On a cold and rainy night, a beaten and bloodied body emerged from a small opening in the ground. Samuel Zachary Guthrie climbed out, drenched in blood. Some of it his own, most of it was not. He is the last X-Man.
Sam Guthrie was also an eXternal. A mutant blessed with the gift of immortality. If not for that gift, he would never have been forced to crawl out from the pile of bodies belonging to people he once knew as his friends. What he had seen upon reaching the top drove him to tears. Logan, The Wolverine. Decapitated, his wide eyes staring blankly into Sam's own. Sam had thought Logan to be indestructible, the man who could face down any threat imaginable and live to tell about it over a round of beers afterwards. But he was dead, and Sam knew, in his heart, that he was the only one left.
There was only one other thing that hurt him more than seeing Logan dead, and that was the broken body of the young girl, Jubilee. He could tell, even from his distance, that she had been raped, brutally, and murdered immediately afterwards. He had come to know the former X-Man through letters provided by his younger sister, Paige, and felt her loss just as deeply as he felt the others. That thought stirred in him a fear to surpass all others.
"Paige!" He wheezed out, his lungs still partially crushed, along with the rest of his body at Blockbuster's feet. If the Marauders had slaughtered the X-Men so easily, what was to stop them from harming his sister? Possibly even raping her as they had Jubilee? Despite the intense pain caused by his movement, Sam crawled wearily out of the tunnels solely by the power of his arms, waiting for his legs to reassemble themselves. For a brief moment, he felt deep sympathy for his first mentor, Charles Xavier, but that feeling passed as he reached the manhole leading from the sewers to the front lawn of Xavier's mansion. By sheer force of will, Sam ignited his blast field and headed straight for the Massachusetts Academy. He had to protect Paige.
The Massachusetts Academy...
"Has anyone seen Jubilee?" Husk asked of the group of teenagers nestled in the recreation cottage. "Or even Sean?"
"Nope." Replied Skin, switching the channels on the T.V. "Haven't seen Emma much either. She got real quiet after that phone call, though. Wonder what it was about?"
"Curious, but if it was anything important, I'm sure she'd tell us." Paige replied, preparing to go outside and search. Before she touched the doorknob, however, a faint whistle was heard, growing louder. She opened the door, finally, to see Cannonball bearing down at the Academy at high speed. It took a moment for Paige to notice that half his face was missing.
Too weak to stop himself, Sam crashed into the ground explosively, with Paige quickly rushing to his aide.
"SAM! What happened?!?" Paige yelled, confused and instinctively frightened.
Sam crawled out of the slight crater he unintentionally created, grabbing his sister by the shoulders and staring into her eyes. "Inside. Now."
With no further delay, Husk picked up her brother and carried him inside. "ANGE! EV! Get over here NOW!" Paige screamed at her classmates, who quickly came running to her aide.
"Dios!" Skin swore as he saw the bloodied Cannonball wearily begin to stand.
"Get Emma." Sam spat out along with a mouthful of blood. They hesitated in shock, briefly, before Monet sent her mentor a psionic image of what she saw.
Emma, on the other hand, didn't hesitate at all, immediately breaking into a dash towards the cottage. She knew who must have been responsible for leaving the young X-Man in his condition, and why he must have come to them. The Marauders were coming, and Emma refused to let any more of her students die. She would protect them.
"How close are they?" Emma said as she entered. She need not have asked, since a second later she sent a deep psionic probe into Sam's mind, pulling all his recent memories out and into her own mind before Sam could blink.
Emma Frost is a woman of steel. Her force of will could destroy an army and her dedication to her students rivalled that of Xavier himself. She had endured a great burden for many years, and had learned to shield herself from the painful emotions that plagued so many others. But the image of her student, Jubilation Lee, beaten, broken... raped, was the one thing that could break her will, her resolve and all of her numerous icy barriers. Images of her years at The Clinic returned without warning, blinding her. The only thought that brought her back to reality was the fact that her other students were alive, and needed protecting. Immediately.
Emma's eyes snapped open to see a strengthening Sam stand on his own two feet, as he addressed her. "I don't have time to argue. I think the Marauders are on their way, we have to get out of here."
"Too late, runt." The voice was evil defined. The tone sent a chill down Sam's spine as he turned to see the face of a murderer. The face that belonged to Victor Creed. Sabretooth. "We're already here."
Everyone in the room jumped back to back, with the Marauders circling them like a pack of wolves. There was no escape, Sam knew immediately. There weren't enough fliers to carry them all away, and if the X-Men were defeated by the Marauders, what chance did a group of novice children have?
Sam's eyes then fell on Riptide, the maniacal killer he thought dead by his hands. "How are ya' alive? Ah killed you."
"I'd ask ya' the same question, farmboy." Blockbuster bellows from the corner. "I seem to remember leavin' a mighty fine footprint in your ass. We got instant cloning on our side, what's your excuse?"
Sam didn't answer. He prayed.
"There ain't no way out this time, kid. Don't know how you survived, but we'll just have ta' be extra sure about it this time." Riptide cackled out, tossing several throwing weapons back and forth at high speed.
"You will not kill these students. I will not allow it." Emma said, her steel resolve returned to her once more.
"Oh yeah? Who's gonna stop us? The X-Men are already dead." This time from Scalphunter. Normally, the Marauders didn't play games with their prey, they simply took them out and saved the bragging for themselves back at home base. But this time, their opponents were children, mostly uneducated in their powers and easy pickings for experienced butchers like the Marauders. Their arrogance would prove to be their undoing.
"I lost my last class of students because I not only failed to prepare them for such an attack, I failed to prepare myself." Emma's eyes cut like daggers into each Marauder. "Times have changed." Before the Marauders realized what happened, Emma reached into her coat pocket and triggered a command sequence, initializing the automated defense backup systems. Completely independent from the main defense system the Marauders had already ruined before showing their faces.
In an instant, the walls themselves came alive, various armaments activated, and the Marauders found the tables turned against them, for the moment at least. Before anyone else acted, Emma channeled a fatal psi-bolt directly into Vertigo's mind, killing her instantly before she had a chance to disorient the team.
Emma turned to her students and yelled orders. "TO THE HANGER, NOW!!" The kids quickly moved out, with Monet and Emma taking the lead, while Sam and Chamber covered the rear. The Marauders were all too busy fending off the Academy's defenses to stop them. Approaching the hangar, the students turned as the wall of the cottage exploded outward, several of the Marauders leaping out in pursuit.
Emma wasted no time in commandeering the minds of her students, mentally forcing them into the aircraft before they got the idea to confront the Marauders. She would not let them die in senseless combat, as the X-Men did.
But both Chamber and M were powerful psis in their own right, and remained unaffected by the commands. They would have left otherwise. And without realizing it, they would have left behind four other students.
