Part Six -
Cable was reviewing their proposed
mission plans in the briefing room when Professor Xavier came in
and positioned his wheelchair at the table.
"I understand you have recruited Julia de Santos into X-Force." He stated without preamble.
"Yes, I did. Dom and I feel that she's a good addition to the team."
"I do not. I am concerned that you have knowingly exposed your team and the rest of the residents of the mansion to a known assassin. We do not have any assurance that she will not use the information she has now against us."
Cable kept his mental shields tightly wrapped around his mind and his expression noncommittal. Why the hell was Xavier telling him who he could or couldn't have on his team?
"She said she's on side. She left the Guild to join us. That's good enough for me."
"Have you asked her about the murders she has committed? X-Men do not kill. I feel that if we are to have the teams working together we should apply the same moral standard."
"Then what about the murderers already on the teams?" Domino asked from the door. She came in and sat down beside Cable. "Nate and I were mercs for a lot of years. Logan killed Sabretooth a couple months ago but he's still here. Warren did his stint as the Angel of Death. Even Scott and Jean have killed in combat. X-Men kill all the time."
Xavier's face tightened. "The deaths that the X-Men may have caused were necessary in the course of pursuing their missions. We are discussing an individual who killed for monetary gain and who shows no sign of remorse. I think for the good of the team you strongly consider observing her before allowing her to accompany you." He looked down at the papers in front of Cable. "The mission that you accepted to do can be reassigned to the X-Men if you prefer."
~What's going on Nate? Why the sudden morality enforcement?~
~It looks like Xavier basically saying he doesn't want Julia on the team. This job is too covert for the X-Men. We need to get the info out our way.~
"We're doing the mission. I'll let Julia know she's staying behind." He told Xavier.
"Excellent decision." The Professor nodded as he left the room.
"Any questions?" Cable
asked. The assembled members of X-Force glanced at each other.
"Just one, Big Guy. Where's Julia?" Asked Tabitha. "I kinda thought she'd be here for this stuff now."
~Dom, this could be ugly.~
~You'd better believe it.~
He cleared his throat. "She's not coming with us. None of you are to discuss the mission plans with her."
Shatterstar leaned forward. "What is the reason for excluding her?"
~Nate, you'd better tell him the truth. He'll freak out if he thinks she's been dropped from the team~
"Xavier feels we should observe further her before bringing her along." Cable said. "This mission would have been handed back to the X-Men otherwise."
"That doesn't make any sense." Jimmy said. "We already know she's good at this sneaky stuff. It's not like she really needs to practice."
"Aye. This type of assignment would be perfect to see how well we can really work together." Said Theresa.
"Xavier does not trust her." Shatterstar said tightly. "He thinks she will betray us." She is not here to defend her honour. How cowardly of him.
"Yeah, 'Star. You got it." Domino sighed. "Okay, gang. We're leaving today so get ready and meet back at the hanger in an hour."
They scattered off.
Shatterstar lingered behind. "I will inform her of this."
Cable considered. She'd probably take it better coming from him. "Okay."
He and Domino stayed back, looking
at each other over the table.
"You know, if I was recruited then jerked around like this I wouldn't stay around for very long." She said.
"I know. Neither would I." He got up. "I'm going to talk to Xavier. We're not his pet team even if we're cooperating with them now."
"Julia, it's Shatterstar."
"Hi there. What's on you mind?"
"We are leaving for a mission today."
"Please do not take offense when I say I cannot tell you the details."
"I guess my word's not good enough, huh?"
"It was not Cable's decision. Xavier feels that you should be observed further."
He held the receiver tightly. Her voice sounded strangely detached. This is such an insult to her, he thought. Will she still stay will us?
"'Star, thanks for letting me know. Get back safe, all right?"
Julia put the phone down. She stood
motionless while she considered the anger that was building in
her at the implied slur. I might not have morals but I do have
honour, she thought savoring the sensation. She picked up her
sword and carved the training dummy into pieces. There, she
thought looking at the remains, all better now. And here I was
thinking I couldn't feel anything.
Five days later.
Julia rolled over and pulled the
blanket over her head. Too early. Go away.
Ugh. They were still there. This
never happened at the Guild.
"Yes? Who is it?" She asked into the intercom.
"It's me, Wade. Open the door, I gotta talk to you."
"Gods, its two in the morning. Can't you have your crisis at ten AM tomorrow?"
"No! Open the door! It's serious."
"All right. Keep your tights on."
She looked at the external monitor.
It was indeed Wade Wilson. From what she could see, he was
dressed for a night on the town with a wilted bouquet in one hand.
She placed on hand on the doorknob and activated her power.
Wade stared as Julia opened the
door. She was dressed in oversized men's pajamas and her curly
hair sticking up wildly in places. The air was shimmering around
her. She's pissed, he thought. Well so am I.
