Epic X-Men #25: Evolving Plans
"Stay vigilant", Cyclops reminded his team as they traversed through the sewers underneath the city. They had been on edge ever since they had been attacked by the island they now know to be named Krakoa. They were stuck on speaking through their telepathic connection to maintain their cover, so aside from the water that ran beside them, things were quite.
"So, how exactly are we planning on infiltrating the castle of Magneto?", Iceman asked with his mind.
"From the intel me and Beast had from S.H.I.E.L.D files, the island is free roaming for all mutants, with no real security guarding the entrance. Certain mutants may be Brotherhood members, which means they will be the ones keeping an eye on things. Beyond that, it should be a straight shot to the castle until we head to Magneto's chambers, presumably", Scott explains.
"So, the plan is to basically walk through the front door?", Emma asked with disbelief.
"It's not an ideal solution, but its the best we got from the position we are at without drawing attention to ourselves", Scott explains. "We are trusting you and Jean to screen us to the crowd as we walk through the streets."
"Well, well, look who came to visit", a voice said from above their heads. They were at large intersection leading to many different paths throughout the city. Upon one of the ledges sat the ex-leader of a sewer dwelling mutant group called the Morlock's.
"Callisto, Magneto let you settle in this city after all?", Scott asked in shock.
"Yup. He offered me and the rest of the Morlock's even after you lot ruined my previous plan. How did ya like the island monster out there by the way? I heard it gets awful hungry, especially after the source of sustenance stopped coming", Callisto smirked knowingly.
"You knew about what Magneto was up to?!", Jean asked in an accusatory tone. She made no effort to hide her distaste for Callisto, giving her a more of threatening tone than usual, as if she were ready to start another fight at any moment, which would be very unproductive for their main mission.
"Ah, you came too, Red? And Storm, as well. I didn't think you all would be back in a place like this sewer after our run-in. You were always a testy group though, signifying how much I tend to underestimate your nonthreatening first impression", Callsito reminisces tauntingly. Jean clenches her hands before relaxing them with a smirk.
"You oughta remember to break that habit. It didn't work out so well for you the last time you did", Jean said, referring to when Callisto nearly ran off after Jean stormed into the main camp with payback on the brain against the mutant.
"Yes, quite", Callisto says with her expression changing to a poker face. Yet, even with the dampening of her telepathy, Jean could fee the annoyance from where she stood in contrast to Callisto. Callisto then jumped from a floor up to the main floor in front of the X-Men with practiced ease. "So, why exactly are you here, Summers?"
Despite Scott's first instinct to keep things under lock and key away from prying eyes, Scott for some reason didn't detect a threat veiled in Callsito's question, but rather honest curiosity. Her poker face was well-enough that he couldn't confirm for sure, but there was something...an intuition? Who knows? He just had a feeling that Callisto was not there to cause more trouble.
"Our Professor was kidnapped by Brotherhood Callisto. We don't want to harm anyone. Hell, we had no intention of ever visiting, but.....", Scott trailed off, wondering just how much to reveal. His instinct embedded told him how much of a risk this was.
"Alright, alright, no need to give that puppy dog face", Callisto said bringing Scott out of his thoughts.
"What?", Scott asked with confusion.
"That face. A face like you were a kicked puppy and were hoping for the person who kicked you to make everything better. You are such a worrier", Callisto said leaning on the wall.
"How would you possibly know that, Callisto?", Jean asked suspiciously.
"I spent time with him. I was not gonna let anyone run my people unsupervised until I knew what kind of person they were and whether I could trust them. Summers here fit into his role rather well, but his lack of self-esteem got in his way more times than not. If I am to guess, this inner panic that is going on in his head has mostly to do with me, right?", Callisto said further.
"I.....", Scott was speechless. She had him pegged that quick after just a short hour or so down there in Manhattan's sewers?
"So, you all must be headed to the citadel, right? And you want the quickest route, right? Come on, then", Callisto said walking down a certain sewer entrance.
"Wait, what?", Scott asked with surprise.
"We aren't really trusting her, are we?", Jean asked in disbelief.
"What choice do we have really? She seems to know where she is going and the sooner we are out, the better", Storm said after staying quiet the entire time. Jean then remembered Storm's claustrophobia at the sight of her discomfort and gave a sigh at the limited choices.
"I do know where I am going because I spend a lot of time down here. I know all the times different Brotherhood scout different areas and all the paths to Magneto's castle. I am literally your best chance at making it out undetected without your telepaths expending more strength than necessary", Callisto says smugly.
