Epic X-Men #15

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Epic X-Men #15: Dweller's Bellow

*Coffee-A-Go-Go*

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"Sensing anything, Jean?"

"No. Interestingly though, I do sense a void in the psionic plane", Jean says as she continues to focus.

"You don't even feel stray human minds down there? Professor X said that he didn't know what we were up against, but it was the reason humans were disappearing", Scott said as he sipped his coffee and remembered the briefing the Professor gave Jean and Scott in his study.

"I know Scott and no, I don't. Its literally a giant void. Whenever I delve inside, its like walking in the fog at its thickest. I don't want to give up and leave this for people to use against mutants, but I literally can't get anything. Short from actually going down there physically, I can't do anything", Jean sighs.

"Relax, Jean. Professor's instructions were clear: 'Look for signs of activity. If you cannot get anything, come back'. There is nothing else to be done about it. Let's head back and tell the Professor of what we found", Scott says as he gets up from a seat.

"Scott, wait....... We don't have to leave right this second, do we?", Jean asked nervously.

"......I don't think so. Why? Is something wrong Jean?", Scott asked as he watched Jean play with her hands nervously. What happened? Did he do something? Did he forget something important?

"Scott! Calm down. I am sorry if I stressed you out, I didn't mean to......", Jean sighs. "Scott, if you don't want to stay, we can leave right now. It's not a big deal. Really!"

Scott took a deep breath to center himself. Everything is okay. Whatever may happen, he would handle it like he always did.

""You....heard all that?", Scott asked with a blush starting tint his cheeks.

"Kinda? Your psionic shields muffle your thoughts enough that even intense emotional thoughts are hard to hear where they are usually as loud as someone screaming into a megaphone. I would have to actually focus on your mind to even get surface thoughts. Still, they don't block out your feelings, Scott. I felt your anxiety quickly grow after I suggested we stay", Jean explained as best she could in order for a non-telepath to understand.

"Sorry, Jean", Scott said before attempting to change the subject back to what Jean wanted to begin with. "So, why exactly do you want to stay? Do you have something you need to tell me?"

"No, not really. I just........I missed you", Jean said shyly.

Scot clears his throat as his cheeks color more from shyness and embarrassment. "Uh, don't we see each other ever day?", was what Scott answered as he rebuked himself for his stupid response. That's what you say when a girl says she has missed ya? Idiotic!, he heard in his head. He knew it was his own thoughts, but the rebuke sounded suspiciously Emma-esque. Maybe she was rubbing off on him?

"W-well, yeah. Sorry, what I mean is that I missed hanging out with you and everyone, like normal friends do. Lately, its been just homework, classes, Cerebro stuff, and Danger Room training. I see the importance of it all, but I just feel so....drained", Jean explains.

"So, you just want to take a break?......Yeah, I can do that, if its okay with you", Scott said to Jean.

"I never would have asked if it wasn't', Jean says with a smile before her expression suddenly changes and she looks out the window. "Nevermind, Scott, Looks like we have trouble. That hotdog vendor is chasing a green-skinned mutant child to the subway."

"Let's move. Contact the Professor and let him know what we are up to now."

Scott takes a second to feel regretful for wasting time on making an issue of simply hanging out before changing gears to focus on saving the mutant. As he and Jean ran to the subway, Scott changed from his glasses to his visor, not knowing just what was in store for he and Jean down there. When he and Jean got to the entrance of the subway, they heard laughter near the bottom of the steps and tread carefully ever closer. Looking around the corner, Scott and Jean see the man on the ground cowering to a group of mutants.

"Jean, can you lock onto these mutants to give us some clue as to what we are up against?", Scott whispered without taking an eye off the group. The first mutant Scott focused on was the one standing over the frightened man. He was an elderly hooded figure with a wicked smile and dirty wrinkled hands outstretched closer and closer to the vendor's face.

"It's worked, Scott. It was a murky venture, but I managed to make contact with their minds....Quickly, target the one in front of the hot dog guy! He is called Masque and he is a mutant who alters the physical body in both harmless and harmful ways. I don't sense any good intent with any of his terrible imagination", Jean says in Scott's head.

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Without missing a beat, Scott runs out with his hand on the dial of his visor to open fire his optic beam. The shot was not full-power, but it hits the man with enough to knock him out cold.

"Step away from the man. If one of you so much as flinches, I will open fire. Sir, I suggest you leave before these bozo's get stupid", Scott says with his hand gripping the dial in preparation. The vendor stumbles to get up and without acknowledging Scott or Jean, he runs up the stairs away from danger.

"Hey! Who invited the beauty muties to the party?!", a mutant with dripping goop from his skin said.

"Does it matter? This guy ruined our fun. I think we need show what a real tough guy is like", a big muscular, bald-headed man said as he cracked his knuckles threateningly while looking directly at Scott.

"This one is exactly as you would expect from a pig-headed, musclebound idiot. He is all enhanced strength and durability. Not exactly quick on his feet or in thinking. Still, because of his better durability, you better not hold back as much as usual", Jean describes telepathically.

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"You don't want do this big guy. You are only gonna get hurt", Scott warned. Ignoring the warning, the brute runs at Scott with clear intent to rough him up, only to gain the predictable result of failure as Scott opened fire with more power than he usually would for a regular person. Sunder is flung across the room and is left groaning on the ground after he hits a wall at one end. Scott then turns around just in time to see goop fly into an invisible barrier in front of Scott.