"Okay, what's the problem?"
"You look awful when you wake up."
"Terry hates me!"
"What?" She shook her head. It was, depending on one's point of view, too damn early or too damn late for this kind of thing. "You're making even less sense than usual. Come on in. I need caffeine to cope with anything this early." She said, dragging her hand through her hair in the hopes of restoring order.
As she fixed a large pot of coffee,
Wade paced around the living room.
"She said she'd meet me for dinner. We made plans over a week ago. She always calls when she's going to be late." He was repeating as he made each circuit.
"Have you tried calling the mansion?"
"Yeah. I got some snotty English bitch saying that Terry can't come to the phone, did I want to leave a message? I left a message all right."
She wordlessly pushed a beer in his
direction. He looked like he needed it. She sipped her coffee,
sorting things through and not liking the shape of the answer.
"Thanks. You're pretty tight with her. Has she said anything to you? Am I being dumped? Terry wouldn't do it like this, would she? I thought everything's been going great." He sounded manic and depressed all at once.
"How many days ago did you plan this?"
"Eight. I remember this stuff. It's not like I've got a packed social calendar."
"And you haven't heard from her at all in the meantime. Not a thing?"
"No. What's going on? You sound spaced. Wakey, wakey."
"Do you have your gear close by?"
"Yeah, all the time. Have gun, sword, plastique, will travel."
She was silent for a few seconds. "I have to check something." She said, reaching for the phone.
The line rang seventeen times
before someone picked up.
"Hello? Xavier's." It took a moment to place the voice. Then again, who else was up at this time?
"Remy? C'est Julia."
"Hello chere, wha' you calling so late for?"
"I'm looking for any and all members of X-Force. Are they in residence?"
"Non. Dey haven't been back from der last mission." Remy chuckled, "I'm sure your amour call you when dey are."
"Do you know if they've reported in at all?"
"Okay. Merci, Remy. I owe you."
"Welcome chere. Dis one's on de house."
Julia put the phone down. "Goddamn
"What? What? Talk to me here!" If he still had any hair, Wade would have pulled it out by now.
"X-Force left for some mission five days ago. They haven't called in and they haven't come back."
"Shit. That was not what I wanted to hear." He resumed his pacing around the room.
"No kidding. I know when they left but not where they were going." She gave him a nasty smile. "Apparently Xavier doesn't like assassins. You know how untrustworthy they are."
He smirked back at her. "Yeah, stab you in the back at the first chance they get."
"And the front, too." She tapped the counter. Should I bother? Do I care? Yeah. "What do you think? You want to go after them? You know that Terry wouldn't stand you up deliberately. She would have called if she thought their mission might take this long."
Wade considered. It took about three seconds. "Yeah."
Julia picked up the phone again.
After a little begging she convinced Remy to get her a copy of
the mission plans and trace the PACRAT's last known position. He
was a sucker for romance.
"Please Remy, I'm worried
about Shatterstar." I am going to die if that ever gets out,
she thought. Even if it is true.
Wade was watching her performance,
trying not to laugh too loud. At this range she could easily kill
him with her power. To take his mind off it, he helped himself to
another beer. Forty minutes later, her fax machine starting
spitting out papers with the results of Remy's work.
"Oh, hell. They couldn't just
go to New Jersey to do their superhero stuff could they?" He
said as he finished reading the report. The last known position
of the PACRAT was over some island in the Pacific.
"You said it." Julia looked at him. "Know anybody who'll give us a lift?"
After placing a few phone calls, he
did in fact manage to find someone with a jet for hire who was
willing to leave immediately. They'd have to take a car to the
airport, wearing disguises to hide the fact they'd be dressed in
their 'working' clothes. He pulled out his image inducer and
found a program he liked. She went upstairs and retrieved a gold
medallion on a chain from her special jewelry box.
They studied each other. Wade was
dressed in his trademark red and black. His swords and guns
waited in the car. Julia was wearing her full guild-style armor,
entirely black. Her favorite sword hung in its sheath on the belt
at her waist and she had a high-powered hand gun on the other
side. She also had her full array of throwing blades tucked into
"You know, you look like a killer beetle in that outfit." he commented.
"You look like a ladybug from hell." she replied and picking up her pack.
"Couldn't you have picked a more masculine insect?" He asked disdainfully as he activated his image inducer. He had chosen to protect his 'normal' appearance from being connected to his professional identity. Now, instead of the smartly dressed blond he'd used when he arrived, he was a twenty-something guy with a goatee, baggy jeans and longish greasy hair.
"I felt my machismo take a hit."
"Cockroach?" She asked as she put the medallion on. Instantly, the armored assassin was replaced by a college girl with a bookbag. She looked younger and more innocent, with brown hair and eyes.
