Mon, 14 Jun 1999
DuAnn Cowart ibelieve@rocketmail.com
Just Lucky, I Guess 54A/???

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 Lynxie, for doing the right thing.

Language and violence warnings for this one.


Just Lucky, I Guess

54/?

DuAnn Cowart

 

Dark eyes opened blearily, then snapped shut as the dim light of the laboratory was too much for senses raw and aching in the aftermath of Tyler's psionic storm to bear. Her head was pounding, her body battered, and she wanted nothing more in the world than to go to sleep. Rather than give in to the impulse, she pushed herself up off the floor, then crawled over to where Cable lay unconscious beside her.

"Nathan!" she whispered softly, reaching out a stiff hand to shake his shoulder. Nothing happened. "Nathan!"

Panic rising in her chest, she calmed herself long enough to do a cursory examination of their fallen companion. 'Other than a few broken bones, he seems fine,' she thought with some relief. Slowly extending her telepathy to enter his mind, she gasped as as sudden realization struck. Her powers were back, strong as ever. The curious dampening effect on her telepathy had vanished, gone, she supposed, with the explosion that had swept through this room.

She reached out to gently touch his thoughts, and almost gagged at what she found there. Nathan's mind was shattered, devastated by the intensity of the attack that had been so narrowly averted. She could see his injured mind struggling to rebuilt itself, and slowly, still hesitant about the sudden return of her abilities, she gently let a soothing wash of healing telepathic energy flow over his mind, knitting together some of the worst of the damage, hoping it would be enough to keep his mind whole until there was time for a more thorough procedure.

Ignoring the throbbing in her skull, she scrambled to her feet, and was struck by an attack of vertigo rendered her so intense that she wavered for a moment on the verge of collapse. Closing her eyes, conscious of her visibility, she drew in a deep breath and centered herself until the sparkling at the edge of her vision receded slightly. Equilibrium rapidly returning, she took a slight step forward and promptly stepped on something jagged and hard. Annoyed, she moved to kick the offending object away, but a dull gleam caught her eye and she instead stooped down to examine it.

The hunk of metal was melted and broken, but still uniquely identifiable as one of the shining steel shackles from her prescient vision. Heart quickening in apprehension, Psylocke's gaze immediately shifted to the far wall where Domino had been held captive. She drew in a shocked breath- the trap was empty and the wall around it blackened and scorched from the impact of the explosion.

Betsy immediately pivoted around to scan the rest of the room, and she saw there stunned her. Drawing a deep breath, she reflexively took the first uneasy step towards the center of the room with absolutely no idea of what she'd do when she got there.


Face blank, Domino crouched over the crumpled figure on the floor, uncertain of what to do next. Tyler lay still, unbreathing, face wan with a familiar waxen pallor she'd seen on corpses all over the world. All she could do was stare at him, study the animal who'd ruined her life and wonder what had gone wrong.

The last few minutes were a haze, though she vaguely remembered a bright burst of blue and pink light and the pleasant sound of Tyler shrieking, the sensations so intense that they had brought her out of unconsciousness. She'd awoken to find Tyler's noxious presence gone from her mind and her right arm dangling loose from where the blast had knocked its restraint free. The material of her suit had protected her body from the worst of the blast, and luckily, her face only felt slightly blistered. She'd made it through. Her mind and body were once more her own.

She remembered opening her eyes, looking around the room, and seeing Tyler lying prone on the floor. From there, it'd been a few short moments to freedom- physical freedom, anyway. She was still far from whole. Though Tyler's actual presence was gone, the mercurial darkness had not completely receded. It still welled within her, filling the rips and tears of her soul with midnight pools that coated the pain with inky numbness. She was totally and utterly alone.

It was nothing new. She, who had lived in the dark most of her life, was quite accustomed to the sensation of being alone. Until last night, until. . . Nathan, she'd been an emotional recluse, certain that whatever she loved would eventually sour and die. She'd usually been right.

