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Ashes in the Wind
An Elseworld's Style X-men Story
J. A. C. Delaney, 1996
<An Island in the Bermuda Triangle>
<POV: Charles Xavier>
I listen to Warren's report but I don't really listen. I have forgotten how intense the psionic bond is between Magneto and myself. Even here, fifteen miles away, I can feel the might of the Master of Magnetism. In some ways he is the only real friend I have ever had; with both the strength to be a peer and the mind to follow my convoluted thinking.
I guide the blackbird in; realizing how little control I have over this motly assortment of heroes. Warren is scarred and changed in ways I haven't yet truly explored. Bobby is dependable; but his weak character makes him suspect when I am hunting a psionic foe. Pietro hates me for convincing his sister to come along so soon after her loss; and I can't say he is unjustified. Wanda wants to help Magneto; not to use him as a weapon or to finally destroy him. I need to be able to do both.
The ship lands softly and we disembark quietly. Nobody says a word and I don't blame them. Warren is waiting for us; a grim angel of death. I should have spent more time to be certain of what that madman Apocalypse had done to him. One more mistake in a lifetime of errors.
I turn to give orders and watch Quicksilver blur from view and speed off into the distance. I hope he is not doing what I suspect he is. Magneto will be easier to deal with is he doesn't expect me.
I turn and lead the others to face my greatest friend and my most bitter enemy.
"Hello Scott Summers. It has been a long time since I crossed swords with the X-men. I knew about you of course, but you were never one that I hunted. It seems that may have been an error on my part." Agent Reisz spoke to the man in the cell.
"If anyone has made an error it is you. You never stop do you? Always another sick scheme to dominate the world. You'll fail in the end like all of the others."
"And how do you come up with this astounding conclusion, Mr. Summers? As I see it, it is you who are in a cell being questioned for your role in a plot against our beloved government."
"It won't last, it never does. Villians like you always try to grab too much, and then watch as it slips through your fingers."
The Shadow King reached forward and was impressed by the formidable defences he encountered. He could break them of course, but it wouldn't be trivial. If he was going to break Scott Summers he would have to do it another way. The young man's head was filled wit images; a man who had tried so hard to do what was right that he often did what was wrong instead. He had made mistakes with his family and the pain it still caused him was delicious to a psionic leech like the Shadow King. People never liked heroes like Scott Summers; their dedication made them seem cold and their lack of vice made them seem boring.
"I have a couple of little things that I sincerely doubt will be going anywhere. A young lady named Jean Grey and a child that both you and her seem to care about. A child of great psionic potential that I will be so happy to exploit."
"Don't you DARE touch my son!"
"Why the sudden concern, Cyclops? It seems you were ready enough to abandon him to rut with that Jean Grey slut. It doesn't look like you cared very much about him."
"You know nothing! It was love that drove me to see if Jean was still alive and it was love that drove me to try to return to Madelyne after all that we had been through. I haven't been the best parent, but I have tried my best. Touch one hair on my son's head and I will kill you."
"Kill me? Awful violent of you I might note, Mr. Summers. But them you mutant terrorists are all alike. Hurt him? What ever gave you that idea? I want him to be me. Yes, I can see by the look on your face you see what I am talking about. I need a new host to replace this dead hunk of slowly deteriorating flesh. Your son do perfectly."
Scott screamed and howled, throwing himself against the bars of the cell in a mad attempt to break free.
"Just think, it has a poetic ring... 'And a child shall lead them.'" The Shadow King broke out into hideous laughter. "Don't worry, Scott, the evidence against you is weak and you will be released after an investigation. However, you are already guilty in the eyes of the press and your release will inflame righteous indignation. By them I will have done all that I need to do to little Christopher..."
Scott looked at him, his face unreadable beneath the ruby red glasses he wore. Psionic tendrils found the man reeking of hate. Excellent, the Shadow King thought, hate is the first step into my domain. Breaking you will be one more way of making Xavier hurt... of making Xavier pay for killing the body in which I was born. I will have my revenge yet!
But now it was time to leave the bounds of earthly flesh and return to Muir Island. What a wonderful place it had become, it was far better than any of the blood-sports he had created in his earlier incarnations. That Lorna Dane had become a wonderful woman and she had created the ultimate paradise for one like him. Invisible to all, he smiled.
The call of the red rage was a faint echoing in the back of Wolverine's skull; like a gale that had already expended it's force and rattled around for a short while before expending itself. Not that the bitter sickness had left the island, but that it no longer seemed to be able to effect him as it did earlier.
