|DISCLAIMER: Any character you recognize is the property of Marvel Comics and is used without permission for entertainment purposes only.
Warning: This story may deal with adult issues, so be forewarned.
This one's for Alicia. She knows why.
Just Lucky, I Guess
Cable swallowed tightly, unable to do anything but stare at the scene before him in abject horror. He looked up with haunted eyes to see Tyler laughing, arms stretched open wide. The golden child he'd adored with all his heart, the man who'd grown into the monster he'd buried in Kentucky, now lived again, cruelty glinting in his crystal blue eyes.
'You know damn well that's not him,' Nathan chided himself angrily, unable to look away from the handsome blond man smiling so brightly at him. He looked identical to Tyler- so close to the original as to take his breath away. 'It's a clone, dammit, it's not him, it's not Tyler. . .' Memories of his son's funeral surged back to him in a powerful flood. Cable closed his eyes against the pain.
Intellectually, he knew all about cloning. He owed his very life to the procedure- not as directly as once he thought, but as the son of a clone he knew better than to harbor the prejudices some of his Clansmen had against those duplicated, not born. Even now, knowing the havok his own clone, Stryfe, had inflicted upon humanity, he knew better than to blindly hate and fear the procedure with the hot fervor his people had. An odd thought struck his mind, and he laughed sharply, without any trace of humor. 'It's more than that. The clone of the son of the clone of the son of a clone. . .' The laugh almost twisted into a sob.
". . ." he began, but couldn't find adequate words to describe the maelstrom of emotions he was feeling. Instead, he focused his vision again on the figure hanging behind the man. Strapped to the same silver table they'd seen in Betsy's vision, Domino hung unconscious, her head lolling on her chest, a stream of blood trickling down her chin. What part of her pale skin that wasn't covered by her body armor was already mottled with livid bruises. Cable felt every muscle in his body tighten in anger, and it took every ounce of self-possession he had not to leap on the thugs standing on either side of her and break their flonqing necks. He glared at them instead, and was perversely pleased to see both take an involuntary step backwards.
The man who thought of himself as Tyler Dayspring leaned casually against the table, eyes fixed on his father. Only the slightest tautness of his features betrayed the flurry of emotions he felt at the sight of the massive silver haired man standing before him, appearing completely impassive, as always. Tyler chuckled to himself- the old man might be able to put on a good front, but he could feel it- his heightened telepathic senses easily picked up the guilt and the anger, the helplessness and pain. His lips curled up in a humorless smile.
"Glad you could join us, Father."
The two men stared at each other a long moment, taking the measure of the other. Tyler broke contact first with an uneasy chuckle, looking away for a moment. When he again faced Cable, the set of his features and the cruelly smug expression on his face looked vaugely familiar. With a sudden drop in his stomach, Cable recognized where he'd seen it before.
'The sins of the fathers,' he thought bleakly, fists clenched tightly to his side. 'Even now, coming back to haunt me.'
It was then that Tyler noticed Betsy. Sneering at the young man with every bit of the considerable arrogance her aristocratic upbringing could muster, Psylocke returned his cold stare silently.
Tyler turned to address her. "Psylocke- that *is* your silly little 'code' name, isn't it?" He tilted his head curiously. "What does that mean, anyway? What *is* a Psylocke?" Without waiting for her to answer, he sighed. "I'm terribly sorry, Psylocke, but I need a few words alone with my father. I'm sure you understand." A brief look of concentration passed over his face, and Nathan felt a harsh telepathic ripple shoot across the astral plane.
Betsy crumpled instantly to the floor. Cable, beside her, jumped, a shaken look on his face. His head snapped around, and he stared at the man he still thought of as Tyler incredulously. 'A telepath of Betsy's caliber, felled so easily? Tyler wasn't capable of that!'
Nodding to a guard to pull Betsy's fallen body out of the way, Tyler turned back to face Nathan. "Now then. Where were we?"
Cable stood stock-still, face once more drawn in a stoic mask. Wrenching his gaze away from Domino, he asked "Who are you?"
The clone snorted. "Who do you think I am? Tyler Dayspring, of course." His eyes narrowed. "Your son."
"My son died," Nathan whispered. "He died, and he's at peace now. I don't know who you are."