"You're welcome. The icky one is called Tar Baby. Similar to Toad, his bodily fluids are incredibly sticky and they are naturally secreted from the pores of his skin. Unfortunately, he can't turn this ability off, yet he can seemingly control its directions to create certain constructs like walls of goop", Jean says as her shield holds up against a continuous spray of the goop from the mutant.

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Having enough of this ridiculousness, Scott opens his visor to unleashes a stream of optic energy that pushes straight through the sticky substance and hit Tar Baby square in the chest. With his focus so firmly on Tar Baby, he neglected to notice that Sunder had gotten back up. With a couple of careful steps, he positions himself and goes for another attempt to attack Scott. When Scott turns, he is met with the confused look of a man within arms reach, but couldn't quite succeed and grabbing Scott. The answer is then revealed as Sunder begins to rise off the ground by invisible psychokinetic energy from Jean and is thrown into the wall harder than he was previously. They survey the area and see the three mutants were not about to get up anytime soon. Before they could begin to contact someone though, Jean senses another presence, the same presence that brought them here to begin with. In the corner of the room, crying as he tried to hide from the fight, was the little mutant who was being chased by the vendor earlier. He had green skin with white eyes and seemingly no visible nose.

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"Please, no hurt, Leech! No hurt!"

As the boy pleaded and cried, the lights overhead flickered on and off in reaction to the boy's powers rampantly turning on and off due to stress and inexperience. Not wishing to scare the boy any further, Jean gets down on her knees to meet with him at eye level, giving a friendly smile and a slight empathic wave to calm him down.

"Hi, there. It's alright, I am not gonna hurt you. I heard you say not to hurt Leech. Is that your name?", Jean asked the boy gently. Unsure of her intent, the boy merely nods in affirmation. "Well, Leech, I am very pleased to meet. My name is Jean. The man over there with the laser eyes is named Scott."

"Uh, but you know that they aren't-"

"Not the time, Scott", Jean interrupted while making as much effort not to sound overly harsh in front of the boy. "So, why were you being chased? Where are your parents, Leech?"

"Leech, no have parents. Leech lives with Morlocks under big city. Calli told Leech to take food for Morlock friends and make sure pretty people follow Leech down", Leech explained with a trembled voice.

"They were forcing you to steal?", Jean looks to Scott worriedly at the explanation. Who would send a child to such a dangerous situation like that. Jean swore if she ever found them....

"Why pretty Red being nice to Leech?", Leech suddenly asks.

Waving off thoughts about low-lives and concentrating on Leech, Jean keeps calm and answers his question. "Well, Leech, its because I want to get to know you. So, that we can become friends."

"Why? Leech is ugly and pretty people no like ugly people. Its why Leech lives down here with fellow Morlocks. Ugly Morlocks always nice cause they ugly too, but pretty people always call Leech names. Calli and other Morlocks say it is because pretty people belong with pretty people and hate ugly's", Leech says with a tilt in his head, as if Jean were a conundrum he could not solve. In a way, one could say she was for someone who lived their entire life under such persecution.

"Well, Leech, not all people think that way. I personally think you are absolutely fine the way you are. The problem is that those people who were mean to you are just scared of you. I am positive that if they knew the real you, Leech, they would like you", Scott says to the boy as he joins Jean on one knee to meet with Leech eye-to-eye.

"And your powers are really cool, too", Jean chimes in to bring the conversation away from Leeches appearance. "The ability to turn things like powers, lights, and most things off. That seems to be what you have figured out to do, but with practice, who knows what else you could be capable of? And I know of a place you would be welcomed."

"Really?", Leech asks curiously.

"Don't bother with them, Leech", a female voice said from behind Scott and Jean. Turning around they see two female Morlocks scrutinizing the fallen Morlocks who Scott and Jean had taken care of earlier through a haze that had suddenly appeared. "So, I ask you idiots to bring back more humans and you fail at even that simple task."

"It wasn't our fault, Callisto! These two are mutants", Tar Baby says defensively.

"Really? Wait a minute......", the woman takes a couple steps forward to get a better look at her new uninvited guests as she twirled her knife playfully. She stared at them with but a single eye with the other covered with an eye patch. She wore a black leather vest and pants combo with a large silver buckle and a matching black crop top. Her hair was short and wild which contrasted well with her pale-white skin. To tie it altogether, her accessories consisted of two leather gloves, a spiked-collar, and a spiked-bracelet. "You. Pretty boy. By the looks of that visor you got, you were there at the U.N. attack. You opposed Magneto alongside your crew. Quite ballsy, I gotta say. I like that."

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Scott took a slight step back as his cheeks heated. He wasn't very comfortable with her coquettish gaze, but the entire goal to begin with was to not only to investigate these disappearances, but to invite more mutants to the school. As Scott was about to respond, Jean steps forward with an annoyed look.

"I am to assume you are behind these disappearances of humans, was it 'Callisto'?", Jean accused with arms crossed.

"Maybe we are. What? Were they your folks or somethin'?", Callisto says dismissively.

"No, they were just innocent people with families of their own and lives to live", Jean said.

"Never thought about that. Oh well", Callisto shrugs.

"Oh well", Jean said with a shocked expression before it morphed into pure anger. This was getting out of hand real quick.

