Apocalypso: Part 6
The Sixth Kind
by Samy Merchi
* DISCLAIMER * This is a non-profit work of fan-fiction involving characters created and owned by Marvel Comics Group. This story contains EXPLICIT VIOLENCE, and a few lines of EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. If this bothers you, please do not read the story.
* WRITTEN BY * Samy <firstname.lastname@example.org> Merchi
* ARCHIVED AT * http://mash.yok.utu.fi/corona.html
* CONTINUITY * This story takes place in my Shadows of the Future timeline http://mash.yok.utu.fi/corona/xforce/index.html in year +3 (three years in the future), on the 4th of July, about half a year after FIRST AND TEN, shortly after YOUR WAY, about half a year before WHO DARES WINS
A dark, long-limbed creature, easily the size of a van, hurtled backwards thru the air like a baseball. Crashing to the ground, it skidded along for several dozen feet, grooving the thickly vegetated ground with its several hundred pounds of chitinous bulk, until finally reaching the treeline surrounding the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, and crashing into the lush greenery of tropical trees.
One of the buildings the ruins consisted of was noticeably more ruined than the others. A one-story yellowstone house that had stood for centuries thanks to the exemplary Maya construction work, had been reduced into just one wall that was barely standing anymore, in less than a minute.
"That", Samuel Zachery Guthrie gasped out of breath as he stumbled backwards dizzily, one hand going to the side of his head, "took a lot outta me, Tab -- Ah need a sec --"
"Get back, Sam!" Tabitha Smith grabbed Sam's shoulder, yanking him backwards as another of the insectoid creatures rushed towards the pair, as well as the two reporters behind them taking cover against the wall. Raising her hands in front of her, they glowed with bright white energy for a few fractions of a second as she placed herself in the creature's path. Then, a glowing quarterstaff took form in her hands, and she took a quick step backwards, bracing herself and pointing one end of the staff towards the creature as if a spear preparing to receive a charge.
The instant the N'garai creature's chest contacted with the tip of the quarterstaff, the first inch or so of the weapon detonated, the force of the explosion focused straight thru the creature. A hole well over a foot in diameter blew clean thru the chest and threw the N'garai backwards with an ear-splitting squeal coming from it's throat.
"Two more!" shouted Neal Conan, one of the reporters as he panned his camera from Tabitha to her right flank where more creatures were rushing towards the four humans, squealing and screeching wildly.
A firestorm sprang out of nowhere, enveloping the two charging N'garai like a cloud, burning white hot for a moment, desperate furious screeches emanating from within the flames. Then, they ended, and the firestorm subsided, extinguishing like a blown-out candle with a wisp of smoke wafting from the two piles of ash on the ground.
"I see you had more success than we did in uncovering the N'garai", Roberto da Costa hovered in the air, his starfield cape cascading softly on the winds, one hand still flickering with flames as the other one let go of Julio Esteban Richter, dropping him to the ground.
"Bobby! Ric!" Tabitha gasped as she whirled towards the two Latinos just as Rictor touched down onto the ground, dropping into a crouch as he glanced around the area, making note of the dozen of so N'garai creeping about in the shadows. "Couldn't have had better timing!" Tabitha smiled in relief.
"I'm only glad we weren't too late", Roberto stated, and his fists started burning brighter as he took on a bit of altitude, and then spread his arms to the sides, starting to glow like a small star, the ruins suddenly lit as brightly as if it were daytime. "Rictor, Meltdown, protect the civilians", he said as he flung out a blast of flame, incinerating one of the N'garai where it stood with a hideous screech. "Cannonball, I could use some assistance in --"
"He can't hear you!" Tabitha shouted as she ran over to Sam and put an arm around his waist, supporting him as he sagged almost ready to fall down.
"What -- why?" Roberto blinked in confusion, his attention momentarily straying from the N'garai as he glanced towards Sam and Tabitha.
"I had to blow up his ears", Tabitha gritted her teeth and swallowed with an agonized expression creeping onto her face. "I had to --"
Roberto's eyes widened with a gasp. "Blessed saints..." he murmured. "Sam -- deaf --?" For a few moments, he stared blankly at his old friend, noticing the trails of blood running from the blond Kentuckian's ears. Then, with a growl, he wrenched his eyes away, instead narrowing them onto a pair of N'garai fleeing towards the jungle. "NO!" he shouted, casting his arms towards the creatures and unleashing a solar blast which incinerated them just as they were about to reach the treeline.