"Hey! What happened?" He exclaimed. He had sort of figured she was going to wear a long coat or something. "That's not an image inducer, is it? It's nicer than mine."
"It's not an electronic device." She explained, taking it off again. She dangled the necklace in front of him. He snatched it from her and examined it closely. It doesn't look like a gadget, he thought, turning it over.
"I don't get it. It's just jewelry." He said. He watched as she put it on again and the college cutie came back.
"It's magical jewelry." She smiled. The major holes in her immunity to magic was that passive spells still worked on her, as did spells she cast herself. Normally, this would have been useless but she'd discovered that disguise spells qualified as passive magic and they weren't too hard to learn. With some work, she had been able to create a whole wardrobe of alternate appearances.
"Way cooler and there's no way it can be detected or jammed." She opened the bookbag. Inside was a variety of textbooks and pens. "It actually changes what I'm wearing and carrying rather than disguising it."
"Okay. I know what you can get me for my birthday now. How come you got that?"
"I clipped the coupons and sent in the proof of purchase."
"Man, I have got to start reading the backs of my cereal boxes now. I'm missing out on all kinds of cool stuff."
Towards noon, local time, they were
preparing to jump out of a plane over an unknown island. Personal
cloaking devices would keep them, hopefully, from being shot out
of the sky. Julia looked down. Their target seemed very small
from way up here.
"You know, some days I hate my life." She said as stepped out of the door.
"Tell me about it." Wade yelled as he leaped out after her.
Wade landed on shoreline with solid
*thump*. Terry babe, the things I do for you, he thought rubbing
his posterior. The beach was nice, small and probably underwater
at high tide, but nice. Julia was tying up her chute and swearing
in some language he didn't recognize.
"Hey. Have some courtesy and curse in a language everybody understands."
She threw him a look but didn't see fit to comment. She waved the tracer around. The energy patterns of the ship's engines were distinctive enough to track by. That's the theory anyway, she thought. The little box beeped at her.
"Guess what? We go that way." She said pointing to the thickest section of jungle growth that seemed to be almost a solid wall rising up from the beach.
"Oh yeah. That figures. Terry couldn't lying here on this pretty little beach waiting for me with a cold drink and a small swimsuit. Nooo."
"Did you remember your bug spray?" She asked.
"Nah. Killer mercs don't do Deep Woods Off." He said, pulling a sword. "Let's go do our part for global deforestation."
After cutting and swearing their
way through the vegetation for what felt like a horribly long
period of time, they emerged in the clearing that had been made
by the downed ship. It looked more or less intact but nobody
seemed to be home.
"Well, okay. We know where they parked." Julia said.
"Where's the plane? That tracer-thingy working all right? 'Cause I don't want to bond with anymore nature for today. Or ever, for that matter." Wade gripped.
"Is your brain overheating? It's right in front of us."
"Don't mess with my head. There's nothing there." He stated. Was he tripping out? He felt fine.
Suddenly the PACRAT was in front of them. "Damn, it is there!"
"I think I said that."
"Julia, is that you?" Tabitha's blonde head was stuck out the door.
Julia pushed her mask back. "I suppose. Are you okay? Where is everybody?"
Cable appeared behind Tabitha, who was limping down the stairs. He looked almost pleased to see Deadpool for a change.
"This place really sucks. My ankle's busted and Cable's been making me help fix computer stuff."
"There was an unexpected development in the mission." Cable said dryly. "This isn't my idea of a tropical getaway."
"Really, wow, I'd never of guessed. I thought you'd love to sit for days in the middle of this stinking jungle. How do you keep from rusting out here anyways? Where's Terry?" Wade exploded in frustration.
Cable held on to his temper with
both hands and one foot. He was not going to get mad at half
their rescue team and beat him into a bloody pulp. Maybe later.
But not now.
Inside the PACRAT was marginally
cooler than outside. There were bits and pieces of electronic
components scattered over various surfaces.
"We were hit with a EM pulse that fried the communications and navigation controls. A lot of the systems are shielded and redundant so it's been a matter of switching things around." Cable explained as they tried to make themselves comfortable.
Wade was leaning against a wall and muttering vulgarities to himself about telepaths and their mind games.
"We were looking for an abandoned research base. It was supposed to help us gather information about the patterns of weapon and mutant detection research that's being done for Genosha and it's supporters. Well, we hit the motherlode. The base wasn't abandoned and they've been perfecting wide area inhibitor fields as well a lot of specialized mutant detection equipment. Dom and the team went in after we crashed to check out the setup. The inhibitor field went up as soon as they were in."
"Can you read anybody from here?" Julia asked.