"We just anted to ask you to put a stop to the kidnappings. Perhaps even invite you to a better place then living under New York's streets?", Scott intervenes before things could go awry.

"Well, aren't you the knight in shining armor to take me away from the cold, cruel tunnels I have so dwelled for oh so long", Callisto said with a mocking higher pitched tone. "Unfortunately not, pretty boy. I have people who depend on me and I couldn't live with myself if I just up and abandoned them."

"I...I actually understand that", Scott said contemplatively as he thought of his situation with what happened to he and Alex all those years ago and then his situation with the X-Men.

"I figured you of all people would, sweetheart", Callisto said in a seductive tone.

"Just who are depending on you, huh? Maybe the poor little boy over there in the corner crying his eyes out after you left him with a bunch of ruffians", Jean said angrily.

"And who might I ask was the one who scared him to begin with, huh, gorgeous? Oh, that's rights, the intruder's who attacked my men to begin with, aka the people who were tasked with protecting each other!", Callisto snarled.

"Jean, don-", Scott tried to stop Jean from escalating things further, but Jean wasn't having any of it.

"Well, good job. Nothing safer than using him as bait for kidnapping. Teach the poor thing thievery and kidnapping and god knows what else! Incredible work oh fearless leader! Let the children do all the dirty work while you rest on your laurels and reap the benefits!", Jean yelled. At this, Jean was then punched by Callisto.

"Don't you dare even think you know what we Morlocks do, what we need to do to survive! You live up there in luxury and comfort while we wade through a mix of not only our filth, but your filth because none of you doll-faced hypocrites can bother to accept people like us to live on the surface!", Callisto yelled as Jean tried to shake off the punch. "If you know what's good for you, Little Red, you will mind your own damn business and go back home where everything is lollipops and rainbows, while we do what we always have been doing ever since we realized that no one would accept us. Come on, Leech. If anything today should have taught you, its the pompous kind of people who live up there. You don't need em'. None of us do. We have each other because we are family and family sticks together. You may not understand even now, but you will soon."

"NO!"

Before Callisto can get Leech to follow, Jean lashes out with a telekinetic blast at Callisto, throwing her against the far wall.

"Jean! That's enough!", Scott yelled as he tried to turn Jean's attention away from Callisto. As the Morlock's were beginning to ready to charge at Scott and Jean, Callisto begins to laugh.

"Ah, so it wasn't simple happenstance that you saw Leech be chased, is it pretty boy? Your girlfriend there is a psychic?", Callisto asked Scott.

"His name is Scott you b-"

"Yes! She is psychic, but no she isn't my girlfriend", Scott talks over Jean before she could finish her thought. He then looked to Jean who had fallen silent after Scott made his remark, who was looking down and awway from scott, so that he wouldn't see the clear blush on her face.

"Really?.......Beautiful Dreamer! Is she the one who has been poking around the tunnels?", Callisto asked the Morlock who walked in with her. The Morlock wore a poofy pink dress with ribbon tied around the waist and fur at the collar with a dirty white hat that concealed her eyes, but showed her plump red lips. She wore a beaded necklace and two dirty white arm length gloves with golden bracelets at the wrists. To top it off, she had long socks bunching lower and golden high-heeled shoes.

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"Most likely. Been lookin' to get into her head and my smoke has flooded the area at this point, yet not only have her defenses been pretty solid, but she has been protecting her little friend here from my probing", the lady said as she pointed to Scott with the holder end of her cigarette.

"Very interesting. You and your friend are pretty powerful, aren't ya? I would be willing to forget the whole attacking us thing if you both, or at least you, would join us Morlocks. Your people might not be willing to accept us in your world, but we Morlocks can make considerations for you guys, if you are willing to pull your weight", Callisto offered as she got closer to Scott.

"Not interested", Jean said without hesitation.

"Shame", was all Callisto said without taking her eye off Scott. "And you, pretty boy?"

"He isn't interested either! Why would he be interested in joining those who would hurt innocent people?! And people are noticing up there and they are gonna do something about it. She is leading her people to their doom!", Jean exclaimed before Scott could answer.

"Let them try. We Morlocks will be ready and waiting when they do come. Will you be there with us?", Callisto asks Scott.

"Sorry, Callisto. I am afraid not". Scott said.

"Very well then. Then you both may leave with no further intrusion from us. This is your only chance", Callisto says.

"What about those people you took? Are you gonna let them go?", Jean asks. Callisto does not answer but Jean was sure that she heard her, despite Jean's telepathy being blocked. "Callisto, we aren-"

Before Jean could finish, Callisto turns around with a roundhouse kick to Jean's face. Jean falls back unconscious.

"JEAN!", Scott calls out as Sunder comes from behind and grabs him. "Callisto, what the hell are you doing?!"

"The girl had that coming the entire time with that mouth of hers. She also has been pushing all our psychics to their limits with her constant prodding through the defenses they set up. She is powerful and will be a great asset to us as you will Scott. Bring him to Annalee and take her to the psionics room!", Callisto tells her Morlocks. With that command they all go deeper into their tunnels with Scott struggling and trying to reach Charles with the call of his mind.

********************************************************

*X-Men's Danger Room*

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The three mutants watch from the console a Storm maneuvers through the rings that were set up as an obstacle course to practice her flying. Her movements are graceful and quicker as she kept her pace. Even with different objects there to throw her off balance, she manages to keep aloft with the air left in the Danger Room. Just as Storm was finishing her training, Charles Xavier enters from the door behind them.

