide tone.
“If you knew what he was thinking, you would want to strangle him,” snickered Quentin.
“I’ll chalk it up to a lack of sleep and trust his word,” said Lorna in a more serious tone.
“Thank you! My half-sister is officially the least annoying,” exclaimed Pietro.
“We can all admire your work later. Securing this area was only second most important step in this clean-up process. The first has always been securing every last molecule of the Warlock material that Fantomex stole,” reminded Alex.
“Sure, undercut my contributions whenever it’s convenient,” muttered Pietro under his breath.
“We’ve all been working around the clock,” Alex went on, “We’ve spent the last week or so tearing this dome apart piece by piece. We’re not entirely sure how much base matter was used, but we have to make sure all of it is accounted for.”
“Exactly how much have we gathered so far?” asked Lance.
“This much,” said Alex, directing everybody’s attention to Lorna.
Lorna raised her hand and used her magnetic powers to summon several metal containers, each containing the distinct blackish gold pattern that constituted the Warlock material. She set them down in front of them. They were sealed and docile, locked in their most basic form so they were easy to handle. There were a total of five containers, all of which helped construct the World. It was an ominous reminder of how powerful this stuff was.
“How do we know this isn’t all of it?” asked Quentin.
“Mellencamp did an inventory of all the base matter in the factory before Fantomex remodeled it,” said Lorna, “There should be one or two more canisters.”
“One or two? Which is it? You said we needed every last molecule,” asked Lance.
“Ideally, that would be our goal. Realistically, Mellencamp’s inventory can’t account for the material that was warped beyond recognition,” said Alex, “Whenever Warlock makes new components, some of the material can be lost. So the amounts we find won’t equal the amounts we started off with.”
“That means we have to scrutinize every last micro-meter of this place,” said Lorna, “Now that we’ve fully deconstructed the dome, we can do one last sweep.”
“I can do it in about thirty seconds flat and then we can take a break,” Pietro boasted.
“Not this time, Pietro. Speed isn’t as important as precision,” said Alex, “We just cleared out the central array and some of the material may have been scattered. Pyro and Mercury are already doing a preliminary survey. The rest of us need to go in with a fine-toothed comb to make sure every bit of material is accounted for.”
“I hope we’re using something a bit more advanced than a comb,” said Quentin, “I never made it through shop class in high school. I always twisted my teacher’s perceptions so they thought I was done.”
“You try something like that with us and you’ll be in worse shape than Fantomex,” said Pietro.
“If I did, how would you even know?” retorted young psychic.
“Trust me, we would know Quentin,” said Alex sternly, “We also have better tools than anything you can whip up in shop class. Follow me and I’ll show you what we’ll be working with. It should make our jobs easier than…”
At that moment, Alex was cut off by an alarming yell.
“HAVOK! POLARIS! WILL SOMEONE GET OFF THEIR ARSE AND GET OVER HERE?”
“Was that Pyro or a Chihuahua being tortured?” wondered Lance.
“Let’s find out!” said Alex urgently.
It took a great deal for someone as unbalanced as John Allerdyce to yell out in a way that was so laughably timid. It would have been funny had it not been taking place in such a sensitive areas. Without cracking a smile, Alex ran towards the source of the commotion with Pietro, Lance, Lorna, and Quentin following close behind. They weaved their way around a few stacks of scrap metal and the remains of the box-shaped servers that had since been shut down. When they arrived, they were met with an unexpected sight.
Pyro and Mercury were surrounded by these strange goblin creatures with gray skin, sharp teeth, and inhuman growls. They were relentlessly clawing at Pyro and Mercury, who were trying to fight them off with flames and liquid metal weapons. In addition, about a dozen or so creatures were gathering around a container of Warlock material.
“The area’s been compromised. Seal everything off!” ordered Alex as he rushed towards the Warlock matter.
“So much for your security upgrades, Pietro,” said Lance dryly.
“Piss off, Lance! There’s no way these little creatures got through,” retorted Pietro.
“They didn’t get through! They just…appeared,” grunted Pyro as she shot fireballs at the pesky creatures.
“They went straight for the Warlock material,” added Mercury, who had shifted her arms into hammer-like clubs, “That’s a bad thing, isn’t it?”
“It is,” said Lorna strongly as she took to the air, “We need to secure it now!”
“Sure, because saving your friends from goblin attacks is such a low priority,” groaned Pyro.
The Brotherhood stormed into action. Alex, Lorna, and Pietro set their sights on the Warlock matter while Lance and Quentin went to assist Pyro and Mercury. The goblin hordes sensed this new threat and one of them let out a horrific screech to signal a change in tactics. The little creatures then moved together in a wave, relentlessly attacking the Brotherhood as they tried to break through.
The charge was momentarily halted when Alex and Lorna hit back with energy blasts and magnetic surges. Lance used his seismic powers to disrupt the incoming attack while Pyro and Mercury tried to push through. Pyro had to create a miniature fire tornado to give them room to move. Mercury got tackled to the ground at one point, three goblins angrily clawing at her liquid metal form. Quentin tried to shove them off with telekinesis, but that ended up enraging them even more.
“Yeeearrrrrgggghhhh!” they all hissed.
“Can’t believe I’m thinking this, but Pietro may have been right,” groaned Lance as he formed more tremors.
“About what?” groaned Quentin as he put up a telekinetic shield.
“That we need a break from this shitT”
“Tell you what…we get all the Warlock base matter back in this fight and I’ll convince Wanda to send us to a spa in Denmark’s red light district,” said Alex as he unleashed an energy blast to clear a path through the incoming goblins.
“Deal!” grinned Pietro, “And if Wanda asks, this was all Pyro’s fault.”
New York City
Jean, Ororo, Kitty, and Betsy arrived at a high end fashion store a half-hour ago and had been immersing themselves in its vast merchandise. This was one of those stores where the floors had glossy tiles and the cheapest garment would cost a couple days wage for most people. And since the Professor gave them temporary access to his credit cards, price was no object.
