The New Mutants: Class Reunion
Disclaimer: Everyone in the story belongs to Marvel, but the story itself belongs to me.
Relevant Continuity Points: To simplify things, Skids has been staying at the mansion ever since Avalon went boom. This story occurs before Bastion makes his move with Operation: Zero Tolerance and the events of GenX #25.
To all those who fear for what The Raab will do to the best teen team book ever, I give the proper antidote! It's The New Mutants reunion done right (I hope)!
Her legs pound the ground beneath her furiously, trying desperately to do what she knows she cannot. Escape. But she tries anyway, to keep the creatures she once held as slaves from chasing after her. Only a few minutes remain, now, before she'll be returned to where she'd escaped from days ago. Only one option is open to her now, one she had hoped she would never have to use again in her lifetime. Only her old friends can help her now...
Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters; Snow Valley, Massachusetts...
"Welcome to the Massachusetts Academy, may your stay here be more pleasant than your first one." Emma Frost says to the crowd of youngsters coming off the PACRAT, X-Force's answer to the X-Men's Blackbird.
"Was that a joke, Ms. Frost? I don't remember you knowing the meaning of the word." James Proudstar, the first Hellion and Frost's former student, says as he disembarks, followed shortly thereafter by his teammates Meltdown, Siryn, Sunspot, Rictor, Caliban, Shatterstar and Skids. The newest X-Man, Cannonball, is among them, as are two other New Mutants that have moved on to other things, Moonstar and Karma. Cable and Domino had other business to attend to.
Several current members of Excalibur arrived earlier, one being Shadowcat, who came along with her friends, Douglock and Wolfsbane. Though Kitty was never an official New Mutant, she was also invited, much to her confusion, considering the occasion.
Today is the first New Mutants Class Reunion, approxiamately five years from the day they first formed. And sadly, being one of the only two true Hellions left on Earth, Warpath is a class reunion in and of himself. Empath had refused the invitation to the ceremony, Magma couldn't be found and Firestar was no more a Hellion than Shadowcat was a New Mutant.
"Welcome back, James." Emma responds without emotion, as usual. "I've had the students help prepare rooms, so you should be able to settle in quite easily." She then waves to the students to come and help.
"'Tis nice tae be seein' ye again, Da." Siryn walks up and puts her arms around her father, Sean Cassidy, the co-headmaster of the school.
"Same here, Terry. Same here." He returns her hug warmly, then steps back from her. "So, are ye gonna be a part o' the ceremony or are ye jus' here tae see your ole' man?"
"A wee bit o' both, I suppose. I was never a New Mutant nor a Hellion, so this is nae really me place, but these're me best friends, so I decided tae come anyway." Siryn looks back at her gathered troopmates. "I guess that's much the same reason Shatterstar came along, as well. He was a New Mutant for little more than a day, really, 'fore they became X-Force." Her father is about to respond, but he is interrupted by a high-pitched wail loud enough to surpass both his and Terry's own vocal might.
"Hey, Red!! What ya' got in here, barbells?" Jubilee yells from the PACRAT. Both she and the rest of Generation-X are helping X-Force unload both the team's bags and the Shi'ar equipment they had agreed to ferry from Westchester to Massachusetts for the Professor. "And why ain't Ms. Perfect out here helpin'? 'Fraid she'll break an indestructable nail or somethin'?"
"Ye'll have tae excuse the lass, Terry, she has nae been trainin' like she should be..." He glares at the young oriental girl, who simply shrugs, "...an' has a wee bit o' trouble liftin' heavy things."
"'Tis nae a problem, Da. The flight down here was pretty tirin', so I jus' want tae take a nice warm shower as quickly as possible, if ye don't mind, o'course?"
"Go on, Terry. We'll handle everythin' here." With that, Theresa Cassidy turns and follows a young black boy wearing a Cardinals jersey to Proudstar Hall, along with several other members of X-Force. Still by the PACRAT, Emma is watching with her own brand of amusement as the two Guthries, Sam and Paige, get well into a classic sibling rivalry.
"Look Paige, ah didn't mean nothin' by it. Ah was jus' sayin' that..."
"Ah know what ya' said, Sam. An' ya' meant it, too. Ms. Frost's been doin' right by us since day one, ya' ain't got the right ta'..." Paige points at her older brother, her accent having no bounds when she's angry.
"Paige, calm down! All ah asked was how things were goin' on down here!"
"An' then ya' asked if Ms. Frost was actin' funny! Face it Sam, ya' don't trust her an' ya' can't accept the fact that she ain't the same person ya' always used ta' write home about!"
"Yer right, Paige, ah don't trust her, but that ain't why ah was askin'! Jean, Cable and Betsy've been mentionin' strange stuff goin' around on the psi-plane an' ah was wonderin' whether or not she felt it, too!"
There is silence. What was once a heated argument has dwindled to a staring contest between older brother and younger sister.
"The answer to your question, Sam, is yes. I have been feeling a disruption on the psionic plane for several months now since the X-Men's misadventure in Israel, which was heightened considerably by that Onslaught debacle. But I would have preferred it if you had just asked me directly." Her hand rests on her chin, her eyes staring at Sam, almost through him.
"Ah figured that with the way ya' like ta' poke your head in where it ain't wanted, ya' already knew mah question before ah asked it." If physics allowed for it, the words would have drawn blood.
"For all you know, I did." She smiles devilishly, "But I still would have preferred you come to me instead of my student." The tension in the air could be cut with a knife, and even then it would take more than one swipe.
"I dinnae think he meant anything by it, Ms. Frost." Rahne steps forward, next to Sam. "But ye cannae blame him, or any of us, for nae trustin' ye. Because we don't."
"I suppose not, but I don't think you or the other former New Mutants came at my request to argue with me about the past. Now go to your rooms and relax, it's late and we are all tired." Even when she tries to sound polite, her voice is laced with an almost irremoveable venom.
"C'mon children, we don't have all day to listen to you gripe..." Meltdown, Sam's estranged girlfriend, walks up behind both Sam and Rahne, "...and that includes you, Frosty." Emma sniffs indignantly, then turns to Banshee, saying something to him telepathically, then the two of them walk towards the main building.
Later that evening...
Both classes of mutants are gathered in the rec room of Proudstar Hall, talking to each other and swapping stories of their adventures back and forth. Shadowcat is in the corner with her fellow Excalibur members, calling home to talk to Pete Wisdom, and in Rahne's case, to talk to Moira. Moonstar is outside talking with Sunspot and Karma, trying to explain her current affiliation to the MLF to the best of her ability, without giving away confidential information about her links to S.H.I.E.L.D. The Guthries are again arguing, with M looking at them in a trance and Jono hovering around them uncertainly. Mondo is sitting on the couch... the whole couch... while Artie and the former Morlocks, Leech and Caliban, watch TV with him from the floor. Siryn is talking some more with her father in a corner. Shatterstar, Meltdown, Warpath, Synch, Skin, Skids and Rictor are all listening to Jubilee do what she does best... talk.
"Okay, so like, after we got through scrappin' with Emplate, we figured out that Ms. Perfect over there..." Jubilee jerks her thumb at the catactonic statue in the corner, "...is his kid sister!" The X-Force members of the mutant circle look at each other silently, then back at Jubilee for her to continue her story.
"Yeah, but I didn't figure it out until after after you guys stopped me from hurting my family." The X-Forcers quickly jerk their heads towards the youth who had shown them around earlier, Everett Thomas. "I still don't know exactly how M stopped me."
"Oh, lighten' up, Ev. Emplate screwed with your head and we all know it. I thought ya stopped kickin' yerself for that a long time ago?" Jubilee says to the target of her affections.
"Weeeeell, I can tell this conversation went downhill pretty quick." Warpath chimes in, "Hey, why don't I tell you guys a story about my old days here? And this'll be new for you guys, too." He nods to his X-Force friends.
"Ooooh yeah, I forgot you used to go here. So tell me, got any juicy stuff on the walking Victoria's Secret catalog?" Jubilee says, excited at the potential gossip waiting to be heard.
"Okay, but Frost has almost nothing to do with this story, sorry Jubes; and this was even before our team had met the New Mutants, so Chuck was still their headmaster at the time." Jimmy pauses, dragging up the memory. "By then, it was just me, Manny, Jetstream, Marie-Ange and Jenny on the team. Frost was still out looking for more recruits. And as it is, she had just found another one for us, Catseye. She had a pretty interesting story, or so Frost told us." Jimmy clears his throat and swallows, "Frost said that she had found Cat' living in the sewers of..."
"So she was a Morlock?" Jubilee asks, curiously.