"Beast, how has she been doing?"

"Fantastic, sir. Her aerial movements have improved dramatically ever since she got her new costume change. As I had predicted when we designed it with her, the cape that connects from the back and to her bracelets catch the resulting winds that allow Orroro easier lift off. She has even tried practicing with them detached to test the difference and she seemed to have a preference with them clasped on. I also hypothesize that there is a psychological improvement as well. We know Orroro loves the feeling of the different elements, which includes the winds swirling around her. Still, Orroro has related that she would exert more energy than necessary without the cape, but I always figured the cape would hinder her maneuverability. Still, she seems to take more chances with them, a sign of confidence I would assert", Hank says as he rubs his chin.

"Plus, she looks goddamn fabulous! You boys have keep so much focus on the science of it all that you forget the human part of it. Yes, yes, confidence and practicality, but she also still practically a woman. And as a woman, sometimes you just need to look like the queen you know you are, or in Storm's, the goddess she knows she is", Emma said. "I myself have been contemplating wearing a cape."

"Just what we need, another reason for you to play 'her royal majesty' around here", Warren joked.

"Very good, then, children. Now if you don't mind I am gonna check with Orroro", Xavier says as he wheels to the intercom at the console. "Storm, how do you feel?"

"Powerful, Professor", Storm says as she turns and admires her attire further, even spinning a bit to get the cape flow outwardly. "The material is comfortable and the cape works as expected."

"That is good to hear, Orroro. We will see how you fair in the field before we consider this a true success. Speaking of which, I want you and the rest of the team to head to the War Room. We have something urgent", Xavier says before wheeling out with the three students following close behind. When all are present in the War Room, they begin the discussion of their next mission.

"Thank you for coming, my X-Men. I didn't want to give you all the details of this mission or even send you all until we had more information available. Yet, it would appear our hand has been forced. I have been in contact with Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D, who has alerted me of strings of disappearances that had taken place in the subway near the entrances of the sewers. I had Cyclops and Marvel Girl go out to investigate what they can from one of the locations where most of the disappearances took place. What Jean had found was that in the lower levels beneath New York, there is a massive psionic fog of sorts blocking telepathy from access. The last I heard from Jean, the two were following what could have been a possible lead, sending me a single image of this mutant", Xavier explains as he shows them telepathically the image of Leech.

"Its a kid", Angel says.

"Astute observation, my dear compatriot", Beast says sarcastically before continuing", but the question here is: Who is this child and is he responsible for the disappearances?"

"According to Jean, the boy is named Leech. He is an energy manipulator of sorts. Thus far, he has demonstrated the ability to cut off power sources of different kinds, including mutant abilities. Jean is sure he is perhaps capable of far more. That is the last I heard of her before they had entered the subway. It has been an hour since then. I would have figured that they would have finished long ago, but I did not want to interrupt any discussions with any mutants they probably have had. Still, I am positive that Jean would have contacted me to let them know they are alright, perhaps explain why there is such a large barrier of psionic energy that seems to block even Cerebro without exerting power that could overload any minds, most notably any psi's that may exist down there. With that in mind, Emma, I think this would be a case where I must ask of you to go with the team. I know going down into the sewers will prove to be unpleasant and if I were able to I would have gone in your place-", Xavier says thoughtfully.

"Charles, I understand. Don't worry, I know we will find them", Emma interrupts.

"Thank you, dear. Hank and I have fashioned you a suit more suitable for combat. Plus you won't get any of your wardrobe dirty in your travels inside the sewers", Xavier says as Moira brings in a box with Emma's outfit.

"Thank you. I will get dressed more appropriately and meet you all at the Blackbird", Emma says heading out.

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*Manhattan Sewers*

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The four X-Men travel together through the maze-like structure together quietly with Beast leading the troop, Angel behind him, Emma walking behind him in diamond form, and Storm at the rear hugging herself as she moves forward. Though Emma's telepathy was gone in this form, but what was also gone was her senses, most notably her sense of smell. It was a trade off she made the second they found the entrance to the sewers and the smell hit her. The companionable silence was preferable for the boys since Emma became more callous in this form, but Storm yearned for the silence to be filled. Every second the silence continued, the more her thoughts would continue to haunt her head from a long-standing fear that was produced when she was a child.

Just as Storm was gonna speak, her team stops as they see at the end of the tunnel two Morlocks blocking their path. Looking behind her, she sees two more Morlocks watching them. She was ashamed to admit it, but she honestly was hoping for a fight to distract her from her intrusive thoughts.

"Who invited a bunch of beauties to our tunnels?", said one of the Morlocks in front of them.

"If ya think I look good now, wait 'til ya look at me without my mask. Thanks for the compliment", Angel jests.

"Emma?", Beast whispers to her.

With the roll of her eyes, Emma shifts out of diamond, scrunches her nose in disgust at the smell, and starts looking through the psychic fog to find the minds nearby.

"Hey, they have an psi with them!", the very reptilian like female Morlock said. Her skin was a purple-ish hue with large black eyes, sharp pointed teeth and nails and webbed-pointed ears.

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"Yes. Just like you....Grimlocke", Emma said with a smirk before attacking her mind. "Maybe not exactly like you. Clearly I am all-around more impressive."

"Attack Morlocks!"