They started off with dresses and designer purses. Then they found their way to the lingerie department. Kitty and Jean were especially excited about sifting through some of the sexier attire. Ororo was with them as well, trying to dissuade them from getting something that was too excessive. In a store like this, that was a bit of a challenge.
“What about this?” said Jean as she held up a very revealing camisole with matching thong.
“Whoa! Jean, if you wear that, I think Scott will have multiple heart attacks,” said Kitty.
“It’s seductive. That much I’ll say,” said Ororo.
“You think it’s too much, don’t you?” said Jean coyly.
“I think it blurs the line between seductive and pornographic.”
“Even if it does, it never hurts to push the envelope every once in a while.”
“Under normal circumstances, I might agree. For someone who wields the power of a cosmic entity, I’d still err on the side of caution,” said Ororo.
Jean rolled her eyes. Everyone still loved bringing up the Phoenix. She kept having to remind them that the Phoenix was still an ember of her former self. Even if that ember was growing, it didn’t mean she had to walk on egg-shells. It also didn’t mean she had to taper her cosmic passions, especially when it kept her sex life with Scott so heated.
Kitty was more conservative in her approach, but not by much. This was the first time she ever shopped for something really sexy. She and Piotr hadn’t been together long. Their relationship was still unfolding. That didn’t mean a little sexiness was uncalled for.
“I’m still leaning towards the see-through mesh and silk panties,” said Kitty as she held up something she picked from the rack, “It’s not quite as extreme as your tastes, Jean. But I think it fits my style.”
“See-through for a girl who can become intangible,” surmised Jean, “Yeah, I can totally see that working for you.”
“I think it will work for Peter as well,” said Ororo, “If you don’t mind me asking, have you and him gotten to this point yet?”
“You mean intimately?” said Kitty, blushing somewhat, “We’ve got two psychics here, Miss Munroe. I think that goes without saying.”
“I see. Well that’s quite a step to take,” she commented.
“I know what you’re thinking. And yeah, maybe I’m going a bit fast here. And yeah, there are steps I might not be ready for. But I don’t think this is one of them.”
“You sounded anxious when you said that,” made Jean, “What steps are we talking about here?”
“Hey, I thought we agreed the drama talk would be kept to a minimum,” reminded Kitty, “Why don’t we just agree that this striking little ensemble is a winner so we can move onto our next overpriced venture?”
Kitty’s insistence on avoiding her relationship with Piotr sparked even more curiosity. However, it didn’t stop her from enjoying herself tonight so it wasn’t worth prying. Jean and Ororo were content to gather their selections and continue. Then from across the lingerie department, they heard Betsy yell out.
“Girls! Get over here quick,” she said urgently.
X-men instincts quickly kicked in. Jean, Kitty, and Ororo rushed over towards Betsy, who had been lingering in the jewelry department for the last several minutes. When they found her she was appeared to be frozen in place.
“What is it, Betsy? Is something wrong?” asked Ororo.
“I’m not sensing any danger,” said Jean, who did a quick telepathic scan.
“It’s not that. It’s this,” said Betsy as she held up an unmarked bottle of perfume, “Smell it. You’ll see what I mean.”
Betsy offered the three girls a light spray. As soon as they got a whiff of it, they completely understood why she sounded so urgent.
“My heavens…” gasped Ororo.
“Ooh, do I want to even know how much a scent like that costs?” grinned Kitty.
“Trust me, you’re better off not knowing,” said Betsy, “Leave that sort of thing to me and the Professor’s next credit card bill.”
“This has got to be a sign,” grinned Jean as she eagerly took the bottle from Betsy, “For once, the universe is on our side.”
“You sure you want to jinx it, luv?” said Betsy.
“I’ll take that chance,” she replied, “We should finish up here and grab a bite. We’ve got a long ways to go.”
“Good! Because smelling something this good just made me hungry,” said Kitty.
Flushed with new energy, the four X-women made their way to the front of the store where they could pay for their attire. The night was off to a promising start. Since luck with the X-men was so fleeting, they sought to make good use of it.
One Hour Later – Restaurant Daniel
“Wow…I thought Fantomex turned me off all things French, but after tasting this soufflé I’m officially back on board,” said Betsy as she finished her desert.
“Wish I had the stomach for desert, Bets. I’m too full from the Filet Mingnon,” said Jean as she sank into her chair.
“You better not be getting tired on us, Jean. You’re supposed to be the one with endless cosmic energy,” teased Kitty.
“Being full isn’t the same as being tired,” she pointed out.
Kitty kept teasing her friend even as she finished her dish. This restaurant was one of the best in New York. It took some psychic prodding just to get a reservation. But for the food they served, it was worth it. Such a generous meal allowed them to stock up on the energy they needed for the rest of the night.
“I’m sure the Professor will hate seeing the bill for this. But if he tasted this veil, he would understand completely,” said Ororo confidently.
“Are you going to save some for him to prove it?” asked Betsy.
“Not a chance,” said Ororo as she finished the last few bites.
“Nice! Glad to see you’re finally loosening up a bit, Miss Munroe,” said Kitty.
“The night is young and I’m not that old. I still have plenty of ways to enjoy myself on a night like this.”
“We’ll see about that,” grinned Jean as she signaled for the check.
45 Minutes Later – Central Park
“A three way knife-juggling at this hour in a public park…and mutants are considered weird?” commented Kitty as they gathered with a crowd that had gathered around a few performers.
“Isn’t there a city ordinance against something like this?” said Betsy.
“Don’t know. Don’t care,” grinned Kitty as she watched on.
Ororo and Jean were trying to stay on track. Cutting through Central Park seemed like a good idea on the map. They had no idea the park was still active at this hour with street performers. For some reason a juggling act was enough to catch their attention.
“Seriously guys? You see giant robots and aliens on a regular basis, yet you’re still fascinated by juggling?” said Jean.
“You got anything against simpler forms of excitement, luv?” said Betsy.
“No, but we have these non-refundable tickets to a show on Broadway and we’re kind of running late.”
“Relax Jean. Those shows never start on time,” scoff Kitty.
Jean scolded her girlfriends for wasting what precious time they had on a night like this. She turned to Ororo for a solution.