"They're running", Julio pointed out with a frown as the N'garai were scattering away from the well lit ruins and into the dark jungle all around. "I guess they're smart enough to know they're outmatched", he narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, "but we're going to have a hell of a time finding every last one and clearing this area of --"
"Where's Dani?" Roberto interrupted.
"Reverse the spell, Calypso", Danielle Moonstar glared at the Caribbean sorceress standing in the middle of the vast underground hall, in front of a large pool of a red liquid. "Whatever you did, undo it", she hissed, the seething blue arrow in her psionic energy bow pointed straight at Calypso's forehead. "NOW!"
"Rest assured, Danielle Moonstar", the vast form, several dozen feet high, suddenly spoke as it stepped out of its gigantic sarcophagus on the far end of the hall, "there is no way to undo what the woman's done." Its blue lips drew into a cold smile. "The Apocalypse walks the world anew. As I've ever been, so will I ever remain."
"And I", Calypso turned around towards Apocalypse, kneeling and bowing her head, "am his servant."
"So you appear to be, woman", Apocalypse replied as his eyes studied Calypso intently for a few moments. "I feel the power which I once contributed onto Moses Magnum, returned into my body, only immensely amplified. *You*", he stared at Calypso, his eyes narrowing, "have resurrected me, woman. Why, and what is your name?"
"I am called Calypso, my lord Apocalypse", she answered, head still bowed. "And I have resurrected you in the hopes that one of your power might consider, if it pleases him, showing a minor amount of gratitude in finding a way to do that which I have repeatedly failed at, and bring back to me the man I love -- Sergei Kravinoff, the original Kraven the Hunter."
"I am not above feelings of gratitude", Apocalypse's voice echoed in the hall, and he let his eyes linger on Calypso a few moments longer. "I will consider your request." Then, his eyes shifted onto the remaining three people in the room. "Danielle Moonstar, Gaveedra Seven, and..." He quirked an eyebrow, seeming almost amused as he studied Douglock. "Some techno-organic version of Douglas Ramsey, I believe. I am confronted by X-Force, I take it?"
"He may still be in a weakened state after his resurrection", Shatterstar hissed. "I suggest immediate full-force attack."
Douglock sighed and placed a hand over his face. "You would..."
"SelFoeApocalypse's current abilities and power levels unknown", Douglock pointed out. "Massive size increase from previous recorded data, Self fears possible results of violent encounter. Exclamation: WHAT ARE YOU, NUTS?!?"
Dani watched Apocalypse sharply for a few moments, letting her thoughts wander over her options. Douglock and Shatterstar would do whatever she decided, they were both followers. All the more reason for her to make the right choice. The wrong one could cost lives.
Reserves. Fortifying. She didn't move her face so Apocalypse could notice her overt movement. Instead, she just glanced at Douglock from the corner of her eye, and once she was sure she'd gotten his attention, she moved her lips minutely.
Douglock's eyes narrowed as he lip-read, and then, without giving a nod of acknowledgement, concentrated to execute the one-word order he had been given.
"Douglock!" Roberto suddenly glanced past some buildings towards another part of Palenque. "Follow me!" he shouted to the others, and soared off to the sky, leaving behind a trail of fire as he reached the apex of his arc, and then zoomed back downwards with a straight vertical dive, his fists starting to burn brighter.
The Hall of Life and Death shook as an explosion tore a van-sized hole in the ceiling and Roberto soared down thru the self-provided entrance. He was accompanied by dust and small rocks jarring loose from the impact, the latter clattering to the floor underneath, some of them splashing into the red pool. "DANI!" he shouted, looking frantically around for her, and then froze in mid-air as his eyes locked onto "Apocalypse", he murmured.
"Hold it, 'Berto", Dani said without moving her eyes from Apocalypse, raising a hand as a gesture to hold Roberto back as she let her psionic energy bow dissipate into thin air. "We're not in a fight yet, and might get out without one." After a brief pause, she raised her chin defiantly, her eyes still locked with Apocalypse's. "How about it, Apocalypse?", she asked, feeling a bit more secure now with Roberto's presence. "We want Calypso. She has crimes to answer for. If you'll let us have her --"
"No", Calypso hissed, wrinkling her nose. "My lord, I've served you well --" she glanced towards Apocalypse.