The X-Men spring into formation, taking on each of their respective opponent. As Emma continued her assault on Grimlocke, she downloaded a brief summary of the Morlock's in the fight. Storm found herself dodging swings of a purple Morlock , called Madin, with pink hard light-constructed blades protruding from their glowing pink arms.

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Angel's opponent was a trickier to deal with. On top of being an elderly woman, Emma alerted him of her mutant ability. With a single touch, she can give an unknown disease to her victim. So long as he avoided skin-on-skin contact he would be fine. Easier said than done given how enclosed the space was.

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Beast's opponent was called Erg, curiously enough. He had spiky hair, a shirt turned into a tank top, tight black pants, and an eye-patch to cover his left eye that allows him to use his mutant power. According to Emma, the eye is covered once uncovered, it shoots electricity from his eye. The energy is gathered passively much like Havok, so the build up would mean the blast that would hit would hurt a lot.

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ZAP! As Emma had said, he lifted his patch to unleash his power briefly. Luckily, Beast had been ready and dodged the shot, hitting Plague in the process.

"Yikes. Tsk, tsk. That looked like it hurt", Angel said looking down at Plague with mock pity. As Erg was looking at what he had done with a shocked expression, Beast does a somersault and kicks Erg into the wall hard enough to knock him out cold.

Meanwhile, Storm was jumping back to avoid a swing of Madin's blade. Storm grabbed them by the wrist and charged her own hand with electricity. With her hand firmly grasped on their wrist, the electricity travels from Storm's hand to Madin's body through their wrist. Fully stunned from Storm's attack, they fall to the floor.

"Well done, all", Emma says to the group over an unconscious Grimlocke. "Now that we have dealt with that little problem, we should get back to searching for Scott and Jean while we still have the chance."

So, the group continued forward down the same path, rounding corners and listening for any signs of their friends......Or foes. Emma tried once more to search through the psionic haze to no avail. She did however notice a significant weakening of the barrier, implying that Grimlocke was a contributor to the apparent barrier, but was one of an unknown number of other telepaths that chose to live in this place. Thankfully, not just for Storm, but the entire group feeling a tad uncomfortable for being there for so long, they make it to an opening that leads to an apparent encampment, where many strange and grotesk-looking mutants went about their daily business as they normally did everyday in these sewers.

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"Stay near", Emma told the group as she covered them in a telepathic encasement to conceal their presence as they walked into the camp. As they walked, Emma could feel the group's awe as they passed mutants of varying shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. With the close proximity to other Morlock residents, Emma searched the different thoughts for signs of who saw someone looking like Scott or Jean.

"Fascinating. An entire working society below the streets of Manhattan", Beast marveled.

"Wonder where they got all the stuff" Warren thought aloud.

"Resident trash cans, Garbage dumps, outside booths at different events, and from time to time, a store with low-security", Emma answered simply. "Could you blame them? No sunlight. No fresh air. Not the ideal setting to create a bustling economy.....I think I have found where Scott could be."

With renewed haste, Emma leads the group through the camp to an open area. To the left, they see the only tent open with tons of trinkets and items, with a sign that advertises it as the 'Healer's Shop'. Emma marches forward to a tent separated from all the others, the tent that the locals marked into their mental maps of the area as the Morlock leaders tent, named Callisto.

"Stay near me", Emma tells the group. Before they can move forward into the tent, the curtain is moved aside to reveal Scott with his arm around the woman named Callisto. She laughs as Scott's cheeks redden bashfully.

"My Morlocks! Gather to the main square! I have an announcement", Callisto shouted to the camp. "It is my pleasure to introduce to you my new partner and co-leader of the Morlock's, Cyclop's."

"Oh my stars and garters", Beast says quietly.

'"No", Storm whispers.

"What?!', Warren shouts. He walks forward out of the proximity of the psionic screen that Emma cast to position himself in front of Scott. The camp murmurs in reaction to Warren's appearance out of seemingly nowhere as he speaks to Scott. "What is the meaning of this, dude?! The Professor has been worried sick about you and Jean! We come down here looking for you to find out that you have joined a group of mutants you don't know?! What the hell?!"

"Excuse me, but I don't believe I was told of uninvited guests dropping in. Morlock's take him!", Callisto yells.

"No! Wait! This was one of my old friends I told you about Callisto", Scott says to Callisto before turning back to Angel. "Angel, you shouldn't have come. Are the other X-Men here as well?"

"For pity's sake", Emma says under her breath before taken down the screen and walking forward next to Warren. "Of course we are here, Scott. You should have figured we would after over an hour of telepathic silence from both you and Jean."

"Sorry, guys, but it kind of all happened fast. Still, its true. These Morlocks needed me. Callisto needed me and....I think its best if you guys leave before someone gets hurt", Scott tells the group.

"If I might interject, where is Jean by the way, Scott?", Beast asks.

"She is currently unavailable to speak, but I can assure you she has joined us as well", Callisto says before Scott could answer.

"I know not of why Scott has made his decision, but I know Jean well enough to determine that she would most certainly not have left the X-Men without telling us thing", Storm says. "If what you say is true, then Jean can tell us all herself."

"You will get your answer from her when she is good and ready to give you one! That day is not today though, so, as common courtesy to Scott's friendship with you all, I am giving you a last chance to leave peacefully. Leave and don't come back again, or face the wrath of the Morlocks", Callisto says in finality.