"I don't know, Callisto. Why would you even be down here to begin with? Didn't you want to leave your sewers back in New York?", Scott said uncertainly.
"I did. Then, I realized that I am not made for that comfort and luxury that you all are accustomed to. Believe it or not, there is a sense of adrenaline in trying to navigate these sewers, especially with different Brotherhood being antsy individuals ready for a fight when they get the chance. Individuals like Sabertooth crave for the thrill of the hunt, while others just want something to do. Beyond parkouring across the rooftops of Genosha, this place is basically way of fun", Callisto explains as she leads the group. "Here you are. Through this exit leads to an alleyway that will take you to a center that will take you to the castle. It's relatively late at this hour, so you won't be running into anyone beyond the average Brotherhood member. Still, it means-"
"We will run into the main Brotherhood at the castle. Thank you, Callisto. We owe you one", Scott says thankfully.
"Yeah, you do. I will cash that favor in someday, but for now, I am gonna get back to doing what I usually do....... be careful, Summers", Callisto says before running off down the sewer.
"Okay, Jean, Emma. Ready yourselves", Scott warns before opening the way to the city.
The streets were empty for the metal city of mutantkind. Every so often, a mutant would walk by, but for the most part, the X-Men would marvel at the giant buildings uninterrupted. To think, though it may have changed a bit when mutants arrived, the city for the most part was built literally in a single day by one mad man. In the very distance was his castle, the destination of where the X-Men believed they would face him.
"Where is everyone?", Polaris asked as she looked around.
"I sense a collection of different emotions gathered in that direction, mostly good", Jean says.
"A night market.....a concert....just different things going on this late for nightowls, I suppose. Then there are the ones asleep in their bed around here. Can't say there is anything special about their lives compared to any other normal person, Miss Dane", Emma elaborates further.
"Yet, we are treated as such different beings from humanity for our special gifts", Hank says.
"Someday, Beast. It won't be like this forever", Scott says as he leads them across the city towards the castle.
They approached the towering structure carefully when they find no one around. It was then Polaris turn as she raised herself in the air. Feeling the magnetic fields interacting with the metal, she bends it until a hole into the castle is formed, allowing the X-Men a back door inside the castle. She closes the hole behind them with such a casual ease that she begins to feel an internal war regarding this place. Never had she had such an abundance of power available to manipulate with such ease. All hers to command, as if she were born to command a fundamental force of nature that dictates the planets safety.
"Polaris, stay close", Scott calls to her. She got so caught up in her thoughts she had not noticed them moving.
As Lorna caught up to the leader, a bright pinkish-red flashed in front of them. Accompanying it was a falling Warren as it knocks him out cold by the very force of the attack.
"You thought you would come into our home unnoticed, X-Men? You may have outcasted yourselves, but we are more than a community. The Brotherhood is comprised of many who are ready to fight you X-Men to preserve my father's dream!", the Scarlet Witch says as she walks down the stairs.
"How did they see us?", Bobby asks in shock.
"We had been expecting your arrival ever since father came up with this plan, X-Man. You're incredibly predictable. All it would take was a telepath to block your powers from pulling the wool over our eyes. We may have a flexible open door policy, but we ain't light on security", Quicksilver says with a cocky look. Want
"A telepath? Like Exodus? Or Kwannon?", Emma asked as she tried to search for the telepath in question.
"Nah, they are a little tied up dealing with Xavier. Even though we got pretty powerful psi buffers to temper his powers, he is no joke. Don't worry. From what this one says, she knows your lleader eal well", Quicksilver says as he steps aside to reveal a slender raven-haired woman wearing a black leather bodice with matching short shorts, thigh high high-heeled boots, and black leather sleeves that had red cuffs that hung off her wrists. She large golden beads that accented the top of her short shorts and red cuffs, as well as golden cross earrings, golden rings on every finger, and a golden choker to top it off. It took a minute for Jean to recognize her, for her skin no longer held color, but was rather a ghostly white similar to Nathaniel Essex at the Weapon X facility a while back, with contrasting deep red lips to match the diamond on her forehead like the one Essex possessed at the facility. Scott's face though was of great shock, for color never mattered to the young man who only saw things through his ruby-red visor. He recognized her instantly.
"Claudine", was what he uttered aloud.
"Scott? So what they said was true! You did join a superhero team! It really did do wonders for your physical well-being. You look real good", she said as she took a sip from her glass without taking her eyes off of the man.
"Her, too? Man, Scott, all your exes are just comin' out of the woodwork today", Bobby said wonderously.