She'd had her reasons, of course. As a mercenary, she'd lived in a dirty, brutal world, a place where feelings were a liability and love was a joke. She'd lost more than her share of friends and lovers, seen more than enough to convince her that that attitude was entirely proper and right. Love was for people in the little pink houses and white picket fences. Love wasn't for aging mercenaries with a penchant for spandex and an addiction to adrenaline.

And then, last night, Nathan had shown her otherwise. He'd made her actually think she was worthy of tenderness and love. Last night, in his arms, she'd thrown caution to the wind and allowed herself to actually *feel*. Staring at Tyler's body, allowing her bruised mind to wander down paths of thought better left untouched, she felt the numbness subside slightly, and a hollow, dull ache spread through her soul.

Tyler had torn those feelings to shreds. Using those precious memories against her, he'd made that bright golden night sullied and dirty, warped her relationship with Nathan so completely that though she *knew* the corruption for a lie, the mere thought of him carried associations of debauchery and violation so vivid that it was all she could do not to be physically ill. Her end of the psibond- once so bright and golden, so luminous and powerful- now lay festering in her mind like a sore, frayed and withering as it pulsed with hot pain, the agony exacerbated by thoughts of Nathan and all they'd lost.

So, it seemed, she'd been right after all. Emotion was an indulgence she couldn't afford. With an effort, she wrenched her mind away from thoughts of Nathan, welcoming back the darkness and wary seclusion that had kept her safe so long. Better, by far, not to feel anything than to face the soul shattering anguish that threatened to overwhelm her.

Lost in thought, she was startled when the silence was shattered by a sharp, sucking gasp. Without warning, Tyler's eyes snapped open and he again began to breathe, his sunken chest rapidly rising and falling with each shallow breath. Blond eyelashes fluttered open, and pale blue eyes stared dully up at her. Cloudy at first, they quickly cleared as realization of his circumstances set in, and seemed to turn inward in search of a power that was no longer present.

In less time than it took to tell, Domino had drawn a dagger from Tyler's belt to hold it expertly at his throat, violet eyes glittering black with rage.

"You son of a bitch, you can take control of me again, but I swear the last act I do before you take me will be to push this knife right through your throat. You understand me? If you don't believe me, try, cocksucker. You just try." Her voice was low and deadly, and shook with repressed emotion.

Tyler nodded once, slowly, and slack features twisted again in pain. Whimpering low in his throat, his body twitched underneath hers, and she could see beads of perspiration begin to form at his temples. She could feel an unnatural heat emanating from his skin.

Holding the knife to the side of Tyler's neck, her hand was steady as she angled it at the proper degree to slit his throat and watch his life spill out before her. Silently, she pressed the sharp tip of his knife into the flesh beside his jugular, face impassive as a single ruby drop welled around the tip. "I may just kill you anyway, asshole, just for shits and giggles. What do you think about that?"

Tyler's eyes rolled back in his head, and he slipped back into unconciousness, head lolling limply to the side. Domino bit her tongue in disappointment, but the edge of the knife didn't waver. Staring at him coldly, some part of her couldn't help admiring the expert workmanship of the dagger. The flickering lights of the room cast an eerie shine on the fine silver metal, and the Askani runes on the hilt seemed to glow with an inner light. The weapon was as much a work of art as an instrument of death.

No matter. She'd seen lots of pretty knives in twenty years of killing.

Tensing at a blur of movement to her right, Domino relaxed when she recognized the cadence of the footfalls. Slowly, still holding the knife steady at his throat, Domino reached with her other hand and unfastened Tyler's belt, pulling it off him with some difficulty. His inert body jerked a bit, but he didn't regain consciousness. Never taking her eyes off Tyler, she tossed the belt over her shoulder. "Psylocke. Catch."

Betsy reached out one slim arm and caught the belt easily, glancing curiously at the intricate designs winding through the odd looking buttons and metal bulges decorating the belt. Unblinkingly, she draped it over one shoulder, then crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes flickered to the knife held at the unconscious man's throat, but there was no judgement in their hard purple depths, only a penetrating understanding. 'She needs this.' When she spoke, her voice was soft but urgent. "Domino. It's time to go. . ."