He prowled through the mutant containment center; certain that the source of the rage must be here. He crept through a doorway into the maximum security wing. Things were quiet, too quiet. The Shadow King wasn't foolish enough to leave this unguarded, was he?
Logan forced aching muscles to respond as he crept through shadows towards his goal. Only a will of iron had kept him from giving up given the amount of damage he had taken. His healing factor had never recovered from when Donald Pierce had crucified him on a cross shaped like an X. Since then he had begun rejecting his adamantium skeleton. The very healing factor that had been his saving grace so many times was slowly killing him. Combined with the wounds that Gambit had inflicted on him, Logan didn't have much more left in him.
He rounded a corner and saw the last line of defence that was keeping him from his goal. The red rage was like a high pitched whine in the background; without his new immunity he would have been drawn into an endless pit of berserker rage. The very fear that had consumed much of his life as an X-man would have been realized at last. He was so near to the source of the sickness that he could taste it.
In front of a door labeled "Mutant X: Very Dangerous" stood Rogue. She was embracing a filthy, billowing form that seemed to fade in and out of existence. It was frightening, but it wasn't the source of the dark and savage rage that gripped this island. Instead it reminded Logan of a dark and swollen leech that was feasting on the evil that throbbed in the air.
"Well Sugah, Ah figure if anyone would make it this far it would be you." Rogue said as she twisted in the monster's insubstantial embrace.
"Outta the way, girl. I don't have the time for this, not now."
*No, you don't.* a voice said in his skull, raspy and dry like that of a corpse. *I feel your pain and I taste your despair. You don't have enough to defeat me . . . and the rest have already fallen.*
"Do yer best, bub. Better be sure it is enough." With a growl and a snarl, Wolverine lept for Rogue while tendrils of psionic energy burned into his mind. His claws tore at her face as her fists pulverized his flash against his adamatium bones and they locked into mortal combat.
<Above Muir Island>
*The source of the sickness is directly below us, Peter. Are you ready?* Phoenix asked the man she carried in psionic claws.
*Ready? You must be kidding. But I'll do what needs to be done. Let's get this over with, I can feel the psionic disturbance through the psi-link and it is truly disgusting.* Colossus replied.
The bird of fire and the man of steel swept downward to face the source of the evil.
<Muir Island: maximum security detention wing>
Rogue kicked the helpless Wolverine across the room, gloating at the grunt of pain she managed to force from him. He lay in a pool of blood and vomit as she sauntered over to him. He tried to move with the all the frenzy of his berserker soul, but his limbs continued to spasm in shock at the sheer force of the blow.
She stood above him like a hunting tigress, fierce and proud. Her right eye was gone and three scars ran down the right side of her face where he had tagged her wit his claws. She ignored the pain, caught up in the rapture of the moment; the glory of the kill.
She drew her hand back to finish him when the voice of her lover suggested a better way. She smirked at his sadistic wit and flew over to the wall to retrieve the kerosene and the matches.
*Invulnerable skeleton and a healing factor second to none won't do much good against fire. You resisted my dominion, Wolverine, and I take that personally. I will enjoy this.* the Shadow King gloated.
Rogue sprinkled part of the bottle of kerosene over him despite a pitiful attempt on his part to dodge the stream of fluid. She smiled and dropped a match. He screamed as the fire began to burn into him. She and her astral lover smiled, they would do this slowly.
His cries masked the arrival of a couple of recent arrivals to Muir Island. Rachel stumbled as soon as she realized what they were doing to Wolverine. She had no reason to love the man and a pile of them to loathe him, but she sickened by what they were doing to him.
Colossus was much more decisive as he crossed the room in three strides, grabbed the bottle from Rogue and smashed it against the wall. "Have you gone insane?" he bellowed at her, even as his gut began to turn as he recognized the shadowy from beside her. He had never seen the astral form of the Shadow King, but he had felt the his power when Jacob Reisz had yanked him out of a life he loved and into servitude.
*More playmates, how wonderful.*
"Not for the likes of you!" Rachel unleashed a barrage of psionic energy across the astral plane at the Shadow King.
*Once that would have been enough, baby Phoenix, but no longer. I am greater now and you are in my dominion and my place of power. He I am the master!* The two titans of psionic ability locked in an intense barrage of psychic energy as each strove to defeat the other.
Rogue swung at Colossus, her punch slamming into his nigh invulnerable skin. He responded with a backhand from he blind-spot and into the damaged area of her face. They locked into combat, with Colossus trying to bring his superior strength to bear while Rogue used her speed to her advantage.
But nobody noticed the charred ruin of man begin to crawl towards a distant destination.