"No, she wasn't a Morlock. She was a cat." He gets a few blank stares from the Gen-Xers. "I mean it, she had been living as a cat, with other strays, for years, probably since birth. Her parents had abandoned her after she was born, we think, because she came out complete with the lavender fur and tail. And she always thought she was a mutant cat who could shift to human form, rather than the other way around. This meant that she never learned how to talk, or how to interact with other people, before Frost found her."
"Sounds like Penance." Skin whispers to Synch, who nods in agreement.
"Frost gave her a crash course in English with her psi-powers, but even after that Sharon kept talking strange, and never fully went into human form. She always kept her tail, no matter what. I'm not sure if she could get rid of it or not, but we never found out. So on that first day with us, she was still very wild, but it wasn't until later that afternoon I found out exactly how wild."
"What'd she do?" Synch asks, prompting him to continue.
"She stalked me, that's what she did. I'll remember that day for the rest of my life." He smiles with nostalgia, "I was sitting out on a rock in the clearing over by the west creek, talking with one of the normal students. She left to go to class, but I stayed and tried to relax some, soak in the sunny day." He bites his lip to keep himself from laughing. "So I put my hands behind my head, leaned back against the stone and suddenly found myself looking right up at Cat's upside-down face, in her change-form, claws extended... the whole bit. What can I say, I freaked." He chuckles a little, as do a few of the listeners.
"I turned around with lightning speed and kicked off the rock with all my strength. And being pretty new with my powers at this time, I forgot exactly how much strength I had in me, so I sent myself flying backwards several feet straight through a pine tree. Cat' just looked at me with a tilted head and a curious expression, then scurried away to take ten years off someone else's life." The crowd laughs at the thought, the Gen-Xers remembering Penance's first few days at the Academy.
"Si, she sounds a lot like Penance." Skin turns back to James, "So where is the chica now?" Angelo asks, before Jubilee can stop him, already knowing about what Fitzroy did to all of Frost's previous students.
"She's dead. Along with the rest of the Hellions, besides myself and Manny." James sours, remembering that his friend, all his old friends, are dead.
"Dios, I didn't know." Angelo stammers, trying to change the subject, "Um... so, who's Manny?"
"A sadistic prick, that's who." Sunspot says, returning from outside and joining the group. Dani and Shan are still outside, talking.
"Pardon?" Everett asks, surprised at the vehemence in Berto's response.
"Manuel de la Rocha, or Empath, was a manipulator, all the way through. He wasn't that bad around the rest of us, but he was still a bully." Jimmy says, remembering his old rival, "He was an emapthic mutant who could mess with a person's emotions, make 'em feel love, hate, jealousy, envy, lust, anger, contentment, spite, loneliness... whatever it was, he could do it to you. And he enjoyed it, too. Especially toying with Tarot, but she didn't seem to care." Jimmy's fists clench without thinking, "I hated him for that, abusing her misplaced crush on him like he did."
"So who else has a story?" Meltdown chimes in, before the mood can darken any more.
"Um..." Skids mumbles, then shushes herself.
"What is it, it sounds juicy?" This, again, from Jubilee.
"I didn't say anything!" Sally exclaims defensively.
"I know, that's what makes it sound juicy. Spill it."
"Uh... well... I hadn't meant for this to be the place I told all you guys this. I had meant to tell you all for a long time, but I never felt the time was right. Things haven't happened like I wanted them to, so I..."
"So, like, are we being told today or tomorrow?" Meltdown says, equally as anxious as Jubilee, if not moreso, while balancing on the arm of the couch.
"Okay. I guess I can't back out now." Sally takes a deep breath, then lets out her words in a torrent, "I'mhavingababy."
Tabitha falls off the couch arm in shock, literally floored by the revelation, causing several heads to turn, then she quickly crawls over to Skids and grabs her by the shoulders.
"You serious?!? Is this for real? Oh man, why didn't you tell us before?" As she continues, her voice gets higher pitch until no guys in the circle understand what she's saying, though the girls keep nodding their heads, listening intently.
"Wait! Slow down, yes, it IS Rusty's." She begins to answer the unheard questions slowly, "We had a pseudo-wedding back on Avalon before it got trashed. Colossus performed the service, but I wouldn't exactly call him a priest by any means. I've known about it for the last four and a half months. He's going to be a boy. And no, I won't let you help me pick out a name for him. There. Done. I've said it." There is a momentary silence.
"Congratulations!" Sunspot says happily, throwing his hands up in the air. "No wonder you've been seeing Beast so much lately. I always wondered about that." The other members gather around to hear the great news, whatever it is, and then more and more congratulations go around the room, ending off the night.
Morning, the campus Quad...
"Has anyone seen James?" Danielle Moonstar asks to the gathered mutants, "I've been looking for him all morning, but can't find him."
"I think he went over thataway," Kitty Pryde, the former rival of the New Mutants during her days as an X-Man, points towards the hill on the far side of the campus without looking up. "Don't know why, but he was muttering something about it being important."
"Thanks, Kit." Dani walks over to where Kitty pointed.
"Anytime." Kitty goes back to what she was doing, writing an e-mail to Pete on her laptop.
Over the hill...
"James? Jimmy? You over here?" The Cheyenne woman whispers.
"That you, Dani?" The young Apache says, sitting about sixteen yards off.
"Yeah. What're you doing all the way out here, I've never seen this part of the campus bef..."
"That's because there hadn't been anyone buried here before."
As Dani reaches the crest of the hill, she sees a small cluster of 17 gravestones, lined up in two rows. Jimmy is running his fingers along the engraved name on the stone in front of him, whispering the words quietly.
**Sharon Kelly Smith. Born 1976. Died September 19, 1991.**
"I miss them." Jimmy stands and looks to the other graves.
"I know, Jimmy. I miss them, too." She walks up behind him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"No, you don't understand -- you couldn't. To you, they were rivals at best. To me, they were my friends, as much a second family for me as the New Mutants were to you. Now they're dead and I'm not."
"You can't blame yourself for that, you were lucky, so was Manny."
"Nah, I don't really blame myself, or regret my decision to leave too much. I had left the team on good terms, already got my good-byes in and now it gives me a sense of closure to it all." He rubs his forehead with his large hand. "Still, I can't help but think, that if I was there, I could have stopped what happened. I was their leader, the guy they all looked up to. Even Manny respected my authority when things got nasty. When I left, there was no leader to take over. No one to help them fight back against Fitzroy." Dani is about to respond, but Jimmy puts a finger to her mouth briefly, before he realizes what he's doing, and continues.
"I had never really thought that much about 'em before, y'know. Like I said, I had my closure, so the emotions were already buried by the time they were all murdered. But last night brought back a lotta memories, good times and bad, so I felt I should drop by and say hello." He turns to Dani and gives her a weak smile, "C'mon, let's go back to the others."
The lost woman runs violently, only seconds remain now before her capture.
--This is my last chance. If I don't jump now, it's all over. Dear God, I hope they'll understand why I've done what I've done.-- She whispers a silent prayer to a God she never truly believed in before, then uses a power she has kept dormant for the past 3 years.
"Howdy ya'll!" Sam Guthrie steps to the front of the small ampitheatre on the south end of campus. The gathered members of the former New Mutants sit in seats facing him. Many smile, some nod, and a few others laugh a little.
"This here is the first New Mutants class reunion. Ah wish ah had thought a' this earlier, ta' get back all a' mah old friends together in one place. But ah hadn't, and it wasn't even mah idea, which ah've been kickin' mahself for ever since ah heard it." Sam smiles, then bows his head a little.
"As ya' already know, we were all invited here, one way or another, by Ms. Frost. She told me over the phone last week what she was plannin', an' despite everythin' that's happened 'tween us and her in the past, ah felt it was a good idea. So here we are, the old gang, once again." He looks at his notes on the podium in front of him.
"It's regretful, though, that we weren't able ta' find Amara for this. This is the sorta thing she woulda loved, but things are the way they are. Another fella who couldn't be here today is Manuel. Ah've been told by Ms. Frost that he claimed ta' have "important affairs" ta' attend to with his father's old business, and couldn't come. What can ah say, the more people change, the more they stay the same." Sam clears his throat.