"Not yet," the other woman answered distractedly, eyes still fixed on Tyler's face. "I need you to do something, first. I know that machine's messing with your telepathy, but do you think you can examine this little prick, see if he's as sick as he's letting on?"

"Whatever effects the suppression field may have had have disappeared, but Domino-"

"Betsy." For the first time, Domino's voice wavered slightly, and Betsy had an empathic rush of raw, aching pain. "Please."

Betsy pursed her lips, arched brows drawing together as she expanded her blunted telepathic senses to gingerly seek out Tyler's mind, knowing the great risk she was taking by doing so. Ever so carefully, ready to pull back at the slightest sign of danger, she gently probed Tyler's mind, and was stunned at the horrific damage she found in even the tertiary shields she dared to touch.

Suspecting a ruse, she steeled herself and delved further into his mind, and had to brace herself against the pain she saw there. Tyler's mind was in tatters. Ruined and bleeding, his mind had suffered the equivalent of deadly third-degree burns. His psyche was fatally cracked and bleeding, and what little residual life energy that was left there had turned on itself and was now consuming him. He was dying, and no one, not even an omega class telepath, would be able to stop it. The damage had gone too deep.

Pulling herself out of his mind as quickly as she could, she turned to Domino and in a choked voice whispered, "He's dying, Domino. That last battle with Nathan, all that energy," swallowing tightly, wrenching herself away from psionic pain so intense she could barely comprehend it, she moaned "It's burning him alive. . ." Not succoring to the thoughts that her knife had caused such pain, knowing that her actions had been born of necessity, Psylocke drew in a deep breath and said in a voice of absolute assurance. "He won't hurt anyone ever again."

Domino drew in a deep breath. "Good," she murmured shakily, and the single word held all the emotion in the world. Her chest felt tight, and the numbness retreated again as a wave of fierce red emotion consumed the deadened emptiness inside her. Biting her lip, she recognized it as vengeance, and welcomed it to her breast.

Both women stood motionless, watching as Tyler tossed restlessly, heat pouring off of his body, crying out occasionally in pain. Neither spoke, neither moved to help him, and the room was still until the silence was marred by a deep cough from behind them. Both women spun quickly to see what had made the sound.

Nathan. Still lying crumpled on the floor, his arm lay at a strange angle, and his broad chest rose and fell as his battered body fought for breath. Even through the darkness, Domino felt a chill run through her soul as the mere sight of him caused the ruined link to erupt with pain, tormented shrieks that overwhelmed the emptiness and rage with a profound, heartbreaking sorrow. Domino bit her lip, and lifted her free hand to rub her eyes. The sight of him condemned her, reminding her of the lost beauty and joy of their union, but even so the ruined link compelled her so she couldn't turn away.

Tyler jerked again, and Domino with him. Refocusing her attention on her former tormentor, she swallowed, and whispered in a raw, halting voice "Betsy. . please. . . see about him. . . "

The other woman's voice was gentle, even as she crossed the room to complete her ministrations to the fallen Cable. "I already have, Domino. He's. . . all right. I'd wager a few ribs are cracked, and the arm's definitely broken, but physically, he'll be fine." Reading the unspoken question in the other woman's haunted gaze, Betsy continued, "His mind is. . . I won't lie to you. The psionic damage is severe, though I've done what I can to soothe him for now. And," Betsy drew a deep breath, then plunged on "Whatever we have to do, we need to do it now. We're running out of time."

Domino nodded curtly, and the vulnerability in her expression hardened into a cold mask of pure stone. "Get him ready to go, then. I'll take care of this one." Turning away, she reached into one of the many pouches in her suit. Pulling out a small, pre-filled syringe, she plunged it efficiently into Tyler's chest. Bending down so that her lips nearly brushed his ear, she murmured softly "Wake up, asshole, we've got some business to discuss."


"Wake up, Nathan," Psylocke murmured, pitching her voice softly as she finished binding his broken arm as best she could, glancing at the chronometer on her wrist as she did so, and swore under her breath. Casting a backward glance at Domino, she sighed and repeated, "Get *up*, Cable." She swore lightly under her breath when he didn't answer.

