CHAPTER ONE: Opening Volley

by Samy Merchi


This is a non-profit work of fan-fiction involving
characters created and owned by Marvel Comics Group.

Samy <samerc@utu.fi> Merchi




Mutants. Children of the Atom. Homo superior. Individuals gifted with a unique X-factor in their genetic makeup, which grants them superhuman powers, but also makes them hated and feared by the distrusting, racist world at large. X-Force is a hard-hitting mutant strikeforce dedicated to stopping any threats to peaceful human/mutant coexistence -- but more than that, they are a tight-knit family forged in years of history together.


Working for the enigmatic and immortal geneticist Mr Sinister, the Marauders are a ruthless group of people prepared to carry out any orders given them, from abducting children to decimating entire communities of people. Mercenaries all, they have pledged themselves into Mr Sinister's employ in exchange for cloning services which guarantee that should any of them ever fall in battle -- they will live again soon thru the miracle of cloning.

This story

"REGROUP!!!" The shout echoed in the chamber, barely exceeding the noise of the gunfire and the panicked yells of the ambushed X-Force. Chaos broke loose in the Morlock tunnels as a vast THOOM was heard, jarring everyone's balance and leaving them open for a wave of nausea and imbalance which took almost everyone down to their knees. The opening volley had been launched.

Sunspot kept hovering in the air, and grit his teeth as he realized what the hell was going on. All he had was a desperate gamble, and if it wouldn't work, they would all be dead. "AMARA!! RIC!! TAB!! TAKE OUT THE FLOOR!!! NOW!!!!" he shouted with all the power in his lungs and let himself drop to the floor, even as huge explosions and the rumble of earth itself moving covered everything beneath it.

Then there was a long fall that he didn't dare to break, the only chance being to get as much distance between them and their enemies to regroup and reevaluate the situation. That was their only shot to survive this stupid, STUPID trap they had walked into.

"WHULFF!!!" Bobby's lungs emptied at the impact to the ground, and his knee almost shattered as he met the cold stone floor. For no longer than a fraction of a second, he kept his eyes closed, trying to force out the pain. "Report!" he gasped, trying to get up.

"I am all right, Roberto", came the voice of Bobby's wife, Amara Aquilla, slightly groggily, but otherwise sounding fine. Getting back into contact with Mother Earth was probably more benefical than harmful for her.

"Guh... You should be grateful I'm used to banging my head, dude..." Rictor moaned as he braced himself on a wall in a vain attempt to get up, but failed miserably and slumped back down to the floor.

"Fekt! We walked into their ambush like fowl in a barrel!" Shatterstar, as usual, didn't let any injuries slow his body down, nor did he let any errors in his proverbs slow his words down. He quickly picked up the rifle that had fallen off his back during the fall and made sure it was still functioning.

"Owwww..." Dani rubbed her head as she pulled herself up into a sitting position, not needing to glance to her side to know her wolfen friend was okay, thanks to their telempathic link. "Me and Rahne are okay, 'Berto..." she said quietly and winced at the pain in her head.

"You know, at amusement parks, they charge big bucks for this kinda stuff... Maybe we oughta set up a franchise, market this place a bit... Of course, it could use some redecorating... Like all that blood would look so much better on the wall instead of the floor... And it could be shaped in a bit more avantgarde style..." Wade Wilson's voice grew steadily weaker even as his speech got faster and more jumbled.

"WADE!!! Saints!" Terry had been one who had had the most luck in the fall, and rushed over to catch the fainting mercenary, gaping at the massive pool of blood beside his head. Wade chuckled a bit as he glanced at the blood. "Hey, guess my name makes some sense now, huh Teresa? Dead - pool. Get it? Like, I'll be dead and there's a pool of blood... Hee!" he chuckled deliriously. Which was of course no change to his normal train of thought. "WADE!!!" Terry screamed angrily, annoyed that he couldn't even die with his mouth shut.

