Shatterstar: Warrior Born
-- I am required to inform you that I am NOT a professional writer and have no affiliation to Marvel Comics whatsoever. The characters Shatterstar/Gaveedra Seven/Benjamin Russell, Rictor/Julio Richter, Skids/Sally Blevins, Windsong, Longshot, Dazzler, Spiral, Adam-X the X-Treme, Charles Xavier, Cable, Beast, MojoV, Major Domo, etc. are the intellectual property of Marvel Comics. The newly created characters Charblade, Delphi, Bloodbath, Moonscar, Razorwing, Wildwind, and Medic are mine exclusively.
<At the Cadre Base Camp>
"Lord Shatterstar. . . Wake up Shatterstar. . ." The Medic puts a small test tube of smelling salts under Shatterstar's nose which startles him awake.
"Kaff! Cough! Ack!. . . Get that foul thing away from me!" He slaps the tube away and starts to rise, but is quickly overcome with pain.
"Relax amigo, you'll get back in the action again soon enough." Rictor sits at his side alongside Medic, Adam-X and Wildwind.
Shatterstar glances around quickly, "Where is Windsong!?! What has happened to her?"
"I'm sorry to say. . ." starts Medic, but he is quickly interrupted by Adam.
"She's been taken to the Arena, 'Star. They're going to have her and the rest of the captured Alliance executed for the 'Season Finale'."
"We must rescue them immediately!" He reaches for his blades and uniform, ignoring any pain.
"No can do pal, first you have to explain what the hell happened between you and Spiral and then we figure out what to do about Windsong and the others." Rictor says, putting his hand on Star's shoulder.
"What is there to explain, we fought, she lost. The tower became dust."
"I don't know, maybe you could start with how you survived the damn thing!"
"There is nothing to explain, I simply used the energies I absorbed from your blast and destroyed the tower. As you could see, the results were rather explosive."
"This is going nowhere fast, look, can you at least tell me why you lived and Spiral didn't?"
"Other than total exhaustion, my physical body is unaffected by my mutant talents, and I was able to get out of the tower by another exit."
"And. . . you survived the fall?"
"It was bigger than the Empire State Building and you just say "yes". 'Star, what am I gonna do with you?"
"Allow me to prepare for battle."
"Why do I even bother? <sigh> So Spiral's dead, right?"
"Seeing as you will not let me up until you are through with this pointless interrogation, I will tell you. To be brief, looks can be deceiving, Julio. Trust me, Spiral will return one day to try her hand at controlling me, but next time I shall be ready for her."
<INTERLUDE> <The Arena viewing box of MojoV.> <Windsong is strapped into an odd-looking restraining device.>
"So, my dear, dear Windsong.... Feeling better? Yesterday's performance had twice the ratings of the previous record holder and you know how I'm going to thank you for it all?" He lifts his thin, bony, yellow finger to her chin. "Oh, I forgot, you can't say much of anything in that monstrous contraption now can you?" He turns and floats to the Master Programmer's window. Looking down at the Arena he begins to laugh hysterically. "Look at them! Look as they scurry about the Arena, -pshaw- as if they could ever hope to win! Soon you will be the one to join your comrades in. . . what did you call it again? "Haven of Warriors"? Puh-lease!" He once again looks out onto the Arena, his hand twitching over the cancel panel. Pushing it every time an Alliance Warrior falls. It saves time.
<<Xavier's Mansion, Xavier's study specifically.>>
"Listen to me Xavier, just because we live in your house does not mean you can send me and my troops off whenever you need some dirty work done." Cable yells, pointing his finger at Xavier angrily.
"Cable, this is not 'dirty work'. With the political heat my X-Men are getting from Creed and his recent presidential run, I cannot hav..."
"And what makes you think MY team is getting any less?"
"You founded your team as the 'mutant outlaw group'. This operation wouldn't make you look worse in the public eye than you already do."
"Stop making excuses Xavier! You've never liked me, that's obvious. But to think that your agenda is one bit more important that my team is downright stupid. We're not going to do this for you, get Moira or Forge for a change."
"For what reason do you persist in making this hard for me? All I need for X-Force to do is merely investigate a rumor."
"Yeah, a rumor involving infiltrating a top-secret government facility, something that's up Forge's alley much more than mine anyway. Even Excalibur could do it more easily with their foreign citizenship."
"Very well Cable, have it your way. But I will not forget this incident."