“Miss Munroe, if you could summon a hurricane to get them moving I would really appreciate it,” she said.
“Sorry Jean, high winds during a juggling act involving knives is a bad combination,” said Ororo, “And after the battle against Fantomex, I think we could all use a little less danger.”
“I take it this means you’re okay with sitting in crappy seats for the play,” said Jean.
“Are you always this pushy when you go out?” commented Betsy, “If so, I weep for Scott’s sanity.”
Jean rolled her eyes. Even off nights could be stressful at times.
One Hour Later – Broadway
“These seats aren’t so bad, Jean,” said Kitty sheepishly.
“That won’t stop me from saying I told you so,” said Jean, who had been somewhat vindicated.
“Do you have to sound so smug about it?” said Betsy, rolling her eyes.
“I think I have a right to when my girlfriends are so easily amused with juggling knives instead of a Broadway play involving music, special effects, and hot guys in speedos.”
Kitty and Betsy avoided scolding their friend and tried to enjoy the show. Unfortunately, they ended up with some pretty lousy seats. They were near the back and to the left so they couldn’t enjoy a full view of the performance. It was a pretty major play with some elaborate productions. There was everything from a man dressed as a lion with blue fur and several women who showed off flexibility that made even X-men cringe.
It was flashy and enjoyable. It would have been a lot more enjoyable if they were closer to the action. Jean tried not to make a big deal of it, but there was still plenty of time to make up for it.
“I’m sure you were tempted to telepathically convince someone to give up their seats, Jean. I appreciate your restraint,” said Ororo.
“The Professor taught us to use our powers better than that, Miss Munroe,” said Jean, “It wasn’t worth it here, but if we have this same problem getting into the club later I may summon the Phoenix Force.”
“Let us hope it doesn’t come to that,” said the African woman with a humored grin.
Two Hours Later – Time Square
“Are we set for souvenirs, ladies? We’ve got a club to get to!” said Jean as she, Ororo, Kitty, and Betsy browsed the famous Virgin mega-store.
“We’ll get there this time, Jean. We learned our lesson,” assured Kitty, “Now help me pick out which season of Lost I should use to bring Peter up to speed.”
“You’re getting him into Lost? In that case you’re probably going to need more than one.”
Jean and Kitty had been going through box sets of Blu-Ray for the past five minutes now. While they were focused on shopping, Betsy and Ororo stuck to more casual browsing. They also used it as an opportunity to enjoy some good old fashioned girl talk. Even though Ororo was their teacher, this didn’t stop Betsy from getting personal.
“Come on, Miss Munroe. It’s not like I’ll respect you any less if you tell me,” teased Betsy.
“I’d rather not, Betsy,” said Ororo, trying hard not to blush.
“I may be your student, but we’re still adults,” she pointed out, “I can tell by that look on your face you know what I’m talking about. Whenever Remy and I got intimate, he had these special French sayings that just got everything flowing in all the right ways.”
“I never said I denied it. We had our share intimate moments during our time together.”
“So tell me! I told you the ones he used on me. So it’s only fair that you tell me which ones got you excited.”
Ororo paused, still blushing as she tried to focus on some of the foreign music selections. Betsy wasn’t going to let this issue rest until she got an answer so she had to come clean.
“I can’t say it with the same rugged tone,” she said, still not making eye-contact, “I can’t even say the full translation since we’re out in public. I’ll just say it involved a certain part of my body and what he enjoyed doing with it.”
“I see,” said Betsy, now with an even wider grin, “Care to be more specific? Remy tends to admire many body parts in the bedroom.”
“Sorry, Betsy, but that’s the extent to which I’ll share my private life,” said Ororo, “I’d rather not get into which parts our mutual ex admired most.”
“Fair enough,” she shrugged, “It’s still worth pointing out you have plenty to admire. We both do in our current single status. And that makes me wonder what kind of man will catch our fancy next. Have you given any thought to it?”
“I try not to give much thought to who I’ll be attracted to. I’ve always been inclined to let it happen naturally,” said Ororo.
“That’s all well and good, but sometimes you need to put yourself out there so that special someone does cross your path. Since we’re going to a club, I insist we both be extra social.”
“That depends on what definition of social you’re referring to.”
“I’m not suggesting we throw ourselves into a pack of drunken frat boys. I’m just suggesting we take a few chances.”
It sounded pretty bold. The undertone in Betsy’s voice implied she wanted to see Ororo do some flirting. That wasn’t Ororo’s style. Then again, she never had too many chances to be social when she was younger. She was too busy adjusting to all the changes in her life. Tonight might be an opportunity to make another change. While Betsy was making her suggestions, Jean and Kitty came over with some merchandise in hand.
“Hope you two found what you needed because we need to get finish up here and get a cab,” said Jean, “The club we’re going to tends to get crowded pretty quickly.”
“We’re ready if you are, Jean,” said Ororo.
“I’m all for a little club hopping, but I heard this place can be a bit selective. Are you sure we can get in?” asked Betsy.
“Are you suggesting four X-women aren’t hot enough to enter a club?” said Kitty, pretending to be appalled.
“Heavens no,” Betsy replied, “But for all we know the bouncer may have a grudge against mutants.”
“Oh I don’t think that will be a problem. I’ve made some arrangements to ensure we’ll get in,” said Jean with a mischievous grin.
“What kind of arrangements? This doesn’t involve you telepathically tricking them into thinking we’re the Spice Girls, does it?” said Kitty warily.
“I assure you telepathy isn’t involved. It employs a different kind of influence. I’d love to drop more hints, but I’d rather keep it a surprise.”
“This isn’t going to be a surprise that will put us in a compromising position, is it?” said Ororo.
“For that, Miss Munroe, you’ll just have to trust me. We’ve fought giant robots and killer aliens together. I think I’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.”
She made a valid point. They were X-men. Trust shouldn’t be an issue. But the other X-women were still curious. A surprise in their line of work was never underwhelming.
45 Minutes Later – Outside Club Liberty
“This line is insane,” groaned Kitty, “I thought you said we were early.”
“We are…technically speaking,” muttered Betsy as she looked at her watch, “Whatever surprise you got up your sleeve, Jean, you better deploy it soon.”