Sam looks around at the audience. "If that phrase describes any group a' people better than the New Mutants and Hellions, ah sure ain't met 'em yet. When ah look back on the years, ah see how much we've all changed, how much we've grown. Ah've become an X-Man, Berto's still on X-Force, Rahne's stayin' with her foster mother in Scotland, 'long with Kitty and the rest of Excalibur. Dani's gone her own way, and Shan's been walkin' 'round the Earth for a long time now lookin' for her family. Amara's tryin' ta' figure herself out right now, wherever she is, and what's probably the best change of all, Sally's gonna have a young'un of her own soon, which we're all happy for." Sam clears his throat and continues, "Mah only regret about mah time as a New Mutant is the good people we lost along the way -- Dougie, Warlock, Rusty, Illyana and all a' the Hellions. Good people and good friends ah'm happy ta' say ah knew. Ah hope the rest a' ya'll feel the same way. That's all, folks."
Later on in the day...
"It's been a while, hasn't it, Sam?" Rahne says to the tall, blond native of Kentucky, both looking over the wide campus.
"Yeah, Furtop, it has. Hardly feels like it though." He looks the Scots were-woman in the eyes, "Where did the years go? Was it so long ago that we were jumpin' around Asgard and Limbo, all the while havin' the time of our lives?"
"Aye, so much has changed for us since those early days, especially after Genosha."
Rahne quiets for a moment, then looks in Sam's eyes tentatively. "Was it worth it?"
"Pardon?" Sam asks, curious.
"Bein' a New Mutant. This day has had me thinkin', aboot what our lives would be like if we never came tae Xavier's School. All of us, especially those who died. Has everythin' we've done and learned really been worth the sacrifices we've made?"
"Bein' a New Mutant gave me some a' the best friends a man can ask for, who ah never woulda met otherwise." Sam says cheerfully. "Of course it's been worth it." Rahne brightens at that.
"Aye, we had some fun times. I still laugh when I remember the time the girls had prettied me up at that slumber party so long ago. I never really apologized for that gut-shot, did I?" Rahne giggles slightly at the memory of her youth.
"How many times does this country boy have ta' say he's sorry about that? Ya wouldn't talk to me for at least a week afterwards." Sam says, glad that his friendship with Rahne was so strong that they could go without seeing each other for months to a year at times, and still be picked up again instantly whenever the occurance did arise. "Even if ah didn't say it then, ya looked beautiful that night, just like ya do now."
"Och, yuir just bein' silly, now." Rahne looks away, blushing furiously at the praise. She had had a secret crush on Sam for years when they were New Mutants, and even after having it 'publicized' by Gosamyr, her feelings about him never went away. --I shouldnae be thinkin' such things about someone who already has a girlfriend.-- There is a brief silence, where neither New Mutant speaks, at a loss for what to say. At least, until reality intrudes. Rahne turns to see it a moment before it happens.
A mere instant later, a flickering light begins to flash around them, about five feet off the ground, catching the attention of all gathered.
The portal opens dramatically in front of the trio of Sunspot, Shadowcat and Skids, who were talking about Sally's would-be child. An image appears before them, being clawed at viciously by a mass of demons, her voice cancelled by a demon's paw, holding the girl back from escape.
"I... Illyana?!?" Kitty Pryde whispers as her best friend begins to vanish, then quickly grabs at her outstretched hand, pulling both herself and her two classmates along with her when they try to help pull her back. The stepping disc closes and vanishes, leaving nothing but a faint shimmer of color.
"Mother of God, Rahne, was that...?" Sam stares in shock, briefly.
"Aye, but how is she alive, and how'd she know we were here?" Rahne also stares at empty space where her three friends used to be.
"Ah don't know, Rahne, but we ain't got much time! Whatever happened, Illyana, or someone that looks like her, just took Berto, Kitty and Sally back with 'em!" Sam calls the others around him, taking up the leadership reigns without a second thought.
"Ah'm gonna have ta' assume whoever that was took 'em ta' Limbo, so we need ta' find a way there and fast."
"Rahne's right, Sam, how is she alive?" The words come from Sunspot, his best friend.
"No time ta' think about it right now, Berto, we gotta move as fast as possible if'n we wanna save anyone. Ah want Dani, Terry and Jimmy ta' stay right here and see if they ever come back. If not, find Gateway, Paige told me he's stayed here off an' on for a while." He looks to the others gathered around him.
"We're gettin' 'em back, ya'll. No question 'bout that. Don't doubt it for a second." He pauses, coming up with his strategy.
"Rahne, ah want ya' ta' take 'Star and 'Lock back ta' Muir with ya', see if ya' can get Amanda ta' help us 'port if we can't use Gateway." He looks to those left. "Ah want the rest a' ya'll comin' with me back ta' New York. Supposedly the Morlock tunnels are a link ta' Limbo somehow, so we'll try that way, too. If anyone finds anythin' useful, call the other groups immediately. Good luck." Sam then turns and starts running for the PACRAT.
"Sam, Wait!" Paige runs up behind her brother.
"Yeah?" Sam turns to regard her impatiently.
"Is there anythin' we can do ta' help?" She looks in his face, worry etched on her own features, her control over her accent faultering.
"No, Paige, Limbo's a messed up place an' ah don't want ya'll riskin' your necks without just cause. Ah've been ta' Limbo plenty a' times before, so ah know what ah'm doin'." He softens his expression slightly, "Don't worry sis, ah'll be back, ah promise. Just remember ta' pray for me and the others, and we'll be back before supper, y'hear?" He leans over and kisses her on the forehead gently, then backs away towards the awaiting aircraft.
"Right, Sam. Ah'll do that." Before she can say another word, Sam runs frantically to the PACRAT while the Moonlight Flit races off towards Scotland in a flash of Shi'ar boosted speed.
Paige turns around to see her mentor, Sean Cassidy, standing behind her.
"He'll be all right, lass. He's been doin' this sort o' thing for years now and I trust 'im tae make it back in one piece." He puts a hand on her shoulder.
"Ah... I've never seen him run off into a fight like that before, sir. I've never seen him act that way." Paige whispers.
"He's a natural leader, Paige, whenever things go bad, he does nae even think about it, he just does what's needed. Now come on inside, we'll help do our part by findin' Gateway, wherever the man is." Sean leads Paige back to the main building.
Over the Atlantic, surpassing all Earthly measurements of speed...
"Muir Isle. Muir Isle, this is Wolfsbane, do ye copy? Over."
"What are you doing back so bleedin' fast, and where's Kitty?" Pete Wisdom answers the call, smoking his ever-present cigarette, then he notices Shatterstar, "And who's the 'Highlander' knock-off?"
"There's nae time tae be explainin' this, just find Amanda and tell her tae get ready fast. We'll be there in aboot 5 minutes. Please hurry."
"Yeah, yeah, but where's Kitty?" He says, slowly picking up the intercom microphone, looking for the right number to Amanda's room, after taking a large swallow of coffee. Rahne's temper flares, causing her to shift into her freakiest wolf-form of them all.
"SHUT UP AND DO IT RIGHT NOW YE BLEEDIN' WANKER OR I'LL RIP YUIR BLACKENED LUNGS OUT AN' FEED 'EM TAE YE!!!!!" Wisdom's cigarette falls from his lip and into his coffee as he stares dumbfounded at the furious werewolf, who's looking at him like he's her latest snack. Without further wasting, Pete hits a button... all of them, and hurriedly tells Amanda to 'port up to the comm room immediately. She does, along with Kurt, who was with her at the time.
"What's the fuss about, Herr Wisdom? You sounded like you saw a ghost." Pete jerks his thumb at the still seething Rahne. Kurt jumps back slightly at the sight, but then clears his throat to talk.
"Rahne, what's happening? What's wrong. You look very... upset." He says, trying to sound calm.
"O'course I'm upset! There's nae time tae be explainin' it, but we think we saw Illyana again an' she took Berto, Skids and Kitty back wi' her. We need Amanda tae give us a lift tae Limbo so we can find 'em again." She notices Pete's features turn ghost white when she mentions Kitty's name, "I'm sorry, Pete. It happened so fast." She whispers apologetically. "Whatever ye' do, dinnae tell Colossus about this. I cannae handle explainin' Illyana's reappearance right now. I'll talk tae ye when we land. Wolfsbane out."
"Where... where are we?" Sally says letting her force bubble melt away, allowing the other two to stand up fully.
"Limbo." Both Sunspot and Pryde say in unison.
"But how? And what the Hell is Limbo anyway? How'd she find us? Why..." Skids continues frantically.
"Illyana must have tried teleporting to my location, but the demons caught her first. Why? I don't know, but she needs our help. And Limbo... well... it's very hard to explain on the fly like this." Kitty says, trying to think of an easy explanation.
"Think of it as a pocket dimension or something where time gets really screwy and demons like to hang out." Berto tries his hand at the explanation. "Illyana used to rule here, but after that whole Inferno/Goblin Night thing happened, we had her switched with a younger version of herself, who later died of the Legacy Virus. I guess Sam was right back then, that just because we did what we did, it didn't mean the Illyana we all knew was dead. I suppose she's been hanging out here ever since. It's the only thing that makes any sense... or a least a close copy of sense."