"No. The buildings are psi-blocked." I can't just go in after them without losing my telekinesis, Cable thought sourly. Goddamn T-O virus. "There's about two hundred people based here. They've kept it light so as not attract attention to themselves with large numbers of troops moving on and off the island. We intercepted messages saying that the weapons research is finished and they're going to be moving everything back to Genosha."
"And they know you're still sitting here?"
"Yes. I'll bet they don't consider us a threat because we can't get into the compound. Even if we could leave we don't have any proof of the work being done. They can just wait for the transfer crew to come by and eliminate us."
"If you go down there you'll set off any mutant detectors and your power won't work."
"Got it covered. Besides, what do you think all the cutlery is for?"
"Tripping airport security?" Asked Tabitha with a smirk.
"What do you mean you've got it covered?" Cable demanded. She was too damn casual about walking into a dead zone for his liking.
"I mean I'm a mutant with a strong adherence to forward planning. Please relax Cable, I'm a professional." She looked over to Wade. "Might as well get going then. You don't set off mutant detectors right?"
"You betcha. I am one hundred percent mutant gene free and proud of it."
"Good enough." She looked at Cable intently. "Later you can explain to me if I'm in or not."
He stiffened at the hard look in her eyes. Dom's nice little killer can be not so nice, he thought. "You're in. I'll give you the complete explanation later."
"I'm sure you will." She said as she followed Wade out the hatch.
They studied the encampment from a
crest of a hill. It was laid out in a rough square with what
looked like barracks round the perimeter. There were several high-tech
looking buildings in the centre.
"How do you want to do this? Get them first or get the field generator?" Julia asked him as they planned their attack. Two hundred or so people down there didn't worry them as much as those people calling for help at an inconvenient moment. Wade considered carefully. As psycho as he could be, he didn't survive this long by being stupid.
"We do the equipment, there's bound to be alarms or some shit like that. It won't take anybody long to figure out who we're after. If we get them first they won't be able to do their mutie stuff but at least we'll know where they are."
"Okay. Try those cozy looking boxes on the outside first?" She asked, digging through her pack.
"Yeah." He agreed, standing up.
She handed him a communication headset. "These have a range of five hundred feet. The default is receive."
He turned it over in consideration then settled it over his mask. She opted to wear hers under her mask. They picked their way through the enthusiastic greenery keeping an eye out for traps and sensors.
"You're sure you won't set of any alarms and that high-end firepower'll still work?"
"Yes, Wade. I won't and it will."
"Um. Are you naturally like that?"
"You get adjusted 'cause you wanted to?"
"Yes. And in answer to your next question: no pain, no side effects."
"They know what they're doing?"
"It was done by the number one expert in mutant biology and genetics."
"You think that maybe this person could adjust me?"
"Why? You're not a mutant."
"No. I mean for this." Wade stopped in front of her and pulled his mask off. "It's 'cause of the healing factor that was supposed to fix me from dying of cancer. It's kind of working overtime. I'm getting fucking desperate here. It's hard to think Terry'll stay with me when I look like a plastic surgeon practice doll."
"I think you might be underestimating her but if anybody can help you it's this person. I'll put in the word for you when we get back if you give me a contact number."
"You got it. You did a 'job', right?" He asked pulling his mask back on.
"Okay. I can live with that."
There wasn't any kind of fencing so
they were able to get close to the buildings without any problems.
They're relying on the fields and detectors, Julia thought.
Sloppy but if it works in our favor I'm all for it. Wade picked a
fairly populated building on the logic that X-Force would have
guards, so, follow the guards. Most of the rooms looked like
cross between a low quality motel and a public storage facility.
"They're not setup to keep prisoners for very long." She observed. "That may be a good thing."
"Terry better not be anybody's lab project right now. I'll be really upset if she is. I'll show them uses for slide rulers they've never seen before."
They rounded a corner. There was someone coming the other way.
"Oops. Looks like this wing is booked." He said with faux concern.
"I thought you checked the reservations." She muttered.
The man looked surprised but, to his credit, recovered quickly. He sneered at them from behind his gun. "You think your mutie power is gonna work here genejoke?" A second later he was slammed into the back wall with crushing force.
"Yes. I think it will." Julia said mildly.
"Cool." Wade opined. " I think I heard all his bones break when you did that."
"I don't know about all his bones. The little ones in the fingers and toes are hard to get with one shot."
Most of the rooms on the floor
consisted of equipment storage. They tried the next door. What
was inside wasn't the straying X-Force but it was nearly as good.
"Oh, boy. Toyland!" Wade whooped as he followed Julia into the base's armory. She looked thoughtful for a moment then pulled a couple of tightly rolled bags from her pack. She threw one at Wade's head.
"Here. If you're going to visit someone, you should always remember to bring a gift." She selected three of the hanging rifles and stuck them in her bag.