"Good, then maybe we won't be expected to do the clean-up work for you again."
Shatterstar steps to the open door and knocks.
"You sent for me?"
"Enter young one, come and sit across from me."
Shatterstar walks out of the hall light and into the dimly lit chamber, only a faint candlelight flickers quietly enough to let them see. Sitting down on the thin straw mat, he awaits Delphi's words.
"Shatterstar, the time has come for you to know the full truth of the Prophecy. The last piece that I have yet to tell you or your comrades. The final tale of the Prophecy says that Talismane will return along the Dark Path to reach Final Victory, but it is not The Shatterstar who will lead them."
". . ." Shatterstar stares at Delphi confusedly.
"Then who is this one? Who shall lead our planet in my absence?" He leans forward, eager to learn this new information.
"She is the one who was falsely named your Destined. She is Windsong." He says, calmly stirring a cauldron of steaming chemicals.
"Windsong will betray the Alliance?!?" Shatterstar jumps up at the news, shocked at the accusation.
"Sit down." Shatterstar does. "No, she will not betray the Alliance, but she will betray the teaching's of the First One Arize. She will tip the scales of power away from Mojo and his dynasty, but they will not balance between our races. Go now, you must save her for she is the only one who can fulfill the Prophecy. Without her, Peace will never come to pass on Talismane and the plague of Mojo will continue forever."
"Yes, Delphi." Shatterstar steps backwards towards the door, his head bowed in reverence. Upon returning to the command center, Shatterstar tells the Cadre that they will strike on the dawn of the Season Finale, but he must first make his return known to all of Mojoworld, first, to prepare those held inside for the battle that awaits them.
A small army of soldiers swarm in the center of a perverse looking stadium. On the upper balconies ringing the top of the Arena sits a row of Giant Spineless Ones beating kettle drums in tune with a rhythmic, bellowing, Norse chant. The masses sit back and exalt at the massacre before them. Just a normal episode on Mojoworld's highest rated program known simply as "Arena." That is, until the main screen overlooking the Pit flickers as a pirate network signal logs on.
"CADRE ALLIANCE!! THIS IS A CALL TO ALL MY NATION, I HAVE RETURNED! SPIRAL HAS BEEN DEFEATED, MOJO V'S SERIES FINALE IS NEAR! RAISE UP YOUR HANDS AND FIGHT WITH ALL YOUR HEART! I DECLARE THAT BEFORE THIS SEASON IS DONE, WE SHALL HAVE OUR **FREEDOM**!"
And with that, the dwarfed army of the Cadre Alliance is invigorated and increase their attack ten-fold to defeat their opponents; the smell of final victory is upon them. The Protectorate, stunned and off-set by this sudden announcement, fall under their frenzied fury.
<Cadre Alliance HQ>
"It has begun. Mojo V is now panicking, the news of Spiral's defeat will confuse him, causing him to act quickly and carelessly. At this moment he is ordering his troops to attack our former base camp, leaving very few left to protect him. His error shall be provide the way to our final victory."
"Then stop talking and let's do it!" Says Rictor as he enters from the medi-tent.
"You know kid, you really need to get some new material. When you want to make an entrance you should do it in style!" The Merc with a Mouth known as Deadpool to many and Wade Wilson to few dances out from behind Rictor. "I got me a new hide, I got me a new hide, don't know how he did it, but your Medic saved my hide. . . literally."
Blank stares abound from the gathered group.
"Does he always behave in such a fashion" Wildwind whispers to Rictor in the corner, apparently the gunshot and fall didn't do any permanent damage.
"Yes." Ric replies
"And you bothered healing him?"
"Sorry, it was Star's idea."
"Hey! No talkin' behind the backs of us cancer-ridden assassins! It's just not right. Anywaaaaaaaay... yer Medic guy came through Shatty. I still look like the poster boy for Preparation H, but at least I ain't about to do that big hit in the sky. Hey, do you think God'd kinda ferget all that crazy mercenary stuff I've done if I whack Satan for 'im and let me inta his pearly gates? Nah, I guess it'd be pretty hard to kill someone who's already dead. Probably makes merc work pretty low on the afterlife-job-market don't it?" The room is staring at him blankly. "Sheesh, you guys wouldn't know a joke if it jumped up and bit you on the..."
"What Deadpool's trying to say here is that's he's working for us now." Rictor says, interrupting Wade's rant.
