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Ashes in the Wind
An Elseworld's Style X-men Story
J. A. C. Delaney, 1996
The death toll among the inhabitants of this small Scottish island had been utterly ghastly. The strange madness that had affected this place had set mother against child and father against son. The closest of friends were willing to murder each other over the smallest things. It was insanity, complete and utter.
Vetern soldiers who had thought that they had seen it all were rendered place by the sheer horror of it all. In the space of a few days the inhabitants of the isle had been massacred and there were very few survivors.
The X-men who had ventured into the island to determine what had gone wrong were mostly dead now, although their leader Storm was in charge of the team from Britian, Excalibur. They found Banshee with his chest crushed in a gully by a river with a weeping Moira hunched over the corpse of the man she loved. Nearby, a smashed and tattered Forge was found, half drowned in a river.
Wolverine was dead from wounds that should have stopped a dozen men, at the last his fabled healing factor just wasn't enough. His old foil on the team, Gambit, had had his guts torn open and bled to death just outside the main complex. Even the assassin Psylocke had met her final ending here. It was slaughter, pure and simple.
Storm surveyed the rescue efforts with a grim face. There were so many dead and so little that could be done. According to Peter and Rachel, the taint had been the result of the former Marauder Polaris and the twisted powers she had received as a result of her treatment at the hands of Zaladane. But nobody was quite sure of what the role was of a strange voice that had talked to some of the people on the island and seemed to have controlled the degeneration into savagery. Rachel claimed it was an old foe of Charles Xavier having fun. If that were true then things were worse than they seemed.
The X-men had come back from worse defeats in the past but Storm was just too drained to try and consider this. Too drained and too defeated by the horror of it all. So she focused on helping those she could and burying those that she couldn't.
After all these years of struggle, this is what it came to. Was it a fault in the dream, or in the way that they had sought to fulfill it?
<Washington, D.C.:Hospital Bed>
"Don't struggle now. I am giving you all that I can." The demon sorceress remarked as she slowly drained the nurse and fed her life essence into the shattered body of Cyclops. "The bastard nearly got you. Must be getting slow in your old age." Amanda Sefton commented as she used her now twisted magic to try and heal the dying man.
*Don't trifle with me. I am still far more than your match, woman!* the Shadow King broadcast to the young woman. *He got me by surprise. It is impossible to flawlessly guard against suicides.*
"Lucky for you he wasn't certain which one was you. Killed the rest and would have killed you too if I hadn't come along."
*Enough. He is dead and that is all that matters. Who else got out of Muir Island?*
"Of those loyal to you? Me and Rogue. Nobody else. Guess teleporting is a useful talent in these sorts of cases. It will take Rogue a couple of hours to get across the Atlantic Ocean. Until then you have just got me."
*Wonderful. Any more good news?*
"That Grey woman not only seems to have disappeared but she seems to be behind a kid-napping of a child last night. Balls of brass to try something like this so close to us..."
*I WANT HIM BACK. GO! Find her and kill her, but bring the child back to me!* The Shadow King screamed in silent rage.
"Calm down. I can hardly leave you here with a dead corpse lying on the ground..."
*It is no matter. The doctors will see what I want them to see and by the time they know the difference it will be too late.* He watched as Sefton vanished in a blaze of light. Much had been ruined by that fool Vashkin, but he was still alive and his adversary was dead. He had weathered far worse before and emerged triumphant. Only Xavier had ever really balked him, but the time had come for vengance for that mistake on Xavier's part. He rose to his feet and staggered for the door. He would have to consider how to turn the course of events to his advantage.
<An Island in the Bermuda Triangle>
"So, explain to me why I shouldn't kill you for all the harm you have done to me and mine?" The battered man in red armour asked the bald man standing over him.
"Funny, Magneto, that I found myself asking the same question. How is it that we, both defenders of the emerging new potential of humanity, should be such bitter enemies."
"You opposed me. Back in the beginning, when I saw the course of future events and sought to prevent them, you and your students rose to challenge me. We both sought to defend Homo Sapiens Superior, and in that we are alike. But I saw the truth while you dreamed of fantasies; that there could be a birth without blood and pain."
"A dream you followed for a while."
"And learned the bitter price for doing so. I don't know if the dream was unworthy, or if it was me that was unable to rise to the challenge but it was not my dream. Storm and I pledged our allegiance to the Hellfire club together, and yet she is an honored member of the X-man and I am the victim of assults by their founder."
"Perhaps because it is the heart and mind and soul that count, not the empty words that we speak. Perhaps it is because she remained true to the dream while you abandoned it. I always had hope for you, Magneto, but I see now that I was wrong to think that you could be different. A villian you are, and a villian you will always be. It was only a matter of time before you reverted to type."
"Is that really what you think, Charles. Has nothing I have done meant a damn." Magneto began to glow softly. He was drawing in magnetic energy, Xavier realized, just as if he expects a fight.
"Yes it has. Losing Doug and Illyana means everything. I sent Illyana back to you, Magnus. I TRUSTED that you would keep her safe and steer her away from her dark side. And what happened? They are gone or dead, and the rest of my younger students are the pawns of a ruthless mercenary named Cable. What am I supposed to think? That you did a good job?"
"I am what I am. You can accept that or not as you please, I no longer care what you think. In the dawn of my life I suffered a holocaust and now, on the verge of another, I do not care what you think. Your naive approach has only made the inevitable more likely, and I cannot tolerate that. I once though that to escape our inevitable destiny as sheep going to the slaughter that we must fight. In that I was wrong."
"I see. So you have given up fighting?"
"On the contrary, I have given up all hope of victory. Our foes are legion, both with and without the X-factor. Do you think I can tolerate a slaughter of Homo Sapiens Sapiens any easier? And yet, if the humans win they will exterminate us. So we fight, but the greatest of mutants are no different than the least of the humans. Do you think madmen like Apocalypse will show mercy to defeated humans?"
"So why fight if it will only bring about evil? why not embrace a dream of peace?"
"Because there can be no peace at this point in the races evolution. We will learn the hard way if mutant abilities are really a survival characteristic, rather than assuming it. All that we can do is to resist evil whenever possible. Not because we expect to win, but because there is no other choice."
"That is nonsense, Magnus. Is your heart so black that you can see nothing else besides this sort of endless war. What about hope?"
"Hope died for me, along with nearly everyone that I ever cared about. It is too late to learn to work together, Charles."
"What about your children?"
"The one's who so readily attacked me? I was never a father to them and it would have been better of they had never known of our relation. Being related to me is more of a curse than anything else. No, I care not what they do. Any hope of recounciling with them passed long ago. I will collect Lee and we will leave here."
"That won't be possible."
"Do you think to defeat me while I am fully aware? Take your best shot, but be prepared for the consequences."
"No, it isn't you. I'll let you leave since the alternative is killing you. I could have done it, but it would have made a mockery of the dream I espouse. No, it is Miss Forrester that is the problem. You see... there has been an accident with her. I'm afraid she won't being going anywhere for a while."
"Accident? Take me to her, NOW." The Master of Magnetism rose to his full height and stared at his old rival. Charles turned and led Magneto to the bedside of his critically injured leman. But what would Magneto do when he learned the real story behind her injuries?