><The kids!><, but for their sake, the young mutant named Jonathan Evan Starsmore remembered. ><Get the others out of here, Frost, I'm goin' t'get the kids!>< Without another moment's wasting, Chamber made a mad dash across the field, quickly followed by Monet.
"STOP!" Emma yells to no avail. She had never intended to leave the others behind, and would have returned to get them once the others were safe. But now she would simply have to return for more.
Noticing the two young mutants split off from the others, the Marauders followed suit, sending Scrambler, Harpoon and Sabretooth in pursuit, splitting the pack in two. Scalphunter and Blockbuster continued to attack those headed for the hangar. Prysm, Vertigo, Arclight and Riptide didn't make it out.
><What you doin', M? I didn't ask for yer 'elp.><
><Too bad, because I'm giving it anyway.>< M replies, also in psionics.
><We're gonna die. You know that, right?><
><Try not to sound so positive.><
They didn't wait to open the Biosphere doors, they simply plowed through them forcefully.
><KIDS!>< Chamber boomed his psionic voice throughout the entire complex.
When he received no answer, Jono rushed into the foliage, with Monet taking the high road, hoping to catch sight of them from the air.
The trio of Marauders arrived shortly afterwards, grinning to themselves at the sort of hunt a jungle like the Biosphere would provide.
As the engines burned, Frost's private jet sped down the runway and lifted off, soaring into the sky.
"Ya can't just leave 'em like that!" Sam shouted at Emma with a rage. These two had never gotten along, and the situation presenting itself did little to resolve that ever-present tension.
"I have no choice. I will not endanger the lives of all my students for the sake of a few." She turned to Angelo and beckoned him forward. "Angelo, you scored highest on your aviation tests, it is time you put that skill to use. Take this aircraft and head straight for Muir Isle. Don't turn back for any reason whatsoever, is that understood?" He merely nodded, taking his seat at the controls.
"Sam, it's up to you and me to retrieve the others. I swore that none of my students would ever die again. That's a promise I've already broken today. Don't let me break it again." That was all that was said before they lept from the plane door and flew back to the Academy.
Harpoon is a natural hunter, silent and brutal. It was he who irreparably damaged Angel's wings, eventually condemning him to a life of servitude to the immortal Apocalypse. He hoped for a similar victory today, to scar one mutant so irrevocably that his or her life would be shattered beyond hope. He saw his victim clearly. A young man clad entirely in black, looking up at a tree-house, with three little kids peering out at him. He poised for the strike, raising and charging his harpoon for an instant death. He smiled. That was the last thing he did.
Harpoon's arm fell, followed shortly by his severed head, and eventually his whole body was nothing more than a pile of bloody mess. From behind him, a petite girl with red skin and claws crept out, her hands dripping with the would-be assassin's blood. The girl's life was ruined by a predator such as Harpoon, and it was time he finally paid his penance.
Jono spun around to see the Yugoslavian girl known as Yvette crouching over the dead thing he scarcely recognized as a body, and failed to notice a cowardly Korean youth creeping up behind him. If Scrambler had any idea what his next action would have caused, he certainly would have refrained. Before Jono knew what hit him, Scrambler's hand crossed his face, touching skin-to-skin. What happened next neither would ever know, as the resulting explosion left a crater where the Biosphere had once been.
The explosion spread through Biosphere, leaving nothing in it's path, collapsing the entire building in on itself. From out of the rubble arose Monet, her clothing shredded and torn, but herself relatively uninjured. Several yards away, the Marauders Blockbuster and Scalphunter, the only two left alive, approached Monet. Blockbuster stepped forward, grinning wickedly and cracking his knuckles.
"This pretty's mine. I like what I see." Monet then realized how damaged her suit was, effectively leaving her topless. She didn't care. "What say I do to you what I did to that li'l Jubilee?"
"There is precious little that I don't know, Marauder. I know what you did to Jubilee." Monet flew forward at killing speed. "And she was my friend."
Blockbuster never stood a chance.
Realizing that his mission was a wash, and that the last man standing was commanded to retreat, Scalphunter turned tail and ran for cover. Finding a brief calm, he contacted Sinister on his wrist-communicator.
"Sinister, the Marauders are down. We met unexpected resistance in the X-Man Cannonball." His briefing given, Scalphunter added as an afterthought, "You were right all along, the kid is an eXternal."
"I am always right. Return immediately, I have already started recloning the others. Sinister out." And with that, Scalphunter hit a sequence on his communicator, activating the teleportation circuitry within, sending him to relative safety.
Arriving too late to be of any help in the fight against the Marauders, Sam and Emma landed next to the crater that used to be the Biosphere. Without any hesitation, Emma reached out with her mind, scanning for signs of her students. Monet walked up to them, having already used scraps of her uniform to cover herself up. "Jono is dead. Penance and the children may be as well." She said with a cold manner to rival the White Queen herself.
"No." Emma scanned harder, pulling all her reserves out to locate at least one live student. In response, the rubble began to move, and a dome of pure force rose out like an air bubble in water, holding Franklin, Artie and an unconscious Leech.
"That's it then. Jonathan and Penance are dead. I've failed again." Emma says to herself quietly, her force of will being the only thing holding her together.
><Don't count me out yet, gel.>< The psionic voice came from seemingly nowhere, as Emma and the others looked around for the source. ><I'm right in front o' you.><
They turned to see pure psionic energy coalesce into a shape resembling Jono's former body, but still remaining entirely in energy form. ><My body's completely gone now. What you see is what you get.>< There is a slight pause. ><But yeah, Penance is dead. I'm sorry, Ms. Frost, I couldn't stop it.><
Next to them they could Franklin sobbing softly. "Y-Y-You bwoke my ball." Franklin picks up the shards of a small blue ball in his hands, showing them to Jono. "You bwoke it."
"Don't worry kid, we'll get ya' a new one." Sam said in response, almost without thinking. He had no idea what was in that ball, and now he never would.
The next day at Muir Isle...
"How can they all be dead?" The shocked voice belonged to Roberto DaCosta, Sunspot, as he looked at the bodies now filling the makeshift morgue in Muir Isle's medlab. Much like his best friend, Sam Guthrie, Berto had come to see the X-Men as unbeatable. There was nothing that could beat them, nothing to keep them from coming back and saving the day.
The Generation X students had felt the same way about their mentor, Sean Cassidy, The Banshee. Paige Guthrie sat curled up on the floor next to his charred form, crying openly. For the second time in her very short life, Paige had lost her father figure. Angelo Espinosa did his best to console his classmate, but he knew his attempts at assurance were as much for himself as they were for Paige.