Apocalypse watched with an amused smile, giving Calypso a brief glance before returning his eyes to Dani. "Why should I care about the laws of the *weak*, Danielle?" he asked, his expression going serious and his face darkening before he went on, addressing his words to all of the four mutants. "Why should any of you? You were born for *better* things than to serve laws drawn to protect the weak dregs of humanity."
"We serve the common good, Apocalypse", Dani replied. "Every human being deserves our protection."
"Do they indeed?" Apocalypse quirked an eyebrow. "Don't farmers, foresters and gardeners alike tend to their property and weed out those elements that are detrimental to the common good?" He waved his hand. "Isn't the common good the *bettering of the race*, to make humanity *stronger*, more *powerful*, so that in the future it can challenge the *gods themselves*?"
"We don't want to challenge anyone", Douglock replied. "Just help as many people as we can!"
"And if that requires challenging people?" Apocalypse replied. "If it requires challenging *me*, for one? If humanity is made *strong*, it can defend it*self*, Douglas. Or is it simply easier to help maintain the weakness of the human race to preserve your own uniqueness so you will remain the most powerful beings in the world?"
"We don't maintain the weakness of the human race for our own good", Roberto snapped as he hovered behind Dani's shoulder, fists burning angrily. "We maintain peoples' lives for *their* happiness!"
"And thereby causing humanity's increased unhappiness in the long term, Roberto", Apocalypse smiled. "You are choosing short-term results over long-term results because that path terms you as 'heroes' while I am termed a 'villain'. What motivation could be more akin to self-glorification?"
"You're twisting things around --!" Dani hissed.
"Am I?" Apocalypse asked. "Or am I simply exposing an uncomfortable truth? The time will come, Danielle", he locked his darkening eyes with hers, "when evil forces will overwhelm the Earth. Join me", his voice echoed, "and help temper humanity into a flawless blade that will stand unbreakable against any foe. You may be termed 'villains' by those trying in desperation to deny the justification for their doom, but rest assured, you will be no less heroes to the new humanity of the future."
"Maybe so, Apocalypse", Julio Richter's voice came from the ceiling as he stood at the edge of the hole with Meltdown and Cannonball, staring down into the hall and straight at Apocalypse. "Improving the human race's a kick-ass goal, but there *has* to be a way to do that without killing people. No matter how much you talk or what you say, the *ends* don't justify the *means*! It doesn't matter *how* important the end is, there's always *right* means and *wrong* means. And if your end can't be accomplished with the *right* means, then to *hell* with it!"
"What *he* said!" Tabitha barked out from beside Julio, her arm around Sam's waist and his arm around her shoulders as she supported him, Neal filming eagerly from behind the three mutants. "You can *take* your offer, *write* it up, have it *notarized* by the law firm Jabroni, Baloney, and Mahoney, get a nice shiny *frame* for it, shine it up *reallll* nice, *turn* that thing *sideways*, and STICK IT STRAIGHT UP YOUR BIG, BLUE, MECHANICAL CANDY--"
"Right!" Dani's growl interrupted Tabitha, perhaps mercifully so. "We'll never join you!"
"We've followed enough people in our time, from Professor Xavier, to Magneto, to Cable, and beyond", Roberto hissed. "It's time for us to blaze our *own* path!"
"Yeah!" Douglock agreed. "Go find other flunkies to do your dirty work! We're not stupid enough to fall for that stuff you're shoveling!"
"Self believes SelfSoulFriendCypherDoug put it best last month", Douglock gritted his teeth and his head morphed to a likeness of Popeye, complete with a pipe between his teeth. "'Dem's fightin' woids!'" His pipe tooted twice to punctuate the words.
"Can I attack?!?" Shatterstar brandished his blade impatiently.
"So be it", Apocalypse's eyes narrowed. "I had hoped the younger generation would have had more sense than their mentors -- but it seems you are as prone to naive idealism as they are." Raising his arms, he smashed his fists to the ceiling and tore outwards, ripping the stone apart and reducing the earth above the hall into a hailfire crashing down.
"LOOK OUT!" Douglock shouted as he glanced upwards. "The roof's coming down!" Video-camera-sized cannons morphed up from his shoulders and opened fire at the falling rock and chunks of earth, targeting the largest pieces and blasting them apart. "Sam and the others --!"
"I've got them!" Sunspot shouted as he soared upwards, raising his temperature white hot as he zoomed thru the rock rain, anything that was about to strike him vaporizing instantly. He flung his arm out towards Meltdown, Rictor and the two reporters in free-fall, draining the gravity pulling them downwards and halting them in mid-air.