'Bloody hell, we've only got five minutes to meet the others!' Glancing down at Cable's inert form, she rapidly activated her suit's com system, muttering a quick thanks that at least *it* hadn't been damaged by Tyler's attack.

"Logan? Logan, can you hear me?" she sent through the comlink, voice steady despite the panic that was beginning to loom over them.

Or so she thought. "Betts? What's wrong?" Logan's gruff voice responded and, from the note of concern in it, she didn't need her telepathy to realize that he knew something was wrong.

"Long story," she answered distractedly. "What's your status?"

"Just got settled into the PACRAT. We're all loaded and ready t' go- somethin' funky's goin' on down there, darlin', and I don't like it one bit. Several squads of troops were gathered, but it looks like somethin' knocked them out. We walked right through 'em." Betsy chuckled grimly, eyes sweeping the frozen guards standing quiet watch over their fallen master. "I think I may have at least part of the answer to that, Logan. Tyler's dying."

There was a long pause, and when he finally spoke she could sense the layers of emotion held underneath the surface of his soft, gravelly tone, ". . . Where are y' at? I'm comin' down there."

Sensing movement at her feet, she shook her head. "Wait just a minute, Logan. . ." Crouching gracefully, she breathed a sigh of relief as Cable's eyelashes fluttered open and he stirred to life. Hope returned to her voice. "I don't think that'll be necessary. . . We're leaving now. I need you to cloak the plane and wait on us. If I need you, I'll call."

A brief pause, then Logan answered calmly, "Can do. I'm waitin' on y', darlin'. Be careful." Despite the seriousness of their situation she smiled at the warmth and confidence in his voice.

'You, too, love,' she murmured to herself, then returned her attention to the task at hand.


Tyler's eyelids snapped open, pupils so large that the pale blue irises were only a faint outline around the black. Drawing in a sharp, ragged breath, he cried out in agony as the drug coursed through his body, forcing him into consciousness. The flames inside grew hotter, fiercer, charring his psyche until he could barely think. Even as he fought against them, they spread from his mind to his body to ignite every nerve and synapse with the same psionic fury he'd tried to harness against his father.

Through his distress, he groaned, 'That witch. . . her damn knife must have caused a psionic short circuit . . . can't. . .think. . .Oh, flonq no,' Concentrating past the pain, what was left of his mind's eye slowly pieced together what had happened to him. Implanted memories of Askani training spoke to him, and he was reminded of harsh admonitions against the dangers of telepathic combat, reminders that any of a thousand things could go wrong while engaging in a full alpha-level psionic battle and that one had damn well better be prepared for all eventualities.

Even in this weakened state, the answer to his current predicament was painfully clear. That was it. He simply hadn't been prepared. Oh, the genetic quirk of this incarnation had supplied him with ample power, and the psionic amplifier had strengthened it to a more than sufficient degree. The fact that he'd almost destroyed his father, the 'Chosen One', was sufficient proof of that. The power hadn't been a problem, he reasoned through the fire that was consuming his mind.

He just hadn't anticipated the British bitch and her laughable knife. He hadn't anticipated the explosion that had set his mind on fire, boomeranging the power he'd poured into his father's mind back on himself and igniting his mind in a flash-fire of energy that began to consume him. His power was going to burn itself out and, in doing so, kill him. He knew this as surely as he knew how very, very close he'd come to success.

Cracked lips twisting into a snarl of pain, he opened his eyes to stare up at Domino, and recognized in her baleful glare a hatred so like his own, a rage he knew would be echoed by his father. 'At. . .least. . . Father will pay for what he did. . .At least I accomplished my task' he thought, remembering the stark years of his capture in Stryfe's torture pens, the unrequited hope of rescue and the escape that never came, his face stiffened in disappointment. 'It isn't enough. It'll never be enough.'

Domino just glared at him, knife poised over his throat, her face taut and unsmiling. "Think you can stop crying long enough to talk, asshole?"