The experience had been a bitterly rude awakening for all who proudly wore the X. Despite victory after victory, the young men and women gathered at Muir Isle were confronted with the awful truth that they were indeed mortal. That even they could die, and for one, that he couldn't. The experience showed just the type of pain Sam would have to face for the rest of his immortal life, losing friends and family while he moved on, surviving tragedies that buried all others around him. When Sam joined the X-Men, he was the youngest, the junior X-Man. Now he was the only one left.
But that was an illusion soon to be broken, as those who carried the bodies of the X-Men out of the sewers, along with those of Caliban, Quicksilver and Jubilation Lee, discovered that the body of Scott Summers, the first X-Man, was not among them.
When Scott's time-lost son, Nathan Dayspring Summers, heard of this, he knew what had to be done. After gathering all the mutants into one room, the large man turned to the gathered group and spoke.
"Cyclops is missing, and we have reason to believe that Sinister has him in his custody. We're going to rescue him." Cable let the news sink in before continuing. "Even though the Marauders were successfully eliminated, Sinister has the means to clone a new batch within a very small time period after the deaths of the old ones, and that means we will have to face them again. I know that it's not the X-Men's chosen method of dealing with scum like the Marauders, but we will have to kill them to take them out, and even that isn't permanent. The Marauders have no fear of death, they know they'll be brought back, again and again. They won't stop unless they're dead."
"I've separated the members of all the groups into two strike teams, both with a different mission. The goal is to get in, get Cyclops, and get out. I want to keep our casualty rate to a minimum, preferably non-existent, if possible."
"You will not be using my students in this mission, Cable. Their lives are not fodder for the rescue of only one man." Emma Frost cut of Cable's argument with a glare to crack stone. "I don't care what Cyclops means to you, or the other X-Men, the students are all that matter to me. They will not be endangered."
Cable bit his tongue. Hard. He wasn't used to taking orders, but he knew what kind of woman Emma Frost was, and that she would not back down to him regardless. "Very well, then, we'll make the attack without them. I'll make the necessary arrangements." Cable turned to leave, but was stopped by his own student, the young alien known as Shatterstar.
"I have never questioned your orders before, Cable, and I am reluctant to do so even now, but I must say that this mission you propose is a lesson in futility."
"I thought you, of all people, would know not to abandon one of your own." Cable snapped bitterly. "Perhaps you're not the person I thought I knew."
"That's not my problem with this mission." Shatterstar responded. "The weakness of your plan is it is only temporary. You said it yourself, even death cannot stop the Marauders. Once we have saved Cyclops, what's to stop the Marauders from attacking again? And again? Their numbers are infinite, ours are not. If we want to truly defeat the Marauders, then we must defeat the one who gives them their immortality."
"What exactly are ye sayin', Shatterstar?" asked Moira MacTaggart, owner of the facility they currently use as a home base, already knowing what he meant, but not wanting to believe it.
"I'm saying that, to destroy the Marauders forever, we must destroy Sinister."
--The X-Men are dead, Cyclops is in my custody, and I finally have the means to create my new genetic weapon. I should be overjoyed, enthused with excitement, but those are emotions denied me.-- He paused in his thoughts to enter a small code on a keypad. --It is only a matter of hours before the gestation is complete, and then only a matter of years before I can use her against Apocalypse. After all, what does time matter to me?--
Sinister walked over to look at the blinded form of Scott Summers, held in stasis within a tall glass tube. --I needed the X-Men dead so that I could raise this man's child in relative peace until Apocalypse's reawakening, so that I could train her to be the ultimate mutant weapon. They did fulfill their purpose, however, the temporary removal of Apocalypse, and are now dead wood, both figuratively and literally. I was an impatient fool, the last time, trying to create this weapon while both parties, the X-Men and Apocalypse, continued to disturb my plans. I should have known that one of them would ruin my ultimate weapon. But that is a worry I have to keep no more.--
--Still, the young Sam Guthrie presents a wrinkle. He should not be an eXternal. All of my extensive research indicates that an eXternal is the product of an incredibly rare, pure X-Factor chromosome. One that was not augmented by the catalyst of this century's increased pollution levels. The chances of an eXternal being born after the catalyst are so slim that they are just shy of impossible. What force could have allowed this improbability to occur?-- Sinister sighed briefly. He so hates it when his plans are disrupted, even in the slightest. --It is ultimately irrelevant, as the evidence speaks for itself, and I must make allowances for this.--
On the flight deck, Cable faced the group spread out beneath him from the top of the PACRAT's wing. He's faced down greater odds before, plowed through armies in his time as leader of the Clan Chosen. He has lost his wife, his son and innumerable friends to the war that is his life. Maybe it was his warrior's instinct, perhaps it was the fact that he was merely human, after all, that he feared the outcome of this mission. If it was not Scott Summers, his father, in the clutches of Sinister, he knew he'd turn back and leap right into the timestream blindly before attempting to do what he was doing now. To destroy Sinister.
"Shatterstar was right. If this is a fight that we intend to win, we have to win it against Sinister. There's no other alternative now. By killing the X-Men, Sinister has declared war on us. And it is a war that I intend for him to lose." Cable swallowed hard, steeling himself for his next words. "Some of you will die. That is a hard truth that we need to accept before we move forward, and I'll think nothing less of any of you for backing out. I wish I could say that we'd all come back from this, but I'd be lying to you, and I don't want what may be my last mission to be based on a lie." He paused again, forcing himself to also accept what he'd just said. "You have your orders, you know your missions. Get to it."
Hours later, over the Atlantic Ocean...
"Sinister's technology may be advanced, but it's still nothing compared to my time. Scalphunter's teleport trail was easy enough to follow, but no matter how impossible, we should still assume Sinister knows we're coming." Cable said, mostly to himself and partly to the woman standing next to him. Domino. His confidant, troopmate, friend and lover. Aside from his now dead wife, Aliya Jenskot, she was the only one in all of his long life that he's ever trusted so deeply, so completely, that he would even consider letting into his war-torn heart.
The last time they faced almost certain death together, they finally admitted their mutual feelings for each other. Now they face it once again, and they find that they're right where they'd always been. Afraid to talk to each other, not out of a lack of trust, he thinks, but simply out of habit. --I wish we had more time to work through this.-- Nathan thought to himself. --Who am I trying to fool? I've known her longer than almost anyone else, and I still say I didn't have enough time. Face it Nate, you're getting old, and it's showing.--
Cable turned to look Domino square in the eyes. "Dom. Listen to me. I don't expect to come back from this alive, and I don't want to die without ending this stupid game we play."
"You seem to forget that you're the only one who's playing around, Cable." The words cut deep. Unfortunately, the tension of the mission has greatly shortened both their tempers, and they weren't that long to begin with.
"Look, how many times do I have to tell you that Ororo and I are... were, just friends?"
"Really, Cable? That's not what it looked like to me. I've known you too long not to recognize the signs."