Cannonball was already streaking thru the air, ensheathed in his flaming orange blast field as he shot across the length of the hall, his eyes fixed on Apocalypse's massive chest.
The impact threw Apocalypse backwards a step before he crashed against the wall behind him, the hall shaking further, spider-web cracks ruining the elaborate ancient artwork and inscriptions on the wall behind the giant and the other walls of the hall starting to crumble up.
"EEEEEEE!" Calypso screamed as a large chunk of rock fell straight towards her from the ceiling.
"Oh, mute yourself, woman!" Shatterstar hissed as he leaped towards the sorceress and tackled her out of the way, the rock crashing to the floor right where she had stood.
"Great", Dani hissed as she rushed to the corridor leading into the hall, taking cover in the entranceway, watching the last pieces of ceiling crash down to the floor before she flung out her arm, invoking her powers to draw forth Apocalypse's greatest fear.
"Nothing??" she blinked, staring dumbfoundedly for a moment.
"A good try, Danielle", Apocalypse smirked as he whacked his arm outwards, smashing into Cannonball and swatting him to the sky with a fiery trail as if he were no more than an insect. "But I *have* no fear! Only my goal, of saving humanity from the predations of the dark days!"
"Save *this*!" Meltdown shouted, casting a trio of glowing orbs towards Apocalypse. "You with me, Ric? 3...2...1..."
BOOM BOOM BOOM
Apocalypse laughed as he brought one hand in front of him, morphing it into a dark blue metal shield blocking the orbs as they impacted onto it, exploding in a firestorm accompanied by a vibratory shockwave unleashed as Rictor crossed his hands, index fingers held out like a gun and pointed straight at the shield.
"This is great stuff, Manoli!" Neal whispered as he zoomed past Meltdown and Rictor to Apocalypse's face. "We really struck gold with this trip, I can't believe --"
"*I* can't believe we're floating in mid-air", Manoli interrupted, glancing around herself in discomfort and finding no reason whatsoever why she wouldn't be falling.
"Pardon me, miss", Sunspot replied as he gradually lowered the four people he had caught all the way down to the floor, and once he was sure they were safely down, he snapped his head around and glared at his foe. "And now that they are out of the way, Apocalypse --" his eyes flared up angrily.
The ground shook as Sunspot cast his arms outwards, firing out a solar blast that flashed across the hall and hit the far end with a devastating fireball. The heat and shockwave blasted back across the length of the hall, making Meltdown clamp her hands over her ears as sweat streamed down her heat-reddened face.
"Merciful spirits..." Dani murmured when the fireball subsided, revealing the completely demolished far end, destroyed wall art, rubble strewn everywhere and the skinned corpses Calypso had used, now charred black as parts of them were visible from underneath the chunks of stone and earth. A crater the size of a small house dominated what was left of the wall. "Bridge is going to kill us..."
"You are far too susceptible to your impulses, Roberto", Apocalypse laughed, not even blackened, standing there as confidently as he had ever been. Then, he raised his arms, shrank down to human size and formed fin-like wings from underneath the arms, taking to flight and soaring towards the sky. "You are almost not worthy of my time."
"Alarm! SelFoeApocalypse effecting escape!" Douglock shouted and shot upwards from the floor, small boot-flames burning at the soles of his feet as he zoomed upwards after Apocalypse, a crosshairs targeting device morphing over his other eye, staying focused on Apocalypse.
"Not on our watch, Warlock!" Douglock replied as he maneuvered around in the sky, pulling tight, sharp arcs as he followed Apocalypse's evasive actions. "Give it up, Apocalypse! I can read your body language and know where you're going to turn next! You can't get away from me!" he shouted, and then, getting close enough, tackled his target. "I've got you now!" he gritted his teeth as they streaked down towards the ground.
"HA HA HA!" Apocalypse laughed as he grabbed Douglock's head and threw the symbiotic creature thru the air with immense force, sending him crashing into a building, demolishing one wall and collapsing the roof onto the hapless Fallen Angel.
"A good try, Douglock", Apocalypse smiled as he stood up in the crater the impact had created, and again sprouted up to three-story gigantic size. "But to one such as I, your attack capabilities are meager at best."
"Indeed, Apocalypse?" Sunspot soared up from the pit of the Hall of Life and Death, a quickly fading trail of flame following him. "Then try this fastball special on for size!" he shouted and heaved a humming Shatterstar at Apocalypse with both hands.