Tyler took in a deep breath, then spat the words in short sharp bursts, "Just. . .talk? But. . . I. . .expected so much . . . more from someone. . .like you, my dear. . ." he choked, pasting a lascivious smirk on his face, exerting control to the last even as his fists clenched involuntarily and his body spasmed again in pain. Glancing wildly around the room, he caught sight of a familiar figure lying prone on the floor, and his lips curved in a genuine, beaming smile. "Where's. . . Daddy dear? I'm sure he'd like. . .to ~talk' to you. . .too. . . We both saw how much he. . .likes to talk to you. . . "

Domino's mouth tightened, and she twisted the knife point in his skin again. "Shut the fuck up," she snarled, her shadow casting a dark pall on his features. "You're gonna tell me what I need to know, and you're going to tell me now, got it?"

Tyler, gaze fixated on Cable's fallen body, looked back to Domino, who gripped the dagger with a lethal ease. A faint spark of hope stirred within his charred soul, and with great effort, he pulled one memory from the embers of his mind and raised one wavering hand to caress her cheek in the manner he'd seen Cable touch her in her memories . "Whatever you say, my darling," he purred in a perfect mimicry of his father's voice.

That was more than she could bear. Grabbing his thin wrist in one hand, she ground it into the floor under one knee, teeth bared in satisfaction as she heard bones crack. He cried out in pain, and her haunted eyes stared down at him out of an expressionless face, and his own knife dug deeper into his throat. A thin red trickle spilled down his neck, and she leaned closer to snarl "Quit the bullshit and tell me how the Genoshans are involved with this."

Tyler's shoulders jerked in an approximation of a shrug, and he spat at her defiantly "Flonq you, you insignificant genejoke."

One dark eyebrow arched in surprise, and she ground her knee into his broken wrist, letting his cries wash through her like a soothing balm. "Tell me," she growled, "Tell me that, and tell me where else you have these little genetic factories, and tell me what other contacts you have with Black Air-" At his surprised stare, she laughed humorlessly. "Oh, yeah, I know about all that, asshole. Tell who they are, and I'll think about letting you live."

A sound burbled from his throat, and it took her a moment to identify it as a laugh. Through the tears, he taunted "Patience, patience. . . you'll hear from. . .them soon enough. You, especially," he broke off in a fit of coughing, then finished weakly, "contributed greatly to the project. One might. . . say you were instrumental in it. . . Surely you'll recognize the end results." His teeth bared in a vicious smile.

Memories of the endless experiments she'd been subjected to spun through her mind, the tissue samples taken from her without her will, and her grip around the hilt of the dagger tightened in fury. "Give me one good reason not to kill you right now, you son of a bitch," she growled, voice low and inflectionless, and hope blazed bright as the blue inferno inside him.


Using his good arm to prop himself up, Cable looked up dazedly. He blinked, trying to focus past the hazy silhouette that twisted and undulated before him as his head swayed back and forth to the unbearably loud throbbing in his head. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words died unspoken in his throat. Puzzled, he tilted his head to the side and tried to remember what had happened here, but nothing came to his mind. He closed his eyes, and tried to think what he was doing here, who he was, but all he could see was a field of black tinged with a lingering electric blue glow. Everything seemed so very far away, and his eyes felt so heavy. . .

He felt something brush his shoulder, and he pursed his lips in annoyance. With great effort, he mumbled in a dry, cracked voice, "Go 'way."

Psylocke's eyes narrowed in concern. "Nathan, it's me, Elisabeth. Can you stand?" Her tone was gentle, reassuring, but to his ears her voice sounded warped, distorted, like a recording set on lowest speed. Ducking his head, he tried to make out the words, but couldn't quite understand them.

It hurt. Along with the pain that made his body burn, his mind was scorched, burnt,and his thoughts were coated black with ash and soot. His reserves were exhausted, his body broken, and he felt so brittle he feared he would snap. He could see, but the world was spinning, and he could barely move. Through the frazzled psibond, he could vaguely sense a dark disturbance, but couldn't quite tell what it was. He couldn't quite tell who *he* was, for that matter.

