Burning Bridges

by Alicia McKenzie

DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story belong to Marvel, and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only. It is set directly after X-Force #25.

Exodus and the children soon left me to my thoughts. I sat for a long time in front of the screens, studying the view they presented of X-Force's Camp Verde headquarters as if it had some secret to reveal.

It didn't, of course. No secrets--no answers. Only questions.

It was such a hovel, really. A tragedy, to see them back there when they could have had Avalon. They could have fulfilled their true potential here, helped lead our people into the future they deserved. Instead, they had returned to that desolate, lifeless place. It was no better than a tomb, really. They'd chosen an abode of the dead over heaven itself.

And all because of Cable.

I replayed the footage of James Proudstar carrying his leader's body into the base. The rest of X-Force clustered around Warpath's tall figure, their body language speaking eloquently of their anxiety and near-panic. They were clearly in something of a rush. I assumed that meant Cable was still alive.

Odd. I didn't know quite how to feel about that possibility.

I wasn't about to delude myself into thinking I hadn't intended to kill him. I had. The fool had come after me with a GUN, after all. He had deserved nothing less for such stupidity.

And I had been angry. Furious, to be perfectly honest. Part of me had seen this as an opportunity to redeem myself after my previous failures with these children. A second chance. Of all the people walking this earth, I knew how rare second chances were. I had been so determined to make the most of it--

Had that been my downfall? I removed my helmet, setting it on the arm of my chair. As I'd told Exodus, I had not considered Cable much of a threat. I had assessed him and his capabilities, coldly and rationally, and decided he was no match for me. A mutant in name only, his psionic gifts pitifully undeveloped, despite my private suspicions about their source.

I had judged myself capable of handling anything he might do. In the end, hadn't I been right? With only a moment's effort, I had left him bleeding and broken at my feet. Dying. It had been child's play, nothing more, and fair return for his arrogance, his attempt to destroy my home.

It had been much easier then, in the heat of battle, to be so casual.

I scowled, and with one command deactivated the viewscreens. This was ridiculous. I had important work to do, and no time for such pointless second thoughts.

Yet his face haunted me. That blazing defiance--the contemptuous edge to his words as he'd attacked me. As if he had judged me, as well, and found me just as wanting.



Not what I'd expected, from a man lacking the sort of faith that was needed for a leader of our people in these dark days.

From the beginning, I had seen him as short-sighted. Dismissed him as a--fence-sitter, for lack of a better word, a man without the courage to come down on one side or the other, to decide between Charles's dream or my reality. I had scorned him as a fool for trying to stake out a middle ground, trying to compromise.

Compromise was weakness.

But he had won. Even if he died--I had no idea what sort of medical equipment X-Force possessed, whether or not they could save his life--that fact would remain. He had challenged me, dared to oppose my plans for the future, and he had won. It was as unchangeable as it was galling.

I disliked losing. Even to a worthy opponent.

I could give him that much, in the privacy of my own thoughts.

You don't get it, do you? he'd snarled as he leapt at me. They haven't chosen to follow MY path anymore--I've chosen to follow THEIRS!

Truth, amid the bluster? Of everything he'd said, that had stuck in my thoughts as the most important--the most revealing.

Why? Why had he fought me? He had to have known how it would end. It had been so far beyond foolish--next to suicidal, in truth.

I had watched him, over the years, always wondering what drove him onwards through a world not his own. What motivations lurked beneath that enigmatic mask. At least Charles had been predictable--to a certain extent--

But I'd never 'figured out' Cable, never managed to reach even a rudimentary understanding of what fueled that dogged persistence of his. Perhaps if I had, things might have been different--

The thought provoked a flicker of regret, but only for a moment.

No. Nothing would have changed. Cable wanted to be a bridge, a link between the different roads Charles and I walked.

I couldn't allow that.

Only one of us could be right.

Rising smoothly from my chair, I donned my helmet once more and went to continue my work.


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