"It seems like I misjudged you earlier, Assassin."
"Don't let it go to your head, kid. Like I said before, you give me what I need and I do what they need. It's a merc's job." And after realizing that it actually sounds like he's taking something seriously for once, "um... did I say that? Naah, I couldn't've. Not possible. Me? Serious? HAH! Not in a million years! Well, maybe if someone'd give me..."
<The next day>
Rictor and Adam-X sit outside, waiting for Shatterstar to return from his training session. Deadpool is walking down the far corridor, still ranting about how unserious he is to anyone who is unfortunate enough to grab his attention.
"Hey Rictor, I got a question for you." Adam says, shifting uneasily on the rock he's sitting on.
"Um... I'm not too sure how to ask this, but have you, like.... have you ever known what it feels like to... umm... to love... someone?" As blondes are wont to do, Adam blushes like a stoplight with embarrassment.
"Heh, now that's an interesting question. Well, I've thought I loved lotsa girls before, but never the real thing. Not real love, why?"
"What does it feel like? I mean.... how do you 'know' when it's the 'real thing' like you said."
"You start asking questions like that for one. Tell me, who is it?"
"Whatever you do, don't laugh or I'll cut your throat."
"It's... It's Windsong."
"I thought so."
"What the...! How'd you know!"
"You're classic, man. One minute you can't stand her, then the next you can't stop thinking about her. I've seen it happen to several of my friends before. There's nothing special about your situation, except that you're both vicious alien warriors from different planets, but we'll overlook that for now." He smirks ear-to-ear.
"So what should I do. I mean, she's been kidnapped by Mojo V... and I don't know what'd happen if he put her life in jeopardy. Would I risk her for the sake of the mission, or possibly ruin all we've worked for in order to keep her alive. I don't know if I'm gonna like the decision...."
"Well, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Come on, lets get Shatty."
<<Xavier's, at the gate, looking the Mansion>>
"Look Sammy, I kinda doubt Cable's gonna let us stick around here fer much longer. Xavier and him haven't been seeing eye-to-eye lately if you know what I mean."
"Yeah, ah overheard 'em earlier this mornin' and they didn't sound too friendly. But... if Cable and ya'll do leave, what'll it mean for us? For our relationship?"
"I don't know. It's not like we talk to each other much anymore, even though we're still in the same house."
"Not for a lack a' tryin', girl."
"Look, I didn't ask you up here to argue. I gotta know, if worse comes to worse, are you with us or with Xavier?"
"Aw Tab, don't ask me that, you know how much bein' an X-Man means ta' me."
--I remember when you used to say that 'bout us too, Sam.-- "Whatever, I don't wanna talk 'bout it anymore."
Shatterstar and a small group of men and women move in a concerted fashion, cutting swaths through the holographic Protectorate troops. Deadpool is working with them, having finished his rant, and is moving closely behind Shatterstar, fighting back-to-back. In the end however, the Cadre still suffers a defeat. The scenario reboots and they fight again, not even taking a moments rest. Shatterstar walks over to Rictor and Adam who are sitting on the sidelines, temporarily out of the fight.
"Adam... Julio, our current plan is to approach the Arena through a sewer tunnel that runs from here to the hill in front of it. We will split into multiple parties and circle the Arena, entering through the many cracks and crevices along it's aging outer wall."
"So where do we fit in?"
"You will follow me and my party as we head for the control booth while the others set up a carrier signal ensuring that all of Mojoworld sees it."
"Cool." They both say in unison.
<At dawn, in the tunnel>
With the silent motion of a shadow, the small clan of men and women hit the ground running and head straight for the Arena without ever breaking their stride. Pushing through the slime and muck of the drainage pipes, the Cadre Alliance struggles towards the Arena, prepared for the death that awaits them this day.
"Wildwind, tell me what has happened while I have been away. What have I missed?"
"I forgot, Lord Shatterstar, in the time you have been back no one has told you of Bloodbath's betrayal, of his dishonorable alliance to Spiral."
"Bloodbath! Working for Spiral?" He pauses briefly, "Wildwind, tell me, why has he betrayed us?"
"He became power hungry and lusted after it to the point where his honor was worth nothing in it's shadow."
"How long has he served that Queen of the Damned?"
"He gave into her temptations some months after your departure. He had led a raid into Spiral's Tower, determined to see her defeated, but instead came out swinging the heads of his companions on a rope, drinking their blood. Showing to us all that he had fully accepted Spiral's ways."