Fighting for breath, he lifted his face to look around, and was gripped by a wave of nausea so intense it was almost tangible. Gasping for breath, fighting through the black pain in his mind, his chin dropped back to his chest. Biting back the pain, he moved his legs under his body, and tried to stand, weak as a new-born colt.

Hooking her hands under his arms, careful of his injuries, Betsy deftly shifted her leg to help balance his bulk as she helped him to his feet. "Nathan. . . we don't have much time. We have to get out of here, *now*!" Wrapping her arms around his massive waist, she shifted his arm over her shoulder so that the bulk of his weight was leaning on her.

He looked down, murmured a spate of questions, and was answered by a shake of the head.

Inclining her head, she spoke slowly, and her soft alto voice was immensely gentle and sorrowful. "Nathan. . . I don't understand your language, you know that. . . and I'm so very sorry. . . but we have to leave here, now, or we risk this entire operation. Careful, now," she murmured, mindful of his injuries, helping him make his way across the floor, "It's time to go."


Eyes gleaming brightly, Tyler spat at her, then hissed in a voice full of malice and vinegar, "Do it, bitch." Pasting the mocking smile back on his face, he choked, "Do it. . . Just think of how long you've dreamed of this. . . How many times you've fantasized about it. . . I've been in your dirty little mind, slut, I've seen your thoughts. You know you want to. . ." His eyes flickered over to Cable, and the broad, taunting smile again replaced the pain. Tyler smiled a rictus grin even as his head tossed uncontrollably back and forth, lank blond hair plastered to his scalp. Through clenched teeth, he whispered, "Think how happy it'll make Father to know his problem's taken care of."

The words hit her like a blow. Nathan. She closed her eyes, rocking back on her heels, but the knife was still pressed to Tyler's throat. 'It'll destroy him. Oh, hell. . . I can't. . .Nathan. . .' Swallowing tightly, her lower lip trembled and she cursed herself for the weakness. Just the thought of the man she'd shared so much with, the knowledge of how much this inescapable death would hurt him made her granite resolve soften and the blight of Tyler's violation took hold, squirming maggots of false memory tearing through the shreds of her soul. But the memories were *false*, dammit, hideous lies, and she *knew* better, she knew the man Cable really was. But the taint remained. . .

And still- no matter what Tyler had done, he was still Nathan's son. Nathan, who she'd lain with in the light, Nathan, who now was the golden symbol of all she'd lost. A lock of limp black hair fell over her face, and she pushed it behind her ear, gaze never leaving Tyler's face. Nathan had been hurt too, she knew- as razor sharp as his memory was, the stunted, bleeding end of their psibond still told her that much- and as empty and barren as she was, as devoid of feeling as she yearned to be, she didn't think she could ever bear to hurt him again. And killing his son would destroy him, no matter how much she might like to think otherwise.

But she had a knife to the bastard's throat. . .

"DO IT!" Tyler screamed hoarsely, his face twisting in an ugly snarl, back arching in pain and tears pouring down his face as the conflagration within burned brighter. His voice was now hollow, weakened and raw. "End it now! Kill me, you . . . stupid cow, just . . .kill. . .me. Take your. . . fucking revenge! Do. . . it now!"

She could barely breathe with the need to do so. The point of the knife wavered in his skin, and Domino's usually rock-steady hand trembled. She wanted him dead. Oh, she wanted him dead- he was right, she'd dreamed about this moment, dreamed about her knife in his throat, her gun in his stomach, dreamed about killing this pure embodiment of evil. No matter his reasons, Tyler had caused so much suffering, so much loss- Grizzly, Logan, Akkaba, herself. . . and clone or not, this monster had made the choice to follow in his predecessor's footsteps. He didn't deserve to live. Nathan didn't deserve such a son.

There was only one reason not to slice his throat and feel her vengeance take form. Nathan. Monster or not, he was Nathan's son. She swallowed hard, and made her decision.