“Patience ladies. It’s already in the works!” assured Jean.
It was shaping up to be a long and unpleasant wait. The four X-women arrived in a cab ten minutes ago only to be confronted with a line that stretched nearly two blocks from the club entrance. Plenty of other people seemed intent on enjoying an off night as well. This was also one of the most popular clubs in New York. It was always tough to get into and if the line was any indication, only a handful of people would get in.
The four X-women were near the back of the line, watching as two muscular bouncers took their time letting people in. Most who got to the front were turned away. One guy and his girlfriend even made a scene. They ended up getting shoved off and escorted away. Because of such exclusivity, the line moved painfully slow. Kitty, Ororo, and Betsy started watching Jean more than the line. She had been texting someone on her phone since they were in the cab. They assumed this was part of this surprise of hers.
“What’s the story, Jean?” asked Ororo, “You’re not going to keep us in suspense for too long, are you?”
“Of course not, Miss Munroe. What kind of friend and teammate would I be if I did that?” said Jean as she sent one last message.
“The kind that takes a perverse pleasuring in hearing her friends gravel with their thoughts?” said Betsy.
“Fair enough,” she laughed, “But don’t worry. Our wait is almost over!”
“How much longer?” asked Kitty impatiently.
Jean didn’t end up having to answer. From the front of the line, one of the bouncers walked over and confronted them.
“Miss Jean Grey? Is this your party?” he asked.
“Yep, this is us,” said Jean with a friendly gesture, “We good to go?”
“Yes, we’re good. Follow me,” he told her.
Jean gestured for Ororo, Betsy, and Kitty to follow her. They were still confused, but went along with it. As they walked to the front of the line, they earned their share of nasty glances. Many who had been waiting in line for much longer were understandably upset.
“Hey! Why the hell do they get to cut to the front?” exclaimed one guy.
“They’re not even as hot as us!” said a girl with several scantily dressed friends.
“I’d love to argue with that girl in the halter top that’s two sizes too small, but I think an answer is in order,” said Betsy.
“Yeah, what strings are you pulling here, Jean?” asked Kitty as they neared the entrance.
“Oh I didn’t pull the strings. Someone else with far greater influence did that,” said Jean as they entered into the club.
“Someone else? Who?” asked Ororo.
“That would be me,” answered a familiar voice.
As soon as the four X-women stepped inside they were greeted with a welcome and familiar presence.
“Warren!” cheered Kitty as she gave the winged mutant a friendly hug.
“I should have known. You always were good at finding your way into unexpected places,” grinned Ororo.
“I like to think I haven’t lost my touch,” said Warren, “Jean told me you girls were going out and I just happen to know the guy who runs this club. A few extra bucks and he set up a VIP booth for all of you.”
“You also said you were in need of an off night too,” said Jean, “Working your way through the family business must take it out of you.”
“You have no idea,” he said.
As Kitty and Ororo eagerly greeted their friend and former teammate, Warren’s eyes fell upon Betsy. Since he wasn’t with the team when she joined, he didn’t get the chance to meet her. He heard about her from the others. They gave her the shortened version of her story. He assumed they told her about him as well. But he still couldn’t resist introducing himself to a pretty girl.
“And this must be Elizabeth Braddock,” he said as he approached her, “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“Call me, Betsy. We’re X-men, not royalty,” said Betsy with a playful grin, “So you’re Warren Worthington III…the man behind the money and the tech that makes the Danger Room work.”
“I try to do my part. Both in and out of an X-men uniform,” he shrugged.
“I’m sure you do. And if you’re connected enough to get us in this club, you’ll earn yourself even more points with me.”
“Oh? Is that all I can earn?” said the winged mutant with a flirtatious tone.
“Dump the hormones, you two. We’re not even on the dance floor yet!” said Jean, hoping to conserve their energy.
“Just warming up, luv,” said Betsy, “I need a few drinks in me before I get it going.”
“I believe I’ll be able to help with that,” said Warren, “For the rest of the night, consider me a concierge. I’m here to make your girls night all the more successful.”
“Then don’t keep us waiting, flyboy. Let’s get in there and get a little wild!” said Kitty.
“Wild being relative for each of us, mind you,” said Ororo.
“Speak for yourself, luv. I’m ready to make this club our own personal Danger Room!” said Betsy as she latched onto Warren’s arm.
She sounded pretty ambitious. Jean and Kitty shared in that spirit as they followed Warren into the club where the music was playing and the floor was crowded with people. Ororo followed as well. It seemed their special girls night out was ready to reach its peak.
Genosha – Ruins of the World
“Get ‘em off me! Get ‘em off me!” cried a desperate Mercury.
“Quit playing around! Kill the little buggers!” exclaimed Pyro.
The inhuman cries of the goblin hordes continued tormenting the Brotherhood. There seemed to be no end to them. The goblin attacks swarmed from every direction, crawling and biting at them at every turn. Mercury and Pyro were losing their respective battles. Havok, Polaris, and Quicksilver were in a stalemate on their end. To this point Pyro kept most of the goblins at bay by using fireballs shaped like tornados. Then a couple jumped on his back and started scratching at his face. This allowed more to gang up on Mercury and wrestle them to the ground.
“Damn it! Right in the eye,” grunted Pyro as he forced off one of the goblins, “If you wankers are gonna help, now would be the time!”
“Just waiting for them to scratch some of the crazy out of you, Allerdyce,” said Avalanche, using tremors to keep the goblins at bay.
“If you hold still for just a sec, I can end this no sweat,” boasted Kid Omega.
Pyro wasn’t going to hold still so Quentin didn’t bother waiting for him to listen. Tapping into his vast psychic potential, he unleashed a wave of telekinesis so strong that it blew every goblin minion back as if pushed by a snow plow. It forced the goblins that had tackled Mercury away and got them off Pyro as well, but the resulting force wave sent them both tumbling as well.
“Argh! Little punk!” he grunted while clutching his eye.
“You’re welcome,” grinned Kid Omega.
“Congrats, kid. That’s probably the best compliment you’ll get from now on,” said Avalanche.