"Scott, please, just tell us what is going on", Emma says ignoring Callisto's threat. She then gets closer to Scott and whispers to a volume that only they could here. "Tell me, at least. You know that I of all people would understand and not speak a word, like I always do when we talk."

"Its....its.....", Scott stutters. "........They need me, Em'."

"For what? How exactly?", Emma presses further.

"Okay, that's enough! I was kind enough, but I have reached the limit of my patience. Morlocks presume what you were doing before", Callisto says.

"Scott", Emma looks sadly to Scott who was looking away from her. She would usually reach out to his mind to fully understand what was going on, yet the psionic barrier aside, Emma had come so far with Scott where she trusted him. She actually cared about how he felt about her skimming even the surface of his thoughts. It hurt like hell to even fathom walking away. Why did it hurt more than all those times her father unleashed his wrath on those who he should love? Or when her sister betrayed her trust? Or when her mother acted like everything was okay instead of stopping the suffering? Before she accepted reality, she heard something faint.....felt something intense from a distance.......

"Jean! X-Men, ready for combat! Scott is not well and its her doing!", Emma said with a relieved smile of all things. Why Scott being manipulated against his will was something relieving was something Emma chose not explore. She entered diamond form and started entering in combat with Callisto. Callisto surprisingly had above human physical abilities and cunning tactics, but nothing could prepare her for a diamond woman with some hand-to-hand experience. "I am gonna enjoy adding another scar to that mug of yours."

"I will wear that scar as a memory of your defeat", Callisto said as she pushed Emma away. "Cyclops, fire!"

Without hesitation, Scott shot at Emma to protect Callisto from further attack, not worrying about hurting Emma with knowledge that she didn't feel pain. Getting up, Emma finds Sunder trying to grab at Beast, who wrapped his legs around his neck and was hitting him on the top of his bald head with balled-fists. Seeking to help Beast, she swung her legs at Sunders ankles to trip him.

As she did, Angel flew up and away from the crowd of Morlocks trying to protect their leader. Lowering himself, he flapped his wings hard enough to blow the Morlocks back with the resulting air current. It was then that Tar Baby encased his wings in his tar, stopping him from flying in mid-air further. No longer able to maintain flight, he falls to the ground.

"Do not fret, Angel. Though the conditions of the waters are unpleasant, let their waters wash away the gunk", Storm utters as she mentally has the water as clean as she can manage mentally. She had never attempted such a feat granted, so it would still be quite dirty, but she could still feel the consistency of the waters and separate the.....waste.

"Ugh, gross. Couldn't you have just let him suffocate me in his gunk instead of dumping sewer water all over me?", Warren complained. Now grumpy from his situation, kicks Tar baby at the pants leg to stagger him and then kicks his chin. When Warren got back up, he was suddenly grabbed by Masque and cried out in pain. "Get....off....of m-m- AAAAAHHHH!!!"

"Angel!", Emma gasped as she saw Angel's wings begin to crinkle and crunch. Masque could fee the bones of Warren's wings break, feathers falling. Not even her diamond form could stop the fear that prompted Emma to shift and hurl a psychic bolt of powerful telepathic energy. With a shout of pain, Masque crumbles dead on the floor. Ignoring the dead man's body, she checked over Warren's body, who he himself was unconscious due to the extreme pain.

Distracted by Angel's condition and still partially blocked by the ever weakening psychic barrier, Emma was so distracted she had not noticed Beautiful Dreamer trying to sneak into her head.......Not until it was too late.

"Stay calm, hon'. Everything is fine", Beautiful Dreamer said in a hypnotic echo in Emma's head.

"Oh shut the hell up! And get the F**K OUT OF MY HEAD!!!!!!", Emma says as she destroys the calm prison Beautiful Dreamer created to contain Emma in her head.

"Gah! Callisto! I can't hold her for long!", Beautiful Dreamer shouts.

Seeing this happen, Callisto runs into the battle and pulls out her knife. Pulling her arm back, she begins to drop her arm down to dig the knife into Emma's body....only for it to stop just before it could hit Emma. Looking to her left, she sees a panting Jean with glowing pink eyes, flowing wild hair, and ripped clothing. With not an ounce of effort, Jean throws Callisto away from Emma. With a hard thud, Callisto lands on the hard pavement of the sewer, struggling to get up. Looking back at Jean, she becomes wide-eyed at the red-head walking towards Callisto while repelling away multiple Morlocks who dare to attempt to pounce on her.

"Annalee!", Callisto calls.

As Jean continues her stroll, an elderly woman steps out of the shadows. She wore an checkered-apron, large circular glasses, an older green long-sleeve shirt, large slippers, blue socks, and a bandana to add to the homely look that would make her unassuming to a normal person. Though most deadly part about her though, was her voice, which could manipulate a person's perception of reality.

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"Child, listen to my voice. Listen and be calm", Annalee gently commands. Jean stops in her tracks and looks to Annalee with a surprised expression as she listens to what Annalee has to say. "You will not harm another of your fellow Morlocks. You will embrace them. You will rid us of the interlopers, like the good girl mother knows you are."

For a moment Jean stands and watches Annalee. Then with a wave of her hand, Annalee falls unconscious from Jean's mental command to sleep, leaving Jean clear to continue her stride towards Callisto.