"I don't think so," she said coldly, and the hunger within her shrieked out for release. Denying it, she dispassionately noted the dilation of his pupils, free hand counting the slowing of his pulse. Betsy had been right- he was dying. Swallowing tightly, ignoring the shrieks of vengeance thwarted, she drew the knife slowly away.

"You did this to yourself, you piece of shit." The words were lava under ice. "I've got enough blood on my hands to last a lifetime. Your life didn't make any difference, and your death sure as hell won't." Still holding the knife, she rested her arms on her knees, her expression twisting with emotion as she leaned over him to watch him die. "You got that? You fuckin' idiot, do you understand? You had a second chance, and you blew it. You. Didn't. Make. Any. Difference. At. All!"

Tyler's eyes narrowed, and his body tossed as he burnt himself up. 'Not. . . like. . .this. . .' he thought wildly, arching his back in pain, forcing exhausted eyes open to at least see his end. The dim fluorescent lights flickered along the blade of his dagger, and he glanced at Cable one last time.

Then it hit him, hope like a beam of sunlight through a hurricane, the chance for victory again blazing brightly inside him.'One . . . last. . . chance. . . '

Drawing on his reserves, saving just enough energy for what must be done, his unbroken hand shot out and with unexpected strength grabbed Domino's wrist to bring it down sharply, slashing the knife she held across his throat, gurgling in triumphant laughter as his own red blood sprayed across her horrified face. He opened his mouth to cry out his triumph, but the only sound that came was the liquid spill of his blood as it gushed from his throat.

In the last moment before death, he was only thought without body, presence without form. In that instant, he passed through the astral plane and was suddenly strong again, and taking hold of that strength he reached out to fulfill his heart's desire. Then the world faded to black, and he felt no more pain.


Nathan felt Betsy carry him, felt himself moving, and compliantly tried to help. The effort was great, however, and he tripped, right knee buckling. It was so dark, and cold, and all he wanted to do was sleep, but he tried to help her as she carried him away. . .

And then what was left of his mind erupted in a fireball of agony as Tyler, dying, used the last of his disembodied energy to reach out and snatch his father's shattered mind to drag him along into oblivion.

"NOOOOOO!"

Hearing Domino's cry, Betsy spun around to see Tyler kill himself with the knife held in Domino's hand. She didn't have time to do anything else, though, as stumbling, Betsy felt Cable's body slump bonelessly to the ground. Dropping a hand to his throat to check his pulse, dark violet eyes widened in concern. 'Oh, hell,' she cursed, 'He's not breathing!' Dropping to her knees, Betsy began CPR, yelling for Domino as she did so. Conscious of his broken ribs, she pressed the palms of her hands flat against his upper chest, noting the blue tinge of his skin with a curse. Reaching out telepathically, her eyes widened in shock and fear, and in a ragged voice she cried out, "Domino, get the hell over here, now!"

In less time than it took to tell, Domino jerked away from the bleeding body to sprint across the room and kneel at Cable's side. Immediately after Tyler had grabbed her wrist to draw his blade across his throat, she'd felt something in her tear. Turning around, she'd seen Nathan fall, and the stunted, broken psibond had blazed brightly in agony, the darkness inside her fled before it. Fighting her fears, denying the false memories that burned so powerfully inside her, she instinctively reached out to him, running to his side, grabbing his good hand with her own. Through all the darkness and the pain, through all the violation and the anger, she had reached out to him.

Haunted eyes in a blood-spattered face widened as she recognized Tyler's malevolence pulling Nathan away. Through the remains of her connection to Cable, she knew he was being stolen from them, and she knew in the state he was in he'd never have the power to fight. So, then, ignoring the razor barbs of false memory that sliced her soul at the sight of him, of them both, she took a deep breath and did something she'd never known a non-psi could do. Through the last vestiges of their link, she balled her consciousness up and inexpertly leapt after Cable through their phantom bond.

And promptly lost herself in the astral plane.

She wasn't a telepath. She'd never exhibited even the slightest bit of psionic sensitivity, but through the shards of the bond Nathan had established with her she had cast herself out after him. Lost in this strange plane, time lost all meaning- a second or an eternity, she couldn't tell, she just floated, disconnected from her body, unable to move, deaf and dumb in the realm of the psis.