"Shut up, Bobby!", Jean snapped.
"So, this is the trollop you told me about all those years ago, Scott?", Emma asks rhetorically, as she sized the woman up. Even though Claudine had a higher position in perspective the entire team, Emma looked none too impressed.
"And who are you exactly?", Claudine asked with an eye-brow raised. She knew of Jean through her father's apparent obsessive research on her after the last time that made Scott leave them. This bimbo on the otherhand was a mystery. Claudine was none to pleased for unknown variables. Though the entire team was locked behind walls of psychic shielding, courtesy perhaps by Jean, this one was different. She actively allowed Claudine to sense her disgust as she took Claudine's appearance in before deliberately shutting her out. It was a taunt to get a rise out of Claudine. Though she worked on her temper more these days, this one got under her skin more than Jean did all those years ago.
"I am the Queen. Scott here is my lovely little servant here, though he prefers me to call him my boyfriend", Emma said with a smirk as she rested her head on Scott's chest. Jean did her best to mask her irritation, though she did poorly in hiding her discomfort by way of how tense she seemed to Scott's eyes. Though one would believe it was the danger that lie ahead of them caused her alarm bells to go off in her head, prompting such a reaction, Scott had been watching who he considered his real girlfriend the entire time. What was admirable about her was that despite her temper, she was mostly under control of herself in stressful situations. She had quite a temper, but the nature of her powers required her focus and clear-headedness on par with Storm and himself, all without completely closing herself off like Emma.
"Really? But I thought.....", she trailed off as she looked to Jean, who was looking away so as to not give away any emotion. Claudine took it as defeat rather than desperately trying to hide herself away.
"Anywho, we are in a bit of a hurry. It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Renko, but unfortunately, we have a prior appointment with Magneto, so if you all excuse us", Emma says as she takes a couple steps forward confidently. It was then that Claudine through her glass at Emma, which was blocked telekinetically by Jean. Not a single drop made it to Emma. "Well, that was quite a reaction. Is there by chance a problem, dear Claudine?"
"I haven't been Claudine in so long. No, my father made me what I am.....Nowadays, I have to look to find my own way outside of his shadow, yet it never feels right to go by anything other than MISS SINISTER!!", she says. As if on cue, puffs of smoke appear around the group as the form of Sabertooth appears from the smoke. "But enough about me. How's about I introduce you all to our Brotherhood line-up who will deal with you all this day. You are already aware of our very own children of Magneto, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver....."
".....But here are a collection you are both familiar and unfamiliar with. Such as our dead Sabertooth, whose claws can easily rip the flesh of a rhinoceros hide. He so enjoys it, too....."
"....Or our ever delightful trickster, Mastermind. His imagination is what you will see and live...."
"......Or dear, sweet Havok. He has your jawline Scott. Feels a lot similar to you too...."
"Alex?", Scott looked to Alex in shock. Alex though couldn't bear to look Scott in the eye.
"........Here is new one though. The only demonic thing about this one is the speed that he can travel with his abilities. From the Munich Circus to our very halls, the Amazing Nightcrawler!"
From nowhere was a puff of smoke that revealed a blue male demonic-looking man, with only three fingers and toes, yellow eyes, and a long pointed-tail that moved at as easily as one would move their arm. He resembled a pirate of sorts with his red vest with a white long-sleeved dress shirt underneath, and tight back pants that fit his slender legs rather well. He wielded dual cutlasses and a cocky grin that held great mischief as he bowed to his audience.
"........Lastly, the arsonist that commands the flames to consume all who oppose him, Pyro!"
With the final introduction made, Claudine takes a step on seemingly nothing as she hovers in mid-air before lowering herself with Quicksilver running to one side of her with his sister.
"We are the future, X-Men. All who oppose will be trampled by our ever approaching war with humanity. If you were smart, you would have already joined us. Sadly, we cannot allow any insolent pests try to interfere with Magneto's glorious vision, so we have no choice but to deal with you permanently. On my mark, Brotherhood", Claudine said as they all readied into position.
"Get ready, X-Men! More than the Professors life is at stake. Stay on your guard and don't hold back", Scott said as he looked to every one of his teammates. Jean met his eyes, worry etched in her features. Scott gave a consoling smile as he opened his mind to ensure her that he will be alright. Sadly, it was not for him that she felt such trepidation.
Don't hold back, she told herself as images of Annie, a cowering Leech, Amahl, and many others speed through her mind.
"NOW!", Claudine shouted, signalling the group to charge forward. The battle had begun........