Gritting his teeth, Shatterstar growled out an, "AAARGGHMMM!" as he hurtled thru the air at near-sonic speed. His double-blade glowed a bright pink as he gave a vicious vertical slash with it a fraction of a second before impact.
"ARGH!" Apocalypse shouted as the radiant blade carved a several feet deep gash in his chest before the glow faded, and he stumbled backwards a step or two. "A good effort", he rumbled with gritted teeth, "but, I regret to say, sorely wasted on one who has survived much worse over millennia!"
"Is that so, vehjka?" Shatterstar snarled as he flipped several times in the air as he bounced upwards from the impact to Apocalypse's chest even as the gash was already rapidly self-repairing and re-sealing itself. "Then perhaps this course of action", he landed on Apocalypse's shoulder and with both hands, stabbed his blade into the giant's eye, "will provide more satisfactory results!"
"Very good", Apocalypse's face tensed, his teeth gritting at the assault but no cry of pain was forthcoming now that he was prepared. "You children of X-Force are more vicious and aggressive than your predecessors. That will serve you well in surviving", he declared, and then swatted a hand over his shoulder as if shooing away an insect.
"UNGH!" Shatterstar gasped as he was slammed thru the air, crashing to the jungle a few hundred feet behind Apocalypse and disappearing from view into the vegetation.
Apocalypse staggered backwards again a mere few steps as a fireball lanced out from Sunspot's arms and exploded against his chest, bringing a faint grunt from his throat. He levelled a glare at the Brazilian who pulled a loop in the sky to come in for a second attack.
"Yeah well", Rictor said as a glowing orb of Meltdown's creation hovered up from the Hall of Life and Death, his hands clamped around it as he used it as a makeshift elevator or a miniature hot air balloon to lift himself back up to ground level, Meltdown floating up as well beside him. "Cable always kept saying there're five kinds of mutants -- the mollifiers, the abusers, the used, the hunted and the hidden", he recited as he got onto solid ground. "Cable wanted to make us *the sixth kind* -- the *survivors*. I guess we have to thank him for that, at least, even if I hate his guts!"
"And who're you calling 'children'?!" Meltdown shouted as she waved her arms, sending both orbs streaking forward thru the air towards Apocalypse after they had deposited her and Rictor onto solid ground.
"What'd you do to bring Apocalypse back?" Mirage snapped as she yanked Calypso close by the front of the sorceress' dress. "And how do we undo it?"
"You don't", Calypso sneered at Mirage. "And even if there was a way, I would not tell you. The worst thing you can do is kill me, and you so-called 'heroes' don't do that. I will have my Sergei back, and none of you can stop me."
"Really", Mirage wrinkled her nose, then shoved Calypso backwards roughly, sending her crashing onto the floor in front of the pool. Glaring at the black woman, Dani took a step backwards, lowering her chin a bit so her face was blacked out by shadows, her eyes gleaming, her white teeth visible in the darkness as she hissed, "There are far, far worse things I can do to you than death." She held a slight, dramatic pause, and then spoke again in a tone that would not take a no for an answer. "Why did you bring the N'garai here?"
"They served as my minions", Calypso narrowed her eyes at Mirage. "Collecting the victims and blood on my own would have been tedious. I do not *do* 'tedious'."
"And Magnum?" Mirage snapped. "Why was he here and why did you kill him?"
"He was here", Calypso laughed amusedly, "because he had delusions about conquering the world with armies of N'garai. It was a convenient story to give him, to bring him in. Apocalypse once gave him power. With the sacrifice, the power returned to Apocalypse."
"Reinforced by the blood energies you had collected", Mirage glared at Calypso, "Apocalypse's energy returned to him, jumpstarting him. And it can't be undone." She looked straight up at where the ceiling had been, where she could see Rictor and Meltdown on ground level blasting at Apocalypse while Sunspot soared around in the air, supporting the assault. "We'll see about that. As a valkyrie, I know a few things about death energies myself."
"WHUNGH!" Dani gasped as Calypso rushed up and tackled her hard while her attention was on the battle up above. She crashed onto her back, the air knocked out of her lungs by the impact as Calypso crashed atop her, clawing at her face. "Get away from me, witch!" she snapped, smashing a knee up into Calypso's gut and throwing the sorceress away as she flipped back into a ready crouch, the two women glaring quietly as they took each others' measure, while Neal and Manoli stood close to the wall, watching the showdown, the latter with a frown, the former with an enthusiastic smile, his camera purring on his shoulder.