"That's just it, Dom, we've known each other for too long to let something like this come between us. I respected Ororo for her leadership ability and strength. She was a fighter who was as dedicated to her fight as I was to mine, and when we saw that in each other, we knew we could be friends. But that's all it ever was, Dom, friendship. Nothing more, nothing less."
"And I'm supposed to just take your word for it? I've seen you lie to and manipulate people too much for me to just forget every problem we've had these past few months on your say so. I'm sorry, Nathan, but I just don't know if I can trust you anymore."
"Ah, finally, the gestation period is over." Sinister cracked open the birthing chamber, revealing the small form of a female infant. An infant with a brief, thin patch of red hair upon her head. Sinister carried the baby over to a metallic crib, dressing her in a simple diaper. His gentle movements deeply contrasted his ghoulish form. "Morning, child. Welcome to your new life."
Approaching the east coast...
"Are you scared, Sam?" Wolfsbane, one of the original New Mutants, asked one of her oldest friends, Cannonball, in a whisper. The Kentucky native turns to regard her seriously.
"Yeah. Ah am." Sam put his hands over his face and breathed deeply. "Not so much for mahself, but that ah'll lose even more a' mah friends. Ah don't wanna lose ya'."
Rahne continued looking out her window, watching as they neared the coastline. "A understand, Sam. A still cannae believe they're all gone." A small tear escaped Rahne's eye as she remembered all the time she had spent with the fallen X-Men as a New Mutant, and how those she loved like family were now resting on cold slabs in a morgue.
Rahne Sinclair has led a hard life in her short time on Earth. She's lived through more hardship than most others her age, and yet she has always retained her inner strength. Her innate innocence has always remained intact, in spite of the strains placed on it. Rahne has always felt things more deeply than others, allowing herself to feel the pain that others suffer and help them through it all. But today, with so many of her surrogate family deceased in a few short hours, she doesn't know if even she can survive such a loss.
Sam Guthrie had always seen Rahne as a younger sister, in a way, to replace the ones he left back at Guthrie Farm. Someone who he could look out for during his years as a New Mutant. Even though he's never admitted it to himself, even he, the definitive big brother, came to rely on Rahne's inner strength, supporting each other in the areas that they both lacked strength. What would happen, he wondered, if one was not there to support the other when this mission was done?
Neither of them knew, but for now, they held each other, perhaps for the last time, and prayed for the lives of their friends as well as their own.
"All right people, it's time to move it out." Cable said to the group, looking down on the hidden base belonging to Mr. Sinister. A certain Nebraskan orphanage, Scott Summers' childhood home. "I'm taking the power hitters with me for a first strike coming in from the outside." He stood and turned to look at both teams.
"Warpath, Meltdown, Sunspot, Rictor, Captain and Meggan, you're with me. We're looking to make the property damage and provide a distraction for the stealth team to slip in and wipe out Sinister's cloning banks. After that, we kill Sinister."
"I will be leading the stealth team." Kurt Wagner said from the shadows, only his eyes seen before he emerged, wearing a grim look that was uncommon on the normally jovial swashbuckler. "Amanda, Domino, Shadowcat, Wisdom, Douglock, Shatterstar, Wolfsbane and Cannonball. We're taking the back door." Kurt looked to his long-time girlfriend, Amanda Sefton. "Amanda, you will teleport our group right into Sinister's main lab. Once we're in, Douglock will permanently scramble the Marauders' memory files first, and then we'll destroy the cloning tanks if that fails." Kurt finally looked to Cable. "My team is ready, Cable."
Cable looked over the edge of the PACRAT's bay doors, a look of grim determination on his face. "Today is a good day to die." Cable said to himself solemnly, pulled out his guns and leaped out of the bay door, parachuting down to the base below. The rest of his team soon followed.
Amanda's teleport field activated and Nightcrawler's squad followed suit.
Outside Sinister's lair...
"It's too quiet." Cable whispered as his team moved into the compound. "I hate it when it's too quiet."
Then suddenly, there was a light whistle which had the barest moment to catch the attention of the gathered mutants. Only the barest moment before an energized harpoon flew out of the darkness surrounding them, striking Captain Britain dead in the chest.
The Marauders had taken first blood.
"SCATTER!!" Cable gave the order and his team spread out, each moving into battle position within the condemned building. Meggan chased after Harpoon at high speeds, soaring down a hallway in pursuit.
As the ambush continued, Sunspot, Meltdown and Rictor were isolated from the others by Riptide and Prysm in a dark and crowded storage room. Without a word, the Marauders began their attack.
Roberto DaCosta was, at heart, both arrogant and noble, brash and valiant, prone to performing deeds with the express intent of impressing others, specifically those of the opposite sex. So it should be no wonder that when he saw Riptide throw a barrage of bladed weapons at Tabitha Smith, a young woman who he had recently grown to have feelings for beyond simple lust, but never had the heart to act upon them, Roberto reacted without thinking, bearing down into the line of fire to save the life of a friend, at the sacrifice of his own. A sacrifice that would soon to be proved in vain.
With little hesitation, Riptide moved forward, preparing to throw yet another swarm of blades. If not for Rictor, Riptide would have succeeded, as Rictor's quake powers literally brought down the house, crushing Riptide in the mass of rock and mortar that used to be the ceiling.
Meltdown walked up to Riptide slowly, a grim look on her face, saying nothing as Riptide struggled to free his arms. Meltdown said nothing as she stood in front of him, opening his mouth with her hand. Meltdown said nothing as she placed three bombs in his mouth and throat, walked away, and detonated them with a simple snap of her fingers. Meltdown said nothing as his brain matter hit her in the back with a sickening squish.
Rictor was only momentarily distracted when he noticed that Prysm was laying down strafing fire at the two young mutants. Dodging quickly, Rictor emitted a strong vibe-pulse, which shattered Prysm into a million shards of organic crystal. Both he and Tabitha took a slight pause to look at the mess around them, and didn't notice a certain Marauder creeping up behind them. Stalking them.
Rictor turned off his comm-badge, just having received orders from Cable. "Cable wants us to keep moving. He said they've got..." The rest of Rictor's words were lost in a gurgle of blood. Meltdown spun to see the cruel face of Victor Creed bearing down on her, wearing a mocking smile that she knew would haunt her nightmares if she ever lived to have another one. Rictor fell to the ground, briefly catching the sight of Sabretooth's claws as they come down to sever his head from his shoulders. All of this took place in the space of only a few seconds.
Before she could blink, Meltdown's hands were seized by Victor, raising her off the ground. An instant later, she was pinned against the wall, Victor's other hand closed around her neck, disrupting her concentration.
"Why?" She barely got out around his grip. "Why'd you do it? I risked all my other friends to reach out to you, and you pay me back by becoming a Marauder again. Why?" Her feelings of betrayal were clearly evident.