“That’s his problem, among his many others,” scoffed Kid Omega.
The goblin hordes were noticeably weakened after the telekinetic onslaught. Some of them pulled back. A few even disappeared into some strange blackish mist. Whatever these creatures were, they could be beaten. Kid Omega put up a telekinetic bubble to keep the others from attacking again. He followed Avalanche as he went over to aid Mercury and Pyro. They were okay for the most part. These goblins were more pesky than deadly.
Kid Omega’s telekinetic blast helped break the stalemate over with Havok, Polaris, and Quicksilver as well. They now had a chance to make a push for the Warlock matter that two dozen goblins were guarding. Fantomex did enough damage with this technology. There was no telling what these goblins could do.
“Polaris, cover me! I’m going to take a shot,” said Havok.
“You’re covered, Havok,” she said confidently.
“Please…don’t ever say those words out of context, Lorna,” muttered Quicksilver.
Polaris used her magnetic powers to summon piles of scrap metal from nearby. With this metal, she formed a metal storm around them to knock away the oncoming wave of goblins. They let out horrific shrieks when they were struck. Many stopped trying to reach them and those that had gotten through were knocked away by Quicksilver. This allowed Havok to set his sights on the Warlock container that stood a mere 30 feet in front of him.
“I don’t know who sent you little monsters. But if you get a chance, send them this message,” said the Brotherhood leader.
Havok put his hands together and unleashed a punishing wide-arced blast that illuminated the whole area. It did what Quentin’s telekinetic blast did earlier, only with more intensity. The hordes of goblins were forced away with punishing force, half of them disappearing back to from whatever dark void they came from. Only a handful managed to escape the blast. They still kept trying to guard the Warlock container. This gave Quicksilver the chance he needed.
“Go Quicksilver! Get the container!” yelled Havok.
“Always asking for more,” he said dryly.
“Pietro!” yelled Polaris.
“Relax! I’ve got this.”
The remaining goblins tried to converge around the container. Before they could, Quicksilver reached the container before reinforcements arrived. They tried to hold onto it, but their strength wasn’t nearly on par with how ugly they were. Quicksilver easily wrestled it away, kicking off a few goblins in the process.
“Hate to think what these things want with our gear,” grunted Quicksilver.
“Guess we’ll never find out now,” said Avalanche from nearby.
Now that Quicksilver had the container, Avalanche made sure he kept it. He used his powers to form large cracks in the ground, causing the goblins trying to go after the speedster to fall right in. With the Warlock container in hand, Quicksilver rushed back to Polaris and Havok. They readied their powers in case the goblins tried to make another push.
“Go on. Try and take it back. I dare you!” taunted Havok.
“Do these things even speak English? How do you know they understand your little threats?” scoffed Quicksilver.
Havok didn’t have to answer his question. The goblin hoards ended up doing it for him. Those that remained stared at them for a moment, looking ready to pounce. Then their demeanor shifted. A series of black portals formed and the goblins retreated. Within minutes, every last goblin was gone.
“I think they got the message,” said Havok with a half-grin.
“They better. There ain’t got enough fire in the outback give these things the burning they deserve,” groaned Pyro, who was being helped along by Avalanche and Quentin.
“If you’re pissed about your eye, don’t be. That Josh Foley kid can heal you,” said Quentin.
“It ain’t about the eye, mate. This techno shit is attracting all the wrong people. Hell, I’m pretty sure these creatures weren’t even people.”
Pyro was pissed and for once, no one could blame him. This was the second time in a month that someone tried to steal their Warlock technology. These goblins weren’t quite as tenacious as Fantomex, but gave them their share of fits. The Brotherhood had hoped to secure this area to prevent incidents like this. It was becoming apparent just how difficult that task would be.
“Anyone want to guess what that was about?” said Avalanche.
“Let’s not and say we did,” muttered Quicksilver.
“It doesn’t matter what those creatures were or who sent them. We have what we need,” said Havok, taking the Warlock hardware from Quicksilver, “It seems these creatures did most of the searching for us. This container is as big as the others.”
“Does this mean we can tell Wanda that all the matter is accounted for?” said Mercury.
“We should still do one last sweep. I don’t expect us to find much.”
“Should we leave out the part where we had help from ugly little goblins?” asked Polaris, “She’s dealing with enough as it is.”
“If it makes you feel better, I’ll be the one to tell her,” assured Havok, “Better she find out now so she won’t have a reason to yell at us later. I’ll take the hex punishment if necessary.”
“See now? That’s why you’re a good leader, Summers! You take one for the team,” said Quentin, giving the younger Summers brother a pat on the back.
“Unlike others,” said Avalanche, looking towards Quicksilver.
“Fuck you, Alvers,” groaned the speedster.
The Brotherhood was content to finish their survey quickly and put this conflict behind them. Havok entrusted Polaris with the containers, allowing her to take them back to one of the factories that was still active. The rest of the team would search for any remaining traces. After fighting through an army of goblins, there was plenty of incentive to get it over with.
While the Brotherhood was tying up the remaining loose ends, a lone figure was patiently waiting just outside the ruins of the dome. This affair wasn’t over for everybody. The bulk of the goblin hordes may have been warded off, but that didn’t mean the attack hadn’t been a success. Madelyn Pryor, one of the few who could utilize goblins to such effect, couldn’t stop smiling.
“Those arrogant, gullible bastards. No wonder the X-men keep getting the better of them,” said Madelyn, watching from afar as the Brotherhood carried out their survey.
Upon seeing that the Brotherhood had fallen for her ruse, several goblin minions emerged through a small gateway in front of her. They carried with them a small piece of Warlock matter. It was no bigger than a brick, but more than enough.
“Deception is such a wonderful thing. It separates the fools from the warriors,” she said as she took the Warlock matter in her hands, “You taught me that, Mistress Selene. Wherever you are, just know that I have what my Uncle Sinister needs to finish this new project of his. He’s dedicating it to you. When the time comes, I think you’ll be proud.”