"So what do we do now?" Skids says, having thought herself to be exempt from this sort of thing when she went inactive as a hero, and is instinctively worried for the welfare of her unborn child.
"We find Illyana and get to the bottom of this mess. I'm sure everyone who's still at home is trying to get here somehow, so we get to work and hope the cavalry will show up soon." Kitty starts walking along the techno-organic ground towards a large, towering hill in the distance. "C'mon guys, we don't have all day. Eventually the demons'll catch wind that we're here so we gotta keep moving."
Reluctantly, her two companions begin walking behind her.
Earth; The X-Mansion...
"Caliban remembers how to make the Ceremony of Light, but without a place-jumper, the Ceremony will not work." Caliban and his friends busy themselves by reconstructing the damaged walls and reflective surfaces leading to the Morlock Tunnels.
"Place-jumper?" Rictor asks, shaking loose a stubborn rock outcropping.
"I think he means a teleporter." Shan says, polishing a mirror, "So where do we find one?"
"Well, we got Dani's squad lookin' for Gateway and Rahne's gettin' Amanda Sefton, so if we hear from one of 'em, we'll have a teleporter. If they don't get either one, ah'll call in a favor with Lila. If ah can find her." Sam sets down his piece of machinery, "Ah'll go ahead and try ta' call Muir ta' see how their end is holdin' up.
Before the Flit is fully stopped, both Shatterstar and Douglock leap out of the open door, followed by Rahne after she parks it on the runway.
"Speed is of the essence. Where is the teleporter?" Shatterstar runs up to the awaiting group of Excalibur members.
"She's right here mate, but first you need to tell us what's got Rahne's panties in a bunch." Wisdom takes a drag from his cigarette. "We got rid of Comrade Terminator for you, so where's the fire?" Pete asks again.
"The quick version: Illyana appeared briefly at the Mass. Academy, tryin' tae get tae Kitty, but she got pulled back by a few demons. Kitty, Berto and Skids went in after her." Rahne says in a huff, "But I cannae waste time explainin', we need ye tae get us tae Limbo, 'Manda. And quickly."
"I'd like to Rahne, but I can't send all of you to Limbo, not without an outside magic booster of some kind. It's a very costly jump, going across dimensions, especially if I'm not alone."
"Then we need to contact our troopmates, to tell them that our mission has failed. Where is your comm system?" Shatterstar asks with a warrior's sense of urgency. "Never mind. Teleport us there, every second counts." With only a moment's pause, Amanda teleports the group to the comm room. Some would see using her magics in such a way as overkill for the short dash between the hanger and the comm room, but Shatterstar's right, every second counts.
Two mutant women, Teresa Cassidy and Danielle Moonstar, stand idly on the front stoop of the main building, waiting for the third member of their station to return from his search for Gateway. Siryn leans against a pillar at the top of the staircase, while Dani lies on her stomach, looking out at the campus, lost in thought.
"Do ye think she'll be all right, Dani?" Siryn asks politely.
"What?" Dani snaps out of her reverie.
"Illyana. I never knew her, but I know she meant a lot tae ye. Tae all o' the New Mutants. Do ye think she'll be all right?"
"I really don't know, Terry. I'd already accepted her death so long ago, it's hard dragging up the emotions again. They've been buried pretty deep." Dani looks over the new deputy leader of X-Force, deciding to change the subject. "So you're the new chief?"
"Of X-Force. You took over Sam's spot when he left, right?"
"Oh, right." She coughs slightly, then looks back at Dani, "Do ye mind me askin' ye a personal question, Dani?"
"Depends on how personal. Ask, but don't be surprised if I don't answer."
"Why are ye' workin' wi' the MLF?"
"No, I guess it's about time I got asked that question. Sam did a 'Grade A' job of glossing it over in his little speech, but it's true, I'm a member of the MLF. I can't tell you outright, but let's just say the reason I've got for being there is the call of duty. That's as much as I can tell you." At that moment, a winded Warpath dashes from behind a bush at blurring speeds, only to hit the brakes a few feet in front of them... then screech to a halt five feet past them.
"He's got the speeding up part down, it's the stopping that he's having trouble with. Aren't new powers great?" Siryn says to Dani, surpressing a giggle.
"I just checked the entire campus three times, I can't find Gateway." He says, panting, exhausted by the exertion.
"Pardon me, but I may be of service." They all turn to see a tall, lithe Algerian girl staring at them. "I have... connections to Gateway. I could possibly find him for you, if no questions were asked?" Monet looks like she's trying to decide if she's making the right choice by volunteering this way, her face holding a tinge of indecision to its features.
"We seem tae be gettin' a lot o' tha' today." Siryn regards the Algerian with a faint smile, "Ye have a deal, get us Gateway, an' ye'll nae hear a word about it from us."
Muir Isle; The Comm Room...
Shatterstar is sitting at the comm array, typing in commands with lightning speed as the others watch in slight amazement.
"All I'm getting is static. Somehow, something or someone is jamming the system's frequency transmitters. The recievers are being likewise affected. I've already tried all the alternates with a double-scan and even added in a Thoroughbred STRD (Satellite Transmissions and Receptions Desrcrambler) developed on my world, but the result remains the same. Whoever is doing this has been very precise in their attempts to block our communications. Fekt!" Shatterstar runs his hand along the broad side of his sword, idly shining the blade with a rag as he stops his typing. Born 100 years in the future on a world ruled by such equipment, he was easily the most adept at using it.
"Having problems, Shatterstar?" Star and the others spin rapidly to see Spiral standing in the doorway, having somehow teleported past the security measures.
"What are ye doin' here ye six-armed witch?" Moira yells at the inter-dimensional assassin furiously.
"Preparing to make a deal. You need a teleporter, and sometime in the future, I will need a favor." She smiles devilishly, and rightfully so, considering the deal she's offering, "I think the arrangements are simple enough, all you have to do, Shatterstar, is sign on the dotted line, so to speak."
"Never, Spiral. We have other opportunities available to us, they..." Spiral interrupts him abruptly.
"...will turn up empty. The little aborigine is busy elsewhere, unable to help you in any way. And that pathetic excuse for a sorceress is no help to you." Spiral waves three hands at Amanda dismissively, "You have the options to agree or your friends die. Your choice."
"You know me better than that, Spiral." Star says, not backing down from his position. "A deal with you is always a loss in the end, no matter how dazzling the offered prize is."
"Then I'll do it, whatever you bleedin' need, if it'll get Kitty back safe and sound." Pete Wisdom steps forward, for despite his rude and disgusting exterior, he still cares deeply for Kitty. "Whatever it takes."
"Hmmm... tempting -- you do present an interesting case study in the limits of how much damage a pair of human lungs can take, Mr. Wisdom, but no thank you, I'm looking for bigger game today. And frankly, that isn't you." Her evil smile widens slightly.
"Shatterstar, I know we're asking a lot of you, but we have no other choice. Please?" Meggan, the elemental empath, asks the other-worldly swordsman with pleading eyes.
"Very well then, Spiral, just so long as the favor you ask of me does not force me against my honor, you have a deal." Shatterstar visibly winces at the words, but Spiral only smiles, indicating her acceptance.
"And away we go." Spiral twirls in a dance, opening the portal that brings the trio of Wolfsbane, Shatterstar and Douglock to Limbo. "I even went a little further than our bargain, Shatterstar. This is Belasco's lair, the Soulsword resides inside. You will need the blade to come away from this alive." Her last words waft over her teleportation effect, "If you are dead, then how will you ever pay your debt to me?" Soon after Spiral's departure, the trio of young heroes are greeted by a swarm of demons rushing to their master's defense. Angry demons.
"...right Dani, I understand. Tell M to tell Gateway that he needs to come to New York. I'm calling Rahne now, to tell her the news. Cannonball out." Sam cancels the connection and dials up the Muir Isle number, having been getting static for the past ten minutes.
"Muir Isle." The voice on the other end of the line belongs to Pete Wisdom, once again at comm duty.
"Hey Pete, is Rahne's team there? It's urgent." Sam says.
"Nope. They just left to Limbo with that Spiral witch. The American Gladiator couldn't get through to you before -- said there was some sort of static blocking the signal."
"Why the hell'd they go with Spiral?! We got everythin' set for 'em ta' bring Amanda in so she can 'port us all over. We even managed ta' find Gateway."
"Gateway?!? That tart bloody well lied to us! She said Gateway couldn't do anything!" The anger in his voice can be felt across the Atlantic.