"Only a weak frail like you would ever feel sorry for someone like me. Ya' shoulda known better." Sabretooth drew his hand back, preparing to painfully rake her life out with his bloody claws. He hesitated, briefly, stopping to watch Tabitha shut her eyes in anticipation. A sole tear escaped her eye. Not only for the very real and very tangible fear of knowing she was about to die, painfully, but for the feeling of betrayal she felt by the man holding her still. She had reached out to him in his time of need, and now he was showing her his gratitude by ending her life in pain. Sabretooth waited no longer. His clawed hand came down, but instead of slashing at her body viciously, he put it back on her neck and snapped it with a simple flick of his wrist. Tabitha Smith died quickly and painlessly. For Victor Creed, slaughterer of hundreds and one who rejoices in the pain he can inflict on others, that was an expression of thanks.
Meanwhile, in the deeper areas of the complex, Warpath and Arclight were trading blows, merely tiring each other out. The battle would have continued for perhaps hours more, if the man known as Blockbuster did not cowardly sneak up behind Warpath and prepare to smash Jimmy's head between his hands.
For Jimmy's sake, however, fortune smiled upon him that day and Cable caught sight of Blockbuster sneaking up behind his student. Without hesitation, Cable aimed his large rifle at Blockbuster and fired. The blast struck Blockbuster in the small of his back, destroying his spine before the large man knew what hit him. He laid there, his torso separated from his legs in a bloody mess. Warpath spun to see what had just happened behind him for a second, and when he looked back, Arclight had fled already, just as Scalphunter had done when Cable was distracted.
Somewhere, off in the distant hallways, Meggan finally trapped Harpoon in a corner. The Inuit hunter stood with his back to the wall, paused to charge a harpoon and then threw it at Meggan. With a wave of her hand, the harpoon lost its charge and fell harmlessly to the ground. As it had so many times before in this long chase.
"I've never hated anyone before." Meggan said, tears flowing from her eyes, but her face set in a mask of pure rage. "But then you took away from me the one thing in my life that I cared about. You took away my love." She raised her hand and a small, volcanic hole opened up. The searing hot magma beneath engulfing Harpoon in its painful embrace. Meggan turned away, her eyes closed to the intense screams of pain from the dying man. "I'm only sorry that I could kill you but once." Meggan went to Brian's body was and stayed there, holding his deceased form, then taking it from the complex.
Cable had expected a casualty rate, surely, but nothing near this high. He'd lost half of his squad and another was paralyzed with grief. --Stab your eyes, Sinister. If it's the last thing I do, I will see you burn in Hell.-- Nathan thought, then started working his way to the interior of the complex, James Proudstar by his side.
At the center of Sinister's lair, Nightcrawler's squad was making a mess. Kurt Wagner's orders were short and to the point. "This facility is a stain on the face of the Earth. Clean it up." And with the memories of seeing the fallen friends in the morgue of Muir Isle in their minds, the members of his war party were more than willing comply. Douglock went to work immediately upon touching down with Daytripper's teleport, downloading and transferring each piece of data within Sinister's database to the PACRAT's onboard matrix instantaneously.
The Marauders arrived shortly after the attack began, having been ordered to flee their battle with Cable's troops by Sinister himself. The Marauder known as Arclight found her second target in the young woman code-named Shadowcat. Repeated attempts to kill Kitty Pryde met with similarly repeated failure, as Pryde phased and dodged constantly, returning painful blows with the skill of a ninja. Pete Wisdom waited on the wings for an opening that never came, ready to kill Arclight with a single hot knife if Kitty was ever out of the way.
The Marauder had already been successful in taking the life of the Daytripper, sneaking up behind her and cracking her skull with a single punch. Attempting to use a similar strategy against Shadowcat, Arclight was rudely surprised to find that Shadowcat was ready and waiting. Falling through the young woman, Arclight found herself laying on the ground. With the advantage of surprise gone, Arclight got up and kept trying to land a single punch on the girl. She never succeeded. Instead, after a long and tedious battle, Kitty Pryde dodged a punch and palmed the arm throwing it. Phasing them both, Kitty tripped Arclight into falling forward and into a brick wall, where she unphased the Marauder, killing her instantly.
Cannonball and Wolfsbane were two of the original New Mutants, and have fought side-by-side many times over the years. And now they defend one who wore the guise of an old and dead friend, Douglock, from any possible attack. When the attack on Sinister's main base was proposed, Wolfsbane had requested that they be allowed to retrieve all of Sinister's files, specifically for a chance at discovering some useful information regarding the Legacy Virus, so that her ailing foster mother, Moira MacTaggart, could be cured.
Having already downloaded the Marauders' files to the PACRAT and summarily erased all traces of them from Sinister's files, Douglock was well into the completing that task with the rest of Sinister's files. Soon, all that would be left for them to do was kill Sinister himself.
Within Sinister's inner chamber, the man himself watched with a forced calm. The instinctual reaction to protect any and all information he had spent so many decades gathering momentarily suppressed. Sinister wanted to protect it, but he knew that it would be ultimately pointless in the long run. There would be no X-Men alive to put it to good use once his Marauders were through with them, so he sat and pondered. Not even Cable would be foolish enough to even think of actually killing Sinister himself, and as long as he lived, so would the Marauders.
Not far away, the woman known only as Domino and the demonic looking Nightcrawler were making their way towards finding Sinister himself. As yet, to their surprise, he had not made an appearance, and that in itself unnerved them somewhat. But when the Marauder called Vertigo made her own appearance, all thoughts of Sinister's location vanished and years of combat experience took over.
Unfortunately for the blue X-Man, Kurt attempted his teleport a moment too late, and Vertigo's powers had already begun to take effect, and where he thought he saw an open hallway was actually a very solid wall. Upon reappearing from his teleport within the solid mass, Kurt died before he could realize what happened. Domino held her ground though, attempting to overcome the affects of Vertigo's powers and failing miserably.
A few short feet beneath Domino, though, Scrambler was making his move against the one known as Shatterstar, sneaking up behind him, as many Marauders are wont to do. Kim had no clue what the young man's true powers were, but he suspected that his agility and skill were innately linked to his X-Factor chromosome, as he suspected Scalphunter's to be. He would be wrong.
Shatterstar was raised on a world of war and survived childhood within an environment of death such as this one. Forced to survive against impossible odds time and time again, he was familiar with the game that was being played within Sinister's lair. This familiarity made him instantly aware of the Korean sneaking up on him, and planned to make the young man regret his cowardice. Giving the outward appearance of unawareness, Shatterstar let Scrambler continue his approach. When Scrambler touched Shatterstar's neck, he still did nothing. He knew exactly what Scrambler was capable of, and for one who was used to going without powers in a fight, Scrambler posed no threat whatsoever. He turns slowly to look Scrambler in the face with eyes of glacial cold.