Clutching the small Warlock container, Madelyn used her mystic talents to form a larger portal to make her escape. The Brotherhood was oblivious. The world was oblivious. They would all know the meaning behind the deception soon enough.
New York City – Club Liberty
“YAAAAAHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOO! I LOVE THIS SONG!” said an energetic and somewhat drunk Jean Grey.
“MOVE OVER, LUV! LEAVE THIS ONE TO THE EXPERTS!” said an equally euphoric and even more drunk Betsy Braddock, “COME HERE, WINGS! DANCE WITH ME!”
“Hard to say no to a beautiful telepath,” grinned Warren, who was only slightly drunk.
The music was playing, the drinks were flowing, and the party was in high gear. Club Liberty had put everyone in the spirit. The DJ was playing a new round of hip hop songs and the dance floor became crowded with energetic bodies. Jean and Betsy were in the thick of it, moving and swaying to the rhythm. Betsy dragged Warren into it as well, dancing under a stream of flashing lights.
It was the culmination of an eventful girl’s night out. Jean, Betsy, Ororo, and Kitty were having a blast. As soon as they entered the club, Warren led them to a VIP booth where drinks and snacks were waiting for them. There were even a few bouncers to make sure they had a little extra privacy. Once they settled in they had another toast, did a few shots, put in some orders with the bartender, and caught up with Warren. His family business had been keeping him busy. He claimed to be working on a few major breakthroughs. However, the promise of these breakthroughs was lost once the alcohol kicked in.
The drinking wasn’t too heavy, but the X-women did allow themselves to get a little drunk. Jean and Betsy led the way, getting warmed up on whisky and vodka. Warren followed suit, although he struggled to keep up. Ororo limited her drinking, feeling someone had to stay more sober than the others. Kitty also had to be careful because she was under-aged. However, between Warren’s influence and having two powerful telepaths, she was able to sneak some rum into her sodas. Her youth also didn’t detract flirting from some of the men who approached them.
“You look familiar. Have I seen your pretty face before?” said one fair skinned college guy as he passed by Kitty.
“I think I’ve seen her too,” said another guy of the same age with a Latino complexion.
“Have you now?” teased Kitty, “Well there’s a way to check. Do you guys have an ass?”
The two men exchanged confused glances.
“Um…yes,” they both replied.
“Then do know me. Because I helped save your asses!” said Kitty with a grin.
“Really? So you’re like…a superhero or something?” said the fair-skinned guy.
“Why should I bother answering when you’re too drunk to remember anyways?”
Kitty kept grinning as she walked past the bewildered young men. They were still clearly confused. They hadn’t recognized her as an X-man yet. At the rate they were going, they probably wouldn’t. That was okay with Kitty. She didn’t need the extra attention.
Leaving the two baffled guys behind, Kitty returned to the VIP booth where Ororo was sitting. She was working on a fresh round of gin. She hadn’t been out on the dance floors much. Kitty had been keeping up with Jean and Betsy for the most part, but was in need of a breather. She wasn’t too surprise that her teacher wasn’t cutting loose. Ororo had always been so calm and collected. But that didn’t mean she needed to spend most of her time in the booth.
“Quitting on us already, Miss Munroe? I thought you were the one that said dancing is a lot healthier than drinking,” she said as she sat down across from her.
“If I said that, I’m having a hard time remembering,” laughed Ororo as she looked down at her half-empty drink, “I think I’ve outgrown this kind of dancing.”
“That sounds like something Wolverine would say,” scoffed Kitty, “Come on, why are you benching yourself like this? Just because you’re our teacher doesn’t mean you should limit having a good time.”
“I am having a good time, Kitty,” said the African woman as she looked out towards the dance floor, “This whole night has been a breath of fresh air. I can’t remember the last time I felt this…”
“Normal?” said Kitty, finishing her train of thought.
“I wouldn’t go quite that far, but close enough,” she shrugged.
Kitty snickered as she watched Ororo. She looked too comfortable here in the booth while Jean and Betsy were living it up. Betsy actually jumped on Warren’s back while they were dancing, causing him to stumble awkwardly yet laugh the whole time. Jean was showing off some moves and throwing some slight Phoenix embers around her for added affect. It earned her a few cheers. Either everyone else was too drunk or too into the music to care.
Ororo laughed at their exploits while she finished her drink. Kitty laughed as well, but kept her focus on her teacher. Ororo clearly knew how to have fun, but resisted going a step too far. She didn’t throw herself out into a crowd or put herself in a position she couldn’t control. On some levels it showed how mature she was. On others it showed a few glaring limits.
“I think I just figured it out. Since I’m the most sober now, it’s only fitting,” said Kitty as she grabbed a glass of rum and coke.
“What are you talking about, Kitty?” asked Ororo curiously.
“Earlier you said you don’t like to force things. You like to let everything happen naturally. That’s how it happened with Mr. McCoy and Logan. That’s how you expect it to happen again. It’s natural, which I know you’re all about.”
“We’re back on relationship issues? I thought you insisted on avoiding that subject, Kitty,” Ororo pointed out.
“I’m just using it as an example. And it’s relevant since you’re single in a club with plenty of hot guys,” she said in between sips of her drink, “The whole natural approach makes sense for you. You’re connected with nature and you have to hold onto that connection so you don’t lose control. That’s cool and all, but you take it a step further. You use the natural approach with everything else too. It’s how you teach, dress, and enjoy a night out.”
“Well I’ve never been subtle about how I carry myself. I don’t see why it’s an issue,” Ororo argued.
“It isn’t. I’m bringing it up because I think it may be the wrong approach.”
“Kitty, my powers are dangerous. I don’t have the luxury of experimenting with them.”
“I wasn’t talking about your powers. Natural works great for those. I was referring the other stuff,” said Kitty, throwing some more suggestiveness into her tone, “Don’t take offense to this, but if I used your method with Piotr he would barely know my name by now. I couldn’t just let it happen with him. I had to take a chance on him.”
“So you’re saying I don’t take enough chances?”
“You put yourself in a position. You just never take the next step,” Kitty summarized, “Now Logan and Mr. McCoy came your way, but you can’t expect that to happen every time. You’re too awesome to be alone. I think if you’re really open to getting with someone again, you should totally take more chances.”
