|Sun, 18 Apr 1999
DuAnn Cowart <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Just Lucky, I Guess 53/55+
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.
Note: The first segment of this Chapter takes place simultaneously with the latter half of Chapter 52.
For Kaylee, Paragraph-Tamer Supreme, and Alicia, for dreaming. And, as always, thanks to Alicia and Luba for their superb betas.
Mature language and violence involved.
Just Lucky, I Guess
The first thing she heard when she regained consciousness were voices, sibilant and toxic. 'Told you we'd be back,' they taunted, and in their textured depths she heard Tyler's distinctively high voice intermingled with her own familiar hollow doubts and fears. 'You should have known it wouldn't work. You're alone again. . .like you always knew you would be. . .'
Still writhing with the agony of Tyler's brutal psychic attack, Domino struggled fitfully against the heavy steel bands pinning her tight against the wall. Head pounding, perspiration pouring down her body, she moaned as the fading psibond pulsed like a dying star, thrumming with bursts of pain, echoing a desperate refrain of loss.
~Go ~way,' she snarled, but it was to no avail. She could feel the shadows well inside her, anxious to resume their proper place in her consciousness now that the annoying golden psibond, shriveled and dying, no longer held them at bay. Engorged by the humiliation and betrayal of the false memories, the dimness was finally strong enough to overcome the last of her battered mental shields. Weakened as she was, she was easily pulled under by the strength of the dark tide.
Slithering though the gaping, excruciatingly painful tears in her battered psyche, sinuously twining itself in and around her thoughts, the tenebrous bleakness, propelled by the poison of the nightmare images and her own haunted memories skillfully directed by the power of Tyler's augmented psionic power, easily crashed over the last of the crumbling walls she'd built around it to flood her pounding head with a leaden despair, stronger for having been once been denied.
Through it all, the broken psibond was still permanently affixed to the core of her mind. Despite the threat of oblivion, it still throbbed faintly, beating shimmers of light that fought ineffectually against the shadows, igniting pain and defiance wherever they struck. The blackness surged around it, pooling up in the rips and tears in her psyche, fighting to extinguish both the light of the bond and her own inner fire.
The inky desolation, in sharp contrast to the blazing agony of the light, slowly roiled through her thoughts, gently caressing her awareness, calming the stabbing anguish left behind by the destruction of the bond to leave her numb, resigned, broken. The bond screamed its defiance and, through it, she could barely feel Nathan's rage and frustration as he battled against his son. His hatred, his guilt, exacerbated her own, and the stark emptiness burbled even louder.
Tyler, distracted, let the shadows have their say. 'You're alone again.' They soothed, comforted, deadened. 'You should have known you couldn't trust him. You don't need him, you don't need to fight. . .just rest. . .' The light began to fade, and she felt herself perversely lulled by the soft cadence of the words. It would be easy, so easy, to do what they said, to just let them in, to not care anymore. . .
'No,' she thought dully, breaking herself out of the impending unconsciousness. The light flared bright for a moment, emboldened by even this pale show of rebellion. 'No!'
The ghosts of her pasts billowed forward, ebony tendrils swirling around them. 'Oh, yes,' Tyler idly sneered, the majority of his attention focused elsewhere. 'He left you, too, you stupid cow, just like they,' the presence wordlessly indicated the parroting darkness, 'said he would.' The thoughts reverberated with suppressed emotion, and Domino sensed rapid flashes of his betrayal-rage-abandon, the harsh emotions imprinting themselves on her naked nonpsi mind.
Rocking with the intensity of the sensations, she blindly drew her last battered walls tighter, not knowing where she got the strength. 'Fuck . . . you, asshole. . .'
Looking past the chaos, she focused on her senses, on sound, the external stimuli, on anything but herself and the distorted images from her past. Some part of her heard voices, faint as from a distance, harsh and pleading. Listening harder as the cries grew louder, Tyler's control over her waned, preoccupied as he was with his communication with . . . she bit her tongue as she recognized Nathan's familiar voice breaking in emotion.
