by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers apply.
This chapter is rated PG-13
"You heard me!" Psylocke hissed into the radio headset, flickering lights from above casting strange shadows as she swiftly ran down the corridor away from the research wing. "You have fifteen minutes to get those captives out of here before those explosives go off!"
"Where you at, Betts?" Logan interrupted.
"I just turned the corner of the main corridor after the scientists' wing. I'll catch up with you all, just get them out of here!"
"Where's Dom?" That, predictably, was Cable, voice calm despite the sudden drop in the pit of his stomach.
"She should be right behind me. We're on our way." Betsy paused outside the hall, watching for any guard activity and waiting for Domino. The dark lab had surprised them both, and she applauded the other woman's decision to get out as soon as she could. "You're wasting time-"
"All right, Betsy, we're taking them out. We'll be with the PACRAT outside waiting for you." Kitty's clear voice was confident and sure as she ended the transmission. Since they'd only need to beat a hasty retreat out of the fortress, the plane had been programmed to pick them up outside the castle upon remote command when they'd accomplished their mission. 'Would have been a hell of a lot easier if we could have done this coming in, too,' Kitty thought before picking up her pace. "Hurry up, little dogies," she commanded the all-too-willing captives, ignoring Pete's mumbled cursing and Logan's stark, expressionless mask.
Back near the scientists' wing, Betsy leaned against the wall in the shadows and waited.
"I'm almost there, Psylocke," Cable's voice sounded on a private bandwith, deep and worried. "Is Dom with you? She's not answering my messages."
"What?" Betsy stood up, taking the few steps back to the smaller corridor and running lightly down it. At the end of the hall, she saw the heavy steel doors locked shut, the two guards still lying comatose at its base. Her blood ran cold.
"Nathan," she transmitted through the link, struggling to keep her voice calm and modulated. "I think you need to get over here, *now*."
Cable didn't need his telepathy to hear the sudden catch in Betsy's voice. He doubled his already frenetic speed, barrelling through the dark hallways at a sprinter's pace, thinking of nothing save getting to wherever it was Domino was and getting them both the hell out of there.
While his lackeys propped the tall silver table against the wall, Tyler watched as his favorite trophy struggled against the tight steel bands encircling her wrists and ankles. Leaning back in one of the swivel-back chairs, long legs propped up on a nearby desk, Tyler only smiled as she hurled foul curses at him in a dozen different languages.
'Shit shit shit shit shit.' Tyler had psionically held her immobile until she'd been restrained, but now he only watched as she flailed helplessly against the bonds, testing the power of the tight steel bands. 'I've been so hell-bent on keeping Nate away from this place that I was stupid enough to fall right into this rat-bastard's trap,' she cursed herself. 'Oh, Nate,' she closed her eyes briefly, wishing not for the first time that she was a telepath herself. 'Get the hell away from here. Don't come back to find this-'
"Well, well, well." Tyler's thin voice interrupted her thoughts. "Isn't this a pretty sight? Reminds me of the good old days, my dear."
Spitting out a final epithet, Domino's lips curled in a contemptuous snarl. 'Use your brain here, girl. Stay calm. Goad him into doing something stupid-' Schooling her expression into one of disdain, she actually managed a bored yawn. "You're pathetic." The words dripped scorn.
"Excuse me?" Tyler's voice was deceptively mild.
"Do you *honestly* think you scare me?" She pushed the fear deep within her, drawing on the reserves of confidence and light replenished and built up the night before. In a strange way it was actually a relief to finally confront the monster that had haunted her nightmares for so long. "We've been here before. I'll escape. . . again. And you'll die. . . *again*. What makes you think this is any different?"
Tyler's expression didn't change, but his eyes grew harder. "I should scare you, Bait. All I have to do is keep you alive until the old man gets here." He cocked his head slightly, searching, and a very satisfied look crossed his face. "Ah, yes. He's coming." A snort "How predictable."
Domino said nothing, only fought for breath as her lungs suddenly refused to work. 'Oh, Nate, no. . .What is he going to try to do to you?' Glaring up at Tyler, she smiled sweetly. "You are so dead."
"Been there, done that," he shrugged. "But you, my darling, had better get used to the idea. After I use you to lure Daddy dearest here, there'll be no more need to keep you around." He leered "Unless you can think of another purpose to serve."
She laughed mockingly, hiding the sudden pain in her chest. "A *clone* of a third-rate low-rent gamma-level telepath tryin' to fill daddy's shoes? A Xerox copy of a weak original who couldn't cut it in the first place? Not on your best day, you watered-down genejoke."
His eyes narrowed. 'We'll just see about that,' he told her.
Domino held back a gasp as Tyler roughly delved into her mind, ripping open barely-healed scars as he probed her thoughts. 'Watered down, eh? Let us test that little theory.'