It sounded like the rum in her coke was getting to her. However, Kitty’s brutal honesty had never been limited to alcohol consumption. It wasn’t limited to being wrong either. The whole natural approach had always been a big part of her life. It worked well for her powers, but it didn’t work well with relationships. Remy, Hank, and Logan all ended up coming to her. She let the emotions unfold without pursuing them and that only worked to a point.
Looking back towards the dance floor, she watched Jean and Betsy dance the night away. They weren’t letting it come to them. They were seizing the moment. Maybe that was what she needed to make her next relationship different. Even though being with someone just for the sake of being with them wasn’t her style, perhaps it would do her some good if she put herself out there a bit more.
“I’ll think about it, Kitty. I appreciate the advice,” said Ororo.
“It’s not really advice. It’s a warning,” quipped Kitty as she finished her drink.
“Why is that? You think that because I’m not as young that I have less time to act?”
“No, I’m telling you this because there are three hot guys who have been eying you all night. They look like football players, they’re not too drunk, and they’re coming this way.”
This caught Ororo off guard. Kitty tried not to laugh as she failed to prepare herself for the three approaching men. Before she could even say anything, one of them addressed her.
“Hi there! My buddies and I here were just wondering if you have any terrorist connections,” said a tall, dark-skinned man in a basketball jersey with dread locks.
“Um…no, why would you think that?” asked Ororo warily.
“Cause you’re the bomb!” the man and his buddies all said at once.
The three of them erupted with laughter and so did Kitty. It took a moment for Ororo to realize it was a cheesy pick-up line. It couldn’t have been too cheesy though because it got her smiling.
The other two guys had more flirtatious looks. One of them was a bit shorter than the first, having dark skin and low cut shorts with a gray jacket. The other was about the same size, having paler skin and what appeared to be some expensive custom clothes. They were attractive even if they were a little juvenile. Ororo’s first inclination was to push them aside. But since her conversation with Kitty was still fresh in her mind, she resisted those natural tendencies for once.
“If you’re smiling I’m guessing you ain’t too offended,” said the guy in the gray jacket.
“Does that mean you’ll join us for a drink or two?” said the man in the expensive clothes.
Ororo looked over at Kitty, who had that coy look in her eye that was urging her on. It was risky and a little reckless. But if she was going to start taking chances, she had to start somewhere.
“Sure! I’ll join you,” said Ororo.
“Way to go, Miss Monroe! You’ve taken the first crucial step,” said Kitty.
“Don’t think I’m letting my guard down, Kitty.”
“Who said anything about that? Have a good time already, teach! Nights like this are way too rare to squander.”
Ororo followed the three men towards the bar while Kitty made her way back towards the dance floor. It seemed everyone was into the spirit now, getting as much out of this off night as possible. Ororo got to know some handsome new strangers, Kitty got to party like a typical fun-loving teenager, Betsy got to enjoy some of the more traditional roles of a college student, and Jean got to flex her outgoing personality beyond the confines of the Xavier Institute.
It was exciting, invigorating, and therapeutic. The challenges they faced as X-men made it easy to forget that they were still human. A night like this served as a solid reminder that as crazy as their lives were, there was always room for a little fun.
Office of Dr. Cecila Reyes
‘I hate lying to my students. It has never turned out well. I haven’t lost their trust yet, but at the rate I’m going I might. This is becoming a destructive habit and the worst part of all is it may be necessary.’
Professor Charles Xavier waited nervously as he buttoned up his shirt. He had just finished a thorough examination with Dr. Cecilia Reyes, one of a handful of personal physicians he trusted with his health. She was an integral part of the treatment he received while he had cancer. He thought he was done with that phase of his life. The Shi’ar said they got rid of his cancer for good. Apparently, there was something else in his body turning against him.
As he slipped back onto his wheelchair, Dr. Reyes entered the examination room. Her expression wasn’t grim and her thoughts weren’t radiating with dread. She didn’t come off as very relieved either.
“Your MRI and blood work came back, Charles,” she announced, “The results I got were…unexpected.”
“By unexpected I hope that doesn’t mean more cancer,” said Xavier.
“No, it isn’t cancer this time,” Cecilia assured him, “However, it is related. Based on what you told me about these headaches you’ve been getting, it’s the only explanation that makes sense.”
“What explanation is that?”
Dr. Reyes sat down in a seat near the examining table. She had to be reasonable and a bit forceful with this man. He was not known for taking the advice of doctors as seriously as he should.
“As you recall, when your cancer returned, I put you on a cocktail of medications to ease your symptoms,” she said as she flipped through his file, “You were on some very powerful stuff, some of which wasn’t available at your local pharmacy. And it seems that your insistence on using these meds had some lingering side-effects. Even after the cancer left your body, those effects remained and they seem to be concentrated in your head.”
“So…the headaches are a result of my treatment. Somehow that’s making me sick?” surmised Xavier.
“It’s ironic and unfair, I know. But the tests proves it,” said the doctor as she showed him a copy of his brain scan, “These powerful pain relievers affect the receptors in your neurons that transmit signals. When they burn out, they take a while to function again. The other medications meant to regulate your endocrine system sent a myriad of conflicting singles, which in turn didn’t get through because the connections were damaged. What you’re experiencing now is your body adjusting to not having cancer.”
It seemed he couldn’t win with this body of his. Looking down at his crippled form, he cursed all the ailments that had plagued him. The most powerful mind in the world was trapped in a body that was so unbearably frail. It was as ironic as it was unfair.
“At least my body is making an effort to pull itself together. But in doing so it’s affecting my ability to use my powers,” said Xavier, “I can’t have headaches hindering my efforts, Cecilia. I need to be able to use my telepathy.”
“These are not normal headaches, Charles. Just as your head is not a normal head,” she said as she put away the scan, “The best advice I can give you is to limit your telepathy and allow your body to heal. Over time, the headaches will get less severe and you’ll be back at full strength.”
“Time is something I don’t have, Cecilia. Is there anything you can give me? Anything that will allow me to continue?”