Then, she felt a cool purple hand grab her consciousness, give her unequipped mind control and access to the rules that governed this domain. Betsy, who had also been telepathically searching for Cable, had heard the ripples in the plane and had come after her.

~Don't fight me! Just let me help!' Domino felt the other woman's shocked recognition of the damage Tyler had wrought, felt her quickly recover. ~Help me trace him through what's left of your bond! Quickly- there isn't much time!' Unable to reply, Domino just mutely nodded, and allowed Betsy to meld with her and pick up the trail of their bond. Psylocke, to whom the astral plane was as comfortable as the living world, instantly stretched herself past the frayed edges of the astral plane where Nathan lingered at the edge of the abyss.

With a herculean effort, Betsy reached out to grapple with the last of Tyler's spirit, drawing on Nathan's connection with Domino and his own relentless courage, worn and weary as it might be for strength. Domino, perceptions dimmed here, only had vague impressions of a vicious battle, swords clashing, shields ringing, a malevolent challenge issued and victorious answer given.

The entire thing took less than a second.

Betsy, triumphant, wrenched Nathan out of Tyler's grasp, and then watched the spirit of the younger man fade to black. Then, drawing on the ambient power of the astral plane, she still barely had enough energy to pull them all away from the brink and place them back in their respective bodies before she collapsed from sheer weariness.

Domino, returning to consciousness with a start, looked down at the two bodies before her, and felt her heart squeeze in her chest. Groggy, disoriented, she still had presence of mind enough to check on Betsy, who was fine, if exhausted, and then see to Nathan- even through her amputated bond she could already feel that he was back.

But he still wasn't breathing. Putting aside her battered emotions, she continued the CPR Betsy had begun, expertly tilting Nathan's head back to breathe for him. Exhausted as she was, she leaned down, and as her lips met his she filled his lungs with air. Fighting the urge to flee, she made herself ignore the false cries of memory and the sharp fear that she'd lose him, ignoring the terror of the confusing jaunt into the astral plane as she swallowed her terror and just breathed for him.

Suddenly, without warning, Nathan shot up, almost knocking both women over in the force of his movement. Looking at both of them, eyes wide and haunted, he mumbled a flurry of words in a liquid, musical language, then doubled over again as another fit of coughing overtook him again. The broken sounds rumbled from his massive chest in a raspy, dry rattle, and he closed his eyes as every cough ground broken ribs against bruised flesh, the contact sending sharp bolts of fire up and down his battered side, but at least he could breathe.

Domino stared at him a few moments. Eyes wide and haunted, she said nothing, but in his delirium Nathan turned to look squarely at her and murmured in a feverish voice "Domino-"

She held out a hand to halt him. "Please. Please don't say anything." She turned away, unable to look at him, unable to speak, unable to do anything save hold the tears bottled so tightly inside her in check. Eyes glazed, expression disoriented, he nodded, then resumed chanting in the Askani gibberish she still couldn't understand. She was absurdly grateful for the respite.

A rustling noise sounded behind her, and she looked over her shoulder to see two of Tyler's guards slowly regaining consciousness. Squaring her shoulders, she looked over at Tyler's body, then found her gaze drawn inexorably to her own blood-stained hands. Feeling the bile rise in her throat, she shuddered once, then looked away.

"What in the hell happened *here*?" One of the guards asked dazedly, and she knew it wouldn't be long until he regained enough presence of mind to grab the rifle dangling from his back and remember how to use it.

Stepping between Nathan and Betsy, she reached over Betsy's shoulder to take Tyler's belt and study it quickly. Murmuring a quick prayer, she opened one of its many flaps and activated a series of commands, hoping her luck would hold and she remembered how to properly work the device she'd seen Tolliver use so many times during the year he'd held her prisoner.

Staring at his blood-soaked body, she murmured softly, "Bodyslide for three," and felt the world disappear around them in a soft sparkling glow.


PART55

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