Wade dithered. "So many choices! No, too sporty, too formal, too trendy, not her color, not in season, ooh, just right." He picked up another three rifles. Julia found a familiar pair of swords in the corner and slung them on.
They split up after she spotted an armed someone carrying food trays into another wing. He stayed to check the rest of rooms which turned up zip. This'd be easier if we could use the PA system, he thought as he moved on to the next wing. Encounters with guards provided mild tension relief and some key rings.
Wade reached the end of floor and
peered into last room. Banzai! Terry and her albino buddy. They
looked like they were napping. It would have been a peaceful
scene if they weren't wearing chains. He hurried over and prodded
his little Irish sweetie on the arm.
"Hey Red!" Terry raised her head. He nearly screamed with rage when he saw the bruises on her face. Can't do that, it'll spook her, can't do that, he chanted to himself.
"Wade?" She asked sleepily. What's he doing here? I must be still dreaming.
"Yeah, babe, I'm here." He tried to think straight. Get the chains off, make sure she's okay, then cut the bastards who did this into spaghetti strings. "What'd they do to you Red?" He asked as she sat up.
"Just got grabby, Wade. Nothing serious. I'll be all right." She looked up at him. The gratitude shinning in her eyes turned his brain to mush. "Thank ye for coming for me."
"I'd have been here sooner but you didn't leave your travel itinerary. I had to beat up a few travel agents to find out where you were staying. The resort staff here is terribly unfriendly." Terry hugged him tightly and he sighed with happiness.
"Ahem." Domino was
watching their reunion with a mixture of amusement and nausea.
She was sure that he had a blissed out expression on his face
under that mask. As it was, she could almost see the little pink
hearts dancing around his head.
"Oh hey, Domino. What's new?" He asked happily.
"Just get this crap off of me Wilson." She snapped. Not the most diplomatic but she was far to pissed off to worry about it.
"I'll do it." Said Terry, taking the keys from him. I'd best keep the two of them apart for now. Wade didn't come all this way to be beaten senseless by Dom.
"Don't be like that. I brought you a peace offering. See?" Wade held a plasma rifle out to her.
She took it, somewhat mollified. "Where's Cable? Is anyone else with you?"
"The tin man's guarding our parking space and swigging back the WD-40. The meter maids around here are murder. I came with that killer mutie friend of yours."
"Julia's with you?"
"Ten points for the albino!"
Domino scowled at him.
He tapped the send button of his headset. "De Santos, you there? I got the girls out. We'll meet you where we came in at. Don't kill everybody without me. I'm wanna send a few to hell so hard they bounce when they get there."
The guard put their meal trays down.
Jimmy sighed. For captivity, it
wasn't too bad. They were kept indoors and fed regularly. They
even got to keep their own clothes. The major downside was the
fact they were being held to be taken to Genosha. Coming a close
second was that he was trapped in the same room with Roberto and
Shatterstar for an extended period of time. Roberto had decided
to kill time by attempting to recite every Magnum PI episode from
memory. Shatterstar was correcting his quotes, interspersed with
commentary about Magnum's abilities as a warrior.
In the meantime, they shuffled over
to the small table in the centre of the room. Might as well keep
their strength up. They were wearing chains at their ankles that
prevented any athletic attempts of escape. Their hands were
attached to longer chains that ran up to the collars around their
After a few more insults, the guard
turned to leave. He paused in the doorway then collapsed onto the
floor with a damp gurgle. There were knives in his throat and
A masked face appeared around the
corner. Silver eyes looked into their cell inquiringly through
the gap in the fabric. Shatterstar inhaled sharply as he realized
who it was.
"In the flesh, on the job, and armed to the teeth." Came the whimsical reply as she came into line of the door.
She pushed back her mask. "Hi guys. Nice place. A little too out of the way, though." She carried a large bag into their cell, taking the keys from the downed guard. As she reached up to undo his collar and chains, she smiled. "Miss me?"
He stared at her, amazed that she was really there. "Greatly."
"We found the armory so that means plasma rifles for everyone." She unhitched the harnesses on her back. "As you can see, I found your swords too."
"Who's 'we'?" Jimmy asked as she undid his heavy metal wear. High-tensile strength chains suck, he thought.
"Wade Wilson's wandering around somewhere. Cable and Tabitha are still at the PACRAT." She replied moving over to Roberto, who was fidgeting with impatience.
Julia looked down at the trays of
nameless matter. Yummy. "Did you want to finish your meal?"
"No. The food here is barely palatable." Shatterstar replied.
"Wouldn't have pegged you for a gourmet 'Star." Remarked Roberto.
"Just because I am not as obvious with my appetites does not mean I do not have them."
Julia bit her lip and tried not to laugh while the other two just stared.
She tilted her head to one side as she listened to Wade's rambling status report. "Domino and Terry are out." She reported. "Wilson said they'll meet us outside."