“Do you really want to go this route again? You’re too smart a man to make the same mistake twice, Charles Xavier.”
“I can’t afford to be smart in this instance. I lied to my X-men about my cancer. I lied to them again about coming here. They think I’m with Aerie Global working on a deal to soothe things over with Genosha. I need to be functional should something go wrong. And without divulging too many diplomatic secrets, the chances of doing so are too great for me to take a sick day.”
He was doing it again. He was giving Dr. Reyes that look, urging him not to condemn him to the most prudent medical treatment. Charles Xavier wouldn’t allow himself to be sick. He had to keep shouldering the burdens for all of mutant-kind. It put Dr. Reyes in an awkward position because she was a mutant too. Even though it went against her medical expertise, she couldn’t turn this man down.
“There are some experimental medications,” she said with a begrudging sigh, “They’re not opiods, but they are risky. Some have more addictive power than Oxychotin.”
“I’ll take that chance. I’ll give you my pharmacy contact and he’ll fill the order,” said Xavier without giving it much thought.
“Charles, I’m still obligated to warn you that there are more dangers than I can warn you about,” said Dr. Reyes, sounding almost desperate.
“I don’t take your warnings lightly, Cecilia.”
“Now you’re lying to me too,” she said sternly.
“It’s not a lie. It’s the uncomfortable truth,” said Xavier as he handed her a slip of paper with his pharmacy contact, “The world needs the X-men. I need to keep being the Charles Xavier I’ve always been. I’ve risked my life and my health before. I’m willing to do it again.”
Dr. Reyes didn’t bother arguing with him. It was a losing battle. She just stared bitterly at him, projecting all sorts of angry thoughts his way. He had to have picked up on them, but it didn’t stop him from leaving. Cecilia looked down at the information Xavier had given her. She was tempted to change it. However, she could not fool the world’s greatest telepath. She had to give him what he needed. The world needed the X-men. The question remained whether it needed a healthy Charles Xavier as well.
Xavier Institute – Later
It was late at night. Pretty much everyone in the Xavier Institute had turned in. By their usual standards, it was still pretty early. For an off night, however, many had chosen to get some extra sleep. Scott was tempted to do so as well. However, he had too much on his mind to rest at the moment.
Sitting at the kitchen table, he looked over an old file given to him by John Proudstar. After meeting up with him earlier, he received what John described as the first major breakthrough in a conflict he thought had been solved years ago. The file had secret stamps all over it. Someone went to great lengths to keep it locked away. It all related to something his wayward brother, Gabriel, had told him. It still hung strongly in his mind. During their last fight, he said their father had died.
“Did he now?”
That was his response. It implied he knew something about that tragedy that neither he nor Alex knew. This file contained a record of the investigation into the plane crash that killed his parents. He hadn’t looked at it yet. He still remembered the official story, but now he was more interested in the unofficial version.
‘What are you keeping from me, Gabriel? What do you know that makes you hate our family so much?’
He kept staring at the file, wondering how he was going to handle it. He wasn’t sure he had the strength tonight. It didn’t feel like a good time with so much of their focus on Genosha. Perhaps it was something he could discuss with the Professor and Mr. McCoy later in the week.
As Scott contemplated this issue, the door leading to the garage opened. The girls had returned from their night on the town. If their tired smiles were any indication, it had been a great success.
“Hey there, luv. Still awake?” said a clearly drunk Betsy, “That makes you the second angel I’ve seen tonight.”
“Second?” questioned Scott with a bemused grin.
“Long story. Not sober enough to tell it. Goodnight, Scott,” said Kitty, who was helping Betsy saunter drunkenly up the steps.
Scott laughed to himself. His mood shifted. Looking down at the file, maybe this wasn’t the night to revisit something like this. This was not the time to immerse himself in another personal conflict.
Shortly after Betsy and Kitty entered, Ororo guided Jean inside. They were both also drunk, Jean much more so than Ororo. It looked like Jean fell asleep briefly on the limo ride back to the mansion. Ororo had her arm draped around her shoulder, helping Jean towards the steps despite her own drunkenness.
“She sure looks happy,” said Scott, noticing the goofy grin on his girlfriend’s face, “I take it you guys had a good time.”
“Yes…very good,” said Ororo, her voice not quite as slurred as Betsy’s.
“Your lipstick is a bit smeared too. Did you get some action, Miss Munroe?” teased the X-leader.
Ororo blushed yet again, unable to keep herself from smiling. Perhaps she got a little two friendly with those guys she met in the club. But the fun outweighed the embarrassment. She would do it again in a heartbeat.
“I’ll need a full night of rest before I recount this to my students. That also means I’m not equipped to drag Jean up to her room,” said Ororo.
“I think I can help with that. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to carry Jean into bed after a wild night,” said Scott as he got up.
“If that’s another sex joke, it would be the ten billionth I’ve heard tonight,” she laughed.
The X-leader grabbed the file and tucked it under his arm. He rushed over to take a drunk Jean Grey off her hands. It allowed Ororo to dedicate more of her energy to scaling the stairs and making it to her room. She moved somewhat clumsily, but she could make it. The same couldn’t be said with Jean.
Scott had to give Jean a moment to settle. She looked pretty tired and was still grinning in her inebriated state. She also managed to recognize her lover, grasping onto his shirt and playfully welcoming in him her own drunken way.
“Mmm…hey there, handsome. You gonna carry me to my bed and tuck me in?” she said in a slurred tone.
“Still so playful even when you’re drunk,” said Scott in a humored tone.
“I’m more than playful, babe. Get me a few more shots and I’ll be your cosmic sex goddess!”
The X-leader shook his head and laughed. With Jean now in his arms, he led her up the stairs to his bedroom. It seemed that even superheroes weren’t immune to making fools of themselves. He took some comfort in the knowledge that Jean probably wouldn’t remember this. It was a shame too. It was times like this on off nights when they realized just how human they were.
‘Hey Phoenix, what are the chances you can spare Jean a hangover in the morning?’
‘I’m sorry, Scott Summers. But there are some forces beyond the power of the cosmos.’
Next Issue: Deceptive Dealings
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