"No, Charles! I have had it with trying to convince you. I had hoped you would see things my way, but it is apparent that won't come at all. Either way, it ends here. And thankfully, you will be powerless to stop me", Magneto says as he walks away from Charles. He was right. Thanks to the psi-buffers and his telepaths efforts, Charles was unable to stop Magneto. His physical states was of no help either, given he would never make it to the controls in time. He needed the X-Men. Tell them his location somehow. Perhaps they were still looking for him on Cerebro? He had to take his chance. First thing was first, break his bafflers. With intense concentration, he managed to overload them with power. The good thing about being human was though they could improve technology with each iteration, Charles exercising his mind increased his power as well. He still needed an amp to get over the static of Magneto's lair. And he knew exactly who to use.....
"Alright, Xavier. Time for your next baffler. I admire our great leader, though I wish I would know what he is thinking of to let you live. To go through so much trouble. I won't question him further, but still...", Exodus said as he carried the new headset to replace the older one. It was then that Xavier hurled a mental bolt at Exodus. He always tried this when he broke free of his mental restraints. Exodus would block the impact as planned. Not just block it though.
Exodus was a leech, who fed on psychic energy if he found his own power lacking. A conniving tactic that would prove to help Charles in this bid. Exodus hurled the bolt back at Charles, more powerful than before. With great exertion, Charles catches it and increases its power and throws it back at Exodus. This one throws Exodus off balance temporarily as the combined might of the psychics breaks his mental barrier. Charles takes his chance.
"You claim to be a humble follower", Xavier says as he holds onto Exodus mind tightly.
"For my lord, Magneto, you welp!", Exodus says through gritted teeth as he fought back.
"Not this time! You will act as my messenger this time", Charles says as he pins Exodus mind through sheer willpower accompanied by years of experience and raw power that Exodus had not experienced before in an individual outside Xavier's own students. With Exodus unable to do anything but obey, Charles combines power with Exodus as a beam of pure telepathic energy pierces through electromagnetic static and towards the intended destination......
"Artie, keep up with Leech!", Leech shouted as he and his silent friend ran down the halls of the mansion. Suddenly, the young boy stops, looking up at seemingly nothing. "Is Artie tired?"
Without responding, Artie walks to the elevator with Leech in tow. They enter the subbasement wordlessly as Leech curiously follows to see what Artie is up to. Artie punched in a series of number to a door that opened into a large spherical room that the Professor called Suh-Ser- Siribro?
"Leech, don't know if Miss Moira wants us down here", Leech says with hesitation. The boy doesn't answer, but rather walks inside wordlessly and reaches for the headset. He puts on the headset and put in the dials he had watched Jean and Emma do before. The machine whirs to life as he becomes more than Artie Maddicks. He sees everyone across the planet. Even if he could speak, he would be speechless, unable to voice the feeling from this.
"Leech, dear. What are you and Artie doing in here? This not a toy", Moira says as she walks in. Before she could take the chance to deactivate Cerebro, an image springs from Artie's mind. The image is of Xavier clinging onto a red-skinned mutant. "Charles?! You found Charles, Artie?"
It was then that Artie displayed the next image, revealing Charles location.
"Artie, you got ta find the X-Men on Genosha and send them these images", Moira said. Following instruction, the holographic globe turned to the location Moira had asked for.........
.................Unfortunately, the X-Men are unavailable in the psi-proof palace that protects its inhabitants from unwanted intruders. And considering the battle between two sides, it doesn't seem like they will be getting the message anytime soon.
"Comeback, bird boy. This kitty promises to play nice if you come down", Sabertooth taunted as he chased Angel around the large metal room. As he climbed the walls off of ledges made by the Master of Magnetism for the climbing mutants, Beast would pass by him as he tried to avoid Nightcrawler's swing of his swords. And not once had he touched the ground since the batle started, neither has speed slowed.
"Come on, snow man! Keep up!", Quicksilver says as he kept a pace ahead of Iceman.
"I can't believe I am stuck with you again!", Iceman says irritably as he tries to increase his sliding speed.
Panning across the room, you would get a good look at other combatants, such as Marvel Girl dodging hexes from Scarlet Witch as she throws different objects at Wanda. Or the Queen engaging in a psionic battle with Miss Sinister, with neither showing signs of tiring. Storm unleashes barely enough wind in the limited enclosed space to hold back Pyro's fire, while wishing she was outside in the open air. Yet, she was far from the one who was having the worst time, for Scott's opponent was the illusionist named Mastermind.