"Sounds good. Let's go." Roberto said, hefting his gun. Outside, they saw the crushed bodies of the guards slumped against various walls.
"What happened to them?" Jimmy asked. Mental note, he thought. People really do look like beanbags when all their bones are broken.
"I did." Julia stated. "I wasn't about to waste time doing Zorro impressions on these nitwits."
"Your power still works in an inhibitor field?" asked Roberto enviously. I wonder if that's something she can show us how to do. I hated being powered up all the time but not being able to use my powers at all is worse.
"Yeah. I'm special that way. What happened to you guys? How'd they take you down?"
"The bastards gassed us." Roberto said. The sensation of his lungs burning was not something he would forget soon.
Jimmy peered around the corner then nodded to them. "How'd you find out where we were anyways?"
"Broke into the mansion and killed everybody inside. You'll never have to wait for the bathroom again."
They stopped and stared at her.
"Guys, I'm kidding."
They met up without any more
interruptions or setting off any alarms. This was a team first
according to Terry. Domino decided they'd hit the inhibitor
generator in two groups to ensure they got any backup equipment
that might be present and prevent anybody from leaving to raise
Terry, Julia and Wade sidled up to
the generator building. They got to do the front. Armor and
chainmail in the tropical sun, Julia thought as they moved into
position. I'm dying.
"I can't believe I'm doing this for free." Wade muttered. He was starting to overheat but it would take drugs and torture for him to admit it.
"You volunteered." Julia reminded him.
"Don't remind me. But it was your little brainwave so it's really your fault."
"You're the one who came whining to me that you'd been stood up."
"I wouldnae stand ye up, Wade. Was he really whining?"
"Oh yeah. It was bad."
"Hey! No ganging up on the merc!"
Terry nodded to Julia. There was a shimmering in the air as Julia blasted the doors inwards. A couple unlucky guards ended up under the flying metal as it smashed against the back of the room.
"Ooh. Now that's got to hurt." Wade quipped as they made short work of the remaining staff. There were the sounds of a firefight at the rear of the building. Then Domino's team came running in.
"Everything's secure, Dom." Terry said. "Can we turn this thing off?"
"Have a party." Domino responded. As one, X-Force opened fire on the control panels and related machinery.
Wade and Julia didn't feel a need
to participate. They relaxed a bit by the back and watched the
wholesale destruction of what had previously been very expensive
"It's probably healthy for them to work through their anger like this." He said as they watched.
"All right!" Roberto
exclaimed as he powered up again. He assumed his black energy-covered
form and flew up a few feet. "As good as new!"
The alarms were really going off now. Terry looked out the open doorway to see a large group of guards running towards them.
"We've got company people!" She called.
Jimmy was a happy man. He was
slugging it out with five of the grunts simultaneously. If this
isn't stress relief, I don't know what is, he thought. Beside him
Roberto was also doing things the long way around and flaring
their opponents at close range.
"What are you doing down here?" Jimmy yelled.
"It's more fun this way." Roberto responded, ducking a punch.
Terry flew through a tight formation of guards, blowing out their eardrums as they scattered to either side. While they were clutching their heads, Domino came after them, plasma rifle ready.
Shatterstar was in his element, swords flying. The ones who choose to engage him didn't last very long. He glanced over to see Wade bouncing through the enemy like a hyperactive child. Julia had her sword out and was carving up all comers with her customary grace. She seemed to watching for anybody approaching their teammates from behind as well. Several such persons had blades sticking out of their eyes already.
They stopped only after every one
of their attackers had dropped to the ground.
"The locals might get mad that we're littering." Wade commented as he surveyed the damage.
"They're all biodegradable so it shouldn't be too bad. " Roberto said. He tried to turn off his power. He looked shocked when he returned to human-normal. He powered off and on one more time in wonder.
"Isn't it supposed to work like that?" Julia asked curiously. "You look sort of like a negative firefly."
"It didn't before. I was powered up all the time." He explained as he fired up again. "This is great."
"At least we've got some good out of this." Terry smiled.
"We've got to get the info we came for." Domino said. "We'll take the admin building next. Don't damage the computers but it's open season on everything else."
The remainder of the guards and
research staff had moved to fortify their defense of the main
building. As the team fought their way inside, they were hampered
by the fact they couldn't just carry on as usual. It took a
surprising amount of restraint to keep the computers intact.
A guard holding a Cable-sized gun
came running in, shouting obscenities. Julia intercepted him and
her sword flashed. There was a brief scream then a damp *thud*.
Jimmy looked down at the dissected gun and former owner in
similar condition. Additional mental note, he thought. Do not get
people with swords mad at me if I can help it.