"GUYS! GUYS!" Douglock yelled as he shoved aside the debris on top of him and stumbled out of the ruined building. He winced at the sight of the three arguably most destructive X-Forcers ever opening up on Apocalypse to little noticeable effect other than slowly driving him back. "NO!" he shouted as Apocalypse stepped on one of the small huts, crushing it. "People, we need to get him OUT of --"
"LOOK OUT!" Sunspot shouted as Apocalypse raised an arm, firing a white hot energy blast from the palm of his van-sized hand at Rictor and Meltdown.
"SelFriendBoomBoom!" Douglock screamed as he saw the energy blast strike the ground with an explosion, throwing Rictor and Meltdown thru the air in an arc before they started plummeting downwards, back into the pit of the Hall of Life and Death. "*Selves* to the rescue!" he buffed out his chest, jets igniting from the soles of his feet as he rocketed towards the pair.
"I have Rictor!" Sunspot swooped down in an arc, snatching the Mexican up at the apex before pulling back upwards.
"And we've got Meltdown!" Douglock answered as he caught the blonde and soared up beside Sunspot.
Meltdown shook her head groggily to clear it, groaning a bit as she took a few moments to steady herself from the blast. Then, she snorted with vague amusement. "Angels. Fly. Heh."
"This isn't going well", Rictor frowned. "We can hit the puerco with all we've got, and he keeps comin' back for more."
"SelFriends' offensive capabilities, equal SelFoeApocalypse's", Douglock commented. "SelFriends' defensive capabilities, negative equal statement."
"We can hold our own, for at least a short time", Douglock pointed out, then gritted his teeth as he swerved to the side, dodging a screaming wide energy blast fired by the giant. "But the longer this battle takes, the more Palenque will suffer! We were supposed to keep it intact!"
"We need an alternate tactic!" Sunspot growled. "Don't stay in groups, that makes for easy targets", he said and zoomed towards the ground, dropping Rictor off behind a ziggurat, out of Apocalypse's sight before taking on altitude again, stockpiling energy, his fists starting to blaze white hot. "Douglock, remember the Sentinels?"
"Affirmative, SelFriend!" Douglock swooped down to drop Meltdown off, then skimmed the ground in horizontal flight, left side towards the ground, right side towards the sky, facing Apocalypse.
Apocalypse smiled at the sound Douglock emitted, turning his eyes onto the human/technarch and stared in a very unsettling manner. "An electromagnetic pulse", he stated flatly. "You didn't really think I'd be affected by anything that primitive?" his blue lips gradually drew into a smile before he suddenly swung an arm out towards Douglock, the palm-blaster glowing, about to fire the next fraction of a second.
Plasma bombs impacted onto Apocalypse's wrist, twin explosions throwing the hand off-course as the energy blast lanced out, streaking past Douglock and smashing a two-story yellowstone building into a shower of debris.
"Fuck!" Douglock snapped as he glanced over his shoulder at the building's destruction.
"Ramsey!" Sunspot stared in astonishment. "You *cursed*?"
"Uh...that was Warlock", Douglock tried to look innocent.
"No matter", Sunspot streaked towards Apocalypse faster than any baseball thrown by any best pitcher. "My turn at bat!" he shouted and pulled back a fist.
Apocalypse took a step back from the force of the blow, his heel smashing in one wall of yet another building. A quarter of his head had been dented in, but reformed back to normal the next second, even as his hand shot up.
"UNGH!" Sunspot gasped as he was grabbed inside the massive fist, squeezed at with gigantic strength. His solar-powered muscles strained against the pressure, barely holding the fingers back for the moment.
A glowing green shockwave blast impacted onto Apocalypse's wrist, jarring, shaking and rattling it, causing the hand to lose its hold on Sunspot.
"Obrigado, Rictor -- thank you!" Sunspot gasped in relief as he flew away a bit shakily, clutching his side, taking deep breaths and wincing slightly.
"No problem, Bobby", Rictor stood on top of the ziggurat, his hands held together, index fingers pointed like a gun, a green halo around the hands. "Get back and take a few to recover while we try to figure out how to get this sucker the hell out of here."
"The hell yeah!" Douglock nodded, his face briefly morphing into Leonard Nimoy's.
"Die!" Calypso hissed as she thrust a spear towards Mirage's heart.
"Not today", Dani sidestepped the attack with ease, her hands snapping over to grab the spear and with a sudden rough wrench, tearing it free from Calypso. "Not by your hand", she whirled the spear around once, and then slammed the blunt tip to the sorceress' gut.