"What's next, boss?" Maria Callasantos growled, already prowling the exits for any new surprises. This was, after all, her old home, and she knew the place like the back of her pocket, right? Wrong. There wasn't supposed to be anything under where the floor was blown up, other than solid bedrock. This place was completely new and alien to her, but she didn't show any doubt in her voice.

"Ah don't reckon we got much time 'fore whoever was up there finds their way down here, Bobby." Sam took a glance around and looked upwards at the hole in the ceiling they had fallen thru. No sign of movement at all. An eerie silence. "An' since our comlinks can't reach outta the tunnels, we can't call 'Yana ta evac us."

"Great! Just %&$#ing great!" Tabitha said and threw her hands up in the air, two glowing energy spheres materializing out of nowhere and following her throwing motions to fly out of the hole in the ceiling above and explode in a huge firestorm in hopes of there being someone still left investigating. The only effect was that of a large cloud of dust and rocks raining down on the already down-on-their-luck X-Force.

With a quick motion, Bobby let solar energy lash out from his eyes at the rubble falling down, content at having something to let his frustration out on. After the flare of his powers subsumed, a fine gray mist slowly floated down to the ground. "Do you ever think, Tabitha?" he asked in a tone that would freeze Hell over.

There was a moment of silence as everyone glanced around the chamber, everyone preparing for the upcoming fight in their own way. Terry tore off a piece of her costume and wrapped it around Wade's head to stanch the bleeding. Bobby walked over to Dani and crouched in front of her to take a look at her, frowning slightly at the swelling bump on her head and narrowing his eyes in concern.

Amara's eyes narrowed as well, but she showed little other emotion. She had known almost all along. Bobby didn't really think he was smart enough not to be noticed, did he? She would let him have his affairs with Dani, but if he ever tried to leave her for the savage, or humilate her by making his affairs public...

"Okay, everyone", Bobby said, standing up. "Here's the plan - Red Team will take the point and find us a way up. Blue goes after them, Sam, you be ready to block the tunnel with your blast field if there's trouble up ahead. I'll take Deadpool and come with Black in the middle. And Green will take the rear and make sure there are no surprises. Shatterstar will move over to Green to replace Deadpool." He glanced around with a lifted eyebrow. "Any questions? No? Great. Take formation, let's move out."

A quick glance passed between Bobby and Dani, as he made sure she was up to holding the point, and she just returned his questioning glance with a reassuring smile and nod despite the pounding in her head. A pounding Rahne was only too painfully aware of, due to her link with Moonstar. "Dani isnae up t' it, 'Berto", she said with a slightly hurt tone. "Put Green Team up, Feral knows th' wretched place anyway."

Bobby lifted an eyebrow and glared at Rahne. "I have reasons when I make my choices", he intoned in a cold, flat voice carrying a hint of warning. But he did not explain himself. That would only set a bad example and lead to the team questioning him more. He would not explain that the telempathic link Dani and Rahne shared, combined with Dani's SHIELD training would make Red Team the most stealthy, most silent team to take the point. "Don't slow us down again by making my choices into public debate." Everyone remained quiet, some disagreeing, most agreeing. Well, everyone remained quiet but one.

"Damn it, Bobby!" Tabitha screamed, half-sniffling. "We're all gonna die, and all you can think about is your ego!" She hugged herself tightly, turning around and going into a dark corner, sobbing pitifully.

A hand on his shoulder stopped Bobby from going over. The one hand that always soothed him so. What little anger there had been growing inside him faded away at the touch of Lady Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla, his beautiful, fiery wife. "Let her be, Roberto", she whispered into his ear. He nodded quietly and slipped an arm around her waist, watching Sam instead go over to the corner to comfort Tabitha. Bobby decided to give them a moment before putting the team on the move.

With a quick motion, Bobby hoisted the unconscious Deadpool onto his shoulder, lifting an eyebrow at Terry who watched him closely, almost as if she suspected him of something. He gave her a dazzling smile, deciding to if not reassure her, at least confuse her. "Focus, Theresa", he smirked and glanced around the various exits.