"I would not have expected Bloodbath to betray us, much less accept slavery to Spiral. But what became of Razorwing, his Destined?"
"She disappeared soon after Bloodbath's betrayal. It is not known for certain what happened to her, Lord Shatterstar, but we suspect that she went to join him in the service of Spiral. However, if she is indeed working with Spiral and Bloodbath, both will pay for their crimes in blood. All traitors will."
The small war party moves onward in silence, emerging from the tunnels on the side of a ravine.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a Death Squad moves to attack a nearby farming colony in the ravine itself. The Squad begins to charge towards the poor and defenseless farmers; to pillage them of everything they have, everything they have worked for. Nearby, the Cadre Alliance waits.... they wait for the signal from Shatterstar.
"Should we help them Lord Shatterstar?" asks one soldier.
"Yes, attack on my command." He doesn't hesitate.
"But what about our strike? Would you risk the lives of our entire race on one insignificant colony of cowards?"
"Do not question my judgment ever again Arsea 3, is that clear!"
Shatterstar turns to the rest of the gathered army briefly and then charges down the hill towards the Death Squad, the Cadre following close behind. Defeat came quickly to the Death Squad with only few injuries to the Cadre and one casualty.
"Now, we must not waste another moment. Everyone, take the armor of the Death Squad and put it on yourselves. We will mask our entrance to the Arena as the Death Squad returning with captives for the Arena."
"But Lord Shatterstar, we have never resorted to subterfuge and cowardice before, why now?"
"And by doing so we have foregone a valid and oft successful battle strategy, Arsea 3. It may not be the most honorable or glorious methods of winning a war, but is still a reliable way of winning a battle. That is only one of the many things I have learned from my time on Earth."
Shatterstar's thoughts drift back to the mutants' war with the Phalanx and what his then superior Havok had told him. "This mission requires a certain amount of stealth. It DOESN'T need some cowboy riding in on his white horse, and blowing "charge" on his bugle. If you think about it for a moment, you'll understand why your name wasn't on our list." Waiting to be called to battle, Shatterstar thought long and hard about what Havok had said. He finally realized where his strategy had always failed his people. By being over-aggressive in battle, they all but sealed their defeat. Not only did such tactics give Mojo higher ratings, but they also kept victory out of their hands. So now the rules older than Shatterstar himself change, and overt is replaced with covert.
<A Short Time Later>
The disguised Alliance marches onward, but despite Shatterstar's best efforts to hide it, he was considerably weakened by their brief battle; having yet to fully recuperate from the dramatic use of his powers during his battle with Spiral. Soon they arrive at the Arena, the pit of despair that is all too often the doom of many Alliance warriors. Hiding behind a small mountain, the army prepares. If this mission is to succeed, everything must work according to plan.
<Guard Tower 4>
"Hey Sheck! View this! That Death Squad Mojo V sent to raid the farming colony in Sector 4d-12 just came back with a cart load of Cadre Warriors primed for the pits!"
"You gotta be kidding me. There's no way that group coulda tagged those rebels."
"I am so not joking here, come and scan it for yourself."
"Forget it Milton, I'll take your word for it, every biped has his day y'know. Let 'em in."
<Inside the Arena>
With no one in the guard towers even suspecting a raid, the Protectorate will not be alerted to the Cadre's presence until it is far too late to do anything about it; allowing them quick and easy access to the inner chambers of the Arena completely undetected. According to Shatterstar's plan, they all split into their own separate groups and attend to their assignments. Shatterstar leads his party to the Casting Area, where all the captured Alliance warriors are prepared for battle.
"Rictor, you and Deadpool take the left side, me and Adam will take the right. Wildwind, take the rest of the Alliance down the middle while we cut around their backside. We will trap them in the center. Go!"
"Shatterstar, Rictor told me just recently about everything that's happened since we last met. Including what you learned about your past from Spiral and the files back on Earth. Are you going to be all right with that?" Adam says, crawling through a large pipe next to Shatterstar.
"There is a mission to be accomplished, my personal concerns can wait for... HURK!" Shatterstar stumbles slightly, gripping his chest in pain.
"Shatterstar! Are you all right!" he says, quickly grabing his friend's shoulder.
"Keep your voice down Adam, and yes, I am all right; the extensive use of my powers has merely weakened my endurance levels somewhat. That, in conjunction with our battle with the Death Squad, has been very taxing on my body."