'Nathan?' The thought of him brought the earlier nightmare images to mind, and it was all she could do not to immediately draw back into the safety of herself. Conquering her revulsion, she thrashed in her chains, floundering past the exhaustion and disgust to try to expand her senses even further, hear what was being said.
"Your Mother. . . would weep to see you like this," she heard Nathan growl in a dangerous voice.
Her perception dimmed for a moment, then through Tyler's voice in her own mind, she heard him spit 'Very well, then, Father. You asked for it.'
The oppressive hollowness dimmed for a moment, and she lurched forward in her chains, confused for a moment by the absence of pain. Faintly, ever so faintly, she felt an intimate touch, and the fading bond almost blossomed with energy, the blackness shrinking back.
'Nate?' she asked hesitantly, still holding herself back, endeavoring with a herculean effort to keep the depraved memories away, to concentrate on getting them out of there. 'S'at you?'
She felt a burst of irrepressible joy, his joy. 'It's me, Babe. It's all right,' she felt his familiar thoughts, shuddered with the relief and concern in them. She drew back, the emotions too raw, too painful to bear. 'I'll get us out of here.' The bond flared brightly, amber filaments impulsively seeking to link the two again. Even the darkness recoiled from it.
False memories still rattling through her mind, Domino, hesitant, was slow in responding. Nathan clung to her anyway, stretching his consciousness towards hers, and his love radiated like a beacon, brightly broadcasting his joy at their reunion. The warmth spread like a soothing balm, his acceptance and love thawing her frozen soul so that the false memories almost faded to a dark and terrible backdrop.
Even with the terribly weakened link, she could *feel* his love, *feel* his soul, even through the corrupted jumble of her memories. Fighting against an instinctive desire to run away and hide herself from him, bury herself in her own fears, she swallowed hard and instead reached out to tentatively accept his touch.
Just as their souls brushed, began again the union of heart and soul that had bound them so tightly together, Tyler carelessly ripped them apart again. Even the shadows dissipated briefly at the howl of outrage and pain that came from the shrieking bond.
Through Tyler's presence in her mind, she heard Nathan rail furiously 'Damn you! Fight *me*, Tyler, *me*! Leave her out of this!'
Tyler's presence within her laughed, and roared its response to the challenge.
Domino gasped as she felt her consciousness again pulled into the murky illusion of false remembrance, the unlit chasm of despair where everything she had ever known to be good and true was warped and broken. The false reel of memories unwound again, this time all the worse for Nathan's presence there with her. She felt him pulled into herself, felt him experience the horrors from her perspective, felt his humiliation and rage echoing through her own. She, who had always been his equal, was forced to watch him watch her degrade herself before him.
Repetition made it none the easier. Desperate to prove the nightmare images wrong, Nathan frantically reached out to her through the last tenuous thread of their bond, but, bombarded with images of his abuse and betrayal, she pulled immediately away from his voice and the corruption the false memories associated with it, her soul hollow and empty.
Though the last threads of the link, she could feel Nathan's horror at the violation, his disgust and outrage and, to her immense humiliation, his pity. Disgusted with him and with her own weakness, she faltered, and the demons pulled her under.
The ragged bond, already suppressed by the conscious decision of the bonded, dampened by Tyler's psionic field, battered and abused and already rent in two by the earlier attack, could not bear the strain. It snapped again, raw power erupting from its source, leaving them hollow and once more alone.
Domino screamed, and heard Tyler's mocking laughter as he increased his control over her again so that his presence completely filled her thoughts. Inside, the emptiness rumbled, embracing her back to itself, anesthetizing her emotions, smothering her soul with an impenetrable haze.
'NATHAN!' she shrieked, but knew he couldn't hear her. The darkness surrounded her, choking her, and she slowly felt the lights dim one by one.
Soon, she quit flailing and was still.
"And now that you're broken, Father, it's time for you to die."
Hands pressed tightly against the older man's silvered temples, Tyler stepped into the shadows of his father's tortured mind. His hands trembled with the intensity of the moment as Cable, mind pounding in pain from the second explosion of the psibond, fought desperately to pull his crushed psyche together.