"No, stay back! I'm warning you!", Callisto says as she tries to sound threatening.

"That is the strangest apologies I have ever heard from anyone", Jean says with a chuckle.

"Screw you! Scott, help!", Callisto yells.

Turning to her side, Jean puts up a telekinetic shield just in time to block the oncoming stream of optic force energy relentlessly bombarding her.

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"Scott! Scott, its me! Please! I can't keep this up! I am too tired to hold it much-"

"NO!", a tiny voice from the Morlock called Leech shouted among the chaos. "NO MORE FIGHT! BE NICE! STOP!!"

In one fell swoop, Leeches powers unleashes a wave of energy that turns off every mutants powers in the area. With their powers gone, the fight is halted with all eyes turning to an elderly man in a robe holding a sobbing Leech.

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"What did I tell you, Callisto? Getting yourself involved in Magneto's outlandish scheme of kidnapping humans. Feh! Never have I been more disappointed, especially going down a path of manipulating these two and manipulating their minds to fit your needs. Continuing down this path can only lead to more pain than what was already caused this day. Turn away now, before we fall too far", the man says before turning to the X-Men. "I know your reception has been all but pleasant, but I do hope you X-Men will find it in your hearts to forgive us. I am the Healer, who works to be a medic and counselor to our people. Trust me when I say that not all of us Morlocks are supportive of this madness."

"That is because you and those few still don't get it! We can, WE WILL have a better place than this god-forsaken hell hole. Magneto promised a place on his paradise for us to roam free and be accepted for who we are! Don't you understand? We can have what we so rightly deserve if we just do what Magneto asks of us!", Callisto argues.

"For how long?! At what cost?! Not every Morlock is receptive to the idea of leaving what they consider is a safe home! Especially to offers that sound too good to be true from known opposers of humanity", Healer argues back to Callisto!

"Humanity deserves all the hell Magneto is bringing upon them! You may not like it now, but you and every one of the doubters will thank me after we are sitting in shining sun and smelling the beautiful flowers of paradise!", Callisto says forcefully.

"Curious. Why exactly is Magneto asking for humans if he hates them so?", Hank ponders aloud.

"He did not divulge that information I am afraid", Healer says sadly.

"It doesn't matter! If it means we get a ticket out of here, then bring on all the humans. I could care less about what he does with them!", Callisto admits.

"Callisto! You have gone too far! And it is clear you will not listen to reason, so I have no choice! I, Storm, challenge you for the right of leadership over the Morlocks. With our powers gone, we will fight with nothing but are own skills, wits, and weaponry. Deny me, and be claimed as a disgrace to your fellow Morlocks as a leader!", Storm says as she takes off her cape.

Callisto just laughs before throwing a knife towards Storm and pulling out her own favorite knife. "You have made a grave mistake, X-Man. Just as you said, you dare let a light breeze, a crackle of electricity sparking from the tip of your pinky, you forfeit the match. Then you all will leave our tunnels forever and no longer interfere in Morlock affairs from then on", Callisto says.

"Agreed", Storm says as she brandishes the knife the way she had learned as a thief in her childhood.

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The two women circle each other slowly, waiting for the other to make the first move while looking for an opening. The X-Men watch silently as the Morlocks cheer their leader on to defeat the white-haired woman. Callisto charges forward and swings her knife. Though Orroro jumps back, her abdomen is cut,, but not deep enough to be fatal. When Callisto goes for another swing, Storm catches her wrist, only for Callisto to headbutt her. Storm staggers back dazed, giving Callisto a chance to kick Storm in the abdomen. Orroro falls, struggling to regain her senses.

"Are we done now? Or do I have to actually beat the ever living crap out of you, X-Man?", Callisto says as she kicks Storm din the abdomen when she tries to get back up. "It is over. The true leader of the Morlocks will do whatever is best for their people. No matter who gets in their way. Do you hear me? You will fail because I will not let your hubris, your so-called 'ethics', get in the way of our right to live as we should!"

As she says that, Storm sweeps her legs under Callisto to trip her. Orroro then jumps on her and punches her repeatedly before Callisto blocks the last punch and tries to strong arm Storm. The women wrestle with each other, trying to maneuver the knife in their favor. Before a victor can be determined, Callisst lifts her legs to shift her weight and roll Storm off of her. Freed from being pinned, Callisto takes advantage of the opportunity by going for a stab. Orroro grabs the knife and punches Callisto before pulling her to the side forcefully. When she falls, Storm runs to get her own knife and resumes a defensive position as Callisto gets up, wiping the blood dripping from her nose.

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This was it. Both women knew they had to finish it, for the fate of the Morlocks. With a rousing cry, Storm charges forward with Callisto doing the same. Both women wrestle for each other's respective knife before Storm pulls the same move of headbutting Callisto. With her dazed Orroro makes a quick turn to grab her cape and wraps it around Callisto's arm that held her knife. Unable to slice or stab at Orroro, she attempts to punch her opponent to drive her off balance. But Orroro ducks under and goes for the Callisto's side. Both women stop, not making a single sound before Storm steps back and lets Callisto fall. The Morlocks watch utterly shocked as Storm stands triumphant.