"WHOULPH!" Calypso doubled over, falling onto one knee and wheezing for breath. Before she could recover, Mirage spun around and lashed a kick to the sorceress' head, sending her crashing onto her back.
"We're taking you in, Calypso", Mirage towered over Calypso's downed form, her eyes narrowed determinedly. "Give it up. Even if you managed to beat me, you're not going to make it out of Palenque without one of my teammates catching you. You're much better off surrendering."
"Never", Calypso snarled angrily.
"Look!" Manoli shouted, pointing a finger at the pool of red liquid as a large black spindly-limbed creature splashed up thru the surface, spattering blood everywhere. Very, very silently, it turned its head from side to side, as if assessing the chamber around it, staring at all the four humans in turn. Then, it reared its head and squealed in a manner almost resembling laughter.
"My god", Neal murmured as he turned to film the creature. "It's another of those things..."
"The portal is still open..." Calypso murmured in surprise with wide eyes as she stared at the N'garai.
Mirage stared at the N'garai for a few moments as its eyes locked with hers. "All right..." she said, her face tightening as she took a few steps to the side from Calypso, holding the spear ready in her hands as she levelled a glare at the monster. "Come and get me."
Calypso looked between Mirage and the N'garai a few times. ((If I can get to my spirit drums, I can control the creature and have it get me out of here --)) she thought, and quickly stumbled up, making a mad dash towards her drums beside the pool of blood.
"Calypso!" Mirage shouted, her eyes widening at something only she saw over the woman. "No!"
"YEARGH!" Calypso screamed as the N'garai's arm swung out, sharp claws tearing her front open, a mess of her blood and entrails filling the air. She crashed down headlong, her lifeless husk not moving on the cold stone floor, blood slowly soaking the stones underneath her and flowing along the cracks towards the pool.
"DANI!" Sunspot shouted as he glanced over his shoulder in the air, looking over to the Hall of Life and Death and seeing the N'garai start towards Mirage. His heart jumped, a sudden adrenaline surge making him forget all pain as he zoomed downwards like a rocket, his eyes widening as the N'garai leaped forward, arms extended in front of it to tear the Cheyenne into shreds.
The N'garai squealed as the Brazilian tackled it while it was in mid-leap, streaking to the other side of the room and crashing to the wall with the N'garai underneath, receiving the impact.
"'Berto!" Mirage blinked at the surprise appearance, then winced a bit at the jarring crash. She watched a crackling black fist whip across the N'garai's face, drawing spatters of green liquid. "Look out!" she shouted as the N'garai pulled one long limb back, her heart skipping a beat as her valkyrie death sight showed an angel materializing above the battling pair. "NO!" she screamed, running towards them.
"ARGH!" Sunspot cried out as he was thrown backwards several dozen yards, crashing onto his back, his left side bloodied from shoulder to hip. "You're going to...pay for that..." he grunted as the N'garai leaped up. Black energy crackled around his right hand. The N'garai leaped. The energy blasted out.
With a wet squeal, the N'garai was smashed back in mid-leap, crashing down onto the stone floor, its chest a twisted, mangled mess bleeding green ichor. Weakly, shakily, it started pushing itself back up onto its feet.
"Sem chance, besta", Sunspot hissed as he clenched his fist tightly, flames starting to flicker around it before they lashed out, enveloping and surrounding the N'garai.
Calypso's blood slowly drained along the floor cracks. Closer, closer to the pool. Two feet. One foot. Eight inches. Four. The N'garai squealed wildly as it was being incinerated to ashes. 3...2...1.. Finally, it was silent.
"'Berto, I --" Mirage started, then paused in mid-sentence, her eyes glazing over for a moment. Then, a smile took form on her lips. She whirled around, and ran towards the exit out of the Hall. Neal blinked at her in confusion and got roughly shoved out of the way, stumbling back a few steps as he filmed her heading into the dark tunnels.
"Dani --?" Sunspot looked just as confused as he watched her exit over his shoulder. With a grunt, he forced himself back up onto his feet. "You should be safe here", he said to Manoli and Neal as he ran past them and into the tunnels after Dani.
"Right", Neal blinked a few times, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. He didn't have very much time to do so, though. Less than half a minute after Mirage and Sunspot were gone, another figure rose from the pool of blood.
"Damn", Manoli wrinkled her nose as the N'garai squealed wildly.