The last floor was computer control,
surveillance and communications, and file storage. The hallways
were too narrow for Julia to use her power and the sheer heat
from Roberto's flares would damage the equipment so Terry went
first. There was a hypersonic scream and the computer control
room doors blew apart. Wade ran forward and quickly knocked the
remaining two attendants unconscious. Being rushed at by a masked
guy with a sword and gun was usually enough to cause most people
to faint at any rate.
Down the hallway, Julia regarded
the locked communications room doors. Fancy looking lock, she
thought amused, meet fancy sword. Her sword carved through the
metal around the lock and the entire mechanism fell onto the
floor. She kicked the door open and shot the nervous looking man
on the other side.
"This room's clean." She reported, leaning out of the doorway. Shatterstar was looking at the lock on the floor. He didn't think she would have the strength to drive a plain steel blade through a foot of metal.
"What is your sword made from?"
"Adamantium. It sure beats fooling around with lock picks." She said, sheathing the blade. "There's a lot of radar and whatnot in there. I think they managed to get off a distress signal."
He went in and checked the screens. "We will have to keep watch. There was a signal sent but there has not yet been any response that I can see."
She looked at the surveillance display of the camp. They'd accounted for maybe a third of the personnel so far but the rest were staying away. "They're waiting for something." She said. "The rest of them wouldn't be hiding out in the barracks for no reason."
"They have every reason to cower in fear. We could certainly cut them down like the vermin they are."
Julia blinked at his sudden heroic speech. He seemed to notice her look.
"We take special classes to learn how to do that." He explained with a grin. "It's expected during a battle for a warrior to make grandiose threats."
"I see." She giggled. "Very impressive."
They stood watch in the hallway
while Domino went through the computer files and copied
everything of interest.
Julia leaned against a wall and closed her eyes. I want a cafe latte. With chocolate sprinkles.
Shatterstar put his hand on her arm. "Julia, are you well?"
"Hmm? Oh, I'm fine. Just pinning for caffeine."
"Oh." He stood there uncertainly. He felt that he should offer comfort in some way but didn't know what. He contented himself by standing close to her.
"Hey, how'd you two get here anyway? I didn't think the subway came out this far." Asked Jimmy.
"Jumped out of a plane, hacked through the jungle, killed all the guards. Easy." Julia said. "I thought superhero types did this all the time."
"We usually get rides and trample lawns." Roberto commented from his position close to the skylight.
"X-Force: known and feared by turf growers everywhere." Wade snickered.
Domino stuck her head out the door.
"Okay. I'm done. 'Star give me a hand so we crash this thing
and get out of here. 'Berto, there should be some backup tapes
and files around here somewhere. Toast them."
"Yes! I get to wreck more stuff." He said. He started opening storage room doors and flash-frying the contents. "Too bad Tabs isn't here. She loves this kind of thing."
"Maybe we should bring her back a box so she doesn't feel left out." Jimmy mused.
"Dom, we've got a problem."
Terry called from the communications room. "Five ships have
dropped their scramblers and landed on the other side of the base."
"Okay, everybody. Let's get out of here." Domino said, picking up her bag. Outside she tried to reach Nate through their link.
~Dom! Are you okay? How's the team?~
~Everybody's okay, Nate. Reinforcements have just landed.~
~Damn. I've got the cloaking systems online but defenses are shot~
~We'll worry about it later~
They could see the planes at the
landing strip. Damn, gunships. Domino cursed. At least a hundred
"Make for the break in the buildings. Keep close to cover." She said aloud to the team. This is going to be hairy. That many troops can just overpower us with numbers and we'll get too tired to play hide and seek in the jungle.
Julia looked back at the planes and the disembarking troops. "Dom, why don't we let spread out then take them down? That way we won't have anybody chasing us out of here."
They stared at her, then at the soldiers filing out into formation on the tarmac.
"That is bold suggestion." Shatterstar said at last. He liked the idea but, against such odds, victory was not assured. Still, if she is willing to do this, I will stay, he decided.
"Droga. You've got to be kidding." Roberto said.
"That's nuts." Wade said. "Even for me."
"Five gunships is a little more than we can handle right now." Domino said.
Julia raised an eyebrow. "I can do it. Just get everybody back to the PACRAT and I'll catch up afterwards."
"You sure about this?"
"If you don't get those files out of here then this'll have been a real waste of a day." She considered the distance. "Give me twenty minutes. If I'm later than that, leave without me."
"Yer serious?" Terry asked disbelievingly.
"You bet. I'm famous for this kind of thing in a totally unknown sort of way." Julia smiled.
Jimmy winced. "Ouch. I think you broke my brain with that sentence."
"Twenty minutes. You've got it. Give us a ten minute count to get clear." Domino finally agreed.
Shatterstar stayed behind as the rest of the team ran for the base perimeter.