'Weak,' Tyler snorted contemptuously, his disdain rumbling through the broken ruin of his father's psiscape. Using his augmented abilities, he gleefully attacked again with the same white-hot fervid claws he'd used before. 'And *you're* the vaunted 'Chosen One'? Feh. How the flonq you ever thought you'd best Apocalypse is beyond me.'
Cable, barely standing upright, didn't answer. Powers woefully weakened by the dampening field and the continuing assault, he was unable to break free from Tyler's iron grip. His head throbbed with electric shards of pain as he tried desperately to ignore the bellowing emptiness where the bond with Domino had been, using all his strength instead to simply keep from collapsing. An icy cold ache spread along the left side of his body, and some dim part of him recognized it as the techno-organic incursion beginning to grow out of control again now that all the energy once used to keep it in check was now devoted to surviving Tyler's deadly psychic assault.
Tyler just smiled, and slowly, methodically, began shutting down his father's mind. Despite the dampening field, Cable's instinctive psionic shields ignited, throwing up a last groaning bulwark against the hellish blows. Tyler pressed on, bolstered powers raging, and soft blue psionic energy began to glimmer faintly around him. Chuckling under his breath, Tyler reached deep inside his father to pull out the most horrific images of a lifetime full of slaughter. 'You fell into my trap, Father. How does it feel?'
Not even noticing as the techno-organic flesh of his left arm erupted in sharp, dangerous spikes, Cable shuddered as the worst memories of a war-torn lifetime seared through his mind. Tyler mockingly showed him images of his people's shuddering defeat, Aliya lying dead in his arms, Tyler himself being pulled away, stacks of burning bodies and the smell of burning flesh. Those alone weren't enough- he also drew out a thousand other gruesome images, faces from the past and the future, the fate of history on his shoulders: Dom, Scott, Jean, Tetherblood, Sam, G.W., Professor, X-Force, their images swirling though his mind in a horrid maelstrom of loss. The younger man's skillful manipulations showed him their past, their future, shaded by darkness and hemmed in by despair and oppression. Everyone he loved, everyone he had fought beside and for would all be enslaved or murdered by Apocalypse, all forced to bear the brand of his defeat. All would be destroyed because he wasn't strong enough.
Just like his Clansmen had been.
Nathan stood his ground, grinding his teeth, fighting against the onslaught of despair and physical pain with every iota of power at his disposal. Using the horrific images to propel him past the pain, he shuddered once as he finally reached the inner wellspring of power, tapping his last reservoir of strength to fight back against the power that threatened to overwhelm them all. Raging against the invasion, he stood his ground, throwing back the younger man's attacks with something approaching his true strength, and the shiny metallic skin of his left arm returned to something like normal.
Tyler, fingers clenching harder into the older man's face, was no longer smiling. The energy swirled in patterns around him now, sparkling brighter, illuminating the two in a glowing nimbus of light. Growling deep in his throat, Tyler crashed against his father's shields, finding them suddenly strong enough to present a challenge. With a muttered curse, he diverted his attention away from other concerns to focus completely on the effort at hand. He'd toyed with this long enough.
'Not as easy as I thought it'd be, old man,' he mocked, buffeting his father with another searing blow. 'But not long now until it's over. You can't win.'
Cable didn't bother with words, merely held his shields, fighting past the pain to brace himself against the force of Tyler's blows. Tyler's renewed attack took its toll, and he could feel his last reserves of strength wearing down. His last burst of defiance hadn't been enough.
Sharing in Domino's warped memories, feeling the agony his bastard son had caused in her and the subsequent refracturing of their bond had shaken him badly, very badly, almost to the point of incapacitation. A last spurt of energy wouldn't be enough to heal those scars or fight off further incursions.
Now, warring with the lunatic who wore his son's face, he came to a stark realization. Tyler was going to win. Nathan had lived his life as a professional soldier, intimately attuned to the arts of war. He'd long since learned to recognize the subtle shifts and sways that indicated the disposition of a fight, and even in his abused state could very well detect the shift in the tide of the battle.