"How convenient for you." He sighed. "True, I was not born of a woman. It doesn't matter. I *am* Tyler Dayspring." He leaned forward. "Don't mistake me, *Father*. I remember everything. I know what you did to me- how you left me behind. That's why I'm here- to rectify the mistake I made earlier. I should have killed you the last time we met. It would have saved us all a lot of trouble."
Tyler smiled sweetly, a disconcerting contrast to his grim words. "Believe me when I say this- when I'm done, you'll wish it had been you left on that field that day." The words dripped malice.
Cable paled. "You. . .remember? You. . .know?"
"Full memory implant, *Father*. Technology derived from Sinister's primitive Marauder tanks. Rest assured, I'm still me. New flesh or not, I'm still me."
Cable ran a hand through silver hair, not wanting to puzzle through the emotions. Pete had told him this was the case, but he hadn't quite believed it. Now, though- the mannerisms, the speech, even down to the cadence of his voice- it *was* Tyler. He hadn't realized how much it would affect him until he stood here now, having a conversation with. . . "Tyler- son- what are you doing?" The words came out in a rusty whisper, his voice low and shaky.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Tyler smiled brightly, all traces of malice gone. His voice was as pleasant as if he were inquiring about a neighbor's health. "I'm ruining your life, old man. Just like you ruined mine." He glanced dismissively over his shoulder at the unconscious Domino hanging from the upright table. "This is just the beginning."
'Dom,' Cable groaned, feeling the gaping black emptiness where her light had been throb painfully in his mind. Staring past Tyler at Domino's abused figure, Nathan thought dully 'I caused this. If I'd never lost Tyler, she'd never have suffered this the first time- and he'd never have become the monster that could do this to her the first time, never have had the hate to remake himself to finish the job.'
His eyes blurred, and for a moment the image of a fat tow-headed toddler happily burbling babytalk superimposed itself over the leering man before him. Cable jerked his head away, eyes closed tightly to squeeze out the image. Memories of the gentle child Tyler had been warred with the stark images of the atrocities he'd seen in Domino's mind, the scene before him now. Underneath it all, filling his soul with blood, was the pain caused by the jagged edges of the hole in his soul where the bond with Domino had been. He bit back the anger again, forcing himself to look past it to try again to reason with Tyler. He owed it to the boy, owed it to Jenskot- owed it to himself. He very pointedly did not look at Domino.
Cable cleared his throat, ignoring the red dots of anger that made his vision swim to raise open hands in supplication. The clone- no, the *man* before him couldn't help the circumstances of his entrance into this world. All Nathan could do was try to reason with him now that he was here. "Tyler, son- you don't have to do this. I *know* this isn't you- I know the man I raised wouldn't voluntarily do something like this." He begged, throwing all traces of dignity and authority away for even the slightest chance that he might reach whatever remained of his son's essence trapped in that handsome, hate-filled shell.
Tyler's smile twisted into an ugly sneer. "The man you raised or the boy you left behind?"
Cable closed his eyes, wracked with real guilt. 'Nothing he could say to me would be worse than what I've lived with, knowing that,' he thought, and was surprised to see Tyler's head jerk up in anger.
'My, my, what weak shielding you have, Father,' Tyler taunted, mindvoice resounding in his skull. 'You're projecting like the rankest novice. Nothing? *Nothing*? Let me *show* you what I know about *nothing*!' Extending a raw tendril of psionic power, he roughly inserted a memory into Cable's mind, heedless of the jagged and torn edges where the psilink used to be. Images of Tyler's torture at the hands of Stryfe ripped instantly through his mind, supplanting his conscious thoughts.
Nathan dropped to his knees in agony, electric images of pain and suffering tore through his already anguished mind as Tyler continued his assault, slicing open Cable's weak shielding to skillfully tweak the pain center of his brain, causing the stoic veteran to cry out in helpless agony. Tyler boomed 'You leave me to die, and you call it nothing? How can you call yourself a human being? You're worse than Stryfe- at least he never pretended to care anything about me. At least he taught me the importance of strength- you- you taught me nothing but weakness! All your ideals, your principles- all your notions of fighting to free ourselves from Apocalypse- they mean nothing, old man! Don't you see? Apocalypse has it right! The only thing that matters is strength.' A pause, the mental equivalent of catching his breath. 'I suppose I should thank you for leaving me there to die. That made me strong!'
