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Ashes In The Wind
An Elseworlds Style X-men Story
It was a cold and bitter day when Peter Nicholas Rasputin disemebarked from the passanger plane and entered the London Airport. He was tired beyond words as he forced himself to get out of his seat and retrieve his carry-on luggage. His ears were hurting like they always did when he flew in a large airplane. Pressure differentials wouldn't have bothered him if he has been in the steel form of Colossus, but secrecy was of the utmost importance on this errand. As it was they were making a desperate trade between stealth and time.
He was near to what Professor Xavier thought was the heart of darkness and the lair of the Shadow King; Muir Island! He had to be cautious or he would risk the same fate as before when the Shadow King had found him as a struggling artist by the name of Peter Nicholas. The X-men had gone to that god-forsaken rock in the middle of the sea and had never returned.
He had been happy as Peter Nicholas and the love of the transformed Callisto had been of great comfort to him. He had loved that life and it had fulfilled him in ways he wouldn't have believed when he had been an X-man. But there had friends as close as he had ever been with the X-men, respect, status and an outlet for his creativity. Instead of a brutal war for racial equality that he had grown weary of, he had found himself part of a vital and growing community. Life had not been perfect by any means, but he had found a measure of contentment doing what he truly loved. Then the Shadow King had come and stolen it all alway from him. He hated the Shadow King for this and he would have a measure of revenge, one way or the other.
As he hefted his duffel bag and exited the airport, Peter reflected on how alien this hatred was to his being. He had always been the gentle than at killing. His powerful armoured form made killing so easy and that, more than anything else, was why he should avoid it. No, whatever the creature had done to him it didn't justify killing. He had killed before, when the actions of the Marauders had driven him into a murderous rage, but he was convinced there had to be a better way. He would have to trust in the Professor to find it, and if any man could find a way it would be Charles Xavier.
Peter strolled through the bustling crowds and contemplated what lay in front of him. He was looking for Excalibur, the British equivalent of the X-men, to recruit for the cause ahead. One of the team members was a bouncing, bubbly teenager by the name of Katherine Pryde. Her friends called her Kitty Pryde and once she had been in love with Peter Rasputin. But an alien woman on a distant world had come between them and he was forced to confess his indiscretion; lying came too unnaturally to him even when the truth hurt. Now he would have to face her with all that had come and he would have to confess he still loved another. He hoped desperately that it wouldn't hurt her too much. He though for a moment about Callisto's classic beauty and about Philip and Jenny back home. He strolled over to a payphone and tried to place a call to the apartment building. Only the mechanical sound of their answering machine greeted his call. He hung up and promised himself he would try again later.
He flagged down a taxi and entered it. He gave the cabby terse instructions about his destination and paid him a couple of hundred pounds. The cabby looked at him as if he were draft, taking a taxi all the way to the West Coast of Great Britain. He settled in for a long drive to an uncertain welcome; he certainly hadn't talked to the members of Excalibur in... too long. At least Kurt would be there and Kurt could get a smile from a dead man; he missed the little elf more than he liked to admit. But then he missed many people; damn the Shadow King for bringing back all of this pain.
Excalibur's lighthouse looked deserted as he approached it. Just before the ill-fated trip to Muir Island by the X-men they had checked the lighthouse out and it had been deserted. However, just before he left, the intelligence people at the White House had confirmed that Excalibur had apparantly been seen at a cheerleading competition (of all places). He shook his head in wonder, the thought of Kitty Pryde as a cheerleader was positively amusing.
He walked up to the door cursing his aching feet. Couldn't they have placed their headquarters closer to the mainland? The causeway was long and treacheous and he was feeling extremely tired. He reached the door and was about to knock when some instinct betrayed a feeling of malaise. He pushed the door open and entered the lighthouse. The sight of a cluttered but quite normal entry hall greeted him. But still, the strange feeling of unease clung to him. He knew this stench and he feared it like nothing else on this earth.
Peter felt his guts slowly turn in terror. He knew what was waiting for him at the top of the stairs, and he knew how helpless he would be before it. It wasn't fair! He wasn't equipped to wage pitched psionic battles. All of his strength lay in the physical world. To go up there would be to deliver himself into the hands of that monster... again. It was all Xavier's fault. He should have realized splitting the team was a mistake. The first time he had done this had been a disaster. Why did he do it a second time? Nobody would blame him if he just turned and ran for his life... would they? No, nobody would blame him but he would never forgive himself. The strength he had to find resided in the heart, mind and soul. He would find a way, no matter the cost.
He took the first step on the winding stairs, and it was the hardest step he had ever taken. He kept climbing the stairs and forced himself to focus on what had to be done. He needed to do what he could to prevent what was happening above. He checked each level as he reached it, but there was nothing to find. First an empty living room and them a couple of levels with bedrooms. The lower of the two bedroom levels had several of his paintings on the walls; it must be Kitty's room. As he climbed voices slowly became apparant.
"... can't you see you have already lost, baby Phoenix?"