Upon touching Shatterstar's neck, Kim knew something was wrong. Very wrong. When Shatterstar finally turned to look at him, he felt fear. Stark terror, in fact. That was what Shatterstar had wanted. To give the coward a feeling of fright that would go with him to the grave. Before Scrambler could even blink, Shatterstar stood back and decapitated the young man quickly, his head rolling over with a soft thud. Shatterstar smiled.
Moving on up the staircase, Shatterstar entered the room being warped by Vertigo. He was effected immediately, despite his intense acrobatic training, lowering himself to the ground and steadying himself forcefully. When he looked up next, he saw Domino raising her rifle and firing a single shot. By sheer luck, aided by the effects of her own power, that single shot hit Vertigo right between the eyes, thus ending her life. After making certain that the Marauder was indeed dead, both Domino and Shatterstar accompanied each other into the heart of the complex.
"We've lost too many people, and all for the life of one X-Man who probably wouldn't give a damn about us if we were in his place." Domino didn't care if what she just said was true or not, she was angry and hateful towards whatever reason brought so many of her friends low.
"I understand your feelings of vengeance against these cowardly Marauders, Domino, but our troopmates died in honorable battle for the sake of another. All of us who die this day die as heroes. What can be wrong with that?"
Before Domino could react with all the anger she had pent up, without warning, Sabretooth leapt out from behind them, slashing at their backs ferociously. "When you meet your pals in the great beyond, pretty-boy, you can ask 'em."
Domino rolled out of the way of Sabretooth's next slash, springing to her feet next to Shatterstar. Luckily for her, Creed's claws didn't cut deep enough to do serious harm. Shatterstar, on the other hand, got the brunt of the attack.
"You up to snuff for this, Star?" Domino asked Shatterstar directly, catching a glimpse of Shatterstar's shredded back with her peripheral vision.
"It is only pain." Shatterstar said in response. He looked at Sabretooth with a glare to cut glass. "Let's get bloody." Without another moment's wasting, Shatterstar lunged right at Creed, slashing him across the leg. Sabretooth sidestepped slightly and hit Shatterstar in the back of his head with a backhand punch. If Shatterstar had not replaced his helmet before this mission began, he surely would be suffering from a concussion. As it was, Star flipped in mid-air and landed on his feet, leaping right back at Sabretooth without pause.
Domino would be helping her young troopmate, but Scalphunter made his move against her shortly after the young warrior engaged the brutal savage. After getting her attention, Scalphunter led Domino on a chase away from the two fighters. Domino knew she shouldn't have left Shatterstar alone to battle Sabretooth, but she had a score to settle with the man calling himself Scalphunter, and would see his debt paid in blood.
So without the aide of Domino, Shatterstar continued to press his attack fiercely. He had taken by far the most damage in the battle, but still he did not let up his pace. Like the Marauders themselves, Shatterstar had no fear of death.
On Shatterstar's last lunge for Sabretooth's chest, Creed purposefully let the blade meet its mark, then grabbed Star and threw him to the ground with a loud thud. Putting the full weight of his massive bulk on Shatterstar's body, Sabretooth knocked away Star's other blade. With his opponent weaponless and unable to move, Sabretooth decided to enjoy killing this one.
Sabretooth began slowly raking his claws across Shatterstar's chest, shredding his uniform, and enjoying every minute of it. Star refused to scream. If Scrambler had not canceled his powers, Sabretooth would be dead in an instant. But now powerless, he was forced to suffer the pain of being skinned alive until they returned.
In the main lab, Scalphunter fled from Domino's strafing fire. As good as he was, even he knew that he wasn't good enough to face someone with luck on their side. He was lucky enough as it was just getting away with only a few flesh wounds. He entered the area of lab where Cannonball and Wolfsbane were guarding Douglock shortly.
Dodging the attacks of the two New Mutants skillfully, Scalphunter knew instantly that they were guarding the most important target, Douglock, as the artificial being continued his file transfer process. It was nearly complete. Still dodging and avoiding the two defenders, Scalphunter tossed a grenade-like object that hit Douglock square in the back. It was an acid bomb, designed specifically to destroy T-O fiber.
For an artificial life form, Douglock possessed a remarkable fear of death. Perhaps it was because he did not expect there to be any sort of afterlife for himself, or perhaps he was merely more human than even he realized. With his last fleeting thought, he plunged his entire consciousness into his last transmission to the PACRAT, leaving his techno-organic body mere moments before it disintegrated into a pile of metallic mess.
"Y'know, I don't think I've ever had this much fun killin' someone before." Sabretooth said before raking his claws on Shatterstar's skin, watching the deep wounds mend together only moments later. Every slash he made began to heal soon afterwards. Certain injuries took longer. A minute ago, Sabretooth broke Shatterstar's arm in three places. It still hadn't healed yet.
With a large swipe, Creed carved a chunk of Shatterstar's arm away. "I'm gonna keep this up 'til ya' scream. Just once. One good scream and the pain'll stop." Sabreooth laughed menacingly. "I can do this all night." Still, Shatterstar did not scream. Instead, he began to hum. He could feel the energy building inside of him as the effects of Scrambler's powers faded.
Of all the possible reactions Sabretooth expected Shatterstar to give to being torn apart piece by piece, 'humming' came in dead last on the list. "What?" Creed stopped his torture for a moment, genuinely confused. It only lasted for a moment, as the blade still lodged in Sabretooth's body began to glow. Sabretooth quickly tried to remove it, but not before the energies within it explode violently, leaving Sabretooth as nothing more than a fine red mist.
With great effort, Shatterstar stood up, blood pouring out of his many wounds onto the ground beneath. He staggered his way through the tunnels, his face a mask of rage and determination. A moment later, he could hear the footsteps of Warpath, Pete Wisdom and Kitty Pryde approaching him quickly. Upon seeing Shatterstar with so many wounds on his body and face, whole pieces of skin and flesh missing, they were each forced to suppress feelings of nausea.
They moved closer, helping him to stand. "You need medical attention and fast, we'll get you topside and..." Pete said, but was interrupted by Shatterstar. "I will heal."
"Fine, then you can heal outside." Kitty said, helping to put Shatterstar in Jimmy's arms so he can be carried towards the nearest exit. If Shatterstar had any energy left in his body to stop them, he would have. But after the use of his powers, not to mention Sabretooth's extensive torture of him, he simply couldn't resist.
"You two go on." Pete said to the three other mutants. "I'm checkin' for any other survivors." Before Kitty could talk him out of it, Pete'd gone deeper into the complex. She phased all three of them and started floating them all towards the outside. She'd return to help Pete with the evacuation in less than a minute.