Cable couldn't respond, only knelt there on his knees, absorbing the assault as best he could, hands clasped over his head, as much as to try to block out the traitorous words resounding angrily within his head as to try to brace himself from the mental blows. His telepathy didn't work, he realized between blows, but the power was still there, and was still unconsciously absorbing some of the damage. 'Not. . .all. . .' he gasped, stunned at the unexpected level of power Tyler was exhibiting.
The flurry of blows ceased for a moment, and he forced himself to look past the emotion to actually *look* at this Tyler. In the younger man's eyes gleamed a fury, a desperation he'd seen so many times before in the Canaanite prison camps. It was the look of the survivor- one who'd been tested by pain and was determined never to suffer it again. It was a look of madness. It was a desire for revenge, and after what Nathan had just seen, he couldn't fault him.
Clone or not, this man knew suffering. Because of him.
The weeks and months of torture, the mental and physical anguish, the sense of betrayal. . . 'And God help me, I left him to that fate,' he thought, the dull realization even worse than the waves of psionic agony coursing through his mind. Just the thought made him visibly crumble.
Nathan Summers had gone through more physical than any human he'd ever known. He'd battled an excrutiating techno-organic virus most of his life, suffered on a thousand battlefields, held comrades and friends and a wife as they all died in his arms. He'd watched his people tortured and killed before him. He'd seen his son ripped away. Right now, he was watching a woman he cared for, a woman he. . . loved. . . hang on a torture rack for his sake. Nathan Summers knew pain.
He knew the scars it left on a soul. Now, more than ever, he knew why Tyler hated him so much.
Summoning his strength, he whispered again, and it was one of the hardest things he'd ever done. "Son, I know what- he- did, I know the programming he forced on you. It's not your fault, it's mine, all mine- but now we can help-" Cable looked at the floor, then back up at his son, left eye blazing with emotion. "Please stop this. Please let me help you," he pleaded, glancing at Domino hanging so limply on the wall. She'd borne the brunt of his failure. She was the one who had to pay. . .just like Aliya had paid for his mistakes so long ago. Cable looked away, unable to bear the sight any longer.
For a moment, Tyler's expression softened. Turning slightly away, the younger man closed his eyes, emotions visibly warring on his face. When he spoke, it was in halting, hestitant tones. "Father, I. . . you don't know what he did. . ."
Seeing this vulnerability, Cable felt the tears pooling in his eyes. He gave into them, and the words came pouring out in a cathartic release. "Oh, Ty, yes I do. Believe me, believe me son, if I could give my life to change what happened to you, I gladly would. You have to believe that, son. You have to." Heedless of the consequences, he pleaded with the man. If this were his opportunity for forgiveness, his second chance, he would take it gratefully. Clone or not, he could try to repent for what he'd been forced to do all those years ago.
A long moment passed, then Tyler, shuddering, turned back to face his father. The expression on his face was heartbreaking. "I did believe in you, Father," he answered, voice curiously formal. "I believed you. I believed every day you would come storming through those gates to rescue me, like you did all the others that were captured. I believed you'd come after me. I defied Stryfe, yelled your name, swore the Clan would be after me. Even if I was only a beta, I was a Clansmen, and your son. I believed you."
Cable, choked with grief, couldn't speak. He stared at the floor, mouth tasting of ashes mixed with salt.
Tyler spoke softly, three words that cut through Nathan's soul. "You didn't come." He swallowed, then went on in an emotionless voice. "You didn't come, so don't talk to me about believing you. I know better."
Behind him, Domino stirred, long limbs beginning to thrash quietly in her bonds. Cable staggered to his feet.
Fevered words poured out, anguished explanations of a betrayal that could not be explained. "I tried. Oath, I tried. But when the Dog Soldiers swarmed around you, Tetherblood pulled me back, and I couldn't feel you in my mind, I thought you were dead-"
"I don't want to hear it!" Tyler yelled aloud, startling his guards. Visibly composing himself, he smiled again, but this time it was a bit forced. "I don't want to hear it. What's past is past."
Cable swallowed once, then murmured quietly. "Then just take me. Let her go- she has nothing to do with this. You can have me and do whatever you want, everything I deserve, if you just let her go." He didn't look at Domino again, didn't trust his reaction to seeing her so in pain. He didn't know if the guilt would hold in the rage.