"I'll say." Adam looks over to see Deadpool and Rictor waiting for them. "They're ready 'Star. Do we strike?"
"Yeah.... have a party." He says, grinning lightly to himself at the thought. Cable did have an effect on him after all.
Adam gives the signal and the battle begins. Quickly subduing the guards, the Alliance frees the captured warriors and gives them their weapons. Then they wait for the show to begin.
<The View Screen>
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! WELCOME TO THE SEASON FINALE OF THE HIGHEST RATED PROGRAM IN HISTORY... "ARENA"!! WE HAVE A TERRIFIC SHOW FOR YOU TONIGHT WITH AN EXTRA SPECIAL GUEST JOINING US THIS LOVELY EVENING! GIVE A WARM WELCOME TO... drum roll please... THE ESTEEMED, THE LAUDED, THE VICIOUS AND RECENTLY CAPTURED DEPUTY LEADER OF THE CADRE ALLIANCE.... WINDSONG!!"
The crowd goes wild as her cage is lowered down into the Pit. When the pool of burning acid opens beneath her, the masses exalt even more. And with that, the lights go out and the strobes flash onto the balcony. The row of Giant Spineless Ones begin drumming and chanting once again. The chanting grows louder and louder and louder until it becomes deafening as the entire Arena-full of viewers starts to follow in synch. In the Pit, a giant door swings open and the Alliance pours out in a wave. From across the Arena, the Protectorate prepares for its first strike, but the Alliance acts first. Running at each other in a blinded fury of blades and bullets, the two powerful armies attempt to destroy the other. This is what the warriors of the Cadre Alliance were born and bred to do; to destroy their enemies without conscience or feeling, their insatiable need for freedom constantly compelling them to go past the lines of mortal endurance. Even after all this time, the heat and passion of it all envelops Shatterstar like a perfectly tailored glove. Sense and reason give way to rage and anger. His vision clouds with shades of crimson red. The blood lust of the Arena has returned to him again. But can these people of such violence ever learn to live in a world of peace? A mystery for another time perhaps. . . .
Amongst the blood of the fallen, four noble warriors press their way forward; forward towards their goal.
"Deadpool! Mark 32 by Gridlev 8, that is our target!" Shatterstar says, slashing his way through his opponents.
"Huh!?!" Deadpool glances back, while still managing to fight his antagonist.
"Twelve o'clock high! The viewing box!" Shatterstar points to the large, glass-walled enclosure at the head of the Arena.
"Well why didn't you just say that!" He turns back to his opponent. "Will you just die already!" and the Dog Soldier's head rolls.
"LOOK AT 'EM GO! THEY'RE PUSHING THEMSELVES RIGHT UP TO THE VIEWING BOX! IT'S AS IF THEY'RE TAUNTING OUR BELOVED BULBOUS BROADCASTER, MOJO V!"
"Would somebody shut that guy up, he talks more than I do!" Deadpool cuts his way through his opponents and then takes a shot at the announcer with his gun.
"HEY!!! NO ATTACKING THE HOST! WHERE'D HE GET A GUN ANYWAY?" The announcer then storms off to get behind a protective Mojonium shield.
In the Viewing Box, MojoV watches the battle intently. Despite what he says, he fears the outcome. He can feel Shatterstar's presence. He knows that his time has come, and anxiously watches the battle unfold. As the battle begins to pull in the favor of the Protectorate, he offers a hollow yell of excitement.
<Meanwhile... in the Pit...>
"Shatterstar, this fight's getting WAAAAAY out of hand here!"
"I am inclined to agree with you Julio, this battle is turning decidedly in the Protectorate's favor."
"Hold up, I got an idea, but this is something I've never done before. So cross your fingers!"
Rictor charges up his mutant gift of vibration and instead of releasing that energy in large concentrated blasts, he lets the energy pour from his hands in a wave. The vibro-pulse flows slowly across the battlefield into the Protectorate. And as it does, the ones hit double-over in pain, for they have just felt the insides of their bodies being shaken and their eardrums being popped. The incapacitated Protectorate fall, leaving the battlefield clear for the Cadre to move. The Mindless Masses exalt at the new and intriguing turn of events. Not since the long-lost days of the X-Men has the Protectorate suffered so greatly. Growing steadily more frightful of his doomed fate, MojoV stops the battle.