"Get going. I'll blast them and catch up." She said absently as she watched the troops move into position.
He didn't move.
She looked at him. There was no fear in her eyes. "Go."
He stared at her. I will not disgrace your courage. "I will then. Do not be late."
"I won't." She smiled.
He nodded and ran after the others.
Julia watched as the base's
reinforcements concentrate around the laboratory buildings. They
must really want to save that stuff, she thought. All the more
reason to blow it straight to hell.
The soldiers were slowly spreading
out in rough circle, looking for the cause of the disturbances.
She pulled her mask back on and stepped out into the open. Time's
"Hey! There's one now!"
Holding nothing back, she let her
power explode out from her. There was sonic boom as the leading
edge exceeded the speed of sound. The soldiers screamed as they
were crushed backwards, their clothes and bodies burning in the
superheated air. The buildings collapsed around her and the
equipment inside exploded into useless fragements.
She felt as the wave lost most of
its strength as it reached its farthest point from her. Only the
few soldiers who had been sent to the perimeter of the base were
still alive and they had retreated beyond her wave's effective
radius. Those building were pretty dense, she thought. That was
barely a half-mile reach and I'm tapped out. But they'll keep
their distance now. Enjoy the rubble boys.
She turned and ran. She had an
appointment to keep.
A muffled sonic boom rolled over
"What the hell was that?"
"That was Shockwave." answered Cable. He gave Domino a smug look. "She doesn't come across as that dangerous in person, eh?"
"Oh, hush up." She responded. He sobered and looked at the radar display. Two more gunships were on route and would be there within the hour. "There's a few more looking to join this party."
"She said give her twenty minutes, Nate. We've got to wait." Domino said firmly.
"We will. She'd better be on time, that's all."
Shatterstar stood guarding the
entry. Where was she? Cable would leave without her, he knew. The
loss of a single soldier was preferable to the failure of the
At nineteen minutes, forty-two seconds he heard a small sound and swung his gun into position.
"Don't shoot. It's me." Julia stepped out into the clearing. She was out of breath and there was a string of greenery wound around her.
"Julia!" He couldn't keep the relief from his voice.
She pushed aside her mask. "I really hate sprinting. I really hate jungles. And I really hate sprinting through jungles. Goddamn vines." she complained between gasps. She pulled irritably at the clinging vegetation.
"I thought you too skilled to be felled by plant life." He teased as they boarded the cloaked PACRAT.
"That's mutant plant life out there. It's vicious."
They lifted off a few moments later.
Cable flew them over the former base and they looked down a the
mile-wide circle of destruction.
"Holy. You flattened the place." Tabitha whistled.
"You know, if you ever get tired of assassination you could always go into urban renewal." Domino noted.
Julia frowned slightly. "What, and actually work for a living? Eww."
Roberto laughed. "My sentiments exactly."
"When does the in-flight movie start?" Wade asked, stretching a little. What day was it? We crossed the date line going there and coming back. Does that mean it's the same day as when we started? Jeez, I'm bagged for not having any time to do anything.
Terry smiled. "After ye get off your sorry butt and pass out the peanuts and sodas."
"I look lousy in those little stewardess outfits." He complained. "And you only get nine peanuts in those baggies."
Tabitha made a face. "You know what you look like in a dress? That's scary." She threw small plastic wrapped packages at them. "Here. Have a field ration. Guaranteed not to taste like anything at all."
Julia played with the envelope of possible nutrition. "Ooh. That's a sales pitch. I'll pass." She tossed the morsel at Jimmy. "You're always hungry. Enjoy."
He caught it. "I'm not that hungry. You eat it 'Berto."
"No thanks. Mystery food doesn't interest me." Roberto batted the package at Shatterstar, who skewered it on the knife he was examining.
"Victory is mine." He said, pulling the thing off the blade. It leaked purple ooze. "It appears that I have killed a Pop Tart."
Terry rummaged around the rations container and found a few soda-like beverages. These were greeted with more enthusiasm. Wade even lifted his mask enough to partake.
"Sort of a watered-down, rehydrated non-carbonated generic diet pop." He said critically. "A poor bouquet but an interesting finish."
Domino sat down beside Nate in the
"Are you going to talk to her or what?" She asked.
"Yeah. Here. You drive."
Cable went back to the main
compartment. Julia looked up at him and raised an eyebrow
"Okay. You're in, just like I said. Xavier had a problem with what you do but I'm not willing to let a good operative get bounced off my team." He paused but she didn't say anything. "We had another discussion and he'll stay off your case if you don't take any new contracts now that you're on side."
"I wasn't planning to anyways. I trust you'd still want me to use my skills on occasion?"
"When the need arises, yes." He held out a hand. "Welcome to X-Force."
They cheered as she shook his hand. "Thanks. What are we doing tomorrow?"
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