"Well, he's here all right. Tell ya' what, get Amanda ta' teleport over anyway. We've got somethin' goin' on down here in the Morlock tunnels that needs a teleporter. It's a way through ta' Limbo, but we need a 'porter ta' open the door, or so Caliban says."
"All right, I'll tell her." Sam almost cuts the connection, but is interrupted, "Sam. Promise me you'll get her back for me." His voice is small and haggard, barely heard over the line.
"Ah promise, Pete. Kitty's a fighter, we'll get her back. Ah promise." With that, Sam cuts the signal. He turns to the others in the War Room.
"All right fellas, Amanda's portin' over as quick as she can, but Rahne's team got tricked by Spiral for some reason or another. They're already in Limbo, so it's up ta' us ta' get both them and Kitty's squad back in one piece." The members of the gathered group nod their heads in agreement.
"Then let's get going. We don't have much time left." Dani says, walking out of Gateway's portal with her team, while Gateway himself disappears again.
"Dammit! He was supposed to..." Dani curses the aborigine for running off without a sound.
"Don't worry about it, we've got a back-up plan. The Tunnels have been fixed up proper, so all we can do now is wait for Amanda to show up." Sam sits back in the main seat behind a tactical readout, his fingers crossed over each other in a hammer-fist in front of him.
Just then, the doors to the War Room slide open, allowing Storm, Kurt and Amanda to walk in.
"If this relates to the Morlocks, I will accompany you." Ororo looks to the gathered mutants in front of her.
"And if Amanda goes, then I go." Kurt backs up his old friend.
"Not ta' be soundin' rude or nothin', but this is New Mutants business." Sam turns his seat to look at the new arrivals. "It's our mess, so we'll be the ones ta' clean it up. But if we run inta' any trouble, we'll blow the cavalry whistle. And 'cept for us usin' their tunnels, the Morlocks ain't involved at all. An' Amanda ain't comin' along with us, Kurt, she's just openin' the door for us." He looks at Daytripper, "Ah'll need ya' ta' keep this here door ready for openin' again, but don't come through, y'hear?"
"Are you certain, Sam?" Kurt looks at the former New Mutant appraisingly. "You could use all the help you can get, I'm more than willing to do just that."
"Thanks, but no thanks, Kurt. This ain't just another mission, this is personal."
Limbo; the Hill...
The trio trapped in Limbo are standing on a rocky cliff, looking at the site they've been walking towards for what feels like a day.
"Who are all those people?" Skids asks, looking at the thousands of camps circling the Hill, the Morlock decendants fighting amongst themselves, "And why are they trying to kill each other?"
"I don't know, but I'm betting that's where they've taken Illyana." Shadowcat points to the large castle topping out the Hill, "I can phase you both, then we'll float over everyone else. It'll be slow, but faster than climbing up that hillside."
"Don't bother. Just hang on tight!" Berto, without further ado, picks up both Skids and Kitty around the waist and soars at the castle.
"BERTO!! How on Earth did you learn to fly!?!" Skids yelps, grabbing him tightly on instinct.
"No one ever told you? After that Reignfire mess, my powers got boosted again, flight being among the benefits."
"You're sure you got us both?" Kitty looks down, barely resisting the temptation to phase.
"I thought your memory was better than that, Pryde." She glares at him, "My first power was super-strength, and just because I've gotten other powers on top of that doesn't mean I lost it. Hell, I could juggle the both of you without breaking a sweat." He winks at the women humorously, but they both just get more annoyed, glaring at him. The rest of the flight goes on in silence.
"We're almost there." Skids announces as they approach the castle. Berto slows his flight and lightly lands in front of a large stone arch with a set of medieval, heavy, wooden, double-doors.
"Yes, you are, and I would say that your arrival is most well timed indeed." The scarred face of Mikhail Rasputin, the brother of both Colossus and Illyana, looks at them from atop a turret as the doors open magically, revealing a beaten and bloody Illyana strapped by mythril chains to the far wall, her demonic self showing strongly now on her body.
"What have you done to her you monster!" Sunspot yells as he rushes at Illyana, before being bounced off a mystical shield where the doors used to be.
"I have prepared her for freedom, Roberto. I have prepared her for death."
Limbo; Belasco's Lair...
The angry demons swarm around the Muir Isle trio, Shatterstar killing many of them with his blades, while Rahne tries to think of a plan to get inside.
"Dougie, I dinnae know if ye remember or nae, but these beasties have some T-O in 'em. Can ye use your own abilities tae hold 'em off while me and 'Star take on Belasco?"
"Yes, I can do that." 'Lock then takes control of the T-O in the demons' bodies, forcing them to stop moving. Shatterstar turns to regard them icily, almost upset that his battle was ended prematurely, "But before you go, I should warn you that the odds of your survival are 3,720 to one." Douglock pauses slightly. "Against."
"We'll be back, Dougie. Hold them down 'til then." With that, the two mutants fearlessly rush off into the lair alone.
"Och, I hate this place." Rahne slinks back to back with Shatterstar, both in fighting posistion. "Even when 'Yana was in charge o' this place, it always gave me the creeps. Have ye ever been here 'Star?" She looks over her shoulder at her companion, whose eyes dart around their surroundings quickly.
"I have not. But I have heard stories, however." Star twirls his blades absent-mindedly. "I am aware that this demon-lord, Belasco, is the one responsible for converting her part-way to a demon, correct?"
"And this Soul Sword, it is something Illyana forged from her own magic after that, using a part of herself to create it, while growing up here years ago?"
"Then I have but one question; how did Illyana lose the Soul Sword to this demon?"
"That..." A voice booms over the wide room as the two mutants enter it, "...is because my precious Darkchilde was foolish enough to entrust such a sacred weapon to a weak human like Katherine Pryde. It was child's play after that to engineer it's eventual arrival into my hands."
"You have what we seek, demon. Give it to us and live, do it not and you will persish." Shatterstar says, his words a lesson in bravado.
"You are a mere mortal facing the mighty Belasco, he who the Elder Gods themselves have chosen to herald their return from imprisonment. Now, with the Soul Sword in hand, I shall be able to rule Limbo indefinitely."
"Be that as it is, demon, I shall have to rend the blade from your severed hand. Is not one lost arm enough?" Star walks forward, Rahne watching his back against any ambush, "Fight me now, or give me the blade."
"I did not slave so terribly to bring this enchanted blade to me just to lose it to some mere child. I will force you to cower in fear before me once I'm through wit...." He would have continued his speech, but the shuriken implanted in his neck prevents that.
Shatterstar smirks in the face of death. "I don't care how powerful you are, I'll still slice you to ribbons and enjoy doing it." That is all that Shatterstar says before rushing in after his projectile to follow-up the attack. He needs no words, having always let his actions speak for him.
"You pathetic mortal, you shall suffer for this!!"
Belasco pulls the throwing star from his throat, coughing up blackened blood as he speaks. He deflects Shatterstar's attacks expertly, but so does Shatterstar do the same for Belasco. This battle rages for what seems like an eternity, each pressing against the other, but finding no opening. Belasco is showing definite signs of fatigue, while Shatterstar seems all but refreshed by the exertion.
"Enough!" Belasco wails, calling up a wall of fire, seperating him from Shatterstar forcibly, "There is a deal that may be reached. I will grant you use of the blade to free the Darkchilde, but on your honor, you must have the Soulsword returned to me when you are finished."
"Your attempts at bargaining are weak, Belasco. I know better than most that dealings with the likes of you are fruitless. I will have your death, so do try to die with a little dignity." With that, Shatterstar takes a deep breath, covers his face and leaps through the fire wall, coming out on the other side. He flips and lands, but the ground beneath him quickly gives way, allowing him to drop off the side. In an eyeblink, Shatterstar quickly spins around, grabbing the edge of the outcropping, and clings to dear life.
"You had your chance, mortal, now prepare to meet a friend of mine in Hades." Belasco raises the Soulsword and gathers his strength for a mighty swing.
"I wouldn't look up if I were you." Demon though he may be, Belasco still has some trace human qualitites to his name, one of which is the curiosity to do exactly that which he is told not to. As such, Belasco turns his head to look behind him, coming face to face with a snarling, fearsome werewolf.
Belasco staggers back slightly before trying to bring the sword around to slash at Rahne, unaware of the hand creeping by his foot. Shatterstar grabs Belasco by the ankle and pulls with all his strength, causing Belasco to lose his grip on the blade and fall into the abyss below. His screams echo as they lose sight of him, then Rahne pulls Shatterstar up onto the outcropping.