Domino was standing next to Sam and Rahne, staring down the Scalphunter with cold eyes.
"You always were the last man standing, Scalp, even back in the old days. How'd you always manage that? I've got luck on my side, what's your excuse?"
"Pure skill, babe." Scalphunter's eyes slit like razors. "And I know when to cut my losses and run. Unlike some people."
"But when those losses are your fellow soldiers? I barely got out o' that hellhole alive, but it sure would've been a lot easier if you didn't turn tail and run." Domino looked at the two youths next to her. "Stay out of this. It's personal."
The two experienced mercenaries went at it, firing and dodging expertly. As Scalphunter knew, facing Domino down in a fair fight always ends up in the other guy dying. So he used the playing field to his advantage, ducking for cover constantly until he eventually lost himself in the shadows. Domino looked around for him, waiting for ambush. Sam and Rahne did so as well, standing back to back, but were unprepared for Scalphunter's next action. Dropping down on them from above, Scalphunter planted a few rounds in Sam's chest, sending him falling to the ground. Before even someone with reflexes like Rahne could react, Scalphunter had landed behind her, placing the young Scots girl between himself and the albino mutant.
"You won't risk firing at me with a hostage. Even with your powers, you won't do it. I know how to screw you up, Dom." He pressed the gun closer up under Rahne's throat. "Do what's least expected, something totally random, something I'd never do otherwise, and your powers start to lose it, 'cause the probability's changed. And there's absolutely no margin for error here, is there?" He grinned menacingly. "Tell me, are you gonna risk this girl's life?"
Domino didn't lower her weapon. She knew that if she did, both she and Rahne were dead before they could blink. Instead, she reached out with her power, forcing it to work through conscious effort. A moment later, a sliver of pure heat penetrated Scalphunter's skull, killing him instantly. He pulled the trigger on reflex, and Rahne's heart skipped a beat. Then it kept beating. Domino's power worked, and the gun had jammed.
Pete Wisdom stepped out of the shadows, smoking a cigarette. "I never liked 'im anyway."
"Where's that leave us? Even or do I owe you one?"
"Don't owe me nothing. It just needed doing."
Before Domino could respond, Cable came around, guns at the ready. "All the Marauders are dead. Sinister's the only one left." He looked at the few survivors. "And I'm facing him alone."
"No way." Domino said instinctively.
"Domino, none of you could even hope to put a dent in Sinister's armor. You don't have the power, but I do. You'd be killing yourself for no good reason." He stepped closer to her, tension brewing. "When I take out Sinister, it'll get destructive. If any of you come along, you'll just get in the way."
"As much as ah hate ta admit it, Cable's right." Sam said, standing before the others. "We're all the world's got now. If we die, then who's left?" Sam waved a hand at those left. Wisdom, Wolfsbane, Domino, himself and Shadowcat, as she returned from above, having already left Shatterstar and Warpath there. "It's up ta us now. That means we have ta get while the gettin's good."
With no further words otherwise, the small gathering of troops started leaving. Wolfsbane was carried by Sam as he blasted through the complex. Kitty phased both herself and Pete, then they disappeared into the ceiling, floating back up to the top. Domino didn't move.
"I'm staying with you right up to the end, Nate."
"Well, since this is the end, shouldn't you be leaving?" Cable turned to leave, but Domino tagged along persistently. "I thought you didn't trust me anymore. Why are you willing to die for me now?"
"Maybe it's because trying to get ourselves killed together describes the bulk of our relationship? Habit? A death wish? All of the above?"
"Dom, if you don't leave right now, I'll force you to. I never stopped loving you Domino. Through all our problems, I never stopped. I won't have you throw your life away for nothing. So I don't care if it's wrong to force your will, I'll save your life."
Domino looked into his eyes briefly, and knew instantly that he was telling her the truth. Grudgingly, she forced down her pride and leaned up to give him a farewell kiss. "Good bye, Nathan."
"Good bye, Domino." Nate turned and vanished into Sinister's inner chamber.
Domino hesitated briefly, then sent Cable one last thought across their psi-link. ><The name's Shannon.><
There was a slight pause, but then Cable sent his final reply. ><Thank you.><
The inner chamber...
"It seems I thought wrong. It would appear that Nathan is indeed foolish enough to face me alone." Sinister rose from his chair. "Time to put the child in his place." He closed the small crib holding the sleeping baby girl, sealing her tight within its protective shell. "And you, as well." He looked down at her face through the clear, glass-like lid. The shell was designed to withstand a nuclear blast at ground zero and more. It should keep her safe enough until he was through dealing with his first attempt at a genetic weapon. He didn't bother to do the same for Scott Summers. The man had served his purpose, and Sinister could care less about what happened to him now.
Sinister walked slowly over to a large door and opened it with a simple gesture, Cable walking out from behind it. They said nothing for a moment, because despite the intense amount of impact these two have had on each other, they have only met once in their long lives. Meeting each other again gave both an odd sense of unease. Cable drew his guns.
"You really don't expect those to be of any help, do you?" Sinister sneered arrogantly.
"Not against you, no." He aimed the guns and fired several bursts into Sinister's equipment, obliterating it. "But against your information, yes."
"I have numerous strongholds with this information. Destroying one laboratory, even my main one, would do little to harm my long-term operations." Sinister fired a simple energy beam from his fist, which Cable dodged easily. "I do so loathe physical combat. I am a scientist at heart, and having to actually deal with simpletons like yourself in force is, to be honest, tedious. You cannot hope to win against me with firearms or even your paltry powers. Why not accept the inevitable and let me eliminate you?"
"Maybe I don't believe in running? Maybe I want to see you pay for your crimes? Maybe I'm just too damned stubborn." Cable took a blast to his T-O arm. "Why'd you do it? Why, after so many years, did you finally decide that the X-Men deserved to die?" Sinister was hit in the chest, but mended the wound quickly.
"Because they've already killed Apocalypse, for the time being, at least. With both he and the X-Men dead, I could perform my experiments in peace." Sinister dodged Cable's next shot gracefully. "When Apocalypse is newly awakened, he is at his most vulnerable. I intend to have my next genetic weapon at full power by that moment. A position I had originally meant for you, but Apocalypse was ready for that, and tainted your body before I could use you to your fullest potential." Sinister's next shot hit Cable dead in the chest. If not for his armor, he would already be dead. "You're a failed experiment."
"Am I?" Cable said, gathering himself up off the floor. "You manipulated me into being born so that you'd have a weapon against Apocalypse, and the only thing that keeps me from being that is my resistance of the T-O virus." Cable steadied himself firmly on the ground, then began to rise in a telekinetic aura. "Let's see what happens when I stop resisting."