Sensing his thoughts, Tyler's face darkened. Taking the few steps over to where she hung, he traced a curled finger down her slack cheek. She grunted in unconscious protest.
"Isn't that sweet. You're worried about your genejoke girlfriend."
Standing there, offering himself for Domino, Cable stared at Tyler through his tears, instinctively shuddering at the leering carress. He wasn't getting through- Tyler didn't *want* to listen, to understand. All he wanted was to make Cable suffer, and was using Domino to do it. Deep inside, he felt a rage kindling so bright even the immense empathy he felt for the younger man was hard pressed hold it back. He looked at Domino again, and felt the emptiness where their link had been inside him swell up with an almost unbearable pain, a darkness far worse than Tyler's earlier psychic jabs.
Guilty as he was, responsible as he was, he would not let Domino suffer any more for his failures. He would be that much of a man.
He found it in him to make one last plea for peace. "Tyler, don't do this." His voice was calmer, steadier. He focused on the sounds of his words. "Leave here, with me. I can get you the help you need."
Ignoring his pleas, Tyler shook his head wryly, running a light hand down Domino's twitching arm. "Don't worry, Father. I won't hurt her too badly- after all, I'll still need her around after you're gone. She *is* quite a talented slut. I finally found out what you've been keeping her around for all these years for." A brief pause, then he spoke a single word in Askani.
"Forever!" Tyler spat derisively. "Forever, indeed- or at least until you could find someone else to rut with? I'm almost *glad* Mother didn't live to see your unfaithfulness," he spat, irrational jealousy and betrayal creeping into his tone.
The mention of Jenskot was all it took to push him over the edge. The rush of fury finally overtook him, burned through the emotional manipulations he finally realized he'd fallen prey to so skillfully. Nathan almost cursed himself- Aliya wouldn't have put up with this atrocity, not for a minute.
"Your. . . mother. . ." Nathan ground out "Would weep to see you like this." Suddenly remembering the vision he'd had after the crisis with Onslaught, remembering Aliya and the real Tyler at rest, Cable suddenly felt a wave of peace wash over him. He had at least that much, and nothing the tortured soul before him could do would change that.
"Your *Mother*," Cable snarled "Would be disgusted with this bullshit. She wouldn't put up with it for a minute!"
Tyler raised a fist. "How *dare* you speak of Mother?" He took an involuntary step forward. "Not while you bring your mindblind psibonded whore into my home- how could you, Father? How could you bond with this cow?"
Cable turned his head away, then looked back, all traces of uncertaintly gone. Standing up straight, he put the last of the pain aside. "It's your decision, Tyler," he said quietly. "I'm offering you this chance. If you don't take it, I won't be responsible for what happens. This time, it's on you." Cable stood stone still, assessing the room, finally allowing the soldier in him to silence the shrieking of the father as he awaited the other's next move. He'd given every chance- Tyler had to make this decision for himself. Whatever happened, Dom wouldn't suffer any more because his mistakes.
Tyler leaned forward, speaking very clearly, very slowly, hate etched in every word. "You want a decision? How about this- After I kill you, you faithless bastard, I'll make your little bonded bitch beg me to kill her. I'll make her scream my name as I take her in front of your rotting corpse."
Closing his eyes, Cable nodded. "So be it." Turning away from Tyler, he once more stared at the limp body of his lover hanging unconscious on the wall, her body twitching and flailing against the restraints. Domino moaned again, under her breath, and tugged against the restraints. Watching her, watching Tyler's slim fingers dig into her chin, he felt his heart pound in his chest as his mind played out just the scene Tyler described in such lurid detail. He felt nauseus, red-hot with anger, and despising himself, he encouraged the emotion, goading it on.
Without the psibond, he couldn't know what she was seeing, what visions were making her flail around so in her bonds. He could imagine, though. Aside from her physical injuries, the blood and the bruises, he knew that the part of her soul that housed their bond was shrivelled and dying. For him, every breath, every thought, was electric agony without their bond- he couldn't imagine what it was like for her nonpsion mind. Cable felt the black, jagged streak of pain lance again through his chest, and felt the anger arc inside him again.