"Thank you, MacTaggart." Shatterstar brushes the dirt from his uniform, then picks up the Soulsword. "We should leave quickly."
"What did ye call me?" Rahne says, confused.
"MacTaggart." He notices her expression, "I was told that you were Moira MacTaggart's ward, so I only assumed that you shared her surname as a result."
"Nae, Lady Moira had adopted me when I was fourteen, and before that I was a ward o' the church... Reverend Craig's church." She shudders involuntarily. "Me real name is Rahne Sinclair. Me mum died when I was verra young." The two mutants slowly walk towards the exit, where Douglock awaits them.
"I am Gaveedra Seven. And I have no parents." Shatterstar says grimly, though trying to sound polite.. Despite his two years on Earth, he still has yet to fully understand many human customs.
"I did nae think ye had another name, Shatterstar. I was nae told." Rahne says, assuming that 'Star simply doesn't know his parents, rather than not having any at all.
"With the exception of Prosh, no one else knows." Rahne looks at him, surprised. "They never asked." He adds. There is a brief silence.
"There is something about this blade, Sinclair." He spins the Soulsword in his hand, testing its balance. "I can feel a sort of energy flowing through it -- a tainted energy."
"Do ye think it's important?" Rahne asks, opening the gate, while Shatterstar pulls at the other side, spreading them apart.
"I do not know, perhaps it is not uncommon, but I can control it easily." He spots Douglock, distinctly larger, with a darker tinge to his circuitry.
"Greetings, friends. I'm happy to see you return without damage." The techno-organic creature stands tall, his mass enhanced by the absorbed demons.
"Douglock?!" Rahne whispers quitetly, "Ye sound different. What's wrong wi' ye?" Her last words are quiet, almost inaudible.
"There is nothing wrong, in fact, everything is very right. The reincorporation of my pre-Phalanx techno-organic matter deposited in Limbo has given me new life. And I must correct you. My name is now Magus."
"Warlock's father? But he died, and ye're nae him... at least, ye dinnae look like him."
"Irrelevant: with the death of the previous Magus, I have become the new Magus, who will one day create a new Warlock. Such is the way of my race."
"But ye don't talk like Warlock... at least, nae the way he used tae."
"No, I speak like a Magus, not an immature Warlock."
"Och, this is too much for one day. We'll have tae worry aboot it later." She ignores Shatterstar's utterly confused stares, "C'mon... um... Magus. Can ye make an aircraft tae take us tae Kitty or Berto? They need our help."
"I can do this." Magus shifts his form to that of a 'train' with thrusters in place of wheels. The two mutants hop aboard and ride the train into the distance, following Magus' sensors.
"Are ya' ready, Amanda?" Sam asks the woman calling herself Daytripper as a parody of Kurt Wagner's own codename, Nightcrawler.
"Ready as I'll ever be." Sefton then begins performing the magical rite, using the Ceremony of Light to create the portal neccesary for transport between there and Limbo. In a shimmer of light, a circle flashes open which appears to look exactly like one of Illyana's stepping disks.
"All right gang, move out." Sam puts a hand on Caliban's forearm, unable to reach his shoulder. "Cal, ah want ya' ta' stay behind with Kurt an' Storm."
"Is Sam angry with Caliban?" Cal leans down on one knee, looking Sam in the eye.
"No, Cal. Ah want ya' ta' stay behind, 'cause if anythin' goes wrong, ya'll need ta' help those two fix the ceremony. Ya' got that, Cal?"
"Caliban understands. Caliban likes Leader-Storm." With that, he turns around and moves to stand behind the two adults.
"Wish us luck!" Sam hollers, then leaps into the portal everyone else has gone through. The trio looks at him as he disappears into the light.
"They're not kids anymore, are they?" Kurt says softly to his old friend, Ororo, both now leaders of their own respective teams.
"No, they're not." Storm responds with her usual royal air, "They haven't been for a long time."
Then they both turn around sharply to hear sounds of unlocking bolts and locks, and finally feet running in water.
"SAM!! Wait just a damn minute here!!" Cable runs down the corridor to the Morlock tunnels, carrying an enormous rifle, while holding a towel around the waist of his soaking body. As he rushes at the closing portal, Nightcrawler sticks out his tail in a nonchalant manner, causing Nathan to dive head-first into the sewer trash.
"Oops -- clumsy me." Kurt smiles dimly, "...and you right out of the shower, too."
"Don't give me that, Wagner. Those are my kids you just let walk through that thing, so by all that I hold holy, I'll blast you to pieces right here if you don't open it up again!" Cable rises, pointing the gun at Kurt.
"NO!" Kurt shouts at the hulking mass in front of him, the gun barrel inches from his face and doesn't care, "What you will do is put that gun down, get dressed, shower again and twiddle your thumbs like the rest of us until they return. Sam can handle this on his own and he was pretty straight-forward that he didn't want anyone else getting involved. Do I make myself clear?!"
"Don't. Push. Me." Cable towers above the much shorter mutant.
"Nathan. Stop." The single word was all Storm needed to say, for her regal glare gave the time-traveller the neccesary implication that he wasn't going anywhere.
"They are my responsibility, Ororo. You can't tell me how to run my own team." He says, still trying to win the losing argument.
"They are not your responsibility. Illyana was lost to us before your time, and enough of those former New Mutants in Limbo are no longer on your team, if they ever were. Samuel feels responsible for doing this on his own, and if he feels so strongly about it, I will support my new teammate in that." And that was all that needed to be said.
Limbo; the Castle...
"Ah, the waves of energy that the Soulsword emits draw close. Spiral played her role expertly." Mikhail says to himself and the trio of mutants beneath him. "And if she is half the schemer I suspect her to be, she even managed to get something more for her troubles." Magus brings the craft to a screeching halt on top of the castle.
"Thank you for bringing me the Soulsword. I could not have defeated Belasco on my own, for our treaty had forbidden either of us to interfere in the schemes of the other. It is good that you mutant superheroes are as easy to manipulate as I remember."
"You must face me in battle first, before I relinquish this blade to you." Shatterstar says, hand resting on the handle lightly, placing the tip into the ground.
"Amazing. The blade's properties would normally make the possessor quite despicable by now. I'm officially impressed. Now give me the blade."
"I do not have time to play your silly heroic games." With that, Mikhail lifts his hand, using his powers to grasp the blade's innate energy, pulling it from Shatterstar's grasp, "With that out of the way, I need to finish my business." He walks through the mystic barrier which holds all others at bay.
"Greetings, sister. Be happy, your pain will be over soon." The demonic Darkchilde simply snarls at him with rage. Her arms are bound by mythril chains, draining her magical powers. Mikhail raises the blade above his head and utters a small, quiet chant. "...to the darkness I force thy evil to flee, purified will thou soul once again be."
Suddenly, the ebony circle on the far side of the room, standing like an ornate mirror, flickers and a bright light shines through it. The Ceremony of Light has brought Mikhail some new visitors.
"NO!" Cannonball glances over the situation in an instant upon seeing Mikhail and ignites his blast field, sending him roaring at the old and scarred man.
"Fool." Mikhail sidesteps with a grace that belies it's difficulty, bringing the Soulsword down through the Kentuckian's spine with a sickening sound. His blast field affording him no protection against the magical blade.
"Ah'm sorry 'Yana, ah tried." He whispers softly, before falling forward, dead, where he can't hear Meltdown screaming his name any longer. Tab throws a volley of bombs at Mikhail.
"Pity." Mikhail doesn't even show a glimmer of remorse before raising a hand to shield against the other mutants near the portal, deflecting Tabitha's projectiles. He then raises the bloodied sword and brings it down upon his sister's neck, stopping just before contact.
"Your pain will be but an instant, my little snowflake, though it will be only a final testament to that which you have endured." He waits no longer, bringing the Soulsword up again before slashing it down through her body, splitting it in twain, her final scream one of excruciating agony. "It is done." He whispers, before casting the blade aside and moving to the body, pulling apart the spilt carcass.
"MURDERER!!" Kitty screams at Mikhail, trying desperately to phase through the mystic gate, but having no success. Then Mikhail, with a faint gesture, lowers the gate, allowing her entrance.
"I'll kill you for that! I swear it!" Shadowcat screams again, tears running down her face.
"Kill me, foolish one? For saving my only sister's life?" Mikhail steps back from his handiwork, showing a shivering, naked, yet completely human Illyana behind him, the ruins of the Darkchilde's body at her feet.. He then removes his cloak and puts it around her, also melting her bonds in the process.
"What... but... how?" Kitty stammers in shock.