And this one had been Tyler's from the beginning. Sparing a brief second to look back, Nathan could see the trap, see precisely how the pieces fell, curse himself for falling prey to it so easily. He should have known- it was all laid out for him to see. Tyler had only gone after Domino to get to him- once more, he'd been unable to stop the ravaging of someone he loved. Once more, a woman's blood would be on his hands. Choking with despair, he forced himself to look at his son, look at the man he'd hurt so badly as to deserve this pain. In response, his metallic skin began to shift and morph again, sharp spiny protrusions beginning to emerge from his side and arm.
The crackling luminescence cast harsh shadows on the fine boned face, and pale hair, glowing blue in the light and lifted by the static in the air, stood on end. Already crystal blue eyes seemed to glow from within, hatred and misguided revenge blazing from their depths. Tyler, oblivious to his father's despairing gaze, continued buffeting him with blows, cleaving through his last instinctive shields as if they belonged to the rankest novice. 'Give up, Father!' he cried, the words etching onto his thoughts like acid. 'It's over! You've lost!'
With the last of his strength, Cable groaned defiantly ~Never!' Knees buckling underneath him, he looked away so as to shield his eyes against the incandescent radiance that had begun to gather itself around his son, outlining his slender form with sparkling fire.
Cold smile returning, Tyler narrowed his eyes and let loose a laser sharp psionic blast, focusing it expertly to course through his father's ravaged mindscape to tear through the last of his shields with a triumphant roar.
"Arrrrrrrghhhhhh!" Cable screamed aloud, every nerve, every synapse lit with fire. The bolt seared through him, burning his skin, flaying his mind, peeling open every remaining shield until Cable's mind lay bare and exposed before him.
Shields destroyed, mind afire with ceaseless agony, Cable collapsed to the floor, completely vulnerable. The techno-organic virus now raged completely out of control, silvery surface spreading over Cable's face and chest like mercury. Even the instinctive reservoir of strength that had succored him earlier was drained, and what few vestiges of his true power that had remained in his control were long gone. He lay spent, utterly exhausted, twitching as jolts of psionic energy coursed through his body. He tried to look away, rivet his gaze on the floor to escape the penetrating hatred in the flashing blue eyes and the rotting joy in the rictus smile.
Tyler chuckled. "I don't think so. You're going to *see* me, Father, *see* what you've done." A crook of his finger, a flick of his power, and Cable's eyes shifted to stare directly at him again, face spasming in tics as the energy burned ever brighter.
Tyler loomed over the much older man, slender figure gleaming bright with the telepathic power and energy at his control. The fortress' amplifying field tweaking even the upper limits of his own genetically altered abilities, he shone like a star, energy crackling around him.
"It's over, Father," he whispered softly. Head thrown back in the air, arms stretched high above his head, he crowed his triumph, energy bursting from his fingertips. "It's *over*! The time of reckoning is at hand!!!"
Cable lay still.
With an expression of utter ecstasy, Tyler stooped to kiss his father gently on his sweaty forehead, lips feverish against Cable's clammy skin. Clutching the older man by the throat, Tyler skillfully slid even deeper into his father's mind, easily navigating through the chunks of debris left behind in the aftermath of battle, silently blessing the techno-organic virus that made his work that much easier. Seeking out the few remaining points of light, Tyler slowly, methodically snuffed them out.
Bright ribbons of energy pulsed from the younger man to the older, infusing both with crackling, malevolent energy seeking a release. With a final, choked cry, Tyler leaned forward, poised to make his final strike, savoring the moment as the final satisfaction of his heart's desire. "G'journey, you faithless bastard," he murmured, closing his eyes as the power arose, white-hot, searing with painful ecstasy down the link between them as he felt his father fade away.
Then the world exploded around him.
'It's now or never,' Betsy told herself, preparing to strike, eyes narrowed against the blinding brilliance of the blue light that pulsed in a furious rapid-fire strobe effect from the center of the room. She instinctively closed her eyes tightly against light so bright it left afterimages on her corneas, her bloody *eyes*, eyes once lost to her.
Growling under her breath, she reached a blind hand into one of the suit pockets, praying it was the right one. It was. Pulling out a small pair of shaded goggles, she breathed a sigh of relief when she slowly opened heavy-lidded eyes to find that the goggles absorbed the worst of the light. The psionic maelstrom still pulsed, still shone, but now she could at least see without fear of blinding herself again permanently. Peering closer into the fury, she saw two familiar figures at the heart of it- a tall, slender man and a taller, massive one- joined by a touch and completely fixated on each other as if nothing else existed in the universe.