"Come on, boy. You honestly don't think you can beat the master of your worst nightmares, do ya?", Mastermind spoke in an echoed voice, with nothing but smoke as far as Scott's mental eye could see. He kept his hand firmly on his visor as he tried to look for signs of the illusionist among the clouds of smoke. "Not when you have so many nightmares to deal with."
The next moment, Scott is a young boy against clutching his brother as he watches his mother wathing them fall before the plane explodes. Things go differently this time though, for as Scott falls, Alex is pulled from his grasp.
"Scott!", he calls out before disappearing into the abyss.
"Scott?", Alex says after he hears Scott cry out from across the room. The man is on his knees, tears rolling down his face as Mastermind worsens the nightmare going on in his head.
"Scott would always proudly claim to be your big brother. He regrets that he failed to find you long ago, to monsters like that bastard. But if you are so willing to let him suffer when all he has done is care about you, then I say good riddance", Polaris says as she hovers above Havok.
"Go to hell!", Alex yells before releasing his plasma beams at Lorna's shield. "You have no idea what I went through!"
"Nor do you know hat you Brotherhood put me through! The man you guys praise to be the great Magneto is a pathetic excuse of a father and mad man on top of it. And he is my father to top it off!", Polaris says as she uses the excess magnetic energy to block the brunt of Havok's attack.
"At least he looked for you!", Havok rebutted.
"No, he didn't. Not once did he look for me all my life until the great daughter of Magneto manifested her powers on the news. He doesn't care for family at all! Scott does! You are the one who ran away from him while he was left behind at an orphanage with a psycho scientist taking advantage of him!", Polaris said as she began to push back.
"That's not-", Havok begins, but Polaris wouldn't let him.
"No! I am not gonna sit there and let people like you use everyone else as a punching bag while the real people who care get the short end of the stick. When I find my father, it's not gonna be a happy reunion. It is gonna be nothing but tears for the winner and blood spilled for the loser. You are an idiot for not appreciating what you have! For not loving your brother while he still wants to create something beautiful with his brother. An actual relationship where family cares for the other....like my foster parents did for me", Polaris said as tears began to roll down her face.
"I didn't get that. My foster parents turned on me the minute they found out I was a mutant", Alex expresses as he powers down.
"Then turn your back on them. They aren't worth it. He is though!", Polaris says pointing to the tortured soul fighting back against what isn't real. "He won't turn his back on you."
Havok thinks for a bit before turning his head to Jean, who is still fighting off Wanda. With look of determination, Havok unleashes a plasma blast that knocks Wanda off her feat and into a wall.
"Wanda!", Quicksilver yells, before making a sharp turn to get to his sister.
"Yo, X-Man! Help my bro out!", Havok yelled to the red-headed psychic. Jean turns her attention to Scott right by Mastermind.
"Scott!", Jean called out verbally and psychically.
"Jean?", Scott said questioningly. But the Jean he saw wasn't his Jean. Rather, she was a more crueler looking version, scantily clothed as she walked to Scott with nothing but distaste.
"You want to prove how much you love me, worm?", she said with a haughty voice.
"Yes. Of course. I-"
"Then, protect your Queen", Mastermind said with Jean's voice as he pointed his head at the real Jean flying at the duo.
"Ah, Scott! F-fight it! Its not real!", Jean yelled as she reached out to Scott's mind. She saw the dark variant he saw in his head directing his attacks without. No questioning of why. Just doing as she said. "Scott, it's me! The real me! Come on, Scott. You can feel me in your head. Reaching to you with my heart. Come on, Scott, don't give in to her sway."
Somehow, her words did reach him. The words activated the logic in his brain. Why would Jean ask him to haphazardly shoot forward? Wouldn't she want to protect anyone from his destructive beams? She knows how it feels for him to.......This isn't real.
"Let. GO!", Scott yelled as shot upwards toward the ceiling. Mastermind stumbles back as scrap metal melded by magnetics are split apart and freed. They begin to fall causing Mastermind to runs for cover, while Jean puts up a shield as she is hugging Scott. "I am sorry, Jean. I'm so sorry."
"I got you, my love. I got you", Jean said softly. As she was relishing in Scott successfully pulling through, she gets a series of images from.....
"Scott, Artie just contacted me. I know where the Professor is now!", Jean says, forgetting the battle raging on behind them.
"You're not gonna believe this.....he's on a space station embedded in an asteroid", Jean says.
"What?", Scott asks with a perplexed look.
"Charles is in space above Earth's orbit!", Jean says as she sends him and the X-Men the information they have been looking for the entire time.