"The Soulsword. Remember its properties -- its abilities. It is only capable of destroying magical creatures, mundane mortals are left unaffected." He then gestures to the Southern youth at his feet, who is writhing in pain, his eXternal life bringing him back from the realm of the dead, "This one possessed abilities beyond those of mortals, abilities which I am not certain are still within him."
"But..." Sam chokes at, slowly coming to, "...but ah'm... alive. Ah still got it then... the immortality. Right?"
"Not neccesarily." Mikhail says solmenly, while warming his sister's dreary body next to his own, "Nothing truly dies in Limbo. I don't know if it was your being immortal that protected you, or Limbo."
"But... how will ah know, if ah still am or not?" Sam stands up, any thoughts of violence forgotten.
"The next time you die... I suppose." Mikhail then dismisses the mutant as his sister begins to speak.
"You... you... saved me?" She looks into her brother's eyes, she can see the confusion, fear, joy, anger, sadness and relief, all felt at the same time, emotions she knows he can see in her own eyes. "Why?"
"Because you are my sister." He says simply, then puts a hand to her face, softly stroking a thumb across her soaking cheek, "Even us twisted and psychotic villains have enough room in our hearts to grant entrance to a little snowflake." His smile is dim, but sincere.
Illyana hugs her oldest brother gladly. "But... but how did you do it? How did the Soulsword destroy the Darkchilde?"
"I am your brother, Illyana. Blood and family are very strong in magical circles, and it was that strength which allowed me to purge the evil that Belasco inflicted upon you. The Bloodstones, those which he used to make you the Darkchilde, were destroyed. You are free." Illyana backs away from her brother, looking at her greatest friend and soulmate, Kitty Pryde, and embraces her warmly.
"I've missed you, Yana. I've missed you so much."
"Me too, Kitty. Me, too." Illyana backs away from her this time, then kneels to pick up the Soulsword. Kitty grabs her arm, stopping her.
"Illyana, what are you doing?" She exclaims worriedly.
"What do you mean?" Illyana says, confused.
"The sword, it's evil. It possessed me once, how do you know it won't do the same again." Illyana pauses, thinking about what she said, then Mikhail speaks up.
"It was purified along with the rest of her soul." He pauses, "The Soulsword was created from a fragment of her own soul, crafted into Soul Steel and forged with magic. But the fragment of her soul which she used to craft the blade was already tainted by Belasco's influence. Any who held the blade were influenced by that taint, as if they themselves were partly possessed as Illyana had been. Why you..." he points to Shatterstar, "...were not affected remains a mystery to me. Only those possessed of mystical centers of being are able to hold off the effects, and even then it is difficult."
"My world is one of both science and magic, Rasputin. Though I possess no magical skills of my own, the energies run through me as they do all of my race." Shatterstar responds simply.
"Perhaps, perhaps not." Mikhail then begins to lead his sister, who is still weakened by the experience. "But I will have to accept that explanation for now. My sister needs to rest, so please, take her to Earth and help her heal. She will be too weak to do much for some time, but eventually she will regain her strength." He stands in front of the portal, the others gathered around him. "I must stay here, and I fear that the next time you and I meet, it will not be as friends."
"No, come home with me. Perhaps we, even Piotr, can..." Illyana says.
"I am sorry, Snowflake, but what I did today was only a small step in what I must do." Illyana breaths deeply, knowing in her heart that she cannot convince him to leave.
"Then stay -- keep the demons from ever invading Earth again and you'll have your peace. Rule here in my place." Illyana says, looking at her aged brother.
"That, my dear sister, is a great idea." He smiles with genuine pride, then gestures to the portal, "Go home, tell Piotr that I have missed him, but not to come looking for me. There is too much time between us to truly close such wounds as ours."
"I will." With that, she turns from her brother, who opens the portal to Earth and the Morlock tunnels. She doesn't look back.
Earth; the Next Day, the Massachusetts Academy...
"This is new." Illyana whispers as she steps onto the campus grounds, getting out of the PACRAT as it settles on the drive. She stares at the sign in front of the large gate.
:::The Massachusetts Academy - Home of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters - A Division of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning:::
"Yeah, pretty much the same thing I said the first time I heard about it." Says Kitty Pryde, who steps out behind her, "Frost working with the Professor -- never thought I'd see the day."
"Welcome back, children." Frost says icily, "Please try to keep the property damage to a minimum today. There is only so much that even I can afford."
"You're scaring me, Ms. Frost." Jimmy says, walking out onto the grass, along with the others, "Two jokes in as many days -- hmmm, I think the Ice Queen has started to thaw. Does Banshee have anything to do with this?"
"Oh, cut it out the both o' ye." Sean says, having heard his name, therefore bringing himself into the conversation, "Yuir actin' worse than Jubilee!" He says in a think broque, ignoring the Oriental 15-year-old behind him.
"HEY! I heard that!" She yells at his back.
"Ye were meant tae." He responds cooly.
"Sarcasitc wit, Sean? Old dogs can learn new tricks after all." Frost says in her normal tone, then turns to speak to the gathered mutants, "Now, go on to your rooms and get ready for later tonight. You will all find a package waiting for you in your rooms; do not open it, but bring it to dinner when you're ready." She then waves her hand sharply, dismissing them in her usual manner.
"Yes, mother." The less serious members drone on in unison, then disperse into their own little groups.
"So, what are ye goin' tae do about Illyana, Terry?" Sean and his daughter walk along the long pathway from the main building to Proudstar Hall.
"How d'ye mean?" Siryn asks, a little confused.
"I mean, is she going tae be a member of X-Force or nae? Ye are the deputy leader, are ye not?"
"Aye, but it's up tae Cable, really, whether he keeps her on or nae. I think she means tae go back tae Muir for a while, see her brother, recuperate, maybe join Excalibur. I really dinnae know at this point."
"Well, whatever happens, I'm proud o' ye." Sean smiles warmly at his daughter. "I 'ope ye can come by a wee bit more often, tae see me, but I guess all fathers feel that way."
"Aye Da, I'll see what I can do on that end. O'course, ye could come tae the mansion more often. I'm sure Jubilee has been wantin' tae see Logan fer some time now."
Sean nods his head, "She's mentioned it a time or twenty, but there has nae been much time tae get away from the school. With Emplate and such botherin' us all the time, it hardly leaves any room tae finish the schoolwork, much less take vacations."
"Ye should really try sometimes, takin' some time off can do a world o' good for anyone, especially when ye go someplace where people like Emplate are nae likely tae find ye." She winks and smiles, "I gotta be goin' though, if'n I want tae be ready for tonight, whatever it is." With that, she flies off into the sky and enters her room via the window.
"I can't believe they're all gone." Illyana whispers, looking over the graves of her former rivals. Several others are with her, including Jimmy, Shatterstar, Rahne, Rictor and Paige.
"Yeah, I know, I miss them, too. You've missed a lot 'Yana, a lot of changes and a lot of time." Jimmy says, putting his large hand on her shoulder soothingly.
"Ye were nae even here when Cable first showed up. That seems like an eternity ago." Rahne says softly, sitting with Rictor and Shatterstar on the nearby bench. Paige is standing over by the trees, behind them.
"It's like Sam said yesterday, we've changed and grown in totally unexpected ways. Who would've thought that some kid growing up in a gun-running Mexican family would eventually have a time-traveling, dimension-hopping, sword-wielding, born-from-a-test-tube alien warrior for a best friend? Or that I'd be trained by the guy whose clone aced my padre?" Rictor says.
"Test-tube...? Ye mean ye were serious aboot havin' nae parents, Shatterstar??" Rahne stares in surprise. Shatterstar simply nods. Rahne shakes her head and sighs, "I dinnae want tae think aboot it. Time travel and clones are much too confusin' tae be thinkin' aboot on a day like this." Rahne says, rubbing her temples slightly.
"Yeah, she's right." Paige speaks up for the first time, "And what exactly is this day supposed to be anyway?"
"Ye mean besides the day after one o' me best friends comin' back after I had thought her dead an' buried? Ye need a better reason?" Rahne says, quite stressed. Paige is taken aback, but continues.
"No, I meant what Ms. Frost's planning for you guys. She mentioned something about a package, but none of us in Gen-X got it. I was wondering if you had a clue what the fuss was about."
"Nae, we don't. And I'm sorry I snapped at ye, I'm a wee bit tired is all." Rahne says, yawning to emphasize the point.
"It's all right, you've just been through hell and back, literally. You have a right to be a bit tense." She says smiling, glad that she's warming up to her brother's friends so easily.
"And with Dougie changin' on us, I think stress will be a fairly common factor in me life." Again, she rubs her temples gently.