As he'd done so many times, he used the heat of the rage to burn through the guilt and paralysis to enable himself to once more face the horrors he was seeing, to plunge on, to be the consumnate soldier, untroubled by guilt or consequence. Firmly locking the demons of guilt and sympathy tight inside himself, he snarled in anger, allowing the pent up fury to unleash itself.
He wanted to kill his son.
He hated himself for it.
His eyes closed briefly, and through the rage, he managed a remorseful, coherent thought. 'Forgive me, Aliya. Forgive me, Tyler.'
"Did you hear me, Father?" Tyler goaded, enjoying the tortured expression on the older man's face. "She might be a little old for my taste, and a bit. . .used. . . but I'll enjoy her for a while, broken or not." Shaking her face, he dropped her chin to pull up Domino's head by her hair so that he could see her blank features perfectly. "Then I'll give her to the boys. I might even go into her mind and make her enjoy it, make her beg for more."
"Shut your filthy mouth," Cable growled, using the anger as a blazing shield against the memories that would still make him weak. Using the hatred as a barrier against the love he had for his son, he steadied himself again. 'This creature is not Tyler. Do what you have to do.'
"Take your hands off of her. I don't want to hear you speak that way about her again, boy." His voice once more rang with command authority, all traces of the earlier pain and vulnerability vanished. All indecision was gone. It was the General who spoke now, not the wounded father.
Tyler laughed, but there was no humor in the sound. "Boy? Is that how you still think of me?" When Cable didn't answer, Tyler's voice dropped low. "Because that would be a mistake, Father. A very dangerous mistake."
The fury rose inside Cable. "*You* were the dangerous mistake," he muttered, glaring at the younger man. "Don't forget, I trained you, boy. I know just what you can and cannot do."
The younger man's eyes narrowed. "Thank you so much for reminding me of that, Father. I was always a disappointment, I know. The child of two such powerful telepaths, the only son of the 'Chosen One'- to be only a beta level psi, who put on pretty holographic memory shows! You don't think I knew what they said about me? I knew! I knew all too well how they mocked me, even before I was. . . captured. Oath, I know what a flonqing disappointment I was to you!"
At the mention of Tyler's parentage, Cable caught his breath and paused, balanced on the edge of revelation. Tyler didn't seem to notice. "Well, worry no longer, Father. Something in the cloning- a quirk of a gene that one of my pet doctors enhanced in this incarnation- augmented my gift to expand upon my original abilities and telepathy. That, combined with my psionic filter- surely you've felt that, Father, it's designed to allow my abilities to function perfectly while dampening other telepathic communication- render me quite formidable."
"We'll see about that," Cable snarled, taking several rapid steps forward. A few of the armed guards lining the room shifted their weapons, but none dared make a move towards him.
Tyler, noting their unease, shook his head disparagingly to his men. "This is between the old man and myself!" Right before Cable could reach him, he outstretched his hand, easily unleashing his augmented telepathic abilities.
Slipping into his father's powerful mind, Tyler skillfully sliced and cut, reaching for memories and tweaking perception. Telepathy woefully squashed by the dampening field, it was all Cable could do to keep his most rudimentary shields up. He managed another step forward before the shields collapsed and Tyler had him.
'Ah, here we are,' he heard the other man's thoughts. 'Oh, Father. You have an ugly mind- such chaos in your thoughts.'
'Get. . . out . . . of my head!' Cable snarled, the aching void inside him throbbing electric with this new violation. His telepathy hovered right outside of his reach, prevented from access by the psionic dampening field. Try as he might to reach it, he couldn't.
Telekinesis, though- with a snarl wrenched from his stomach, Cable summoned the last of his strength to form a powerful if fuzzy telekinetic bolt and hurl it right through the dampener at Tyler with deadly accuracy.
"UNH!" Tyler groaned as the blow hit him point blank. Rocked backwards a few feet, he knelt for a moment before standing back upright again, a bit of wild surprise in his eyes. His shields had taken most of the damage, but he still appeared shaken.
"Well, now. You weren't supposed to still be able to do *that*." Blue eyes narrowed suspiciously. 'Very nice. Now let me show you what *I* can do.'
Struggling against the torrent of thought, Cable felt himself swept away in a foreign rush of memory and emotion.
'Now, see what your mistake of a son can do. . .'