"My dear viewers, I have an announcement! This battle is ended, for the first time in history, the Arena games will end in a battle between two, and ONLY two men. They will fight to the death for the life of Windsong! Only if they manage to kill one or the other in the time allotted will she survive. To be renewed for another season."
"Which two?" the Masses ask in unison.
"These two men of my choosing are... the Birdman off-worlder known as Adam-X, otherwise called the X-Treme and the one... the only... THE SHATTERSTAR!"
The crowd leaps up at the mere mention of his name. From out of the red mist walks Adam-X and then from behind him Shatterstar. His uniform is stained pure crimson from head to toe in the blood spilt by his ill-fated opponents.
"I underestimated your cowardice MojoV, I should have expected you to do something dishonorable like this." Shatterstar shouts from the Arena floor.
"Woulda, coulda, shoulda you puny insect! No matter what the prophecies say, I will NOT die by your hands this day!" MojoV freezes, realizing his mistake.
The crowd goes dead silent as they realize what they had been subliminally led to forget. That 100 years past, on this very day, was the Day of the Red Moons. The prophecies of are old are finally being put to the test.
"The prophecies are FALSE people! Look at him, he is nothing!"
"Then why do you fear me? Why do you stop the games, MojoV? You know your destiny cannot be denied!!"
As the words pass through his lips, Shatterstar realizes the truth of what Spiral had told him. No matter what happens, no matter how hard you try to change it, Destiny will always come for you.... in the end.
"ENOUGH! You will play my game or Windsong will die! Your choice!" His arrogant display does nothing to hide the evident fear in his voice.
"Shatterstar, is it just me, or is there something disturbingly familiar about all of this?" Adam asks as he steps in front of Shatterstar, hands on his blades and poised for action.
"You versus me for the life of Windsong? Yes, I remember Arcade's ruse quite well."
"Yeah well, this time it isn't a ruse. She's real.... very real... and what are we gonna do about it?" They move in a circle across from one another, eyes locked in a deathly stare.
"There is not a chance that MojoV will keep his end of the bargain Adam, we both know that."
"I'm sorry 'Star, but I can't risk it. I... I love her." And with tears in his eyes, Adam-X leaps at Shatterstar. Weakened from the use of his powers earlier and the battles just before, Shatterstar barely has time or energy to fight Adam-X properly. Sensing no other alternative, Shatterstar does what he can to protect himself while at the same time trying not to hurt Adam.
"Adam, do not do this! Can you not see Mojo's trickery? Windsong will die unless we work together! Trust me, Adam, you know it in your heart that I am right!" With that, Shatterstar drops his blades. "I will not fight you Adam, if you would preserve Windsong's life over my own, then so be it." He extends his arms out and leans his head forward.
Adam stands across from the defenseless Shatterstar. He raises his ax-blade over his head slowly. He takes a slow and very deep breath, closes his eyes, whisper's a small prayer to a pair of gods he has never believed in; and at the last moment Adam throws his weapon not at Shatterstar, but at the Viewing Box, though it barely scratches the virtually unbreakable Mojonium plating.
"Feh! It's always the same isn't it, if you want something done, you've gotta do it yourself." Mojo then walks over to the main console and opens a small compartment to reveal a lever.
"When I pull this lever, not only will you're beloved Windsong be dropped into the acid pool, but the Pit itself will fill with the deadly liquid."
"But sir! We, your loyal Protectorate, will die as well!!"
"BWA HA HA HA! Well, you simply can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs now can you!! Sorry, it's an old Terran expression." He places his cold hand on the handle and slowly pulls the lever.
The remaining Protectorate run towards their exit but are quickly consumed by the acid that pours from it. Suddenly, Windsong's cage is cut loose as well and there is almost no time to act. Adam runs towards it but knows he will be too late....
As Windsong's cage plummets unceasingly towards the bubbling pool, Adam knows there is nothing he can do to save his love, but he does not stop. His actions are in vain, however, as a man emerges from the balcony to stop him...
<X-Mansion; the Grounds>
"...Look Cable, Ah understand that ya might be feelin' a little cross with the Professor an' all, ah mean, he's been actin' kinda diff'rent, but..."
"But I should still act like his errand boy. Tell me, did he send you out here? I said no and you've known me long enough to know that I meant it."