She bit her lip but didn't make a sound, just glared at him. Tyler, focusing his telepathic abilities to a laser sharp intensity, easily cut through her battered shields and tore open the psychic wounds that had only last night begun to heal. Picking out old doubts and insecurities, the pain she thought she'd finally put behind her, he cooly revived them, unlocking dark doors to flood her mind with demon images of terror and loss and suffering, augmenting them with a skill the original Tyler had never possessed. She trembled, glaring at him, feeling the dark miasma flood against her defenses to threaten the weak peace she'd found the night before.
'No,' she thought weakly. 'You can't do this. No.' Clutching at the golden thread gleaming dimly in her thoughts, the confidence in herself that she had lost and regained so many times, she garnered her strength to resist the hypnotic pull of the darkness and the grim voices inside her. Her psibond with Nathan, dampened as it was by Tyler's psionic null field and their own conscious decision, still curled itself warmly through the strongest corner of her mind, shining and exuding strength, providing a foundation for her resistance. 'You can't hurt me.'
Suprised at the unexpected surge of strength, Tyler pried closer into her thoughts. 'This is new,' he purred, thinking he'd found some new internal wellspring, not recognizing the golden thread for what it was. Examining it closer, Tyler's astral form spasmed in incredulous anger. 'A. . . psibond? With. . . him?'
Tyler leapt to his feet and turned his back on her, and she could see his shoulders shuddering from emotion he couldn't quite contain. 'Unfaithful bastard,' she caught a stray thought from the young man, one he hadn't intended she hear. '*Forever*, eh? Forever for her just like forever for me. Deserted her, too, just like he did. . .me. . .'
She saw a fleeting image of an auburn haired woman- an older version of the young fighter she'd met when Blaquesmith had brought her to the future with Nathan. "Aliya," she breathed aloud, recognizing Nathan's dead wife, Tyler's mother.
"Don't you dare speak her name, whore!" Tyler turned to face her, fair skin flooded with color. Fists clenched at his sides, he loomed over her, madness gleaming in his pale blue eyes. Cupping her chin roughly, he slid into her thoughts once more, physical contact facilitating the merge. This time there was no coolness or detachment in the touch as he angrily plunged into her mind, ripping and tearing through her thoughts and memories with an intentionally jagged blade of malicious pleasure. His eyes glazed over as with barbed thoughts he pried her away from the safety and security of the bond, the hard core of confidence and self worth that she had worked so hard to establish. Clawing through her thoughts, he wrenched control away from her and exposed the link.
'You're as faithless as he is,' he snarled, tearing open her most recent, most precious memories. Using his own particular augmented mutant powers, he projected her thoughts into the air, giving shape and form to the images in her mind. Skimming through her memories quickly, he laughed, a short, harsh sound. "I thought so. You'll wish you never met us, bitch." Tyler smiled with cruel satisfaction. "You only *think* you've known pain."
"Fuck you, asshole," Domino spat at him, but was unable to do anything else but watch as she saw the previous night's events projected from Tyler's trembling outstretched hand. Try as she might to close her mind to him, the traitorous images still came.
She saw herself come out of the pub to argue with Nathan, she saw their walk back to the hotel, she saw them argue in the suite. She *felt* it, too, relived the memories as if she were back there again, and heard in her mind Nathan's deep, agonized voice pleading with her to tell him, for once, just how she felt. Hanging there on Tyler's wall, she re-experienced all the frustration and the longing and the desire she'd felt only the night before. The golden glow inside her flared brightly against the bruised interior of her mind. She clung to it defiantly as the battered images washed through her.
Cable felt something dark and oily brush by the edges of his perception, but the psi dampening field around the fortress was far too strong to pin it down. He tilted his head, extending stunted senses, but felt nothing more than the same ominous dark presence seeping through his mind through the dampened bond he shared with Domino. The bond itself, despite the null field, was glowing brighter than it had since before they had dampened it, and Cable reached for it to use it as a beacon to draw him deeper into the castle towards her. He turned another corner, plowing down a staircase, heart thundering in his chest. He was almost there.
Tyler's lips curved downward in a vicious frown, and with a slight wave of his hand Domino felt Nathan's twisted 'son' burrow even deeper into her mind, applying skillful pressure here and there until Domino saw the images subtly shift and change before her very eyes and in her thoughts. She saw and felt her memories of the night before warp and twist until the warmth and love she and Nathan had shared became nothing but a cold, tainted mockery of intimacy. Even though she knew the vision/memories were not real, she *felt* herself experience them, felt the golden bond between curl up and begin to wither away from the corruption.
Before her eyes, the projection Nathan loomed over her, and his handsome, anxious, loving expression shifted into a hard, cruel mask that reminded her of. . . 'Creed?' some part of her remembered, and wept. Where in reality- the reality she *knew* existed, the memory she clung to- she had cried out to Nathan for love and understanding, and had been reciprocated in kind, this time it was far, far different. She still cried out- she watched herself, saw her debase herself before him, beg him not to go- but this time she was met with mocking laughter and worse.
"No..." She closed her eyes, but saw it all anyway, and the psibond shuddered under the strain. Tyler, manic grin back firmly in place, telepathically wrenched her eyes back open so she could *see* what she was remembering so vividly.