He heard the thoughts from far away as his consciousness was merged with another, strangely familiar mind. He felt the briefest flash of pure, unadulterated joy as he realized there was a reason the thoughts seemed so familiar- he was experiencing Domino's memories.
'Nate?' he heard her murmur. 'S'at you?'
'It's me, Babe. It's all right,' he soothed her, relieved beyond words. 'I'll get us out of here.' To feel her with him was more joy than he could stand, and golden tendrils of light, more reflex than thought, instinctively snaked out to again link again with her. He reached across them to caress her thoughts, brow furrowing in worry as she shrank away from him.
Tyler chuckled, and like a cat capriciously toying with its prey, ripped them apart with a thought.
'Damn you!' Nathan raged impotently as the hollowness threatened to overwhelm him again. 'Fight *me*, Tyler, *me*! Leave her out of this!'
Tyler shrugged casually, then smiled. 'Very well, then, Father. You asked for it.'
Cable gasped as a surge of foreign memory overpowered him. Horrified at the violation, he felt himself fall back into the night before. He again experienced his fight with Domino and their subsequent passionate union. This was more than a memory, though- he didn't just remember what had happened- he felt as if he were reliving it.
Then, slowly, the memories began to shift and change. The memories subtly altered, and the beauty of the night before began to fester and rot. He saw her come to him, true. He saw her open herself completely to him, telling all the things that he'd been longing to hear her say for so, so long. That much had actually happened.
Now, he didn't respond in kind. Instead of the love and acceptance he'd so freely given, and despite his best efforts to the contrary, he felt himself turn her away, mock her, inform her all the dark fears she'd had were true. Instead of taking her in his arms as he'd done and telling her how long he'd been dying to love her, how much she meant to him, he saw himself only laugh sharply, then take her roughly in a mockery of the love they'd shared. He used every ounce of power he had to stop the perversion of one of his most precious memories. He failed.
Even worse, he saw her eyes as he did it, huge and empty. The person she'd trusted most in the world had betrayed her, and if he had been able to move, he would have vomited. He struggled to stop the false memories, to tell her that he'd die before he'd hurt her again.
Instead, he hurt her again. And again. And again.
Finally, it was too much for him to bear. The golden threads crossing the dark chasm between them began popping, one by one, and his heart crumbled to ashes in his chest. When the last shimmering tie, stretched taut by the false memories, finally snapped, he felt himself consumed by a fireball of emptiness. Nathan stared blankly ahead, eyes unfocused and cloudy, completely spent.
>From her place on the wall, Domino finally quit thrashing at her bonds and hung still.
In a slow, measured guesture Tyler took his father's face gently in his hands. His eyes glittered with triumph. "And now that you're broken, Father, it's time for you to die."
Across the room where she'd been thrown against the wall, Psylocke awoke with a muffled shriek, rocked by the intensity of the empatic wave that tore through her thoughts. So much like the pain she'd felt before, it broke through even the dampening field to assault her already bruised mind with a haunting, profound emptiness. Fighting through it, she cautiously opened her eyes to look around.
Tyler and Nathan stood a few feet from each other, staring at each other blindly. Casting a quick look at the cadre of guards lining the wall, she found them fixated on their employer as well, entranced on the scene playing out before them. 'Little wonder,' she thought grimly 'With all the telepathic energy being sent from those two, I'm surprised their little minds haven't been fried to a crisp from the feedback.'
Psylocke drew herself up from the floor, balancing herself carefully on the balls of her feet. Her head was pounding with a hollow, empty ache, but she could at last think clearly again.
Wincing at her head, she pondered 'At least I can feel the energy- that means my powers haven't completely vanished. Whatever this is, it isn't like an inhibitor collar, no complete supression,' she noted as her trained senses swept the room for other guards and possible exits. 'Sheer telepathy's impossible, but other outlets of psionic expression, like telekinesis, empathy. . .' Eyes widening, she involuntarily glanced at her right hand, straining to bring the pink shimmer that denoted the appearance of her psychic knife. She felt the energy inside her, weakened, but there.
Tyler finally spoke aloud. Breaking his stance, he stepped towards Cable, taking his face in his hands. "And now that you're broken, Father, it's time for you to die."
>From across the room, Betsy told herself 'It's now or never,' and purple eyes flashed with fire as she poised to strike.