Sinister stopped moving, frozen in place. Apocalypse's manipulations removed from him the ability to feel emotion. To experience moral sensation, either good or bad, towards anything. Sinister had thought that fear was banished along with his emotions. But upon seeing Cable, one of his greatest experiments in genetics, rising and emanating power capable of destroying him, Sinister knew what it felt like to feel fear for the first time in over a century.
Cable attacked then, pushing past the limits placed on him by the T-O virus ever since he was a teenager. What his limits were now, he had no idea, nor did he care. Sinister's death is all he cares about now. A moment later and Cable had his wish.
Sinister was dead.
Falling to the ground in a heap, his techno-organic virus infecting his brain, Cable soon died as well. And with his death, Cable's full power was released in a final funeral pyre.
The mushroom cloud could have been seen for miles around.
Outside Sinister's lair...
"I think I found something!" Warpath yelled, calling over the other mutants helping him search the ruins.
"What'd ya find, Jimmy?" Sam flew up to his teammate, landing softly next to him. The others arrived shortly thereafter.
"This." He held up the egg-looking shell of metal. "It's the only thing here that wasn't damaged." Rahne took it from Jimmy carefully. "Can you smell anything?"
Rahne sniffed at it tentatively. She shook her head. "Nae." Curiously, she wiped some of the ash off the capsule. "Och, there's someone in here!" She yelled upon seeing the sleeping girl inside.
"Why would Sinister go to such great lengths to protect this child, and nothing else? Not even Cyclops?" Shatterstar asked. He had been the one to discover Cyclops' dead form among the wreckage. "What reasons would he have?"
"Let me see." Kitty looked at the capsule, and at the baby inside. She moved her hands around the capsule, looking for an opening. "I don't see how to open it, it's seamless all the way around." She paused slightly, then phased the capsule, letting it drop harmlessly to the ground, her arms beneath catching the girl safely. Kitty looked at the girl's face curiously. There was something she recognized, something that danced at the edges of her memory, something like deja vu. Then it hit her. "Oh God, it's Rachel."
Days later, the Funeral...
None of the mutants gathered at the ruins of Xavier's mansion ever expected to be X-Men, and in Kitty Pryde's case, had never expected to return. But here they were, seven mutants who were all that was left of Xavier's vaunted mutant army.
When the Marauders attacked the Morlocks, Kitty Pryde was injured greatly. For a long period of time, she existed as a living ghost, unable to solidify herself. Today, the Marauders have injured her even worse. She's lost her family. The people she'd lived with and loved as she grew from a child to an adult were now dead. She felt the loss of Illyana, her best friend, deeply, and mourned her passing for a long time. But today, Kitty asks herself when she'll be able to stop mourning the X-Men, and the answer, she knows, will be a long time in coming.
If you had told Pete Wisdom that he would be an X-Man one day, he would have offered you a drink for making him laugh so hard. But today, he is one, regardless. He didn't know half the people lying in the long rows of caskets before him, but he knew enough of them to feel it. He asks himself if he's willing to be an X-Man, and he has his doubts, but as long as Kitty Pryde is there, Pete Wisdom will be right by her side, whether on Earth or the other side of the galaxy. He'll be right there.
James Proudstar is a survivor. He has lived through many tragedies in his young life. When his elder brother, John Proudstar, sacrificed his life as an X-Man, James swore a vow to avenge him against those who he saw responsible. When James' own powers came to fruition, he was approached by Emma Frost, who offered him the chance to exact his vengeance in exchange for his loyalty as a Hellion. An offer he eagerly accepted. Years later, those young people he came to know as a second family were slaughtered by the time-traveler known as Fitzroy. Then his first family was slaughtered as well, for a reason he has yet to discover. And yet, James still survived. He went on to join the militant team of mutants known as X-Force, and thought that he had finally found another family to replace the others he had lost. He should have known they would die, too, as he survived. Now he's something he thought he would never be. An X-Man.
He is the only one present who doesn't mourn the loss of life at the hands of the Marauders today. On his home planet, where hardship and loss were daily things, death was seen as a release. A blessing, in fact, if you died honorably and fighting for what you believed in. The concept of mourning death is truly alien to him. Even the loss of his best friend on the planet, Julio Richter, does not cause him pain. In Shatterstar's mind, Rictor died honorably, and would live on as a warrior in the afterlife. And that was all there was to it.
For too long, Domino has lived on the outskirts of life, flirting with death and loving every minute of it. But the experience of losing Cable has given her reason to stop and think. When she dies, what will she have left behind? Who will even care? She now understands why Cable devoted so much of himself to X-Force, even after Cannonball became an eXternal. He simply wanted someone to miss him when he was gone. Looking back on her life, she realizes how little she's truly accomplished, and has made the decision to change that. With Banshee dead, Generation X was left with an opening for an instructor, and Domino jumped at the chance. Once the funeral is over, she'll be heading back to the Academy with Generation X, and starting her new life there.
Rahne Sinclair never thought it would hurt so much. Losing her surrogate family has left a hole in her heart that will take a long time to heal. She's used to pain. She lived with it for fourteen years as a child, being raised under the strict hand of Reverend Craig. The impressions he left on her have healed, but the scars remain. Years later, she would suffer even greater wounds at the hands of Cameron Hodge and The Gengineer, Dr. Moreau. Changed to a mutate, she was genetically bonded to the man known as Alex Summers. For the longest time, while helping to rebuild Genosha and later in X-Factor, she thought she loved him, and when it turned out to be a lie, it hurt her worse than the mutate process itself. And yet, she has allowed herself to heal every time. To face the pain she's been through and feel it deeply within herself, and finally to let it go. Outwardly, Rahne is a shy and emotional teenager. Many would judge her as weak because of those qualities, but on the inside, where the real battles take place, Rahne is the strongest of all.
A year ago, Sam Guthrie would have never expected to be an X-Man. But when Xavier offered him the position, he took it gladly. A week ago, Sam Guthrie would have never expected to be leading the X-Men. But today he accepts the responsibility with great sadness. A year ago, the man known as Gideon asked Sam what the defining moment of his life had been, the single instant where Sam's path in life was determined, and all else afterwards was a direct result of that event. Sam said he didn't think he had gotten there yet, that it left something for him to look forward to. Today, on the day of the X-Men's funeral, Sam finally knows. The moment that the X-Men died, and he was left to shoulder the burden of their passing, will now and forever be Sam's moment of truth. Sam had never asked to be any of this. To be a mutant, a leader, an eXternal, and now the last hope for Xavier's legacy. But it's a role he knows he was meant to fulfill. Why else would God grant a poor farmboy, the son of a coal-miner from the backwoods of Kentucky, with the gift of immortality, if not to use it?
These six men and women are the last of Xavier's vaunted mutant army.
These six men and women are nowhere near as powerful as their predecessors.
These six men and women are gathered because there's no one else left.
These six men and women are the X-Men.
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