With a cry, the larger man buckled. 'Cable!' she yelped, eyes widening in worried surprise. 'Dammit, Nathan, what's going on?' Her immediate instinct was to rush to his aid, but years of experince took over and she stayed her hand. Rather than jumping recklessly into the fray, she instead took a moment to center herself. Eyes closed tightly against the blue light, she ignored the fevered exchanges between the two men, pushing past the dampening field to drink deeply from the latent pool of power deep inside her.
The faint pink shimmer extending from her knuckles grew stronger, more cohesive, becoming a deadly blade of psionic energy manifesting itself once more in a sizzling psychic knife of deadly ferocity. Even through the goggles she could see that it now shone hot rose against the pale blue that illuminated the room, and the two colors merged to cast flickering purple shadows across her face and hands.
Betsy drew in a deep breath, finally strong enough to act against the power that had totally incapacitated her earlier. Though the guards seemed utterly entranced by the spectacle before them, she took no chances, knowing how much was riding on her next actions. Crouching low to the ground, she crept across the room, seeking out the source of the raging incandescence. She needn't have bothered- no one noticed her, so fixated were they on the battle between father and son.
Guided by instinct as much as her senses, Betsy paused a few feet from the two dark figures at the heart of the storm. Blinking, she looked closer, and saw that only one was now standing, the other lying prone and completely still on the floor.
"G'journey, you faithless bastard," she heard Tyler whisper, and she knew she could wait no longer.
She leapt, a graceful, practiced movement, a dark and silent silhouette against the fury of the light. Landing between them with an inarticulate cry, she stabbed the glowing knife first right into the very heart of the conflagration, then shifted in a liquid motion to stab it right through Tyler's forehead.
The link between Tyler and Nathan short-circuted, severing their connection and resulting in a backlash of power so fierce that the air itself exploded in a brilliant fireball of pink and blue energy, igniting the room in its fury.
The ring of guards lining the room cried out in unison and tumbled like stringless marionettes to the floor. Tyler had barely a split second to stare at her, blank and stunned, before the explosion threw him across the room, slamming him against the wall. His slim body hit the wall with a thud, and he slid down to lie in a boneless heap on the floor. Cable, insensate and oblivious, was tossed into the air and back down again, limp body falling to the floor with a heavy, dull sound, arm sticking outward at an odd angle.
Betsy, more prepared for the possibility of a reaction, used the thin moment before the boom to duck and roll, years of ingrained practice and muscle memory taking control. The blast was not so accommodating, however, and despite her nimble attempt at escape, the wall of force that shot out from the dying explosion, illuminating the room and catching all within its radius in a broiling final burst of psionic energy, caught her squarely in its path. She fell to the ground, unconscious.
After burning bright for a few moments more, the flickering energies began to finally dissipate. The room was at long last silent, save for the heavy breathing of the crumpled bodies on the floor and one very silent figure hanging from the wall.
"Now just wot th' bloody 'ell is this?" Pete Wisdom growled, pale brow furrowed in suspicion as the dozens of guards milling around the main hall all cried out in unison and dropped like flies.
He'd been sent ahead to scout the room just a few moments earlier, and had returned with most unpleasant tidings. The cavernous foyer, so empty when they'd arrived, now appeared brimming with muscle, squads of guards armed, dangerous, and looking as if they were itching for a fight. They'd fallen squarely into a trap, the trap that had been at the back of everyone's mind since the beginning of this mission.
Logan's stream of worried invective when told the news was almost as imaginative as Pete's own had been, and despite their desperate situation he'd managed a slight crooked grin at the choice words Kitty had employed to describe her feelings on the matter. Standing in the hallway a few hundred feet from the entrance, in increasingly higher risk of being captured at any moment, they had been forced to make a decision. Herding a string of drugged and giggly researchers, separated from the rest of their party and rapidly running out of time, there was really no other option.