Feral was crouched only a few feet from Bobby, eyeing Deadpool with a worried gaze, though she hid it with a faked look of contempt. "Do you know where we are, Maria?" came a voice, and snapped her back to reality, to look into Roberto's eyes. She bit her lip lightly and shook her head. "Sorry, boss", she replied, glancing around. "I ain' got no idea whuddis place is..." Her accent was getting thicker, a sign of her being nervous and distracted, as she glanced around warily.

"Very well", Roberto nodded and took a look around the room and the several exits. He knew that the largest tunnel would probably be the best way out of here. And he knew that their opponents most likely knew that as well, and would expect them to take that route. Or they might anticipate him thinking to avoid that tunnel and go the opposite way. So he decided to do neither. He pointed towards a small exit beside the large tunnel opening, seeming to go roughly in the same direction, and nodded to Dani as a go-ahead.

Silently Dani nodded back, her eyes locked on Bobby for a long while, wishing that she could kiss him one last time and concentrating to keep these thoughts excluded from the telempathic link with Rahne, as she always had. Always she had kept this one part of her life secret from Rahne, when she had shared everything else with her wolfen friend. She knew she had to. If the relationship between her and Bobby became known, it would ruin the whole team. Rahne wouldn't trust her anymore, or Bobby for that matter. Amara would kill both of them. Everyone else would be disillusioned. Everything would come crumbling down.

That's when she saw something that chilled her to the bone. Images of Death descending upon all of them, heralding their doom. Dani's unique ability as one of the Valkyries was to see impending death as it approached. Sometimes this gift was a blessing, enabling her to prepare and fight the death and maybe defeat it. Most of the time it was a curse, because she simply couldn't win every time.

But now, seeing Death descend upon them all, and most importantly, Bobby, she bit her lip, and glanced between him and Amara. If they were all going to die, shouldn't she at least let the team die as friends? She would only cause the team to fracture, and lead them into that very death with more certainty... Maybe the best way to fight death off in this situation was to just stay away from Bobby? Maybe if she went to him and kissed him, she would cause the death of the team?

She couldn't be sure. Maybe they would die anyway. And she wasn't going to die without making peace with her secrets. She turned around and walked towards Bobby, several eyes turning to follow her curiously as she strode proudly towards him, determined to end this web of lies and secrets, and die honorably, without hiding anything anymore.

Dani's bow faded from her hand as she ceased projecting it as a 'solid mirage', freeing her hand to slide into Roberto's long hair with a caress, and to pull her leader's -- her lover's -- lips onto hers. She felt little resistance, perhaps he sensed the impending death as well, and wished for all accounts to be settled, as he leaned into the kiss.

There were gasps of surprise around the room, but the kiss lasted only for a few seconds before Dani felt everything blink dark for a moment, feeling something hard hit her head and knock her to the floor. Her already-battered head took a long time to recover, but she finally managed to open her eyes, and look up.

Amara was towering above her, her hands clenched into fists, undoubtedly being the deliverers of the impact that had knocked her down. She was not in her Magma form, but her eyes were flaring with bright fire, threateningly. "Stay away from my husband, savage!" she snarled with ferocity rivaling Feral's worst moods. Small tremors were shaking the room, evidence of her rage and bad temper.

In vain, Bobby placed a hand onto Amara's shoulder in an attempt to calm her down. He obviously did not have the same effect on her as she did on him. She kept glaring at Dani, who slowly was getting up, Rahne having rushed to help her. "Rictor!" Bobby called out. "Do what you can to keep this room from collapsing!" Quickly, he put his arms around Amara and turned her around, to face him, and kissed her in another attempt to calm her down.

Straining, Rictor closed his eyes to focus. He rarely used his powers to -prevent- vibrations and tremors, in lieu of -causing- them. But he could do it. He knew he could. And he gritted his teeth as he tried to keep his focus, keep the room together, solid and steady. "No...*unnggghhh*...problem, jefe..."

To his surprise, it worked. In a few seconds, the chamber quieted down and stopped shaking, as if a giant hand had grabbed it and held it firmly in place. He fell to his knees as he kept the exertion up, fighting the power generated by Amara's rage, and using his own power to fight it, and cancel out her effect.