"It was a shame that it came to this, Callisto. Next time we meet, I hope it will be under more friendly circumstances", Orroro says sadly before turning to the Morlocks. "My Morlocks. As you have witnessed for yourself, I remain victorious over my opponent. As your new leader, I make my proclamation, that no Morlock shall ever commit a crime against another human again so long as I am leader. To answer your thoughts, no, I will not force you to leave the sewers. In fact, I will not be an active leader in your affairs. Rather, I make this decision in bid to stop this division that Magneto has created between our brethren. Thereby, any who wish to join Magneto are not welcome further in our sewers. Any who wish to live in a place where you can legally be yourself, you are invited to a school that I myself go to, where no one will discriminate against you. The reest of you shall stay here as you did before."

Callisto groans as she shakily manages to get back up, nursing her wound that is healing rapidly after the affects of Leeches powers wore off.

"While I am gone, Callisto will be acting co-leader of the people, but not a sole leader as before. Today, I give leadership to your counselor and medic, Healer equal rights to reign over you all, until there is a day I return. Those who oppose me, know this: Callisto was right in that a leader must do what she must to protect her people. So it will not be my physicals you will witness next time, but rather the power of mother nature herself if you come to me an enemy of not just the X-Men, but of the Morlocks new way of life from this day forward! So says I!", Storm utters loudly as a raise of her hand calls lightning to shoot upwards from her fingertips and thunder to roar and echo in the tunnels.

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With the Morlocks left to talk among themselves about the new declaration, Storm walks over to Healer, who was still holding a trembling Leech.

"Please, do not hesitate to call upon us if things take a turn for the worse down here", Storm says as she hands him a newly developed communicator that was designed by Beast based on technology from S.H.I.E.L.D recently.

"Thank you, Storm. I didn't wish to be leader, but I understand the necessity of this new role I will have to take. I will keep contact. Again, I apologize on behalf of every Morlock here, including Callisto. I promise I will continue to try to reach her from here on out", Healer says as he looks to the saddened Callisto walking to her tent.

"You are most welcome. I do not blame Callisto, as stubbornly misguided as she was. She truly did want a better future for you all. That kind of passion is incredibly admirable, but with that passion comes the necessity of someone with a level head. I hope that with your new role, she will respect you more than when you were an advisor previously", Storm says before turning her attention to Leech. Leech looks apprehensively at the blue-eyed African goddess with great interest as she smiled at him. "Hello, child. I know I gave quite a terrifying show, but I promise I mean no harm to you. I actually want to thank you for standing up for peace when no one, not even me, was doing it."

She then reaches out slowly to see his and Healers reaction before taking him in her arms.

"How would you like to live in a place where you will be welcomed. You will learn so much, not only about the world and those around you, but about yourself. I promise you will love it. What do you say?", Orroro says kindly to the unsure little boy.

The boy mulls over what she was offering and worriedly looks up to her with a question of his own.

"Can Leech bring best friend, Artie? Artie can't speak, but he shows pictures to talk. Leech don't want to leave Artie alone", Leech says worriedly.

"I understand. If he agrees that he wants to come, too, then of course he can come with us. Do you have any family Leech?", Storm asks.

"No, Leech has no family. Artie has no family neither. We live together with Morlocks", Leech explains.

"Very well. Let me take you to my friends. I believe you already met Jean and Scott have you not?", Storm asks.

"Mm-hm! Leech go get Artie to meet new friends!", Leech says excitedly as he runs to a large headed, pink little boy with wide white eyes. Storm looked with great wonder as Leech explained the situation to the boy ad the boy responded with visible projections of his mind.

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Meanwhile, a lone mutant exits the crowd while everyone was distracted. Hopping along to a place where no one was around, he speaks into a radio and utters to his master these words.

"Magneto, sir. It would appear that the Morlocks have become allies of the X-Men and are abandoning the cause."

There is only silence at first before the leader of Genosha answers his lackey calmly.

"All is not loss. There will be Morlocks who will come to us to join our cause, still. As for the rest of them, so long as they do not interfere with our affairs, then we shall leave them to wallow in each others waste. You have done well. I will send Blink to bring you home. See you soon, Toad."

"T-Thank you, Master!"

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*Xavier Institute of Higher Learning; a week later*

"Charles, dear. We have surprise for ya!", Moira says in a cheery tone as she enters the class where the X-Men were in the middle of testing.

"Leech make cake! Leech make cake!", Leech shouts as he jumps up and down with Artie projecting an image of a heart. Moira proudly shows the work that they did with the words "We Love You, Professor X" written across the top of the cake.

"Thank you, my children. This is a wonderful surprise. Truly, thank you both! I think we all deserve a break, so why don't we all head to the dining room and enjoy the work that Moira and the others did", Charles says as he wheels out with the kids and Moira following behind. Leaving their tests, they al file out after, with Jean stopping Scott before he could leave.

"Jean?"

"Scott, I have been thinking. We should go back out to that coffee place again", Jean suggested.

"What? You mean...."

"Yeah. I told Emma, Ro', Warren, and Hank about it and they agreed we would go after classes today. You in?", Jean asked.

"Uh, well, I was hoping to get some Danger Room training done today and......", Scott trails off as he watches her expression drop.

"Okay, thats okay. Maybe another time then", Jean says before turning around to exit the room.

".......You know what? I can do it when we get back. Count me in!", Scott says before Jean could leave.

"Really? Awesome!", Jean perks up. "We should join the others before they miss us."

"'Kay. Be right there!", he calls back before he took a moment to himself. What if things were different? What if....................

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End of Chapter