"Not while I still have the strength of heart, will and mind to resist you, Legion. I don't know why you are doing this but you aren't taking me without a fight."
A cry of pain rang out. "Alistaire Stuart, what a nasty little surprise you had waiting for poor little old me! I think it might have even done the trick if you had been able to carry out your intention. Such inventive genius will be of great use in my service." The first voice exclaimed in a sing song taunt. The screaming began again and Colossus ran up the stairs in his armoured form. As he rounded the top of the stairs he could see several individuals sprawled on the floor struggling against imaginary bonds. A handsome young man in a trenchcoat was screaming and Rachel was kneeling on the floor before a young man, with long black hair that went off in all directions. Legion! David Haller turned at the sudden noise of the armoured form of Colossus and their eyes met.
Peter stared into his eyes and recognized the darkness brimming within through the look of shock and surprise. He had an instant to react and he did. His right arm swung with a backhand that would have shattered a brick wall. David's face, twisted and malavant, spun away as Legion plummeted to the ground. One more blow, Peter thought, will finish him once and for all. But I can't do it! That would be murder. That is the Professor's son, an innocent possessed by a demonic madman, as much a victim as I was. He reached down and grabbed Legion and in that instant lost the fight. Psionic tendrils burrowed into his mind and shut him down instantly.
"Silly boy, you should have struck when you had the chance. Now you're mine once again. Silly Xavier for sending you! Didn't he realize tha... ARRRGGGHHHH"! Legion buckled over screaming for an instant and then collapsed to the floor. Professor Stuart stood behind him with some sort of device he had snapped around the young man's neck.
"Shouldn't have turned your back on me, Legion." He reached to prop up the staggering Colossus as he reverted to human form, reeling from the shock of the sudden psionic attack.
Peter looked into his eyes and then slowly passed out.
"Thank you, Kurt." Peter ventured as the fuzzy elf pressed a hot cup of hot chocolate into his hands.
"The least I can do for a friend. Especially one with your sense of timing. I think we might have been taken without your aid. Legion took us totally by surprise."
"It was the least I could do for an old friend like you, Kurt." Peter glanced over at Kitty but she avoided his gaze and stared at her cup of hot chocolate. The others all seemed shocked by the suddeness and brutality of the attack, except Storm who seemed to be taking charge. She was putting on a brave front but Peter knew her too well to think she was unaffected by the events.
"So what did you use on him, Alistaire?" Storm inquired.
"A Genoshoan slave collar." Alistaire looked a bit sheepish. "Kitty and I were going to work on some basic countermeasures against them. With his telepathy blocked it appears that Legion is free of the Shadow King."
"Speaking about that, what are you doing here, Storm? The Professor claimed you had been sent to Muir Island with the rest of the X-men. We had given you up for lost there." Peter asked.
"When we stormed the Island Legion knocked me out of the air. I survived, barely, but I didn't have the strength to face him in straight combat. I fled, he followed. We fought. I survived. I came here looking for aid and nearly caused a disaster." Storm looked sternly at Rachel who melted beneath her gaze.
"I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have. We had just had a dispute with Galactus about my fate and I was too busy thinking about... other things. Legion caught me by surprise and I never had a chance to regain my second wind... until you came along that is." Rachel winked at Peter who promptly blushed. Kitty shot Rachel a glare that could have shriveled a lesser being.
*But you should know how much of a coward I was! You read minds. How can you forgive me my terror?* Peter thought at Rachel.
*You came and that means a lot. You overcome your fear and did your best agianst impossible odds. Most would have run for it and it would be hard to blame them. Don't sell yourself short, Peter.*
"So what do we do now?" Brian inquired. He hugged Meggan to him. They were not used to the more brutal sort of foe that the X-men had acquired over the years. Slaymaster had been cruel, brutal and evil, but he was only a man. Legion, and the Dark King behind him, were more like a rampaging force of nature that felled all in their path.
"We will have to see whether or not Xavier's mission is successful. I have great faith in Magnus. He is a better man than most people give him credit for. I think he will support us in this. With his aid I don't think the Shadow King can prevail. Bright Goddess, I pray I'm right or else the whole world will be plunged into darkness." Storm replied.
"Uh, guys. I just wanted to say that WHO has been working on portable psi screens. Why don't we head over there and see about cobbling some together as a back-up plan?" Alistaire looked sheepishly at Rachel, intuitively seeking approval.
"A cadre of elite Brtish soldiers would not go amiss in such a confrontation. An excellent suggestion, Professor." Brian commented. The notion of action, of something tangible to fight, seemed to reassure him. Meggan looked at him with worried eyes.
"Very well. But I have a feeling that we are missing something." Kurt commented. "I just can't quite put my finger on it..."
"Worry about it later, Kurt. There are X-men trapped on Muir Island and they are counting on us to bail them out. Let's not disappoint them." Storm suggested.
Excalibur exited their lighthouse and began to fly towards the mainland. Still, Kurt couldn't shake the dim feeling that they were all making a hideous error.
Next Issue: Magneto