"What happened, anyway?" Paige asks, her curiosity taking over.
"Me mum says he's almost a completely different person. She ran tests, and apparently the Phalanx wasn't a part o' Warlock's people at all, but a completely different race altogether. So when Dougie reabsorbed Magus' old T-O, it overtook the Phalanx part o' him completely. At least, that's me mum's best guess. She does nae have much experience with T-O, and most o' what she does know comes from Cable's arm, which is yet another 'species' o' T-O." Rahne closes her eyes and again rubs her temples. "It's sae confusin'."
Sensing that it was time to change the cubject, Jimmy speaks up. "Well, we should be getting back to our rooms, dinner should be starting in about 2 hours. And I'm very curious as to what Frost's planning for us." Jimmy says, "C'mon, Yana, let's go get ready."
"Sure, Thunderbird." She says, stepping away from the gravestones.
"Um... it's Warpath now. I hung up my brother's name when I joined X-Force."
"Oh." Illyana looks at the ground, then begins quietly following the others towards the dorm named after Jimmy, and her room.
The gathered mutants are seated in a large dining hall, both classes interspersed around it. A small table in the corner of the room holds a pile of packages that all of the former New Mutants, including Shatterstar and Siryn, had waiting in their rooms. Frost had instructed them to put them there as they arrived.
"We're here, Frost, so what's the big to-do?" Dani says, looking at the packages in the corner curiously.
"Not until the dinner is over, Danielle." She responds without looking in his direction. "Wait."
Dani grumbles under her breath, then reluctantly begins her meal along with the others at the table.
"Um... Sam?" Paige leans over, whispering in her brother's ear.
"Yeah, Paige. Whatcha want?"
"Ah... I was just thinking, when you went off to Limbo yesterday... um... was that like your other adventures? The ones you wrote home about?"
"Ah guess, but how d'ya mean?" Sam says, his brows furrowing as he tries to understand his sister.
"I mean, when you used to write home to Momma and us, you always made what you did sound fun and exciting... but what I saw yesterday... it..."
"So that's what's got ya' actin' strange." Sam gulps down the last of his drink, "Well, ah couldn't exactly write home and tell ya'll that ah was comin' within an inch a' dyin' every other week or else Momma'd be bald from pullin' all a' her hair out. Of course ah lightened things up a bit."
"Oh." Paige looks away, pushing her long hair behind her ears.
"Ah can tell ya' ain't done, Paige. What's the matter?" Sam leans closer to his younger sister.
"I don't know... it's just that... well... when I used to read your letters all the time, I kept thinking how much I wanted to be there, you know. I wanted to be a part of those adventures, because I never realized how dangerous it could be. It was like a fantasy world, where you had fun, but no one got hurt." Paige pauses slightly, collecting her thoughts.
"Then when I came here Gen-X, and I realized it wasn't like that anymore, I just thought that the world got tougher and the good times were just for you and the New Mutants. But... yesterday started me thinking." Paige fidgets for a bit, silently, then continues, "Was it ever like that? Was there ever a time when being a mutant meant good things, and not just a whole lotta bad?"
"Ya' find happiness where ya' make it, Paige. Just takes a little lookin', is all." Sam takes a drink of his water, "What's the point a' all this anyway?"
"Ah... I was curious. If things were bad back then, then how'd you cope with it?" Paige's features look concerned, but Sam simply smiles.
"Actually, it was the letters themselves that helped a lot. When ah started writin' 'em, it was 'cause ah was lonely and missed ya'll. But ah kept on writin' 'em, even after ah got comfortable in the New Mutants, 'cause they forced me ta' look on the bright side, and find somethin' good about what we were doin', somethin' ta' send home ta' Momma an' ya'll." Sam loses his grin, looking away from his sister, "There was only one time ah ever lied ta' ya'll 'bout mah time here. That was when Doug got killed."
"It wasn't no huntin' accident, Paige. He got killed on a mission, a mission ah was in charge of. No matter how hard ah looked, there wasn't a blessed thing ah could see that came out on the bright side from all that, at least nothin' ta' remotely balance the scales a' what we lost. So ah I told ya'll what Magneto told Doug's family, that he got shot accidently."
"I... I didn't know. I'm sorry, Sam, I didn't realize..."
"Of course not, ah had ta' cover it up. Ah just couldn't bring mahself ta' tell ya'll what really happened." Sam coughs, forcing himself to drop the subject. "But ah ain't here ta' gripe about the past. Ah just got an old friend back, so ah'm happy for that, even if another's gone ta' Heaven. Like ah said, Paige, ya' gotta keep lookin' on the bright side a' things."
"Now that I see we are all finished, would all of you get your packages and follow me outside." Emma rises, and without another word, leaves the dining room. The others quickly grab their boxes and walk out behind her.
"Where're we headed, Frosty?" Meltdown looks around the campus, curious as to where they're being led.
"You'll see..." is all she says. A minute later, the group arrives at the far east side of campus, where a grove sits silently.
"Now, a little foreplay." Emma looks at the young men and women devilishly, "Several years ago, when Magneto was still headmaster to the New Mutants, he and I kept very close relations, as we were both members of the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle, the White King and Queen respectively."
She continues, ignoring the grumblings from the former New Mutants.
"We felt that, given time, our two individual schools would one day merge, forming a singular school of mutants, the both of us serving as co-headmasters. An idea that eventually evolved into what you see today, in Generation X. But before that plan could come about, regretfully, his portion of the student body... went on a permanent summer vacation, so to speak." She looks them over once, with a cold smile, "You may open your packages."
The gathered heroes open the packages, tearing at the wrapping and pulling out long garments of black and gold coloring. Robes, to be exact. And funny, square hats on top of them and thin scrolls beneath. Graduation gowns and diplomas.
"The end result of that merging would have been that both the New Mutants and Hellions were to graduate as a single, united student body. Today, that idea has finally come to pass. Welcome to your graduation, students, you've earned it."
"Then what of us?" Shatterstar says, waving a hand back at Siryn, who also has a graduation gown, "We were never considered part of the New Mutants nor the Hellions, so what is the meaning of this?"
"Consider yourselves senior transfers, since that is what is stated on the student records for the Academy. You both have learned a lot from Cable in your time with him and this is your reward."
"So... what do we now?" Says Kitty, amazed. The others simply stare at Frost, speechless.
"You graduate, of course." Frost simply nods, showing only the faintest creepings of emotion, "And in a tradition long established as a part of the Massachusetts Academy, each graduating class is photographed in this grove, or painted in the days before photography. And I am not about to end such a tradition, so if you will all be so kind, gather around." She waves them to the center of the grove.
All the graduates walk over and stand where Frost pointed. Frost's two servants, the green and pink ones, walk out with a camera in hand. They set the tripod and place the camera on top, aiming it carefully at the group. They stand together, adorned in their robes, holding their scrolls and smiling at the camera. In the clouds above them, the ghosts of Cypher, Warlock, Rusty, Catseye, Tarot, Roulette, Jetstream, Beef, Bevatron and the other dead Hellions rise like mist, adorned in the same attire as those who are alive. Thus ends the days of the New Mutants and the Hellions.
Sitting at his office desk in the city of Castille, Spain, Manuel Alfonso Rodrigo de la Rocha, a man of noble birth sits and ponders a mysterious package on his desk while discussing business with someone on the the other end of a trans-atlantic phone call.
"Yes... I am quite honored by you and your colleagues' acceptance of my proposal. And again, my dear Sebastian, you will find that I will make a far more than suitable Black Bishop in your esteemed Hellfire Club. Farewell, and I will see you this coming Monday." Manuel hangs up the ornate receiver of the classically stylized phone, an arrogant smile playing on his lips.
--Now that I'm done licking that insolent goat's bootheel for a position I so rightfully deserve, I'll see what mysteries this box holds.-- Manuel pulls a letter opener out and opens the package, tearing off the wrappings. He takes the lid off, only to see his unused graduation gear within, with a letter from Frost on top.
Given your open refusal to my invitation, I've been forced to mail you the enclosed items in lieu of handing them to you personally, as I have to all of the other students who attended. It is to my eternal regret that your attendance could not have been held at the ceremony, and as a result, all of those who so dearly missed you have consented to give you their own personal good-byes and farewells with this letter. Though personally, I believe that the last one will be your favorite. Call it women's intuition, if you will.
Manuel simply stares at the letter for an instant, then quickly flips through all the others, reading the last one. Manuel freezes, drops the short handwritten message on his desk, a cold sweat upon his forehead, his deeply tanned features turning white as a sheet.
Limbo just wasn't the same without you.
From Russia with love,
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