"ARG--" Meltdown's voice was cut off by the deafening explosion, and she was obscured from sight by the cloud of debris struck up by the blast.
"TAB!" Rictor screamed and broke into a mad run towards the explosion, his heart thumping, a stinging starting to fill his eyes as he recited just about every prayer he knew over and over in his mind.
Apocalypse smiled as he turned towards Douglock, his palm-blaster still smoldering. "You of X-Force are strong", he deemed, "but not strong enough to protect the world from the upcoming dark days. I could *make* you stronger", his lips drew into an unsettling smile as he shrank down from his gigantic form to normal human size. "All I require -- is obedience."
Douglock grimaced slightly, glancing over towards where Meltdown had been in worry, before returning his eyes to Apocalypse. "If you killed her, you're out of your mind if you think any of us are going to join you after that..."
"UNGH!" Apocalypse was blasted forward as a pink energy blast smashed into his back, sending him crashing headlong onto the ground, a large stretch of his back looking like a bomb had exploded inside it and torn him up. He hissed in anger, rising back onto one knee, then standing up as his back fixed itself. "Shatterstar", his eyes narrowed as he turned towards the warrior behind him.
"You will find a warrior born not so easily undone", Shatterstar hissed as he tried to maintain his posture, sagging a bit from the exhaustion of having used his mutant power a second time so soon after the first. "I will tear you apart, metamorph", he glared viciously at Apocalypse.
A rumble filled the skies, and a figure ensheathed in a dull orange blast field descended from up above. "This is enough", Cannonball growled at Apocalypse as he landed atop the ziggurat of the Temple of Inscriptions. "Ah dunno what your rationalizations are, an' Ah don't really give a whit right now. Even if I could hear 'em, Ah wouldn't want to. X-Force is claimin' protection over this place as of one second ago. Leave. Now. Or you'll find out what Ah've always said -- that *X-Force* only knows *one way* ta *do things*!" he clenched his hands into fists, letting them rumble threateningly.
"What Sam said", Meltdown groaned as Rictor helped her up from amidst the debris, her costume tattered and torn. "Take a hike, blue-lips. You're not wanted at our party. Don't make us show you the door."
"Dani! Wait up!" Sunspot called out, running after his ex-girlfriend. Getting no response but a quick glance over her shoulder before Mirage resumed running away, he picked up his pace, trying to ignore his wounds and gritting his teeth as he sprinted after her. "What happened? Talk to me! Are you all right?!"
Rounding a corner, Sunspot crashed right into Mirage's fist with an "UNGH!" He was sent stumbling back, crashing against a wall as she leaped at him, growling and clawing at his face. He gasped as her fingernails raked at him, drawing blood from his face, but he was too afraid of hurting her to just blast her away. "Dani!" he gasped, trying to grab her wrists and hold them down. "DANI!" he repeated, louder, trying to get her to snap out of it as he finally caught her wrists, stopping her assault momentarily. "What's wrong, tell m-- OOGG!" he froze, his eyes widening as the Cheyenne's knee smashed between his legs. Crashing to the floor, he curled up clutching his groin in agony.
"I am not your 'Dani'", she hissed as she picked up the spear she had put aside, and raised it, preparing to strike. "She caused the death of my body. She will be my new one. The host for the spirit of *Calypso*!"
"Wait!" Roberto wheezed, raising up a hand. "If you need a body", he gasped, laboriously pulling himself up to his knees, "then take mine! Not Dani's!"
"You are male", Calypso wrinkled her nose in distaste.
"I am also more powerful than she is", he took a few deep breaths as he stood up, looking her over in frustration. "I can't attack you, or I'll hurt Dani. The only way I can save her -- is by offering you a better choice. I am a better choice."
They stared at each other silently for a few moments.
"I love her", he whispered with an agonized expression, watching her. No response was forthcoming from the woman, and Roberto felt desperation growing inside him. "Please!" he pleaded. "I'm rich, I'm powerful, I'm perfect -- and if you're not satisfied with me, I assume you can always use my resources to find a more suitable host body. Take me", he gritted his teeth anxiously. "Just -- please -- let her go... I would gladly die for her..."
Calypso narrowed her eyes, thinking the suggestion over for a moment. Then, she took a step back. "Very well", she declared. "I know what love feels like. I can empathize with your pain. I will take you, and let your woman go. Take a step forward. The transference will begin. I will expect no resistance", she said, staring warningly into his eyes.
Roberto took a deep breath and raised his chin. "There will be none."
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