"Ah thought you had more faith in me than that, sir. No, Xavier didn't send me out here to reel you back in, ah came out here 'cause ah still care about what happens both ya'll AND the X-Men. Ah ain't blind Cable, ah've seen you gettin' more an' more cross with him, but ah don't want ta be put inta a position of choosin' between the two a'ya. If ya catch mah meanin'."
"Subtle as an anvil, Sam. Now let me be equally subtle, unless Xavier stops ignoring the fact that X-Force is *not* his team, then things will come to a head. You can count on that."
"Then why ain't ya left yet? Ya'll ain't prisoners, ya'll can leave anytime ya damn well feel like it."
"My parents. There are things I still need to resolve with them before I go."
--Only half a lie. True, I've been wanting to tell them about some things for a long time, but with Xavier acting so strange... what I saw and heard in the future a few weeks ago... and now this Onslaught thing working it's way right under our noses... I can't leave yet. If there's one thing I hate, it's a mystery that isn't mine, and I can feel something on the Astral Plane, growing, becoming more powerful. I can't think about anything else, especially not finding another home, until all this pans out.--
"Yer right Cable, ah've known you a long time. An' ah've known ya' long enough to tell when yer hidin' somethin'. You can keep all your secrets, Nathan, ah don't really care. Just don't hurt anyone ah care for in the process, ya might not like the side ah end up on." They eye each other briefly in silence, looking for the truth in the other.
"Subtle as an anvil, Sam." Cable walks away towards the mansion, leaving Sam along on the grounds to think... about how little he knows of the man he has trusted like a father, and how he'll never really understand what motivates a man like Nathan Dayspring Summers to do what he does.
<The Arena; the balcony>
"Hello boys and girls, it's Deadpool to the rescue!!" He tosses away the body of the announcer and swings down towards the cage. "Ohweeohweehoh!!!!!!!" <The Tarzan call>
Swooping faster and faster down from the balcony, Deadpool catches the steel chain on top of Windsong's cage in mid-fall, pulling it away from the pit... and dislocating his shoulder in the process. The cage crashes to the ground and Windsong jumps free unharmed. Deadpool himself swings to the other end of the Arena, grabbing his arm in agony.
"Windsong! You're all right!" As Adam runs up to her he tries to hug her, but instead all he gets is a hard punch in the face.
"How dare you risk Lord Shatterstar's life! His life is far, far more valuable than mine! You shou..."
"ENOUGH! We do not have time to argue, the only way out I can see is by Deadpool's rope. Hurry, we must leave before the entire Arena is burned down!"
The small group of survivors scramble at the rope. Only a few of the Cadre survived the battle and fewer survived the acid flood. When everyone who could do so made it to the top of the rope and the Arena, and Deadpool was pulled up holding on with one hand, Shatterstar called in his back-up plan, and a small squadron of personnel carriers roars towards the Arena. The survivors grabbed onto the ropes and ladders and pulled away just in time before the Arena collapsed on itself.
"We... won?!?" Rictor exclaims, rather surprised at the outcome of their supposed suicide mission.
"Yes Rictor, we did, with the Arena gone, Mojo's sick dynasty has fallen at long last. Now Talismane shall rise once again from the ashes of Mojoworld -- Come my friends, for tonight we celebrate!!" Shatterstar, with a smile on his face for the first time in a long time, looks towards the rising moons. Clear, white moons. The blood red color of crimson washed away along with Mojo's reign of terror. The wonderous ways of a magical dimension.
<Later That Night...>
The night is a joyful one. With the enormous burden of oppression finally lifted off their chests, the Cadre Alliance rejoice in song and dance with the other residents of Talismane. Long-lost songs are sung for the first time in over a century -- stories and myths older than time itself it seems are recited once again by the Ancient Delphi -- even the smallest denizens of the planet come out of hiding, their fear of the overworld gone. Their innocent joy and light-hearted playfulness infectuously incites the Cadre to do the same. Adam dances joyously with Windsong, for even her cold resolve has found relief in the festivities. Fireworks explode in the clear night skies. Shatterstar sits peacefully on his small wooden throne with true joy in his heart, his wife and dear friends at his side. His world is free. His heart's greatest desire has been fulfilled at last. He calls for a toast.
"My valiant brothers and sisters of the Cadre, my friends; for the first time in a century and more past on this blood-soaked planet, Peace reigns supreme! Raise your swords to the stars and moons that dot our skies. Rejoice, for now we are FREE!!"
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