Sam and Tabitha watched the scene, both of them having been taken by surprise. Sam started towards the center of the room, but Tabitha firmly kept holding his hand, not letting him go, and shook her head when he turned to glance at her. She was scared, and that was obvious on her face. She needed him right now, needed him to hold her and not go off to solve other peoples' problems.

Viciously, Amara pulled herself away from Bobby's kiss, glaring at him in a manner that told him that she knew. She knew. And that chilled Bobby to the bone. His Black Queen was one of the few people that could really, truly scare him anymore when she was in the right mood. And this was definitely one of those moods. "Amara, please..." he tried whispering to her.

"Please what, Roberto?" Amara responded in a freezing tone contrary to her fiery nature. "Please let her live after kissing my beloved husband?" She turned around, her eyes locking onto Dani. "Roberto is -my- husband. He has promised himself to me, as I have promised myself to him. I should kill you for shaming him like that. He has no interest in someone like you", she said in a tone dripping with venomous contempt. "A lower-class savage."

Dani's eyes narrowed at Amara's last words. She longed to strike back, unaware of the fact that Amara knew. She wanted to tell her how 'Berto liked to spend the nights with her, how they enjoyed a hiking trip together every now and then, or that the father of her miscarried child had been none other than 'Berto. But she didn't. She wasn't out to anger Amara. She just wanted everyone to know. She was tired of hiding it. "Amara..." she started, a bit weakly, dizzy at all the blows her head had suffered, but getting stronger by every word. "I love 'Berto. I have since he rescued me from the Enchantress and asked me to help him with the Mutant Liberation Front, maybe even longer. I always will. And I just wanted him to know that. I'm sorry if I hurt you." She turned around and headed towards the exit Bobby had pointed towards. << Let's go, Rahne >>, she said in Rahne's head.

A fountain of lava erupted mere feet in front of Dani, but she didn't recoil, instead just turning around back to face Amara with cold, detached eyes that narrowed a bit in an unspoken threat. "We'll fight when we get out of here, Amara. Right now we need to work together to get out of here alive. If you want to live happily ever after with 'Berto, shut the hell up and let me get to work", she intoned.

There was a moment of uneasy silence, Amara's fists tensing up and glowing with molten fiery energies, as if preparing to strike Dani down with a single stray thought.

She didn't. The silence continued for a long time, and Dani turned around again, disappearing into the tunnel with Rahne. Sam and Tabitha glanced to each other, and shared a deep but brief kiss before following them into the tunnel. Next, Roberto - Deadpool still on his shoulder - placed a hand onto Amara's shoulder, but she moved away, storming after Sam and Tabitha on her own. Bobby glanced back to Rictor who was slowly getting up after keeping the room together. "Nice work, Ric. Keep it up", he said to encourage him before going after Amara, hovering a foot or so above the floor and starting to glide forward in the air silently.

Rictor looked after Bobby, watching him move into the tunnel, and glanced to Shatterstar who was in his emotionless combat mode. "Move on, Julio", Shatterstar said. "We do not wish to be separated from the others." Rictor nodded in response and trotted off to the tunnel to try catching up to Bobby.

Terry was watching Shatterstar as he commanded Rictor away. Feral's eyes were on him as well. Both of these young women had in their day been attracted to this disciplined soldier, but had never gotten any response to their approaches. "Let's go, Siryn", snapped 'Star's voice Terry from her thoughts. "I shall take the rear."

"I'd love that..." Theresa muttered to herself, not remembering she wasn't the only one on this team with acute hearing. She blushed crimson as she noticed both Shatterstar and Feral's eyes on her, and quickly moved to the tunnel the others had disappeared to, to hide her embarrassment.

"So, whadjou think, Shattybuns? We gon' make it?" Feral asked idly as she moved after Terry on all fours, trying to seem emotionless and succeeding somewhat.

"I think my name is Shatterstar, Feral", he replied calmly, dismayed at Feral never learning not to give him nicknames. "And whether we win or lose, I am certain this will be one for the primetime."

Part 2

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