She watched and relived it all as the memories progressed. She saw the consumation of her relationship with her partner warp from an expression of utmost love and trust into something horrid, ugly and tainted. She saw the gentleness and passion sour into domination and control, a sating of physical desire edged only with contempt. She watched as they coupled like animals, brutally, without care or concern or anything remotely approaching any feeling other than disgusted lust.
Clutching onto her own cold hard sanity, the real Domino grasped onto the weakened psibond, still clinging to it for support. "This isn't real," she spat, nauseated. "That *isn't* me. That *isn't* him."
Tyler merely raised a questioning brow. "Isn't it?" he replied mildly, and turned his attention back to the projected display. "Do you really think he- anybody- could actually care for someone like you?"
"..." She couldn't think of an answer. Unable to avert her eyes, she only watched as the images grew progressively worse.
"You're his slut now in reality as well as thought," Tyler told her, face still flushed with anger now mixed with a sick desire. "Live with it." He twisted his hold even tighter, savoring the horror and the pain as the coldness changed into something far darker, far more sinister. Dredging memories out of the deepest recesses of her mind, Tyler began again, giving her nightmares shape in the form of the one man she trusted most, turning Cable's actions into a soiled amalgamation of all the pain and abuse she'd suffered in a life full of it. The memories wore on, and the images grew very ugly indeed.
'He's right, you know,' a voice from deep inside told her dully. 'After all you've done, you were a fool to believe you could have anything else. This is all you deserve.'
"NO!" Domino gagged, and suddenly the strain was too much to bear. Inside her mind the golden glow cracked and shattered into a thousand razor sharp pieces, exploding outward to slice her conscious mind to ribbons. Tyler watched, and smiled, one gentle hand caressing her cheek as she opened her mouth to scream.
Barrelling down the last corridor that connected with the scientists' dormitories, Cable suddenly doubled over with pain. His head thudded with electric agony as suddenly, without warning, the psibond exploded. Despite the null field his sensitive psion's mind shrieked in anguish at the bleeding, gaping hole in his thoughts. Nathan fell to the ground, curling into a fetal ball. Unable to move or think, he couldn't do anything but scream as part of his soul was wrenched away a second time.
Even with the null field, Psylocke felt a wash of agony even as she heard the raw cry just down the hall. Clutching her hands to her head, she followed the source of the pain to find Nathan just around the corner on his knees, bent over with both hands over his ears. Blood was streaming from his ears and his nose, and he looked up through his tears to see her crouched to help him.
"Oh, no, Nathan," she took his arm, dark violet eyes murky with fear. "What is it? Tell me!"
He didn't answer, just closed his eyes and staggered to his feet, drawing on every bit of the stoicism that had made him a legend in the future and the past. "Help me. . . get to her," he whispered hoarsely, left eye blazing as he staggered to his feet.
Knowing nothing she could say would ease the agony radiating from the man, Psylocke only nodded and helped him stand straighter, guiding him back down the hall until they stood in front of the closed silver doors.
"She's. . in there," Cable grunted, leaning against the wall with one hand.
"I know, Nathan," Betsy told him gently, thinking quickly over their alternatives. Kitty could have easily phased them through, but she should be almost out of the fortress by this time. They had no way of knowing how close Domino was to the door, so explosives were out.
'You could always teleport through the shadows-' Psylocke looked away, feeling once more the call of the shadows that still lurked within her. She'd defeated them before and regained her soul- but at such a price. She didn't know if she had the strength to do it again. Shuddering at the thought of losing herself to the inky blackness, a part of her was so, so tempted to return to the void, to give into the constant pull that still tormented her dreams. It would be so easy to give into their call, to slip back into their velvet depths and lose herself forever . . . and she could help her teammates . . .
'NO!' Betsy jerked her head away, beads of cold perspiration forming on her forehead. 'I cannot, I *will* not, not even for this. One day it may be necessary, but not today. Not when there are other options.' Rifling through her pack, she pulled out a small silver cylindrical device.
Glancing worriedly at her companion, she told him "This will take a few moments, but we should be able to cut through the locking mechanism."
Cable nodded, eyes closed tightly against even the dim light of the hallway. "Good. . ."
Before the British telepath could activate the small laser, the door emitted a sharp hiss. Cable, on the other side of the doors, immediately dropped into defensive position, and Betsy barely had time to duck and roll out of the way.
There was no barrage of gunfire, no wave of soldiers to attack them. Instead, loud, mocking laughter emerged from the laboratory.
Beside her, Cable paled. Steeling himself against whatever was inside, he stepped into the doorway, Betsy right behind him.
Inside the now diamond-bright laboratory, Domino hung unconscious from the wicked looking silver table from Psylocke's vision. Tyler stood beside her, hands behind his back, seemingly at perfect ease.
The man who had been Tyler Dayspring looked directly into his father's haunted eyes and challenged "Step into my parlor. . . "
To Be Continued...
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