"Shit, I hate this," Logan had muttered under his breath, then sighed and gave voice to their plan. "All right, then, subtlety goes out th' window on this one. We'll have t' bust our way through. Wisdom, you'll cover. I'll take out as many as I can, and Kitty, you'll get these flamin' bastards," he growled at one of the doctors who had wandered a bit too close to him, "back t' the plane and into custody. I slipped out o' this bastard's hand once, an' I intend t' do it again."
Kitty, heart pumping with the adrenaline rush she'd come to love so much, nodded curtly, pushing away any thoughts of the obvious danger to these two she held so dear. Pete, eyes narrowed in concentration, grunted assent, sizzling heat swirling at his fingertips.
"What about Ororo?" She had asked, concerned about the other member of their party. Ororo, exhausted from the herculean effort of masking their plane's passage from Tyler's security system, had been forced to hide and wait for them at the entrance.
The wait served a double purpose- besides keeping the claustrophobe from having to follow them through the tight, labyrthyine passages snaking under the building, it also allowed her to keep an eye on this central passage to watch for troop movement.
"I wish she'd been able t' buzz one of us, let us know they were massin' in the 'all," Pete mused, knowing full well the reasons that had probably been impossible. He nudged one of the doctors back in line with a sharp booted kick to a shin. "And t' answer yer question, Pryde, she's in place." He thought for a moment, then added for Kitty's benefit, "she looks a little better, now. She even managed to give me a dirty look without fallin' over."
Kitty smiled half-heartedly. "I guess that's a good sign."
"We need all we can get right now, Darlin'," Logan had answered, and they had made their way to the entrance of the foyer, prepared to fight their way through it.
Just as they reached the entrance, however, a broken choir of voices had cried out in agony, and bodies had fallen abruptly to the floor. From their now vantage point the three could see the tumult and hear quite clearly the punctuation of bones snapping and popping as bodies collapsed against onto the floor in a jumbled mass of armament and limbs.
"Now just wot th' bloody 'ell is this?"
"Beats th' hell out of me," Logan growled, nose twitching furiously as he worked to sort out the myriad scents wafting out of the room.
"Is it a trap, Logan?" Kitty asked quietly, crouched slightly in a defensive stance. Ever suspicious, Pete stood beside her, beginnings of hot knives emerging from his fingertips.
Head raised to sniff the air again, Logan shook his head curtly. "Don't think so. They smelled as surprised as we are. . ."
"I don't buy it. I don't care what your nose says, it smells like a trap t' me," Pete muttered belligerently, trying to discover the hidden deception in the fallen guards' sudden and seemingly unexpected incapacitation. Dark blue eyes flickered back and forth over the fallen bodies lying atop each other in the great chaotic hall ahead, looking for a trace of movement. He found none.
"I don't like it either, Runt, but it don't look like we have much of a choice right now, do we?" Tapping one of his extended claws to the face of the suit chronometer on his wrist, Logan growled "We ain't got that much time left, an' th' last thing I want t' do is leave a remote controlled PACRAT sittin' unguarded on Genesis' doorsteps."
"Good point," Kitty and Wisdom muttered in unison, and Logan spared them a small smile.
"Let's do it, then," Kitty nodded, and stepped out of the hallway into the immense lobby, tugging the chain of scientists behind her. Logan and Wisdom were immediately behind her, each man poised for battle, experienced veterans seeking out the slightest hint of danger.
They found none. After a moment's hesitation, they were joined after a moment by a bewildered and uncharacteristically silent Ororo. There, in that chamber, Kitty Pryde led the two men she loved most in the world and the woman who was her mentor and her friend unharmed through the hall bristling with catatonic weaponry, deftly stepping around the masses of inert bodies and not losing a single prisoner in the process.
Head held high, ready for a fight if one were offered and the trap sprung, Kitty walked untouched through the room and out of the gate Domino had dismantled earlier, teammates and chortling prisoners trailing behind her, the former glaring and suspicious, looking for a trap, the latter giggling and just happy to be alive.
Guiding their charges through the gate, Kitty and the others, baffled and confused, ushered them along the entrance out of the image-induced exterior of the fortress into the rocky yard where a cloaked plane on autopilot waited to take them all away to safety.